Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Why, Oh Wildcats?

A couple of years ago, Mitch Barnhart, who probably uses five seconds per move in a chess game, uses a 3-wood for a 90-yard fairway shot, swings at every pitch on a baseball diamond, reads Cliff's Notes instead of whole books, and, most importantly, runs Kentucky's athletics program, decided to "persuade to resign" basketball coach Tubby Smith on account of the fact that he was...I don't know, a good coach? When it was done, though I disagreed with it, I suggested they make a hire that required some actual thought: then-Butler coach Todd Lickliter. Predictably, Barnhart freaked out when he couldn't get his pie-in-the-sky dream pick, Florida's double-champion coach Billy Donovan, so he just hired the first guy who would say yes to the job offer.

Now, Billy Gillespie is out of his job with the Wildcats because UK didn't bother to properly research him before hiring him, and Barnhart's knee-jerk hire bit back. So naturally, after learning from his mistake, Barnhart has decided to sit down with some names, run them past some trustees and other university officials, get together with them in some secret conference room, go over the pluses and minuses of each candidate, then pick the best one based on the merits discussed in that secret conference room.

Oh wait, did I say that? What I actually meant to say was: about five minutes after some news cameramen chased Billie Gillespie out of UK's athletic offices, Memphis' John Calipari was all-but-hired, according to numerous media sources.

I'll get to back to Barnhart, but I wouldn't mind having a look at Calipari first. Players on his teams either struggle mightily for their 2.0 GPA or they simply do not graduate. Players on his teams are known for not being the greatest of role models, with locker room fights and off-the-court issues at both Massachusetts and Memphis. Calipari himself has come under suspicion with the NCAA Infractions Committee more than once, most notably when his 1996 Tournament run with UMass was stricken from the records. Plus, he's the only coach I know of who has received, in person, a death threat from another coach (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=51-4sJTf7iQ). Oh, and that little blowup was because Coach Chaney thought Coach Cal was intimidating the referees a little too much, changing the outcome of the game.

I'm an Indiana fan, so let me tell you something about hiring coaches who don't graduate players, have problems on and off the court, and are disrespected by more people than respect them: it's generally not a good idea. Indiana tried it a couple years ago and, while the win-at-all-costs attitude worked for a year and a half, the fans got a little testy when the NCAA came knocking. Now our program has been blown to smithereens and we were lucky to pick up the coach that we got, because many people thought no coach in his right mind would want this mess.

Because of his shortcomings, the fact that his players don't fit the mold of "student-athlete" at all, and the fact that he got so much credit for Memphis' 30-win seasons when they played in a joke conference, I really do not like John Calipari as a coach and, especially now that my school has been beat down by a similar, win-at-all-costs coach who bends the rules, I cannot give Kentucky a shred of respect for what they've done.

As for Barnhart, the worst part is that he's almost obligated to do dumb things like this because he has to appease the most ridiculous college basketball fan base on the planet. It's not a hundred percent clear if Barnhart actually wanted to send Tubby Smith packing two years ago, but he didn't have to do it. Tubby Smith was a very sound coach who had the right mix of mean and nice to make a basketball team do whatever he wanted. The problem was that the fan base was living in the past and hoping Tubby could deliver them fifty more championships and make UK Basketball the way it was in the good ol' days (y'know...when UCLA beat them every year and they were beat by Texas Western...oops, I guess they forgot about that part of UK history). But, for heavens sake, put some thought into what you do, Mitch. Indiana's athletic director got dragged through the mud for making one bad decision; I think Barnhart has made his third bad decision in three years. The fans at Kentucky are starting to get restless, and Barnhart had to make another ridiculous decision to try and appease them.

Now, UK is harboring a convicted cheater, Barnhart is, I'm sure, writing up some gushing words about a "new era of Kentucky Basketball" (perhaps borrowing some words from his introduction of Gillespie), and the fans are going to eat it all up again. Sure, it's all about winning at Kentucky -- it's the same way here at Indiana. But you have to win with class, and UK is on the right track to make enemies out of a lot of people.

Two years ago, I respected Kentucky basketball, their tradition, and their class-act of a coach. Tonight, I can't wait for the second Saturday in December, when Calipari brings his freak show into Assembly Hall and I can hate on him in person.

Of note: Tubby Smith's Minnesota Golden Gophers fought through the deepest Big Ten in recent memory, earned a 10-seed in the Tournament, and played hard in a tough loss against Texas. Kentucky fans, befuddled by an odd acronym of ancient legend called "N.I.T.", watched their their team stumble through a loss at Notre Dame and their coach stumble out the door again.

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Just Say "NO" to T.O.!

There have certainly been some bad thoughts that came into my head when the Terrell Owens-booted-from-Dallas saga started late last night. First, the morons who run the Cowboys (even if I weren't a Redskins fan, I would consider Jerry Jones a moron)seem to have found a small amount of brain matter between them, which means they might do more smart things in the near future. Second, one of my best reasons for hating the Cowboys is now gone.

But the worst thought that came to mind was this: Terrell Owens is on the market. Now, I know this conversation is probably happening at every newspaper in every NFL market in the country, but the idea has been pitched that the Washington Redskins could take a look at Owens. In nearly all of the other NFL markets, GMs would certainly write off Owens as a liability and not even bother with him. However, Daniel Snyder and Vinny Cerrato are just dumb enough to look at these media reports and say, "Hmm...big-time wide receiver, jersey sales, ticket sales, dollar signs, etc."

I make this declaration, with the internet as my witness:

If the Redskins sign Terrell Owens, I swear upon every religious deity that has ever been in the history of this planet and any other with intelligent life that I will shun the Redskins for as long a Snyder and Cerrato are part of the organization.

In 2000, I got fed up with being a fan of the Baltimore Orioles because Peter Angelos came in and imploded the base that had made them a successful team in one of the toughest divisions in baseball. Three years earlier, the Orioles had been within two games of going to the World Series and Camden Yards sold out every game for about 5 years. By the turn of the millennium, the Orioles had become the joke that they still are today and I look upon the seas of empty seats at Camden Yards and remember the killer atmosphere at the 1997 ALCS, and remember who it was that brought that team down. To make matters worse, when the Nationals have moved to my real hometown, Angelos went out of his way to first block the move, then screw money out of the team on a bogus TV deal.

Back on the Redskins: I never did like the current ownership group. When they signed Deion Sanders for a one-year debacle, it became apparent that they were willing to throw any amount of money at a whim that would sell tickets and give them more money. When Marty Schottenheimer, who led the team to an 8-8 season after the messy firing of Norv Turner and the mistreatment of Terry Robiskie, butted heads with them over personnel decisions, it was apparent that they wouldn't listen to any coach who actually knew what a team needed to succeed. Then they hired Steve Spurrier from Florida for no real reason and for a ludicrous amount of money and it was apparent that they were just dumb.

Sure, they had the Joe Gibbs return, and that was mildly successful. But that's because Gibbs probably made Snyder get down on his knees and make promises about giving Gibbs full control and beg Gibbs to join the team. Even then, it's hard to know just how much control Gibbs actually had behind closed doors, and there were still big, splashy, and questionable personnel decisions made that didn't pan out all that well (Brandon Lloyd, anyone?)

So now we move to today -- or rather, late last night. Terrell Owens was released from a team that prides itself on being the home of ridiculous personalities. Jerry Jones is one of the most egotistical owners in all of sports and makes some of the silliest decisions in the name of selling tickets. He hired Jimmy Johnson, whose best contribution to college football was ruining the reputation of Miami Football that Howard Schnellenberger worked so hard to build, and was the complete personalty opposite of stoic, businesslike Tom Landry. Jones dropped Michael Irvin and Deion Sanders into his roster in order, I guess, to make sure there was a ridiculous personality on the field at all times. Renowned angry old man Barry Switzer replaced Jimmy Johnson and, after winning a Super Bowl with Johnson's team, saw his team and his mind seem to fall apart. After some mediocrity, another angry old man, Bill Parcells, was installed as coach, with dirty player Roy Williams at safety and Keyshawn "Gimme The Damn Ball" Johnson at wideout. Jones then decided that Owens, who had spent the last five years tearing apart the 49ers and Eagles, should be thrown into the mix with a coach that takes no crap. Then Drew Bledsoe, well-respected and well-rounded QB extraordinaire, was replaced by a pretty boy for the second time in his career. Said pretty boy Tony Romo's biggest contributions to the team so far were dropping that snap in that playoff game against Seattle and dropping Carrie Underwood and Jessica Simpson, among others, into his bed. Then Jerry decided that his players weren't tough enough, so he would raid a couple of prisons for players and came up with Tank "Firearm Possession" Johnson and PacMan "Make It Rain" Jones.

So, an ownership group that has a history of hiring these stellar human beings apparently couldn't take the stress of having Terrell Owens on the squad.

Plus, T.O. is one of only a very few NFL players that I have absolutely no respect for. He's an overrated egotist who, after making one catch to win a game in San Fransisco, thought he was the greatest thing that ever happened to the game.

If veterans Jeff Garcia, Donovan MacNabb, Andy Reid, Steve Mariucci, and Bill Parcells couldn't handle T.O., how on Earth are a second year coach (Jim Zorn) and a young, inconsistent QB (Jason Campbell) going to handle him. Besides which, what's going to happen with Santana Moss, Antwaan Randle El, James Thrash, and Devin Thomas? If T.O. is on your roster, he IS your wide receiver. Nobody else.


I don't feel like parting with my Darrell Green jersey just yet.

Update! According to Jason Reid and Jason La Canfora of the Washington Post, the Redskins say the cost of signing Owens and the cost to team cohesion are not worth any wins he may or may not add to the team's record.