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It is basketball time.
While Oregon State is developing its criteria for a new coach, I enjoy thinking about the changes that have taken place. Who wouldda thunk the Beavers would have a top ranked football team? For those of us who led with Ralph and bled with the Great Pumpkin, the world is topsy-turvy. I spoke with Michael Collins at OSU and they are being very closed lip about their thoughts for a new coach. Watching the great coaches during the next few weeks, remember, we don't need a flashy coach who will bring stars to campus. We do need a coach who will remember the value of fundamentals, and in basketball it's quick and speed.
Folks who criticized Ralph were excited about Jimmy coming in and "finally letting the kids play". Stars do not win basketball games. Teams do. Teams like Georgetown get uber-talented players. Combine that with fundamentals and Georgetown continues to have great teams. Jimmy had a few years and the plan to "let the kids play" was subtly sundowned as Jimmy was encouraged--directly--to retire to a well-deserved life of ease. He was a great assistant. Just never got there as a head coach. It was disappointing. Sitting next to Ralph all those years. Sad, really. How little rubbed off...and stuck.
Portland State is heading to the show. If you didn't watch the game the chances of your seeing it are pretty small. I'm not sure ESPN has replay of NAU v. PSU at the top of their scheduling list. PSU is this year's Cinderella team. They beat NAU. Beat 'em. Did PSU get a chance to recruit at the level of OSU? I think not. So how did they end up getting into the Show? Face it, kids, coaching counts. First time in the history of PSU. March Madness.
If you ever heard Ralph talk about basketball you know how simple the game is. I was at Gill when I watched what approached the perfect basketball game. While Mike Montgomery was at Stanford he won 70 percent of his games and took Stanford to the Show 12 times in 18 seasons. I watched The Game. One of the best, ever.
One of the principles of Ralph's game was the Miracle of Possession. Posssession was evenly divided between teams. One team scores. The other team gets the ball. The key to basketball is scoring when you have possession. And denying scoring to the other team when they have the ball. If you score most of your points in the paint, your offensive rebounding percentage goes up. If you deny the paint to your opponent, your defensive rebounding goes up. If a team is shooting 33% from 3-point range, you've got a chance at getting the ball back 67% of the time. If they turn over the ball, that's one more opportunity to score. If you turn the ball over, you lose a chance to score. What Oregon State did during the Ralph Miller years was turn the Miracle of Possession into a modus operandus for winning seasons. Ralph didn't like dunks because lay-ups off the glass had a higher probability of success than a dunk. Many a young man found pine after a spectacular dunk. It was the Way of Ralph.
If you hit the OregonLive forum you'll see a lot of banter about "change". If Edmund Burke were coaching, he'd be talking about fundamentals. Could Charlie Sitton match up with Patrick Ewing? Has Georgetown won the NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament since 1982? Interesting questions. I know the final score, 69-45, doesn't convey the brutality of that game. McMinnville farm boy up against a 747. Whatta game.
And yet success bred contempt. The Game versus Stanford. The 1982 Georgetown game. Critics of the program wanted more razzle-dazzle. Where were the "stars"? To me, Charlie will always be a star. He played straight up against Patrick Ewing. You try it. And who woulda thunk that Charlie's #2 would go on to become one of the enduring players of the NBA? Why was A.C. perenially so good? From Benson High School to Oregon State University to the LA Lakers to that Florida team, A.C. remembered the fundamentals of basketball. If you've ever spoken with A.C. I don't think you'd be over-awed at his communication skillz. Post-game interviews never got deep. And think back, during the years in La-La Land, did A.C. ever become a media darling? No. He remained true to Ralph. Speed and quick. Think with your eyes. A lay-up is worth as many points as one just inside the arc. You rebound better in the paint. Take care of the ball.
Fundamentals. It was this train of thought that was interrupted by this David Mamet article from the Village Voice. The article is about change. When is it necessary? When is it appropriate?
When is change, for the sake of change, simply mind-numbingly stupid?
So I leave you with a musical thought. From Barry Mann and Cynthia Weil. (Lyrics here.)
The Collapse of Mr. Wyden's Integrity - (Autoplay audio...scroll down to hit pause.) Our senator, Ron Wyden, has lived within a cocoon of liberal wool so thick that the larvae which is Wyden has...
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