Is it the talent or the coaching? It is an age old question that sports fans everywhere ponder, but lately Minnesota sports fans seem to be asking it on a daily basis. So to assess which side of this dichotomy is to blame for the mediocrity currently being churned out by our local teams, I will examine a couple cases individually, giving the % of responsibility due to the coaching and to the talent level.
Reason for mediocrity: Coaching 100%, Talent 0%
Tubby Smith has amassed enough talent for this Gopher squad to be a top 3 team in the Big Ten. Trevor Mbakwe is an All Big Ten first-teamer, Andre Hollins is close to being one, Austin Hollins is an excellent defender who can shoot the three, Joe Coleman is a former MN Mr. Basketball who has shown flashes of being an impact player, and Rodney Williams has NBA-level athleticism. That’s a strong group who should be able to hang with the best in the country.
Unfortunately, Tubby runs the “Statue” offense, where the players just stand in place while passing around the perimeter until someone has to chuck up a desperation shot. He also has shown no ability to develop his players as they move through the program. Guys like Ralph Sampson, Devron Bostick, and the aforementioned Williams and Coleman are all players that came into the program with high ceilings, yet all of them appeared to have put their talent in suspended animation under Tubby’s questionable tutelage. Other gifted players such as Royce White, Colton Iverson, Devoe Joseph, and Paul Carter have just up and left the team; you just won’t see this happen to a Tom Izzo or Mike Kshashe-, Krshifs-, Kryziesh,…Coach K. Their players leave for two reasons: graduation and/or the NBA.
Verdict: Fire Tubby yesterday.
Reason for mediocrity: Coaching 50%, Talent 50%
Before your head explodes in frustration that I am giving half the blame to a talent pool that was upgraded to the tune of $200 million during the offseason, let me explain. There is enough talent to be an excellent team, but it has yet to mature and gel. Players like Mikael Granlund, Charlie Coyle, and Jonas Brodin are future stars, but they are greener than an envious tree frog and will need some time to grow. And vets like Zach Parise and Ryan Suter need time to build chemistry with their new teammates. The Wild turned over 40% of their roster, thus it will take some more games for them to self-assemble into a well-oiled machine.
Head coach Mike Yeo does not get off scott-free here though. There have been stretches of lackadaisical play, questionable player placement (such as Yeo’s insistence on the rookie Granlund playing center instead of wing where he would have much less defensive responsibility and thus could play more intuitively), and some hard-line demotions that are undeserved. But seeing as Yeo is still relatively new, the roster is still coming together, and the youth is only beginning to infuse, I am willing to give him some more slack.
Verdict: Team must make playoffs this season for Yeo to keep his job.
Reason for mediocrity: 10% coaching, 90% talent
Calling the Twins mediocre is a huge compliment, as they have lost nearly 200 games over the last two seasons, but it is painfully obvious that this team has had little to no talent on the mound, and even less in the middle of the infield. Ron Gardenhire has taken the Twins to the playoffs 6 times, something impressive for a small market team that can’t reload with MVPs every offseason. He doesn’t make the personnel decisions and has to go with what is placed before him.
Thankfully Terry Ryan has returned as GM after the debacle that was Bill Smith was mercifully ended. Ryan has already begun to trade areas of depth (outfield) for what appears to be solid pitching, which is what the Twins built their success on over the past decade. The Twins have the offensive capability to contend for a division title, but until the pitching comes around, there will be continued mediocrity. When it does come around, Gardenhire is the right guy to steer the ship.
Verdict: Only if the Twins lose 99 games again should Gardy’s job be in jeopardy.