Being a major college basketball coach is like taking a daily bath in crock pot set at 450; you live in your basketball world 24/7, eating and breathing the insanity until stuff like what you're about to read below slowly starts making sense. Following the jump is a rather remarkable letter from Loyola, Maryland basketball coach Jimmy Patsos to Tony Kornheiser and Michael Wilbon, and there's a sentence you don't often see.
Patsos has been taking some heat for his team's strategy against Davidson on Nov. 25, in which the Greyhounds employed a triangle-and-two defense on Stephen Curry, holding the nation's leading scorer without a point. Problem was, Davidson won the game, 78-48. The unique gambit was the talk of the media for about a week, and even PTI chatterheads Wilbon and Kornhesier chimed in (I didn't see the segment; I assume they disapproved). And that, thought Patsos, deserved a response.
The letter, addressed to Wilbon and Kornheiser, was passed along to Albany Times-Union reporter Pete Iorizzo, who in turn shared it with his readers. I've blocked the following excerpt because I don't want you to miss it. The entirety of the letter follows that.
As an American I wish we had leaders like [Davidson coach Bob] McKillop and Curry, who could have gotten the CIA and FBI to talk so we could have prevented the 9-11 tragedy, or saw that Fannie Mae was creating a mortgage crisis coming which could cripple a country. The Davidson basketball family united the way I wish Wall Street would have instead of letting so many Americans retirement be lost. I wish his staff could have advised the administration who got us into a war in Iraq which cost us countless lives, and disabilities, countless money and has gone on longer than WWII. I know these are extreme examples to show that the Davidson basketball family adjusted, made smart choices and unselfish choices for the good of the team.
Dear Mr. Kornheiser and Mr. Wilbon:
I would like to start by saying that after 20 years of coaching in the Baltimore-Washington (area) I have come to realize that you represent the highest intelligence and integrity in both written and broadcast journalism. Our team watches your show daily in the locker room as practice ends at 5:30.
The decision to deny Stephen Curry the ball for the entire game was a calculated risk and conscious choice by myself, our staff and our players. My staff is made up of Matt Kovarik (just passed the Maryland Bar), GG Smith (masters from Kentucky, Tubby's son) and Greg Manning jr (Loyola player and 2008 graduate, son of Greg Manning Sr all-time free throw pct leader in ACC History). We had a tough win the night before vs. James Madison and our best defender Tony Lewis is hurt and out for a week. He tried to play vs Davidson but as unable after two minutes, and we want him healthy for the year. We are a very young team who lost 3 starters and 5 of the top 9 from last years record setting 19 win team. We have had 3 winning seasons in a row, which is very good since 5 years ago when I got here we were 1-27 and last in the country in the RPI!
The game plan to beat Davidson a top 25 team with a lottery pick in Stephen Curry, and 6 of 8 players back from an Elite Eight team was to keep Curry from touching the ball. If this was last year we would not have done this because Curry played shooting guard. The decision was based on the fact that he plays point guard now. He is tremendous not only averaging 35 pts, but also 9 assists per game. This means he accounts for 53 points per game for Davidson. My young, tired and inexperienced team met with the staff and we all felt this was our best chance to win the game. We spoke about the Four Corners Dean Smith used as we where playing in the State of North Carolina. It was a risk, but we felt it was our best chance to win the game. The players were all for it, they have a say here at Loyola Basketball. The game started well, and Davidson was forced to use two timeouts to deal with the situation. The lead of 9-4 was an impressive start for our young team. We used a combination of the triangle and two, box and one and a full-court press to stop Curry.
Unfortunately we could not make open shots, and committed twenty-one turnovers (mostly unforced). At halftime I asked the team if they wanted to play straight man to man, or stay with the game plan. They want to stick to the game plan in hopes we could run better offense, make shots and maybe the Davidson players would cool off from the 3 PT line. In the second half a seldom used Davidson freshman made 3 straight pointers, it was not the Greyhounds night. Loyola Basketball tries to WIN every game we play! We played hard until the end, diving for loose balls and running our offense, we just struggled offensively. In closing I take responsibility for the loss, however this was not some self-serving promotional plan. Curry is a great player who controls the game like Tiny Archibald (I grew up in Boston and watched him lead the Celtics to the 1981 NBA Title). He is more dangerous now because he plays the point and can score and pass.
The credit should go to Head Coach Bob McKillop, the entire Davidson team and Stephon Curry who is unselfish, humble and patient. They are a great team, and Curry is a class individual much like his coach. There was no trash-talking or dirty physical play. We took a risk for the rest of the team to beat us, and they did. Coach McKillop adjusted to a situation that they have never seen and did an outstanding job as did his star player. After watching this I only have more respect for Stephen Curry. He should be a serious candidate for player of the year.
As an American I wish we had leaders like McKillop and Curry, who could have gotten the CIA and FBI to talk so we could have prevented the 9-11 tragedy, or saw that Fannie Mae was creating a mortgage crisis coming which could cripple a country. The Davidson basketball family united the way I wish Wall Street would have instead of letting so many Americans retirement be lost. I wish his staff could have advised the administration who got us into a war in Iraq which cost us countless lives, and disabilities, countless money and has gone on longer than WWII. I know these are extreme examples to show that the Davidson basketball family adjusted, made smart choices and unselfish choices for the good of the team.
I will take responsibility for the loss, and give all the credit to the entire Davidson Basketball Family. As a mid major that is where we want to be some day. They are a winning program who does it with class. We took a risk, and it did not work. We still learn from our failures, as much as from our successes. Winning is a priority at this program as it was at the University of Maryland when I worked for Gary Williams, and at Archbishop Carroll when I worked for Carroll Holmes.
It was an honor to have our school on your show which we believe is the finest in the nation. You may print or talk about any or all of this letter. I am available 24-7 to talk to either one of you about this. You are a credit to your industry. I just wanted you to know why we did what we did, and our objective was to win the game against a top 25 team with a lottery pick. Please pray for the victims of Mumbai, I have several friends and relatives working there. We are off to Vermont to play my college roommate Mike Lonergan and the Vermont Catamounts.
Head Basketball Coach
Having been a basketball coach myself, I'm the last person on earth to question another coach's motives or strategy. However — and I'm going to stick my neck out here — in my opinion, entrusting the Iraq war to Bob McKillop would not have been wise.
Jimmy Patsos, Unplugged [Albany Times-Union]
Loyola Holds Curry Scoreless, But What Was The Point? [The New York Times]