"My rule was I wouldn't recruit a kid if he had grass in front of his house.
That's not my world. My world was a cracked sidewalk." —Al McGuire

Wednesday, April 09, 2008

Analyzing the Decision Process

Just some additional comments on the decision to hire Buzz, and then I’ll back off. My opinion on the Buzz hiring is that I believe Marquette made a bad decision. It's not a reflection on Buzz... just an opinion that there were more qualified candidates out there. There is an excellent book called "Winning Decisions", which covers the process that people should use to make good decisions. Really important decisions (like say picking a basketball coach) should follow a structured process such as:

  • Determine the crux of the issue
  • Create decision criteria and weight those criteria
  • Gather Information
  • Make the decision
  • Learn from your decision

What’s the crux of the issue?
The first, and most important step, is to figure out the right frame for the problem. In other words, for Marquette, what was the crux of the issue? Was it finding a coach? The best coach? A coach that wanted the job? The crux of the issue should have been a coach that can grow the Marquette program so that it is in a position to compete for the Big East and National Championships. After all, this is what Cottingham alluded to at his press conference, so Marquette did this well.

What are the decision criteria?
Of course, once that is determined, the decision process should require selection of decision criteria. What did Marquette look at for making this decision? According to Cottingham, it included:

Primary Decision Criteria

  • Committed to Marquette's mission of developing exceptional student-athletes
  • Represent the University well
  • Hungry for the challenge - Recruit the best players, Win in the BIG EAST, and Win at the highest national level.

Additional Decision Criteria

  • Vision and plan for success
  • Work Ethic
  • Recruiting
  • Style of Play

Okay, two beefs with these decision criteria.

Number one - All three of the primary decision criteria are basically a view of “Organizational Fit”. We know from Rosiak's latest blog that recruiting was considered very strongly too. How well the coach aligned with the administration is certainly important. But what about coaching, player development, and leadership? If you look at Cottingham’s statement, one would think that 100% weight was applied to Organizational Fit / Recruiting.

Number two – if you look at the additional decision criteria for Buzz, Cottingham says

“there are other qualities that make Buzz the best choice for the Marquette head basketball job”
Hate to say it, but that reads to me like Confirmation Bias. In other words, Marquette might have decided on Buzz and then adjusted the criteria to fit that decision.

The big implication from these two points is that there's a possibility Marquette didn’t really know what they wanted in a new head coach. That’s a scary implication and that's what we were afraid of happening with Cottingham.

What about Information Gathering?
If we look at Rosiak's blog again, we can see that MU made multiple attempts at luring Washington State's Tony Bennett. Marquette also contacted Xavier's Sean Miller, Virginia Commonwealth's Anthony Grant, Davidson's Bob McKillop, and Georgia Tech's Paul Hewitt, with additional interest from Siena's Fran McCaffery, Bradley's Jim Les and Illinois' Bruce Weber.

Using the wonderful benefit of 20/20 hindsight, it’s easy to see why pretty much everyone MU contacted decided it wasn’t a good fit. The marginal benefit for Miller wouldn’t have been worth it, Grant’s recruiting contacts were in the south, McKillop has Curry (and his son) playing next year, and Hewitt is already in a premier conference.

Making the decision
So let’s say that Marquette makes overtures to their top four or five candidates and none of them are a good fit. All of a sudden, the candidate that is readily available starts looking better (we call this Availability Bias). In other words, the qualities of the candidate that is close by and interested starts carrying more weight. Organizational Fit and Recruiting become even more important to the decision makers.

I stand by my premise that the administration made a bad decision (which may be confirmation bias of our own). Buzz may be a superstar coach, but he's a risk we shouldn't have had to take. Unfortunately, what I believe is that the administration never really defined what was important to them. Rather than working towards its own long-term vision of the program, Marquette instead jumped straight into the process of gathering information. When this information did not turn out favorably and the initial outreach was not reciprocated, Marquette then began adjusting the decision criteria so that the most available candidate (Buzz) became the preferred candidate.

Marquette should have taken a step back, defined what was really important to them, and then approached a structured decision process that included candidates like Lowery, Brownell or a host of other potential options.

Learning from the Decision
However, there is a fifth step that we can now begin analyzing. What’s done is done with the coaching decision, and the Marquette coach is Buzz Williams. To be clear yet again, none of this analysis is directed at coach Williams, but rather our thoughts on the psychology and process which led him to be selected as the new coach. However, we should also expect Buzz to prove that he can handle the job.

Luckily, we’ll be able to begin analyzing this with short-term milestones as we judge how well he does with:

  • Selecting a coaching staff
  • Dealing with roster turnover
  • 2008 / 2009 recruiting

Good luck with those three areas, Buzz. Despite our reservations on how the process was handled, we all really want you to succeed. Prove you can handle the job!


E said...

Boy, analyzing this decision is making me dizzy, what with Confirmation Bias and Organizational Fit... let's see what Buzz can do. I think he deserves a shot, not a proctological exam on how Marquette made its decision.

Gene Frenkle said...

Henry, you hit the nail on the head. It's not that MU hired Buzz (which many of us don't like). It's that MU should not have had to hire Buzz if they knew that they were doing.

If the AD hadn't had his morning helping of "Ooops I crapped my pants", then we wouldn't be in this situation.

And like you, I want to be wrong and I'm going to cheer on MU. But to criticize the decision-making process is not equivalent to "whining" as some people have said about the Buzz criticisms. As fans, we are allowed to review the process and who we hired and whether we hated it or not (hint - hated it).

Heavy Gear said...

I'm with Gene. Buzz may turn out to be a good coach for us, but there were better (read - experienced) candidates out there that the school doesn't seem to have contacted and instead made a panic hire. The lack of planning and vision is very evident in this decision.

Mark said...

Henry, If you don't live in the Northwest now, you should be living in Seattle, the organizational, process is all important, let's discuss and analyze everything to death and then really, really hope we make everyone happy. Hiring any employee, especially a coach, is and should be a subjective process full of all sorts of bias! No head coach job is safe in college bball anymore (Self and Ok State, It is still a gamble after all the analysis is done and from what I've heard, if all the naysyaers had actually interviewed Williams, they would have made the same decision based on who was truly interested in the job and the information on hand.

But, hey, I love the numbers crunching....

jpudner said...

I like the analysis. The only factor I'd weigh on the other side is that I do believe time was a key factor to overcome the shock from TCs unexpected departure. It could be that you are right and they in essense panicked when the people you mentioned, but I could also interpret it as "we are going to run hard at the five we really want, and if those just aren't happening it's better to get a guy we have inhouse who is a year away from being a head coach so we can move forward." I'm still not sure the latter is the correct approach, but it may be. I'm glad everyone seems to be on board to root hard for Buzz - I really think this season is a fork in the road for the program. If Buzz is successful I think he gets a great class in next year, if the Big East chews us up then we will be a victim of the successes in the first three seasons.

jpudner said...

OK, I CAN'T TYPE TODAY. I ADDED SOME MISSING WORDS FROM MY PREVIOUS POST IN CAPS. I like the analysis. The only factor I'd weigh on the other side is that I do believe THE time IT TOOK TO HIRE was a key factor to overcome the shock from TCs unexpected departure. It could be that you are right and they in essense panicked when the people you mentioned HAD NO INTEREST, but I could also interpret it as "we are going to run hard at the five we really want, and if those just aren't happening it's better to get a guy we have inhouse who is a year away from being a head coach so we can move forward." I'm still not sure the latter is the correct approach, but it may be. I'm glad everyone seems to be on board to root hard for Buzz - I really think this season is a fork in the road for the program. If Buzz is successful I think he gets a great class in next year, if the Big East chews us up then we will be a victim of the successes in the first three seasons.

jpudner said...

Sorry, but do have to deviate from my normal Pollyanna mode based on something I just saw. Hurley says that TT doesn't really know Buzz, has only talked to him on the phone in the past and the relationship was all with TC. I thought Buzz was the point man for TT and the two Texas guys, just not Nick. This does concern me, did I miss something?

Gene Frenkle said...

Thanks for bringing this up.

I have read Hurley's comments too with a "WTF?" going through my head. EVERYTHING we heard was that Buzz got Taylor for MU. Maybe, just maybe, he knew of Taylor to convince Crean to make a run at him. But as for sealing the deal, it hardly sounds at all that Buzz was the guy.

You have to wonder about this. I'm sorry, but you do. The assistant is the one out there recruiting his arse off and the coach finishes off the deal because he's too busy with all the 'coaching' duties that come with the job.

There's a big difference when you are recruiting for someone else's team and recruiting for your own. Again, this comes down to having experience and an identity...something MU should have searched for to begin with.

But it's too late now and Buzz is the coach. All we can do is support the program and hope we are wrong adn continue to bash the administration's shortsightedness.

Gene Frenkle said...

One other thing...

If time was of the essence due to the contact period with recruits, correct me if I'm wrong, but don't we have another couple of days before that period commences? Couldn't they have easily waited to announce the coach today or tomorrow with little effect on the program?

Two more days equals two more in person interviews with a candidate (Lowery) that's a drive/short plane away. I don't get it.

Championships Matter said...

What people on the blog forget is sometimes the right things happen for the wrong reasons. I'm willing to suggest that may be the case here as Buzz heads Warriornation.

Look, we can analyze this thing to death and try to point out what didn't happen the way we wanted it to. So what... there are a few goals now. They are:

-- Stabilize the program and keep as many 2008/2009 and beyond players as we can;

-- Prepare a plan that will enable us to compete at the highest levels of the Big East in 2008/2009, taking into account that we came very close to being one of the best teams in the conference;

-- Figure out how Marquette can be national champions in the not too distant future; and,

-- Keep us the best at recruiting and graduating our athletes.

All are tall orders but I trust Father Wild saw things we did not. None of us were in the room when the conversations took place and none of us were there when Marquette contacted the myriad of candidates it considered. So we can't say and frankly it does not matter.

Buzz, Father Wild and the Board, I'm hopeful that we're all admitting a year from now that all of us who criticized you are idiots.

jpudner said...

I'd agree, if they had not thoroughly vetted Lowery I certainly would have agreed a couple of days was worth it. I just assumed Lowery had let it be known that with his playing career and coaching career all at SIU that he was staying, but I have nothing to base that on. One positive note is that part of my depression has been that we aren't big enough yet to avoid having a coach stolen by someone bigger - but with Kansas potentially losing their 2nd coach in 5 years, I guess noone is that big anymore.

BTW, Hurley is off my Christmas card list.

jpudner said...

Yes, I do take heart that everyone is on the same page, and that the majority on the poll now say Buzz was a good hire after only around 25% were saying he should be hired before the deal at one point. I've got to say in watching the video of Buzz at the press conference he is a guy you want to root for - and hopefully that same likeability also makes players wan to play for him. It is also wonderful to have a President in Fr. Wild who is so dedicated to the program. I really would have much more doubts if we had a president who didn't recognized the intricate part the program, as well as the class acts we have for athletes, mean to the university. It really hit me in Anaheim when Thursday I saw Dominic run across the court to console Crawford with 2 seconds left after he'd fouled out, contrasted by that idiot Lopez running to our corner to taunt our fans after they lucked out with that win. Thanks to Buzz and all the players for being class acts.

anonymous said...

Hey Henry! The coach has been hired. Nobody cares what you think anymore. Senseless writing about why you're still upset about the hire is really insignificant now. Don;t you have something else to worry about in your life right now other than Buzz Williams? If Billy Gillespie and Dominic James have his back don't you think you should too? The people on this site are really ridiculous!

Tony said...

Good analysis.

Regardless of what history or the numbers say, I think after hearing the press conference and listening to the community, we have a good possibility of having a pretty good coach here. We'll find out.
There's some good interviews on ESPN Milwaukee's Homer show. Gillispie, Jerel, Dominic, and Buzz all have interviews up there.
And you have to love Lazar's fire since the TC announcement.

Henry Sugar said...


Thanks for reading Cracked Sidewalks. I love your user handle.

Michael said...

I don't see how this is a bad hire when he hasn't coached a game yet. He brings continutity and the current players like him. I'm still not clear on what available coach you would have preferred. The head coach of Wright State? I'm not really impressed. I don't think an Ohio State assistant is better than a Marquette assistant. Bennett? Miller? like it or not, most people are not going to want to move to Wisconsin. And

Packer Pat said...

You say "good analysis" Tony? How about a waste of our time.

Nice plug for Homer though and espnmil, they do a good job when they aren't on pacific time or talking about nascar.

Bottom line is either get some inside info on here that we made offers to guys and what the details were or let's just move on. Doc on his cell, Bergstrom, Freeway and UP did their best.

Buzz will do a fine job and it sounds like this decision was the right one because the other three on the short list declined.

Lets move on keep us updated on the recruits.

Anonymous said...

Umm... DJ doesn't really have Buzz's back. DJ doesn't even know Buzz. From Sportsbubbler:

It was different just because coach Buzz was an assistant coach and obviously my relationship was with the head coach so I didn't really have much of a feel for coach Buzz.

Tony said...

It is good analysis, might not be what we want to hear, but it's a good job of fitting into one of dozens of decision analysis mechanisms.

Agreed. We've got a long time before the first tip. Can't wait! Info on the recruits, who's staying, who's going? We can table the discussion on Buzz for a year.