"I know no matter what I do, Gillispie is getting the credit if we win. If we lose, it's my fault. I'm in a no-flipping-win situation this year, and that puts me in a bad mood."
-- Mark Turgeon
One of the reasons I like Bill Simmons is his 4,000 word columns to justify some silly rule or theory he made up. I've got my own rule that I started thinking about the first time I saw Brian Robison play at DE against North Texas in 2004. I got to thinking about the nature of position changes, the nature of coaching changes, and who gets credit when really good teams switch coaches.
Sports take time to learn. Because of the speed at which modern athletes move, and the continuous nature of the sports they play, most players have to move beyond the level of thinking. There simply isn't time. You may be able to think about your play in the huddle, or when the point guard is holding the ball up top. But once the play is in motion you don't know what will happen. There isn't any time to stop and contemplate the complex nature of the pick and roll, you just have to go with it.
Vince Young got a 6, allegedly, on his Wonderlic. Through a mutual friend, I met a former Aggie walkon safety who told me that a certain big name LB in his day was the dumbest human being he'd ever met. Dan Marino, by all accounts, tried to take his Wonderlic eraser-end-down before someone helped him. When I was in high school, our best DE didn't even know what position he played. Yet these men found success in the game not because of their ability to think critically, but because they operate in the same Zen reality that Bruce Lee did.
"What we are after is the ROOT and not the branches. The root is the real knowledge; the branches are surface knowledge. Real knowledge breeds "body feel" and personal expression; surface knowledge breeds mechanical conditioning and imposing limitation and squelches creativity."-- Bruce Lee
Ask a great player how he made a great play and he would likely just narrate the events back to you, if not offer only a shrug. The ability to run or dribble through traffic, to hit a curveball, to dissect an NFL defense in 2 seconds, these abilities are learned, but not at a conscious level. You can be told what you need to do, but to finally learn it, you must become a sponge, absorbing the info to a deeper level so that the ability becomes you. Vince didn't juke people because he talked himself through it each time, he reacted. His instincts delivered his performances.
Innate or not, I don't know. But I do know that this takes time. You can memorize the multiplication charts in a day, a playbook in a week, and you could probably pass a pop quiz on your hot routes in less than a month with the team. But inside the game you have almost no time to think about it. Your actions have to be automatic.
This is why it takes time to become a good player. Certain freaks can come in and play well, especially at positions that require nothing more than natural ability to succeed at an acceptable level, like RB. But most, like QB, LB, or OL, take a mastery over the position that people aren't born with. Becoming a top-notch player requires repetition until it's second nature. And this process takes about 1 year.
"I've got no chance this year. If we win, it's because of Gillispie. If we lose, it's because of Mark Turgeon. So I can't win."
-- Mark Turgeon, again
And you know what? He's right. That is what's going to happen. And you know what else? It's what should happen. Billy Gillispie did more than recruit his entire team, he trained them. Gillispie isn't the type of coach that does whatever fits his teams talent, he insists that things be done his way, come Hell or high water. He is a classic, Bear Bryant, break you down and build you back up coach. The guys playing for Texas A&M right now are not the players than came in, they are ones he made.
So, either one of two things is happening. Turgeon is either playing with exactly the team Gillispie built, or he is changing the way things are done to his way, requiring a reprogramming of the players. That process with not be done until sometime next year. So it's either Gillispie's team he's winning with, or an in-transition team he's messing with. There is no success because of Turgeon in this equation. Next year, and the year after, we'll being to see what he's really made of, because after a year he'll have his own mark on the program, and the teachings of BCG will be too long gone. Right now, after years of hard-line, regimented work, the A&M basketball team is still automatically defaulting to the work they put in under Gillispie.
Is it possible Turgeon will improve the team? Sure. Gillispie might be the best non-Robert-Knight head man I've ever seen, but A&M could strike lighting twice. In a row. But he hasn't done it yet, and that much is for sure.