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.

My Bracket Projections of Madness

This was a tough bracket to pick. I didn’t really want to pick the higher seeds as much as I did, but I didn’t really like the low seeds either. In years when Kentucky is not a one seed, I typically do one homer bracket and one bracket with them not going all the way. This year since I think anything can happen and Kentucky is pretty good I decided to just do the homer bracket. I don’t think I will be winning any pools this year. Here are the highlights:

Upset specials :

1st round: Vandy over Arizona, Northern Iowa over Texas, VCU over Oregon State, Stephen F Austin over West Virginia, Pitt over Wiscy, Gonzaga over Seton Hall.

2nd round: Texas Tech over Virginia, Gonzaga over Utah

Final 8: Kansas, Miami, Oregon, Texas a&m, UK, Notre Dame, Purdue, Michigan St

Final 4: Miami, Oregon, UK, Purdue

Championship: UK over Oregon

Of course, UK could easily lose to IU in the second round, but I couldn’t stomach predicting that or a loss to UNC in the Sweet 16. I also think Maryland could lose to South Dakota State instead of going to the Sweet 16. I wouldn’t be surprised to see all of the one seeds abut by the Final 8 with Oregon losing to the winner of the Duke/Baylor game. This year could be fun.

The Worst Thing About Sports

There are many things written about what is wrong with sports. I think the worst thing about sports(except maybe people who write about what’s wrong with sports) is  the fans. Most normal people like me(ha) enjoy watching the games and then go on with our lives. We may scream at the TV and the officials when the game is being played. We might post random stuff on Facebook during the game expressing pleasure or displeasure about the results. We might even have players, coaches and officials we don’t like for whatever reason(although I don’t still hate Christian Laettner). What we don’t do, however, is go to the insane level some people do. Below are a few examples:

Ashley Judd(I love her) posted on Twitter after the SEC championship game that she thought Arkansas played dirty. I’m not sure I agree with that, but she has a right to express her opinion. What followed was a stream of replies on Twitter calling her names and threatening her. She has vowed to press charges against these people and I hope she does.

Saturday UK played Cincinnati. Cincinnati has a player with anger management issues stemming from a childhood tragedy. He was ejected from the previous game and many people felt he should not have been allowed to play in the UK game. There were some instance during the UK game when it looked like he might be heading toward another ejection. Some people in the UK fan base couldn’t just let it go after the win. They tweeted insults to the player after the game. I’m embarrassed that they are associated with my school.

It’s not just casual fans either. During the Maryland/WVU game, the WVU coach’s daughters tweeted negative things about Dez Wells and the accusations against him at Xavier. He was accused of sexual assault, kicked out of school, later acquitted and settled out of court in a lawsuit against the school.

Fans have always been fanatical, hence the name, but social media has unfortunately made it easier for fans to directly target players, coaches and other fans. Here are some rules to live by:

1. Remember these players are people. In the above cases they are college kids. They are someone’s kid. Would you want people to say those things to your kid? No? Then don’t say it to others.

2. If you wouldn’t say it to their face, don’t say it on Twitter. Too many people have internet courage. They feel free to do stuff like this because they are somewhat anonymous and don’t expect consequences.

3. Remember it is just a game. It’s supposed to be fun. If you care so much that you are doing the above, re-evaluate your  life priorities.

4. If you do stuff like this in real life and your internet life is just reflecting you seek help.

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

Calipari Envy

I opened the Washington Post this morning to find that John Feinstein has chosen to write another article bashing John Calipari. Apparently, Calipari is the”everything wrong with college basketball” because he uses a rule that other people enacted better than everyone else in the game. Apparently, it is wrong for Coach Calipari to recruit the best high school players and help them achieve their dream of playing in the NBA. I guess he would prefer Coach Cal to be like Syracuse coach Jim Boheim who recently made negative comments about one of his own players to try to taint his draft status because he wouldn’t come  back and help Boheim win more games. Perhaps he should pattern his program after a small school like Cal Poly. Surely, they care more about student athletes? Right? Wrong. Cal Poly had a graduation rate of 62% among it’s players. UK? 82% and rising. Maybe he should be like Feinstein’s very good friend Gary Williams. He’s a hall of fame coach. He must have been  doing it the right way. Right? Wrong. Maryland had a 0 percent graduation rate for players entering school from 1997 to 2000, a period in which the school was building two Final Four teams. Think we ever heard from Feinstein about that? Nope.

All of those players at UK who aren’t real students have a B average. They go to class and take it seriously until such time someone offers them millions of dollars to quit. Want kids to stay in school? Stop offering the millions so early. A coach at any level before the professional level should see their job as preparing the kids for their next step in life. In college that should be either the NBA or graduation or in some cases both. For the most part, Calipari does exactly that. Many other schools don’t send kids to the NBA and also don’t graduate them. What exactly are those coaches doing? Looking out for themselves and no one else. If I had a kid who had the choice, I would send him to Calipari in a heartbeat.

People tend to hate success and successful people. Calipari is one of the best coaches coaching at the best college basketball program. People want to tear that down to feel better about themselves.