Since the last post here, I’ve attended an interesting presentation on multicultural PR initiatves that deserves a more full treatment later on. Right now, it’s still about basketball here at the end of the day.
But I’ll connect these two disparate topics this way — at the PR presentation, the importance of understanding cultural differences was emphasized as a key to success in public relations involving international publics. I thought about that yesterday with the announcement of the firing of Billy Gillispie as men’s basketball coach by the Unversity of Kentucky.
Gillispie, as I mentioned in the last post, was hired by UK two years ago after a successful stint in resuscitating the basketball program at Texas A&M, where I earned my doctorate a couple of decades ago. Gillispie, a native Texan, was the perfect fit at College Station, where football has historically been king. But Billy Clyde understood the culture and knew how to sell basketball to Texans.
The Aggies, who hadn’t played a game in the NCAA tournament in more than 15 years, were soon back in the Big Dance under Gillispie’s leadership. And just as important to the athletic department, they were fillling up a brand new arena which had been hosting half-capacity crowds, even against archrival Texas and Big 12 powerhouses Oklahoma and Kansas.
(Gillispie’s predecessor, Melvin Watkins, was a North Carolinian who seemed surprised when he couldn’t generate much interest in basketball at a school with as large a fan/alumni base as A&M. Again, coming from a culture where basketball was a big deal, he didn’t get it. It was good to see him having some success on the bench again in this year’s tournament, as associate head coach at Missouri.)
Anyway, in addition to not winning enough games at Kentucky (40-27 record), Gillispie alienated fans and media with his prickly personality and didn’t seem to UK folks to be nearly appreciative enough of the great opportunity he had been handed. A little respect and reverence for tradition would’ve gone a long way.
Some other thoughts:
- For the second time in three years the Division II men’s championship game went down to the final second. Findlay (Ohio) University finished just the fourth undefeated season (36-0) in Division II history with a 56-53 overtime victory over Cal Poly-Pomona this afternoon. We referenced a little while back the last-second layup by Barton’s Anthony Atkinson to beat Mankato State in 2007.
Atkinson, by the way, is now a member of the Harlem Globetrotters and he’s quoted in a good story about the Globetrotters in the latest Sports Illustrated.
- Finally a great game this weekend in the Division I men’s tournament. I’m not a huge fan of Villanova, but I enjoyed their 78-76 victory over Pittsburgh on Scottie Reynolds’ layup with a half-second left, sending the Wildcats to the Final Four for the first time since 1985. I really didn’t want another all-No. 1 seed Final Four like last year.
- The women’s tournament, which generally features fewer upsets than the men’s, has had some welcome unpredictability. Perennial power Tennessee, a No. 5 seed this year, lost to No. 12 Ball State in the first round. In the second round, No. 7 Rutgers routed No. 2 seed Auburn, 80-52 and No. 6 Purdue ousted No. 3 seed North Carolina.
One No. 1 seed, Duke, was sent home in the first weekend. Good storyline there actually, as Duke coach Joanne P, McCallie, who came to Durham from Michigan State two years ago, was beaten by her fomer players. The No. 9-seed Spartans put a scare into fourth-seeded Iowa State tonight before the Cyclones came back in the final two minutes.
I like the fact that the scheduling puts as few of the women’s tournament games head-to-head with the men’s events. I’ve heard that that may change next year, but I don’t think it’s a good idea.