Posted: 3:43 a.m. Monday, Oct. 7, 2013
When we posted our response to Mike DeCourcy on Saturday, largely because we were very tired, we didn’t to a very good job, so please forgive us while we revisit that.
DeCourcy’s argument is that recruiting played the main role in the recent decline of the ACC; ours held that it was coaching. To back this up, we pointed out that former ACC coaches Gary Williams, Les Robinson, Herb Sendek, Sidney Lowe, Dino Gaudio, Frank Haith, Al Skinner and Paul Hewitt all recruited future NBA caliber players or at least players who had shots at the NBA (this was also true for former Virginia Tech coach Seth Greenberg and former Virginia coach Dave Leitao), but, with the exception of Williams, rarely managed to coach reasonable talent reasonably well.
|Old coaches||New Coaches|
|Al Skinner at BC 247-165 (.600)||Steve Donahue 46–52 (.469)|
|Oliver Purnell at Clemson 138-88 (.611)||Brad Brownell 51–45 (.531)|
|Paul Hewitt at Georgia Tech: 190-162 (.540)||Brian Gregory 27–33 (.450)|
|Gary Williams at Maryland 461-252 (.647)||Mark Turgeon 17-15 (0.531)|
|Frank Haith at Miami: 129-101 (.561)||Jim Larranaga 49–20 (.710)|
|Mark Gottfried 48–24 (.667)|
|Dave Leitao at UVa: 63-60 (.512)||Tony Bennett 76–53 (.589)|
|Seth Greenberg at Virginia Tech 170-123 (.580)||James Johnson 13–19 (.406)|
|Dino Gaudio at Wake Forest: 61-31 (.663)||Jeff Bzdelik 34–60 (.220)|
We used the chart to the right to illustrate our point (we’ll come back to that in a moment).
Of the recent coaches, Gary Williams made two Final Fours and won a national championship, although after that, his success eroded sharply: the following year, Maryland made it to the Sweet 16 after just barely nipping Wilmington. That was the last time a Williams team has made it that far. Maryland was consistently in the post-season after that but that includes three NIT trips, three sixth place finishes in the ACC and two seventh place finishes. In his final year, there was no post-season play. By that time, many fans and many in the local media were calling for him to step down.
Paul Hewitt made one Final Four in 2003-4. Between 2000-2001 and 2010-11, his team missed post-season play five times. Other than the Final Four run, the Yellow Jackets never made it past the second game. This despite considerable talent: he had Chris Bosh, Will Bynum, Javaris Crittenten, Derrick Favors, Jarrett Jack, Gani Lawal, Anthony Morrow, Glen Rice, Jr., Luke Schenscher, Iman Shumpert and Thaddeus Young and all played, or still play, in the league.
Oliver Purnell was fairly successful at Clemson – we admired his teams – but has never won an NCAA tournament game. That’s 0-for-career. However, he won at Clemson: in his first four years, Clemson’s record improved every time out. And after that, the Tigers won 25, 24, 23, and 21 times, making the tournament the last three seasons.
Frank Haith never finished above .500 at Miami and only got to 8-8 once. In eight seasons, he made the NIT four times and the NCAA once, making it to the second round. In his first season at Missouri, he lost in the second as well.
Like Gary Williams, Al Skinner’s success faded at the end. A 2005-06 Sweet Sixteen was his high mark; he missed altogether in two of his last three seasons. At the end, fairly or unfairly, the Boston Globe eviscerated his tenure and essentially questioned his desire to coach.
The less said about Les Robinson, Herb Sendek and Sidney Lowe the better. But in fairness, Robinson coached under NCAA (and N.C. State)-induced duress and only made the NIT twice in five seasons. His Pack never finished higher than ninth in the ACC.
To his credit, Herb Sendek led State to post-season in all but one year. His best performance was a Sweet 16 in 2004-05.
Yet he scheduled very cautiously, bringing in opponents like Lipscomb and Elon, games which typically drew less than 5,000.
In the end, terrible opponents and fans sick of that and a deadly dull offense made Sendek want to leave for Arizona State, where he’s been winning at a modest .591.
Lowe just never seemed to fully grasp the college game, ironic since he played it very well. He had his moments, but State never made much noise: the Pack won 20 games his first and fourth season but otherwise won 15, 16 and 15. Yet he had some significant players as well: Lowe signed JJ Hickson, CJ Leslie, Richard Howell and drew Lorenzo Charles to State.
When Dave Leitao left Virginia, he left players unhappy and alienated, according to UVa beat writer Jerry Radcliffe, and at least one player’s family as well. Former players also felt shut out. He came across as a grim and humorless man and worse, someone who some felt came close to abusing his players. He didn’t have as much talent as some of his contemporaries, but that was perhaps partly due to his own charms (or lack thereof).
Seth Greenberg coached at Long Beach State and South Florida before Virginia Tech. He made the tournament twice at LBSU, never at South Florida and once at Tech (2006-07). He did make the NIT five times while at Tech.
Unfortunately like Sendek, he also put together very weak schedules. In his best season (2009-10, 25-9), Virginia Tech scheduled Brown, UNCG, Campbell, Delaware, VMI, Penn State, Charleston Southern, UMBC, Longwood and NCCU.
They also scheduled Temple, Georgia and Seton Hall. Temple finished 29-5, losing to…Steve Donahue’s Cornell in the tournament. Georgia finished 14-17, while Seton Hall finished 19-13.
That’s as close as his Hokies ever got. No one currently expects Virginia Tech to make the field every year, but once in a while? Like Clemson? Surely.
Like Clemson, Virginia Tech is a tough place to recruit to. Yet Greenberg had some very talented players, Erick Green, Dorenzo Hudson, Dorian Finney-Smith, Malcolm Delaney, Zabion Dowdell, Jamon Gordon, Deron Washington and Coleman Collins among them.
As for Dino Gaudio, he was sort of the accidental head coach, taking the job only because his great friend Skip Prosser tragically died of a heart attack.
Before he died, Prosser put together a promising class, featuring Tony Woods, Ty Walker, Farouq Al-Aminu, who joined Jeff Teague, Ishmael Smith and James Johnson. Johnson, Teague, Smith and Al-Aminu were all in the NBA soon.
Before they left, though, that core put together one of the more astounding runs in ACC history. Check it out:
|Year||W/L||ACC Tournament||NCAA Tournament|
|2008-09||L||Maryland, 64-75||L||Cleveland State, 69-84|
|2009-10||L||Miami, 62-83||W||Texas 81-80|
Gaudio’s post-season record was 1-5. Better than Purnell, surely, but less impressive when you consider that the winning teams outscored Wake Forest by an average of 17.2 ppg.
Now as we said, while DeCourcy faulted recruiting, we faulted coaching. So how are the new guys doing?
Well, to look at the winning percentages on the chart, not so hot once you get past the top.
Jim Larranaga has been outstanding at Miami, Mark Gottfried has won at State and Tony Bennett has done fairly well at Virginia.
Larranaga had Miami at #2 in the polls last season and has long since established his bona fides, not least of all with his brilliant Final Four year at George Mason. The only knock on him is starting a new program in his 60′s.
Gottfried’s team was seen as a disappointment last year, but he has won 24 games in each of his first two seasons and has been recruiting at a high level. State may dip this year, having lost a lot of talent, but things have clearly changed in Raleigh.
Tony Bennett has won despite a modest collection of talent and an unfortunate number of injuries. He has (ahem) recruited well and nationally, bringing in Justin Anderson, Teven Jones, Mike Tobey, Evan Nolte, Anthony Gill, Malcolm Brogden, London Perrantes, Akil Mitchell and Darion Atkins.
|Jim Larranaga 49–20 (.710)|
|Mark Gottfried 48–24 (.667)|
|Tony Bennett 76–53 (.589)|
|Brad Brownell 51–45 (.531)|
|Mark Turgeon 17-15 (.531)|
|Steve Donahue 46–52 (.469)|
|Brian Gregory 27–33 (.450)|
|James Johnson 13–19 (.406)|
|Jeff Bzdelik 34–60 (.220)|
Oh, and Joe Harris, a kid from rural Washington most people had no clue about.
Give Bennett credit and ask yourself: with a fully healthy roster and significant talent – Harris, Anderson, Tobey, Mitchell, Atkins, Gill and Brogdon are all outstanding athletes who could play just about anywhere – what could Virginia do? We know the Cavs play brutal defense. What happens when they’re capable of high-flying fast breaks too? And how much better could high athleticism make their defense?
Brad Brownell has struggled at Clemson to an extent, but it’s worth pointing out that at at Wilmington, his teams were 24-7, 15-15, 19-10 and 25-8. Remember that dramatic Maryland win over Wilmington in 2003, as mentioned above? That was Brownell’s team, taking the defending national champs to the absolute limit.
At Wright State, he never won less than 20 games a season.
His record has declined each year at Clemson, but anyone who follows basketball knows he has great respect within his profession. We fully expect that he will do well at Clemson and certainly playing the Tigers isn’t going to be pleasant while he’s there.
One year isn’t much to go on with Mark Turgeon, and the Terps are gone after this year, so who cares?
It’s worth mentioning that he’s an outstanding coach and recruiter. He’ll get the job done, sooner rather than later.
He won consistently at Wichita State. That’s a basketball school and success is expected. But Texas A&M? Hardly. Yet in four seasons, he never won less than 24 games (he never won more than 25, which he did his first year).
Given the talent in the DMV, and his desire to recruit, expect Maryland to do well, in whatever conference.
When he took over at BC, Steve Donahue willingly took on a very young group in his second year, including about 11 freshmen. There was no way that was going to pay off quickly, and though BC improved in 2011-12, that many freshmen need time to mature.
The 9-22 season distorted his success. In his first year, Donahue won 21 games with Al Skinner’s returnees.
Last year? The Eagles were nearly back to .500, with a one-point loss to hot Miami and a one point loss to #4 Duke.
There was also some exciting talent: Ryan Anderson, Eddie Odio and Olivier Hanlan are all potential All-ACC players.
Keep in mind, too, that BC lacked a healthy Dennis Clifford for the entire year and that Anderson had a significant foot injury which slowed him after a sensational start.
Remember also that Donahue took Cornell to nearly 30 wins and a Sweet Sixteen appearance in 2010. At Cornell!
Brian Gregory has a significant rebuilding job at Tech but comes to the job well trained: he has three Final Fours under his belt, courtesy of Tom Izzo and Michigan State, beat UNC for the 2010 NIT title while at Dayton, and has won losing season at Tech (his first, 11-20) and one winning season.
More to the point, he has been improving Tech’s talent.
Tech returns Daniel Miller and Kammeon Holsey, neither an All-Star but both useful and at times quite good.
Jason Morris, Chris Bolden, Stacey Poole, Marcus Georges-Hunt and Robert Carter add to a solid core. Solomon Poole, transfer Trae Golden (Tennessee), Corey Heyward, if he’s healthy, give Tech multiple options at the point. Another good class is being put together featuring (so far) Ben Lammers and Tadric Jackson.
That leaves us with James Johnson, and the jury is out. He’s a one-year coach whose team had flashes las year. He’ll have to recruit well to compete in the ACC.
As for Jeff Bzdelik? Well…as noted above, despite great talent, Wake’s program was corroded under Gaudio. After he was fired, the NBA talent was already gone. What was left was problematic.
JT Terrell ultimately left after a DWI. Tony Woods left after beating his girlfriend. Ari Stewart provided, allegedly, bad chemistry. Tony Chennault went home following a family illness. Melvin Tabb was dismissed after being charged with breaking-and-entering and possession of stolen goods and obtaining property by false pretense.
Walker stuck around but never lived up to expectations.
Bzdelik, arguably, got stuck cleaning up Gaudio’s mess (and took incredible heart, too).
Last year, Wake finished 13-18 and struggled on the road, as you’d expect from a young team.
The Deacs were very much in the game with UConn before losing by six, should’ve beaten Richmond and Seton Hall, lost at Virginia Tech by one, lost to State at home by two, to Duke at home by five, lost to BC by three, and lost to Georgia Tech by one.
Let’s say an experienced team split those games and beat Richmond, Seton Hall, Virginia Tech, BC and Georgia Tech.
That’s 17-14, which is respectable after where Wake’s been.
This year, the Deacs should win some of those and more too.
There is a talented but still-young group, with a backcourt of Codi Miller-McIntyre and Madison Jones (both sophomores), big men Devin Thomas, Daniel Green, Andre Washington, Aaron Rountree, Tyler Cavanaugh and Arnaud William Adala Moto, senior Travis McKie and freshman Greg McClinton on the wings.
Freshman Miles Overton will help too.
There’s a lot of talent on this team we expect and many of the returnees will be vastly improved.
So there you have it: our revised (and extended) response to what we see as DeCourcy’s misreading of the ACC’s recent struggles.
We expect that most of the new coaches are going to be considerable improvements. They seem to be recruiting fairly well and their fans (although not Wake’s, at least not yet) seem excited.
In short, good things are happening up and down the ACC, and you can put most of it down to improved coaching.