(Hopefully) good sports essays and observations for good sports by a guy who tries (and can sometimes fail) to be a good sport.


Not much to tell.

Add to Technorati Favorites

Friday, March 23, 2007

Who is Gary Walters Calling?

I can't say whether Penn's and Temple's searches for head basketball coaches last season were done the same way, and my guess is that they were not. I thought that Temple fared better than Penn, as Fran Dunphy had proven himself more in the national arena than Brown's Glen Miller, although Miller did a good job at Penn this season. Ironically, of course, it was Miller who went to the NCAA tournament this year (albeit with all of Dunphy's recruits, even the frosh) while Dunphy is in the process of rebuilding at Temple (and the Owls weren't invited anywhere).

Temple AD Bill Bradshaw gave more visibility to his process than Penn AD Steve Bilsky did to his. Bradshaw admitted that he telephoned many different head coaches and authorities in the game and asked them their opinions as to who he should hire. He spoke with, among others, Coach K, and Coach K quickly surfaced Fran Dunphy's name (for what it was worth, so did I, as Dunphy was the logical choice for Temple). It seemed like Bradshaw spoke with dozens of people, and he kept on coming back to Dunphy. When you reach out and build that type of consensus, your decision almost makes itself.

So, if Princeton AD Gary Walters were to embark upon such a process, who should he call? I would suggest calling Coach K, Roy Williams, D John Thompson III, Bill Carmody, Dave Leitao (UVA), Dave Odom (South Carolina), Kevin Stallings (Vanderbilt), Trent Johnson (Stanford), Bob Knight and many others who seem to be able to balance academics and athletics the way the Ivies do. Talk with them about your vision for the qualities this coach should contain, refine your vision if necessary, and then ask them about possible candidates. Be upfront about the difficulties a head coach can face in the Ivies (read: recruiting and financial aid) and then build your pool. See if you hear several names on a repeat basis. His task certainly won't be as easy as Bill Bradshaw's (he was looking for established head coaches primarily), but it will be interesting as to what he would find out. Perhaps a rising star.

Would he hear the name Chris Collins, one of Coach K's assistants at Duke? Would he hear Sydney Johnson, one of JTIII' s assistants and Georgetown? These conversations would be most helpful, and the responses invaluable.

As with any industry or profession, people trade names and notes all the time. People run into each other at conferences and meetings, the same way coaches run into each other on the recruiting trail, at talent showcases and at coaching conventions and clinics. Invariably, up-and-comers build reputations, and head coaches form impressions and file names away for future reference. If you read "Blue Ribbon", you'll notice that assistant coaches and head coaches come from a wide variety of schools, so if you see that a head coach went to North Dakota State and the top assistant went to Long Beach State, they probably met somewhere at a tournament or at a prior employer and struck up a relationship.

Phil Collins (during the time he was with Genesis) once sang that "I know what I like, and I like what I know." This saying holds true for most of us, and it probably holds true for Gary Walters. What we don't know is whether what AD Walters knows and likes goes beyond his comfort zone of Princeton family members, and whether his days on the NCAA DI Men's Basketball Selection Committee have given him insight that goes beyond the Princeton hoops family tree. He is bright, and he has insight, and I'm pretty sure he's built up a (very) strong list of contacts. The question remains how deeply he'll tap into them to fill this position.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think the biggest question is: Is Princeton an attractive job anymore? Because while who Walters will call is important, it is more important thinking about who will take Walters' calls. Given the way Joe Scott destroyed the Princeton program, leaving it in shambles with the lowest level of talent it has had in decades, in a League that has its own problems that aren't unique to Princeton, with a dwindling attendance base, wed to a System that doesn't get it done anymore in a League that sees it multiple times a year, the Princeton job may not be as attractive as when Carmody or JT3, or even Joe Scott, were hired.

3:51 PM  
Blogger SportsProf said...

"Destroy" is a pretty tough verb. "Damaged" or "Wounded" might be better. Princeton cognoscenti will remember the mid-to-late 1980's, when the Tigers went four straight years (ironically, the four years that JTIII was on the team) without a title, and the '85-'86 team was a sub-.500 team. There were those at the time who were wondering whether Pete Carril had fallen behind the times, and then a kid from the Midwest who had dropped a fish tank on his leg, causing him to forego opportunities at Iowa and Indiana, to name a few, enrolled at the university and became one of the best players in Princeton history (the team won the Ivies his sophomore, junior and senior years and the year after that). His name was Kit Mueller, and you have to wonder whether Coach Carril's legend would be what it is had Mueller not gone to Princeton and Carril had the success he did during those years and up through his retirement.

The point being that there was a downturn from which the Tigers rebounded (Penn was a bit of a funk for Penn, as interlopersr Brown and Cornell won league titles during that four-year period). Admittedly this is a bigger downturn, but the brand hasn't been irretrievably damaged. That said, this is a key hire and one with a small margin for error.

As for whether they'll take Walters' calls, of course they will. There are "only" 330 or so DI coaching jobs, and large multiples of young coaches would line up for the chance at a head coaching job. The question is whether some of the better prospects will and, given how hard it is to get a DI job, they probably will.

The "system" is still a good offense. The question, really, is whether the Tigers can continue to populate their program with talented players. If they can do that, they'll win, almost regardless of whether they use the "system" or Bob Knight's motion offense or something else. Then again, it may be time to put the system aside, too.

7:51 PM  
Anonymous Mortcola said...

For shame, Prof. "I Know What I Like" was originally Peter Gabriel's, back when Phil was merely the drummer and backup singer. Phil covered it nicely after Peter left, and did an gymnastic tambourine solo involving unlikely body parts.

Other than that outrage, quite pleased with the level of discourse here. Time served.

8:28 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Despite what George Vecsey of the NY Times said about Penn last week...

tonight it was Butler that looked more like Princeton of old. They were almot giant killers against Florida. And Vanderbilt, likewise, with strong academics and a near victory over G-town.

10:44 PM  

Post a Comment

<< Home