A disturbing trend is emerging with midseason firings, more thoughts
As a general rule, ADs should vow not to fire coaches during the season
The story behind Manny Harris' ejection for a flagrant foul against Purdue
The best guard in the Big East might surprise you, and my AP ballot
Let's nip this one in the bud, shall we?
I am hereby proposing every athletic director print out a letter, sign their names and mail them into the Hoop Thoughts, Inc. corporate offices, otherwise known as the home of the Conscience of College Sports. The letter should contain two simple sentences:
I hereby pledge never to fire a coach or ask for a coach's resignation before his or her season has concluded, except under extraordinary circumstances. I understand "extraordinary circumstances" to include egregious personal behavior, the commission of a major NCAA violation or some other circumstance which is not related to the athletic performance of a coach's team.
There. End of trend.
I am only half-kidding here. I am really inviting ADs to publicly take this pledge. This letter would not be legally binding, just a statement of principle, but it would be better than nothing. Because in the wake of Alabama coach Mark Gottfried's resignation (cough cough) on Jan. 27 and the firing of Georgia's Dennis Felton two days later, I fear in-season coaching changes will only become more frequent. After all, two such changes were also made last year, when Oregon State dumped Jay John on Jan. 20 and LSU replaced John Brady on Feb. 11. In both cases, permanent replacements were not hired until after the season. Four firings in two years might not technically qualify as a trend, but it's not hard to see one emerging.
If we can't force ADs to take my pledge, then we should all do our best to shame them into abiding by it. Because replacing college coaches before their season is completed is not only shameful, it is cowardly. The only reason to do it is to pull the plug on an uncomfortable situation. It certainly does not enable an AD to hire a better coach. I can appreciate the difficulty of having a revenue-generating program being run by a dead-man coaching, but that is no excuse for taking the easy way out. Yes, college athletics is a multibillion-dollar business, but these are still supposed to be educational institutions. I would think there is value in teaching student-athletes the importance of finishing what they started, even when it's hard.
So if athletic directors from coast to coast won't officially sign on to this new policy, then I am calling on conference commissioners and NCAA honchos to stand up and make themselves clear that they believe these in-season firings should be avoided whenever possible. Because if this does turn out to be the start of something new, it will also be the start of something very bad.
Other Hoop Thoughts
Oklahoma guard Willie Warren is challenging Georgetown's Greg Monroe for national freshman of the year. Warren, who is averaging 15.5 points on 39.4 percent shooting, scored 29 points during the Sooners' win over Iowa State on Saturday.
I know what the RPI data says, but I find it hard to believe that by Selection Sunday, Notre Dame won't be one of the top 34 at-large teams in the country. That said, a win at UCLA on Saturday would go a long, long way.
Speaking of the Irish, it might surprise you to learn that even though Notre Dame played Texas and North Carolina in the Maui Invitational, its nonconference strength of schedule is ranked 284th in the RPI. That's because they also played four teams ranked below 300 in the overall RPI rankings. Just goes to show once again that in the RPI, bad teams will hurt you more than good teams will help you.
The best part about the emergence of Washington freshman point guard Isaiah Thomas is that Justin Dentmon, who has played out of position at point guard the last two years, can now move to the wing full time. It's amazing how much more comfortable Dentmon looks at that position. I'm also pleased to see that Quincy Pondexter has committed himself to being a hard-nosed glue guy.
Michigan is ranked last in the Big Ten in three-point percentage, yet it is ranked first in the conference in three-pointers made. That tells you the Wolverines are emphasizing something they shouldn't be. I also had a Big Ten head coach recently mention Michigan has had a hard time getting Deshawn Sims and Manny Harris to have good games at the same time.
While we're talking about Michigan, here's a little background on referee Jim Burr's decision to call Harris for a flagrant foul (which causes an automatic ejection) when he swung his elbow and caught Purdue guard Chris Kramer on the nose. Two weeks ago, John Adams, the NCAA's supervisor of officials, addressed part of his monthly memorandum to his concern about "a reluctance of officials in all conferences to call intentional personal and flagrant personal fouls when warranted." Adams specifically addressed situations involving "excessive swinging of the elbow" -- in other words, elbows that have been swung in a way that is not a "regular basketball move." In those instances, the referee's call depends on whether or not contact has been made. If there is no contact, the player is supposed to be whistled for a violation -- the other team gets the ball, but no foul is called. If contact is made, as was the case with Kramer, the player is supposed to be automatically called for a flagrant foul. In other words, if you excessively swing your elbows, you cannot be called for a simple personal foul. It's either a violation (no contact) or an ejection (contact).
Furthermore, Burr also worked last week's Wisconsin-Purdue game in which Wisconsin forward Joe Krabbenhoft blatantly leaned into Purdue guard Lewis Jackson on this play while setting an illegal screen which resulted in Jackson sustaining a concussion that caused him to miss the Michigan game. So it's fair to say that Burr had a heightened awareness about this whole issue. Adams told me that the Krabbenhoft play could lead to a new rule next year requiring officials to go to the monitor in a situation where an injury has occurred, even if a foul wasn't called. In the meantime, Adams is going to recommend officials do just that in the meantime. Keep in mind that in those situations, the refs can only use the monitor to determine whether they can see a flagrant foul or a combative act/fight. They cannot use the replay to justify calling a personal foul that wasn't whistled when the play actually happened.