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Old 01-06-2013, 03:05 PM   #1 (permalink)
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A Revisionist Re-Appraisal of Derek Kellogg

The conventional wisdom is that Kellogg is a great recruiter but a mediocre coach. I think the opposite is more true. Before I slam into his recruiting and to avoid sounding totally negative, I want to say the good part first: Derek Kellogg is a very good coach. He's best characterized by a phrase I heard on the radio today, "It's okay to make mistakes as long as they're new mistakes." He lived a huge mistake his first three years as the UMass head coach, which was the dribble drive motion offense. I think that was the result of his youth, which obscured for him the difference between a team of Calipari recruits and a team of a10 recruits. Also he was saddled with the DDM guru Vance Walberg as his assistant coach, and that created its own set of problems. Nevertheless, Kellogg corrected those mistakes and had a vastly improved season last year, far exceeding every fan and pundit's expectations. He figured out the style of play that would work with his players and consulted with experts to maximize the potential, including going down to VCU to learn from Shaka Smart and hiring a sports psychologist who really made a difference in the team chemistry. So last season was his first season coaching in a more personal style, and it was really successful. One of the things he did last season that was smart and successful was make Sean Carter an offensive threat.

This year has been really interesting, as the whole world has been lamenting his supposedly horrible coaching performance, not least our super-pundit WH. And yes, Kellogg made a big mistake this year that took a while to rectify. That mistake was not recognizing the significance of Sean Carter's graduation and thinking that Cady Lalanne and Maxie Esho could step in and take his place. They turned out not to be up to the task. Esho is not strong enough and wide enough and Lalanne just isn't ready after basically sitting out two years. That was poor judgment on Kellogg's part, but he corrected that mistake by moving Sampson Carter over to the starting center position and making Cady his back-up. Sampson is not particularly big or athletic, but he is strong and smart. Once Kellogg made this decision, the team started to gel. Kellogg made another adjustment in his personnel this year, getting Freddie Riley into the groove in a three guard offense. Riley is playing by far the best of his four year career, doing lots of little things to help the team win, whether or not his shooting stroke is hot. As a recovering 3-pt addict, Riley made five 2-pt shots the other day, a personal record I'm sure. Obviously, coaching had something to do with Riley's development (although I have to admit it must have something to do with Putney's regression). So I think Kellogg has done an excellent job figuring out how to utilize his personnel. He's also known as a poor X's and O's coach, and why shouldn't he be after spending most of his year with Calipari, another guy who seems not too concerned with the X's and O's? However, at yesterday's game, I saw the best ball movement I have ever seen from UMass going back to the Calipari days, and a good understanding of how to attack the zone defense. The team as whole has gotten much more aggressive about taking the ball to the hoop and less dependent on 3-pt shots--so, of course, their 3-pt shooting has improved. The team has really progressed from chaos to organization this year, and they will be at least as competitive in the conference schedule as they were last year. Kellogg has done a great job building team chemistry, and I think that's what makes UMass the top of the heap in Pomeroy's luck factor. It's not just luck. It's confidence in themselves and each other.

On the other hand, what has Kellogg done as a recruiter? He's actually had very little success recruiting high school players to UMass. He brought in some transfers right off the bat--only Sean Carter really proved to be an asset. The idea that Doug Wiggins would contribute was stupid--any guy that gets dismissed from UConn is a lost cause. Kellogg had a nice DC pipeline for a little while, courtesy of assistant Antwon (sp?) Jackson which led to three DC recruits his first year. But if you take a closer look at those three, you see one who didn't start in high school (Putney), one who was headed somewhere else and only became available due to a coaching change (UMass coaching alum Bill Bayno leaving Loyola Marymount and sending us Tyrell Vinson), and one legit recruit (Javorn Farrell). Also in that class was another legit recruit, Freddie Riley. Sampson Carter was a slam dunk since his brother was on board as an assistant coach. Kellogg's second recruiting class was all DC--Maxie Esho (a great recruit!) and Daryl Traynham, a poor character guy that the coaches should have known about. So if you look at Kellogg's first seven recruits, you see really only three good prospects who were recruited through high school and committed to UMass (Riley, Farrell, and Esho). Kellogg brought in zero high school recruits the following year, although he snagged Chaz Williams as a transfer. His fourth class, this year's freshmen includes two big men who are no better than two star recruits, and a definitely promising point guard in Trey Davis. But Trey wasn't a high school recruit, he was someone who Kellogg snagged again due to a coaching change. I don't think UMass was otherwise on Trey's radar. Next year's freshmen, Kellogg's fifth class, again contains zero players successfully recruited from high school. You have a non-qualifier in Clyde Sweet who was originally comitted to Houston, you have a de-commit from Missouri in Zach Coleman, and you have some mystery guy they fell in love with at an AAU tournament and offered a couple of months ago, Seth Berger.

To me, a great coach is someone who identifies well suited prospects in high school, gets on them, and gets them to commit before they graduate. I would say Kellogg has had three of these guys in his five years at UMass, and they all came in his first three years (Riley, Farrell, and Esho). Maybe you could add Putney to the list, but Putney was a long shot who has really yet to pan out. I will say Kellogg has turned out to be a heckuva an opportunistic recruiter, brining in Chaz Williams, Jesse Morgan, Cady Lalanne, Trey Davis and the guys for next year. But that doesn't make him a great recruiter in my book.

As I've said before on this board, I don't think this UMass team is that talented, and this is confirmed by the preseason all conference predictions--only one UMass player on any of the teams. So Kellogg hasn't done a great job bringing in the talent, but he actually is getting a lot out of who he has. There you go, the opposite of what you hear and read every day.
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Old 01-07-2013, 05:06 AM   #2 (permalink)
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Re: A Revisionist Re-Appraisal of Derek Kellogg

I think Esho is a good player and I'm excited to see how he progresses. I disagree with you with respect to saying he is not strong enough. Have you seen the force he uses to slam down dunks? He is very athletic and does quite a bit whether it be rebounds, blocks etc.

Also, no respect for DK getting WKU transfer Derrick Gordon???
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Old 01-07-2013, 06:54 AM   #3 (permalink)
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Re: A Revisionist Re-Appraisal of Derek Kellogg

I haven't seen as many games this year as you have, but do have an outsider's perspective. I think that the reason Kellogg gets killed so much as a coach is that the team is so streaky. They have times when the ball movement, athleticism, and aggressive play all come together at which point they go on big runs against even tough competition. Then it seems to all fall apart for a a few minutes, as players make bad passes, take crazy shots, play out of control, and lose their assignments on D, at which point the other team goes on a run. The most Jekyll and Hyde team I've seen.

What this does is make folks think that Umass is capable of playing better, they just either aren't fundamentally sound enough or can't keep their concentration long enough to do so. This usually gets put on the coach. I think you could argue that the players are inherently inconsistent and have a style that is difficult to avoid mistakes, and that even the best coaches would have trouble getting them to play more consistently. It partly gets to the whole question of what "talent" is: is it primarily athleticism and basketball skills, or do you include the mental game (e.g. focus) in that as well? Not everyone evaluates this the same way.

Another issue is that most new coaches get a couple years to start showing success, but after that recruits start to notice problems (thanks to some very "helpful" opposing coaches). Umass has not really had that much success yet (NIT just doesn't count that much), so it's tougher to recruit in that situation. Kellogg really needed a tournament appearance one of these first few years to make recruiting a little easier. If they can make a run this year, it'll probably help a bunch.
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Old 01-07-2013, 08:58 AM   #4 (permalink)
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Re: A Revisionist Re-Appraisal of Derek Kellogg

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Originally Posted by jjw23 View Post
I think Esho is a good player and I'm excited to see how he progresses. I disagree with you with respect to saying he is not strong enough. Have you seen the force he uses to slam down dunks? He is very athletic and does quite a bit whether it be rebounds, blocks etc.

Also, no respect for DK getting WKU transfer Derrick Gordon???
Kellogg tried Esho at center, was actually planning in preseason on playing Esho at center, and this is what he found out. He's said as much.

I do give Kellogg credit for all the transfers and ineligibles and de-commits, etc. That's why I say he's a good opportunistic recruiter. Just not a classic "great recruiter" in my book. But as antboy points out, his mediocre success on the court hasn't been helping. I also agree with antboy that mental focus is one of skills of a good athlete, and when that's missing people tend to blame the coaches not the player. But how many times can you yell at a player for shooting a contested three pointer 5 seconds into the shot clock? At some point, shouldn't they understand and remember that's not usually a good idea.
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Old 01-07-2013, 10:28 AM   #5 (permalink)
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Re: A Revisionist Re-Appraisal of Derek Kellogg

The thing that's been missing from the UMass program, and it has affected recruiting, is stability. If Kellogg continues to have at least the same level of success as last year, then he'll stick around, and eventually you would think recruiting would go up a notch. There is not a single MA resident on the roster. In fact there is no one from New England on it. For a State Flagship, competing in a - yes - major conference, that's unacceptable. Massachusetts doesn't have a particularly deep pool of talent, and the very best are going to continue to go to the UK's and IU's of the world, but still, not one? For now, under the circumstances, he's been doing okay.

A couple of things I'd nit pick. Kellogg was 'saddled' with Walberg? Bad phrasing. He hired the guy for crying out loud. And kept him around for 3 years. He didn't even actually fire him, if I recall. Rather, Walberg himself decided it wasn't working and left on his own.

They are still taking too many 3's. Morgan, not Riley, is now the worst offender. Kellogg is getting better, that's a good thing and I hope it continues. But it's going to take more than a single game against an opponent that came in having lost it's previous 4 games by an average of about 35 points, to convince me he's on the right track this season.
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Old 01-07-2013, 10:43 AM   #6 (permalink)
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Re: A Revisionist Re-Appraisal of Derek Kellogg

Why the mandate for a kid from Massachusetts? Can't imagine more than a handful of natives go D1 every year. You can't expect him to spend his time making sure there is a native on the roster...and it's weird that you'd want him to. If it was Florida or Texas or something, fine. But Mass?
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Old 01-07-2013, 10:47 AM   #7 (permalink)
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Re: A Revisionist Re-Appraisal of Derek Kellogg

Mostly a personal preference Dave. I feel a State School ought to have somebody on the roster that's actually from the State. Among other things it wouldn't hurt attendance. These D1 players are for the most part mercenaries, no matter where they play. But I like my illusions. We get more than a handful each year. Okay, maybe it's just 2 or 3 handfuls, but we get more than you think into D1 programs.
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Old 01-07-2013, 10:53 AM   #8 (permalink)
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Re: A Revisionist Re-Appraisal of Derek Kellogg

Hmmmm....interesting.

Small state....I agree it would be nice to keep in state talent there - but only if it's the right fit, and I am thinking that the odds are against it in most years, because I just don't think that state is getting loads of schollies at A10 caliber programs.

No issue with the preference, I get it. But I think it's a big jump to say it's "unacceptable". I'd be happy the coach is able to recruit outside of the region, because the region is pretty weak for talent compared to many other A10 markets, and many markets in general that many A10 teams have recruiting success in.
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Old 01-07-2013, 10:59 AM   #9 (permalink)
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Re: A Revisionist Re-Appraisal of Derek Kellogg

BU has two Massachusetts high school players in its 2013 class.

Castro and Chrabascz
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Old 01-07-2013, 11:04 AM   #10 (permalink)
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Re: A Revisionist Re-Appraisal of Derek Kellogg

What's your point? You think UMass should make it a priority to recruit against BU, just for the sake of having a MA resident on the roster?
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Old 01-07-2013, 11:04 AM   #11 (permalink)
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Re: A Revisionist Re-Appraisal of Derek Kellogg

Whats the point? It was a direct response to your preceding comment
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Old 01-07-2013, 11:08 AM   #12 (permalink)
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Re: A Revisionist Re-Appraisal of Derek Kellogg

No it's not. I never said that the state doesn't produce any D1 talent. I just don't think there's a lot of it, and even less that are on the level that UMass should be targeting. The fact that a couple kids are going to BU doesn't address that, at all. BU is not a very good program. UMass should not be recruiting typical BU level kids just for the sake of recruiting an in state player.
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Old 01-07-2013, 11:12 AM   #13 (permalink)
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Re: A Revisionist Re-Appraisal of Derek Kellogg

Yes - Wahlberg was a choice. I'm not sure if anyone knows for sure, but I am betting that DK used Wahlberg to sell the job for himself - kinda ironic if that is true.

As for DK, I am not sold yet. I don't really care where his recruits come from quite frankly as long as they can play. Right now there are two things going on that are going to prove or disprove the worth of DK: His new "system" is now going through the rotation for the second time and they have seen it and have adjusted to it. My biggest criticism of DK has always been his lack of half time adjustments (when necessary). He seemed to get over that last year, but I am not seeing it as much again this year.

Winning cures all ills, and so far they have been able to win - albeit in an ugly fashion.

Umass has yet to upset anyone, or be upset, so I am not sure what you call that? I can say; however, if they hold that line for the rest of this season, they are NIT bound. I would call that an unsuccesful season, but not for the reason you would think. I can live with the NIT appearence, but unless you are a top 15 team, you MUST win games as an underdog to "make" your season.

"Successful coaches" win games they are not supposed to...
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Old 01-07-2013, 11:19 AM   #14 (permalink)
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Re: A Revisionist Re-Appraisal of Derek Kellogg

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Originally Posted by SpiderDave19 View Post
No it's not. I never said that the state doesn't produce any D1 talent. I just don't think there's a lot of it, and even less that are on the level that UMass should be targeting. The fact that a couple kids are going to BU doesn't address that, at all. BU is not a very good program. UMass should not be recruiting typical BU level kids just for the sake of recruiting an in state player.
Dave I think you made the same mistake I did for a second. When I see BU I still read Boston University. I think Title meant Butler. (Just to muddy the water even more that first recruit was being chased by both BU's!)

And if I'm wrong on either part of this, well, insert my best Roseanne Roseannadanna 'never mind'.
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Old 01-07-2013, 11:39 AM   #15 (permalink)
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Re: A Revisionist Re-Appraisal of Derek Kellogg

You're right.....They are Butler guys, which means I'm confident that they are guys with talent that Umass would be interested in. Sorry, TitleBU.

One is actually from Massachusettes, the other is not. I would love to know how many other Mass natives got that level of scholarship. If it's a bunch, I would slide over to bdance's point of view that Umass should be keeping at least a guy or two around, when it makes sense. By makes sense, I mean that it is a player they'd be interested if he was from Delaware as well.

If it's not very many, as I suspect, I stand by the point that it's unreasonable to expect them to force feed kids into the program just because it's "nice" to have MA kids and that his immediate family would add 6 to the attendance every game.
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