Pigskin Picks 11/15

Ahh … I can smell it in the air.

Without further ado, college basketball is upon us, with the Bulls tipping off their season Monday against Fordham at 7:30 p.m. at the Sun Dome.

What? This isn’t a basketball story and I have to write Pigskin Picks?

Surely the powers-that-be at The Oracle are playing some kind of cruel trick on me … although not nearly as shocking as finding out my staff and I had to produce a special 24-page basketball section in less than two days (which we did: thanks for everything Jarrett, Anthony and Khari).

I must admit, with college football’s regular season winding down, hoops have been the only thing on my mind the last two weeks … I can hear Jim Leavitt exhaling in relief realizing he won’t have to deal with me anymore after next Saturday.

But while I was sitting at my desk cursing the misfortune of having to write Pigskin Picks, I was reminded of who our esteemed guest was this week. Instantly, I leapt from my chair and began running around the newsroom in jubilation. Ladies and gentlemen, our guest this week is none other than my favorite coaching personality at USF: Logan Fleck.

It seemed but a fortnight ago when I met Fleck, but it has almost been three years. My first beat at The Oracle was to cover women’s soccer, and it was a toss-up as to which I knew less about – women or soccer. Realizing this instantly, Fleck could have exposed my lack of soccer knowledge and been difficult to deal with. But instead, he was patient, helpful and most of all, nice. He taught me about a sport I formally had no interest in and helped me through my first beat at the newspaper. For that, I will forever be thankful.

But throughout that initial season, something else about Fleck became quite clear: This guy is gut-busting funny. He always seemed to have some sort of quick-witted response ,and I might have spent more time trying to get Fleck to shut up than pry answers from him.

Sometimes I wonder what would have become of my fledgling sports-writing career if I had one of USF’s less-personable coaches (and I’m not mentioning any names) as my first beat. But Fleck isn’t just some jester on the sidelines. The guy knows his soccer and he knows how to communicate with his players.

How could that be, you say? What has the women’s soccer team won anytime lately? That’s not the point. A coach’s main job is to maximize the effort from his players and have them form into one unit – a team. And I have yet to be around a coach here who does that better than Fleck.

Don’t believe me? Ask midfielder Tia Opliger about Fleck and what he has meant to her, both as a soccer player and a person. Better yet, say something bad about Fleck and see how Opliger responds. Trust me, male or female, you don’t want to see her go off.

And true to his unpredictable, wacky nature, Fleck’s first pick this week is FSU over Florida – in Gainesville no less. As much as I despise the Gators, UF is going to walk all over Bobby and the boys.

But that pick kind of sums of Fleck – very amusing, offbeat and a little strange. If you haven’t had the pleasure of meeting “Fleckie,” stop by his office in the Rec Center. Better yet, check out Fleck Sunday at the Men’s soccer Conference USA Championships here at the USF Soccer Stadium when he color commentates for the C-USA Television Network.

It sure beats watching the Bucs play.