Sunday, February 11, 2007

Fire Karl Hobbs

The George Washington University Athletic Department needs to fire its head basketball coach. This has nothing to do with the Xavier game and everything to do with poor game management and terrible out-of-conference scheduling.

One might ask "Why would the school do such a thing?" after noting that Hobbs took a struggling program out of the doldrums and to the NCAA tournament two years in a row, but let's not lie to ourselves: those teams were not very good, and Hobbs did not do anything more than any other run-of-the-mill coach could have done. In fact, with the likes of Danilo Pinnock and Pops Mensah-Bonsu, I think that the GW program actually underachieved. Why? It wasn’t because of the players—it was because they had an inept coach.

I don't have illusions of grandeur. This team is nothing more than a mid-major basketball program. GW does not have a football program to bring in the money, so we must accept that. It's a small, urban school with no place for a huge new arena or practice facilities. I understand all of these things.

Karl Hobbs does a fine job recruiting the kids that he can--sure, McDonalds All-Americans won't want to play in a 5,000 seat arena--but we really can't recruit players who "attend high school" at schools that are nothing more than one room offices in Philadelphia.

Really, though, the man is a terrible coach. I can't bear to watch the team play very often because he just does not seem to know what he is doing. He runs zone traps against great three-point shooting teams...and continues to do so, all night long. The result was a thirty point drubbing. Need I say more?

The man thinks that he is bigger than the team. He has been thrown out of close games for throwing fits--and the two technical fouls assessed against him probably cost GW the game. It isn't that he is intense--it's that he is immature. So many times, a Hatchet article is written the day after game-night about Hobbs' "sweat stained shirts" and about "how he slaps the ground". Great. But I do not want a recap on the coach's night--I want to know how the team did.

Sure, GW was number two in the nation last year in many polls, but that was just an indication of how inflated college rankings are. GW played no teams of any consequence (the team's "quality win" was against Maryland, who barely qualified for the NIT, and the team was pasted by an average NC State team) and flamed out of the A-10 and NCAA tournament. People cried out, saying that GW was robbed and should not have been an 8 seed. No, they shouldn't have. They should have been a 12 seed.

Karl Hobbs may be winning games, but they're meaningless games. Last night's lost ultimately meant nothing, because GW's only hope of even getting into the NCAA tournament is to outright win the A-10 tournament in Atlantic City...and judging as how GW got embarrassed at home last night by Xavier, I highly doubt that this will happen.

What's really happening is Karl Hobbs is having an identity crisis similar to that of Gordon Bombay's (Emilio Estevez) in the fine Disney film "Mighty Ducks Two". He got the job because he was a small scale winning coach who thought that he was a winner and finally got his chance to prove it. He thought that he could use his old team, throw a couple of new kids in and win everything. Then, he bought into his own hype, started gelling his hair and hobnobbing with celebrities, much to the detriment of the team. Then, to top it all off, he was found eating ice cream with the manager of the US' greatest Goodway Games hockey rival, Iceland (really? Not Sweden or Russia?). The team lost faith in him, and the only way they won the tournament was:

A) They all bought into that "ducks fly together" gimmick at half-time in the final and actually switched into the NHL team's uniforms (it was probably convenient that the final was being held in what was then called the Arrowhead Pond, which was the home of the former Mighty Ducks--who are actually more mighty since they dropped the adjective).

B) It was a Disney movie.

So, unless Karl Hobbs thinks that Jerry Bruckheimer is actually controlling his life, he needs to wake up. You won't get anywhere by beating the University of Maryland-Baltimore County and the University of Maryland-Eastern Shore. You won't get the respect of the media, of your town, of your school's own students or the respect of prospective players. Yes, Karl Hobbs toiled as an assistant for quite awhile and he has a feel good story and finally has his big shot, but he really isn't doing much with it at all.

Karl Hobbs should have left last summer. He had nowhere to go but down. And that's exactly where he is going as we speak. It's a slow, lonely descent from being college basketball's most heralded mid-major coach to just another coach at a mid-major school. He could have had the Cincinatti job, but he supposedly held out because he thinks he will be the successor to Jim Calhoun at UConn.

Gordon Bombay did not get to coach his players when they were all given prep-school hockey scholarships, though. Winners don't always go out on top, as Gordon found out. It isn't "what have you done", it's "what have you done for me lately", and well, gee golly gosh, Karl Hobbs sure hasn't done much other than beat Richmond and Dartmouth.

Oh, and lose at UMass, Dayton and St. Louis.

If Karl Hobbs doesn't start scheduling tougher non-conference games (because, let's face it, the A-10 is always going to be a cakewalk and GW will never have a tough schedule if their non-conference schedule does not include at least five top 25 teams year in, year out) a certain Gordon Bombay would probably tell him to look out for a Ted Orion character who has eyes on his jobs. You know, a coach who has pro experience, who is better with the media, more focused on the team than himself and who has an even BETTER feel good story and who can actually get the team to do something other than put up gaudy, misleading statistics.

Some people are great assistant coaches. Karl Hobbs is one of these people. Sure, he can recruit, but he has yet to prove that he can really coach.

I hope that the GW Athletic Department realizes this before it is too late.