"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 29, 2008

Jerel McNeal and Tyshawn Taylor updates

For the second time in as many years, one of Marquette's best is dipping his toes in the NBA waters. Jerel McNeal put himself through a thorough self-evaluation before declaring, and he discussed that with Todd Rosiak in a blog posted over the weekend.

Still, despite an extraordinary finish to a strong junior season there's not much love for Jerel just yet:


Taylor visited Kansas last week, and came away impressed (um, no kidding). Today Adam Zagoria reports that Taylor committed to KU. No surprise.

Saturday, April 26, 2008

McNeal declares for NBA draft, will not hire agent

To nobody's surprise, Jerel McNeal declared for the NBA draft on Friday but will not hire an agent.

GoMarquette official release

Rosiak's blog

Friday, April 25, 2008

Marquette in pursuit of 6'9" Darius Morrow

Darius Morrow, a 6'9" 250 pound center/power forward from Georgia, was recently released from his LOI at South Carolina and is now deciding between Marquette, Auburn and ECU. Scout.com lists Morrow as a three-star prospect, and ESPN slots him in as the #30 power forward in the 2008 class.

Morrow, a back to the basket post player, led his Columbia High School (Decatur, GA) squad to the AAAA state title last month.

Check out the details/discussion on Morrow over at MUScoop.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Buzz Williams hires two assistant coaches

Rosiak breaks the news in a blog loaded with great information -- Buzz Williams hired two assistant coaches today:

  • Tony Benford from Nebraska (by way of Arizona State and New Mexico)
  • David "Aki" Collins from Fairfield (by way of Marshall, Howard and Colorado)
From the Nebraska athletics site a few key points on Tony Benford:
  • Native of Hobbs, NM
  • Played collegiately at Texas Tech
  • Collegiate assistant coach since 1993
  • Assistant coach and later associate head coach at Arizona State (eight seasons in Tempe)
  • Assistant coach at Nebraska since 2006
From the Fairfield athletics site a few key points on Aki Collins.
  • Native of Brooklyn, NY
  • Played collegiately at Morehouse College and Clark College
  • Assistant coach at Fairfield since 2006
  • Assistant coach at Marshall for three seasons
  • Assistant coach at Colorado for three seasons
Welcome to Marquette, gentlemen.

The net: Buzz Williams hires a pair of coaches with recruiting chops, with relationships in different parts of the country, and gets the added benefit of Benford's extensive experience as a top assistant at major programs.

According to Rosiak, Williams has one more assistant to hire -- perhaps one with a heritage and relationships in the Midwest. We shall see.

BTW, it looks like Scott Monarch, who's name did not come up in Rosiak's blog, might be the director of basketball operations (or a similar type of role).

Looking ahead -- Jamil Wilson, 2009 and beyond

Jamil Wilson of Racine has emerged as one of the nation's best players in the class of 2009, and is garnering strong interest from Michigan State, Duke, UCLA, and Kansas -- each of whom will host Wilson on an official visit. Texas, Tennessee and Purdue are also in the mix. Given the proximity to MU and UW, Wilson is not expected to take an official visit to either in-state program. Sam Webb from Detnews.com talked with Wilson about MSU and filed this report.

Wilson would be a huge get for Buzz Williams and Marquette, particularly given the premier programs the kid is interested in. And let's face it, a major talent influx by kids like Jamil Wilson must be in order if MU expects to remain a fixture in the NCAA tournament.

After what should be a successful 2008-2009 campaign (presuming Jerel McNeal returns), Buzz Williams has a number of gaps to fill if he hopes to strengthen a decidedly weak roster. Right now, Williams has a 2009-2010 group built almost exclusively with role players. Thankfully, Williams has early playing time to offer prospects as he closes out 2008 recruiting and looks ahead to 2009 and beyond.

With props to the slick scholarship table over at the MUScoop Wiki, here's a quick look at the current state 2009-2010 roster (walk-ons excluded):

Seniors: Lazar Hayward, David Cubillan, Maurice Acker
Juniors: Trevor Mbakwe, Patrick Hazel, Joseph Fulce, Jimmy Butler
Sophs: Chris Otule
Frosh: Erik Williams (verbal commitment)

By any measure, this roster won't get it done in the Big East. The talent needs a major upgrade. The Marquette basketball program will be at a crossroads in 2009. Will the program take a major step back, or will coach Williams right the ship with an influx of high-ceiling talent to populate the freshmen and sophomore classes?

Landing the uber-talented Erik Williams, who despite missing most of his junior season wowed scouts and projects to be a four-star talent, is a fine way to start the upgrading process. Here are some other likely recruiting priorities for MU in 2009:

  • Pure point guard who can play big minutes immediately. MU was staring this same situation in the face four years ago when Crean landed James to replace Diener.
  • Dead-eye shooter. With the three-point line moving back, it;s time for an upgrade.
  • Skilled big man. Mbakwe could be a fine power forward if he's not forced into the middle because of a thin frontcourt roster.
  • Jamil Wilson. Hey, a guy can dream right? Wilson will be tough to land but if he signs on with MU, the program immediately moves up a notch.
Marquette hired Buzz Williams largely based on his track record as a recruiter. In fact, derivatives of the term 'recruit' appeared sixteen times in the press release announcing his new position. Buzz Williams must deliver quickly to keep the Golden Eagles dancing for years to come.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Morning grinds

A few items of note regarding MU..........

Marquette Tribune's Steve Yanda paints himself green with envy at the opportunities that await Jerel McNeal. Yanda rightly expects McNeal to declare for the NBA draft shortly -- but to do so without an agent, and ultimately return to MU.

Now for the main event.

Mike DeCourcy says it will be tough for MU (and PC) to recruit in the Big East because the league is, well, too tough -- and infers that new head coaches Buzz Williams and Keno Davis might be in over their heads.

Nobody is denying that the Big East is rough, but DeCourcy downplays MU's strengths to the point where he views PC as a program on par with MU. Of course, this is not the case on any level, just look at the relative successes of each program in the last decade, not to mention facilities, fan support, television appearances, and NBA footprint. MU certainly left itself open to criticism for hiring Buzz Williams -- but the PC comparison is a non sequitur.

Still, DeCourcy marginalizes Marquette's position in the Big East:

"When the Marquette job opened and its fans wondered if Xavier's Sean Miller would be interested in moving, the answer was obvious -- but not to them."

Few MU fans (any?) expected MU to land Miller. The buzz on Miller's interest in potentially moving on from Xavier was more of a media creation than any Marquette fan's expectation. When the Pitt job opens up, Miller will move on. Fine with me.

"Marquette built one of the nation's best practice facilities and has shown a willingness to invest in coaching salaries, but it cannot change the fact it is at the Western edge of an Eastern league."

The 'western edge of an Eastern league' reeks of spin from competitive coaches, or even coaches formerly on the MU staff. Despite their proximity to the Center of the Big East Universe, programs like Seton Hall, Rutgers, St John's and Providence have somehow struggled to be competitive for what, a decade or more? To read this column, you'd expect that MU had failed miserably during its Big East tenure.

Players who grow up in Wisconsin generally dream of playing in the Big Ten, which is one reason the Badgers have enjoyed an edge in drawing the state's elite prospects

Marquette never was a program built on the backs of talent from the Dairy State. MU has always gotten its share of local kids (Diener and Novak for example), but historically recruited with greater success regionally and nationally. This is a non-issue for the program.

Both Marquette and Providence have hired promising coaches. But each has moved out of his geographic comfort zone and will have to overcome that.

Hmmm........After DeCourcy just pointed out that homestate kids don't flock to play ball at MU how can he now say that hiring a coach from outside the state (or Midwest) is now a disadvantage? Should MU have doubled-down with a yokel so he could swim upstream in a state where the cultish following of the red-clad flagship institution is culturally ingrained?

When Marquette hired Tom Crean, geography mattered more than it does now. With Marquette playing in an East Coast-based league, a coach with a national reputation as a strong recruiter just might be the right fit (process be damned), if for no other reason than being on the 'western edge of an Eastern league'.

Big East battles aren't confined to the court. In fact, the confrontations along the recruiting trail can be even more intense. No joke.

Agreed. And let's face it, after landing the blowout class headlined by the Three Amigos, Tom Crean delivered a pair of decidedly underwhelming classes to follow. Simply put, other than Lazar Hayward and maybe Trevor Mbakwe, Crean left behind a roster of questionable role players with marginal skills. True to form, it took Crean three years to land another promising class, one broken up by his Irsay-esque departure. Crean often recruited his best talent when his back was against the wall -- and heading into 2009, it would have been at Marquette because of the mistakes, misses, and reaches made in between.

In the end, maybe these perceived recruiting issues at Marquette had less to do with geography and more to do with the talent evaluation and roster development of the previous head coach.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Rubbing salt in the wound

Nick Williams, the former MU commit who received an unconditional release when Crean bolted, signed with Indiana yesterday. A shocker, eh?

Tyshawn Taylor announced he's visiting Kansas on Wednesday. If Taylor signs with Kansas, he'd join a loaded backcourt that should include returning senior starter Mario Chalmers, the tough-minded junior Sherron Collins, incoming freshman four-star recruit Travis Releford, and JUCO all-american guard Tyrone Appleton. This sounds like a less than ideal destination for a player who's high school coach expressed concern over the 'logjam' in the Marquette backcourt.

Monday, April 21, 2008

Catching up with the program

After the remarkable pace of news out of the Marquette program for most of last week, things slowed down just a bit - - - but here are few nuggets from the past several days to get you caught up.

Per this article from the Tyler Morning Telegraph, Buzz Williams hired Scott Monarch as his first assistant coach. Monarch, who until recently was an assistant at Tyler JC where he coached MU commits Joseph Fulce and Jimmy Butler, previously served on Williams' staff at the University of New Orleans.

In addition to Marquette, Tyshawn Taylor is now considering five other universities. Adam Zagoria has the list. It is unclear how interested Taylor remains in MU -- but the truth is, with only role players (Cubillan, Acker) in the program to replace the Three Amigos, MU desperately needs a top notch point guard. John Dodds lays out the case in this thread.

Luka Mirkovic, a 6'11" center from Indiana, announced his intention to sign with Northwestern over Louisville and Marquette.

MUScoop puts fans in the Way Back Marchine for an interview with coach Al McGuire. Great find, MUScoop.

Friday, April 18, 2008

Save the Date: 1st Annual Warrior Day Golf Outing

This summer Marquette great Bo Ellis will host an important golf outing to honor his late daughter, Nikki -- and we wanted to post early details on the event.

The 1st Annual Warrior Day Golf Outing will be held on Monday, July 28th at The Bog in Saukville, Wisconsin. Proceeds from the event will benefit the newly created Nicole "Nikki" Ellis Foundation. Nikki Ellis, a Marquette graduate like her father, was just 24 years old when she passed away after a brief illness.

This is an event that Marquette hoops fans can't afford to miss. Former Marquette stars are turning out in droves to support Bo and the new foundation -- here's a list of former players already committed to play in this remarkable event:

  • Jim Boylan
  • Ron Curry
  • Dave Deisman
  • Travis Diener
  • Jerry Homan
  • Robb Logterman
  • Maurice Lucas
  • Jim McIlvaine
  • Tony Smith
  • George Thompson
  • Marcus Washington
  • Jerome Whitehead
The format is built for the fan --- there will be one former player in each of the 36 foursomes. The day of golf will include dinner, pictures, a silent auction and additional programming.

For now, mark your calendars for July 28. We'll provide registration and additional information on the 1st Annual Warrior Day Golf Outing to support the Nicole "Nikki" Ellis Foundation soon.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Jimmy Butler commits to Marquette

Over on Scout.com, IWB just confirmed this morning's Des Moines Register report by Rick Brown that 6'5" Jimmy Butler from Tyler Junior College committed to Marquette University.

Butler, originally from Tomball, Texas, is a teammate of current MU recruit Joseph Fulce at Tyler JC. Like Fulce, Butler will have three years of eligibility remaining upon enrolling at Marquette. Butler led Tyler JC in scoring last season, pouring in 18 points per game to go along with 7 rebounds and 3 assists.

With Scott Christopherson's departure (he is headed to Iowa State) adding Butler to the current freshman class will help balance out the roster for Coach Williams. Butler, who can play three positions on the floor, will also offer MU a great deal of flexibility in the backcourt and small forward slots.

Congrats Jimmy, and welcome to Marquette University -- and congrats to Buzz Williams for securing his first recruit as head coach.


With props to bma725 over at MUScoop, here's the additional low-down on the talented Mr. Butler, who was an honorable mention JUCO All-American this season. Fulce was a second-team JUCO All-American.
Not much info out there on him because he's a JUCO, but he's a good player. 6'5, somewhat skinny. Truly a combo guard, he's probably more natural as a 2, but has good court vision and can play the 1 as well. Good shot from the perimeter, can score in bunches. Was Tyler's leading scorer this year and just had some absurd games. NJCAA All American Honorable Mention.

No academic issues, full qualifier out of high school, wanted to go to Mississippi State but they ran out of scholarships and he chose to go the JUCO route rather than signing with a low D1 school or going to a Prep School. Currently has offers from Kentucky, Clemson, Mississippi State and Iowa State. He's already made visits to Mississippi State and Iowa State.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Mbakwe, Taylor updates

Read Rosiak, folks.........great reporting by Todd again today.

Bob Hurley takes a few more swings at MU

.....even though NCAA regulations prohibit Marquette from granting a release to Tyshawn Taylor just because his high school coach says he wants one.

Oustanding work by Todd Rosiak......this is quite a soap opera.

"It's a stall, there's no doubt about it," he said. "If they say otherwise...if this was St. Anthony's High School, and a young man's family came to me and told me that they were unhappy and would I sign our state waiver so that they would be eligible to play someplace else, if I'd done the best I could coaching and it wasn't working, I would sign it and they'd be gone and I'd wish them the best of luck.

Of course, the "young man's family" has not made the request -- so the grandstanding high school coach maintains his faux platform. Thankfully, MU's Mike Broeker correctly addresses the crux of the matter:
"Our obligation is to the student-athlete," said deputy athletic director Mike Broeker. "And up to this point, neither Tyshawn nor his family has informed us of his decision."

Talk about it here at MUScoop.

Charley Waters from TwinCities.com reports that Trevor Mbakwe will stay at Marquette:
Former St. Bernard's and Henry Sibley basketball star Trevor Mbakwe, who considered transferring from Marquette after his freshman season this year, has decided to remain with the team. The Gophers were expected to pursue the 6-foot-8 forward if he had made himself available.

There's been no official confirmation from MU regarding Mbakwe.

Joseph Fulce sticks with MU and more

"Everything's real good. I'm still going to Marquette," he said. "I'm excited, my family's excited. It's a great place for me, I'm going to get a great Jesuit education."

After a stretch of uncertainty with key recruits in the wake of the Buzz Williams hiring, Todd Rosiak once again puts fans' minds at ease today with a positive update on Joseph Fulce, the 6'6" combo forward from Tyler JC. Fulce remains an MU commit.

What's more, for the second time in as many days we're hearing from recruits and those close to them about how much they value a Jesuit education . Consider what John Harmatuck, Erik Williams' high school coach, said yesterday to the guys at the SportsBubbler:

“Erik’s parents really value a Jesuit education,” Harmatuk said. “Erik went to a Jesuit school (Strake Jesuit) as a freshman. His parents are very impressed with Marquette as a university, first and foremost.”

Not to mention what the hyper-talented Williams said himself at the SportsBubbler:

I committed to Marquette because of everything that it stands for and has to offer."

These comments above reflect the kinds of values many traditional students appreciate when they decide to attend Marquette University - -and its good to see future student-athletes recognize and value what differentiates MU.

Oh, by the way ...... Fulce and Williams can play. Check out this video of Fulce from his high school days in Plano when he led his team to the state title.

According to a blog on the Des Moines Register, Marquette is poised to gain a commitment from Jimmy Butler, a high-flying 6'6" guard/forward from Tyler JC. Like Fulce, Butler will have three years of eligibility remaining at a Division One program.

In addition, the Register reports that Scott Monarch has accepted an assistant coaching slot at MU. Monarch is currently an assistant coach at Tyler JC and was on Buzz Williams' staff at UNO. We'll await verification from MU.

Kudos to MUScoop for finding these gems.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Come back in from that ledge, my friend

.......at least that's one way to look at the reassuring Rosiak report concerning Erik Williams and Chris Otule:

Erik Williams, a fast-rising junior from Cypress Springs (Tex.) High School told me this afternoon that he remains committed to MU...........Williams also said that he keeps in contact with Chris Otule, one of three remaining signees for next season, and Otule told him he will also honor his commitment to MU.

Monday, April 14, 2008

Tyshawn Taylor wants out

Adam Zagoria (as always in New Jersey) breaks the news........After meeting with new head coach Buzz Williams last Friday, Tyshawn Taylor still wants his release from Marquette University.

Taylor has not eliminated MU -- but coach Bob Hurley indicated that a dozen other schools have inquired, and Taylor wants to take a few more visits before deciding. Hurley cited Buzz Williams' inexperience as a head coach, and the logjam in the MU backcourt as primary factors in seeking the release.

Hmmmmm. On the backcourt 'logjam' - - the backcourt was much more of a logjam back in October when Taylor verballed to MU, something he acknowledged and was apparently unconcerned with when asked. Since that time, both Nick Williams and Scott Christopherson have exited the program.

Of course, Taylor's profile improved dramatically this past season when he exploded on the national scene as a vital cog on the top team in the country. It's no wonder that many other programs are now fawning over Taylor -- and that he's willing to reciprocate that interest.

As for Buzz Williams' inexperience as a head coach.....well......that sounds like the primary driver here.

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Top 10 Wiki : March

March? Isn't it mid-April? Yeah. This piece was gong to run April 1, but let's just say April 1 will live in infamy for other reasons.

In the past 3-4 months, the wiki has really exploded with content, as we've hooked a handful of dedicated volunteers. We've gone from ~500 pages to a whopping ~1100 pages of delicious Marquette info.

Here's the Top ~10 for March:

Other pages of interest:

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Personnel moves du jour: DJ is coming back, a few are headed out the door

First the good news -- Dominic James announced at the basketball banquet tonight that he will return to Marquette for his senior season. Bravo, Dominic! Now it is time for DJ to chase down and pass George Thompson as MU's all-time leading scorer, and lead the team to a fourth consecutive NCAA tournament bid.

Now for the departures.....freshman SG Scott Christopherson and 2008 commit Nick Williams have each been granted their release from Marquette University. Adios, fellas.

Williams was given an unconditional release meaning he can go to any school he chooses. It is interesting that MU afforded Williams complete freedom. In the past for kids already in the program, Marquette was prescriptive as to the places a player was eligible to transfer to. Hello, IU?

It appears the next shoe to drop could be Trevor Mbakwe if you believe the message boards.

Even before these departures, Andy Katz didn't think much of Marquette, failing to include the Golden Eagles in his early pre-season top 25. Whatever, Andy.

Meanwhile, Buzz Williams jets off to New Jersey on Friday morning in an attempt to re-recruit Tyshawn Taylor, the combo guard from St Anthony's who has also asked for his release from Marquette. In a Q/A with Adam Zagoria today, Taylor offered MU fans a ray of hope (and contradicted remarks made by his coach last week):

Q: What kind of relationship do you have with Coach Williams?
A: He recruited me. I had a better relationship with him than with Coach Crean.

Coach Williams also quickly re-energized his efforts to recruit 6'7" stud Jamil Wilson from Racine. Mark Miller has the report.

First impressions of Buzz Williams

With thanks to a commenter in below, click on this link for exclusive interviews on the Buzz Williams hiring from the Steve 'The Homer' True show, ESPN Radio in Milwaukee. A great find, enjoy.

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!

Rosiak details the search; Transfer rumors and more

Todd's latest blog is in the spotlight today.......check it out for details on the coaching search. Talk about it here at MU Scoop. Rosiak also reports on yesterday's introduction.

Rosiak had the scoop on a possible Trevor Mbakwe transfer last week, and now the Minnesota boards are buzzing about it per this thread. One down?

We linked to this last night, but in case you missed it -- Buzz Williams will try and retain Tyshawn Taylor when he visits Jersey City on Friday.

Bob Wolfley speaks with Buzz Williams mentors and former bosses in his latest column.

Chas Rich at AOL Fan House evaluates MU's decision to hire Buzz Williams -- another fine blog by Chas.

And dont forget.......Please click on this link to land over at the eBay auction for a pair of tickets to the sold out Marquette Basketball Banquet. All proceeds go to a great cause -- Camp Anokijig, a non-profit youth and family camp located in Sheboygan, Wisconsin.

Tuesday, April 08, 2008

More Buzz, More Buzz

Buzz Williams was introduced today as the new head basketball coach at Marquette University.

If you missed the press conference, check these out:

OK, if all of this virtual Buzz is not enough for you --- why not check him out in-person this week at the Marquette Basketball Banquet?

Please click on this link to land over at the eBay auction for a pair of tickets to this sold out event. All proceeds go to a great cause -- Camp Anokijig, a non-profit youth and family camp located in Sheboygan, Wisconsin.

Bid'em up and thanks for your support.

Perception is reality....Marquette needed to create a buzz but didn't

Perception is reality for a school like Marquette. Sure it has a grand tradition, some terrific coaches over the years, post season glory and a fan base that supports the basketball program financially and with ticket purchases. But perception remains reality for Marquette. MU is at it's strongest with a strong man at the helm of the basketball program. The type of man that might piss some fans off but rallies many others to the cause. Quite simply, a man that creates a buzz.

So it is with great irony (tragic perhaps) that MU hires a man nick named Buzz that seems to have caused anything but a thud. Perception is reality.

For as much hating of Tom Crean as there was from some MU alumni, Crean caused a buzz. Attendance was at an all-time high last year, this past year's squad was ranked again, went to the NCAAs for three straight years. We were recruiting nationally and landing better and better players each year. But Crean left and the buzz went with him, even if the Buzz didn't go with him.

So the last 7 nightmarish days have turned out to be prophetic for some of us. So many of us had hoped MU was finally past IT. Finally past the days of having to risk it on a coach that may or may not be the guy. Sure, every hire is a risk to some extent but there are levels of risk. After finishing in the top 25 and having a senior laden team returning next season, playing in the Big East, paying a $1.6 million salary to the previous coach, having fantastic facilities, 16,000+ attendance per game....why is this level of risk even necessary?

MU apparently tried to get Bennett and Miller. No doubt those would both be a reach and not surprising MU couldn't land them. They have their own wonderful programs in play, one is at state school with it's own built in advantages and the other plays in a watered down league which he can dominate. So, was option three Buzz Williams? Really? I suspect he may not have been but MU did feel he was in their top 5 all along.

So many of us wanted to believe we were past this...oh how wrong we were. In 1977, we hired an assistant in Hank Raymonds. A good X's and O's coach but no buzz to carry MU in a pro market where they need that charisma. In 1983 it was another MU assistant in Rick Majerus, who did not have the maturity or the self-confidence in his own skin yet to handle that position. In 1986, MU went with Bob Dukiet after others had accepted and turned down the position. Bob Dukiet...head coach of the Peacocks of St. Peter's College. Rolls off your tongue doesn't it.

Soon after Bill Cords took over and only two years later, Bob Dukiet was gone. Cords hired Kevin O'Neill. That was a great hire....a guy with buzz (in some cases more buzz then we thought). He put MU back on the map and in the process ticked off many MU blue hair alums. GET OVER IT. That's the trade off, some alums want a coach they can feel good about but more often then not you need someone that's going to get the job done and he might hurt a few feelings in the process, to bad! O'Neill left in 1994 to be replaced by Mike Deane. Deane was a terrific X's and O's coach but short on the buzz. Recruiting was not a strong suit and the public swagger needed to put MU over the top was in short supply. Enter Tom Crean, brash assistant from arguably the best program in the country at the time. Within 3 years took a non-postseason team to the NCAA and within 4 years to the Final Four. Many alums thought he was fake, arrogant, phony....he had the buzz whether those people want to admit it or not. People liked Tom or hated him, but they talked about him either way. He created a buzz.

And so 9 days after Crean's departure, MU seeing what that buzz has done for the university during McGuire, during O'Neill, and during Crean instead takes it literally and hires a guy named Buzz that creates none of it. That's not an indictment against Williams, who I pray turns out to be everything this administration thinks he will turn into. But history can be telling and in a city like Milwaukee at a school like Marquette, history could teach some valuable lessons. MU needed to create a buzz with this hire, a real buzz. MU failed in that category.

With the resources at its disposal, one would think MU could have gone in many directions. An assistant like Groce at Ohio State, a NCAA champion coach on the hot seat like Gary Williams, an established head coach ready to make the next move like Travis Ford or Brad Brownwell. Something that would have told MU's fans and the city of Milwaukee that MU got it, that MU wasn't going to go down that path again.

So ultimately the question is why? We asked 46 days ago, WHY COTTINGHAM? Now we ask WHY BUZZ? Is it to save a recruiting class that probably can't be saved, at least the two best players in that class? Is it keep continuity with the current team? Does anyone think James or McNeal are going to get drafted in the NBA this year? So if Taylor and Nick Williams decide not to come to Marquette, did MU just hire a 14-17 DI coach to keep "continuity" for a current team which likely isn't losing anyone either and to keep a recruiting class at 50% fulfilled? Couldn't we have delievered that with any number of other guys and also create a buzz at the same time?

Truth be told, I'm rooting very hard for Buzz Williams as would any MU fan. Next year MU should be quite good, though the potential transfer of Trevor Mbakwe will hurt. I hope in a few years to bring back this essay and say, I was dead wrong. Oh how I want to be dead wrong.

In the meantime, however, disappointment is the name of the game for me. MU again was in the batter's box with a chance to do something special and after fouling a few back (Miller and Bennett) decided instead of swinging hard, they let strike three go right down the middle.

Disappointing. Steve Cottingham and Buzz Williams have a terrific opportunity to prove me and many others flat wrong. Here's to you....the praying on my end has begun.

Buzz Willams takes the reigns at MU

Much more to come later including loads of commentary from the team here......in the interim, a few reports to check out about MU's new head coach:

Perception is a powerful selling point, especially with the alumni who were looking for a big-splash hire, so what does the relatively quick promotion of an inexperienced, relative unknown say about Marquette?

That Marquette, with all of its money, could've attracted a bigger name?

It was just 46 days ago......

It was just 46 days ago we penned this...... Why Cottingham?

We mentioned how concerned we were about the doomsday scenario of him having to hire a coach. The scary part is we won't know if he screwed this up for a couple of years, but I'd say the early prognosis is a collective OH CRAP!

Monday, April 07, 2008

Buzz Willams to be named new head coach at Marquette

Jeff Goodman from Fox Sports reports tonight that current Marquette assistant Brent 'Buzz' Williams will be named the program's new head coach tomorrow.

Here's the link to Jeff's report.

Gary Parrish at CBS Sportsline also reports Buzz is MU's choice.

Todd Rosiak chimes in now......confirming a 2pm press conference at The Al McGuire Center on Tuesday to announce the hiring.

Here's the official MU press release.

Here is the Marquette media alert

April 7, 2008
Media Advisory

Marquette University will introduce Brent “Buzz” Williams as the men’s basketball program’s 16th head coach at a press conference at 2 p.m. CT Tuesday afternoon at the Al McGuire Center.

The press conference will be held on the main court of the Al McGuire Center.

Members of the University and greater Milwaukee community are encouraged to attend and support Williams as he takes over the leadership of the nationally recognized program.

Rumors du jour.........

After a quiet day (a few quiet days, in fact) for the MU coaching search, late this afternoon two rumors gained momentum on the message boards.

First - - The MUScoop and the Dodds boards each report that MU could announce the hiring of its new head men's basketball coach on Tuesday. If so, that could mean Buzz Williams is in line to be the next coach.

Second -- A thread on the Dodds board indicates that Steve 'The Homer' True reported on his radio program that he's hearing a rumor that MU will throw $2M at Washington State head coach Tony Bennett. Also per MUScoop, Mike DeCourcy indicated on TSN Radio earlier today that Bennett is still in play. Same thing on the Dodds board.

Of the two, here's hoping the Bennett rumors are most accurate.

Monday morning coaching update

A few key items from around the Web regarding the MU coaching search:

Sunday, April 06, 2008

DeCourcy updates: Buzz Williams called back from San Antonio

Mike DeCourcy, who last week provided exclusive insight into MU's search for a new head basketball coach, today reports that Buzz Williams has been called back from San Antonio to meet with university officials. According to a source cited in the report, Williams has a 'great chance' to replace Tom Crean.

In addition, current MU Board of Trustees member Doc Rivers somewhat endorsed Williams' candidacy in this report from the AP.

"Buzz wouldn't be a bad guy," said Rivers, a former Marquette player and current university trustee. "He'd be terrific. But they're going to interview a lot of guys, which they're already doing. We'll see."
Talk about it at MUScoop.

Saturday, April 05, 2008

Lady Warriors - NIT Champions!

Congrats the the MU Women's team, beating MSU 81-66 in East Lansing!

Welcome the returning players and coaches home to the Al McGuire Center tonight, Saturday, April 5, at approximately 8:30 p.m. All members of the Marquette community are invited to attend.

GoMarquette Recap

Saturday update: A Buzz about Marquette

Todd Rosiak reports this morning that current assistant Buzz Williams is "likely the top candidate" to replace Tom Irsay as the new head basketball coach at Marquette.

In a disappointing development, the article also reports that MU has approached Tony Bennett, Anthony Grant, and Sean Miller -- only to be rebuffed.

Meanwhile, WTMJ in Milwaukee is reporting that MU is down to four: Buzz Williams, Davidson's Bob McKillop, Wright State's Brad Brownell and SIU's Chris Lowery.

Chris Jenkins of the AP reports that MU already spoke with Williams informally about the opening. Thankfully it appears that Brian Gregory wants to stay in Dayton (lets hope that was just a bad rumor the other day).

The momentum (er, buzz) around Williams could be an indication that Marquette is keen to stop the bleeding with the incoming 2009 recruits, not to mention any players on the current roster. Williams could offer a smooth bridge to a new era on campus, without the disruption of a complete regime change.

We'll watch this space closely.

BTW, the Bleacher Report has an interesting list of 'up and coming' coaches to check out.

Friday, April 04, 2008

Here is what we know

What a wild week........as of 3:15pm CDT on Friday afternoon, here is what we think we know is going on since Tom Crean 'went Irsay' on Marquette University back on April Fools Day.

Right now, if we trust the collective wisdom of The Internets (and who wouldn't!?), then the top three most likely candidates would appear to be Buzz Williams, Brian Gregory, and Brad Brownell.

Who is your preferred candidate from among that group?

Exclusive: Jonah Keri on the Marquette Coaching Search

Fresh of our Q&A with Mike DeCourcy, it is our pleasure to welcome another Exclusive Q&A to Cracked Sidewalks. Today's Q&A is with Jonah Keri, who contributes to the New York Sun as their college basketball writer. If you aren't familiar with the NY Sun, it's actually a little gem of sports coverage that also includes contributions from John Hollinger, Tim Marchman, Aaron Schatz and Steven Goldman. When not covering college basketball, Mr. Keri also contributes as a baseball columnist for ESPN.

We first became familiar with his writing when he published an interesting article on Inconsistent Teams, which had coverage of Marquette. The stats-driven coverage reminded us of our own analysis of Marquette as a High Risk Stock. Several email exchanges later, Mr. Keri was kind enough to also answer some of our questions and bring his perspective to the Marquette Coaching search as well.

What do you think are the most important criteria Marquette will need to consider for the next coach?

JK: Someone committed to continuity. While Marquette obviously plays in an elite conference, some of the best situations I've seen in the college game reside among the top mid-majors. At Butler, for instance, Brad Stevens did a great job in his first season as head coach. He made a few tweaks of his own, but mostly, he followed the blueprint set forth by his predecessor and mentor Todd Lickliter. If/when Stevens leaves one day, you get the feeling that Stevens' successor will likely be a well schooled top Butler assistant. There's a lot to be said for building a winning system, so that if the next Marquette coach gets wooed by a glamour program a few years down the road, it won't leave the program grasping for answers.

In your opinion, which coach would be the best fit for the job?
JK: Tony Bennett, to me, is one of the top five coaches in the country. With a number of his top seniors graduating from Washington State this year, and the Bennett ties in the state of Wisconsin, I'd make a big run at him. There are any number of terrific mid-major coaches out there too. Would Bob McKillop consider leaving Davidson after their Cinderalla run? I'd want to find out, because he does a great job both of running a motion offense and getting great performance from a defense that's lacking in athleticism. I think I may have just described Bo Ryan, actually.

Marquette has a lot going for it (Big East, great facilities, commitment to pay large dollars), but coaching searches are always less fruitful than fans want. To what extent will MU be able to attract a top candidate?
JK: Well I thought Tom Crean was a pretty good coach for as long as he lasted at Marquette, for what it's worth. I think a lot of how the search goes will depend on how many other plum jobs are out there. This isn't like last off-season, where Tubby Smith's departure from Kentucky started a chain reaction of movement to attractive coaching gigs. Marquette could be a prime destination this time. If that happens, there's no reason the school can't get someone very good.

Buzz Williams, the ex-UNO coach and current MU assistant, is a hot name on the message boards because the feeling is he could stop the bleeding. Hiring from within paid dividends for Pitt with Jamie Dixon, do you see any parallels here?
JK: I'm absolutely a fan of hiring from within, if a strong candidate exists. And yes, with Tyshawn Taylor reportedly bolting and potentially more recruits thinking about it, getting a handle on things quickly makes a lot of sense. At the same time, if there's a better candidate out there who may require a little more time and wooing, it might make sense to be a little patient, or as patient as Marquette can be without triggering a mass exodus. Hypothetically, if they convinced someone of Bennett's ilk to sign on, that might be as attractive--maybe even more attractive--to recruits than hiring Buzz Williams or another assistant. With that said, no one knows what's in the hearts and minds of these recruits better than they do. Marquette's administration would do well to reach out to the incoming class and see what they're thinking, how patient they're willing to be, etc.

One of the best aspects of the Big East is that the BE Champion should be considered a strong candidate to also be the national champion. However, it's clear that one motivator for Crean to move to IU was the ability to attract better recruits and contend for that same NCAA championship. To what extent do you think Marquette will be able to contend for the Big East and NCAA Championship?
JK: If Dominic James and Jerel McNeal stay, and most of the recruiting class keeps their commitments, Marquette's looking pretty darn good for next year. Indiana loses D.J. White and probably Eric Gordon too. Indiana will always attract top talent. But for right now, I'd take Marquette's chances over Indiana's for next season.

A big issue in Marquette land with Crean over the last few days is not THAT he left, but HOW he left. Basically his bosses and his players found out the same time everyone else did. What's your opinion?
JK: Brian McNamee said it best: It is what it is. Coaches make power plays all the time, and many of them don't say anything until the news is official and ready for public consumption. Meanwhile we have student-athletes generating millions for their schools, with no compensation of their own and no leverage other than to transfer on the fly and sit out a year when something like this happens. The Crean situation is no different than hundreds that have come before it. It is what it is.

Part of the fun with a coaching search is all of the various names that pop up, but sometimes they appear to be names that are selected at random. As a media insider, what's your take on why/how this occurs?
JK: Hey, I have no inside knowledge that Tony Bennett's name has even been mentioned, but I floated him out there myself! I think the media tries to analyze what's out there, consider possible connections in terms of geography, relationships and playing style, then go from there. When we hear the actual names under consideration, it's only because the school in question has decided to make those names public. Otherwise all we can do is speculate. And hey, it keeps things interesting and keeps people engaged.

If you're a Marquette fan, you have to be bummed that Crean bolted for Indiana. But it's also an exciting time in a way, with the future lying in front of you and all these possibilities on the table.

Bonus Stats question - This year was the first year that more of the "Pomeroy-stats" started getting published by national writers (such as yourself and Luke Winn). To what extent do you think that these possession-based stats will gain more popular acceptance?
JK: First of all, let's elaborate a bit. The Pomeroy you're referring it is Ken Pomeroy, and he does tremendous work. I hit his Web site, kenpom.com, constantly for information that can help me better understand the game and the players that play it. Pomeroy's work at BasketballProspectus.com is also excellent. Dean Oliver, who's the author of the terrific book "Basketball On Paper", is another big influence. Luke Winn at SI does great work with all of these metrics (as does Grant Wahl at SI, Andy Glockner at ESPN and others), more are catching on every day, and I just try my best to keep up.

As for when this catches on more widely, I think it'll happen fast. Basketball doesn't have the same entrenched dogma and unbreakable (and often misguided) traditions that baseball does. I expect basketball writers, teams and coaches to run with this very soon, if they haven't already. On the professional level, Daryl Morey of the Rockets has done amazing things by applying these principles to player acquisition and evaluation. Others are doing the same. It's exciting to see people seeking out new sources of knowledge and applying them to their jobs. It can make the quality of play higher and the game more enjoyable for all of us.

Jonah, thanks for taking the time to offer your perspective.

Also, feel free to check out Jonah Keri's Final Four preview on Which Number One Is the True Number One?

Thursday, April 03, 2008

Exclusive: Mike DeCourcy on the Marquette coaching search

It is our pleasure to welcome The Sporting News' Mike DeCourcy, one of the nation's top college basketball writers, to Cracked Sidewalks.

Mike was gracious enough to offer his perspectives on the Marquette program and the current search for a new head basketball coach in this Q & A, which he completed exclusively for Cracked Sidewalks.

Which names do you expect to hear in connection with the job?
(MD) There are few things I hate worse than "lists" and "names being mentioned." Whose list? Mentioned by whom? Too many in the media just throw out as many people as it seems might be peripherally connected with a job without any consideration to whether that person might actually be interested, or whether that person might be qualified, or whether that person would be of interest to the people doing the hiring.

What do you think are the most important criteria Marquette will need to consider when narrowing down candidates for the next coach?
(MD) Getting the best person for the job. That's all. He'd better be an excellent recruiter, because even though Marquette is a wonderful university with a passionate following, it is a Big East school in Big Ten country -- and that makes it, by definition, a difficult sell. Tom Crean recruits as well as any head coach, and it was tough for him to get all the people he wanted.

The next coach also better be good with Xs and Os, because he almost certainly is going to be going against teams with better players -- there aren't going to be many years in which the Golden Eagles' talent is not bested by some combination of Connecticut, Georgetown, Syracuse and one or two others.

In your opinion, which coach would be the best fit for the job?
(MD) I don't think Marquette should fear hiring an assistant. It worked out beautifully last time. One person I would tell you is very gifted and ready to make this kind of move is John Groce, the associate head coach at Ohio State. He helped build the roster that went to last year's NCAA title game, had a large hand in recruiting Stanley Burrell for Xavier, which made this year's Elite Eight and was a big part of Butler's success early in this decade. He does much of the gameplanning and play-calling for the Buckeyes now. He would excel in this position.

Marquette has a lot going for it in terms of the Big East, great facilities, commitment to pay large dollars, but coaching searches are always less fruitful than fans want. To what extent will MU be able to attract a top candidate?
(MD) When Marquette hired Tom Crean, how many fans really knew who he was? Maybe those who were really in tune. Not to be disrespectful, but fans too often get caught up in whether a coach is famous and not whether he's truly gifted. Getting a "name" coach generally is the least important consideration.

Will having a new athletic director hinder Marquette's ability to land one of its prime targets?
(MD) I would think not, so long as that AD consults the right people and makes wise decisions. Hey, Indiana's AD was on a long losing streak and pulled out Tom Crean. So I wouldn't put it past anyone to hire a good coach.

Buzz Williams is a hot name on the message boards because the feeling is he could stop the bleeding. Hiring from within paid dividends for Pitt with Jamie Dixon, do you see any parallels here?
(MD) It's a different deal, but that doesn't mean Buzz couldn't do a great job. Jamie helped Ben Howland build up the program. He helped write the blueprint. Buzz was a relatively recent addition to Tom's staff. However, Buzz has more head coaching experience than Jamie had and is an extremely accomplished recruiter. His connections to Texas offer Marquette an avenue to talent that could be very useful. I thought Buzz was a great hire by Tom. Keeping him could work out very well.

One of the best aspects of the Big East is that the BE Champion should be considered a strong candidate to also be the national champion. However, it's clear that one motivator for Crean to move to IU was the ability to attract better recruits and contend for that same NCAA championship. To what extent do you think Marquette will be able to contend for the Big East and NCAA Championship?
(MD) I'd say the two are more mutually exclusive than you suggest. Pitt has proven that. Pitt has won Big East titles -- regular-season and tournament -- with teams that had virtually no chance of winning the NCAAs. You need much more talent to win six NCAA Tournament games than to win even the best league over the course of 18 games. It's a different challenge and values physical toughness and stamina much more than individual playmaking ability.

Mike, thanks for taking the time to offer your perspectives during a busy Final Four week.

Folks, please be sure to bookmark Mike's landing page over at The Sporting News and check back often for the latest news and perspectives on college hoops.

Wednesday, April 02, 2008

Interesting perspective on Pitt, circa 2003

Here's an interesting summary of Pitt's situation in 2003. The Panthers, coming of a successful season, lost Ben Howland to UCLA--one of the five or six "elite" programs in the country.

First, interesting to note the lack of class that Ben Howland showed in leaving. For all the complaints about Crean, at least he actually met with our players.
It turned out Howland didn’t even want to tell his old players he was leaving. That fell to Jamie Dixon.
Second, there was widespread perception that the administration was guilty of rank ineptitude in running the athletic department and conducting the search.

Pitt was acting at the time with only an interim AD — no excuse for that since it had been 4 months since the former had left (and he gave notice). So you had the school chancellor and an interim AD doing the search. They only interviewed two candidates: Wake Forest’s Skip Prosser and Jamie Dixon.

Prosser was the guy they wanted. It was to the point where they were down in New Orleans for the Final Four and didn’t even contact any other possibilities to at least informally talk about the job. Prosser ultimately turned down the job and chose to stay at Wake Forest. A good deal of which had to do with still not finding a full time AD. After very publicly flubbing the pursuit of Prosser, the school hired Dixon.

Thankfully our AD is on the job full time, and I'm willing to bet that we'll interview more than one candidate.

Still, the decision to give the job to Dixon--largely to appease the incoming top 20 recruiting class and current players--was the right one in retrospect. Pitt may have botched the process, but worked out well for them in the end.

That would bode well for the candidacy of Buzz Williams.

Read the whole thing.