All sorts of wild coaching news out there this evening.
First off, Indiana pulled quite the coup in their search to replace Kelvin “My Circle” Sampson in naming Marquette coach Tom Crean as their head man. Say what you want about how Indiana conducted itself in hiring Sampson and dealing with his general shadiness but what a nice catch in enticing Crean to leave Marquette to take up the challenge of restoring Indiana’s past glory. Of course the Indiana AD Rick Greenspan had to make a hire to save his job.
Crean did an excellent job raising the level of play at Marquette and was a part of the program when they moved to the Big East. Crean also led the Golden Eagles to the Final Four in 2003 where they were promptly pasted by Roy Williams’ final Kansas team. Needless to say Crean made Marquette consistently relevant again after being somewhat obscured in the intervening years after the Al McGuire won their last national title. Crean faces a tough task since he has no idea how hard the NCAA is going to come down on the Hoosiers and the fact two starters were shown the door today by interim coach Dan Dakich.
Meanwhile out in the desert it was announced by Lute Olson that interim-and-heir-apparent-head-coach Kevin O’Neil was leaving the program in deal that sounds an awful lot like the way Mike Krzyzewski screwed Pete Gaudet after the disastrous 1995 season at Duke. In case you are foggy on the history, Lute Olson bailed on his team before the season started citing personal reasons which he would not disclose and left the team to Kevin O’Neil. In December it was announced that O’Neil was all set to take the Arizona job after Olson retired in what was an obvious attempt to stabilize the recruiting situation. Anyway, O’Neil leads the Wildcats to a extremely sub-par season in which Arizona was almost excluded from the NCAA Tournament and lost to Arizona State twice.
Olson resumed his duties as head coach last week and apparently decided that O’Neil’s focus on defense was a bad idea and preferred to “return to an up-tempo style” which must not include playing much defense.
“I apologize for what they had to go through this year in terms of the change,” Olson said. “They came here to play a wide-open game, and they didn’t. That’s no one’s fault, because that’s not coach O’Neill’s belief on the offensive end. It was his team once I left. But I said we’re going to play Arizona basketball and we’re going to have fun doing it.”
It is interesting to note that one of the ongoing discussions here at THF is how the Pomeroy ratings this season seem to be point to slower tempo teams being better on defense than up tempo teams like UNC whose defense is maligned. Olson seems to be saying the same thing in a way. Playing defense is being equated to not playing a “wide-open game” and it also seen has not being “fun.” I know Roy Williams believes you can play up tempo and also be a great defensive team. Of course when Olson says “wide open” you can pretty much read into that “playground basketball” which general precludes playing good defense. And based on watching and listening to Arizona recruit Brandon Jennings in the McDonalds AA game last week that is exactly the brand of ball they plan to play in Tuscon. Whatever the ideology, hanging O’Neil out to dry like that is downright classless.
And finally Sean Sutton has resigned from Oklahoma State with booster T. Boone Pickens on record as saying he wants to pay a coach some ridiculous amount of money to lead the Cowboys to the promised land. Kansas coach Bill Self says it is a “dead issue” since folks believe he might be willing to return to his alma mater. For the sake of the Jayhawk fan base I hope he is being truthful.