Big Ten Wonk
Thursday, March 23, 2006
This blog is now "Human Resources Wonk"
Coaching drama persists this morning at three Big Ten programs. That's a whopping 27 percent of all conference schools! Mass hysteria!...

Indiana says: we need a coach!
And some Hoosier fans apparently think John Calipari would be ideal.

Iowa says: we may need a coach!
Even if Indiana's not interested in Steve Alford, Andy Katz says Alford is one of four candidates for the Missouri job (along with Mike Anderson of UAB, Dana Altman of Creighton, and John Beilein of West Virginia).

Iowa released this statement yesterday from Alford:

I'm the head coach at Iowa. My family and I love the Iowa program and the community. We had a record-setting season with a second Big Ten Tournament championship and I look forward to continued success with this program.

As in the past, search committees and interested officials from other programs with openings for a head basketball coach have initiated contact. I'm flattered with the interest and the recognition of the outstanding season we had this year. With that success, comes attention and speculation that I cannot control. I have not scheduled any interviews with any other institutions.

That was enough to satisfy one endearingly guileless headline writer. (Iowans. They're so trusting.) But the rest of the world above pre-K read that and knew better. In fact, if anything the Clintonian loopholes in the verbiage ("have not scheduled" as opposed to "will not accept"--or how about simply "I will return next season"?) merely added fuel to the fire.

So cue the disgruntled booster! "I would like Steve to stay at Iowa for a long time and do well for us, but this stuff is getting old," said the president of the Des Moines area alumni. "If he's just using this as a stepping-stone job for someplace else, then let's move on and get someone who wants to be here." ("If"? Dude, in other news: Japan surrendered, Lucky Lindy made it, and the Applebee's ad is a violation of the Geneva Convention.)

Minnesota says: we have a coach! Um, such as he is....
And at Minnesota, athletic director Joel Maturi, in announcing last night that Dan Monson will return next season as coach, has mustered what must surely rank as history's most tepid endorsement of a coach's continued employment:

"I've told this to Dan, if this were the Timberwolves and I were the GM, maybe he wouldn't be coaching next year," Maturi said. "But I don't want to be the Timberwolves and I'm not the GM. I'm the athletic director at an academic institution that has some values, has some integrity and we're going to live that and walk the talk."

So Monson's staying, despite the fact that yesterday the Minneapolis Star Tribune reported on its front page that the coach wouldn't be back next year. But Maturi, traveling with the team in Cincinnati where the Gophers lost in the NIT Tuesday night, told the players yesterday morning that Monson will indeed be back. "You have to believe in your bosses," Monson said yesterday, "especially in this day and age where there is so much out there that can be posted without checks and balances." (What's that all about? This was "posted" by the Star Tribune, a 139-year-old newspaper. It arrived in print on my doorstep just like it would have 50 years ago.) For his part, Strib columnist Patrick Reusse says "there was nothing to recommend Monson's return other than repeating the same tired excuse about inheriting a tough situation."

Epilogue. Late Tuesday night Monson called longtime (make that long, longtime) Star Tribune sports columnist and legend-in-residence Sid Hartman. "This is going to ruin our recruiting," Monson told Hartman.

Precisely. And next year's team loses Vincent Grier, Adam Boone, J'son Stamper, and Moe Hargrow. The Gophers' leading returning scorer will be Spencer Tollackson. (I would not want to be Dan Monson.) A cynic might wonder whether the University decided to keep Monson because buying out his contract next year will be $400,000 less expensive than doing so this year.

But the truth is almost certainly less calculating and more cacophonous. Clearly some powers-that-be wanted Monson gone; some wanted him to stay. The latter won out. For now.

One gentle reminder about rollicking good coaching soap opera....
The reliability and more specifically the durability of the information being relayed varies in direct proportion to the frequency of proper nouns affixed to the source. For instance on Monday behind's paid wall for "Insider" subscribers, Andy Katz cited a "source close to the process" as saying Indiana would contact Steve Alford about the coaching vacancy at IU. The next day Katz, posting on the free side of the wall this time, cited "multiple sources close to the situation" as saying that Indiana would not contact Alford. (Question: if it's free is it more reliable or less? Just asking!)

In today's less Wonk-ish venues....
With Chicago recruit Patrick Beverley on hand to watch, Michigan beat Miami 71-65 in Ann Arbor last night to reach the NIT semifinals. The Wolverines will face Old Dominion in Madison Square Garden Tuesday night. (And if I get any more email wondering about my absolute ontological lack of interest in the NIT, I think the words "the Wolverines will face Old Dominion" speak for themselves.)

Purdue has its recruiting sights set on "Keaton Grant, a 6-foot-4 guard from Bridgton Academy in Maine, and Takais Brown, a 6-8 power forward from Southeastern (Ill.) College."

Link here for today's episode in the continuing drama, Will Shannon Brown Go Pro?

Meanwhile, there's some thing called the Sweet 16 going on. Not that the Big Ten would know anything about it....

(4) LSU vs. (1) Duke (Atlanta, 7:10pm ET)
Should be a great collision between the best offense in the country (that would be referring to the Blue Devils) and one of the nation's top ten defenses. The Tigers' Tyrus Thomas is a beast on the defensive glass. But can LSU hold on to the ball and score enough points to win?

(13) Bradley vs. (1) Memphis (Oakland, 7:27pm ET)
There are no made threes in Bradley games--because the Braves never attempt them (treys account for just 29 percent of their shots) and their opponents never make them (shooting just 31 percent on their 3FGs). The Bradley D creates missed shots, both on the perimeter and inside. But can the Braves play at this speed? Among teams still alive, only Washington puts more possessions into each 40 minutes than does Memphis.

(6) West Virginia vs. (2) Texas (Atlanta, 9:40pm ET)
More than half the Mountaineers' shots are threes; if they're falling, John Beilein's team has a chance. If they're not--and if Texas is taking care of the ball--this might not be all that close.

(3) Gonzaga vs. (2) UCLA (Oakland, 9:57pm ET)
Speaking of enticing collisions, this one should be a beaut. With the early exits of Iowa and Kansas, the Bruins have the best defense still playing.

Wonk back!
Don't just mutter ineffectually; email me!

Genetic engineering comes to Champaign
How likely do you believe it is that Jamar Smith will learn to defend and Brian Randle will develop a jump shot over the summer? Will Bruce Weber resort to fusing them genetically in order to create a 6-8 swingman?

Bill P.
Ottawa, Ontario

My friend, if Randle could shoot like Smith or if Smith had Randle's height and hops, they'd be walking to a podium to put on a cap and shake David Stern's hand in a few weeks.

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