CBT Exam Week Essays: Choosing the next coach at UCLA

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For college students and college basketball fans, Exam Week is the worst week on the schedule. For students, this week is the culmination of three months worth of procrastination, cliff notes and wikipedia. For college basketball fans, it’s the lightest week of hoops action we will see all season.

With so very little going on this week in terms of action, the staff at College Basketball Talk is going back to school. Over the next five days, the CBT Staff will be responsible for answering an essay question in one of five different subjects.

The first subject of the week is Sociology.

UCLA is, historically, one of college basketball’s most successful programs.
If you could hire any coach in America to rebuild the Bruins in terms of wins, respect and fan support, who would it be, and why?

By David Harten

First, one must take away all obvious candidates, because those candidates, who are currently in life-long positions or positions that they currently have no interest in leaving, wouldn’t take the risk. That includes Jim Boeheim, Mike Krzyzewski, Rick Pitino, John Calipari.

Ben Howland needs to be let go by the Bruins. He did very well in his more formative years with three-straight Final Fours and some solid, character-based recruiting class, but that time has passed. The players either don’t respect him, don’t want to play hard for him, or both. There is too much turmoil surrounding that program and too many players have left the team to justify another season, short of a four Final Four run this season, which would take a miracle. Every coach has a limit at a program, just look at Bruce Weber at Illinois.

So who is the one person that could revive the storied UCLA program, short of a hologram John Wooden? One had to factor in a few things.

The first has to be that he’s been a winner at all stops, mid-and-high major. Secondly, he has had to have run a clean program, at least to the point that an athletic department doesn’t have to look over its shoulder for the NCAA on a yearly basis. Third, the recruiting ties to the right regions have to be there as well. And if he’s new to the area, the question becomes, can he build enough relationships to plant roots in new areas? The final, but just as important question is, are his players good people? When they graduate/exhaust their eligibility, do they keep themselves in line as citizens?

It’s with all these criteria that the best candidate would be Gregg Marshall at Wichita State.

For one, Marshall has proven his success on multiple levels. In his first job at Winthrop, Marshall went 194-24 in nine seasons at Winthrop and has gone 109-60 in five seasons as the head coach of the Shockers, with an NIT title in 2010-11 and an NCAA Tournament berth. He’s building a resume at a school that had been down. He fits the bill for a coach who is primed for a move up.

He inherited a team that took a dive after Mark Turgeon left due to mass transfers. After an 11-20 season, Marshall has built the program back with his players and his way. Now, he’s finally seeing the benefits.

He also runs a tight ship. Players graduate and they stay out of trouble. The team plays both half-court and full-court schemes with discipline. He scouts junior colleges relentlessly, something UCLA rarely does but should now due to the influx of high-major talent there, and also makes serious runs at Top 100 recruits in the prep ranks, including getting Fred Van Vleet this season. He currently sports players on his roster from all over, including Minnesota, the Bahamas, Canada, Las Vegas and Alabama. He lands them from all over.

He’s an east coast guy, but he’s been able to establish recruiting roots at every stop he’s been at. The man deals in relationships, something of a lost commodity in college sports. He knows how to get what he wants, and does it with both parties smiling.

Marshall is also a great X’s and O’s coach. He recruits tons of wings and combo guards to run a solid motion offense built around getting to the rim. You think west coast kids who grew up on the Lakers and run-and-gun offenses won’t love that?

Bottom line, Marshall is the coach that knows what he’s doing. He can fit in anywhere, get the players he needs and then move them to do what he wants. You’ll never hear about the program being in the dump and you’ll never have to worry about his team’s commitment to him.

Gregg Marshall is the man to lead UCLA, should Howland be let go. He’s most definitely a candidate no one saw coming, but plenty of those type of coaches have had great success. He’ll do it and he’ll do it his way.

Professor’s Notes: Gregg Marshall is a phenomenal choice. His track record of running a clean program and recruiting high-character players would be a blessing at UCLA. You cover all the grounds and provide enough statistical evidence to support your opinions. Points are being docked for the copious use of contractions. Also I would have liked to see the more names of coaches who seem to be “lifers”, i.e. Mark Few, Tom Izzo and Tom Crean.

GRADE: A-

Kentucky fans flood Facebook page of official John Higgins’ company with negative reviews

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Unhappy with how John Higgins performed at his part-time job, Kentucky fans did their best trash him at his full-time gig.

The Facebook page of the referee’s Omaha-based roofing company was flooded by Big Blue Nation with negative comments and reviews after they were displeased with the official’s work in the Wildcats’ Elite Eight loss to North Carolina.

Not only did fans leave obviously fake and vulgar comments on the page, they also deluged it with one-star reviews to drive down its average significantly.

Once again, the Internet is struck by its proportionality problem. What could be considered a silly bit of online pranking by a small minority suddenly turns into an avalanche of nastiness that could do real damage to someone’s life, business and family, given the importance of social media for companies in 2017. It becomes cruel when it reaches a level like this.

When there’s so many general complaints about the state of officiating in college basketball, it’s also not helpful to do something like this to one of the referees generally considered to be one of the country’s best. It’s not exactly a glowing endorsement for prospective future officials to follow the career path if it brings this level of negative attention to you off the court.

Report: North Carolina to miss out on NCAA events through 2022 if HB2 not addressed by Thursday

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North Carolina is in danger of losing out on hosting NCAA events through 2022 if the state does not make changes to HB2, the controversial so-called “bathroom bill” by Thursday afternoon, according to the leader of the Greater Raleigh Sports Alliance.

“I have confirmed with a contact very close to the NCAA that its deadline for HB2 is 48 hours from now,” Scott Dupree, the head of the Greater Raleigh Sports Alliance, said, according to the Raleigh News & Observer. “If HB2 has not been resolved by that time, the NCAA will have no choice but to move forward without the North Carolina bids.”

“The NCAA has already delayed the bid review process once and has waited as long as it possibly can, and now it must finalize all championship site selections through spring of 2022.”

The NCAA, as it reminded North Carolina last week, is making its determinations on hosts for events from 2018-2022 this week. There was movement last week at the North Carolina statehouse for a compromise on the bill, but that apparently stalled out, the News & Observer reported, though there remain efforts to make progress on a pact.

Should lawmakers not reach an agreement in time, the state’s flagship basketball programs will be without an NCAA tournament home-court advantage that they have often enjoyed. HB2 just this past year moved the first and second rounds out of the state and to South Carolina, where No. 2 seed Duke lost to the seventh-seeded Gamecocks in their home state.

Clearly, there’s much more to consider here than NCAA tournament implications, but it’s another reminder of the economic impact the bill has made in North Carolina. This week, The Associated Press estimated it will cost the state $3.76 billion over a 12-year period.

Baylor’s Freeman to graduate and transfer

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Baylor is losing one of its contributors over the past three seasons.

Al Freeman, a 6-foot-3 guard, will graduate and transfer to another school, the Bears announced Tuesday.

“Al has been a tremendous student-athlete and made great contributions to our program over the last four years, and we’re thrilled that he’s going to complete his degree at Baylor,” Bears coach Scott Drew said in a statement. “He’ll always be part of the Baylor family, and we’ll be rooting for him as he continues his career.”

Freeman, who redshirted his freshman year due to a broken wrist, started 57 games during his career in Waco and averaged 8.6 points and 2.6 rebounds per game. He was a full-time starter as a sophomore, but made just 22 this past season and saw his minutes slashed.

As a graduate transfer, the Charlotte native will be immediately eligible at his next program for his final collegiate season.

Xavier sophomore Edmond Sumner declares for NBA Draft

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Xavier sophomore Edmond Sumner has declared for the NBA Draft and is expected to sign with an agent.

“First let me start by saying these three years at Xavier have been the best of my life,” Sumner said in a statement. “I have certainly been presented with some ups and downs but they have only served to make me a stronger person. This decision was very hard for me because of the love I have for X. After weighing my options with my family, I have decided to enter the 2017 NBA Draft, fulfilling a lifelong dream. I want to thank Coach Mack and the rest of the staff for believing in me and giving me a chance when no one did! I’ll always be grateful for that. Xavier Nation I will always love you!”

Sumner, a 6-foot-6 point guard with dynamic athleticism and first round potential that averaged 15.0 points, but he is coming off of a torn ACL that he suffered in January. He’s likely to be a second round pick in this year’s NBA Draft.

This is a big loss for the Musketeers, but it’s one that they planned for. After his eruption last season, most expected him to put his name in the draft this season.

Duke freshman Harry Giles III declares for NBA Draft

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Harry Giles III has declared for the NBA Draft after playing just one season at Duke.

“Playing in the NBA has been my goal for as long as I can remember, and I’m so excited to take the next step in that journey,” Giles said. “My time at Duke has been a dream come true. I’ve built so many strong relationships here and I have so many people to thank, from my teammates and coaches to our medical staff and strength coach. I can’t understate how proud I am to be part of the Duke Basketball program forever.”

Giles played in 26 games for the Blue Devils. He started six games and averaged 3.9 points and 3.8 rebounds, but the numbers don’t tell the whole story with Giles. At one point considered to be the best player in the loaded Class of 2016, Giles has dealt with a pair of devastating knee injuries already. He underwent a third surgery right before the start of the season and never seemed like he was fully able to get back to being the player he was when he was in high school.

This is the right decision for Giles to make, as there is still some uncertainty regarding the health of his knees. Were his struggles due to the fact that he was tossed right into the middle of a college basketball season after having sat out for 14 straight months, or was this simply a result of knees that no longer allow him to be the player that he used to be?

He might still end up being a first round pick this year. At the very least, he’s make some guaranteed money if he can get into a camp. Maybe returning to school could have helped vault him into the lottery in 2018, but another year like this year would’ve firebombed his draft stock.

“With his uplifting personality and love for the game, Harry Giles has been a joy to coach,” Duke head coach Mike Krzyzewski said. “He is only beginning to scratch the surface of how good he can be on the basketball court. Harry has an exciting NBA future ahead of him and we are here to fully support him as a member of our brotherhood.”

I know I’m not alone when I say I hope that Giles gets healthy and succeeds in the NBA.