No, this article is not about the Hurricanes’ football team. It is about a basketball program that is embarrassing itself on a constant and consistent basis. Some of us braved the midnight hours last Monday to watch the team play a supposedly quality (too early to tell) Memphis team down to the wire, losing late in a hard fought, yet sloppy game. Reggie Johnson proved himself to be a legitimate big man. Durand Scott and Malcolm Grant, despite critical turnovers, showed promise. Hey, if Memphis is ranked, maybe this year’s group of ‘Canes (who in Frank Haith’s tenure have never finished higher than 5th in the ACC, have made 1 NCAA tournament appearance, 2 NIT appearances, and finished dead last in the conference twice) won’t be that bad.
And then reality hit yesterday, with a sucker punch to the gut. To Haith’s benefit, no one seemed to notice that the Hurricanes embarrassed themselves at Rutgers. With everyone wrapped up in football, talking about a QB controversy, and a lost game to Virginia Tech, the basketball team’s fail slid under the radar. In fact, there isn’t a mention of the basketball game on the Herald’s UM page. But I did notice.
This offseason, we heard that the offense had been changed. Most seasoned UM observers were shocked to discover that the team even had an offense, but change is good. Except there is no change. It’s the same 1-on-1 crap that has come to characterize Haith’s tenure. In a little over 11:30 minutes to open the game on Sunday against Rutgers, the team shot 9 3-pointers, 3 2-pointers, and turned the ball over 8 times, and actually held a 14-10 lead because they made some 3s. But playing that style, we all knew how that game would end, as they seem to end all too often. This is the “new offense”? It looks a lot like the old offense. Turnovers, sputtering, and jacking up 3s. And this is with a dominant post-player, which the ‘Canes have had for a majority of Haith’s tenure. 5 years is enough. The team has no identity and no direction.
The Rutgers game presented an opportunity, and the team didn’t show up. And Haith’s post game comments show that he still doesn’t get it:
“Our backcourt was not good,” Miami coach Frank Haith said. “Guard play wins games and we didn’t play very well. Those guys are important to our success. When they don’t play well it puts a lot of pressure on us offensively.”
Now, he is actually right. In college, guard play does dictate everything. But, you do have a dominant big man. If your backcourt is playing poorly, why do you keep jacking up jumpers? Why were 23 of the 48 shots attempted 3 pointers? That is insane. And, apparently there was an effort problem:
“I thought we looked sluggish,” Haith said. “We didn’t play with any balance, with any enthusiasm. Give Rutgers credit, they played very hard and with a purpose.”
And why should the players play hard? Hell, it’s only a road game at a Big East opponent. They better save up their energy for that barn burner against McNeese State on Wednesday. Evidently, Rutgers wasn’t very impressed with Miami:
“We just played our normal defense and did things we normally do,” Coburn [Rutgers Guard] said. “We know what they like to do well, and if the defender on the ball gets beat, the next person has to be there to help them.”
“I wasn’t really expecting a run [by Miami] with the way we play defense,” Miller [Rutgers Forward] said. “Miami looked like they were confused. Coach Rice kept switching up defenses — he’d call out one defense and we’d switch to another and they’d get all mixed up.”
So, the team is still confused, still has no offensive identity, and can’t handle anything. How is this possible? I think we are seeing the error in the thought process of hiring a “recruiter” to coach basketball at this school. It is and always will be a football school. While, on occasion, we do land a blue chipper such as Durand Scott or Daquan Jones (wasted talent), in reality, the big time recruits don’t want to play basketball at Miami. They go elsewhere and we are stuck with second tier recruits. Which is fine, if we can develop that talent. But we can’t. And therein lies the problem. Having a great recruiter who barely misses on blue chip recruits, then ends up bringing in second tier recruits is no good if the recruiter can’t teach.
It’s still very early in this season, and certainly too early to write it off. But the early returns show no discernible difference between this year’s team, last year’s team, and a majority of the aimless teams that Haith has produced. If this team meanders to the back of the ACC once more, surely a regime change is necessary and warranted. I have my fingers crossed that this team will get its act together. I remember the 99-00 team stinking in the non-conference, then recovering to win the Big East and make the Sweet 16. I don’t expect that type of turnaround, especially in light of the complete lack of direction this team is taking and the apparent apathy that has set in, but one can hope. At this point, hope is all we’ve got, because this team looks just like last year’s last place team, and the stink coming out of this basketball program far outweighs that which is currently emanating from the football program.