"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

Tuesday, April 01, 2008

Marquette pivotal next step to show how big a pair the Jesuits have

It was nearly 9 years to the day that I was in the Alumni Memorial Union at a press conference announcing Tom Crean had been hired by MU to replace Mike Deane. I really enjoyed working for Mike so I was still in a fog when all the coaching search stuff was going on. We had a difficult season with a losing record and ticket sales are always fun in those environments. We needed an energetic guy that believed in the program. Enter Tom Crean. I was impressed that day with press conference. This kid coach, and he was a kid because he was barely older then I was, was saying the right things for sure, but he also had the passion. Slick talker, something that many alumni never liked and some at IU will also not enjoy, but nevertheless I felt he believed what he was saying.

I only had the ability to work with him for about 5 months and it was an abbreviated five at that. With his family moving over from Michigan, Joanie pregnant with Riley and the entire process of how those things happen. But I do remember a couple of meetings with him one on one that made me feel pretty good. One, I could tell he was going to insert himself into the process no matter what. Now, that can be scary shit for a lot of employees and rightly so. Especially some young gun that may not know what the hell he is talking about. At times, quite frankly, he didn't know but he had an opinion and a desire anyway to get involved. I appreciated that. I remember asking him and his staff to call season ticket holders, EVERY ONE OF THEM along with his team to thank them for their support to MU. I expected him to tell me to take a hike....he didn't. His staff and players manned telephones and called every season ticket holder at night for three weeks straight until we went through the entire list.

Essentially whatever I asked him to do on the marketing side, he did it. That was the summer of his first year....I left soon after to take a gig on the west coast. Some of my compatriots that remained had to deal with him on a day to day basis over the next few years and their memories would be less enthusiastic then mine. He's a tough guy to work for, that is not in debate. Some would say he's impossible to work for....perhaps an equally fair comment. To each his own, it's what MU needed at the time.

So 9 years and 2 days later, Crean today announced he was going to coach at Indiana. As an IU and MU graduate, it was an odd day....I lose Tom Crean as coach but gain him at the same time. Strange feeling. IU could have done better in my opinion and MU is now in a tough tough spot, that's the hard part. Sad day in that regard.

Actually, sad may not cut it. Nervous is probably the best way to put my emotions right now. I wrote here last year and again two months ago, the scariest thing that could happen short term for MU is if Crean left because of one thing.....the AD. Cottingham has never done this and "THIS" is a big deal. The last thing I want is for Cottingham to have to go out there and run a search for the next coach having never done it before, these are difficult propositions and require some savvy maneuvering. Bill Cords should be on line 1 so fast it makes the university's head spin.

But here's the bigger issue, it's not just Cords that can help but the university in general. MU made an important play 9 years ago when they decided to fire a coach who won 100 games in 5 years (Mike Deane) and hire Tom Crean. They have since built a great practice facility, got us into the Big East, kept Crean happy enough for 9 years. MU had a lot of momentum until today but now has taken a shot to the groin. MU has to decide if it's going to get up swinging or play it safe. This is not the time for another hot assistant coach, those days are over....those days are for when you're in 12th place in the Big East, not when you're on your 3rd straight NCAA appearance and have your top 3 guys supposed to come back next year. This is also not the time for a good x's and o's coach that isn't willing to work his ass off recruiting, one that is looking to end his career at MU on cruise control.

So what we're saying is MU has to sack up and grow a pair, something it did 9 years ago but needs to do even more so now. Sorry to be so crass, but it is what it is. This league is a killer league and if you pussyfoot around in it, you will be DePaul, Seton Hall or St. John's in no time flat. At that point, your prospects for returning into anything remotely successful become a decade fix. One hopes and prays Cottingham, Wild and the powers that be understand this. This isn't the Atlantic 10, this isn't even the sorry Big Ten right now, this is the Big East with 12 legitimate teams every year and 4 more trying like hell to get into that club. MU can piss away the previous 9 years of momentum or they can sack up and go after someone that will not miss a beat.

Rarely in life do people or institutions get a chance to rectify major mistakes. MU in 1977 could have hired anyone they wanted, they didn't. They went safe and kept Hank Raymonds on board. Hank is a tremendous man, a great coach and did many wonderful things for MU. That being said, it wasn't the right hire and MU's decline was on it's way for more than a decade. Now, 30 years later, MU has gone to three straight NCAAs and has the talent to go back again next year. They have a highly regarded class coming in next year so is MU going to capitalize on this or piss it away again?

Here's what I wouldn't do. Don't get a large committee together. Committees are a bunch of people with too many opinions and too many egos trying to show who's got the biggest wanker in the room. Don't do it. Leads to massive leaks to the media, back stabbing and general BS. Plus there is no accountability...it's a feel good exercise and doesn't put anyone on the hook. The university decided to go with Cottingham so go with Cottingham...but I'd have Cords there as a two headed monster. I'm sure a search firm will be involved as well, and that always brings it's own level of nonsense but that's part of the game these days.

Here's also what I wouldn't do. Grant players permission to get out of their Letter of Intent. Players in theory sign with the coach, but in reality they sign with the school. Student athletes may not like that, but too bad. Cottingham MUST force the players to live by that LOI otherwise they can transfer on their own. It sucks for everyone, but that's life in DI.

Here's what I would do. Move quickly, but don't rush. Sounds counterintuitive...maybe. This weekend in San Antonio is an important weekend for this search and one has to think that MU better be all business down there getting something done.

My list of guys that will bring the same amount of national publicity to a small school in Wisconsin consistently year in and year out? None.

My list of guys that will bring the same amount of energy to the job in recruiting? Miller, Lavin, Bennett. Maybe Ford and Grant (VCU)

My list of guys that bring a sharper X's and O's approach then what we've had? Weber, Stallings, Altman, Brownwell.

My list of guys that are "hot coaches" but not assistants who could capture some imagination? Davis, Darrin Horn (just signed with USC), Rivers, Grant.

My list of guys that have the whole package and would actually come to Milwaukee from their current job................ Miller would be great but he's going to take the Pitt job in a few years. Bennett would be great but he's too loyal to give up on WSU after 2 years, if it was more than 5 then he might. I don't see a whole lot of others.

So here we are gang. MU made it's bed with Cottingham and we warned you the great unknown is if this situation came up, little did we know it was only 8 weeks or so away. Does he step up get it done or is this a classic screw-up that puts MU into the land of the abyss for the next decade.

Grow a pair MU, this is one of those situations that begs for it. GROW A DAMN PAIR! Have confidence and go after an established coach that wants to be here and who will do great things. GROW A PAIR!

Finally on Crean. Yeah, I was a supporter mostly because in the last 30 years I saw MU go through coach after coach with not much to show for it. Finally a guy was here for awhile and doing the right things. But, with my MU hat on I say....THANK YOU for 9 great years including one that is unforgettable, but don't let the door hit you where the good Lord split you....and with my IU hat I say "Tom, welcome to IU, if you think MU fans were tough wait until you see the pricks we have. Now's your chance, better get it done and in a hurry because the honeymoon won't last long. Welcome aboard....now clean up this mess!

1 comment:

jce said...

You pretty much hit it on the head IMO. Make a bold choice...not a safe choice.