The Coaching Situation and The Lady Vols

The Lady Vols were 34 and 3 last year overall - 16 and 0 in the SEC - and made it to the elite eight

This year they are 20 and 8 and 11 and 4 looking at a 3 or 4 seed without winning the SEC Tournament and we are missing Kelly Cain and Angie Bjorklund while adding the point guard everyone said was the key and returning our 3 leading scorers with a healthy Vicki Baugh. Lauren Avant and Lyssi Brewer defected but they did not play much last year.

Nikki Caldwell at LSU already has them in a better position this season even after losing her point guard here at UT They went 19 and 13 and 8 and 8 in 2011 and failed to make the NCAA
Nikki has them at 20 and 8 and 10 and 5 with UGA coming to Baton Rouge
They are on a 6 game winning streak and tied for 3rd in the SEC and are seeded in the Bracketology in Nikki's first year. That's good coaching taking another coach's players and doing better even after losing a critical player.

This was a particularly good performance given the vast improvement in the overall strength of the SEC this year.

Yet the word seems to be from some informed insiders that the choice to elevate Holly Warlick to head coach is a fait accompli.

I like to contrast what Cuonzo Martin has done with a single *should have been HS All American who should still be in HS (Stokes) and the left overs from the Pearl predicament. Since Stokes arrived Cuonzo has these Vols at 9 and 5 and fourth in the SEC headed to SC and LSU that just lost by over 20 to Ol Miss. This team of players few other teams coveted is playing better than expected.

Compare that to 8 High School All Americans coached by a staff with decades of experience and years together and the result they have achieved from 5 seniors, 2 juniors, one amazing sophomore and 3 freshmen. Actually there is no comparison and therein lies the rub.

The loss to Arkansas 2 nights back is the worst case of coaching error I can recall. Yet we heard Pat and Micki Demoss on the radio with Mickey after the game blaming the loss on a lack of energy and effort. Mickey failed to ask a single question that might be perceived as being critical of the coaches. These coaches responded as usual by taking ZERO responsibility for the situation.

The following is a response to the inimitable Maria Cornelius on The SUmmiTT. Maria provides the best coverage of the Lady Vols in great detail and she never has a negative word to say about the coaching decisions nor does she ask them difficult questions. She labeled the posts questioning the coaches as "shrill and tiresome" for reference to this response.

I wonder why I never see a negative word about the coaches in any story in print or online about the team or from Mickey on the radio

John Adams

" Warlick was asked if she had ever been around a team whose individual performances varied so drastically from one game to the next — or, in some cases, from one half to the next. "Frankly, no, I have not," she said. "I see their ability and what they can do. When they don't stay close to their potential, it's frustrating.""They wanted the game more than we did," UT associate head coach Holly Warlick said afterward. She espoused similar sentiments after a 64-60 loss to South Carolina three weeks ago on the same floor.
this is typical and close to the same sentiments voiced by 2 coaches on Mickey's post game wrap up and obviously agreed to by Glory. (but what can she say that would not put her at odds with the authorities?)

I guess the same could be said for everything I've ever seen written here or on ESPN or anywhere else so if this responsibility for poor results is shared then why isn't it covered? Here on the message board or on Rocky Top Talk are the only places where any responsibility is laid on the staff as far as I know. And I pay a lot of attention to these things.

After all I am shrill and tiresome if I choose to voice a futile hope that someone might ask the coaches
A) Why would you sit Meighan after she was the only player with points from the floor in and 8 to 7 game with Ark leading? Couldn't you just ask her to be a bit more accurate in her attempts to force the ball inside as you demanded after those attempts led to turnovers.

B) Meighan made 2 great assists to start the second half getting both Glory and Kinna on the scoreboard for the first time in the game but you made her sit right after that for fumbling one pass out of bounds. Why is that? Could it have been a mistake?

C) Taber and Cierra played a combined 54 mintues to Meighan's 15 and Meighan equaled their scoring from field goal range and had the same number of turnovers as Taber and 2 less than the two of them together. Yet she was benched and they played even though Taber's knee obviously inhibits her ability to stop penetration. Did you think her presence spread the floor because she hit a single 3? Well so did Meighan.

D) Kinna Glory and Meighan are our three top scorers at this point late in the season yet all three rode the pine for at least 10 minutes of the first half. Is that the best way to win basketball games? Or do you truly believe that having Taber and Cierra shooting 5 shots in 45 minutes while being slower, rebounding only 3 times, and providing a single assist is the better way to go to give the team a chance at a win?

NOPE- nobody is going to ask those "shrill and tiresome" questions because we are supposed to accept that the Lady Vols just didn't want it as much as Arkansas or that they "didn't show up"
How can they show up if they are on the bench?

I'm sorry it's shrill and tiresome but this is the clearest case of coaching error I've ever seen and I am one of a very few message board posters who dares to be shrill and tiresome when I think that Meighan and Kinna are being unfairly maligned and condemned for losing a game they were not allowed to win.

So when a VolGT or Teddy R or others choose to bash the players it seems to me a "shrill and tiresome" statistical analysis in retort is a far better way to deal with it than having to make that effort to show the clear difference in those perceptions effectively only to see it erased along with an entire 17 page game thread. The GT's and TR's can't hang with me on the facts but when the result is deleted it does not matter. You think it's shrill and tiresome and I and the many folks that PM me after those comments believe that it's an effective way to stop such nonsense? Keep their mistakes in the open for all to see and maybe they will get the message. Erase them and it's like it never happened.

It's impossible to debate Maria here. I appreciate that her position does not allow for being critical of those she depends on for access. So even if she agreed she could not be proactive in voicing that opinion. But calling me shrill and tiresome doesn't seem reasonable either.

I have always believed Maria is by far the best source of information on this team and her writing skill and detailed coverage of the team is the best of any writer for any team in history. I also appreciate that her position on the Summitt as moderator puts her in the path of a ton of lurkers and part time posters who likely voice strong objection to my opinion about our coaching situation.

But there comes a point where power and authority ends in a corruption when they "can do no wrong" in the eyes of the fans. This is particularly true in a situation where a coaching icon has amassed such an incredible record of success over time. Sadly this does not make them invincible and even hinders a rational self-analysis. We only have one Pat Summitt and her abilities do not extend to her assistants and they rarely have in any coaching situation that is similar.

Sports lost two coaching icons this year - Pat and Paterno both with the most wins ever in their professions. Sadly these things come to an end. That leaves a situation where no matter the longevity and desire or love for a program the new coach has to be judged on her performance RIGHT NOW and nobody seems to be willing to question the decisions in the media or within the staff. So we get this situation where many who want to hold on to the past make the long time assistants untouchable and they are free to blame the team while the team cannot respond in kind. That's where I'm coming from and even though Maria would like to dismiss me as being one sided in this I think you know that's not what this is about. I'm choosing the side that has no voice or rather no freedom to voice what they might be thinking. That will make me appear to be one sided but I see their mistakes and shortcomings too. But it's the coaching staff that has to see them and devise a plan to overcome them that is successful. This staff has failed at that and appears to be free from any dissent or accountability. If that's shrill and tiresome so be it.

The staff is not criticizing themselves and the media is offering no criticism or even asking questions that might lead to some self evaluation. Perhaps they are so used to seeing Pat as the unassailable icon who's 8 National Championships and current situation immunize her from doubt, they have come to believe it applies to them. I think that is very dangerous for this program going forward.

We are in a recruiting slump for 2013 and have only lost a key commitment -Kaela Davis- since the new coaching situation came about. If they stick with the current coaches and we don't land several of the top names on this list it will show a serious lack of recruiting prowess by the current staff.

  • Diamond DeShields 6’2” Norcross HS, GA
  • Tyler Scaife, 5'8 PG, Little Rock, Arkansas
  • Stephanie Mavunga 6’2” F, Brownsburg, IN
  • Mercedes Russell, 6’5” C, Oregon
  • Rebecca "Becca" Greenwell, 6'1 , Owensboro, Ky
  • Taya Reimer, 6'2 forward, Indianapolis, IN
  • Kristina Nelson, 6'3 post, Norcross, Ga.,
  • Alisha Gray 5’11”, Wing, Sandersville, GA
  • Kendall Waters 6’1” PF/SF, San Ramon, CA

I personally believe that 2013 players would feel much better about committing to a younger staff headed by Nikki and Tasha. Particularly given the way things are going this year

Micki was once a great recruiter but Nikki was better. Word is she was asked to leave Texas because she was being ineffective as a recruiter.

I fear for the health of the program without new blood and a serious change at the top if Pat steps aside and I actually think Pat could be more effective as an emeritus participant in practice and for inspiration with someone like NIkki at the helm.

But I think the die is already cast and if that is true and things stay much the same I fear a prolonged slide down to irrelevance that will require far more time to correct down the road.

In my opinion coaching benefits from younger staff without having Pat at full strength.

Next year we lose our top two points and rebound producers along with Vicki Alicia and Bree and we have to hope there are no more defections like Lyssi or Lauren

We can only hope everyone will be excited about coming back because we lose 5 and only add 3 for a team with only 9 available players barring injury and on 6 with any experience. This is not an encouraging picture for next year and a strong 2013 class is a must.

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