Full disclosure, if we had our druthers this site would be dedicated almost exclusively to content regarding WCC (West Coast Conference) basketball. One of us is a Loyola Marymount alumnus, the other a lifelong resident of the Bay Area, where three WCC teams (Santa Clara, U.S.F. and St. Mary’s) play within an hour of one another. If there was anyway for a page to generate negative web traffic that one would certainly find it, particularly this season, when the league’s best player is better known for lazy drug jokes than actual ability. But our heart is still misguidedly entangled in an affair with a conference whose side stories are almost always more compelling than their main attractions (oh wait, Gonzaga’s good again this year?!?), today no exception as assorted media outlets have reported the University of San Francisco’s hiring of OK State’s own Eddie Sutton.
From a self preservation standpoint the school selection is a smart one, for a coach with a laundry list of vehicular alcohol related indiscretions there are few better cities to coach in than The City, where public transportation is always a back pill and Old Crow cocktail away. From every other standpoint, however, the choice is a befuddling one. Sutton, hard scrabble, hard drinking Plainsmen, at work on a campus where the Theatre and Social Justice majors are combined. It is a pairing of cultural chiaroscuro best appreciated by the Don DeLillos and Adam McKays of the world. It is altogether all to easy to make cultural generalizations about San Francisco and schools in San Francisco, having said that one of us lives with two U.S.F. alums, his brother and his brother’s boyfriend. Not to question Sutton’s cultural credentials, but we’re not convinced he’ll be attending an on campus production of Angels in America anytime soon. From an administrative standpoint the selection makes even less sense, as Jesse Evan’s underachieving tenure finally reached match point this summer, after the school took a hard stance by preventing a handful of highly talented, if academically under qualified, recruits from enrolling.
The decision is strangest for Sutton. Certainly the desire to reach 800 victories is appealing, yes the U.S.F. job is one of only a few that will open mid-season, but reaching that milestone on the outskirts of the Richmond District, amidst a generally disinterested East Bay student body, would make even the most grizzled coaching vagabond long for the warm embrace of Stillwater. Sutton can certainly bring basketball back for the Dons-he is one of the game’s great coaches-we’re just not entirely sure why he’d want to. U.S.F. is a fine school in one of our finest cities, but it certainly has nowhere near the resources of any one of his last 3 coaching stops. This is, after all, a guy who has been to 3 Final Fours and who coached Sidney Moncrief, Rex Chapman, Desmond Mason and Tony Allen. Having said that we certainly believe it to be a much more appealing job than Southern Miss. or Southern Methodist or a variety of other mid-major purgatories where miscreant coaches toil to right their wrongs.
We’d like to think Sutton will stay past 07-08, despite insistence from the Administration that this is solely a one season salve. We don’t believe Evans will be back, and it seems strange to hire this coach with this roster and not assume that maybe it’s a feeling out process for the two sides. If, however, his stint is purely mercenary, Sutton will be yet another interesting footnote in a Conference whose history is comprised almost exclusively of them. Hank Gathers, Steve Nash, John Stockton, Adam Morrison, Pete Newell, Rick Adelman, Bill Russell, the WCC has always been a place where the whole was never quite equal to the sum of its parts. Its basketball history and NBA alumni base are as rich and varied as those of many major conferences, but it has never had the consistent tournament success and consequent relevance of even the Mountain West or Missouri Valley. Sutton is certainly capable of rectifying that. Though if pictures of him elbow deep in a Scorpion Bowl at Trader Sam’s start showing up online all bets are off.
Side note: Between Evans’ resignation and the continued struggles of Rodney Tention (a coach best known for his tendency to wear North Carolina gear when off campus) at Loyola Marymount, we hope this places a moratorium on the hiring of non-Kevin O’Neill Lute Olsen assistants. Once a mistake, twice a pattern and Sutton’s hiring certainly places a premium on the WCC’s coaching real estate. Remember there are two former Warrior coaches with West Coast Conference ties currently unemployed. We’re both more than happy to get the booster ball rolling.