Tuesday, March 30, 2010

University of Oregon still getting it wrong

Inspired by the multiple text messages I received today about the University of Oregon supposedly offering Tubby Smith a couple million dollars a year to coach Ducks basketball.

First things first, Tubby is one of those coaches that gets linked to job after job after job. During the tournament he was reportedly close to signing a deal with Auburn. In January he was linked to University of Alabama job. When Lute Olsen retired it was Arizona. This has been the story since he came to Minnesota. When a coach's name is bigger than his current program everyone just sort of expects him to leave as soon as he has the chance. That isn't to say that Tubby won't dump Goldy for greener (like money, ha!) pastures, or that there is no merit to the Oregon rumors. I'm just saying his name comes up a lot.

As for the University of Oregon, their high profile coaching search could end up being the latest thing to bite their sports department in the ass.

First of all, the only good thing about this job for a big name coach is the money. Keep in mind that a top-tier coach will have to walk away from a most likely cozy current situation to take this job. University of Oregon sports isn't exactly in a good place right now. The basketball team has been underachieving for a while. Football players are getting arrested. The Attorney General is looking into Belotti's shady severance pay. The program lacks the kind of historical tradition that might appeal to some coaches. Not to mention a coach may have less control of the program than they enjoy currently. That Nike money can be a double-edged sword when you have a hands on mega-booster like Phil Knight.

Considering all of the above there is only one reason an elite coach would take this job: money. But how sustainable is a program lead by a person that values dollars so much more than anything else? Is that the type of coach that stays long enough to build a real program? Am I the only one that thinks bringing a potentially morally questionable coach into an already morally questionable sports department is a bad idea?

Additionally, Oregon's strategy of throwing big money to get a big name to take a bad job doesn't seem likely to pay off. We may be seeing some negative effects already. Big money and big names mean big media coverage. Every time a name is linked to the job, only to be followed by reports that said name rejected the deal, the job gets less desirable to subsequent names on the list. Would you leave a comfortable situation for a higher-paying but less comfortable situation, after everyone knows a handful of your peers have turned down a similar offer?

If Oregon doesn't get a top name soon the Ducks sports department could become even more of a joke. They could become the place that is so awful they can't get a coach even when they offer the world.

The Ducks aren't exactly masters of subtly (which reminds me, please chill out with the football uniforms), but I can't help but think they should have at least tried to keep a low-profile this time. They could have acknowledged that they don't have the type of situation an elite coach wants to walk into. They could have recognized that throwing around cash and getting rejected might come back to bite them. They could have understood that their job is most appealing to up and coming coaches (who would probably hang around long enough to build a respectable program) or respected coaches looking to get back into the game. (Steve Lavin might not take the job, but considering the circumstances he seems like a much more likely candidate than Tom Izzo.)

Oregon didn't do any of those things. They went for the glitz instead. Now they could end up paying the price. Again.


Anonymous said...

I agree that the coaching search here at Oregon is getting a bit weird with all the rumors swirling around. I would also say that most Oregon fans want a coach who has NW ties and will stay for awhile. (Remember Jerry Green anyone?)

That said, your "pile on Oregon" attitude is a bit ridiculous. Really, aren't the uniform criticisms getting old by now? Who cares. The players like them, it's fun for the fans to see the combinations, and I repeat - WHO CARES. The football player arrests have been unfortunate, but I believe, have allowed our coach to show his ability to rise above the fray. Not to mention the drop in the bucket Oregon's problems have been compared to other programs' issues. As for Bellotti's severance package, isn't it a bit premature to call it "shady"? Let's let the review happen first.

Seth Johnston said...

You could have been a little more convincing if you didn't write "here at Oregon" in your opening sentence.

I'll take it as a compliment that you aren't debating the main points of my entry but are focusing on some peripheral comments.

To me the uniforms are a reasonable example of Oregon's painful "look at me please!" approach to things.

Reducing the football arrests by claiming that they aren't as bad as some other places is not a strong defense. I never said the arrests were worse than anyone else in history, only that they are bad. The "I'm bad, but not as bad as THAT guy" is a classic way to avoid responsibility, why do you think so many politicians use that same argument?

I called Bellotti's severance shady because, if it weren't, the state AG would not be reviewing it. Believe it or not, they only look at the ones that smell funny.

Apparently Belotti and Oregon agreed to his severance package not when he moved into the AD role, but three days before he quit. Questionable.

Also, don't forget that he quit. Severance packages are normally not given unless the organization fires the person. Questionable.

Since we're talking about a couple million dollars, much of which is state money, all of this is an issue.

Since the severance agreement was technically made before Belotti quit I doubt the AG will be able to do anything. But the facts of the severance remain, and yes, they were shady, even if technically acceptable in the legal sense.

Sorry for piling on.

Anonymous said...

U of O is going through the same thing every high profile school school goes through. All of these agencies and egents are tied together and leak all these names out as "candidates of interest", then their guy either gets a raise or a longer term deal with a much larger buyout just because the media has hyped all this up to a mess. It's a joke.

Anonymous said...

What makes you conclude that Bellotti's severance was state money? Because Oregon is a public institution? Oregon's athletic department has been in the black for over a decade with zero reliance on state funding. Yes, that's Nike and private donors that enable that. But to suggest that Bellotti's severance was paid for by Oregon taxpayers is not accurate at all. The Ducks' athletic department operates independently from tax revenues. Argue that on its merits if you want, but to say that his severance is "state money" is not correct.

Anonymous said...

Would someone who writes a column or a blog please mention Jay Wright's name?! I think he or Dixon should be the two picks for Coach.

Seth Johnston said...

Word on the state money, got that from another article without checking myself. My bad.

As for Wright and Dixon, those are good choices and probably more likely to end up taking the job than any of the bigger names.

If one of them did take the position, would that disappoint anyone that was drinking the big name kool aid?

Anonymous said...

Who's seth johnson? Anyone?

Anyway, seth, let's wait until the dust settles before we render judgement.

And you're wrong. Oregon is a great job. Do you get the memo about the new arena? Yeah, that one. Pretty nice I hear.

BTW: Eugene is an excellent place to live, work and raise a family. It's paradise for those of us who love the outdoors and the presence of a first rate college.

What I'm reading from you and a lot of other amateurs, along with some of the mainstream media outlets, is just plain jealousy. Yeah, we're rich, and you know what? There's not a god damn thing wrong with being rich. Unless of course the school you support isn't. Which is probably the case with you. So deal with it rather than getting all angry and hostile.

Anyway, have a great day sethie!! See you back at the Elite 8 in a cople years.

Anonymous said...

I think U of O is pretty happy with their "getting it wrong" on attitude about hiring coaches. Take a quick look at the Track, Baseball and Golf hirings. A couple of NCAA Championships and #1 golf team and top 35 baseball team in only it's second year.

Anonymous said...

Dixon is indeed a good coach, but I am not sure if his style of play matches what the Ducks are looking for. Pitt plays a physical, slower style, and up til now, Oregon has recruited for a run and gun, high scoring game. But perhaps Jamie will force a different brand of ball, which will make the rebuilding job more challenging because of who Oregon has on the current roster.

Seth Johnston said...

I'm not sure who "seth johnson" is either. I'm glad you plan on seeing me at the elite 8 in a cople of years. Glad that you're thinking of me, or are you talking about seth johnson again?

Golf, track, baseball, these are not basketball. A big name coach from those sports isn't nearly as big as a big name basketball coach. More money, more media, more influence. I prefer keeping college basketball and football separated from the other sports in an argument like this.

Since some of these comments seem to be implying that I'm a UO hater, please believe that I am not. I want them to do well just as I want all of the teams in the state to do well.

I'm bringing up what I think are reasonable concerns for their coaching search. If you want to find a way to take this entry as a personal insult from me to you and leave some ridiculous comment, go for it. But at least use your spell check.

DuckHead said...

Johnston, Johnson. Whatever. And for the record I meant to say c.o.u.p.l.e. Got it? Good.

I didn't say anything about the other programs. That come from another poster, whose points are completely valid. But I agree, football and men's basketball are the sports that define a school's athletic dept.

But, as I said earlier, let's wait until the dust settles before we get too critical of the process.

And again, you're completely wrong about the job—It's a great job, which is why it will be filled by a great coach.

We'll have to wait and see what happens, but time will likely prove me right in this instance.

Hank H said...

One question: If one believes coaching candidates like Tubby Smith or Jamie Dixon are excellent coaches with good moral fiber, why wouldn't Oregon want to hire them; and how would their acceptance of more money to do what they love at a new school suddenly make them morally unfit to help that school?

Hank H said...

One more thing: I work for money. If someone wants to double my salary to come work for them, I certainly won't feel insulted. I may even take the job.

The job of coaching at one school is not intrinsically different than coaching at another. To say that money is the only reason to coach at Oregon also foolishly ignores the tremendous resources Nike brings and the great livability of Eugene.

siskiyou said...

The uniforms are designed by students and athletes with guidance from Nike. Nike tries to have a two year turn around on the projects so the students and athletes have a chance to see and wear their designs before graduating. While you might be jelous of Oregon's association with Nike it's actually a major reason for some athletes and students to choose Oregon.

Anonymous said...

Jay Wright is not leaving Villanova. He already turned down Kentucky, twice, and also turned down the 76ers. He grew up a Nova fan, that's his home team, and he already makes good money.

Seth Johnston said...

Hank, read the entry. Try to pay attention without taking it as some sort of personal insult. The questions you asked are answered there.

Sikiyou, see my first response.

To everyone claiming that Eugene is a great place to live: I never said that it isn't.

Now please recognize that just because you and I may enjoy being there, other people don't necessarily feel the same way. Some people prefer to be in different regions of the country entirely. Some people want to be in or near a bigger city. Some people may want to be in a more diverse community. Living in Eugene may be a draw for some candidates or a deterrent for others. Implying that it is a place that everyone wants to live seems a tad arrogant.

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