The Sports Corner: What’s up with USF men’s basketball

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You want sustained success with this program? Well, its going to take a lot of work and and understanding of what USF and the program are.

Welcome to the first The Sports Corner blog on this page. Usually these blogs will be covering all of teams I love, but for the first one, I wanted to dedicate it to the USF men’s basketball team and what the heck is going on with them. Since I’m probably stopping the intensive TBR site I usually blog with, I wanted to use this first post in the series to unload all of my thoughts on what is wrong with the program and how the new coach can possibly build it.

Sorry the blog has been so quiet all week, I hope to get back to the full schedule on Monday.

First, let’s be honest, basketball in general takes second or even third place for most athletics programs in the state of Florida. Football is king around here and it always will be. Basketball is exciting when the teams are winning and getting to the tournament, but when they struggle, there is no one to be found, which is where USF is at. Yeah, USF had that one good year and made the tournament, but before and after that, attendance and care has dwindled as well as the success on the court.

Well, how did USF find success in 2012? To keep it simple, Coach Stan Heath had the perfect system and perfect players to run his system. The team grinded out games, kept them low scoring, played great defense, and won ugly. And guess what, fans came. Attendance, even in the Amalie Arena (Sun Dome was under renovations that year), fans came. It was fun and the area got behind the team. I mean, even Rays players were wearing USF shirts, something that doesn’t happen often around here. After that year, players graduated, Heath couldn’t get the same types of players, players he tried to get in didn’t pan out and he was fired.

So out goes Heath, in comes Orlando Antigua, a Kentucky assistant that was suppose to bring in top recruits and turn the program around. I mean, the Wildcats are a great program and someone from that kind of program could turn the scuffling Bulls around, right? Wrong, Coach O tried to bring in big time recruits but many never made it here for various reasons. And when he didn’t land his big time talent (or returning talent left), guess what, the victories didn’t come. Instead, we got an NCAA investigation, a coach to resign, and more players to leave in both the off-season and one during the 2016 season, the same season he was fired (after just 2.5 years on the job). And now as the team ends the AAC tournament in the first round, players are already leaving or at least thinking about.

So what will the new coach (or Murry Bartow) have to do to make this program respectable not just for one year, but for multiple years, winning more than single digits each year and competing for the postseason? Well, I’ll keep it simple, they have to recruit the Tampa area and Florida in general.

Again, Florida and the Bay area are not known for basketball talent, but in honesty, there is plenty of talent around here. I was watching the the FGCU vs. North Florida game last weekend for the Atlantic Sun title. The game was fun to watch and I started thinking, why can’t talent like that, most of coming from the Bay area, come to USF? FGCU is winning, has a name brand now, and is heading to the dance once again. I know its a different league, but they are DI and are winning with Florida players, why can’t we?

Even Coach Murry Bartow stated over the past weekend that the team needs to connect back to the local coaches and recruit local talent and he is dead right. There is plenty of talent in the area, enough talent to at least make the Bulls a respectable program. Let’s face it, we are not a destination school for the elite programs of the college basketball world. Yeah, possibly landing a 4-star recruit is great, but in order to establish the program, keep it alive for more than just one season, you have to recruit the local talent, build relationships with the programs around the area, and make USF their primary choice.

Look around. Teams like FSU, Florida, Miami, FGCU, and even Central Florida, all have local talent and most are playing for the postseason. Why can’t USF? Our conference isn’t that tough outside of SMU and Cincinnati (maybe Uconn in there), we have great facilities, and as I have said there is talent around here. There is no reason this team should continue to finish every year dead last and become a laughing stock each year.

This program is not a program where you can come in, try to bring in high caliber talent, and win right away. Its not sustainable, period. You have to build this program from the bottom up and its going to be a tough task. You will need a coach to come in, recruit local talent, establish ties, and begin to put together winning seasons. Maybe a few .500 seasons to start, it won’t be exciting, but it will establish a foundation. Look at football, the program was a disaster, Coach Taggart took over, started from the ground up and made them into a winner.

So this first Sports Corner blog is wayyy longer than they will usually be, but I had to vent one last time on this program. So many USF programs are succeeding except for this one. Its a black eye for athletics and its pathetic. I thought Robert McCullum days were bad and they were, but that was against an elite conference. Now we are losing to Tulane, a team that struggled to hit double digits in the win column, come on. Whoever takes over has to be a person that is here for the long haul, has to know the area, has to understand what we are, where we are at, and the plan moving ahead. If they fail, prepare for more losing ahead. Get it right, and then after some work, we might have a winner down the road.


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