Normally, the middle of January is when I finally get the bags unpacked from Tech’s bowl trip and begin to start paying a little more attention to basketball as played in the ACC and the rest of the country. Those that operate the football coaching wheel in the sky have put that off a little.
As for basketball, it has taken only three ACC games into the season for the heat of Tech’s fast start against lousy opposition to receive a bucket of cold water from the reality well. This is a team with one very good guard, an inside player whose location of his ‘On’ switch remains a mystery to all concerned and what is mostly a marginal collection of ACC-caliber talent. In other words, pretty much the same type of team produced by Seth throughout his career. The budgets and facilities may get better, but the song and record remains the same.
The rest of the ACC has managed to demonstrate after two weeks of league play that there is very likely not a final Four team among the bunch. Duke looks to be the best of the crowd, provided x-rays on Singler’s wrist are negative and the scanty numbers of guards remain healthy and out of foul trouble. While the staff of the good ole N&O continues to express astonishment that Ol’ Roy’s coaching brilliance cannot overcome just about the entirety of last year’s team having taken up residence in various NBA locations, few others are surprised that the Tar Heels are going through at least a bit of adjustment. While the league’s surprise team, so far, the Hoos, show exactly what looks to be a very good coach can do for you, it might just be a bit early to drop off the ACC’s postseason basketball hopes at the John.
All of that adds up to my paying quite a bit of attention to the flurry of football coaching news that dominated the headlines last week. The ball got rolling across the country in Los Angeles, where Pete Carroll noticed that the NCAA posse was drawing closer and decided the time was right to blow town. He surfaced in Seattle, professing a fondness for the coffee, a desire to be first in line for updates to Windows 7 and the pro game. There was nary a mention of the mess he was leaving behind, or of the fact that with a cap-less season in store for the NFL, Seahawks salaries can at least approach what his players were making at USC.
That fell on USC AD Mike Garrett, who appears to be the last guy standing with ties to what is likely to be the daily double of NCAA sanctions to both his football and basketball programs. Garrett immediately offered the football job to most all other Pac 10 coaches, then reacted to their decided lack of interest by dangling the job to most any coach west of the Mississippi. After being told ‘No’ 50-60 times, Garrett finally looked east and decided to offer the job to a guy who was on Carroll’s staff when the NCAA problems began.
That would be Lane Kiffin of the Vols, last seen brushing off Frank following the Chicken Bowl. Obviously, Kiffin was in a hurry to follow John Soule’s instructions. ‘Go west, young man’ is what he did. For a guy who has never won big, or much at all, Kiffin continues to receive an inordinate number of quality job offers. He seems perfect for the USC job. Not only were many of the seemingly endless numbers of NCAA violations at USC begun while Kiffin was on the staff there, he had kept his hand in during his short time with the Vols by committing numerous secondary ones, mostly involving the attractive young hostesses made available to Vol recruits. Charley Coffey lives!
Kiffin quickly demonstrated that he was the right man for the USC job. While announcing during one of the fastest ‘Adios’ press conferences ever held that he had broken all of the rules he could while at Tennessee and it was time to head home, Kiffin had chief recruiter Ed Orgeron spending his time calling Vols recruits explaining to them how they might get around that pesky commitment to UTand join the gang in Los Angeles. It would seem to be the fastest a new coach has ever committed an NCAA violation after being hired. Yep, he will fit in perfectly at USC.
Left behind to deal with the wreckage was Vols AD Mike Hamilton. Also stuck in Knoxville was most of Kiffin’s staff, as it seemed there was only room on the plane to LA for Kiffin’s gigantic ego, Daddy Defense and Ed ‘That was a violation? Who knew!’ Orgeron. Well, at least they had guaranteed multi-year contracts as consolation for what happens when you trust Lane Kiffin. As he began what seems to be his annual search for a new coach, Hamilton determined that while the Vols do have a 100k-seat stadium and access to serious $$$ from E$PN, paying about 20 football coaches did seem just a bit excessive. The solution was obviously to require the new coach to hire Kiffin’s assistants.
That didn’t seem to go over quite as well as might have been anticipated to the recipient of one of Hamilton’s first calls, Duke’s David Cutcliffe. While the idea of returning to the place where he had coached for so long under Phil Fulmer was very appealing to Coach Cut, the notion of having to leave his long-time and valued assistants behind, while being forced to deal with anybody who had anything to do with Lane Kiffin, even for so short a period of time, was not. It ain’t too often that Tennessee gets told ‘No’ by a Duke football coach, but that is what having once hired Kiffin will do for you.
Being rejected by the Duke coach, of all people, sent Hamilton into full desperation mode. He quickly decided that he would hand the job to anybody that would take it. That would be Derek Dooley, formerly of Louisiana Tech. You don’t often see 4-8 WAC coaches rewarded with SEC jobs, but at least Dooley had an SEC-friendly last name. Well, it wouldn’t be the first time Hamilton had hired somebody with a very skimpy resume.
As if the Kiffin saga wasn’t providing enough laughs, up popped Skippy Holtz finally making his escape from East Carolina. Skippy had been looking to leave ECU almost from the time he arrived. After winning back-to-back CUSA titles with 28 seniors, there was no time like the present. While the idea of following Brian Kelly at Cincinnati was not appealing, as there is only one direction for that program to head, Skippy caught a break when the South Florida Bulls were no longer so bullish on Jim Leavitt. Striking a player cannot be tolerated, especially if the coach involved has established a history of starting fast year after year, then fading under the rigors of play in the Li’l E. Adios, Jimbo.
It took Skippy a good thirty seconds to decide that Tampa was the place for him and after a Kiffin-esque meeting with his ECU players that consisted mostly of ‘I’m finally outta here’ Skippy was off to the local airport and the plane he kept idling for new job interviews on a 24/7 basis. He surfaced in Tampa professing that USF was the place for him, at least until a better job came along, and how happy he was to have all grandparents close by. It isn’t too often that you hear a guy express such pleasure at moving closer to his mother-in-law. Skippy obviously wanted very badly to get away from the Strawgraspers.
After all of the laughter provided by regional job-hopping, the football gods had one final delicious surprise in store. Six weeks after being algrohed by the Hoos, algroh is back. Georgia Tech’s Paul Johnson, perhaps still punch-drunk from the beating absorbed from Iowa in the Orange Bowl, surprised all and delighted Hokies by offering the algrohed algroh the GT DC job. While the suspicion does persist that perhaps Johnson was ordered to hire the Great NFL Legend by ACC boss Little Johnny Swofford, who, after all, needs ticket-buying fans for what just might be the last stand of the ACC football championship game in Charlotte, it is with great joy that we issue a hearty ‘Welcome Back’ to algroh. ACC fans can continue to benefit greatly from algroh’s wit and wisdom, or at least half of it.