Wednesday, April 14, 2010

A Major Cluster-Duck

University of Oregon: Get. It. Together.

On this very site, BH and I have written extensively of your successes and sang your praises. Chip Kelly did a fantastic job following the season opening disaster last year. Finally, as tardy as it was, you let Ernie Kent go. You created a baseball program. You had a top-five football team heading into next season. Oregon, you’ve been doing well...

...and then Spring 2010 arrived. FYL (that’s short for F your life):
  • The series of football arrests and subsequent suspension/dismissal of Jermiah Masoli
  • The leaking of the Ernie Kent firing
  • The departure/firing/buyout/whatever of Mike Belotti after one year
  • The coaching search
These poorly orchestrated events are not good. It doesn’t look good, it doesn’t smell good, it doesn’t taste good. In fact, it’s bad.

The arrests, while they reflect poorly, are what they are. Sometimes kids make very unfortunate decisions, but I sincerely do not believe it is due to a lack of institutional control on Kelly’s part. He created a Rose Bowl birth after the meltdown that was Boise State last September and the dude can flat out coach. By no means am I condoning the behavior of his football team, they screwed up; but this seems to happen in lots of places and is not exclusive to Oregon. As hard as it was, Kelly is instituting discipline and the offenders are paying the consequences. It looks bad, but next issue.

Leaking the Ernie Kent firing was not that big of a deal, but it was certainly not classy; especially because the eventual firing was glaringly obvious, and Kent had been a loyal Duck. Kent served as head basketball coach of his alma mater for 13 years--he deserved better than what he got. I’ve never been a huge Kent fan but I do believe he got shown the door in a less than professional manner and Belotti – or someone in his office – dropped the ball on that one.

Speaking of Belotti: what the hell happened there? My conclusion on that awkward separation is that he clearly was a figurehead, a puppet, for the long, strong arm of Phil.  Phil Knight that is.  Phil Knight of Nike that is. I know the University of Nike thing gets a bit played out, but seriously, Phil’s hand is in that Athletic Department and when Athletic Director’s are leaving with subsequent Attorney General investigations, something’s not quite right. Where there’s smoke, there’s fire.

So without an AD, what now of the vacant – STILL vacant – Men’s Basketball coaching position? We could also look at the question like this: who will uber-boosters Pat Kilkenny and Knight find or pay? Right now, no one. And it’s getting ugly. Numerous deadlines have come and gone and there’s seemingly been very little interest in the position. Are we looking at a Steinbrenner-esque situation imposed by Knight/Kilkenny where no one wants to be micromanaged by the hand of God? Is the Head Basketball Coach at the University of Oregon a toxic seat?

And then there’s the factor that this is a huge hire that Oregon should not screw up. The changing face of college hoops says that you can win anywhere. Just ask Brad Stevens. Yeah, yeah, the dude just got paid, but he fell in love with Butler first and, more importantly, won there. While Butler is in basketball crazy Indiana, it sure ain’t Chapel Hill or Westwood. But you know what? Butler won. UNC and UCLA didn’t.

That’s not to say that these schools will never win again; by all accounts they’ll be very good, very soon. The point I’m trying to make is that you can win anywhere and with any resources. Coaching matters. Lord Phil’s money will never make Tajuan Porter a better decision maker (he was awful) or anyone play better team defense. The longer the school waits to make this hire the more it’s going to end up settling and letting down a fan base ready to usher in a new era in a new arena that makes the Taj Mahal look like a cheap condo.

To settle would not be okay and would embarrass a University already dragging itself through an inferno of embarrassment. The right coach will do a good job and can certainly put together a perennial competitor in Eugene. It’s a good job.

On the heels of the worst Pac-10 basketball season ever, West Coast basketball can’t afford to have one if its major Universities screw this up either. The Pac-10 has not had a team in the Top 25 since December and the only positive headline it's had since November was Washington's run to the Sweet 16--as an 11 seed.

The Oregon coaching search is doing nothing to smooth the currently rocky face of West Coast hoops.
If Oregon indeed wants to compete with the likes of UCLA, Arizona, Gonzaga, or even Saint Mary’s – and it can – they need to get this right. The longer they wait, the wronger they get. The silver lining is that a troubled athletic department can come out of this smelling like roses if it makes a good hire.

It’s been 4+ weeks since the inevitable Kent firing and there’s still no one there to usher in recruits for 2010-11. The only thing keeping this “search” from becoming the laughing stock of college basketball is that no one cares about basketball on the West Coast right now; deservedly so.

Hence, Oregon needs to get the right man in there and get him soon. The Western basketball community is depending on it.

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