A lot of the other bloggers are putting up their thoughts on yesterday’s defeat, a bit of emotional exhibitionism that I just can’t resist.
I realized, after the Mississippi State loss, that the wind was entirely out of my sails. I tried (and, more or less, succeeded) in summoning a small breeze through relentless youtubing of great Vanderbilt moments.
I tried to think positively, especially about AJ Ogilvy, whose twitter feed I really need to unfollow, lest I continue making connections between his choices in music (exclusively terrible whiny pop-punk) and movies (Beauty and the Beast), and his post play.
I forgive Ogilvy any errors for many reasons:
- He was not the biggest let-down in the Murray State game.
- He seems like a very sensitive guy.
- Bashing on college kids, though my natural tendency, is not cool, unless they have proven themselves to be morally corrupt people.
Now, unfortunately, I have one person who, I think, can be blamed for both losses, and, if you must, bashed a bit for them:
Now. Before you jump on me (or Stallings) consider this:
- Stallings is my favorite coach in the world, and I don’t want anyone else at the helm, ever, unless, perhaps, Stallings voluntarily leaves for Purdue and UNC boots Roy Williams.
- I am blaming Stallings for the final two losses of the 2010 season. I would also readily blame Stallings for every win of the 2010 season.
- Kevin Stallings is the man.
Both of those final losses were poorly coached. In both games, we had significant advantages that we failed to exploit through our game plan. Keeping Beal out of most of the Miss State game? Putting Jenkins in the post? Having Goulbourne defending the final shot of the Murray State game? Keeping AJ on the bench? PRESSING? AGAINST A TEAM OF GUARDS? I fall quite short of a basketball wonk (which explains why the Vendidad is a mostly bad-photoshop-based blog), but for both of those games, I struggled to find moments where the person I wanted with the ball had the ball.
It was uncharacteristic of Stallings, so I’d rather not draw any conclusions. It’s just something I noticed. On to the next issue:
This team has had a leadership issue all year. Our athletic leaders—Beal, Taylor, and Ogilvy—have struggled to fill that void, which is not entirely anyone’s fault. In all my interactions with Beal, I’ve found him to be quiet; in games, he rarely got vocal and emotional on the court. Taylor, too, seems to be an incredibly gifted player, but not much of a commander or emotional leader. And Ogilvy, despite his penchant for double technicals, rarely seems to be at the helm.
But the man who is paid quite a bit of money to be this team’s leader, Kevin Stallings, must be held accountable, on some level, for this issue.
In early games, The team would come out flat and discombobulated, only to put together some incredible second halves. Late in the season, the second halves dropped off. I have to think that Stallings, in some way, isn’t motivating the team the way some coaches do.
Part of that is what I love about Kevin Stallings: he’s a nuts-and-bolts, blue-collar coach. He’s not interested in loudmouths or thugs on his team, and he’s not interested in stirring controversy or getting infractions. He just loves the game of basketball, and for the most part, his coaching style shows that. Consider the Stallings time-out style: always reluctant to call time outs to “cool off” the other team, never reluctant to use a time-out to make mechanical adjustments. The prior shows a belief in biorhythms and mild superstition. The latter shows a belief in schemes, matchups, mechanics.
It’s that non-flashy, tried-and-true methodology that I love about Stallings. So I don’t really want him to change his style.
But this team was a perfect reflection of that style: impressive on paper, but often flat, disinterested, and cold, unprepared for a hot little team to put our pants on the ground. It’s how we played in every one of our losses (save UK, which was a bad shooting night, plain and simple), no matter the stakes.
So for “NEXT YEAR” to be the “NEXT YEAR” we’re all dreaming of, Stallings needs to look through his personnel and find an emotional leader. Steve Tchiengang plays with heart, but he isn’t enough of an athletic leader to rally these troops. John Jenkins, perhaps, could have the mix of voice, skill, and emotion to lead the team, but he still feels young to me.
Let me know your thoughts. Who’s it gonna be?