Tuesday, October 18, 2016
Louisville Women's basketball has earned the successes of today -- TUESDAY CARDINAL COUPLE
CARDS WBB WASN'T ALWAYS THIS GOOD
With Louisville WBB Media Day tomorrow and the Women's Basketball Tip-Off Luncheon on Wednesday Nov. 2nd., we are drawing closer to the start of the 2016-17 season. A season that most pundits and enthusiasts are thinking will be quite a successful one.
You have the POY in the ACC returning in Myisha Hines-Allen. All five starters are back. A very talented freshman class. A healthy Asia Durr. The ACC coaches and that vague collaboration known as the Blue Ribbon Panel think the Cards are second best in the conference. They believe Hines-Allen, Durr and Mariya Moore will be top performers in the league.
On the national scene...USA Today, ESPN, the AP and many other news sources are giving the Cards high rankings. Enjoy it, Cardinal fans. It wasn't always this way.
Hop into Paulie's time-machine and let's go back to Feburary 2003. The Cards were playing in Conference USA ( a conference that looks so, so much different today than it did then) and not faring well. Beginning with a loss at East Carolina, Martin Clapp's squad would proceed to lose their final seven conference games. They would head to Memphis for the C-USA Tournament and manage to get by St. Louis before getting thumped by Doug Bruno and DePaul in the second round. A 15-14 season.
Clapp would vacate the job...amidst rumors and allegations that he had lost control of the team and there were problems galore with the squad. Tom Jurich needed to stabilize the ship. Lori Nero and Sara Nord were about the only bright spots on a squad that had talent but not that of All-American caliber. As a long time fan, I'll remember the efforts and exploits of Angel Bradley, Jessica Huggins, Connie Neal and Nina Simotes from those days...but not many current Cardinal fans are familiar with the names.
Greg Collins was left to hold together what was returning until
Jurich found a new coach. Having been an assistant for one year,
he was doing the best he could in what could only be described as a dysfunctional dilemma. He stayed the course with Collen
even to Arkansas and is now an associate coach for
Michelle Clark-Heard at WKU. I hold the man in utmost respect and admiration. It's always a pleasure to see him when the Cards and Toppers do battle.
The man didn't even know if he was going to have a job in the future...but stuck in there and kept things rolling.
With the hire of Tom Collen, a man seemingly headed to Vanderbilt before some resume issues developed, it was clear that a rebuild was needed. He was a Colorado State guy, worked under Jurich out there and had taken the Rams to four NCAA appearances in his five years there.
Louisville was still not a final destination job. When Arkansas came calling for Collen after the 2006-2007 season...he left Louisville. Yes, he had been an assistant there...but to leave a team that had Angel McCoughtry? Just when it seemed that Louisville women's basketball was beginning to roll again, it was time to change the name on the door leading to the head coaches' office. Collen had gotten Louisville to three 20-win seasons and three NCAA trips in his four years. Arkansas looked better.
Things happen for a reason. An ambitious assistant coach from Maryland applied for the job. Jurich liked what he saw...Walz did too and he took the job. Two years later, the Cards were playing for the National Championship in St. Louis. Collen was let go by Arkansas in 2014 and is out of coaching now...although his wife continues in a coaching role...leaving Florida Gulf Coast to be an assistant for the Connecticut Sun this season.
Some would tell you that it was Collen who brought a resurgence to the University of Louisville women's basketball program. I would agree that he got the Cards back into somewhat of a national prominence. He didn't see Louisville as a final destination job, though. The SEC, with Pat Summit, was considered a better women's conference than the BIG EAST back then by some. Despite Geno, C. Viv. and Muffett. Tennessee had won the NCAA Championship. Debatable...this assumption, yes...that the SEC was a better conference...but one thing remained clear. Louisville was still not a final destination job in women's basketball.
It was a journeyman assistant/associate...fresh off a national Championship at Maryland who has Louisville where they are today. An athletic director who bought in to his philosophy and plan. Very few coaching staffs in the women's game today out-work Jeff Walz and his assistants. Very few out-draw the Louisville home attendance numbers. The Cards left the tottering Big East and went to the talent-rich ACC. And have succeeded there. From the Metro to the Atlantic. Where has the time gone?
It's a pretty nice spot that these Cards are in today...with possibly the best yet to come. Led by a coach with a simple philosophy.
Work hard 100% of the time.