Pass the blame around for USF hoops failures
By GARY SHELTON
Published April 4, 2003
Seth Greenberg is leaving. Does it matter?
South Florida is looking. Should it bother?
They finally parted ways, the underachieving coach and the unambitious program. Greenberg walked out of the door, and USF held it open for him, and for the first time in seven years, it's hard to blame either one.
Basketball has become invisible at USF. It is a flat-lined, under-the-radar, inconsequential game that stirred neither passion nor imagination. For a very long time, basketball has been unimpressive and unbothered by it, ignored and inconsequential.
Now, a team going nowhere needs new leadership. Should we care?
Go ahead, discuss whether it was USF that let Greenberg down, or if it was the other way around. Why not? You have a few minutes, and besides, it would be the first time anyone has discussed USF basketball in a long time.
It has been a molehill of a program, a speed bump on the way to nowhere. Most teams have an R.P.I. factor. This one had an R.I.P. factor. In the world of college basketball, it was just another score in the agate. It never made waves. It never reached the NCAA postseason. It just kind of dribbled along.
In the end, that was Seth's legacy. Better than bad. But not good enough to require your attention.
The galling part of all was that, for those in charge at USF, this was just swell.
Seven years without an NCAA appearance? Fine. No victories over Associated Press Top 25 teams? No problem. Constant collapses down the stretch? Okay.
And, hey, Seth?
How about a contract extension?
If you suspected, even for a second, the standards for basketball were higher than the top of a sneaker, that should have set you straight. Greenberg had 20 games against Top 25 teams, and he lost them all. He was 16 games under .500 in league play.
And that gets you an extension? Sheesh. If he ever won 20, would they have made him school president?
Frankly, this is great news for Greenberg. Bully for him. He's going to make a lot of money, and he gets a fresh new canvas, and he'll save a lot of time now that he isn't going to Kinko's every March to make photocopies of his resume to send out.
I'm not quite sure what Virginia Tech saw in Greenberg that impressed the school so much. Who knows? Maybe he sent in George O'Leary's resume. Or Billy Donovan's. Maybe it happened on one of those nights when the rest of us weren't paying attention to USF basketball. There were a few of those.
Really, it doesn't matter what you think about Greenberg going, and it doesn't matter, really, who you think might be coming. What matters are those who are staying.
This is the time to pay attention to Lee Roy Selmon, who has spent a lot of his time at USF on cruise control. No one is going to argue Selmon's legend, and not many would debate how badly the school needed him as a calming influence when he was named athletic director.
Really, has there been a blip on the radar since Selmon took over? Except for football - and how about that schedule - is any program really better off for his stewardship? He has been the guy in charge of contract extensions.
Now Selmon has to hire a basketball coach. This just in: Mike Krzyzewski is not expected to apply. Nor is Tom Izzo or Donovan or Rick Barnes. Ben Howland, darn the luck, took the UCLA job a day too soon, and Roy Williams already has the North Carolina rumors to deal with. And who would have believed it? Jim Harrick picked the wrong year to give up not getting caught. Matt Doherty just called; he prefers unemployment.
What Selmon needs is a young, energetic coach who isn't afraid of Rick Pitino's shadow, or Bob Huggins' or John Calipari's or Tom Crean's. He needs someone who can recruit, someone who can lead, someone who can teach free-throw shooting.
What Selmon doesn't need is someone else to tell USF how hard it is to win at USF. He doesn't need someone talking about difficult schedules or unfortunate injuries or, for goodness' sake, rebuilding. How can you rebuild when you were never built to begin with?
Look, we all know the problems. We know Conference USA is much, much better as a basketball conference than it is as a football conference. We know Florida isn't a basketball state. We know USF doesn't have the money of some schools. We know it's a suitcase college.
We also know this: other schools have those problems, too. And it doesn't stop them from dreaming.
Around here, no one bothered to dream anymore. Basketball had reached this comfortable little ledge. The Bulls weren't going to have a winning record, but at the end of the year, you weren't going to remember any of their victories, either.
Had Seth not taken the Virginia Tech job, could you visualize that changing?
Me, neither. Under Greenberg, you could count on USF being 17-15 forever.
It's a shame. Most of us expected more. Greenberg had personality, and he had a reputation as a recruiter. Who knew he arrived the day someone in the department broke a mirror? As South Florida begins to search for his replacement, it needs to ask itself this: Does it want to be better than this? Is a program that doesn't lose, but doesn't matter, enough for the school?
If what Greenberg has delivered has been enough, then USF suffered a critical loss on Thursday.
If, on the other hand, the school would like for basketball to matter, then Virginia Tech might have done it a favor.