July 08, 2004
Willis Wilson

Ohio State has hired Xavier's Tommy Matta to be their new men's basketball head coach. Rice's Willis Wilson had been interviewed twice for this position, and the Chron's John Lopez thinks that his current employer dissed him in the process.

In comparison to the Buckeyes' opinion of what Wilson could do for their program, the best [Rice athletic director Bobby] May could muster when OSU granted Wilson his first interview was a halfhearted commitment to keeping him.

"If somebody has an interest in your coach," May told the Chronicle last week, "I'm not sure if you can stop them if you wanted to."

Wilson was not commenting Tuesday on the Ohio State job or May's response to the Buckeyes' interest, but a source close to Wilson said he was not exactly reassured by May's words.

Another source said May already has his eye on Sam Houston State coach Bob Marlin as Wilson's replacement. That doesn't exactly sound as if the Owls are willing to go the extra mile to keep their man.

It sounds more like the Owls see in Wilson a coach who has had a long time to lift a program to greatness but fallen short despite excellence in every other facet of the department.

What Ohio State sees is a talented coach who has done a lot with a little.

It's all more than just a little curious, especially at a university that prides itself on producing alumni exactly like Wilson part of the family, professional, successful and a man of great integrity.

Wilson might not get the Buckeyes' gig, but he should get the message. Get out. As quickly as possible.

I guess it never occurred to John Lopez that a school like Rice simply cannot compete, financially or prestige-wise, with a school like Ohio State for the services of a coach, and this is a fact that Bobby May recognizes. Even putting the money factor aside, a job at a school like OSU is in effect a big promotion. In whose interest would it be for Bobby May to put up roadblocks to such a promotion for Willis Wilson? Or, looking at it another way, if one of May's employees really wants to go somewhere else, in whose interest is it for May to stop them?

Rice fans have been pretty divided about Wilson for some years now. Everyone recognizes that there are major handicaps to recruiting at Rice, and everyone recognizes that Rice is unlikely to ever get a truly great coach who's willing to stay around for long. (See Tulsa, whose former coaches include Nolan Richardson, Tubby Smith, Bill Self, and Buzz Peterson, as Exhibit A.) Some Owl backers agree with Lopez' assessment of Wilson, while others note that his teams have never beaten a ranked nonconference opponent, never advanced past the semifinals of the WAC or SWC tournaments, never been remotely consistent on the road, and before 2003-04 never been a serious preseason choice to contend for the conference title. Most of us have cut him a great deal of slack after these past two years, and most of us recognize that the old floor at Autry Court severely handicapped him by being the cause of many player injuries, but most of us still believe the jury hasn't returned a verdict yet.

One more thing: I've never seen John Lopez at a Rice basketball game, either. Make of that what you will.

Posted by Charles Kuffner on July 08, 2004 to Other sports | TrackBack

Has Lopez even seen an OSU basketball game lately? That's a tougher job then he leads you to believe.

Posted by: sean on July 8, 2004 1:03 PM

I'd really like to count the number of Lopez columns that involve UH and Rice where he doesn't have predominantly negative things to say about their respective programs.

Posted by: R. Alex on July 11, 2004 8:38 PM