- May 29, 2001
Here's the thing about this weekend for Shaka Smart and the Texas basketball program... everyone knew the stakes going in.
Back when Texas was in the middle of a post-COVID losing streak, I barely raised an eyebrow because the verdict on the season would only be decided in the Tournament.
Even last week following a first-ever Big 12 Tournament Championship, every follower of the program knew that all of the good from Kansas City would be undone without a Sweet 16 appearance. Simple as that.
After four years of zero NCAA Tournament wins, it’s been now or never with the most talented and experienced team he's ever coached. Even with an Elite 8 appearance this season, there would have been a weird no-man's land for Texas AD Chris Del Conte while he decided exactly how to proceed with Smart’s contract.
That uncertainty disappeared on Saturday inside the most embarrassing loss in the history of the program. Never before had the Texas program fallen on its face to a 14-seed in the Tournament, let alone one from the Lone Star State possessing an assortment of players from the Island of Misfit Toys.
Abilene Christian 53, Texas 52. That happened.
I'm probably one of the closest things to a Shaka defender around these parts. Yes, he'd been a failure through the first five seasons of his career, but he'd also been the victim of some unfortunate circumstances - a half-court shot to lose in the NCAA here and a star player dealing with leukemia there and all of the dynamics of COVID here. Inside one of the best regular seasons in the last 25 years of the program, I needed to see how this season would end before calling the entirety of the Smart era in Austin a total failure.
But, zero NCAA Tournament wins in six seasons is the textbook definition of a total failure for any program with ambition.
I strongly believe that Smart will eventually find success somewhere else, much like I believe that Tom Herman has a chance to reinvent himself down the road. There's a potential Steve Sarkisian-like comeback for both of these coaches, but just like with Herman, a bottom-line reality means that it probably won't happen in Austin.
Six seasons is a very large sample size, and Texas absolutely risks becoming the poster child for insanity should it bring Smart back because it doesn't want to buy out the $7 million left on his contract.
My guess is that Del Conte lets Smart go at some point in the next two weeks, especially if his preferred target is still playing in the NCAA Tournament. Just as the Alamo Bowl served as terrific cover for Del Conte's search for a new football coach in relative quiet, the Tournament will do the same while Del Conte sizes up the market.
The fact that Del Conte has gone silent again on Twitter has become a bit of a poker tell, especially after he went Twitter dark during the football season when the heat around Herman and The Eyes of Texas debacle reached its zenith. Del Conte LOVES Twitter, and he went from supporting the team and potentially meeting up with other Longhorns at halftime to stone cold silence.
Chris, if you're out there, I feel you. If I didn't have to write this column, I'd probably go dark for a few days myself.
But, I did have to write this column because the show must go on. It's just the characters that sometimes change.
It's not personal; it's just the way business goes.
No. 2 - Three more things following the ACU loss ...
a. I feel bad for Matt Coleman. Coming off the best game of his career, Coleman followed with a performance that will haunt him for the rest of his life. Getting into immediate foul trouble was a freshman mistake. That he finishes his career in almost the same place as Sam Ehlinger, a four-year warrior whose name will be synonymous with the head coach he played for, is a cruel fate for a young man that deserves to be remembered for something other than the shortcomings of the program around him.
b. What the hell do we make of Greg Brown? The NBA isn't quite knocking down the door to draft kids that play minor minutes in NCAA Tournament games. If he wants to go pro and make some money playing in the G-League, I will totally get it, but this season has turned into an absolute disaster for Brown and I can't really wrap my head around him thinking he's ready to be a professional. Let's just say the quiet part out loud. Would he stay at Texas if there's a new coach? Would he transfer and play a season at a traditional power in hopes of rebuilding his draft portfolio?
c. If Del Conte makes a move, one of the questions he needs to ask any prospective head coach is what kind of plan he’lll have for a rebuilding job next season that could range from doable to impossible. It's easy to imagine a mass exodus from the roster if Smart is fired, mainly because it's also not hard to imagine a mass exodus if he is retained.
No. 3 - Casey Thompson's Big Challenge...
Casey Thompson has waited his entire life for this.
It feels like almost yesterday that Thompson put his name into the transfer portal, but Thompson actually sat and waited for two more seasons while Sam Ehlinger finished his career.
After a superstar performance in the Alamo Bowl against Colorado, Thompson has his opportunity to finally be the man. Only redshirt freshman Hudson Card stands in the way.
With a new coaching staff in charge, Thompson gets to start off with a blank slate, as I firmly believe a confirmation bias towards Card already existed with the previous Texas offensive staff. None of these new coaches have worked with either quarterback, which means that the next 15 practices (including the Spring game) will define how the staff views his short- and long-term prospects as a player.
For Thompson, the next 15 practices need to be about developing the type of consistency every day that he's lacked so far in his first three seasons as a college player. On his best day, Thompson is a star. On his average days, Thompson hasn't been anywhere close to that level according to those previously following his progress inside the program. Thompson has to get to a point where his bad days aren't bad and his average days aren't average.
It's as simple as that. If Thompson can't do it, Card will emerge as the starting quarterback.
No. 4 - Four more spring football ponderings ...
a. I'm not saying the DeMarvion Overshown labrum surgery is a concern, but I'm also not saying it isn't. All things being equal, you'd wish a rehab process that takes 4-6 months occurred 8-9 months away from the start of August camp instead of 5 months. It's not optimal, but it's better than having the issue pop up this summer.
b. The linebacker battle this spring is fascinating because with Overshown out, there's nothing but unproven parts all over the place in this new linebacker-centric Pete Kwiatkowski defense that will begin to take shape. I'm curious to see what that means in a month. Ray Thornton must be licking his chops.
c. I have a feeling Jeff Banks is really going to like his tight end room. That group might be the low-key, super-competitive position in the program.
d. Is B.J. Foster still a player that fans believe in? What exactly is the hope at this point? Personally, I'll never stop believing there's a difference-maker inside of him, but it's been a long time since we've seen it.
No. 5 - Maalik Murphy's second game ...
No one wants to admit it, but there is a similarity in Maalik Murphy and former Texas quarterback Tyrone Swoopes that cannot be ignored - both lack the kind of quality game reps in volume that you'd prefer in a quarterback prospect at the same stage of their junior seasons.
What does that mean?
It means we should all care less about what Murphy looks like now than what he looks like when he has more game reps under his belt. Right now he's a three-star player inside of a five-star body. It's going to take some development before the three-star player emerges into something more than that.
It might be helpful if everyone views Murphy as a hot dog at a baseball game, which is my way of saying that seeing how the hot dog is made might make you not want to eat it, but if you don't pay any attention to how it's made, it might turn out that you'll enjoy it just fine.
No. 6 - About Texas baseball ...
I'm curious...how high is the bar that Texas baseball must clear this season under David Pierce?
I ask because his team has won 14 of its last 17, including an impressive two out of three on the road in Waco this weekend, and appears to be capable of competing for a Big 12 championship and playing deep into the postseason.
After two seasons remembered as duds, another cancelled by COVID and yet another that ended in the College World Series, I'm not sure of the correct way to measure the program in a post-Augie universe.
Is it still Omaha or bust? How would a season similar to the one the men's basketball team just had be viewed? For instance, what are we thinking about the season if Texas finishes 3rd in a tough Big 12, wins the Big 12 Tournament and then loses at home in a regional?
No. 7 – BUY or SELL …
(Buy) It's possible that it could go into the Final Four weekend, but I'd guess it's during the week leading up to the Final Four.Shaka gets fired this month
(Sell) Damn good coaches fail all the time. Look at Jim Harbaugh at Michigan. Or Mack Brown in his final years at Texas. My hunch is that Smart will one day know success again. It just won't be at Texas.Deep down you knew Shaka was a fraud and that’s why you couldn’t write that article?
(Buy) And that and $3 will get you a cup of coffee at Starbucks.This was one of the greatest UT basketball regular seasons of all time?
(Buy) Coleman and Andrew Jones are damn fine players, who didn't have damn fine games on Saturday. Courtney Ramey fell apart down the stretch in a bad way.Our guards are not as good as we thought and cratered with real tourney type pressure.
(Sell) Smart's been here six seasons. Tom Herman received four.With the delicate EOT situation still in the ether, UT can’t be seen firing an AA Coach in a major sport right now.
(Buy) I'm all for an attempted reverse-jinx.Oh great Wizard, will we lose all of our football games this year? Please say yes. Asking for a friend.
(Buy) Thanks for attempting to change the tone. I do appreciate it.Sark signs a top five class.
(Buy) The Boogie Nights curse is still in play.Are we cursed? Seriously the last 10 years we pissed off some sort of higher power
(Sell) I just jinx a few teams. Mack's curse destroyed lives!Ketch Jinx is more powerful than the Mack Brown curse.
(Buy) The Ol' Ball Coach never picks up the fruit on the ground. The fact that he always reached for what was on the top branch is always what made his smack talk so memorable. Honestly, I'm not sure why Riley needs it. His resume should be able to be all the smack talk that he needs.Lincoln is a second tier troll compared to Spurrier. He just has more technology at his fingertips.
(Sell) He's a year away.Bijan is in the Heisman conversation this year.
(Sell) I don't have high hopes.Media will have more access to spring football workouts and scrimmages under Sark?
No. 8 - Scattershooting on the weekend...
... Winning the conference tournament proved to be a poor precursor for the tournament for a number of teams. Texas, Illinois, Georgia Tech and Georgetown all went from cutting down nets to one and done.
... I think Gonzaga will win the NCAA Tournament, but picked Illinois in an attempt to diversify my bracket from the overwhelming public favorite. So much for that.
... Baylor looks like a team that has rediscovered its mojo.
... I'm adopting Ohio's Jason Preston as my new favorite player left in the Tournament.
... I don't know what to make of the current Deshaun Watson situation. How can a team trade for him right now? How can the Texans expect to get any real value? Or does none of it matter in an NFL world where anything short of murder can be easily forgiven for the right guy.
... It feels like the worst thing that can happen to an NBA MVP candidate right now is to be perceived as the favorite. That's when the injuries happen.
... The Rockets have lost 20 straight. Hey, if you're going to suck...really suck. Watch out, T-Wolves!
... If Man City, PSG or Bayern Munich are going to win the Champions League this year, it won't be because they received cakewalks to the final. A potential Munich/City semifinal feels like a monster in the making.
... Juventus is 10 points from the top in Serie A.
... Nice job, Leicester City.
... Coming to a WWE arena near you very soon...
No. 9 - The List: Worst sequels
This one comes via special request from @AnwarRichardson.
The litmus test used to decode the worst sequel? I tried to close my eyes and imagine how awful being forced to sit through the movie would be as my test.
For instance, I could live through a re-watch of The Godfather III. I'm not sure I could survive "Dumb and Dumberer: When Harry Met Lloyd"
10. Weekend at Bernie's II - The first movie is still a weird personal favorite, even if it has aged incredibly poorly. The sequel has only been watched once and I'm pretty sure I just blocked it out.
9. Mannequin 2: On the Move - See above.
8. Exorcist 2: The Heretic - For all of the talk about The Godfather III, this one deserves more scorn.
7. The Karate Kid III - Yes, I would rather watch The Next Karate Kid.
6. Sex and the City 2 - The sequel makes the original look like Citizen Kane.
5. Son of the Mask - A strong case can be made that this should be No.1.
4. Rocky V - I don't know why I put this on the list because I don't recognize it as a real thing.
3. Police Academy 7: Mission to Moscow - I'll rock with Citizens on Patrol. I can tolerate the Miami one. I can survive City Under Siege. This one is wretched.
2. Dumb and Dumberer: When Harry Met Lloyd - I walked out of the theater after 20 minutes.
1. Caddyshack 2 - It's the only No.1 answer, right?
No. 10 - And Finally ...
Following the Saturday night debacle on the hardwood, I decided to watch the new Zack Snyder cut of the "Justice League" movie, which was released in 2017.
Not only had I not seen the original, but I hadn't seen the Batman vs. Superman movie, although I knew details about the plot.
All I can say is that even a dive into a 4-hour film seemed like a better idea than being on Orangebloods after midnight.
Overall, I thought the first hour was solid, the second hour was a bit tedious, the third hour was really, really good and the fourth hour was a mixed bag.
I'm not sure how to add all of that up together as a grade because it felt like watching an uneven six-part Netflix series. I don't regret watching it, but I'm not running out to tell anyone to watch it., either.