Who is The University of Louisville’s Best Coach?

cardsThere are, of course, some eagle-eyed among you, who, upon seeing the header to this blog, said to yourself, “There goes Seedy K, grabbing hold of somebody else’s idea and presenting it as his own.”

In this case, you’d be thinking of WDRB’s Rick Bozich, who asked the very same question in a column, on the exact day last week — honest — that a loyal reader asked it of me. And I replied to my fan, there’s a column there.

I swear. It was such the coincidence. No really, I’m not lying. (If you insist I’ll copy you the emails that went back and forth between Big Card Fan (not his real moniker) and myself, which shall be time stamped before Rick posted his story.)

So, even those it’s been asked before, and recently at that, I’m still going with it.

Because? Well, because it’s a fascinating discussion taking place among Cardinal fans, during these halcyon days of athletic success on the diamond, pitch, field, court, track and in the pool.

Plus, because, Big Card Fan’s analysis is seriously astute, and he took time out of his working day to send it along.

Before I weigh in, here’s his take verbatim (typos, abbreviations and some politically incorrect references included):

Let’s throw Rick out for a minute; after all, he is in the HOF and has 2 titles.  Other than him, I would rate the coaches as follows:

1. Walz- 2 NCAA c’ship games wherein he fell to the prohibitive fav while besting all of the other NCAA teams that are not UCONN.  I guess you could say he has 2 NCAA-UCONN titles on his resume.  Beat the best player in WNCAA history with a 6 foot center, 2 crippled local girls and an out of shape squaw who has now played a wonderful first month in the WNBA.

2.Lolla- Brought a hapless soccer program to the national forefront.  Made Nat C’ship game early on–now has best facility in NCAA in which to play and recruit.  Expect title soon.

3.Mac- Say what you will, but Prado had advanced the program far past where it had been before he arrived and Mac benefited from that foundation.  Seems that the last few years we have had A+ pitching for college and maybe B hitting. (Exception 2007–CWS team that could really rake.)  Perhaps he benefits from having an outstanding pitching coach (Williams)more than anything else.  Although I do think he has the right mind-set to motivate the team for the long NCAA season and tourney.  Needs to advance in CWS play to move up this list.

4.Arthur Albiero.  The swim team borders on the cusp of national prominence.  Seems we really rely on foreign swimmers, but that international flavor seems to have permeated the basketball program as well.  To have surpassed ND in this sport is shocking.  It will be interesting to see if the move to the ACC gets us over the hump.  Besides, anyone that has seen his wife knows that he must be a world class recruiter as he has quite obviously out kicked his coverage on the home front.

5. Bobby.  Savant.  Hope his wanderlust has wandered.  If he realizes he is in the right place and can get past shooting himself in the foot on the recruiting front with the mommas, he could be a regular challenger for the football playoffs, esp’ly when it moves to 8 teams (which will occur as soon as the checks start rolling in…..)

6. Mann.  Seems a bit over the hill as program has gone down a little in the past few years.  Field events were strength along with x-country and distance events like the steeplechase and 3000-5000 meters.  Still, program has been much better with him than without.  Should have great facility all to himself now that soccer stadium is up.

7. Courtney Head.  Met this coach last year and was very impressed with her and the girls on the team.  If anyone can recruit players to an NCAA golf team this far north she can do it.  Asst. Coach is older, former tour player.  Both are from Orlando area and hope to have good contacts in that state, but seem to be searching for best foreign women players to get better talent.

8. Kellie Young.  Lacrosse coach survived off season of bad pub to put together best team since she founded the program.  Interesting to see if move to ACC will bring better players to move up–or will result in being mid-pack team in preeminent league.

9 tie Anne Kordes.  Brought in with lots of promise on the back of the Russian Solution that brought us many of that countries best female players.  Without that connection, seems we have fallen a notch or two.  Hopefully, once her attention is back focused on team after birth of child last year that she will have the recruiting chops to get us back where we were.  Lots of local talent here in this sport.

9 tie. Mark Crabtree.  I have met this guy a few times and like him.  It just seems that we have a hard time pulling talent this far north.  Excpet for Fla twins a few years ago, best players have been from the north or Canada. (eg Adam Hadwin).  Move to ACC may help, but I fear we may be buried behind the golf schools like Wake, Miami, F.St etc. Best local talent like Thomas go south to schools like Ala to play.  It would be nice to get them to stay but playing here in Jan and Feb is problematic no matter how good the indoor facilities are.

That’s my top ten.  Left off tennis, womens soccer, field hockey and maybe a few others.  In hind sight, it looks like Tom has done better hiring men for the program than women.  I wonder if J.Hermann leaving for Rutgers will improve that?

* * * * *

One more perspective, before my list.1

The Professor advises he ran into Ken Porco recently. Porco, as long time Cardinal fans know, was a football superstar, the premier performer in U of L’s first bowl game, a 34-20  Sun Bowl W over Drake.2

Porco’s been a major U of L Cardinal booster for a half century.

I’m advised he puts Swimming & Diving coach Arthur Albiero atop his list.3

I honestly can’t comment on the correctitude of that opinion. I wouldn’t know a good swimming coach, if I saw him or her, butterflying down Beargrass Creek. I note U of L has won several conference titles, and finished 11th as a team at the latest NCAA championships.

They’ve got that fancy natatorium too.

* * * * *

As with Big Card Fan, I put The Rick aside, even though he’s the only one of the bunch who has won a team national championship here. At least, so far.

But U of L was a national basketball power long before Pitino arrived, even though it had slipped somewhat during the waning years of Denny Crum’s career.4 All was in place for men’s hoops to assert itself back into the upper echelon nationally.

Prior to the Jurich Era, that was not the case with any other sport, except for a minor flirtation with football ascendency during Schnell’s days at Fairgrounds Stadium.5

The other sports were, frankly, afterthoughts.

Which is to underscore my belief that I’m inclined to give more credit to those who have molded the program clay they had to dig up themselves.6

I’m on record as opining that Bobby Petrino has as good and creative a football mind as any college coach in the land. He proved it here. He proved it at Arkansas, where he made it to a BCS game from the toughest division in the country.

If his rep doesn’t hinder recruiting, Louisville will be in the playoff sooner rather than later, Clemson, Florida State and Miami notwithstanding.

Jeff Walz is one tall recruit away from a national title. The Cards beatdown of Baylor season before last is Chaminade over UVa big, Centre 6, Harvard 0 huge. That guy can coach.

Dan McDonnell is on his way with team to Omaha for the third time in 8 years. Frankly, it’s a dumbfounding feat. Over the last couple of weeks, I’ve chronicled how he has repeatedly outcoached his adversaries.

I’ve not seen enough of Ken Lolla, who won a national title at another school, Anne Kordes, or, to be honest, any of the others.

Frankly, my knowledge of soccer, volleyball, lacrosse, track, and swimming & diving isn’t that vast. So, how am I to judge them?

Okay, I’ve beat around the bush enough. Know I’m considering only the coaches I’ve seen enough in action, and whose sport I fell comfortable forming an opinion.7

If U of L manages to capture the CWS, or even makes a mighty run at it, I’m putting McDonnell atop my list. Walz is #2, because he’s created a potential national power out of nothing. Pitino stands third. Petrino, fourth, also with a chance to make a jump, should the Cards make the playoffs in the next three seasons. Lolla, next.

Which is not to denigrate Albiero or any of the others a whit. I simply don’t feel qualified to grade them on merit.

Your thoughts, please?

— Seedy K

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