"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 08, 2008

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.


jce said...

Who accepted then turned down the position in 1986?

Anyway, I do have one problem with your sentiment. Creating a buzz means nothing unless the guy can coach. I don't remember much buzz when Crean was hired. I remember buzz when he actually started to win. My point is that while Buzz may not create any buzz now, if he wins no one will care.

OTOH, if Tony Bennett were hired and created some buzz, but didn't follow through on the court, we'd be upset.

Packer Pat said...

A+ on the graphic.

Let's give Buzz a chance, I actually have a good feeling about it if he can save 2 of the 4recruits and get the kid from Racine for 2009. McNeal should stay and if DJ does and finds his shot we will be just fine.

The Mbakwe comment I find troubling with no mention of his last game. Crean played the guy for ONE minute against the Thompson Twins in that loss.
Whats the point of having the guy not redshirt if you sit him in the only game you obviously needed a big body out there. Yes I realize the guy couldn't make layups but we could have used him in that game and Crean messed that up big time.

They swung at Miller and Bennett but they were not interested. We
then chose a guy who can recruit, supposedly coach which will be nice for a change and is actually likeable. Plus we might not miss much of a beat for next year.

anonymous said...

Sour grapes. It's obvious you have a crush on Tom Crean and miss him. I bet Buzz will be a better recruiter BY FAR than T.C. Billy Gillespie called him a "very very good coach" so we'll see. I remember a lot of people upset when Deane left and Crean came in. No one had any idea who Crean was---including you!

Anonymous said...

In 1986, a guy named Newell from some directional school like SWMSU turned down the Marquette job in a tearful presser. I watched it in The 'Lanch.

muwarrior92 said...

Tom Crean came from Izzo's program on their way to 3 FINAL Fours in a row. He was a midwest guy, with midwest contacts. He wowed the socks off of people during the interview process, which also included Quinn Snyder and a few other hot coaches.

The buzz was there big time, one doesn't need to reach back very very....some of us worked in the department while it was going on. We knew we had a big time hire, there was NEVER A DOUBT.

I have no crush on Crean whatsoever. He did a very good job for MU and probably will for IU. He's gone now.

As for the comments on whether he can coach, of course that's crucial. I'm not convinced after 14-17 season with the conference player of the year...that he can.

Oliver said...

I am tired of this bashing and whining. How about this?

Williams is a STUD recruiter.

He won't be a worse in-game coach then Crean.

He took the Marquette job for visibility to transition into another head coaching position at a better school. One more year with Crean and he would have been gone as a head coach.

muwarrior92 said...

Newel was from Arkansas Little Rock and turned down the Marquette job after having taken it. These were the days when MU would hire from within or hire coaches from small schools elsewhere.

I thought we were beyond that.

muwarrior92 said...

Oliver, let's hope you are right. Of course, if he's better than Crean at coaching then MU got a great hire. If he's better than Crean at recruiting then we got a great hire.

All Crean, the bad recruiter and bad coach did was go to 5 NCAAs the last 7 years, land three NBA players with potentially 1 or 2 more on the current roster, and won the third most games in the Big East the last 3 years.

So if Buzz is the guy that is a better recruiter and better coach then Crean, we should all be very happy. Or, some people are still hating on Crean and thinking he didn't deliver what he did.

Time will tell. I'm hoping like crazy Buzz is the guy, so are all of us.

Oliver said...

I wasn't suggesting that Crean was not a good coach. His strengths were player motivation and recruiting. His weaknesses were in-game coaching and an over committment to the guard philosophy.

I think Williams will be a better recruiter than Crean, probably equal on X's and O's (at least for a few years), and weaker in motivation.

However, if I could only pick one trait for my college basketball coach to excel at, it would be recruiting. I don't want another Mike Deane.

Tony said...


Anonymous said...

common theme of bad mu admin decision...buzz...the gold...JOHN BERGSTROM.

Anonymous said...

Did anyone see M. Acker during the press conference? He did not seem all that impressed with the Buzz.

Unknown said...

After watching that press conference, I am more convinced than ever that MU has made a grevious error. This guy seemed to say all the right things. But how is he qualified? Where is the excitement? Wasn't that supposed to be celebratory? I heard a guy talk about "even though I was a video coordinator, I was still a coach." Seriously? This is the guy Marquette came up with after getting help from that extensive list of people? You have got to be kidding me.

This guy is not as accomplished or impressive as ANY of our previous coaches, including Bob Dukiet.

Honest to God, I would have been more excited if they brought Mike Deane back.

Alex said...

Muwarrior92, YOU are disappointing. Your comments are silly.

Did Oklahoma football take a step down when it hired then little-known assistant Bob Stoops in 1998? Did Nebraska football make a good move when it passed up assistant Bo Pelini in 2002 for the "big name" Bill Callahan? And Notre Dame was "too good" for Stoops in '98 and Urban Meyer in 2002 -- when they weren't "big names" -- but look where that landed them.

Tony Bennett was 36 years old -- with NO head coaching experience -- when Washington St. gave him the head job. The next year, he was AP coach of the year. Unlike Crean, he obviously feels loyal to the institution that hired his dad and gave him a chance. Loyalty is a virture for many people -- don't think it reflects badly on MU.

Buzz is more qualified than Tony Bennett was two years ago. Buzz is a nationally renowned recruiter (getting a Top 50 class at New Orleans, post Katrina!). He will outwork anyone. Uh, where is the downside?

Pull this silly post and support our new head coach.

Unknown said...

where is there a full length video of the press conference?

muwarriorsfan said...

Buzz seems like a very nice man, but he really looked overmatched and in over his head. He appeared to have no idea how to explain his basketball philosophy (what style he likes to play offensively or defensively) and the whole mood was very passive. And on the Dennis Krause show, even Buzz's posture while sitting looked slumped and nervous. I'm praying for the guy because I really think he's just not ready yet for a job of this magnitude.

Unknown said...

I didn't see the whole press conference. Did anyone ask what other people were interviewed and who they were> I was optomistic when Chris Lowery's name came up, but this is just what I was afraid of. This was a panic move at best.

Anonymous said...

alex, you point to numerous assistant coaching hires that worked out, and others where head coaches were brought in. Yes, this is all fine and dandy if this is where the list ended. Unfortunately, for your argument, it does not. There are at least, if not more instances where coaches are promoted from within, or hired from afar, to coach a great team, and it DOESN'T work out. I am as much of a homer as anyone, but there is something to be said of being enthusiastic for your team, but it is entirely different to put blind faith in it. The best thing I can compare how you are acting is that (sorry to offend anyone!) of the perennial cubs fan that is convinced that their team is the best team, and is going to the series and is going to win it all. Then come october, when the world comes crashing down... again, they come to realize that maybe that they should have seen the team for what it was. Don't get me wrong, I wish coach Buzz the best of luck, and I hope he proves every nay-sayer wrong... but the risk that Marquette is taking on a total unknown is just too large for most fans, myself included, to stomach. What is the old saying? Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shaman on me.

Gene Frenkle said...

For starters, I want Buzz to be successful. He seems like a nice guy and a straight shooter.

That out of the way...now....

This hire is a friggin joke. It's the worst decision I've seen MU make since I've been involved/a fan of the team since 1993. Just an absolute joke of a hire.

It's a short term band aid and an appeasement hire. It speaks of no creativity and more importantly, it shows an A.D. and an administration that has no idea what to do with a coaching search for its most high profile job.

I'm shocked and saddened, but again, considering it's from the guys that brought us the Marquette Gold, we should have all expected this.

For those of you that hated on Crean and wanted him gone, hope you buy extra season tix because in three years there will be plenty available.

Hope I'm wrong like everyone reading this, but for MU to hire this guy after where Crean has brought us is a slap in all of our faces.

Cottingham flat out sucks. He has no business being the A.D. and has proven he has no idea what he is doing.

EdB said...

Wow, a ton of whining.

Please collect yourself, folks. If Buzz can recruit and coach reasonably well, he won't squander the good foundation. Besides, sometimes a good assistant brings a lot of energy and urgency. Crean did.

You Marquette fans are too spoiled. And if they had hired a "Name" coach, some of you would whine about that, too. Let's give Buzz a chance.

Gene Frenkle said...

e, the point is that we shouldn't have been put in this position again - hiring an unproven guy. Not after the last nine years.

Cottingham shat the bed big time on this. It's a brutal move. We are going to lose at least two of the recruits (the best two).

Also, by bringing in an unproven guy like Williams, you now most likely have a team that will be ready to win next year but the coach won't have a clue what to do in the NCAA tourney. So, now he has all that pressure too. And at the end of the day, it's Cottingham's fault for putting the team in that position.

A brutal, brutal hire.

anonymous said...

What a bunch of whiners. Hey Gene you obviously don't support any of it or hope for the best. I think YOU Gene Frenkle "master MU bloggernerd of the universe" could coach better than Buzz and make a better pick than Cottingham did. Only b/c you are not unproven... you write on a little blog about MU basketball. Please!

Anonymous said...

I never understood why people consider it 'whining' when there are simple justified reasons why this is a bad decision. Accept it, MU isn't infallable. You don't have to defend bad decision making. If this wasn't a bad hire, then what would you consider a bad hire? For God's sake, about the only thing worse they could have done was hire Sampson or an assistant from some BFE school. Look at the facts objectively rather than playing homer and defending everything the University does... unless you truly believe they can do no wrong... at which point, there really is no hope for you.

Alex said...

Hey hards7 -- Please state for me one reason why you think Buzz will be amongst those assistants who failed. One reason, other than his posture at a news conference or that he hasn't created enough "buzz" in the press.

Undeniable facts: He is an amazing recruiter wherever he's been. He was deemed a "rising star" that commanded $300K to be a friekin' assistant. He is an extremely hard worker (perhaps too hard of a worker, I must admit). Please identify one weakness you have identified that justifies all this negativity?

And, what in the hell do the Chicago Cubs have to do with it?

Anonymous said...

Alex, you are completely missing the point. I never said it didn't have a chance at being a good hire. What I said is that Marquette should be ABOVE HIRING AN ASSISTANT. With names out there like Sean Miller, Anthony Grant, Tony Bennett, et al. there was a chance to prove to all MU fans and backers that the University is serious about investing in the future and trying to elevate the program to the next level.

My point wasn't that Buzz is a bad coach, it is that Marquette should be above risking everything the program has become on an unproven assistant coach. I was also arguing that your reasoning is rather faulty. You point out only the instances where assistants were hired and went on to become successful, and only the instances where head coaches were brought into programs and they fell flat. The main idea was that you have to consider every past hire in a situation like this, and not use narrow minded argument, 'well a few of these assistants did well, so buzz will do well'.

Again, if you haven't gotten it yet, here it is in bold.

Marquette should be above hiring an unproven assistant coach. They are a program that is committed to winning in the premier conference in the NCAA.

The Cubs comparison was to describe the way some people act about their sports teams. I just see a lot of blind followers saying that whatever the administration does is good. And comparing that type of fan to the rabid and simultaneously dilusional cubs fan is an accurate comparison.

Alex said...

Hards7 -- I got your point. It just makes no sense. "Marquette should be above hiring an unproven assistant coach." What does that mean? My examples seem to indicate to you EXACTLY what is wrong with that thinking. Oklahoma football certainly is "above" hiring an unproven assistant, but they sure are damn well happy they did. Notre Dame thought that they were "above" hiring an "unproven assistant" so passed up on Stoops and Meyer and got Bob Davie, Ty Willingham, and Charlie Weis. Brilliant.

And Nebraska after winning a couple national titles hired an "unproven assistant" Tom Osborne. And Osborne just hired an "unproven assistant" named Bo Pelini.

You are right, though. Young assistant coaches given the head coaching job have failed too. The question is, therefore, what characteristics did those failed coaches lack that the successful coaches possess?

The ONLY criticism of Buzz Williams is that he is young and "unproven." That simply begs the question, though. What CHARACTERISTICS of Buzz Williams do you not like? He obviously is nationally recognized as one of the best recruiters in the country. He reportedly will outwork anyone -- including Crean. Any negatives that you cite? No. Just some irrelevant reference to Cubs fans and declaring anyone who likes the hire of Buzz is "blind" like them.

C'mon. We may be real happy in two years that we hired Buzz instead of a "proven" candidate. And, incidentally, what does "proven" even mean anyway? Someone with no weaknesses? Someone who never has a bad year?

Buzz was a great hire. Accept it. Defend it. Move on. He's our man, and we have every reason to think he'll succeed.

Highwayman said...

Wow. How can you call this a great hire? How long have you been drinking the Marquette Admin's kool-aid? We just slid the program back 9+ years with this hire. Everything Crean built up for us, we traded in for a pinto. Maybe that pinto will run great, like you seem certain it will, but the fact that we are gambling again tells me the admin. did no due diligence on this.

All you guys calling for everyone to love it and "get behind Buzz" must be the same ones supporting MU by saying "Ok, we're the Golden Eagles now, not the Warriors. It happened, now get over it, support your team and their awesome administration." Somehow I think not. Your blind faith only serves to bolster the admin's position that it can continue to make uneducated decisions without reprisal. They'll appreciate your support next time they hire a bowl of radishes as the MU head coach.