We are always told to make a great first impression. What happens when meeting someone for the first time is how we judge that person for the time it takes to really get to know them. If a first impression is a true reflection of how that person really is, then Russell Turner is the real deal. The new UCI men’s basketball head coach did a phenomenal job in introducing himself to the sports media two weeks ago. Turner said all the right things, but that’s just it: he talked a big game and now he has to back it up.
Turner inherits a program that has not had a 20-win season since the 2002-03 campaign. There hasn’t been a strong fan following since late in the 2007-08 year, when UCI made it all the way to The Big West Tournament Finals. I think that Pat Douglass did a great job in his early years and is indeed the all-time wins leader at UCI. However, it was time for a change and the program needed to go in a new direction.
Do I think that Turner is the man to do it? My answer to that is someone has to and it would be nice if the first guy to get the opportunity could do it. The jury is still out on Turner. He played his college ball at a very small school, a NCAA DIII school to be exact. He did have great success at Wake Forest and Stanford, but he was only an assistant coach. A lot of people are making a huge deal about Turner’s time as an NBA assistant coach. While I’m sure he will be able to impart a lot of knowledge that he gained in the NBA, he didn’t necessary work for the greatest franchise ever. The Golden State Warriors did have that one spectacular year where they beat the Jazz in the playoffs; they haven’t done much before or since that. Turner did have the chance to learn from the great Don Nelson, but “Nellie” has been a little suspect on how he has handled the Warriors these last few years.
Like I have alluded to above, this will be Turner’s first time as a head coach for a major team and program. He has never been in charge of so much before. This usually means that the first few years will be an adjustment period, where the team might not be extremely successful as it is still adapting to a new system. Good thing for the five-year contract and the faith Athletic Director Mike Izzi seems to have in Turner. Turner is also getting a late start on recruiting for the upcoming year and his hands are a little bit tied with a current roster and incoming players he does not know much about. Let’s hope the learning curve is not that steep.
I do not know the internal workings of the UCI men’s basketball program. I only know what I see as a fan. I have no idea what offense Douglass was running these past few years, but I do know that it was inconsistent and boring at times. Mr. Turner, please make basketball fun again. I know you hinted at possibly using the Warrior run-and-gun style of play, but only if your players fit that model. One thing is for sure: there needs to be an upgrade in style of play. That might help put some more fans in the seats (CIA can only hand out so much free stuff to try and entice people to come to the games). So when the sports marketing department doesn’t show up, there needs to be something on the floor to entertain. In order to get more people to watch basketball in the Bren, you need a winning team.
Mr. Turner, I wish you much success in the future with your new team. I think you are right when you say that there is no reason why UCI cannot have a good basketball program. Most students do not come to this school for its athletic superiority. Maybe that can be changed with the current athletic director and coaches that are in place. Only time will tell.