"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

Saturday, November 24, 2018

4 to 5 years to judge a college coach....sticking to the timeline

Several years ago, I made the statement that one needs 4 to 5 years to FULLY judge a coach at the college level.  That provided humor and fodder for some, but I'm sticking to the statement. What's so magical about 4 to 5 years?  Coaches have done rebuilds in faster time.  

My rationale on the timing is simple.  Time is a great tool to judge, usually the longer the duration the better until you reach a point of diminishing returns.  We can use marriages, personal relationships, careers, or host of other life experiences to prove out the point.  The longer one must judge a body of work, usually they will either prove themselves or not.  At some point, you know.

For college coaches you must give him or her a reasonable chance to succeed and fail.  Four to five years means several recruiting classes of the coach cycle through all four years. Therefore, most coaching contracts start out 4 to 5 years in duration.  That time horizon also eliminates the cupboard is full or bare situation from the previous coach.  It avoids the Charlie Weiss / Kevin Olie phenomenon, while also giving credit to schools like Loyola who stuck it out for the likes of Porter Moser.  You see, Moser had a losing record in each of his first three years at Loyola, even taking a step backward in year three.  It wasn't until year four that the Ramblers broke through.  Yes, Moser had success two jobs ago, but lacked that formula in his second job.  It happens, sometimes that school isn't right, and you move on.  Charlie Weis went 9-3 and 10-3 his first two years at Notre Dame, for which he was rewarded with a monster contract.  The Fighting Irish didn't wait the 4 to 5 years to judge and made a huge mistake as Weis floundered to at 16-21 record his final three years.  There is an endless list of examples on both ends of the spectrum, including some of these names that started out slow and then lit the world on fire: Frank Beamer, Coach K at Duke, Tom Landry at the Cowboys, and so many others.  

Which brings us to Marquette and year five of Wojo's tenure.  Expectations have risen, fans are ready for the breakthrough season, some are starting to reach for the knives while others hold on to waning patience.  

Time to panic or are we right on schedule?  

For starters, where are we?  Marquette is 4-2 and ranked 36th in Ken Pomeroy ratings, 26th in Sagarin, and 24th in Warren Nolan ELO rankings.  Those are decent ratings and highest in the Wojo era if they stay that way.  Our losses are to soon-to-be #1 ranked Kansas and on the road at soon-to-be ranked Indiana.  One could argue that probably all but 10 teams in the country were going 4-2 with the early schedule MU has played. Proof coming from Tennessee and Michigan State losses to KU and Assembly Hall's ability to devour high ranked opponents for decades.  It's not that we lost, "it's how we lost and how we looked" is the popular refrain from some fans.  Did we look bad, or did two good teams make us look bad?  A few fans point to Presbyterian College game as further proof.  Or the views that despite being 4-2, we don't look very good.  Are they wrong?  Is it panic time, or are we right on schedule?

Another popular theme....in year five, we shouldn't be making the mistakes we are making.  Perhaps they are on to something...perhaps.  This is not the same team as last year.  We lost our top scorer and assist leader in Andrew Rowsey.  We lost his senior leadership, too.  This year we have one senior, a work his-ass-off heady Matt Heldt who will do most of his leadership in practice with limited minutes on the court.  We are lucky to have Mr. Heldt.   Rowsey's departure and Heldt's reduced role has meant integrating newcomers Joe Chartouny, Ed Morrow, Joey Hauser and Brendan Bailey quickly.  Through the first six games, those four new players are involved significantly:

  • 35% of the minutes played
  • scoring 28% of the points scored
  • grabbing 31% of the rebounds
  • dishing out 41% of the assists

Not immaterial by any stretch, but they need to do more, and they need to get up to speed quickly for MU to have success this season.  Morrow and Chartouny were expected to deliver immediately, thus far it has been spotty and inconsistent.

The defense has improved, and the offense has slumped.  Will the trade-off offset each other enough to bring meaningful success?  

Did Wojo bite off more than he should have with the schedule?  Marquette has three ranked teams coming up in the next 14 days, all of them at the Fiserv Forum.  Plenty of coaches would have chosen an easier schedule to rack up a few more wins to start the season.  We are going to know a lot more about this club come December 8th, and more still come January 8th.  Tip of the hat to the program for scheduling up because they didn't have to.

It is still awfully early to panic, but I'm sticking to my 4 to 5 years judge.  Wojo needs to get the team to gel, make them tougher, more fluid, less selfish at times and highly competitive. The return of Elliott may help, or it may add another player into a rotation that needs to find consistency.  Here's hoping Wojo and the team can get it figured out.  This is a talented team at many positions, my worry is they may not be talented enough at the most important position in college basketball....the point guard spot.   If MU fails to meet expectations, it may be time to think differently. My heart says this team will figure it out and will rise to the occasion.  My head is still wavering.....important two weeks coming up.

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