Three's a Crowd

It's been a tumultuous week in college basketball. Oddly enough, in mid-February it's the men patrolling the sidelines (or not) who are garnering most of the headlines, not the power-packed matchups on the court. The coaching carousel typically reaches a fever pitch during the month of March, but there's plenty of speculation revolving around three key coaches. Jayhawk fans are keeping a watchful eye on all three "changes".

The investigation continues into Quin Snyder’s resignation at Missouri, Oklahoma State’s Eddie Sutton has taken a medical leave of absence for the remainder of the season, and Mike Davis has likely had his last meltdown at Indiana – well, maybe – there are still five games left you know.

Sutton’s situation is much different than Snyder and Davis.

It’s been a rough season in Stillwater and things took a turn for the worse after Eddie Sutton was involved in a traffic accident and charged with driving under the influence.

Wednesday night it was announced that Eddie Sutton would be stepping down for the remainder of the season to deal with health issues and undergo alcohol rehab. The Oklahoma State grad was available for a televised press conference via telephone which means he was not in attendance. I suddenly realized he could reach a career milestone the same way. Sutton is six wins shy of 800, and hasn’t been shy about his desire reach the lofty milestone. After doing some research, the school does have the option to count the remaining games towards Sutton’s career wins and losses – an option I’m told the NCAA manual states a school can use if they meet certain criteria. So the man who revitalized the Oklahoma State basketball program, the one’s who’s spent every year since 1969 at the helm of a college program, could actually complete a career achievement without being in attendance. Doesn’t seem right, but as of now, this is the way Oklahoma State chooses to do things.    

I think the 69-year old Sutton is a future member of the Hall of Fame with or without win number 800, but should he join Rupp, Smith, Knight, and Phelan in this elite group, I don’t see any way Springfield keeps the door closed.

Sutton’s number resides in the rolodex of any A.D. who wants to revitalize a program, and he’s answered the call. He’s taken all four teams he’s coached to the NCAA tournament – that’s Creighton, Arkansas, Kentucky, and Oklahoma State. He took Arkansas to the 1978 Final Four and provided the Cowboys with a couple of Final Four banners (1995, 2004). Though the “big one” is missing from his resume, he’s won at least 17 games every year at the helm in Stillwater, and he’s collected coach of the year honors in every conference he’s coached.

There are a plethora of reasons to put Sutton in the Hall of Fame but there are even more reasons to root for him to get back on that sideline. Sutton has always believed in giving second chances, hopefully he’ll have another chance at a better life and a special career achievement. Sutton does turn 70 on March 12th.

So while Sutton always seemed at home in Stillwater, I doubt Mike Davis ever really WANTED to be the coach at Indiana University.

Davis claims he took the job to keep the team intact and not a single player left IU after Bob Knight’s firing. Mission accomplished.

But Davis failed to effectively deal with the pressure-cooker in Bloomington. With zero head coaching experience under his belt at the college level, he was asked to replace a legend back in the year 2000. It’s amazing he lasted this long because Davis was in a no-win situation. Following a legend is not easy – ask Bill Guthridge, ask Craig Esherick.

The Indiana faithful never embraced him and Bob Knight’s shadow loomed over him every day on the sideline at IU. Davis was learning on the job under a microscope and it’s not easy with the program’s faithful breathing down your neck, and accentuating every failure.

Indiana, like Kentucky, does not accept mediocrity and unfortunately there’s been plenty in Bloomington the last couple of years.

If Davis hadn’t brought the Hoosiers to the title game in 2002, I doubt he would still be in Bloomington. That probably bought him the last few years of his tenure.

Since that title game appearance, the Hoosiers have made the dance just once. To add to the dismay of Hoosier fans, Davis failed to secure the services of Scott May’s son Sean who we all know went on to claim Final Four MVP honors --in Carolina Blue. It didn’t help when 7-foot Greg Oden opted to go to Ohio State University.

“The bottom line in college basketball is winning games,” a simple yet true statement made by Hall of Fame member Jim Boeheim on Thursday night’s College Gamenight on ESPN. “Coaches have always gotten fired. It’s not about graduating players, not about good citizenship, it’s about winning games.”

Curiously, Boeheim is enduring one of his worst years as the head coach at Syracuse. But the difference between an established veteran like Boeheim, and a “newbie” like Davis is light years apart.

I believe Davis has a terrific basketball mind, but I also believed he wasn’t ready to take on a job as big as Indiana.  

Remember after the outburst against Kentucky – Davis claimed, “I’m not the guy for this job”?  With two years left in his contract Davis has again confirmed his belief in that statement.

Davis claims that IU needs one of their own. Indiana’s current head coach has certainly made the rest of Steve Alford’s season more difficult. Alford has long been the “chosen one” by some of the staunchest Indiana supporters. Alford does not want to talk about the job – for now…but make no mistake about it, the Hoosiers will be knocking on the door of the man that led Indiana to its last national championship in 1987 to re-kindle the magic with one of their own.

Kansas fans are hopeful the Davis resignation will shed a positive ray of light on the recruitment of 6-9 Darrell Arthur. The highly coveted forward had IU and KU on his top tier of schools but had formed a relationship with Davis. It will be interesting to see how this one plays out now that Indiana appears to be off the list for Arthur and if the departure pushes Arthur towards the Jayhawks.

Mike Davis and Quin Snyder’s situations are mirror images in some ways.

Four years ago, a Snyder-led Missouri team came within one game of making the Final Four -- now it’s time for a change at Missouri.

Like Davis, maybe Quin landed a high-profile job before he was ready, and at Missouri it became a question of when, not if, for the embattled coach. Also like Davis, Snyder had to deal with rumblings of his ouster time and time again, and the bottom had dropped out on his fan support. The spotlight is not always a fun place to be.

In the long run, Davis and Snyder may both be better off taking a lower profile job much like Matt Doherty ended up doing after his time at North Carolina had concluded. Doherty is currently enduring a 12-12 season at Florida Atlantic, minus the attention.

Was Snyder’s record awful? Not really, but by Missouri-standards the Tigers were underachieving. Snyder finished his career with a record of 126-91 but it became a question of which straw would break this camel’s back? There was talent but was Quin getting the most out of it? Maybe it was the loss to last-place Baylor by a whopping 26 points. Or maybe it was the long list of teams the Tigers SHOULDN’T lose to that Snyder had accumulated over the last few years (Sam Houston State, Belmont to name a couple).

Snyder did make the NCAA tournament in four of his six years, became the fastest coach in Missouri history to reach 100 wins, and was the first coach to lead a 12-seed to the Elite Eight. The problem was most Tiger fans didn’t think they should’ve been a 12-seed!

Missouri is a high-level job and I guarantee there are a bunch of coaches wagging their tails at the notion of landing a spot at the helm in Columbia – even if they won’t say it on the record. This is a coveted career opportunity in a major conference and Mizzou has all the tools -- quality athletic facilities, a decent history, and a solid fan base.

Missouri does face scholarship limitations until next season thanks to the Ricky Clemons saga and an athletic department that seems in disarray but trust me-- there will be a lot of big names involved in the search for a successor.

I just hope the next choice at Missouri and Indiana is ready to endure the pressure-cooker of being at the helm of a high-profile program. Top Stories