Basketball Here And There

Muffet McGraw is the highly successful long-term head coach of the Notre Dame women’s basketball team.  Her squad is in the Final Four for the ninth time; this year the Irish are there as the defending national champions.  Her coaching career started in 1982 at Lehigh; in 1987, she got the job at Notre Dame and has been there ever since.  Her overall career coaching record is 918-274 (.770).  No matter how you look at it, her record is laudable.

Muffet McGraw was interviewed by – and was subsequently the centerpiece of an article – an organization called Think Progress.  This is an organization that promotes and advocates for a variety of causes to include women’s advancement opportunities in the workplace.  In that interview, she said, “People [meaning Athletic Directors] are hiring too many men.”  Her coaching staff at Notre Dame has been all female since 2012 and when she was also asked if she would ever hire another man as an assistant, her answer was “No.”

There has been a smidgen of controversy associated with that report – and some praise and support for McGraw for taking such a definitive stand on an issue she believes in.  I believe that she has earned the privilege of assembling whatever coaching staff she wants for the rest of her career; if she decided that only left-handed women with freckles should be on her staff, then she should go for it and everyone else should let it ride until everyone saw the results of that decision.  So, let me be absolutely clear about this:

  • Muffet McGraw should always have as her assistant coaches whomever she wants, and everyone else should keep their comments to themselves.

I do question, however, the coverage of matter in the sporting media.  Obviously, this is a topic in the wheelhouse of Think Progress; the minute that interviewer had those quotes, you can be sure that was going to be a prominent piece on the website  However, please imagine for a moment that Joe Flabeetz is the head coach of a team at Whatsamatta U and he said on the record to an interviewer that:

  • He would never again hire a woman as an assistant coach.  [Or just for fun never again hire a Black man or a registered Republican…]

Ignoring the “exclusionary aspects” of Coach Flabeetz’ idiotic remark, how do you think the sporting media would handle the story?  How long would it be until someone hung the label “sexist” around his neck?

Remember, I think Muffet McGraw can hire whomever she pleases based on whatever criteria she sets for her assistant coaches.  My question here relates to the way the sporting media might cover the story were it presented in its mirror image…

For the record, this year’s Women’s Final Four will take place in Tampa this weekend.    Baylor plays Oregon in one semi-final game while Notre Dame takes on UConn in the other on Friday night (televised on ESPN2).  The winners there will meet on Sunday night (ESPN) to crown this year’s women’s national champion.

Let me turn now from a highly successful coach and basketball program to the Washington Wizards and their former GM, Ernie Grunfeld.  The Wizards had been guided by Grunfeld for the last 16 years until he was fired earlier this week.  At this moment, many readers here are shaking their heads wondering what had been going on for those 16 years – – because when you look back there has not been a ton of success.  So, let me give you thumbnail history of the last 16 years of the Washington Wizards:

  1. The cumulative record – as of this morning – has been 568-725 (.439)
  2. There have been 5 head coaches in those 16 years all selected by Grunfeld.
  3. He took over a hot mess in 2003.  Then owner, Abe Pollin had just fired Michael Jordan – – yes, THAT Michael Jordan – – as the Team President and the squad included the likes of Christian Laettner at the end of his career, Kwame Brown who never should have had a career and Tyronn Lue as the point guard.
  4. Grunfeld’s failing was his unerring ability to draft the wrong guy – or to trade away a pick that could have drafted a star player in order to get a mediocre player or two.  Consider:
  5. He traded away a pick that could have been Steph Curry to acquire Randy Foye and Mike Miller.
  6. He passed up the chance to draft Klay Thompson and Draymond Green in two different drafts.  Somehow, the Golden State Warriors’ braintrust was able to see some value in those two guys.
  7. He took Jan Vesely and passed on Kawhi Leonard.
  8. He has signed good-but-not-great players to super max contracts.  Presently, the Wizards are committed to pay John Wall about $170M through 2023.  Wall is injured and will miss most if not all the next season; even if healthy, there is plenty of reason to suggest that he would be overpaid significantly by such a deal.
  9. The best player on the Wizards’ roster is Bradley Beal and his “rookie contract” is about to expire and he too will be looking for a max deal.

The Wizards were a hot mess in 2003 when Ernie Grunfeld took over.  He was able to improve the roster to the point where the team was a regular playoff contender – – even though the Wizards have not won 50 games in a season since the 1978-79 season.  But now the team is a hot mess once again and the next GM will have a serious reclamation project on his hands. The roster is talent-deficient, and the cap room issues are significant.  Fans in Washington should expect several years they can label as “Tankapalooza”.

Finally, here is an item from Dwight Perry’s column, Sideline Chatter, in the Seattle Times:

“Spotted on the license plate of a white Bronco in North Carolina: ‘AIN’T OJ.’”

But don’t get me wrong, I love sports………