Ben's Babbles: To tell the truth

March 26, 2011

It's that time of year for both the upsets and the upset.

The upsets typically come when some little school from some little conference knocks off a bigger school from some bigger conference in the NCAA basketball tournament.

After the hugs and confetti the end result is that the coach from the little school gets an offer from one of the big schools for big, big money.

Every year the song and dance is the same. Little school coach says how much he loves the school, how much he loves his players, loves the fans and how he can't see himself ever leaving.

Hours later he is on plane to the new big school where he will hold a press conference in a gymnasium to say how the big school is his dream job, how much he has always loved the school, loves the players, loves the fans, and that the job is his dream job and that he can't ever see himself leaving.

It happens every year, and in a few days when the NCAA tournament ends, it's likely to happen again.

Sometimes it happens with the little school coaches who become big school coaches and the get fired only to be replaced by another up and coming little school coach.

Every year fans, talk radio hosts and columnists get fired up about a coach's lack of "loyalty" for taking a higher-paying job with a higher-profile program after saying they wouldn't do that.

What do you expect a coach to say while they are in negotiations; "I am constantly looking for a way out, hate trying to get recruits to a school with third rate facilities and feel I deserve an obscene raise?"

That's a good way to get fired, and some have.

So they say all the right things... right up until the moment they got on a jet and fly to the new school. Then fans act like they honestly had no idea it was coming. You would honestly think they have never seen the song and dance routine before.

Some coaches say they love it at their school, and they do actually mean it. Mark Few has been at Gonzaga for a decade, eschewing near-constant overtures for blank-check offers from Oregon. Mike Krzyzewski at Duke turned downed the Los Angeles Lakers job.

It's because they are not stupid. Few can look at his predecessor at Gonzaga, Dan Munson, who ditched the up and coming program for Minnesota and got himself fired.

Krzyzewski can look at all the successful college coaches who tried to make the leap to the NBA, only to find out that crazy owners and prima donna superstars were not as easy to work with than a handpicked team of players that are under your complete control.

I don't blame the coaches for saying what they say before they jump ship. But that doesn't mean the system is perfect.

The players the coaches leave behind at their old school will be forced to sit out a year if they choose to transfer to follow their coach or play somewhere else. That should change.

Furthermore, someone is always left standing when the game of musical chairs finishes. Typically that's a small school which happened to catch lightning in a bottle with the right combination of coach and players. Sometimes that school quietly slides back into obscurity. Sometimes it goes out with a bang under a cloud of NCAA sanctions while the coach who illegally recruited players moves onto to a bigger school and his players leave for pro careers as the school picks up the mess.

It's not a very pretty way of doing things, but the real world isn't always pretty, so we might as well stop pretending it is.

So when the coach of your favorite school packs their bags for the next big job, don't rant and rave about lack of loyalty. Just be glad for the good times while they lasted and hope they didn't leave behind a big mess to clean up.

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