Saturday, March 31, 2018

Sine qua non

Sine qua non is Latin for "without which nothing." It is a Latin phrase that indicates an absolute essential. Every coach has his sine qua non, and it is that which defines his team (if he is a good enough teacher to get it across and a good enough disciplinarian to make it happen). It is the first and last thing he talks to his team about. It is the thing that will get you benched if you do not do it.

It is his sine qua non that defines a coach. That is what his teams are known for, because that is the thing that they do if they do nothing else.

Friday, March 30, 2018

Why not brown?

If we are going to combat discrimination, then why don't we defend the right of brown to be included in team color schemes. Purple and gold. Red and white. Green and gold. And on and on. But hardly ever does poor brown get to be on the uniforms of sports teams. And no lawyers to defend it. Sad.

Thursday, March 29, 2018

Bennett deserves it

Virginia's Tony Bennett is the AP Coach of the Year. He deserves it, the historic loss to UMBC notwithstanding. The Cavs had an outstanding season - better than anyone else. At least the AP did not let the NCAA tournament destroy the accomplishments of one of the best coaches in the country.

Exactly my view on defense in these days of the 3 point shot

from ESPN on how to stop Villanova:

"I really think you have to sell out," another Big East coach said. "Let players play on an island. You can't help. If you help, they're gonna land, kick the ball out, it's gonna be reversal, you're gonna be late, wide-open shot. They might beat you without 3s, but they're gonna crush you with them."

Virtually everyone builds their offense around the 3 these days, so why shouldn't defensive schemes take that into consideration? Time after time after time you see players cheat toward the inside to help on defense, the offensive player kicks out to a WIDE open player on the perimeter, and he makes a three. So why cheat to the inside? 

Down year for the Big Ten

This was an unusual weak year for the Big Ten in basketball. They were sixth among the Big Six conferences (Power Five plus Big East). Still they have a team in the Final Four (Michigan), and another team that everyone expected to be there (Michigan State). So, the cupboard was not bare, just a little on the sparse side.

Wednesday, March 28, 2018

When the cream becomes visible

Sometimes it takes time - and good luck - for really good coaches to become known as really good coaches outside of a fairly small circle of their colleagues. Porter Moser falls into that category. He has been a good coach for a long time, and no doubt has gotten better with experience. But very few knew how good he was. Does he have even the fourth-best talent in the NCAA tournament? Of course not! not even close. But he will be no worse than fourth in the nation in the final tally the way basketball measures things.

Porter did not "all of a sudden" become a really good coach. All of a sudden circumstances converged so that a coach who had been good for a long time became visible to the public eye. We in Little Rock knew way back that Porter was a bright young coach. But he went to Illinois State and flopped. Then he served some time under one of the great minds of the game at Saint Louis. Then he got another chance as a head coach at Loyola, and wallowed in mediocrity for four seasons - two of them losing, one with 18 wins, and one with a CBI championship. Then all of a sudden he has (at least) 32 wins, a Final Four berth, and a shot at bringing the national championship back to Chicago. But he did not "all of a sudden" become one of the four best coaches in basketball. He probably is not that far up the ladder even now, but he is a whole lot better than the average basketball fan gave him credit for being before this season.

We fans need to scratch below the surface. The cream is there even before it rises to the top to become visible.

See the source image

UCA's patience paid off

Russ Pennell got off to a rough start at UCA. He was brought in to place the less-than-stellar tenure of Big Nasty, and things did not go very well at all.

2014-15 --- 2-27
2015-16 --- 7-21
2016-17 --- 8-24

Then this season, things began to break in the right direction. The Bears were 18-17, which is nothing to write home about, but at least they were in the black, plus they were 10-8 in conference play. Most importantly, they went to the CBI and won a game against Seattle. After years of futility, that had to have felt like a World Series year. Furthermore, they had only three seniors on the roster this season, so there should be plenty of experience coming back.

UCA had patience with Pennell, and it has paid off. It took a while to get his kids and his system in place, but it finally happened.

Tuesday, March 27, 2018

Poor Washington State

Remember how I told you about what a tough coaching assignment it is to be at Washington State? Well, their leading scorer (junior) just declared for the draft, and their second leading scorer (sophomore) has announced he is transferring. Just a tough, tough place to coach.

Darrell Walker

Welcome Coach Walker. I hope you have a long and very successful career at Little Rock, and I am behind you all the way. And I mean that sincerely.

That having been said, let's review what happened in the process. If Wikipedia's information is correct, Walker was a head coach in the NBA for three seasons, with an overall record of 56-113 (.331). That would have a way to go to get even to the mediocre level. He has been a head coach at the D2 level for two years, with an overall record of 45-18 (.714), which is very nice by any standard, and certainly deserves credit. He has not coached in any capacity at the D1 college level.

There is NO WAY anyone can convince me that Darrell Walker was the best candidate that applied for this job. Not even close. This was obviously a political pick. It may work out well; I hope it does. But Chasse Conque did not do any better as far as the process is concerned on this selection than he did on the last. 

Trojan fans may be pleased with the results, but I think they definitely have a fight to be peeved at the method.

Cutting off your nose to spite your face

One of the things I do not like (and there are many) about the over-emphasis in college basketball upon one short tournament is that it brings a totally perverted reasoning concerning the worth of coaches. "He didn't make the NCAA Tournament, and so we are firing him." Never mind that he won more games than anyone else around. Never mind that his peers regarded him as one of the best coaches they know. Never mind that his program is generally envied and copied in the business. He didn't make the NCAA tournament. 

That might possibly be a valid yardstick at a power conference school, since finishing in the top half of those leagues usually will get you to the Dance. But with teams at lower levels, to judge a coach on that standard - to FIRE a coach based on that standard (and it happens) is idiotic, at least.

Monday, March 26, 2018

Recruiting at the different levels

Assessing talent at the different levels is the same. If they can play, they can play, and the coach has to know if they can play.

But I would assume that the processes are different at the different levels because the available resources are different. Where there is only one assistant coach and he is also teaching classes, I would assume that the way the staff recruits is different than when there are three full-time assistants. Thus, it would seem to be a factor (certainly not the only factor) in evaluating a potential hire if he has been involved in recruiting at the D1 level, at least at some point.

Does the "at" make a difference?

Thankfully, the Trojans no longer have an "at" in the team name, but we labored under that burden for many years. So, I have long had a soft spot in my heart for those other "at" schools there who are in similar circumstances. For example, when UMBC made history as the first 16 seed to win, it was doubly enjoyable because of their unwieldy acronym. Go "at" schools!

Sunday, March 25, 2018

An iffy proposition

Two of the coaches since I have been a Trojan fan are at the moment at least as far as this year's Elite Eight. One of them was hired by Peterson and one by Conque. Two of them were not quite as successful - one hired by Peterson and one by Conque. It is a small sample, but it serves to illustrate just how difficult it is to hire successful coaches on a consistent basis.

Saturday, March 24, 2018

The big individual winner from the Tournament?

That title probably goes to Kansas State's Bruce Weber. He had been sitting on a seat that was getting uncomfortably warm, if not downright hot. Going to the Elite Eight presumably has bought him at least a couple of years, and probably some pop in recruiting.

My usual dilemma

Here we are at the Elite Eight, and I already am to the point that there are no teams left in the tournament that I follow. (I admire Michigan because of Beilein, but I do not really follow them.) Situation normal.

Cheering for overwhelming talent

You have a pickup game between the Boston Celtics and your local junior high team. Boston wins, of course, and the Celtics fans just go crazy.

Sounds absurd, doesn't it? But that is exactly what happens (although not quite that extreme) all the time. The Bruisers play the Anemics, and you would think the Bruisers just won the title against overwhelming odds, to hear their fans cheer. Sort of like the Roman coliseum.

Friday, March 23, 2018

Why is selecting the tournament field so difficult?

Every year there is whining galore as teams are left out of the NCAA field. With all the computer models we have these days, why leave it up to human judgment. Just pick out the model, or the composite of multiple models, and let it pick the field based upon a weighting of factors that has been approved by everyone ahead of time. Then, no one can complain.

Thursday, March 22, 2018

Play or win?

In today's atmosphere of transfers, the question rises if players consider it more important to play or to be on a team that wins. If I am a benchwarmer on a conference champion, is that more important than playing a lot on a last-place team? Would the answer today be any different than it was in past generations? Interesting questions.

Wednesday, March 21, 2018

Still we will need an infusion

Whoever he is, our new coach will have some nice pieces returning around which to build. Pippins, Burns, Corcoran, Oliver Black, Reedus, Marcus, Bankston: all of them showed occasional flashes that looked like legit D1 talent. If the players that we have are made to play like they should, perhaps they can make somewhat of a statement even as things stand. All of them, however, were inconsistent. And even if they were consistent, we still need to have some additional pieces. From somewhere we need a bona fide point guard and an inside scoring presence.

Tuesday, March 20, 2018

Dixon at TCU

I can't say enough about the job that Coach Jamie Dixon has done even in the short time he has been at TCU. For some inexplicable reason, Pitt's support for him began waning and he understandably jumped at the chance to go to his alma mater. The trouble is that TCU is not exactly a basketball powerhouse, or even barely a basketball doormat. They have been to the Elite Eight exactly one time, and that was way back in 1968 (when I was in junior high). Before Dixon arrived, the last time they had even been to the NCAA tournament was in 1998. As recently as 2014 they were winless in conference play. In other words, they have been awful, and did not care that they were.

Dixon has been there two years, and they won over 20 games both years, were NIT champions last season, and went to the NCAA tournament this season, even with the loss mid-season of their star point guard.

TCU is in Texas, where basketball is an afterthought; but it is reasonable to assume that TCU is at least a program on the rise.

Monday, March 19, 2018

I like the dunk

The three-point shot is the current darling of the basketball world, and since it is over-valued by at least 50%, I can understand that. However, the shot I like is the dunk. What is the overall shooting percentage on dunks? Sure, players occasionally muff them, but even at that, they probably make 75%, possibly more. Maybe 90%. So why not just slam home the ball? That is one way to get your team shooting percentage way up in a hurry.

Sunday, March 18, 2018

Why I follow Clemson

This tweet from commentator and former coach Seth Greenberg:

Best decision made last year was to keep . Guy can coach and runs a first class program the right way. Character and class.

And when Clemson completely shuts down the team of a sleezebag like Bruce Pearl, I really, really enjoy it.

Loyola success

It is really enjoyable to see an old friend like Porter Moser have some significant success. Thirty wins (so far), and a trip to the Sweet 16. For most any program that is a good season. And from all I could ever tell, Porter is one of the good guys in the coaching profession. He makes his kids play the right way, still thinks defense matters, still make them take good shots.

Saturday, March 17, 2018

The Virginia loss

It was great fun to see a little guy (and an "At" school on top of that) beat one of the big boys in a #1 vs. #16 matchup. However, if it had to happen, I was sorry it had to be Virginia. First of all, Tony Bennett is, by all accounts, a very class act. Second, Virginia specializes in defense, and I love defense. But half a loaf is better than none, and we did finally get a #16 seed victory.

Friday, March 16, 2018

It is really tough to do both

Chasse hired a coach who was really good, but who did not want to stay. He hired a coach who wanted to stay, but who was not very good. Either of those is relatively easy. Doing both is really, really tough at our level.

If you are good, slow it down

Efficient offenses have every reason to slow down the pace of the game. If they are producing more points per possession than the opposition, then they want to have fewer total possessions. Teams that speed up the pace can afford more mistakes because they are going to have chances to make up for them. But the slow guys tell them, "We are betting that we get more out of our chances than you do, so we don't mind having less chances."

Thursday, March 15, 2018

Where did we finish in attendance?

Hats off to Trojan fans! We had one of our worst years in history - bad enough to get the coach fired. And we still finished 3rd in the Sun Belt in average home attendance, behind only UL and Arlington. Way to hang in there!

I suspect that the numbers reflect less our good attendance as they do the bad attendance elsewhere. People in seats at sporting events is down all over, from the reports I have seen. That is one reason the Powers That Be in all sports are emphasizing offense, offense, offense - because they think that will bring in the people.

Wednesday, March 14, 2018

It was bound to happen

Finally I get a team that is a bona fide national champion candidate that hangs its hat on defense - that being Virginia. And what happens? Their 6th man, De'Andre Hunter (6th Man of the Year in the ACC) is out for the entire tournament. Ouch. Oh, well, maybe they can patch things together.

One advantage to playing at a slower pace, as Virginia does, is that you can get more minutes per game out of your players and still have them at peak efficiency. They had an 8-man rotation, and Hunter averaged 19.9 minutes per game. That comes out to 2.8 more minutes per game for the other rotation members. Plus maybe some of the guys farther down the bench can provide a few minutes here and there.

Not only did Wes Flanigan lose this job

but he probably ruined his chances for another head coaching job, at least for a while. I would assume he has a ton of contacts and probably can land an assistant position fairly easily, but HC spots might be hard for him to come by.

Tuesday, March 13, 2018

Looking a the 2018 season stats

The first thing that jumps out at me is the fact that, with the departure of Andre Jones, we did not have anyone who was even close to averaging double figures. This was an offensively challenged team, to say the least. We couldn't shoot - not even FTs. Ben Marcus and Kris Bankston shot a very good percentage from the field, but they didn't shoot enough. Ryan Pippins and Cameron Corcoran shot a very nice percentage from the arc, but they didn't shoot enough. K. J. Gilmore and Camron Reedus shot well from the FT line, but they didn't shoot enough. Familiar tune.

Bankston had 30 blocks, which was not enough to make the all-time list, still it was impressive for a true freshman and gives a promise of good things to come.

All in all, this was not an impressive stat sheet at all. It tells the story of a team that lost a lot of games.

Monday, March 12, 2018

Wes just did not have it

The circumstances were favorable: a local player come back to coach in his hometown. It ought to have worked, but Wes just did not have what it took. I assume that he was a pretty good assistant coach, or he would not have had a shot at the job. However, even top-notch assistant skills do not always translate to good head coaching skills. Whatever it takes, Wes did not have it. So, we wish him well and move on down the road of the revolving door of mid-level coaching changes.


In our effort to make the regular season in basketball mean more, here is our annual award of our Regular Season Champions:


Sunday, March 11, 2018

ADs always make national searches

There was complaint that Chasse Conque did not make a "national search" before he hired Wes Flanigan. I would argue that athletic directors are always searching, especially at our level, just because of the nature of the beast. They know they may have to fill a position at any time, and so they are always evaluating, always making contacts, always developing relationships. At the same time, they are also creating a "short list" of names they would prefer to go to first. So when they hire, they have done it both ways. It may make the fans feel better for the AD to hire a search firm and go through the motions of a formal process, but any AD worth his salt already knows who is in the field, and who he would prefer.

Saturday, March 10, 2018

Why won't anyone post up?

Yesterday I watched the finals of the 3A girls state championship game between Mountain View and Charleston. It was a close, back-and-forth game, not determined until the final minutes. Mountain View had a 6-2 girl who could make her shots, and Charleston did not have anyone who could stop her. Three times she posted up down low, and three times she either scored or was fouled. In other words, she was eating Charleston's lunch, but evidently the MV coach had her on a diet, because he did not go with what was working - and lost the game. Over and over I see teams that have a good post player who just will not use him or her - why I do not know for the life of me. Yes, it is out of style these days, but it remains true that sometimes a good post game in unstoppable. When it is, why not use it?!

Friday, March 9, 2018

Why all the Tubby bashing?!

Why has Tubby Smith become such a popular kick-dog with the media and fans these days? In the first place, let's remember that he has a national championship, and five different programs in the NCAA tournament on his resume (no one has taken more teams to the Dance). So, he definitely qualifies as a great coach.

In his last stop before Memphis, he turned around a Texas Tech program on the heels of the Billy Gillespie fiasco. And let us now forget that Chris Beard's current team is no where near as good without Keenan Evans - and who recruited Evans to TTech? Hmmm?

Sure, there were several players who jumped ship when Tubby came to Memphis, but let's not forget that it was Sleezipari and his clone who had been at Memphis before Tubby, and when an old school coach like Tubby comes along, sure there are going to be some pampered whiners who will leave. It was a rocky start, but that was to be expected given the circumstances. Oh yes, the fickle Memphis fans are staying away right now, but if they want a coach who will do it the right way, then they will be patient. And, oh by the way, Memphis just won their 20th game this season, so the program is not exactly a train wreck at this point.

Tubby Smith is one of the great college basketball coaches. Memphis fans need to realize that and climb back on board.

Play the game right EVERY TIME

One of the reasons players regress to playground ball is that that is what they practice. They practice sloppy, so they play sloppy. Even in warmups before games. My old music teacher had a proverb: "Practice does not make perfect; perfect practice makes perfect. If you are only practicing your mistakes, you are not getting better."

It seems to me that coaches would be wise to instill a culture in which the players always play the game the right way. Don't "jack up" shots when you are fooling around. Take sound shots when you are fooling around. Do it the right way - all the time, every time. Then you have a personal culture of good basketball instead of street ball.

Thursday, March 8, 2018

We need to study their methods

This is Bob Marlin's 8th season at Louisiana. It is Ron Hunter's 6th year at Georgia State. It is Scott Cross' 11th season at Arlington. If a knowledgeable SBC fan were going to choose a coach from among the league teams, it likely would be one of these. Undoubtedly, all three of them have had opportunities to move higher on the coaching ladder.

Getting a head coach who will agree to your terms and come to your program, and who is a good one, is like rolling the dice. Sometimes you win, sometimes you lose. However, getting one to stay after he has been successful is really tough. Somehow, these three schools have done it. Chasse needs to study their methods and find out how they have done it.

Wednesday, March 7, 2018

Here's the bottom line

Wes Flanigan has embarrassed Chasse Conque big time this season. Chasse stuck his neck way out to hire a guy with local connections, but without any head coaching experience; and Wes has made him look BAD. Athletic directors do not like to be made to look bad.

So, even though Chasse may keep Wes next season (may not have a financial option if he has two years on his contract), I expect that the level of performance to keep his job, if he does return, will be quite high. Mediocrity is not going to get it done.

I could be wrong, but that is the way I read it.

Don't lose the passion!

Coaches come and coaches go. So do players. For that matter, so do fans. We have had a horrendous year. Absolutely awful! Wes Flanigan will either be here next season, or he will not. But the world will not come to an end.

In the meantime, we as fans do not need to lose our passion. True, it may take a little bit of a sense of humor to do so, but win or lose we are still Trojan fans. Brooklyn Dodgers fans watched their team fall just short year after year, but they still loved Dem Bums even as they reviled them.

Just keep plugging. Things will cycle around to the positive side sooner or later.

What is experience worth?

All else being equal, experience in D1 competition is worth a great deal. Expect veterans to be significantly better than freshmen. However, sometimes that experience is in the wrong thing. We are going to have a TON of experience coming back, but their main experience is at losing. That does not necessarily mean that they are not good players; after all, Porter molded an 18-win season with the team that had won 4 games the season before.

However, whether it is Wes or a replacement, expect that there will be a significant turnover in the roster for next season. Wes will be scrambling to upgrade the talent level to save his neck; and, like Beard before him, a replacement will be calling in his connections to plug in key players to make a good first-year impression. So, either way, I doubt that the experience on this roster is going to be worth as much to the coach as it would be in other situations.

Tuesday, March 6, 2018

Glad at least one "expert" appreciates defense

"Fifty-point outputs and a slow tempo are a turnoff to some. But Virginia's unmatched ability to submit opponents and force them into folly is a beautiful thing to witness." (ESPN's Myron Medcalf)

Will this be the year defense wins?

I have observed before that defense is what insures a good season, but come tournament time, you have to have offense. Virginia is riding what may be the toughest team defense since the days of Bill Russell at San Fransisco. And, of course, they have faced the best in the ACC, so they are battle tested. But when crunch time comes, can they press the accelerator, or do they only have brakes? Will this be the year defense wins?

Monday, March 5, 2018

Speaking of struggling programs

How would you like to be the head coach at Dartmouth? Yes, they were national champions in 1906, and yes, they did have a couple of Final Fours in 1942 and 1944. But since then? Their last trip to the NCAA tournament was in 1959, for crying out loud. They did go to the CIT in 2015.

Sunday, March 4, 2018

When upsets happen

Our win at Lafayette was huge for our program, but not that big in terms of the sport. But upsets are common in baseball, less common in basketball, and least common in football. It helps when the losing team already has their spot in the playoffs secured, and the winning team is so bad that it is going no where fast. Neither result is going to change either standing - so, there is nothing to play for but pride, and not even a great deal of that. Still, an exciting result of very much fun for the poor winning team, one of the few glimmers of light in an otherwise dismal season.

Saturday, March 3, 2018

When pressure gets paid back

I love it when pressing teams get pressed - and cannot handle it. Getting back a little of their own. You would think that like teams would know how to handle their similarities, but it is not always the case.

Friday, March 2, 2018

Freshman are not likely to help

If Wes does survive to next season, it is not likely that incoming freshmen are going to save his job, unless they are something special - and I have not seen anyone that falls into the "special" category showing up as of yet. He will have to go after jucos or transfers - and several of them.

Mr. Imperturbable

Texas A&M's head coach Billy Kennedy has to be the Mr. Imperturbable of college basketball. He just never displays any emotion at all. Given his recent medical history, this may be somewhat of necessity, but it also may just be his personality. And I have to admit that I like it. However, I have noticed this season a tendency of the team to take on the coach's personality to a certain extent and play in a non-emotional manner. They seem to lose their intensity in stretches during games, when they are in a different world. Mind you, I am not accusing Kennedy of a lack of intensity, just a lack of visible emotion. (For all I know, inside he is a seething cauldron.)

Thursday, March 1, 2018

Glad we are not one-and-done

There is just something distasteful about the one-and-done schools. Rent-a-championship. You bring in players who have no commitment to the program, even to going to college at all. They are there purely for themselves. Even if we could recruit players at that level, I do not think I would want to do it. If the NBA is where they want to be, let them go to some other baby-sitting service. Recruit players who want to play college basketball at your school.