Archive for Saturday, April 2, 2005

Mayer: Were Jayhawks overcoached or undertaught?

April 2, 2005


"The sport is overcoached and undertaught."

Wish I'd thought of that, but I've neither the intellect nor the expertise. It comes from Bob Hurley, basketball coach for 34 years at St. Anthony High in Jersey City, N.J. He's won a lot and turned out many major college players, not the least of whom is son Bobby Hurley, who was a Duke All-America point guard.

"The game has become too much of the three-point shot, and then try to get to the rim," Dad Hurley says. "Guys are athletic, but there's almost no middle game in the sport right now. Everybody can shoot the three but not everybody can make it. ... Coaches want to win, and fans are paying for all this, and they want to see you win, so coaches are going to play the kind of game that allows them to win."

The proliferation of AAU ball, summer leagues and competition outside the normal season mean too many players are competing year-round and not learning as much about the game as they should, Hurley adds.

More from coach Hurley:

"Kids are playing too much organized basketball. The high school season sometimes lasts from November to April and after that the kids should be working on their games, in rec centers and on playgrounds. But playgrounds now are not crowded after school and on weekends because too many kids are traveling and playing."

Good question for critics of Kansas University coach Bill Self, since his 2004-05 Jayhawks didn't measure up to most expectations, including their own: Do the detractors think KU was overcoached and undertaught, or visa versa? Or both? Something was amiss.

You'd expect the older guys to need more coaching and less teaching while the newer ones, particularly the touted Frosh Five, would require more teaching along with the where-to-go and how-to-get-there in the X's and O's department. With at least five guys on the staff quite capable of teaching, were they diluted with too many "coaching" duties?

One thing's for sure. With all the youth and inexperience at Kansas in 2005-06, there better be a whole lot of teaching going on between now and November. Whatever Self and Co. couldn't or didn't get across in 2004-05 has to be drilled home, or the likes of Oklahoma and Texas will relegate KU to mere entertainment rather than any kind of title contention.

The three hyped McDonald's All-American additions can help a lot but they need firm guidance, early and often. Too bad some way couldn't have been devised to get Free State's Brady Morningstar into the mix. The kid can shoot the ball far better than some current bricklayers.

You see these big college coaching staffs and wonder what all of them do with only 14 or 15 guys on the squad. This is not just a college issue. An NBA observer looked at the New York Knicks bench not long back and saw 12 players, one head coach and six assistants. Then he noted that the Dallas Mavericks once had as many as 10 assistants, almost one per player. Are they wardens for parolees, baby sitters for the unruly, or do they actually coach?

You have to think the 2005 NCAA Final Four of North Carolina, Illinois, Michigan State and Louisville has had both coaching and teaching. You know Roy Williams is a control freak. (Surprising how many local fans were pulling for Roy to win it all -- until they heard he kept schmoozing with the guys he left here. Big swing to negative sentiment. And, boy, has Bill Self handled the issue with wisdom and class!)

Self left Illinois some well-tutored talent. But M-State's Tom Izzo may have done the best teaching job since Nov. 25, 2003, when touted Michigan State came to KU rated No. 3 in the nation and absorbed an 81-74 defeat.

Still on its suicide schedule were Duke, UCLA, Kentucky, Oklahoma and defending NCAA champion Syracuse. MSU wound up 0-9 against ranked teams. It finished the disappointing season 18-12 after being knocked out in the first round of the NCAA meet by the same Nevada team that had upset Kansas at Reno.

Izzo did something right this season. Mainstays in this year's NCAA title bid are veterans Paul Davis, Alan Anderson, Kelvin Torbert, Chris Hill, Maurice Ager and Shannon Brown -- all of whom floundered against Kansas in that November 2003 game. Bill Self needs to buy a bottle of whatever Izzo drank.

Only thing is, MSU 2005 is blessed with far, far more experience than Kansas will have while trying to reload next season.

Back to the unmet expectations of the most recent Jayhawk squad, which I discussed last Sunday. This one's too good to keep. From Frank Pattee: "Read with interest your assessment on why the 2004-05 Kansas University basketball team fared so poorly. One factor you didn't consider -- maybe it was the players' solution to the Priority Seating Controversy at Allen Fieldhouse."

Frank is a stellar former KU do-everything football offensive back/linebacker/punter from Smith Center, late 1940s. Wife B.J. had a long and tremendous career in KU alumni activities. The two of them rank in the Don Fambrough category from the standpoint of loyalty and devotion to the Jayhawk Nation. Oh, and by the way, they're the parents of the celebrated Erin Brockovich who grew up and went to school here before she became a glamorous international celebrity. But you probably knew that.

Frank Pattee, sharp and astute, periodically reminds me that I could have handled facts or rhetoric better in a given article. When I saw his name on this mailing, I wondered what I'd done wrong this time. Imagine the guffaws, of relief, when I wasn't the target for his delicious zinger.

So circle the wagons for 2005-06. Kansas could be a lot better than some skeptics think. And the fieldhouse stands still will be full.

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