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Monday, March 26, 2007

Hire Starkey and don't look back

Hire Bob Starkey now!

LSU athletic director Skip Bertman's search for a new women's basketball coach should not have to exceed the elevator ride from his office in the LSU administration building to Bob Starkey's.

LSU has looked impressive in reaching its three previous Final Fours, but it never looked this good. It never beat the No. 1 seed to get there. Make that humiliated the No. 1 seed to get there.

And make sure you remember that No. 1 seed was Connecticut - the big bad wolf of the women's college basketball world.

The Lady Tigers of interim coach Bob Starkey looked like classic UConn itself in rolling UConn and the game's best coach - Geno Auriemma - 73-50 in the championship game of the Fresno Regional Monday night in Fresno, Calif.

Auriemma, who is usually one of the more animated coaches in either the men's or women's game, was subdued the whole game. He knew he was beat. LSU, showing much more emotion and energy than its opponent, took a quick, big lead early, and that was it. The mighty UConn never threatened.

Since the LSU women are 0-3 in Final Fours and this was the highest seed LSU has defeated to get to a Final Four, this might have been the Lady Tigers' finest hour.

For goodness sake, they hit 7-of-10 shots from 3-point range! This was the women. Center Sylvia Fowles toyed with the kingpin of the women's game like it was a first round directional school. She blocked six shots.

The Lady Tigers looked awesome under former coach Pokey Chatman as well in going to Final Fours the previous three years, but those teams had more talent than this one. They had Seimone Augustus and Temeka Johnson.

There's something about this offense since Starkey took over. In the four games Starkey has coached, LSU has shot 45 percent or better from 3-point range three times - 70 percent against UConn, 45 percent (5-of-11) against Florida State and 50 percent (9-of-18) against North Carolina-Asheville.

In the last 14 games coached by Chatman before her strange resignation just before the NCAA Tournament, LSU shot 38 percent or worse from 3-point range 13 times, including 16 percent or worse from beyond the arc four times.

Something's up. The spacing is better. The passing is better. The flow is better. Yes, the coaching is better. Admit it.

OK, this could all be circumstantial. Yes, Starkey was the X and O technician while Chatman was the head coach, so why wasn't he doing it then? But we all know that head coaches hold back their assistants somewhat. At any rate, Starkey is clearly doing something right.

Chatman lost seven games with this team. It was prone to offensive lapses and was often unable to get a basket when it really needed one. Starkey's Machine scores in bunches and when it needs to - like in the final moments of a close game against West Virginia.

But again, Chatman looked good through the regional finals, too. Now we will get to see what Starkey is really made of. Can he become the first coach in LSU basketball history - men or women - to win a Final Four game?

Chatman went 0-3. Dale Brown went 0-3. John Brady is 0-1. Harry Rabenhorst went 0-1.

We've heard Starkey doesn't want to be anything but an assistant coach. He doesn't like to recruit. So what. Make him an offer. Tell him you'll help him find someone who can recruit like Pokey Chatman, but not Pokey Chatman. Starkey doesn't have a college degree. So what.

He could get one before his next game at one of these degree factories male players have been using for years.

What's a degree in coaching anyway? Curley Hallman had one. Was he a good coach? Chatman has a degree. It apparently didn't teach her anything about the sanctity of the coach-player relationship.

But if you insist, tell Starkey to start taking courses over the summer. He did attend college at Marshall University. He's not much more than a year away. And he majored in Journalism. How hard is that degree?

Starkey obviously knows a lot about coaching and motivation. Hire him Skip. Then give him an honorary degree. He's two wins away from erasing one of the most embarrassing episodes in LSU history.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Durn - Hire him for the MEN's program.

2:17 PM  

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