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On The Virtues of Patience

posted by All White Kit
Friday, February 11, 2011 at 10:40am EST

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We here at AWK occasionally get comments. Occasionally they come on posts months after the fact and make us have to drag our mindset back in time. In August, I wrote the following in a post on which coaches might be on the hot seat about Iowa coach Ron Rainey:

Ron Rainey (Iowa) – Always an also ran in Big Ten play, Rainey’s in his fifth year with the Hawkeyes and the pressure has to be on to deliver a double digit win season at the very least. The Hawkeyes haven’t been over .500 during his first four years in charge, and a fifth such poor season could be his last here.

Things didn’t exactly go that well for the Hawkeyes this year. Despite a productive non-conference schedule, they looked out of sorts in Big Ten play, finishing bottom of the conference. Seeing as how this was Ron Rainey’s fifth year in charge, there are some very unhappy campers in the Hawkeye faithful about the team’s performance, including a recent commenter:

Check out this Ron Rainey (Iowa) post 5th season article – http://www.dailyiowan.com/2010/11/09/Sports/19941.html – Can you believe the spin the University of Iowa student newspaper puts on The Ron Rainey Era at Iowa? After yet another year (with own recruits) under .500 and only ONE Big Ten win, which was squeeked out in the season final game against another Big Ten bottom feeder Purdue, the Daily Iowan makes it sound The Blunder Years are over. Prior to the start of his 5th season you placed Ron Rainey on the Hot Seat. What’s your take on why he is still there?

I could probably try to analyze and re-analyze (and may yet do so for Preview 2011) the Iowa situation, but I’ll take the time to try and look at things from another angle, using something of a case study.

Our example is the second ever coach at their school, a competitor in a traditional “Big Six” conference. The first coach struggled mightily with one NCAA Tournament appearance in six years and a 4-16-0 swan song that saw a change at the head of the program for the 2001 season. Success had proven fleeting for the new coach in their first three years in charge. While this coach had led the program to three finishes over .500, the team had lost twice in the first round of the conference tournament and not qualified in the other year. Years four and five were considered crucial in many’s minds as to the future of this coach at this program.

Disaster ensued. The program went 4-16-2 over the next two years in league play as the team finished at the bottom of the league in both seasons. Many likely thought the coach a goner after the zenith of the program. After all, five relatively unsuccessful seasons had proven the downfall of many a coach before. But the administration showed patience and let the coach continue on.

In 2009, Shelley Smith and the South Carolina Gamecocks lifted the SEC Tournament title and made the Sweet Sixteen of the NCAA Tournament, their third straight appearance in the Big Dance. In 2010, the Gamecocks finished second in the SEC again and reached the SEC Tournament final for the second straight season and later took part in their fourth straight NCAA Tournament. At current, the program is established as one of the top teams in the SEC.

The moral of this tale? Sometimes patience and faith in a coach can be a good thing. While every situation obviously isn’t going to work out as well as things have at South Carolina for Smith and the Gamecocks, it also shows that some success stories take longer to write than others.

And as a secondary lesson, some columnists tend to avoid negative hit pieces to make sure the coach picks up the phone when they need a quote for an article. Just sayin’.

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