By today’s standards, Duke would have fired Mike Krzyzewski after his 2nd season as its head basketball coach. Certainly, he’d have been gone after Year 3, an 11-17 smudge that included a home loss to Wagner and a 3-11 ACC record.
In his 2nd year, K’s team finished 10-17, with Ls to Stetson and Appalachian State. It wasn’t as if K had been great at Army, either. When Duke AD Tom Butters hired him before the 1980-81 season, Krzyzewski was coming off a 9-17 winter in his 5th year at West Point.
Nor was Duke a place where a coach could expect patience. The Blue Devils had made the NCAA tournament three years in a row between ’78 and ‘80. They’d played for the national title as recently as ‘78.
But Butters stayed with Krzyzewski. There’s a lesson there somewhere, maybe no longer learn-able in 2022. We want it all and we want it now.
It’s relevant now locally. Travis Steele’s 4th Xavier team opens Big East tournament play Wednesday, versus Butler at Madison Square Garden. It might be the most important game Steele has ever coached. At least until Thursday (should X win), when the Musketeers would play top seed Providence.
A win over Butler might be enough for a spot among the chosen 68. Two wins would definitely do it.
Because the only thing that really seems to matter in college hoops now is what you do in the Madness, not doing well might get you fired. Not making the Madness for any stretch of years will get you fired.
It’s crazy to judge a young coach on one weekend’s success in March, but that’s how it is and it’s very much in keeping with the instant-gratification world in which we live.
Andy Enfield, Shaka Smart and to a lesser extent Porter Moser: Each has benefited in recent years from that thinking. Athletic directors take heat from fans, alumni and boosters from the day a new coach is hired. ADs very much want to win the introductory press conference. Often, they do that by hiring the fast-tracking a young head coach who has shone the brightest most recently.
It’s probably not the best reason to hire anybody, let alone a basketball coach. But here we are.
Frequent Perusers here will note my praise for the way Xavier runs its men’s basketball program. Xavier ADs don’t go for the newest bright and shiny object. That could be because that guy was already on their basketball staff. But nevertheless. . .
They’re at a crossroads with Travis Steele.
When XU extended Steele’s current contract after his first season, through 2024, AD Greg Christopher listed stability among the reasons. No argument there. Coach K, Roy Williams, Bill Self, Tom Izzo, Jay Wright etc. speak to the power of stability. But there’s a thin line between stability and stagnation.
I’ve proposed for years that college football and basketball adopt this rule: Head coaches should be given 5-year contracts. They can’t leave until the contract is finished. Nor can they be fired. Each coach gets a full recruiting window. Each school isn’t pressured to make knee-jerk decisions.
That’d force schools to stay patient and thoughtful. It would give coaches time to create lasting success. Maybe there would be more coaches even remotely like Mike Krzyzewski.
Meantime, Travis Steele has a very big game at 4:30 p.m. Wednesday.
Now, then. . .
THE BIG MAN doesn’t want to pay huge dollars to keep very good players. Apparently, he doesn’t want anyone else to do it, either. A report last week in the Athletic noted that four MLB owners — Bob Castellini of the Reds, Chris Ilitch of the Tigers, Ken Kendrick of the Diamondbacks and Arte Moreno of the Angels — last week opposed the league improving its offer on the first threshold (of the competitive balance tax) from $214 million to $220 million. The league moved forward with the proposal anyway. (ESPN.com)
It isn’t a good signal to send to any potential free agent looking for a new home. Here in River City, we might look back a decade from now and see that Nick Castellanos was the last even remotely big-time player to sign here.
THAT SAID, LET’S BE CONTRARIAN and suggest things aren’t as dark here as we’ve portrayed. That might be because the lockout has prevented the Reds from dealing away anybody else for bus riders. But let’s say they enter the ’22 season with the team they have now.
If Lodolo and/or Greene exceed expectations, isn’t there a chance this team could at least be interesting through Labor Day? Would you allow for that possibility?
The starting staff would be credible. The Everyday 8 would be competitive. And you still get to play the Pirates and Cubs 19 times each.
Everything would have to go right. As it did last year, at least on the injury front. Castillo and Mahle are durable. Gutierrez looks to be. Adding the DH is big, allowing the Club to “rest’’ Votto and get more ABs for Winker. And the bullpen can’t be as bad as it was last summer, can it?
I’m not trying to convince you to accept what has happened to this team since Opening Day last year. The retrenching has been significant and disheartening. I’m saying the situation isn’t dire. Yet.
PITCH CLOCK? Haven’t they been talking about that forever? It’s one of the gadgets Baseball is pondering to speed up games. The players, in their latest proposal, are OK with that. And with larger bases and shift restrictions.
Larger bases would, I guess, allow for the possibility of more stolen bases and encourage runners to take the extra base and thus create more bang-bang plays. The shift rules we’ve discussed already.
Here’s something never discussed and, yes, there’s a reason for that:
Limit the number of foul balls a hitter is permitted.
Some of us revel in those long ABs. Most of us check our watches for when we can change the channel to watch Succession on HBO. These pitcher-hitter “duels’’ aren’t usually exciting, just time consuming.
I’ve written entire columns in the time it took a hitter to put a ball in play.
It shows, Doc.
Give a batter five foul balls. If he fouls off #6, he’s out on strikes.
Also: You’re allowed one dalliance out of the batter’s box. After one pitch per at-bat, a hitter is allowed to take swings, adjust his gloves, knock dirt from his spikes, stretch his neck, hamstrings and calves, eat a pizza, make a phone call, read a chapter of My Prison Without Bars. Whatever. One time per at-bat.
If he wants to repeat that laborious, self-indulgent, time-wasting exercise, it’ll cost him a strike. Apply it to pitchers, too. Walk behind the mound, rub up the baseball, eye a young lady in the Sun Deck, quote Mark Fidrych. Once. Do it again, it’s a ball.
Hold a baserunner by throwing to 1st? Cool. Three times. Not per batter. Per inning. More? Ball.
Shifts? Ban ‘em for a year. See what difference it makes. Somehow, the game survived well over a century without radical shifting. Thrived, actually.
I used to believe in the notion that there was nothing wrong with long baseball games. That was a couple decades ago, when “long’’ was three hours.
WEEKEND DAY TRIP was to Old Pogue Distillery near Maysville. Saturday was a glorious day for a drive. Crossed the river at Aberdeen, had a BBQ sandwich at Buck’s in downtown Maysville, then headed up Rte 8 to Old Pogue. It sits on a bluff above the Ohio. Incredible view, lovely old house. As for the bourbon, well, if you like a lot of rye in your brown, you might like the bourbon.
I don’t like rye. Nor did I do back-flips over the $110 price of their flagship bottle. But the tour was free and the view was priceless.
STICK TO SPORTS. Please stop whining about the price of gas and please stop blaming the president for it. There could come a day when we are asked to sacrifice a helluva lot more for the common good than uncomfortably high fuel prices. That day could be soon.
Would we be up for it? Or would we bitch about the inconvenience?
TUNE O’ THE DAY. . . Rediscovered this guy on the drive Saturday. Suited the day.