Friday, January 6, 2012

Western Kentucky Gives Ken McDonald a Bad 24 Hours

Western Kentucky lost a game last night where Louisiana-Lafayette snuck an extra player onto the court. That's a bad night.

Then, head coach Ken McDonald got ambushed with this Friday morning. I'd be off somewhere having a stiff drink, 10 AM be damned.

McDonald's firing has prompted a great deal of hand-wringing on Twitter, and from people who should know better: Jon Rothstein, Matt Norlander, and Jeff Goodman, all writers that I love and respect. In fairness, most of the pity for McDonald has been over the timing of his firing. Mid-season, the night after losing on a "power-play goal," yada yada yada.

But, at first, some of it seemed to give me the impression that some kind of coaching genius was getting a raw deal. And I'm not sure where that impression would come from.

McDonald made the second round of the NCAA Tournament with his first team in 2008-09, sure. And Jon Gruden won a Super Bowl in his first year coaching the Tampa Bay Bucs. Just like Gruden inherited Tony Dungy's team, McDonald inherited a big chunk of Darrin Horn's team.

Since that 25-9 season, the Hilltoppers have gone 42-40, 21-16 in the Sun Belt. They're 5-11 this season, and have been exposed as being unable to count to six.

Sure, it's a team with seven freshmen, but it's also a team that ranks 334th in America in FG% (out of 344, so yeah, that's bad). Their average three-point shooting performance is 5-19, indicative of a coach who's not sure how to get his players to select better shots.

Eighteen turnovers per game ranks them 335th in the nation. Last night's ULL game was their first single-digit turnover performance all season. This is a bad team right now. If you think he should have gotten a full season to show what the team could do in league play, that's fine. But let's try to avoid spinning it into a good coach being unjustly forced to walk the plank. Because there's not a lot of evidence to that.

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