Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Influential Coaches #1: Paul Westphal

I'm starting out with undoubtedly the most recognizable name on my list. Coach Westphal was the head coach of the men's basketball team at Pepperdine from 2001 to 2006, a span which included all four years that I attended Pepperdine as well as the year before. In the last of these seasons I was a student manager for the team, although I did not sit on the bench for games because I was deemed more valuable as a rabble-rouser in the bleachers. In any case, I know that many of my classmates will express some displeasure at my inclusion of Coach Westphal, principally because our four years saw three incredibly talented teams underachieve in the standings before everything cratered with a 7-20 season in 2005-06. Sure, we were never as good as expected during my four years as a student, but that wasn't because Paul Westphal was a poor coach. He is, in fact, probably the smartest and most detail-oriented basketball mind that I have ever had a chance to be around.

Monday, January 27, 2014

The Influential Coaches Series

Given that the name of this blog is "Coach of All Trades," I figured that it might be good to take a break from castigating the Baseball Hall of Fame (and the BBWAA), NBA conversations with friends, and general amateur sports writing to actually focus on coaching. To that end, I will shortly be unveiling the first installment in a monthly series about coaches who have personally influenced my career. By "personally influenced" I mean that I either played for or coached with them or studied under them in some capacity, so you're not going to get yet another missive on how awesome a coach John Wooden was. If you're reading this (and especially if you're one of my ten or so regular readers), there's a good chance you know that already.

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Kentucky's Youthful Struggles

Last night's last-second, overtime loss at the hands of Arkansas' Michael Qualls was a microcosm of both how good and how bad this young and talented Wildcat bunch can be. I turned on the game with just under twelve minutes left; at that point, Kentucky was shooting 63% from the floor, out-rebounding the Razorbacks by 8 boards, had only turned the ball over a manageable 11 times...and yet, they were down four points. By both talent and statistical measure, that should not have been the case. Kentucky has somewhere between five and eight players on its roster who will receive an NBA paycheck at some point in their playing careers.* Arkansas has Qualls (maybe). But despite that surfeit of talent, this year's version of Calipari's all-world freshmen-driven teams looks more like a slightly improved rendition of the 2012-13 group than either of the previous two.

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

College Basketball in the New Year; What We Know

Back in my season preview, I highlighted a number of things to watch in the world of college basketball this season. As predicted, this season has been exciting, thanks mostly to the huge influx of new talent from one of the most promising freshman classes in years. On the flip side, some teams are clearly still adjusting to the new enforcement of defensive rules, leading to plenty of ugly foul-fests that have resulted in endless trips to the free throw line. Now that everybody has started conference play, let's see how those observations have stacked up so far, as well as check on some other interesting stories to watch.

Monday, January 6, 2014

2014 Hall of Fame Musings

In their excessively moralistic quest to punish everyone who played in what will forever be known as the "Steroid Era," the Baseball Writers Association of America voters created a major traffic jam on the Hall of Fame ballot by not electing a single person last year. Never mind that candidates included one of the two or three best hitters of all time (Barry Bonds), one of the five or so best pitchers of all time (Roger Clemens), the greatest-hitting catcher ever (Mike Piazza), a pitcher with 3000 strikeouts, the best K/BB ratio since 1900, and one of the top October pitching records ever (Curt Schilling), a 3000-hit second baseman with an outstanding glove (Craig Biggio), three other 500-home run hitters (Rafael Palmeiro, Mark McGwire, and Sammy Sosa - who hit 600), perhaps the best all-around first baseman in baseball history (Jeff Bagwell), and one of the two or three best leadoff hitters ever (Tim Raines). It didn't matter; none of them got in, and only Biggio (and Jack Morris, which is a whole 'nother discussion, one which I'm sure Joe Posnanski can express better than I) got within fifteen percentage points of the 75% needed for election.