After Jon Han
McCann continues to be one of my favorite venues in the MAAC, thanks to the best pep band in the country, the pregame pizza in the media room, and what’s still a pretty engaged crowd despite the Red Foxes’diminished stature. (But did the band director really need to grab the microphone from the PA announcer before the game and belt out the fight song just as the players were walking on to the court for the tip?)
But to get on the internet, you have to install a disc that isn’t exactly compatible with macs, which I have. Hence, we’ve got stuff to cover. I’ll post different topics as separate posts, including this week’s PMI, which I’ll post later this evening. But we’ve got to start with life at Fairfield after Jon Han.
Ed Cooley announced yesterday that Han had in fact decided to leave the team for personal reasons.
This, of course, is not good for Fairfield, which will be without its starting point guard and best player for the duration of the season and now – because of the absence of Han, Warren Edney and Anthony Johnson -- has no more than an outside shot at playing deep into the MAAC tournament next month.
Here’s my $0.02 on the aftermath:
First and absolutely foremost, it’s a very good thing that Han is reportedly staying in school and continuing to work toward his degree.
A degree from Fairfield or almost any other four-year institution is expensive and hard to earn.
Students take out loans, work hard for academic scholarships and grants, and juggle classes with part-time jobs in order to earn degrees that will serve them well for the rest of their lives. To see someone given a free ride through school, then pack up and leave with less than a semester to go before graduation without earning a degree would be painful for a lot of people to watch.
College athletes get plenty of advice from plenty of different people on how to handle situations like this. It appears concerning his academic status – though probably NOT concerning his athletic status -- Han listened to the right people.
Secondly, it needs to be mentioned that Han is the third player this year and the sixth since Cooley took over as head coach to leave the program prematurely. Cooley also has lost three assistant coaches to other programs, leaving associate coach Bob Simon as the only member of his initial staff who’s still there.
I’m not saying any of it is Cooley’s fault.
I don’t have close to enough information to play any kind of blame game. What I’m saying is that no matter who’s fault it is – or it it’s no one’s fault at all – having that much turnover and having to do some much roster rebuilding and lineup shuffling makes Cooley’s program-building job much harder.
Thirdly, there are clear positives in the situation for the young guards who have become an integral part of the team. Sean Crawford, Jamal Turner and Lyndon Jordan will develop more quickly with real game experience. But if this turns out to be a lost season – if Fairfield finishes in the middle of the MAAC pack and exits early from the MAAC tournament – the program will arguably enter next year worse off than it entered this year.
Again, not pointing fingers. Nobody planned for Edney and Johnson to be lost for the season, for Greg Nero and Herbie Allen to play through pain just as the games are getting more and more important, or for this whole mess surrounding Han.
But a few months ago, this looked like Fairfield’s best shot – regardless of Siena’s status as the prohibitive MAAC favorite – to get to the NCAA tournament.
That could still happen, but right now you’d be crazy to say the Stags, picked second in the preseason MAAC coaches’ poll, pose as big a threat to Siena as Niagara or Fairfield.
That means instead of potentially hitting the recruiting trail next summer touting say, a 23-win season, a second-place finish in the MAAC and an NIT appearance, the Stags’ coaches might have to explain to recruits that the talent and infrastructure were there, but injuries and off-court issues got in the way.
Got a comment from Rob Fitzgerald, who among other roles, was the COO of The Mirror when I was the Editor, and an athletic department employee under marketing guru Roy Brown, and a very knowledgeable basketball fan who attended – I think – just about every game.
Good to hear from Rob, who reports that Han was never a favorite in the student section and didn’t mesh well with the student body as a whole.
I never noticed any less cheering for Han than other players of similar stature, but it’s true that there’s been a huge disparity over the past several years between how some players connected with the student community and how others did.
I’m sure this happens at most schools, but I can say firsthand – as Rob is indicating – that Fairfield players when I was there could be divided into three camps.
One consisted of players who were entirely integrated into the student population and adored by their classmates. Mamadou Diakhate is the posterchild for that group. I also never met anyone who had a bad thing to say about Michael Van Schaick or Michael Bell.
One consisted of the majority of players, who socialized mostly with other players but were generally considered amiable, good-natured guys who students could root for even if they’d never hang out with them on Friday nights.
The third group is the one Rob is suggesting Han belonged to: guys who students cheered for at games but held their noses while doing so because of their perceived off-court missteps or attitude problems.