Once college basketball emerges from its current embarrassing scandal a couple of years from now, bright minds will figure out how to make it an even bigger, more profitable industry and by then it might be so big that polling companies will release weekly data on approval ratings of coaches with the fan bases of their schools.
When that time comes and a coach's popularity spikes upward rapidly, call it a Bruce Weber. Taking a team with modest expectations deep into March will do that for a college basketball coach.
K-State was picked eighth in the 2017-18 Big 12 preseason poll, finished fourth with a 10-8 record and made it all the way to the Elite Eight in the NCAA Tournament, knocking off Creighton, UMBC and Kentucky before losing to Loyola.
"I don't worry about it as much as you guys do, probably," Weber said of his popularity with K-State fans. "I just worry about our kids and being prepared and ready to play. There are always people who don't like you. Jud (Heathcote, former Michigan State coach) told me many times when you get a job, 90 percent of the people like you and 10 percent don't and each year it's going to go down and it's going to get tougher and tougher. As a coach, if you worry about every negative fan and every media person you're not going to be able to coach."
He spends more time studying X's and O's than expletives on message boards after tough losses.
"Everybody says, 'How do you deal with it?' Very rarely does somebody come up to me in the grocery store and say, 'God, you suck as a coach.' No one does," Weber said. "Those people are the faceless opinion guys that, you know, continually say stuff but they don't ever do it to somebody's face."
He sounded as if he didn't know he had a popularity problem.
"I've thought it's always been positive for me at Manhattan," Weber said. "We've got great fans. Obviously they're excited about our team. We've got an older group that made a nice run. It's always fun when people like you. It's human nature. But at the same time I just worry about helping the players do their best."
Kansas State was picked to finish second to Kansas in this year's preseason poll.
(Still) Kansas head football coach David Beaty said he will see how things go in practice this week before selecting a starting quarterback. Maybe he just wants to keep TCU guessing or maybe he really does put more emphasis on how quarterbacks perform in practice than in games, although that's hard to believe.
The statistics clearly show that Stanley is a better quarterback vs. Big 12 competition than Bender.
In Big 12 play only, Bender has completed 107 of 210 passes for 1,096 yards, which translates to him completing 51 percent of his passes and averaging 5.2 yards per attempt. He has thrown nine touchdown passes and seven interceptions.
Again in Big 12 play only, Stanley has completed 224 of 383 passes for 2,310 yards, which translates to him completing 58.4 percent of his passes and averaging 6.0 yards per attempt. He has thrown 12 touchdown passes and 14 interceptions.
Stanley's the more mobile quarterback and is a good enough runner to call designed quarterback runs.
Also, Beaty said Miles Kendrick, battling a shoulder surgery, is available, so TCU will take a look at the limited game action available on Kendrick as well.
All athletic directors constantly update lists of names of coaching candidates in case they happen to be in the market for a new one. Obviously, KU athletic director Jeff Long isn't going to share his list, so I thought I would check out his Twitter account to see what college football coaches he follows.
It proved a worthwhile exercise. Maybe it doesn't mean anything, but if you were a month or so away from hiring a new head football coach, wouldn't you be curious as to how candidates use social media?
It's an interesting list, including one terrific prospect I had not considered, another up-and-comer, and then others I already have examined here.
Head coaches Long follows: Wake Forest's Dave Clawson, North Carolina State's Dave Doeren, Michigan's Jim Harbaugh, Florida Atlantic's Lane Kiffin, Seth Littrell of North Texas. Doeren, of course, was the best recruiter at Kansas under Mark Mangino and is a proven head coach, having won at Northern Illinois and in his current job, where he is 5-1, even though the team lost seven players, including four defensive linemen, in the most recent NFL draft. Doeren is from Johnson County and in the past aggressively pursued the job. He has a $4.5 million buyout and there is no guarantee he would leave a place where he has it rolling.
UNT's Littrell worked as a graduate assistant under Mangino, but is believed to be more interested in making a jump to a school that has a better recruiting footprint and a more successful football history.
The potential candidate followed by Long on Twitter I had not thought of has a terrific history for upgrading football programs in distress: Jeff Tedford of Fresno State.
The Bulldogs went 1-11 the year before Tedford, 56, became head coach. He is midway through his second season and is 16-5 with a bowl victory. Incredible turnaround. Not impressed because Fresno State isn't a Power Five school? OK, let's look at how California did before, during and after Tedford.
Cal was 82-57 overall and 50-45 in conference play in 11 seasons under Tedford. In the 11 previous seasons, the Golden Bears went 52-73 overall and 29-59 in Pac-10 play. In the five-and-a-half seasons since Tedford was fired, Cal is 28-40 with a 13-36 conference mark. Clearly, Tedford knows how to kill losing cultures and kill them quickly.
Long also follows the Twitter accounts of two assistant coaches of note: Oregon defensive coordinator Jim Leavitt, whose name often surfaces in discussions about a successor to Bill Snyder, provided Snyder ever leaves the post. Leavitt started the USF program from scratch and won big.
Also, Long follows Chip Long, 35. He is in his second season as offensive coordinator at Notre Dame after one year at Memphis. His name soon will become a hot one on lists of assistant coaches ready to take over programs. Chip Long was a graduate assistant at Arkansas for two years, the first two years of Jeff Long's 10-year run at Arkansas.
It’s been so long since Kansas has led the nation in a positive football statistic I find myself visiting cfbstats.com to click turnover margin on an almost daily basis. Never know when it might happen again, so why not? You should try it. It's good therapy.
Remarkably, the Jayhawks still lead the nation in that category with a weekly average of +2.17. They have 18 turnovers gained and five lost, six weeks into the season.
Head coach David Beaty’s first three teams finished 105th of 128, 123rd of 128 and 128th of 130.
Beaty's first game as offensive coordinator since 2016 is Saturday in Lubbock, Texas.
As always, Beaty is stressing “being a smarter team. We’re right around the middle of the pack in the Big 12 right now, and we need to be in the top three, if not better than that.” In conference play, KU has five takeaways and four turnovers.
When Beaty was at the helm of the Kansas offense in 2016, the Jayhawks led the nation with 36 turnovers. KU runs the ball far more now than then, so reducing that number significantly shouldn't be a problem.
The defense is doing its part in the turnover department.
KU had four interceptions all last season and has 11 so far this season, tied for fifth in the nation. Hasan Defense has two picks, both against West Virginia, and 10 players have one apiece: Joe Dineen, Davon Ferguson, Corione Harris, Elmore Hempstead, Mike Lee, Jeremiah McCullough, Shakial Taylor, Ricky Thomas and Bryce Torneden.
If I were an agent for assistant college football coaches I would insist that they all are paid moving expenses with a set amount of cash and then can make arrangements on their own.
And then I would insist that each one of them buy a truck big enough to pack all of their belongings. They would pay off the truck by their third or fourth move and make money off of the next 10 moves.
Texas Tech defensive coordinator David Gibbs is just one of many whose background illustrates the itinerant nature of life as an assistant football coach.
A senior defensive back on Colorado’s team that won the national title under Bill McCartney in 1990, Gibbs is in his fourth season at Texas Tech, which struggled on that side of the ball until improving vastly this season.
Consider Gibbs’ many moves.
He was a graduate assistant at Oklahoma (1991-92) and at Colorado (1993-94). His first full-duties coaching job came at Kansas (1995-96), where he was defensive backs coach under Glen Mason. Gibbs would tell you going to Kansas was the best move of his life because it was there that he met his wife, Debbie, a Lawrence High graduate. The couple has two children.
Gibbs went with Mason to Minnesota (1997-2000), where he was the youngest defensive coordinator in the nation at the age of 29 in 1997.
He coached defensive backs for the Denver Broncos (2001-04) and was defensive coordinator at Auburn in 2005.
Next, Gibbs coached defensive backs for the Kansas City Chiefs (2006-08) and then the Houston Texans (2009-10). In 2012, Gibbs coached defensive backs for the Virginia Destroyers of the UFL. He then returned to the college game as defensive coordinator for Houston (2013-14), where his Cougars defense led the nation in turnovers gained with 43 in 2013 and tied for 11th with 30 in 2014.
As Houston’s interim head coach for the Armed Forces Bowl played Jan. 2, 2015, Gibbs coached his team to a 35-34 victory over Pittsburgh with the biggest fourth-quarter comeback in bowl history.
Houston fell behind 34-13 with 4:21 left on a 29-yard field goal from Chris Blewitt (how about that name for a team that blew a 21-point lead so late in the game).
The Cougars scored 22 points in a span of 90 seconds of game clock. Gibbs wasn’t able to spin that into a head coaching job, but here’s guessing his name will surface regularly in postseason job searches.
One of the many enjoyable aspects of covering Hall of Fame Dodgers manager Tommy Lasorda, the greatest motivator in the history of baseball, centered on witnessing him lose his cool in his office.
Most of the time, anyway. I could have done without the flying chicken spittle, but hey, chalk that up to an occupational hazard of a very interesting occupation. Beat writers enjoyed Tommy's blowups so much that sometimes we, I mean they, tried to goad him into them.
Sometimes it worked. Other times he saw through the attempt and laughed.
I'll never forget the time Barry Bloom, a really smart man blessed with a terrific sense of humor, covered the Padres and could bait the manager with the best of them. Lasorda's day started with reading the newspaper and seeing all the play his restaurant had been cited for multiple health-code violations. His day ended with a tough loss to the Padres.
"What hurts worse, Tommy," Barry asked, "knowing you have rats in your restaurant or losing to the Padres?"
Much to our disappointment, Lasorda couldn't stop laughing at Bloom's question and finally got around to answering it: "Oh, no question, losing to the Padres."
Better at managing baseball than restaurants, Lasorda also could have gone either way with his answer to another question I witnessed him being asked: "Tommy, you are the all-time leader in wins for International League pitchers. Is that an indication of how good a pitcher you were or how bad?"
He laughed and reeled off the names of great Brooklyn Dodgers pitchers who blocked his path to the major leagues. Lasorda appeared in eight games with the Dodgers in 1954-55 and seven with the 1956 Kansas City A's. He retired with 0-4 record and 6.48 ERA. He won 1,599 games as a manager.
I recall one question that elicited the opposite response of a laugh from Lasorda. A little background: TV announcers loved it when Lasorda took over third-base coaching duties to break a losing streak and it usually worked, to the delight of the broadcasters who loved the peppy, colorful way he coached third base.
The question: "It seems every time you decide to coach third base to break losing streak the game is on national TV and the opposing starting pitcher is either a struggling rookie or an over-the-hill guy hanging on by a thread. Is that just a coincidence?"
Run for cover. More than chicken spittle flew that day. A stream of words that made those used by the father fixing the furnace in a "A Christmas Story" seem fit for church by comparison, bounced off the walls of his office.
So what does this have to do with Kansas football? Good question. Think David Beaty's decision to fire offensive coordinator Doug Meacham and appoint himself as the OC/quarterbacks coach. Is it just a coincidence that it happens to come when Kansas faces Texas Tech, a traditionally horrible defensive team? Well, yes, because the Red Raiders no longer fit that description.
In three Big 12 games, Tech has allowed just 24.3 points per game, fourth-best in the Big 12 and has allowed 428.7 yards per Big 12 game, sixth in the conference without the benefit of having played Kansas yet.
So Beaty didn't time this move to make himself look good.
Freshman guards Quentin Grimes and Devon Dotson, an athletic duo of McDonald’s All-Americans, are known as better scorers than pure shooters, so they might not put up great 3-point shooting numbers this season.
That doesn’t mean they won’t leave Kansas as better shooters, depending on how long they decide to stay. (Guards who project as points in the NBA generally don’t enter as quickly as big men).
“I would rather recruit a shooter than a scorer, to be honest with you,” Kansas Bill Self said last week at media day. “You can kind of teach a shooter how to score, but sometimes it's hard to teach a scorer how to shoot. I do think that my assistants do a great job with our guys in that area, as far as shooting the ball.”
Kurtis Townsend works on the technical aspects of shooting with players, getting them to stop drifting and to tuck their shooting elbows, etc.
And the way Self coaches nurtures the confidence of shooters. He talks them up and is more likely to pull them for a defensive lapse or for not keeping the ball moving, letting it “stick” as the coach likes to say, than for missing an open shot.
“I do feel like that when they play here, they have confidence to make shots because, in large part, that's not something that we emphasize,” Self said. “I firmly believe it's a good or a bad shot when it leaves your hand, not when it goes in or not. If you have that mindset, you should always be somewhat confident. We know you have to make shots to win games; certainly, to win big games, but I don't want those guys to have the pressure that you have to shoot well to play well."
Shooting percentages on 3-pointers tend to improve throughout players’ careers because they come to understand what a good shot is and because they grow stronger and because their technique is monitored by the coaching staff.
Frank Mason shot .327 from 3 as a freshman, .471 as a senior. Wayne Selden was a .328 3-point shooter as a freshman, a .392 shooter as a senior. Travis Releford’s 3-point percentage improved from .325 as a junior to .415 in his senior season.
By Self preaching sharing the ball, keeping the ball moving rapidly and making the extra pass, the coach gets the intended result: a high percentage of high-percentage shots. The purpose of moving the ball rapidly is to reach the point where the shifting defense can’t keep up and Self wants the one with the ball in his hands when the defense has failed to keep up to be the one to take the shot.
In Self’s mind, if it’s an open shot from a player who is where he is supposed to be, then it’s a good shot. If it misses, it’s still a good shot that should have been taken. It’s definitely a system that nurtures a shooter’s confidence, an underrated aspect of Self’s coaching success. Self justifiably receives a lot of credit for getting his players to play unselfishly, exert a ton of effort defensively and play with a great deal of toughness.
The 16th-year coach probably doesn’t get enough kudos for creating a good environment for growing a shooter’s confidence.
The most experienced assistant coach on David Beaty’s staff has deep recruiting roots in Kansas and Florida and has such a rich well of experience working for head coaches on which to draw in cobbling his own approach to running a college football program, should Kansas decide not let Beaty complete his fourth season.
Miller worked for Jimmy Johnson, Nick Saban, Mark Mangino, Jerry Kill and Jimbo Fisher.
Miller, in his first season back at KU, is Beaty’s third linebackers coach. He follows Todd Bradford, who stayed two seasons before returning to a job in the oil industry. Ex-KU linebacker Kevin Kane was Beaty’s first linebackers coach.
Miller, 62, had two big-time recruits on the hook when Turner Gill decided not to retain him from Mark Mangino’s staff. Juco linebacker Lavonte David went to Nebraska, where he earned first-team all-conference honors in the Big 12 and Big Ten. A linebacker for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers since 2012, David earned first-team All-Pro honors in 2013, second-team distinction in 2016.
Miller also had a commitment from Hutchinson High defensive end Geneo Grissom, who switched to Oklahoma after Miller wasn’t retained. Grissom started in Super Bowl LI for the Super Bowl champs, the New England Patriots.
Charlie Weis was fired at 2-2 and Clint Bowen took over, juggling the duties of a head coach and defensive coordinator for the remaining eight games of the 2014 season.
The team played hard for him, had a late lead against TCU and defeated Iowa State. A groundswell of support for Bowen to be given the job on a permanent basis percolated in Lawrence, but then athletic director Sheahon Zenger didn’t want to go in that direction.
Kansas was blown out in the final two weeks of the season and Zenger included Bowen as one of the candidates he interviewed. But the selection committee did only phone interviews with every candidate except David Beaty.
Bowen’s first three defenses under Beaty were ranked among the nation’s worst statistically, begging the question of whether Bowen’s fiery personality might lend itself better to serving as a head coach than to coordinating.
His experience coaching eight games in 2014 would make the transition to interim head coach smoother than anyone else on the staff, but it also would make a harsh reality painfully obvious to everyone who hasn’t already figured it out: The program has gone backward, not forward, not stuck in neutral, under Beaty.
Since Bowen won one game and nearly won another in 2014, he would have to do the same to convince anyone that the program is in neutral, not reverse.
Oklahoma head football coach Lincoln Riley checked his temper and maintained his composure in impressive fashion during his press conference after the Kansas football captains did not shake Baker Mayfield’s hand at the coin toss. Even so, it was clear that he was fuming just beneath the surface. The thought occurred to me at the time: How badly will Riley run it up on Kansas when the Jayhawks visit Oklahoma in 2018?
It’s still a valid question. The answer: Not as badly if his brother, Kansas tight ends and fullbacks coach Garrett Riley, happens to be the interim head coach for the Nov. 17 clash at Gaylord Family-Oklahoma Memorial Stadium.
The brothers share a strong facial resemblance. Might they also have similar brains? They might, and since Lincoln, 35, took the Sooners all the way to the four-school college football playoffs in his first season, that might mean that Garrett is a prodigy as well, way advanced from most football coaches his age.
The younger Riley joined the staff in 2016 as an offensive analyst and became quarterbacks coach in 2017. Before coming to KU, Riley spent three seasons coaching at East Carolina, two working under his brother, then an offensive coordinator, as an offensive assistant. Before that, Riley spent a year coaching at Augustana (Ill.) College and a year at high school in Lubbock, Texas. He earned his bachelor's degree from Texas Tech in 2012 and was a quarterback on the Red Raiders' roster in 2008 and 2009, before transferring to play a year at Stephen F. Austin in 2010. A native of Muleshoe, Texas, Riley earned 2A All-State honors in 2008.
Taking over a Big 12 program at the age of 29 would be a tall order, but in his brother he would have a good road map for how to plan his week. Given how much success Lincoln Riley has had a such a young age, it's not preposterous to think Kansas could turn to Garrett if in the market for an interim head coach.