The sports world has a natural ebb and flow. In mid-July there are things that I can count on to be “in the news” and there are things that ought to be “quiescent”. So, it is a bit surprising for me to spend today on two items involving – – college basketball.
No, I am not going to talk about some 5-star recruit who has decided to play for some school after he had made a commitment to some other school a month ago. Commentary on those sorts of events only encourages more kids to do that in order to have multiple moments as the focus of media attention. Rather, I want to comment first on Larry Brown’s resignation as the head basketball coach at SMU a week or so ago. Let me be clear; the fact that Larry Brown quit a job as a head basketball coach is about as surprising as learning that Tuesday came after Monday this week.
The ostensible reason for his resignation was that he wanted a “long-term contract extension” from SMU and they would not give it to him. While I do not doubt for a moment that Larry Brown wanted such an extension and that the school was reluctant to sign up to it, it seems not to ring right to me.
Larry Brown is 75 years old; he started coaching as an assistant at UNC in 1965. In his career, he has had 13 head coaching positions; the longest tenure anywhere was a 6-year stint with the Philadelphia 76ers.
Those data tell me 2 things:
1. The only long-term contracts in sports offered to 75-year olds are ones that make the person “coach-for-life”. No one who follows basketball would think of making peripatetic Larry Brown “coach-for-life”.
2. SMU realized that it has already received what I call “The Larry Brown Dividend” and figured that it could move on.
Let me explain what I mean by “The Larry Brown Dividend”. Larry Brown is a great basketball coach and has been for just about all of his career. When he takes over a bad team, the team gets better quickly; when he takes over a mediocre team, the team excels quickly. The man knows how to recruit players and how to teach them to play basketball. When Brown arrived at SMU in 2012, the program there was moribund – to be polite about it; the team had had only 1 season over .500 in the previous 9 seasons. After one year of rebuilding and a 15-17 record, SMU went 79 – 22 over the next three seasons.
The downside of “The Larry Brown Dividend” is that it comes with “NCAA problems”. As happened to Brown’s teams at UCLA and Kansas in the past, there were NCAA violations at SMU and the mavens in Indianapolis suspended Brown for a bunch of games last year and made SMU ineligible for the NCAA tournament despite a 25-5 record for the season.
When SMU hired Larry Brown in 2012, one of the conditions of his hiring was that he would hire an assistant who was designated as “Head coach in Waiting”. The school already realized that the odds of Brown hanging around for a long time were slim; therefore, I am not surprised that the school would not give him a “long term contract” now at age 75 and after being the beneficiary of “The Larry Brown Dividend” and after being thrust back into the mainstream of NCAA basketball.
At least, Brown did not resort to the old chestnut that he needs to feed his family and he needs job security. I have to give him credit for that.
The other college basketball issue for today is an announcement from the NCAA about next year’s March Madness that has me confused. Earlier this week, the NCAA announced that the team with the overall #1 seed in the men’s basketball tournament will be allowed to select from among the various venues for its first two games in the tournament. My question here is really simple and straightforward:
The overall #1 seed is done by a Selection Committee who already is the subject of plenty of scrutiny and criticism. Every year, people complain about teams left out (snubbed is the favorite word here) and teams that get seedings that are too high and/or too low. The Selection Committee needs more controversy like Helen Keller needed a mirror.
Next year, the venues for opening round games are:
Salt Lake City
Suppose one of the “Tobacco Road teams” in the ACC gets the overall #1 seed. Is there any mystery where they will choose to play? Suppose Indiana is the overall #1 seed; suppose Utah or BYU gets that honor? Why give that team yet one more advantage if indeed they are already considered to be the best team in the field? Frankly, if the NCAA thought it had to make a change – and I do not think any change is needed at all – they should have made it that no team seeded #1 or #2 can play any of its games prior to the Elite Eight round closer to campus than 200 miles. But that’s just me…
Here is what can happen. Imagine that Duke and Kansas both have fantastic seasons and the Selection Committee decides to rank them #1 and #2 overall. Some folks will of course favor one team over the other for the “top slot”, but in previous years, that would be tossed off in a few moments as people raged on about who got snubbed and then moved on to figuring out their brackets. Now imagine that the Committee names Duke as the #1 seed over Kansas in my hypothetical. Not only does Duke get an obvious choice of venue but it opens up a huge can of worms for all the conspiracy theorists out there.
Memo to the NCAA: This change was unnecessary. This change creates controversy and suspicion where none is needed. This change provides no benefits for the tournament at large.
What the Hell were you thinking?
Finally, Brad Rock had this item in the Deseret News earlier this week tying together sports media and current socio-political events:
“U.S. Supreme Court justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg attacked Donald Trump, calling him ‘a faker’ and saying she fears for the country if he becomes president.
“She later said she regretted making the remarks.
“It might have been out of line as a high court justice, but she can always get a job in sports radio.”
But don’t get me wrong, I love sports………