Sunday, March 09, 2008

Missouri Valley Conference Coach of the Year

If you watched any of the tournament games from the stands or on TV, there was no doubt that Drake had "the horses" and a coach who knew how to coach them. And Illinois State was a better team than the one you saw lose today by 30 points.

Bradley ended their season with an opening round loss to a team they beat by approximately 30 points less than three weeks ago. On a neutral floor in the Valley Conference Tournament in St. Louis, the game had possibilities of going either way until the last 1:32. At that point, an ill advised attempt for a three pointer by a guard who was 2 for 11for the game, clanged off the rim, while the best shooter on the team who was 5 for 8 never got his hands on the ball. Not a sign of a well coached team.

From what was projected to be a great year for Bradley picked to finish 2nd behind Creighton, turned into a very mediocre 17-15 season. For coach of the year in the Missouri Valley Conference, Drake coach Keno Davis received 116 votes to 3 for the Bradley coach. Drake was ranked at the bottom or near the bottom before any games were played. Now they are heading for the NCAA and Bradley may be heading for a tournament devised mainly to make money off of die hard fans.

This Bradley team may play again but for all intents, this season is history.

In reviewing Bradley's past years under coach Les, his biggest wins recently; over Drake at Drake, Kansas and Pittsburgh in the NCAA, appear to have come because the of the loser's over confidence and a "hyped up, nothing to lose", team effort by the Bradley players.

Jim Les returned to this community promising a return to the greatness of many years past. As a longtime observer of Bradley basketball, I have not seen a fulfillment of that promise nor do I see it in the future.

Also, unanswered is not only whether or not a player is guilty of assault or speeding while drinking, but why were they "messing" around in the early morning hours especially the day of a nationally televised game? All indications are that the athletic director and the coach do not have the respect of some of the players or rules are lax or both.

It's a shame because Bradley basketball, except for the point shaving scandal of the early 50's, has had a sterling reputation in the basketball arena. As a longtime fan, friend, past Chiefs's Club Vice-President and financial supporter, I am disappointed.

As Hugh Seigel of New York writes in the WSJ that Americans are inclined to align themselves with an image and a person's skill with words, demeanor, and attire creating an intuitive understanding that image trumps substance to such a degree that image becomes substance.

Too bad.


Anonymous said...

Merle, Bradley University seems to have many serious problems not related to the basketball program as well as those you have noted. The University of Illinois also has many basketball related problems as does Indiana University. It seems to me that we place way too much emphasis on sports in our universities and recruit athletes to these teams that probably should not be in a university. Many lack the judgment and social skills to effectively cope in the university environment. I believe that there should be a downsizing of sports so that only true students were on the sporting teams. Professional basketball and football leagues should have an extensive minor league system as does baseball. I know that much money going to universities would be lost, but their primary mission is education and not training athletes for professional teams. Just my thoughts. Ed Sanders

Anonymous said...


You are correct. I plan to do a blog on exacly what you are concerned about.


Diane Vespa said...

Hi Merle, thought you might be interested in my latest blog entry at

Merle Widmer said...

Thanks Diane,

Questions will be asked at sthe Tax/Economic Development meeting Thursday March 27, 2:00, fourth floor County Court House. One of mine will be why Gary Shadid said my deposition would be sent to Springfield for review.

It wasn't.

AdamB said...

Is Wayne McClain still available? I thought it was a huge mistake to pick Les over McClain, and I'm sad to see my fears borne out.

In my opinion, there are only two universities that actually benefit from college athletics: Duke in men's basketball and Notre Dame in every sport. They do it though high standards and class.