Whenever the subject turns to basketball coaches, whether in college or the pros, someone can always be counted on to say, “Anybody can win if they have the best players.”
I’m not so sure.
The value of good coaching will be on display this weekend at the Final Four, and Exhibit A is Kentucky.
This is the same Wildcats team that, in a short span of days just a few weeks ago, lost at home to a fair Arkansas team and then on the road against a bad South Carolina team. No one took them seriously as a national title contender at that point.
The talent was there, no doubt, but it took the firm hand of coaching to salvage the Wildcats’ season. John Calipari found a way to get everyone pulling in the same direction, with dramatic results.
Failure has a way of focusing the mind and leaving you open to better solutions.
A big part of that isn’t about X’s and O’s, but about egos. That’s the part we civilians often underestimate.
Phil Jackson won all those NBA rings with the Bulls and Lakers because he had some great players, of course, but also a roster of others who embraced their roles.
The team with the best record in the pros right now, San Antonio, is a textbook example of a team where everyone understands their jobs.
That quality also seems to distinguish all four of the Final Four teams. Florida has veteran grit and a ferocious commitment to defense; Connecticut has one great player and a roster that complements his skills; Wisconsin is 100 percent committed to a patient offensive attack.
The X factor in all this is Kentucky. Do the Wildcats, even now, know how good they can be? We’ll all see on Saturday if they’re ready to make the next step.
• Overhead on the Lee County scanner last weekend: Woman wants help with an unruly 5-year-old. Response: “Dispatch, there’s nothing we can do with a 5-year-old.” Not the first time I’ve heard a call like that.
• I’m more convinced than ever that the SEC made a mistake not inviting Louisville to join in its last expansion. What a great athletic program. Not too late to go to 16, invite them and either Florida State or Clemson.
• NCAA basketball officials need a “decision clock” on reviewing TV replays. Give them 45 seconds and that’s it.
• The NBA is going to retaliate against the NFL’s no-dunk policy by outlawing all end-zone celebrations.
John L. Pitts (email@example.com) is sports editor of the Journal. He shares more random thoughts on Twitter @johnlpitts