Category Archives: Uncategorized

Tiger Droppings (11/24/15) | Time to Give Stoudamire a Look?

When a Tiger fan older than 50 starts talking about the Moe Iba era, you know things are bad. Tonight, my Dad was talking about the Moe Iba era.

When a Tiger fan younger than 40 starts talking about the Tic Price era, you know things are bad. Tonight, I was thinking about the Tic Price era.

The Tigers lost to an institution named UT Arlington at FedExForum tonight in front of maybe 5,000 fans. Keeping in mind that the same UT Arlington squad beat Ohio State last week, it was still awfully depressing.

It’s going to be a long year. Quite possibly a Tic Price / Moe Iba kind of year.

Will it be a Larry Finch fired at the hot dog stand type of year?

From the team, it was a frustrating display of missed shots, dejected body language and overall discombobulation.

The Tiger players argued calls, got booed by their own fans, reverted to 1 on 1 moves – and basically choked out the positive vibes left over from the close loss to Oklahoma.

So now we’re left to consider that this team is likely in trouble. That they’re going to have tremendous difficulty scoring and shooting (the two tasks go hand in hand) all year. Left to consider how far the program has fallen – not just since the previous regime, but even since the Joe Jackson / Chris Crawford era.

The crowd was sparse, frustrated and figures to continue shrinking.

Which brings me to the most painful conclusion – that perhaps its time to shake things up in the men’s basketball program at the University of Memphis.

It’s painful to voice this opinion, because I think Josh Pastner actually deserves to continue on as the coach.

What deserves to happen and what needs to happen are two different things.

Pastner is a good man, and in some respects I think he’s a quality coach. His detractors will disagree, but there’s an aspect to his coaching that exudes preparedness. Maybe it’s just the flash cards fooling me, but I’ve always said I think Memphis is more over-coached than under-coached. I still believe that.

Furthermore, in a vacuum Pastner’s record is more than adequate. It’s actually pretty good. 4 NCAA Tournaments in 6 seasons after inheriting a gutted roster. Memphis would probably take heat nationally for replacing him, and they’d deserve it.

Additionally, so much of the culture issue around the Memphis program has nothing to do with Josh Pastner at all. A lot of the negativity facing Pastner stems from his predecessor’s success which fostered unreasonable expectations. Other issues inside of the Memphis administration, impact of boosters, the realities of conference affiliation, the overall state of college athletics…these are all factors that contribute to the difficulty of the Memphis job right now.

So the problems at Memphis go well beyond Josh Pastner.

On the other hand, the environment around the program has really sunk to a low (Iba / Price type stuff). Fan support has dwindled, and the energy is low.

Pastner is an energy guy, so even he would have to admit that it doesn’t appear that the players respond to him. Frankly, in 6+ years it has almost never appeared that the Memphis players respond to Josh Pastner.

Perhaps they do, but it doesn’t appear that way.

I’m not sure if it’s a motivation thing, a leadership thing, or a strategy thing. Like I said before, I think Pastner knows how to coach.

What I am sure of is that something is missing.

People say it would cost a lot of money to buy Pastner out, and while that’s true – it misses the point. Josh Pastner is going to be paid a lot of money either way.

He is either going to get paid to coach, or he is going to get paid not to coach.

I’m suggesting that perhaps the program would be better off paying Josh Pastner not to coach. They could elevate Damon Stoudamire (at his current salary for the remainder of the year) to serve as the interim coach. This would essentially function as a tryout – a chance for Stoudamire to earn the job.

If Stoudamire earns the job (the way Kevin Ollie earned the UConn job a few years ago), great. If he doesn’t, the athletic department can move on at the end of the year.

I think this would be good for Pastner too. He will land on his feet, possibly as an assistant. He’ll continue to learn and grow and prepare himself for another opportunity as a head coach down the road. And he’ll get paid a lot of money. He’s an elite recruiter.

For a cost conscious athletic department, paying Pastner millions to not coach may ultimately dictate hiring a lower cost option as a full time replacement [after all, Memphis doesn’t have the resources like LSU, where apparently they passed the hat (no pun intended) to scrape up $15m in order to fire a highly successful football coach].

But perhaps it’s smarter to take that approach than to continue on in the current toxic environment (which again, I don’t blame Pastner entirely for).

Someone in power has to at least be considering that option.

 

Nobody is the Greatest Ever. #unpopularopinions

It’s the classic bar conversation, the most pure of sports arguments. Who is the greatest ever, the GOAT?

In basketball it’s some combination of Jordan, Lebron, Magic, Bird, Russell, Kareem, Chamberlain, Robertson, Kobe.

In football it’s Montana, Elway, Manning, Brady, Rice, Sanders, Taylor, White.

In baseball it’s….ah who cares, it’s baseball.

I’m sure there’s a hockey version too but my hockey knowledge is limited to players featured in NHL 94 Sega Genesis.

Regardless, finally we can put this issue to bed as I have the definitive answer.

No one.

There’s no such thing as the greatest ever, it doesn’t exist. There are great players, there might be greatest player of his era, but there is no such thing as the greatest of all time.

There are a litany of reasons this is the case.

First off, in the case of the major sports, they are all team sports, and although we’ve come a long way with advanced metrics there’s really no way to measure the way an individual and his team mesh as opposed to how he theoretically would have meshed with another group of teammates, and coaches.

Different eras had different levels of competition. Sometimes this was just attributable to luck, like being in the Western conference rather than the Eastern. Sometimes it was due to the advent of free agency or expansion diluting the competition. Sometimes it was just due to when transcendent players happened to be born.

Another factor is rule changes. You obviously can’t compare the stats of today’s NFL Quarterbacks to those of the past as rule changes have made racking up gaudy stats infinitely easier. There have also been massive advancements in sports medicine, training regimens, diet, exercise, etc.  There’s also tremendous luck and variance in results, but that’s a topic for another time.

Even in the sports most amenable to these debates, namely Tennis and Boxing, the true head to head, one on one sports, it’s difficult to assess. Federer vs Sampras in their primes? Djokovic vs Borg? One guy was using a wood racket, who the hell knows how they would have fared if they were in the same era.  Watch Chris Evert lollipop the ball around and think oh god Serena would murder her, but it’s impossible to really know what would have happened if one were transported to the era of the other.

In Boxing there’s many of the same issues, plus there are weight classes, that’s why they have to invent the “pound for pound” title, as if there’s any way to really assess that.  Honestly, if these guys couldn’t come to a consensus how are we supposed to?

The root of this age old debate, the enduring nature of it, is generally just, the guy who i loved in my particular era was the best and better than this new guy that you people love, or this old guy you geezers keep talking about. 

How on earth is someone supposed to have an intelligent conversation about whether Bill Russell was better than Lebron, when 80 percent of us have literally never seen one game Bill Russell played?

Comparing players in the same era is a fraught enough task. Unless they played the same position and were the same type of player, (think maybe Kobe vs Dwayne Wade) then you’re just making stuff up.

But to compare players to guys you never actually saw play? Why?

How bout the next time this debate sparks up you just say something really boring like, Gee i dunno, both players were pretty great, one had  more skill in this area the other a tad more in this area, blah blah blah.  This probably wont get you a PTI spinoff show but it will make a lot more sense.

I saved the best for last. The ultimate fake trump card in these debates. RINGZZZ.  Jordan’s got six, end of discussion.  Brady has 4, end of discussion.

Except it’s not because Russell’s got 11, and Bradshaw has 4 too, and Eli has 2 and Peyton has 1. But you’ll tell me no see that’s different because…..and whatever you say next it doesn’t matter because you’re just making my point for me.

There is no definitive metric, there is no trump card, there are just opinions soaked in personal bias and nostalgia. There’s no such thing as the Greatest of All Time.

Sports are Dumb

As we enter the 2015-16 season, remember this: being a fan is silly and sports are dumb.

Now, if you’ve found your way to this site you’re probably a sports fan, and you’re likely a Memphis Tigers fan, so you may find these statements offensive. That’s not my intent. I’m a sports fan, I’m a Memphis Tigers fan. But lets level with each other. Sports are absurd, the rules are arbitrary, and the stakes are made up.

You might counter with an argument about fostering teamwork and learning leadership and becoming part of something greater than yourself, blah blah blah. Sports are distraction, they are entertainment, they are here to make you forget about the daily realities. Being a fan is even crazier, you invest time, emotion and money into people you dont know playing a made up game against other people you dont know. The only real excuse for being a fan of a team is that you were brainwashed into being one at a young age. I hate Tennessee because i was born to people who hated Tennessee.(good, clear thinking people).

Fandom offers you membership into a tribe, a society of people united in a common cause.  But if you’ve been a fan long enough, a real fan, one who invests in a team with no guarantee of reaping dividends, then you’ve no doubt been in a situation where you’ve been devastated by a loss your team incurred. Real emotional devastation.

In a car after the 2008 championship game someone remarked to the rest of us that it felt like a family member had just died, and we all solemnly nodded our heads in assent. What?? What lunacy is this, it’s just a damn game, played by people who dont care about you. Mickey Mantle don’t care about you, Derrick Rose dont care about you.  So why do we do it? For the high of winning? Perhaps. It’s a great feeling when you invest and are rewarded for your investment, you stand tall and puff your chest out, you’re part of the thing, you revel in the glory.  Maybe it’s cause we love to gamble, the ball is tipped and for the next two hours you don’t know if you’re gonna end up happy or sad, there’s a thrill in that limbo not often found in the drudgery of every day life.

A lot of people have checked out emotionally on the Tigers for this year, and who can blame em? Morale is low, players are jumping ship, recruiting is in the tank, the coach has lost the city, the team is overshadowed by the successful pro franchise, the college game is largely unsightly until the three weeks of March Madness.

But if you’re still out there, living and dying with every win and loss this season, remember this: sports are dumb, being a fan is silly. But thats ok, not everything you do has to make sense, and maybe sports operates outside of the logical universe, and maybe, just maybe, you’ll be rewarded with a magical season. (but you probably wont:))

Memphis Fans are Hung Over

Memphis fans need to wake up.

Unfortunately, when they wake up they’ll realize they’re suffering from a crushing hangover.

A John Calipari hangover.

Months ago, before @UofMemphisPres announced, then cancelled a tribute to @UKCoachCalipari, I opined that finding a way to forgive Calipari was necessary for the health of the men’s basketball program at the University of Memphis.

By health – I meant to say some means of escape from a nasty hangover.

The Calipari hangover isn’t regarded as such around Memphis, of course. The Calipari hangover is otherwise known as The Josh Pastner debate. It’s symptoms are incessant and depressing discussions about whether NCAA tournament appearances in and of themselves are a sufficient accomplishment, should it matter the coach is a great guy, player development, local recruiting, transfer epidemics and blah blah blah I’m so tired of this I’m not even buying tickets anymore.

Simply put, the energy / vibe around the Memphis program has been bad for going on 7 years. Sure, Pastner has generated bursts of optimism – as did the temporary promotion to the disintegrating BIG EAST. But if Memphis fans are honest with themselves they can now see their worst fears confirmed: that Memphis basketball reverted from national title contender to it’s pre-Calipari mediocrity the day Calipari’s motorcade sped off to catch a Lexington bound jet.

If Memphis fans are honest with themselves they have to at least entertain the possibility that this incarnation of Memphis Basketball is closer to what should be expected of the program given its resources than the Calipari version. Especially if they value that well resourced, now winning, football program on the other side of campus.

If Memphis fans are honest with themselves they have to understand that the same traits they currently revile Calipari for (deception, disloyalty) form the basis of the tactics he used to elevate Memphis to such a high level. That same level they now loathe his successor (Pastner) for not reaching in spite of his outstanding character and integrity.

If Memphis fans are honest with themselves they would understand that College Basketball as a whole is widely understood to embrace a culture of corruption and deception. Why else would John Calipari be inducted into the Hall of Fame? He represents the best of the sport.

I just thought that putting the Calipari era to bed – once and for all – would have been healthy for the psyche of the fan base. But maybe I’m being shortsighted. Maybe this act by Memphis – a loud, national, fuck you to Calipari will accomplish the same thing. Maybe Memphis fans can finally move on and enjoy the current program.

Tiger fans were drunk for 5 years, now they've been hung over for 6.
Tiger fans were drunk for 5 years, now they’ve been hung over for 6.

But we know that’s unlikely to happen. Alas, after 6 mostly sad seasons in the wake of Calipari’s exit – Pastner’s days in Memphis seem numbered. Everyone agrees he’s a great guy and will probably have some success elsewhere.

But assuming Memphis does move on from Pastner – just to be clear about what Memphis fans expect of the next guy:

Calipari’s winning percentage.

Calipari’s player development.

Pastner’s character and values.

Pastner’s loyalty.

That’s a pretty high standard.

Maybe Coach K or Tom Izzo are looking for a change of scenery.

Or maybe instead of watching him leave for a Power 5 job in a few months, Rudd can convince Justin Fuente to coach the basketball team too.

 

The Pookie Powell Transfer Makes No Sense

Think about this.

You’re a college point guard. You’re not a one and done player, but rather you’re a 4-year type of guy with some talent – but a guy that needs to develop that talent at the College level if you have any hopes of a professional career.

You’ve already had to sit out one year due to academics. Then, as essentially a red-shirt Freshman, you got some playing time. Not a ton of playing time, but quality playing time (15 mins per game on average) and a chance to prove what you could do. It didn’t go that great – 4.3pts 2.7assists – but not awful.

Ok, fine. So now what?

Well, now you’re behind a Senior (Kedren Johnson).

Ok, no problem. You can be a back-up as a red-shirt sophomore and then essentially you’ll have 2 years to be the man.

You would have then have 2 years to run an offense which – by that time – you should be very, very familiar with.

2 years to prove you’re a great player.

2 years to impress pro-scouts – if you honestly have those aspirations.

Pookie Powell – on paper – has a very good situation at Memphis.

This is a weird transfer to me, for those reasons. It’s not as if Pookie Powell wasn’t getting the right opportunity at Memphis – at least in terms of his role.

It indicates one, or several, of a few things:

1. Pookie and his family lost confidence in the coaching staff.

2. The coaching staff lost confidence in Pookie.

3. College basketball is absolutely filthy.

4. All of the above.

Either way, this shouldn’t be spun as a positive for Memphis. The Tigers just lost a quality backup PG when their first line PG isn’t necessarily reliable. And good luck recruiting a replacement with a lame duck coach.

The Nick King transfer makes perfect sense to me. Differing philosophies on how he should be used. A glut of forwards on the roster. Playing time concerns.

The Pookie Powell transfer, on the other hand, makes no sense.

Not a great day for the Memphis program.

Watch The Officiating In Cincinnati / UConn Quarterfinal

Watch the officiating in today’s UConn vs. Cincinnati quarterfinal of the AAC tournament. It might have a decidedly Husky bias.

If a few calls here and there go UConn’s way, don’t be surprised.

The AAC desperately needs UConn to advance past Friday’s quarterfinals.

Attendance on Day 1 at the tournament, which was moved from Memphis to Hartford after last season was dreadful. Even for the UConn game.

According to the Hartford Courant, even UConn only drew 5,431 for their quarterfinal game. Attendance at the earlier games was rumored to be in the hundreds.

To be fair, nobody in Hartford could have imagined UConn would be playing on Thursday (without a bye), so advanced sales couldn’t have been strong.

Even still, that’s a bad start for the tournament in Hartford. It’s a bad look for the AAC, which also struggled to fill FedExForum for non Memphis games last year. The tournament is moving to Orlando next year and one can’t imagine it doing any better there.

If UConn falls in the Quarterfinals, expect a lot of empty seats this weekend in Hartford.
If UConn falls in the Quarterfinals, expect a lot of empty seats this weekend in Hartford.

Perhaps the best solution is one floated a few years ago – play the event in the historic Philadelphia Palestra. It seats less than 10k, is a wonderful venue for college basketball purists, is located in the home city of one of the stronger programs (Temple) and central to few others (UConn, Cincinnati).

Surely, Memphis fans would want to visit the City of Brotherly Love. Philly is a college hoops down and the tournament could build a local following.

I asked AAC Commissioner Mike Aresco about the Palestra last year. He said the logistics didn’t work.

Perhaps he should re-think that. They don’t appear to be working anywhere else either.

 

I Am Willing To Settle For Weak Passwords

Weak.

My password is weak?

Wow. Now I’m receiving insults when trying to sign up for superfluous smartphone applications. What is this world coming to?

We’re so nuanced at this point that I can have a minimally acceptable password, but still have to suffer the indignity of being told that it’s weak.

I suppose I’m fine with that.

For one reason or another, I’ve decided I’m OK with weak passwords. Maybe it’s because they’re easier to remember. Maybe it’s because passwords scare me. Every time I get a new password, I’m jittery.

I know what you’re saying – Why don’t you write them down in one place?

Because I don’t, OK?

It’s probably related to the reason I haven’t been to the dentist in 3 years and to the reason that the inside of my refrigerator has 2 full, possibly-rotten cartons of almond milk in it.

Side note: I’m still confused about how long Almond Breeze lasts when unopened as opposed to how long it lasts once it’s opened. Multiple expiration dates is a complex situation and I just kind of give up.

And yes, I get that encryption and password security are for my own protection. But I don’t really presume that any of this stuff is safe anyway. I’ve “read stories” about celebrities having their naked pictures posted on the internet. If someone wants my stuff, they’re getting it. I’m going on the presumption that nobody does.

Is there really a difference between Larryfinch21 and larryfinch21 as it concerns the capacities of a Turkish hacking ring?

I don’t think so.

I give them more credit than that.

Also, it’s 2015. Can’t the nerd community band together and figure out a way for me not to have to have so many passwords to begin with? That seems long overdue.

It’s maddening.

This guy could totally destroy my life, but I'm hoping he understands that I respect him and that it's not worth it anyway.
Because I’m willing to settle for weak passwords, this guy could totally destroy my life. But I’m hoping he understands that I respect him and that it’s not worth it anyway.

I literally, probably have 20 passwords. Maybe more.

As I was writing this I just felt a tinge of fear. What if some hacker reads this and decides he wants to teach me a lesson? Then I’m going to feel stupid about having weak passwords.

Please don’t.

I respect you, Mr. Hacker.

I just get my feelings hurt by the programmer who thinks it’s a good idea to tell me that even though my password meets the minimum requirements – he still thinks it’s weak.

That’s weak.

10 Reasons I Quit Trivia Crack

A few months ago I noticed a friend playing a trivia game on his phone. He solicited my help with the sports questions – which felt good.

He then explained the basics of Trivia Crack to me, in particular the feature that it links to Facebook and allows friends to compete against one another.

I subtly thought it seemed like a good opportunity to show everyone – myself included – how brilliant I am.

Wrong.

So wrong.

I hate Trivia Crack.

I suck at Trivia Crack.

I quit Trivia Crack. 

Here are 10 reasons:

What a shit-eating grin this dude has, huh?
What a shit-eating grin this dude has, huh?

1. The Logo. The Trivia Crack logo guy (left) is a total creep. He has a creepy huge smirk and a creepy pointy head. Plus he’s the first creepy thing I see when I open the app and feel that initial pang of sinking fear in my stomach which is really just my gut telling me: You’re about to get humiliated by your friends and reminded of your own ignorance. Get ready.

2. Not everything is a sports question. Unfortunately for me, there are 5 categories other than sports in Trivia Crack.

Art, Science, Entertainment, History and Geography. 

This variety of non-sports categories works to my disadvantage. Two weeks ago I thought I was pretty smart. Now I realize that beyond sports, and bits of post WWII history – I have about as much stored knowledge as my dog.

3. Sports questions that aren’t sports.

Dear whomever wrote these questions,

Here is a partial list of activities that aren’t really sports – so please stop including them in the sports category: NASCAR, Cricket, anything to do with the Olympics, Baton Twirling, Cycling, Cockfighting, Alpine Skiing. Quidditch. – Thanks. 

Nothing is more frustrating than missing a “sports” question because it’s not really a sports question. I’m not saying some of these things don’t require athleticism, I’m just saying I hate Trivia Crack and I’m never playing it again.

That’s all I’m saying.

(FYI – for example, Football and Basketball are sports, Pickleball is not.)

4. It’s a conspiracy. Allow me to ask one more question about these categories. Who picked them? Who decided art was even important?

The NEA?

Obama?

The left-wing media elite? 

Look, I’m not saying art isn’t important. I like paintings and poetry as much as the next guy, but why is art a more relevant category than, say, Politics or Laws of the United States or Modern Memphis Tiger Basketball or Movie Quotes from Comedies of the 1990’s or Memphis Tiger Basketball Point Guards in the Modern Era? I think we can all agree these category selections are tilted towards people that aren’t me.

Also, can’t art and entertainment be one category? Call it art. 

Also, how about combining geography and science? Call it geography & science.

Works for me.

Sleeping through high school did not set me up to be successful at Trivia Crack.
Sleeping through high school did not set me up to be successful at Trivia Crack.

5. I slept through high school. Trivia Crack has brought me face to face with the fact that for the first 30 years of my life – despite being enrolled in various academic institutions – I learned and retained almost nothing. I do possess a mild intellectual curiosity, but for many years it either wasn’t there or was buried under things like sleep deprivation, exhaustion, just-wanting-to-get-a-C, I’m going to sit here and pretend to listen while reading the sports page, or I’m going to mentally go row by row in this class-room and rank the girls in my head instead of listening to this woman talk about photosynthesis. 

What I’m saying is that learning wasn’t my first priority.

6. The man is keeping me down. Trivia Crack has been downloaded 130m times – and apparently the creators decided to allow their users to buy their way to prosperity. Trivia Crack offers the option of buying advantages such as extra time, the ability to skip questions, eliminate choices, etc… I wasn’t willing to do this. And since I regularly got my ass kicked during my two week stay on Trivia Crack, I’m going to go ahead and assume that everyone who beat me did buy advantages. If they tell me otherwise I’m going to choose not to believe them.

7. I feel guilty about cheating. When it got to the point that cheating became a real option, I knew I had to get off of Trivia Crack quickly. There I was, about to lose to someone I really didn’t want to lose to – and my computer was right in front of me – and… 

Why not just see if I can look up the answer in time?

Oh my God am I really about to cheat in Trivia Crack?

Holy crap I’m a pathetic cheating loser.

So yea, I’m going with the theory that other people are cheating too because I can’t be the only person depraved enough to consider it.

This is my dog, Cajun. He knows as much about science, geography, entertainment and art as I do.
This is my dog, Cajun. He knows as much about science, geography, entertainment and art as I do.

8. I don’t like stupid movies. I’m not saying I’m too cultured, or too sophisticated or too whatever to succeed at Trivia Crack. I’m really not. What I am saying is that in a key moment – aka trying to prevent myself from being humiliated –  I got a question about an actor named Clark Gregg. Clark Gregg?

This brings me to my next point.

9. Who is Clark Gregg? I didn’t know the answer to this, apparently because I don’t like comic books. According to the internet, Clark Gregg is best known for his work in The Avengers (2012), Iron Man (2008) and Thor (2011) – all movies adapted from Marvel comics. As in comic books.

Look I’m sure this comic book business is good stuff, but it’s just not my bag. In that sense it’s a lot like science, geography, entertainment, art and much of history. Basically what I’m saying is the totality of human knowledge is pretty much outside my zone of interest.

10. Complete random selection. The Trivia Crack wheel spins in a seemingly random fashion – but like an electronic slot machine you assume there’s pre-determined selection of outcomes. In other words, in Trivia Crack you count on an equal distribution of questions from the various categories. You probably shouldn’t count on it. The other day I got 38,353,000 science questions in a row. Each one about the periodic table or microbiology. I missed them all. I cried.

Apparently there’s some way to exercise greater control over category selection – but I learned that tonight when I was researching this post – 14 hours after I quit the game after multiple consecutive humiliating losses.

So for those reasons, I’m done with Trivia Crack. 

I’m still willing to help other people with sports questions though – but preferably just those having to do with football, basketball and maybe a little baseball – specifically from the 1980’s and 1990’s.

March Madness Comes in February For Tigers

The great thing about March Madness is that – whether your team ultimately makes the tournament or not – you still get to participate. In February.

Now is the time of the year when fans of mediocre or bad teams start to hope with every win. It’s a specific hope…

Maybe they’ll get hot and go on a run.

Memphis won its 3rd game in a row today, a 75-65 victory over UCF in Orlando.

By the way, If you’re looking for clues as to whether the administration of the school is upset with Josh Pastner’s team or job performance in an otherwise rebuilding year, here’s the school President on Twitter after the game:

Let’s hear from our friends:

Philisophic Phil:

  • This is a strange season for Memphis. Fans have been apoplectic all year, and the panic alarm has been sounding the whole time. Yet look up today and the Tigers are at 17-10 (9-5) and in good position to finish in the top 3 of the conference – which is approximately where they were predicted to start the season.
  • In seasons like this – where the Tigers are clearly on the wrong side of the NCAA bubble – it’s tempting for fans to play the “what if” game. What if Austin Nichols hadn’t gotten hurt in the Temple game? What if Memphis had hit one more shot against Tulane back on January 3rd? A few more wins and Memphis would be sitting at 19-8, 11-3 and perhaps closer to the right side of the bubble.
  • Outside of the Austin Nichols injury games (vs. Temple, @ ECU), the Tigers have won 9 of 11 and 14 of 17. That being said, injuries are part of the game – and Memphis is just like everyone else in that regard.
  • Regardless of whether the Tigers end up winning the AAC tournament and playing in the NCAA (long shot), going to the NIT (likely), or playing in the CBI / CIT or some other such nonsense (more realistic than you might think) – if you don’t love this time of year, then you aren’t a college basketball fan. An improving team, a conference tournament, and a chance to re-write the narrative of the season. That’s what it’s all about.

Realistic Ralph:

  • Now the Tigers have 4 big games in a row to close the regular season. 2 home vs. SMU / Tulsa followed by a 2-game swing @ UConn and @ Cincinnati. One would have to assume that it’ll be a chore just to finish 2-2. Those are 4 of the best 5 teams in the league.
  • What’s at stake?
    • The program’s 15th consecutive 20 win season.
    • Positioning for the AAC tournament, which starts in less than 3 weeks in Hartford, CT. The Tigers would like to secure one of the 5 first round byes and, ideally, avoid being on the same side of the bracket as host UConn. The Tigers have no control over the latter, but at this point they control their own destiny on the bye.
    • In fact, the Tigers are still mathematically alive to finish anywhere from 1-8 in the conference. Right now 3 to 6 range seems most likely.
  • Austin Nichols appears to be showing no ill effects from his ankle injury. He finished with 20 points on 9/15 shooting, with 7 rebounds and 3 blocks. When he first went down on February 7th, it looked very much like an ACL tear, so it is great to see him out there playing big.
  • With Nichols back, Shaq finally showing some consistency, Kedren Johnson established at PG, and the rotation trimmed down – Memphis is playing its best basketball of the season. You may be of the opinion that said basketball is still not good – and you may be right – but as a famous philosopher once said: it is what it is. 

Negative Nellie:

  • I watch some of these games with a friend who happens to be a retired coach. At the end of the UConn game, as Ryan Boatright was rolling the ball up the floor on an in-bounds to delay the clock starting and thus preserve time, my friend said, “I don’t understand why people don’t just go in there and steal that.”
  • I thought it was a stupid statement – because I’ve seen that play (rolling the ball up the floor) literally thousands of times and I had never seen it contested, much less contested successfully.
  • So you can imagine my dismay today, when watching the end of the UCF game with the same friend, as UCF stole the ball off the deck from Memphis’ Kedren Johnson with less than 4 seconds to play in a tie game.
  • Naturally, my friend said, “I told you.”  And it’s true – he had told me. Luckily for Memphis, UCF missed a jumper and the Tigers pulled away in OT.
  • Avery Woodson has had a great year and is the smoothest, purest shooter Memphis has had at least since Jeremy Hunt and Anthony Rice, and maybe as far back as Mingo Johnson – but he wasn’t hitting in the last 5 minutes today (he finished 3-12 from 3pt range) and Memphis needed to figure something else out. Woodson’s consecutive misses almost cost Memphis the game.

Finally, I’ll leave you with this:

8 Thoughts on Pastner Interview

I’ve had some time to reflect on yesterday’s interview with Josh Pastner. I have some thoughts:

  • One thing I learned is that Pastner does a pretty good job of not letting criticism get to him. He understands and accepts the passion of Memphis fans, but seems genuinely driven by principal and process. Thus, he is seemingly able to accept the negativity surrounding his job performance without internalizing it.
  • From a fan’s perspective, I’d be most pleased that Pastner acknowledged that he needs to do a better job recruiting and / or developing a floor general. In my estimation, this is the one area that has consistently held the Memphis program back over the course of the past 6 seasons. I don’t see Memphis turning the corner until a true floor general emerges.
  • The bad news on this front is that guy (a floor general) may not be on the roster or in the pipeline. I’m also not positive that Pastner trusts his players enough to let go enough to empower a floor general.
  • Pastner admitted that he wants guys to be as driven as he is – but I’m not sure he’ll ever be satisfied in that area because most human beings aren’t as driven as he is.
  • Just think of the “leaders” of Pastner’s teams over the years.
    • Elliot Williams – Had an outstanding year in 09-10, but as an incoming transfer of a veteran laden team, he never truly emerged as a leader.
    • Joe Jackson – Was admittedly not a vocal leader.
    • Will Barton – Was probably the closest thing to a floor general Pastner has had – but it never seemed Barton’s teammates respected him enough to allow him to lead. Possibly because he was too emotional.
    • Austin Nichols – Theoretically I agree with Pastner that a “floor general” doesn’t have to be a point guard, but it is certainly harder to be a leader in the game without the ball in your hands. For that and other reasons, I’m not as optimistic that Nichols is the long term answer in this regard.
  • When asked about his weakness – Pastner referenced his refusal to play mind games. I’m not sure his demonstrations were as illustrative as he intended them to be, but clearly he must find intrinsically motivated players or develop some other way to motivate his team that he can live with. It’s inarguable that during Pastner’s tenure there have been multiple players play below their potential.
  • A lot of fans don’t want to hear it, but Pastner is right about the fact that he’s won a lot since coming to Memphis. Getting to the 2nd round of the tournament the last 2 years – and falling one game short of the sweet 16 – is very close to the kind of success that would quiet a lot of his critics. Getting blown out both times didn’t help, but it’s fair for him to subtly point out that perhaps the narrative of his tenure doesn’t quite match the reality.
  • Taken all this together, I’m convinced that any talk of firing Pastner right now, or after this year, is completely off base. Short of some non-basketball related scandal, I think Memphis’ best course of action is to continue to support Josh Pastner’s professional growth and hope that he can lead the Tiger program back to the type of post-season success which will quiet his critics.

The (endless) Positive Nature of Josh Pastner

Memphis coach Josh Pastner was featured on Northwestern Mutual Presents NCAA Men of March – which aired earlier today on CBS. I’m traveling this weekend, so I missed most of the program. What I did catch appeared to be typical Pastner: he praised the program’s history, the city, and the fans. He was humble and reflective. Not at all self-promoting. I hope to see it soon in its entirety.

In the meantime, I came across an accompanying story, written by CBS’ Matt Norlander. It’s basically a factual account of what Pastner has accomplished at Memphis – but because Norlander is a neutral party – it’s written from a balanced point of view. It’s very hard to argue with Norlander’s points.

If you’re a fan of the program who has issues with Pastner, I would suggest reading it with an open mind.

Here’s another story about Pastner.

The other day, I wrote a blog entry criticizing Pastner’s use of an extended rotation.

Because I’ve had a brief relationship with Pastner – I thought I’d send him the blog to see what he might say in response.

He responded within 3 hours with an extended email. As you might imagine, it was classic Pastner. Here are some portions of his email:

I appreciate you being upfront regarding the criticism.  Which is all fair and welcomed.  In fact, I think it is a great another opportunity is out there to spread the message of Tiger basketball and give the fans another opportunity to get information.
He went on to explain his philosophy on substitutions a little further….
Our rotation needs to be 8 to 9 guys on a consistent basis.  I would actually prefer to play a 7 man rotation like I have done in the past years.
The difference for this season than the ones before is that we don’t have a lot of separation from top to bottom which makes it a little jumbled.  Where as in the years past the top 7 or 8 guys were clearly better than 9 thru 13.
And some of the reasons we have suffered large defeats are due to some of these factors when the run by the other team is happening – live ball turnovers, major scoring droughts (where at times we try to hit the 12 pt shot), and probably playing too many guys trying to find the right 5 to give us the best chance to get out of the funk we are in.
He makes some good points – and then he goes ahead and agrees with me (which is the quickest way to my heart) that part of the problem is playing too many guys. I’ll be very interested to see how he handles the rotation tonight at Tulane (7pm ESPNU).

I’m a fledgling blogger that had just written a piece offering direct criticism of his coaching philosophy. Pastner could (and maybe should) have easily just ignored the email or offered a brief response and moved on. Instead, he took the time to read the blog (apparently multiple entries) and responded with kindness.

For whatever you might think of Josh Pastner as a coach – he’s a pretty incredible person.

That’s not a new realization for Memphians, but it’s worth repeating.

Pastner: Memphis “Not a Juggernaut”

Matt Stark over at Fox 13 is kind enough to always post videos of Josh Pastner’s pre-game press availability. If you don’t feel like watching the video here at this link – I’ve jotted down some thoughts on what he said:

The Tigers play at Tulsa tomorrow night — 6pm ESPNU. At this point, Tulsa is a 4pt favorite for tomorrow night’s AAC tilt.

  • Pastner congratulated Stark (New England native) on the Patriots AFC Championship win. If the coaching thing doesn’t work out, Pastner might have a future in politics.
  • Overall theme of his comments:  Last few games are in the history book – gotta move forward – focus on process, getting better.
  • Tulsa is very good, but Memphis is focused on Memphis – and getting better, improving.
  • Pastner was asked about Austin Nichols having said confidence is at an all time high. Pastner agreed. “Winning helps, guys are playing better and feel the team getting better. Guys are feeling good, they see the improvement.”
  • Pastner really seemed to go out of his way to say they’re probably going to struggle again: “We’re not a juggernaut.” He repeated this several times. The expectation setting and lowering of the bar was typical Pastner – in other words, a little over the top.
  • In case you’re wondering:
jug·ger·naut
ˈjəɡərˌnôt/
noun
  1. a huge, powerful, and overwhelming force or institution.
  • I would think Pastner would at least embrace the idea that they could become a juggernaut. Gotta have goals, right?
  • Sometimes it isn’t clear if he’s just trying to keep everyone focused or trying to lower expectations of the fan-base, but either way it’s hardly motivational genius to say: look, we’re not big and powerful and capable of overwhelming you. 
  • My point here is that there’s something called a self fulfilling prophecy and it works like this (courtesy Wikipedia):

A self-fulfilling prophecy is a prediction that directly or indirectly causes itself to become true, by the very terms of the prophecy itself, due to positive feedback between belief and behavior.

  • From the very beginning of his tenure, Pastner’s “winning is hard” / “we’re not a juggernaut” shtick struck me as a bad idea in that it could and would become a self-fulfilling prophecy.
  • In other words, when you say “winning is hard” enough times, winning becomes hard. You say, “we’re not a juggernaut” enough times and it will stay true.
  • Note that I’m not saying they are currently a juggernaut – I just wouldn’t go out of my way to point out that they aren’t.
  • Ok. I’m leaving that alone now.
  • Pastner went out of his way to say the rotation will change from game to game. This now appears to be his coaching philosophy (as regarding playing time anyway), that every game is different and will be treated differently.
  • The rotation has been an infuriating point for a lot of fans and the target of commentators, so it’s sort of refreshing to actually hear him embrace and own that his philosophy is to have no set rotation at all.
  • Whether not having a consistent rotation at all (coaching “on feel”) will actually work or not, we’ll see. I don’t know of other coaches at the college level that manage teams this way.
  • It strikes me as being difficult on the players….and that he’s doing it to avoid hard decisions about who should be playing and who shouldn’t…and that the only way to actually trim a rotation in this manner is when guys (Like Kuran Iverson) quit your team or get injured.
  • That being said, Pastner is the guy who gets paid $2.75m to make these decisions.
  • And his team is improving, so I’ll shut up now.
  • Pastner said that Calvin Godfrey’s approach and toughness have helped the entire team, including Shaq (the person Godfrey replaced in the starting lineup). I agree.
  • Pastner said something a little odd when talking about Godfrey. He’s the kind of that guy “you usually see on other teams.” This was kind a weird confession or self-indictment of his team’s toughness over the past several years.