Such is the beauty of working as a sports talk show host. There isn't a better way to make a living.
Never mind that I haven't seen a single practice. Forget that I haven't a clue who's been a team player in practice, who's been coachable, who's consistent and who's not, I have seen one game in person, sitting in the second row behind the broadcasting table directly across from Louisville's Rick Pitino, so I am now qualified to coach the 2003-2004 Marquette Golden Eagles from my home in Connecticut.
So here's what I would do with Marquette in the Conference USA Tournament:
Travis Diener, as quality a college point guard as anyone not named Jameer Nelson, gets 36 minutes of playing time, unless of course a referee fouls him out of the game with a phantom call.
Diener, blessed with blow-by quickness and a skilled passer and shooter, will have a long NBA career. His senior day will be a tear-jerker for everyone in the packed house.
So who runs the show during his four minutes of rest? Carleton Christian.
The starting five? Diener, Christian, Dameon Mason, Steve Novak and Terry Sanders. Joe Chapman spells Christian and Mason and all three are on the court together when Diener rests.
With the ultra-quick wings Christian and Mason on the floor at the same time, more loose balls end up in Marquette's hands, deflections increase markedly, and Novak's defensive deficiencies are camouflaged. Novak is better equipped to cover post players than wings and it doesn't hurt to have him closer to the basket for rebounding purposes.
At power forward, Scott Merritt plays the 10 minutes that Novak rests. Merritt can tear a page out of Novak's book with catch-and-shoot buckets instead of putting the ball on the floor and executing the multi-direction spin moves that too often result in travel calls and blocked shots.
Sanders, Marcus Jackson and Chris Grimm share the playing at center, getting roughly the same amount of playing time. Merritt and Grimm seem to play well together and another effective tandem seemed to be Novak and Jackson.
Brandon Bell and Todd Townsend can lend support cheering from the bench. Karon Bradley? If MU encounters a scoring drought, Bradley can be the spark off the bench.
Now that I've figured who to player where and how much, all I need to become as qualified for the coaching job as Tom Crean is:
*The ability to recruit an entire student-body, transforming a fit-for-a-funeral crowd into a blindingly bright gold Mosh Pit of a homecourt advantage by reaching out to the students and consistently letting them know they own the program.
*The ability to rally so much enthusiastic support so quickly that a practice facility second to none in the country can be constructed to replace an ancient gym long on charm and short on practicality.
*The ability to recruit a stud in every class: Dwyane Wade followed by Diener, followed by Novak, followed by Mason. Will next year's stud be Ryan Amoroso or Ousmane Barro? Or will the streak be broken? More people care about the answers to those questions than at any time in the post-Al McGuire years.
*The ability to identify student-athletes who won't embarrass the university the way so many thugs have tainted programs across the country. James Matthews didn't meet the disciplined standards, so Crean ran him from the program, even if his power and athleticism were exactly what the team needed. Crean chose not to compromise standards in exchange for winning an extra game or two.
*The sportsmanship to win without stooping to incorporating fabricated quotes into a newspaper report as a means of motivating my players.
*The sanity to put my fate in the hands of teenagers who by definition are volatile and the sanity to weather a roller-coaster season a year after shocking the college basketball world by reaching the Final Four.
*The confidence to walk into the living room of a Big East recruit after he already has entertained Jim Boeheim, Jim Calhoun, Pitino, and Bob Huggins to convince that recruit that no school can be as enriching an experience as Marquette.
Come to think of it, maybe I'm not qualified to replace Crean. I think I'll keep my day job and coach Marquette in my head. That way I can remain undefeated.
-- Tom Keegan, a 1981 graduate of Marquette, began his career in journalism covering the 1978-79 Marquette women's team for the Marquette Tribune, for which he also covered the 1980-81 men's team. Keegan, co-host of Wally and the Keeg, the 1050 ESPN Radio New York City afternoon drive-time show, covered sports for newspapers in Los Angeles, Chicago, Baltimore and New York before joining ESPN Radio in 2002. His efforts to name each of his three sons Oliver Lee Keegan were rebuffed by his wife of 20 years.