Moore on the subject

After watching Tennessee suffer homefloor losses to Alabama and Florida last week, I'm inclined to believe Buzz Peterson's biggest problem is his recruiting ... not his coaching.

He didn't lose to Alabama because Mark Gottfried outcoached him and he didn't lose to Florida because Billy Donovan outcoached him. Heck, those guys have never been accused of outcoaching ANYBODY. And they didn't outcoach Buzz; they outRECRUITED him. Gottfried and Donovan are successful because they're superior recruiters, not because they're superior strategists.

I believe if you put Buzz in charge of Alabama's players, the Tide would still be 19-4 or thereabouts. Likewise, if you put Gottfried in charge of Tennessee's players, I believe the Vols would still be 11-13 or thereabouts. The same goes for Buzz coaching Donovan's players and vise-versa.

My point is this: Basketball coaching isn't brain surgery. Heck, Jerry Green won 89 games in four years at UT. Does anybody really think he was a brilliant bench coach? Of course not. He wasn't a great coach ... he was an average coach surrounded by great players.

That's not to imply that coaching has no bearing on the outcome of college basketball games. I think having Tubby Smith on the bench is worth 5-10 points per game for Kentucky. I also think South Carolina wins an occasional game because of Dave Odom's coaching. After those two, however, I think the other 10 SEC coaches are pretty much on the same level.

Donovan has a big-time reputation in some quarters, yet he's just 5-3 in eight meetings with Buzz. Kevin Stallings has some pop after taking Vanderbilt to the NCAA Sweet 16 last year but he's 4-4 against Buzz and was nearly fired two years ago. Rick Stansbury would be struggling at Mississippi State if he hadn't lucked into a dynamic Baylor transfer named Lawrence Roberts a couple of years ago.

I'm not suggesting Buzz should be brought back for 2005-06. Nor am I suggesting he should NOT be back. Frankly, I'm glad Mike Hamilton has to make that decision and not me. Tennessee had a better basketball team when Buzz arrived than it does four years later, and that's cause for alarm. But I think the slippage can be traced to Peterson's mistakes as a recruiter, moreso than his mistakes as a coach.

The losses to Alabama and Florida -- at least in my mind -- underscore that point.

For what it's worth, here's how I'd rate the SEC basketball coaches:

A- Tubby Smith, Kentucky
B- Dave Odom, South Carolina
C+ Stan Heath, Arkansas
C+ Rick Stansbury, Miss. State
C+Kevin Stallings, Vanderbilt
C Mark Gottfried, Alabama
C-Rod Barnes, Ole Miss
C- Buzz Peterson, UT
C- Billy Donovan, Florida
C- John Brady, LSU

JURY'S STILL OUT: Dennis Felton, Georgia ... Jeff Lebo, Auburn( I) Incomplete


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