Random Rumblings

There's a ton of stuff going on right now and I haven't written in a while so it's time to empty the mind brain on a few things. I was going to write today on the somewhat complicated place of Jim Boeheim in history, which is actually a stupid argument over semantics, but I think I'm going to save those thoughts for an Orange Fizz post. Normally I write there on Fridays, but tomorrow is the day Ebenezer Ogundeko announces and that will likely take precedent. Stay tuned to Twitter for the Boeheim article. On to the other sports related thoughts floating around my otherwise empty head:

Amare says he's never been told how to play defense:

Amare Stoudemire told reporters yesterday he's never been taught how to play defense until now, with Mike Woodson as the Knicks head coach. Stoudemire spent most of his career playing under Mike D'Antoni who is known as an offensive genius, but his teams have often been less than stellar defensively.

Defense is about three things: effort, instincts and positioning. Fixing Amare's defensive effort (if that's deemed a problem) is pretty easy. So much of defense is making a commitment to engage and push that extra little bit to get into position and make the right plays. However within a defensive scheme, which many average fans might not notice during a game, positioning is everything. The first step to stopping a drive to the basket isn't cutting off the ballhandler as he starts to go, it's the helpside defender already being in position so the drive never happens in the first place.

I learned a lot about defense during my two years at MTSU going to both Kermit Davis's and Rick Insell's practices. Great defenses are a step ahead of the offense. Rick had his girls work nearly every day on cutting off the cross court pass so many players make when they drive baseline and run out of room. Kermit screamed endlessly when his guys didn't get to the mid-line (an imaginary line that cuts the court into a left and right half) as that discouraged drives and put you in a perfect position to take a charge if the offense did try to come into the lane. These things can be taught, and it's shocking that in a 10 year NBA career, Amare's allegedly never gotten that coaching.

That said, he can learn and even a decade in can become a much better defender within a team context. However, it's not going to be easy as Amare clearly lacks superior defensive instincts. Two blocks per game should come easy to him based on his athleticism, however he's only hit that mark once in his career. Specifically being called into question is Amare's pick-and-roll defense. Stoudemire is considered one of the best pick-and-roll finishers in the league when healthy, yet he's never been able to turn that knowledge of how he reads and exploits basketball's most basic play offensively into defending it on the other end.

Marrone to the NFL

As a selfish Syracuse fan, I hope Doug Marrone stays in Orange. He said it's his dream job but as you achieve your dreams, you dream new ones and the reality is competitors want to compete at the highest level and no man is above a bigger paycheck. There's no doubt the NFL is the highest level of competition in football and Marrone has experienced that as a coach and as a player. We know he's interviewing for a number of jobs and it shouldn't surprise any of us if he takes one.

Marrone is a different kind of guy though and it wouldn't surprise me if he kicks the tires and decides to stay in Orange. He's got a new challenge ahead of him in moving to the ACC and while he's losing an NFL caliber quarterback in Ryan Nassib (I'm in still in disbelief that the previous statement is true, but it is even if he's a backup), he's gaining what many think is a future pro in Elite 11 QB Zach Allen and the chance to develop him could be one of the many reasons Marrone eventually winds up staying in Orange.

The bigger question is what does SU do if the two-time Pinstripe Bowl winner Dougies up to the NFL. Based off per speculation and minimal logic, here are SU's two best options in my mind:

1) Jim Tressel, former Ohio State Head Coach

We all know he left in a terrible manor from Ohio State, however how bad was it really? We all hate the NCAA's stupid rules, yet see a guy like Tressel as a horrible person for not following them? I can get over that. Tressel is an offensive minded guy who would be good for Allen and he's spent some time at SU as well as the QB Coach in 1981-82. He's an Ohio guy which is one of Syracuse's crucial recruiting areas and he might be willing to keep the defensive staff in place. This leads me to candidate number two.

2) Scott Shafer, SU Defensive Coordinator

I think we'd all agree we'd gladly take more of what Marrone is building, so why not just shift some pieces around and keep rolling? Shafer's a coaching lifer who's defensive resume is incredibly impressive. His players love playing for him and that's a key part of being a head coach. He preaches accountability (like Marrone) and that every man must simply do his job. I don't know if Shafer has head coaching chops because I'm not around him every day and he's never had to make clock management decisions, etc (some guys are meant to be coordinators) but I wouldn't be mad if he was given a shot.

Making the Jump
On top of Marrone, a ton of other college coaches could be making the jump to the pros including Oregon's Chip Kelly. The debate is endless on whether his uptempo system could work in the NFL, but I think the answer is clearly maybe. So decisive. I know.

There would have to be some changes and Kelly would absolutely have to have the right personnel to make it all work. The question is how realistic is getting that personnel (definitely possible) and will those small changes be enough to make the whole thing not work (maybe). I know if I was a GM/owner I'd be willing to find out and I wish the owner of my team would take that shot. Cam Newton cost Chip Kelly his best shot at a national title game in January of 2011 when Cam's Auburn team beat Kelly's Oregon Ducks on a last second field goal. To make his system work, Kelly needs a versatile and mobile quarterback and an army of running backs. No team fits that model better than the Panthers who have Newton to go with Deangelo Williams, Jonathan Stewart (a pre-Kelly Oregon Duck) and Mike Tolbert in the backfield.

Both coaches in this year's national title game will also be on NFL radars. Brain Kelly is ahead of schedule at Notre Dame being in the national title game this year. If I'm him, I'd wait. Even though this team was carried by the defense, the experience it's younger players, especially freshman quarterback Everett Golson, have gotten is invaluable. Perhaps the Irish can be right back in the title game a few times in the next few seasons and Kelly can leave in a few years tens of millions of dollars richer and a Notre Dame legend.

If Alabama wins Monday night, Nick Saban would only be further cementing his status as a legend in Tuscaloosa. That would make 3 titles in four years and at that point, what's the point? The NFL is the one thing Saban never mastered and for as competitive as he is, that has to eat at him. He spent two years with the Dolphins and got screwed over by his own medical staff who didn't clear Drew Brees. That meant the Dolphins had to sign Daunte Culpepper who was mediocre in 2005, got hurt and was had to be benched in 2006 for Joey Harrington who was so bad he got benched for something named Cleo Lemon. With that (whatever that combination of awful is) at quarterback over two years, he went 15-17 which is far from the abject disaster that everyone seems to make Saban's time in the NFL out to be. If Saban wins, he should go. Why not, unless he's comfortable crushing it in college, having a lighter work load and making NFL money. While that sounds awesome to most of us, the 61 year old Saban is an uber-competitor and he doesn't have that much time left if he still has an NFL itch to scratch.


Tweet of the day (which I've never done before, but might do again) comes from former Syracuse center Fab Melo. Ol' Fabricio got called up from the D-League yesterday! Is it because he's averaging 10.9 ppg, 6.9 rpg and 3.8 bpg? Is it because on Dec. 26th he had 32 points, 9 boards and 9 blocks? Nope! It's because he ran into a door at a hotel and got a concussion. In order to be treated by the Celtics team doctors, he has to be on the active roster and thus he got called up. As for Melo:

I don't even break 6 feet, so I won't ask. The world isn't designed for people his size so I'll cut him some slack. Hell, I hit my head on a car door last week. It happens. As long as he's okay, we can laugh about it and knowing Fab's light-hearted personality, he'll laugh right along with us.