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A Quick Response to a Commenter

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I had a commenter register his opinion on one of my posts concerning the all time wins record which Bob Knight passed earlier this month. Usually I respond with the comments section, if at all, unless they offer up something exceptionally insightful or relatively asinine. Unfortunately for this guy, his was the latter and I felt it neccesitated a public response. Here is the comment:

I understand you like Dean better than Bobby, but as for pure coaching, Dean under-achieved as a coach in comparison. Dean had far better talent than Bobby. Bobby won championships with only one true star (Thomas in 81). Dean’s 2 championships were both won on flukes. G’town with freddy brown throwing the ball to wrong player and Webb calling timeout with none left. two of the biggest blunders in NCAA history. Dean was GIVEN 2 championships, he could have none with all those HOF players. Give Dean Bobby’s talent and he has 0 championships. Give Bobby Dean’s talent and he may have 10 championships. There is no comparison in who is the better coach. Bobby over Dean all day.

Now, I think the talent argument is debatable. To say Knight only had one true star is selling the talent at IU short during the Knight years when you consider he also had guys like Quinn Buckner and Scott May who played on the undefeated 1976 team plus others who were considered great college basketball players. According to the IU media guide, there were 16 different players named All American during the 27 years Knight was the head coach there. During the 36 years of Dean Smith he had 24 All Americans who were named on any AP All American team. So, while Dean Smith did have more talent in house, it was not by much and certainly not enough to give Smith a discernible advanatage of Knight. I think stating that Knight would have won 10 titles with Smith's teams and Smith would have zero with Knight's is quite frankly overly simplistic. And the reason I now that is that Coach K is perhaps an example of Knight's coaching with Smith's talent and his titles record is only one better than Smith with one less Final Four on his resume.

However, the part of the argument which really raised my ire was the assertion that Dean Smith's national titles were both flukes and therefore not actually earned on the court. Obviously the commenter does not know that UNC fans have been hearing this stuff for years and it usually comes from Wolfpack fans. And since he is operating on such a level of ignorance let's review what transpired in those two games.

1982 NCAA Champioship

UNC trailed by one at halftime but shot 11 for 18 from the floor in the second stanza and after Michael Jordan hit the go ahead jumper with 17 seconds left it was 63-62. Georgetown's Freddy Brown brought the ball frontcourt with John Thompson opting not to call a timeout with the clock waning. Brown picks up his dribble above the key and it is obvious he is panicked as to what he should do next. Jordan actually steps up in the lane and cuts off an passing lane to the paint at which point James Worthy reacts to a fake pass from Brown and flashes out running almost to midcourt. Brown sees this out of the corner of his eye and then passes the ball right to Worthy who attempts run the clock out but is fouled with two seconds left.

It is important to remember one thing: UNC was leading when all of this transpired. Jordan hit the clutch shot and all UNC had to do was play about 10 more seconds of lockdown defense and they walk out of there national champions. I would argue that they did exactly that which is what caused Brown to make such an egregious mistake. Aside from all of that what difference does it make how Brown screwed up there? Whether he throws the ball to Worthy, out of bounds, or someone misses a shot, by no means does that lead to the conclusion that UNC somehow had the game "given" to them. The pressure and obligation was still on the Hoyas to actually make a shot and win the game. They failed to do that just as Syracuse failed to come back and win the game after the Keith Smart shot in 1987.

1993 NCAA Championship

This is actually much simpler. UNC is leading 73-71 when UNC forward Pat Sullivan misses the back end of a one and one with 19 seconds left. Michigan's Chris Webber rebounds the ball and then in a confused moment drag his pivot foot before starting to dribble which is not called by the referee. He the dribbles himself down into the right corner where he is immediately trapped by the two best defenders UNC has in the persons of George Lynch and Derrick Phelps. Since Webber realized there was no way he would be able to get the ball out of the corner he called a timeout Michigan did not have which resulted in a technical foul. Donald Williams sinks four straight free throws to bring his point total to 25 for the second straight game(which was probably also a fluke in the mind of the commenter.) It also should be noted that UNC had three fouls to give there and could have easily burned most of the remaining 11 seconds by playing aggressive defense or just fouling three times. So, just like 1982, UNC was ahead in the game needing only to play good defense to walk out of the Superdome the national champion. They did just that by forcing Webber down in the corner where he could not get a pass out. Webber actually traveled before we even reached that point but the ref missed the call so what ended up happening actually bailed the refs out for botching that call.

The point is in both situations UNC earned the win in every way that counted. They had the lead late in the game with only a good defensive stand between them and the national championship. If anything I think it is more of a case of the two respective players choking the game away or botching their team's chance to attempt to tie or win the game rather than it being "given" to UNC/Dean Smith.

So I have no problem with someone arguing Knight over Smith on various levels. That is the great thing about sports is that there are such debates. However, I would think if Knight is truly better than Smith then you should be able to argue the point without resorting to arguments as ignorant and devoid of common sense as those labeling the titles under Smith as flukes.