Monday, March 07, 2005

Attention, Iowa: Keady Packing 4 Suits for Big Ten Trip

Gene Keady said he’s packing four suits for his trip to Chicago later this week.

“I told my players that I’m not taking one suit for a game and three for the theater,” Purdue’s basketball coach explained today, apparently with a straight face. “I’m taking four suits to play four games.”

In other words, the man who is on his way out after 27 seasons on the Boilermakers’ bench is figuring on winning Thursday’s game against Iowa and playing for the Big Ten postseason tournament championship Sunday.

Keady said he hopes his players, who have a 7-20 overall record and finished 3-13 in the conference, know what he’s talking about when he refers to the four-suit road trip.

“If they don’t believe that, then I don’t want anybody going with me,” he barked.

“So I might have an empty bus.”

It’s that kind of attitude by Keady that I’m going to miss after he loses his next game, is out of the Big Ten and maybe out of coaching.

They don’t make ‘em like him anymore.

And I don’t mean that just because of his feisty manner and the hair on his head that seems to be attached with super-glue.

He’s got a lousy team with a lousy record, but he’s a fighter.

Indeed, he might be the only person who believes his team has a chance against Iowa in Thursday’s 1:30 p.m. game.

“We beat Iowa here [in West Lafayette, Ind.] and played one of our better games,” Keady said. “I’m sure that will motivate them. But I don’t think they think we can do that again.”


Keady has said that five or six teams from the Big Ten, including Iowa, should be considered for the NCAA tournament

That probably indicates how far out in left field he is these days.

Or else he’d like to be the conference’s next commissioner.

The Big Ten doesn’t deserve to get more than four teams in the 65-team NCAA field, and Iowa [19-10 overall and 7-9 in the conference] won’t be one of them unless it wins the conference postseason title—as coach Steve Alford’s team did in 2001—or at least beats three teams in Chicago.

“We have to continue playing well and get some wins down the stretch,” Alford said today when asked what his team must do to get into the NCAA tournament. “Our Sagarin rating is 28. The old way of doing the [Ratings Percentage Index], we’re 35. In years past, that’s always been an automatic. In the new RPI, we’re 54."

Alford said the present RPI system places more emphasis on road victories.

“That’s the one thing in our resume that doesn’t look as good,” he said. “But I think there’s a big, big difference in getting road wins in the Big Ten and getting road wins in some of these other leagues.”


The e-mailers have been busy again.

After Iowa’s overtime victory at Michigan, this message showed up on my computer:

What is that, three in a row for Alford? So what’s your feeling……or the vibe in Iowa…..are they going to fire Boy Wonder?”

Two weeks ago, I’d have said Boy Wonder might be on his way out.

Not now.

Whether all of you Alford-haters—and there are plenty--like it or not, I’m predicting he’ll be back for another season,

Four straight trips to the NIT and a ho-hum attitude all season by fans who stayed away from Carver-Hawkeye Arena are not good things at a place like Iowa, but I can’t see athletic director Bob Bowlsby sending Alford out the door yet.

Neither can another guy – a man who deals with athletic directors and coaches in a professional way 12 months a year – who sent this e-mail:

“I don’t think, with whatever happens this season, Alford will get fired,” he said. “Why do I say that? If they were to make a change, they really have to wait until the season is over.

“Well, from the day the regular season is over for Iowa until April 4, Bowlsby is going to be a VERY busy man. Remember, he was asked to chair the men’s basketball committee for a second year. [By the way, I’m a huge Bowlsby fan].

“As the chairman of that committee, he is not only busy the whole week leading up to Selection Sunday. He is also obligated to be at one or more tournament sites from Thursday until Sunday each week until championship weekend.

“Now, you tell me how is he going to hire a new coach at the same time? I don’t think it can be done. It would not do the job justice, and Bowlsby certainly isn’t going to leave it up to a ‘selection committee.’”

Another e-mailer – a man who spends a lot of time in Iowa City and has a strong feel for things in the athletic department – e-mailed me to say the only coaching change needed in Iowa’s basketball program “has already taken place.”

He was talking about the addition of Craig Neal to the staff in August. Neal is Alford’s associate head coach and has impressed a number of observers with his recruiting abilities.


Naturally, not everyone agrees with me.

Another man who has been close to the Hawkeye scene for a number of years sent this e-mail to me:

"You think Alford survives? My reasoning that he's gone is to put more distance between the U of I and 'Mandingo.'"

The reference to "Mandingo" is, of course, in connection with the Pierre Pierce situation, which is one of the ugliest in history at the University of Iowa.

Vol. 4, No. 316
March 7, 2005