Mar 30, 2009

Posted by in Uncategorized | Comments Off on Don’t Let Your Ego Lead You to Believe There is Grass Greener Than That In the Garden of Eden

Don’t Let Your Ego Lead You to Believe There is Grass Greener Than That In the Garden of Eden

  I am still stuck on college hoops.  Sorry but I am glowing at the prospect that I am poised to win a few hundred bucks in the pool I have with my guys.  Thank you Tom Izzo and Michigan State.  That and I finally pulled away from my 13 year old daughter in our household pool; there is a lot of face saving in that one.

But the thing I wanted to touch on is the coaching carousel. Every year around this time coaches who are very successful at small and mid-market schools find themselves being wooed by the big boys — the Kentucky’s, UCLA’s, and Arizona’s.  On the one hand you’d think, “good for them, they deserve a chance at the big time”.  The problem is, in going for the gusto they are violating the 75% Percent Rule (see June 17, 2008 post).  In my mind there is no real upside in going to a high profile, high demand job. If you succeed it was expected and if you fail — and no matter how good you are you will inevitably fail — everyone wants a piece of you.

There is something to be said for being a big fish in a small pond; especially when that small pond is in the context of college basketball.   Everyone knows you, everyone is happy to have you there, you win and win often and the reality is it is rare you will ever get the big prize but if you do they will name the arena after you.  I get that Mark Few at Gonzaga University in Spokane must wonder what it would be like to have the unlimited budget of an Arizona but he quality of the relationships are just not the same.  At the big BCS schools, coaches are essentially babysitters.  Rarely do their kids stay four years and if they are lucky the really good ones stick around for two.  And with the need to get the great talent comes the pressure to skirt around the rules.  Just wait to see what blows up at UConn after the tournament.  And then you get to be Eddie Sutton, a guy with a great career who is rendered with the footnote of “cheater”.

Compare that to the small schools, where kids stay, graduate and come back to pay tribute to their coach come tourney time. It is a family.  Coach K has seemingly had the best of both worlds but there aren’t many Dukes out there where academics matter almost as much as basketball.  In reality Duke is what it is because of Coach K.  Just like St. John’s and Georgetown were giants because of Lou Carnesseca and John Thompson.   Those coaches had the luxury and freedom to build a national program.  Success came organically over time and they had a chance to enjoy and revel in it.

So Jim Calipari, think twice before turning in your sneakers at Memphis for the harsh spotlight of Lexington, Kentucky.  If nothing else recognize that there is nothing in Lexington to match the fervor of Beale Street on a Saturday night.

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