(NOTE FROM VOODOO: This time we managed to get some thoughts from Gary before we published the rest of our chat from the other night. In Part 1, we talked about whether facilities were really going to save the day, and what recruiting strategy might work best to try and build up the program.)
TORO: Two things to follow up on this: We're all in agreement here that Stan Heath is absolutely the best guy to run our program right now considering his contract, his previous success, and the fact that this is a horrible job to a potential coach, correct?
GARY: Agreed. And I think USF making the effort to get him when he was let go by an SEC team he took to the NCAA tournament shows the commitment to success some of you said isn't there at USF. Okay, coaching is only one area where we have to commit to success, but it's something. It would be so easy for our school to hire some placeholder like Ralph Willard and say "it's okay if we suck, but be cheap about it." I fear that is the path we will one day follow.
KEN: Agreed on all counts. Even though Bruce Pearl and Larry Brown are waiting to wear green jackets on the sidelines.
VOODOO: Sidney Lowe, too!
TORO: And secondly... hypothetically, if Heath decided to retire tomorrow for some reason having nothing to do with basketball, what traits would you want in the new USF basketball coach? Do you want a younger, hungry guy (Shaka Smart/Anthony Grant mold), an older, more experienced guy that isn't a Hall of Famer (Pete Gillen, Fran Fraschilla), or maybe someone with some issues if you could get them (Bruce Pearl, Billy Gillispie, Larry Eustachy)?
VOODOO: I think you gotta go with hungry young guy and understand that he's going to leave in a few years if he gets things turned around.
KEN: Give me Shaka Smart.
TORO: We couldn't get Shaka Smart now for $2 million a year, I don't think. And we certainly don't have $2 million a year for a basketball coach.
GARY: The USF basketball job requires a certain mindset. Not only someone with the skills to succeed with limited resources, but someone who would relish beating an unfair game. Someone with a chip on his shoulder. An underdog. Having the right mentality for the unique challenges USF faces is a lot more important than where they coached previously (or even if). We need a Billy Beane type. Or, dare I say it, a Jim Leavitt type.
VOODOO: I think turning USF into a bona fide, Big East worthy program is at least a 2-3 coach cycle. First guy starts the process, leaves for a better job, next guy keeps it going and hits another level, leaves for a better job, next guy comes in and keeps it going some more and by then you can afford to keep him.
TORO: And then you hope you fall into your Mark Few who just stays because he loves it. See, here's the issue as I see it. The young up-and-comer name guy (Pastner/Grant/Smart) isn't taking this job because he knows he can get a better one somewhere else. The older, seasoned guy can't turn it around because if he could, he wouldn't be available.
By the way, with Pastner and Grant, I mean those guys five years ago, not now.
VOODOO: So then you have to overpay someone to make it happen, and... um... yeah.
TORO: I'm almost willing to lay the wood and take a chance on someone that's got some baggage. Baggage somewhere between Bruce Pearl and Todd Bozeman I guess.
Again, this is all hypothetical. I want Heath to be here now and in the future. I hope he loves it here, gets it turned around, and decides to stay. However, I think we have to be realistic as well. And realistically, if he ends up winning here, everyone is going to know he can win anywhere, and they're going to come for him.
VOODOO: Like Arkansas? HAHAHAHAHAHA
KEN: That blew up in their faces, didn't it.
VOODOO: Little bit, although getting Mike Anderson was a pretty good recovery.
TORO: All the more reason why I like the coach we have.
VOODOO: Let's start small here... what does Heath do next year?
KEN: Point guard is an injured Anthony Crater and a bunch of questions, which just makes me cry thinking about it.
TORO: As far as next year, I think he has to upgrade at the point guard, and find more talent at every position possible. No one on this team is good enough where a replacement shouldn't be considered. But the point guard is Priority #1. The guys we have might actually be better than we think if we can find someone to get them the ball in the right spots.
KEN: All I ask is for a simple entry pass next year. I know Heath has been raving about Victor Rudd over the last couple of months, but who knows if he can shoulder the scoring load if we can't get him the ball
VOODOO: The good news is that we could barely get Dominique Jones the ball and he still got 20 points a game.
We talked about this really briefly... Chris Howard was, like, a C-minus point guard. If somewhere Heath can find a C-minus point (whether it's a new guy, or someone getting better, or Crater finding a magic lamp somewhere and getting three wishes and using at least one of them on his game), maybe there's a chance?
KEN: And Chris Howard has been the best USF point guard of the last eight years.
VOODOO: Let's level set here on point guard play. Where would Reggie Kohn fall, like a B?
TORO: Chucky Atkins is an A... Reggie was probably a B to B-plus... Howard was C to C-minus... Chris Capko was D to D-minus... I think that's fair.
VOODOO: And Crater is a U. Let's be nice and use the S/U grades for him. Crater didn't fail, he was just unsuccessful.
KEN: I agree.
VOODOO: So USF hasn't had an A-level point guard since Chucky Atkins, who oh by the way was the last guy to get his number retired. I think after this exercise we have a new range for point guards -- the Chucky/Crater Point Guard Scale. Or maybe just "The Chuckycrater."
TORO: Brian Swift did have that one year at the point. I'd say he falls between Reggie and Howard. But other than that, I guess the year Howard was hurt we had James Holmes and Soloman Bozeman. I mean... good God man, that's a longer quarterback drought than the Bears before Jay Cutler.
KEN: So the answer to all of USF's problems is to find a competent point.
TORO: Well, not all... but it's a start.
VOODOO: If I could only make one change that would be the one that would have the biggest impact. But by our math we could make several changes. What else?
TORO: Do we agree that we could hire John Wooden/Henry Iba tomorrow, and we wouldn't sell more tickets at the Sun Dome until we start winning again? The community has completely tuned out basketball until it shows it's worthy of support, agreed?
KEN: Agreed. It took until the UConn game for everyone to show up last year.
VOODOO: Well, no. If Coach K decided after Duke's run is over, "You know, I have a charmed life here at Duke and I've won 900 games and four national titles, but I need a challenge, I'm taking the USF job!" People would buy tickets for that.
KEN: Half the crowd would still be wearing blue, but I'd be OK with that.
TORO: OK, so congratulations, you've been hired to replace Doug Woolard. What's the first thing you do (that's realistic) to try and fix basketball?
VOODOO: Does the basketball team have a Rays problem? No one has disposable income, the Sun Dome is not exactly convenient for the power base of Tampa, it's run down and unattractive, and oh yeah the team stinks.
TORO: I'd say the Rays analogy is fair. But we don't have Vince Naimoli running the team, so we do at least have that hope.
VOODOO: Well, we're pretty close to Naimoli. Remember I did compare USF to him when they moved the Syracuse game to the Forum just so they could sell fistfuls of tickets to Orange fans.
GARY: I'd try to book as many non-conference games against Florida schools as possible. Do what it takes to get Florida, Florida State, or Miami to visit the Sun Dome on occasion. Extend the UCF home-and-away as long as possible. Get Stetson, Jacksonville, FAU, FAMU, Gulf Coast, whoever, instead of these random out-of-state teams. See if a nostalgia opponent, like Charlotte or UAB or South Alabama or Western Kentucky will drum up interest. Anything to get people to care.
If nothing else, this will lower team travel. All our conference opponents are far away in the northeast, and we're jetting off to Cleveland State and Las Vegas and South Padre Island for non-league games. We've got to have one of the highest travel expenses and most travel-weary teams in college basketball. Every little bit helps.
TORO: Well, tournaments like the one in Vegas and South Padre pay us to be there... and they only count as one game towards your season limit instead of three. And travel expenses for basketball aren't much. They fly charter for free ocassionally, and the party is about 20 people. You can get a team in and out for about $6,000 or so if flying commercial. At those rates, pick the best game for your scheduling goals. Especially if you charter, which is a much less taxing way to travel.
GARY: I know I brought it up, but of all the things that need fixing on this basketball team, the schedule is not in the top 10. It was my reflex answer to the "first realistic thing you would do to help basketball as AD" question. My non-realistic answers to that question are far more interesting.
VOODOO: It's a nice idea... although VCU is one of those nostalgia opponents and that didn't really make a difference. And unfortunately in-state scheduling may not be feasible. FAU, Jacksonville, et al don't move the ticket needle, we won't schedule SCUMBAGS for obvious reasons, we don't want to schedule UCF too often for equally obvious reasons, and I don't think UF/FSU/Miami are likely to show up to the Sun Dome any time soon. (For all I know, the Gators are still miffed about that ticket stunt we pulled almost a decade ago.)
Really I think we already missed the boat on nostalgic opponents. If we wanted to keep people familiar with UAB and Charlotte as historical rivals, we should have kept scheduling them after we left C-USA. Especially Charlotte, who went to the Atlantic 10 and probably has no hard feelings towards USF.
GARY: Actually, we did keep UAB as a post C-USA opponent, playing them from 2006-09. But I suppose that further proves the point that it didn't help attendance any.
VOODOO: I think those were our required games after exiting the league... but that's beside the point.
KEN: The first thing I would have done before this year is get the facilities up to date, but that's finally done. With the renovation though
, and it would piss off some people to do this, but I'd consider redoing the donor levels for the Sun Dome. There have been some quality seats that haven't been used in years but they won't give up the seats because of their great location. You could give them a bit of a discount with the new levels, but there are people wanting a chance at the lower bowl seats
TORO: They'll reseat the Sun Dome after the renovation for sure. And a lot of that dead wood has been taken out of there. Believe it or not, all those tickets in the lower bowl are basically completely sold. They just don't show up, which is how Voodoo and I ended up at center court in the 5th row for Liberty. I knew a donor that literally couldn't give his seats away outside the Sun Dome before the game.
VOODOO: They keep the program afloat, they get to call the shots. How realistic are the revenue projections for the renovated building, and does that affect USF's basketball budget in any way?
TORO: It affects the overall department budget... but anything basketball makes doesn't necessarily go back into basketball. All sports bring in their money, and then the department allocates it where they deem necessary. So the new basketball arena could help track and field as well as basketball
KEN: But what else could you do to attract fans other that win? Kids already get in the game for free. Tickets for adults are $8. They serve alcohol.
TORO: Not a blessed thing. Maybe some atmosphere stuff outside the Dome before games, but that's probably it.
VOODOO: Maybe the renovated Sun Dome will finally let you pay for beer with a debit card. After my problems at the Liberty game, that would do it for me. But I'm pretty easy to please.
GARY: A few years ago, I thought casual sports fans in Tampa didn't realize the level of play that USF football brought to town. I proposed erecting billboards with the home schedule simply stated: Tennessee Tech, Southern Mississippi, Army, East Carolina, Memphis, Pittsburgh. Such an approach would work even better for basketball now, as Big East membership brings us more home games with blueblood programs than any school with our pedigree could possibly hope for. If an offering of Cincinnati, West Virginia, Connecticut, Pittsburgh and Georgetown doesn't get Tampa sports fans excited -- especially allowing for some crossover with football rivalries -- then there's not much else we can do marketing-wise.
VOODOO: Speaking of kids get in for free... how do the students get engaged again? They weren't really into it even last year. All of our eggs are in the football basket, that is not good.
KEN: Get them into one unified area in the Sun Dome instead of scattered all over the place. Have someone, be it SBC or the Beef Studs organize students into going. Get the Greeks involved somehow... but someone needs to be to be the leader.
GARY: This is an area where I think we as alumni and older fans can get involved. When I was at USF, my observation was that students wanted to care and get involved, but they ran into roadblocks, or didn't have the necessary support, or didn't attract enough people for their group to gain critical mass. In my day, there were always clever student groups who showed up for one or two games and then didn't come back. But nowadays people like us, through the technology of the Internet and the awesome global reach of VoodooFive.com, can help foment student involvement instead of just complaining that there isn't enough of it.
VOODOO: Anything else? We never really got into style of play. I guess we should save talking about next year's team until we know what next year's team is going to look like.
TORO: Right... avoided that intentionally.