Monday, December 04, 2006

Hoops at various levels

Let's talk basketball.

  • First, we'll discuss the mighty Team 4 of the Irondale Basketball Association in-house 5-6 grade program. That would be my son's squad, which now stands at 0-4 following a 40-32 loss to mighty Team 1. The kids played better on Saturday and Ben got on the board, making a free throw. It's fun to watch the kids play, although they continue to struggle. I think we'll see them win at least one game this season, but they need more experience. They are getting it the hard way now. But hope springs eternal.
  • Meanwhile, there's an even more desperate team in the Twin Cities, the not-so-mighty Minnesota Golden Gophers, who have lost to the likes of Marist, Montana and (gulp) Winona State so far this year. These accumulated outrages were enough to cost Dan Monson his job. Monson has been trying to clean the Augean stables for seven years following the academic scandal that chased Clem Haskins out of town. Monson ran a clean program, but he could not effectively recruit the talent necessary to compete in the Big Ten, which has become an even tougher league than it used to be. Jim Molinari, Monson's top assistant, gets to coach the Gophs for the remainder of the season. Molinari was successful at the mid-major level, leading competitive squads at both Northern Illinois and Bradley, but he doesn't have a lot to work with, and he won't get much time either. You can win at Minnesota, but it's going to take better institutional support and someone who can recruit well to do it. I'm not sure Molinari is that guy.
  • Steve Aschburner's Sunday feature in the Star Tribune made note of an interesting phenomenon - the Kevin Garnett sympathy meme. Apparently it's a horrible shame that Kevin Garnett, who has soldiered on for the Timberwolves since 1995, is now in danger of going throughout his career without having a chance to win a championship. This is silly, of course - Garnett has been fabulously well compensated for his labors and while he is probably one of the 50 best players in the history of the NBA, he has not been able to exert enough leadership to get his squads to the top. I appreciate KG and have enjoyed watching him, but I don't think there's any reason to feel sorry for him.


Stinger said...

There are a couple of factors that explain why KG will likely never get a ring in Minnesota. One, Kevin McHale is not a good GM. He has made bad picks in the draft (William Avery, Paul Grant, Ndudi Ebi, etc), and made that really stupid illegal deal with Joe Smith. He has bungled this franchise to the point where it will take a few years to get it back to where they can truly compete for a championship.

But, the biggest reason for KG not getting a ring is KG. I'm sorry, but when one player takes up that much cap space, it makes it very difficult to build a team around him. And, the Wolves are in a tough spot. They can pay him more than anyone else, but I highly doubt that the union would allow KG to take a significant pay cut to free up cap space. Thus, it is extremely difficult to build a team around him.

Bottom line on the Wolves: It's hard enough to build a team when all you really have is the mid-level exception every year. It's really hard to do when your GM makes an illegal deal with a middling player and gets draft picks taken away from him. But, the worst thing for the Wolves is that McHale has not done well with the few picks he was allowed to use. And, that is why the Wolves struggle, and why KG is going to have to leave Minnesota to get one.

As for the Gophers, change in the athletic program needs to take place at the top...Joel Maturi has to go. It does not matter to me that a new football stadium is going up under his watch. It is only a 50,000-seat stadium. I think even Northwestern's stadium is bigger. He has given contract extensions to ineffective coaches like Monson and Glen Mason. He didn't keep tabs on Pam Borton and the women's basketball team, and that program has run amok. Which is really bad considering they were close to breaking even as a team financially, which is miraculous. These days, I pretty much equate the Gopher athletic program with what was happening in the 80s down in Madison. I don't know if the department is in the dire financial straits that UW was in back in the 80s, but it wouldn't surprise me in the least if it was. Minnesota needs an athletic director that dreams big...much like Pat Richter did down in Madison. Joel Maturi is not it.

As for Team 4, they'll get better. Hopefully they can get a win or two before it's all said and done. Unfortunately for them, they remind me of the vaunted Westside Eagles of 1986-1987. Tried really hard, but just couldn't get it done most times.

Mark said...

Hey stingah,

Gotta agree with you on all of that, especially your take on Joel Maturi. As a Big Ten athletic director, he makes a fine high school basketball coach. The vaunted Westside Eagles? Oh, how I wish I'd seen that squad.