Covering University of Colorado sports, mostly basketball, since 2010

Monday, November 26, 2012

Monday Grab Bag: Can football please just shutup?

Football just won't leave me alone.  I just wanted a few weeks of merciful silence to enjoy the start of basketball season, but no.

Today in the bag I'm talking Embree, the basketball win over Air Force, some heavies in the Pac-12 taking lumps over the weekend, and the strong start of the women's team.

Click below for the bag...


Embree fired -

The news spread like wildfire at last night's basketball game: Jon Embree had been fired. Despite apparently being told he'd have one more season to get it right, Embree got the axe after only two years in Boulder. It's an ugly end to an ugly situation. Everyone may now light their hair on fire
Coach Embree has been fired.  From: the BDC
Similar to my feelings from when Hawk was fired, I wish Coach Embree no ill will, and respect him as a man and as a leader.  However, it's time to move on.  Good luck, Jon.  You're one of the truest Buffs around, and no one in BuffNation will ever forget what you've meant to the program.


For the record, I leaned slightly towards firing him. The modern football landscape just cannot abide a 4-21 two-year record from a BCS school.  There's just too much money involved.  Regardless of secondary factors, any coach is going to toe the firing line with W/L numbers like that.  But that alone wasn't the deciding factor for me.

I don't mind losing an individual game - shit happens.  I don't even mind a 1-11 season - to grow, sometimes you have to slog through tough stretches.  What I do mind is obvious regression across the board.  Players looking poorly coached and disinterested - that's what, more than the losing, defined the 2012 Buffs, and made me favor a change in leadership.
There were far too few happy days with Embree at the helm.  From: the BDC
Is only two years a brutally short timetable to show improvement? Sure, but the bar for Coach Embree was not exactly set high.  I was looking for three or four wins this season, with some basic signs that the team is improving across the year.  Instead they only found one flukey win against a cancerous Washington State team, and looked every bit like the worst team in FBS football.  The Buffs were more bye week than honest competition for the Pac-12 this season, with a stat sheet that reads like a body count. A poorly coached disaster; even supporters will admit that.  That level of embarrassment was the nail in the coffin.  

The neophyte head coach appeared in-over-his-head since the first day of camp last season.  Propped up by a large group of seniors from the previous regime, he managed to squeeze three wins out of thirteen tries in '11.  Cast adrift without that veteran safety net in 2012, the cracks in the foundation became fissures, and the whole program seemed to burst at the seams.  

Everyone angry today - mostly players, both current and former - should be asked directly: "Were you happy with the product on the field?  Really happy?  Lack of identity, lack of passion on the field, a numbing lack of competitiveness and improvement, that general deer-in-headlights look... was all that really acceptable?  A sign of good things to come?"  At no point during this year was I able to look at what was happening with the identity-less pile of shit that was the football program, and notice signs that the ship was turning around.  In fact, the opposite was true.  Another year wasn't going to change that.  

As far as I can tell, the only reason for retaining him was that firing him after only two years would look bad.  When that's all you got, you need to part ways.

The sad truth is that Coach Mac's instincts may have been right.  He wanted to come back and coach for two years, while Embree and Bieniemy got their feet wet.  That way, they'd get to learn on the job without the pain and burden of having the W/L record fall on their heads.  After two seasons of losing - the two years of pain Mac wanted to save them - they're out on their asses.  Would the landscape appear much different if it was Mac retiring today instead of Embree being fired?


The installation of the Buffs4Life crew had always been a match of inconvenience.  After the Hawk fiasco the program needed to go in one of two directions - loud and expensive (Les Miles), or quiet and cheap (B4L/Embree).  The quiet and cheap choice, pushed by political pressure and a lack of available capital, was a disgruntled one.  That it was so quickly shown to be a failure only underscores the poor performance of the administration two years ago. 

As a result, despite how much as I like him, and love what he's done for the non-football aspects of the athletic department, Mike Bohn needed to follow Coach Embree out the door.  He's been saddled with impossible situations and terrible luck, but football pays the bills, and the last five years have been an inexcusable mess.  That note goes triple for Phil DiStefano and Bruce Benson, whose ham-handed handling of all things athletics looks more Keystone Cops than professional.
Benson, DiStefano, and, yes, Mike Bohn deserve their share of the blame for the state of the program.  From: the BDC
Regardless, the Buffs find themselves, once again, without a coach.  In fact a whole slew of them as the whole staff is gone.  The usual crew of names will surface - Calhoun, Strong, Dykes... even fucking Dave Logan - along with some new ones.  I'm just worried that the program, after three coaches in two years, is permanently broken.

Win over Air Force - 

In happier news, the men's basketball team continued their brilliant start to the season by surging past Air Force 89-74 on Sunday night.  The big stars were Andre Roberson and Springs native Josh Scott, who combined for 38/20.  The sophomore guard tandem of Dinwiddie and Booker (should be a buddy-cop movie) also had a strong night, chipping in 30 combined points.
The packed CEC bore witness to a great game.  From: the BDC
With Roberson and Scott patrolling the paint Sunday evening, Air Force never had a chance.  CU somehow managed to improve on the 47-28 rebounding advantage they posted last season against the Falcons by dropping a 47-19 spread this year.  Air Force can't match up physically with most teams in the paint - and usually don't even try - but that's a little absurd. 

To make up for the lack of interior competitiveness, AF turned to expert execution to trigger open perimeter looks.  It worked for a time, as the Buffs weren't flashing enough on the high screen, and allowed nearly-uncontested 3's to rain down on them in the first half (8-14).  CU was overly concerned with the AF penchant for finding open back-cuts off the dribble-drive, and it hurt.  In the second half, however, the Buffs extended the defense to contest off the high screen, and the Falcon outside shooting percentage plummeted (4-16). 
The Falcons couldn't counter Scott and Roberson.  From: the BDC
When the shots stop falling, as they almost always do, the lack of ability inside the arc can kill.  That leads to stat lines like this: points in the paint - CU 40, AF 18; second-chance points - CU 18, AF 4.  Woof.  As a result, the Buffs played +13 basketball in the second frame, and cruised to victory.

Offensively, there were a couple of concerning lines.  While Dinwiddie and Booker combined for the 30 points, they also combined for eight turnovers.  Additionally, Booker seemed to lose control of his game at numerous points, turning in awful possessions where he tried to go 1-on-5.  Someone's been watching too much Kobe.

But that's just nit picking.  Overall, the offense was solid, and chipped in 1.33 points per possession while shooting 57% from the field.
There was a lot to cheer about in the CEC.  From: the BDC
Beating Air Force is a good value win.  They were 3rd in the RPI prior to last night, and looked good enough to sneak up on enough teams to post a top-150 RPI when all is said and done.  I'm happy with the result.  With CSU and KU looming next week, CU needs to pile up all the wins they can.

Around the world of Pac-12 basketball -

The conference has been much better this season.  The Pac-12 was the last conference to lose a game this season, and teams like CU, Oregon, and Arizona are making national waves.  The rising tide should raise all boats come November.  Still, some teams are showing some cracks as the last few days of November slip by.

Cal Poly @ UCLA -

Through some poor end-of-game management, the Bruins managed to lose at Pauley to Cal Poly. UCLA had been shaky to start the season, struggling early against Indiana St and needing overtime to beat UC-Irvine, but this is beyond the pale.  The gaudy #1 recruiting class grabbed headlines in the offseason, but coach Ben Howland's job is in serious jeopardy if poor results continue.
Good for Cal Poly, bad for Ben Howland.
I do expect this team to vastly improve as the year goes on, and the young Bruins gain experience.  Early struggles don't make them any less of a challenge come conference play.

CSU @ Washington - 

Washington got whupped by CSU in Seattle.  Besides boding ill for next week's RMS hoops clash, it also means that Washington, the defending regular season Pac-12 champions, are 2-3 to start the year, and stuck in neutral.  The Huskies - who lost Tony Wroten and Terrance Ross to the NBA, without bringing in anything via recruiting - were one of the few Pac-12 teams who can legitimately be said to have gotten worse since last season. They've lost three of their last four, including dropping a home shocker to the Great Danes of Albany.  With tough St Louis coming to town Wednesday night, it may only get worse.

Stanford vs Minnesota -

Many expected the veteran Cardinal to contend for the upper-echelon of the conference and top-25 consideration, but they've struggled with strong opponents to start the season.  They had an especially rough go of it at their non-conference tournament, losing two of three in the Bahamas, capped by a heart-breaking loss to Minnesota.  The Cardinal have now dropped three of their last four.
The Cardinal has struggled against strong competition.
Unlike their other struggling conference brethren, Stanford can at least claim understandable losses.  There's no shame in dropping games to Missouri and Minnesota at a neutral site, and the home loss to Belmont is similarly justifiable.  I still expect the Cardinal to be in the hunt once conference play starts.

Women win Omni Classic -

After a sluggish start, the women's basketball team surged past a tough San Diego State team to claim a 67-53 victory and the Omni Classic championship Saturday afternoon.  The team was lead by freshman Arielle Roberson ('Dre's sister), who dropped 17/7 en route to claiming the tournament's MVP award.
Roberson was too much for the Aztecs.  From:
Sitting at 4-0, the Buffs have started out blazing hot for the second consecutive year.  They raced out to a 12-0 start last season, and in many ways look even better this year.  Next Wednesday, they tip-off against CSU prior to the men's own death match with little brother.  I strongly suggest hitting the CEC early on the 5th to catch that game, and decide for yourself just how good these girls are.

Happy Monday!


Aaron Jordan said...

I have mixed feelings about the Embree situation. I probably wouldn't have fired him just yet, not because he deserves another year, but more just because I would want 1 more year to give the next coach a good chance of succeeding. Maybe Bohn knows something about the donors that we don't.

I hate to see such a die-hard Buff get fired. I agree though, with all the confusion and lack of effort on the field, it was hard to defend him as a coach (without even bringing up wins/losses).

RumblinBuff said...

I don't see how another year would help the next coach. With the Hawk fired/not-fired fiasco in '09 (not Bohn's fault. Benson's), we already have a glimpse at what a lame duck year means. No one wants that.

For sure, Embree is a great Buff, and it's hard to see things end this way.

Aaron Jordan said...

Yeah I see your point about the lame duck year, I hadn't considered that. I was thinking 1 more year would give Embree another recruiting class, more time to develop the current players, and more money to give the next coach, but if Embree knows he is out then it could be disastrous.

I think the toughest part about this, is that most of the decisions that have been made were favorable at the time.

Dan Hawkins seemed like a dynamite hire, and after his 2nd year he seemed to be the real deal so we gave him a contract extension.

Embree seemed like the right guy at the time as well, given the budget constraints and the back to the roots mentality.

It's just frustrating that we seem to be making the right decisions, and everything is backfiring in hindsight.