Home > Sports > Unsolicited (and a little sarcastic) advice for Dook

Unsolicited (and a little sarcastic) advice for Dook

After last night’s near-debacle in which the Dookies narrowly escaped being only the fifth #2 seed to lose in the first round of the NCAA Tournament, I realized that the fair university in Durham needs some help. Nobody outside of a handful of journalists will take Coach K to task for his recent inability to develop a bench, nurture post players, enact a decent schedule to challenge his players on the road and somehow stem the recurring late-season collapse.

But, me? I’ve got a blog, a few extra minutes and an attitude. Plus, I met Coach K once, and he was an ass to me. So, screw it… since nobody’s going to heed this advice anyway, here’s what Dook has to do to get its program back on track.

Figure out how to cultivate all that damn talent. In one of the articles I read prior to the NCAA Tourney, one of the pieces of advice it gave about picking a decent bracket is to make sure that your champion has at least one McDonald’s All-American. It then said that Dook was a safe pick, because it has eight.

Now, stay with me. Why, if there are eight can’t-miss prospects, are there only six players capable of competing at the highest levels? Why isn’t Nolan Smith able to play meaningful minutes? Wouldn’t Eric Boatang help this squad – except he got shoved to the end of the bench and left the program in a huff?

Look, the track record of K as a motivator and a basketball “CEO” can’t be disputed. He’s not just a coach… he’s a leader.  Blah blah blah.  But, I’m wondering if he needs to hire some assistants to, you know, teach his players. Maybe somebody other than Wojo to coach the big man so that Brian Zoubek can at least reach the level of a poor man’s Taymon Domzalski. And that’s the most back-handed compliment that’s ever been issued.

Get serious about conditioning. I’m not sure if anyone else has ever brought this up, but why are Dook players always so damn tired at the end of a game? And, more importantly, why do they get a pass for being completely exhausted? Last night, the CBS crew just went on and on about how “heavy legged” Dook looked, and the word “gassed” came up from time to time. Since Coach K is unable to cultivate that bench, his players HAVE to be able to play huge minutes without looking like zombies in the last five minutes.

But, I got to thinking… are Dook players really playing that much by comparison to other programs? I averaged the minutes played for the top five players (in terms of minutes per game) for the teams that finished in the top half of the conference. Why the top five? Since we routinely hear that Dook has no bench (even though there must be three McNugget All-Stars on the pine), I wanted to see just how much those top five were playing. Check out the results:

  • Maryland – 31.8 minutes per game
  • Virginia Tech – 28.9 mpg
  • Clemson – 28.3 mpg
  • Dook – 28.3 mpg
  • UNC – 28.0 mpg
  • Miami – 26.0 mpg

Dook’s “real” starting five (Paulus, Singler, Nelson, Henderson and Scheyer) is tied for third in that sample. So, we can dispense with the notion that Dook players are putting in longer hours on the hardwood. And, we can safely say that Dook isn’t playing any faster or harder than other teams, since it would be hard to see another team run faster than UNC or fight harder than Maryland or VaTech.

Which leads me to conditioning. Are Dook players fit enough to compete at this level the entire season? While Coach K is saving USA basketball single-handedly (with a bit of help from LeBron and Kobe), are the kids giving 110% in the weight room? Are they doing the roadwork and running the gassers on the same level of other teams? I’m not saying they’re out of shape, but maybe they’re not as fit as they need to me. What else could it be?

I remember seeing a feature about UNC players getting ready for the 2007-08 season by playing a version of sand volleyball, but using a medicine ball. The object was to catch and throw the medicine ball over the net in a single motion. You’re running through sand and catching a heavy ball. Think about it… it’s a killer on the abs and a good fitness test all-around. Maybe UNC should challenge Dook to a game. Chances are, Scheyer would be puking his guts up in 15 minutes.

Stop with the histrionics. Seriously, we know Dook is a brotherhood and a closeknit fraternal order and all that crap, but it’s gotten out of hand. Look at their home game against UNC this year. Dook was so emotional and overwrought at the beginning of the game (“win it for DeMarcus or else!”) that by halftime, their tanks were already on E. A little emotion is a good thing, but K has gotten his team into some sort of chaotic, co-dependent nightmare where their fallback is to use raw emotion as a substitute for poise and execution. Every loose ball, every drawn charge, every strategic timeout is a point of celebration. And I fear it’s draining.

The solution? Either make the game more fun or treat it like a business. The “more fun” angle is intriguing, but it’s doubtful they’d swing in that direction. However, if the Dookies like to compare themselves to other (also hated) flagship sports franchises like the Celtics or the Yankees, they should adopt the classic attitude of these teams: We’re here to win… everything else is just noise. Think about it, did Bill Russell ever wax philosophic about being a hated player, as Paulus has? No, he just played to win. Did DiMaggio need a crazed Phil Rizzuto standing on the dugout steps exhorting him every time he legged out a double? No, he just played to win.

Dook needs to cut the crap, and play to win. That’s one of the things that made the back-to-back championship teams of Laettner and Hurley so good. Sure, they had a little of that Dook zest/arrogance, but they were all about winning. Grant Hill was always focused and determined. His most likely counterpart at Dook today, Henderson, still seems a bit bemused by the game and as easy distracted a three-month-old kitten. Just play to win. When you do, your big white guys on the bench can THEN roar with delight.

Anyway, let’s hope the madness keeps up and Dook finds a way to lose. Because even though I’m giving them advice, I’m quite happy with the way things stand right now.

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Categories: Sports
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  1. January 4, 2010 at 1:02 am

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