College Sports

Final Four’s Legacy Tarnished

By BRIEN STRAW
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NCAA Men's Championship Game - Butler v UConn
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It was arguably the worst championship game in history – let’s face it, when you have to go back to the 1940’s for statistical comparison it’s a really bad game.  That’s the games legacy, what about the players and coaches?

I truly feel for Butler. As Bulldogs coach Brad Stevens told the press post-game, the great thing about his team is they are great guys. It was amazing to me how well Stevens was taking the ugly loss. I walk away knowing very little about the 34-year old coach, but believing those who are influenced by him are very fortunate.  Because Butler’s performance was so poor most of the players will be quickly forgotten.  Ten years from now, even “basketball junkies” will have a hard time remembering the Bulldog players. As for their coach, I think that’s a different story.

Stevens – like Shaka Smart who’s decided to stay at VCU following a Final Four run (a huge mistake in my opinion), has a major rebuilding job to do. But I think Stevens is up to the task. Reason one, unlike Smart at VCU Stevens built this Butler team. Additionally, until he ran up against UConn’s Jim Calhoun, Stevens outcoached his competition.  Butler may not make another Final Four under Brad, but I think they’ll be a consistent participant in the NCAA tournament, and at Butler you can’t ask for more than that.

As for the National Champion Huskies, this team will also prove mostly irrelevant in a few short years.  Yes Kimba Walker played unbelievably in the tournament, but unless he truly is the next Allen Iverson (which he’s not), his play will soon be nothing more than a footnote. (see Mateen Cleaves at Michigan State) Jeremy Lamb, may prove to be the most talented of this championship edition of Huskies, but he too has a long way to go before he’ll be an iconic basketball figure.  Why UConn has a pipeline of players from Gwinnett county Georgia might be hard to figure – Maya Moore, one of the best women ever came from Collins Hill high school, Lamb from Norcross, but the Huskies success is not. Jim Calhoun gets the credit.

As Calhoun said in responding to my question about his legacy (yes, I’m name dropping – [me], but I must admit it’s great when you hear the response to your question on every sports media outlet in America, so…) Calhoun said if you measure yourself by the company you keep, he’s in very good company, and he is. John Wooden, Aldoph Rupp and Mike Krzyzewski are the only coaches in Division 1 history with more titles.  How much the 68 year old coach’s legacy is hurt by the recent NCAA penalties (Calhoun will serve a three game Big East suspension next season) is not yet known.  Typically the average fan is much less forgiving than the history books.

I will admit, the accepting responsibility yet denying guilt does bother me. But in being fair, I cannot discount Calhoun’s achievements. He may never be considered the equal of Bobby Knight – who also has three titles and currently holds the record for victories, but in truth Calhoun’s career success may be better. UConn has continued to be an elite program under Calhoun.  Indiana became mostly irrelevant under Knight whose rigid approach became passé.

The Final Four returns to Reliant in 2016 – which was praised by both Brad Stevens and Jim Calhoun and was a terrific venue, here’s hoping the action on the court will prove more memorable.

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