I don’t hate Jim Whitesell, and honestly, I don’t think he’s a terrible coach. But after three seasons what’s become apparent is he’s not one of the top coaches in the MAC and there are no signs he’s going to lead the Bulls back to the dance.
Whitesell inherited a program that had been dominating the MAC, through two coaching changes. After several seasons it seems like all that ground has been lost and Buffalo is back to a “respectable” MAC team that will get you into the top half of the conference but come up short in Cleveland.
Nate Oat’s once said that getting outplayed every now and again is not shameful, but getting outworked was. And that’s a lot of what it looked like this season.
In the games, I watched the fire was just not there, and I don’t fault the players. On Bull Run we’ve said time and time again these are college kids working their way through school. I can no more demand that they be passionate about the work than I would a kid stacking books in Capen library.
The players should have a coach that drives them and inspired a passion in the team. That’s not Jim Whitesell.
Whitesell may be a fantastic basketball mind. There is a reason Oats wanted him on staff, he helped build the system that Oats used to grow Buffalo hoops. But not every great coach is a great “head” coach and the sliding of Buffalo hoops in the last couple of years leads me to think Oats is one of those guys that will be a terrific assistant coach for as long has he wants it.
I just want to be clear that this is NOT about three years without a MAC title. To me that’s too much of an unreliable litmus test. It’s easy to “get outplayed” at the wrong point in Cleveland and go home early, in a one-bid conference that’s life.
This is about a team that hit the following marks this year.
- 5th in the MAC
- Blown Lead against Bonaventure
- Lost a game to Canisius
- Went just 1-6 against MAC teams with winning records
The Bulls were pretty loaded this year. Not 2018 levels of talent, but close. And certainly close enough that two of those four things should NOT have happened. Really aside from the loss to Bona all of them are inexcusable.
I was very happy with the hire at the time, a lot of people panned it, looking at his past performance as a head coach, but I thought “we’re really good now and have talent, let’s get that continuity train rolling”.
And he did pretty decently in year one. Despite losing a lot of talent he got the team to 20 wins and to the MAC championship game.
But last year I started to have some questions. It was a lot of what we saw this year, the fire was not there on defense and that’s what makes the “Oats/Whitesell” system work. Tenacious defense and a quick transition offense.
This year it got so uninspiring that I decided to pen my own modest proposal, in the style of Robert Burns. Maybe we take coach Jack and put her in charge of the Men.
All this to say, I’m past Whitesell now, he’s lost me as a believer.
He’s going to be here next year as his contract was renewed after last season, but ideally, should he have that year or if possible should UB make a change now?