[Moderated by Matt Jones]
There are only 3 sport-related things that can come on a television screen that will result in my immediate flipping of the channel: The “X” Games, the Dan Le Betard show on ESPN (why, oh why is that allowed to be on television?), and a basketball game between two SEC West schools. The combined scored of an SEC West basketball game is often less than that of a Pac-10 football game or a Shaun White 360. Actually, I have no idea how they score anything Shaun White does. I give his new gum a zero though. Back to SEC West basketball. When you read that previous sentence, was the visual a little grainy? Did the aesthetic quality just feel a little less than other games in other conferences? Because when I flip by an SEC West basketball game on TV, I swear it just looks cheap. It looks like the 5-6 games per season that Kentucky plays on Jefferson Pilot (it’s not called that anymore, but I’m a sucker for nostalgia…and corn rows), except every SEC West game is on a network like Jefferson Pilot. Why? Because no one wants to watch it. I suspect that even Renardo Sidney’s Mom dreads having to watch his games on television, perhaps for a variety of reasons. Hey, TV adds 10 lbs. right?
My point here is not that SEC West basketball sucks. Actually, that is always the point. My bigger point though is examining how many quality coaches, who were in the midst of success at other programs, decide to take their talents to the SEC West. In what world is the SEC West an upgrade? I am continually baffled when I hear a coach leaves a school like Missouri (sup Mike Anderson?) for a school like Arkansas. How is that an upgrade? Arkansas hasn’t been relevant in 20 years. Missouri was on the cusp of a major breakthrough, which has now reached fruition as they are a mainstay in the Top-5 this season. Add to that the fact that rumors HAD TO HAVE BEEN circulating that Missouri was going to make the move to the SEC. I just don’t buy that Mike Anderson and Missouri had no insight into the possibility of that move happening. If Anderson did know, and he still chose to make the move to Arkansas instead of joining the SEC East the next year with a loaded Missouri team, well…he deserves the slow, painful coaching death he will meet at Arkansas.
Mike Anderson is not alone in the pile of SEC West lame-duck coaches that are sitting on a heap of mediocre basketball players, at schools where people would rather watch football ESPN Instant Classics than show up for a home game in a sub-par sized arena. Let’s take a look at a few other coaches who have attempted to upgrade (and failed, in my opinion) by moving to the SEC West:
Trent Johnson (LSU)
Johnson left a thriving Stanford program in 2008 for LSU. Stanford had just earned a #3 seed that year in the tournament, making an appearance in the Sweet 16. While I’m sure coaching at a prestigious school like Stanford may have some recruiting limitations, at least California is a hot bed for talented basketball players. I understand Stanford not being the “dream coaching job,” but I wouldn’t necessarily call taking over a struggling LSU a dream job either. LSU has a strong history in basketball, with coaching legend Dale Brown and excellent “is he really a cop?” cop Shaquille O’Neal. Even with that, to me, the move seemed lateral. Johnson’s success has been limited already. He benefited from an awful SEC West and a handful of leftover players when he took over in 2008, leading LSU to the second round of the NCAA tournament and the SEC West title. Congrats, Trent Richardson (I literally made the error of typing an Alabama football player’s name instead of Trent Johnson’s…that is not a coincidence). How are things going for you now? Still sitting middle of the pack in arguably the worst division in the BCS? You should have waited for a better job opening, Trent.
Anthony Grant (Alabama)
I will surely be met with resistance when I say that Anthony Grant’s success at Alabama has been overrated and over-hyped. Some will say, “They have been ranked nationally most of the season,” or “They are always at the top of the SEC West,” or “They deserve to be in the NCAA Tournament every year, even if they selection committee screws them.” To that, I counter: They always start the season ranked nationally and then slowly but surely put together a string of head-scratching SEC losses (see recent 4 game losing streak they finally broke against Arkansas). They are always on the top of the SEC West because the SEC West has teams like Ole Miss and Auburn who can’t score 40 points on a regular basis, in an entire game. If they “deserve” to be in the NCAA Tournament every year, always getting screwed by the “bubble” in March, then why don’t they prove enough with wins during the season and a strong run in the SEC Tournament to take themselves off the bubble? I’m tired of hearing them complain every year. Do something about it or enjoy being a top seed in the NIT. Anthony Grant is a great coach. He has a pretty decent thing going at Alabama with a brand of defense that can be successful against a lot of teams. Until he moves Alabama past being a “bubble team” though, I will question why he wants to coach (get ready to notice a pattern..) at a football obsessed school. Grant had a good and consistent thing going at VCU. Grant, like
Richardson Johnson, probably could have held out for a better opening.
I’m sure plenty of people will disagree with me that the 3 coaches mentioned above (Anderson,
Richardson Johnson and Grant) cannot be successful in the SEC West. Only time will tell, but so far they have done more to prove me right than to prove me wrong. The SEC West plays a boring style of basketball. The SEC West is a football conference and always will be. The SEC West is quite frankly the last place in the entire world I would ever go to coach if I were a college basketball coach on the rise, looking to upgrade.
@AllyTuckerKSR Follow me, everything is alright. I’ll be the one to occasionally tweet super late at night…
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