A Good Divorce

Greg McDermott made the smart and right move to return to MVC basketball. He will be Creighton's new coach on Tuesday.

The old cliche “spring roared in like a lion” will be considered as the greatest understatement of 2010.  Several weeks ago, it was Todd Lickliter leaving (not by his own choice) and Fran McCaffery enters.

Today, it’s Greg McDermott who has decided to leave Iowa State and will be named the new men’s basketball coach at Creighton University on Tuesday morning.  Some will say “good riddance”and others will look at it in a more reasonable way and say “it’s probably the best for ISU and McDermott.” The latter is the best way to summarize it.  It helps Cyclone fans, it lifts a burden off of McDermott.  It’s a mutual separation with no ill-will towards each other, sans for a few knuckleheads.

Similar to Lickliter, McDermott worked hard to make things go in the right direction in Ames.  You can’t say that he didn’t try.  But, as with Lickliter, bad luck seems to find their way into situations where you least expect it.  When AD Jamie Pollard named him to replace Wayne Morgan, Curtis Stinson, Will Blaylock, and other players left the program, in deference and support of Morgan. Players leaving the program because they didn’t like playing set-screens and discipline basketball that works well in the Missouri Valley conference.

Dana Altman dealt with the same thing. He won games at Kansas St., but their fans were never happy. He went to Creighton, and now to Oregon.

The losses.  Yes the losses have been a major flaw.  Agonizing, puzzling, and tough to watch.  Unlike Lickliter who was more dissociated with individuals, McDermott wasn’t afraid to vent his frustration and how the program wasn’t meeting the expectations of the fans and the boosters.

Give him credit, he wasn’t afraid to take the heat and hear it.

But when Dana Altman decided that 16 years was enough at Creighton, AD Bruce Rasmussen didn’t waste time asking McDermott if he wanted to return to the Missouri Valley.  There is no mistake that McDermott is a smart guy and understood his situation.  If the Cyclones struggled again this winter, with Jeff Grayer and Nick Nurse recently joining the staff, he and his staff would be looking for work in March 2011.

There was no guarantee adding Jeff Grayer to the staff was going to turn it around.

That includes Grayer and Nurse.

Maybe it wasn’t worth having that risk play itself out, even after Cyclone fans were rankled after Pollard endorsed keeping McDermott for next year.  Yes, ISU is in a pickle now, but so is Creighton and Oregon, with respects to the recruiting season and getting prospects.  But this can’t be disputed:  Greg McDermott staved off the inevitable.  Which is being fired or forced to resign should things go wrong again this winter.

Was he over his head in the Big 12?  It’s likely he was in the area of recruiting and major conference players who’s sights are on the NBA.

The case studies of Todd Lickliter and Greg McDermott should be considered as examples of how to handle situations when it doesn’t work out.

I hate to include myself in this entry, but it’s just like the business world.  I worked at a place that after I arrived, wasn’t the right fit.  I worked hard and made every attempt to do make it successful.  The only regret I have is that I should have left earlier. My health could have benefited from it and I would have gotten a head-start on something new.

McDermott knew it was the right time to leave before the relationship further deteriorated.  Altman knew it was time to go as well.  His decision to take and then rescind the Arkansas job in 2007 was an indicator to him that he needed a new challenge.   Lickliter didn’t think he would be let go.

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“It’s just didn’t work out”

Most of us have been in relationships, jobs, or situations where we try to make the best of it, only to see it end badly or with resignation.  When you break up with someone (girlfriend, boyfriend, etc.) the most common phrase being used today is “It’s not you, it’s me.” You try not to place blame on the other person for the breakup, and you try to take accountability for your own failings or change of heart.  Maybe you were not into that person as much as you thought you were.

Carver-Hawkeye Arena

That phrase can be easily applied to Monday’s announcement by Iowa athletic director Gary Barta that Todd Lickliter will not be retained as the men’s basketball coachIt just didn’t work out.

Everyone can blame Lickliter for the “Butler”-style offense, the number of players transferring, and the lack of interest.  But what we can’t dispute is that he is a good coach and and a good individual.  He was successful at Butler, so he’s isn’t a terrible coach.  It just didn’t work out.

Lickliter was the anti-Steve Alford.  Iowa fans hated Steve Alford so much, that when Lickliter was hired, Hawkeye fans had already decided not to show up at Carver-Hawkeye Arena to watch the team.  In simple terms, Iowa fans quit on Lickliter before he coached his first game.  Furthermore, as proven during the football season, Iowa fans want to be a major player on the national scene.  If we want to be talked about and noticed, then we need to shell out a lot of money to get the best coach.  No ifs, ands, or buts about it.

Lute Olson

Today, we want the anti-Lickliter.  We need to make up our minds and stick with it.  Sportswriters in this state were never wrong with they say that Iowa fans are the most fickle and the pickiest when it comes to coaches.  Everyone’s a backseat coach.

The Iowa basketball program, as Sean Keeler pointed out in his column on Monday, needs a makeover.  I agree with him, and I’ll add another reason that a makeover is needed:  Iowa is still stuck in the Alford era.  That’s all everyone wants to talk about.  The less the program and the fans stop talking about it, the better they are in looking forward.

Iowa and Todd Lickliter tried to make it work.  It just didn’t work out the way they had hoped for. That’s the reality of it.  They parted ways on Monday with no animosity towards each other.  Too bad most fans can do that on their own.

Dr. Tom Davis

Now it’s up to Iowa fans to adjust their attitude and get out of the “Alford” mentality and accept the fact that they are more John Caliparis (big recruiter, a bit of a snake-oil salesman) than there are Dr. Toms (nice guy, taskmaster, stickler to the rules).

Get the best “coach” out there, not the popular one that fans want.  Fans are usually wrong, including me.

“Bracket” Science

Are you filling out your brackets yet?  If you are, put your pencils down for a moment.

Bracketology isn’t exact science.  It’s “fun” science.  The inner Bob Knight, Digger Phelps, and Bill Raftery in us revel at this time of the year.  Selection Sunday is one of those sports “holidays” on the calendar. The world around us stops when the Super Bowl, the start of the football season, baseball Opening Day, and Selection Sunday rolls around.

I find it amusing to listen to the reaction from coaches and pundits about who “deserved” to be in, who got left out, who was seeding, and where they were going.

"Jake" isn't complaining. Just play ball, baby. Courtesy of Matthew Putney of the Waterloo-Cedar Falls Courier

With that said, let’s get to the big details.  UNI did not get “screwed” with a #9 seed (vs. #8 UNLV, Thursday, 6:20pm, Oklahoma City).  They were “punished” with a #9 seed because of who they lost to (DePaul, Bradley, and Evansville.  Wichita State was a “good” loss).  I commented on Twitter that even though the Panthers were going to make it to the tournament, the committee was going to stick it to them for the Bradley and Evansville loss.

The fans may not like it, but Ben Jacobson and his boys don’t care.  When the selection show was over, they had an impromptu practice last night.  They’re not complaining about seedings, like Bob Huggins of West Virginia is.  Here’s an interesting fact about Huggins, courtesy of ESPN’s Colin Cowherd.  Huggins’ teams, Cincinnati and now WVU, have bowed in the first two rounds of the Big Dance 10 out of the last 12 times.  Why?  Because Huggins is too busy whining and his teams see that, and in turn, they play like a team who doesn’t want to be there.

Stop scheduling cream puffs, Seth.

Memo to Virginia Tech’s Seth Greenbergshut up.  For the second year in a row, the committee decided that your team wasn’t going to be in the tournament because you don’t schedule good teams.  Playing the Sisters of the poor isn’t going to cut.  UNI’s strength of schedule was 168.  VaTech?  317.  UNI plays in a mid-major league.  VaTech’s in the ACC.

Stop scheduling Longwood, Maryland-Baltimore County, and N.C. Central.

Initial thoughts of the brackets, since today is Monday…

The knockout region: Midwest.  Kansas, Sparty, Ohio St., and Georgetown headline this region.  The toughest region overall.

Who got a Christmas gift: Duke.  Though Villanova and Louisville could pose problems, Duke has three starters who can score.  Name another team in the South region that has more than one scorer. This could be a walk in the park, unless Texas A&M or Baylor get to the regional.

Watch your back, ’cause you may not last: Butler, Xavier, BYU, Clemson, and Marquette.

Trends: With the exception of George Mason (#13 seed), teams that make it to the Final Four are seeded #6 or higher.  9.5 out of 10 times, teams seeded #13 or lower will be done in the 1st round.

Prediction:  who you got as the new Iowa coach?

Who is on your “wish” list?  Let everyone know and why.

Good guy, good coach, dead man walking.

The Right Decision

Anthony Tucker, who will transfer at the end of the school year. He made the right decision for himself.

It’s pompous and borderline arrogant to utter the words “I told you so.” Try saying it in a nasally and condescending way, and it grates on you.

With that said, I said in December it was very likely that Anthony Tucker, the troubled sophomore on the Iowa men’s basketball team, was not going to be on the team after his second brush with the law involving alcohol.  In case many Hawkeyes fans have short memories, Dan Bohall was the first one in Lickliter’s dog-house, after being found in a dorm hall, in a drunken stupor.

Tucker asked for and received his release from his scholarship from Iowa this morning and will transfer at the end of the school year.

Disciplinarian? Ya, you betcha.

Now before Lickliter gets criticized for the travails of this program, let’s give him credit.  He’s a disciplinarian, first and foremost.  If you, as a player, is not willing to get on the same page with the coach and the team, it’s not going to be pretty. When players get into some sort of trouble, either legally or within the team, each case has to be adjudicated based on the degree and severity of it.  When players are dissatisfied and voice their differences with the philosophy of the coach, that could evolve into a major issue, as in the case of 4 Iowa players leaving the team last year.

With the exception of Jake Kelly, the other three left because they wanted to play a style of basketball that allowed them to utilize their skills.  Iowa ran a different brand of basketball.

ISU coach Greg McDermott suspended Chris Colvin for walking out of the locker room after the Cyclones lost to Duke.  That suspension was to last until this month.  McDermott lifted the suspension after Lucca Staiger bidded “auf wiedersehen” and went back home to Germany to play pro ball.  Fans and critics said that McDermott “went back on his word” and Colvin should have stayed suspended.

Cyclones fans, for what it’s worth, didn’t read into the fact that all that Colvin did was “throw a temper tantrum” in the locker room.  Colvin quickly realized that it was not the proper way to handle his frustration, along with the team, on how this season has gone.  Everyone has thrown a “fit” from time to time.  Colvin apologized to McDermott and to his teammates and has worked on keeping his cool.  That was enough remorse for McDermott to cut short the suspension.

All that Chris Colvin threw was a temper tantrum. Everyone has one.

Tucker, on the other hand, was in a more serious situation.  Underage drinking has become the “crying call” for most campuses across the country.  Apparently, as some Iowa officials are working on initiatives and attempting to stop the abuse and misuse of alcohol, students under the age of 21 are going to continue getting caught for underage drinking, public intox, and worse DUI and OWI.  Much like what happened to Iowa football analyst Ed Podolak, there’s nothing wrong with having a couple of cold ones, unless you see that someone can’t control their drinking.

I wrote about Podolak and the culture of drinking on the U of I campus in 2009.

I don’t know if McDermott is more lenient in disciplining his players than Lickliter is, but you can’t fault Lick for sticking to what it’s on the books and his principles.

After the first incident, Tucker quietly worked on re-earning his place on the team and in Lick’s good graces.   That was until he was arrested again in December for public intox and allegedly assaulting a cab driver.

Regardless if Lick was going to give him a second chance, it was clear that Tucker not only needs help with staying away from alcohol until he turns 21, his presence on this team was going to be a bigger distraction than the low attendance at Carver-Hawkeye.  To accuse Lickliter, or McDermott, of running off kids is a bit premature.

In the case of Tucker, it was the right decision for both parties involved.  Tucker could not afford to be looked at as an enigma on campus, and Iowa Basketball could not afford to have this hanging on their necks like an albatross.  Losing games is already weighing them down.

Anthony Tucker need to get out of Iowa City and find a new school, not just to play basketball, but to get his penchant for booze out of his system.  It might be the only way he can save his young life from going down the drain.

If you don’t get it the first time, you won’t get it all

I missed “SoundOff” last week, so forgive me if I’m late to the party.  But, I find it a bit ridiculous and childish for an athletic director to demand an apology for a spoof  of the movie “Rudy” by using John Lickliter, son of Iowa basketball coach Todd Lickliter.  The hypocrisy that was oozing through the radio throughout “Murph and Andy” and “Matt and Miller” was asinine and stupid. 

I finally saw the Chris Hassel clip on Sunday evening after the Super Bowl.  I didn’t see anything insensitive at all.  For all of those who called in to both KXNO afternoon shows, I guess you idiots didn’t get the message: 

If you need someone to explain a joke (or a skit) to you, so that you can understand it, it’s no longer a joke. 

I was also somewhat put-off by the line that Keith Murphy added to his comments as well: 

Murphy also wrote that the Lickliter piece made him “uncomfortable.” Hassel’s pieces for “SoundOFF” have run without Murphy’s review beforehand for an honest response from Murphy and Fales, who co-host the show. That will no longer be the case, Murphy wrote.

How in the hell he didn’t know what Andy Fales or Chris Hassel had up their sleeves every week for their skits, if they didn’t run it by him?  For him to take them at their word is a bad reflection on Murph. 

C'mon Murph, you're better than that. Your job is to "always" preview pieces before they go on air.

That’s a cop out, Murph.  As the head of a leading television sports department, everything has to get your approval.  Secondly, Hassel should not have to apologize.  Take the cue of your boss, Dale Woods, and don’t you dare tip your hand to Gary Barta.  If people can’t take or understand a joke, then they are the ones who are over-reacting. 

The skit was never about John Lickliter.  It was a parody off of the popular movie “Rudy”.  In the skit, Rudy (John) was called on by the coach (Todd) to help the team get out of a losing funk. 

To say it was to be mean-spirited towards Lickliter is a bigger joke. 

I guess everyone forgot the fact that John Lickliter is no “scrub” player who’s on the team because of his daddy, as Matt Perrault and Ken Miller asserted Friday on their show (M-F 4pm-7pm, KXNO-1460).  In case you missed the memo, fellas, John did play for a highly-ranked prep program in Indianapolis (Franklin Central), and was a starter on an Iowa City High team that won state in 2008, after his father was hired to coach the Hawks. 

John Lickliter's no scrub. He's played for two great programs: Franklin Central in Indianapolis and Iowa City High.

Saul Smith played for his father, Tubby, and Pat Knight did the same for his dad Bobby.  It amazes me on how blind Hawkeye fans are to the facts, and spend all the time reacting, or over-reacting before getting the facts. 

All of you “fans” who called all of the local sports shows who felt that Hassel crossed the line with John Lickliter are probably the same fans who would have booed and slammed Saul Smith and Pat Knight when they played at Kentucky and Indiana respectively. 

The Lickliters don’t need people feeling sorry for them.  This is Big Boy, Big 10 basketball.  Not everyone will like love you or like you.  If they respect you, then it’s because you are beating their team. 

Or losing badly. 

The Lickliters have been under the public eye for so long when Todd coached at Butler, they are used to the scrunity and discontent among fans. 

Hawkeye fans, as I am one of you, let me give you some advice:  send an email to your athletic director.  This was a non-issue before he opened up his grill and proceeded to yap. 

Gary Barta and some of the fans need to put their Big Boy pants on and get over it. 

Better yet, if you didn’t get the joke the first or second time around, you’ll never get the joke at all.