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November 11, 1999 - Image 27

Resource type:
The Michigan Daily, 1999-11-11

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22B - The Michigan Daily - Tipof'99 - Thursday, November 11, 1999

Thursday, November 11, 1999 - y


Minnesota '2,
n Monson (first season) Weak guards leave Gophers in dirt

Give it time

Last season: 8-8 Big Ten (6th),
17-11 overall
Key returners: So. C Joel
Przybilla, Jr. G Mitch Ohnstad
Losses: F Quincy Lewis, G
Kevin Clark, G Miles Tarver
(59.1% of offense)
Nonconference tests: at Oregon
Dec. 15, at Georgia Dec. 28
Make or break: Can Minnesota
entice former coach Clem Haskins
to return as Goldy, the mascot, for
home games?

The good news for the Minnesota
basketball team: over the summer the
Gophers wooed the man who ended
their season in last year's NCAA
Tournament over to their side.
Dan Monson led inconspicuous
Gonzaga on a fairy-tale ride to the
Elite Eight last spring, which ended
only when the Bulldogs collided with
eventual national champion
Connecticut. They had previously
upset Minnesota in the first round.
The bad news: just about every-
thing else. Monson will discover the
harsh realities of coaching a team in
the national spotlight, and he'll do it
without 60 percent of last year's

Off to trailblaze the NBA are grad-
uated seniors Quincy Lewis, Kevin
Clark and Miles Tarver, three starters
from last year's team that finished a
disappointing 8-8 in Big Ten play.
The only two significant returning
players are shot-blocking center Joel
Przybilla and guard Mitch Ohnstad,
neither of which averaged in double
figures in scoring last season.
The word on Przybilla, 7-foot-I
and 260 pounds;is that he won't con-
tribute much on offense, but it's as
hard to shoot over him as it is to pro-
nounce his name. Przybilla led the
free world in blocked shots for much

of last year. R
Ohnstad didn't start last year since
Lewis and Clark ate up most of the
minutes in the backcourt, but he
played well off the bench, scoring
6.1 points per game in 20.8 minutes.
In general, the state of Minnesota's
philosophy (a.k.a. Jesse "The Body"
Ventura) of relying on big beefy
Scandinavian-ox descendants as ath-
letes instead of mobile, athletic
guards like Scoonie and Mateen,
exposes Monson's major weakness: a
lack of a quality backcourt or anyone
who remotely resembles a point
guard. The Gophers, lacking any
seniors on the roster, are also without

battle-worn leaders.
But Monson's program certainly is
humble and accepting of responsibil-
ity. The 'Land of Lakes' is full of
nice people. Minnesota's self-
exempting itself from the NCAA and
NIT Tournaments this spring, after
admitting to NCAA infractions,
would also be considered bad news
- except that the humble move
won't mean anything in March
because the Gophers won't play well
enough this season to earn a berth in
either tournament.
So much for setting an honorable
- Jacob Wheeler

ix games under..500 and without a prayer of
postseason play, the boosters began to
clamor for his resignation in 1983. Hiring a
33-year old coach was an experiment that failed,
they felt, and the school should fix its mistake. The
move was noble and innovative, but impractical -
it was time to return to fundamental basketball,
and hiring a veteran coach was just the beginning
of the cure.
The athletic director, Tom Butters, had taken
a risk on this young gun because of his bound-
less potential. It was a gamble, but Butters
thought he could beat the market and lock up
this hidden coaching secret before the rest of
the world found out.
Still, his coaching find had a better grip on real-
ity. Two of his first three seasons were losing ones;
the rest of the ACC was ripping his team to shreds;
and he couldn't get a top recruit no matter how hard
he tried. Facing his current situation, the young
coach offered his resignation.
Butters refused.

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'Cats nipped without big brother
Loss of Evan leaves Northwestern with little left

You've got to have respect for
Northwestern. Anytime a team boasts a
player the caliber of Eschmeyer, it has a
chance in the rugged Big Ten.
Wait. Wrong Eschmeyer. Evan is no
longer on the team. The only
Eschmeyer on the roster is Jeff.
Well, if Jeff is anything like his broth-
er, then the Wildcats will be a force in
the conference this season. Oh ... he
didn't score a point last year, and he's
about nine inches shorter. Trouble.
Unlike Northwestern teams of years

past, coach Kevin O'Neill will be rely-
ing on his backcourt to produce, not his
frontcourt. Sophomore David Newman
and his 8.3 points per game returns to
the starting lineup, along with class-
mate Steve Lepore, who was a surprise
contributor on last season's NIT-quali-
fying squad.
Freshman Ben Johnson will most
likely start, O'Neill said, so the guard-
laden Wildcats may opt to play 'small-
ball' and run a three-guard offense.
Johnson's presence will offset the




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Jeff Eschmeyer didn't
score a point last year,
and he's about nine
inches shorter than his
brother. Trouble.
departure of Sean Wink, who left the
team this past offseason for undisclosed
reasons. The junior had been a top
three-point threat for Northwestern, and
his absence will make the transition
from a post team to a guard-based team
that much more difficult.
All in all, this is O'Neill's best
recruiting class in his short tenure at
Johnson may play the most,,but like-
ly all seven of the freshmen will be ini-
tiated into the Big Ten at some point
this season.
"We have really started to make some
strides," O'Neill said about his new
class. "They are not an exceptionally
advanced group, but as freshmen they
are doing a good job."
A 'good job' won't get the Wildcats
out of the cellar this season.
- Chris Duprev
Coach: Kevin O'Neill (third season)
Last season: 6-10 Big Ten (8th),
15-14 overall
Key returners: So. G David
Newman, So. G Steve Lepore
Losses: C Evan Eschmeyer,
G Sean Wink
(44.4 percent of offense)
Nonconference tests:
Florida State Dec. 1
Make or break: Will the Wildcats
even try to move the ball inside the
3-point arc this season? Can they
recover from the loss of their

If he'd accepted, who knows where Mike
Krzyzewski would be today.
An adjustment period is inevitable for young
coaches - Bob Knight is the exception, hav-
ing never posted a losing season at Indiana and
winning a national championship in just his
fifth year - but how they deal with early
defeat is the litmus test of who ultimately lasts
in college basketball.
Even the great John Wooden - who ended
up winning 10 national championships -
grappled with tough times in his early years.
"After a few years at UCLA, I began to won-
der about many facets of my basketball philos-
ophy," Wooden wrote in his autobiography
'They Call Me Coach.' "I've spent hours trying
to evaluate where I fell short because the ulti-
mate failure must rest with the coach."
The sparkplug responsible for the modern-day
pressing defense was considering abandoning his
ideals and starting from scratch. There is no fairy
tale here - it took nearly two decades years at
UCLA for Wooden to finally bring home that
national banner. But once he found the right mix,
he immortalized himself and his teams, capturing
10 NCAA titles in 12 years.
About the time that Wooden was hitting
stride, another young coach was sputtering in
his attempt to build a program, and a career.
Some would say Dean Smith was not just fight-
ing for his coaching life on the court, but on
campus as well.
A group of university administrators at North
Carolina was rumored to have intentionally hired
the inexperienced Smith, believing he would
undoubtedly fail as head man of the Tar Heels. This
failure, administrators thought, would scale down a
basketball program that seemed to have become
larger than the school itself.
An 8-9 debut season in 1962-63 was just the
beginning of Dean Smith's struggles. His
future was nowhere near guaranteed.
A blowout loss at Wake Forest in '65 was
possibly Smith's darkest moment at North
Carolina. After the ride home from Winston-
Salem, Smith and the Tar Heels were greeted
by the handiwork of Chapel Hill students, who
had hung their young coach in effigy.
"After the Wake Forest game he called me
with the score," sister Joan Smith Ewing
remembered in 1997, when Smith was named

Sports Illustrated's Sportsman of the Year.
"Reverend (Robert) Seymour called me too - he
had gone over and sat with Dean most of the night.
I remember him searching, asking himself if he
was doing the right thing with his life."
Even then, it took until 1967, Smith's sixth
season, for him to take North Carolina to the
tournament. But his first entrance was a special
one - the Tar Heels rode all the way to the
Final Four, the first of I1 trips for Smith.
Only one coach was able to one-up Smith in
that department - Wooden, his predecessor in
a long line of great coaches who took his lumps
in the early going.
Michigan coach Brian Ellerbe, himself just a
youngster in 'the business,' spoke the truth
when he said how "I haven't seen coaches win
a game yet with a shot or a rebound."
It underscores a very important point: coach-
es are nothing without their players.
Until that one marquee player or that one
breakthrough recruiting class arrives, coaches
can do nothing but hold their breath and do the
best they can with what they have.
And for Ellerbe, that class has arrived.
One risks Ellerbe's wrath by labeling this
year's class the second coming of the Fab Five.
In truth, this group is not the same. Four of the
Fab Five of 1991 were all ranked in the top 15
nationally by most experts. All five members
of this year's class are ranked, but they are scat-
tered throughout the top 100.
When Ellerbe wraps up his coaching at Michigan,
this will be the class that got it all started.
Even with such a ballyhooed freshman class,
Ellerbe insists that he "still needs bodies."
Parts of the puzzle are missing, and the only
way to fill them is to bang on enough doors,
touch enough hearts, and sell the program - a
tough task, but a manageable one.
As much as it hurt Ellerbe last year to see the
Spartans clinch a repeat Big Ten championship
on his own Crisler floor, it should provide him
with a sizable degree of hope. Success is not
impossible - in fact, it's just 60-some miles
After replacing Jud Heathcote, Michigan
State coach Tom Izzo found life rough in the
early going in 1995 - a three-point victory in
his debut against Division II Chaminade, and a
very average 16-16 record his first season on

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Mike Krzyzewski was ready to resign.I
sure glad he didn't.


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