Post NBA Draft Thoughts on Coaching

The NBA draft was lat night. Three Kentucky players went in the lottery. Coach Calipari was at the draft and posted pictures with the kids who were drafted. Many of the comments on those pictures are UK fans yelling at him for being more concerned with getting players to the NBA than winning championships. They say that the only thing that matters is winning a championship. These comments made me think about the job of a coach. What is the coach’s job? Is it all about wins and losses and nothing else matters? I can see that argument in professional sports, but not at any other level. Sure, winning games is good and the goal of playing the game should be to win, but that is not the most important thing.

If you are coaching youth sports, even at the all star level, developing the players as both athletes and people should be the main goal. There is no level in youth sports where you stop teaching and start caring only about wins and losses. Unfortunately, I’ve heard coaches as early as 10U opine that since they had a collection of talented players they had to worry less about coaching because the wins would be easy. They have no business coaching kids. The wins over everything else mentality destroys youth sports. We end up with situations where kids are kicked off their local travel teams on favor of kids who live miles away so the coach can notch a couple of extra wins. Instead of working with players and developing their skills, coaches just dump the kids who are in a slump. It’s easier than actually teaching. Isn’t winning all that matters? Who cares if they ever play high school sports as long as I get my trophy.

If you are coaching high school sports you should also be developing the players as both people and athletes. Sure, you have tryouts and you pick the best players.  This is the point where some kids have to hear that they don’t have the skills to play at this level. Once you have a team, though, you have to worry about more than wins and losses You should be making sure your kids are keeping their grades up and helping them develop their skills in the sport. Your job is to get them ready for life after high school. That might mean getting them ready for college sports. It might mean helping them get the grades they need to go to college without sports. It might just mean helping them become better people. Wins are good, but getting them ready for life after high school is more important.

I think the same goes for college. It is a big business and you will be judged on wins and losses. This does not mean that a championship is all that matters. You are still coaching kids and you still have a responsibility to get them ready for the next step in life. For many of the Kentucky players this means the NBA. For some it means getting a degree. If your players are going to class, winning games, having fun and either going pro or graduating from college then you are doing your job. Calipari is excelling at this. The kid good enough to go pro are drafted and are making millions. The kids that aren’t are getting degrees and possibly playing overseas. He’s going to Final Fours and championship games and has won a championship. I think the one and done system is flawed, but that’s the game right now.  Calipari understands that his job is getting the players where they need to be to be successful. He’s doing this and winning games. The people complaining just don’t understand that the players and their futures are more important than the feelings of the fans.

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We Are Family: College Basketball Edition

At the end of the college basketball season Georgetown fired their coach. This was a big deal because their coach was the son of legendary Georgetown coach John Thompson. Before he was fired, several articles were written in the Post about the possibility that he would be fired. Many thought he would get more time because the school didn’t want to upset Big John. Once he was fired and the coaching search started there were articles about who should be the next coach and the concept of “keeping it in the family” came up. In the end, Georgetown did keep it in the family and hired Patrick Ewing. Word is that they tried to hire several non-family coaches and were turned down. Ewing has a lot of experience as an assistant NBA coach, but no college coaching experience. He might be good. He might not. I do wonder if they would have hired a non-family guy with the same experience. Did they hire Ewing because he was the best available after the others said no or did they hire him because of his name?

I’m not a big fan of the “keep it in the family” mindset. I watched(with glee) UNC go through down years because of this. When Dean Smith retired they hired his long time assistant Bill Gutheridge and then Matt Doherty. Everyone knows they wanted Roy Williams back then, but he was not ready to leave Kansas. The problem was that once he was out they were still set on hiring a UNC guy and ended up with mediocrity. A program like UNC should be able to hire almost any coach they want and should hire the best available, not the best UNC guy available. They were fortunate to get Roy Williams after Doherty didn’t work out. Now, both UNC and Duke are getting closer to a time when they will both need to replace a legend. Does UNC still try to keep it in the family? Will Duke go that direction as well? Are there viable family options for them? It will be interesting to see what they do when the time comes. I wouldn’t be surprised if Dadgum Roy retires now that he won another championship.

I am a Kentucky alum and still a big fan of the program. There are many UK fans who are always pushing for a Kentucky guy to be the next coach. The problem is there are no viable options out there for this. None of the Kentucky guys n coaching are at a level to be ready to be the coach of Kentucky basketball. I wish someone like Travis Ford or John Pelphrey had been successful and ready to take over whenever Coach Cal leaves, but they will probably never get there. The closest we have to someone in the “family” as a successful coach is Richard Pitino.  I would be curious to see if he is an option in a few years when we are looking for a new coach. Having Little Ricky as the coach would be interesting. However, as much fun as it would be to have a Kentucky guy ready to take over, I would much rather just hire the best coach available even if he is a Dukie or Little Ricky. I never have understood why others feel otherwise.

Tater’s Take on March Madness

This is the month we get the best event in sports: March Madness. I love the upsets, the buzzer beaters and the thought that any random team can go on a run and win it all. Normally, it is even more fun for me because My Kentucky Wildcats are there until the very end. This year, though, I’m adjusting to life without the Wildcats being around. It’s hard, but I’m still watching.

Buh Bye: I am happy to see that Duke, Wisconsin and Indiana have all been eliminated from the tournament. There are still plenty of teams that I don’t like, but I’m very happy that none there seams will win it all. I was even happier with the way they lost. Duke and IU are beaten easily and Wisconsin choked. I guess it’s petty to watch in hopes of others being disappointed, but I don’t care. I laugh at the defeat of these teams. Also, this picture is still valid

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Shut Up: Of course Duke and rat face Coach K@#@$$@ couldn’t go quietly. Coach K@##$@#$ decided to lecture an Oregon player for taking a shot at the end of the game. Not as the clock expired, but as a shot clock expired with time still on the game clock. I guess the polite thing to do is to hand the ball to Duke instead of continuing to play the game. This took place after trippy Grayson Allen refused to shake hands with the Oregon players as the clock expired. The same Grayson Allen who tripped at least two opponents during the season and was not punished. I’m sure coach K@###@$@$ would have been OK with the Oregon coach lecturing Allen on sportsmanship, right? To make things worse, when asked about it, Coach K@##$$ lied about the exchange and said it never happened. Stay classy, Duke.

Frauds: UNC and Syracuse are in the final 8. Both teams are teams that have committed academic fraud. UNC still has not been punished. Syracuse got in the field because the committee felt their losses while their cheating coach was suspended shouldn’t count against them. Yet somehow people still say Calipari is what’s wrong with college basketball and we hear more complaints about UK players going pro instead of the academic fraud issues. We need to get rid of the one and done rule and let the kids who have no interest in college go pro. That might help with the need to commit academic fraud to keep players on the court when they can’t do what it takes in the classroom.

Refs: College basketball officiating is horrendous. You know it’s bad when someone like Doug Sirmons is considered good enough to officiate a tournament game. The NCAA needs to find a way to fix this. They are ruining the game. Limit how many games they can call in a week. Actually review their work and install consequences for screwing up. Suspend the ones who call technical fouls when none are warranted. Fire the ones who are consistently bad. As long as they can be bad at the job, penalize people who complain about them and suffer no consequences, there is no reason for them to want to improve.

My Dream Final Four: I don’t have much love for any of the teams left in the field. I guess I will go with a dream final four of Oregon(though Oklahoma would be fine), Villanova, Virginia and Notre Dame. Most of those picks are because I dislike the other teams, not because I like the ones I picked. It would be interesting to watch the announcers blatantly ignore the academic fraud issues while calling a Syracuse/UNC gme, but not enough for me to want to see them win.

Reflections on the Season and the Loss

I know some will think it is bad timing to post a basketball blog on the morning of the attacks in Brussels, but this is the first time I’ve had the time to type out my thoughts on the season. So, here goes:

Early this season when Kentucky lost to teams like UCLA and Ohio State, I would have said a second round loss was to be expected. The team looked OK, but not great and a second round loss wold not be a surprise given what I saw on the court. Unfortunately, wins against Duke, overtime against Kansas and a surge in the SEC tournament made everyone think the team was finally getting it together and had what it took to get to the championship game. This week against Indiana we discovered that the team was who we thought they were early in the season: a team with two great guards, but not much else A team not built for a long tournament run. It’s disappointing, but we are spoiled. This is only the second team in the Calipari era to not go to the final eight. That’s a pretty good run and there is a monster recruiting class coming next year.

I will miss watching Ulis and Murray play. They were one of the best guard combinations we’ve ever had. I wish we had them for another year, but we can’t expect a kid to pass up millions of dollars to stay in college one more year. I will miss good Poythress and even inconsistent Poythress. I can’t say I will miss Skal, because I barely saw him play, but I wish him the best in the NBA. Once a Cat, always a Cat no matter how much you were on the floor. You still wore the uniform and that’s enough. I will look forward to next year and the hopes of another final four run and will always be a fan no matter the results.

Now, the rest of the tournament field: Normally, I would want the team that beat Kentucky to go far so that we at least lost to a team on a championship run, but that team is Indiana. I can’t cheer for Indiana. Especially after Yogi Farrell’s mom tweeted trash about Ulis after the game. Learn how to win with class. It would be interesting for UNC to win since that might mean Roy Williams would retire and shake up the coaching world, but I can’t cheer for UNC(plus I can win money if they lose). No way I can cheer for Duke, Syracuse or Kansas(plus, again, I can win money if Kansas loses). So, I’m left with the Gonzaga Fighting Wiltjers(once a Cat, always a Cat) as my heart choice and the Oregon Ducks as my head choice. I guess an A&M win would be good for the SEC, so that would be OK as well. But, really, basketball is over for me and I will look toward the rebuilding Braves as my next source of sports frustration.

My Bracket Projections 2015

Here are my projections for March Madness this year:

Upsets: Buffalo  over WVU, BYU over Xavier, UC Irvine over Louisville, SF Austin over Utah, Eastern Washington over Georgetown.

Second round upsets: Wichita St over Kansas, Arkanas over UNC, BYU over Baylor, NC state over Villanova, Michigan State over Virginia.

Final eight: UK, Notre Dame, Wisconsin, Arizona, Northern Iowa, Michigan State, Duke, Gonzaga

Final Four: UK, Arizona, Northern Iowa, Gonzaga

Championship: UK over Gonzaga

My NCAA Predictions

 

But first – how exactly does UK and Florida have identical resumes, UK beats Florida twice in 9 days, the last by 16 to win the SEC tournament and UK is a 4, Florida is a 2?

 

First round upset specials – Richmond over Vanderbilt

FSU over Texas A&M

Utah St over Kansas State

Oakland over Texas

Missouri over Cincy

Penn State over Temple

High seeds moving past second round – Oakland, Utah State

Final Four – Ohio State, SDSU, Kansas, Pitt

Championship – Ohio State over Kansas