To warm up the Pitchforks, or not.
From Tim Miles to Saul Phillips, NDSU had a good run of coaches into and through the early days of the division 1 era. Miles brought us Woodside & Winkelman. Phillips was in charge as Taylor Braun, TrayVonn Wright, Marshall Bjorklund & Lawrence Alexander came into the program and succeeded at high levels.
And then there was the latest appointee, David Richman. He inherited LA for his senior season but also can be credited with the recruitment of AJ Jacobson and Paul Miller. Not just those guys but I would consider them to be the best players that have come into the program over his four years.
It may not be a popular thing to say, but with the way that Alexander played over his final year in Fargo, I don't think anything was going to stop the team from making the tournament. Granted, the Summit championship game that year was one of the five most exciting sporting events that I've witnessed in person, but LA was a force to be reckoned with! All but the most incompetent of coaches would have been able to take advantage of his greatness. We are now a few weeks shy of being three full seasons removed from that great memory.
The first season after that run to the tournament, resulted in a third straight Summit championship game appearance. A surprising outcome considering that it could have been written off as a rebuilding year but they came within 40 minutes of the tournament again. It wasn't to be for the Bison and essentially served as the coronation for the Jackrabbits current reign.
Last March, following another successful season, the Bison went to Sioux Falls looking to make it four championship game appearances in a row. All that came of it was a first round beat down by seventh ranked IUPUI.
If the loss was all that I could point to as a red flag I wouldn't even bring up the topic. No, and in fact it wasn't even the first sign which has cause some concerned. First on the list is the offense that has been implemented by the coaches. Even with all the three point shooters on the roster and Werner using that wingspan to wrangle misses, a system was never implemented to maximize the skills. But the coach knows more about Basketball than I do so what else do I have as evidence?
The other thing that happened before the debacle in Sioux Falls was the transfer/non-transfer of Carlin Dupree. Players in today's college sports world transfer regularly. NDSU hasn't been on the positive or negative side of it too often, yet, but when word came down that Dupree was going to leave the program mid season it was a head scratcher. Made all the more strange by his decision not long after to finish his college playing days in Fargo. A normal amount of secrecy kept his reasoning for being unhappy from being known to the public. Little did we know that the threat of transfer would be a foreshadowing of things to come.
Over the weeks that followed the tournament ouster, three players decided to leave the program. Malik Clements & Evan Wesenberg were potential contributors in the future but hadn't done much to that point. The one that hurt was Khy Kabellis going back home. Again, no reasons were made public as to why he decided to transfer but I grant that it may have come down to a desire to be closer to family. I suspect though that it was at least partially influenced by the offense run at the SHAC. As with RJ on the Football side, I have stated a higher opinion of his potential than many others which makes it more detrimental that he left.
The coaching staff made some moves to reinforce the point guard position this season but none of those guys scream NBA potential. Maybe KK won't develop over his final two years of play enough to get that shot either but I'm still considering it a possibility. And getting a player drafted into the NBA would be nearly as great of an accomplishment as anything that's happen. It most certainly would be the biggest feather in the staff's collective cap.
So to review: below average offensive scheme, underachieving at the biggest moment, loss of talented player. That's not enough to get the man fired, and I'm not calling for that. Let me be clear - I'm not calling for a change of men's Basketball leadership. I just think that as another season winds down, we need to be cognizant of the fact that this program was on the verge of becoming a regular member of the 68 team field. Now, a few short years removed from that, they couldn't make it past the first round in 2017 and have almost no chance of winning a game in Sioux Falls this March.
It's correctable. I don't know how, but I still think that the program could return to it's former successes. Maybe the return to the old form of recruiting in bulk for a single push into the tournament is the answer. I don't like that answer but it would be better then the way that it's going these days.
Whatever the future holds, whatever the solution ends up being, I think that conversation about it honestly needs to happen. We live in the age of anonymity with Twitter trolls, bloggers like myself and people who find every other possible of way of saying things behind fake names and faceless accounts. I don't think that I'm amongst that throng because I try to be much slower to join in with whatever the mob is inclined to push for. Peter Rabbit boycott? Come on people. Just as an example.
But you see, those faceless folks can be the loudest and often are the ones to call for things to happen. So I am merely bringing up the topic for discussion. I'm personally not ready to call for the torches to be lit and the pitchforks to be grabbed but these are the problems...the negatives that have come to pass over the last few years. Can't ignore them. Shouldn't.