Coaching Moves

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.


13 Responses to Coaching Moves

  1. william says:

    I mean, anyone who watched at least twice or three times on Saturday, where Louisville struggled to finally get a two and saw it immediately negated by a lay-up on the other end, four seconds later, would have a hard time denying that offense is defense and defense is offense, or as a buddhist monk once said upon visitiing American and ordering a hotdog:

    Make Me One With Everything!

  2. TxTarheel says:

    The Arizona situation is a little boggling, as I thought O’neill was an assistant to Olson back in the 80s (pre-Arizona maybe?) Much like Koach K, Lute probably struggled watching from afar as his program is sliding behind UCLA, Stanford, heck even WSU.

    I think the carousel is just getting started

  3. Lake says:

    Gregg Doyel has an interesting take on O’Neil/Olson situation.

    To prevent his blog from getting more hits, he said that O’Neil was ripping Olson behind his back to several people and that Kevin is ‘simply not a good dude.’

    Honestly, there was already some visible signs of animosity between the two coaches as the season ended. Dana O’Neil (no relation) was speaking on ESPN about the Arizona locker room and how strange it was since nobody was sad that the season ended. So, more food for thought about ‘Zona coaching situation, but it definitely wasn’t ‘downright classless,’ since this doesn’t seem to be a simple difference in coaching philosophies, mmmkay?

  4. Tar Heel Fan says:

    And you do understand I made that assessment based on certain information right? That is how it usually works.

    Also, don’t say “mmmkay?” I hate it when people say “mmmkay?”

  5. C. Michael says:

    There are very few coaches I like less than Lute Olsen.

  6. 52BigGameJames says:

    I must admit I’ve never liked him much either, but I will say I’ve enjoyed watching some of the teams he’s put together-some of the most fun teams to watch imo, and some pretty darn good players—the man does have an eye for talent.

  7. C. Michael says:


    Any of you guys see this last night?

    I thought it was brilliantly played…

  8. ericomac says:

    Anyone want to e-mail Dan Shanoff and give him a talkin’ too for his latest shot at Psycho T? I’m pretty sure he won’t take my e-mails anymore.

  9. Tar Heel Fan says:


    Are you talking about the Curry not being Hansbrough so he will have a long productive NBA career quip?

    Yeah, ignore him. When you email him it validates that kind of behavior. When IC goes nuts over it, it validates the behavior. And if I post about it, he is validated for being an idiot. Just ignore the troll and hopefully TSN will figure out what ESPN did and dump him.

  10. ericomac says:

    Yeah. Read it this morning. It just really ticks me off. He’s getting to the point where I’m realizing that he’s not so much a columnist as he is an idiot.

  11. Tar Heel Fan says:


    The problem you get into with guys like him, Doyel, etc is they are internet only columnist and the productivity is measured in some respect by what kind of traffic gets driven to the site. They are also total opinion writers and not there to do legitimate fact base analysis. It is their job to write provocative things which is why I do not link Doyel or anyone else I think is simply trying to bait traffic.

    In blogging and the new media it is a fine line. Clearly some guys are intended to stir the pot and get someone to post it at IC which garners countless hits. I know because anytime a THF post has been linked at IC the numbers climb pretty high. Needless to say it would be nicer if we had folks writing quality material and not this Whiner Line garbage that drives shows like Primtime with the Packman.

  12. Russell says:

    On Lute Olsen. One year -and I forget which and it does not matter – Arizona arrived at the Final Four city and Lute took is players Immediately from the plane to a high school basketball court to practice. The did not go to the hotel, did not do any press conference, did not Pass Go and collect 2 million dollars. He guaranteed their focus on the upcoming game of basketball. UNC, meanwhile, did not do that. So you have to know who won…and hopefully respect the coach who kept his team’s eye on the prize.

  13. bruce says:

    Sorry for pointing out the misduplication on your part but Lute Olson was talking about the OFFENSE when he talked about ‘fun’. Playing a wide open style of offense doesn’t mean you play no defense. I don’t doubt that you know that but in combination with your other comments it gave that impression.

    O’Neil was not particularly liked because he’s not a very outgoing, friendly guy. Go ask the UTenn fans how well he got along there in his last college stint. The guy isn’t very personable and he was a very subpar recruiter – possibly because of that. O’Neil is more suited for a pro game where you are running set offenses 90% of the time and playing man defense exclusively. Arizona has somehow managed to be one of the top programs in the country without having to play pro-set offenses and no-help man-2-man on D. Maybe somebody out there can make that work but when you have a conference with the Lopez twins and Kevin (freaking) Love in it, you can’t just play straight man for 40 minutes. Or, you could. But you would lose to Standford, USC and even ASU every time.

    O’Neil doesn’t mesh well with others. So there was no reason NOT to celebrate when Olson confirmed that he was coming back. I mean, was Brandon Jennings coming to UofA to play halfcourt offense? Not likely. And that makes the difference between winning and losing seasons as you remember when Dean Smith keft or when Coach K was out for 18 months.

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