Light at bottom of the net
Issue date: 3/14/07 Section: Sports
Now that the mesquite scent of Beale St. barbecue has somewhat left my clothing, I have a few thoughts about the state of the Marshall basketball program and Conference USA in general after a week in Memphis for the C-USA tournament.
The departure of Ron Jirsa is somewhat sad, but it was a move that had to be made.
Herd fans on message boards that bleed green wanted Jirsa gone, but I seriously doubt their opinion had any bearing on the decision that was made.
After speaking with Marshall University Athletics Director Bob Marcum Monday afternoon, it was obvious the decision was simply made because of wins and losses.
Empty seats in the Henderson Center all season didn't help his job either.
However, Jirsa wasn't the one missing jumpers and 3-pointers for a majority of the season.
But Jirsa didn't seem to have control of his team's opened up offense this season, and in the end, the right decision was probably made.
The only way Jirsa's removal will work is if the right coaching candidates are considered.
Whoever is hired should have a nice base of players to build around - big guys in freshmen Robbie Jackson and Tyler Wilkerson, some of the best slashers in the conference with sophomore Markel Humphrey and junior Mark Dorris and a new batch of recruits to build into winners.
The only problem is that the rest of C-USA is young as well. Memphis could return its entire starting lineup unless sophomore Chris Douglas-Roberts and junior Joey Dorsey decide to jump to the NBA.
Onto other matters of interest coming from a week in Music City.
Memphis is a great city with a lot of history and a lot going on in its downtown area. It is without a doubt the best place for C-USA to host the annual tournament until new arenas are built for UCF and SMU.
It also has by far the best team within the conference, as the Tigers easily got by Marshall, Tulane and Houston with its deep bench and ability to score at will.
Does Memphis obliterate all the competition in basketball within C-USA because of the competition? Yes.
Still, I wouldn't be surprised to see this team go farther than it did last year as a No. 1 seed before a terrible game against UCLA ousted them.
Memphis needs tougher battles in conference play, and there is reason to give C-USA a few more years before the athletic department at Memphis screams for a move to a better league such as the Big East.
The coaches in C-USA are phenomenal and can build this conference back to levels it is used to seeing.
Houston's Tom Penders (more than 575 wins), SMU's Matt Doherty (basically recruited North Carolina's championship team before Roy Williams took over), Southern Miss' Larry Eustachy (2000 National Coach of the Year), Tulane's Dave Dickerson (slow Green Wave start turned into No. 4 seed for C-USA tournament) and UAB's Mike Davis (can you say three 20-win seasons in the Big Ten and a national championship game?) can move C-USA out of the doldrums.
These guys can rebuild the conference in a few years with their known recruiting and dedication to the programs. Definitely enough to compete with John Calipari's ego.
Unless they bolt for a better job when it becomes available.
Brian Dalek can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.