Thoughts on Schroyer being fired

Can’t say it was surprising to hear Wyoming fired Heath Schroyer.

But the timing was surprising as UW pulled the plug on Schroyer late Monday afternoon.

Athletics director Tom Burman told me last season at about this time, and as recently as a couple of weeks ago he would wait until the end of the season to make a decision on Schroyer, or at very least evaluate where things stand.

It’s safe to say that Schroyer would have been fired at season’s end if the team continued its losing ways. UW is 8-15 overall, 1-8 in the Mountain West and has lost six straight. Even if UW won out I don’t know if that would have saved Schroyer’s job.

But something happended recently to change Burman’s mind to let Schroyer go now. What that was remains a mystery. Maybe he will tell us during a teleconference Tuesday at 11 a.m.

What do you all think of the timing of this firing? I know many of you have expressed that you wanted it done sooner than later? Now that it’s done, what do you think?

I tried to get a hold of numerous players tonight, but all I got was voice mail. Will be interesting to see how they react here on out.

I liked Schroyer and liked what he tried to do. His best years were supposed to come with strong sophomore and junior classes. Injuries derailed some of those goals, and perhaps poor judgement and decisions as well by Schroyer and even Burman when he extended Schroyer two years back to a five-year contract after a 19-14 record in the 2008-09 season.

Burman has fired three coaches with three years left on contracts — Schroyer, former men’s hoops coach Steve McClain and football coach Joe Glenn. Not a good precedent to set, but in Schroyer’s case Burman hired him.

Fred Langley will coach the team the rest of the season. He’s been Schroyer’s top assistant since both arrived in March of 2007. How do you think he will do? Do you think he can get this team to play any better?

Funny thing is, despite home losses to No. 7 BYU and Colorado State last week by a combined 10 points, UW played some of its best basketball in those games — at least defensively. The after-the-game handshake between Schroyer and CSU coach Tim Miles was longer than normal with some dialogue, and Miles came out and defended Schroyer to the media saying Schroyer needed more time with all the injuries he’s had to endure.

Perhaps the CSU game was the do-or-die game — beat your rival at home and live to see another day, or lose and hit the road.

But if that was the case, then why would Schroyer be on the Monday MWC coaches teleconference like normal? Schroyer was on the call and it was business as usual. There was no hint in his voice that something like this was going down.

Several names have been thrown around as possible replacements for Schroyer. See Tuesday’s Wyoming Tribune Eagle www.wyomingnews.com and Laramie Boomerang www.laramieboomerang.com for some names I believe UW should and will look at, and for more analysis on this firing.

MWC coaches back Fisher for national award

One of the more interesting questions and answers on Monday’s Mountain West Conference men’s basketball coaches teleconference was if fellow MWC coaches thought San Diego State coach Steve Fisher deserves to be considered for national coach of the year. Fisher’s Aztecs are 22-1 overall, 8-1 in the MWC and sixth this week in The Associated Press top 25.

All of the coaches asked supported Fisher, which is what you would expect. Here’s what Wyoming coach Heath Schroyer said:

“No. 1 he’s a special human being. He’s a great guy. The thing that coach Fisher did and was given was a lot of time. His first three or four years they really struggled. The last five years they’ve been really good. He’s got them rolling and they’re going to be rolling for a while.”

“He’s got my coach of the year vote, for sure.”

Interesting comment about given a lot of time.

Fisher is in his 12th season at SDSU, which is the entire life of the MWC. In his first six seasons, the Aztecs went to one NCAA Tournament, one NIT and finished .500 or below four times. In Fisher’s last six years (and his sixth has yet to be completed) he’s won no fewer than 22 games. The Aztecs have been to two NCAA Tournaments and three NITsin the last five years, and will make it to their third NCAA Tournament in six years.

Schroyer is in his fourthyear, has finished above.500 once, has never finished above .500 in leauge play and has been to one post-season tournament — the CBI. Was this an indirect way of saying he needs more time at UW to get things going in the right direction?

Another interesting item about Fisher: He’s never won a conference coach of the year award. Even when he was at Michigan in the 1990s when he led the Wolverines to back-to-back NCAA Tournament championship game appearances.

‘That has to be the biggest travesty I’ve ever heard in my life,” Colorado State coach Tim Miles said.

See Tuesday’s Wyoming Tribune Eagle www.wyomingnews.com and Laramie Boomerang www.laramieboomerang.com for more from Monday’s teleconference, and for a preview of Tuesday’s Wyoming-New Mexico women’s basketball game in Laramie.

Tough times for UW hoops

I’m not trying to make light of the downtrodden Wyoming men’s basketball team right now. The Cowboys (8-13, 1-6) are coming off a 96-57 loss at No. 7 San Diego State, have lost five straight and face another top 10 team Wednesday in No. 8 Brigham Young.

Coach Heath Schroyer was asked Monday what’s happended to his team in conference play.

“I think it’s a combination of us having tough timing,” he said. “We’ve been injured and really banged up when we’ve gone on the road playing teams similar to we are. The league has never been this good. It’s a tough year to have some tough luck. It’s tough luck to be young, and a tough year to go through some tough luck.”

That’s a lot of use for the word “tough.”

It’s also tough when you’re last in the Mountain West Conference in scoring (66 ppg), field-goal percentage (43.8 percent), 3-point shooting (28.1 percent) and 3-point shooting defense (39.9 percent).

For more on the UW-BYU game and other news and notes from around the MWC, see Tuesday’s Wyoming Tribune Eagle www.wyomingnews.com and Laramie Boomerang www.laramieboomerang.com

Also join me at 4 p.m. Wednesday for a live chat on UW’s 2011 football recruiting class. See the top of the blog for the link.

Schroyer talks San Diego State

Talked with Wyoming men’s basketball coach Heath Schroyer for about 10 minutes this morning about the Cowboys’ game Saturday at No. 4 San Diego State, and the Aztecs’ 71-58 loss at No. 9 Brigham Young Wednesday night in Provo.

I don’t know about you, but that was a heckuva game.

Schroyer said SDSU has an “NBA-type front line” with the likes of sophomore Kawhi Leonard, seniors Malcolm Thomas and Billy White and junior Brian Carlwell.

“This is the best team the Aztecs have ever put out on the floor,” Schroyer added.

Despite the loss Schroyer was impressed with SDSU’s defense and it held BYU to 14 points below its scoring average, despite 43 points from senior guard Jimmer Fredette.

When asked about Fredette, the nation’s leading scorer and who comes to Laramie Wednesday to play the Pokes, Schroyer said: “Jimmer’s one of those guys that comes around once every so often. I think he’s the best player in college basketball.”

Schroyer said his team needs to rebound the ball better after UW was outrebounded 40-26 in its 74-65 home loss to UNLV Tuesday. Schroyer said his guards need to be more involved in rebounding.

Schroyer liked the minutes that senior Djibril Thiam and sophomore Brian Gibson played together in the post against the Rebels, and that combination could see more minutes at San Diego State, especially to help in rebounding. Gibson’s specialty is rebounding, and is fourth on the team (3.3 rpg). His 27 offensive boards are the third-most on the team.

UW-Air Force postgame thoughts

Can it get any worse for the Wyoming men’s basketball team?

Yes it can.

The Cowboys lost 72-51 at Air Force Saturday afternoon at Clune Arena, and the same problems reared their ugly heads: offense and perimter defense.

UW shot just 37.9 percent from the field, and allowed Air Force to make 11 of 19 3s. The Cowboys got to the free-throw line six times and were 4 of 23 from 3-point range.

“We flew at the shooters and they made some contested shots,” UW coach Heath Schroyer said. “I thought our kids played pretty hard. … But when you get down against them, they can hit a couple of 3 that will break your back.”

UW trailed by as many as 15 in the first half, and 23 late in the game.

Six of Air Force’s 3s came from the corner, which seems like nearly ever 3 is made from by the opponents. This continues to be a problem in UW’s zone defense, but Schroyer and Co. is sticking with the zone. I didn’t see any man-to-man defense in this game, and you would think this would be a game where UW physically matches up a little better than other squads in the MWC.

I thought sophomore forward Amath M’Baye had a nice game with 13 points and seven rebounds. He looked good around the basket. And sophomore forward Brian Gibson had six rebounds in 13 minutes off the bench. he missed three shots in the paint. But he plays hard and he can rebound.

I was really impressed with Air Force sophomore guard Michael Lyons. He led all scorers with 17 points, all in the first half. He’s long and athletic and a pretty good athlete. Senior guard Evan Washington may have had the most impressive line: 11 points, nine assists, six rebounds, one blocked shot and only one turnover in 36 minutes. Sophomore guard Todd Fletcher, who averaged 4.6 points per game coming in, scored 13 and was 3 of 6 from behind the arc.

Seems like a lot of players have career games against the Cowboys these days.

Injuries weren’t a factor in this game for UW. Everyone played who should have played. The Cowboys just got beat, and beat bad.

Hate to think what UNLV, No. 6 San Diego State and No. 9 BYU will do to this team in the next three games.

For more on the Air Force game, see Sunday’s Wyoming Tribune Eagle www.wyomingnews.com and Laramie Boomerang www.laramieboomerang.com

Win meant at lot to UW

It may have been just one win.

But Wyoming’s 67-66 victory over New Mexico Saturday at the Arena-Auditorium was huge for everyone associated with the program.

Athletics director Tom Burman sat a couple of chairs down from me on press row. After junior Francisco Cruz’s short jumper along the baseline at the buzzer won the game, Burman stood up with his arms up in the air in jubilation.

It meant a lot to him.

During the game when UW needed a defensive stop, coach Heath Schroyer implored the fans to make some noise.

It meant a lot to him, too.

And even though 4,404 fans were at the game, it may have re-charged them and other fans a little bit. The fans that were, minus a few New Mexico fans, had to have left feeling better about this team and the season.

Even if it is just for a little bit.

UW is 8-8 and 1-1 in league play; certainly not time to start printing conference championship T-shirts or to order tickets to post-season games.

But the for the first time this season, the Cowboys beat a team with a winning record. New Mexico was 12-3 coming into this game. They won a close game. In their seven previous wins, the closes margin of victory was nine. And also for the first time this season, there is hope that UW can at least be competitive in the Mountain West Conference.

We saw junior center Adam Waddell (Achilles) look like his old self with 16 points and eight rebounds. Will the Achilles swell and stiffin up in the coming days after 23 minutes of playing time? We shall see. But if UW gets the Waddell we saw against New Mexico, this team could be interesting to watch.

Same can be said for sophomore wing Daylen Harrison. He was in coach Heath Schroyer’s dog house so bad recently he didn’t play in the previous two games. Harrison responded with a career-high 17 points.

What this win showed is that UW wants to win, is trying to win and winning is important to everyone from the administrators, coaches, players and fans.

There are still plenty of issues this team needs to work on, and one win doesn’t make a season.

But perhaps this win can be the start of this team playing better and more consistent.

You’ve got to start some where.

See Sunday’s Wyoming Tribune Eagle www.wyomingnews.com and Laramie Boomerang www.laramieboomerang.com for more on this game.

Leftovers from UW-Kennesaw State

Wyoming coach Heath Schroyer said sophomore guard Desmar Jackson’s ability to play with two fouls for much of the first half was one of the biggest keys in the Cowboys’ 68-55 win over Kennesaw State Tuesday night at the Arena-Auditorium.

Jackson scored 12 of his 21 points and nabbed four of his career-high six steals in the first half where he played 15 of 20 minutes.

According to the Mountain West Conference statistics from games through Dec. 28, Jackson has moved up to sixth in scoring (15.5 ppg) and second in steals (2.6 spg).

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UW held Kennesaw State’s two leading scorers, sophomore guard Markeith Cummings and junior guard Spencer Dixon, to 14 and six points, respectively. That’s 12 points under their combined scoring average, and the two were 6 of 21 from the field.

“We really felt Cummings was the difference,” Schroyer said. “I thought Cummings on the block was a big deal for us. I thought our match-up zone did a nice job, and at times we even doubled him out of our zone. With Dixon, we wanted to be there on the catch, keep him out of the paint and make him shoot pull-up jumpers. I thought we did that.”

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A few other quotes from the game:

“I don’t think anything changed, we just communicated better on defense. We kept playing our regular zone defense.” — Jackson on the difference between UW’s defensive effort in the first half and second half. The Cowboys held Kennesaw State to six field goals and 22 percent shooting in the second half.

“He’s really long and he can reach every where.” — junior guard Francisco Cruz on Jackson and his six steals.

“He’s a threat no matter when he’s on the floor. When he came in during the first half, he brought a lot of attention to him. It was similar if he was scoring.” — senior forward Djibril Thiam on junior forward Afam Muojeke playing for the first time in four games due to injury. Muojeke came off the bench and scored three points on 1 of 6 shooting.

See Thursday’s Wyoming Tribune Eagle www.wyomingnews.com and Laramie Boomerang www.laramieboomerang.comfor a feature on the homecoming for Cowgirls head coach Joe Legerski and assistant Gerald Mattinson as they head back to their hometown of Rock Springs Thursday for an exhibition game against Montana-Western.

Also see Sunday’s paper for a look-ahead to conference play for the men’s basketball team.

Live Tweets from UW-Denver game

I will have be Tweeting from tonight’s Wyoming-Denver men’s basketball game here in Laramie tonight.

No live blog, but those will be back soon.

You can follow the Tweets on the blog on the right side of the main blog page. Or, you can follow me on Twitter at www.twitter.com/rpgagliardi.

A couple of early observations from the Arena-Auditorium tonight:

–Been told UW is still not back in its normal locker room. Coach Heath Schroyer made the team move to a smaller one until he felt the players earned the right to be in there.

–Junior center Adam Waddell might play some tonight, but is still hampered by an Achilles injury. He has missed the last three games.

–I also just asked UW sports information director Tim Harkins if UW will announce any junior-college signings for football Wednesday, the first day schools can announce them. He said there will be some mid-year signee announcements, but likely not Wednesday. At least as of Tuesday night he had not received any information on any players. Expect UW to have five or six players enroll in classes in January.

Muojeke, Jackson out tonight vs. North Florida

Wyoming men’s basketball coach Heath Schroyer announced this afternoon junior forward Afam Muojeke and sophomore guard Desmar Jackson are suspended for tonight’s game against North Florida in Laramie for a violation of team rules.

Jackson averaged nine points in UW’s first two games, and Muojeke eight. Both are the Cowboys’ top to leading scorers dating back to the last couple of seasons.

For more on the North Florida game, see Friday’s Wyoming Tribune Eagle www.wyomingnews.com and Laramie Boomerang www.laramieboomerang.com

MWC to have eight teams in 2011-12

Frenso State and Nevada won’t join the Mountain West Conference until the 2012-13 sports season. That was announced recently, and here is more on that story. http://sports.espn.go.com/ncaa/news/story?id=5735144

What that means for Wyoming next season, at least in football, is it needs an extra game. The Cowboys will play seven conference games, and has non-conference games with Weber State and Nebraska at home and Utah State and Bowling Green on the road.

UW wants a home game because there is a chance it will only have three conference home games. But that won’t be easy to get. Athletics director Tom Burman said recently he has tried to schedule a home-and-home with a FBS school, with the first game in Laramie, and has struck out thus far. If UW schedules another FCS school — like Weber State — it likely will cost between $250,000 to as much as $400,000 to get them to come to Laramie. And if that’s the case, UW would have to win seven games instead of six to become bowl eligible with two FCS teams.

If UW gets four conference home games in 2011 it will have six home games. It might be easier to get a home-and-home to start on the road then, but it still would be nice to have seven home games if at all possible. Burman said he could know as early as Friday on how the conference schedule will work in football next season.

What about basketball?

Well, with each team playing 14 conference games in 2011-12 compared to 16 in past years and some could be looking for as many as four extra games if they assumed Fresno State and Nevada were coming on board next season. Basketball scheduling isn’t cheap, but not as expensive as football. Still, teams aren’t begging to come to UW to play, so both the men’s and women’s teams will play more on the road in the non-conference season. Other possibilities include trying to schedule  more home-and-homes on the road, going to neutral sites where it can get a couple of games over a couple of days or possibly scheduling home-and-homes with teams in the same season.

One thing that it could create with an even number of teams is travel partners. I know UW men’s basketball coach Heath Schroyer is a proponent of this, as is other coaches in the league. Television may squelch this, but it would be nice for fans to possibly plan to watch two games over a three or four-day stretch during a week instead of the one game at home, one away format the MWC currently has.

We can talk about this more on my live chat at 3 p.m. today. Here is the link: http://wyomingcowboysblog.com/2010/10/26/u-of-w-live-chat-thursday-3pm/