When Enough is Enough
by Mike Maloney(NCAA Basketball)
Posted on March 14, 2007, 10:35 AM
Not much of a national news story, but Coach Neil Dougherty will be returning to coach the men's basketball team at TCU for the 2007-2008 season. While this historic piece of news probably has little-to-no impact on most of you, the reader, the situation can certainly be applied to any number of college teams who aren't meeting expectations and need a head coaching change.
Dougherty played basketball at West Point for a couple years under Mike Krzyzewski, and finished his career at Cameron University in 1984. He became an assistant coach at Cameron following graduation, and also coached at Drake, Vanderbilt, and South Carolina before settling in as a longtime assistant to Roy Williams at the University of Kansas. Neil was then hired by TCU to replace Billy Tubbs, who was leaving the team after eight seasons to explore other avenues. In Tubbs' tenure with the program, he had created some success on the team, highlighted by their 1997-98 team that went 27-6 and made it into the NCAA Tournament for the first time in eleven years. TCU enjoyed several 20 win seasons while Tubbs was at the helm.
Dougherty took over the team following the 2001-2002 season, and in his first year as coach, the team struggled, posting a 9-19 overall record and a 3-13 conference record. While the season as a whole was disappointing, there was certainly a period of adjustment that needed to take place, as Tubbs' high-flying, high-scoring, all offense and little defense method of playing was replaced by a more traditional scheme. The team improved in 2003, going 12-17 overall, but more importantly going 7-9 in conference. Then, in 2004, the team seemed to have a breakthrough, playing very well in their final season in Conference USA, ending up at 21-14 overall. However, a mediocre 8-8 conference record and first round loss in the C-USA tournament prevented TCU from contending for a NCAA Tournament bid. The team did end up in the NIT, though, and won its first two games before losing to the eventual NIT Champion, Maryland, in the Quarterfinals. Expectations were on the up and up, and many people were hoping that the team could capitalize on the year's success and push forward towards a tournament bid in 2005-06.
Unfortunately, Neil Dougherty lost star players Corey Santee and Marcus Shropshire to graduation, and poor recruiting resulted in a team with some serious holes on offense. The Horned Frogs crashed and burned that season, going from a 21-win team to a 6-win team, finishing up at 6-25 overall and a measly 2-14 in conference. Criticism began to surface about Dougherty's coaching ability, as well as his recruiting ability. These criticisms were silenced slightly at the start of the 2006-07 season, as the Frogs started out 6-2, including a surprising 2-0 start in conference, matching their total win total in the very beginning of the season. This aberration would come to a sudden halt, as the team would go on a 11-game losing streak, and finished the season 13-17, while only managing to win another two conference games, posting a 4-12 conference record.
Since the 2004-05 season, the Horned Frogs have dropped in offense from 70.4 ppg to 63.1 ppg (A +2.2 margin to a -3.7 margin). Interestingly enough, the team shot 41.3% from the field, same as they did in 04-05, but the lack of scoring is a result of a decrease in rebounds and an increase in turnovers. Attendance dropped as well, from an average of 4,344 fans per game to 3,732 per game (Although this number is bound to be inflated, both from the sellout that Bobby Knight and Texas Tech brings, along with numerous fan reports that show attendance at more like 1,000 than 3,000.
So, despite winning a total of 6 conference games and 19 games total (And most of these out-of-conference wins come against bottom feeder no name teams),TCU's Athletic Director felt it was appropriate to have Neil Dougherty return for yet another season with virtually no expectations of any kind of improvement. Meanwhile, an number of other coaches, specifically in the Mountain West, have been fired after similar or better results at their schools:
-Wyoming fired coach Steve McClain, a former assistant coach at TCU who had a career record of 157-115 with the Cowboys, including 2 conference championships, 3 NIT bids, and 1 bid to the NCAA Tournament. Wyoming finished at 17-15 this year.
-Colorado St. fired coach Dale Layer. Layer went 103-106 at CSU, with 1 MWC championship, and a record of 17-13 in 2006-2007.
-Ray Giacolletti was fired from Utah after a 56-40 career record with 1 MWC championship, an NCAA birth, and a Sweet Sixteen appearance. The Utes only managed a 13-19 record in 2006-2007.
-Coach Neil Dougherty, career record of 61-92, 2006-07 record of 13-17, 0 conference championships, 1 NIT bid, 0 NCAA bids, 0 winning seasons in conference. Brought back to coach team for another year.
As a TCU fan, this turn of events is really baffling. Given the school's successful football program, there is no reason why there can't be equal expectations placed with the basketball program. Dougherty complains about fan support, but the fact is that fans would go to the game if the team wasn't horrible and showed signs of improvement. AD Morrison doesn't seem to hold the basketball team to the same standards as the football team. If Gary Patterson were to go through 4 losing seasons in 5 years, he would most definitely be gone. And yet, Neil remains. There's no excuse for it, and it's an insult to TCU fans eveywhere that he continues to coach the team. Other schools have shown themselves to be more proactive, firing not only coaches that fail to be successful, but even coaches who do succeed, but not to the level that is expected. TCU fans would love to have a coach put together a resume like that of ex-Wyoming coach Steve McClain. 157-115, 4 postseason tournament bids, 2 conference championships. And yet he is shown the door after a poor season last year and a mediocre season this year. If only TCU had such goals in mind that they could consider a career like McClain's expendable. No, instead TCU will continue to play bad basketball, pickup bad recruits, and will still be a bad joke in the Mountain West, while the fans continue to pretend that the only basketball program at TCU is the women's team (Who picked up their seventh straight invitation to the NCAA Tournament on Monday), and count down the days until football season.