Dale Layer has something to prove next season, whether he
believes it or not.
Former Interim Director of Athletics Christine Susemihl signed
Layer to a five-year contract extension July 14, 2003, after Layer
led the Rams to an improbable Mountain West Conference Tournament
championship, the program’s first in 12 years.
But new AD Mark Driscoll has said over and over that they are
trying to build winning programs while maintaining the university’s
integrity. If that is truly the case, another last-place finish for
the Rams should affect Layer’s standing as coach of the men’s
I’ll start by commending Layer for what he has done right.
First, he is a tremendous recruiter and motivator. He has brought
in many talented players from Texas and landed a blue-chip Colorado
recruit this year in 7-foot center Jason Smith from Platte Valley
He also has been able to pull his team together in big games.
The team won the Mountain West Tournament in three close games as
the No. 6 seed, and then went on to be tied with Duke, that’s right
Duke, in the NCAA tournament with less than two minutes to
This season, the Rams came out firing against regular-season
champion Air Force and built a 20-point lead against the
Their 4-1 record in the Mountain West tournament in the past two
years not withstanding, however, the Rams have been a major
Layer has compiled an 18-38 record in regular-season conference
play since taking over in 2000, and CSU has never finished better
than sixth in an eight-team, mid-major conference.
To Layer’s defense, the Rams have had to deal with many injuries
the past two years. Their star center Matt Nelson has had chronic
knee problems, and Layer has had to juggle many different lineup
But a team should be able to play through injuries and still win
games against teams that have less talent.
Colorado is also not as basketball crazy as Utah or New Mexico
is, but, as mentioned before, Layer has been able to get plenty of
out-of-state talent to come to the Fort. Eleven of the 15 players
that could be on next year’s roster are not from Colorado and seven
of these 11 hail from Texas.
Many of the reasons the Rams lose are areas normally connected
to coaching. The Rams commit too many turnovers (17 a game this
year), have suffered at the line (71.2 percent this year) and give
up far too many offensive rebounds (12.2 a game this year). These
fundamental misnomers point directly at Layer because they have
been the trend rather than the exception the past four years.
Also, teams I’ve watched winning in the NCAA tournament have
been flying around and taking fast breaks whenever possible. This
is not close to what the Rams do, despite having many athletic
Layer doesn’t like his team to run, and his half-court sets
often end up with a poor shot taken with little time left on the
shot clock after the Rams fail to get the ball in to Nelson.
Defensively, CSU usually plays pretty effective man-to-man
defense. I’m not going to bash Layer for using the man-to-man, but
not having a zone defense as an option is a little
Bottom line is that the team will have 12 players returning,
only one of whom Layer didn’t recruit, and a wealth of talent and
experience next season. Another sub-par conference record should
not be accepted.
Sonny Lubick has built the football program to the point where
four straight seasons finishing sixth place or worse is almost
unthinkable. A 7-6 record and a bowl game this year and we were
talking about how disappointing the season was. Oh, and they had
many devastating injuries this year, too.
Why should we hold men’s basketball to a much lower level?
Easy. We shouldn’t.