Monday, April 21, 2008

Welcome to PC, Keno Davis...

... I hope you survive the experience.

Is there any job in America with larger disparity between risk and reward than the men's basketball coach and Providence College? Consider:

If you succeed, you'll get a ton of money at a much better school and you'll no doubt be deified by a success starved fanbase.

If you fail, the success starved fanbase will run you out of town on a rail... eventually. After seven years of kvetching.

Basketball fans at PC are even more vicious than hockey fans, if it were even possible. I will certainly grant you that the attitude of the fans at Schneider Arena did have something to do Paul Pooley escaping to South Bend, but I don't think that was the largest factor - largely because there's maybe 100 of us. The worst we could do was shout "Fire Pooley" at random intervals during the game and post "fire Pooley" about 9,000 times on USCHO and various other internet websites. It was very easy to ignore us.
Tim Welsh, on the other hand, was public enemy number one of the internet, the phones of the now defunct 790 the Score and very large signs hung up on Eaton Street. At some point in midway through the 1990's basketball not only surpassed hockey as a popular sport at PC, it left it about 90 miles behind. This is hugely amusing because aside from a stray Big East title and the run to the elite eight in 1997, the basketball team has done NOTHING, but I digress. Even during the current atrocity that passed itself off as a season of Big East basketball, the attendance at the Dunkin' Donuts Center (can we please change the name back?!?!) averaged a good five times more than the average attendance at the Bunker. Because of this, the AD at PC has a veritable mandate from God to keep the Friars competitive in the Big East. Some times this happens. Some times it doesn't.

The problem is that PC basketball has been the top sport in Rhode Island for a very long time. I will grant you that the Providence Bruins and Pawtucket Red Sox are popular, but not as much. I will also grant you that URI has challenged or surpassed PC is success on numerous occasions. But in a bizarre form of provincialism that could only exist in the smallest state in the union, South Kingston is "too far away" for most people(ummm, no). The professional sports teams in Boston don't really take away from PC's fan base - or at least they haven't since the Celtics descended into basketball hell after 1986. So really, Keno Davis is now responsible for the happiness of most of the state of Rhode Island. Talk about daunting!

There's an expectation that PC will eventually get back to the period between in the sixties and seventies where Friar hoops was a player on the national scene. The fact that the team has 2 NIT titles (when that was an accomplishment and not an afterthought), 2 Final Four appearances and 1 Big East title don't seem to matter much. There is the perception that the Friars were a dominant team. And good luck trying to convince any of us - myself included - that we can't get back there.

No, I don't envy Mr Davis his new position. As we get further and further from the run in 1997, the natives are getting more and more restless.

I will say this: I'm looking forward to seeing if PC's lack of success was due to Tim Welsh or something else...

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