Mule': What is all the debate about?

Even the Jefferson-Pilot announcers got into it last week when one said John Brady being selected the SEC's Coach of the Year was an "upset.''

Pardon me if I appear perplexed, but why exactly has this vote by Brady's peers become . . . is "controversial'' the word?


Of course, those with Big Orange leanings might be disappointed, seeing as how Tennessee got off to a fast start and contended for the SEC East title until late in the season. So those Volunteer fans and websites now crying that Coach Bruce Pearl was snubbed might be understood. That would be a reach in logic, but maybe it works in some circles. ESPN senior writer Pat Forde feels Pearl not getting the award was an injustice, that SEC coaches begrudging Pearl for his flamboyant coaching – and fashion – style.


Don't cry for Bruce Pearl. He's a stellar coach and before he's through in Knoxville he'll rack up a few such awards, and titles.


But it is hard to make a case that Pearl deserves this season's Coach of the Year award over Brady. The argument for Pearl is that his team, picked in the lower reaches of the SEC East in the preseason, was in contention until the last week. A terrific job by the Tennessee staff, make no mistake.


No one, however, picked LSU to win the SEC either. The Tigers were generally viewed as the No. 2 team in the West. Even that assessment would have changed downward early when starting point guard Tack Minor was lost for the season. Still the short-handed Tigers kept plugging – and winning. They kept winning even after losing starting forward – and the league's Freshman of the Year – Tyrus Thomas. LSU kept winning until it locked up the regular season championship.


Doesn't that count for something?


It should, especially when it's realized that most of the season Brady was starting three freshman and a sophomore after losing his best player, Brandon Bass who would be a junior now if he hadn't gone pro. Coaching such a young bunch is no easy task, no matter how talented they might be.


There's one other argument that could be made for Brady, and that's that LSU handily beat Tennessee, and on a night when the Tigers didn't play well, committing 17 turnovers just in the first half.


All right, so Brady isn't a media darling. You have to wonder, though, just what a guy has to do to get some respect.


"John ought to consider taking some Dale Carnegie courses,'' Joe Dean, the former LSU athletic director who hired Brady nine years ago, said with a chuckle.


"He's a great guy with a wry sense of humor that seems to go over people's heads sometimes,'' Dean said. "There are times when he says things tongue-in-cheek that are taken seriously. Maybe that hurts John from time to time.''


Dean, whose recommendation three decades ago also brought Brady's predecessor, Dale Brown, to the LSU sidelines, admits Brady's occasionally prickly personality contributes to the perception. "John can be thin-skinned, and can react verbally to things said that he disagrees with. Maybe that hurts him, but, you know, Nick Saban wasn't a warm and fuzzy guy either.''


Maybe Brady should work more on getting along with the media than on coaching. He doesn't, however, seem to think that's very important.


"I knew John was a good teacher when I hired him,'' Dean said. "The big question about him was could he recruit at this level.''


Brady had been coaching at Samford, and Dean's thought were focused on men he knew could and recruit at a high level: Iowa State's Tim Floyd, who had a long and successful tenure at the University of New Orleans, and Ole Miss' Rob Evans.


"It was hard to talk to Tim because the (Chicago) Bulls were also talking to him and, of course, we couldn't compete with the money of the NBA,'' Dean said. "I also thought it was time for a minority coach at LSU and Rob was a very good coach. I didn't offer him the job because he had four starters coming back from a good Ole Miss team and I sensed he wanted to coach them. I also knew he wanted to go back West, where he's from and where he eventually ended up. But he would have done well here.''


That left Brady, who demonstrated early that he could lure top prospects to LSU with Stromile Swift, and the last three SEC Freshmen of the Year, Bass, Glen Davis, and Thomas.


According to Dean, all Brady needs now to become a complete coach is a cuddlier  personality.


What's that number for Dale Carnegie?     




Marty Mule' can be reached at

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