CHAMPAIGN, IL - JANUARY 10: Illinois Fighting Illini head coach Bruce Weber looks on against the Ohio State Buckeyes at Assembly Hall on January 10, 2012 in Champaign, Illinois. The Illini defeated the Buckeyes 79-74. (Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images)
I'm back from a real job-induced hiatus, and naturally, the first thing I want to comment on is some news that is rather old by now. With the official hiring of Chester Frazier back on May 29, K-State had a full coaching staff again 64 days after Frank Martin accepted the job at South Carolina.
My immediate reaction to Bruce Weber's staff of Bruce Lowery (assistant), Alvin Brooks III (assistant) Frazier (assistant), Brad Korn (director of basketball operations), and Jimmy Price (Strength and Conditioning) is that there's too much Big Ten influence. I generally think of Big Ten basketball as being too focused on intense, physical defense, and slow motion offenses, which can repress talent (Deron Williams' good but not great numbers at Illinois before he became a star in the NBA may be the best example, and guess who his coach was his final season at U of I?) and limit the transition game and creativity that represent what I most like about college basketball.
Then again, I am probably somewhat irrational in my Big Ten bias, and though I don't like to admit it, K-State under Frank Martin often played like a Big Ten team in many respects, particularly since Denis Clemente left. Also, it's undeniable that style of basketball has been effective (9 Final Fours and one championship for Big Ten teams since 2000), which I suppose is the most important thing in the end, right?
First and foremost, what we need from this staff is the ability to recruit high-quality talent to Manhattan, Kan., which is never an easy task. We've already discussed how Weber has shown the ability to do this even in a less attractive place (development is another question entirely) and I think for the most part, his staff seems fairly capable.
We've got some good diversity in terms of location, as Brooks grew up in Houston, Lowery has most of his ties in the Illinois area, Frazier is from the Baltimore area, and Korn grew up near Dallas. That's a pretty solid start and should more than make up for the loss of Frank's recruiting efforts in south Florida.
Certainly, it's a young staff, as evidenced by the fact that I can still vividly remember watching Korn and Frazier play college basketball. For the record, Korn always seemed like a fairly smart (if bullish) player, but Frazier was more of a talented but out-of-control point guard who never reached his full potential, so let's hope his recruiting abilities are a little more consistent.*
*Here's a cool (and weird) story of how he called Weber asked Frazier to call Rodney McGruder and make sure he was staying at KSU before Weber took the job. Even though Frazier and McGruder had never spoken, he quickly reached McGruder on his cell and neither of them thought this was odd at all, because the college basketball world is a friendly, interconnected place, I guess.
The staff is definitely young and while that may help the assistants bring in recruits, it's also important to remember that parents are involved in the decision as well and experience is certainly important to everyone, to varying degrees. Without really knowing the ins and outs of college basketball recruiting, I'm not really willing to classify the youth of the staff as a good or bad thing.
One thing that I think should definitely help is Lowery's experience as a somewhat high-profile head coach (he made the Sweet 16 in 2007) in Division I basketball. It feels like that's a rarity on most college staffs, though it's less helpful that he was fired by Southern Illinois. Hopefully no one noticed that part.
Overall, I feel fairly good about this coaching staff in terms of recruiting and I think they'll be helped by the continued commitment from the AD's office, but it's the X's and O's part that worries me. On the plus side, the level of coaching in Big 12 basketball as a whole isn't as good as the insanely high quality of coaches in Big 12 football, so maybe that weakness will only show up against Kansas, Iowa State, maybe that guy at West Virginia, and since Lon Krueger clearly has a spell cast over KSU, Oklahoma.