No better option than Jurich for the University of Louisville

 

Cindy Rice Shelton photo

Make no mistake, there should be no confusion. Keeping Tom Jurich is the right thing to do.

Surely common sense will prevail, and the Board of Trustees will retain him as Vice President of Athletics at the University of Louisville. There are no guarantees, however, that what’s best for the school will prevail these days.

The notion of someone seriously entertaining the notion of firing Jurich is outlandish, insulting to the school’s alumni and supporters. Over two decades he has garnered unprecedented support, making UofL the most dynamic institution in the community.

But these are not normal times, what’s up is down, what’s backward is forward, what’s out is in, bad taste is in good taste, what was once repugnant is considered the norm, and good people are often construed as bad actors. Crazy times.

Tom Jurich wants his old job back even though it means answering to David Grissom and Greg Postel (Charlie Springer photo).

Why Tom Jurich would want to go back to work for David Grissom and Greg Postel, the people reportedly wanting his job, is almost beyond comprehension. These are individuals who apparently consider the success of the athletic department a negative, unable to comprehend the positive role of sports in UofL’s rapid growth.

To people who have been a part of this success, enjoyed all the new facilities, all the outstanding athlete and all the wins during Jurich’s tenure, the intentions of Grissom and Postel are counterproductive. So intent on seizing total control of the University that they are willing to sacrifice someone who can ensure the school’s development continues.

What I have never understood is why Grissom and Postel could not appreciate the success of the athletic department. Why they couldn’t look at that success and want to emulate it for the rest of the University. Why they felt compelled to challenge the individual who made it happen. Why they wouldn’t want to get this individual in their camp, work with him and get him involved in resolving many of the school’s other challenges.

Grissom and Postel appear to share a similar management philosophy, wanting to clean house of people in power from the previous administration. Ignoring what they have done and what they can do, believing they know what’s best. Based on some obscure business principles from some antiquated management courses. What they haven’t been able to do, however, is convince UofL supporters and fans that they have the school’s best interests in mind.

The only agenda Tom Jurich has is to continue the incomparable growth and success of the school’s athletic program. He wants to be there when UofL cuts the ribbon on the 10,000-seat expansion of Papa John’s Cardinal Stadium and when another 3,000-seat expansion of Jim Patterson Stadium is completed.

He wants to be there when UofL teams are competing for national championships, when UofL athletes are competing for gold medals. He needs to be there to ensure the right person is hired for the next UofL coaching vacancy. He wants to be there to help guide the basketball program back from the current crisis.

“I love this University, the Louisville community and all of our fans,” said Jurich in a recent statement. “I plan to continue to help UofL overcome the challenges it faces and work cooperatively with the University with the support of the UofL Board of Trustees … ”

That is why he wants to return, even if means answering to Grissom and Postel. Something anyone other than a UofL fan would have a hard time believing.

Based on his track record, Tom Jurich deserves the opportunity to return to do the job he loves. There is no better option for members of the Board of Trustees, nor for the University of Louisville.

Ramsey, Rutherford exit too quickly from Louisville sports radio

No face to face, no letters of resignation, just a couple of emails on Friday from John Ramsey and Mike Rutherford to the boss Drew Deener that they were resigning from their sports radio talk show on ESPN 680. 

Outta here. Gone. Effective immediately.

No advance notices, no apologies to the listeners, nothing that would be considered anywhere close to a graceful exit. They were done.

So abruptly that many University of Louisville fans thought it was an April Fool’s joke, occurring on the eve of April 1. Others speculating that Ramsey and Rutherford had been enticed to another radio station and were unable to discuss their plans because of contractual obligations.

Turns out, as Rutherford explains on his web site, that working multiple jobs on a taxing schedule was apparently taking a toll. Something had to give, and it turned out to be the radio show. Ramsey, who was originally a solo act, may have decided that the show had limited potential without Rutherford.

The most surprising thing about the episode was the speed with which the departures happened. Coming as a shock for some listeners who tuned in day after day for their take on UofL sports.

Imagine Drew Deener’s shock at learning about the resignations via email, two of his most valued personalities leaving immediately, not bothering to give him or the listeners any advance notice.

Ramsey was probably the biggest homer on sports talk radio, leaning heavily on Rutherford for facts and insights. Rutherford, meanwhile, had a radio voice that could only be described as monotonal and grating at best. 

The fact that they were both longtime UofL fans, with easy access to Louisville coaches and other personalities, made the show an entertaining one while filling a local media void.

Ramsey was never bashful when it came to professing his devotion to the Cardinals or making his contempt known for the Wildcats. Rutherford, on the other hand, was obviously one of the most knowledgeable and respected sources on UofL sports in the community. 

A sudden, strange and awkward departure. Their listeners, and their boss, deserved better.

NCAA focuses on sexual activity, Pitino is the easiest target

That dark cloud is back, the one emanating from the NCAA investigation of the University of Louisville basketball program, casting an ugly shadow over an already deeply scarred Belknap Campus.

The NCAA enforcement staff, one of the world’s slowest deliberative bodies, has finally gotten back to UofL’s response on a charge that Rick Pitino did not monitor the activities of Andre McGee. The reaction from the NCAA is disturbing, claiming that the UofL coach should have been much more active in supervising McGee.

This coming from an organization that goes overboard to promote racial equality, essentially suggesting in its response that Pitino should have micro-managed McGee. That somehow the coach should have known that illicit activities were occurring at Minardi Hall. That the individual Pitino made Director of Basketball Operations was not worthy of his trust. That Pitino should have been looking over McGee’s shoulder.

Courtesy of Kelly Dickey

If Pitino is guilty of anything, he is at fault for trusting McGee not to drag UofL’s basketball program into the gutter.  As a result, the university has been exposed to shame and ridicule. The coach’s demands for strict adherence to NCAA rules were obviously ignored. And his reputation, personally and professionally, has taken a major blow.

Simply because Pitino trusted McGee.

In essence, what the NCAA is suggesting is that Pitino knew that McGee was up to no good. The NCAA enforcement committee avoids making a direct accusation but its response also could be interpreted to mean that Pitino actually knew what was occurring at Minardi Hall. 

Pitino has probably produced more successful college basketball coaches than anyone in the profession. Billy Donovan, Tubby Smith, Ralph Willard, Kevin Willard, Jim O’Brien, Mick Cronin, Travis Ford, and Scott Davenport, just to name a few. He didn’t achieve that monitoring their every move.

The UofL coach no doubt had high hopes for Andre McGee, hoping he would join that group some day. McGee probably would have followed a similar path had he acted responsibly. From all indications, McGee just wasn’t mature enough to handle the expectations.

As a result, Pitino may well be subject to a severe penalty, possibly a temporary suspension similar to that incurred by Jim Boeheim at Syracuse. Boeheim was suspended for nine games for a number of years of illegal recruiting activities. 

The difference is that Boeheim was actively involved. There is no evidence that Pitino knew, or should have known, that illicit activities were occurring at Minardi Hall. No evidence whatsoever.

Pitino’s knowledge, or lack of it, seems to be beside the point. The enforcement committee report goes into great detail on the sexual activity and seems determined to ensure that someone pays dearly for it. Rick Pitino just happens to be in the line of fire.

Pitino believes it can happen, but has to convince his team

Rick Pitino has his hands full, getting his team to buy into his expectations.

Admit it. More than a little surprised that the University of Louisville basketball team earned a No. 2 seed in the 2017 NCAA basketball tournament. Right?

Three losses in the last five games doesn’t exactly inspire confidence, watching UofL give up big leads in a couple of those games. The Cardinals could beat any team at the KFC Yum! Center but the outcomes anywhere else are uncertain, especially with this team.

Pleased about the good seed nevertheless. Optimistic, knowing Rick Pitino is the best motivator of young men among the 351 basketball coaches in Division I basketball.  One could give Pitino a few practice sessions with some elderly church ladies from the basement kitchen and he would make them competitive.

Some of the Pitino’s teams have had no business going as far they did in NCAA tournaments. His Providence team in the late eighties lost seven games but made it to the final weekend. His 2011-12 UofL team lost nine games before making it to a Final Four.

The real challenge this season is whether he can get into the minds of players like Mangok Mathiang, Ray Spalding, Anas Mahmoud and Jaylen Johnson. Big guys, long arms, space hogs. Predictably inconsistent, often out of control and spotty at best.

Can he persuade them that they can consistently play defense, make decent passes, catch passes, make layups and free throws? If he were to convince them, could they grasp all the coaching and practice instruction and raise their collective play to new levels of efficiency for as long as three weeks?

Could Donovan Mitchell fall out of love with all the jump shots and the 3-point attempts, keep driving to the basket, and quit disappearing when he misses a few shots? Could Quentin Snider stay out of foul trouble in the first half, not run out of energy, and hit the front end of one-and-one free throw situations?

The UofL coach has said repeatedly that he likes this team, believes this team plays with a lot of energy and incredible heart. If he believed they could somehow win the Atlantic Coast Conference, as he said he did, then he still thinks they’re capable of even bigger things.

Seems like a tall order in many respects but Pitino has done more with much less talent, getting players to buy into his vision for them, inspiring them to sometimes achieve the unachievable. 

Pitino is getting into their minds right now, confirming that they are as good or better than their No. 2 seeding, raising his expectations along with theirs. It’s what Pitino does, and it works just often enough to not be surprised when it happens.

Asia Durr for 28, Louisville women rip North Carolina

Louisville Coach Jeff Walz sends a message to officials after Myisha Hines-Allen was pulled to the floor on a rebound in the second quarter. A technical foul was assessed to a North Carolina player. 

Always nice when the University of Louisville women’s basketball team coasts to a win over an Atlantic Coast Conference opponent.  Especially when the opponent is North Carolina and the score is 87-57.

The UofL women would start slow and finish going away before a crowd of 9,739 fans at the KFC Yum! Center on Sunday.  A “Pink Out” day for cancer awareness, with UofL wearing pink, UNC that Carolina blue, posing a challenge for at least one color blind observer.

Hines-Allen seems to be over whatever was slowing her down a few games ago.

The Cardinals getting some extra motivation in the second quarter when Myisha Hines-Allen was wrestled to the floor by UNC’s Alyssa Okoene. Both players getting up with fire in their eyes, their teammates restraining them. Technical foul called on Okoene, with the Cardinals scoring six quick points to claim a 34-21 lead at the intermission.

Another dominating performance by Asia Durr, scoring 10 points in the first half, a flurry of eight straight points in the third quarter, and a total of 28 points for the game. She keeps gaining confidence, improving her shot selection, and making it look so easy in some games.

Coach Jeff Walz seemed to most pleased with Durr’s four assists. “She’s improving other parts of her game,” he said. “She’s even more of a threat when she can find open teammates.”

Hines-Allen seems to be over whatever was slowing her down a few games ago, turning in another double-double with 19 points and 12 rebounds. That’s her 12th double-double this season and the 24th in her three-year career at Louisville.

Only two more games remaining in the regular season, senior night at home against Virginia on Thursday, and a road game at Wake Forest next Sunday. The Cardinals are 23-6 overall and tied for fourth with N.C. State in the ACC with identical 10-4 conference records. N.C. State has the advantage if a tiebreaker is needed, virtue of a win over UofL.