In the Chris Hatch Doctor Power Rankings—the top eight goes a little something like this:
6. Grant (Jurassic Park, duh)
8. Quinn, Medicine Woman
Unfortunately, due to a tragic turn of events, Sadler's name may be moving down in the rankings. You see, after a lackluster sixth season as the head coach of the Nebraska Cornhuskers' basketball team, Doc flatlined.
Last Friday, in the year of our lord 2012, Kenneth "Doc" Sadler got the axe.
His faltering career at Nebraska finally grounded to a brutal halt, mercifully ending what had been one of the most heinously unattractive seasons in Nebraska basketball history.
After the Huskers lost to Purdue in the first round of the Big Ten Tournament, the final chapter of Doc's career slammed shut.
The Husker basketball program finds itself back at square one. Or perhaps they find themselves still at square one. With Doc Sadler's teams it was always one step forward, two steps back, a couple directly to the side in a defensive shuffle drill and ultimately ending up right back where we started.
I like Doc. I really do. I like the way he interacts with the fans, with the media. I like the fact that he's the antithesis of Bo Pelini. He's folksy and welcoming and genuinely seemed to really want to be at Nebraska.
But make no mistake, it was time to part ways.
Doc's commitment to defense was intense. He was so busy keeping his nose to the grindstone that he rarely had time to try to smell the roses of offensive production. His teams were gritty on defense and grisly on offense.
In his final season as head coach Doc started to lose weight. His weight seemed to mimic the Huskers' offensive production. Thinner and thinner. Eventually the Huskers' offensive production became so gaunt that even Skeletorlina Jolie would have stuck her twiggy leg out of her dress-slit and shouted, "Just beef it up!"
Senior guard Bo Spencer was the Huskers' leading scorer at 15.1 PPG. Spencer, in his first and only year with the team (*Author's note: another disturbing Sadler trend: his heavy reliance on transfers and JuCo players leaves the team in a perpetual state of flux. Spencer follows in the footsteps of Lance Jeter, a fellow point guard that was gone too soon, before the potential could be fully tapped.) seemed to be continually stuck between trying too hard and disappearing.
Spencer's inability to decide between going 100 MPH or coasting in neutral led to a wild mixture of emotions when watching him play. I would find myself shouting "Shoot the damn ball!" on one possession followed up by "Quit shooting the damn ball!" It was this manic depressive play that had us all hoping that the Doc would supply some lithium. He didn't.
The offense scored 55 points or fewer in 12 games. Offensive flow in basketball games can be a thing of beauty. The Huskers were Medusa-ugly.
(*Author's note: To describe what the Huskers looked like on offense this season I have to go off on a quick tangent: I remember once, as a youth, watching a "Wildest Videos Ever Captured" type of show. In it, a full-grown moose had been hit by a car and somehow smashed backwards through the windshield and was stuck inside of a the completely decimated, smoldering wreckage of the car. Inexplicably, the moose was still alive. Panicked, near-death, stuck in a twisted skeleton of scorched, fractured metal. In a nutshell, that was the Husker offense this year.)
I know Doc's a good coach. I just know it. But for whatever reason the plays he drew up on his trusty clipboard looked more like a really crappy autograph. In fact, here's what a play from Nebraska looks like diagrammed out:
I'll stop beating a dead moose here in just a moment. First, though, here are some brutal statistical team rankings and a little reaction to each.
Points Per Game: 60.9 (308th Nationally)
Rebounds Per Game: 30.0 (324th Nationally)
Field Goal Percentage: .427 (214th Nationally)
I understand that these numbers were skewed, especially the rebounding statistic, due to the Huskers' loss of nearly all their competent big men other than Brandon Ubel.
However, the first thing that jumps out at me is...how many teams are there in D-1? Holy hell, how are the Huskers outscoring anyone? Is my old YMCA Spirit league team now considered D-1? Moving on.
As you can see, the statistical evidence supports what virtually everyone with a pulse and the Big Ten Network already knew: the Huskers played bad.
I'm a die-hard Nebraska basketball fan. I watch our basketball games (*Author's note: which would never be on without the Big Ten and their glorious network. Reason No. 643 why the move to the Big Ten is great.) with a great deal of interest and had season tickets until my move to Omaha made that too costly. The Husker fanbase is a sleeping giant for basketball. We've routinely seen that if the product is good, Husker fans will show up in droves because, well, there isn't anything better to do.
Sadler's offensive woes and struggles to recruit were ultimately his undoing. He will be remembered for his kind heart and his ability to inspire below-average talent to scrap—although this year the team looked to lose their way in this regard; the teams of past years fought hard to the end—and provided at least one insane upset per year.
This year's major upset was against the suddenly resurgent Indiana Hoosiers. As the Nebraska student section came pouring out onto the floor, Doc was caught up in the moment. He linked arms with a group of euphoric students and danced gleefully at center court. That's how I'll remember Doc. A coach by the people, for the people.
Yes, it was time to send him on his way. And, yes, I wish him nothing but the best.
(*Author's note: And I'll miss his patented poop-pose on the sidelines. I just really needed to say that, too.)
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