Sunday, January 28, 2007

Arkansas Angst

. . . or perhaps "Piggy Post Mortem" will prove to be more accurate. Time will tell.

I have not read any articles, web sites or blogs since the game, but I have discussed the situation with a few friends. This entry is intended to depict my best perception of the Bama Basketball psyche at this stage. It may reflect little no more than my own emotional reactions to recent events, but the bulk of the ardent supporters of our program seem to be asking many of the same questions I am.

First, the good. Bama actually began the game playing defense. Well, at least three and sometimes four players were playing defense. Before today only one or two seemed to be playing defense most of the time. Bama's offense was working to get open shots at the basket. Not uncontested shots like they frequently have given up, but open looks. Unfortunately, none of our players could hit those shots in the first half.

Another positive sign? CMG went to the bench early and often, apparently trying to find combinations that could work on both ends of the court. The brightest spot was Tubbs' increased playing time and the continuing willingness to let Hollinger guard the point the length of the court. But for the fact that they could not buy a basket, Bama appeared to play better than it had for a while.

Unfortunately, all those bright spots were immediately dulled by the brief spurt in the second half when the embattled Tide chopped away at Arkansas' 27 point lead only to fall up short. The defensive energy and effectiveness intensified tremendously. The offense was able to get the ball to Hendrix in the low post who suddenly was able to finish his shots. Everything was moving in the right direction until it suddenly derailed (with a modest assist from the officiating).

Why is that heightened defensive intensity a problem? Where was it for the first 30 minutes of the game? Where was the offensive focus for the first 30 minutes of the game. And even with all those problems, the team might have enjoyed a lead if the starters could have hit more than half of their free throws.

Unfortunately for our program, the coach's game and personnel management was the most disappointing thing about the entire game. Two of the starters presently are not able to perform at anything near their full capacity. Whether the problems relate to physical or emotional injuries, two of our most valuable players simply are either unwilling or unable to play defense at a level that will allow their team to succeed. I do not fault the players for this. It clearly is the coach's responsibility.

A good coach's job is to get the players to do what they will not do on their own. If the players are not willing or able to to what the team needs, then other players should be utilized. CMG left way to many players sitting on the bench and too many on the court who were performing poorly relative to their abilities and team roles. If they are not good enough to play, then I would like to know why he signed them.

One player in particular declined to play team defense pretty much the entire afternoon. He finally was replaced by a teammate who played defense with energy and enthusiasm. Only at that point did Bama's run at the lead began in earnest. Unfortunately the primary offensive threat during that run grew fatigued and had to be replaced. It seemed like almost every person in Coleman Coliseum saw the less than enthusiastic player stand up from his place on the bench and the entire crowed shouted "Nooooooo!"

In this instance, the crowd probably had a better game plan than the coach. The young man continued to refuse to play defense for the remainder of the game and (even though he was well rested having sat on the bench for ten minutes) never got up court quickly enough on offense to help his team make a play at the basket without wasting the few valuable seconds on the clock. Neither his teams' interest nor his visit to the bench seems to have motivate the player in question. I respectfully suggest that the player in question belongs on the bench no matter how talented he is.

I don't say any of this to demean the players. A million dollar coach should know enough to put that sort of player on the bench for the good of the team, for the good of the program, and for the individual player's benefit too.

This has become an all too frequent pattern this year. Players will not play on defense and are unwilling or unable to find their role in the offense when facing any credible defensive effort. These players are too talented to be performing at this level.

As more than one friend reminded me this morning, CMG seems to do this every season. Most years he finds a way to right the ship and get the team into the NCAA Tournament. A few times he's managed to win a game or two in that tournament. But will that be enough to satisfy the Bama Basketball fans? Should it?

It is too early to suggest that Bama needs a coaching change. As more than one friend said earlier today, each season needs to be viewed in its entirety as one piece of work. No coaching question can be answered before the end of the season. But the end of this season might be approaching faster than the calendar suggest. I seriously doubt that the devoted Bama Basketball fans will tolerate annual stretches of five games each where the teams performs so poorly against traditional conference foes, especially when one of them is at home.

In short, CMG did make some adjustments but both his game management and team motivation continue to exhibit glaring flaws that are obvious to any impartial observer. I don't know how much longer the fan base will tolerate his continued refusal to acknowledge and address these problems.

I would like to see the team put more effort into the game than CMG's father and uncle expend when they drive 7 or 8 hours round trip to watch them play. I am driving that same distance and I don't appreciate it! If CMG lets players stay on the court when they play that way, IMO he insults the fans and does a disservice to any kid on the bench who is willing to play with passion even - if he plays poorly.

If you're going to make a mistake, at least make it at full speed.

By the way, I'm not just disgusted now. I am having to fight being angry and embarrassed. I know I am not alone.

Who do we play next? Who really cares. Somebody please let me know who wins. I'm not driving up there until I see Coach Gottfried change something. And even if he fixes it this year, if he pulls this same stung again next year I intend to sell my tickets to our opponents' fans so somebody in Coleman Coliseum will be able to enjoy the game.


Alias said...

I think I've identified what is wrong with our program. It's found in the following Richard Hendrix quote from the CBS website linked in Matt's post below:

"Once you are down you know you have to step your game up a notch. Unfortunately we couldn't come out in the first half with the same aggressiveness."

Who ever allowed these kids to believe that they did not have to try as hard as they could until they fell behind on the score board? Where did they get the idea it was permissible to coast until you found out whether the other team was better or willing to play harder than you were? If that is what the coaches are teaching our players, then they are failing them both as basketball coaches and as life coaches. This is unacceptable.

There is no reason Coach Gottfried should allow his team NOT to play like it did the final ten minutes of the game. That is what has fans so outraged. He accepts less than maximum effort and less than maximum attention for less than all of the game. And there was one player who never seemed to give anything other than modest effort even when the rest of the team was fighting and clawing to get back into the game.

I love everything Coach Gottfried has done with and for our program and our young people. But if he does not realize that he is failing our program and our players by allowing them to "perform" this way, then Wendell Hudson needs to have a come to Jesus meeting with him.

Someone must do for Coach Gottfried what he is failing or refusing to do for his players: Tell him he is not getting the job done, demand that he do it or be benched, and give him all the tools he needs to finish. I suspect that the first two things are not being done yet.

It's still too early to pull the plug on the season or the program, but Hendrix's post game statement only tends to confirm all the concerns I already had before I had read it.

I am not encouraged.

bobbyjack said...

Who's Matt?

Alias said...

Sorry. I meant bamahoops.

Hville said...

I have had a hard time reviewing this Blog and TI, just because as long as Gottfried doesn't address his problems, there is no need for me to read everyone's opinions about what needs to be fixed. He has taken this team, which looked like a very good team in the Virgin Islands, and ran it in the dirt.

I am just glad that I didn't waste my time going down to that game. At least when I went to the UGA game, we escaped with an exciting win. This was a kick-in-the-crotch game by being teased at the end.

I apologize if it looks like I am MIA, but that is probably the best therapy for me....

bobbyjack said...

No prob... at this point it's a good place to vent... sort of.

Alias said...

My wife already has asked me not to drive up this Saturday. I can't remember the last time I missed a home game against M$U, but it's awfully hard to generate the energy and enthusiasm for that trip in the middle of the week right now. I guess what I'm saying is that I am about as excited about our program as most Alabama football fans. That is to say, "Oh, do we have a basketball team? Where do thay play that? Is it in the middle of recruiting season?"

I don't think I've even seen 14Bama trying to defend the current predicament.

I've had friends who were heading down the drain before. Usually the best thing to do for them was to step back and let the consequences hit them until they understood that they needed to change something about their lives. I really want to support CMG and our kids, but I am concerned that I might be harming in the long run.

I guess I'm back to being disgusted and angry. That is not very good.