Tag Archives: Washington State Cougars

Coaches Facing Uphill Battles : Toughest Assignments for 2012

When ESPN and Sports Illustrated start handing out their Coach of the Year awards late in March or April, typically they are handed out to one of two types of coaches: a big name coach leading a powerhouse to an exceptional record or a coach on the rise leading a non-traditional power to new heights. The awards are great recognition for coaches who undoubtedly have done a tremendous job with their respective teams. But more often than not, they aren’t the coaches doing the best job coaching that season. The awards are earned from compiling a couple good years of recruiting together and developing players over time; not for just their successful records that year.

But if you want to really look for the best coaching jobs of the individual season, you need to start looking at the bottom of the barrel. Look at the squads who have almost no returning talent in the power conferences, where legendary coaches are on the opposing bench two to three times a week. Graduation, transfers, and early entrants to the NBA draft can leave coaches with rosters full of question marks. When expectations are at their lowest, that’s when a great coach can really make his mark and show his excellence in his craft. Finishing in with a .500 record might not mean a lot to the national audience, but the basketball junkies will recognize a job very well done.

With that said, let’s look at some coaches who will be trying to prove all those preseason prognosticators wrong.

Steve Donahue, Boston College 

Donahue will have to lead a young BC squad against the heavyweights of the ACC this year.

Here’s all you need to know about the daunting task Steve Donahue is facing this year: his top returning scorer is preferred walk-on Danny Rubin (4.1 PPG), who saw his playing time diminish in the middle of the ACC regular season. With Reggie Jackson’s early departure to the NBA and the graduation of six seniors, Donahue will realize how bare Al Skinner left the cupboard. Along with Rubin, guard Gabe Moton and junior Oregon-transfer Matt Humphrey will be the welcoming seven scholarship freshmen and a few other walk-ons. Although some of the freshmen will certainly be talented, Jeff Bzedlik learned last year how hard it is to compete in the ACC with a young, inexperienced Wake team. If Donahue can get this group to win more than five ACC games and show player development throughout the season, most Eagles fans will be thrilled.

Ed Cooley, Providence

A native of Providence, Cooley will try to resurrect the Friars and make them relevant in the Big East again. Losing first-round pick Marshon Brooks to graduation leaves quite a scoring gap for Ed Cooley’s young team and will be the reason most pundits are down on Providence. Throw in guard Duke Mondy being released from his scholarship and most will expect another bottom half finish for the Friars. But guards Gerald Coleman and Vincent Council have shown flashes of their talent and potential. But the Friars inability to consistently play team defense cost them in Big East play (8-28 Big East record previous two years) and ultimately Keno Davis his job. Cooley will be looking to build an identity that the Friar faithful can rally around and hopefully inject some life into the floundering program.

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Filed under Coaching Carousel, Opinion, Recruiting

Pro or No, Episode 4: Pac-10 Volume 1

Here comes our fourth edition of Pro or No and now we are looking at some Pac-10 (or do we now start calling it 12?) prospects. I reached out to one of my good friends who lives on the West Coast and is a HUGE basketball fan for these previews. Trusted his judgement and he didn’t disappoint. Some pretty comical best/worst case scenarios.

Isaiah Thomas, Washington, Jr. – PG

No doubt this shot was COLD BLOODED!

Overview: Isaiah Thomas is an interesting case to open the Pac 10 Pro or No series.  He has said he has no intention to return to Washington for his senior season, but he has not hired an agent.  The multi-talented Thomas faces an uphill battle to become a professional.  The main hurdle he must overcome is convincing NBA teams that his height (listed at 5’9”) is not a detriment to his game.  Beyond that, Isaiah must continue to improve his jump shot, which was markedly improved this season but is still not NBA caliber.  Despite these two knocks, Thomas brings a lot to the table.  As someone who watched every game this year (biased Husky fan), I can say that Thomas plays the game at 110 MPH an hour with one intention: winning basketball games.  Look no further than his play in the Pac-10 tournament this season.  Washington entered the tournament mired in a second-half slump, partially attributable to the loss of fellow PG Abdul Gaddy (actually a blessing in disguise for Thomas who got to play a ton of point and showed NBA minds what he can do) and the suspension of G Venoy Overton.  All Thomas did was play every minute but 2 in a 3-game in 3-day stretch while averaging a red-hot 19.6 points and 10 assists.  By the way, he ended the tournament with a shot for the ages, hitting a step-back, fadeaway jumper as time expired in overtime to deliver his ultimate goal: a win and the Pac-10 tournament title.

Best Case:  Isaiah Thomas’ best-case scenario is that a general manager falls in love with him during the pre-draft process and wants him on his team.  Thomas possesses the personality to accomplish this.  His passion for the game and will to win could find its way to an old-school GM who wants to take a chance.  If this happens, I fully expect Isaiah Thomas to become a fan favorite.  It’s easy to fall in love with a diminutive guard, but fans will really come to love his style of play.  Thomas has the ability to make a mid-December home game against the Raptors exciting.  Isaiah can come off the bench and score 15 points in 8 minutes, combining fearless drives with timely jumpers as he whips a lifeless crowd into a frenzy.

Worst-Case: Thomas fails to show any improvement in his jumper in the next two months and gets outplayed at pre-draft events.  In this scenario, Thomas could potentially go undrafted and face a much tougher road to fulfilling his hoop dreams.  I’d argue his game has too much upside for him to go undrafted, but experts seem to disagree.

A Wazzu Cougar and the potential number 1 pick after the jump!

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Filed under NBA Draft