That’s all Kansas State basketball fans want to be. They want to be a part of the conversation; to see the Powercat splashed on some nifty national sports graphic; to hear the K-State name just mentioned one time during a broadcast.
Last week showed that too many fans were and are willing to employ some gimmick to do so. Whatever last week was (and I’m still having trouble wrapping my head around it), it broke up with common sense and jumped right into bed with desperation.
And, there was no reason for it because this program is too strong for that these days.
Thankfully, it is clear K-State athletics director John Currie didn’t even glance at the obnoxious social media and message board pleas for Doug Gottlieb. His short-lived campaign was the strangest piece of all to last week, stranger than many K-State fans’ wanting to look past the fiery bridge on which Frank Martin sprinted as he left Manhattan and placing him on a pedestal as he went; stranger than the burn-him-at-the-stake mob mentality for John Currie; and, finally, the ridiculously negative feedback to Bruce Weber.
What it came down to with Gottlieb was this: Nobody in the country, aside from some K-State fans and Gottlieb himself, took this seriously. When it was mentioned in other college basketball conversations that I heard, it was met with a quick smirk and something along the lines of “oh, that’s nice.” And, that’s how a sizable portion of KSU fans should have approached it. But, they didn’t. They really, actually truly wanted this to happen. Listen, folks, didn’t you already get sucked into the “he talks real pretty” once? Didn’t you already have your “I have a plan,” no real experience, trial-and-disaster with Ron Prince? (Heck, maybe that’s not fair to Prince. At least he had some real assistant coaching experience.)
Still, somehow, those who jumped in with both feet in support of Gottlieb felt like Currie had let them down even more, that he was completely sabotaging the basketball program by not hiring their sudden champion. In their minds, Currie was hastening the irrelevance of the basketball program by not hiring a television analyst with no experience. Maybe they were right. K-State basketball would have been relevant in one fashion at that point…as people pointed and laughed.
But, still not done, after Bruce Weber was named head coach last Saturday, those same folks wouldn’t let it go, saying they would have without question preferred Gottlieb for the same reasons they wanted him initially. Those heavy-hitting reasons ranged from: “He is recognizable from ESPN, so he will be able to recruit,” to “Why couldn’t he coach? He has watched a ton of games in his job as an analyst,” to my personal favorite, “It’s so crazy, it just might work.”
With that kind of surefire reasoning, what could have gone wrong?
Just so we’re clear, a lot of fans destroyed Currie for choosing not to go a route that would have made K-State basketball a mockery. Then, they destroyed his choice that many basketball minds and analysts lauded. Then, finally, they were outraged an assistant coach from the previous staff wasn’t kept. (Knowing he wanted to stay, I’m disappointed it didn’t work out. However, the fact that it got as far as it did with Brad Underwood’s potential retainment was remarkable.)
That’s a rough week that stands out among many good ones for a dedicated fan base. And, it’s nothing you can’t move past; sort of like a coach, who has appeared in a national championship game, who had a rough past year with a young team (including nine underclassmen) that lost seven games by five points or less.
And, since the AD/Coach relationship is at the forefront of so many KSU minds right now, keep in mind that it was an AD, who hasn’t been on the job a full year, that cut Weber after the previous administration extended his contract twice. In other words, sometimes the fit maybe just isn’t good anymore regardless of the coach’s abilities. (Well now, doesn’t that sound familiar…)
The point is, nobody knows how things are going to play out. Bad situations can happen anywhere (right, UCLA?). But, the thing has to be given a chance at least. For what the circumstances were for both school and coach, the timing worked out, and I agree with those national minds some of you are more apt to listen to in that I think this is a fine hire. It’s not overly flashy. It’s not sexy. It’s fine. And, after five years of Frank Martin’s unilaterally crazy antics that served KSU basketball both well and not so well at times, it’s a breath of fresh air.
To read Jordan Henriquez’s initial comments were encouraging. And, though it’s uncertain if every player will return, those who do might actually smile on the floor once in awhile. If anything, it will be a change to see a real offense on a regular basis.
Fans, at this point, you have strong team coming back and a good coach in place. Your program is still up and running. It’s not like Matt Doherty took it over. Realize that your team is looked at in a competitive light. People are still going to pay attention. Your program doesn’t need the hot air it once did to sustain itself. K-State basketball is still relevant.
Thank Frank Martin for what he did, but let it go. Let last week go. Let your program speak for itself, and leave the gimmick behind.
What is curious is the quick manner with which Weber was hired. Was it necessary? Actually, yes maybe, in this case, it seems that it was. Let’s look at a few things:
1) Perhaps, Currie was simply able to identify the talent he wanted and landed it quickly. From that point, it meant Weber was a top candidate and Currie is a quick decision maker. It’s hard to argue that if used correctly (time will tell). That said, I don’t know how high, exactly, Weber was on Currie’s list. I have a feeling he wasn’t among the upper few first candidates to be felt out. But, once Weber did become the top choice, it didn’t take long to land him, and there’s nothing wrong with being decisive at that juncture.
2) More/most importantly, Currie said the welfare of the student-athletes was a priority. It’s even harder to argue that when every day a coach wasn’t in place meant Senior Associate AD Casey Scott was in charge of the program. That isn’t saying Scott couldn’t see off-court needs and support the players, but to think that feels even one percent the same as having a coach and a staff in place isn’t right. And, while it may be easy for fans and media to think the program would have been just fine had a decision been waited on mid- or the end of April, those weeks are invaluable to any new coach trying to get his program in place before summer hits and schedules scatter.
3) Though I normally don’t, I’ll even play the “if not him, then who?” card that was thrown my direction by Gottlieb’ers. At this point, let’s pretend or assume there were other candidates for Currie. I know Brad Underwood was at least one, and if he was on a list along with Bruce Weber, it’s highly doubtful they were the only two. That said, say others declined. Then who? Who would have an overall resume even close to Weber’s? Wouldn’t that make it seem like a pretty easy choice at that point from Currie’s perspective? So then, why not go ahead and get something done before that opportunity vanishes? If you miss it, then you’re likely left near the bottom of your hiring list depending on Weber fell originally. Or, worse, you’re starting over — a place no hiring manager or AD really wants to be when choices were somewhat limited to begin with.