Sunday, February 19, 2006

College Basketball Fans Stunned As No High-Profile Coaches Resign Over Weekend

With just two weeks remaining in the regular season, college basketball fans are eagerly awaiting the drama of March Madness.  Compelling storylines are abundant as we turn to the homestretch.  However, this weekend was notable for what did NOT happen.  Amazingly, the entire weekend passed without the resignation of a high-profile coach.



The tranquility of the past three days stood in stark contrast to the preceding week.  Missouri coach Quin Snyder began the turnover on February 10, stepping down in the midst of a hugely disappointing season.  Conference rival Eddie Sutton followed suit five days later, turning over control of the Oklahoma State program – and hopefully his car keys – to son Sean.  On Thursday, Indiana coach Mike Davis announced his resignation - effective at the end of the season - and denied rumors that he plans to officially change his name to “Not Bobby Knight.”



Reached for comment, Big XII commissioner Kevin Weiberg refused to confirm that no conference coaches resigned over the weekend.  Having seen Snyder and Sutton step down, Weiberg assumed that a third coach would soon follow suit.  He briefly believed that changes had taken place at Nebraska and Kansas State, with Barry Collier and Jim Wooldridge, respectively, taking over on an interim basis.  Weiberg was shocked to learn that both Collier and Wooldridge are in their sixth season as head coach at those schools.  Still holding out hope that a resignation was out there, the commissioner then asked, “Well, didn’t Bobby Knight do something nutty this weekend?”  Told that the Texas Tech coach had not, Weiberg lamented, “Oh great, I lost another bet!”



Big East commissioner Mike Tranghese also felt it was too soon to say with certainty that none of his conference’s coaches had quit.  “We have something like 36 schools in our league now, “noted the commissioner.  “Do you really think I can keep track of them all?”  To emphasize his point, Tranghese admitted that he had found out just last week that South Florida is now a Big East member.



The coaching turnover has placed Iowa coach and former Indiana star Steve Alford squarely in the spotlight.  However, Alford certainly will not leave his current position during the season – if he does at all.  Still, members of the media will continue to hound the Hawkeyes coach with questions about the opening at his alma mater.  At a press conference after Iowa’s upset loss to Minnesota on Saturday, one reporter asked point-blank, “Coach, are you leaving Iowa City for Bloomington?”  Alford responded that his attention is entirely focused on his Hawkeyes at the present time.  After a pause, the reporter followed up, “Okay, are you leaving NOW?”  Another writer brought the focus back to basketball, inquiring, “Coach Alford, you have a week off until your showdown with Illinois in Champaign.  After today’s loss, what will you emphasize to your team in practice and – are you leaving NOW?”



The uneventful weekend is sure to please commentator and coach’s advocate Dick Vitale.  Dickie V has lobbied the NCAA to enact legislation prohibiting any coaches from ever being fired.  Vitale denied being soft on coaches, pointing out that his proposal calls for a mandatory one-game suspension for any coach who commits murder or masterminds a terrorist conspiracy.  In the meantime, he has his commentary template ready for the next coach who resigns under pressure: “ _____ is a special, special guy.  He is a huge asset to the coaching fraternity and won’t be out of a job for long.  And as great of a coach he is, _____ is an even better person.”



Now the focus turns back to the on-court action.  Traditional powerhouses such as Arizona and Syracuse are fighting for their tournament lives.  However, they add no such excitement to the coaching turnover watch.  Alas, the jobs of Hall of Fame coaches Lute Olson and Jim Boeheim are safe.