Wichita State University fired head women’s basketball coach Jody Adams-Birch Sunday, two-thirds of the way through the season. It is eerily similar to what happened to Mark Mangino at the University of Kansas.
The complaint against Adams-Birch is that she is abusive with her players. Ditto for Mangino and his football team. Supposedly, Adams-Birch verbally abuses players, throws basketballs at their face, makes them carry heavy weights and do things that are demeaning. Ditto for Mangino. Mangino was accused of poking players in the chest with his finger, making them do excessive exercises for punishment and being verbally abusive.
There is one other thing that is similar about Adams-Birch and Mangino: They both win!
Wichita State had never made an NCAA appearance, won a MVC title or MVC Tournament title until Adams-Birch took over nine years ago. In 2014-15, Wichita State won a school-record 29 wins and received Top Twenty Five votes. Her teams succeeded in the classroom as well, consistently averaging grades in the 3.3 to 3.6 area.
At Kansas, Mangino was credited with strengthening a long-struggling program with structure and discipline and making winners. Under Mangino, the Jayhawks went 12-1 in 2007 and won the Orange Bowl.
Another similarity is that both coaches ran into trouble, lost favor with a few players and the administration as soon as a losing season came along. Adams-Birch’s team was struggling this year, though two recent wins improved their record to 8-10. After four straight non-losing seasons and an Orange Bowl victory, Mangino’s Jayhawks fell to 5-7 in 2009, and all of a sudden, his tactics were too harsh. Ditto for Adams-Birch.
A classic example of, “What have you done for me lately?”
While none of us are privy to all of the details of either of these situations, we do know enough to have these thoughts: If Women’s basketball at Wichita State follows the pattern of what happened to Kansas football, once Mangino was run out of town, the Shocker faithful are in for some mighty lean years in basketball. Jayhawk football has yet to recover from the heavy-handedness of athletic director Lew Perkins. We can only hope that Wichita State athletic director Darron Boatright hasn’t made the same mistake.
SUFFERIN’ SUCCOTASH! It was Black Tuesday in the college basketball world. Number one Villanova loses to Marquette. Number two Kansas loses to West Virginia and Number three Kentucky loses to Tennessee!
Truth be told, there is no clear number one team in college basketball. Too much parity, too many raucous homecourt advantages and too much travel. You think it is easy to get on a plane and travel halfway across the country to Morgantown, West Virginia and play a basketball game? That would include a 1-2 hour bus trip into the mountains, just to get there. Ditto for Knoxville, Milwaukee and Ames.
ESPN has been ballyhooing the Kentucky vs. Kansas game this Saturday as a “Battle of the Titans!” Now, with both sporting their Tuesday night hickeys, a little of the luster might be missing.
The Kansas State vs. Tennessee game takes on a little more meaning now. Can the Wildcats step up and beat the team that beat the team? This is a biggie in the RPI ratings.
Make way for Gonzaga, folks. They will be your new “numero uno” come Monday. Here’s the rest: #2 - the winner of Kansas-Kentucky); #3 - Villanova; #4 - Baylor; #5 - the loser of Kentucky-Kansas. After that? Throw them in a can and shake ‘em out!
Buddy Tabler is a guest columnist for the Great Bend Tribune and his views don’t necessarily reflect those of the paper. He can be reached at email@example.com