BOZICH | Western Kentucky basketball doesn't need Robinson, Stansbury drama to win
The status of Rick Stansbury's signature recruit at WKU is in doubt, but other coaches have shown it's possible to win without the Stansbury drama in Bowling Green.
LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) – Western Kentucky is primed to celebrate the 10th anniversary of the school’s last Sweet Sixteen basketball team next winter, and they should celebrate regardless if Mitchell Robinson is in Bowling Green, New Orleans or Barcelona.
I’d advise the Hilltoppers to dust-off the game plan that Darrin Horn, the coach of that squad, filed and then put it to work.
Evaluate like crazy. Uncover a five-star force (like Courtney Lee) that the heavyweight programs overlook as a three-star.
Scout like crazy. Develop a gifted athlete (Jeremy Evans) who needs extra time in the gym and weight room.
Work the phones like crazy. Fill in the gaps with Kentucky kids (Ty Rogers, A. J. Slaughter, Steffphon Pettigrew) who understand the immense pride that deservedly percolates in the state for WKU basketball.
Then coach like crazy.
Good things can happen without the nonsense surrounding WKU basketball today, nonsense that has reasonable people wondering:
What’s going on in Rick Stansbury’s program?
Is massive Mitchell Robinson still primed to become the unlikely signature recruit of the Stansbury Era? Or have the whispers about the unlikely concept of one of the nation’s Top 10 recruits playing in Conference USA for a guy who has never been considered a Top-10 coach finally been answered?
Even in its prime-time era with Louisville, Cincinnati and Memphis, Conference USA was rarely the destination of choice for 7-foot centers who played in the McDonald’s all-American game like Mr. Robinson.
Generally, Top-10 recruits stay in their expected lanes. Robinson did not. Skeptics always questioned whether Robinson would remain a Hilltopper until the first games were played in November.
Now it’s not only skeptics who wonder where Robinson will be in November or even the first of August. At least three sources, led by the WKU student newspaper, tweeted Friday that Mitchell had left Bowling Green.
Evan Heichelbech of the College Heights Herald reported he was uncertain if Robinson was leaving the program but that the player was no longer in Bowling Green after two weeks of workouts. A source confirmed to me that Robinson was seen in Bowling Green on Thursday.
ESPN’s Jeff Goodman also reported that Robinson was gone and that it would “be interesting to see if he is persuaded to return.”
Evan Daniels of Scout.com added to the intrigue by writing that Robinson cleaned out his dorm room, left campus after midnight and was expected to transfer. (Robinson will need a release from WKU.)
WKU athletic director Todd Stewart did not reply to a text message from me requesting comment.
Here’s my comment: WKU would be better served by more Darrin Horn or Ralph Willard and less of Stansbury’s scrambled recruiting approach.
The WKU roster reads as if it was put together at the Indianapolis Greyhound bus station. It is packed with transfers from Virginia, Kansas, Buffalo, Northwest Florida State and places in between.
Stansbury’s top three assistant coaches have turned over since last season – and his assistants did not leave to take over at North Carolina State or Dayton.
That matters because Robinson was likely motivated to sign with Western Kentucky because of The Rest of the Story:
Stansbury hired the player’s godfather, former North Carolina guard Shammond Williams as an assistant. Williams resigned July 3.
No Williams. No Robinson. No surprise – certainly not to anybody in college basketball who has watched this strange saga unfold.
Hiring a guy to help recruit a guy happens everywhere. But Top-10 recruits who aspire to play in the NBA sign with programs like Duke, North Carolina, Kentucky or Kansas, not with a coach carrying an NCAA Tournament record of 4-6 who failed to guide any of his 14 teams at Mississippi State beyond the Round of 32.
The Mitchell Robinson signing always had a strong whiff of a fairy tale. Robinson has not said much, but his Twitter timeline showed he started asking everybody to leave him alone at the beginning of July, around the time of Williams’ departure.
Here’s the thing: Western does not need fairy tales or a locker room full of transfers to win.
Horn did it the old fashioned way. So did Willard, who took WKU to the Sweet 16 in 1993.
Western is a program with a grand tradition, solid facilities, a passionate fan base, quality academics and monstrous ambition.
Maybe Stansbury will figure that out. Or Western Kentucky will find another coach who will.
Copyright 2017 WDRB Media. All Rights Reserved.