Mountain West scolds San Diego State coach Fisher for being honest

Posted: 02/15/2011 in college basketball
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The Mountain West Conference sent San Diego State basketball coach Steve Fisher the weirdest Valentine’s Day gift Monday – a public reprimand.

Way to show the love for a coach helping bring unprecedented attention to a league that typically flies below the radar because most of the country’s basketball experts can’t find their games on their big-screen television sets.

Fisher’s crime was criticizing the University of Wyoming for firing coach Heath Schroyer on Feb. 7 when the Cowboys still had seven conference games remaining, plus the league’s postseason tournament.

“For a coach to be fired with six weeks to go in the season is inexcusable,” Fisher said on last week’s Mountain West Conference coaches teleconference. “We talk to our players about commitment, not cutting and running, and yet when things go south a little bit, often our administrators say, ‘What do we do to please our biggest donor or the perception standpoint?’”

Fisher went on to say the firing wasn’t “done in a professional manner,” which I’m guessing upset Wyoming athletic director Tom Burman. Fisher’s point is that college basketball isn’t the NBA or NFL and getting a head start on an ensuing coaching search isn’t worth dumping a coach with so many games still remaining.

It had been apparent since December that Schroyer was going to have a hard time keeping his job even though he had three more seasons remaining on his contract. And with the Cowboys mired in a seven-game losing streak at the time of his firing, I’m not about to say he was doing a solid coaching job and deserved to return.

The best way for Wyoming to handle it would’ve been the way San Diego State dealt with the firing of Fred Trenkle late in the 1998-99 season. The school announced it with two weeks to go and let Trenkle finish out the campaign.

A bad team that had won just two games all season suddenly won two of its final three games. Perhaps Wyoming’s players might have rallied in a similar manner if an announcement came at the end of February.

I recall how inspired the Cowboys were at the 2006 Mountain West tourney when Steve McClain’s future hung in the balance. Wyoming should have been gone in the first round but the Cowboys took San Diego State into overtime of the title game before losing.

The Cowboys’ tourney run got McClain an extra year on the job. Obviously, that wasn’t going to happen this March. Wyoming will need San Diego State and Jimmer Fredette-led Brigham Young to skip the tournament to have any chance of sticking around this time.

Regardless, I see nothing wrong with Fisher defending one of his coaching brethren. The Mountain West says he violated the MWC Sportsmanship Rule and so he was reprimanded.

I think the league could have handled it privately myself. A lot of journalists get tired of coaches saying the same old boring clichés, doing their best to say nothing while saying a lot.

This reprimand is part of the reason why we now live in the most boring age of “coach speak” in sports history.

Fisher was candid and got reprimanded – so much for free speech.

I see Schroyer is scheduled to make $160,000 a year per those three remaining seasons on his contract. Perhaps he’s the big winner in the deal.

After all, he’ll pocket close to half a million bucks without having to spend the next three winters in frigid Laramie, Wyo.


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