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Thursday, April 6, 2000
Houston, Texas
Volume 65, Issue 127

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Hiring Drexler was a senseless mistake

Steve Forsberg

As UH basketball fans watch Clyde "glyde" out the door, they can't help but wonder what will come next. They can only hope another stunt like the Drexler's hiring isn't in the wings. The hiring of Drexler, as much hyped hoopla as there was about it, did not make much sense.

Now, with a couple of horrible basketball seasons under their belts, UH fans get to see if there are any new wild schemes hatching.

There is no doubt Drexler was a great basketball player. But of the many great former basketball players, few of them go into coaching (and even fewer yet successfully).

A common misconception, particularly among players, is that anyone who has been a player can easily be a coach. History has shown again and again how wrong that notion is.

Why, then, was Drexler hired? What exactly made him look like a good candidate for a head coaching job? Well, his star appeal did sell tickets, for a season. Ultimately, however, UH fans didn't just want to come watch Drexler on the sidelines. They wanted to see some good (translation: winning) basketball, too.

There was much speculation that he would be an incredible recruiter. Even assuming that is true, hiring a recruiting specialist as a head coach is like going to a great proctologist for brain surgery. If you've got a big-name coach, give him an assistant coaching job so he can make home visits and regale potential signers with stories of NBA glory. But don't put him in charge of the court. Besides, big names are not nearly as good at recruiting as good programs.

Ultimately, Drexler's hiring appears to be a typical example of how top administrators undervalue the role of head coach. Drexler could sell tickets, and he could attract the star talent everyone knows makes great basketball programs. Never mind the ability to prepare subtle game plans, or the instincts about how to manage the momentum of a game. Forget about the discipline to drill basic skills into a batch of NBA hopefuls who would rather be practicing 360-degree slam dunks. Management skills? In-depth knowledge of NCAA regulation? Who needs that kind of stuff?

Perhaps the ultimate damnation of UH's decision to hire Drexler came from Drexler himself. UH apparently hired someone as head basketball coach who knew so little about being a head coach he didn't realize it would take away from his family time.

I doubt anyone who had spent a full season as an assistant coach would underestimate the high demands of a head coaching job.

Drexler's hiring is also an example of how willing top administrators are to toss their "standards" out the window. Drexler may be a fine man, and he may be a role model for athletes, but he does not seem to be much of a role model for student athletes. For starters, he left college early for the pros. I personally think this is a smart move, but college administrators rant and rave about how evil the practice is.

Second, Drexler never got a college degree. I think college degrees are overrated, and if someone is successful without one, I say more power to them. But let's be realistic. What does giving a relatively high post to someone who left school and never bothered to complete a degree say about UH? What message does that send to student-athletes? And what message does that send to alumni who think education should get at least lip service at a university?

Drexler's hiring was clearly a mistake. UH fans can only hope it is one that does not get repeated. After all, if coaches come and go, then administrators are usually not far behind.

Forsberg, a senior history major, 
can be reached at sjforsbe@bayou.uh.edu.

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