Print and Go Back ESPN.com: Katz [Print without images]

Thursday, April 1, 2010
When is there culpability for ADs?


INDIANAPOLIS -- When will athletic directors and presidents be held to similar standards as coaches?

Holy Cross athletic director Dick Regan hired then-Notre Dame assistant coach Sean Kearney after Ralph Willard abruptly left to be Rick Pitino's assistant at Louisville last summer.

On Tuesday, Regan fired Kearney and is set to pay him his final three years' salary, roughly close to $500,000 overall. That's not chump change for a program in the Patriot League like Holy Cross, especially in these cost-cutting times at institutions across the country.

Regan said the team underachieved after being picked as the league's preseason favorite.

It did. That's well documented.

The other assertion is that Kearney didn't get along with his players, a charge that he denies. Regan said he wanted to make a change before it was too late. If Kearney was the wrong coach then, where is the culpability for Regan? Is he perhaps the wrong athletic director?

Regan said he went against his better judgment when he hired Kearney. He wanted a coach with head-coaching experience. So that's the direction he's going to go this time, he said. As an athletic director, Regan is allowed to make a mistake and correct it.

At Boston College, Gene DeFilippo has taken subtle jabs at former coach Al Skinner by saying how much he wants a coach who can work 24/7, whose players dive on the floor, and who interacts with students more so they attend games. The latter description doesn't fit most coaches, except someone like BC alumnus Bruce Pearl, who isn't going to leave Tennessee.

But the most absurd statement DeFilippo made during Skinner's firing (let's call it what it was and not hide behind a mutual agreement, as Skinner and his staff were blindsided and just days before were in Los Angeles recruiting against UCLA for a key guard for next season) was when he asked how many coaches, like Skinner, have been at a school for 13 years. Really? Are there term limits for college basketball coaches because if there are, I'm not aware of any. If that's the case, there should be term limits for athletic directors, too. DeFilippo has turned over the football and men's and women's basketball programs within the last few years. When is there culpability for the AD, too?

One thing about Skinner that needs to be defended is his work ethic. He has a tight-knit group of friends and might come across as aloof at times. But if you're allowed to watch games, to talk hoops, to observe practice as I was at times, then you'll see just how intense he is about the game and how well-versed he is in all the sport's nuances. Skinner does a great job at practice of being the CEO, sitting and standing to observe position, decision-making and passing within his flex offense. Countless times Skinner would make corrections, offer encouragement and question moves by his players. The players had an immense amount of respect for Skinner and at the same time his persona and presence allowed for a bit of intimidation that the players had to respect.

How many athletic directors truly spend time sitting with their coaches, watching tapes of games and discussing tactics to understand how the coach thinks and acts? How many just hang out after a game to get to know the coach and his habits?

Holy Cross and Boston College are private institutions so buyout money isn't going to be a state taxpayer issue. Still, making moves and shuffling funds off for a new start should always be questioned. If it were such a nonissue for these schools, then why even bother with long-term contracts?

Iowa made its decision to fire Todd Lickliter just three seasons after he arrived. Now the Hawkeyes are moving to a different style of play under new hire/former Siena coach Fran McCaffery. I'm not against making these moves, but it's odd how they always seem to be isolated to only coaches, and there is no one above the coach who has to also take responsibility for a failure.

• Big Ten commissioner Jim Delany didn't comment about the possibility of a 96-team tournament because he suddenly believes it's the best thing. Delany's characterization of tournament expansion as "probable" indicates it will likely happen, and he wants to get on board while the movement is toward expansion occurring.

At issue with the 96-team tournament isn't necessarily the drama of the actual event, but rather how much less anticipation there will be for the regular season. How can we get excited about November tournaments when most of the teams will find a way to get into the Dance in March?

I can't see why there would be a need for any power-six conference tournaments if the field expands to 96. Why would you need to go to New York for a 16-team Big East tournament after a grueling two-month conference season only to see three-fourths of the teams move onto the 96-team bracket? What's the point? The lower-level and mid-major conferences should do the same. Just anoint your regular-season champ as the automatic qualifier, and if your second- or third-place teams warrant at-large berths, then they will receive them as well.

I'm now starting to believe 96 will happen, but more likely in 2014, when there will be a new television contract with either CBS or a different partner, than in 2011. This would allow the television and NCAA sides to figure out what to do with the regular season and conference tournaments.

• Morgan State coach Todd Bozeman has done a wonderful job resurrecting the Bears with two straight NCAA tournament appearances. Bozeman got his second chance at Morgan State, and as he pursues possible openings, athletic directors should look at the job he has done there rather than bringing up the violations at Cal from more than a decade ago.