Message to Frank and Devont: The Difference Between Good, Great and Champions
The world is full of players that play great for stretches when titles and rings are not on the line. These are good players.
Great players play great, when the titles are on the line. You have proven you are great players.
But champions play great when the championships are on the line.
Don’t forget this.
Sherron Collins and Mario Chalmers and RusRob are champions.
They are the gold standard.
Can’t leave out Rush as well. 2 NBA caliber players. We have 2 or 3 now (1 lock in JJ, Svi, graham, or Vick could all wind up earning nba minutes. Heck maybe Frank too.). The comparison is critical because guards win the dance and since 08 all our Nba talent has been in the back court. This year bodes well.
Can’t leave out Rush as well. 2 NBA caliber players from 08. We have 2 or 3 now (1 lock in JJ, Svi, graham, or Vick could all wind up earning nba minutes. Heck maybe Frank too.). The comparison is critical because guards win the dance and since 08 all our Nba talent has been in the front court. This year bodes well.
There is no one on this team comparable to Rush unless Josh can carry this team to a ring while rehabbing an ACL! He was a champion for sure. Let’s hope Josh doesn’t have to.
@Fightsongwriter if you’re talking about any NBA talent on team, Doke is a future NBA stud. Just a year out. And Bragg potentially.
@jaybate-1.0 I dont disagree with you dude, but Josh has better handles and court vision than Rush ever did at KU. ON the flip side, Rush, I think, is a better defender and obviously a better shooter.
Texas Hawk 10
@Lulufulu Are you comparing Jackson’s defense to Rush as a freshman or junior? Junior Rush was better than Jackson is, but Jackson is a better defender than freshman Rush was though.
@approxinfinity No the point is guard comparison 08 to 16.
@Texas-Hawk-10 Oh yah, I meant Freshmen to Freshmen. JJ can pass and initiate offense better than Rush could as a frosh. To be honest, Im not really sure about defense when comparing both players in their freshmen years
@jaybate-1.0 - Assuming your statement to be true, is it also true that great coaches are great when titles and rings are on the line?
@HighEliteMajor Depends on “do we have to include Jay Wright in this category?” says Mario …
The sportsworld is also replete with the role players who are also their absolute best to help their team win a championship. No one ever heard of Gene Tenace in 1972 when he slugged 4 homers to help the A’s win it all. Frank, DG, JJ will need to lead us but Landen or Bragg probably will need to become our Gene Tenace in March…and April, like Macnamera in 2003.
Yes. I hold coaches to the same criteria as players.
Self has many times been a great coach, because he has won so many consecutive titles. He has achieved sustained greatness.
But Self achieved the level of a champion only once.
Before going further, I want to explain how I analyze these steps from good to great and from great to champion. I flatly reject the notion that coaches and teams luck into titles, or that coaches and teams luck into championships. Seasons are too long and complicated for luck to be the deciding factor. Everyone gets some luck–good and bad. Everyone has some talent. Some have more and some have less. But the frequency of less than the most talented teams winning it all means that talent is a requirement but rarely the determining factor. The crucial factor deciding who wins lots of championships and titles is who performs best. Sports is a performance. Coaching sports is every bit as much of a performance as playing. What determines game out comes–at least prior to the tournament becoming an apparently entertainment value engineered Carney–is level of performance both in the critical moments of games, but also in the run-ups to those critical moments. PERFORMANCE DECIDES EVERY GAME OUTCOME. No coach, or team, in a legitimately refereed game, EVER lost a game because they performed better than another team at winning the game. There are many other measures of performance that are not critical to winning games and coaches and teams often perform better than the loser in those metrics. But in the metrics that matter; i.e., in the metrics that lead to who winds up with the most points, when the buzzer sounds to end the game, NO TEAM IN A LEGITIMATELY REFEREED GAME HAS EVER LOST BECAUSE IT PERFORMED BETTER IN THE CRITICAL VARIABLES THAT LEAD TO BEING AHEAD WHEN THE BUZZER SOUNDS. NEVER. Coaches and teams win, because they perform better at scoring the most points in 40 minutes. This is what I love about the game of basketball, when it is not being engineered by entertainment values to bias out comes with seeding and referee bias.
It follows like 2 after the number 1, then that great coach is one who has figured out what it takes to win a title, and that a great coach that win way more titles than his opponents, has: a) figured out how to win titles; and b.) figured out how to make himself and his team perform at a higher level than the other coaches that have also figured out how to win titles, but have only figured out how to win 1 or 2.
The same holds for coaches that learn how to win championships. Anyone that wins one championship has to be included among those that have figured out the formula for winning a championship. And those that win many more championships have learned how to make themselves and their teams perform at much higher levels.
This may seem like mastering the obvious, but its not.
With the above as my bedrock principle of what makes great coaches win more titles than other great coaches, and what makes some championship coaches win more championships than others, let’s proceed into a bit more detail and into some comparison of coaches.
Only one coach ever sustained the level of a champion; that is, only one coach ever both figured out the formula for winning a championship, and then was able to perform at a high enough level to win many championships. The rest of the great ones have only been able to scale to champion level intermittently–one, or two, scalings of the peak are about all the champions can muster, while there are a handful of three, four, or five timers.
But the 3, 4 and 5 timers are Adolph Rupp, Bob Knight, Jim Calhoun and Coach K. Rupp we can reduce to 1, or 2, because it is documented that he was inning rings during a time when gamblers were fixing the outcomes. There is little reason to believe all of his titles were legitimate, and there is strong reason to suspect some of them were not. Since he went to KU, let’s be charitable and say he won maybe 2 legitimately. Knight coached during a time when the tourney still appeared to be a legitimate tourney, so we have to say that Knight genuinely scaled Olympus to be a true champion 4 times and so he indicates the peak of champions after Wooden.
Alas, to analyze Coach K I HAVE to make an arbitrary, AND undoubtedly controversial assumption. Starting the year after Self won the NCAA championship in 2008, it appears that some combination of ShoeWars and the Media Gaming Complex lead the NCAA tournament across some kind of threshold into the appearance of a March Carney in which apparent recruiting, seeding and refereeing asymmetries apparently in the service of entertainment values appeared to delegitimize the tourney. Thus, titles won since Self’s ring appear of dubious authenticity.
(Note: why do I pick 2008 as the cut off date? Because that was the last season a non EST team won. Because that was the last season it could be argued that Self had among the best talent and there was no talent stacking on other teams. And because that is the last time I recall watching the NCAA tourney and not asking myself, independently of KU’s treatment, are other teams being treated fairly by the seeding and the refereeing? Call it subjective and anecdotal, but I have to call it as I see it. KU has hardly appeared to have gotten screwed the worst over the years since 2008. I would argue KU gets BETTER treatment than some other CST and MST and PST teams. The tournament appears entertainment value engineered in many respects, not just regarding KU. And regarding the 2008 ring that KU one: while the usual talking points about the Memphis game is how miraculous it was that Memphis missed so many free throws down the stretch, and that KU was just luckier than hell to win, as a result, what seems to be much more striking is how many FTs were awarded to Memphis down the stretch, and the fact that they played the game with ringers. To me, KU was likely NOT intended to win the 2008 tourney either. But I figure that KU winning against the odds that were apparently stacked against it adds to Self championship ability and to the same regarding his players. But in any case, I felt one had to pick a year after which to characterize the change in the appearance of the tourney regarding entertainment value engineering, so I picked a year I had a particularly strong recollections of. Pick another one if you wish.Either way, Self and his players upsetting the apple cart as happened probably needs to be given some special recognition, especially given the difficulty he has had since with recruiting top point guards and centers despite his sterling record and string of conference titles and a ring.)
Given the above, Coach K won two of his ring’s AFTER it became the apparent March Carney, so we can at most say that he scaled the level to champion 3 times, not 5. Again, to be charitable to one of the games greatest coaches and champions, he did not ask for the tournament to appear to be biased by entertainment value engineering, though he apparently did not turn down its benefits. Let’s assume with holiday spirit, that he might have won one more title and ended at 4.
Which brings me to Calhoun of UConn; this three time winner of the NCAA championship won two of his three rings AFTER 2008. Inference: Calhoun was really a one time ring winner. At best, we can say he might have won one more; that would leave him at 2.
Which brings me to Wooden. He won ten rings. Critics argue that Wooden was a fraud, because Sam Gilbert bought him players the last 8 titles. This is bullshit. Here is the truth about Wooden. He lost for 15 years to teams and coaches that were hiring players. Even so, he finally won two straight rings without paying players the way players were being paid at EVERY OTHER MAJOR BASKETBALL PROGRAM IN THE UNITED STATES. Next, Gilbert began hiring him players by paying them the same monies that that other major basketball programs were paying their players.
What is a fact about Wooden for this discussion is that Wooden was one of many coaches that rose from great (winning titles) to a champion winning championships; i.e., he figured out how to win titles, and then he figured out how to win championships.
What distinguishes Wooden is that in addition to figuring out how to win titles and championships, he PERFORMED at a vastly higher level than any other coach in his time, and in any other era that followed.
All this business of goodness, rising to greatness, and of greatness rising to a champion, is about what is done in the string of moments leading up to and including the championship contest.
Champions in NCAA basketball operate in one and out.
So: the ONLY definition of a champion that matters is this one…A CHAMPION DOESN’T MAKE THE SAME DECISIVE MISTAKE ONCE.
THINK ABOUT IT.
For six games, not a single mistake can be made of sufficient adverse consequence to trigger a loss by coach, or players. NOT ONE. Make even one, and you and your players are gone.
Everyone makes mistakes in a game, especially in six games. But that is not the crucial factor. The crucial factor is that you cannot make a single loss inducing mistake, or a constellation of them, that triggers a loss, or you are NOT a champion again.
Think of how many moments there are in six 40 minute games. where a coach can make a mistake, or a constellation of mistakes, that can cost his team the game.
It is the single most unforgiving criterion of a champion’s success in sport IMHO, or it was until March Madness became an apparent Carney.
I used to think winning was hugely, then later at least decisively, about luck, but then I recalled Wooden’s across a dinner table REMARK TO A YOUNG ME in Marysville, MO, about a thousand years ago now, when he responded to my question about his run of championships by saying, “It took quite awhile to figure out how to do it, but once we did, we got pretty good at it, didn’t we?”
Wooden, the master coach, left a bread crumb trail for all that would dare follow. It was not random. The formula was searched for by him through 15-20 years of trial and error and by his legendary relentless statistical study of every aspect of the game he could measure reliably. Whatever formula he finally arrived at depended decisively–not on luck (which everyone gets some of), and not on talent (which everyone in the tourney has more or less of)–but on the UCLA Way. You have to have some luck and you have to have some talent, but he won his first two with talent that no one else had much wanted. He won his first with a team of five starters 6-5, or under. He won 10 titles total. Sometimes he had twice as much talent as the next team, same as Calipari has had once or twice. He won some rings with teams that had some more talent than others teams. But the dead giveaway was that he won TWO straight rings with less talent than most of the other teams, and he went undefeated with one of them. Ooooooooooh, yea. That’s another thing persons forget about Wooden; he had four undefeated seasons also, if I recall correctly, or was it only 3?
Anyway, there is a formula for winning the national championship in a single elimination tournament. It involves many things, as Wooden’s Pyramid of Success makes clear, but foremost among them was being at your best when your best was needed. Without being at one’s best when one’s best is needed, even with all the talent and all the resources, good health, and a dollop of luck, some games in the pre-Carney tournament required a coach and his players to be at their bests when their bests were needed–the coach and his players. It takes a very special kind of great coach to be at his best and to be able to elicit his players best whenever needed during six games. I am convinced that THAT is the decisive factor that separates any great coach from another great coach with fewer titles, and any championship coach from another with fewer championships.
Self has figured out cold how to win and sustain winning titles.
Self has also figured out how to win a national championship before the apparent time of the Carney.
Any guy that can win this many titles seems a likely candidate to win at least as many championships as some of the other multi-ring winners, and maybe even make a run at Wooden.
But so far, Self has not done it.
It is pretty conspicuous that his failure to win more rings has coincided with the rise of the apparent March Carney.
But it is also pretty conspicuous that his failure to win more rings has coincided with the apparent recruiting embargo that has nearly totally denied him OAD and 5-Star grade players at the Point Guard and Post positions, which are positions that national champions have traditionally fielded such extremely talented players at.
I think the real question regarding Self is could he have won one, or more rings, had March Madness not migrated to the apparent March Carney that it has appeared to become?
I feel the odds would be odd his side, but we will never know, same as we will never know if Coach K could have won two more apparently legitimate rings, or maybe even more, had the entertainment value engineering not appeared to overtake the NCAA tourney after 2008.
Finally, i want to take a moment and address the 64 team, versus 32 and 16 team formats that Wooden competed in. Doubters of Wooden often make the argument that the larger tournament is harder to win. To deal with this, I want to make clear that any comparison with the post 2008 tourney is irrelevant IMHO because of the tourney’s transmogrification by apparent entertainment value engineering. That said, let me begin.
I used to think 64 versus 16 and 32 was just obviously much tougher, because of the greater number of entrants alone. Probabilities of 1 in 64 vs. say 1 in 16.
I have changed my mind on that.
If the tournament had ever been seeded randomly, then I think my old opinion would have held up; i.e., 1 in 64 would have been much tougher.
But the tourney has always been seeded to favor the best teams. Best plays worse, and so one.
Seeding in my opinion, especially in the early rounds, makes a smaller tournament much more difficult to survive. Seeding in a large tournament gives a team warm up games to get over the jitters and neutral court issues BEFORE ever having to face a team remotely as talented as a high seed team like a conference winner from a major conference. It matters very little IMHO that there are a few upsets in the early rounds. In fact those occasional early round upsets actually work to make it even more probable that the eventual winner will be from among the highly seeded teams. What matters most statistically is that the greater number of games, especially combined with the seeding and the occasional early round upsets of a high seed, mean that the best “preforming” coach and players have an even greater probability of beating winning out over lesser performers, because the greater number of games favor them.
Everyone understands that in a 7 game NBA series there is a greater likelihood of the “better” performing team winning than in a 5 game series. IMHO, it is similar in a single elimination tournament with an expanded field. The bigger the field is made the more likelihood that one among the most highly seeded teams will reach the finals and win, because playing more games with better performing coaches and players favors the teams with better coaches and players.
The only critical structural change in the game between Wooden’s era and 2008 was the 3 point shot. Often persons, including me have argued that the three point shot makes scoring more volatile and makes it harder to avoid being upset. But here again I have changed my thinking on that.
It is only harder to avoid being upset if one relies on lesser three point shooters than other teams. Other things equal, if a coach makes a commitment to having as good of three point shooters as other teams likely to be faced in the tourney, which is the same thing a coach tries to do in every other regard, also, teams should be no more vulnerable to being upset by the three poinit shot, than teams being upset by the two point outside shot, or incredibly asymmetric offensive rebounding, or vastly better protecting.
So to get to a bottom line here of my discussion it is this: the best performing coaches and players win the most titles and the most championships, once they figure out the formula for doing so. As in all other realms of human action, the vast majority of persons cannot figure out the formulas of success, some that do can perform somewhere within a normal distribution, and some very few are anomalies out at the right tail.
But where you fall, when compared with others competing under similar conditions of legitimacy of seeding and refereeing, really does depend on how good you perform.
And the take away?
Performance is measured by making the most total points in each game.
James Naismith determined this when he decided for the boys to keep score.
Wow! A lot to take in from your last post.
I think you have left some pretty big holes concerning changes to the game since Wooden. What about the shot clock? That was a monster change 10 years after Wooden retired. Also the OAD culture has changed the game, including guys leaving early beyond their freshmen years. And let’s not forget the creation of AAU basketball and all those extra all-star games. And also all these all-star prep schools.
How about the advent of 24-hour sports? Sports media has grown exponentially since the days of Wooden. Young players are getting more info on teams all over the country. Wooden had an easier time recruiting because every player knew UCLA and their reputation at that time. It seems like recruits are more likely to play for a school outside of their territory today.
Just the massive increase in revenues generated by college ball has totally changed the game. Today, coaches jump on a private jet and zip across the country to recruit. For example, Self may leave directly from a game to go watch a recruit play 1000 miles away. In the old days, these guys flooded onto commercial flights, and also they would DRIVE to recruits and would put together meeting many players on a trip. A big part of the art of recruiting was being able to choreographic visits together on the same trip.
I feel kind of mixed on the impact of the big dance moving to 64 or larger. On one hand, it adds more games which should favor the elite programs with more depth. But then, with every additional playing minute, there are risks added to all teams including the elite teams. Just because an elite team loses their star PG and has a decent backup doesn’t mean the adjustment will keep them right on stride for a title.
It seems that from a pure statistical perspective by adding teams it makes it slightly less likely that an elite team will win every year.
This seems like a subject that can have very obvious arguments supporting certain beliefs but may not actually play out that way in reality.
I think the game of college basketball has changed so much that it is impossible to fairly compare Wooden’s days with current coaches or even comparing the game with itself. And you know I’m a Wooden fan.
While I agree with some of your points, I disagree with others.
During the UCLA glory day in the 60’s and early-mid 70’s the landscape of college basketball was completely different. The number of quality players was small and a few school got the lion’s share of them. Each season there were dozen teams that ware much better than the rest and only a handful capable of winning it it all. Keep in mind than until 1975, yes that is correct…1975, only 25 team were part of the NCAA Championship while there are now 68. Of course this a huge increase over 1952 when KU won its first championship when only 16 teams were invited. Now you have 351 programs in Division I and at least a couple of dozen capable to win it all with a little luck. Look at UConn in 2014, it was #7 seed which means it was not even in the top 25 or #6 KU in 1988 barely inside the top 25. UCLA’s penultimate title was in 1975, the year it went to 32 teams and it did not win another until 1995 when it won its last one. That was then and this is now.
While UCLA became a good program because of outstanding coaching, it did not become great until it started getting the better players via Sam Gilbert; much of the UCLA winning was because of superior firepower rather than coaching alone. Many other contemporaneous coaches would have been equally successful with the players UCLA got. The big issue I have with Wooden is that he looked the other way and refused to do anything about wast was happening under his nose and on his watch; In his book, he pretty much acknowledged this…too little too late, in my opinion.
Lets not forget those star studded players stayed 4 years in college.
@HighEliteMajor Wonder what Rollie would say about that? He’s still hangin in there at 82 …
The various shot clocks have had little effect on the game, except to stop the stalls team’s used to confront UCLA with. Wooden might never have lost any game in the 10 ring seasons but the one against Houston when Kareem was hurt, without stalls. But if one were to argue it has had an effect, UCLA and Wooden would have benefitted greatly with any clocks tried so far. Wooden was a ring leader in arguing for the shot clock. Dean Smith would have suffered some without the stall.
Regarding talent, folks forget that the top 16 teams in the country were way deeper and way more experienced and skilled in Wooden’s era than even the best teams are today.
Only the OAD-shoe thing might have impacted him negatively, but probably he would have the best shoe deal and probably he would have the most dump trucks today.
And since he prided himself on running the simplest offense, and never prepared for specific opponents, his approach would have worked great today with OADs.
I have asked my self how Wooden would have fared in XTReme Muscle Ball. The answer is: Steve Patterson, Sidney Wicks and Curtis Rowe. Those guys were the proto Muscle team. Further, Wooden himself played in the Big Ten, when it was vastly rougher than any other college conference, and Wooden played for the reputed inventor of playing bruising centers and forwards to control the glass and allow running every trip: Ward “Piggy” Lambert. Wooden’ own UCLA teams were physical inside, whenever challenged to be. A part of Wooden would have relished bang Ball even though the Indiana Rubber man loved to run. Wooden loved breaking opponents down until they quit. He ran to break opponents down. When the refs “lett’em play” the last 20 years, Wooden’s teams would have become the most menacing. He would never have let Tom Izzo intimidate one of his teams. It would have been a blood bath and The Rubber Man, who got his name from hitting the floor and bouncing up, would have let the blood run till there was no more. I’m just glad he never had to.
Really, it was much tougher to win ten when he did than it would be for him to win ten today.
Today he would probably win 15-20 because he would not have wasted 15 seasons not recruiting.
He would have gotten to 600 much sooner, and would probably have won 700-900 games depending on how many seasons Nell would have let him coach. Heck, maybe a thousand with assistants taking care of so much.
Thanks 4 posting the link on Rollie!!!
I love it that he is out there coaching at 82!!!
It inspires me!
@REHawk, GET YOUR WHISTLE!!!
C of O is also a very wonderful Christian College where education is free for those willing to work for it. Our niece graduated here last Spring & is teaching kindergarten in this district now. It was this young lady’s graduation party we were attending in Webb City on the day of the 2011 Joplin tornado. http://www.cofo.edu/
Go for it!!!
Your mention of CoO tripped a memory totally unrelated.
Wow, I hadn’t thought of College of Emporia in half a century. I think it closed quite some time ago. Anyways, my beloved older brother was decent high school basketball player but not big enough to play big college ball. Back in those days CofE had a boys team that was not half bad. He was offered a work-study-play scholarship or something, but his heart was set on going to KU no matter what. I always wished he had taken the CofE offer and stayed in the game. He would have been a great coach.
Get out your whistles and get some young men or women running wind sprints and diving for the loose balls.
It was no secret to Coach Wooden success.
"In an interview with The New York Times in 1995, Wooden said his coaching philosophy revolved around three main ideals. One was to get his players “in the best possible condition.” Another was “quickness.” “I wanted my centers to be quicker than the opposing centers, the forwards quicker than their forwards, and so on,” he explained. The third was teamwork: “You better play together as a team or you sit.”
It isn’t rocket science boys and gals. Recruit the fasted players you can. Condition them to hell and back. Then demand they play like a team.
Great recovery from the memory hole!!
Having consensus All-American players that stayed 4 years in college like Walt Hazzard, Gail Goodrich, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Sidney Wicks, Bill Walton, Henry Bibby, Jamal Wilkes and Dave Meyers during his tenure did not hurt either.
I could be wrong, memory is gone. But didn’t Wooden call Walton “the big clumsy ox?”
@jaybate-1.0 My HS coach had been an All American guard at C of E in the 50’s. They were an excellent program back then.
I have not heard that one but he did have a good story about Bill Walton that he changed over the years…
I’ve always enjoyed Bill Walton. He’s his own man. You’ve probably heard this story but one time he told me he wasn’t going to get a haircut. He told me I didn’t have the right to make him get a haircut. I said, "No, I don’t, Bill. I just have the right to determine who is going to play — and we’re going to miss you."
One day, All-America center Bill Walton showed up with a full beard. “It’s my right,” he insisted. Wooden asked if he believed that strongly. Walton said he did. “That’s good, Bill,” Coach said. “I admire people who have strong beliefs and stick by them, I really do. We’re going to miss you.” Walton shaved it right then and there. Now Walton calls once a week to tell Coach he loves him.
I am not sure which one is the true one…