Friday, December 24, 2010

It's really impossible to accurately compare Coach Smith and Coach K but...

Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski will pass former UNC coach Dean Smith Wednesday in most coaching victories. I’m already tired of the “Who’s better” articles. The fact is, while the careers overlapped, you can’t really accurately compare coaches from different eras.

The blogs are burning up with childish banter between supposed fans of each team. The ugliness aimed at either coach is unnecessary.

It’s a good parlor game I guess. Smith has a better winning percentage. K has more wins. Both have one Olympic medal and 11 Final Four appearances. K has a 4-2 edge in national championships while Smith has a 24-14 edge in head-to-head competition.

If I had to play the game, I’d go with Smith.

Here are reasons why:

1) Smith led his Tar Heels to 33 straight years of finishing in the ACC’s top three teams and 20 straight years in the top two. Coach K would have to coach the Blue Devils until 2028 just to tie the 33 straight year mark.

2) Smith took over a basketball program under scandal. As a result of point-shaving, North Carolina de-emphasized basketball just as Smith took over whereas Coach K took over a program that had impressively averaged more than 24 wins a year over the previous three seasons.

3) For much of Smith’s coaching career, only the winner of the ACC tournament got to go to the NCAA tournament. That’s never been the case for Coach K. As a result, he’s had more opportunities to make noise nationally and has coached more games per season.

4) Smith put in place many innovations in college basketball from the Four Corners to the Jump defense and from getting players to display a tired signal to huddling at the free throw line. Smith was employing trapping press defenses and the fastbreak running game before everybody else.

And 5) I still have a hard time ignoring head-to-head competition. Some argue that Carolina was established and Duke was rebuilding early in Coach K’s career. Even if you throw out the first four years of direct competition, Coach Smith still holds a 16-13 edge.

To play devil’s advocate, had Coach K been put in the same situation as Coach Smith, perhaps he would have been able to do just as well… and vice versa. So, again, it’s difficult, if not impossible to say which coach is better.

But the hoopla of Smith passing Adolph Rupp for most wins is a bigger deal than Coach K passing Smith – or even when he passes his mentor Bobby Knight. Rupp had the all-time record for something like 35-40 years before Smith broke it. Smith had it for fewer than 10 years before Knight broke it and Knight will have it for three or four years before Coach K breaks it.

Regardless, those four, along with UCLA’s John Wooden have to be on anybody’s short list for the best college basketball coach of all time.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Early season efforts raise doubts about Wolfpack

This just isn't turning out to be the season N.C. State expected, and you can bet there will be a rising tide of concern if the present trajectory continues.

Wednesday's events were significant if you were a Wolfpack fan. First, State announced a new men's soccer coach, Kelly Findley. Findley replaces George Tarantini, who announced his retirement at the end of the 2010 season.

Whether Tarantini retired on his own or not isn't all that important. The key point here is everyone knows new athletics director Debbie Yow isn't going to be satisfied with moribund sports, and the Wolfpack soccer program had settled into the bottom of the ACC standings. The Pack was 10-8-2 overall last season and 1-5-2 in ACC play, hardly the type of performance to excite a new AD.

Yow faces a more significant decision on basketball. Sidney Lowe is a great ambassador for the program and good guy who has now shown he can recruit. But he has yet to show he can build a winner, and the lingering injury to Tracy Smith has deflated the start to this season. Scrambling to beat Delaware State 72-70 on Wednesday night didn't exactly thrill the crowd of 11,435 at the RBC Center.

Joe Giglio, writing in The News & Observer, described the Wolfpack defense as "porous." That's an adjective you could attach to NCSU's defense for a while now - too many times, you watch the Wolfpack play and think, Wow, they just don't seem in sync on defense.

Another issue, and fans are picking up on this on the message boards, is State seems to be fishing when it comes to a rotation. Who's the point guard - Gonzalez or Harrow? What are the roles of all the different players? Obviously the injury to Smith damaged the coaching staff's plans, but injuries are part of the game. Heck, Duke may be without Kyrie Irving the rest of the season, and you can beat Mike Krzyzewski and his staff fill find a new formula. Some of Dean Smith's greatest coaching efforts came when he had critical players injured.

State has three easy non-conference games ahead, Alabama A&M on Dec. 28, San Diego on Jan. 1 and Elon on Jan. 5. after that, it opens ACC play at Wake Forest, and the steady drumbeat of conference games follows. The ACC is down this year - wow, some of these preseason scores have been downright scary - and State should be ripe to make a run up the standings.

With Smith back, there is still a chance of that. But an early season schedule that was expected to excite fans has now concerned them - and you can bet Yow is watching closely and evaluating.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

McDonald, Strickland break Heels out of their funk

North Carolina, 85-60 winners tonight, actually started out slowly and was ripe for the picking had William & Mary been able to shoot at all. The Tribe has been hitting an average of seven threes in 19 attempts. But they missed their first 14 threes when the Heels were struggling.

Leslie McDonald's hot hand from three and Dexter Strickland's ability to generate offense broke the Heels out of their funk late in the first half and they played pretty well the rest of the way.

McDonald scored 14 in only 15 minutes of play while Strickland scored a career-high 19 in 23 minutes. A total of nine Tar Heels played 15 minutes or more in a game where all 16 players saw action.

John Henson's thumb continues to be a concern as he banged it working his way out of a screen and never returned after only 11 minutes to play. UNC women's coach Sylvia Hatchell's son Van Hatchell got in the scorebook with a free throw.

For more on the game itself, please click here.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Clausen steps up for Panthers; Grossman steps in for Redskins

Jimmy Clausen got his first win as a starter as the Panthers defeated the Cardinals 19-12 while Rex Grossman got his first start for the Redskins but despite rallying from 20 points down the Skins fell at Dallas 33-30.

Clausen went 13 of 19 passes for 141 yards and a touchdown while Grossman went 25-of-43 passing for 322 yards and four touchdowns.

While Clausen wasn't as spectacular as Grossman, he also didn't make as many mistakes as Grossman, who threw two interceptions and fumbled once.

"All of the hard work - coming in early, staying late and watching tape - has paid off," Clausen said. "I think it showed today. Now we just have to keep that mentality for the last two games of the season and into next season."

Grossman, taking over for the benched Donovan McNabb, ran the offense better than the All-Pro McNabb. His four touchdown passes were two more than McNabb had in any game and the 30 points were the most the Skins have put on the board this season.

While Grossman's proclivity to turn the ball over will probably keep him from being the Redskins' starter next year, he may have earned a backup roster spot. McNabb, who figured to be an upgrade over Jason Campbell, hasn't worked out in the Redskins' new offense. As a result, Campbell in Oakland has a better quarterback rating than McNabb and the Skins only have one more win than they had last season.

Ironically, the Panthers go into next season with a more stable situation at quarterback than the Redskins who had figured to have McNabb at the helm for several more years.

McNabb probably won't be back next season. The Redskins and the Panthers could be trade partners next year, especially if the new Panthers coaches believe they have their franchise quarterback in Clausen. Insiders indicate that the Redskins covet Stanford quarterback Andrew Luck but the Panthers will likely have the first pick in the draft.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Poor effort by Leslie hurts Pack

There were plenty of people who had doubts about C.J. Leslie coming to N.C. State, recognizing that he was a great talent but wondering if he threw himself into the game. So far, the results are clearly mixed.

State had a huge opportunity Sunday against a good, but beatable, Arizona team at the RBC Center. The Wolfpack has yet to make it to NCAA play under Sidney Lowe and needs some signature wins to get national recognition. But it wasn't to be Sunday as Arizona won, 72-62.

the most surprising, and disappointing, line of the night came from Leslie. He scored just two points and hit one of 14 shots as the Wolfpack shot just 32 percent from the field.

Well, that just won't cut it. Leslie is now hitting just 39.5 percent of his shots on the season.