We've made a new plan (according to) Stan, so hop (back) on the bus, Gus.
Note: The Paul Simon ends here, but I couldn't resist because it just fit too perfectly.
I have no idea what to make of this saga. But let's try and deal in facts first:
1. Gus Gilchrist is unquestionably the Bulls' most talented player. That does't mean he's their best player, but he is absolutely the guy with the most God-given basketball ability wearing the uniform. Does that mean he gets a longer leash from the coaching staff than his former/future teammates? Of that I have no idea.
2. "Personal reasons," became "philosophical differences" which became "personal issues" again. Not sure how I feel about that. But I do know that everyone finding out Gilchrist and Jarrid Famous weren't on the plane for Kent State until they walked on the court in Ohio doesn't work. If they didn't fly up there, then clearly they weren't going to play. Can you imagine Jim Calhoun showing up in Tampa, putting his team on the floor sans Kemba Walker, then telling everyone at the press conference afterwards "he's still in Storrs... philosophical differences, you know?" That would get a team raked over the coals for weeks in a basketball market where people gave a damn, and it should never happen.
3. This isn't the first time Gus has been an issue somewhere. He went from Virginia Tech to Maryland to USF, all the while with a controversial shadowy figure following him to all stops. But since none of us are in the locker room or at practice every day, let's not point fingers here.
4. The Bulls offense flowed better without Gus on the floor than when it did. That doesn't mean it was better, but our spacing and movement was superior in the past two games than it had been all season. Part of that is because Auburn is just horrendous at everything. But hopefully that game tape can aid against future opponents, and help get everyone on the same page.
5. I met Gus briefly in Las Vegas at the tournament at the South Point last year when he was still on crutches. Mercurial isn't the adjective that first springs to mind. He seemed like a nice kid. But sometimes grown men, both of a good disposition, can disagree on things. And it looks like that's what happened, albeit temporarily, in this case.
So with the facts as presented, what can we glean from this incident? Absolutely nothing. The reason after the jump.
I don't have much more insight on this issue than anyone that follows the Bulls through the mainstream media and on the Internet on a daily basis. Our beat guys do an excellent job, and even if I knew something additional, it would most likely be something I couldn’t share here. So I think we have to file this incident under the following heading: In Heath We Trust.
Stan Heath was an assistant coach on a national championship team at Michigan State. He took Kent State to the Elite Eight. He went to the NCAA Tournament three out of five years at Arkansas, and the majority of their rabid fan base agrees he never should have been let go. This guy has won, has been around winning, and knows how to win again. He knows what he's doing.
When he takes an under-talented team to 20 wins last season, no one questioned his ability to put together and run an effective, competitive Big East team. So he got dumber eight months later and forgot how to coach? Sorry, doesn't make sense.
As a program and a fan base, we have to be all-in with Stan Heath. Winning consistently at USF in basketball, in our present form, is basically impossible. (See also: header of this blog.) You can have a good year and make a decent run, but sustained success is not truly viable. Look at our attendance. Look at our competition. There are 16 basketball teams in the Big East, and 15 of them have been to a Final Four, with seven appearing in the last decade. You can guess the 16th team -- the same one that's 0-2 in its rather futile NCAA Tournament history, and sits 19 years removed from it's last dance invitation.
Our facilities are drastically improving, but at this point, you're still selling kids on drawings. The upgrades are desperately needed and will help, but it's a lot easier to walk a kid through a building than show him a PowerPoint.
And let's go with the perfect-world scenario; assuming you could buy out Stan's contract (a foolish idea as any Razorback fan can tell you), who exactly are you going to get that's better? This job is a graveyard of coaches. In the history of USF men's basketball, only one coach left and ever coached another game at a Division I school ever again (Seth Greenberg). Don't think that potential candidates aren’t aware of that statistic.
So you find someone with Stan Heath's resume, credentials, and track record of success that's a realistic fit financially for this program, and that would actually consider this job. Good luck with that. Our current coach absolutely gives us the best chance of success as we currently stand.
I was here with Bobby Paschal, Seth Greenberg, Robert McCullum, and now Stan Heath. What this program needs is the undying, unyielding support of everyone that's involved; donors, fans, administration, and students. And we need to grow the numbers of people that fit in each of those stakeholder categories -- something that’s best done under stable, steady leadership. Instead of looking for the quick fix ramshackle tent, le's look to build a platform of winning. Because of that short stack of things we have in our favor as a program, you just have to have faith in the man to whom you entrust one of your revenue generating teams.
So unless someone can provide me hard evidence that there was malfeasance committed here, let's just stipulate that sometimes men struggle to see eye-to-eye. And let's also stipulate that we should allow a coach to be a coach, and run his team as he deems fit.
We don't have the talent this year to realistically compete for a conference title or an NCAA bid this season. But that is the stated goal of this program. So give the man with the 5-year contract to coach our basketball team the benefit of the doubt to do what he thinks is best. Because that's the best road map to building that platform upon which we can sustain success.
If Stan Heath thinks allowing Gus to quit and come back is a good idea, then I do too. And so should you. Because unless you have information about what happened that none of us are privy to, you don't have a better suggestion.