2-19-17: Punters, Pagano, Pitiful Pacers and Fred Glass’s Man Tom Crean: The First Post of February.

The origin of Brothers Pinto and Flounder from my favorite all-time film Animal House. Photo courtesy of the Interwebs.

Sunday morning in Central Indiana. No work or school till Tuesday. The Colts can’t lose another game till August when NFL preseason starts. The Pacers can’t lose another game until later in the week as it’s NBA All-Star weekend. Good time to finally get motivated to return to blogging and post for once. So here goes with random hot takes and thoughts since I last posted on 1./28:

-speaking of the Colts, lots of things have been going on since the end of January. In the last few weeks I got my wish by seeing Diamond Jim Irsay hire former Kansas City Chiefs front office guru Chris Ballard to be the new Colts general manager (replacing one half of my self-named Dysfunctional Duo in one “Big Grig” Ryan Grigson.  But the Colts fan base (at least those in cyberspace) still is not close to fully thrilled as they have seen one of their main men decide to call it a career (punter Pat McAfee) while seeing one of their least favorite folks get at least another year to run the proverbial ship (head coach “Ground” Chuck Pagano).  I’ll plan to speak more on this in future posts, but as of now I’ll take another year of Pagano because 1) he’s got three more years of checks to cash so Diamond Jim probably doesn’t want to throw that much cash in the furnace while 2) everyone in the sporting world knows he’d better not finish with another subpar record 0f 8-8 or worse if he wants to stay till 2019 and perhaps most importantly 3) he happens to be an individual who is liked by his players (hence they actually made a comeback in the last game of the 2016 season to beat Jacksonville and finish 8-8 instead of rolling over and jobbing to one of the NFL’s worst teams) and hence has done enough for most to say ‘sure, one more year.’

Ground Chuck himself seems ready for a new voice to deal with in the front office:

Add that catchphrase to CHOP THAT WOOD in your Pagano cliche list.

The NFL draft will be in two months (April 27-29). I will assume the new Pagano-Ballard duo will be looking to replace many a 2016 defensive starter with people who can actually play somewhat legitimate NFL defense in 2017 (as mentioned many a time on this blog the Colts finished 30th overall out of 32 teams for the 2016 NFL season in team defense ranking, which does not look good for the head coach linked to former Baltimore Ravens media favorites such as Ed Reed and Ray Lewis). Safe to say they might want to improve on that if they want to win more than 8 games in 2017. I know I’d have no issues for it.

You also know what I’ll probably be doing (besides homework) on the weekend of April 27-29. Let’s hope Ballard and Pagano know what THEY’RE doing around that time too.

-Meanwhile the local NBA franchise- the Indiana Pacers, where those who once wrote or are related to those who once wrote for Indianapolis area newspapers apparently get lifetime employment-continue to embrace mediocrity while making mediocre pro basketball players look like a cross between 1962 Wilt Chamberlain, 1991 Michael Jordan and (to make the mainstream media and The Spin Boys at deadspin.com happy) 2017 Melissa McCarthy on NBC’s Saturday Night Live.  After defeating Oklahoma City on February 6 to obtain a decent won-loss record of 29-22, said Pacers seemingly decided that playing defense was no longer an option while ensuring that $7 million per year earning Rodney Stuckey would get time in the playing rotation was since said Stuckey was actually able to suit up for once. As Stuckey plays and Larry Bird approved offseason pickup Thaddeus Charles Young does not (Young sprained his wrist earlier in the month and quite frankly I have no idea when the $!$^ dude will come back) , the Pacers decided it was a good time to lose games. And lose they have. They have lost their last six straight games as they limped into All-Star weekend with a record of 29-28 and allowed the likes of Washington’s Otto Porter and Cleveland’s Kyle Korver to look like first ballot Hall of Famers. I watched the games….they were pretty bad. Plus my good pal from previous posts Lavoy Allen got to replace Young…and as also mentioned earlier when the team jobbed at Philadelphia at the beginning of the season that’s not a good thing. Allen himself got hurt and didn’t play the last three games, so third stringer Kevin Seraphin got thrown into action which was a worst thing. Result is that I now get to read articles like this about trading draft picks to help team star Paul George actually have people on his team who can win a game once in awhile…..

http://www.espn.com/nba/story/_/id/18708813/indiana-pacers-willing-trade-first-round-pick-help-paul-george

….as George himself has the brethren of the Pacers Digest message board (you know, the ones who include among their regular posters dudes who feel that Roy Hibbert and George Hill are the best players in the business) calling him soft and debating on whether PAUL GEORGE himself should be traded:

http://www.espn.com/nba/story/_/id/18705368/paul-george-noncommittal-signing-contract-extension-indiana-pacers

Bottom line: courtesy of Bird’s player moves, as of now the Pacers have three quality players in the starting lineup-George, second year big man Myles Turner and newly acquired point guard Jeffrey Demarcus Teague- and little else in legitimate NBA caliber talent. Because former coach Frank Vogel could not get offensive production out of former Pacers like Hibbert (10.6 points per game in his last Pacers season of 2014-15)and Hill (12 PPG in his last season of 2015-16), the Old Bird has been looking to add offensive minded players who can actually score points in pro basketball games instead of having a supposed point guard standing in the corner waiting for someone to pass it to him three times a game (Hill) or having a 7 foot plus big man demand the ball only to make less than 45 percent of his shots (Hibbert).  This has led to Bird handing out long term deals for the declining and diminutive Monta Ellis (four year at $44 million), the former All-Star center Al Jefferson (three years at $30 million) and of course Bird’s replacement for a former starter (Lance Stephenson) on two straight Eastern Conference finals squads from 2013 and 2014, the legendary C.J. Miles (four years at $18 million). Oh…and Stuckey got signed to a three year, $21 million conract to promptly miss 56 games in the past 1 1/2 seasons. As a lifelong Pacers fan -and yes, the jokes write themselves there-all four dudes join the inept Young-Allen power forward duo as guys who I look forward to no longer wearing Pacers gear. And without Paul George and Turner to root for, I myself have a hard time watching the Pacers squad. Hence I am tempted to do what Bird himself did when said Pacers barely beat the Atlanta Hawks in the first round of the 2014 NBA playoffs:

For the statistical minded sons who tell me that I must salivate over ESPN’s Player Efficiency Ratings (PER), I’ll be polite and show a link to the current Pacer PER numbers as of today’s date (NOTE: DATA BE UPDATED WITH EACH DAY SO UPCOMING NUMBERS ARE OF 2/19):

http://www.espn.com/nba/team/stats/_/name/ind/cat/PER

No matter what one may think of the way this PER s–t gets figured out, the Four Letter Sons of ESPN note that an average NBA player has a score of 15.0. That doesn’t help the causes of Allen (9.2 score as of 2/19) or Ellis (9.8), nor does it lead me to think Thaddeus Charles Young is worth $120,000 a year much less $12 million (15.1…which is pretty much average and probably not what you want from a starter that you traded a first round draft pick for should you want to win a World championship). By comparison as of 2/19 the No. 2 ranked player in the NBA at 28.2 (or more than three Monta Ellis’s) is none other than San Antonio’s Kawil Leonard….whom the Pacers once drafted and traded for the one and only GEORGE HILL.  No number of message board commentators can tell me that proved to be a good trade. None. Hill has played in as many NBA All-Star games and won as many NBA championships as my middle aged buttocks. Meanwhile Leonard has won the NBA World title with said Spurs and was actually NBA Finals MVP to boot…plus he makes this All-Star game each year and is recognized as one of the top 10 basketball players in the world. Had Bird not drafted George in 2010 and Turner in 2015, safe to say I wouldn’t be shocked if my favorite pro sports team had moved to Las Vegas by now in order to make Bankers Life Fieldhouse the overpriced taxpayer financed home of high school and IUPUI basketball.

No wonder the Pacers fan base needs a bottle of KY Jelly anytime they hear the words Reggie Miller or see said Miller lecture on TNT.  And yes, I said that. I’ve heard men older than me talk about Miller like he was their first schoolboy crush (mine, incidentally, was mentioned on earlier posts-one Keri Caswell. That’s probably the only time you’ll see those two names together in written form, so I figured I might as well type it.)  But when a team has gone over 40 years since winning a league championship of any kind I suppose I shouldn’t be too shocked. Nor will I be shocked if the Pacers barely make the 2017 NBA playoffs only to lose once again to either Toronto, Cleveland or (since I just saw them get destroyed by them the other night) Washington.  Won’t be the first time nor the last. After all there are individuals on Instagram who have actually argued with me about the greatness of C.J. Miles. For now I will be polite and assume said individuals are rarely drug tested or approve of NBA players that shoot less than 42 percent from the field. Best way to handle my fan base and their obsession with said Reginald Wayne Miller….which can be shown by example here:

No comment on the overalls. Indiana residents already take enough s–t as it is.

But if you like seeing Rodney Stuckey run into the middle of the lane like a bowling bowl to get injured, this Pacers team is currently the squad for you.

Perhaps I should find a new hobby. Then again, if you’re still reading this (and thank you very much if you are in fact doing so) you already knew that.

-Yes, I should acknowledge one silver lining in a mediocre to s–t Pacer campaign. Last night Pacer starting shooting guard Glenn Robinson III (by the way, typing that tells you how bad this Ellis plays) won the NBA All-Star Weekend’s 2017 Slam Dunk Contest. Photo of one of said dunks (including a cameo by Paul George) courtesy of the Sporting News website:

The fact this Robinson is in the league is an achievement in itself. So bully for him. I expect the two dozen former local sportswriters employed by the Pacers to mention this feat a hundred times or so in the coming weeks. Better that than Ellis’s contract.

-so the local NFL team won’t be playing anytime soon and the local NBA team stinks. Means I should have some hope in watching college basketball, right?

Think again.

And thank WTHR’s Bob Kravitz and Indiana University athletic director Fred Glass’s approved men’s college basketball coach of the moment Tom Crean for making a rabid, diehard, and loyal fan base (I’m biased, yes, but keep reading) who has not seen a national championship since the Reagan Administration continue to ask out loud –WHAT THE F–? when it comes to either 1) building on any positive momentum from previous seasons or 2) being able to get teams that have multiple McDonald’s high school All-Americans to miss the NCAA men’s basketball tournament on a regular basis.  You know that tourney well-they upped the ante to include 68 teams and thus if you win 19 or 20 games in a so-called power conference like the Big Ten then you will probably make said tournament on a regular basis. Like Crean’s mentor Tom Izzo at Michigan State. Or media approved bald man at a football school Thad Motta at Ohio State. Or whomever coaches Wisconsin this week.  And since Indiana has put increased money into renovating their ancient arena (Assembly Hall) and adding state of the art practice facilities, it’s not like the athletic department doesn’t give a damn about the program. Crean’s yearly paycheck (he ranks as one of the ten highest paid coaches in college basketball as well as the highest paid employee in the state, meaning my tax dollars more than likely go to his salary…and isn’t that a nice thought?) also ensures the IU basketball program isn’t exactly underfunded.

With all that being spouted out, hate to say this to young Kravitz but I don’t agree with the tone of his headline or the main themes of the article below:

http://www.wthr.com/article/kravitz-as-fans-foolishly-clamor-for-creans-head-hoosiers-season-continues-to-go-sideways

If Kravitz or Crean decided that they needed to shoot the proverbial s–t and tell me the two main things that Crean supporters say day in and day out (talked like deadspin.com’s Drew Magary for dramatic effect)- WE WIN TWO BIG 10 REGULAR SEASON TITLES IN FOUR YEARS HOO HOO HOOSIERS and WE MAKE THREE SWEET SIXTEENS IN FIVE YEARS HE BE HARBAUGH FAMILY TOO BOO PURDUE– then I could see why Crean’s top supporters will defend his record to the last breath while seemingly refuse to even acknowledge one single fault or even admit that as of now Indiana’s basketball program underperforms compared to those of Butler, Purdue and Notre Dame. And right there is the issue. Better yet I’m putting it in caps for all to see:

YOU ARE THE  FOURTH BEST COLLEGE BASKETBALL SCHOOL IN THE STATE DESPITE BEING THE BIG NAME BASKETBALL SCHOOL OF A SO-CALLED BASKETBALL STATE. 

After doing a job to Syracuse in the 2013 NCAA Sweet 16 with his All-American big man (Cody Zeller) standing on the three point line looking lost despite the fact that everyone in America knows Syracuse plays a 2-3 zone defense, the Crean-led Indiana University men’s basketball team has not exactly been a tour de force. At best if it was a pro boxing card they would be looked at as being a mid-card (middle of the card) team; they’re not going to go 6-25 every year (though ironically that was in fact the IU basketball record the first year he coached said IU in 2008-2009) but they aren’t going to regularly challenge the likes of Wisconsin for conference supremacy nor are they going to do a damn thing in the annual showcase of conference hoops icons in the Big 10 Tournament. Your records thus far since Zeller and Victor Oladipo left IU early to go to the NBA in 2013  as of this moment are as follows:

2013-2014: 17 wins, 15 losses in the regular season: 7 wins, 11 losses in the Big 10 season to tie for 8th in the conference; lost 1st game of conference tournament; no NCAA appearance OR NIT appearance. 

(Dude had high school All-Americans and a future NBA lottery pick in Noah Vonleh on the team and couldn’t even make the NIT. Please remember that.)

2014-2015: 20-14 regular season; 9-9 Big 10 to finish 7th; `1-1 in Big 10 tournament (beat Northwestern, lost to Maryland); lost in first round of NCAA tourney.

2015-2016: 27-8 regular season, 15-3 Big 10 to finish 1st; 0-1 in Big 10 tournament (lost to Michigan); won two games in NCAA tournament to make Sweet 16; lost to North Carolina in said Sweet 16.

(I’ll give him his due there…now read below):

2016-2017: thus far 15-12 regular season, 5-9 Big 10 (currently one of the bottom four records in said Big 10 as only Illinois, Ohio State and Rutgers are worse); currently have lost five of their last six games)….and having to win the Big 10 tourney to make the NCAA tourney (as of now, good luck with that).

To Kravitz, Glass, Hank Williams, Jr., et al out there that deals with sports as a profession…..out of those four seasons I just summarized, one of these things is not like the other. Meaning we’ve got a pretty good sample size to look at. And since your man Crean is one of the highest paid college coaches in all the land, I ask you this: do you think that Indiana University, its athletic department, its supporters and the state are actually getting a satisfactory return on such a high investment like the one Glass has put into Crean thus far?

Off of those numbers, I don’t see it. And since we’re talking about a man’s record with an overall won loss percentage of 55% in nine seasons (plus if you want to talk Big 10, your man’s percentage goes down to 44% and he’s only placed higher than 7th in a 14 team league in four of his eight full seasons)….please explain to me why you feel he should keep getting free passes year after year for mediocre results at a program that ranks as one of the TOP 5 COLLEGES IN THE NATION when it comes to NCAA tourney success since Indiana joins Duke, North Carolina, Kentucky and UCLA as the only schools to have won five or more NCAA men’s hoops titles.

Again, read that last part. Only Michigan State (two) joins Indiana as being Big 10 schools with one or more NCAA championships.

Indiana has been the basketball school of the Big 10 throughout its existence, and under Crean they have lost over half of their Big 10 games. YET CREAN IS HERE IN HIS NINTH SEASON. 

Yet the Indiana fan base is told by media men that they cannot voice their opinion about making a change because it is “foolish” since Troy Williams had one good half against Kentucky in last season’s NCAA tourney.

Yet the Indiana fan base is told by media for the most part to accept being out of the NCAA tournament for the third time in four years…..better yet for the fifth time in nine years under the direction of a highly paid coach who has a contract that runs through 2020 as per the Old Glass on this ESPN article from yore:

http://www.espn.com/mens-college-basketball/story/_/id/8612449/indiana-hoosiers-sign-tom-crean-contract-extension

Yet the Indiana fan base gets to see this happen to their program on their own home court:

http://www.nationofblue.com/watch-as-tom-crean-gets-knocked-down-by-michigan-player/

With a team that has a chance to “earn” a losing record of less than .500 for the season unless they win at least one more game, don’t think I’m going out on a limb by saying I have as good a chance to coach an NCAA championship team as Crean does in the near future. Also feel many keyboard warriors like myself-and Kravitz for that matter-can say the same.

Means I don’t really have high hopes for IU basketball as long as Crean is still employed as part of the program….with the only exception being if they somehow got it together and won a couple of games in this upcoming Big 10 tournament. And with all due respect to Crean’s supporters, your man Crean has won THREE Big 10 tournament games in eight years. You have to win at least three IN A SINGLE YEAR’S TOURNAMENT (damn right I capitalized that) to win one of those things. If you say DER DIS BE DUH YEAR you’ve got a lot more optimism than I do, because the record shows Crean’s not getting in done when an automatic NCAA bid is on the line and games need to be won outside the city limits of Bloomington, Indiana. Not like he’s just starting out nor given the personnel to do so since he starts TWO high school All-Americans (Thomas Bryant and James Blackmon Jr.) in his current five man lineup.

Hence my reaction to defending Crean right now is the equivalent of this picture of the man himself after, yes, another Big 10 tourney loss:

But as we all know, I’m not going to make or break what happens to Crean if he in fact goes 15-17. That responsibility belongs to The Old Glass, the Indiana athletic director. His call on whether three subpar years out of four are enough to allow Crean to have a shot at year number 10 as the Indiana head coach.

Those again still reading-and again thanks so much for tolerating my frustrations-can figure out my preference.

However I also know that money is the bottom line so Glass doesn’t want to throw a few million dollars at Crean to leave when he can stay another year or three to earn the remainder of that contract…that Kravitz’s man has an injury excuse due to starter OG Anunoby being out for the season (IU has lost six of eight games since that OG got hurt in mid-January against Penn State)….and that as a fan I should realize that you’re not going to win the NCAA title or Big 10 title every single year. Plus yes I know Crean’s program performed like a top tier school should last season with a conference title of some sort, an upset of a higher ranked seed to make the NCAA tourney’s second weekend (while losing to a top seeded North Carolina that was predicted to go far in the tourney) and a 27 win season. I get that. That’s why I typed it twice, Hoosier upbringing or not. (That and the fact that last season may not be repeated by the IU basketball program for a long, long time.)

Hence I’ll make my prediction: no matter what the Indiana won-loss record will be at the end of the 2016-2017 season, the OG injury and the theory that enough of the OG/Blackmon/Robert Johnson/Bryant nucleus will realize they are nowhere near NBA ready (nor able to transfer somewhere else if NBA dreams are awaiting) will be enough for Glass to decide that three subpar seasons out of four will not be enough to oust Crean from Assembly Hall.

Meaning four subpar seasons out of five will do the trick. Meaning Crean’s squad will need to improve-read, make the NCAA tourney in 2018 should they stay on tract to miss it altogether in 2017)-for Crean to finish out said contract through 2020.

Meaning, yes, Crean and Ground Chuck Pagano have something in common in my view: the excuses will be made to give them ONE MORE YEAR despite plenty of time and tenure to show what they can and cannot do as the lead men and faces of their teams.

For the sake of the Indiana fan base and the program having any sort of relevance in the modern college basketball world, I’ll paraphrase what I’ve said to the Colts’ owner by ending this post with a similar message to  the Indiana athletic director:

Your move, Big Glass.

Happy Sunday to all in cyberspace and thanks for reading fitzthoughtsblog.

Jeff

Instagram: @fitzthoughts

fitzthoughtsblog.wordpress.com

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