I wanted to explain not only why CBH is a good coach but why he has done a good job this year.
A mark of a good coach is his teams improve as the season goes on and they overcome adversity. So far CBH has done this. Look this is not the team CBH was supposed to have this year. TH was hurt or hurting the entire Non-Conference season, Drew Gordon leaving could not have been predicted, and I know some have argued that the writing on the wall said Jrue Holiday was going to leave early but I think all can agree he made a mistake and that such writing is often wrong.(Can anyone show me that they thought DC was coming back after the 2008 final four?). My point is that is two experienced starters gone for most or all of the season and one Freshmen starter for half the season. No wonder we started so bad.
But CBH adjusted. He had to completely change styles because of the talent. Everyone here goes after ND for his lousy defense. But the worst defensive effort of the year had to be JA in the Arizona game when Kyle Fogg goes for a career high 25. I mean giving up 35 to the PAC-10 leading scorer is one thing, giving up 25 to a role player is worse. Also, MR maximizes his ability but is still a bad man to man defender as is RN (RN does a nice job getting a few blocks but is often out of position and not back quick enough). That means four of top seven players can't play defense the way CBH's "Ben Ball Warrior" style dictates.
CBH went to a zone but as importantly changed the entire philosophy of the team. For the first time in the history of a CBH coached team we rest on defense. The zone allows people save energy and focus on offense. For the first time in my memory of a CBH team we are getting good shots at the end of the shot clock. (For example, how many times in 2007 did we run down the clock and rely on AA to force a shot.) We are second in the conference in offensive FG%. Last night, Don MaClean complimented our scoring on out of bounds plays. How many times in past years was our out of bounds play throw it out to mid-court?
Want more, we lead the conference in assists. This despite not having a "real" Point Guard. We are a more efficient offensive team than ever in the past. No, I am not saying we have the weapons of the 2008 team or the great college PG in JF, but think about it, this team with this little talent is this good and patient on offense. And make no mistake to run down the clock and get good shots takes skill (this made Princeton famous and deadly all those years ago.) This is not a "Ben Ball Warriors Team" but CBH has made a good team out of them that is going to make a legitimate run at the PAC-10 title.
Coach deserves credit for doing a very good job. On to a couple specific criticisms.
1. We only play 7 or 8 players and need to play BL or we are tired. We have not been tired at the end of games. Look at last night we made our FTs down the stretch, out hustled Stanford on the key rebound after RN's miss and had the legs to play man well at the end. In Oregon game we had the legs to make a fairly miraculous comeback at the end to only fall just short in the toughest road arena in the PAC-10.
On BL or MM, please. They are not Chance Stanbach, who could not find time on a very good and deep final four team. If these guys can't play on this team, I am not sure they are ready for PAC-10. I think coach would love to play them if they could contribute. And don't say it is because BL did not have the looks. Compare him to TH in minutes. In his first four games BL played 14, 9, 10 and 15 minutes compared to TH who played more but not that much more in his first four 15,21, 22 and 18. You knew after those looks that a hurting TH was ready and BL was not. BL has had bad TOs, made a 6'3" Delaware State guy look like Fields, etc. The only reason to play MM or BL is to say this season is over and play for "next year" which CBH has already proved it wasn't by the fact we are now tied for first place.
2. CBH stinks because he has a man crush on ND. ND is a bad defender, an inconsistent rebounder and a streaky shooter. But who do you play for him? I don't mind when we play MR at 3 but that makes us small and the one nice thing physically about our zone is our shortest player in it is 6'5".ND won the ASU game for us with his great shooting and teams like UW built their game plan around stopping him, allowing others to play well. Last night against Stanford he hit the big 3 that turned the game and made the FTs down the stretch. (And the other seniors can't hit their FTs in the clutch, including MR.)
That said, I don't like ND or his style, it is just this team needs him and he has done okay within that parameter.
3.ML is killing us because he is so bad shooting now. ML may be the best example of what a good job CBH has done this year. Look, ML had his best individual game against Notre Dame when he shot the lights out for 29 points. . . and we lost. Last night he was 2 for 9 shot some bricks BUT he had zero TOs ran the clock down and was effective in the offense. TH and RN are playing out of position right now but the difference is slight. RN would still be scoring down low as a 4 and 3 and 4 are no different in a zone for TH. SG to PG is a big difference. ML was an out of control slasher two guard who showed flashes of brilliance prior to our recent run of Ws. During the run, he has played under control, cut down on TOs, made good decisions and sacrificed his game for the team. ND and MR are better outside shooters. TH is a better wing passer and creates more matchup problems with the ball in his hands. ML has adapted to this and taken to his role to calmly run the offense as PG and being the first back on defense (he is always set and ready on defense).It could not have been easy for ML and CBH has done a great job with him.
In conclusion, If we have a losing season this year, I still think CBH has failed. It is unacceptable to have a losing season at UCLA. But it seems to me that CBH has adapted and giving this team and its talent the best chance to succeed. If you accept the proposition that a winning season at UCLA is a must, then I submit that you have to live with ND and a season not playing as "Ben Ball Warriors." CBH is doing a good job in difficult circumstances and deserves credit if we keep improving.