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Building a successful program
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82hawk Offline
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Post: #1
Building a successful program
I'm an alumni of UNCW. The entire time i've been associated with UNCW visions of "building a program" have been dangled before us. We have twice experienced the kind of success that could be the first step in "building a program". In both cases, we had a very distinct style of play.

The Wainright/Brownell years were built on a standard lineup with a huge center, big forwards and big guards. Games were low scoring and we relied on a top 10, physical defense. Although not pretty, the fans filled Trask to see us win and they got loud. As a result we went to the NIT twice and the NCAA four times over a 12 year period. Finishing lower than third in the CAA only twice during this span. UNCW also collected it's first and only win in the NCAA tournament, defeating Southern Cal. This success happened when the CAA was nearing its' peak.

So, what did the UNCW administration do in response to this unprecedented success? They decided it wasn't good enough. In turn, they treated Brad Brownell as an afterthought and made no attempt to reward him for the success or keep him at UNCW. Once Brownell was gone, the powers that be decided we needed a fast paced style of play to bring excitement to UNCW basketball and get us past the "failure" of Brownell to win NCAA tournament games.

We all know what happened. Benny Moss followed by Buzz. Eight years of failure, zero NIT or NCAA appearances and a combined record of 83-154. One second place finish in the CAA and seven finishes in 7th place or worse.

Kevin Keatts arrives and takes over a down and out program that had gone 9-23 the previous year with a 3-13 record in the CAA. He brings with him another very distinct style of play. A Louisville style press which is built on a fast paced offense and creating turnovers, steals and fast breaks. UNCW once again has an identity and success on the court. Keatts ties for first in the CAA his first season, then wins the CAA outright the next two seasons leading to two NCAA appearances in three years.

Keatts is snapped up by NCSU leaving UNCW in the position of hiring a coach following a great deal of success again. This time UNCW tried to keep the successful coach, but the finances were beyond anything UNCW could match. The opportunity to build on success and build a "program" was once again within our reach. The coaching tree of Pitino is wide and deep, extending all the way to Florida coach Billy Donovan and his former assistants as well as the VCU coaching tree. Continuing the style of play that brought this immediate success was within our reach.

What did the UNCW administration do? They didn't interview or consider a single coach familiar with the style of play we just had success with and recruited players for. Predicted by several on this board, incoming recruits and transfers bailed out of their commitments and we lost every single incoming player.

So, here we are again. Leaving behind a very successful style of play that led to CAA championships and NCAA appearances in hopes of the "better deal". One that takes us beyond just getting to the NCAA but winning games. Not happy with taking incremental steps to get there, but abandoning ship in favor of a complete overhaul in players, coaches and style of play.

Sorry folks, we will NEVER build a "program" like this. Perfect is the enemy of good, and we were GOOD...twice. Really good. One step forward and two steps back every time we experience success will never get us there. My greatest concern is that we didn't learn our lesson and we will forever be changing styles because we are focusing on the best coach available(so we think), vs. the best coach out there who FITS OUR STYLE...whatever that is.

I truly hope McGrath can turn this around and end up leading us to the type of success we've experienced before. I'll gladly take the type of success we experienced with both Keatts and Brownell year after year. You can't win an NCAA game if you aren't playing one. Every two to three years allows you to build a program on that type of success. But, if McGrath does get there...and he leaves...we CANNOT change styles AGAIN, hoping to get to that next level. Sooner or later we have to come to terms with the fact we are a mid major in the NCAA. And that the type of success we have experienced is "good enough" for the long term. McGrath has expressed a desire to stay if he succeeds. I hope we don't "Brownell"him should that happen, and once again abandon ship on success hoping to get to the next level.
(This post was last modified: 12-22-2017 06:27 PM by 82hawk.)
12-22-2017 11:10 AM
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solohawks Offline
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Post: #2
RE: Building a successful program
(12-22-2017 11:10 AM)82hawk Wrote:  I'm an alumni of UNCW. The entire time i've been associated with UNCW visions of "building a program" have been dangled before us. We have twice experienced the kind of success that could be the first step in "building a program". In both cases, we had a very distinct style of play.

The Wainright/Brownell years were built on a standard lineup with a huge center, big forwards and big guards. Games were low scoring and we relied on a top 10, physical defense. Although not pretty, the fans filled the Trask to see us win and they got loud. As a result we went to the NIT twice and the NCAA four times over a 12 year period. Finishing lower than third in the CAA only twice during this span. UNCW also collected it's first and only win in the NCAA tournament, defeating Southern Cal. This success happened when the CAA was nearing its' peak.

So, what did the UNCW administration due in response to this unprecedented success? They decided it wasn't good enough. In turn, they treated Brad Brownell as an afterthought and made no attempt to reward him for the success or keep him at UNCW. Once Brownell was gone, the powers that be decided we needed a fast paced style of play to bring excitement to UNCW basketball and get us past the "failure" of Brownell to win NCAA tournament games.

We all know what happened. Benny Moss followed by Buzz. Eight years of failure, zero NIT or NCAA appearances and a combined record of 83-154. One second place finish in the CAA and seven finishes in 7th place or worse.

Kevin Keatts arrives and takes over a down and out program that had gone 9-23 the previous year with a 3-13 record in the CAA. He brings with him another very distinct style of play. A Louisville style press which is built on a fast paced offense and creating turnovers, steals and fast breaks. UNCW once again has an identity and success on the court. Keatts ties for first in the CAA his first season, then wins the CAA outright the next two seasons leading to two NCAA appearances in three years.

Keatts is snapped up by NCSU leaving UNCW in the position of hiring a coach following a great deal of success again. This time UNCW tried to keep the successful coach, but the finances were beyond anything UNCW could match. The opportunity to build on success and build a "program" was once again within our reach. The coaching tree of Pitino is wide and deep, extending all the way to Florida coach Billy Donovan and his former assistants as well as the VCU coaching tree. Continuing the style of play that brought this immediate success was within our reach.

What did the UNCW administration do? They didn't interview or consider a single coach familiar with the style of play we just had success with and recruited players for. Predicted by several on this board, incoming recruits and transfers bailed out of their commitments and we lost every single incoming player.

So, here we are again. Leaving behind a very successful style of play that led to CAA championships and NCAA appearances in hopes of the "better deal". One that takes us beyond just getting to the NCAA but winning games. Not happy with taking incremental steps to get there, but abandoning ship in favor of a complete overhaul in players, coaches and style of play.

Sorry folks, we will NEVER build a "program" like this. Perfect is the enemy of good, and we were GOOD...twice. Really good. One step forward and two steps back every time we experience success will never get us there. My greatest concern is that we didn't learn our lesson and we will forever be changing styles because we are focusing on the best coach available(so we think), vs. the best coach out there who FITS OUR STYLE...whatever that is.

I truly hope McGrath can turn this around and end up leading us to the type of success we've experienced before. I'll gladly take the type of success we experienced with both Keatts and Brownell year after year. You can't win an NCAA game if you aren't playing one. Every two to three years allows you to build a program on that type of success. But, if McGrath does get there...and he leaves...we CANNOT change styles AGAIN, hoping to get to that next level. Sooner or later we have to come to terms with the fact we are a mid major in the NCAA. And that the type of success we have experienced is "good enough" for the long term. McGrath has expressed a desire to stay if he succeeds. I hope we don't "Brownell"him should that happen, and once again abandon ship on success hoping to get to the next level.

well said sir
12-22-2017 11:18 AM
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CG_Hawk06 Online
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Post: #3
RE: Building a successful program
The narrative certainly presents a strong case for this AD or the next during our next successful run to not deviate and stick with a "style". Here's the thing though...

UNCW has now proven that two very different styles of basketball are proven winners at the mid major level. So now we've certainly opened ourselves up to two options on the style of coaching that we want. Brownell has been around long enough now, and he's young enough, that there very well could be a coaching tree springing from him. Perhaps down the road, if that's a style of ball UNCW wants to get back to... we could go that route.

Or, perhaps Keatts will manage to stay the course at State (recent coaching history suggests otherwise, but that's a different topic for a different day). Perhaps down the road we could re-open that coaching tree.

One thing that I think has proven not to work at UNCW, and mid-major level in general is "Carolina" ball. The level of athlete it takes to be successful at their level is among the top recruiting in the country. Additionally, Carolina hasn't really ever deviated from that style. Meaning their string of coaches since Dean Smith are all variations of Dean Smith. They have that luxury, most mid majors don't. So the players and coaches that leave that Carolina nest trying to establish their own name in the business stick with what they know. It's rare that they see that success at the mid major level. Some of them can't even replicate it at smaller schools in the P6 conferences.

You're absolutely right though 82. It's important for UNCW to accept the realization of who we are and where we are and sustain THAT level of success. Every now and then better things will come, but they won't come if the program keeps bouncing around in a decades long search for their "system" identity.
12-22-2017 04:48 PM
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82hawk Offline
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RE: Building a successful program
You may not recall, but I was actually hoping for a Brownell "style" before Keatts was on the radar. I'm not really caught up in "how"we succeed, just that our success is sustainable and is one that works based on mid major talent. IMO, the two styles we've succeeded with have proven to be the two best for mids. And, you're right, the UNC coaching tree has very few winners at the mid major level. UNC guy Wes Miller is FINALLY experiencing success, but only after abandoning "Carolina" ball and adopting a press.

Continuity of success with incremental strides further is the key to building a "program". When you have been successful, the status quo is still success. VCU has laid down such a clear path it's hard for me to believe it isn't replicated. Hard to believe WE didn't replicate it. They already have their "next up" coach in line, knowing their coaches will be lured away. And their next up just picks up were the last up left off. Very little drop off in success and very little fallout with players and recruits who know what to expect and that they will play on a team like the one they were recruited for.

BTW, CofC has already tapped the Brownell coaching tree, and they ain't doing bad.
12-22-2017 06:40 PM
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CG_Hawk06 Online
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RE: Building a successful program
(12-22-2017 06:40 PM)82hawk Wrote:  You may not recall, but I was actually hoping for a Brownell "style" before Keatts was on the radar. I'm not really caught up in "how"we succeed, just that our success is sustainable and is one that works based on mid major talent. IMO, the two styles we've succeeded with have proven to be the two best for mids. And, you're right, the UNC coaching tree has very few winners at the mid major level. UNC guy Wes Miller is FINALLY experiencing success, but only after abandoning "Carolina" ball and adopting a press.

Continuity of success with incremental strides further is the key to building a "program". When you have been successful, the status quo is still success. VCU has laid down such a clear path it's hard for me to believe it isn't replicated. Hard to believe WE didn't replicate it. They already have their "next up" coach in line, knowing their coaches will be lured away. And their next up just picks up were the last up left off. Very little drop off in success and very little fallout with players and recruits who know what to expect and that they will play on a team like the one they were recruited for.

BTW, CofC has already tapped the Brownell coaching tree, and they ain't doing bad.

I recall, and I think a lot of us were in that boat. We often discussed how we wouldn't mind going back to games where the winner scored 45-50 pts. That defense was a half court nightmare for opponents because of the size and physicality. I know Brownell is swimming in a deeper pond now, recruits wise, but hard to think if he were still at the mid major level he would still find a way to be successful after all the rule changes.

VCU is a masterful model of success at the mid major level, and mostly for the reason you stated. Their ability to churn through coach after coach but sustain the "system" that Shaka Smart built for them. We were so close to being able to do the same thing... I think we just needed more time. Had Keatts had a coach or two on his bench that had more experience, I think we maybe would have gone that route. Makes me wonder if just the young, relatively inexperience Keatts was surrounded by scared our AD away from it. None of us truly know that answer.
12-22-2017 06:57 PM
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Seahawk2010 Online
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RE: Building a successful program
I firmly believe a Brownell "style" is a much better template for mid major success. It is very hard to recruit the athletes needed year after year to contend with the P5 schools. Slowing down the game and limiting possessions gives you a better shot to pull the upset and win.

As an aside what "style" would everyone consider Wichitia State? That is the template that I would like for UNCW.
12-22-2017 07:43 PM
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Seahawk2010 Online
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RE: Building a successful program
Another mid major program that interests me is Saint Marys. They have a bunch of long and lanky foreign 3 point shooters who are deadly and are always in contention in the WCC, even with Gonzaga being in the same conference. Always wondered why UNCW try the foreign route more in recruiting.
12-22-2017 07:57 PM
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billthebighawksfan Offline
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RE: Building a successful program
I'm not against that at all 2010, foreign guys can add a lot. You can get quality bigs like that.
12-23-2017 10:38 AM
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bricksnivy Offline
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RE: Building a successful program
(12-23-2017 10:38 AM)billthebighawksfan Wrote:  I'm not against that at all 2010, foreign guys can add a lot. You can get quality bigs like that.

Maybe the Carolina connections will pay dividends in this regard. Rodl is very connected in Germany.
12-23-2017 10:44 AM
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Seahawkhoops Offline
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RE: Building a successful program
Press Style or slowing it down can work at this level. Our past has shown us that. But i do agree that with solid grind it out D, it's easier to stay in a game even on a bad offensive night, and you rarely get blown out.
(This post was last modified: 12-23-2017 07:03 PM by Seahawkhoops.)
12-23-2017 07:00 PM
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