SportsProf

(Hopefully) good sports essays and observations for good sports by a guy who tries (and can sometimes fail) to be a good sport.

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Thursday, July 22, 2004

July Craziness Leads to March Madness

John Wooden is famous for having said, "failing to prepare is preparing to fail."  Practice hard (sorry, Mr. Iverson, but most of the champions do practice well), prepare well, and the wins might come more easily.  The adage sounds simple, the statement is quite eloquent, but the principles sometimes are hard to instill.  Especially with teenagers.

All college hoop fans love March Madness, especially the first two days of the tournament where the field of 64 narrows to 32 and there's a Coppin State or Hampton or Princeton pulling an upset in the first round.  And, the frenzy that is early- to mid-March is quite something, what with conference tournaments and then the waiting for the bubble teams. 

A natural predicate to an invitation or automatic bid to the Big Dance is a tough schedule chock full of wins.  That resume, in and of itself, constitutes a solid form of preparation.  But, as that other great collegiate influence, Albert Einstein (and not, as Joe Theisman once said, "Norman Einstein"), "life is in the details."  Or something like that.   And the details go far beyond the resume.

The details extend to developing talent, getting your choreography down, making sure you turn on your players' light bulbs and getting the team to fire on all cylinders.  Lots of individual instruction, weight room work, film work, lot of time spent in the office and on the practice floor.

But it all starts with the talent.  If Wake doesn't have Chris Paul, if Arizona doesn't have Mustafa Shakur, if Carolina doesn't have Rashad McCants and Raymond Felton, they're not looking at the Big Dance.  The coaches have to get the players, and given that it's not sure for how long the Top 50 kids will stay in college, the elite teams really have to work hard to find their players.  Perhaps not as hard as the mid- or low-majors, who have to work even harder.  SportsProf is writing this from an internet connection from Paris on a French keyboard, so it is not that easy to type or to figure out how to link.  There was a good article in USA Today about 3 days ago on the July recruiting period, and I recommend that you find it (I think that Dave Sez might have linked to it within the past couple of days).  Basically, college coaches spend the bulk of July moving from tournament to tournament (all of which seemingly are sponsored by the shoe companies) letting their recruits know that they are really interested.

It is easier for the top schools, because they are only looking at between 20 to 30 prospects.  It is harder for the mid- and low-majors, who can look at as many as 100 prospects.  Talk about a grueling summer!

So, you see, it really all is in the preparation. 

It's just that the preparation starts almost 15 months before a rising high school senior becomes a freshman. 

Being a good technician and a good practice coach is one thing, and it's certainly helpful.  But at the end of the day, talent does win out, so in certain respects a DI college b-ball coach does his most important work withstanding the grueling travel and blistering heat of July.