It’s Not Worth Winning if You Can’t Win Big

I can’t believe that I just quoted a line from Little Giants as the title for a post pertaining to March Madness, but it really explains what I’m thinking.

Yesterday I heard a radio interview with former UCLA head coach and current ESPN analyst Steve Lavin. While Lavin is an even nicer guy than he is a good analyst (and he’s a pretty darn good analyst), he wasn’t very good as a coach — and Ben Howland’s ability to quickly turn the program around proved that Lavin wasn’t ascending the Bruins program to the levels they were capable of.

During the interview, Lavin’s impressive record in the first weekend of the tournament (10-1) was brought up. Lavin boasted that his winning percentage for the first two rounds is second only to Dean Smith’s. That’s fantastic and all, but you know what I say? Who cares! What goes does it do to only reach the Sweet 16 and never get past it? So what if your much talented team beats a few crappy teams early on? That’s meaningless if you’re going to lose to every team of equal, slightly better, or slightly worse talent than you. 

Lavin coached a good number of NBA players — including Baron Davis, Jason Kapono, Matt Barnes, Earl Watson, and Dan Gadzuric. These aren’t the most spectacular players in the league, but they’re all good enough to the point where you would think the Bruins would have made a better run under Lavin than they ever did.

I said the same thing about the Chargers this year — if Marty Schottenheimer chokes in the playoffs despite a league best 14-2 record in the regular season, then you have to fire him. If Lavin makes 5 of 6 Sweet 16’s but can’t beat a good program once he reaches the Sweet 16, then you need to replace him with a coach who can.

Sometimes just winning 20 games and reaching the Sweet 16 isn’t OK. Sometimes you can be like Coach K and have a down year where your squad loses to VCU in the 1st round and it happens. But we all know that Coach K can take a team to the title game — and win it. Same thing with Bobby Knight — to whom Lavin referenced for his inability to make it out of the first round of the tournament recently.

Whether or not a coach gets me to the Sweet 16 only to get blitzed or just gets the losing over with in the first round makes no difference to me. What matters to me is having a coach who takes you to the Final Four when he HAS a talented team — which Lavin was never able to do.

Bottom line is that I’m in it to win it. What’s the point of of winning IF YOU CAN’T WIN BIG!

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  • Gene

    I agree with your position wholeheartedly. The next screen Lavin sets for Jason Kapono will be the first. Kapono couldn’t create his own shots, but is enough of a deadeye to lead the NBA in three point shooting and win the contest at the all star break.
    Did you know that Matt Barnes could score? Neither did Lavin. Remember Toby Bailey? Under Lavin’s watch he went downhill every year, from promising freshman to total anonymity.
    Gilbert Arenas wanted to go to UCLA, but Lavin wasn’t interested in him. Luckily for Gilbert, Lute Olson was.
    Lavin was famous for missing road practices. I guess there was nothing he could teach the team anyway, and he was probably getting his hair greased.
    That “sweet sixteen” stat is one of the most misleading in college basketball. How could Lavin have the audacity to compare himself with Knight and Coach K? If he wants to talk about first round exits, he should remember that the general was the last coach to preside over a championship team with a perfect record. I’m talking about 1976 Indiana (32-0).
    Keep on the sidelines, Steve. The only analysis Lavin should be involved in is with him lying on a couch.