Tuesday, March 02, 1999

CONFERENCE-USA NOTEBOOK


Twenty victories a season not enough at Marquette

BY MIKE DeCOURCY
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        Think you've got a tough boss?

        Try working for Marquette Athletic Director Bill Cords.

        Within the next couple weeks, if the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel is correct, Cords will fire Golden Eagles coach Mike Deane after he has collected 100 victories and four postseason berths in five seasons. Cords is the same athletic director who helped make former coach Kevin O'Neill's life miserable during his stay in Milwaukee.

        Deane was known to be in some jeopardy of losing his job before Marquette defeated Cincinnati last month, but indications were that game stabilized the situation. However, Cords reportedly told university President Robert Wild the game would change nothing.

        Monday, Deane declined to comment about his situation except to say it was “a distraction” as the Golden Eagles (14-14) prepare for a first-round Ohio Casualty Group Conference USA tournament game Wednesday against Saint Louis.

        Deane is candidate for coaching jobs at Nevada and Holy Cross, where alumnus Rod Baker, a UC assistant, also is a candidate along with Pitt coach Ralph Willard. Deane could return to Siena, where he coached before he arrived at Marquette, if current coach Paul Hewitt lands another job.

        In his past dozen years as a coach, Deane has won 20 or more games eight times. In his first four years at Marquette, the Golden Eagles made the NIT twice and the NCAA Tournament twice.

        In the five seasons since Deane arrived at Marquette, no other coach was able to defeat conference power Cincinnati each year. He is 5-7 against the Bearcats. Louisville coach Denny Crum, in that same period, was 2-6.

        Essentially, Deane will be fired for being an ineffective recruiter, which is partially a product of his insistence upon signing only players he believed had an opportunity to graduate from Marquette. He declined to compromise his principles.

        Many of the players Deane signed have a future in C-USA: sophomore shooting guard Brian Wardle, freshman point guard Cordell Henry, freshman power forwards Oluoma Nnamaka and Jon Harris.

        This team finished .500 even with only two upperclassmen — senior forward Mike Bargen and junior guard John Cliff — making contributions and having lost his most valuable player, senior center Jarrod Lovette, with clinical depression after 11 games.

        TO ERR IS HUMAN: Coaches sometimes have trouble admitting when they make a mistake. In the case of the format for the Conference USA tournament, they admit a mistake was made, but none of the league's coaches is eager to admit it was theirs.

        When the league was split into two divisions, the coaches voted to award byes to the top two finishers in each division rather than award one to each division champion and the other two to the teams with the best records.

        As a result, Southern Mississippi got a bye as the second-place team in the National Division despite a 6-10 record that would have tied Marquette for sixth in the American Division.

        “I want to investigate how that came about,” said DePaul coach Pat Kennedy. “It does look a little weird that one of our top seeds is 6-10 in league play.”

        Even USM coach James Green admits his team got a break. “We've definitely got to look at doing it a different way. This year, we like it, but we've got to be fair enough, open-minded enough to look at see if there's a better way to do it.”

        AROUND THE LEAGUE: Kennedy said all-league forward Quentin Richardson would not practice Monday or today because of a low-grade ankle sprain that knocked him out of Saturday's game against UNC Charlotte but would be ready to play in Wednesday's first-round game against Tulane.

        • Crum said he knew the game that cost his team a co-championship in C-USA — a 59-58 loss to Southern Mississippi — was going to be trouble when he looked at his team before the game.

        “I had the feeling our team wasn't ready to play,” he said. “I just wasn't able to get them fired up. They just played so well against UAB, I think they felt all they had to do was show up and win.”

        • UAB coach Murry Bartow said he will not feel the pressure, as host coach, to win in order to improve ticket sales at the C-USA tournament.

        “My No.1 concern is just about our team,” he said. “We're sitting here with 19 wins, and obviously that's not the magic number. We need to do better than that.”

        • Kennedy said he was “absolutely ecstatic” watching College of Charleston and Murray State come from behind to win automatic NCAA Tournament bids in their conference title games. Each might have grabbed an at-large spot if it lost.

       



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