Tuesday, November 28, 2006

A Conundrum on Mike Kemp

UNO's disappointing 4-7-4 start to it's hockey season has fans in a rather ugly mood. With most of the nucleus of last year's NCAA tournament team intact and a returning Hobey Baker finalist in Scott Parse, expectations for this season were high. Bud Bar denizen AJ even went so far to call for coach Mike Kemp's head today.

Fair? Well, in defense of Kemp, the opposition over the last month of the season has included #14 Alaska, #6 Michigoon, #4 Miami, and #5 Notre Dame. UNO has played well at times, but the 1-6-1 record over that murderer's row schedule has UNO behind the eight ball. Still, UNO is #25 in the Pairwise rankings, which means that UNO isn't out of it at this point.

But UNO's spotty play is compounded by a general feeling of unrest and tension within the team that even some of the biggest sunshine pumpers acknowledge. If anything, it seems to be increasing...which when combined with the end-of-season swoon from last spring, raises questions about the direction of the program. The suspensions of 4 players for drinking while on the Miami roadtrip also raises questions about the mindset of the team.

So is it time to make a change? My answer: Not yet. I'm not sure what replacing Kemp mid-season would accomplish; in fact, I get the impression that it would only make things worse this season. (When was the last time any college team changed coaches midseason? I can't think of any examples.)

Also, UNO is just now starting a search for a new athletic director following yesterday's resignation by David Herbster. Who would select a new head coach? Could UNO search for a new head coach while searching for a new athletic director and chancellor? I would argue that each search would be a distraction for the other.

And let's face it, it's still really early in the season; if UNO can solidify it's defense and goaltending and start getting more consistent play, they could turn this around quickly. While the team needs to start playing with a sense of urgency, pressing the panic button isn't going to solve anything.


AJ said...

The Panic button should have been pressed a year ago.

Losing is one thing...losing with good talent is quite another. The loyalty to Mike Kemp is unlike anything I've ever seen..and yes, I think it's justified.

We have passed the point of no return. I said it this summer..I'll say it again, Mike Kemp could not afford a start like this, and sitting back..wishing and hoping things will change isn't going to help.

How come every other coach in ever other sport at every other school is expected to win except this one? I don't understand it. It's been TEN YEARS. TEN...and progress has been moderate if that. Hell, the pinnacle of the team was reached in 1999.

Think about that for a second.

Husker Mike said...

We made the NCAA tournament last season. THAT is the pinnacle of the program, though that week in March 2000 when UNO knocked out Northern, Bowling Green on "Tuesday Night", then Michigoon in Detroit is a close second. But I'm not ready to throw in the towel so quickly on Kemp.

Here's my Husker analogy. Frank Solich took the Huskers to the National Title game in 2001. Some will argue they shouldn't have been there in the first place, but that's another argument entirely. A year later, the wheels fell off the cart and Solich acted to shake things up. The changes were dramatic; he hired the top defensive coordinator in the country and had recruiting reenergized. But Solich was fired anyway, leading to a losing record in 2004 and a mediocre 2005. Fans are still split on the firing. Fund raising has stagnated.

Mike Kemp built this program from the ground up, and they went from birth to the NCAA tournament faster than any other program. However, the rate of progress has slowed dramatically. It's cause for concern, that's for sure.

Perhaps a better analogy is Dan McCarney at Iowa State. McCarney did a great job at Iowa State and took the Cyclone football program further than anybody else ever did. But by that same token, they didn't seem to be able to take it to that next level. Finally, this season made it painfully obvious that a change was needed. McCarney deserved every opportunity to work it out, and I think he got those opportunities. I think we both thought McCarney got a bum rap in this.

Is UNO hockey at that point? Not yet...

AJ said...

I beg to differ. UNO made the tourney last year, because the non-con teams they beat early in the year helped them in the pairwise. They played HORRIBLY down the stretch, from the day after the Michigan series on.

Worse yet..when they did sneak in..they got absolutely blasted so the rest of the college hockey world could laugh at us.

The pinnacle of UNO hockey was Tuesday night and the CCHA title game that followed a few weeks later. We have NEVER EVER been as successful as that since...and it was over 7 years ago.

I'm sick of mediocrity. There is too much potential.

I stand by my statements.

Husker Mike said...

We'll just have to agree to disagree. But hockey really is kind of passe for the next few weeks. Bentley (never heard of them before March madness) and then 2 weeks off for the holidays.