Friday, April 01, 2005

My Man Dave

I am fine with Dave Dickerson.

Yes, I have no idea if he'll be successful. I can't tell you three sentient facts about him- but on paper, he is surely qualified- so great. When you hire an assistant coach, you are rarely going to find a consensus “up or down” on the new guy. By the very fact Dickerson has never been a head coach, he becomes a blank canvas on which everyone can paint his expectations or fears. In the matter of Dickerson, no matter what side of the issue you are on, you can come up with a articulate set of speculations.

It sort of reminds me, in a sense, of the never ending Scelfo debate: good or bad? The arguments rage with so much fervor simply because the question is unanswerable. Scelfo is neither a good nor bad coach; he is merely okay. Accordingly, both sides can points to pluses and minuses- and simply neither convince nor un-convince.

But I am not here to discuss the Traitor Scelfo.

The only comfort I can offer is that, particularly in sports, rules of thumb normally come about for good reasons. A program like Tulane normally goes for a head coach at some place smaller or an assistant at a major program- because both approaches work. Not all the time, not in every case. But you can point to successful examples of each approach. If one approach or the another was demonstrably better, smart people would figure it out quickly.

Accordingly, Dickerson looks the part of paper. By all accounts he can recruit- which is the number one issue here, right? The players are not, on the whole, major conference talent. Can he recruit at Tulane? I don’t know- but you can tell a coherent story for him as well as just about anyone else who was serious about coming here.

So, outside of my original point, Dickerson is a rational selection- I do not have much to offer. I will say that this "he wins and he'll leave" qualifier ought to be let go. It simply isn't true. It seems true- because you hear on the news endlessly about the guys who do leave and thre associated speculations- and not the ones who don't. Sure, a handful of mid-major head coaches will step up in class this year. But it is just that- a handful. A mid-major coach has to both win and be pretty lucky- there just are not that many jobs.

I mean, how many of those sixty or so jobs, which are a clear cut over Tulane, open up every year? Six? Seven? And usually they aren't even open calls- there is an alum or hot name or something.... But the vast majority is guys like- oh say, Fran Dunphy- who always wins, runs a great clean program and in reward occasionally gets some interest from some place like LaSalle. Phil Martelli at St Joe's. Perry was at Tulane for a long time- won a lot- and just how many jobs was he really in line for- even potentially? And so forth. In each case, you can come up with a disclaimer: Phil is a Philly guy, etc. But I can come up with them too for Dickerson. To begin with, he is an African-American head coach in a world where it is still disproportionally hard to get a minority the first seat on the bench at a prestige program.

Also, this phenomenon is not exactly limited to Dickerson- just about anyone you bring in here who wins could be tempted. If it applies to everyone- then it is no longer a rational or realistic discriminate criterion, right? Sure, you could find a Scelfo-type guy- supposedly loyal to the end- but how many eunuchs of the Quills’ crowd can possibly exist? Are we to restrict our search to those three guys on the planet?

Bottom line, if you really look at it, very few coaches leave successful mid-majors right away. Over the past three years, give me the names of five guys who coached college basketball some place for just three years and then left because they won too much. Sure, it could and obviously does happen, but frankly it is not immediately likely or unique to Dickerson- and accordingly, ought not to influence your thinking.

Lastly, one positive thing Dickerson definitely has going is that there are zero expectations for this team to win next year. Any sign of a pulse will get him lauded to the heavens.