Friday, March 23, 2007

Tubby Smith is gone, let the fun (or fretting) begin.

The state of Kentucky has gotten what it has asked for, I just hope that it won't be regrettable in 4 or 5 years time. Tubby Smith has left the University of Kentucky basketball program to become the next coach of the Minnesota Gophers. And as of right now, I think the Gophers have gotten the better deal, and even at 1.8 mil a year, they got a steal. I have been a proponent of change for the last few years, but I was hoping we would change assistant coaches before running Tubby off, and I think that was exactly what happened. UK fans, boosters, and maybe employees put enough pressure on Tubby that instead of going through that again for another season and then getting canned, he got out while the getting was good. I think it was a good move for Tubby because I got tired of hearing all the complaining and tired of seeing Tubby beat down year after year. And for all those that didn't like Tubby just because he was black, I can only hope that the worst things imaginable, short of death and disease, happen to you.

Now, Tubby's gone and it is a scary yet exciting time. Who does UK bring in to right the ship and take the program back to top 10 status and having a shot at a title every year? Most would love Billy Donavan, but I can't imagine why he would leave Florida. There is no possible reason. Well, I actually have a couple reasons why he would leave. After he wins a championship this season, I would think it would be almost impossible for him to keep the Horfords, the Noahs, and the Brewers from going to the NBA. Florida's cupboard will essentially be bare next season. Also, and I do not know how Donavan truly feels about this, sometimes students have a desire to surpass the master. Rick Pitino was Donavan's master and Pitino had his legend made at UK. Does Donavan have that burning inside him to want to take the job his teacher had and prove he is just as good or better than said teacher? That is something for Donavan to answer in the next few weeks.

Speaking of Rick Pitino, I think that there is a less than 1% chance he would consider coming back to Lexington. The first reason is that Pitino doesn't seem to be the type who thinks you can go home again. I know he has said that leaving UK was the biggest mistake of his life, but I think he has moved on. The second reason is that Louisville is actually pretty good right now. Pitino has gotten good recruits in and has more on the way and has a good chance of dominating UK over the next couple of years. Had this change happened last year after a disappointing season for Louisville I would have thought maybe Pitino comes back, but now that he has things going his way, I think he stays put. The final reason I think he stays at Louisville is because he has been there, done that. He already rebuilt UK and made them the team of the 90's. Pitino likes a challenge and right now trying to make Louisville the preeminent team in the state of Kentucky is a bigger challenge than taking UK back to the Final Four. So forget Pitino.

Another name that is being mentioned is Mark Few of Gonzaga. Few seems like a good coach, but can he do what he has done for Gonzaga at UK. UK is a different beast and you need to bring in players that can win every year and when you are favored, you need to come through. How many times did Gonzaga receive that high seed they were asking for and then not live up to their seeding? Few seems to be much better coaching an underdog than a favorite.

Another name that seems near the top of the list is Tom Crean of Marquette. I have not watched a lot of Marquette basketball, but I know they are always a tough team and Crean seems to have done a great job of recruiting. Let's face it, players aren't exactly in a hurry to go to Marquette, but Crean seems to get some good ones there.

Another name being brought up is Michigan State's Tom Izzo. I know Izzo has won championships in the past and has taken teams to the Final Four that most thought had no chance to get there, but is his style the kind that UK wants? The fans have just gone through a predominately defensive style of play and I think they would love to have a more uptempo offensive scheme. In fact, a friend of mine said he didn't care if UK lost 8 or 9 games a year as long as they were fun to watch, and lately fun to watch is a phrase not uttered much in the commonwealth. Izzo to me seems like defensive grind it out type coach and while I think it would ultimately be a great get, he may not be the man UK wants n the end.

There are others that have been mentioned, including Billy Gillespie of TX A&M, Rick Barnes of TX, John Calipari of Memphis, and even former UK players Travis Ford and John Pelphrey. In the end I think that athletic director Mitch Barnhart needs to focus on getting a coach who can bring in the good recruits to build a championship team. I think the next coach at UK needs to have an offensive scheme that makes a game fun to watch. And most importantly, to me, I think the next coach of the UK Wildcats needs to have a pedigree of winning, and by winning I mean Final Four appearances and championships. If we bring in a coach with no track record of getting to the Final Four, then how is that coach going to be able to deal with the pressure of fans who expect at least a Final Four every year?

Yes, it is a scary and fun time here in the state of Kentucky. Tubby has been whacked like many fans have been wishing for for a long time. I just hope we all don't wake up in a few years and realize that old adage, be careful what you wish for, you just may get it.

No comments: