Thursday, November 15, 2007

Bob Kravitz: Intellectually dishonest, or just as dumb as he looks?

I hesitate to use a term like "intellectually dishonest" against someone like Bob Kravitz. I think using the word "intellectual" in the same sentence as his name might give him too much credit. Nothing is more emblematic of the dumbing down of the Indianapolis Star than the continued presence of this guy as the only general sports columnist for the paper. Congrats, Bob. You make Robin Miller look good.

What brings this on? Central Indiana's hair-puller-in-chief is at it again, trying to scold IU into giving Bill Lynch the long-term head coaching job. Before I discuss the column, let me make one thing clear. I like Bill Lynch. I'm skeptical about his chances of getting the job and about whether he is the long-term answer for the program, but he will have my support if he gets the job. He's a solid, competent, classy guy who loves IU. He is not Mike Davis. Mike Davis was a self-promoting charlatan who had no business at the helm of any major program, let alone one of the most prestigious in college basketball. Again, whatever happens against Purdue or in 2008, and despite the criticism that will appear below, I'm grateful to Bill Lynch and he has my respect.

About that column:

There will be no campaigning by Bill Lynch. You can ask the question a thousand different ways, and Lynch, the man who stepped into the breach after the tragic loss of Indiana football coach Terry Hoeppner, will not make his case for being brought back on a long-term basis. That's for others. Like Harold Mauro, IU's longtime director of football operations, who met with the media Wednesday as part of Saturday's 40th reunion of the 1967 Rose Bowl team, of which he was the starting center. "I've been here for 38 years and gone through nine football coaches, nine athletic directors, plus one interim AD, and 10 presidents -- that's one every four years," Mauro said. "I'm hoping Bill Lynch gets the opportunity because he's done a phenomenal job."
Harold Mauro, by all accounts is a great guy. He's been with the program for a long time and is a great source of institutional knowledge. His opinion should carry weight. But let me say this. First, continuity is important, but it's not the only or even primary concern. If continuity had been the primary concern, Rick Greenspan never would have fired Gerry Dinardo after only three years and Hep probably never would have come to IU. Second, his numbers are off. IU has had only eight athletic directors since 1961, even if you count two interim guys. IU has had six presidents in the last 38 years, and Lynch is the eighth football coach during that time. I don't mean to nitpick, but if instability is to be a justification, then we should have an accurate picture.

Here's the question IU must answer: What would it say about the school, and specifically the athletic department, if it hires a basketball coach with NCAA baggage, and continues to support a basketball coach with added NCAA baggage, then tells a man of honor and integrity to take a walk? If IU fails to stand behind Lynch, we will know all we need to know about the people in charge of IU's administration and athletic department.

What will it say? Winning is a big deal in college athletics. Most of us already knew that. I have said what I have to say about the Sampson affair, but what does that have to do with Lynch? What if IU declines to hire Lynch but hires someone else with an impeccable reputation for integrity and a clean NCAA record? Are the power-that-be still bad guys if they do that? Or are you just being a dick, Kravitz?

After that, Kravitz launches into some nice background on Lynch, he's an Indiana guy through and through. Nothing disagreeable there. Then, this:

There's no question this weekend's Bucket game is the biggest in the recent history of the IU football program. It should not, however, determine Lynch's long-term fate as the coach. Gerry DiNardo got the ax after he got embarrassed by Purdue, but that was simply the last straw for a coach who already was on the ropes. Whether they win 40-3 or lose 40-3 Saturday, Lynch is the right guy at the right time. That's not being sentimental. That's being smart. It would be even smarter if athletic director Rick Greenspan tendered that new contract sometime before Saturday's game.

Let's follow the logic here. This is the most important Bucket game in years. It's also one of the few evenly matched Bucket games in recent years. Yet, the outcome of the most importing Bucket game in years should have no impact on the decision to retain Lynch or not. Right.


This is not a Mike Davis-type deal, where an inexperienced coach falls into the job of a lifetime, then has a magical year and forces the administration to sign him to a long-term deal.

Yep. He's just being a dick. One of the reasons that Davis was able to force IU into hiring him was because of the sophistry of intellectually dishonest (there it is again) goofballs like Kravitz, who manipulated the numbers and tried to convince us that the very ordinary 2000-01 basketball season (21-13) was a magical season. It wasn't. Kravitz and his ilk loved to point out that no IU coach had ever won as many as 21 games in his first season, but wouldn't mention that no IU coach had ever lost 13 games in his first season, or that IU hadn't lost 13 games in any season since 1985. But, after a rough start, including losses to Indiana State and a lousy Missouri team and a woe-is-me press conference meltdown after a loss to Kentucky, IU had some nice moments, including upsets of #1 MSU on a last second shot and an upset of #4 Illinois in the Big Ten Tournament semifinals. Despite his obvious unfitness for the job and despite IU's preseason promise to conduct a national search, the media started clamoring for Davis. Here's what one guy said after the MSU upset in early January:

Let's see them fire Mike Davis now. Let's see them, all of them, especially the ones who just can't let go of Bob Knight, find a reasonable rationale for letting Davis go at season's end. Let's see the fans, who finally showed up Sunday afternoon, continue to stay away. Let's see the racists, the ones who send the vicious e-mails – and yes, Davis has seen them – continue to rip away at a man who has done nothing but make his university and his team proud. Your mind had to be closed, and your heart had to be small, if you could look at that wondrously mad scene in the wake of Indiana University's seismic upset of Michigan State and not believe – not know – that Mike Davis should be the coach of this basketball team.

...

The pressure to remove the "interim" tag, now and forever, is on. That wasn't just No. 1 Michigan State. That was defending national champion Michigan State. That was 23-victories-in-a-row Michigan State. It's fair to wonder, could any of IU's starters make MSU's starting five? Kirk Haston? Maybe?

...

Let's see them try to fire him now. Let's see them look Davis in the eye and tell him he's the wrong man for the job. Let's watch them walk into that IU locker room and talk to these kids, every last one of them playing their guts out for this guy, and tell them Davis has no place here. Let's see them try.

IU's record when Kravitz wrote the article? Nine and freaking seven. Yet now Kravitz, in an oddly detached manner, notes that Davis somehow managed to "force" IU into hiring him. Do you think it had anything to do with the hair-trigger allegations of racism directed at anyone who dared question whether an assistant with a thin resume should have the job? As if we could forget, Kravitz, you goddamn clown. But I digress.

Lynch is a solid pick. An unspectacular pick, sure. He doesn't possess an oversized personality, doesn't walk into a room and make the place seem smaller. He's not Hep, not even Ron Zook, and he doesn't try to be. But the last football coach who had success in Bloomington wasn't a charismatic figure, either. Name is Bill Mallory. Who, by the way, had Lynch on his staff.
Bill Mallory wasn't a charismatic figure? Bill Mallory wasn't a charismatic figure?! Mallory may not be the polished public speaker that Hep was, but not charismatic? The guy who stomped the buckeye nut to shreds at the homecoming pep rally? The guy who gave this speech to the MSU after the toughest loss of his career, when IU lost the Big Ten championship to MSU 20 years ago?


Bill Mallory wasn't charismatic. I was leaning toward intellectually dishonest, but maybe Kravitz is as dumb as he looks.

Anyway, who's out there? I've got news: Urban Meyer isn't walking through the door and taking a seat in the Hoosier Room. Neither is Steve Spurrier. Be careful what you wish for. The Notre Dame alums who ran Tyrone Willingham out of South Bend are now wondering how they're going to get Regis Philbin to buy out Charlie Weis. This program doesn't need a big-splash hire, assuming there is even a big-splash hire out there who would consider taking this gig. What this program needs is consistency. Since 2000, the Hoosiers have had four coaches -- Cam Cameron, DiNardo, Hoeppner and Lynch; in the past four years, they've had three. These kids and this program need stability and continuity as much as they require an infusion of talent.

Well, shit. The coach of the defending national champions isn't going to come to IU? Hell, let's just wind up the program. That rationale would prevent IU from ever firing a coach. Of course, it's unlikely that IU is going to get a big name coach. But stability doesn't always breed success. All things equal, stability is good. But again, the stability argument, if employed in 2004, would have given Gerry Dinardo another year. Changing coaches is always a gamble, but failure of the new guy doesn't mean it was a mistake to get rid of the other guy. That Charlie Weis looks likely to fail at Notre Dame doesn't change the fact that Ty Willingham is a bad coach who did a lousy job there. There's not guarantee of success, whether IU retains Lynch or not. Being an athletic director isn't easy. Taking cheap shots is.

Lynch has done what he was supposed to do. The loss to Illinois doesn't look so bad now. And the Hoosiers were less than a minute away from winning last weekend at Northwestern. This is not a quick-fix program. It's going to need time and continuity and a steady hand.

If Kravitz wasn't concerned by what he saw in the Northwestern game, then he probably didn't watch it. IU is 6-5 against one of the easiest schedules in the BCS conferences. Yes, it could have been worse. But has it been so good that IU should pass on a national search? I'm not going to make that judgment now. Greenspan is the man with the Rolodex, and if he's the AD I think he is, he already has an idea of who he can get if IU elects not to retain Lynch.

Also (and this goes back to the intellectual dishonesty thing), how it the world can a journalist with any integrity write an article advocating that Lynch get the job without acknowledging that this is a coach who was fired by Ball State? Sure, failure at one job does not guarantee failure at the next job, but Lynch had a 22 game losing streak at Ball State. Have we seen enough this season to be sure that we won't see that guy again? Have we seen enough to believe that Bill Lynch has a better chance than anyone to turn the corner with IU's program? I realize that it's unlikely that IU will ever be a perennial Rose Bowl contender, but I don't think it's unrealistic to hope for a coach who can do at IU what Joe Tiller has done at Purdue. Is Bill Lynch that guy? If IU hires Lynch and has four losing seasons in a row, will Kravitz still value stability over all else? Nah. Just like the 2001 Davis column, Kravitz will pretend that someone else wrote it.

2 comments:

Travis said...

I'm not a Kravitz fan, either, but I obviously do not dislike him as much as you do. I appreciate the points you make in this post, and I cannot disagree with most of them.

(This has nothing to do with IU but you mentioned it in your post, so I will say that Weis has not proved anything at ND. It is obvious that the talent Willingham recruited won the games for the Irish the past two years, not the fat man's coaching. Willingham had a better record in the same amount of time and was fired. The ND brass look like hypocrites, and that's been earned.)

Back to IU. Is there a better candidate than Lynch? Honestly, I'm a lot more concerned with keeping Lewis and Hardy than I am with who coaches the team. I'm a big Hep fan. I'm originally from the SE corner of Indiana, not far from Miami of Ohio. Hep had some big years there, but not because he was a coaching genuis. He was successful because Randy Walker did not leave the cupboard empty and mostly because he bagged Big Ben ahead of OSU.

In all honesty, however, I say that IU must conduct a search, if they haven't started already. Lynch's track record in D-1 football isn't good. I think he makes a much better assistant coach than head coach. Of course, IU football (or basketball for that matter) will not attract the biggest coaching names available or lure big time coaches from big time programs, but IU needs to look before they settle.

Tim said...

Twelve years and three coaching searches since IU had a winning record. But the coach that actually gets IU to six wins isn't good enough? You need to sit back and put IU football in perspective. Before the season started, every publication I saw picked IU to finish DEAD LAST in the Big Ten. What in the world did you expect from this team if this is such a down season, the Rose Bowl? Lynch coaced IU to their best record in twelve years, why we would want to get rid of him for doing that is way beyond me. I must not be an "intellectual" either.