Friday, March 14, 2008

Out With a Whimper

Any positive momentum gained by the men's basketball program in the closing weeks of the season was dampened yesterday by its ignominious and unceremonious ousting from the SEC Tournament, which also ended the team's season. Let's hope it does not end Anthony Randolph's career.

What's worse, because of the early weekday start time, no one with a regular 9-5 job like myself got to actually see it.

Strangely, for the first time in a while, LSU actually had scoring balance. The swing shifters, the college students, and the unemployable all got to see a balanced scoring attack that saw five Tigers score in double figures, but saw no one take over the game for the Tigers. Randolph and Johnson got their points, but also committed turnovers, and couldn't keep the mediocre Gamecock frontcourt off the scoreboard. Thornton hit for 17, but shot well under 50% from the field, and missed a lot of 3-pointers. Garrett Temple wasn't his usual self, as he fouled out in just 26 minutes and was held scoreless. As a result, South Carolina's good guards ran roughshod over us at times.

So now it's time for the basketball team to regroup for next year, probably under a new coach. I like Butch Pierre, but I think his only real chance of keeping the job was if we made a serious run in the tournament. For all the talk of improved play, which is true, this team was still only barely above .500 with Butch as head coach. He'll catch on somewhere though, and we'll probably see him as a head coach somewhere at some point in his career. He did and admirable job, but I think the basketball team needs an experienced head coach who can bring excitement to the program.

Who is that? Well, the three I keep hearing are Tim Floyd, Anthony Grant, and Mike Davis. Tim Floyd is currently coaching USC, and he has major Louisiana ties. He's also reportedly been interested in coaching the Tigers in the past. I don't know if he'd leave USC at this point, as they seem to have something pretty good going on despite a mediocre season this year.

Anthony Grant is currently at Virginia Commonwealth, and you have to think he'd jump at a chance to coach in a major conference. I can think of no real downside to hiring Grant. His teams have had success at VCU, having gone to the second round of the tournament in his first year. He was a long time assistant under Billy Donovan at Florida, and you have to think he'd love to come back to the SEC as a head coach. There are no guarantees he'd be successful, but he's a legitimate candidate who would bring excitement to the program.

Mike Davis is currently at UAB. He has been a head coach somewhere every year since 2000, and he took his Indiana team to the NCAA tournament finals in his second year. He has had success at UAB, and according to many has made that school the best basketball program in the state, which is a pretty substantial compliment considering UAB is a C-USA school and there are two SEC schools in Alabama. Since his trip to the Finals, however, he has only been to the NCAAs twice and has not advanced past the second round. He has not taken UAB to the NCAAs yet, and may not be able to do so this year after losing early in the conference tournament. His team finished second in C-USA, but Memphis pretty much sucked all the air out of that conference this year.

Players love Mike Davis. When Davis was fired from Indiana to hire Kelvin Sampson (that worked out great for them, didn't it?), one of Indiana's best players, Robert Vaden, transferred to UAB to be with Davis and sat out a year. He's been UAB's best player, and has real pro potential. Instead of going to the NBA, he decided to sit out a year and follow Mike Davis. Davis also got a commitment from one of the best players in the 2009 recruiting class in DeMarcus Cousins, who made it clear he'd go wherever Davis was. Davis, then, is a package deal with a 5-star power forward.

Things to think about.

If I was the one making the decision, I don't know which of the three I would ask first. All have their plusses and minuses. Floyd may not want it, and isn't exactly a charismatic guy. Grant is inexperienced as a head man. Davis is pretty close to the dreaded label "retread". I think we need charisma and excitement, but we could also really use a Demarcus Cousins.

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