Friday, December 30, 2011
Down the middle: Making sense of the Marvin Menzies experience
Should Marvin Menzies feel the heat? Oh yeah.
Should he feel pressure? Of course. What’s a Division I basketball coach here for, anyway?
Should he lose his job after his team’s 89-69 home loss to the University of New Mexico on Wednesday night? That, folks, is premature talk.
For the sake of talking basketball, and nothing more: Teams have bad games. UNM had a bad game when they lost to the Aggies in the Pit earlier this year. They shot 28 percent from the floor, and surely Lobo fans left the arena that night scowling about Steve Alford’s overrated coaching style and the team’s lack of awareness. These things happen.
Not to say that NMSU wasn’t thoroughly outclassed in every possible way Wednesday. UNM exposed the Aggies’ deficiencies — offensively challenged, a team that plays hard defensively, albeit not smart. And, yes, Menzies was exposed too.
The Aggies were down 40-19 with three minutes left in the first half, and the game was all but over. It’s simple math — with the way the Aggies’ offense was headed, they wouldn’t be able to score enough baskets to overcome a 21-point deficit going into intermission.
By the fourth quarter, the lead was more than 30. A foul call against the Aggies saw Menzies stomping the sidelines, screeching at the officials. At that point, someone on the bench — assistant coach, player — should have helped the head man to his seat. It’s over coach. Just take your medicine.
But back to the original point. Menzies isn’t getting fired now. Whether it should happen is besides the point — it’s not going to happen. Not with Athletics Director McKinley Boston in charge, who hands out — almost defiantly — contract extensions to coaches he’s hired, and doesn’t want to see fail.
After all, the Aggies are 8-5 this year and have split their rivalry games against UNM and UTEP. In Aggieland, this might warrant giving Menzies a lifetime deal for his accomplishments.
In truth, Menzies has found a loophole at the office. He hasn’t been egregious enough to warrant losing his job — a record well over .500 and remaining competitive in a Western Athletic Conference that has somehow managed to regress at the same pace the Aggies have. Nor has he inspired enough to warrant a promotion to another school. As long as he treads water, he’s going to be with the Aggies for a while. Even if some Aggie fans want a divorce.
Take this week for instance. After getting blown out by the Lobos, NMSU will host Arkansas-Pine Bluff for a noon game on Saturday. Then it’s off to Cal State-Bakersfield. Two wins — as empty as they may feel — will give NMSU a 10-5 record going into conference, where they should compete as a top-three, top-four team. Heck, they can win the WAC, which would grant them an NCAA Tournament berth. Yes, this is possible. From this vantage point, that’s a competitive year, even if it rings hollow to some.
And now, as much as the Aggies benefited from their early success, they’re suffering from it in the present.
Their first win against UNM was misleading — again, the Lobos shot 28 percent and the game took place early in the season, before the blueprint was out on how to beat Aggies.
They squashed the Miners at home, and Menzies began talking out of the side of his mouth about how this was a Top 25 team, a special team. But that talk was unfounded, and that early movement painted the Aggies as something better than current reality suggests.
If I were grading Menzies as a coach, on a scale of 1 to 10, I’d give him a 5. He doesn’t knock my socks off. He hasn't overwhelmed.
He’s been average, down the middle.
For this current athletics administration, it seems like the perfect match.
Five years of courtship, and that relationship has seldom hummed in such perfect harmony.
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