Tag Archives: The Final Say

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The Local College Hoops Scene Is Bonkers | The Final Say

By Zach McCrite

What an unusual college sports landscape we’re in right now in Kentuckiana.

Sure, pro sports chatter is primarily about the athletes. But in major, revenue-producing college athletics, the primary subject of the ire for media and fans (save for very few exceptions) is the head coach.

And in our area, we’re in a curious spot with all of the head coaches at the basketball programs.

THE CURIOUS CASE OF ARCHIE MILLER

Let’s start with Indiana, probably the least curious of the three within a proverbial rock’s throw from this publication’s readership.

Archie Miller has been given plenty of leash to work out the kinks in a program that certainly needed it. And it’s been a work in progress, to say the least.

In fact, there have been many fans that have – more or less – allowed the first-year head coach to take massive, embarrassing losses at the friendly confines of Simon Skjodt Assembly Hall.

Multiple losses. To other in-state teams. By 20 or more points.

Sure, between implementing a brand-new style of play and doing it with the limited talent left to him on the current roster, getting Indiana back to the perennial Top 25 team they used to be once upon a time is, of course, not an overnight process.

But, even with those disparaging losses, Hoosier fans and media alike (myself included) have treated Miller with kid gloves, taking these losses in stride, for the most part.

Of course, it’s safe to say there has been some improvement in the group as the season has gone on. Tip of the cap, Arch.

But, I feel like, even in his charter season, Archie would be feeling a little more heat from all of us in Hoosierland if not for this little protective bubble that’s been placed around him.

That bubble goes by the name of Romeo Langford.

As sports fans, we traffic in hope. We thrive on it. It’s our caffeine. That hope is what keeps us coming back for more, even when success isn’t coming at a consistent rate. It’s our current cup of coffee.

And that current cup of “hope coffee” is Romeo,

the top high school shooting guard in the Class of 2018, making posters out of poor opposing defenders with his addictive take-him-home-to-meet-your-momma demeanor.

The kind of local celeb where you can talk to other local strangers about him, refer to him only by his first name, and both of you know to whom the other is referring.

I don’t know where Romeo is going for his college basketball career. Neither do you (unless, of course, he surprised us all with an announcement between the time of this writing and now). But Hoosier fans are hoping it’s IU, obviously.

And it’s a credit to Miller that IU is even in the hunt for Romeo, especially given the substandard state of the Indiana hoops program.

My educated guess? Romeo wouldn’t have IU in his final list of potential schools to which he’s contemplating going to school to play basketball had Tom Crean still been the coach in Bloomington.

But Romeo’s interest in the Hoosiers has created a protective bubble of hope around Miller. Until Romeo decides to commit to a school not named Indiana, that protective hope bubble will not fade, providing what would be harsh criticism – the kind usually reserved for coaches who receive beatdowns from powerhouses like Indiana State and Fort Wayne – from really hitting the IU coach.

And if Romeo does decide to dawn the Crimson and Cream, that protective cocoon once conceived of hope where Miller currently resides will turn into one made out of real credit (and gratitude, too).

THE CURIOUS CASE OF JOHN CALIPARI

I’m literally shocked by the way Kentucky head coach John Calipari has been acting lately.

Sure, he’s a master of using the media to get a message across to his team (and, at times, to his recruits as well). But, this time around, he’s been as critical of a Kentucky team as he’s ever been as the head coach of the Wildcats, especially given the new class of freshmen he brought to Lexington, a class worthy of a top-five preseason national ranking.

John Calipari’s success at UK has been exemplary. Final Fours, once a fleeting luxury under Tubby Smith and an impossibility under Billy Gillispie, are now damn near expected regardless of the new crop of newcomers that comes into Big Blue Country.

In Cal We Trust.

Whether it’s after the oodles of victories or the small handful of defeats, Cal will usually mention the seemingly few flaws of his team. They’re usually mental flaws that he hopes will get corrected by the time the NCAA Tournament rolls around.

More often than not, Cal blames these flaws on his team’s never-ending youth. As expected as death and taxes.

But this season has been different. The Cats are taking unusual losses – unusual for Big Blue Nation, at least. It’s not like they’re going to miss the tournament or anything.

But the usual Cal quotes have been modified. This is a rarity.

Consider: Earlier in the season, after a 29-point shellacking of rival Louisville, the UK coach did the unthinkable. He was going to stop referring to that youth.

“I said today before the game, we’re no longer freshmen,” Calipari said after another victory in the rivalry back in December. “I’m not saying it anymore – we’re not freshmen now. We’re 10 games in, 11 games in, we are not freshmen.”

Then, in a mid-January loss at home against lowly South Carolina, Calipari went back to his old, youth-based excuses for his team’s inability to play at the level commensurate to the Kentucky head coach’s expectations had returned.

“This looked like a bunch of freshmen playing,” Calipari said after his team’s 76-68 collapse at South Carolina.

“The first half, you would look and say, ‘Ah, they got a nice team and da da da da.’ They’re all freshmen. In the second half, you looked at us and we looked like a bunch of freshmen playing like freshmen would play.”

Cal used the word “freshmen” three times before he took one breath.

Perhaps the players aren’t the only ones reverting to old childlike habits.

The surprise isn’t that the excuses had returned, it’s that Cal tried to make those disappear in the first place.

Weird.

And then on top of that has been the cryptic way in which he’s talked about one of his six (SIX!) five-star freshmen recruits.

Jarred Vanderbilt injured his foot early in the preseason and hadn’t played a game up until the aforementioned loss to South Carolina. It had been Vanderbilt’s third injury to the same foot. That is a true worry for a player seemingly-destined to be less than a calendar year away from having a seven-annual income.

Kentucky had needed him. And people had seen reports of him continuously practicing and dressing for games.

But Vanderbilt still wasn’t seeing the court, and Calipari was being uncharacteristically and mostly-indirectly criticizing Vanderbilt’s inability to play.

“I’d like for him to give me more than what I would’ve gotten today because I didn’t see him all day,” Calipari said.

It was like there was more to the story. Who knows?

“The problem with being injured when you’re on my teams, I really spend no time with you,” Calipari said. “Sometimes I forget names. Like I forget who (Vanderbilt) is. Because I’ve gotta focus on the guys I’m coaching right now. They’ve gotta get healthy and be ready to come back and be ready to go. Jarred is the same.”

He forgets his players’ names? Come on.

Calipari is always a master of the media. His press conferences are always entertaining.

But this year, it’s just been different. Different than in any other season.

It’s been over the top.

THE CURIOUS CASE OF DAVID PADGETT

The most curious case of all has been David Padgett. The poor guy got thrown into an absolute grease fire.

So, of course, his team floundered around for awhile while the players acclimated to a coaching style that is, by many accounts, far more relaxed than the style of their coaching predecessor, Rick Pitino.

The feeling I got from Pitino before his firing was that if Donovan Mitchell, currently one of the NBA’s best rookies, left for the pros after last season, it was going to be an uphill climb for this season’s championship hopes.

No surprise there. Mitchell is a star. Any team would hurt if they lost a kid like Mitchell.

Obviously, this was before Pitino got gifted Brian Bowen, the highly-touted recruit whose family member, we later learned, allegedly agreed to receive money to come to Louisville, which, in part, may have ended up being the final nail in Pitino’s Cardinal Coffin.

Since then, Padgett has had to do a dance of trying to be himself to his team, while still trying to cling to many Pitino’s championship principles.

Now, many Pitino loyalists, who are still bitter about the way “Slick Rick” was dismissed are taking out the team’s struggles on Padgett.

“The players aren’t listening to him.”

“Padgett’s lost this team. This would’ve never (have) happened to Rick.”

We got it, Rick-backers, winning trumps all, even multiple NCAA violations.

Duly noted.

But, for the rest of us that think Pitino’s firing was justified, even if we admired his coaching ability (I know I did), there was really no other way to bring on a brand-new coach that had any sort of resume.

UofL had two weeks to figure this out, for crying out loud. What were they supposed to do?

Had Louisville brought on a seasoned, but recently-fired coach, that coach isn’t going to just agree to a one-year deal. And even if they do, what if they had success? Then, Louisville would’ve had to stick with the guy, a guy they had all but a handful of days to truly vet.

The timing was terrible.

Still, Padgett is taking a team that likely wasn’t destined for the Final Four and, as of this writing, has gone the whole season with just a handful of losses – none of them to teams outside the AP Top 25.

It’s been a fascinating watch.

HERE’S A CURIOUS BONUS

And, alone at the top, probably sipping on a Mai Tai and cackling at all the other nonsense going on south of West Lafayette, is Matt-freaking-Painter. Who knew he’d be the one with the stress meter, relatively speaking, at zero?

What an unusual college hoops landscape, indeed.

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The Final Say | September 2017

By Zach McCrite

By Zach McCrite

Role Play: If I Were Athletic Director At Louisville

I should be an athletic director.

Well, I guess I should first explain: I am not qualified to be an athletic director at the collegiate level.

Why? Well, I’m not real good at raising money.

You got to be the ringleader of raising a lot of dough when you’re an A.D. I’m just not good at that. I could do it once. One big capital campaign.

But, continuously going “back to the well” would be like going to the dentist for me (no offense, Dr. Fust). Perhaps with practice, I’d be better.

Alas.

For purposes of this space, here is the one and only thing I would do immediately if I, indeed, were athletic director at the University of Louisville, a school that has been a mainstay of the usually-dormant summer sports news cycle.

I would learn to be happy again.

It’s been a tough go for Athletic Director Tom Jurich. But, hey, who doesn’t hit turmoil at their job every once in awhile.

I don’t know what goes on privately there, but publicly, Jurich has come out smelling like a rose far more often in his 20 years at the helm of Cardinal athletics than not.

But then, last month happened.

That’s when WAVE-TV Sports Director Kent Taylor had a one-on-one interview with Jurich in which the A.D. talked about how the last couple of years – between the basketball program’s escort scandal, the UofL Foundation scandal and much more – has been tumultuous.

Jurich was asked if he was happy right now.

“I’m getting there. I’m getting there. It’s been a long couple of years.”

There’s no doubt that things haven’t been all rainbows and lollipops over there. However, life doesn’t seem all that bad at UofL.

It’s not like someone slammed all the way down on the brake pedal and impeded the progress Jurich has made.

Having a national championship banner coming down on your watch is no picnic, and that banner is coming down unless UofL wins what many are calling a “long shot” appeal to the NCAA.

Let’s not be phony, that one will leave a mark.

But, there’s far more in the good column than the bad for Jurich.

The latest evidence are the cranes currently affixed around Papa John’s Cardinal Stadium. Another expansion for a place that is seemingly always being expanded.

That’s something for which to be happy. That’s something for which to be proud.

College World Series appearances, a Heisman Trophy winner, more fancy athletic facilities and the most profitable college basketball program in the country, right?

I understand always wanting to be better. That’s the kind of drive that made him the respectable, if not legendary, athletic director that he is today.

But, if I were A.D., I would find time every now and again to appreciate what is already there.

You could almost literally trip and fall anywhere on the UofL campus and land on something for which Jurich is responsible, at least in part.

To most fans, Jurich has been given carte blanche to do with the athletic department as he pleases, without as much as a sign-off sheet from the school’s former president on much of the matters at hand.

And that carte blanche equalled Cardinal skyscrapers and success.

However, I’m going to guess where some of his unhappiness lies.

It seems, perhaps, some checks and balances have been put back in place between the athletic department and the university as a whole.

At least, that’s the vibe many got with the introduction of interim president Dr. Greg Postel, who has taken over the mess created, in part, by the school’s former president James Ramsey.

That vibe strengthened among many in the area when Postel apparently decided to spearhead an effort to pay higher rent to the Yum Center for being it’s main tenant.

Why? Well, it seemed that the university got a “sweetheart deal” the first time around that made it tough for the arena to pay off the arena’s $690 million loan.

And that’s not UofL’s fault that it signed that deal. We know that.

That initial deal – a deal put together by Ramsey, Jurich and others – was deemed by one current university trustee as a “bad deal, and we’re paying for that now,” according to a July 20 story from The Courier-Journal.

But, the new lease amendment, led by Postel, was to make sure the Yum! Center could stay afloat financially.

Ensuing reports came out that Postel kept Jurich in the dark about the lease renegotiations. WAVE-TV reported a “source also said the new deal represents a shift in power from the athletics department to the president’s office.”

Although Postel denied that claim, my guess is that’s one reason Jurich happiness at the University of Louisville isn’t at peak levels.

Postel has become a watchdog for the school. And we saw what happened when the school was without one. Not all of it was pretty.

And even if there is a “shift of power” going on at UofL, Jurich has landed on his feet.

Sure, a piece of neatly-knitted cloth may have to come down from the ceiling of a building where basketball is played. But look what’s left? Unwavering support of tens of thousands of Cards fans all over the Commonwealth and surrounding areas.

And, I mean this in the least aggressive manner possible, how many athletic directors around the country would survive the turmoil that, while not directly your doing, happened while on your watch?

Not many, if any at all.

That’s because of the behemoth Jurich is responsible for shepherding.

And I would wager a healthy amount that Jurich will continue to nourish his behemoth – even if he has a watchdog now.

I would be happy with my creation if I were the UofL A.D.

But, alas, it’s back to my recliner for more football.

Where’s my beer?

Want to find Zach on Twitter? Just follow @BigEZ. 

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The Final Say | The Offseason: Where We Celebrate Sports Hope

By Zach McCrite

To the regular human, there are four seasons.

And here we are, embarking on one of those seasons: summer. The sun shines (usually), the temperature is hot (most of the time) and the kids are out of school (have fun, parents).

That’s to the regular human being.

However, to most of you who would bother to flip to this back page to read the thoughts of this mind-wandering gasbag, there may be only three seasons.

Regular season. Postseason. Offseason.

And for a sea of fans wearing the Cardinal Red or the Wildcat Blue or the Hoosier Crimson who love their football or basketball, we are in the longest of those three seasons: the offseason.

Of course, it’s a bummer for most of you to not have actual games going on during the offseason. I feel the same way. The offseason drags when you don’t have something to look forward to watching.

But, especially with the advances in technology over the last decade and a half, many people have cashed in on your offseason boredom.

Offseason is now the recruiting season.

Many of you out there get so fired up this time of year. You want to know where the top prospects are going to go to school. You marvel at their ability to shake a defender or get fancy with their moves. With every “ooh” and “ahh” they make you belt out, you become more and more like a child who sees bubbles being blown for the first time.

You hope they go to your favorite team. You hope they shun the enemy.

And you create this vision of your team with that recruit on it, even though, except in the rarest of cases (perhaps like local basketball star Romeo Langford), you’ve only seen a 2-minute YouTube clip of any high-profile recruit’s very best moments from his high school career.

Don’t lie. You’ve done this. I’ve done it, too.

The offseason feels good. New players come in. Veteran players get healthy, fans get excited, and at some schools (ahem, Indiana) you get a new coach as a cherry on top. Every year, it feels like a new beginning.

And new beginnings spawn hope. Lots of hope. We hope with the “hopiest” of hopes. And it gives us the warm-and-fuzzies.

Now, don’t get me wrong, I like to hope, too. But I’m over this particular kind of hoping.

Too many times I’ve looked at that YouTube clip, I’ve looked at the recruiting rankings scattered all over the internet, I’ve imagined that awesome recruit on my favorite team. You have too.

And when that player shows interest in coming to play for our school, we tell our friends, “This is the guy.”

And like more summer beverages into summer beverage cooler, the recruiting services toss hope into our summer party. Even if our team is truly terrible, we start to believe anyway. Because “what if,” right?

Then, after the hopeful “offseason,” the best players commit to colleges all over the land and some of them may even go to your school.

And now it’s time for regular season. Ya know, actual games! And those recruits start playing in our favorite team’s jersey. And, it’s not nearly what we imagined. We were fantasizing about unicorns and lollipops and national championships. Instead, we got less than that. Almost every time.

Let me let you in on a little secret: the same thing happens with your favorite team as well.

In other words, all that chatter about those recruits coming in – it’s a ruse. It’s us being tricked into thinking that “this might be the year.” We fall for it every time.

And, hey, every once in a blue moon, it IS our year. Sometimes our favorite team got the right mix of new recruits and old savvy vets and the coach works his wizardry and — voila — we are the champions! But, it’s hard to win a national championship.

Only one team does. And come to find out, that mixtape someone threw on the internet about the recruit that ended up at your school? Well, turns out that guy, along with every other college recruit, makes mistakes on the floor (and sometimes off the floor, too). The guy who produced the video failed to get those mistakes into that mixtape, I guess (wink, wink).

And then the regular season ends, the postseason ends, and here we are in the offseason again.

And we rinse and we repeat. Because next year might be the year.

Look, if this is what you want to do, more power to you. I’m not saying you’re wrong for doing it. I’m just saying that, for me, it feels like an exercise in futility.

I’m not trying to be “Debbie Downer.” Far from it. I just have no idea what my team is going to look like even if we got every great recruit in the country to come to my team.

Newsflash: neither do you.

And in all honesty, the recruiting services out there that tell us how good each recruit is at basketball, they’re guessing too, albeit with more information.

Shoot, even the millionaire head coaches have whiffed on highly-touted recruits. Louisville fans remember Carlos Hurt. Kentucky had Daniel Orton. Indiana and Hanner Parea parted.

Yet, here we are, having seen very little of these college-bound kids ever shoot a basketball or catch a football, and we’re convinced that we’ll go far if they sign to play with our school.

Combine all of this with the fact that we’re grown adults following around kids who are barely old enough to drive.

Ah, you smell that? That breezy morning air? That fresh coffee? It’s that time of year.

There may be four seasons for Jane and John Doe and family. But, for the basketball- or football-crazed fanatic, there are only three.

And we’re in the longest season right now. The offseason.

It’s hopeful. And annoying.

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Everyone Else Has The Power Except The Student-Athlete In College Sports

By Zach McCrite

It’s a wonderful thing… if used properly. The problem with college athletics is that “power” and “properly” are never used in the same sentence.

We’ve lived in this world for quite some time now where the coach (and by extension, the athletic director who hired the coach) at a big conference school gets a ton of the money. Yet, the both of them are only mildly responsible for the product we pay to watch.

They are only mildly responsible for, let’s say, the $8.8 billion — with a “b” — contract that the NCAA made with CBS and Turner Sports for the rights to broadcast all of the NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament games. A lion’s share of that revenue trickles back down to the member institutions.

The ones largely responsible for the entertainment that makes March Madness a multi-billion-dollar industry? You guessed it. The student-athletes, most of whom aren’t old enough to legally have an adult libation.

Instead they are paid in education. They get to leave their university without being buried under a mountain of student loan debt. That’s certainly a blessing. And for a lot of you reading this, that’s a fair deal.

Well, not from where I sit.

Imagine Roy Williams, head coach of the national champion North Carolina Tarheels, has a blue-chip recruit in his office, trying to woo him to come continue to championship legacy in Chapel Hill.

I imagine Williams says something to the effect of, “There’s more to this than just winning titles and getting you to the NBA, son. It’s also about setting you up for life. Basketball won’t be around forever. You’ll get an education and be ready for the real world when it’s time.”

But, if you strip away the pomp and circumstance, I envision a truth serum-infused Roy Williams sounding more like this: “Son, if you come to North Carolina, you’ll be under my control for as long as you want to wear the Carolina Blue, and I truly think you’ve got the talent that will help me make millions of dollars and keep my legacy intact.

“Oh, and you’ll get to go to school for free.”

Look, I’m just using the Tarheels’ coach as an example. After all, according to USA Today, Williams just received a total of $925,000 in bonuses from the University of North Carolina during his run to a national title last month. But this happens all over college basketball. Rick Pitino earned an extra $425,000 in bonuses from the University of Louisville when the Cardinals won the 2013 championship (and another $375,000 from team outfitter Adidas). These bonuses may vary in value, depending on what program the coach oversees, but they are commonplace in the sport.

The coaches have the power.

What else is commonplace? The economic lift that Final Four host cities receive. The Arizona Republic reports that the city of Houston, the host of the Final Four in 2016, “benefitted from $300 million in direct economic impact.”

This is all on the backs of the unpaid, barely of-age labor.

Well, let me back up for a second. I guess the players do get a stipend over and above the benefits of a scholarship – as much as $5,000, according to the Kansas City Star. That’s with one comma.

Let’s call it what it is: “shamateurism.” Stay in our minor-league system for the NBA (the league that is in lockstep with college basketball so much so that they make sure no games are being played concurrently with the national championship game) for anywhere from one to four years. By the way, your coach can leave whenever he wants without penalty. If you do it, you’ll have to sit out a season.

The NCAA has the power.

Consider this: When most of these NCAA (sh)amateurism rules were written, television was barely even a part of societal consciousness. “Television deals” weren’t even a thought. “March Madness” was probably something more associated with St. Patrick’s Day.

And when those rules were written, players still received full scholarships while the schools and conferences for which those players played got next to nothing in terms of television revenue. In other words, the value of a scholarship for a student-athlete was a much bigger piece of the overall pie in the 1950s and 1960s. It was far more fair.

These days, the pockets of the university administrators, coaches, athletic directors and many more are overflowing thanks to the players lacing them up in front of a nightly, nationally-televised audience. Everyone is splitting all of this television money that wasn’t around when these rules were made.

Except the players mainly responsible for creating said revenue. They get a couple grand over with their scholarship, maybe.

Could you imagine the profits of a company going up by the billions and the employees of said company making just about the same amount they made a half century ago?

It would never happen.

I’m sure some of you are reading this experiencing a reaction to the effect of, “Back off! These players are getting something you can’t put a price on.” Fair enough. Why shouldn’t we pay them more?

Or, better yet, let’s start paying the millionaire. College basketball coaches in those priceless college credits instead of in dollars. Sound good?

But this is the construct we, the fans, have built for our own entertainment. And this is also the construct we, the media, have let be built for our own financial gain as well.

I am in a moral conundrum every time I watch a basketball game, get paid to talk about it or fill out a bracket. The same moral conundrum should be felt tenfold by the people who make the millions – with two commas – off of this same barely-paid labor.

And it’s why I wrote this.

Power is being abused.

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As Crean Departs, Let’s Be Excited and Grateful

By Zach McCrite

Indiana University basketball is back on the map.

Of course, it’s not quite the map Hoosiers fans we’re looking to find their team on. It’s the “hey, we’re back in the news” map, except it has nothing to do with winning. Tom Crean is no longer the men’s basketball coach at Indiana University.

And it’s very odd what it’s done to some of the fan base. It’s not very often you see a coach stay at a blueblood program for almost a decade, missing the NCAA Tournament more than they made it under that coach’s tenure, and not see almost universal acceptance of an athletic director’s decision to go in a different direction with their program’s leader.

But, such is the state of the program. There are plenty of good reasons that IU and Crean should have parted ways like they did. There are also, much to the dismay of the most staunch Crean detractors, reasons that Crean deserved to stick around in Bloomington.

Let’s lay out the facts.

Reasons Crean Deserves Support to stay at Indiana

Crean was just a year removed from bringing the Big ten regular season championship to Bloomington, the second time he’s done that. Obviously, the devil is in the details when it comes to the relationship IU fans had with their old head coach, but if you were armed with just this detail and nothing else, it would seem rather silly to call for the job of a coach who brought you a conference championship just one year prior.

Crean is a top-notch recruiter of talent. Sure, fans would love to see more Indiana-born players don the candy stripes. Nevertheless, Crean finished first (2013), third (2014), fourth (2015) and third (2016) in the Big Ten in recruiting, according to 247sports.com. No other team in the Big Ten has been in the top four in each of the last four recruiting cycles.

Crean’s IU teams were consistently unlucky. According to KenPom.com, the foremost authority in college basketball analytics, eight of Tom Crean’s nine IU team’s have finished in the top half of college basketball’s unluckiest teams, including being ranked 12th-unluckiest team this season (as of the end of the first round of the NCAA Tournament). That’s out of 351 Division I teams.

The injuries were gut-punching. You certainly can’t blame a coach for freak injuries that were downright debilitating, like the way OG Anunoby tore up his knee in a non-contact injury at Penn State this season. Collin Hartmann, a regular starter in 2016, had his own knee injury that’s kept him off the floor (save for senior night when he proposed to his girlfriend, which was pretty cool) this entire year, as well.

Crean revived the program. It’s the kind of sentence that Crean detractors hate to hear or read – that Crean had to wipe the slate clean and rebuild a historically successful program from ground zero. Crean will always hold a soft spot in the hearts of many of IU’s most loyal fans because of what he did to make the Hoosiers relevant again.

Reasons Crean Deserves to be Fired 

2017 is the third season with at least 14 losses in the last four seasons. Those are the kind of numbers reserved for the first four seasons of a coach’s tenure while trying to rebuild a program, not the last four seasons.

no true point guard. Of all the praise Crean deserves for his recruiting, the one place he’s whiffed recently is at point guard. Now, it’s a monumentally tough task to replace someone like Yogi Ferrell, perhaps the most beloved player of the Tom Crean era at Indiana. But, we all knew the Hoosiers were going to have to replace Ferrell eventually. And if not for Josh Newkirk deciding to transfer from Pittsburgh, who knows where the Hoosiers would be in this department. Either way, there is no excuse for the way this position has underperformed in 2017.

The turnovers. This is the one that bothered me the most as an Indiana fan. Indiana turned the ball over to their opponent on 21.4 percent of their possessions this season. Among major conference teams, only one team was worse in the entire country (Oregon State). If it were isolated to just one season, that’d be one thing, but this is an epidemic in Bloomington under Crean. The Hoosiers have turned the ball over on at least 19 percent of their possessions in eight of Crean’s nine seasons, consistently finishing in the top ten most turnover-proned major-conference teams in the country.

rebuilding…again. In many different occupations, when you are helping to improve the company you work for, many businesses will give you some leeway time – a learning curve, if you will – to get things going. You may even be given a reprieve if things start to crumble around you. But it’s tough to be given a reprieve from the same boss twice. This is where we were with Crean. He had escaped the firing line more than once. It was tough to keep escaping.

In other words: once on the hot seat, always on the hot seat.

So, there you have it, a quick snapshot of the pros and cons of Tom Crean. Do with them what you wish.

However, there is just one thing I truly hope for out of the IU fanbase, of which I am a part.

I hope IU fans are thankful. You know, there are now kids in high school that have never seen an Indiana team play in the Final Four. That’s a bummer for IU fans, but Crean made that possibility legit (some seasons) and brought the program back to a spot where Kentucky fans, Kansas fans, North Carolina fans, Duke fans and many others had to pay attention to the Hoosiers again. His success also ignited boosters to get out their checkbooks and make major upgrades to Indiana’s previously-antiquated basketball setup. Let us be grateful.

Because Indiana University basketball, in one way or another, is back on the map.

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Your Guide To March In A Hoops-Crazed Region

By Zach McCrite

People always claim that certain non-December times of the year are their own “Christmas.” I am no exception. March is my Christmas.

I, admittedly (and sadly) pay less attention to my family in March than any other month. Moreover, I probably get less work done in March than any other time of the year. The good news: that holds true for many others in my extended family and in my workplace.

However, there are tips to make this work. Tips that I have cultivated over a long period of time. Tips that I now hand over to you, fellow college basketball-lover, to get you through this awesome month when others close to you have wondered where you have wandered.

After all, it is Christmas… better to give than to receive.

Here we go.

Tips for the married March Madness fanatic: If you want your life to be OK during the month of March where you may not spend as much quality time with your spouse, then it’s time to start building up brownie points now before the tournament begins. My tip: Wash everything. Your gender matters none. Just wash everything.

That’s the big deal in my house, at least. I have come to find out that if I wash anything, whether it be clothes, the dishes, the car, the baby, the high chair – it doesn’t matter – if I wash it, things go better between me and my wife. Brownie points are earned. Start washing everything.

Also, it’s time to let your spouse know right now, right as you’re reading this that these days are now marked off the calendar if they aren’t already. They are March 8 to 12 (that’s conference tournament time, which, as of this writing, may be the only way my Indiana Hoosiers make the Big Dance) and March 16 to 19 (that’s the first and second round of the NCAA Tournament).

Block out the time in your family calendar. Mark it “Christmas” and don’t let it be changed. If you’re a pro, you did this long ago. But, if not, do it now. If there is any function that your spouse wants you to attend during these time periods, let the other know that the only valid functions you will attend must include a ticket to a venue where basketball is being played.

Tips for the March Madness-crazed parent: Wash your kids (see above).

Also, if you have the type of kids that want to watch basketball with you during the month of March, by all means, have at it. This is a great time to nurture the relationship with your child while doing something you love. But, if your friends have an “no kids”-type thing going on for the NCAA tournament (and that might be the case), here’s a special workaround: reserve the conference tournaments as “kid time” for watching March Madness. That way, when it’s time to belly-up with your adult friends for the first and second rounds the following weekend, you’re in the clear. Let your kids know of your plan up front.

Tips for the spouse that doesn’t much appreciate their significant other being gone the entire month of March: Your significant other should have already accrued brownie points at the beginning of the month. If not, they’ll make it up to you. You’re just going to have to trust me on this.

Tips for the March Madness-obsessed employee: If you have vacation time, now is the time to use it.

Pro tip: The earlier you schedule the time off the better. As March Madness approaches, other employees are going to be requesting off left and right. The earlier you schedule your time off, the more likely it is to be approved. Do it now.

Also, when it come to the first “real” day of the NCAA tournament – Thursday, March 16 – you can probably get away with just taking a half-day off of work. Work until noon, when all the games tip, and then be off for the rest of the day. And if you’re into conserving your vacation days, take another half-day off on Friday… unless you really like to enjoy your Thursday, in which case you should take all of Friday off.

Tips for the bosses of the March Madness-obsessed: Your employees don’t want to be at work during the first and second round of the NCAA tournament. That’s just how it is. Let them all use their vacation days, even if it means your “numbers” will be down for the month because – newsflash! – , your numbers are going to be down anyway on the account of it being March.

Either let them use their vacation and get less output, or make them come to work and get less output. Same result either way, except the former makes you look like an awesome boss whom they will work harder for in the future because their employees respect you (and leaves them with less vacation – a win for you, Mr. Boss!). The latter just gives your March Madness-immersed employees another reason to hate you (and they get to keep that vacation time).

Tips for the March Madness bracket-filler-outer: Fill out one bracket. ONE! Then throw that bracket into as many contests as you want. No one wants to hear you say “I picked that 15-seed to win in one of my 38 brackets and guess what? THEY DID! Respect my hoops genius!” No one.

Also, don’t overthink your bracket when you fill it out. Everyone else is. These days, picking mostly favorites is akin to going “against the grain” and who wouldn’t like going against the grain with favorites in their back pocket.

Merry Christmas!

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A Letter to My Children About Playing the Game

By Zach McCrite

In my last column, among other things, you learned that my wife, Brittany, and I are expecting another child in July, exactly two years after the birth of our first child – a baby girl named Remington (as time goes on you’ll continue to learn more about the lovable, yet sometimes delirious band of misfits known as the McCrites).

I reiterate that point because I want to do something that I’ve always promised myself I’d do when I became a dad: tell my kids what kind of parent I am going to strive to be while they participate in team sports.

I never had the notion of making it public, of course. But, I figured, why not? I’ve spent most of the last 15 years coaching girls volleyball, specifically ages 14 to 18, to varying degrees of success.

And since I’ve become a parent myself, I’ve come to know the unconditional love of which parents speak.

It’s that merging of “coach” and “parent” that makes me want to let my children know, up front, exactly what kind of parent I’m going to strive to be as they hit the teenage years.

(DISCLAIMER: This is in no way meant to be some referendum on how you should parent your child. Hopefully, you knew that already. This is a letter to my kids, made public only to create healthy dialogue.)

Here we go.

Dear Remi and Kid-To-Be-Named-Later, As I write this, I’m in the upstairs office (that now doubles as a playroom, of course) while your mother is downstairs carrying Kid-To-Be-Named-Later in her belly and cleaning in between Remi’s requests for milk and crackers and more Paw Patrol on the TV.

Before we know it, both of you are going to be playing team sports of some sort. Maybe basketball or volleyball or football or soccer or cheerleading. Hopefully all of them!

As you’ll find out, competition will increase with time. I don’t mean “the talent of opposing teams” (although, that will surge, too), but I mean competition between you and your teammates for playing time, especially in high school.

When this happens (and given the combined lack of athletic ability of your parents, you’re fighting an uphill battle), I want you to know that I promise to listen when things don’t go as you expect. I promise to be there every step of the way. I promise to be your vent. 

And, I also promise to mold you into the young adult that will confront these situations head on. That’s right, you. Not me.

You see, I was a coach once upon a time. Luckily, I was blessed with hundreds of parents who either accepted my coaching style and the role their child received on the team or made sure their kids were the ones who met with the staff if there were any displeasure.

But there were a small number of parents that wanted to get involved themselves. When they did, sometimes it went well. Sometimes it didn’t. Either way, almost always, the child never felt truly comfortable again. Why?

Because, when the parents got involved, If the meeting didn’t produce the results they liked, the parents became angry and vented to their child about how they shouldn’t listen to the coach anymore, which can kill a team’s chances at true success. They also vented to parents of other teammates which, eventually, the kid heard about at school. If the meeting went well, the child felt like any extra playing time was not truly earned.

Either way, the parents always meant well. It was just unforeseen consequences conceived from unconditional love for their child.

So, with that as a backdrop, I’m letting you know up front, when it comes to playing time, I will not be talking directly to your coach.

One of the main purposes of high school is to help train you to be a functioning (and hopefully successful) adult. There’s no better way help you learn how to become an adult than to put you in tough, real life, adult situations.

Sports provide great preparation for real life. Example: Eventually, you are going to get thrown out onto a basketball court and the ball is going to hit you in the face because, well, you probably weren’t quite prepared. But sometimes, you have to be put in the situation a couple of times to know how to react down the road. Each time you’re out there will prepare you better for future adversity.

The same holds true for real life, adult situations like having to have a tough conversation with someone. You may not be truly ready that first time you want to speak to a coach about your playing time, but it will be a learning experience for when you might have to have a real-life, uncomfortable conversation, perhaps in a work environment with your boss.

In the meantime, I hope you are grateful that you are both healthy and able to enjoy team sports, especially after your mother and I have experienced seeing one of our children suffer from congenital heart failure and undergo open heart surgery as a four-month-old. I, too, will remember to be grateful for such moments. Some kids, sadly, aren’t as fortunate.

I also hope to teach you that being a good teammate will make your mother and me more proud than any other sports-related accomplishment you’ll have.

I promise to laugh with you after funny moments, to mourn with you when losses feel like death (they’re not) and give you all the advice you could ever want (and probably more) about how to have an adult conversation with a coach about how to earn more playing time.

But I won’t be getting involved directly with your coach. Please know that it’s only because I love you so much.

Forever,

Dad