Friday, April 11, 2008

Moose Season

It never fails ... I have a day with limited Internet access, and all kinds of stuff goes down with ND basketball.

Each deserves its own entry, so I'll start with Gene Cross, the new head basketball coach at the University of Toledo. I'm sure I'm not alone in congratulating GC on his first head coaching gig and wishing him the best of luck. This opportunity is waaaaay overdue for him. He brought an excellent dynamic to Notre Dame the past two seasons, and we saw the results both on and off the court. I certainly hope we have room on the schedule for a home-and-home for Toledo the next two seasons.

This leaves an opening on the Irish coaching staff. While I wouldn't expect Mike Brey to fill it immediately, news comes from the Trib's Brian Hamilton that current restricted-slot Irish coach and CBO Martin "Moose" Ingelsby will fill Cross' spot, at least temporarily.

Let's get the caveats out of the way. BH's article doesn't mention if this promotion is permanent or not. Mike's quote from the article indicates he'll be looking for a new assistant, but doesn't mention whether it's to fill Cross' vacancy or Moose's. Things are vague, and a lot can still happen.

Let me also be crystal clear that I love Moose, both as a player and as a person and as a potential coach. I think he rose above his limitations, so to speak, as a player, and never doubted he'd give everything he had whenever he was on the floor. He had outstanding leadership skills, and his teammates believed in and followed him. I think he'd bring all of those same qualities to coaching, and look forward to the day when he's running a D1 program.

Having said all of those things, things I believe with all my heart, I think moving him up to permanent assistant right now is a bad move, for a number of reasons.

First, Moose needs to get some non-ND experience. His entire assistant coaching career, other than one year at Wagner, has been under the Dome. As someone who loves ND dearly, I can appreciate that characteristic in others. However, if Moose is to become a well-rounded coach, recruiter, and sideline leader, he needs to have a more diverse palate.

In the business world, getting a bachelor's and master's degree from the same school is considered a negative because it's a potential over-exposure to a single perspective. I believe the same would apply to coaching. At this point in his career, Mike should be gently nudging Moose out of the nest, not tucking him in.

Second, the past few seasons have shown us how important diverging points of view are on a coaching staff. When Anthony Solomon left after the Sweet 16 season, Mike promoted Rod Balanis out of the CBO slot and brought Moose home from Wagner. That proved problematic, as Mike now had an entire staff of coaches like him -- offense- and guard-oriented "players coaches" who were more teachers than ass-kickers. The result was three seasons where the results trended downward and the players lacked discipline.

There's nothing wrong with coaching as a teacher. Every staff needs some of that, and you have to be the coach you are or you won't succeed. But every staff also needs someone to be the drill instructor and go to the whip when things start to lag -- the balance of ying and yang. That keeps the balance and helps move the whole program forward.

That's what Anthony Solomon was in Mike's first three seasons, and that's what Gene Cross has been in the last two: the defensive-minded drill sergeant who wasn't afraid to put a foot in someone's ass when required. I don't think it's a coincidence those five years in which the staff had good balance resulted in successful regular seasons and NCAA tournament bids.

If Moose rotates into the assistant coach spot, Mike's back to the same problem he had three seasons ago. He's got a group of coaches whose first thought is offense and who work great with guards. He doesn't have someone to counterbalance his experience and perspective and provide "fresh blood" into recruiting, game prep, etc.

Finally, and not to put too fine a point on it, Mike also needs racial diversity on his staff, especially at a predominantly white school like Notre Dame. It's no secret that the racial makeup of the student body at ND works as a slight negative when trying to recruit African-American student athletes. The football program has had to deal with it for years, and basketball must handle it as well.

Whether it's recruiting African-American players or seeing after their well-being once they arrive on campus, it's important to have someone on the staff who can relate to them on as many levels as possible. I don't believe being a minority on a Caucasian campus isn't the kind of thing a white coach can naturally relate to.

I'm not suggesting for a moment that any of the current assistant coaches or Mike Brey don't have the best interests of all their players, regardless of race, in mind at all times, because it's clear to anyone with a double-digit IQ they do. I'm saying just as you have a broad spectrum of players on your team, you should also have a broad spectrum of coaches. Just as that applies to experience and tendencies, as I addressed above, it also applies to race.

Moose is going to be an excellent coach someday. But if he wants to be the best coach he can be, and ND wants to be the best program it can be, I believe it's best for both sides he continue his growth elsewhere and, just as Cross was two years ago, another batch of "new blood" be injected into the veins of Irish basketball to keep it vital.

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

you're nit-picking

4/12/2008 10:14:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Yes, we need a black assistant coach to help with getting black players.

Since we don't have any latin players , we also must have a latin coach.

Since there are probably no asian players to recruit, we must let it be known that if you are asian, and looking for a job as assistant coach, you're not wanted here. Same goes for Indians. Just politely tell them that they are the wrong color, so they can't work here.

You and I seem to be in agreement on these matters.

4/14/2008 10:07:00 AM  

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