There is no point in me asking, because I know it’s happened to every single one of us.
A personal disaster occurs, the type that is often over-dramatized by us collegians, such as performing poorly on a midterm. But then a mega-disaster comes along and trumps the previous earth-shattering event, such as arriving at your car after receiving that C- on the midterm and seeing that you have a parking ticket.
But allow me to introduce you to the UCLA women’s basketball program, which has experienced the short-end of the stick on two occasions over the past two weeks.
On March 14, the Bruins learned that they earned the No. 3 seed in the Spokane Region of the 2011 NCAA Tournament.
After winning their first round matchup against No. 14 Montana, the Bruins were lined up to take on No. 11 seed Gonzaga. But since Gonzaga won a bid to host the tournament’s opening two rounds, UCLA was forced to take on the Bulldogs in their home arena, where Gonzaga has lost once in the past two seasons and four times in the past three seasons.
UCLA lost 89-75 to Gonzaga in the second round.
“I felt, of course, it wasn’t fair that the No. 11 seed got homecourt advantage with what seemed to be the million fans that they had,” junior forward Jasmine Dixon said.
How is it that the No. 11 seed, the 11th best team in that region, has the opportunity to play at home, where it has been one of the nation’s best teams over the past two seasons? Where’s the logic in that?
There are reasons why Gonzaga was granted homecourt. The women’s tournament has to select regions with a high volume of women’s basketball enthusiasts in order to boost attendance and ticket sales, and I get that.
But if that’s the case, what’s the point of being seeded higher than 11th? You absolutely cannot reward the No. 11 seed with homecourt advantage.
But that’s not the big news! UCLA coach Nikki Caldwell is leaving the program to become the head coach at LSU!
The two of the one-two punch.
“It was just shocking, really,” junior guard Rebekah Gardner said. “Like, unexpected.”
In Caldwell’s three seasons at UCLA, the Bruins just kept getting better. She led the Bruins to a 25-9 record and an NCAA Tournament berth in only her second season as head coach, and a 28-5 record this past season, including another NCAA Tournament berth. The Bruins were also ranked in the top 25 for the entire 2010-2011 season.
In her defense, Caldwell is a Southern girl, having been raised in Tennessee and attending the University of Tennessee. In addition, money came to the forefront, as LSU reportedly boosted Caldwell’s salary three-fold.
But what about legacy? Where does legacy play a part in all of this?
Caldwell was in the midst of building an incredible program at UCLA and was pretty much there. Consecutive NCAA Tournament berths, consecutive seasons with her team finishing in the top 25, recruiting classes featuring McDonald’s All-Americans; these are not to go unnoticed.
Caldwell was on her way to the top and she was bringing UCLA with her.
She even found herself joining Jim Hill on CBS and KCAL as an analyst for Lakers games and the NCAA Tournament.
And she was fabulous at it!
A good-looking black woman, on television, in Los Angeles, analyzing men’s basketball … can you say “role model”?
“It’s a tough situation because sometimes you have to make decisions that you don’t want to have to make,” Gardner said. “Of course, we’re not happy that she left, but sometimes you have to make decisions that affect other people. We just have to move forward.”
And UCLA will move forward, but with Caldwell, the Bruins were leaping forward. Now, who is to say the recruits Caldwell landed this year, including McDonald’s All-American Justine Hartman, will still come to UCLA?
Who is to say the players the Bruins have now will stay?
I pray that Gardner is correct, that this team will grow stronger from this disaster rather than wilt and disband.
That a new coach will come in and have a comparable effect on the women’s program.
In my heart of hearts, I don’t believe Caldwell’s shoes can be filled.
She was becoming the face of women’s college basketball. To me, she is the next Pat Summitt.
It’s make or break time for the UCLA women’s basketball program.
Caldwell did not owe it to UCLA to stay. UCLA needed her, not the other way around.
But in the words of Gardner, “It sure would have been nice if she did.”
E-mail your “double dips of disaster” to Watson at firstname.lastname@example.org.