I haven’t had much to say about Kansas State basketball over the last two weeks. That may sound counterintuitive, because there has been much to talk about, but I’m not a good source for speculation or inside scoops (y’all know where to find those). I kinda wish I had put my thoughts out though, because this played out like I expected. Brad Underwood, in my opinion (with no inside info), was not a reasonable candidate. I understand why he was the the candidate of choice for most, but I didn’t see him leaving Illinois and starting over at this point in his career. I also didn’t see K-State forking over the exorbitant price tag to land him, even if he were willing to leave Illinois.
Jerome Tang, on the other hand, is in the perfect position to take the job. He’s honed his craft in the Big 12 at Baylor, knows the recruiting landscape, and knows what he’s stepping into at Kansas State. He’s hungry to take this program and make it his own. That doesn’t guarantee results, but it certainly doesn’t hurt. The Wildcats landed one of the premier (if not the premier) assistant coaches at a reasonable salary. He doesn’t come with any coaching baggage, and has played an integral role in helping building up a Baylor program that many people (myself included) didn’t think should be a program anymore after the Bliss fiasco. Now he gets a chance to build up a K-State program that isn’t that far away from being good (depending on how the roster shakes out).
We’ve got plenty of time to talk about the nuts and bolts of K-State basketball (the offseason is dark and deep), but today is more about fixing the feelings (“vibes” for my younger readers) surrounding the program. Coach Tang has done an excellent job of laying out his vision for the program in his first few days, and it’s not a coincidence that program and fan unity has been one of the major themes he’s spoken about. I don’t want to rehash the past, but everyone who follows K-State knows there has been a fracture in the fan base, with two sides so completely dug into the positions that there was no room for compromise. That’s not a healthy way to run a college basketball program. The Big 12 is hard enough without a long festering fan civil war.
Regardless of which side of the Bruce Weber divide you populated, it’s time for everyone to disarm and get back to the business at hand, which is winning basketball games, not twitter arguments. The early returns on reconciliation are promising. I’m sure there are a few ‘Brad or Bust’ holdouts, but in terms of social media, Coach Tang is being welcomed with open arms. This is the honeymoon period. Everything seems possible. The future is PURPLE (or Lavender)!
The key is maintaining that momentum when the season rolls around next winter. I like Coach Tang, I think he’ll do wonders with the Wildcats, but he’s not a panacea. You can lust for an Arizona Wildcat or Iowa State Wind Storm turn around, but the odds are, that’s not going to happen next year. This will be a building process, and depending on roster retention, things could get worse (not substantially of course) before they get better. It will be interesting to see if old banners start to waive after the first (or fifth) disappointing loss of the season. It’s possible that the dreaded Jayhawks blow out K-State in at least one game next season, because they tend to blow teams out. Can Coach Tang build enough good will to hold everyone together when things get tough? Once people dig into a position, it’s almost impossible to dislodge them, it’s imperative to not let them get to their bunkers.
That’s where y’all come into play. There isn’t much you, as a fan, can do in terms of the X’s and O’s, but there is plenty you can do keep the good vibes flowing. Patience, my friends, is a virtue, and it’s one I struggle with every day. My challenge to the K-State fanbase is to give Coach Tang the time and support necessary to bring his vision of Kansas State Basketball to fruition. Once he gets to that point (and you’ll know when he gets there) everything is fair game again. It’s perfectly fine for you to see his “vision” and say “no thanks, not for me” but you’re only hurting yourself (as K-State fans) to throw in the towel before he has a chance to bring the vision to life.
Next season, as hard as it may be at times, do your best to stick to good vibes. Throw your support behind the good guys, show up at the games. Celebrate the wins with abandon, shrug of the losses, and hope for a better future. This program is incalculably better with everyone behind the team, pushing them to victory, instead of the tug-of-war (with the team in the middle) we’ve witnessed over the last decade. It’s going to be tough, old habits die hard, but I have faith in y’all. As Coach Tang mentioned, it’s time to bring back the Octagon of Doom, and leave the Octagon of Gloom, and all it entailed, in the past.