Wednesday, February 18, 2009

The Mike Davis of Deadspin.

I didn't mention it yesterday because the Inside the Hall guys had it surrounded, but a couple of bloggers chose the occasion of IU's school-record 18th loss of the season to announce the permanent irrelevance of Indiana basketball. One of the blogs was too dumb to matter, but the other was the venerable Deadspin. Of course, Deadspin founder Will Leitch has departed, which leaves a variety of guys, including someone named Rick Chandler, to try to carry on.
Yesterday's Chandler post, as the ITH guys note, was a gem. Chandler contended:
  • Bob Knight would have suspended Dumes before the season (even though the conduct for which Dumes was suspended began in the Northwestern game);
  • "the system's not designed for sleepy backwaters like Bloomington, Indiana, to have powerhouse teams" (I wonder if Chandler has ever been to Lawrence, Kansas, the home of the 2008 NCAA Champs, a town that is very similar to Bloomington in size, character, and proximity to a semi-major city);
  • "Tom Crean — even though he hasn't really had a chance to prove what he can do with his own players — isn't the answer."
  • "Have you been to Bloomington? What multi-talented player is going to go there to play for Tom Crean?"

After he was savaged by his own commenters and in various other places, Chandler came back for more today, pronouncing himself "guilty...with an explanation." He began with a pithy explanation of his devotion to Bob Knight, a mid-1980s interview with the coach, and so on. It turns out that Chandler, despite no ties to Indiana or to IU, is a hardcore Knight fan, which is fine. He made something of a pilgrimage to Bloomington in 1987 and caught an IU game and continued to make the trip regularly. And then, because he made a trip once a year for less than a decade, tells us: "But be aware that you're in my wheelhouse on this one. I've been watching the situation for more than 20 years. And I've been taking notes."

Wow, thanks, Rick! I've lived in Indiana for nearly all of my life, but you used to show up for a few days a year, and you took notes! Please, educate me about my home state and my alma mater. Unfortunately, Chandler's mea culpa contains nearly as much bullshit as the first:

  • First, and perhaps a minor quibble, but I think it shows the lack of care that Chandler has given to his work: he claims to have watched Damon Bailey play on his home court in something called the "semifinals of the state playoffs." First, as anyone from Indiana knows, there is the sectional, the regional, the semistate, and the state finals. Which was it? "Semifinals of the state playoffs" has no meaning to anyone who actually follows Indiana high school basketball. Really, it doesn't matter what round it was, because as this site shows, Bedford-North Lawrence didn't play any state tournament games on its home court in 1987 or in any other year of Bailey's career. All sectional and regional games were at Seymour; the semistates were at Evansville and Terre Haute, and the state finals in Indianapolis. In other words, all of the wax-poetic bullshit about "Bedford's gym" just doesn't hold up. (There must have been some nacho cheese on that page of Rick's notes).
  • "No, that magical, John Feinsteinian year of 1987 is gone forever." The "season on the brink" was 1985-86 and Feinstein's book was published in 1986.
  • "Yeah, he had blue chippers, but the bulk of his rosters were always populated by JC transfers (Keith Smart, Dean Garrett) and local kids (Bailey, Joe Hillman, Alford) which he took and beat the likes of Syracuse and Shaquille O'Neal's LSU in the Big Dance." Ah, where to start. First, Smart and Garrett were the first juco transfers that Knight ever took [this isn't quite right--Andre Harris was there the year before, and Courtney Witte a couple of years earlier]. His excellent 1991-93 teams had no juco transfers. So, the 1987 team was the only of Knight's excellent teams that was populated to any degree by Juco transfers. Joe Hillman was from California. I'm not sure what definition of blue chippers Chandler is using, but Bailey and Alford were elite recruits who would have been welcome anywhere. The team that beat Shaq in the 1992 tournament included three NBA first rounders (Alan Henderson, Calbert Cheaney, and Greg Graham). Isiah Thomas was an elite recruit from Illinois. Scott May and Quinn Buckner were from Ohio and Illinois, respectively. Kent Benson, while local, was an elite recruit who could have played anywhere. There's certainly no disagreement that Knight was an excellent coach who got the most out of his players, but come on. He wasn't doing it with smoke and mirrors.
  • He then tries to backpedal on the "backwater" comments: "what I mean by basketball backwater is that the Hoosiers will always take a back seat to Duke and North Carolina and UCLA and even Wake Forest and UConn." Come on, Rick. If you are going to strike an apologetic pose, stop bullshitting us! By backwater, you meant that you think Bloomington, because it's a small, somewhat out-of-the-way town, would be a tough place to attract blue chip talent. That's why you said, "Have you been to Bloomington? What multi-talented player is going to go there to play for Tom Crean?" I would respect you more if you had the courage of your convictions, Rick. I think it's a stupid point (explain to me what makes Lawrence and Storrs and Chapel Hill and Durham and Winston-Salem and East Lansing so much more inherently attractive), but we know exactly what you meant, and respect you less for not admitting it.

I realize that some of these points are nit-picky, but if some non-resident doofus is going to lecture us about Indiana (both state-of and IU) basketball, his "wheelhouse," he better as hell have his facts straight. Rick Chandler doesn't. He also won't stand by the assertions that he made in his sloppy initial post, crafting a dishonest dodge about what he meant by "backwater." No one actually knows what the next two or five or twenty years hold for IU basketball, but it's an odd argument indeed that the tradition and fan support that arise from Bob Knight's excellence are some sort of disadvantage. I do know that whenever it happens, Rick Chandler will say, "well, I didn't mean that Indiana would never get back to the Elite Eight."


Mike @ ZN said...

Fantastic job on this ass. Nice work, John!

Anonymous said...

No blue chip recruits would come to Indiana now that Knight is gone, come on its a backwater.

Oh wait, you mean that a few months ago they held an nba draft and not one but two players taken in the first round were IU players?

IU didn't slowly erode from the national landscape. We hired a bad coach for six years. His replacement was good enough to get us back to recruiting the best players in the country (commits from Gordon, Ebanks, Holloway and serious interest from others like Zeller, Strickland, Stephenson, Dennis before he got in trouble) and we were at the top of the recruiting world within a year of Sampson getting hired. We had to let him go because he got in technical trouble with the ncaa (no payola, but phone calls). Both of the coaches after Knight brought elite McDonalds American prospects to IU even in their short times here. IU is 6th in the list of most McD AA's since the event began. If Knight wasn't bringing them in, and we can't get them when he's gone, I wonder where all that comes from...

Anonymous said...

Great rebuttal!

Further arcane JUCO comment, didn't Steve Bouchie come to IU from Vincennes?

John M said...

According to IU's media guide, Bouchie played all four years at IU, from 1979-80 through 1982-83. I've never seen a complete list of Jucos, but I would bet that the majority of Knight's jucos came in his last five years: Chris Rowles, Lou Moore, Haris Mujezinovic, Rob Turner, Will Gladness, Lynn Washington. Pre 1995, I recall Smart, Garrett, and Harris. Was Mark Robinson a juco? I recall nothing about him, but he was on the roster for two years. Mike D'Alosio?

T-Mill said...

Quality work, John. This is same guy would probably go on and on about how Purdue is building a championship program with backwater Indiana players. This state still has the great high school basketball tradition int he country even though they destroyed the tournament 11 years ago.

I know you guys will be back. You're Indiana. you're a national "name" program that can recruit talent without trying. We'll be waiting. I cannot wait for Indiana and Purdue to have two duels to the death for Big Ten titles each year again. When both schools are on, few can top our rivalry.

We'll be waiting.

Anonymous said...

Excellent job- For all those people out there who complain that the blogosphere is an unregulated arena where anyone can say whatever they like should read this. THIS is what blogs should do- In their best form, nonsensical missives like those that Chandler birthed on Deadspin should be met with the facts as they are. When someone is exposed as a fraud, as Chandler has clearly been, the system works- I can promise you that Hoosier fans will remember to remind him how foolish he really is. I just hope that they know what fast food fry machine to find him slaving over...

Anonymous said...

Why Indiana will continue to be relevant for years to come:

1. Hoops Revenue (recently valued as the #6 most valuable college hoops program by SI.) IU also has one of the largest alumni and fan bases in the country.

2. This one goes along with the first: Media exposure.The ridiculous amounts of media coverage IU hoops got during the Sampson scandal proves just how relevant IU basketball STILL is.

3. At the beginning of THIS season, IU's Midnight Madness was aired NATIONALLY on TWO different networks. Yes, a team with a bunch of freshmen that no one has heard of. Yes, a team that no one expected to win more than a couple of conference games.