Coaching Carousel

So Mike Anderson’s leaving Mizzou. Shocking? Not really. The Arkansas job had everything it needed to pull Anderson away from a pretty nice job here in Columbia: the money (even though MU offered him a $500K raise), the location (Anderson’s a Southern boy) and nostalgia (he was an assistant there for 17 years before moving on to UAB). Here’s Arkansas’ men’s basketball website:

On one hand, I completely get it. Arkansas is where it all started for MA. He built himself in Fayetteville, and the Razorbacks have the money and the appeal to bring him back. On the other, his departure surprises me a bit. All he’s losing this year is a mediocre role player in Justin Safford (who got a way worse rap than he deserved), which leaves a roster absolutely loaded with talent. The young guys who struggled on the road this season gained valuable experience. Even though this team underachieved immensely, they still had a ton of potential. The expectations would’ve been equally as high, if not higher. On top of that, he’s got the Pressey boys there. “Uncle Mike” is going to leave his friend’s kids high and dry in Columbia. That’s the one major reason I thought Mizzou had the upper hand (that, and $500,000).
At the end of the day, though, Arkansas was too much for Anderson to pass up. A lot of Missouri fans are upset. I get where they’re coming from. This whole deal was pretty similar to the Brian Kelly to Notre Dame situation a couple years back. A coach’s dream job is open, the dream job offers more money, the coach leaves. It’s as simple as that. The similarities don’t stop there, though. There are going to be plenty of people who will hate Anderson for this. There were a lot of people who hated (and still hate) Brian Kelly for what he did. Personally, I have no ill will or hard feelings. I wish each coach the best. At the same time, though, I think both could’ve handled the situation better. As I sat in the press room after Cincinnati ousted Anderson’s Missouri Tigers from the Big Dance less than a week ago, Anderson was asked about the Arkansas job. His response: “I’m excited about what’s going on at Missouri and I want to be at Missouri. That’s the bottom line.” Turns out the opportunity at Arkansas was more important than the exciting things going on here at Mizzou. Everyone’s saying he said he wanted to retire here. That was before the Arkansas job opened up, if I’m not mistaken. Who knows if he knew all along he’d go to AK, and really, who cares? Whether he led you on or not, he’s gone now. That’s that. Perhaps the expectations were too much for him. He might enjoy rebuilding programs and winning fans’ hearts by producing a winner. Once more is expected, he hasn’t been able to deliver. But, like I said, he’s gone. That’s that. Maybe the Tigers can beat A&M now. Regardless, the bottom line is that he deserves credit for putting Missouri basketball back on the map. An Elite 8 run a few years back, almost an entire season in the Top 25, national recognition. Missouri basketball thought it had its savior in Quin Snyder. Mike Anderson came in, picked up the pieces and put a winning product out on the hardwood. That’s what Missouri fans need to remember.
And kudos to Kim English, Marcus Denmon and Laurence Bowers. That presser had to be a pain in the ass, but they stepped up and answered the questions. Whether or not you’re impressed by all of their play, you can acknowledge and respect what they represented by sitting up there tonight.

Now on to another coach of one of my favorite teams. Mick Cronin is asking for more from Bearcat fans and the UC Athletic Department. I’m totally with Mick on this one. The guy has succeeded in the toughest conference in America with inferior talent and restrictions on his program thank to his predecessors. He has rebuilt the Cincinnati program the right way after it was in shambles when he took over. He improved every single year even though every team he put out on the court was thoroughly outmanned by the teams in his conference. He took that, and he improved every single year. He simply asked UC fans for patience and support — and he got little of either. He did things his way. He took a ton of criticism. He walked out on the floor and saw a half-empty arena. He looked up and saw lopsided scores in favor of his opponents. He fought NCAA sanctions because of the academic situation he took over. He did all of this and never once complained. I’m as guilty as anyone of doubting Cronin — there were plenty of times I thought he’d be out of Clifton and the program might be better for it. I’ve said on this very blog that I thought he was a great recruiter but I questioned his coaching abilities. Now that I look back, I realize what he was up against and how he really performed. A lot of Bearcat fans have come around, others haven’t. Now, I say it’s time to listen to him. Commit to him. He understands and accepts the limitations of the program as it stands right now. He wants the athletic department to do what it can, he wants the fans’ support. I honestly don’t feel Cronin sees this job as a stepping stone. How could a competitive team in the nation’s best conference be a stepping stone? This isn’t Big East football. The Bearcats were invited into this conference because of the basketball program. They need to commit to the program that got them here. To the program that has the best shot at consistent performance. Mick Cronin isn’t Brian Kelly. But Cincinnati should start treating him the same. Because the potential for success is higher with Mick than it ever was with BK.
That being said, this year’s seniors deserve a ton of credit, as well. The likes of Rashad Bishop, Larry Davis, Darnell Wilks and Biggie McClain stuck with this program in the worst of times. They came in knowing things would suck, but they stuck it out. They played their asses off to try and be competitive against a bunch of guys who were exponentially more talented than they were. They played gritty. They fought through the same lack of support and occasional derision from their “fans.” They believed in a coach and his program. They put their faith in him even when things looked the worst. They did that and they helped rebuild a storied program. When I asked Rashad to sum up the last four years, his answer was simple: “It was a great journey. We got Cincinnati built back up to where it used to be, so we should be proud of that.”
And that’s exactly what those guys did. Cincinnati basketball is back. And it’s due in large part to the seniors who have stuck it out to help rebuild this program. They deserve credit for their willingness to fight through the bad, keep on chugging and eventually go out on top. I saw Davis, Bishop and Wilks out at a bar in D.C. after their loss to UConn. I’m generally not one to go up to an athlete and say something to him — they’re normal people and they probably don’t want to be bothered — but I felt like I needed to approach those guys. I needed to go say, “As a life-long Cincinnati fan, thanks. You guys had a great season. It was a ton of fun to watch you.” And when I went over, they all smiled, shook my hand and thanked me. They weren’t bothered by it. It’s probably because they didn’t hear it enough for the past four years. But rather than dismissing me, they thanked me. They seemed genuinely appreciative that their work was noticed and appreciated. They won’t go down in any record books as all-time greats, but if this program sustains its success, they’re the guys I’ll look back to and remember as the ones who started it all.

Speaking of Cincinnati and Mizzou, that game was one of the most memorable of all time for me. I was fortunate enough to get the opportunity to call the game from courtside in the Verizon Center. I got to watch my two favorite basketball teams go head to head and play the role of Dan Hoard or Mike Kelly. It was an honor and a memory of a lifetime. Things I noticed from that game:
–Mizzou needs a big man who can hold his own down low. Yancy Gates dominated the middle against Bowers, Ratliffe and Moore. Looked like a man among boys. Even Ibrahima Thomas managed to push the Tigers around inside. The Tigers cannot legitimately compete on a national level without a strong inside presence. Anderson’s system didn’t lend itself to that. Maybe now Mizzou can find a big man.
–If Mizzou doesn’t turn you over, they lose. Cincinnati only turned the ball over 11 times. Mizzou’s pressure relies on turnovers. If they don’t force turnovers, everyone gets out of position. A smart, patient team beats the Tigers every time, even if they have less talent. Cincy proved that.
–Mizzou’s half-court offense is basically non-existent. They depend on wearing you down and scoring when you’re tired. Cincinnati was deep enough and slowed the game down enough to eliminate those possibilities. The “Fastest 40 Minutes of Basketball” depends on a lot of things happening. If a few of those things don’t happen, the system doesn’t work all that well.

Enough about that. But how about March Madness so far, eh? The George Mason stepback triple to top Villanova was my favorite moment so far. I enjoyed it mostly because I was in a restaurant full of people who reacted like I did. The fact that the Thursday and Friday of last week aren’t a holiday yet. We always hear about how much money businesses lose on those days. Here’s an idea: cancel work and school. Let people do what they actually want to do. Save the money you’re losing. It’s way more fun to watch the games with a bunch of people you don’t know than looking over your shoulder to make sure your boss doesn’t catch you.

Then there’s all the bracket pools. Mo Egger sums up my opinions about them pretty well:

I know it’s late, but I feel like I have to touch on the Pitt/Butler debacle. I watched it unfold live and could not believe what was happening. There were fouls on both plays. I thought that when I saw it live and I thought it after the replays. I was just surprised the officials call it. But I guess this stems back to my criticism of all sports after the Dustin Johnson thing at Whistling Straits: you call the game by the rules…the situation doesn’t matter. A foul is a foul, even if it’s within the last two seconds. As much flak as some people will give those officials, I give them credit for sacking up and making the calls.

And can we stop saying the Big East sucks because of its tourney performance? I am not one to root for a conference, but I have to stand up for the Big East here. The Big East’s performance in the NCAA Tourney doesn’t discredit an entire season’s worth of work. It doesn’t discredit a 29-16 record against other conferences. A one and done tournament doesn’t tell you which conference is the best. If the logic used to tear down the Big East is right, that means the Colonial Athletic Conference is just as good as the Big East. I’d take any middle-of-the-pack Big East team and put them in the CAA and they’d win it every year. The Big East is easily the best conference in America, whether the conference’s teams perform in March or not. And besides, if you have 11 teams in the tournament, you’re going to have more teams get knocked out. That’s just math.

Want to waste your money? Buy some NCAA Tournament stuff from UC’s return to the Big Dance that you can’t even prove is from UC’s return to the Big Dance.

You had to see this coming…they do everything with Legos nowadays.

Thank God someone finally compiled this: the box score from Space Jam.

Rebecca Black is getting torn down for her YouTube sensation “Friday.” I’m not crazy about the song, but people need to back off. As this article proves, there are at least four songs just as bad, if not worse (yes, I said four because “Baby” doesn’t belong on this list).

This is good journalism. Find the story behind the story.

Apparently some guy from Columbus was arrested for collecting other people’s urine and drinking it. Pretty messed up, I guess. But I don’t understand how you arrest him. Is he stealing? I feel like if I take a leak, that piss is no longer mine because I chose to dispose of it some place. Sure, it’s weird the guy drinks pee, but this is America. I think it’s weird girls think Uggs are cute, or guys wear skinny jeans, but they don’t get arrested for it. Land of the Free? Let him drink pee.

If there were more coaches like this guy, I’d bet players would study film a lot more.

I cannot wait to win The Masters…

Did everybody hear about this one-legged kid from Arizona State winning the national title in wrestling? A pretty cool story. Pretty neat to see a kid refuse to let his disabilities define him and do something. I give him a ton of credit for that. But it also makes me wonder: is his disadvantage actually kind of an advantage? Think about it: he’s in the 125-pound weight class, which means all the other kids weigh close to the same as him. But all the other kids have their weight distributed throughout their body. Anthony Robles weight is distributed throughout his body, too, but the weight that most people have in their second leg is actually in his upper body. That means he can have a stronger upper body than his opponents because his weight limit is technically different than theirs. The weight of his missing leg is redistributed as muscle throughout his upper body. I feel like there’s some sort of unfairness there. I still credit the kid for what he did, but I’m just sayin’.

A new restaurant opened in Waco, Texas, and people are upset about it. I’d kill for a chance to be the reporter on this story. I would have an absolute blast with a script about a place called “Fat Ho Burgers.” This guy wasn’t creative enough. Secondly, who cares what the place is called. If the burgers are good, the name doesn’t matter. It could be called “Poop on a Bun” for all I care. It’s all about burger quality for me. But if this lady knew how to run a business, she wouldn’t have run out of burgers at her grand opening. That’s not high demand hurting you; that’s poor preparation.

I don’t generally delve in to world issues or anything serious on this blog, but what happened in Japan is tragic. Bubba Watson, Ryuji Imada and Haruki Nakamura, as well as a lot of other people are doing some great things. A lot of athletes do stuff like this all the time, but it often goes unnoticed or unreported. For as egotistical and selfish as so many people like to think so many stars are, it’s not always the case.

I’ve been watching a lot of NBC’s Community lately and let me just say this: it’s outstanding. Just quality episode after quality episode. And Donald Glover and Danny Pudi are phenomenal together. I’ll send you off with two videos to prove it.

Carpe Diem.


~ by nchaney3 on March 23, 2011.

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