Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Iona Coach Doesn't Deserve Fans' Post-Game Ire

Talk about knee-jerk reactions ...a couple of comments to the recent post about Iona's loss to BYU in the First Four round of the NCAA tournament refer to Iona's head coach Tim Cluess as "Clueless," and follows up by bemoaning the coach's lack of strategy/adjustments during that game.

It's worse elsewhere. One Iona message board has a poll on its site asking visitors whether Cluess should be fired. Another message board devoted to the conference in general has, as its background, an "Emergency Care for Choking" advisory, clearly referring to the Gaels' failure to hold a 25-point lead against BYU Tuesday night.

OK, let's get serious.

First, Tim Cluess isn't going to get fired and Iona is extremely fortunate to have him as a coach ... and will be next season, too, provided he doesn't move on to take one of the burgeoning number of openings at larger and better-paying programs.

In this day and age, when wins really do matter even at the mid-major level, Cluess has directed Iona to 50 wins (50-20) over the past two seasons.

Take a guess how often MAAC teams have recorded 50 victories over two consecutive seasons?

Siena in 2007-08 (23), 2008-09 (27) and 2009-10 (27), La Salle in 1987-88 (24), 1988-89 (26) and 1989-90 (30). Pick any two in the three-year runs of the two programs.

That's it. Iona is now just the third program in the MAAC's 31-year history with at least 50 victories over a two-year span.

Bad losses this year? Two to teams with sub-.500 records: Hofstra (OK, every team has a bad night) and Siena (on Siena's home court where the Saints were 8-1 vs. MAAC teams this season).

Others, prior to the BYU game? Fairfield, Loyola, Manhattan (all with at least 19 victories thus far, and all still active in post-season play), Marshall and Purdue (Marshall is in the NIT, Purdue in the NCAA event).

It was all good enough for Iona to get an at-large berth to the NCAA's, so the selection committee didn't have any problems with the Gaels' won-loss results.

Against BYU? Yes,. it might be hard to grasp losing a 25-point lead after the game's first 15 minutes.

But, anyone who had even seen a little of BYU this season knew the Cougars' size was going to be a handful for smallish Iona.

BYU, with two stellar front-court players (6-9, 235-pounder Brandon Davis and 6-8, 230-pounder Noah Harstsock), was bound to cause the Gaels problems in the paint, particularly since Iona was the smallest team in the NCAA's field of 68.

How small? Both teams used nine players in Tuesday's contest. Average height for BYU: 6-foot-6 1/4. Average height for Iona: 6-2 3/4. That's BYU with an average height advantage of 3 1/2 inches per player at every position.

Loyola's tallest player is 6-7 forward Mike Glover, who had to try to contend with the 6-9 Davis (35 minutes) and the 6-8 Hartsock (38 minutes).

Iona got its 25-point lead by using its superior quickness.. But, after 15 minutes it became evident, at least from my seat in front of the 42-inch screen, that Iona started to slow down.

There aren't many teams, if any, that could keep up the pace Iona played at for the first 15 minutes.

But, height never gets shorter.

And, when BYU finally countered Iona's quickness with a zone defense and more-controlled half-court play on the offensive end, the height took over and left Iona looking for answers that John Wooden wouldn't have had.

Your scribe finds it absolutely amazing that, barely a day after the Iona community was praising the team and its coach for reaching the NCAA's, a significant achievement on its own (just ask Loyola's Jimmy Patsos, whose Greyhounds went 17 years between their last appearance and this year's), that same community is ridiculing the team and its coach for losing one game against a superior opponent.

Those who know better know that Cluess is a superlative coach.

And, his record ... 50-20 over his two seasons directing the program that makes Iona just the third program in MAAC history to put up 50 victories in a two-season span ... speaks for itself.

1 comment:

Steve Amedio said...

Dan --

The comment section isn't meant for lengthy debates, so I've delated our give-and-take.
I have done some coaching (AAU level) over the years, and have been around the sport most of my life, so I do know a little about basketball.
Anyway, if you want to continue to "debate" please do so at