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Thursday, July 21, 2005

Best Hockey Player in Ecuador Syndrome

Read this and get a sense of what I'm talking about.

A good (blogger) friend of mine likes to deal in analogies, so he'll use the phrase used in the title to the post when confronted with some information that is less than impressive. For example, if you say someone's the best securities lawyer in Boise, a place not known for securities lawyers, he'll remark "isn't that like saying someone is the best hockey player in Ecuador?" Current sports examples would be "he's the best starting pitcher on the Rockies," "he's the best running back in the Ivy League," "she's the best soccer player in Calgary" and, well, you know the drill.

Which brings us, of course, to the subject of the link -- Penn State basketball. I blogged earlier this year about whether schools in the Big Ten were football or basketball schools (one reader correctly pointed out that Minnesota is neither -- it's a hockey school). It's not a great thing to be the head hoops coach at a football school or the head football coach at the great hoops school. Few know the name of the Penn State hoops coach or the Duke football coach. Especially when compared to the household name that the head football and hoops coaches at those respective schools. And the legacies of the hoops program at Penn State and the football program at Duke are rather small.

So what should one make of Penn State's hoops program? Four years ago it made it to the Sweet 16. Shortly thereafter, Coach Jerry Dunn was fired, and he was placed with his former assistant, Eddie DeChellis, a Penn State alum, who had done some distinguished coaching at East Tennessee. DeChellis wasn't the big name eastern hoopsters were hoping for (for example, Penn head coach Fran Dunphy was mentioned as a possible candidate), but he had produced, if at a lower level of competition, he was an alum, and he had been an assistant in Happy Valley.

But in three years he's fared miserably. Worse, he's suffered a significant amount of attrition, and he lost two very good players from last year's squad. He's a positive guy, and he's trying to turn all of his bad news into good stuff, but you can't win without good players. (Mike & Mike in the Morning on ESPN Radio featured a good-natured back-and-forth in which Mike Golic doubted that Larry Brown could turn the Knicks into a championship contender in three years, while Mike Greenberg argued that he could; I agree with Golic -- the guy's name is Larry Brown, not Merlin -- he's a coach, not a magician, and without the players Brown won't coach a contender). And DeChellis simply doesn't have them.

And it's hard to get those players to Penn State, too. Penn State is not near a major city, it's relatively rural, it doesn't have much of a hoops tradition to speak of, it's a football school, and so far it hasn't doled out the bucks to the type of name coach that might be able to fashion a winner. Not only is he competing against other Big Ten schools for talent, but also Coach DeChellis is competing against Big East and A-10 schools too. West Virginia had an excellent team last year, as did Pitt and Villanova. The Big Ten disappointed in the regular season, but came up mighty in the NCAA Tourney. There are lots of good players for the asking, but right now their destination isn't Happy Valley.

It's hard to tell from the article whether this is a make-or-break year for Coach DeChellis. But if it isn't this year, it might have to be next year. With the attrition, this year's squad doesn't seem too promising, which means that in the remaining weeks of the summer, Coach DeChellis needs to get oral commitments from a few players with serious game in order to help turn the Nittany Lions into a contender.

But here's the rub for a HS star. Go to Penn State, be the man, be a 20 ppg scorer on a team that goes 10-18 and doesn't play in the post-season. Perhaps get invited to Portsmouth, the first NBA tryout camp (which hasn't turned out that many NBA players when compared to the more prestigious tryout camp held subsequently in Chicago), perhaps play overseas. Be the best hoopster in Happy Valley, err, the best hockey player in Ecuador. Or, go to a team that is a contender, perhaps ride the pine a bit but get better through banging against upperclassmen in practice and then working on your game in the summers, help your school get into the Big Dance, and then have a better hoops experience. If you're that HS star, where do you go?

And that's where Ed DeChellis has to give the best sales pitch of his career.


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check it out if something like this interests you.
heres a link
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They just released IPO'S for NHL this week, so there are alot of good deals there.

Keep up the good work on your blog!

4:36 PM  
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