Last night I was reading over Ninjames' well written piece about his changing feelings about Mike Singletary's status as head coach of the San Francisco 49ers when I came to some startling revelations. I thought about writing this piece last night, but decided to think on it some more before moving forward. Now that I've gathered my thoughts, I want to lay out for you the comparisons I have now made between Coach Sing and the former coach of my favorite college basketball team: Billy Gillispie.
I know that many around here are football fans first and foremost and likely have very little knowledge of who Billy Gillispie was. Those that do know probably just know the surface of the matter and think that he was fired from college basketball's all time winningest program just because he didn't win enough. Without getting too much into old news, I will lay out the groundwork for my post. First you must understand the situation he was hired into. Over the previous 8 years, Kentucky had slipped from 3 straight title games (with 2 wins) to the point that they were losing in the second round of the NCAA tourney. The program was on the cusp of the longest stretch without a Final Four in school history. In that atmosphere, head coach and all around nice guy Tubby Smith left for Minnesota. The school bungled a coaching search and in an effort to avoid further "no" answers wound up hiring the up and coming head coach from Texas A&M Billy Gillispie. Two years later, he was fired.
Follow me after the jump and I will explain why I see some alarming parallels between the 49ers head coach and this fallen basketball star.
First... both were hired with little real knowledge of their coaching accumen. Gillispie (to his credit) had a reputation for turning around flailing programs and getting them to the NCAA tournament, but he had less than 5 years of experience as a head coach before being picked to sit in the head chair of basketball royalty. Singletary (as mentioned by Ninjames) had a background as a motivational speaker before getting minimal coaching experience as a linebackers coach. In both situations, the hire was made in a near knee jerk reaction without really delving into just <em>what kind of a coach they will be.</em>
Second... both stuck to their outdated gameplan regardless of the personnel they put on the field/court. Billy Gillispie inherited a team without a lot of depth and little athleticism. Despite the fact that he routinely faced teams with quicker and more athletic players, he stubbornly refused to ever consider playing a zone defense to equalize the talent levels. On offense he insisted on forcing the ball into the post to future lottery pick Patrick Patterson despite the fact that he had no point guard (more on that in a bit) to get it there. Coach Singletary has an overmatched defense that he insists on trying to mold into the 85 Bears despite not having the personnel to get it done. On offense, he insists on running all-pro Frank Gore into the middle of the line despite the fact that he has no way of opening holes for him.
Third... the post loss mantra. For Gillispie it was always "Well, we just have to play tougher." For Singletary it is "We have to look at the film." Both tell you absolutely nothing and both leave fans feeling like their coach really doesn't know what the problem was.
Fourth... both lack a playmaker to initiate their offense. For Gillispie he was forced to ask (former California high school star) Michael Porter to play the point guard position when he was really recruited as a back up shooting guard. Despite the fact that Porter had problems with turnovers and eventually became scared to take the open shot, Gillispie never seriously looked at developing other talents or finding new gameplans that utilized Porter's skills. Singletary has Alex Smith. I think I don't have to go much more into it, but Smith was a great talent at the lower level of competition; he also displays turnover problems and often seems scared to pull the trigger on a big play.
Fifth... bizarre locker room antics. Singletary famously mooned his team at halftime of a game (and was somehow lauded for this). Gillispie forced Josh Harrelson to sit in a toilet stall for the entire halftime of a game because he said that's where his game belonged. He also tried to make freshman Darius Miller walk back to the hotel from a game instead of riding the team bus.
Sixth... this is where I started noticing the slide for me. We, as fans, grasp at straws and make inspirational seeming posters online at the Obamicon website. I saw the Troy Smith "Hope" poster and it was eerily reminiscent of this piece I put together:
I, like many others, supported Billy Gillispie and kept arguing and arguing and arguing that he just needed another year or two to turn it around and get the team to play with his attitude and passion. What I saw was a team that quit on their coach. No matter how much I <em>wanted</em> Gillispie to be the coach I thought he could be... it quickly became obvious that in the areas of talent evaluation and gametime coaching, he was tragically overmatched. I'm still convinced that he could be a successful coach at a mid level D1 program, but it became tragically obvious to me that he was ill-equipped to lead one of the most storied programs in college basketball history.
Now I am sadly faced with the same quandry. I <em>wanted</em> Singletary to be successful. I <em>wanted</em> his old school toughness and attitude to carry the day. What I am seeing instead is a coach that is in over his head. A coach that is unable to make halftime adjustments. A coach that refuses to mold his gameplan to the talent he has. A coach that is ill-equipped to lead one of the most storied programs in NFL history.
Coach Singletary, I wish you the best... but I think it has come time for me to face the fact that you are just another Billy Gillispie in my life.