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With Collins out, Heath deserves another year at USF

Published: Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Updated: Tuesday, January 28, 2014 01:01


When USF announced the forthcoming departure of Athletic Director Doug Woolard and the search for his replacement Jan. 16, reported it was due to “wide-ranging dissatisfaction” with Bulls football and men’s basketball teams.

As a new athletic director is ushered in during the coming months, speculation about the future leadership of USF’s football and men’s basketball, is bound to surface from fans and media.

With a new leader of an athletics department comes new ideas, new goals and new ways to go about reaching them. Often, these include new coaches to lead the university’s struggling programs, and at the very least, an extensive review of the operation.

USF football started a new phase with coach Willie Taggart in December 2012, starting off with a 2-10 record. Despite this, Taggart and his staff have managed to gather the third-best recruiting class in the American Athletic Conference (AAC) so far, according to ESPN.

For now, attention is likely to be turned toward the longer-tenured of USF’s two major sports coaches — men’s basketball coach Stan Heath.

Heath took over USF’s program in 2007 and has compiled a 95-120 record. He signed a contract extension in July 2012 after USF’s first NCAA Tournament appearance in 20 years that runs through the 2017-18 season.

One would think USF was headed in a definitively positive direction after the NCAA Tournament appearance, especially since junior point guard Anthony Collins navigated a squad full of upperclassmen with over five assists per game in his freshman season and returned for his sophomore campaign.

Since that tournament appearance, though, USF has gone 22-29 with a 12-19 record last season and a 10-10 mark so far this season.

In addition to veterans Collins and senior forward Victor Rudd returning for the 2013-14 year, Heath added, arguably, his best recruiting class in his time at USF, headlined by freshmen big men John Egbunu and Chris Perry, two ESPN top 100 high school players

Both freshmen have shown to be the real deal, with Egbunu tied for the team lead in rebounds at 6.9 per game and Perry the third-leading scorer with 9.1 per game.

With the addition of Egbunu and Perry, along with junior transfer guard Corey Allen Jr., USF’s second-leading scorer, some players, like Rudd, said in October that they had a shot at participating in March Madness again.

But the Bulls also came into the season with questions about Collins’ health. 

After sitting out the first two games, he debuted in the third game of the year and played in eight contests while battling soreness and tendonitis, which stemmed from offseason knee surgery.

USF is 6-2 with Collins in the lineup. However, the Bulls haven’t won consecutive games since December’s four game streak, before Collins was forced to rest his knee again after the Dec. 19 win over Florida A&M.

It’s clear the Bulls can’t win consistently without Collins, and after an 86-47 loss to Louisville, Heath admitted he thought about how USF would fare with Collins in the lineup.

“These are the cards we were dealt,” Heath said. “But I’d like to see where we’d be with AC in the lineup.”

Without Collins, the Bulls are 4-8 this season and now in the midst of their longest losing streak of the year. USF lost to SMU, No. 13 Cincinnati, No. 12 Louisville and No. 22 Memphis by an average of roughly 21 points.

With, arguably, USF’s most valuable player walking around with a sore knee and two talented, but sometimes inconsistent, freshman eating a chunk of playing time, a dismissal of Heath would be unfair unless USF doesn’t win the rest of the year.

Detractors of Heath’s track record should recall that it’s always difficult for men’s basketball to be successful at USF. Before Heath, USF’s last 20-win season was in 1989-90, in addition to the 20-year NCAA Tournament drought.

In his career as a head coach, Heath’s teams have made the NCAA Tournament four times in 12 seasons, but three of those times came from Kent State and Arkansas, where he served his first six years as a head coach.

With a presumably healthy Collins next season, and a year’s experience under the belts of Egbunu and Perry, USF has an even better shot at a postseason run.

USF will lose one senior, Rudd, who plays more than 25 minutes a game. Rudd has been USF’s leading scorer since 2012. Though the loss of Rudd won’t be a big one for USF next season, at least on the offensive end, because Rudd hasn’t led the Bulls to a winning record.

Collins is the most important player to USF’s success and without him on the court, everything seems to be going wrong for the Bulls.

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Wed Jan 29 2014 09:11
Coach Heath has brought so many firsts to South Florida basketball. I can`t believe
the players he is bringing to Tampa to don the green and gold. He was the Coach of the
Year in the Big East, a league that had most of the great coaches in NCAA basketball.
Rick Pitino, Jim Calhoun, Jim Boheim have all won a national championships. The Sun
Dome was renovated because of the promise of Stan Heath.
He inherited a mess at the University of Arkansas and took them to the NCAA tournament
his last two years. The team he left behind went to the NCAA tourney, and was the last
Razorback team to make the trip. Stan Heath was fired at Arkansas because of Stupidity!!
Don`t be Stupid!! Support Coach Heath and these USF Bulls! Go Bulls!!
Tue Jan 28 2014 07:02
Heath deserves another year because a player got hurt? Heath doesn't deserve ANYTHING. As you note, his overall win loss record is atrocious and one of the worst in the NCAA. As a coach, his performance is one of the worst in the NCAA. You note his NCAA appearances at Arkansas and Kent State, but neglect to note that he was FIRED from Arkansas for not being a good coach. Prior to his arrival, Arkansas had been to like twenty some straight NCAA tournaments. He didn't accomplish anything, there, and shouldn't have been hired, here. You correctly note that USF basketball has always been lousy. You use that as a device to defend Heath. Why? Should our standards as a university be so low just because they were, before? USF's basketball program stinks because the people who run the athletic department are bad at their jobs and because the people who run the university don't mind the embarrassment of being known nationally as a loser. If's fine for you to think it's "not fair" for the coach to be fired, but just bear in mind that your diploma will forever be stamped with a seal that people think is a joke. Sure, you can still use it to get a job, maybe even a good one, but you'll always be embarrassed when people find out where you went to school. Here's some news: the world is NOT FAIR. Life is not fair. What you should say is Heath shouldn't be fired because you like him. That's the only reason to not fire him. Here's some more news: he would already be fired at any other Division 1A school. Six losing seasons? Seven? I lose track. It's way past awful. I'm a season ticket holder for years and I'm considering not only not renewing my tickets, but staying home for the rest of the season. It's "not fair" that I spend my hard earned money to pay the program that pays a coach who is a nice man and a bad coach. It's "not fair" that my university isn't interested in being a source of pride for it's alumni. It's "not fair" to the student athletes who play for USF to be stuck in a bad program because of bad leadership. One last thing you need to think about... Making the NCAA tournament one season out of seven does NOT mean you have a good program. It simply means that you're ranked 65 in the nation (USF had to play in a play-in game, they weren't even good enough to make the field). Further, that ONE NCAA tournament appearance came against the easiest schedule USF had ever played while in the Big East. Go back and look. They got to play lousy teams multiple times and didn't have to play all of the good teams. In Heath's defense, they did have a couple of good wins, that year, but that best season ever is still not a good season and is nowhere near justification for retaining Heath. Heath did a great job recruiting, last year, but this best ever recruiting class is being wasted with him as head coach. Some guys just aren't cut out for leadership. Their talents lie elsewhere. Heath is a victim of his own success at Kent State. His tournament run at Kent made people think he was a great coach. his record since then has proven otherwise. He's a nice man and a really good human being, but he won't be coaching at USF for long and it's a good time for folks like yourself to start accepting that reality.

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