A blog, in the truest sense of the word. Not a report, not breaking news. Just some thoughts on the state of the Billikens on this very day. Casual, fun, so strap in.
The biggest news of the week is the promotion of Ray Giacoletti from Assistant to the Head Coach to Assistant Coach. With the benefit of hindsight seems completely obvious as he is such a clear choice to fill the role.
Last season Coach Ray served as an assistant coach on an emergency basis when Coach Corey Tate couldn’t fully participate in his on-court duties as Assistant Coach after his leg surgery early in the year. So, this promotion seems more of a “making right” and “formalizing” the existing situation. Ray has been an assistant coach for a year now; it’s just formal today.
That does not mean other candidates weren’t considered or even interviewed for the role. I know when Ford Stuen was promoted from Director of Basketball Operations to Assistant Coach, he went through a fairly exhaustive process that included other being considered and/or interviewed. The vibe I seem to get from the “Ford Administration” is that all avenues are considered before pulling the trigger on anything when allowed time to make a decision. Ray being hired wasn’t a guarantee, but it seemed he certainly started in the pole position.
One name I’ve heard that was at least considered was Billiken alumni and Brad Beal Elite coach Corey Frazier. Though I am unsure how far along that thinking went, or if it was anything more than just musing. It could be, it could not be, I just don’t know at this point.
This promotion now leaves a new position open in the “administration” that needs to be filled. The role of “Special Assistant to the Head Coach” is a unique one. Programs can use the position to fill various roles, and there isn’t exactly a wrong way to use it. Historically, Travis Ford has used his Special Assistant to take the lead on scheduling and scouting, two skills Ray brought a ton of experience in and significantly improved the Billikens scouts.
Most “big game” scouts came from Ray last season, and it’s clear his influence helped shape the on-court product for the Billikens. Giacoletti brings 14 years of head coaching at the D1 level and another 6 years as an assistant under Mark Few at Gonzaga. Being able to spend more time as an on-court coach and less of doing the double duty of an administrative role and coach seems to benefit the program.
So, it begs the question…who fills the role? Coach Ray joined the program essentially out of a coincidence of connivance. Having resigned from his previous role at Drake after three years, Giacoletti moved to St Louis to be closer to family and didn’t envision being involved in the game until Ford found a role for him, a role that promised to involve less travel and less strain. Well, that all changed, and it seems to have been for the better.
All of this to say, it’s hard to say where the next staff member will come from. After the last internal promotion, a cascade of promotions happened. Michael Wilson (who was the video coordinator) took over for Ford Stuen as Director of Basketball Operations; the program then hired David Pavlakovich to be Video & Analytics Coordinator (He had previously been a student manager at Colorado).
While I know Michael Wilson is very involved in the scheduling and overall season planning, as his role is essential “Chief Planner and Problem Solver” for the program. Unfortunately for Mike, I just do not foresee this happening again.
If I had to guess and make a couple assumptions about the type of candidate who is likely to join the staff with just 6 weeks before tip-off while also fitting the Ford model for the Special Assistant role…it won’t be easy. Having to find an experienced coach who is either a.) available or b.) will be willing to relocate in the midst of a pandemic. The scenario isn’t ideal.
Some Other Thoughts and Notes
- With practice starting this weekend, and it seems media availability will be picking up, I’m expecting to get a better sense of rotations. Or maybe more generally, just what kind of role everyone will have.
- The only guy I won’t see immediately is Jimmy Bell Jr, who is currently limited with a minor foot injury but is fully expected to be back to 100% before opening tip-off.
- I get the sense that the program is working on setting up some sort of “Virtual Billiken Madness” for some time before seasons opening. While it may not have the fanfare or the theatrics of a typical year, a streamed practice is very much in the cards for all the Billiken faithful. While that may change for some unforeseen circumstance, it’s being worked on.
- It official that Fred Thatch Jr and Gibson Jimerson have had hardship waivers submitted on their behalf to get an extra year of eligibility. While that is expected to be cleared at some point, it may not be until they are seniors, and immediate action is necessary. I don’t know why this is. It just is. It’s a line of thinking I’ve heard since Mid-December when Gibson went down…so consistency is there.
- With immediate transfers and Winter athlete extended eligibility now on the table, it’s hard to get a sense of the Recruiting Road Map. With Frank Cusumano’s report that Jordan Goodwin and Javonte Perkins could potentially stick around another year, it gets even foggier. It’s clear the Bills put a lot of time and effort in the Jordan Nesbitt recruit, and losing him stings because of that…but the attitude seems to be “the world spins on” (my words). It should become clearer in the coming days with the increased official opportunity for conversations.