Archive for Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Commentary: Coaches have it rough in March

March 5, 2008


By now you may have seen the video making the rounds of Michigan basketball coach Kevin Borseth throwing a tantrum after his team blew a 20-point lead and lost a game that might have cost it a chance at the NCAA Tournament. If not, watch it, if only for a glimpse into the often tortured state of mind of college coaches this time of year.

Borseth stormed into the postgame interview room the other day, slammed his fist on the podium and went into an angry tirade over his team's lack of rebounding. He was so worked up that the veins on top of his bald head looked like they were threatening to pop.

Bobby Knight had nothing on this guy. About the only thing missing was flying chairs.

The only difference was that this was women's basketball, where this kind of thing isn't supposed to happen.

The real surprise is that it doesn't happen even more often on the men's side, where people care so much that entire Internet sites are devoted to the tracking of teams on the bubble, and where jobs and careers often ride on decisions made by 19- and 20-year-olds in the final seconds of games.

Jim Boeheim could have been excused for throwing a fit of his own after watching his Syracuse team repeatedly throw the ball away in the final minutes to blow a big lead and lose to Pittsburgh. Instead, he stood with a look of agony on his face that conveyed every bit of hurt in "the most disappointing game I've ever been involved with" in 32 years at Syracuse.

Boeheim has a national championship already in his trophy case, but that didn't take the sting away from a loss that might likely have cost the Orange a chance at the tournament for the second year in a row.

Gary Williams also owns a national title, but that wasn't much consolation when Maryland blew a 20-point lead Sunday night to Clemson, and along with it perhaps its own spot in the tournament.

Williams stood staring out into space after a desperation three-pointer missed, seemingly out of it until Clemson coach Oliver Purnell came by and shook his hand.

"It's draining, there's no doubt about it," Williams said. "It's almost like a boxer, how many times does he get up after he's been knocked down?"

March Madness doesn't officially start for a few weeks, but for most coaches it's already begun. The luckier ones look for higher seeds and momentum going into the playoffs, while the less fortunate just hope they win to get in.

Kentucky's two-decade streak of appearances is in danger of ending now that freshman Patrick Patterson, their No. 2 scorer and leading rebounder, is hurt. And Arizona's chances of extending the nation's longest current streak of 23 consecutive tournaments under interim coach Kevin O'Neill were dealt a blow by two home losses to UCLA and USC over the weekend.

The usual suspects, though, like UCLA, North Carolina, Kansas and Duke all will be in the tournament. So, too, will be the usual group of teams that probably shouldn't be there.

Cornell doesn't have much of a chance of winning a tournament game, but it has the distinction of being the only team having already secured a spot by virtue of its victory over Harvard to clinch its first Ivy League title in 20 years.


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