Wednesday, February 08, 2006
LA Times - JT3 Mention for Coach of the Year
In today's Los Angeles Times. This is a homer story about coach of the year candidates and suggests Tim Floyd and Ben Howland should be considered legitimate candidates (while ignoring the fact that they coach in conference that might not have a higher RPI than some AAU summer leagues.) Of note, however, is that JT3 gets the first mention for the honor among non-LA teams. See also the story at the bottom about ACC refs getting suspended for too obviously calling a game for Duke.
ON COLLEGE BASKETBALL
Howland, Floyd Should Be Commended for Their Work
Los Angeles Times
February 8, 2006
UCLA's Ben Howland and USC's Tim Floyd are legitimate coach-of-the-year candidates.
But defining the award isn't easy. What should a coach-of-the-year candidate accomplish?
Should he do a great job in a rookie year at his school with another coach's players? Step to the front of the class, Bruce Pearl at Tennessee. Congratulations on stretching the boundaries of Buzz Peterson's kids and stepping to the front of the Southeastern Conference.
Or should he quietly step into the large shadow of his father, confident enough of his own skills and beliefs, and make steady progress until his team, unranked until a few weeks ago, beats the No. 1 team in the country and challenges for first place in the toughest conference in the country? Congratulations, John Thompson III at Georgetown. Thompson has the deep and intimidating baritone voice of his father, but his way is not to engender Hoya Paranoia. Thompson III chats with the media, and his players aren't socked into a cocoon.
Do you reward the coach at a more anonymous school, one that has built-in recruiting disadvantages and a mediocre tradition but who has molded a hard-core system to his advantage? Then Jeff Bzdelik, who has brought the Princeton offense to Air Force and forged a defensively impenetrable, offensively patient team that is the class of the Mountain West Conference, is your man. Will any NCAA fourth- or fifth-seeded team want to play a 13th- or 12th-seeded Air Force in the first round of the NCAA tournament?
How about the creative young coach who plays with four guards and makes his lack of inside height and power something to celebrate? Cheers to Villanova's Jay Wright and his small, scrappy Wildcats.
But is it fair to ignore royalty? Sure, Connecticut's Jim Calhoun and Duke's Mike Krzyzewski have all the talent and the patter of ESPN's praisers to pump their product, but the Huskies and Blue Devils also have been at the top of the polls all year. The coaches are doing something right.
So let's look at what Howland and Floyd have accomplished.
Every UCLA player of significance except freshman point guard Darren Collison has suffered some substantial injury.
If Jordan Farmar hadn't been limping on a badly sprained ankle, it could be argued the Bruins would have beaten third-ranked Memphis in November.
What if sophomore center Lorenzo Mata hadn't broken a leg just when he had played the best stretch of basketball in his career?
Freshman Alfred Aboya has needed two knee surgeries in the last seven months. How far has he been set back? Hard to tell, but certainly he'd be more in tune with his teammates if he'd been healthy during fall practice.
If underrated sophomore forward Josh Shipp hadn't been sidelined for all but four games by a hip injury, the Bruins might be considered legitimate candidates for the Final Four.
And even so, when UCLA plays its most enthusiastic man-to-man defense and when Farmar and Arron Afflalo have their shooting aim straight, and when senior 7-footer Ryan Hollins gets his long arms and legs moving in the same direction, and Luc Richard Mbah a Moute is wrestling away rebounds, the Bruins make it seem as if the Sweet 16 is in reach -- and maybe a little more.
That's a credit to Howland. He has never made an excuse. Not when senior Cedric Bozeman, who was just finding his rhythm after sitting out all of last season because of a knee injury, suffered a shoulder injury. Or when Shipp, who had 11 points and seven rebounds in his first game back from hip surgery, came to the sad decision that he still had too much pain to continue this season.
With the exception of the inconsistent Hollins, Howland has forged a 19-4 record with freshmen and sophomores. There is no junior class at UCLA. Mbah a Moute -- a strong candidate for national freshman-of-the-year honors -- and Aboya were not considered top-level recruits.
Somehow the Bruins are leading the Pac-10 -- yet are among only three teams that haven't had a player voted Pac-10 player of the week. The other two? Bottom-of-the-pack Arizona State and Oregon. So maybe it's the coaching.
And even if USC doesn't win another game this season, a possibility since second-leading scorer Gabe Pruitt will miss at least three weeks because of a hairline fracture, Floyd has accomplished more than anyone could have expected.
Only four players returned from the mess of 2004-05. One of them, Lodrick Stewart, wasn't happy last season while his twin brother, Rodrick, abandoned ship for Kansas.
Then the Trojans opened the season with an unsightly overtime loss to Cal State Northridge at the Sports Arena and a humbling 20-point loss to Oral Roberts in Alaska. The season could have been lost at that moment with the motley crew of leftover recruits and leftover players. But USC went on a nine-game winning streak.
Though he didn't officially accept the job until April and had little recruiting time, Floyd uncovered one of the best young point guards in the country in freshman Ryan Francis. He has coaxed controlled performances out of Stewart. Keith Wilkinson, a freshman from Capistrano Valley High, who lists becoming an ESPN sportscaster as a career goal, has played significant minutes. Most freshmen who play at major colleges say they want to play in the NBA, not talk about it.
For upsetting North Carolina alone Floyd should be considered for coach of the year. For nursing 15 wins already out of the Trojans and hanging in the top half of the Pac-10, Floyd should earn some coach-of-the-year votes even though he probably won't.
The address of the Blue Devil athletics website is goduke.com, and coaches and fans of the other Atlantic Coast Conference schools can't be faulted for feeling that conference officials take that name too seriously.
Before Tuesday night, in the Blue Devils last two games -- an overtime one-point victory over Florida State and a two-point win at Boston College -- Duke's opponents made 20 of 24 free throws and the Blue Devils were 60 of 80 from the line. That's a disparity that is hard to ignore.
And finally, the ACC officials didn't ignore it. Mike Eades, Ray Natili and Ed Corbett, the crew that did the Florida State game, were suspended one game by ACC coordinator of men's basketball officials John Clougherty for giving Florida State's Alexander Johnson a technical foul after Johnson backed away from a shove by Duke's Shelden Williams. The phantom technical was Johnson's fifth foul and left the Seminoles short-handed for overtime.