Tuesday, April 5, 2005

...AND KEVIN BACON PLAYED A BASKETBALL COACH IN THE AIR UP THERE: The Minnesota River snakes past the town of Mankato, Minnesota, taking a northeast turn there and heading toward the Twin Cities where it joins up with the Mississippi, which of course flows south eventually reaching St. Louis, site of last night's NCAA men's basketball championship game.

The reason for the quick geography lesson is to illustrate how the ripples of a single coaching change in college basketball can set off a twisting, turning river of moves. In this case the path that starts with the victorious Roy Williams at University of North Carolina leads all the way back up the river to Mankato.

Williams got the Carolina job after Matt Doherty was fired, leaving Kansas University. Kansas then hired Bill Self away from the University of Illinois. The Illini grabbed Bruce Weber from Southern Illinois University. SIU promoted Weber's top assistant, Matt Painter, to the head job and then lured Paul Lusk, the head coach at the University of Dubuque, to fill Painter's position*. Dubuque hired Marty McDermott away from Lake Superior State, which then promoted assistant Mike Fitzner to the head job. To fill Fitzner's spot, LSS hired Brady Larson, who was a graduate assistant at the Minnesota State-Mankato. The trail ends with Austin Hansen, a former sharpshooter from South Dakota State University, who moved into coaching as the graduate assistant at Mankato.

It turns out that Mankato, which is the Dakota Indian word for greenish blue earth, turns out to be not that many shades away from Tar Heel Blue.

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