2002-03-09 / Sports

As March Madness Arrives Coaches Kiss Goodbye

By Elio Velez

As March Madness Arrives
Coaches Kiss Goodbye
By Elio Velez

The weather is a little wacky, most television shows start to repeat episodes and baseball is still a month away from Opening Day. March has arrived folks and the yearly tradition of college basketball’s March Madness sets in.

Never mind that the regular season of college basketball is mostly irrelevant due to conference tournaments. Most teams who do well in the regular season fear that if they lose in the tournament, it will affect their chance to be selected into the tournament. But I’m digressing here and that’s another column.

In March, the networks that show college ball pumps up the volume to the highest at this time of year. Conference tournaments from the Big East, Big 12 and little known conferences as the American East show up on TV. It is exciting for me to watch the small schools fight for that automatic berth.

One of those schools is Boston University, not known as a powerhouse basketball school. Better known for their excellent hockey program, the Terriers of BC will participate on the national stage for the American East conference championship.

One hero for BC is Belle Harbor native Kevin Fitzgerald. The sophomore guard completed a last second long baseball pass to teammate Stijn Dhondt with 0.1 second left to win over Hartford. Miracles can happen in March. On Saturday March 9, at the weird starting time at 11:30 a.m., BU will face Maine for the automatic berth.

Once the smaller squads win, they know a bigger conference foe in the NCAA Tournament will railroad them in the first round. At least for one week, fans and athletes of teams such as Valparaiso, Illinois-Chicago rally around the cause to become one of only 65 teams to enter the Big Dance.

March Madness also presents those squads who can upset teams and go a long way. Gonzaga, a school of 4,000 in upper Washington State, better known as the school of NBA future hall of fame point guard John Stockton, is causing waves throughout college ball. Most college experts do not regard the 29-3 Bulldogs as the little engine that could. Teams are afraid that Gonzaga’s excellent team defense and great point guard play from Dan Dickau can take them out.

The small schools, mid-level schools, big schools will all sit down on Sunday at 6:30 to chew their nails and tear their hair out with the selections. When CBS shows the schools that didn’t make it, I feel sorry that their disappointment is kept on camera for it seems like forever. It makes me depressed and I tune in to what screaming Dick Vitale says who are the diaper dandies and blah blah.

I may not talk about much college b-ball in this little ol’ column of mine, but the fires are burning and I’m waiting for upsets, upsets and more upsets baby!!

Arkansas Coach Goes Bye-Bye

Arkansas’ dismissal of Nolan Richardson as head coach was not shocking. Richardson’s dismissal as head coach did not mainly have to do with statements he made about the media. He had believed that because he was black and successful, the local media, which is largely white, did not accept him as a good head coach and did not respect his talents.

As Richardson contests his dismissal, the real reason that they fired him is not because of race, it is because of winning. It didn’t matter to the top brass at Arkansas that Richardson had won a national championship in 1994 for the school and compiled 22 seasons of averaging 23 wins a year. He just did not win this year.

The fact was that his teams the last few seasons had not been a perennial top 25 team as he had in the 1990s. The Razorbacks was 14-14 at the time of his dismissal. The more talented players were not arriving and school officials questioned Richardson for his recruiting.

College basketball today is like the corporate world. It’s what you have done for me lately. Bob Knight was given the boot after his rocky tenure at Indiana the past few years. It didn’t matter that he had previously won three championships. Joe Paterno, the legendary head coach at Penn State and the all time winning college football coach will be run out of town. Not because he is old, it’s because he hasn’t won a national championship lately.

Richardson may have been booted but his resume can still attract schools to hire him and his 40 minutes of hell style. Bob Knight came back with Texas Tech and he is performing wonders with the tournament bound Red Raiders.

Eventually, time runs out for coaches and heads will be chopped. Coaches may be successful for a period of time, but when the clouds look stormy, lightning will strike and the coaches will be knocked out. Legends may be made but legends also fall.

Until next week, Peace!

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