After his first spring practice as Florida’s head football coach, Jim McElwain compared what’s going on with the Gators to the 1977-82 television series “In Search Of,” hosted first by Rod Serling and then by Leonard Nimoy after Serling passed away.
"I think the big part for us is just the discovery of what guys do best, what guys need to work on and hopefully then in turn not put them in situations to not be successful,” McElwain said post practice Monday afternoon. “It's kind of like 'In Search Of' with Leonard Nimoy. You know the old show Leonard Nimoy used to have? 'In Search Of.' That's what we are this spring."
Maybe a week or so into the spring fling McElwain might start thinking each practice is a new episode for Discovery Channel, because as he learns what his guys do best and who fits where, he’s going to discover which problems can be solved by coaching up a few guys or tweaking schemes a bit and which ones can only be solved on the recruiting trail.
In no way are the Gators devoid of talent, but there are some holes that have to be filled plus any time you bring in new coaches there are new ideas, new schemes, new terminology and a need to find strong leaders as well as loyal followers. Leadership, says McElwain, has more to do with knowing assignments and carrying them out than screaming and yelling.
“Leadership isn’t a vocal thing at all,” McElwain said. “It’s one of those things where guys – because you know what you’re doing – they trust you. A lot of that needs to continue to work at every position to develop trust. Once they develop trust in you, then you have a chance to be a leader.”
Day one notes of significance:
1. Will Grier took the first snap at quarterback: Mac not only acted as if he was totally unaware who took the first snap but like he really didn’t care. “Did he [Grier] take the first snap?” Mac asked. Because of his physical tool set, Grier might very well be the QB Mac wants to be #1, but this is a pragmatic coach who is going to play the guy that gives him the best chance to win so Treon Harris and Grier will both be given ample chances to prove they are the #1 guy.
2. Huddles and snaps under center: Mac says the offense will be tailored around what his players can do. Right now, they’re huddling and the quarterbacks are taking snaps under center instead of strictly from the shotgun. “What a novel concept, isn’t it?” McElwain said. “Taking a snap from center. Unbelievable. Something new there, you know.”
3. Defense is ahead as it should be: This shouldn’t be a shock to anybody. There is more experience on that side of the ball, plus all the returning players played in the same system for four years, unlike the offense which had three coordinators the last three. “They’re [the defense] obviously ahead,” McElwain said. There’s a lot of carryover from what they’re doing. You can see how fast they were playing.”
1. Dayton: Dayton has a #11 seed play-in game with Boise State, which is absolutely ridiculous. Archie Miller’s Flyers are practically the same team that got to the Elite Eight game with Florida last year. They should have been no worse than an eight. They’re long and athletic and won’t be intimidated by teams like Providence, Oklahoma, Michigan State or Virginia. Dayton is in the right region to become this year’s Cinderella.
2. VCU: It took a few games for Shaka Smart and the #7 seed Rams to compensate for the loss of Briante Weber, perhaps the best pressing guard in the country, but now that they’ve made the necessary adjustments they’re back to havoc. The Rams steal the ball 10 times a game and force 16.2 turnovers. Neither Ohio State nor Arizona relishes the thought of playing these guys the first weekend.
4. Buffalo: Bobby Hurley has the 12th-seeded Bulls in their first NCAA Tournament in history in just his second year on the job. If the Bulls can keep 6-7, 240-pound power forward Justin Moss (17.8 points/9.3 rebounds) on the floor, then they will have a chance to go 2-0 the first weekend. After that, it’s curtains because Kentucky stands in the way.
5. Stephen F. Austin: Brad Underwood, once the head coach at Daytona Beach Community College, is 61-7 in two years at Stephen F. Austin. Underwood plays a 12-man bench of interchangeable parts that all seem to be between 6-4 and 6-7. All of them can run and all of them can shoot, especially 6-6 Jacob Parker who hits 52.6% overall, 47% on his 3-balls and 83.7% from the line. This is a #12 that could get to the second weekend.
Midwest: It’s hard to pick a spoiler in a region that has Kentucky and it’s hard to call Kansas, a #2, a spoiler, but Kansas is the one team in this region with the depth to go toe-to-toe with the Wildcats. Bill Self and John Calipari are old friends, having served on the same Kansas staff under Larry Brown way back when. Not too many people ever beat Self twice in one season. Of course, the same can be said about Cal.
West: If they would call the game at the 35-minute mark, North Carolina would probably have 30 wins under its belt. It’s the last five minutes that kill the Tar Heels. If they don’t go brain dead in the last five minutes, there isn’t a team in the West Carolina can’t beat.
East: As long as Seth Tuttle stays out of foul trouble, #5 seed Northern Iowa is a seriously dangerous team. He’s the point center and the entire offense revolves around his ability to distribute the ball to cutters or open jump shooters. He can also hit the 3-ball and score inside. These guys are one of the best straight up man-to-man defensive teams in the country.
South: Beware of #3 seed Iowa State. Not only is this one of the most fun teams to watch in the tournament, it’s the one team where no lead is safe. They have come back from double-digit deficits to win their last five games. If they can force the other team into a running game, it’s all over. Georges Niang and his buddies are matchup nightmares for both Duke and Gonzaga.
1. Murry Bartow, East Tennessee State
2. Howard Moore, Illinois-Chicago
3. Jerome Allen, Penn
4. Dale Layer, Liberty
5. Steve Aggers, Loyola Marymount
6. David Carter, Nevada
7. Chuck Driesell, The Citadel
8. Lenox Forrester, Southern Illinois-Edwardsville
9. Oliver Purnell, DePaul
10. Milan Brown, Holy Cross
11. Anthony Grant, Alabama
12. Paul Hewitt, George Mason
13. Bill Grier, San Diego
Rumblings: Florida assistant Rashon Burno is expected be on the short list at Illinois-Chicago. He played and assisted at DePaul plus coached high school basketball in the Chicago area … Penn moved quickly to replace Allen with former Boston College coach Steve Donahue … If Alabama goes young, Bobby Hurley (Buffalo) and Steve Prehm (Murray State) will probably get calls … Arizona associate head coach Joe Pasternack will probably be on the short list at both Nevada and Loyola Marymount … LSU assistant Eric Musselman is going to be somebody’s head coach after this year. He’s been a ahead coach in the NBA and the D-league.
Georgia Tech is still paying for the sin of hiring Paul Hewitt in the first place, which is precisely why Brian Gregory gets another year. Tech could probably afford to fire Gregory and pay him the $1.075 million it would owe next year and the $2.4 million it would take to finish out his contract in the subsequent three years except for one teensy detail. Former coach Paul Hewitt will be paid $900,000 a year for each of the next four years as part of his golden parachute when Tech fired him four years ago.
With all the talent in the greater Atlanta area and Georgia’s program showing a healthy and beating heart after years of barely raising a pulse, Tech can’t afford another mediocre coach. It’s a risk to keep Gregory one more year – he’s 19-55 in ACC games in four years – but the terms of his contract reduce the buyout by about half by waiting one more year and who knows? Maybe this is the year Gregory gets it going at Georgia Tech. Doubtful, but possible.
The aforementioned Paul Hewitt was canned by George Mason on Monday. No big surprise there. Hewitt is one of the more overrated coaches of the past 20 years, but he’s got one of the best lawyers. Hewitt was canned by Georgia Tech four years ago and he’s still picking up a $900,000 a year paycheck as part of an 8-year buyout. His deal with George Mason was for five years and his buyout is said to be at least $750,000 so next year Hewitt will make $1.65 million NOT to coach at Georgia Tech or George Mason.
The two hot names being circulated for the job at Mason are Boston Celtics assistant Jay Larranaga, son of UMiami coach Jim Larranaga, who took Mason to the Final Four in 2006, and Anthony Grant, fired by Alabama Sunday.
Imagine for a moment that the four #1 seeds can’t get out of their regions. In that scenario, which team from each region advances to the Final Four?
After four top 50 albums, Joe Jackson released “Night and Day” in 1982, which made it as high as #4 on the Billboard album charts and stayed in the top 20 for weeks on end because of the popularity of singles “Steppin’ Out” and “Breaking Us in Two.” Jackson never really capitalized on the popularity of “Night and Day” and after seven more albums he started making the transition to jazz. He had the #1 album on the jazz charts in 2012, “The Duke.” This is “Breaking Us in Two” from the 1982 album.