All of the schools from the Jayhawk Conference — East and West — convened in Wichita this morning at the Airport Best Western for Media Day, and as always, much hilarity ensued.
There were a lot of highlights from the day … I got to see a lot of old friends and colleagues, and an old college classmate who is now the cream of the crop for women’s coaches on the junior college level. There’s a lot to be said for finding a place you like, close to home, and building something out of nothing. Emily, are you listening?
Let’s run this down. We’ve got a lot to go over.
1. Steve Eck, Steve Eck, Steve Eck.
Coach Eck and Media Day are an interesting fit. I walked into the hotel at the same time as he did and asked what he thought of these things. I got a look, and a laugh. There’s a lot of bluffing that goes on at these things, and Coach Eck, while he isn’t bad at putting on a poker face … isn’t fooling anybody. That’s just the way it is. And his team got picked to finish first, which I’m sure irked him to no end. I talked to a lot of coaches who say they’ve signifigantly scaled back their recruiting efforts in Wichita since he took over. One look at his roster (eight City League kids) lets you know why. They’re not sure how bad he’s hurt yet, but Southeast’s Adonis Gantt (a Division I signee at Georgia Southern) hurt his knee at a jamboree in Dallas over the weekend, which is bad news. On the good news front, last year’s leading scorer, Chris Rhymes, tore his ACL at the Region VI Tournament and the Tigers finished second without him. He’s doing well at Cal State-Fullerton, thank you very much. Good for Chris.
2. If you are among the very (very) young at heart …
By far the youngest coach in either the East or West, Pratt women’s first-year coach Stephanie Shanline is making a HUGE jump to the college level. Like last year she was coaching at 1A Pratt Skyline. And this year she’s coaching in the Jayhawk Conference. Four years ago, she was still playing college basketball at Pittsburg State. As second-year Hutch coach John Ontjes said today, “All the coaches here were really nice and I was so impressed when I was at this thing last year … then when I went to play them they weren’t so nice.” Good luck, Stephanie.
3. Butler’s football team is really good
Second-year Butler men’s coach Mike Bargen got up and broke things down pretty quickly. “It’s not good when the football team wins three more games than you did.” No coach, it’s not. Even when they go undefeated and win the national championship. Can somebody let me know what happened to Butler? Did the last Smithson era just kill them or what? I still can’t get over the fact that they have no Wichita kids on their roster. Not one. Can they borrow a couple from Coach Eck at midseason if they need them? Would be nice to see him right the ship, but that’s going to be a tough task. Like really tough.
4. Lucky number 7
Main topic of conversation amongst Jayhawk coaches: Upping the number of out-of-state players on each roster from five to seven. I’m against this because it cuts down the number of spots for in-state kids, obviously, and I thinks you run the risk of these teams filling up with a bunch of mercs. Is it just a nasty rumor? Can’t say.
The award for shortest introductory speech goes to one of my personal faves — Garden City coach Kris Baumann — who clocked in at an amazing 20 seconds. Literally, he walked up, said he had two kids that
signed with Division I schools and had a good freshman point guard, Bobby Wesley. Then he sat down. Can’t say I didn’t ask him to keep it under 30 seconds before this thing started. Any clips or pictures that can be sent to me from Baumann’s playing days at the University of Idaho would be greatly appreciated. I watched him play a couple of times and I’ll say this … dude kept his finger on the trigger. Allegedly, he had a full head of hair back then. We’ll see. I have a vision in my head of him shadow-shooting at the Knights of Columbus. Good times.
He’s bald now, obviously, but still a great coach. Try going .500 in the Jayhawk with two out-of-state kids and see how you do. Coach Bucket did it.
6. Uncomfortable moment that I actually admired award goes to …
Colby men’s coach John Woods. Woods got up, said he was happy to be there, then explained why. Because the school tried to get rid of him last year, and he’s still around. According to Woods, the president of the college, asked him to resign last year and he refused. Then a board of trustees took a vote and let him stay. So, he said, he’s still around and happy he didn’t get fired. But, he says, it’s not the greatest working environment.
7. Bad political stumping award goes to …
Barton men’s coach Craig Fletchall. But he was also the most entertaining speaker, by far, so I forgive him. Unfortunately, when he said if McCain-Palin didn’t win it wouldn’t matter how many out-of-state players were on each roster … you could have shaved a layer of ice off the top of the room. But he made his yearly “Labette coach Armando Johnson looks like Bears coach Lovie Smith” joke, which never gets old. You be the judge:
I went to college with Coffeyville women’s coach Emily Washburn when she was Emily Allen, an all-everything basketball player at CCC. She’s a great coach — young, determined and a proven winner. Which makes me wonder how long she’ll be there. She’s from Caney — a hop, skip and a jump from Coffeyville, so that’s one reason she might be in it for the long haul at Coffeyville. But I can’t imagine a world where an MIAA school doesn’t make an offer to her ASAP, if not someone bigger. Girl can coach. And she’s already got her staff ready to roll; her husband, Matt, is her assistant. But I wouldn’t mind her staying there until she won a national title.
And, on a totally obscure note … all of the Jayhawk conference schools brought some form of a media guide for the press conference. Most do not have pictures of the coaches in them. Not the case for the Red Ravens and Mrs. Washburn. She has a full blown family portrait I was nice enough to post right here:
What a beautiful family.
Her son, Rex, is going to be very tall. Anna, her daughter, is 2 and Emily said she looks like she’s 5. And, apparently, she also tells people she’s 5. Funny stuff.
And on that note, I’ll conclude one of the longest posts in Sunflower Slate history. See you at the gym.