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Coaching: Quagmire vs. Solid Ground

The situations are arguably analogous.

Certainly illuminating.

In this fellow’s opinion, absolutely illustrative.

Indiana and Louisville both had big wins this week. The Hoosiers was bigger obviously, over its arch rival after nine straight losses in front of a rabid sold out crowd. The Cardinals, in front of a smattering of fans over a team it should have beaten but had to beat after three straight losses

IU was led by a career underachiever who had a career game and hit the game winning shot. Rob Phinisee.

U of L was led by a career underachiever who for the first time this season displayed a hint of his considerable promise. Jae’Lyn Withers.

Both players had talks with their coach before the game.

Here’s the rub.

Indiana coach Mike Woodson, a Hoosier lifer last seen smiling, arms raised in triumph, being escorted through the celebratory throng in Bloomington, was the instigator of conversation who called Phinisee in for an extended pep talk.

It was Woodson, doing what knowing coaches do, providing a player encouragement.

Phinisee: “I actually had a talk with Coach Woodson before shoot-around today, and he told me just if no one else is in your corner that he is in my corner. We had a really good talk before shoot-around, and that just really boosted my spirits. Finally. We finally beat Purdue.”

It was Withers, wondering what he needed to do for more PT, who went to Mack for an explanation.

As opposed to, you know, the other way around.

Even after the game, Mack, sullen and prickly as is his wont, was understated in his praise, such as it was.

“He wasn’t perfect tonight by any stretch of the imagination. He was much better and gave the coaching staff more confidence keeping him in there.”

Yes, I’m down on the coach of my team.

I believe, given the totality of circumstances facing the program and university, he ain’t goin’ nowhere. Even if the season totally crumbles.

At his combative pregame press conference, he admitted he had not contacted any mentors or fellow coaches to see if he might get fresh insight on how to deal with the Cards’ malaise.

I just wish he’d be willing to look at his own methods, and be willing to adjust.

That simply doesn’t seem to be Chris Mack’s modus operandi.

* * * * *

For those who believe Mack could be terminated for cause, because of those minor NCAA sanctions he allegedly committed, take a look at what happened with UConn and Kevin Ollie.

The university fired its former national championship winning mentor for cause, refusing to pay him an $11 million buyout. The NCAA found the school, and Ollie individually, guilty of violations.

Ollie sued the school. It went to arbitration. Where the arbitrator, it is my understanding, was convinced the NCAA was wrong, that the sanctions against Ollie were not legit.

And, thus ordered UConn to cut Ollie a check for $11 mill.

Hear what I’m sayin’, Cardinal fans?

* * * * *

It is my fondest hope that U of L turns it around, finds success and makes the tournament.

My hope against hope is that Chris Mack joins his two predecessors, and wins a national title for the Ville.

But, right here, right now, on a cold cold gray January morning, I’m sorta pissed, and just not feelin’ it.

— c d kaplan