Outside the men’s room: A rock and a hard place

By Kirk Haaland, Blogger I have an inner conflict brewing. You know, the one that was depicted on cheesy sitcoms in the late 90’s by having a miniature devil version of oneself sitting on one shoulder and a miniature angel version of oneself sitting on the other shoulder, immersed in a deep dispute.

A coach is ultimately judged by wins and losses. That’s just the way it is. But wins and losses often don’t tell the entire story. Stats, facts, and data often tell the story behind the wins and losses and those are the items that I look for to truly understand what is going on. As an engineer, that’s just the way I operate. Show me the data. So envision with me now miniature “show me the data” Kirk sitting on one shoulder and “gut feeling” Kirk sitting on my other shoulder. (Bear with me here while we have another week and another 500 or so words from me on where Greg McDermott stands in my mind.).

As we sit here today, there is very little evidence that exists that would provide anyone, any hope that Coach Mac will work out at ISU. I said earlier this season that if he couldn’t succeed with this roster that I wasn’t sure he would ever be able to in Ames. I have also said in the past that I think McDermott is starting to rebound from that first scrambled recruiting class that completely vanished by the end of his second season. I’m not here to make excuses for Coach Mac, I’m simply here to state the facts, and Coach Mac himself has said that he probably would’ve gone about recruiting that first class differently when looking back, in hindsight.

I know the McDermott bashers like to bring up the attrition in the program because “he is ultimately responsible for who he recruits”. While this is true, I simply cannot pin every life decision of an 18-23 year old on a basketball coach. I’m sure some things could’ve been handled differently, but as many have said before, I have to wonder how much the Wes Johnson situation affected McDermott’s coaching in the long-run. If you want to bag on McDermott for his short-comings in the win column—by all means, that’s fair game—I just can’t put all of the attrition on his shoulders.

Walking away from the Kansas State game, I felt at least a tinge of promise. Not satisfaction, but promise. I don’t really know why. The team played well in many areas including rebounding and free throw shooting—two areas of great struggle this year (McDermott must’ve finally made them practice those two skills)—except they didn’t shoot the ball all that well. It was another close loss to a ranked team that could’ve been very big for the program and this season’s team as well. But I am starting to feel better about this team, despite losing five of their last six. Maybe it’s outrageous optimism or maybe it’s just blind faith, but either way it’s my feeling on the situation.

When McDermott was originally hired, I wasn’t exactly excited. I didn’t have another favorite in mind, but I had my doubts about Coach Mac. But he gradually won me over with how he has proven to strategize in games. There isn’t a single facet of the game that he doesn’t prepare for or situation in which he is not ready. Sometimes I wonder if he relies too much on playing the odds.

I distinctly remember going to a game when Larry Eustachy was coaching during my freshman year of college at ISU and him constantly yelling at Jake Sullivan to get open. At the time my thought was, “why don’t you set some more screens for him coach?” But Larry wanted him to work harder and get open the hard way. I have to wonder if McDermott would benefit from that attitude a bit. Instead of rationalizing in the post-game about why certain things happened the way they did (which is usually good information and insight) and say “screw it, go work harder.” You know what I mean?

We all know that it is pretty unlikely that any changes will be made in the near future. I don’t know how much time McDermott should be given to reach an arbitrary win quota for a given season. If anything, it is probably an economic decision, unless total apathy in the fan base sets in. It’s maybe creeping in for some people, but not the majority by any means. Until there is a drop in ticket sales to the point where revenue lost is greater than that of the buyout, McDermott is probably safe.

As I pointed out in a thread last week, McDermott’s buyout is much more than just the buyout sum. It is also the buyout for the assistants, the likely buyout for any new coach, the salary for the new coach, and the opportunity cost (Econ 101 anybody?) of using that money in those areas instead of in support of the men’s basketball program, or any other program in the ISU AD that we all like to keep successful. What if the buyout cost us the money needed for a Christy Johnson-Lynch need or a Paul Rhoads demand? That’s not to say a change should never be made, but there are many considerations to keep in mind.

Regarding the KSU game… As I said earlier, I thought for the most part that the team played well. It is a bit puzzling that the defense has struggled so much this year. Giving open looks to all the wrong guys that McDermott claimed was a matter of losing focus for a matter of seconds, not minutes.

Although it was another close loss, it really seemed to me that we didn’t catch many breaks by the bounce of the ball or the whistle of the officials. It doesn’t take long for frustrations to mount when you feel you’re being slighted by the zebras (although I’d never claim for that to be intentional). One call that specifically bothered me was in the second half when Brackins was backing his guy down. The defender flopped and no call was made until Brackins tripped over the player on the floor with his next step and traveling was the call. Really? If that’s the case, I think I have a new defense to try on Wednesday. Let’s baseball slide on the floor in front of the Missouri players that have the ball so that when they trip the traveling call can be made. Completely asinine, right? Officiating as a whole seems to be more horrid than usual this year. Often out of position and apparently with the aid of x-ray vision when they can see through players and make a call out of their area.

The football recruiting class While there have been some disappointing developments since Signing Day with really no surprises that came in the positive form, the class as a whole was still very good. Losing Cqulin Hubert to Texas Tech at the last minute will hurt, as well as the potential for losing out on Floyd Mattison, who apparently double-signed with Blinn Community College. Those are two linebackers who were going to potentially make an impact next season that are no longer in the fold (it should be noted that there appears to still be a chance that Mattison will be at ISU in the fall.

The loss of Chris Ash as secondary coach and recruiting coordinator to Wisconsin was the other big news out of the Jacobson Building last week. Coach Ash was a quality member of the staff who has his own aspirations of moving up the coaching ladder. Plenty of rumors are swirling as to why he would make a lateral move by position title, but the two most likely explanations are that he is probably making more money and he wanted to diversify his experience with BCS schools.

Grapplers and women’s basketball The wrestlers and the women’s basketball team just keep on winning. The wrestling program was the first to notch 1,000 dual victories after beating Arizona State on Sunday 30-10. It was a big win but there were disappointments with Andrew Long losing a big lead in the third period, giving up three near fall points three times to lose 12-10. Jerome Ward also lost in disappointing fashion giving up two points from stall warnings.

The women’s basketball team blew Missouri out of the water early and often as an opening act for the Superbowl. Watching that game the Iowa State women were playing so well that it literally looked like Missouri was not even trying and that they just didn’t want to be there. Trivia Time

Last week’s question: Who are the only two Cyclone men’s basketball players to lead the team in scoring their freshman, sophomore, and junior seasons?

Answer: Marcus Fizer and Curtis Stinson. Incidentally, neither of them led the team in scoring their senior seasons because they both left early for the NBA.

This week: Who was the last conference opponent in men’s basketball to have a player score more than 40 points against the Cyclones?