Sunday, April 11, 2010

The Coaching Carousel, Shady Dealings at Wake and VCU's Sanders Declares for NBA Draft

Even though the great Butler - Duke championship game concluded about a week ago, the College Hardwood season is never done. And that's been in due to large part to all the coaching changes we have seen the past several weeks. It truly has been like a merry go round.

ESPN has a listing of coaching changes and it can't even keep up, that's how amazing it has been. Since the most updated listing, Marshall has hired Tom Herrion (associate head coach at Pitt), Charlotte hired Alan Major (asst coach at Ohio State) and Wake Forest has hired Jeff Bzdelik (formerly Colorado head coach - more on that in a bit). Twenty seven new head coaches.

If this season wasn't bad enough for all the despicable midseason coaching firings, then we have other dandies like Sean Kearney getting fired one season after being hired for the Holy Cross job. Boston College's Al Skinner was allowed to interview for the St John's job all the while knowing he had been fired by his AD at BC, though that had not been made public. Oliver Purnell made out like a bandit leaving for DePaul probably due to the fact he was under severe heat for not winning in the NCAA Tournament again at Clemson.

And you now have the Wake Forest saga. Wake Forest AD Ron Wellman fired Dino Gaudio after three seasons because he expected better postseason performance. Grant you that Gaudio was 1-5 in ACC Tournament and NCAA appearances, but he was 61-31 in his three seasons with the Demon Deacons (27-21 in conference) and they won their first round NCAA game against Texas in this year's tournament before losing to Kentucky. So Gaudio gets fired after WINNING TWO THIRDS OF HIS GAMES.

So who does Ron Wellman apparently replace him with? Jeff Bzdelik, the head coach of the Colorado Buffaloes. What is Bzdelik's record at Colorado? 36-58 (10-38 in conference - yes that's not a misprint). No NCAA appearances, no NIT appearances?


Now grant you that in his previous head coaching position at the Air Force, Bzdelik led them to a 24-7 and 26-9 records respectively. This is also included a NCAA appearance in 2005-06 (more on that in a second) and a NIT final four appearance in 2006-07. But before that, he was the head coach at UMBC for two seasons in the late 80's. His record, 25-31. No postseason appearances.

Let's take a further look at his post season and tournament appearances. In 2005-06, Air Force lost in the Mountain West quarterfinal round to Wyoming 57-55. Wyoming was 5-11 in conference in the regular season. The Falcons should not have made the NCAA Tournament in 2006, but yet did and promptly lost to Illinois 78-69. In 2006-07, the Falcons AGAIN lost to Wyoming in the quarterfinals 67-62. Again, no MWC tournament wins for Bzdelik there.

Yes, the Falcons had a nice NIT run that second season, defeating Austin Peay, Georgia and DePaul before losing to Clemson by a point. But in Bzdelik's three seasons at Colorado, how many Big 12 tournament wins does he have? One, which was in his first season there, a win over Baylor in the first round of the 2008 Big 12 Tournament. Otherwise his teams have lost three straight Big 12 Tournament games, having been eliminated in the quarters by Oklahoma in 2008 and in the first round by Texas and Texas Tech respectively the past two years.

So let me get this straight. Gaudio, a coach who took Wake to two NCAA appearances, a NCAA tournament win and the Demon Deacons won 2/3 of their games in his tenure is fired because he is 1-5 in postseason appearances. And he is replaced by a coach, who if we leave out the NIT wins, has one NCAA appearance, is 1-6 in Mountain West, Big 12 and NCAA postseason appearances and has a 36-58 record the last three seasons at Colorado.

Can someone explain to Wake Forest fans why this is occurring? Oh yeah, read this article. Apparently Wellman and Bzdelik are "longtime friends". That's the ONLY explanation why you would fire Gaudio and bring in Bzdelik to replace him.

And to think Wellman extended Gaudio's contract in October of last year, praising him for his work. Why the change of thought now after Gaudio actually winning a NCAA tournament game? Oh yeah, his "longtime friend" was available.

Simply put, this is just downright criminal. Andy Katz and Brian Mull can spin this as much as they want about Wellman being honest about more postseason appearances (in fact I tweeted back and forth with Mull about the Gaudio firing). But after this hiring, there can really be no justification for it. Hopefully someone will hold Wellman's feet to the fire if this doesn't work out for Demon Deacons' fans.

However, I am very happy to hear that Tim Cluess got the Division I coaching position he so deserved when he was named head coach of Iona on Friday. Cluess replaces Kevin Willard, who got the Seton Hall job, which was formerly Bobby Gonzalez' job, till he got fired for basically being a boor. As you all may know, I promoted Cluess for the Hofstra job but he landed in nearly as good a situation with the Gaels. Best of luck Tim!

The other interesting news of the weekend was hearing VCU's Larry Sanders declaring for the NBA draft and hiring an agent. Sanders, a junior, had a very solid year, averaging 14.4 points, 9.1 rebounds, shooting 53.4 percent from the field and 64 percent from the line. All these categories were improvements for the First Team All CAA and CAA Defensive Player of the Year.

I got to see live Sanders play his best game of the year in front of a national TV audience on ESPNU. In front of eight NBA scouts, including probably the legendary Dick McGuire's last appearance in a college arena before he passed away, it was "The Larry Sanders Show" as he had a career high 31 points in the Rams 81-68 drubbing of the Pride.

But despite that dominating game, I think it's a mistake for Sanders to go pro? Why? Well, in his last ten games of the season, the games that arguably counted most, Sanders only scored in double figures in six of those ten games. His averages for those ten games, 11.7 points, 9.0 rebounds 44 percent shooting from the field and 57 percent from the line.

His consistency is a serious question. And in possibly the biggest game of the year, the CAA semifinal game vs. ODU, Sanders as I described him was "lost out on the court. We're talking Nathaniel Lester lost". Folks, that's not a good thing when you are compared to Nathaniel Lester.

In that game vs. the Monarchs, in 28 minutes, Sanders shot 2 of 7 from the field, 2 of the 6 from line and had only 6 points and 6 rebounds. He also was in foul trouble for most of the game. The scary thing is VCU should have won that game in regulation but lost in overtime 73-69. Had Sanders played well, the Rams would have won. Sorry, but that's not a performance of a NBA first round draft pick. You never saw Eric Maynor put up dud games like that in the CAA Tournament.

However, it is a big loss for the Rams, who also dismissed forward Terrance Saintil from the team. And with the graduation of Kiril Pishchalnikov, that leaves the Rams with only Jamie Skeen as their lone experienced front court player. So much for the Rams being my preseason favorite for the CAA for the 2010-11 season.

Well, maybe Fran Fraschilla is right and Sanders is the second coming of Theo Ratliff. If so, that's a nice career. But what if he falls to the second round or even worse, doesn't get drafted like Shawn James? Remember him, CAA fans? That's who Sanders reminds me a lot of, Shawn James. Another year in school with perhaps a NCAA appearance (minus Eric Maynor this time) would have only helped Sanders' resume.

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