Thursday, March 27, 2008

Interesting plane ride - take it for what its worth

(reposted from Peegs)

This relays some private conversations I had in confidence, so please do not pass the information along. I really want it to remain private, which is why I'm only posting it on Peegs' Premium IU Hoops Forum, which I know only a handful of people read.

I travel frequently to Bloomington on business, and yesterday I booked a ride on a private plane for a day trip. I knew I wasn’t going to be the only one flying, but imagine my surprise when I boarded the plane and saw Tony Bennett sitting there. I wasn’t sure what to say so I just sat down and tried to mind my own business. Tony looked a little uncomfortable, like he had just been caught eating the last Oreo, which might’ve been because of the IU hat, IU shirt, IU jacket, and IU headband I was wearing. I played it cool though.

Then I looked up and saw Bruce Pearl getting onto the plane. He looked around and said, “TONY! How the hell are you doing!!” Bruce walked over and enveloped Coach Bennett in a massive bear hug.

Once he was able to get some air, Tony gasped, “Uh, nice to meet you, Mr. Pearl.”

“Back at you!!!”, Bruce replied, slapping Tony on the back, knocking him back into his seat. “So tell me, how are you going to beat those bastard Tarheels?!”

Tony brightened right up and smiled. “Well, I’ve been analyzing all their games with a neural network supercomputer that I built in my garage last summer that uses natural learning techniques to discover hidden tendencies, and we’ve devised a defensive game plan based on faux man-oriented techniques that should…. Uh, Mr. Pearl?” While Tony was talking, Bruce had taken the air sickness bag out and was reading the instructions.

“Sorry, dude, I drifted off there.” Coach Pearl yawned loudly.

“Well, have you figured out how to beat Louisville, Mr. Pearl?” Tony asked politely.

“Yup, got it all figured out. Went to the pound yesterday and got the cutest kitten in the place. Before the game I’m going to show the kitten to my team and tell them that if they don’t win, I’ll feed the kitten to my pet boa constrictor, Harold. Works everytime.”

Coach Bennett looked a little pale. Just then we all looked up as Brad Brownell entered the cabin. He looked around the private plane like a kid in a candy store. He saw Coach Bennett and they nodded at each other, just as Bruce bellowed “BRAD!!” and ran up to Coach Brownell to chest bump him. Once Brad regained his feet, he asked where he’s supposed to sit. I told him that on private planes you can just sit anywhere you’d like.

“Cool!” he said. He sat as far away from Bruce as he could. He reclined the back of his seat and said, “Neato!” Then he started playing with the stereo headphones.

At this point, I couldn’t help myself any longer, and I asked, “So, I guess you guys are heading to Bloomington about the Indiana coaching position?”

“My sole focus right now is on my team and beating North Carolina, and I’m completely happy at Washington State and expect to coach there for the rest of my career,” replied Coach Bennett.

“My sole focus right now is on my team and beating Louisville, and I love Tennessee and if Indiana contacts me like I expect them to, I will tell them I have no interest in the position,” replied Coach Pearl.

“Yeah, Indiana rocks, man!” replied Coach Brownell.

Just then we were all temporarily blinded by a bright light from the entrance to the cabin. Once our eyes adjusted to the light, we realized that it was the morning sun reflecting off a white Armani suit, worn by none other than Rick Pitino. Coach Pitino strolled into the cabin, removed his ermine shawl and handed it elegantly to the flight attendant, who curtsied almost against her will.

“Oh, crap,” said Tony.

“I need another kitten,” Bruce muttered.

Coach Brownell knelt before Coach Pitino and kissed his ring finger. “Rise, my child,” said Rick graciously.

“Don’t tell me you’re interested in the Indiana job, Coach Pitino!” Brad said. “You’ve got a great thing going at Louisville, why would you leave there to go to Indiana?”

“My sole focus right now is on my team and beating Tennessee and I’m completely happy…” Rick paused. “Ah, hell, who am I kidding? I’m not worried about Tennessee at all and I’m bored to death at Louisville. The program is in great shape. We’ve got a great athletic director, new facilities, plenty of money, good players, good recruits…. What’s the point? Hell, Bruce Weber could take over for me right now and even he probably couldn’t screw it up.” He paused. “Well, maybe he could. Anyway, it’s boring with a capital B. But Indiana?” Rick sighed and got a little misty eyed. “They’re a complete mess. A historic program that seems to be doing everything it can to self-destruct. They NEED me. I can SAVE them. Think about it. I would win a title there, you can bet on it. If I win titles at both Indiana and Kentucky… hell, they’ll still be talking about me a hundred years from now.”

At this point Bruce stood up suddenly and took off his shirt, displaying a huge, red “INDIANA” tattoo across his abdomen. “You son of a bitch, I’m going to be the next coach at Indiana, not you!!”

“You wish!” Tony yelled. “Everyone agrees I’m the best fit!!”

“Yeah, everyone loves to win 45-40,” Brad said sarcastically.

“What did you say?!” Tony grabbed the front of Brad’s shirt as Bruce climbed over the row of seats towards Rick, who rose and began to remove his leather gloves.

I thought things were going to get ugly when someone else entered the cabin. Suddenly everything got silent. The world seemed to freeze for a few seconds, then each of the coaches sat quietly back in their seats.

“Oh, crap,” said Coach Pitino.

“What up, coach?” said Brad to the newcomer… everyone groaned and ducked out of the way.


That’s it. Like I said, please don’t pass this insider information along.

Monday, March 24, 2008

Peegs' coaching hot board

Here's the Coaching Hot List from Peegs'.

Here's my ranking of them based on how much I want them:

1. Tony Bennett
2. Jamie Dixon
3. Anthony Grant
4. Brad Brownell
5. Sean Miller

6. Mike Montgomery
7. Rick Pitino
8. Thad Matta
9. Tom Crean
10. Jay Wright
11. Mike Brey

12. Randy Wittman
13. Bruce Pearl
14. Rick Barnes
15. Scott Skiles

16. Dan Dakich
17. Kevin Stallings
18. Scott Drew
19. John Calipari

The gaps indicate big drops between one coach and the next in terms of my interest.

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Carson's room

As always, click on the picture to see the larger view.

And you can view the whole album HERE.

That last one isn't actually Carson's room.

Saturday, March 22, 2008

Fourteen years

Memories... light the corners of my mind... misty water-colored memories... of the way we were...

Without further ado, I present the last 14 years of Indiana's great basketball program. Summary chart is at the end.

Coach: Bob Knight
19-12 Overall
11-7 Big Ten
FG%: .484
Opp FG%: .410
Starters: Alan Henderson
Brian Evans
Andrae Patterson
Neil Reed
Michael Hermon
NCAA - 9 seed
Final Game - Lost in 1st round 65-60 to 8 seed Missouri

Coach: Bob Knight
19-12 Overall
12-6 Big Ten
FG%: .472
Opp FG%: .409
Starters: Brian Evans
Andrae Patterson
Neil Reed
Charlie Miller
Sherron Wilkerson
NCAA - 6 seed
Final Game - Lost in 1st round 64-52 to 11 seed Boston College

Coach: Bob Knight
22-11 Overall
9-9 Big Ten
FG%: .438
Opp FG%: .422
Starters: AJ Guyton
Neil Reed
Andrae Patterson
Jason Collier
Charlie Miller
NCAA - 8 seed
Final Game - Lost in 1st round 80-62 to 9 seed Colorado

Coach: Bob Knight
20-12 Overall
9-7 Big Ten
FG%: .491
Opp FG%: .446
Starters: AJ Guyton
Luke Recker
Andrae Patterson
William Gladness
Michael Lewis
NCAA - 7 seed
Final Game - Lost in 2nd round 78-61 to 2 seed UConn

Coach: Bob Knight
23-11 Overall
9-7 Big Ten
FG%: .469
Opp FG%: .419
Starters: AJ Guyton
Luke Recker
William Gladness
Larry Richardson
Lynn Washington
NCAA - 6 seed
Final Game - Lost in 2nd round 86-61 to 3 seed St. John's

Coach: Bob Knight
20-9 Overall
10-6 Big Ten
FG%: .478
Opp FG%: .388
Starters: AJ Guyton
Kirk Haston
Dane Fife
Lynn Washington
Michael Lewis
NCAA - 6 seed
Final Game - Lost in 1st round 77-57 to 11 seed Pepperdine

Coach: Mike Davis
21-13 Overall
10-6 Big Ten
FG%: .453
Opp FG%: .394
Starters: Jared Jeffries
Dane Fife
Tom Coverdale
Kirk Haston
Jeff Newton
NCAA - 4 seed
Final Game - Lost in 1st round 77-73 to 13 seed Kent State

Coach: Mike Davis
25-12 Overall
11-5 Big Ten
FG%: .460
Opp FG%: .408
Starters: Jared Jeffries
Dane Fife
Kyle Hornsby
Tom Coverdale
Jared Odle
NCAA - 5 seed
Final Game - Lost title game 64-52 to 1 seed Maryland

Coach: Mike Davis
21-13 Overall
8-8 Big Ten
FG%: .426
Opp FG%: .416
Starters: Tom Coverdale
Jeff Newton
Bracey Wright
George Leach
Kyle Hornsby
NCAA - 7 seed
Final Game - Lost in 2nd round 74-52 to 2 seed Pittsburgh

Coach: Mike Davis
14-15 Overall
7-9 Big Ten
FG%: .397
Opp FG%: .425
Starters: Bracey Wright
Marshall Strickland
AJ Moye
George Leach
Donald Perry
NCAA - None
Final Game - Lost 71-59 to Illinois in BTT

Coach: Mike Davis
15-14 Overall
10-6 Big Ten
FG%: .425
Opp FG%: .420
Starters: DJ White
Robert Vaden
Marshall Strickland
Bracey Wright
AJ Ratliff
NCAA - None (NIT)
Final Game - Lost 67-60 to Vanderbilt in 1st round NIT game

Coach: Mike Davis
19-12 Overall
9-7 Big Ten
FG%: .461
Opp FG%: .436
Starters: Robert Vaden
Marco Killingsworth
Marshall Strickland
Lewis Monroe
Earl Calloway
NCAA - 6 seed
Final Game - Lost in 2nd round 90-80 to 3 seed Gonzaga

Coach: Kelvin Sampson
21-11 Overall
10-6 Big Ten
FG%: .446
Opp FG%: .416
Starters: DJ White
Roderick Wilmont
Earl Calloway
Armon Bassett
Lance Stemler
NCAA - 7 seed
Final Game - Lost in 2nd round 54-49 to 2 seed UCLA

Coach: Kelvin Sampson & Dan Dakich
25-8 Overall
14-4 Big Ten
FG%: .463
Opp FG%: .412
Starters: DJ White
Eric Gordon
Jamarcus Ellis
Armon Bassett
Lance Stemler
NCAA - 8 Seed
Final Game - Lost in 1st round 86-72 to 9 seed Arkansas

Win Loss Win Loss FG% FG% Seed Games
94-95 19 12 11 7 484 410 9 1
95-96 19 12 12 6 472 409 6 1
96-97 22 11 9 9 438 422 8 1
97-98 20 12 9 7 491 446 7 2
98-99 23 11 9 7 469 419 6 2
99-00 20 9 10 6 478 388 6 1
00-01 21 13 10 6 453 394 4 1
01-02 25 12 11 5 460 408 5 6
02-03 21 13 8 8 426 416 7 2
03-04 14 15 7 9 397 425 - 0
04-05 15 14 10 6 425 420 - 0
05-06 19 12 9 7 461 436 6 2
06-07 21 11 10 6 446 416 7 2
07-08 25 8 14 4 463 412 8 1
Avg 20.3 11.8 9.9 6.6 455 416 6.6 1.6

Number of wins over higher-seeded teams: 2 (both in '02)
Number of losses to lower-seeded teams: 5
Number of losses to higher-seeded teams: 7
Number of wins over lower-seeded teams: 8
Overall NCAA tournament record: 10-12

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

What might have been

In 1948 UCLA was looking for a new basketball coach...the two finalists were Joe Schmo from L.A. and John Wooden from Indiana. The fan base and alumni were screaming for a "UCLA Guy" or a "west coast guy". Joe Schmo was hired. John Wooden, somewhat depressed, accepted a job at Pfizer Chemical in Terre Haute, Indiana...he retired after 40 years of service in the maintenance department.
In 1961, North Carolina's basketball coach, Frank McGuire, was forced to resign due to a recruiting scandal. The fan base and alumni blamed the University for hiring a New York native and former coach at St. Johns. They screamed for a "Carolina Blue Guy". The two finalists were Jim Schmo (brother to Joe) who had a degree from Carolina and Dean Smith, who was McGuire's assistant coach for 3 years. Smith was not chosen because people felt he was tainted by the scandal and was a midwesterner from Kansas. Smith eventually accepted a position at IBM and flipped houses in his spare time.
In 1971, Indiana was seeking a new basketball coach and hired Billy Jo Bob, an IU grad and high school phenom. They had considered Bob Knight but the fan base and alumni didn't want an Ohio native and one who played collegiately at Ohio State. Bob was the coach at Army but later founded an outdoor publication called Walleye Insider...he was never seen again after his lightweight Cessna disappeared from Winnipeg's radar screen in 1976.
In 1975, Duke University was looking for a new basketball coach. Despite grumblings from the fan base and alumni, they gambled on a Chicago kid nicknamed coach K, who was a graduate assistant for Billy Jo Bob at IU.

Monday, March 10, 2008

My conflict over Rick Pitino

First off, just to be clear, I'll give our new coach a chance no matter who it is. If Greenspan hires Charles Manson to be the new coach, you'll see me on the board saying things like "Sure, what he did was wrong, but that was before he was coaching at Indiana, and I'm sure he knows that stuff won't fly here," and "Technically, I don't think brainwashing people to commit murders is an NCAA violation." I'm not going to take my ball and go home if Greenspan doesn't pick "my" candidate (and so far I don't have a particular guy that I'm pulling for... and I'm trying hard to stay that way).

That said, it obviously doesn't mean that I have no feelings about the search at all. Basically, there are a number of coaches that I've seen mentioned for the job that I don't want to see hired. They fall into two main camps:

1. Coaches who I think just aren't very good and are only mentioned because of some IU tie (like Dakich, Alford, Stallings, etc.)
2. Big-name coaches who I don't think are clean enough (like Calipari, Pearl, etc.)

And then there's Rick Pitino. Pitino represents a real conundrum for me.

1. As far as I can tell, Pitino runs a clean program, and has run clean programs for years.
2. As much as he's considered an "East coast guy", he's spent most of the last 20 years coaching within a couple hour drive of Bloomington, Indiana. He knows the midwest.
3. I think he's a good coach.
4. From a distance, I like his relationship with his players. He doesn't try to be their friend, but they seem to like playing for him anyway.
5. I think Pitino would be really successful at Indiana. Really successful. Like Final Fours and National Titles.

And yet, I have a big problem with Pitino. I hate his style of play. That's it in a nutshell. I don't think his style is bad or it makes him a bad coach, I just think it's ugly to watch.

When Pitino went to Kentucky, Kentucky was not in good shape. They had a little talent, but nothing like what would come later. When a team doesn't have much talent and needs to beat more talented teams, conventional wisdom says that you want to slow the game down and decrease the number of possessions. The fewer the possessions, the less chance the more talented team has to pull away.

Pitino turned that on its ear. He decided that what he wanted to do was minimize the number of halfcourt possessions, both offensively and defensively. So he focused on reducing the opponent's halfcourt offensive possessions by playing full court, pressure, trapping defenses that generated turnovers and made the opponent score in transition (which seems like a bad thing, except it was outside their comfort zone). And he focused his team on scoring in transition, even when the numbers weren't in his favor, and particularly on shooting 3s in transition (which wasn't commonplace back then). And of course he played his whole bench in order to wear the other team down. He increased the importance of athleticism at the expense of "basketball smarts". This was a brilliant coaching move, and it also was a style that the players loved, so recruiting followed.

And I hated watching it.

As Kentucky's talent increased, the effectiveness of this technique increased even more... or did it? I would submit that it didn't. Kentucky had so much talent that they didn't need to rely on high-risk/high-return techniques to win. Early on, the techniques turned probable losses into wins, but at some point it stopped doing that. I think it starting turning probable wins into blowouts... and then UK would run into a team with great guards who could consistently break UK's fullcourt press and POW the core of UK's gameplan was useless. In other words, they reached a point where Kentucky's style was most effective when it was least needed, and least effective when it was most needed.

And I hated watching it.

Giving credit where credit is due, Pitino's reliance on fullcourt defense and 3 point shooting seems to have gone down over time and he's adjusted to today's game. The man's a good coach. If he was hired by Indiana, I'm sure I'd feel some excitement over the success I think he'd bring to the program. But I'd also feel some real disappointment at the prospect of watching Indiana play that style of ball. There's nothing evil about it. There's nothing stupid about it. I just don't enjoy it.

I'd be very conflicted.