IOWA CITY, Ia. - Anthony Tucker appeared pretty happy Wednesday night. He was cheering on his teammates and high-fiving them when they came back to the bench.
However, like most of the good times during the Todd Lickliter Era, the fun never seems to last for long. Friday, the school announced Tucker asked for and was granted a release from his scholarship, thus ending a tumultuous two years in the program.
Fans reacted the way fans react. With each day, the pro- and anti-Lickliter factions have grown farther apart. The Tucker story gave each side a chance to state its case.
Those folks behind the coach pointed to Tucker's two arrests for public intoxication in a year's time. He obviously didn't care enough about the program to learn from his first mistake. His exit was addition by subtraction and it allowed for someone more deserving to get his scholarship.
The anti-Lickliter people called it another strike against a coach that is approaching the end of the worst three-year run (currently 37-52 overall, 14-34 in Big Ten) in the history of the program. He lost four players after last season and Tucker became another log on the fire under his hot seat.
Don't worry too much about Tucker's leaving in basketball terms. He's a nice player, but hardly a program-changer. And Lickliter's system banks on the whole being greater than the sum of the parts; at least that's my assumption.
You could argue that Iowa is a better basketball team today than it was in December, when Tucker was indefinitely suspended. You also could make a case that if Tucker stayed with the team the whole time, the Hawkeyes might be a step ahead of the current group. Either way, they're at the back of the Big Ten.
So, forgive me if I'm unmoved by Tucker leaving. To be honest, I have no idea where Lickliter was headed with the punishment of the sophomore other than the coach saying they were moving in the right direction.
Apparently, Tucker didn't like that direction. When he and his mother met with the coach on Thursday, what they heard led to the release from his scholarship.
We could sit here and dissect each case. It doesn't matter. It just creates another argument from the fractured fan base.
If Tucker were a member of the Iowa football team, the majority of fans would be behind the coaches today. People stand behind winners.
That's at the root of this situation. Lickliter must prove he's a winner at Iowa to silence critics.
The coach must find a player to take Tucker's place that helps his program. Otherwise, it's a lose-lose situation. Lickliter can't afford any more of them.
You can't keep looking ahead without some payoff. It's great that you have the guys in your program that want to be here and play by the rules. But you have to lead them to victory at some point.
People aren't paying to see this product with or without Tucker. That falls on the shoulders of the coach and the athletic director that hired him.
Gary Barta came to Iowa saying he expected his coaches to compete for conference championships. He hired Lickliter to do that. It hasn't happened.
That's been and remains the story. Tucker leaving is a footnote.
It's time to win.