Friday, February 17, 2006

What a Grade School Student Is Telling His Classmates, Plus Other Thoughts About This Very Interesting Collegiate Basketball Season

Steve Alford continues to be the talk of folks on the Internet, and not because his Iowa basketball team leads the Big Ten standings.

Alford's name is hot because just about everybody figures he'll soon become Indiana's new coach.

Here's a sample of some of the e-mails being dispatched to basketball followers [including me] in and around the Big Ten area:

"I understand that representatives of Indiana [boosters or friends of the university] have been talking with Alford's representatives for the last two weeks about the parameters that each party might desire

"In addition, Craig Neal's son has been telling other students in his grade school, that his father is the next head basketball coach at Iowa.

"A guy I talked to last night had lunch with [a man who at times has been close to the Hawkeye scene] on Thursday. [The guy] told him that Alford going to Indiana is 'a done deal.'"

Informed Source

[RON MALY'S COMMENTS: Craig Neal [upper right] is Alford's associate head coach at Iowa, and a man who has been receiving lots of credit for what's been going on with the Hawkeyes this season and last season. He'd be someone who will get a strong look if Alford should bolt for Indiana. Read more on Neal in the next e-mail from Al Schallau, an Iowa fan who now lives in California].


Writes Schallau:

"Craig Neal's son would get my vote as my favorite grade school student in Iowa City. I have always liked a youthful, knowledgeable lad who has a good, healthy big mouth. I just hope the lad's information is accurate."


[RON MALY'S COMMENTS: If Neal should wind up with the Iowa job, the folks who dislike Alford -- and there still are a number of them -- would have the best of both worlds. They'd be rid of Alford and have have their guy Neal in the coaching office].


More from Al Schallau:


"I read your Alford-to-Indiana article [yesterday], and it is excellent. I have wanted for several years to see Steve Alford put Iowa City into his rear-view mirror for several reasons:

"(1) His mishandling of Pierre Pierce, Chapter One, was so bad that it caused thousands of Iowa fans to stay away from Carver Hawkeye Arena.

"(2) He managed to make himself so disliked among Iowa fans, that even a winning team still left thousands of empty seats at the arena. I tell my friends that if you don't like a musician, you are not going to venture out into winter weather and pay good money to attend his or her concerts. The same holds true for head coaches in college basketball.

"(3) I don't think Alford became a good coach until he hired Craig Neal as his chief assistant coach. If Alford leaves, I think Neal would be an excellent choice as the Hawkeyes' next head coach, and I think Coach Neal would beat Indiana Coach Alford quite regularly.


Al Schallau

[RON MALY'S COMMENTS: I, too, was disappointed with Iowa's home attendance during the non-conference season, but there have been a number of sellouts since the Big Ten season began. The Hawkeyes should always be selling out in basketball].


From "South of the Border:"


"Great piece on Alford and the Indiana situation. I think he'll get the offer and take it. Then the story will naturally leak, screwing up another Iowa basketball season. I hope I'm wrong about the latter. These kids deserve a title. They've really played their asses off....

"P.S.-- Tell Greg McDermott [of UNI] to not take the Missouri job until this is settled."

South of the Border

[RON MALY'S COMMENTS: "South of the Border" is correct when he says the Iowa players have played their asses off this season. It's been a wonderful season so far, and it would be a shame if Alford's personal situation turned into a distraction late in the year.]


More from "South of the Border:"

"If the Register's website reflects what you see in today's paper, it really dropped the ball on the Alford and Indiana story. I should be getting used to how the Register does things, but it's lack of follow on this story is still shocking.

"The Iowa City Press-Citizen, on the other hand, had a major story and two columns on its website. Other than calling Craig Neal by the name Bill Neal, good stuff.

"Here's my suggestion today -- send Alford to Indiana and let Al Schallau select his successor. He was right about Lute Olson 32 years ago."

[RON MALY'S COMMENTS: I can't figure out why anyone would find fault with today's Register. Heck, there was a column on the Newton race track. What could be more timely the day after Steve Alford's name was all over the Internet and TV?]


From Gordy Scoles of Bennettsville, S.C.:


"Sorry about the Iowa weather. I read a quote that said Pat Knight would be the next Indiana coach. But like you, I thought he was all set at Texas Tech. And I agree about coaches appointing their sons to follow them, but you know how ADs are. I thought sons following the fathers as kings [or coaches] only happened in a monarchy. I'm glad I didn't have to follow my dad in his job of shoveling coal and stacking lumber in a lumberyard for $75 a week. North Carolina has a freshman player from Poplar Bluff, Mo. Roy Williams sure knows how to find 'em.

Gordy Scoles

[RON MALY'S COMMENTS: If Pat Knight, who is an assistant on his dad Bobby's basketball staff at Texas Tech, is hired at Indiana, the Indiana athletic director should be demoted to night janitor].


It's been a tough basketball season for Travis Simpson of Des Moines and lots of other Iowa State fans. Here's Simpson's e-mail:

"Every season I find myself teetering on the fence about Wayne Morgan and have usually leaned in the direction of giving him the benefit of the doubt. After what is turning into a highly disappointing season, where the Cyclones have lost seven games at home [six regular season, one exhibition] and are being outplayed and out-coached by teams they should beat, I’m about to lean the other way again. In fact, between 2000 and 2004 I’m not sure that the Cyclones even lost seven games combined at Hilton! The theme early in the season was 'patience' as in we have four inexperienced post players that have not played at this level of competition before. Well, all four have shown great strides so that is becoming less of an excuse as the season has gone on. We always hear what a great player Curtis Stinson is and how ISU supposedly has one of the best backcourts in the country, but now with the young post players contributing more and the battle-tested backcourt the Cyclones are in a tailspin down the last stretch of the season.

"Talent-wise and potential most would probably take the Cyclone team on paper over the Big Ten-leading Hawkeyes simply because they are more athletic and a better team offensively. That’s what brings me to my next point -- DEFENSE. That is the reason why ISU has struggled and Iowa is leading the Big Ten because Iowa plays great defense despite being one of the worst in offense in the Big Ten. Iowa leads the Big Ten in rebounding and is fourth in scoring defense but is eighth in points scored and dead-last in FG percentage at a sad 42 percent while ISU is third in the Big 12 in scoring offense, fourth in field goal percentage, but 10th in scoring defense. Who says defense doesn’t win games?

"Some friends and I were commenting while watching one of the many poor performances at Hilton how the zone defense is always 'scrambling' and is out of position and the other team has no problems finding wide open 3-pointers and layups, which is exactly what the zone is designed to prevent. Teams have figured out if they pass quickly out of the initial trap to the open man in the corner they either have a wide open 3 or the defender in the post that comes running out to guard that player now just left someone open for an easy lay-up on the baseline. With that much talent and athleticism, the fundamentals of the game seem to be lacking and you’d think being as quick as ISU is that they’d be able to play a tough man defense more often.

"There is no doubt that Wayne Morgan has recruited some talent to ISU that they have not had in the past. However, whether he will ever be able to coach it successfully is still to be seen. If Stinson and Blalock come back for their senior season, the post players put on some needed weight, with the good recruiting class coming in for next season to add more depth, and the only graduation loss being John Neal this ISU team will have a lot of expectations to be a top team in the Big 12. Anything less and coach Morgan is going to be in the hot seat with the fans who have already given him the benefit of the doubt more than once."

Travis Simpson

[RON MALY'S COMMENT: Travis, have you ordered your NIT tickets yet?]


Here's a "Question About Dr. Tom:"


"Do you think that Dr. Tom will stay around as head coach at Drake after this year?

"Have you read or heard any rumblings to indicate that Dr. Tom might go back into retirement after this year?"

[RON MALY'S COMMENTS: As I wrote a week or so ago, it won't surprise me if Tom Davis goes back into retirement after coaching Drake's basketball team for three seasons. Dave Blank, the athletic director who brought him out of retirement in Iowa City to try to resurrect the Drake program, is leaving in April for Elon University. I'm not sure Davis wants to get accustomed to another boss. But we'll see].


A reader from one time zone away has a complaint in this e-mail:

"Hello, Mr. Maly,

"writing to grouse about what appears to be a permanent state of writer's block at Picture after picture is captioned with some fairly meaningless statement such as: 'Workers continue to make progress on the east concourse of Kinnick Stadium.' We used to have descriptions such as: 'A view from the steel that is the skeleton of the new press box', 'Workers conduct a test on the pressure with the new air duct system', and 'of the speaker cluster in scoreboard.' Not great, but at least there is modicum of descriptive value in those captions.

"I've submitted a site comments...yet the amorphous descriptions continue. It reminds me of a TV series that starts out great and then the writers run out of material. With all the things happening at Kinnick Stadium and all the wannabe writers in Iowa City, I'm certain we could come up captions which are descriptive and engaging.

"Great websites don't die suddenly...they just become irrelevant...

"Best regards"

[RON MALY'S COMMENTS: I guess the Kinnick renovation has taken second place to the outstanding Hawkeye basketball season. Once Iowa winds things up in the NCAA tournament, there'll be more talk of football. After all, spring practice isn't that far away].