The Back Nine: Sad days, indeed

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Spectators observe a moment of silence for Kobe Bryant before Opening Night for the NFL Super Bowl 54 on Monday at Marlins Park in Miami. (AP Photo/David J. Phillip)

The Back Nine comes at you after a tragic weekend that started out so well. And in the end, we were reminded once again that we are just dealing with games. It’s the people who count.

  1. This was one of those news stories that was so powerful you’ll always remember where you were when you heard. I was driving from Ocala back home after golf when my daughter Kelsey (the real journalist) called me. I told her someone was trying to punk her, that was not possible. But she convinced me and sent me trying to find news on the radio. It still seems like it could not be real and we’re all going to be numb for awhile. Full disclosure, I was not a big fan of Kobe Bryant. The reason I am no longer a Lakers fan is because they traded Shaquille O’Neal and kept Kobe. But whether it’s Tom Brady or Rafael Nadal or Mike Trout or Tiger Woods, you don’t have to be a fan to admire the brilliance and respect the hard work. There is so much to be sad about, it’s almost overwhelming. I really liked the man that Kobe Bryant was becoming. The pain the rest of that family must be feeling and the family and friends of John Antobelli, who was also in the helicopter. That’s what hurts me the most, when young lives are snuffed out before they had a chance to really live. 
  2. Any obituary has to include the mistakes Bryant made because they are a part of the definition of who he was. Some were calling it insensitive when Bob Costas brought up the rape allegation and other things Bryant apologized for, but I thought he said this perfectly — “When something like this happens… there’s a tendency to canonize the person. It’s more truly human to say that he surmounted some missteps.” It seemed as if Bryant learned from every mistake and tried to be better. This next chapters of the lives of Kobe Bryant, the first guard to ever go from high school directly to the pros, and his daughter Gianna were going to be something.
  3. I’m sure this was not on your mind Saturday night, but the Florida loss to Baylor made the SEC/Big 12 Challenge finish in a 5-5 tie. No, you were thinking about how good Baylor is and how the two teams could play 10 times and Baylor might win all 10. And that says a lot about the Florida basketball team and where it is right now. There is going to be some “give up” by the fan base that has become frustrated with a team that was letting Baylor players knock down set shots from 3-point range and goes into these offensive funks that always include a handful of hero shots. I’ve been like a lot of you, wondering if it was going to click in and we would start to see the team we were promised by Jay Bilas in the preseason. I’m starting to think it’s not going to happen. Maybe we should just accept this — is it possible that this team isn’t that talented? There are a lot of guys who can do one thing really well, but how many can do a lot of things really well? 
  4. We will get some answers over the next few weeks, because Florida has a chance to at least pad its record even if it doesn’t boost it’s NET Ranking (currently at No. 37). Florida has No. 48 Mississippi State tonight, has two games against No. 163 Vandy, takes on No. 86 Georgia, No. 107 Ole Miss in a rematch and No. 149 Texas A&M. That’s hardly a murderer’s row over the next three weeks. One thing that will help Florida as it tries to reach the NCAA Tournament for the fourth straight year is that — outside of the Big Ten and a few elite teams — there is a lot of average basketball being played around the country. A nice winning streak starting tonight might not catch anyone’s attention, but it would help with the confidence of what appears to be a fragile team.
  5. With the news that Justin Shorter, a former five-star receiver at Penn State is transferring to Florida, it’s pretty clear coach Dan Mullen knows what he is doing with the transfer portal. Eight players in two years and the first four (Van Jefferson, Tre Grimes, Adam Shuler and Jon Greenard) have all had major impacts on the Florida program. One thing that a coach and his staff and even the players have to be sure of no matter how talented a player might be — does he fit in? So far, it’s worked out beautifully. And now Mullen is flush with five-star recruits. Look, none of us knows how many games this team is going to win next year or the year after, but these guys are building a roster that gives them a higher ceiling than we’ve seen around here in a long time.
  6. The Super Bowl is Sunday, according to sources, so I’ve run out of time trying to pick a winner. There are two schools of thought. 1. Kansas City is the NFL’s version of this season’s LSU football team and will eventually wear out the 49ers; 2. San Francisco is the better team overall and has been the best team all season and will show it Sunday. I happen to believe in the first theory, maybe because we are all still recovering from Bayou Fever. Even if you don’t have a dog in the hunt, you have to watch. It’s the law.
  7. Remember how you freaked out because it was already 2020? Well, we’ll be a month into the new year Saturday, which is simply to illustrate how fast time flies. Hug your children today and every day. If they live somewhere else, give them a call. That should be what we learned from this weekend.
  8. For the Tweet of the Week I wanted to stay away from all of the Kobe Tweets because there were so many and instead keep it local. So I am using this Tweet from the Florida head football coach — “Happy to see former Gator Great @CIngram_85 turn around his former high school football program and girls basketball program. #GatorStandard.” Likewise, I’m sure. C.I. has always been one of my favorites to deal with at UF and beyond.
  9. I have this new trick now. Whenever I hear a song that is pleasing to the ear I Shazzam it and then listen later and to all of the songs on the playlist the app creates. I did it at the Buchholz baseball fundraiser at Embers on Sunday night and came up with these songs for your listening pleasure:

Contact Pat Dooley at 352-374-5053 or at pat.dooley@gvillesun.com. And follow at Twitter.com/Pat_Dooley.

 

 

 

6 COMMENTS

  1. Others posting on this site are bigger basketball fans than me, but after reading Pat’s comments above I gave some thought to the contrast in performances between the football and basketball programs this season and how that reflects on both coaches’ reputations going forward. The football program, in CDM’s 2nd year, is moving inexorably into the top echelon of the sport as every move made by his coaching staff improves the performance of a team that is now solidly in the Top 10. The basketball program, now in CMW’s 5th year, seems to have plateaued somewhere outside the Top 10, with their best performance landing them once in the Elite 8… on a lucky shot.

    After five years at the helm, this is CMW’s team. In terms of performance, what we’ve seen over that period is what we can expect to get going forward. Just like Coach Mac’s two SEC East championships, followed by beatdowns by FSU and Alabama, is the Gator BB team’s performance over the last five years acceptable to Gator BB fans???

  2. Truly sensational sad about Kobe and the other eight people who suddenly lost their lives. Yes, everyone (including the famous) who have ever put on a pair of pants, have made life mistakes. Again, when that moment happens, its all about what you believe in! I’ve read a couple of other articles comparing this news to the weekly military deaths. One was recent in our area. A young soldier protecting his country, gone before 25. He faced possible sudden death everyday and it got’em, as it will all of us someday. It should be just as sensational a news story, but that’s not the values of our secular world.

    Yep, I’m starting to believe this basketball team/coach just don’t have the chemistry to be a winning team.

    • I disagree. Gator BB ARE a “winning team.” They’re just NOT a “championship team” and I’m afraid that with THIS coach running the program, they’re unlikely to ever be!

      If a “winning team” that gets invited to The Dance most seasons is good enough for Gator Nation, then CDM should stick around Hogtown as long as he wants. If that’s NOT good enough for Gator Nation….. well, you know the rest.

      • I agree with your assessment completely. I am not one of these fans that think we should be in the Final Four every year. I understand that the tournament is unpredictable and good teams can be eliminated early, while teams with less talent go far in the tournament.

        Here is what I am looking for from Gator basketball:
        1) Less than 10 losses/season
        2) Bye in the SEC Tournament
        3) 1-4 Regional seed in the NCAA tournament
        4) Majority of the impact players have been with the program 2+ off-seasons (and are your recruits).

        These things ensure a program’s success year after year. If you lose less than 10 games it usually puts you in the Top 16 teams in the country, therefore earning a 1-4 seed in the tournament. If you fall to #20, you will earn a #5 seed which is only slightly worse than a #4. This seeding, in theory, gives you the easiest route into the 2nd weekend. It will not always happen, but it is much easier than the #10 seed where you have to pull and upset in the first round and beat a top 8 team in the second.

        A bye in the SEC tournament means you either won the SEC or were within a few games of the championship. Very rarely does a team without the bye with the tournament so you put yourself at a disadvantage. If you do win without the bye, you are an average to good team that has just played 4 games in 4 days and now you must turn around and play a first round game as a #6 seed 4 or 5 days later.

        Finally, you need the majority of your team to be your recruits and have put in 2+ off-seasons with the team. This creates mental toughness, familiarity with the offensive sets, familiarity with teammates and a solid foundation to build on. This is all about recruiting. Donovan was able to do this. The Year 3 Sweet 16 run had the fab freshman, but the toughness came from Major Parker, Brent Wright, Greg Stolt (Krueger recruit) and Kenyan Weaks (Krueger recruit). Even in the first national championship year, all of those players had put in 2 off-seasons. In addition, you had juniors Chris Richards, Lee Humphrey and senior Adrian Moss providing toughness and valuable minutes.

        This is where Mike White failed his first 4 years. His teams were made up of Donovan recruits that he developed, while the guys he recruited fizzled out, left the team or were grad transfers. Only last year did he start to build his own program and not a team. The issue with this team is that 8 of the players have only put in 1 off-season in the program.

        • You’re right Orlando. And the football analogy applies here.

          Gator Nation should not be so unrealistic as to expect the Gator football team to land a spot in the CFP every season. However, it should NOT be unrealistic for Gator Nation to expect the Gator football team to begin every season with a CFP spot as a realistic goal. That expectation can only be realistic IF the Gators land Top 10 recruiting classes every year and develop them into Top 10 finishing teams every year.

          The Gator BB team under CMW has rarely (if ever) recruited in the Top 15 and equally rarely finished the regular season ranked in the Top 15, which is what’s realistically needed to land a 1-4 seed in the big dance every year.

          CDM has demonstrated in just 2 seasons that he’s up to that challenge. CMW, after 4.5 seasons, certainly has NOT!