University of Tennessee

Assigned Reading: It’s tough to ascend the coaching ‘ladder’

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One of the most interesting aspects of the offseason in college basketball is the coaching carousel, with the movements at the top of the chain (head coach) leading to a trickle-down effect that is even felt by those on the lower rungs of the ladder. There are your grad assistants, video coordinators and directors of basketball operations, who work hard every day to put themselves in position to earn an assistant coaching job.

But things don’t always work out that way, leaving staffers to weigh their goal of making it as a college coach with the reality of the situation. One person in that spot was former Tennessee director of video scouting, Mark Pancratz. After beginning his time in Knoxville as an assistant to Bruce Pearl in 2006, Pancratz made the tough decision earlier this week to move on. Brendan F. Quinn’s (Knoxville News) column on Pancratz’s decision captured what the coach had to address in making the decision.

Over a 20-minute conversation Tuesday, Mark Pancratz darted and zipped from one point to another. There were rumblings out there that he had resigned as Tennessee’s director of video scouting. I called and simply asked, “Are you out?”

No follow-up questions were necessary. Pancratz ran away with the conversation. He lamented over his lack of progress in the coaching profession. He recounted the malaise he felt walking into Cuonzo Martin’s office the day he quit. He talked about being scared of finding himself years down the line as a 35-year-old father of two working as a No. 3 assistant making nickels at an out-of-the-way, never-heard-of-it program.

Pancratz wrote about the matter himself, labeling it as the “toughest decision of his life,” and I’d encourage you all to give it a read. For every coach who makes that triumphant ascension up the coaching ladder, there are many more who struggle everyday to simply take the next step.

POSTERIZED: Cal’s Jaylen Brown has his dunk contest entry

California's Jaylen Brown lays up a shot against Oregon State in the second half of an NCAA college basketball game Saturday, Feb. 13, 2016, in Berkeley, Calif. (AP Photo/Ben Margot)
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Cal picked up a big win over Oregon State in Haas Pavilion on Saturday night, and the exclamation point was this emphatic dunk from Jaylen Brown:

Niang, Morris lead No. 14 Iowa State past No. 24 Texas

Iowa State forward Georges Niang drives past Texas guard Tevin Mack, left, during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game Saturday, Feb. 13, 2016, in Ames, Iowa. (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall)
AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall
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After falling at Texas Tech for the second straight season midweek, No. 14 Iowa State needed to bounce back with No. 24 Texas visiting Hilton Coliseum. The return of Jameel McKay, who was suspended for two games, certainly helped the Cyclones and the play of Georges Niang and Monte Morris was key as well. But the biggest difference on this night was the fact that Iowa State was able to limit the effectiveness of Texas point guard Isaiah Taylor.


Taylor scored just nine points on 3-for-14 shooting from the field, and with Morris and Niang scoring 24 points apiece the Cyclones won by the final score of 85-75.

Taylor had multiple opportunities to make plays around the basket thanks to his ability to beat defenders off the bounce, but he struggled to finish. Add in a 0-for-4 night from three, and Texas’ most dangerous offensive option was unable to duplicate his performance in the first meeting between the two teams. In Texas’ 94-91 overtime win over the Cyclones January 12, Taylor scored 28 points and dished out six assists with just one turnover, shooting 11-for-17 from the field.

Four Longhorns finished in double figures, with Tevin Mack and Javan Felix scoring 18 apiece, but with Morris decisively winning the point guard matchup Texas was unable to pick up the win on the road.

For Iowa State the aforementioned tandem of Morris and Niang performed as they did in the first meeting, which should come as no surprise. What helped them, especially when it came to Texas attacking the basket, was the presence of McKay. McKay finished the game with eight points, seven rebounds and four blocks in 22 minutes of action, and to have their best interior defender back on the floor certainly helped the Cyclones on this night.

With their lack of depth Iowa State’s margin for error is small, especially when it comes to foul trouble, injuries and disciplinary reasons. Even with Texas’ size advantage Iowa State outscored them in the paint 48-34, and McKay’s defensive ability factored into that. The Cyclones can put points on the board with the best of them, but at some point they’ll need to string together stops as the games get even bigger.

Iowa State managed to do that down the stretch, with Morris and Niang running the show offensively. And that’s a good formula to be able to rely upon as the season approaches its most important month.