Monday, February 09, 2009

Ten Steps to Success

An anonymous poster mentioned a nice idea for a post and I am following through with it. So here they are, my ten steps to building the Irish into a national power.

10. Historical Rivalries- Restarting the UCLA series was a great idea. With Marquette and DePaul now in the Big East, our nonconference games have turned into a variety of easy opponents and one or two hot programs. Let's reintroduce a good home-and-home series (in addition to the Bruins) that taps into the success of the past. Dayton is a good one, being Catholic and a solid mid-major school, but they are tough to play at home and could be seen as a bad loss. Other ideas are Kentucky (big in the 60s and 70s) and Michigan State (played almost every year from 1908 to 1975).

9. Local Rivalries- Building off the last point and venturing into my "public relations" portion of the post, I'd like to see us reach out more to the townies. Bringing in an Indiana (played from 1946-2001), Purdue (1930-1966), or Butler (1922-1977) will energize the local fan base and sell out at least that one game. They're big draws for the South Bend area and have a lot of historical meaning.

8. Better Advertising- In addition, we need to work on promoting basketball games earlier in the season to see the Joyce Center fill up. The JACC can be one of the best places to play in the country when it is full in a big game. When we're playing the Little Sisters of the Poor, it's a graveyard. Tap into local support and try to sell out games year-round.

7. Ticket Distribution- Everyone knows that the gold seats remain half-empty even in big games. Hopefully the creation of a press box will keep the big donors away from the seating areas. With a smaller capacity next season, emphasis must be placed on selling tickets to fans who will actually show up to the game.

6. Open Pocketbook- To be successful, the basketball program needs full support from the board of trustees. That means allocating money. If we need a new coach, let's find the best one possible and pay him a competitive salary. We can pay two or three head coaches at a time for football, so let's make the hoops program more attractive with a strong financial reward for success.

5. Smarter Scheduling- Notre Dame played one of the toughest schedules in the country but you'd never know it by looking at the stats. Our strength of schedule is awful, hurting our RPI and tournament chances. I like playing a couple big programs a year, but more important is how you schedule the cupcakes. Louisville played a bunch of teams in the top 100 (5 to our 3). We played a bunch of teams in the 300s (5, the Cards had no one worse than 252nd). Schedule a solid group of midmajors ranked between 100-200 for your easy games, a couple at the bottom of the double digits, and one or two big games. Sure, you might slip up here and there, but you'll be better off in the long run (Louisville is tied for first in the Big East after three nonconference losses).

4. Attention to Defense- Rick Pitino's squad is another good example here. Defense wins championships. I love Coach Brey's teams when they score, but that is no way to build a championship caliber program. At the very least, the effort has to be there to consistently produce a top 25 defending team. The offense will suffer a little, but we will see some success in March.

3. Recruiting Mindset- In addition to the two big items which I have yet to address, the Irish need to work on building up their talent base. This has been argued before and there are some other factors that go into it (see step #1 and #2), but the overall talent level has to grow a bit. Zach Hillesland and Ryan Ayers would never see playing time at a true national power. Let's crack into the four star ranks a bit more and also build a well-rounded lineup. Not just big white guys who can shoot, playing a couple athletic types (more like Carleton Scott) will allow for better production from a Kyle McAlarney or Luke Harangody.

2. Practice Facilities- This may in fact be a prerequisite to recruiting success. High school seniors know what they like. They like the new Guglielmino Athletic Complex. They don't like The Pit. Rumor is that the hockey team will get updated locker rooms and the like, opening the door for a possible North Dome expansion to include training facilities for basketball. They need to be state-of-the-art if we want to reach the level of quality at basketball schools.

1. Loosen Academic Standards- This may raise a red flag to some, but it needs to happen. I'm not saying we should let in every kid with a GED and some game, there just has to be consistency between the programs. Football gets far more concessions including, though they'll never admit it, three or four scholarships regardless of academic standing (see Golden Tate). If a player is willing to work hard in his classes and be a model citizen, let him in. It's no secret that many very talented basketball players come from poorer backgrounds with little access to the secondary education in the world. If a guy can come in and get a college degree from a better institution than he could otherwise attend, all the better.


BlackandGreen said...

You'll notice that I did not mention depth of our rotation. I don't mind going seven or eight deep (provided you give enough minutes to the bench) if those players are producing. I do have a problem with playing ineffective veterans at the expense of younger guys.

Also, I hope you don't take the shot at Golden Tate as anything personal. He's a fantastic football player and seems to be a very good ambassador for the University.

Anonymous said...

My 10:

1. Facilities - hell the University has a huge endowment and is 'officially' not affected by the economic downturn because of their policy of pre-budgeting all building projects... So go to town - it'll help stimulate what I'm sure is a very depressed regional economy [given the 15.3% unemployment rate in Elkhart]. It's at the very least patriotic.

2. Free up money for Brey hire some top flight assistant coaches.

3. Recruit at least 1 3-4 star banger and 1 3-4 star slasher [be it a 2 or 3] per year.

4. Extend the rotation to a definite 8 with 9-10 when the talent level is there.

5. Keep the Euro-style flow on offense and bring in at least 1-2 recruits per year that can play that [complementing the recruitment mentioned above], but make it clear to all players that if they slack on defense there is someone behind them that will take their place.

6. Get the ACC teams back too. When I was growing up, we played North Carolina and Duke every year. Granted, the conference schedule would prohibit maintaining that high a caliber each year - but at least alternate years - same with Indiana.

7. Bring back the '80's uniforms. I hate the butt and shoulder hugging crap.

This list is eerily similar to yours, so I'll stop now...

Craig said...

The new rumor with hockey is actually that they've gone back to pushing a whole new building, which would open up the entire north dome for basketball.

BlackandGreen said...

That would be the best-case scenario. Hockey gets to play without any problem until the new building goes up and the hoops team is able to expand as much as possible.

Anonymous said...


In one step you say recruit bangers and in another you say continue the Euro style offense and make sure they play D, by the way. Mutually exclusive my friend.

Anonymous said...

Man, Tom Crean gets it. What he is doing this year will lay the foundation for lots of success in Bloomington. Appears to be the perfect hire for that situation.

Anonymous said...

Anon - not really

Have you ever watched the Argentinian national team play? [Not Europe granted, but definitely the blueprint for 'Euro' success against NBA teams.]

Anonymous said...


Apples and oranges. I think K showed what we can do with preparation and proper coaching - sans the Euro ball nonsense. Argentina was not in the final if I remember correctly. Zeller and Ayers are players on our roster who most fit the Euro style - sorry, count me out. I want the 6'9" kids from Detroit who relentlessly attack the basket on both sides of the court. Don't say we can't get those kids. If you believe that then you believe we are destined for programmed mediocrity.

Anonymous said...

I actually prefer the European game - and there are plenty of bangers in that game as well [the Gasol brothers come to mind] - just more finesse, ball control and passing. I find it a more entertaining and compelling mix... I guess I just like team basketball.

Think about the Argentian teams from 5 years ago with Ginobili, Scola, Oberto [the latter two definitely fit the banger mode]. That's what I'd like to see at ND and I think it would be successful.

Anonymous said...

Man, you really love that Argentinian stuff. Myself, I like winning basketball as defined on college campuses in the United States. As a former banger myself I like tough, hard-nosed basketball as well. I like Tom Crean and the style he brings. His big men were tough at Marquette and will be at IU. They contest every shot and bang the O boards on every shot. They announce to their opposition, through their play, that they are going to be there all night. Do we have anyone that does that? Is it not crystal clear that trying to simply outscore the opposition is a flawed business plan?

Anonymous said...

Anon -

I guess we always gravitate toward our own game... I used to be a dead eye shooter with a great first step...

I do like lock down defensive teams though too. I was a big fan of the Knicks during the Van Gundy era.

But either way - I think there is an elegance to the team game which is why I think having a mix of players that can bring different styles but mesh well would be my ideal.

Anonymous said...

Well said Lucid. I think Red Holzman's Knicks (dating myself)played an elegant style but did not give up toughness. The epic battles between DeBusschere and Gus Johnson are not replicated today, nor are the toughness and courage of Willis Reed and Wes Unseld.

Not so high on Van Gundy's group due to Ewing's refusal to subjugate individual stats for the good of the team. Ewing never became the Bill Russell type defensive player that the Knicks thought they were getting.

Anonymous said...

Yeah - the Van Gundy teams cannot compare to the Holzman era... alas I wasn't born yet. For their flaws though, those teams did play great team defense - games were usually in the 80's and rarely hit the century mark. Players like Johnson and Thomas in their prime would just muscle opposing players out of the box & Spree was an excellent wing defender jumping passing lanes, etc.

BlackandGreen said...

Love the banter and I think you are both approaching the correct result, albeit from different angles. A team that bangs down low and generates open looks outside while playing shutdown defense is a team that wins championships.

We're a team that plays Euro-style offense (and plays it pretty well, with a top 10 efficiency) but can't defend worth a damn. European teams didn't catch up to the US in the earlier part of the decade by just improving their shots. Every player on the squad contributes on each end of the floor.

Anonymous said...

Good analysis.... you should email this to the new Athletic Director with a copy to Mr. Dick Notebart, the Chairman of the Board of Trustees at ND. I have seen him attend a couple of ND men's basketball games this year. He's a fan and he must be as interested as the rest of us in getting this program more competitive.

As for the AD, he's probably appreciate the help!

Anonymous said...

We need to bring Marvin in to motivate. The look on Geoff McDermott's face is priceless. Marvin is practicing a bit of revisionist history - but hey, I like his fire.

Anonymous said...

We must upgrade our December schedule. Those games do nothing for anybody except for the opposing school pocketing a check. Some of those teams were so bad my son laughed out loud during the games. The 100-200 dynamic is on the mark. Teams from conferences like the CAA (Richmond, Drexel, VCU etc.). Brey won't even throw Delaware a bone, and they have been terrible.