Tag: UNC Tarheels
* I was all set to write a post about how Arizona should know its place in the college basketball world and that despite its past history, Arizona shouldn’t mentioned in the same breath as UCLA, UNC or Kansas anymore. After all, Mark Few, Jamie Dixon, John Calipari and Tim Floyd had already rejected the Wildcats’ advances.
Then they go out and get Sean Miller. Way to step up to the plate, Jim Livengood. Miller is a fantastic coach; he’ll do well out there. He’s just the guy to transform Arizona from a school defined by its legendary coach, Lute Olson, into a school that defines its head coach.
* Note to all those arrogant Dukies though – you are a Coach K move away from becoming Arizona. Duke was ok before Krzyzewski arrived in Durham but they’re obviously off the charts with him. As I’ve stated before, there’s no reason to believe that Duke has a “right” to be part of college basketball royalty. Even UCLA had some lean years post-John Wooden. Ultimately, schools like Arizona or eventually Duke will have to transform from being defined by a coach to being defined by the program.
* I really came to respect Tom Izzo’s considerable coaching abilities last year when his Spartans took out Pitt in the NCAA Tournament. Let’s face it – that was not his best team and Pitt was on a roll after winning the Big East tournament. I would honestly consider him among the top 5 major coaches out there, alongside Roy Williams, Rick Pitino, Jim Calhoun and Mike Krzyzewski.
I’m leaving my alma mater’s last two coaches, Jamie Dixon and Ben Howland, off the list because titles are the name of the game. All the coaches on this list have reached the summit. But I honestly believe Izzo is one of the few coaches out there who could step up and compete in the Big East.
* A good friend of mine at Duke recently got very excited that Seth Curry is transferring from Liberty to Duke. Like most single-mindedly, self-absborbed Duke ‘fans’, he decided to trumpet this event to me in the middle of my misery over the Pitt loss. Now that I’m somewhat more clear-headed, I have to say – whoop dee doo! Just what Duke needs; another jump shooter. Nope, not a big or a banger. Another skinny little kid for Duke’s dribble-drive, kick-it-out offense. Curry is a great player but he couldn’t have banged with the big dawgs in the Big East.
As the college basketball season draws to a close, the coaching carousel has started to spin, as it always does this time of year. Jamie Dixon has been rumored to leave Pitt for a few years now; whether it was when USC a few years ago or now that Arizona is searching. I don’t think he’ll leave… for now.
John Calipari is leaving a pretty good situation at Memphis for the University of Kentucky. Tim Floyd turned down Arizona to stay at USC. Mike Anderson is staying at Missouri after getting a hefty pay raise and who knows what Mark Few at Gonzaga will do.
Some programs are defined by one great coach. Arizona is considered one of the better jobs in the country because Lute Olson made it that way. Likewise, Jim Calhoun at UConn and Mike Krzyzewski at Duke define their institutions.
Other great programs define their coaches. Ben Howland at UCLA, Roy Williams at UNC and now John Calipari at Kentucky are just another few names in the long list of winners at their schools. Great though they may be, the institutions are the big schtick, not the coaches.
Money aside, I often wonder why rebuilding a program seems more attractive to a coach than creating his own legacy. Kentucky’s tradition may be greater than most programs in the country but once you reach a certain level, the infrastructure is the same. If we take long-term legacy into account, who’s to say that Memphis under Calipari couldn’t have become the next UConn.
I, for one, think Jamie Dixon could become the icon of Pitt basketball. He could be the one to make it a destination job. Laugh if you will but there was no predetermination that schools such as Kansas or Indiana would become college basketball royalty. College basketball is slightly different from college football in that you don’t need a fertile recruting backyard to be successful. Duke had ZERO players from North Carolina on its roster. Of those 14 players, only two were from the same home state.
I don’t think anyone would fault Calipari for taking the enormous pay raise he got from Kentucky. I think he is poised to become the next great Wildcats coach and will rule the SEC for years to come. But if he had been offered “only” $1 million more, would it have been prudent to leave a program he was already building into a dominant force. We will never know.
There is a constantly raging debate in college football about haves/have nots. Central to this discussion is the plight of previous national powers fallen trying to rejoin the elite and programs with maybe one or two brief past glory periods trying to do the same.
As to the former, you have programs such as Nebraska, Notre Dame, Florida State and Miami-FL. It has been claimed that Nebraska stands little of being mentioned in the same breath as USC again because players have greater choice and why should any one now need to go to Lincoln, NE. Such a position neglects the resurgence of a program that fell on hard times in the 1990s – the Oklahoma Sooners. Why on earth would anyone want to go to Norman, OK?!
In Notre Dame’s case, academics and recruits’ ignorance of ND’s past cachet has been their undoing. However, ND’s academics have always been stringent. For FSU & Miami-FL, the ever-increasing attention placed on recruiting Florida has certainly hurt these programs’ talent bases. Recruits no longer need to sit as the 3rd string WR at UM when you can be a star (and get TV exposure) at Rutgers or South Florida. However, the rise of South Florida itself and continued excellence at the University of Florida is testament to the depth of the Sunshine State.
In the second case, you have lesser programs such as Clemson, Ole Miss and unfortunately, my alma mater, Pitt. These are programs that experienced meteoric success in short periods in the past. They have never been consistent national title contenders decade after decade like UMich, Ohio State & USC. Yet fans of these schools still look on their teams as still being one snap short, one player short of returning to the glory years. They go from coach to coach, AD to AD, in search of that elusive peak.
In order to divine whether these two types of programs indeed have a lessened or non-existence shot at resurging, we must look more closely at the Have’s in college football. Actually, we should say the Current-Have’s. OU is once again a national power while Nebraska flounders. USC is a contender while Notre Dame languishes. Virginia Tech wins while Pitt languishes. Rutgers rise from (beyond) the ashes while Syracuse bottoms out.
My contention is that coaching is the biggest factor. Programs such as Clemson, Ole Miss, Pitt, Michigan State, Nebraska, Notre Dame all have the support of their Administrations. They have great or improving facilities. They all have some sort of tradition and a past of winning and producing great pro players. But they don’t or may not have the right coaching anymore.
Look at USC post-John Robinson/pre-Pete Carroll, OU after Switzer but before Stoops, Notre Dame since Lou Holtz’s departure. Consider Nebraska after Tom Osbourne, Florida State without Bowden’s great offensive coordinators. Now look at USC with Pete Carroll, OU with Stoops, LSU since Nick Saban and now with Les Miles.
It is not a chicken or egg issue. Great coaches can turn around a badly-constructed institution. A bad coach cannot turn win at a well-built administration. Certainly a bad coach can humble a great program. If that was not the case, Paul Hackett would still be at USC, Bob Davie would be winning titles at Notre Dame and Bill Callahan would not have one foot in the grave at Nebraska.
Because they exert greater control over their players and programs, college coaches have much more of an impact than professional coaches. Nick Saban awakened LSU; Greg Schiano is doing the near-impossible at Rutgers; Frank Beamer has built a colossus at his alma mater, Virginia Tech. Soon – Butch Davis at UNC, Dennis Erickson at Arizona State. H*ll, Steve Spurrier won at Duke two decades ago. South Carolina is/will be a picnic compared to Durham. And for my sake, let us hope – Dave Wannstedt at Pitt… or maybe the next guy.