Monday, January 26, 2009

Arizona Basketball and Coaching: Where's the Fire?

I usually try to stray away from writing too much about college basketball and/or our Basketcats, but watching both the USC and the ASU games with the boys left me with a couple thoughts that I can’t get out of my head.

The first thing came from a comment one of the girls watching the game with us. She mentioned something about how she liked when Pennell showed support and encouraged his players coming off the court even after making mistakes. At first this didn’t really resonate, but thinking back, could that be one of the major problems with this squad?

As Randle pointed out during the Houston game, Arizona had been playing sloppy and had turned the ball over something like 24 times up until the now infamous Budinger face stomp. I think Randle made a good point when he said that you didn’t see much passion out of anyone until that incident. Then the comeback came. It was a win that left me speechless seeing as we had NO business winning that game. Fortunately we did, and it might have been because something finally sparked in these guys.

It is no secret that this years team has been through more ups and downs than most teams should ever have to, but how can these guys play not to mention win without any semblance of motivation?

In the wake of Lute’s legacy the question remains, what kind of coach is right for Arizona? I’m not talking about experience. We know that Lute was one of the biggest names in College Basketball, and that the University feels as though they need to go after someone with either a strong Arizona connection or a big proven name. I don’t think that point is really debatable, and more than that I don’t really care to. The question I am asking is what kind of style is going to light that fire that the squad so desperately needs.

In my mind you have three basic types of coaches. Obviously there are hybrids and some coaches will share similar characteristics, but in the most basic of coaching essence it really comes down to three styles:

1. Lute Olson-esque: Coach O’s presence was iconic. He was the face of the organization and was respected by players, media and peers. Instilling wisdom and experience without as much as a single hair displaced on his head through the course of a game and some years a season. When you make mistakes it is a lot like facing your father: he is not mad, but he is disappointed. You do things because you want to make him proud, and that motivation feels almost self actualized.
2. Bruce Pearl-esque: The coach that can be identified as a players coach. The guy that showed up to a woman’s game with his chest painted. His hair is never in place, and he wears orange suits. Pearl is a more media charismatic version of Arizona’s equivalent Mike Stoops. You can always see the fire in this type of coach, and sometimes it may even distract from the players. The thing is no matter what is happening you know he will back his players and you hope that they would want to match his enthusiasm.
3. Bobby Knight-esque: The word dictator comes to mind. He shows you how to do it, you practiced it until you couldn’t physically go any longer and now you are expected to execute. There is no disappointment here, just competitive anger. His ship is run tight, he is always in complete control and the term zero tolerance will be used at some point.

Is Arizona ready to move to option #2 or 3? I don’t know if that is the case. Having an iconic face of a program like Lute Olson was doesn’t come along very often. As far as Arizona’s basketball program is concerned they are pretty conservative. We are talking about a program that gives prime student seating (Center Court: See Duke, North Carolina or any other big program) to Alumni. Don’t think that this isn’t a money game, because that is all that it is. Arizona is a fair weather state in every meaning of the phrase. Unless we move forward in what will appear to be a drastic way, then we will be most likely be left behind. The next year will speak volumes for the direction of the program, and whether we can sustain being a perennial top program will be in the balance.

4Real Out...


Anonymous said...

Sean Elliott