As it does for a lot of people, the University of Maryland basketball team causes me to talk to myself. As best I remember, here's what I said to me last night....
"All right, Kindred, you're the bum who knocked the Terps so hard after they almost lost to Rhode Island last week. Now they've lost to Ohio State and their season is over. I guess you're happy."
"No way. It's always more fun to talk about winning. I'd love it if Lefty Driesell and his guys were beating up on people."
"Wait till next year. They'll have everybody back except Larry Gibson, and Lefty's recruiting Sam Bowie and Ralph Sampson, those 7-foot high school centers, to take his place. They'll be a great team next year with Albert King and Buck Williams a year older and stronger, with Ernest Graham back and Greg Manning, Dutch Morley and Reggie Jackson."
"Yeah, then all they'll need is someone to explain the concept of teamwork to them. I talked to three Ohio State players after the game last night. Each one of them said, in almost the same words, 'Maryland has a lot of individual talent, but no teamwork and no patience. Make them work on offense and they'll take a bad shot because they don't know how to play as a team."
"There you go. Sounding bad again, just like after the Rhode Island game. Three overtimes, man. It was thrilling."
"I've had more fun falling down the stairs."
"Come on, sourpuss. I read that bilge you wrote about the game. You didn't give Maryland any credit at all."
"They were awful."
"But you don't understand. They had just lost to North Carolina in the ACC tournament and they're a young team and it has been a long season. They're starting two freshmen and two sophomores."
"Don't tell me 'they're so young.' Did you hear Georgetown complaining about how young it is? Georgetown was in the NCAA tournament and at one point it was using four -- FOUR -- freshmen at once. By March nobody in college basketball is young."
"But how can you watch a team of 18-and 19-year-old basketball players and then blast them the way you did? They're not pros."
"If a kid gets free tuition, free room, free board, free books, free tutors, free travel around the country, free publicity, free training for a job in the NBA, I believe he is being paid for playing college basketball. He is a pro."
"All right, but don't you think Lefty Driesell has done a super job recruiting?"
"Coaches who do super jobs recruiting don't lose 24 games in two seasons the way Maryland has the last two years. I think Lefty the recruiter is overrated. Any coach for an ACC school can't help but recruit good players. The ACC sells itself. The difference between a good recruiter and a great one is that the great recruiter picks kids who get better under his coaching. Check it out. The MVP in the ACC tournament was Dudley Bradley, a senior at Carolina who got better every season."
"Hey, are you getting on the bandwagon to run Lefty out of Maryland? I saw that story in The Washington Post about the athletic director, Carl James, saying he 'would not evaluate' Lefty's work. That story looked like a vendetta against Lefty. The next day James set the record straight by saying Lefty would be back next season. So get off his back, Kindred."
"I'm not firing Lefty. Is it my fault if James made his basketball coach look bad?"
"Wait a minute. It wasn't James who --"
"Yes, it was. He had 90 minutes with a reporter in which to say Lefty was the greatest coach who ever blew a whistle. James said nothing like that. He was neutral, the way a boss is neutral right before he fires a coach. Looks to me like he was hoping Lefty would read it, get mad and stomp in to resign."
"Lefty's never going to do that."
"Right. He has one of those contracts, we hear, that is self-perpetuating. It's a year-to-year contract so that Lefty can quit whenever he wants, but if the school fires him they have to pay him for four years. They'll have to fire him if they want to get rid of him."
"Sly old dog, that Lefty."
"Lefty loved a Virginia sign. They had this poster with a drawing of Lefty on it. Right on his bald head they drew a fuel gauge -- and had it reading 'Empty.' He laughed about it."
"He's a good coach. Otherwise, he would never have beaten Notre Dame and Duke this year. If they hadn't had such a tough schedule -- he lost to Louisville, Las Vegas and Georgetown -- they'd have three fewer losses for sure."
"And if they hadn't played Bucknell, Biscayne, East Carolina and Canisius, they might have had four more losses. Speaking of Georgetown, three or four years ago Maryland would have considered it beneath them to play so lowly an opponent. Now Lefty is saying Georgetown makes his schedule tough. That says a lot about how those schools' basketball programs are moving."
"Anyway, Maryland made it to a postseason tournament and that makes the season a success. Not everybody gets into one of those tournaments."
"Of maybe 250 major college teams, 64 get into either the NCAA or the NIT. If you want to call that success, feel free. Lefty obviously does. I mean he said going 7-7 in the ACC doesn't bother him. Dean Smith thinks about national championships, and Lefty says 7-7 is okay. Different strokes for different folks."