Rick Barnes (although he might want to reconsider now)
Mr. Misty Champagne
Me (talks broke down during negotiations over lifetime bacon rights from Murphy Farms)
Frank Haith (I’m assuming that Fowler isn’t a complete idiot)
Phil Ford (I mean, seriously. There’s no way, right?)
In a mildly surprising announcement (I figured he’d leave), not-close-to-ready
Josh McRoberts has announced that he’ll return to Duke for his sophomore season.
As the DBR said, it’s a welcome bit of good news for a university that’s been taking an absolute beating lately.
McRoberts’ decision is the last one that I know of for ACC players, other than Strawberry and Ibekwe of Maryland who are testing the waters but say they are coming back.
Mario Williams was an excellent player at NC State. A big, gifted defensive lineman who was among the best players in the league at his position.
But was he this good? A better athlete than Vince Young? A better prospect than Julius Peppers was? A talent not seen “in years?”
Wow. I guess that explains why he was the ACC Defensive Player of the Year, right? And why he led the All-ACC voting for defensive lineman, right? It makes sense that Williams, who shared the line with fellow studs John McCargo and Manny Lawson (as well as Stephen Tulloch and Marcus Hudson in the backfield), led NC State to the nation’s #1 defense, right?
If you followed those links above, you’ll see (as if you couldn’t guess) that was being a bit sarcastic. As good as Williams was in college, he wasn’t that good. He wasn’t as good as other guys in the ACC this year and he wasn’t nearly the player that Julius Peppers was at UNC. Super Mario may well have a fantastic NFL career, but teams would do well to look more closely at actual on-field performance than at measurements and times at the combine.
Well, well. It seems that our old friend Matt Doherty is on the move again, this time to SMU. You may recall that just one year ago, Doherty was hired off the scrap heap to try to revive the program at Florida Atlantic. I’m sure they knew he was not going to be a long-term coach there, but I’m guessing they hoped for more than one season – a 15-13 season, mind you.
My favorite quote, from the coach who left Notre Dame after just one season, was fired from UNC after three and is now leaving FAU after one season – “I look at this as a destination job. I didn’t want to take a job to take another job.” Sure thing, Matt. We believe you.
On another, more local front, the NC State coaching search appears to be focusing on Steve Lavin and John Beilein. I think I can sum up my feelings on that with just four words. Lavin, NO. Beilein, Yes. Steve Lavin was a mediocre (at best) coach at UCLA, basically in the same situation that Sendek was here. He accomplished just enough to avoid being fired most years, but never showed that he was going to take the program to the next level – or more accurately at a falling UCLA program, the previous level. Why would State try to build a major program with a guy who failed to sustain major program?
Beilein, on the other hand, shows every sign of being an excellent coach. The only concern I’d have with him is with recruiting. He had some very good teams at West Virginia (and Richmond before that), but I don’t recall him capitalizing on that success to land any high school All-Americans. You have to be both a great coach and a great recruiter if you want to hang with UNC and Duke.
I’m pretty sure I’m not alone when I say that I never expected to read the headline, “Terps’ Ibekwe, Strawberry May File for Draft.”
Huh? Yeah, I’m sure the NBA is just drooling over a couple of guys who scored 10 and 11 points per game for a team that missed the NCAA Tournamant.
Now, folks close to the players are saying that neither really wants to enter the draft, but they want to see how the process works. They won’t hire an agent. Fine. If that were really true, that they never really intend to leave, that would be sensible. But I don’t believe that for a second. Shavlik Randolph said the same thing last year, but left and then wasn’t drafted. Sure, Randolph was picked up and made a team, but that’s a one-in-a-million shot and neither Strawberry nor Ibekwe is 6’11”.
Instead, I think both of these guys think they are NBA-quality talent but are being held back in Maryland’s system. They are hoping that their true talent will show in these camps and they can go get paid.
They’re wrong – especially Ibekwe. Strawberry is talented and with some more seasoning, could be an NBA player. But he’s not ready now. Not close.
The fact that these guys are doing this, one year after John Gilchrist was basically run off for having a prima-donna attitude, makes me wonder what’s going on in Gary Williams’ program. Add in Chris McCray’s ineligibility and Travis Garrison’s lackluster play and it looks like there’s a whole lot of smoke swirling around College Park. And it’s not just the remains of the post-women’s championship rioting.
NC State won’t have Rick Barnes or John Calipari next year, they won’t have their (likely) top-ten recruit the next year and they may not have Cedric Simmons next season. Simmons is going to go through the NBA draft process, but says he won’t hire an agent. Given how weak this draft will be, his potential and the unresolved coaching situation at State, it’s pretty likely that we won’t see Simmons in the RBC Center next year.
Oof. Talk about your gut punches. It was a done deal, wasn’t it? Calipari was coming to NC State and he would (by any means necessary) build the program back up so that it was once again challenging Duke and Carolina for conference supremecy. Coach Cal would fit right in and maybe he’d even get Coach K to threaten to kill him in a press conference. Wolfpack nation was giddy with anticipation. The only question was when the press conference would be.
But then – poof – the dream ended. We’ll probably never know all the reasons why it fell apart.
So, what now? The A-List candidates are pretty much out of the question now. For one thing, there aren’t many left, for another, now that two top guys have said no any other top guy will have doubts by default, and finally, no big name coach will want to be seen as the third choice.
From reports, LSU’s Mr. Misty Champagne is next on the Lee Fowlers checklist. Yawn. Other than his wife, John Brady doesn’t do anything for me. Yeah, they made the Final Four, but that seemed more like a team of raw talent than a well-coached squad. Because of their location, LSU has always had talent. There’s no reason to think that Brady could pull those sorts of players to Raleigh.
If not Brady, then Fowler will probably have to go the more traditional route – an up-and-coming mid-major (or minor program) coach. The problem with that is that the fan base is tired of waiting. They don’t want a guy who can build. They want a guy who can WIN NOW! Sorry guys, I don’t think that’s going to happen now.
Oof indeed. I hope they locked the doors of the bell tower. Wouldn’t want to have to clean up any fans off of the bricks.
In newspapers, in sports bars, on the airwaves, in office hallways – you hear the argument waged. Is NC State a premier college basketball program? State fans argue with opponents until they are red in the face – we have two championships! We invented the ACC Tournament! Reynolds Coliseum hosted the Dixie Classic. Jim Valvano! David Thompson!
That was decades ago! Valvano cheated! Only two Final Fours since 1950! Les Robinson! Third-place in your own metro area!
So who is right? Do a program’s fans determine if their program is in the top tier? Certainly their opinion matters. If a team’s fans don’t think they are great, they aren’t. But much of what defines the nebulous criteria of eliteness is perception – what the national media and fans around the country think. Do your team’s games ever lead on SportsCenter? Can you find kids wearing your hats in New York City or Oklahoma City? Do top recruits always list your school among their suitors?
Continue reading “Is NC State A Great Program?”
You’ve probably noticed that I haven’t yet written one word on the Duke Lacrosse team rape story. There’s a good reason for that. The story is so big, so controversial, so important, so complicated and so sensitive that I just haven’t felt like I could devote the time it would take to craft something that accurately conveyed my thoughts without unnecessarily stirring the pot even more. All this case needs is more attention.
That’s not to say that I haven’t been following the story. Far from it. I read as much as I can, trying to find out the truth. When I first heard the story, I was shocked and horrified, just like everyone else. Then, as I heard more and more details – and they’ve come very slowly – I started to have more and more questions about what we were hearing. Like in any complex situation, the first story you hear, especially when it comes from only one source, is never the whole and accurate truth.
Fortunately, I’ve found a blog that is doing a very good job of following all of the developments each day and viewing each with a critical eye. He seems able to punch holes in the claims and statements of both sides. Read through his posts and you’ll probably learn some things about the case that you didn’t know (like how that Ryan McFadyen email was actually a reference to the move “American Psycho”) and you’ll probably also think about some aspects that you hadn’t considered.
I like Gregg Doyel. I do. He digs up a lot of good information that no one else finds and better, he’s one of the few national sportswriters who’s willing to go after a big name or big program if he thinks it’s warranted.
In this case, he’s off base though. Doyel savaged NC State fans and local media (read “Caulton Tudor”) for running off Herb Sendek. Of course, Doyel has some basis for his argument – Sendek was not an abject failure – but I don’t see the need for the vitriol in his article. It’s not like they didn’t give Sendek ample opportunity to show what he could do. Sendek was in Raleigh for ten years, and remember they were not on any probation when he showed up. Yes, he made it to the NCAAs in five of those ten years, the last five in fact, but he only reached the Sweet Sixteen once. I showed where that rated among ten-year ACC coaches last week.
Sendek had his chance. He showed that he could be fairly successful and that he could reach that level without compromising his principles. Great. That’s commendable, but being only pretty good isn’t acceptable at NC State. What’s so bad about that?
And how does he figure that “Wolfpack basketball will go down the toilet?” That part really baffles me. I understand if Doyel wants that happen – fine – but I don’t get how he could predict it. They haven’t even hired a new coach yet. Maybe State isn’t a first-tier program any more, but there’s no reason why they can’t stay at their current level and start to reach up to that top plateau. I don’t understand how anyone could surmise that they are now doomed to failure.
I wonder if he’ll write a mea culpa if he’s found to be wrong?