The Sky is Falling!! Not!!!
Andy Mac Williams,
We've been down this road before as Xavier fans and faithful. When Bob Staak left for Wake Forest way back in 1985, I felt like Chicken Little that the sky was falling. It wasn't! It didn't! It never has and it never will! Bob Staak's final act at X was to smooth the way for Stan Kimbrough's transfer from Central Florida. Bob left the cupboard full of talent for Pete Gillen. Byron Larkin didn't transfer, and XU was off to the next level -- dominating the MCC and making a name nationally with NCAA performance. Pete Gillen departed for Providence in 1994. He'd already sown the seeds for construction of the Cintas Center. He'd raised the Muskies' profile high enough to attract the A-10. He'd given a high school teacher by the name of Prosser a chance and grown his own successor plus Pete left a deep experienced roster for Skip. Prosser returned the favor when he exited stage left for Wake in 2001.
Thad Matta could have sleep walked to 20 wins with West and Sato and Chalmers. He chose to bring in a great coaching staff, up the anti in recruiting and scheduling, and tweak the playing style emphasizing half court defense. The result was Xavier's stirring run to the NCAA Elite 8 this Spring.
Xavier has been building steadily since Bill Daley, Father Curry et al hired Bob Staak in 1979. Consistent administrative support has been there. The appetite of a growing fan base has supplied the capital. Sister Rose Ann has nurtured the academic side. Getting a degree is actually a priority at XU. The xavier model seems to be the exception in college basketball.
Most programs go through wild gyrations in performance-based on coaching changes. X is working on a quarter century of consistent excellence and steady improvement. It's the place and the people and the underlying belief that excellence can be achieved within the rules.
Thad Matta made one mistake. He should have said: "Never say never..." to Dustin Dow instead of "I'm not a candidate. It's that plain and simple."
His dream job is coaching in the Big Ten. Consider his background. Consider Ohio State had to hire a bright young coach on the rise to bring hope to a program about to be horse whipped by the NCAA. OSU had to pay up big time in terms of dollars and length of contract. The timing and circumstances produced an offer Thad just could not refuse. I don't blame him. I just wish an OSU-XU series could be part of the buyout of his contract.
Matta should be thanked for leaving the cupboard full again and for working his magic in hiring Sean Miller away from NC State 3 years ago. I've watched Sean as a player at Pitt. Pound for pound, he did more with his talent than any point guard in Big East history. That includes Sherman Douglas and Pearl Washington and Allan Iverson. You name him and Sean outworked him.
He's learned his coaching craft thoroughly. His recruiting abilities are already very evident at X. Josh Duncan is a great example. He sorted out the Muskie backcourt and transformed Lionel Chalmers into a great decision maker, plus he got Dedrick Finn to buy into the 6th man role. I like what he's had to say about attacking a bit more on offense because he should have the depth to do that plus changing defenses more.
I think Sean may be the guy to coach here 15 years. In my humble opinion there's another conference shoe to drop 3 or 4 seasons down the road. The current Big East is too big. The football schools can't coexist over the long haul with St Johns, Georgetown, Marquette, DePaul, etc. A merger of equals with Xavier, Dayton, St Louis makes sense down the road. Thus, a form of the Big East may come to Sean Miller. He won't have to go looking for it.
The challenge is large for XU. How do you improve on an Elite 8? That's why they pay Miller the reasonably big bucks. He'll figure it out, and Xavier basketball will continue to grow.