More Tournament Thoughts

The last time West Virginia was in the Final Four was 51 years ago.  Jerry  West was on the team then.  Jerry West’s son is on the current team.  I don’t have a calculator in front of me, but I think that means that Jerry West had a son when he was about 51 years old.
Generally, I think coaches get too much credit for their teams’ success (and, often, too much blame for their teams’ failures).   When a coach leads his team to glory, people treat the coach like he’s brilliant.  Even when the coach subsequently winds up coaching teams that are mediocre, or even bad, people rarely question whether that coach is among the best.  Think of Bobby Knight, who achieved some great success at Indiana, but then fell off at Indiana, and couldn’t approach that level of success at Texas Tech.  Or think of Billy Donovan, who caught lightning in a bottle at Florida.  He hasn’t proven that he can win with a different group of players, but few question whether Donovan is an excellent coach.

I’m not sure why it is.  The best reason I can think of is that when we grade coaches, we put some of them in an “elite” group, and, once they are there, we don’t really spend time distinguishing among them the way we distinguish among players.  When people talk about John Wall, Evan Turner, or DeMarcus Cousins, the conversation doesn’t just end by saying that they’re all excellent — the conversation turns into a conversation about who is the best / who should be drafted highest.  The point is even clearer when you think about pros.  People don’t just say that Kobe, LeBron, and D-Wade are really good; they argue about which one is the best.  But, with college coaches, people are generally happy to say that someone is one of the best, and stop there — that elite group generally includes Coach K, Jim Boeheim, Roy Williams, Rick Pitino, Donovan, Ben Howland, Tom Izzo, Jim Calhoun, and maybe Huggins, Calipari, and Bill Self (there might be a few others, but that’s generally the crew).  We don’t usually spend much time arguing about whether Roy Williams is a better coach than Billy Donovan, whether Donovan is better than Pitino, whether Pitino is better than Boeheim, etc.

That’s a long-winded way of hoopserving that coaches are often designated as being awesome, and then they aren’t really critically analyzed after that.  And the only reason I’m making this point is to then make the point that Tom Izzo is a freaking machine.  Six Final Fours in 12 years.  Wow.  Props to Tom Izzo from a guy who thinks coaches are too often overrated (and who is incapable of explaining why in fewer than four paragraphs).


The funniest dude in the tournament was Steven Pearl on Tennessee.  My man was rocking a mohawk.  He averaged 1.5 points and 1.3 rebounds per game for the season.  And, what a coincidence… he has the same last name as his coach.

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