Imagine for a moment, you’re back in high school.
You’re a wide-eyed 10th grade boy who happens upon a deceptively gorgeous freshman girl. She’s cute, but has slipped under the radar of most boys because she’s still, well, “developing,” shall we say.
You have some great times. On top of being attractive, she turns out to be nice and you two are in sweet, sophomoric bliss.
Then something funny happens.
Some of the bigger boys are starting to notice what a hottie you’ve attracted. You hear them whispering in the halls /_” “what a rack… what a smile… what’s she doing with him?”
The seniors are moving in on your turf and there’s nothing you can do to stop the inevitable /_” she moves up the popularity ladder, leaving your young ass behind in favor of the senior stud muffin. Sure, you’re nice and all, but he’s better. Besides, he’s got that pimped-out Civic. Super.
Now, am I just a guy who had a bitter time with the ladies back in the day? Perhaps.
But do I better understand the ways of college coaching changes because of such extended, depressed metaphors? You bet.
Just like the early days of dating, coaching college basketball is entirely about moving up to the biggest and the best pasture.
Loyalties be damned. When the chance for a bigger paycheck comes along, it seems nothing else matters.
Take our old friend Richie McKay. Two years ago, McKay left CSU for the wonderful opportunity to slum crap at Oregon State and get paid about twice as much in the process. Last week, McKay pulled another quick exit, leaving Oregon State after only two years /_” the same amount of time he spent at Colorado State /_” to head up the program at New Mexico for a cool $500,000 a year.
Did he burn a few bridges and leave a bitter taste with his abbreviated stay in Fort Collins? Yes.
But can you blame a man for wanting to make more money? No.
So what’s the real beef of the issue? Where college basketball coaching is concerned, CSU is the minor leagues. The Rams are an average team in an average league. And should any one awesome season come along, the major leagues will come knocking with a briefcase full of cash in hand.
Look at Kent State. First year Head Coach Stan Heath inherited a senior-laden team and took them to a 30-win season and an Elite Eight appearance. Major programs took notice. Less than a week after finally bowing out of the NCAA Tournament, Heath was named the new coach at the University of Arkansas, an SEC power looking for a hot young coach.
Such is life for middle-of-the-pack programs. Schools like Kent State and CSU serve as farm clubs for major conferences, where coaches hang around and refine their trade until they do well enough to leave.
CSU basketball is heading in the right direction under Dale Layer and his staff. But let’s say the Rams run off an impressive season in 2003. Say they somehow steer their way to a 20-win season and, after a strong showing at the Mountain West tournament, sneak their way into the NCAA Tournament.
Bye, bye Dale.
Just like that girlfriend long ago, he’d leave the sophomore for the senior – off to resurrect a big budget, big conference program.
And so, loyal Rams fans, you have a choice to make. Hope for the resurgence of CSU men’s hoops or hope Dale sticks around for a while.
Just don’t expect both.
Reed is a junior journalism major.