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Archive for Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Commentary: Coaching shuffle trumps tournament

March 28, 2007

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What an amazing month for college basketball. The suspense! The intrigue! The upsets!

But hasn't the NCAA Tournament kind of, you know, stunk?

Tournament?

What tournament?

I'm talking about the coaching shuffle. Last year I saw George Mason play in a Final Four game, and it was not nearly as remarkable as seeing Tubby Smith leave Kentucky for Minnesota. What kind of a world do we live in when Minnesota can steal Kentucky's coach? Doesn't that violate some sort of interstate commerce law? (Yes, I know Kentucky had 14 moving vans double-parked in front of Smith's house. This was still Smith's choice.)

According to the Minneapolis Star-Tribune, the Gophers started courting Smith in January, but they did not fly him to Minneapolis until last week, when the city finally thawed.

Of course, Smith leaving creates a vacancy at Kentucky, which means... Tom Izzo rumors?

Yes! Well, no. I mean: sort of. There are more Billy Donovan rumors and John Calipari rumors. But here in Michigan, it is natural to wonder about Izzo.

I know the conventional wisdom is that Izzo would never leave Michigan State for another college job. Maybe not. But if Kentucky makes an offer, I expect him to consider it - not just listen, but consider it. Why would he consider it? Isn't his job at MSU as good as the one at Kentucky?

Questions like that are exactly why he would consider it. As Izzo has said many times, he is trying to run a top-five program without the recruiting cache of Kentucky, Kansas, North Carolina, Duke or UCLA, and it isn't easy. He gets frustrated when people don't realize that. In this year's tournament, Izzo outcoached North Carolina's Roy Williams, but Williams had a lot more talent, which made Izzo's job much tougher. It was like Izzo had to play chess while Williams got to play checkers.

I think Izzo wonders what he could do with similar talent - and at Kentucky, he could build that kind of roster.

Again, I'm not saying he would take it. At the end of the day, he probably would not. But I think he would consider it.

Do you have any (wrong) ideas about Michigan's next coach?

Michigan has not contacted West Virginia's John Beilein, unless you count the flower arrangements disguised as my columns. But that could be because Beilein's team is still playing in the NIT. If this drags on two more days, that could mean Michigan is waiting for Beilein - which would be good news for U-M fans.

This is your third push for Beilein. What are you, his agent?

No. But if I were, I would respond to this silliness that he can't recruit and that his modified Princeton offense won't work with the athletes in Michigan.

First, the offense: West Virginia averaged 69.7 points in Big East play this year. That was more than Jim Calhoun's team, Jay Wright's team, John Thompson Jr.'s team or Jamie Dixon's team. It was 0.3 points less than Rick Pitino's team. And those guys all had more talent in the same league.

As for recruiting: HE COACHES IN MORGANTOWN, WEST VIRGINIA. Put him in Ann Arbor. His recruiting will improve dramatically.

What about Beilein's $2.5 million buyout?

That is entirely up to athletic director Bill Martin. Martin does not have to consult with the school's regents to write that kind of check.

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