It is about 10:34am here in Texas. Some things are happening that will tremendously affect your enjoyment of fall sports. Johnny Jones took the job at LSU. The football team is battling through spring practice, trying to find guys that can play defensive back. The women’s basketball team is searching for a coach to replace Karen Alston, who left for Texas.
Last week North Texas basketball was dripping with potential until Johnny Jones, architect of the greatest period of sustained success in school history left the program for his alma mater where he played and coached for 17 years from 1980 to 1997. The most interesting thing about JJ’s resume? The fact that he has had success wherever he has been. Even at little old North Texas. Probably especially here. Those LSU teams reached won a lot and recruited good players (Shaq).
In 11 seasons at North Texas, Jones put up a 190-146 record, went to the tournament twice and reached the SBC title game another two. He found a way to drink the milkshake of talent-rich Dallas-Fort Worth and bring some of those guys to Denton. The result? The team has Chris Jones, Jordan Williams and future NBA player Tony Mitchell on the roster — the most stacked team in school history. That is no knock on other teams that went on to win SBC titles. Those teams just weren’t getting NBA scouts lining the arena, however. Guile and gumption and effort win games (sometimes) but they don’t always create a buzz around town. This team looked poised to make some noise.
The question we are faced with is this: What happens now? Ironically, Johnny Jones’ greatest legacy may be tested after he is gone. Whereas other coaches in the Mean Green Pantheon(Fry, Dickey and uh . . I’ll get back to you) all left their programs of note to fend for themselves or in disarray, Johnny Jones leaves the program at its height.
The scariest prospect facing us: Players bolt, leaving the roster bare and we hire an unproven coach to try to fill it and maintain the momentum. Basketball is a funny game. Any program is at any time just one difference-maker away from glory. That means it can be just one defection away from mediocrity. Scary proposition, y’all.
The best realistic scenario: Shawn Forrest, the recruiting maestro that orchestrated the signings of Tony Mitchell, Chris Jones, and Jordan Williams and also courted by Bruce Weber at K-State takes the helm and we don’t skip a beat. Problem with this one? Well we don’t know how Shawn Forrest does with a clipboard. We know he can bring ‘em in but can he coach ‘em up? You can overwhelm less talented squads with the awesome power of a fully operational Tony Mitchell and company but a well-coached team of talented players can compete with any team in the nation.
Worst case sub-scenario? Everything seems fine until Forrest realizes he’d rather be the assistant than the head man.
Best case sub-scenario? Forrest is a diamond-on-the-folding-chair and we have a hell of a season, yo.
Other: We hire some guy I’ve never heard of, go out in the SBC tourney after an up-and-down season where non-basketball bandwagoners complain that Tony Mitchell was not clutch and that Johnny Jones would have led this team to 30 wins and dammit things were better in 1975.
In any case, we should be happy that this is happening. Much the same way you want a wife/girlfriend/mistress/person/dude/boyfriend/sugar daddy/etc to be worthy of envy and jealousy, so you want your coach worthy of stealing by his SEC money-bags alma mater.
I haven’t been closely following Spring Practice 2012. It is vital to a program and probably worthy of the time and effort of following. I don’t get paid for doing this though, and I’m 200 miles away at the moment. To rectify this problem I have been reading subject-of-scorn-and-vitriol-and-beat-writer Bret Vito’s blog, as should you. The things I noticed? My favorite UNT player to follow on twitter, Marcus Trice, is balling, yo. He is picking off passes, making plays, returning kicks and doing everything you’d expect from a guy that got recruited (and playing time) at Norman, OK. That’s the good. The bad? Well Freddie Warner is out with a torn ACL. He was the starter and a guy everyone was going to rely on for leadership and solid play.
Now we are left with a bunch of new guys, transfers, and dudes with no playing time on their resume to carry the load. Xavier Kelly, if he wants more hits on his website, will need to step up and do good things.
Apogee’s inaugural season was not a home run. It was something like a double that probably should have been a triple but wasn’t because of poor baserunning. The Texas Rangers stole our thunder, and thunder, lightening, and rain stole some more. Our best player, Lance Dunbar, played his best game in a drenched stadium with a lot of empty seats to see him off.
A double is a double, however (to stretch the analogy thin) and we shouldn’t be playing What If anymore. Conferences, they are alliance-ing and we might (will?) be joining the MWC/CUSA Bowl Alliance J-Pop Fun Time soon. From friend-of-the-blog and Coach Dan McCarney nephew, Dan McCarney of MySa.com:
I did speak today with a non-administration source at one of the prime candidates who is hearing that North Texas, Utah State and Florida International are pretty much done deals in terms of membership, regardless of league affiliation.
I’m inclined to take all speculation with a nice saltine cracker. I’d just like to see more televised games (road and home) and a decent enough conference rival. I’ve mentioned on the Coker Chronicles Podcast that having UTSA as a rival for UNT would be aces, kid. It would stoke the flames of a rather heated dislike the two fan bases have for one another already. The interconnectedness of the alumni, cities, and situations is what makes for good, healthy rivals. I’m rooting for that to happen so I could at least see UNT here in SA at the Alamodome, at the very least.
That isn’t going to happen next season, however. The best rumor I’ve heard involves Gus Malzahn leaving Arkansas State and heading to Arkansas (again). You may remember he got the Arkansas OC job as part of the packaged deal that brought Mitch Mustain back when Houston Nutt was still coaching there. Mustain transferred, Nutt was fired and Malzahn moved on to Auburn. Auburn (thanks to Cam Newton) had tremendous success and now Gus is heading up Arkansas State. He is and was the guy we hoped we were getting with Todd Dodge. Yes, we got the Ryan Leaf in that scenario.
His first recruiting class is highly touted, Ark St is coming off a great year thanks to the departed-to-Ole Miss, Hugh Freeze, and they just look damned scary. Our secondary needs rebuilding and our defense has question marks. We lost our best offensive weapon. I feel like we are in store for some drubbings this season. That may be my inner-Eeyore talking, though. If Ol’ Gus takes the Arkansas State job, I won’t be sad.
Transfer News: Brock Berglund, late of Kansas, is sniffing around our program and “considering his options.” He is big, and very quarterback-looking, apparently.
I’m always glad to get good players but I’m pretty confident in Derek Thompson, guys.
In Blog News: I still am planning to do a Mean Green Nation Podcast. I’ve been busy at work, and in life so cut me some slack guys. Stay tuned.