Like most young lads, I daydreamed of becoming a professional athlete. Along with that fantasy, I also longed to someday become a coach. While there weren’t as many of us hoping to go this route, it was a great fantasy, none the less. The different sports seemed to offer endless possibilities. As a football coach, I could design the perfect scheme to render the opposing defense or offense obsolete. As a baseball coach, I could spit out wisdom along with my chaw, having seen everything while leaning against the dugout guardrail.
For whatever reason, when I thought of myself as a basketball coach, I pictured the ultimate motivator. A nice Bobby Knight. Or to put into modern terms, a slightly less hyper PJ Fleck. As an adult, I don’t daydream as much as I used to, but occasionally, I still do. Not often enough, if you ask me. So as my mind was wandering today, waiting to pick up the kids from summer camp, I went back to the basketball coach fantasy.
As the kids were winding up their summer fun, my mind drifted into basketball coaching. The NBA finals just finished the night before, and “coaching” up a bunch of men slightly younger than me that are at the top of the profession didn’t really move the meter. I decided to think about coaching young men who are mostly playing the game solely for the love of the game, like they do here in the MAC.
The fantasy world started to merge with the real world, and the question became apparent. If I could wave a magic wand, and become a head coach in the MAC right now, which teams would I want to coach, and why?
Since it’s the off-season, I decided to take this little daydream, and make it a list.
#3 Western Michigan Broncos
I love Steve Hawkins, and I think he does a fantastic job. The way he flipped the Broncos and ended the season with a giant winning streak should have garnered MAC coach of the year recognition and, quite frankly, should have garnered national accolades.
Even in my wildest fantasy, do I think I could do as good of a job as him? No, but as a blogger, that isn’t going to stop me from throwing in my 2 cents on what I would have done different. And to be clear, I don’t think I can do a better job than any of the coaches on the list.
First, Drake LaMont impressed me with his ability to take a demotion and still keep the same effort level. I get that he was coming off injury, and Seth Dugan is a young, up and coming player. I also get that their minutes didn’t really change, and fully appreciate the coaching trickeration that got the most out of both players.
Because LaMont can pass, and the progress Dugan has made, I would like to see both of them on the court at the same time. With both bigs in the game, it would force teams into jumpers. If they are hitting, it’s easy enough to go back to a smaller lineup. If they are not, it would be easy to get high quality shots from a high/low post game. I can envision Dugan cutting to the basket if LaMont is doubled from the top, and if there is rotation, Wilder draining the three. He hit 44% of his shots from beyond the arc, which leads me to my next great idea.
My second change up would be how I use Thomas Wilder. I love his game, and think he is a fantastic player. He reminds me a lot of a former MAC POY, Antonio Daniels. Like Daniels, he isn’t going to blow you away with athletic ability, and he is also a bit of a tweener. Daniels had a giant chip on his shoulder, and that passion drove him to a long NBA career. Like Wilder, he was a little too big to keep up with the faster 6 footers, but not so big to just completely bull them over. The NBA in it’s current form doesn’t really have a lot of pure point guards, and that’s good news for Wilder. I think Daniels would be better suited for this newer, freer NBA. I would love to see Wilder fire off more shots and take the ball to the basket with the intent to score, not just to improve his draft status, but also to see how it affects the current WMU squad.
Reggie Jones sparks my interest, and could be that “point forward” that runs the show, while freeing up Wilder to score. It’s the modern NBA formula, and would probably work quite well in the MAC. The writing is on the wall that this guy is going to be one of the great players in the league, and it will be fun to watch him progress, even if I am not the head man in Kalamazoo.
#2 Buffalo Bulls
The athletic department has been hit with cuts, the football team was down, and I get the feeling that the university could use a boost to help with morale. The basketball team provides the perfect opportunity to do exactly that. Well, both basketball teams, actually, and I’ll be doing a women’s list in the near future, too.
For the men, the roster is loaded, and I am really impressed with Nick Perkins and CJ Massinburg. I like the team’s style of play, with one glaring exception. They settle for too many jumpers. I am not opposed to jumpers, but I would like to see them try to get the ball to the rim at least once every possession. If they have to kick it out and want to bombs away after that, awesome.
I love the way they run the floor, and how they play defense. Where they would get into trouble last year was extended cold streaks, which would then affect every aspect of the game. Eliminate that, and they have a real shot at the MAC title.
#1 Ball State Cardinals
What’s not to love about this team. They are in basketball rich Indiana, have a loaded roster, and it seems like they are acquiring more talent daily.
Tayler Persons plays like he is 30, and does a fantastic job controlling the action on the floor. Trey Moses is a big body that gives maximum effort on both sides of the floor, and Tahjai Teague has an enormous ceiling. Those three are going to be juniors, and then throw in Mizzou transfer KJ Walton, that 2018 Cardinals team could be something really special.
Throughout the entire conference, there is a lot of young talent, and there really isn’t a bad job right now. Well there is one, but no need to kick them while they are down.
It was hard to leave Bowling Green off the list, because of the young talent, and huge recruiting class they have coming in. Coaching Jason Carter in Athens, and Eugene Germany in DeKalb would also be fun. In fact, it will be fun watching those two, and all the rest of the young talent in the conference. MAC shootyhoops is trending up, baby!