Hoopaholic’s Gazette: From 16 > 8 > 4 & the Coaching Carousel

b-ballIf I didn’t know better, I’d have to believe some of these tourney games were contested in MacArthur Park.

Northern Iowa. Stephen F. Austin. Ever to the threshold but never beyond Gonzaga. The usually preternaturally resolute Wisconsin Badgers, outscored 8 zip in the last :19 seconds, not even making it to OT.

They all melted in the dark.

The biggest surprise of all choke jobs: the Charlottesville Wahoos whose game like the cake of Richard Harris was left out in the rain?

Tony Bennett’s team has Ludvig Von play mastered, they’re classicists. When they hit all the scripted notes on the staff, it’s a thing of beauty, a veritable sonata. There is a beauteous resonance when they are in control.

Such as they were Sunday evening, fiddlin’ their way to the Final Four, up 14 with ten to play, doin’ their Beethoven thing, when, well, when Jim Boeheim got in touch with his inner rock & roller — Who knew? — and the Orange went all REO Speedwagon on UVa.

The Cavaliers did not ride the storm out.

Unable to ball, unable to break free from the strictures of Bennett’s system when pushed, when speeded up, they fell apart like Nicky Hopkins’ piano solo in the second half of Quicksilver Messenger Service’s “Edward the Mad Shirt Grinder.”

When Syracuse put on the press, when the game morphed Mozart in the Jungle, Virginia couldn’t keep up, couldn’t improvise.

Like the Badgers and those lessers mentioned at the top, UVa choked. To a 10th Seed, on probation, that finished ninth in their league, snuck into the tournament with the highest RPI ever, and lost five of their last six games before the Dance.

 * * * * *

People who read my U of L game stories constantly ask why I harp on FT %?

Here’s why. It’s how teams win championships.

Villanova kept Kansas at bay in the South Regional finale, by netting eight straight charity tosses in the final minute. Thanks to that stalwart marksmanship at the line, ‘Nova won, despite missing its last five FG attempts, and not scoring from the field in the last five minutes.

The Wildcats missed but one FT in the entire regional final. Which is the same number they failed to convert in the semi against Miami.

Jay Wright’s guys were 35/37 in their two tilts at the Yum!.

Listening to the coach at his press conference on Wednesday, and watching his team execute — they set picks that are solid and steady and don’t get whistled — and play lockdown D, I kept thinking about how Wright was Tom Jurich’s fall back choice, when Rick Pitino was hired, and how things might have differed for U of L had that played out.

 * * * * *

I don’t really have much problem with Coach K’s post game admonishment to Oregon’s Dillon Brooks.

Other than the fact that, for some reason, the imperious Duke mentor felt compelled to deny it, which was a lie.

What strikes me most was how Brooks took the advice graciously, and, in his statement, gaffed, “We’re both professionals.”

Hmmm. Phil Knight, is that true?

Oh yeah, I do feel compelled to mention that Coach K remains ofer the West Regional. As in, zero tourney Ws, when playing on Pacific Daylight Time.

 * * * * *

Notre Dame is always under the radar in hoops.

Yet, the team managed to overcome the spring practice controversy in South Bend over who is going to start at QB, and made it to its second Elite Eight in a row.

 * * * * *

I hate, hate, hate that all the courts look the same at the tournament sites.

I hate, hate, hate that Nike has given the same warmups to all its schools during the tourney.

 * * * * *

Final Four coach Lon Krueger has had it right all along, with his long resumé. So too, Tubby Smith. And Buzz Williams.

Don’t overstay your welcome.

So, Jamie Dixon adroitly got out of Steel City before his lawn was littered with For Sale signs, returning to his alma mammy, TCU. His successor Kevin Stallings did the same thing, leaving Vandy to coach the Panthers, though I’m not sure what Pitt’s thinking is on that hire.

Mick Cronin, similarly situated at Cincy, spurned the opportunity in Vegas to stay in the Queen City. Will be interesting to see how that plays out.

Rick Stansbury to WKU. I like that one. Any successful up and comer the Hilltoppers might have hired woulda been gone after the first sniff from a Power Five school.

Mike Dunleavy Sr. to Tulane. Uh, well, yawn.

 * * * * *

Texas Western’s “upset” of UK fifty years ago in the ’66 championship game, played in College Park, Maryland, is generally regarded as the “most important” college basketball game ever.

Though, it can be argued that Houston’s upset of UCLA in the Astrodome is easily as important. For entirely different reasons obviously.

The Miners’ W is heralded because their all Black lineup upended Kentucky’s all White team, and the sea change of attitude that victory engendered. The Cougars W came in the first nationally televised college basketball game, generating interest where there had been none before, thereby increasing the size of the sport’s stage.

I was fortunate to have been in attendance that night when Texas Western won. Rooting, you may be surprised, for one of the few times in my life, for the Cats actually. I really liked Larry Conley and that bunch.

What I recall about the moment is limited. I do not remember any discussion of White vs. Black before the contest. I remember Bobby Joe Hill stripping Louie Dampier several times right beyond the timeline. I remember standing courtside post-game, listening to Adolph Rupp doing his radio show with Claude Sullivan, and generally accusing the victors of being felons, while also throwing his own team under the bus.

And I lifted the sign that read “Official Scorer” from the table on the sideline, which I had for years, and have lost.

All of which I mention, because ESPN is showing the entirety of the Texas Western vs. Kentucky game this Wednesday evening at 7:30.

— Seedy K

10 thoughts on “Hoopaholic’s Gazette: From 16 > 8 > 4 & the Coaching Carousel

  1. I take it that your “hidden” agenda in not wearing out ones welcome is a jab at CRP—-and that you think he should graciously ride the CSX rail out of town.

    I most humbly disagree.

    Anytime any program changes leadership at the top, anything can happen. Witness Indiana post- Knight or sUcK when they went all gaga over Billy G. Even with the best resources, a misjudgment can, and likely will, be made– esp’ly following a coach with a personality as big as CRP.

    In light of our uncertain status concerning time in the penalty box for high st(d)icking, I suspect that Tom J will do everything he can to keep Rick here to ride out the storm—at the very least. Let’s just hope that our self-flagellation works as well next year as that enjoyed by the Cuse this year.

    Speaking of which—2 of the last 3 years, teams that we totally owned made it to the F4. Of course, UCONN won it all. Can the Orange do it too? No way, right? After the quit they showed at the YUM and we dunked all over the German storm trooper (Laden?) in the second half, I was of the opinion that they never should have gotten in—and they probably wouldn’t have if we were eligible.

    I hope we learned something when playing UVA, too. Go balls to the wall for 40 minutes. You can’t half way try to speed them up. You have to do something to make them uncomfortable, even if means letting them try to convert 2 or 3 on ones against the press.

    We can’t beat them playing half court and not many teams can. So, there you have it, Coach P–the method to beat the Cavs has been spelled out in great detail.

    1. as good as T Bennett (whose heart never paused in Sa Francisco) is as a coach his kids certainly seemed to have schooled in one and only one style of play. Vulnerability of the packline D to penetration from the wings, rather than trying to attack it down the middle was revealed in both of their last 2 contests, and as you point out, the Cavs didn’t get reined in on running their sets after “breaking” across mid-court against the press.

  2. My mention of TJ having Jay Wright 2d on his wish list, frankly, was not meant to be any sort of second hand commentary about The Rick and his status at U of L. I repeat what I’ve said before, I wouldn’t mind if we moved on to another regime. I’m tired of the drama. But, have not called for same, and will accept if he stays. What I know, from talking to hoops fans from around the country, is that U of L is a laughing stock, as all wonder how on earth he is still the coach?

    Since JGJ’s comment, I have added some thoughts about the Texas Western vs UK game, the replay of which will be televised on ESPN this Wednesday at 7:30. Since I admit that I actually rooted for UK that night, I’m so sure I’ll hear some pithy barbs from my nemesis. And others perhaps.

    1. As a relative newcomer to the Commonwealth (soph year) I was just becoming more aware of the Hatfield-McCoy relationship of Cards and Cats, and watched the game at my fraternity house with some ardent Cat fans (though U of L students, and a brother (Murray the “K”) who hasd just transferred to U of L from WKU. As a New Jersey native in El Paso he wasn’t necessarily the darling of the majority of the WKU population, hence he mostly hung out with the “diversity” members of the student body which meant the Neville, Big daddy Lattin and the team that “changed the game”. An interesting dynamic at the fraternity house for sure

    2. It was Wes Unseld’s remark after he won the title and the MVP in Lexington in the 1964 Kentucky Championship. He was booed by a large part of the crowd. He said afterward, “If I’m treated like this in Lexington, how will I be treated in Starkville.” Then he became a Card. Would that he had become a Wildcat, UK would have another banner.

  3. Sadly, I too, rooted for the Cayuts that day in 1966. Obviously, I was not yet tuned into the bigotry to which i was sadly exposed in 1975-78 when I attended that fine institution of higher learning. It still bugs me to this day when I see a person of color sporting the Blue and KKK’s all over.

    It was not the Jay Wright comment that turned me on to your agenda; rather it was the TSmith/BuzzW/JDixon statement that clued me in to your thinly veiled hopes and most of true Card fans fears. While you may not be calling for his ouster, you certainly would be in the short line supporting it.

  4. Oh, and by the way, those national fans that claim we are a laughing stock have no more personal knowledge of what really happened with KatP and the boys than what they can gather from the rumor mongers that are attempting to throw our program over the ledge and into the trash heap of irrelevance. Jealousy will get them no where…..

  5. Thanks for info on the 1966 title game in Maryland’s Cole Field House. I was living in Maryland at the time and was also in attendance at both the final and semi final games. Actually Kentucky’s win in the semi final was one of the great games of all time. What I remember most is how the lads from UTEP were so easily outrebounding Kentucky. Lattin in particular reminded me of my days at Syracuse and the great leaping ability of Dave Bing. p.s. believe it or not I sat in the Louisville coach’s seat for the games.

  6. I was a senior in high school here in Louisville in 1966. I had grown up a UK fan. I worshiped Cotton Nash. I never missed Cawood Ledford or Claude Sullivan on the radio. I cried when Texas Western beat Rupp’s Runts.

    Then I started at U of L, quickly realized how good Cardinal basketball was (and had been for years, although I was unaware), and also quickly realized the arrogance of UK and its fans. The old “we’re better than you but won’t play you” mantra that ended in Knoxville in 1983 (I was there, right behind the basket).

    Needless to say, I’ve not rooted for the Wildcats for 50 years.

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