Tuesday, April 04, 2006

What Does This Year's Final Four Say About Coaching?

Here are a few ideas.

First and foremost, Div. 1 NCAA Basketball coaching is a highly competitive industry. Given the abundance of available talent (both at home and abroad) and the scholarship limits, coaching has become an even more important factor in the upper echelons of elite programs than it has been in the past. Perhaps that will change if they do increase the scholarship limits back from 13 to 15, but for now parity exists at almost every level.

Next, the SEC must have some pretty good coaches. In and admittedly "down" year, the conference placed half its teams in the NCAA Tournament and all but one won at least one game. Two advanced to the Final Four and one won the championship. In a world of parity, that suggest a pretty well coached conference.

Admittedly perception the "down" nature of the SEC was attributable at least in part to the early defection of so many of the previous season's stars. But young talent seems to abound throughout the nation this year. I believe only one senior was named among the starters in last night's game.

So SEC coaches (as well as many of the coaches of the other teams that advanced in this year's tournament) seem to have done a good job with "young" talent. Some of these freshmen and sophomores are not as young as we would expect. (When Tim Brando said that UCLA's freshmen from Cameroon were 20 years old, Coach Mark Gottfried joked that, "They're probably more like 27 from Cameroon!" Someone else piped in something about "dog years.") At the very least these players are new to Division 1 basketball. For these young players to have been so successful, someone must have been doing a good coaching job.

Next, if Billy Donovan is not a great coach then he at least is a vert good one. Only a good coach can persuade a team full of good players to play unselfishly and to work hard all the time. Florida likely had some lapses (against South Carolina, for example). Then again, perhaps Florida ran into teams that simply had decided to play to their potential on that particular day (as with Alabama, for example). At least during the Big Dance when it counted most Donovan had all of his kids playing both hard and smart the entire time.

We saw more evidence that LSU's Brady might not be as good a coach as Donovan. Brady failed to get Glen Davis and company to take advantage of the way the games were being called. I don't know how many times I saw a ball handler lower a shoulder and clear a path to the basket during this tournament, but there were several in every game. Glen Davis should have been able to score at will in that environment.

I say "Kudos to Florida!" I think he's done a remarkable job at Florida. I don't have any reason to believe he cheats. (We do know he has a pipeline to those AAU guys. Certainly that by itself is not cheating.) He's done an excellent job this year and the SEC needs coaches of his caliber if we are going to continue to improve and excell. As one of the tv talking heads said last night, "Not bad for what used to be a football school."

Finally, I think this season taught us that Coach Gottfried and his staff do know how to coach. They got good effort almost every game out of the few players they had. The kids continued to play better and smarter in general as the season progressed and they performed marvelously after the Ole Miss game. Let's hope he continues to build on what he has accomplished. That, along with JD's return and a shooting guard or two could put us in the Final Four next year.

I sure hope Mrs. Alias recants on her demand that I not drive up for Wednesday games next year because it could be very exciting.

Roll Tide! Bring on national signing day and reports from the Rec Center.


bobbyjack said...

Don't forget Dave Odom is now the King of the NIT with back to back championships. South Carolina has cemented their place in history as the 66th best team in the country 2 years running.

Side note... I moved your title to where it's supposed to be.

WL said...

Odom saved his job with this year's NIT run. He was on the way out with 1 game left in the regular season, but saved his job with the postseason performance. At least for now. Much like the available NC State job, the SC hoops job is just damn tough. I suspect next year will be his last.

Alias said...

I don't know much about his talent level but I'd been led to believe that Odoms was a good coach. I had intended to mention South Carolina's winning the NIT as evidence of the good coaching and performance in the SEC this year. Winning the NIT does NOT mean they are the 66th best team in the nation because the top 65 don't really make it into the NCAA Tournament every year.

BTW, Matt, where did I put the post? I thought I'd put it in the right place.