Saturday, April 30, 2016

Feedback Loops

During my time in business school, there was a lot of discussion about feedback loops, both positive and negative, and how they can effect your organization. A manager must be willing to examine every part of his organization and operation to maximize the areas of strength and fix the areas that need repair.

Good managers do this well and it is part of their success. Bad managers ignore weaknesses they are uncomfortable changing, or strike too close to home, and those weaknesses are a drag on the company.

Which brings me to Bill Fennely. I attended dozens of women's basketball games at Iowa State before his tenure, and his program is light years ahead of his predecessors. I assume a program with continued success closely examines everything it does and changes any part that isn't working: an in-bounds play that fails to work, a bad defense against an opposing star, poor match-ups between players, how well an assistant breaks down tape or recruits, and on and on and on. Fix the problems or find a new gig, sometimes out of basketball.

Fennely's public reaction to a racial discrimination suit by a former player gives me pause, however. The "I've done nothing wrong" stance may be a smart legal strategy, and will play well to supporters, but I hope it is not the official line behind closed doors.

Fennely has an opportunity to improve as a coach, as the people around him will be most open at this exact moment. He needs to reach out to as many former players and staff as possible and ask "How can I not cause this level of rancor with a player in the future?". The solution isn't to abandon his coaching style completely and try to be a "player's coach", but I suspect it is in dialing back what he does with individual players a few degrees. Deliver criticism succinctly, and then move on. Demand what you have always demanded, but with a bit more restraint in the delivery.

If an assistant coach was being sued, that assistant would be expected to change or would be dismissed. For a program to be healthy and succeed, the same must be asked of the head coach too.

Sunday, April 17, 2016

The Long View

Basketball has been over nearly a month, and I'm still undecided on how to view the season.

Naz's bum hips, obviously cost the team a few games, maybe a shot at the conference title, a better seed in the NCAA's, and a run at the big banner. So it goes. You need a lot of luck with your health to win the big prizes.

Prohm was wise to let the team fail a bit doing things the old way before laying down the lay that his way was the only way. It's unfortunate that he couldn't make the old-way-failure occur sooner.

 For all of Fred's weaknesses as a coach, mostly defensively, he is clearly a master psychologist. We now have numerous examples of players who managed well under his supervision, but were head cases outside of it.

Hopefully sacrifices that were made in the interest of long term health of the program will pay off.

In a league that is this consistently good, to be a program in the top half of the league each year is to be celebrated. The Niang years may also be viewed as a period of just missing out, not getting the break they needed.

Saturday, January 30, 2016

Grey Beard Blog

I just noticed that I've been publishing this sucky blog off and on for 11 years. To my 17 readers, thank you.

A few things have changed. In 2004, Van De Velde was AD. Dan McCarney was finding ways not to win the Big 12 North. Wayne Morgan was in his first year, picking up after the Larry meltdown. Nebraska, Colorado and Missouri were all conference foes.

ISU finished 123rd in the Director's cup standings. They were 45th in 2015.

When you take the long view, things have improved tremendously, and Athletics as a whole punch above their weight. But work needs to be done.

This blog can improve, too.

Data Points

Cyclone basketball has enough data points to confirm that a certain degree of defense is required to win ball games.

Push-shove-grab style that West Virginia plays, but it can't be Saturday-at-the-YMCA either.

I suspect the coaching staff has the advanced stats to show the offense is most efficient after a defensive stop. You have to try on both ends.

The Cyclones have shown they can beat anyone on the schedule. Playing enough defense in the last ten B12 games and things could get interesting.

Thursday, December 03, 2015


The bar is pretty low for a new coach, but Campbell has certainly won his first few days on the job. Says the right things, does the right things.

Hopefully it leads to winning.

Campbell does have one advantage- having coached against Iowa State the last two seasons, he knows exactly what he is walking into from a personnel and scheme standpoint. Few surprises.

Simple Math

Winning football games at Iowa State is a simple, two step process:

A. Hang around games until the 4th;

B. Win games in the 4th.

Rhoads was 10-6 his first three years in 10-point-or-less-games, but only 3-13 his last four years.

The constant underdog has to stay above .500 in the close games to survive.

Seven wins across his last four seasons would not have set the world on fire, but it would have meant a bowl trip and keeping one's job.

Saturday, November 21, 2015

Finding Yet Another Way To Lose

This week: Fumble on three of your last four possessions, including with 10 seconds left on the opponent's 30!

While this isn't the biggest margin given up by ISU ('92 at home to Kansas, up 45-14, lost 50-47) this was the most painfull, since that KU team finished 8-4. K-State probably ends 5-7.

In the big picture, the Cyclones have been blowing second half leads for 35 years under 6 different coaches- why would changing staffs result in wins?

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Our Lady Of Perpetual Disappointment

A program like Iowa State can't consistently give up 4th quarter leads if it's going to get anywhere.

The loss to Okie State was the third game just this year they probably should have won.

Five first downs in the second half isn't going to do it. Iowa and Toledo were similar stories.

Same some, different verse, different decade.

Sunday, November 01, 2015


Few things are more fun than watching your 3 star guys out scheme and outwork 5 star guys.

Most of the time talent is able to make the key plays to pull a game out of the fire. But not this time.