"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 02, 2008

Ceilings and Forest Fires

A year ago, I blogged an entry called "A Ticking Clock" .. I'll spare the details, but it was written after being crushed by MSU in the NCAAs. It was about a coach who, in 8 seasons, had brought Marquette to a new level, where the team existed in the rarified air of the top 25. It credited him with a number of wonderful achievements.

Crean brought excitement, attendance, and exposure back to Marquette like nobody's business. What he did not bring, was post-season success, and the clock was ticking. I don't write that sentence today as a monument to sour-grapes. Without D. Wade, one of the greatest NBA players in years, Crean has a grand total of one NCAA victory, and that happened 12 days ago. One. Uno.

13 days ago, I was nervous. Had Crean not won that game versus Kentucky, had we lost, we would have gone 8 of 9 seasons without an NCAA victory, it would have been clear that Crean could not win in March, and had hit his ceiling.

Now, lots of people like that ceiling. Top 25 rankings, top third of the Big East, lots of wins, exposure, and the kids graduate. Some fans are just happy to be in the top 64, just making it to the tournament. I don't subscribe to that math. All of that stuff is very very important, to be sure, but the final exam is winning in March and you've gotta win one every so often. If you're paid like a top 10 coach, you should deliver wins, exposure, AND win a few in March. Otherwise, what's the point?

But Crean won a game, we beat UK two weeks ago. With the same team next year, the expectations would have been higher, yet no Marquette fan would be surprised with a 1st or 2nd round bow-out, because it'd happened so many other times. Last week, I predicted a 12-6 season with 1-1 in the BET, and 1-1 in the NCAAs. We were getting ready to watch the same movie again. That's a pathetic expectation for a team with 3 senior starters and perhaps 3 NBA players on its roster, and I don't think the blame lies with the players.

So am I glad Crean quit? I wouldn't say that. And certainly not the disrespectful way in which Crean pulled the trigger, not notifying Marquette officials nor the team in advance. There's a lot of visceral anger on the internet right now, directed at a guy who's been promoting the program as a family organization, yet coldly divorced us at the drop of a hat.

I look at this like a forest fire started by a bolt from the sky. Marquette needs to act quickly and boldly to put the fire out. Some trees will burn and the forest will be forever changed. But new growth will take root. We'll get a new coach, and the movie will be different. Are we at risk to substantially decline? In the Big East, hell yeah.

In the short-term, Marquette could be very screwed, with future and current players and assistants leaving the team. In the long-term, we have a chance at a guy with a higher coaching ceiling, a better bench coach, someone who can recruit a balanced team so we don't rely on favorable matchups to win big games.

It could be a bumpy ride for the next few years, we'll be in re-building mode, but with the commitment that Marquette has shown, with assets like the Big East and the Al Center, MU has a great platform from which to rise again and achieve higher heights.

28 comments:

James said...

Like I mentioned in my previous post. Thank you Crean for getting us back to being the the national spolight. But, the elite basketball teams win tournament games. 20 wins seasons are essentially a load of shit. Tournament titles and championships bring lasting glory, money, and recruits to schools. Milwaukee is said to be a deterrent to recruit - I bet a couple of deeps trips in the Big Dance and a few BE titles and we wont hear that argument anymore. So long Crean. You were instrumental in helping us take our first steps, but you couldnt help us run. Tournaments wins my friends, tournaments wins is all that matters.

Liam said...

I couldn't agree more with this assessment. We are and will always be The Warriors. Total NCAA wins minus Wade and 2 other pros =1. Also, let's not forget we could have easily lost in the 1st rd that year to Holy Cross, in the 2nd rd. to Mizzou, in the Sweet 16 to Pitt, and lost by 33 in the Final Four. The next few years will be tough because of how abrupt this was and the likelihood that we lose recruits, but this is not the 80's and MU will rebound and probably get a better game coach. Crean was a solid recruiter, a great salesmen, and somewhat re-established our program, but had he not found a diamond in the rough, aka D.Wade he would not have the absurd reputation that he has as a great coach. He'll have all the resources at IU, will play in a weaker conference and make many NCCA's probably. That said if he thinks Warrior nation is tough good luck with Hoosier fan and there delusional fan base. No one cares about Indiana high school basketball or little kids shooting hoops on their barns anymore IU fan. This is also a University that suggest they are above other "basketball" schools because they do it the right way. However, how long did they tolerate Knight? Do I blame him for taking the job? No IU has a storied reputation and he'll be making 2.5 mill a year but he will be destroyed there if they don't make Elite 8's within 4 years and I don't see it happening. So Tommy enjoy beautiful Bloomington which is of course the epicenter of well....hmmm..... boredom? and don't let the door hit you on the way out. My prediction is he's gone within 4 years.

jpudner said...

I have to respectfully disagree, and will remain a Crean fan. The huge state universities and North Carolina have taken over the NCAA tourney – with 36 of the past 40 Final Four teams. The only four exceptions have been George Mason, Louisville, Syracuse, and of course Marquette – once each. I don’t put any weight on MU almost losing their first round game in 2003 – by that logic we shouldn’t take 1977 that seriously because we were getting our butts kicked in the opening round.

I have to repeat once again – Crean beat 6 Top 5 teams in his 9 years – in the rest of our history Marquette has beated 5 Top 5 teams. We were one falling down shot away from going Sweet 16 this year. I hate to admit it, but I am happy with the ceiling we have been at, because I think if you stay at that ceiling long enough you eventually get the ball to bounce the right way and break through. Maybe my standards are too low because I lived through the mid-1980s and thought it was very damaging that our standards then were a National Title, and because the criticism was so harsh we imploded.

Hurray for Crean from this corner – if we find the right coach to take it to another level I will still feel Crean laid the foundation for it, and if we do go back to the 1980s, I’ll remember his years fondly as a “silver age” behind Al McGuire’s “golden age

Liam said...

Dude beating 6 top 5 teams? Ooh that means a lot. ONE TOURNEY WIN WITHOUT MR.WADE. One inside player recruited in 9 years. We also had a 6 pt lead w 5 mins to go against Stanford. Are you the same guy who rated Roney Eford, Tony Miller, and Diener ahead of Tony Smith? Oh, but then you changed your mind if memory serves. I'll give him credit for putting us back on the map, but it's very difficult to argue that he was a good game coach. Coaching cost us a sweet 16 end of story.

Championships Matter said...

Look, the way he left was tackey. But damage control being what it is, we will rebound. As one of my friends said today, "with the amount of money Marquette has to spend, they could hire God."

There have been many good ideas on the blogs for new coaches. Several are excellent. We will prevail and I'm optimistic we won't miss a beat.

Just promise me one thing -- no Hank Raymonds, no Rick Majeruses and nothing out of false loyalty to Jesuitland, Milwaukee or Wisconsin. No Bob Dukiets and Mike Deanes either!

Demond Sanders said...

Sorry about losing your coach. I'm surprised Indiana pulled it off because the Hoosiers are as broke as it gets. They don't exactly have much of a football program to pad the books. (Awkward Silence)

You're in a tough spot right now, but you'll bounce back because you have the money to bounce back. I'm not sure you'll be able to get Sean Miller, though. He just signed a huge contract last year. (Awkward Silence).

jpudner said...

Hey liam, sorry you aren't impressed with Crean's 6 wins against Top 5 teams. You must have hated Al McGuire, who despite a longer career won exactly one game against a Top 5 team in his career, beating No. 5-ranked UNC in his final game. I just don't buy the argument that only March wins count. We won a lot of games in March to win the NIT Tournament without defeating a single RANKED team all season, tournament or regular season.

So please tell us all on what basis you don't think 6 wins against Top 5 teams is impressive. I'm always open to changing my mind when good reasons are given - I didn't change my mind on Tony Smith because of stupid comments like beating top 5 teams isn't impressive, I changed my mind because people sent lots of info on the ways Smith had promoted MU while in the NBA, the defense he had played to lock down Jordan, the fact that he was double teamed all the time at MU as our only legit threat, etc.

I'll check back frequently anxiously awaiting your rational for 6 wins against Top 5 teams not being impressive, perhaps you know of coaches who aren't good coaches but have beaten more than 6 Top 5 teams or some other flawless logic? ... You're on the clock liam ...

mu_hilltopper said...

jp - Just a couple things .. My argument isn't that "only March wins count". Lots of things count. But March wins count the most. Like it or not, it is the yardstick by which most judge a program.

In honesty, your yardstick, that Crean won 6 times vs. Top 5 teams .. honestly? I'd never heard that stat before. So, while it may very well be an impressive stat, it's not well known. No one goes around saying, "Yeah, that Crean. 10 one-and-dones in post-season tourneys, but wow, 6 wins vs top 5 teams, that's awesome baby!"

Liam said...

Punder, whoever the hell you are, is there a single human being that would sing the prasies of a college b-ball coach based on wins vs top 5 teams? Who even keeps that stat? With the possible exception of your moronic defense for leaving T.Smith off the top MU 10-15 players of all time list, I have never read anything more imbecillic in my life. To even mention Crean in the same sentence with Al McGuire may be worse. Oh my god Al only won 1 game against a top 5 team? Better take him out of the Hall of Fame. Marquette was the 2nd most successful program in the country behind UCLA during his tenure. Who in the fk even remembers the rankings of teams once the season and tourney are completed? Do you check to see what MU's final poll ranking is after the NCAA tourney? I'm stressing right now because I'm concered MU will have lower RPI ranking than Davidson next week. I gotta go dude I'm gonna look up Crean's point differential vs the RPI top 50. I think Al McGuire was only +9 all time.

Championships Matter said...

One other thought. As Marquette interviews the candidates for head coach, I hope the AD-in-training and Father Wild look him in the eye and ask a simple question:

"Is this the man that five years or less from now will be helping to hoist a National Championship banner in the Northeast Corner of the Bradley Center?"

If the answer is, "yes," hire him knowing that if Father Wild is wrong, he'll be teaching eskimos in Alaska for the Nome Province of the Society of Jesus. Seriously, if you find that guy, hire him and pay him dearly.

If the answer is "no," run don't walk to your nearest Hank Raymonds remediation center.

This is the most important hire Father Wild will ever make. It brings millions to the university and will enhance our image nationwide. It has the potential to fund scholarships and diversfy the student body and make MU grads more attractive in the marketplace.

Go get 'em Father with the reassurance that the Province is watching and Barrow, Juneau and Fairbanks is the result of a mistake.

jpudner said...

liam - your logic is that Crean didn't win tourney games except with D. Wade. By your same logic Al McGuire didn't make the Final Four without Bo Ellis. What kind of logic is that? That you can't count a coach's accomplishments if he had a great player on the team? Our disagreement isn't in whether or not Al McGuire was the greatest coach - of course he was - my issue with you is that you don't think a coach is any good unless he runs up McGuire-like success playing a brutal schedule year-in-and-year-out. Beating 6 top 5 teams isn't a "stat" it's a fact that makes it hard to say Crean couldn't coach a big game. He won big games. You just aren't going to roll through seasons when you are playing ranked teams and the rugged Big East day in and day out. We could have been DePaul, overwhelmed by this fact and relegated to the bottom of the Big East, and instead he came through, announced MU would be a player in the Big East with that first game against UConn, and has established us as a top-tier team in the toughest conference in the US. My problem is that if you set the bar at McGuire, you end up with nothing. If the fan base appreciates accomplishments like Crean's 9 years, we are much more likely to attract the key coaches and players to stay in the top tier.

If your criteria is that the 325 coaches who don't make the Sweet 16 each year are bad coaches, then you are setting yourself up for failure.

Kevin said...

Um Mr. Punder Liam is crushing you. Just quit now before you embarrass yourself further.

MUphenom said...

Odds of us hiring native bobby knight to come to Marquette?

jpudner said...

Liam - I wish you could be AD for a day to interview all the potential coaches out there! You could summarize your posts into a quick intro when trying to hire a coach - might result in a hypothetical conversation something like this:

Liam: "Coach Miller, thank you for coming. As new AD, I am going to insist on success. What evidence do you have that you can be successful?"

Coach Miller: "We've defeated some of the top teams in the country ..."

Liam: "I'm going to have to cut you off there. Beating some team that's ranked No. 1, 2 or 3 in the country doesn't prove anything to me. By success, I mean Sweet 16 appearances, nothing else matters."

Coach Miller: "Well, I'm sure you know I took Xavier to the Elite 8 this season."

Liam: "I'll really need some clarity on whether or not that is a success. For example, some people tried to give Tom Crean credit for going to the Final 4 WITH DWYANE WADE on his team. Can you believe it? If there are any potential great NBA players on your team, I really can't count this season as a success for you. In fact, you looked almost as bad against UCLA in the Elite 8 as Crean looked against Kansas in the final four, really an embarrassment to the program."

Coach Miller: "So what would you consider a successful season if I were to coach here?"

Liam: "By success, I mean a Sweet 16, but without a great player on your team like Dwyane Wade."

"We had one great coach here, Al McGuire. Unfortunately the other 14 coaches have been failures. You won't believe this, but when Al McGuire has not been our coach, we have had only 4 successful seasons in 78 years of basketball -and again, by success I mean Sweet 16s without Dwyane Wade on the team."

Coach Miller: "Thanks, for some reason I'm thinking maybe Xavier is a better fit after all. Good luck with your other interviews."

Liam - feel free to have a couple of your friends post and say you are winning the exchange, it's really better than letting your blood boil over in your own responses.

mufan4life03 said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
mufan4life03 said...

I agree liam is getting crushed and also there was a little more to 77 team besides bo ellis. (Seeing how the MVP was butch lee.)Also, in 03 Travis diener carried marquette to the second round and steve novak carried us to the sweet 16. It was not until the next two rounds that wade really took over.

Liam said...

Before I go to work Punder, and you have to take Crean's kids to school allow me to retort. I'm not sure how to follow the brilliance of your post, I mean you're a regular Oscar Wilde!! Also, you clearly have a track record for keen observations as evidenced by your MU's best list which had Roney Eford ahead of Tony Smith. I mean how can I compete with that? Is it possible that you neglected one variable when compiling that particular analysis? Like I don't know. Eyes? I never said Crean was a bad coach, and didn't compare him to Al you did. In fact I mentioned that he was "a good recruiter" and "re-established our program". I insinuated that he is overrated by agreeing with the original post, and like most Warrior fans sighted his NCAA tourney record. If I were the athlectic director I'm sure that the first thing all MU fans would want to know is how our potential coach fared against the AP and USA Today top 25. My second question of course would be do you tan? After you finish your bus route, and pack up the rest of the Crean's belongings, I'm sure you'll mention to Tommy how classy it was to talk to his players upon departing. Gotta run Mr. Wilde. I'm still scouring the net for longest amount of time a coach has paced and ranted during a game without sitting.

jpudner said...

I love it Liam. To think, I thought things like winning games against the elite teams in the US was important, but you obviously focus on the truly important things like how long a coach doesn't sit on the bench during the game. I'm certainly not defending Crean for how he left - that stinks - I'm defending his 9 years here and pointing out that based on your criteria no future coach will ever be successful. However, I need a short-hand term to refer to the depressed minority, so in the future I'll just use "Liamite," which I'll define as:

Liamite – A member of the very vocal 1% of Marquette basketball fans who find joy not in victories, but in any shortcoming they perceive in a Marquette player or coach. The Liamite Hall of Fame includes moments such as Brook Lopez’ off balance leaner that bounced in to save the Liamite’s the embarrassment of acknowledging a Sweet 16 appearance by Marquette, and sharpshooter Steve Novak barely missing a wide open 3-pointer against Alabama that would have forced them to argue against one of the great comebacks in NCAA tournament play. The term refers to blogger “liam” who truly advanced the art of depression by arguing that beating one of the top 5 teams in the country was not a significant accomplishment, no matter how many times it was done, and that coaches should not get any credit for taking a team to the Final Four if they had a great player like Dwyane Wade on their roster. The Liamite’s unpleasant disposition has prevented the spread of the group, which is now regulated for patting each other on the back for who can be the most negative about Marquette basketball.

Henry Sugar said...

In defense of Pudner's top 100 list, Liam should focus his argument more on two aspects.

Is the proper weighting assigned for the three categories? Right now, each category (stats, dominance, positive impact) is weighted equally. Should the weighting instead be 50/25/25, 40/40/20, or something else?

Is the proper value assigned for each player in each category? ie - should they have a 15 or a 3 in that category?

Instead of criticizing results you disagree with, and therefore the entire list, you could have a rational conversation about the process and the model.

Following the classy example of our administration, I'd like to thank Crean for his time here. Marquette is in a much better position than when he arrived. That said, I don't really care what he does now and I am far more interested in our new coach and what they'll do.

Gene Frenkle said...

LIamite. Nice. I think it's equivalent to "PRNitis" which is found heavily throughout MU Scoop.

Amanda said...

I must say this Battle Royal is freakin hilarious!! Liam you are one funny dude, although I don't agree with a lot of your rantings. Crean is a very good coach who will be missed. I do think he was average as a bench and game coach and maybe we can find someone better. The next few years will likely be brutal, but I think we can rebound and not wind up like DePaul or St.John's. My vote would be for Tony Bennett, but whoever it is we need to stop this leaking oil as quickly as possible. I hope you post more Liam because you crack me up hun.

Amanda
Class of 2004

The Chuter said...

Liam

You should know better than to argue facts with the koolaide-drinkers on this blog. Crean built a competitive program, no question, but his salary and ego outpaced his post-season accomplishments. He may have some success at IU, but dollars-for-donuts, he'll jump ship to MSU when Izzo leaves.

To me, the big story today is Rosiaks item on Mbakwe:

"It appears as though freshman forward Trevor Mbakwe is leaning toward transferring following the end of the semester due to family concerns in his hometown of St. Paul, Minn. Apparently this was a situation that has been in place, and coach Tom Crean's departure will have little if anything to do with it."

That's a big deal, for whoever comes in.

jce said...

I graduated from MU in 1991. I saw a lot of bad basketball, half empty BCs and living in the past.

If you would have told me when he was hired that TC would lead us to the Final Four, guide us into the Big East, spearhead the drive to build the McGuire Center, bring a fantastic atmosphere to the BC, all while graduating 89% of his players and never sniffing probation, I would have been very excited to witness it all unfold.

I feel real sorry for those of you who think this wasn't good enough and that championships are all that matter. To me, the big wins matter. The atmosphere in the BC matters. The school pride matters. Championships are the extra. I generally feel satisfied most years. It's too bad that that isn't enough because you will be disappointed almost every year.

mu_hilltopper said...

It kills me to no end how people warp opinions. Who here actually said it's all about championships?

That's just not the case. It's about winning A GAME every so often. TWO GAMES every so often.

As I wrote, all the other stuff is great, the exposure, the graduation rate, the clean program, the attendance. Great, great, seriously great. How that makes 7 of 9 years without an NCAA win so acceptable, from an elite coach, is beyond me.

And how demanding a few extra wins in March (over 9 years) somehow makes a fan someone to be pitied .. wow, that's setting the bar low.

Championships Matter said...

All right, here's why I say Championships Matter and why I believe Father Wild ought to ask the question whether we can win it all with whom we hire within the next five years.

I'm a 1978 grad of Marquette. There was nothing in this world quite like the night in March 1977 when we ran down Wisconsin Avenue in the rain headed for the Lakefront.

That was THE night. All the years as a kid I watched Marquette lose to Ohio State, Purdue, Indiana (and a young Bob Knight), etc., washed away in the rainfall on that wonderful night.

My academic years are far behind me and even if they win, it's my children's generation that will march to the lakefront. But the feeling never goes away. The desire to be the best is incumbent on us all.

Since 1978, many of us have seen some very crappy basketball, along with glimpses of greatness. Coach Crean has brought us back and made us feel that the best days of our youth are again before us. If Father Wild does this right, we can be National Champions again. If a mistake is made, like after Kevin O'Neill, we'll never experience that day again.

Personally, I want us to have the second best record in the nation during the next 10 years!

BF4ever said...

Marquette should reach out to Larry Brown and determine if his statement about wanting to return to college coaching could apply to their opening.

Larry is a world class basketball mind, who would immediatly elevate the play of our talent laiden roster.

Somehow retain Buzz Williams to stay on and handle most recruiting as the eventual heir apparent.

If Larry was up for the challenge, and wanting to work with a group of players that actually listen to his coaching, he could win a National Championship at Marquette.

But of course...it's NOT Indiana, it's NOT Indiana.

rugbydrummer said...

jeez, stop going after each other's throats, it's totally tired, boys. Can you be happy that you can have different opinions and maybe do without the unbridled hatred? Not everyone on this earth has that wonderful luxury of freedom of expression!

liam -- Tony Smith is awesome, i'll take your word for it! i accept whatever rank you believe he merits.

jpunder-- yes, TC did us some good in his time here, it's just a shame he abandoned a blossoming program

Can we agree that we're just generally bitter that we haven't had overwhelming March success in the last 5 years?

mu_hilltopper said...

"..generally bitter that we haven't had overwhelming March success.."?

Strike the word "overwhelming" and you are spot on.