Basketball Season Grades: Al Skinner
This should come as no surprise to regular readers, but I think Al did a nice job this season. Certainly not his best work (I would put 2001 as his top year and 2004 as his next best), but considering all the things he dealt with, we should be proud of our team and the season. For the second straight year he had us in the Top 4 of the ACC and held the team together when things could have fallen apart.
My biggest problem with Al and criticism of the season is also what I am indirectly most proud of – the whole Sean Williams thing. Al is not a good baby sitter. Period. It has hurt him and the program over the years. We never would have been in the mess had he handled Williams and McClain differently earlier in their careers. Losing players like that disrupts the roster, hurts chemistry and put guys in awkward positions on and off the court. However, as much as Al helped create this mess, his definitive work in cleaning in up and holding the team together deserve high marks.
There are a few other gripes. The game management raised questions, but at this point I’ve come around to recognize how and why Al manages the game like he does. In addition to game management, other issues arose. Al’s rotations raised questions about Oates and Roche’s minutes. Haynes and Spears did not develop. Our defense remained a liability. We also lost games we should have won like Duquesne and Vermont.
Now let me get all Pollyannaish as there was plenty to be glad about. I was happy to see the offense remain very efficient. Down the stretch Skinner varied our defensive schemes more than he has in five seasons. The assistants picked up where the old staff left off. Oates and Blair got better as the season progressed. We kept our composure during the Miami game during the ACC tourney and won tough games against Florida State.
Not Al’s best work, but considering all the distractions, I will still give him a cushy grade.