Killingsworth Making The Right Call?

Was the decision by Marco Killingsworth to leave Auburn the right one?

Auburn, Ala.--Marco Killingsworth, I believe, is making a mistake. After vowing he would return to Auburn unless he opted for the NBA draft, he got his release earlier this week and said he would transfer.

For a lot of reasons, that could end up being a bad decision. The best student on Auburn's basketball team, he was on track to graduate next year. Now he'll have to sit out next season and graduate from another school. If he ends up at Indiana - a distinct possibility - he could be going through another coaching change before he ever plays in another game.

Killingsworth would have been a star at Auburn next season. Almost every possession would have gone through his hands. Instead, he'll be somewhere scrimmaging against somebody's varsity and watching the games in street clothes.

I don't see a lot of upside to any of that, but it was Killingsworth's decision to make. He doesn't deserve to be vilified or labeled as disloyal. He made the decision for his own reasons, good or bad. It's kind of like recruits who de-commit. It's a good thing if one de-commits from another school and signs with your school. If he de-commits from your school and signs with another school, his honesty is questioned. That's not just at Auburn. That's everywhere.

An old saying applies. It all depends on whose ox is getting gored. Killingsworth was extremely close to the previous coaching staff, particularly the assistants. He believed next season, with eight seniors returning, would be a good one. But, for whatever reason, he never really connected with Jeff Lebo and his staff. Those who know Killingsworth best say he became increasingly unhappy as time passed.

That's not an indictment of Lebo and his staff. Neither is it an indictment of Killingsworth. It happens in all walks of life.

There is a lot of misinformation floating around that is truly unfair to Killingsworth. His decision was not based on being asked to work harder. He was the hardest worker on the team for three years on the court, in the weightroom and in the classroom.

Killingsworth played hard every time he went on to the court. He was a good player who, at times, seemed on the verge of being a great player. He was a team player who wanted to win more than he wanted to score points or get rebounds.

It's unfortunate for him and unfortunate for Auburn's basketball team that things didn't work out. It¹s unfortunate that he couldn't see the big picture and realize that the best thing for him and his future would have been to stay put.

But he didn't, and that's the end of it. He owes no one an apology. He did everything that was asked of him in his time at Auburn. He's a grown man, and it's his right to go elsewhere if that's what he wants to do.

For Lebo, hired in March after Cliff Ellis was fired, it's really just a bump in the road. Killingsworth's departure will make winning more difficult next season, but it was going to be difficult anyway. Lebo is building for the future. He will be judged on what happens 3-4 years down the road, not next season.

Even without Killingsworth, I don't think next season will be the total loss that is being widely predicted. Will the Tigers play in the NCAA Tournament? Probably not. But I think they'll play at a faster pace than any Auburn team in history. They'll shoot 3-pointers and press. They'll be fun to watch, and they'll win some games few people expect them to win. If 6-11 freshman Ryan Daniels turns out to be better than most people expect, who knows?

Killingsworth will make a decision soon on his future. Like all transfers, he'll drop off the radar screen as he sits out next season. He'll re-emerge in 2005 to play one more season of college basketball. When it's all over, maybe he'll know he made a mistake or maybe he'll know he made the right decision.

What he knows now and what Auburn people should appreciate is that, for his three years at Auburn, he gave everything he had for his team and his school.

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