In honor of Wichita State's undefeated regular season and their coach Gregg Marshall, let's go back and understand how Chianti Dan's incredibly cheap impatience and panic (ultimately, $375k) prevented the Bruins from being able to consider (let alone hire) the person that I thought was the best coaching candidate last off-season. I said it then, and I say it now, that Gregg Marshall is going to succeed at a very high-profile program in the very near future...I only wish it were our UCLA Bruins.
Let's go back to last year's NCAA tournament which coincided with the UCLA hiring process [my commentary at the time in brackets].
Thursday, March 21: Alford's New Mexico suffers a big upset in the 2nd round getting outcoached and outplayed by Harvard 62-68. [Wow, I didn't realize how bad a tournament coach Alford is. He just got outclassed by Tommy Amaker, a fellow Big Ten washout.]
Friday, March 22: Coach Howland's last game is a listless 20 point loss to Minnesota to finish out the 2nd round games. [Thanks Coach Howland, but UCLA has to put you out of your misery.]
Saturday, March 23: Shaka Smart's VCU is dominated 78-53 by Michigan in the first 3rd round game. Later that night, the two most exciting games of the day finish within minutes of each other. Brad Stevens' Butler loses a nail-biter to Marquette and Gregg Marshall's Wichita State lands a knockout on #1 seed Gonzaga. [UCLA coaching candidate thoughts: I REALLY want Stevens. I'm not entirely sold on Smart, and who's this Gregg Marshall guy?]
Sunday, March 24: Coach Howland is officially fired by UCLA. [Thanks for the memories Coach, but it was certainly time.]
Monday-Wednesday, March 25-27: After being rejected by Stevens and Smart, all coaches are in play for Chianti. [Chianti, you whiffed on your first two targets, so now take your time and find the best available candidate. Don't rush to judgment!! Worst of all DON'T PANIC!!! The new Pac-12 TV deal gives you more than enough $$ to find and sign a first-class coach.]
Thursday, March 28: Marshall's Wichita State is in LA playing its regional at Staples Center and wins a ho-hum Sweet 16 game against LaSalle, which was just an afterthought to the thrilling Ohio State win against Arizona that preceded it. [Can't tell much from Wichita State's win over another cinderella. We'll all get to see if they're any good against the Buckeyes in two days.]
Saturday, March 28: Chianti knows that the underwhelming Steve Alford is interested in the job, but that New Mexico also just signed Alford to an extension that kicks the buyout clause up from $200,000 to $1 million on Monday, April 1. Panicked for NO REASON by the extension, Chianti hurriedly signs a mediocre Alford (without thoroughly checking into his background as we all know) and it is announced on Saturday morning. [WHAT?! WHY??? We could have gotten this guy any time anywhere!! Why now?? (Note: the buyout was later settled with UNM at $625k, so the difference between waiting to make the best hire and rushing into signing Alford turned out to be only $375,000!!!!).]
That afternoon down the road at Staples, Wichita State pulls off a shocker (no pun intended) by upsetting Ohio State for a spot in the Final 4. [All UCLA fans should feel the WORST case of buyer's remorse. The entire nation has now been introduced to a true, up-and-coming first-class coach. Marshall took an unknown Winthrop team and built it into a small-major powerhouse, took an unknown Wichita State team and just got to the Final 4, and above all who has just shown me against Ohio St. that he is a superior big-game X's and O's coach. DON'T YOU THINK UCLA COULD USE A COACH LIKE THIS?? Why Chianti why????? 4 hours after the announcement of Alford's hiring, would any Bruin fan disagree that Marshall would have been a better choice?? Give Marshall the same talent as Alford and who would you rather have coaching your team in the tournament???]
Postscript: Marshall's big-game coaching ability (and my utter disappointment about the Alford hire) reached what I thought was its pinnacle the next weekend in the Final 4 when Wichita State was basically a bucket away from having a much more talented, eventual National Champion Louisville give up in the second half! Little did I know what Wichita State would do this year! Congrats Coach Marshall and Wichita State!! Welcome to the privileged club of undefeated regular seasons. I just can't help but wondering WHAT COULD HAVE BEEN FOR THE BRUINS...