Archive for Thursday, March 31, 2005

Opinion: Coaching not the same

March 31, 2005

Here's a nod in favor of the basketball coaches at Basehor-Linwood High School, because after last weekend's series of games in the NCAA basketball tournament, I realized one thing -- those guys can flat out coach.

Now, because the Bobcat coaches are in a small town and are forced to play the hands they're dealt, in terms of talent, their coaching skills don't always show. But they've got 'em. They draw up plays that work, design offenses that produce points and encourage players to perform well beyond what they're capable of. Their jobs have nothing to do with attracting players, but rather creating them.

At the next level, such is not the case anymore. In today's game, college coaches have ceased as coaches and exist solely as recruiting masterminds. Look no further than the end of a couple of last weekend's high profile games for proof.

In Illinois' thrilling overtime victory over Arizona, Wildcats coach Lute Olson severely let me down. Don't get me wrong, there are few things I love more than watching Arizona choke, but the way they did it left me baffled. Down one, with 20-some seconds to play and possession of the ball, Olson simply froze.

Instead of designing a play for the player many believe to be the best shooter in the tournament (Salim Stoudamire), Olson went with a play for Hassan Adams, a player who was hot at the time. That, I can take. That, I understand. But the execution of the play was atrocious. Although it appeared to be the players on the court who failed in those final seconds, I think it started in the huddle. I think Ol' Lute lost it and simply choked.

The same happened two days later to Kentucky's Tubby Smith. With his Wildcats owning possession and in control of their Final Four destiny, Smith drew up something that looked more like what I would try. Junior forward --hat's right, forward --elenna Azubuike received the ball well beyond the arc, dribbled around for a while and finally heaved up a shot from the baseline AFTER the buzzer had sounded.

Kentucky went on to lose to Michigan State in double overtime.

I understand when players miss shots. And I understand that not all buzzer-beater attempts can fall through the twine. But when coaches --egendary coaches, at that --ail to put their teams in a position to get a good shot, I become alarmed.

I can't help but wonder if these guys spend all of their energy and time recruiting and less and less time coaching.

That's sad.

I know recruiting's the name of the game these days. And I know it takes talent to win ballgames. But look no further than Wisconsin and West Virginia (teams that came within a couple of possessions of this year's Final Four) for proof that Division I program leaders can successfully execute the dual role of coach and recruiter.

It can happen. And if it doesn't, I think it's time for some of these guys to go.

I've never really cheered for Kentucky or Arizona. So I don't mind seeing them gone. And the tournament as a whole has been one of the best I can ever remember, save for Kansas choking in the first round.

I just hope that in the coming years we see more of that. And in order to be sure that we do, coaches have to find a way to get back to coaching in the games as well as in practice.

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