Bison Better Off Without Flannery?

By Josh Herwitt - January 22, 2008

It's not every day that I get to talk about my alma mater, particularly when it's sitting with an 8-9 record in the middle of January, but when the opportunity does arise every now and then, I do feel obliged to shed some light on the current state of Bucknell's basketball program.

Because as most of us former students know, there's no one quite like head coach Pat Flannery.

Flannery, an alum himself, has taken Bucknell's basketball program to new heights in the last three years with two straight Patriot League championships, and even better, back-to-back wins over third-seeded Kansas and eighth-seeded Arkansas in the first round of the NCAA Tournament in 2005 and 2006.

His sideline behavior, however, is another story.

In fact, sometimes I wonder if I'm watching a grownup or some whiny five-year-old stomp around on the sidelines, yell profanities left and right and contest every possible call made.

And most of all, it's hasn't done anything but hurt a program that was on the rise after earning its first national ranking in February of 2006, topping the Patriot League for two straight years and capturing the school's only two wins in the Big Dance.

But those days are long gone now, and it's Flannery to certainly thank -- or blame -- for that.

To say, though, that the Bison will follow the route of Oregon State, which fired head coach John Jay Sunday after the Beavers lost its eighth straight game, would be silly, but it goes without saying that Flannery is more of a distraction than an inspiration for a team that has had it's share of struggles earlier this season during non-conference play.

After all, you don't have to look further than losses to North Dakota State, Ohio and St. Bonaventure.

So what was the best reason the Bison actually upended Patriot League favorite Holy Cross up in Worcester Friday night?

Because Flannery wasn't there.

That's right. The baby was watching the game from the locker room after earning two technical fouls for arguing a call in the second half of the game against the Crusaders.

And after a ruling by the Patriot League Monday, Flannery won't be joining the team for its game at Lafayette Wednesday in serving a one-game suspension.

"This suspension is a direct result of unacceptable behavior as a coach during a basketball game," Patriot League Executive Director Carolyn Schlie Femovich said in reviewing Flannery's violation of the league's code of conduct. "The Patriot League requires the highest standards of sporting behavior of coaches, student-athletes and others associated with an athletic competition."

Heck, if the refs were any smart, they'd carry pacifiers with them the next time they hit the court with the apologetic Flannery.

"I deeply regret the incident that took place on Friday night," he said. "I'm sorry my actions reflected poorly on Bucknell and the Patriot League and may have overshadowed the courageous performance by our players in a big victory over Holy Cross. They deserve all the credit for battling back to win that game under difficult circumstances."

Difficult circumstances that Flannery put his team in.

Difficult circumstances that Flannery wasn't there to help lead his team through.

So it's understandable then for the 14-year coach to take responsibility for his actions on and off the court at all times.

Because it's the players -- not Flannery -- who deserve the credit for a big conference win on the road in a difficult environment.

It's the players -- not Flannery -- who deserve not to be embarrassed by their coach and put in adverse situations because of his childish behavior.

And if there's anything that Flannery should be sorry about, it's those early-season losses that has hurt a program that was once earning national recognition not that long ago.

Posted by Josh Herwitt at 10:06 AM on January 22, 2008
Comments (20)


Speaking as one who has followed Bucknell basketball a lot more closely than you for a much longer period of time, there are so many erroneous statements in this column that I'm not sure where to begin.

(1) Had you been at the game at Holy Cross, you would be aware that a major reason BU won that game WAS the Flannery eruption. Immediately prior to that, the referees had made it clear that they were giving special treatment to HC coach Ralph Willard by ignoring his lengthy tirade directed at the referee in the middle of the court and by refusing to give him a technical when he refused to leave the court and by giving in to his request to go the replay monitor to look for a non-existent flagrant foul. Also at that point the Bison had just blown a double digit lead and were displaying the body language of a team headed for a defeat in a hostile gym. Ater the ejection, the body language totally changed and they went on a 10-2 run.

(2) Flannery did very little to "earn" either of the two technical fouls. It was simply a case of a referee thinking they had just lost control of the game because of what had happened in the previous ten minutes. Flannery's eruption (which I won't defend) occurred only after the second technical, which was given to him for doing less than Ralph Willard had done moments earlier.

(3) Yes, St. Bonaventure was a bad loss. North Dakota wasn't a great one but they are not a bad team. But how you can complain about losing to Ohio, a good team with the #48 RPI in the nation, is beyond me.

(4) Perhaps BU's bad start had something to do with losing - due to injury - two of the three returning players who had ever started a game. And then Flannery lost a third player - one who is now starting - for more than 5 weeks due to another knee injury. And recently, the BU starting center was also lost to injury. It is a tribute to Flannery that the Bison have played as well as they have, given four key players missing a significant number of games.

(5) To get the Bison to the lofty heights they occupied a couple of year ago was a basketball miracle for which Flannery was largely responsible. To expect them to reach that level every year - when he cannot even recruit over 80% of the D1 prospects due to academics and when he has a much lower recruiting budget than big-time schools and when he doesn't even have as many scholarships as other schools - is just plain silly and shows ignorance about the realities of college basketball.

(6) Flannery has just signed the top two incoming classes in Bucknell history - the HS classes of 2007 and 2008 -based on the rankings of the various recruiting services. How does that correlate to your idea that the good "days are long gone now, and it's Flannery to certainly thank -- or blame -- for that"?

If you're going to write about Bucknell in the future - and I hope that you do not - please at least do some basic homework or actually watch a game or two. It appears that you did neither.

bison137 might want to share that pacifier with Coach Flannery...

I wouldn't expect favoritism from a fellow Bucknell grad, but I'd think you would have at least paused and thought things through before taking such an incendiary stance about Coach Flannery.

If you're bent on making outrageous, ill-informed and misleading statements to drive traffic, may I suggest a career move? Do CSTV and the sports world a favor and switch to The National Enquirer.

It's embarassing that you are a graduate of Bucknell - if in fact you are. Stooping to insulting posters, solely because they dare to correct your misinformation, doesn't do much for your image or that of Bucknell.

Your article is so off base as to defy belief. An injury ridden Bucknell team lost some games that they figured to win if healthy, earlier in the season. The Ohio team that they lost a close game too was actually a very good team. Interestingly enough their only loss in the past 4 games is the one that Flannery had to sit out. That does not quite support your "better off without him theory."

Plain and simple, Flannery, who does need to check his temper, is the best coach in BU history, for the reasons you yorself cited in your article, plus the fact that he virtually always has had his team in the thick of things in the Patriot League. Most telling about PF however is the fact that his players always play hard, good times or bad. That is a credit to the coach and a sure sign that he has not lost the team. Everybody is entitled to their opinion, and had you written a column denouncing Flannery's behavior during the HC game as over the top, and and suggested that he needed to get a grip, that would have been fine. But to say the coach is the reason why this team is 9-10 shows a complete lack of knowledge regarding the team this year.

I echo all of the other comments, but just want to stress that Flannery has to be considered one of the top coaches in D1. He took a team with very few scholarships to back-to-back NCAA Tournament wins. Hundreds of teams in the nation had better players than Bucknell from 2004 - 2006, but they had success b\c they were a great team. That results primarily from great coaching, so much credit goes to Flannery and his staff.

If you don't like his personality on the sideline, you have the right to your opinion. However, that should not mask the incredible job he has done and continues to do with this program.

And, as someone who has spent time with Flannery off the court, I can say he is one of the classiest guys you could ever meet.

Josh Herwitt is a nit- witt... ingenius at stoking a reaction to his column, totally uninformed re the state of his alma mater's b-ball program.
I will concede him that the effort and outcome of the BU hoopsters at HC were extraordinary. What would have been as/more impressive would have been putting Lafayette on its ear during Coach Flannery's one game suspension. Unfortunately, that didn't happen and most Bison fans in the crowd that night will tell you his presence was sorely missed. The Lafayette fans said as much that night leaving the arena (as if they needed to make us feel better after their first win vs BU in 8 outings)..." probably would have been different if your Coach was here tonite.

Coach Flannery has- as Herwitt the nit witt indicated- taken BU basketball to heights, previously unimaginable. He is also the cornerstone for the program going forward.

Hey Josh- he'll take his 5 and beat your 5. And then he'll take your 5 and succeed again. He is a great coach and, perhaps most importantly, he is our Coach. Find somebody else to take on from your bully pulpit.

flans the man

What happened? Did Scooter blow you off when you tried to get an interview for the Bucknellian. You're a hack!!!!

Bison137 is one of the two or three most knowledgeable people about Patriot League basketball with the exception of some of the coaches. The fact that you chose to make a personal attack on him instead of addressing his many accurate points demonstrates where you are coming from.

Your article is way off base, as everyone else is accurately saying. How many games did you actually attend while a student there and more importantly, how many before the big wins over Pittsburgh and St. Joe's and then Kansas in 04-05? Get a clue.

First off, let me just start by saying that I have been a supporter of the team since I first started attending games my freshman year at Bucknell and have continued to support the team to this day.

But when a team wins two straight NCAA Tournament games -- let alone against two storied programs in Kansas and Arkansas -- and earns its first national ranking in 2006, it shouldn't be losing games to North Dakota State and St. Bonaventure less than two years later.

Granted, Bucknell did have Charles Lee, Chris McNaughton and Kevin Bettencourt back then, but you'd expect more recruits like that to follow and it hasn't been the case, even with scholarships being offered now for the last four years.

A guy -- you might have heard of him -- by the name of John Wooden always said that when your program starts winning, it should keep winning. That applies for even mid-majors like Bucknell, which could have been up there with Butler and Davidson as regular Cinderella candidates year in and year out.

But maybe that's asking too much, particularly from Flannery, who by the way, is now hospitalized after slipping while arguing a foul call during the second half of Wednesday night's loss to Lehigh -- the first in 38 games against a Patriot League team at Sojka Pavilion. And while he's at the hospital, maybe they should take him over to the psyche ward for a little checkup on that temper of his.

Anyhow, I'm sure glad you guys all have such high standards for a program that's currently 9-11 after being 22-9, 27-5 and 23-10 the past three years.

Enjoy the rest of the season,


I'd be curious to hear Josh's opinion on Jim Boeheim of Syracuse who is without a doubt the biggest cry-baby sideline coach in college basketball history. Would Josh be asking for his resignation?

How does Josh feel about Gary Williams and his side-line actions? Is he asking for Gary's resignation?

Jim Calhoun of UConn doesn't have his program living up to the standards over the last few years. Is Josh placing his neck on the line?

Jay Wright isn't having a very good year. I wonder how long he'll be hanging on to his position at Villanove if Josh has anything to do with it.

The list goes on.....

Consistency is the key to any successful program. That's why these quality coaches are still around. They all run quality programs and are proven leaders in the gym, on the field, and around their communities.

Pat Flannery is a great guy, a fabulous coach, and an asset to the Bucknell and Lewisburg community.

Josh should ask how all the Kentucky Wildcat fans feel about their basketball program since they drove Tubby Smith out of town last year.

One last thing, I love the Bud Light "real men of genius" radio commercial that has been playing the last few days in which they spoof the sports talk radio host that has never played a sport at any level past junior high intramurals and wouldn't have any idea what pro athletes and coaches are thinking. I love it cause this sure sounds like Josh!

Can you imagine Josh's comments a few years ago when Tiger Woods was going through one of his "swing changes". He would have suggested that it was time for Tiger to retire before he embarrassed himself.

Let's all hope that Josh finds a new profession and leaves the sports reporting to individuals that have played and participated in sports and can appreciate and understand the BIG picture of athletics.

Have you met Jim Boeheim, Jim Calhoun, Gary Williams or Jay Wright?

Because I've met all of them and have asked them specifically about the NCAA's new bench decorum rules this year.

What are those?

Well, here, you can actually learn something for a change.

Furthermore, UConn's just beat three ranked teams in the last two weeks, so maybe you should actually do some research before making anymore foolish comments.

Because I'm sure you know better than anyone that "Pat Flannery is a great guy, a fabulous coach, and an asset to the Bucknell and Lewisburg community."

I mean, shouldn't you be at the library? Don't you have homework to be doing?

Instead of worrying about me, maybe you should worry about actually graduating.

As a 35 year member of the Bison club -- and a 39 year member of the Bison community, I also find your remarks uncalled for. Argue with logic -- fine -- but, let's knock off the name calling.

We are all wishing Pat the best, and his absence is being keenly felt with the team this week.

It is truly amazing to see the tripe that comes out of the minds of supposed expert journalists (yeah, right) that are big time employees of a respected (?)organization like CBS. How dare anyone question what the almighty Josh Herwitt says or thinks! Josh, I think Bucknell73 summed it up very well - argue with logic, not name calling.

With all the unlimited resources at your disposal, I would challenge you look at the various blogs that exist for not only Bucknell, but other Patriot league teams, and for that matter, all the major Division I basketball teams. I challenge you to find any that compare to the Bison bloggers in terms of the following:
1 - Knowledge based on fact
2 - Reasonable discussions and conclusion
3 - Civility and lack of profanity laced tirades and character assassinations.
Go to any major D-I program blog, especially Big East, ACC, Big 10, etc., and this is definitely not the case. For you to mock people like Bison137, Bison Golfer, Bison63, and BUfan just goes to show how insecure you must be. They all have followed the Bison much more intently than you ever have, and could make you look foolish in a one-on-one discussion any day of the week. I would love to see a live exchange between you and them - it would really expose your weak arguments.

As an Bucknell alum from the 70's who has followed the Bison thru the good and many bad years, I've seen all the good Pat Flannery has done for Bucknell, not only for the b-ball program, but for the entire university community. True, he can lose his cool and blow his stack at times during a game (a trait that you, Josh, seem to exhibit with your stupid comebacks) and he must learn to control it (as must you). But I challenge you to find any of your supposed friends (Jay Wright, Jim Calhoun, Gary Williams) who would have a single bad word to say about Pat Flannery (I didn't include the whiner Boeheim, who wouldn't praise his own mother on her 50th wedding anniversary). To deny the positive effects he has had on the BU program would be stupid (take from that what you will, oh most intelligent Josh).

By the way, Josh, in your praise of Connecticut and their coach Jim Calhoun, you seemed to fail to mention that he refused to play Holy Cross, another Patriot League team (currently 2-6 in the league after being favored to win the league with your self-appointed best league coach Ralph Willard - maybe the Crusaders would be better off without him based on your logic) in the early season Coaches vs Cancer Classic. It seems big Jim preferred to tune up his team with a Division II game rather than risk an early season loss to a then highly regarded Holy Cross. My, what a courageous act by Mr. Calhoun.

In the end, Josh, let's just try to be a little more civil in your responses to valid criticisms of your opinions. Otherwise, I would suggest that you limit your blog to coverage of the Kentucky Derby and discussions of the last part of the horse to cross the finish line, as you appear to know a great deal about that, being one yourself.

Have a wonderful day, and enjoy your short lived celebrity.

"True, he can lose his cool and blow his stack at times during a game (a trait that you, Josh, seem to exhibit with your stupid comebacks) and he must learn to control it (as must you)."

Calling the kettle black are we now?

Thank you for taking the bait, and proving my point. All you can do is criticize someone personally when they don't agree with you. You never engage that person with a meaningful and well thought out response to the points that person brings up. Just call them a name and move on - that is quite a journalistic resume you're building up. For once, show some backbone and respond appropriately to others, not with something so trite as "you should worry about graduating" (which begs the question, did you?).

I know I won't get an appropriate response, but I would ask you to compare Flannery's actions to those of other, more famous coaches in today's college ranks. What about some of the actions on the sidelines of yesterday's Duke - NC game? Or past actions by Boeheim or your buddy Jim Calhoun (still no response to his backing out of the Holy Cross game - what a coward!)? And let's not forget the media's darling, Bobby Knight, whose prior antics make Flannery's actions look like a hiccup (but all of you in the media sure love him - thank God he's done now). If you want to talk about coaches behavior, let's get serious and not single out Flannery.

I would hope you have the decency to join me and all other Bucknellians in wishing Pat a speedy recovery and a resolution to the problems he is experiencing. As an alum that experienced the dismal Don Smith coaching years at BU in the early 70's, you cannot realize how much Pat Flannery has done to improve the basketball fortunes at Bucknell and to university life as a whole. To suggest that the team would be better off without him shows your total lack of any basketball intelligence. I would love to see you try to make your point to current and past team members. I'd pay money to see their responses.

Josh, you truly are a "Legend in your own Mind".

As a young man, and a wanna be, you assume you know too much. Ha!

Where did I indicate my age? You obviously should do your homework because I graduated long before you were born.

You assumed that since I was a Bison Golfer that I was still at Bucknell. You obviously have me confused with the true Buckenll fans that are passionately known as the Sojka Psychos. You must have wished that you could have been involved with this group but weren't considered knowledgeable enough or passionate enough to get involved with this group. Now you wish to destroy a great atmosphere. Why is that Josh?

As a matter of fact I graduated in the 70s. My brother went to BU with Pat and Jay. I also know and have played golf with the other great college coaches that I referrenced in my previous statement at various fund raisers for "Coaches vs Cancer". What have you done to help?

What do you do in your life that adds value to this world? Not much! All you do is criticize. That's really sad.

Oh so intellegent Mr. Herwitt -

Is it possible for you to give all of us Bucknell fans your address so we can send you complimentary crow sandwich for you to chew on. I am of course referring to the Bison performance on March 5, with a stunning come from behind triple overtime victory over favored Navy in the quarterfinals of the Patriot League tournament. While not the most important game in the world, I think it shows just how important Pat Flannery's coaching of this team is, especially when you read what is said about him on ESPN's web site (of course, that rinky dink organization knows so much less than the almighty Josh Herwitt does). The article points out some of the class that Pat exudes, despite your past flawed analysis of him. We all would love to see you admit that your previous opinion may have been formed a bit hastily, but I don't think you have the stones to do that. I suppose that is why you will probably continue to languish here on this rather insignificant web site. Of course, you could always get a job flipping burgers at McDonalds.

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