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.

Follow me on Twitter @TeddyFeinberg


Anonymous said...

On one hand, I applaud Boston for being reasonable and not firing coaches at the first sign of trouble. At a place like nmsu you have to have patience. On the other hand, I think that he is overly protective of his hires. I'm not calling for Menzies head in the middle of the season, but I do think that if this team doesn't make the tournament this year, we need to move in a different direction. This is year 5. These are all Menzies players, and he has 3 senior starters. You could say that this may be as good as its going to get under Menzies. He is not a good recruiter and I'm not sure who started that rumor. Any success he has had as a recruiter is largely overshadowed by his failure to develop and focus that talent. Look at his good recruits and you'll see that he couldn't keep them focused or in school. JY, Troy, and Pope all left. Wen left and eventually came back. None of his project players have been productive or improved. I don't think that Menzies has the ability or the make up to help his projects do either.

Anonymous said...

He's been a pretty successful coach for a WAC school. Come on folks NMS isn't big time and never will be.
NMS will never be a national powerhouse.
Life will be happier for you when you realize this , you need to lower your expectations.

Anonymous said...

Twenty years ago, 13000 at most games and a regular invitation to the NCAA tourney, now we settle for average at best. We camped out for days for UNLV and NCAA games, the passion is gone. Strangely Las Cruces is much larger now. So is the campus.

Rachel said...

Teddy, you have summed up this situation perfectly, which is why I feel sick to my stomach right now.

@Anon 9:42: were the lobo boards to slow tonight that you had to come over here? I will never lower my expectations for Aggie BB.

Anonymous said...

No one expects the Aggies to be a national powerhouse in any sport. How could we since don't regularly play powerhouses in any sport and win...outside of Boise in football, and we know how that worked out.

What we expect is to be competitive with comparable teams, and that means UNM and UTEP. In Menzies tenure as head coach, we average one win to three losses to our rivals. I say that is not good enough. 50-50, yeah, that would be acceptable. Less is not. And that's just the "W"s and "L"s.

The major problem with Menzies is that he doesn't seem to be able to coach in real time, during the ebb and flow of the game. The UNM game in Las Cruces is a good example. Our best player and most productive player, Mr. McKines, wasn't getting the ball in the first half. What did the coach do? He sure didn't make sure the ball went to or through Wen's hands.

Another example from the same game. It was evident early on that UNM was hitting the 3-ball fairly easily. Did the coach call an early timeout and work with the players to fix the rotation issue? He did not. He kept those timeouts in his pocket. Does he not realize that you can call timeouts on consecutive possessions to get his players in line? Instead, he sat there with his mouth open as the Lobos worked on getting an insurmountable lead. I kid you not, the coach looked like he was seeing something he hadn't seen before.

Now, I think the coach is a nice guy, truly. Maybe it's time for him to not be a nice guy...or...maybe it's time to find a coach who can coach before, during, and after the game.

Anonymous said...

So were/are Butler and George Mason big time national powers?

Menzies isn't getting it done. No reason to keep him around if he can't perform the job that he was hired to do. He wasn't hired to be mediocre. He was hired to field a successful competitive basketball team. Thus far he hasn't proven that he can do that.


Anonymous said...

Anon 9:42 speaks for a lot of people when expressing the need to be content with mediocrity. After all, even if you wanted to make a coaching change, NMSU faces significant economic headwinds. We can't afford a big time head coach, have no extra money to work with and times are tough. Even getting an up-and-coming assistant would require incremental investment and be a tough sell. Fair enough. And given these realities, most Menzies apologists essentially come down to "we can do no better."

I say, that we can do no worse.

The other point I hear from the apologists is "he a nice guy" alluding to the notion of Menzies being a good fit for NMSU. I don't know Mr. Menzies, but by all accounts he does seem very nice. Pleasant demeanor, Fatherly, and nothing personally controversial about him. He works well with Dr. Boston and seems to have no further aspirations beyond NMSU.

I say even nice, well meaning and hard working people are sometimes simply not a fit in their jobs.

Menzies shouldn't be fired for one loss or an abysmal record against rivals. He also shouldn't be retained for a March run two years ago or a solid record against weaker WAC and DII teams. He should move on because he has demonstrated that he can't consistently lead a D1 team to play basketball cohesively and beat teams with comparable talent. Nothing more and nothing less. I'm not angry about it, not gonna let it ruin my day, and I wish no ill will toward the man. I just believe that in five years, he's done little to demonstrate that he's up for the challenging role of a D1 head basketball coach and it's time to move on.

So for me, it comes down to money and finding a suitable replacement and that's where the AD comes in. We'll also need a new, marketing-oriented AD in order to turn around fund raising in a cost-cutting era where we've given up hope on filling up the Pan Am. And we'll need that person to sell an up-and-coming assistant, who can get a basketball team to execute consistently, isn't intimidated by tough opponents and can inject some excitement into the community.

It's a tall order, I understand. But there are plenty of people who are up for the challenge and who would embrace our community as a solution, not a problem.

It's time to move on. We deserve better. The NMSU community will thank Menzies and Boston for their efforts and will welcome the opportunity to once again be optimistic about the future.

Anonymous said...

4th quarter?

Anonymous said...

Marvin Menzo is the "village idiot" and Boston just gave him two more years for mediocrity!

It's time for both to go.
Barbara Cotuer, your the head of this university. It's time for you to FIRE Boston and bring in your AD!!
The longer you wait, the more we fall.

Anonymous said...

"Making sense of the Marvin Menzies experience."

The reality is that it doesn't make sense.
All you Menzies haters/ lovers ask yourself this question:

Is NMSU BB in better shape now than it was before Menzies got here?

I rest my case.