Monday, March 23, 2009

yet another post which was supposed to be about anything else at all is gobbled up by the monster that is a coaching search

Obligatory coaching search tracking results in three links, only two of which have to do with our next coach and one of which is about the past coach.

Minnesotans were no doubt happy to read the column in the Star-Tribune today reassuring them that Tubby Smith expects to stay at Minnesota. I would probably take it as the usual bla bla bla about being happy where you are right until you sign on the dotted line somewhere else, but for the part where Tubby rang up the school president. If we want this coaching search to wrap up quickly, then I think we're all Syracuse fans on Friday night. That or Pitt fans. (Tangent alert: Pitt is the champion in my money bracket, which you can imagine led to some heart palpitations on Friday night when they threatened me with losing to #16 seed ETSU. I would have hated Pitt forever for that.)

And wrap up quickly it had better, because we're not the only school looking for a coach. Arizona's out there looking, as is Alabama, Georgia, and quite possibly Kentucky. Alabama's already looking at VCU's Anthony Grant, which, if that goes through, would remove one of our possible fallback candidates. Craig Littlepage needs to get cracking, but is kind of in a tough spot - if Tubby won't come, unfortunately Candidates 1B and 1C are still in the tournament, and just to spite us will probably meet in the Final Four.

Kentucky, by the way, is interesting. Though we might find ourselves in hot competition for Sean Miller if Billy Gillispie is fired - Miller already plies his trade just 90 minutes from Lexington and would be a natural fit - if we haven't already hired a coach by then, Littlepage would be stupid not to at least give Gillispie a look.

So then there's this, a rather less than flattering look at Dave Leitao and his well-known public disposition that resembled a wolverine with Tourette's syndrome. Actually much of this is not new, especially to anyone within hearing range of Leitao shortly after witnessing the game's 12th defensive breakdown. But I hope we didn't fire the coach because he uses naughty words. There is one troubling aspect to the article:

Hobgood wasn’t alone in his frustrations. A number of former players never made Leitao’s inner circle. One recent Virginia graduate, a starter for Leitao, e-mailed The Daily Progress shortly after the coach’s departure. “Justice served, ha ha,” the player wrote.
This does cause me to soften my stance somewhat, the stance that says Leitao's relationship with his players being too combative was wildly overblown. Soften - but not change. Players do not punt trash cans on their very angry way out of the locker room following the coaching change announcement if they are happy about the firing, as Mike Scott was reported to do.

(Side note: If I could remember whether or not Lars Mikalauskas graduated, I'd suggest maybe he's the phantom emailer above. But that would be rumormongering, and that would be wrong because you can't rumormonger on the InterWebs.)

But it's not like we didn't know what we were getting into, and frankly it's not like Leitao didn't deliver what he promised. This is what Leitao said when he was hired:

“I can tell you that the next time we play a basketball team, these young men will play and fight together like never before. … Whoever plays against us will know that we will fight you for every inch of the floor.”
And Sammy Zeglinski, ibid from the CDP article above:

Added freshman Sammy Zeglinski: “His competitiveness was unmatched. He just really taught me how to compete.”
Maybe Leitao is that hot dog salesman from the commercial: "I sell what I say! Hot dogs." You know, the one where there's no bun. Maybe we got a hot dog without the bun and watery mustard. But I'm still of the opinion that it wouldn't have been long and we'd be back where we wanted to be, with Leitao at the helm. Littlepage better not screw up this coaching hire.

Anyway. If you haven't already done so, do vote in the poll on the right. It's this blog's first foray into the wide world of completely unscientific and statistically insignificant opinion canvassing. Seems like a natural question. The poll ends on Sunday, by which time I hope that most of those candidates aren't already out of the running.

My thoughts on the first lacrosse game that I got to see this season will have to wait, as I'm learning, rapidly, that I have no ability to shut up when it comes to this coaching search. Suffice to say this for now: This team could absolutely coast to the national championship if they could play offense like they did in the first quarter and defense like they did in the fourth and play it for four quarters, every time. But any game in which they play like that third quarter for more than 15 minutes, they'll lose. Badly. Let's just hope they don't do any of that in the NCAAs. By the way, I TiVoed that game so look for it some time in the future in highlight form in the video section.

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