Coyotes Pounce on Pioneers, 79-57

The Denver Pioneers (1-8, 0-2) returned to the scene of yesterday’s blowout loss to face the South Dakota Coyotes (4-6, 2-0) in a 24-hour test of team resilience and character. Denver struggled again with another double-digit loss, never holding a lead in the two-game weekend series.

It was deja vu all over again as the Coyotes raced out to a 12-1 lead. Following a commercial timeout, the Pioneers narrowed the margin to 3 points but USD extended their advantage to 12 points,  26-14, with 9:30 remaining in the first half. Denver cut the lead to 5 points with under five minutes remaining but DU was outscored 11-2 down the stretch, trailing  44-29 at the break. Just like yesterday, Stanley Umude and A.J. Plitzuweit did most of the damage for South Dakota with 18 and 12 points respectively in the first 20 minutes. The Coyotes shot over 50% from the field and three-point range and outrebounded the Pioneers by 8 for the half.

Three minutes into the second half, the Yotes hit their first 20 point lead, 51-31. Cold shooting by Denver led to only 8 points in the first ten minutes of the second half, trailing 61-39.  The score stretched to 71-47 USD with five minutes to go. The teams traded buckets and free throws the remaining minutes of the second half with a score of 79-57 at the final buzzer.

Freshman Sam Hines, Jr. was DU’s only double-digit scorer with 14 points and 4 rebounds. Denver shot 29.6% from the field and was outrebounded 43-25.

Photo: Courtesy of University of South Dakota Athletics 

17 thoughts on “Coyotes Pounce on Pioneers, 79-57”

  1. Umm…I like the new unis #newbalance
    That’s the only nice thing I can say in relation to DU MBB at this point

  2. I know your upset Dunker, but the broom in the pix is symbolic … it represents the decisive sweep (or mopping) which just occurred this weekend in South Dakota.

    I ask you all, what is up with the hoops team ? They come out in their Summit League opening 2 games and promptly get drilled in back-to-back games to South Dakota. Both games were laughers and the joke was on DU. The opener was a beauty — losing by almost 40 points to a team with a losing record.

    The comments by Puck and Piojack from yesterday say it all — embarrassing, disappointing, feeble and unacceptable.

    I was hoping to see some improvement and an actual competitiveness for the start of league play. But again in both games, DU’s effort and execution were abysmal. Billups game plan and substitution pattern was non-existent.

    Please listen Pioneer hoops fans: We are now almost 5 years into this community service project known as “The Rodney Billups Show” (aka – train wreck and race to the bottom). Although his suits are pricey and pressed, and he wears “fresh kicks” on Fridays, the losses continue to multiply for the coach. He owns it all : the losing seasons, the blowout losses, the lack of any D-1 wins this season, the poor recruiting, the revolving roster, the lack of game plan, the poor substitutions, the lack of focus and intensity, the ineffective play calling, the poor preparation and on and on. The Pio faithful are finished with the excuses. Things need to change.

    This is an excellent example of why you do not hire a Division One Coach with absolutely no head coaching experience (at any level). DU’s athletics administration needs to re-examine how this situation has come to pass. DU’s former players of days ago who contributed to making DU hoops a one time competitive and respectable program are owed an apology and an accounting from the administration regarding the current abomination.

    DU’s current athletics leader (Karlton Creech) needs to get his butt in gear now and get out on the recruiting trail himself. Now it’s your turn Karlton to show some leadership and form a hiring committee for a new coach. Karlton you need to earn your pricey salary and land a proven, energetic, competent, and transformative new Coach capable of saving DU’s sinking ship.

    If Creech and Company continue to accept and tolerate this embarrassment of a program following this season, they risk undermining the credibility of DUs entire athletics program going forward. They may also find themselves being asked some tough questions about their own performance and future with DU.

  3. It will be interesting to see happens when Rodney’s contract expires. DU has plenty of time to evaluate its options…

    Unless some trustee or other big donor is going to bankroll hiring a sitting, experienced D-I head coach, I doubt DU will have the money in this COVID era to go after one, as that’s a hire that probably starts a half-million per year (and goes up far more than that for a name brand coach). DU has never spent big money on a men’s basketball coach before, so that would be a statement in itself if they went down that path. Joe Scott was making about $450K/yr when was canned in 2016, as I recall.

    They might be able to find a former D-I head coach willing to do the job at a lower fee to get back in the game, but that’s always something of a gamble, as the better ones are working now, and there is often baggage with coaches who are no longer employed…(See Pittino, Rick, now at Iona).

    I would love to see DU find the money for a coach who has won at the D-I level or professional level, because it would prove to the basketball world that DU is serious about improving its hoops program and make DU more relevant on the recruiting trail. But I’m not holding my breath…

    And as for hiring a D-I assistant, I don’t see that happening either, as the Billups experiment was just that, and it is not working out they way all of us hoped it would…Perhaps an exception could be made if that assistant had head coaching experience somewhere else or came from a big, top 40 program.

    DU will likely look at proven D-II winners who run a clean program, and who can recruit well to an academically challenging school. As always, basketball is one sport where the coaching pool has more minority candidates than other sports that DU sponsors, and that also may be a consideration for the Pios as well.

  4. I don’t envy DU’s next coach, whoever it might be. It’s going to be a tough road. The only silver lining, if there is one, is there is nowhere to go but up.

    I can’t envision any scenario in which DU manages to land an experienced D-I coach or one who has already established himself. This is a stepping-stone, grunt-level job if there ever was one at the D-I level. I think DU needs someone who is young and hungry, wants to build something from scratch, can relate to today’s players, appreciates and coaches the fundamentals, endears himself to the fans, and above all, can recruit, especially here in Colorado. This isn’t Texas, Illinois, or New York, but there is enough talent in the state to choose from, and DU has to figure out how to land some of these homegrown kids.

  5. The bottom line is that DU must learn from its horrible history and not make the same mistake again. To give an unproven person like Billups a five year contract at an insane salary was pure incompetence by the past administration. He has proven himself and the clowns that he has hired as his staff to be a total embarrassment, and worse, a destructive force on DU athletics. He needs to be removed at once. The season is already lost, as if anyone could not have seen that coming, and a nationwide, professional search must be begun to find the most talented, driven, ambitious coach willing to undertake a complete rescue job of a program that Billups and his staff have driven to the very bottom of Division One.

  6. I know Billups is not making an “insane salary”. I am guessing here, but think Rodney’s salary is in the $100s or low $200s at most, since he was hired as a rookie head coach five years ago. He was not listed among DU’s 15 top earners in the 2018 form 990, the latest one I have seen. The low end of the top 15 DU earners were in the low $200s.

  7. Great analysis by Puck and Twister. Appreciate the explanation regarding the economic realities facing DU’s program when they go hunting for a new coach. You both make a valid point about the difficulty in landing a quality D-1 coach within budget (and without baggage) who would be willing to take on the challenging task of completing rebuilding a program. To state the obvious, the hoops team is at rock bottom and it will take an ambitious and talented coach to embrace such a daunting challenge.

    FYI – DU Parent also speaks the truth. DU hoops has sunk to the sea floor. I just checked DUs NET ranking. (NET stands for NCAA Evaluation Tool and it has officially replaced the RPI for ranking teams by the NCAA this year). DU is 335 out of 340 teams as of today. There are officially only 5 teams ranked worse than DU. It’s objectively verifiable: the program has set a new record low for being bad.

    Anyway, Puck makes a good point that a successful D-2 coach who has all the attributes identified by Twister would punch the ticket for a new coach. Searching the talent pool for a rising and successful D-2 head coach seems like a very logical place to start the hiring process.

    With that said, several points of Puck deserve a response:

    First, it was shocking to learn that former Coach Scott’s salary was around $450,000 per year. Because DU bought out his contract for his last two years, that basically means DU paid almost a $1 million dollars for Scott NOT to coach while also paying for Rodney’s salary for the same two years. What a joke and horrendous business decision ! While I understand hindsight is 20/20 vision, I have to publicly call out our dearly departed former ADs – Ron Grahame and Peg Doppes – for such a crappy decision. They both rolled the dice and came up craps with Billups. I guess it’s always easy for entrenched University top-dogs to blow the school’s money without consequence. I bet DUs athletic department could sure use an extra million dollars now given its in the middle of a Covid-cash-crunch.

    Second, I disagree with you Puck. DU does NOT have “plenty of time to evaluate its options” as it relates to deciding what to do about Billups. Even assuming DU splits its remaining league games (which looks unlikely given their slow start), they’d still finish 8-15 in a super weak league. This would mean yet a third consecutive losing season and another poor finish. Billups needs to be let-go/fired even under this best case scenario for the team.

    So, as stated before: Creech and Company need to get their tails in gear, now. They need to start working the hiring network asap, putting feelers out, and compiling a short list of potential coaching candidates. It is only 60 days until the end of the season which is not a long time. Early spring signing dates for recruits will be here soon. DU should plan to have their new hire in place by April 1st. This means the clock is running— they need to put the hustle on.

    Lastly – I didn’t want to go here – but Puck you stated in your post: “that basketball is one sport where the coaching pool has more minority candidates than the other sports that DU sponsors, and that may also be a consideration for the Pios as well.”

    Ok, what are you saying here Puck ? That it is likely that DU’s Athletic Department will feel compelled to look for an African American coach to fill Billups’ spot to ensure diversity within its coaching ranks ? Put bluntly – DUs next Coach will also need to be black like Billups ? If that is what you are saying, that’s interesting ….

    Over four years ago Puck (on November 9, 2016) wrote a fawning article about how Billups was going to usher in a new climate of racial harmony on DUs campus. The article was well-written as always and entitled: “Team Billups Can Help Heal Racial Divides and Unify Our DU Community”. Puck’s article proclaimed Billups’ hiring was wonderful, stating that because he was African American, a DU alum, a Denver native, and his name was basketball royalty, DU had hit a home run. Puck was thrilled that because the new coach had also hired two experienced African American coaches (Patton and Snell – one of whom Billups has since fired) , that DU was sure to start landing top black recruits. Puck’s exact words were: “This coaching staff will almost certainly work to recruit more talented black players to DU, as the Billups name will open doors around the country.”

    How wrong and misguided Puck and DUs administration were. The proof is in the pudding. Billups has been a bust. Instead of prioritizing the traditional hiring criteria such as merit for its new head coach (i.e., experience, ability, and talent), DU placed unwarranted value in Billups’ race, alumni status and birth name when hiring him.

    Although it’s definitely true Billups has recruited more black players, the fact remains his teams have been losing at historic levels. Maybe I’m wrong given today’s political climate, but I assume most DU fans don’t really care what color of skin the Coach or player has nor his last name. I also don’t believe that hiring a black coach just because you (or DUs administration) thinks a black coach can better recruit black players, or because it fills a diversity quota within the athletic department should dictate the next hire. Pio fans want and deserve the best and most qualified coach irrespective of his race or being an alum. We want a qualified, competent Coach who runs a clean , professional program AND wins games— neither the coach nor players’ race should matter. We want quality – period.

    So Puck, with all due respect, could you please pass that message on to Creech and Company next time you are in his Office ? Thanks

  8. DU Athletics signed a ‘diversity pledge’ (https://denverpioneers.com/news/2020/10/26/denver-athletics-signs-collegiate-coaching-diversity-pledge.aspx) which is targeted at hiring more minority coaches, especially for basketball and (for schools that have it) football. Considering most of DU’s other sports, basketball is a logical place to hire a capable minority head coach(s). There are plenty of quality minority head coaches in D2 and D1 assistants that fit the bill. I just want to support a team that can reasonably compete for a conference title every 2-4 years and not embarrass us on the ‘off years’. Based on DU’s resources, facilities and market, I think that is a fair ask.

  9. Pioneer:

    Creech doesn’t need me to tell him squat. He is a pro, and he is watching this program every day.

    Like you, I would love for all of us to live in a post-racial, colorblind world, where it should not matter what you look like, where you worship, how you vote, or whom you love. I’d also love for DU to always pick the best person for the job, too.

    However such post-racial, elevated, altruist ideals, in America in 2020, are goalposts that remain a long way away. Such colorblind talk is seen by many to be ignoring the real struggles of racial injustice today — a huge barrier to American equality. In my view, it is not good enough today to sit around and hope for a post-racial world. We all have the moral obligation to do the hard work of creating that world, and that means being proactive — to help oppressed populations to gain more opportunities where the deck has been stacked against them for so long. Some are going to thrive in the opportunities and some won’t, but the struggle remains.

    I still stand by what I wrote about Billups in 2016. I saw his hire as a good strategic move for DU and for the community at that time, and had Billups been able to do his part and make DU into a competitive program over these last five years, I think all of the school, racial and community benefits I had hoped DU would reap, would likely have come true…

    I am obviously very sad that it’s not working out for Rodney. I think most of us wanted very badly for Rodney to be a huge success here, but the facts are that he has been a failure, as the program sits winless this year in D-I at the bottom of 330+ programs after 4.5 years on the job. I fully understand that playing D-I ball requires winning to stay in the job, and so do Creech and Rodney. The fact that Billups’ program has regressed this badly hurts at multiple levels – as a coach (for the program he leads), as a DU alum (for the Pioneer school and fan community he represents), and as a Black man representing the City of Denver and all of the local people, of all colors, that he had the opportunity to impress and bring closer to DU.

    I think DU’s administration very much (and quite rightly) wants to see itself as a leader on diversity issues, and wants badly to employ a diverse staff of faculty, staff for a diverse student body – one that better reflects the racial reality of America in a fast globalizing world. That desire also includes fielding a diverse set of coaches to reflect this ethos, and for DU to show the country that DU is putting its money where its mouth is, pursuant to the diversity pledge that 5BWest posted above.

    However, the reality is that DU’s sports menu is full of highly successful ‘country club’ sports, played primarily by white players from largely affluent families. This affluence also reflects DU’s primary market for students, as a private school. There is nothing wrong with playing those sports where a school can be successful at a national level, and nothing wrong with trying to attract more price-elastic families to DU. In fact, it is crucial for DU’s survival as a private school, as the full-pay families are the ones who truly fund the enterprise and enable those students with fewer resources to attend and afford DU via financial aid, especially for students of color.

    However, for most of DU’s sports menu, the diverse coaching pool is quite tiny. Men’s soccer and men’ and women’s basketball are perhaps the only three sports at DU where there is a pool of qualified minority coaches to choose from and I expect that DU will attempt to hire from those pools first when coaching vacancies exist in those sports.

    DU having to endure Jim Turgeon’s reportedly racially-ignorant behavior last year certainly helped DU to reach into the minority pool to hire Doshia Woods for women’s hoops this season. And while I want DU to hire the best hoops coach it can for the men’s program, I think there are (and will be) plenty of well-qualified minority coaches that DU should consider first. With 60% of the player pool being Black in men’s basketball, and precious few Black students at DU, and a Black community in Denver that often sees DU as “not for us,” In my view, DU hiring a qualified black hoops coach is still the right intention. In my view, it’s not a quota thing – it’s a justice thing, and it’s the right thing.

  10. Much of Puck Swami’s comments are right on target. But, you still can not disregard competency. And that is what happened with the horrific hiring of Billups. Yes. Race is a consideration. Yes. You need to look for all qualified candidates of all backgrounds. But, as the disastrous hiring of Rodney Billups proves on, oh so many negative consequences, you had for damn sure better look at competency along with race and gender. That man, Billups, had no more qualifications for a Division One job than Howdy Doody, and now the result is almost total disaster. No matter how you slice it, at the end of the day, you had better be able to perform. Billups and his clown show of assistants, can’t come close to being able to perform at the lowest level of competence. They need to be removed.

  11. DU Parent – I think it’s very fair to say that, five years later, Billups isn’t working out as coach, and there are plenty of facts to support that contention. There is the progressively, deteriorating five-year playing record, the current NCAA bottom-feeder ranking, the revolving door of recruiting failures, and the appalling lack of fan interest are all obvious.

    However, one part of your post went too far, in my view, when you state that Billups “had no more qualifications for a Division One job than Howdy Doody.” I don’t think comparing Billups to a wooden TV puppet is fair statement of Billups’ qualifications for his job.

    Billups’ primary qualification for being hired at DU was his a six-year assistant coaching experience at a Power 5 school at the University of Colorado. At CU, he was part of a program that produced NCAA tournament appearances and were he was the key recruiter of talent, including several players who had reached the NBA level. Those alone is would suggest basic qualification for I D-I head coaching job. There are 65 P5 schools and less than 200 people who were holding that level of assistant coaching job at the time of his hire at DU. The is a very elite pool of coaching talent already hired by America’s largest collegiate athletics institutions.

    Add in his pro basketball experience as a player in Europe, his captaincy of DU as a player (leading his 2005 DU team to the DU’s first NIT appearance since the Eisenhower administration), and his family basketball pedigree as the brother of Colorado’s finest basketball player were further qualifications, suggesting better recruiting reach, local relevance and program excitement at the time of his hire.

    While Billups was certainly on the young side for a head coaching job in his early 30s, the paper qualifications, endorsements, and pedigree were more than sufficient enough to merit his hire as head coach at a Summit League school.

    We’re all blue about this — we can all lament the decline of DU basketball in recent years, but comparing his qualifications to ‘Howdy Doody’ is out of bounds, in my view.

    It just negates him, his hard work and his experiences, and that’s not fair.

    1. Billups playing in Europe. DU captain, and family pedigree are not qualifications for the DU job. So he played in Europe, so what; all ex-players are good coaches? Where in Europe? The top leagues, a team like Real Madrid, I don’t know where he played. Being a DU alumnus has been so blown out of proportion it’s become absurd. Because he played at DU that makes him a head coach candidate? Rodney Billups is not Chauncey Billups. Rodney did not play in the NBA, isn’t a TV analyst, never is mentioned as a potential NBA GM. Being Chauncey’s brother doesn’t, and hasn’t, made him anything resembling a good head coach.

      1. You are certainly 100% correct that playing professionally, alumni captaincies and family hoops pedigree are not, on their own, qualifications to be a D-I head coach. I only mentioned those because they were, and still are, additive reasons that DU was attracted to hiring him, that were the proverbial cherries ON TOP OF HIS PRIMARY qualification — his six year assistant coach position at a P5 school. The larger point was that he had a lot more going for him at the time of hiring than that of a wooden puppet…. If that was not clear from my previous post, I apologize. I hope it is clearer, now.

    2. I accept your analysis. I did go too far in the comparison. I withdraw that statement. But the truth is that Billups and his staff have taken the program to a level that could hardly be imagined. Number 335 in the country out of 340 teams. That is, in any scenario, not acceptable. The next hire must be done with greater skill and insight than the last one. Far greater.

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