13 Thoughts on Friday the 13th

  • Well, Tiger Basketball season is about to tip off – and this blog is still here. So now I’m going to type some words.
  • Just got word that Missouri coach Gary Pinkel is out at the end of the year. There are already a lot of great openings that perhaps don’t make sense for Memphis’ head football coach, Justin Fuente. Miami’s culture just doesn’t seem like a fit with Fuente’s style. Southern Cal is considered too good to pass up and while there’s probably truth to that, Fuente isn’t a west coast kind of guy. Does he really want to follow Spurrier at South Carolina or Beamer at VT? For one reason or another, I’m just not sure these, albeit attractive openings, make complete sense for Fuente.
  • On the other hand, Missouri makes sense. Former Memphis Defensive Coordinator Barry Odom is on staff and former Associate AD Wren Baker is part of the administration. Missouri is an SEC job now, and right in the heart of Fuente’s known geographic footprint. Though the SEC is tough, Missouri did win the east in 2 of its first 3 years. I think this is a good job and I think it would probably interest Fuente.
  • I haven’t written much since last basketball season ended. A day job and other responsibilities / distractions got in the way.  This blog is still a nebulous enterprise, but the recent addition of Scott Hirsch as a contributing writer has me reinvigorated – for at least the present moment.  Check out Scott’s piece on why you are stupid.
  • I’m glad I wasn’t trying to write about the Tigers’ 8-1 (so far) football season – because I’m at a loss for words about it. I’m obviously enjoying the hell out of it and though it would have been great to keep the undefeated season going, having been a Tiger football fan for 30 years instills some perspective.
  • So the proper perspective is this: no matter how the next month unfolds, this season has been a clear turning point season for the Memphis football program. Memphis is now (perhaps along with a few others) a clear leader among so called “Group of 5” athletic programs. That’s worth something in the world of conference realignment.
  • On the other hand, Memphis has always seemed a little late to the party and perhaps this is no different. Conference realignment will surely happen again – but in light of recent events at the University of Missouri and in light of the overall instability of the amateur model and in light of the potential downfall of the sports TV model – the future of college athletics has never been murkier.
  • Despite all the uncertainty and upheaval anticipated in college athletics – Memphis is well positioned for future success based on the fact that they finally have a well put-together, successful football program. That wasn’t the case 4 years ago – and it wasn’t clear that it would ever be.
  • The ultimate optimism is that even if Fuente leaves, he’ll leave behind a program that will continue moving forward – a la Boise State after Dan Hawkins (the first coach to have major success there) left.

Now, on to basketball:

  • This is kind of a fun scenario: coach on the hot seat, low expectations, fly under the radar type of stuff. Of course, it only stays fun if the team surpasses said expectations, the coach re-emerges as a legitimate entity and the team shows up on various radars. Obviously, that’s the scenario Josh Pastner seems to be counting on.
  • If I’m looking for a reason to be optimistic (I am), I recall the stretch of basketball at the end of last season without Austin Nichols. Even without their leading scorer (Nichols) the Tigers played some inspired basketball at times- including during a late season win at Gampel Pavillion (UConn). Add McDonalds All American Dedric Lawson to the mix and maybe you’ve got something.
  • I don’t, on the other hand, take much from the quotes about how team chemistry has improved. This is a story that gets sold every year and I simply won’t believe it until I see it. Memphis basketball teams under Josh Pastner have never appeared to have terrific chemistry, even though some of his teams have won alot of games. I attribute this to over-coaching, so we’ll see if this group can play a loose yet determined brand of basketball. It would be a surprise.
  • If I’m looking for reasons to be pessimistic – I look no further than the fact that more than 1/2 of the roster has never played major college basketball before – and several of those pieces were after thoughts in recruiting. Add to that the fact that the returnees are a group that missed the post-season entirely and there’s just not great reason to believe that this is an NCAA tournament team.