Success And Failure…

Congratulations to South Carolina as the 2022 Women’s NCAA Basketball Champions.  The Gamecocks beat UConn last night 64-49 in front of an almost full Target Center crowd of 19,600 folks.  The women’s tournament has come a long way in the past decade; full house crowds on neutral courts more than a thousand miles distant from both schools would not have happened then.  Progress…

South Carolina dominated the game; they never trailed, and the final score was almost their largest lead of the night.  South Carolina’s coach is Dawn Staley; last night was the second time she had guided South Carolina to the women’s national championship which raises an interesting question:

  • Is Dawn Staley a better coach than she was a player?

On Saturday night, Kansas proved to be too much for Villanova and UNC beat Duke by 4 points in a game that was a nail-biter from start to finish.  With Kansas and UNC playing in the championship game tonight, get ready to hear a lot about Roy Williams who coached at Kansas for almost 2 decades compiling a record there of 418-101 before moving to North Carolina where he won 3 national championships and compiled a record of 485-163.  Kansas is a 4-point favorite in the game, and they probably have the better team.  However, the Tar Heels are playing their best basketball right now and they have a pair of guards that complement each other perfectly.  I like the Tar Heels plus the points because I think UNC is going to win outright.

In this morning’s Washington Post, there is a column with this headline:

“With Krzyzewski gone, Self could be the next voice of college basketball”

That headline got me to thinking not about the “next voice” for college basketball – – the guy who provides an example and leadership/guidance for the sport itself but about who should be recognized as the “best active coach in the game” starting now.  Here are the men I would nominate for consideration – – in alphabetical order:

  1. John Calipari – – Great recruiter but not nearly as good at developing players
  2. Scott Drew – – Resurrected a dumpster fire of a program and won a title there
  3. Mark Few – – Dominates a weaker conference every year; gaudy record
  4. Tom Izzo – – Develops good-not-great talent and wins a lot of games
  5. Rick Pitino – – He has won a lot of games at a lot of places
  6. Bill Self – – Has never coached a team that did not make the NCAA tournament
  7. Jay Wright – – Develops good-not-great talent and wins even more than Izzo

For me, it would come down to Drew, Self and Wright with the winner being the one who is leaning furthest at the finish tape…

Sticking with basketball – but at a different level – let me toss out an idea for which I do not expect to get unanimous agreement:

  • LeBron James continues to chase/emulate Michael Jordan – – except his latest pursuits are not flattering.

Hear me out…  Michael Jordan and LeBron James both dominated the NBA on the court for a decade or so to the point that there are advocates for both players who assert that one of them is the “GOAT”.  However, in the twilights of their careers, both men floundered a bit.  After Jordan had been retired for 3 seasons, he returned to the NBA ostensibly as the President of the Washington Wizards.  The idea was that Jordan’s aura would bring attention to an attention-starved franchise and that star players would want to sign there simply because it would align them with Jordan.

  • News Flash:  Nothing of the sort happened.

Jordan returned to the court with the Wizards as a shadow of his former self; played with them for two years and never finished at .500 whereupon he was summarily fired from his position as President of the team, and he drove off into the sunset.

When LeBron James signed with the Lakers, it was not because the Lakers were attention-starved or woebegone, but with James there – along with his manipulative agent – the idea was that he would build a Lakers team that would become a dynasty even after his playing days were over.  Indeed, the Lakers won the asterisk-ridden championship in 2020 in the COVID bubble, but other than that the team has gone down the drain.  As of this morning, the Lakers are 31-47 putting them in 11th place in the West meaning they would be out of the expanded NBA playoff structure as of now.  Their ability to get into the 10th slot is not going to be an easy task; the Lakers trail the Spurs by 2 full games with only 4 games left to play and the Spurs own the tiebreaker.

How could this happen?  Well, like the situation with Jordan in Washington, James is no longer the player he was even 5 years ago let alone 8 or 10 years ago.  And while he may not have the title of “President” or “GM”, it is pretty clear that the Lakers’ roster has been tailored to James’ specifications and that roster has several “issues”:

  • It is injury prone.
  • It has no depth
  • It is littered with star players who are on the downside of their careers and who do not play well together.

Other than that, Emperor Napoleon, how was your winter in Moscow?

LeBron James has let it be known that he wants to play at least one season with his son, Bronny, in the NBA.  Bronny graduates high school this year meaning he can be part of the 2023 NBA Draft which means that LeBron will be part of the NBA scene through at least April/May 2024.  It will be interesting to see what personnel moves he engineers with the Lakers – – or some other team to which he orchestrates a trade – – over the next two seasons and if they continue to emulate the latter stages of Michal Jordan’s career.

Finally, since today’s rant has dealt with successes and failures at various levels, let me close with this observation by Gore Vidal:

“It is not enough to succeed; others must fail.”

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



2 thoughts on “Success And Failure…”

  1. Comments on 2 of the topics… as for the coach who will be the face of college basketball, I have 2 nominations… Jay Wright pre-casual wear and Jay Wright wearing casual clothes on the sideline… considering 2 national championships at a small private College and the GQ $2,000 suits vs. Losing in the national semifinal, I’ll take the pre-casual Jay Wright with the retirement of who a Temple basketball player who faced Duke in the final and lost (Mike Vreeswyk) called Ratface.

    Second comment…Jordan is backup goat, James is at best 3rd, maybe a bit lower. The true goat… number 13, the Big Dipper

    1. Gary:

      I too prefer the “Armani-version Jay Wright” to the “Old Navy-version Jay Wright”.

      Wilt Chamberlain is probably the least-appreciated GREAT basketball player of all time – – unless that title belongs to Elgin Baylor.

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