I'll admit it: I was excited when BGSU hired Louis Orr as head men's basketball coach in 2007. I had seen his teams play when he coached at both Siena and Seton Hall and liked the way they played. With BG's loss in the first round of the MAC Tournament on Monday night, he's now coached six full seasons for the Falcons. He's had just one winning season, in 2008-2009, when the Falcons won the MAC East and lost in the semifinals of the MAC Tournament. It must be noted: that team was led by leftovers from the previous coach's (Dan Dakich) tenure).
So yeah, my tune has changed. It's time for some new blood to lead the program. Unfortunately, Coach Orr has another year left on his contract...and it was announced tonight that BGSU will honor that year, allowing him to coach another season instead of buying him out and moving on.
I knew that would probably be the case. Still, it's disappointing. Letting a coach serve a final year of a contract doesn't just place that one season at risk. It's bad enough to have one more season of low expectations, but it makes recruiting so, so difficult. If you're a college basketball player, would you want to go to a program knowing it's almost a certainty that you'll be playing for a different coach in a year's time?
Look, it's not the losing that bothers me, per se. Dakich's last few teams lost more than they won, and I still went to games and enjoyed them, for the most part. What bothers me is that Orr's teams don't seem to have any personality. What bothers me is that players don't really seem to get better from one year from the next, or even from the beginning of their careers to the end. What bothers me is that there are so many guys on the team who just can't score. What bothers me is that some guys play a ton of minutes without doing much while other guys languish on the bench even though they seem to do more in the limited time they see. What bothers me is that going to games seems more like a chore than something fun to do. What bothers me is that BGSU opened a beautiful new basketball arena and hasn't been able to parlay it into any on-the-court success.
I only made it to four games this season. They won the first one, against Lake Erie College, which was disappointing because they played poorly against a far inferior opponent. They lost the other three (vs. Michigan State (good team), Ohio (good team), and Miami (dreadful team)). Now, I live an hour and a half away from Bowling Green, but believe you me, the drive is not the main reason I don't find myself up there more often. I think I only missed one home game during Coach Dakich's ten-year tenure, and that includes time spent living here, and one season when my wife lived in Stow (near Akron). Not kidding: one time I drove from Toledo to Stow (~2 hours) on a Friday night, drove back to BG the next afternoon for the game, then drove back to Stow after the game. There's no way I'd do that now; I don't mind the drive itself, but it's not worth it when there's such a good chance you're going to watch a poor, uninspired performance and come away disappointed.
I don't know what I'm going to do next season. The athletic department seems to have written it off, so maybe I'll do the same. I went to Wright State for two years before I transferred to BG; maybe I'll get season tickets to watch the Raiders play next season. They have a young coach, a young team, and just played in the Horizon League championship game.
I say that now in frustration. I know when next season rolls around I'll probably do what I did this year: go to a handful of games, mostly when I happen to be in the BG area anyway, watch the rest of the games via crappy Internet stream, complain about how badly the Falcons play, and pine for the days of Pardon, McLeod, Klassen, and Matela. It just pains me that I even have to ponder an alternative to watching another crappy season after what we've already gone through.
No, it doesn't just pain me; it nearly kills me. I was a student at BGSU for three years. I lived in Rodgers Quad for two of those years, and spent a lot of time on campus in East Hall and the Jerome Library, not to mention watching the football team at Doyt Perry Stadium. But some of the best, most amazing, most intense times of my college career took place watching the Falcons play in Anderson Arena. That's where I was when BGSU stopped being "the school I go to" and became my alma mater. That's where I became a Falcon.
To even contemplate taking a year off from watching the basketball program...I can't fathom how it got this bad, or how it can be allowed to continue. If Coach Orr's brand of basketball has come this close to driving me away, I can't imagine what it's doing to more casual fans. (Actually, I can: tickets for Monday's game were only $1, and still only 1,700 people showed up. Casual fans have already moved on.)