Saturday, April 13, 2013

If Green Bay is the New Rutgers, Is College Basketball Becoming South Park? (UPDATED)

In the wake of the Mike Rice video scandal, the prevailing sentiment was that coaches nationwide were frantically digging through practice tapes and ordering them burned.

Once that was done, there were a lot of directors of player development/basketball operations/towel-and-shoe maintenance/whatever to be given raises, taken to dinner or plied with liquor and whores, whatever it took to keep those guys from going all Murdock on their program.

The other worrisome storm on the horizon was the specter of further accusations against coaches across America. It would have been a surprise if we got through the offseason with no other coaches being accused of verbal or physical abuse.

We didn't even make it a week.

Wisconsin-Green Bay coach Brian Wardle is being investigated for verbal mistreatment in the wake of a complaint lodged by the parents of a walk-on who has left the program, according to a report in the Green Bay Press-Gazette (reposted here at USA Today).

The player, 7'1" center Ryan Bross, redshirted this season and is headed to Division III Concordia University in Mequon, Wisc. to continue his career.

According to the P-G report, the Bross family's complaint alleges verbal and emotional abuse, but nothing physical.

(UPDATE: The family of a second player, 6'9" forward Brennan Cougill, has also lodged a complaint against Wardle, reported in the Press-Gazette on Monday. Cougill was a 9-PPG player in about 21 minutes per game this past season.)

The always-sympthetic Internet troll population reacted as might be expected. If you question, check the lulus responding to CBS Sports' Matt Norlander's blog post on the investigation. Any accusation of abuse does have to be investigated thoroughly, and none of this post is intended to throw shade on Bross, his family or the investigation into Wardle.

After all, one of the first signs of discontent in a program is a rapid exodus of players, and Green Bay has had four bail in the last two months, including Bross. Guard Kam Cerroni didn't even finish the season, leaving the program on Valentine's Day and citing differences with Wardle.

Cerroni and fellow guard Sultan Muhammad aren't the typical frustrated benchwarmers upset with minutes. Muhammad actually started 10 games last season, but his transfer is being blamed on a family matter pulling him closer to his Grand Rapids, Mich. home.

The underlying question here is one that has existed for as long as there has been sport, but comes into sharper focus in our hyper-PC society:

Where is the line between coaching motivation and verbal assault?

Obviously, many of Mike Rice's now-infamous actions were excessive, but you'd be hard-pressed to find an athlete that hasn't had a coach yell profanities in trying to coax maximum effort. Are there magic phrases that will instantly transcend coaching and curl a player's toes, taint his immortal soul and allow the terrorists to win?

Are there certain words that are no-nos with players like there are with umpires? (Warning: very NSFW.)

A whopping 450 players transferred schools last season, and this year's list has already swelled to half that number a week after the season's end. Surely, it's only a miniscule portion of the transfers that truly didn't get along with their coaches, but it only takes one team full of players banding together to ensure that the coach must go, and we're suddenly dropped into an episode of South Park. ("OUTLANDER!")

Any coach that doesn't have the cameras set up to record practice would be well advised to do so now, and why not mic everyone up while you're at it? The caution has nothing to do with studying to identify team and player weaknesses and everything to do with covering one's own ass.

Hopefully, Ryan Bross gets what he's looking for out of his college career on and off the court. The cynic in me can't go without guessing that a 7'1" player who can't get a Division I scholarship probably needed a lot of yelling motivation to become a serviceable player, so D-III may be more his speed.

Hopefully Part II, we don't see an epidemic of players crying abuse and getting well-meaning coaches canned. If differences with a basketball coach are too much for an athlete, life in the work force will be a nigh-insurmountable challenge.

No comments:

Post a Comment