Blog Archives

Sour on the Irish

I was very distressed to see Notre Dame defeat Baylor last night to advance to the NCAA women’s basketball Final Four.

First, I am a HUGE fan of Baylor coach Kim Mulkey. She not only has coached the Bears to two national championships (2005, 2012; the latter saw Baylor go 40-0, led by four-time All-American Britney Griner), she was one of the best to play the game. 

Mulkey was a high school All-American in Hammond, La., a college town 45 miles east of Baton Rouge and 50 miles northwest of New Orleans. She went on to enjoy an All-America career at Louisiana Tech in Ruston, helping the Lady Techesters win the first national championship sanctioned by the NCAA in 1982. She capped her playing career by helping the United States win the gold medal at the 1984 Summer Olympics in Los Angeles. 

If the WNBA existed in the mid-1980s, there’s no doubt Mulkey would have gone on to earn numerous All-Pro accolades. But instead, she returned to Ruston and became an assistant to Leon Barmore with the Lady Techsters. Tech won another national championship in 1988, and lost the champioship game in 1994 and 1998. It was assumed Mulkey would succeed Barmore once he opted to retire. 

Barmore stubbornly stayed on the bench, and Mulkey became impatient, wanting to become a head coach at a Division I school.

Turns out she had another route. 

The lady who began the Louisiana Tech program in the 1970s, Sonja Hogg, was about to retire at Baylor. Hogg, who was co-coach with Barmore when the Techsters won the 1982 championship, recommended Mulkey as her successor.

And the rest is history.

Tech has not been able to sustain its level of success since Mulkey’s departure. It has not advanded past the second round since 2003, and it is currently on its fourth coach since Barmore, Tyler Summitt, the only child of the one and only Pat Summitt, the winningest women’s basketball coach of all time. 

Mulkey has moved Baylor to the top of the Big 12, and it should stay there as long as she’s in Waco, but there will always be problems recruiting there, since Baylor is the smallest school in the Big 12 and doesn’t have the deep pocketed donors Texas, Oklahoma and Texas A&M have, although the Aggies are now in the SEC. 

I wish Mulkey were coaching at LSU. There’s no reason she should not be. 

First and foremost, Mulkey is from Louisiana. In fact, less than an hour from the LSU campus. LSU is the flagship university of the Bayou State, and it plays in the nation’s elite college athletic conference. 

Second, LSU has whiffed big time on its coaching hires since the tragic passing of Sue Gunter. 

Gunter was diagnosed with cancer in January 2004 and forced to leave the bench. She would never return, and died in August 2005. 

When Gunter took ill, her longtime assistant, Pokey Chatman, took the reigns. Chatman was an All-America point guard at LSU in 1991, and she proved just as adept at coaching, guiding the Bayou Bengals to their first Final Four in 2004, where they suffered a heartbreaking 52-50 loss to Tennessee in the semifinals at New Orleans. 

I wish LSU would have considered Mulkey for the permanent job, but I can understand the desire not to change captains of the ship when it’s full steam ahead. Pokey was deserving of calling the shots after the run to the Final Four. 

LSU got back to the Final Four the next two seasons, losing to Mulkey’s Baylor Bears in 2005 and Duke in 2006. 

Allegations of an improper relationship with a player came up during the 2006-07 season, leading to Pokey’s firing prior to the NCAA tournament. 

Bob Starkey, a longtime assistant for both the LSU men’s and women’s programs, coached the team in the NCAA tournmaent. The Bayou Bengals got back to the Final Four, crushing Connecticut 73-51 in the West Region final at Fresno. However, LSU found no more success on the big stage, scoring a meager 35 points in losing to Rutgers. 

Starkey wanted the head coaching job. He would have been a better hire than the man who got the job. 

Van Chancellor enjoyed tremendous success at Ole Miss for two decades before leading the Houston Comets to the first three WNBA championships in 1997, 1998 and 1999. He then coached the USA Olympic team to gold in Syndey in 2000.

But WHY? WHY in 2007 was he the right fit for LSU? 

Mulkey would have been the perfect hire. No reason why LSU could not have offered her the moon. If LSU had the financial wherewithal to make Les Miles and Paul Mainieri the highest paid coaches, or among the highest paid, in their respecitve sports, why couldn’t it do the same for Mulkey? 

Chancellor got LSU to the Final Four in 2008, where it lost by one to Tennessee. Combined with the men’s program, LSU has the WORST combined winning percentage of any major school in the Final Four. Zero and Eleven. At least there’s baseball and football. 

In the following seasons, LSU backtracked. It didn’t relapse into the pitifulness it experienced in the mid-19909s, when the team won 27 games in three seasons and played before crowds of under 500 at the PMAC, but it wasn’t anywhere near the elite level, either. 

Chancellor was fired in 2011, and LSU athletic director Joe Alleva had another chance to hire Mulkey.

Instead, he made another bad hire, picking Nikki Caldwell, a former Tennessee All-American who enjoyed moderate success at UCLA. Caldwell appears in over her head, and I don’t expect LSU to be back in the Final Four any time soon. 

Now, why I dislike Notre Dame’s women.

It all stems from its coach, Muffett McGraw.

There was a time I liked the Fighting Irish ladies. Espeically the 200-01 national championship teasm, which featured 6-foot-5 All-Amiercan Ruth Riley and 6-foot-3 Kelley Siemon, the daughter of former Minnesota Vikings All-Pro linebacker Jeff Siemon, who also was an All-American on two Stanford teams which won the Rose Bowl in 1970 and ’71. 

Now, I cannot stand the Irish, and I especially cannot stand McGraw, who encouraged her team to wear “Hands Up, Don’t Shoot” t-shirts before a couple of December games in support of Michael Brown, the black youth in Ferguson, Mo., who was shot and killed by a police officer in August during an attempted robbery.  

I don’t know this for sure, but I would bet McGraw is an unabashed supporter of abortion rights. If she is, she has no business whatsoever coaching at Notre Dame or any other Catholic institution. Again, I hope I’m wrong, but I’m willing to bet she is. 

Notre Dame is Catholic in name only now. By allowing Barack Hussein Obama, the most anti-life, pro-abortion leader in the history of the free world, to speak at commenecemtn is a slap in the face to the majority of Catholics, msyelf included, who believe life is sacred and it begins at the moment of conception. 

I believe Pope Benedict XVI should have excommunicaterd Notre Dame president Rev. John Jenkins for extending the invitation for the anthesis of Catholic values to speak at a Catholic university’s commencement. 

I am not a fan of Geno Auriemma and Connecticut. But I will glady root for the Huskies over Notre Dame any day now. 

Texas strikes out

Nolan Ryan would have been right had home had he been on his ranch in Texas watching the NCAA men’s basketball tournament.

WHIFF. WHIFF. WHIFF. WHIFF. WHIFF.

Texas had five entries in the tournament. By 9 p.m. Central tonight, all five were making plans to return to the the place where everything is bigger, but not always better.

We’ll excuse Texas Southern and Stephen F. Austin. They were going up against the Pac-12, which isn’t the best conference this season, but it is a major conference, one where the basketball budget at Arizona and Utah, the teams which vanquished TSU and SFA, respectively, is far larger than the entire athletic budget at the smaller Texas schools.

The big boys from the big state fared no better.

The losses by Baylor, Texas and SMU reminded us once again that Texas is a FOOTBALL state first and foremost. If there is a second sport, it’s BASEBALL, not basketball. And women’s basketball has been more successful on the national stage than men’s basketball in the Lone Star State, as evidenced by undefeated national title runs by Texas in 1986 and Baylor in 2012.

Texas’ loss is forgivable. Butler is a good team which knows how to win at this time of the year. The Longhorns were too inconsistent to go very far, and they were exposed by the boys from Indianapolis.

SMU lost to a UCLA team the vast majority of experts claimed had no business being in the tournament. Committee 1, “experts” 0. Now the Bruins are heavy favorites to reach the Sweet 16, since they get UAB in the next round.

Baylor. Wow.

Scott Drew must have taken the PhD course from Art Briles in how to blow big leads. A little more than two months after the Bears football team blew a 20-point lead in the fourth quarter of the Cotton Bowl to Michigan State and lost 42-41, the Baylor roundballers lost a 12-point lead in less than two minutes to a less than stellar Georgia State team which scored a whopping 38 points in the Sun Belt Conference tournament championship game. THIRTY EIGHT POINTS in a game with a 35-second shot clock. Villanova and Georgetown went way over that in the last major college game played without a shot clock, the 1985 championship game won by the Wildcats 66-64.

Then again, where Baylor is now is light years from where it was 10 years ago, when it came within a whisker of the NCAA Death Penalty following the cover-up in the murder of Patrick Denehey by teammate Carlton Dotson. Coach Dave Bliss committed egregious violations and also covered up the murder, which led to a 10 year show-cause penalty, essentially blackballing him from coaching at another NCAA school. The Bears were banned from playing non-conference games in 2005-06, the first time such a harsh penalty had ever been handed down.

I don’t think many will care much about college basketball in Texas for much longer. Spring football at the colleges is well underway, and the large high schools will hold their own spring drills in April and May.

Cyclones peter out

Five days ago, Iowa State rallied from 17 points down against Kansas in Kansas City to win the Big 12 Conference tournament champoinship.

Just before 3 p.m. Eastern time this afternoon, the Cyclones’ season is done.

Iowa State pulled a massive choke job in their first NCAA tournmaent game, falling to No. 14 seed UAB 60-59.

Not only was UAB a 14 seed, but the Blazers were 19-14 in a weak Conference USA, one which has not one basketball power to speak of. There was a time when C-USA was almost on par with the major conferences, thanks to Cincinnati, Lousville and Memphis. Now, there’s a bunch of nothing. 

The Cyclones GAGGED. No ifs, ands or buts about it. UAB would not have made the NIT had it not won the C-USA tourney, which, by the way, was played in Birmingham. 

The happiest people about this outcome, other than the dozens of UAB fans, was Jayhawk Nation.

First, Iowa State is out. 

Second, the Blazers are coached by KU alum Jerod Haase, who played on the Jayhawks’ 1993 Final Four team, Roy Williams’ second in three seasons. That KU squad was the lone non-No. 1 seed in that Final Four, which was played at the Louisiana Superdome in New Orleans. North Carolina, Michigan and Kentucky were the other teams. 

And now the Big 12 is in danger of another No. 3 seed losing to a 14. 

Georgia State just took a 57-56 lead on Baylor with 2.8 seconds to go. The Panthers won the Sun Belt Conference tournament by defeating rival Georgia Southern 38-36. Come on. 74 points COMBINED in the 35-second shot clock era? That’s pitiful. 

However, Baylor is doing it to itself. The Bears have given up 13 unanswered points to turn their 12-point lead into a deficit. 

And it’s over. Another undeserving team in the next round. That’s why I am not nearly as interested in college basketball as I am in baseball or football. Or even the Natoinal Hockey League.