Best Seat in the House column by Chris Graham
Life sure ain’t fair.
Nope, not at all.
This was supposed to be Dean Keener’s year, and heck, it had to be if he wanted to finish out his contract at JMU.
Keener had gone just 18-68 in three seasons in Harrisonburg, and despite racking up some important successes on the recruiting trail, the writing seemed to be very clearly on the wall.
So when his fourth team started 7-1, then went to Seton Hall and lost in overtime after blowing a late 13-point lead, OK, that was disappointing, but the Dukes seemed to be at least closer to where they were back in the Lou Campanelli days, the Lefty Driesell days, when winning was expected, almost demanded, by JMU Nation.
It’s hard to figure, then that even after that heartbreaking loss at Seton Hall, and a subsequent heart-stopping buzzer-beating win over VCU at home on Jan. 2, the Dukes would go on to lose now eight of their last nine to fall below .500.
It would be easy to blame injuries – starters Pierre Carter and Kyle Swanston have missed significant time to various ailments, disrupting the chemistry that the Dukes had developed early on and also limiting Keener’s options off the bench.
Bad luck can also be a part of that equation. I was on hand for a closer-than-it-looked 96-75 loss at home to George Mason last month that saw Mason guard Dre Smith break an NCAA record by hitting all 10 of his three-point shots. And despite News-Record beat writer Dustin Dopirak’s insistence to me after the game that Smith had been wide open for several of the shots, I counted seven shots where Smith had at least a hand in his face when he was releasing.
That all having been said …
I started this column out by stating that life ain’t fair, and how that applies to Dean Keener here is that it seems to me that Keener is probably a quiet end to the 2007-2008 season away from being asked to turn in his whistle and dry-erase board.
As much as I’d like to think that his ’07-’08 Dukes could have easily done a lot better given a break here and a break there, they have underachieved, to put it bluntly, and the responsibility for that has to fall at the feet of the head man in charge.
I hate to even say that, because Keener is a preternaturally nice guy – among the better people in the basketball business that I’ve ever come across.
But you know, well, it is a business, basketball is.
Chris Graham is the executive editor of The SportsDominion.