WEDNESDAY BUZZ COLUMN
Already, lots of people are asking the question: What’s it going to take for Al Golden to keep his job beyond this season?
Athletic director Blake James made clear Tuesday there “is no minimum win total or anything like that” required for Golden to stay beyond 2015.
“We have to look at the season from a wholistic approach,” James told me today.
Last month, James told me, among other things: “Al knows he needs to win. Our guys know we need to win. I know we need to win.”
If Golden wins, say, 9 or 10 games and UM captures the Coastal Division title, Golden is clearly staying. But there are scenarios in which he could stay while accomplishing less.
What if UM gets to seven or eight wins but the season derails because of major injuries to its best players? What if the Hurricanes start slowly but finish on a significant winning streak?
That’s why the UM administration enters this season with an open mind but also fully prepared to make a change if there’s no clear progress, with a high-level trustee saying the buyout on Golden’s contract (which runs through Feb. 1, 2020) is no longer an impediment.
“What I want to see on field is results,” James said earlier in August. “You want to see improvements in all areas.”
Golden’s strong recruiting class also wouldn’t save the coach if this doesn’t get turned around.
“I’m not a big follower of that,” James said of oral commitments.
St. Thomas Aquinas receiver Sam Bruce, perhaps UM’s top 2016 oral commitment, said he will re-open his recruitment if Golden is fired.
A UM Trustee who spoke to new president Julio Frenk said the decision on Golden’s future will be made by James and that Frenk will defer to James on sports issues, at least early on. Another Trustee who spoke with Frenk says Frenk has interest in athletics but James will make the decision on the coach.
Now if Frenk gets bombarded with emails from angry fans, perhaps he gets more involved.
With all of this in mind, we posed this question to several high-level Trustees and former Hurricanes players: What should be the minimum that Golden should achieve this season for UM to want to go forward with this coaching staff? Some of the opinions expressed:
### One high-level trustee who likes to give his opinion to the administration: “I personally think he needs to win eight games. It’s embarrassing to be as low as six or seven.”
### Another respected longtime trustee: “I think he must start winning nine or 10 games minimum to earn the right to stay. Eight wins isn’t going to satisfy anyone. I’m sorry. That should have been a 9-4 team last year. The talent is obviously better than they’ve showed and something is wrong.”
### A UM administrator with some involvement in the school’s athletics program: “If we have another mediocre season and can’t close out games, he’s done. At minimum, you want a winning season and a reasonable bowl opportunity.”
### Former offensive line standout Joaquin Gonzalez: “Win the games we’re supposed to win and have a shot at winning the tougher games. We should be beating Virginia, Pittsburgh and Duke; I don’t care how good those schools are becoming.”
### Former offensive line standout Vernon Carey: “Eight or nine wins. Time is running out. Just getting to a bowl is not good enough. Coaches tell me things are going to change. There were a lot of ‘me’ guys on the team last year but they’re changing the culture.”
### Former UM linebacker DJ Williams: “They need to win the ACC. That’s what we should expect every year.”
### Former standout linebacker Jonathan Vilma: “A Coastal title. Play in the conference championship. You don’t even need to win it; I just want to brag that we’re in the game. And I would like to see us cater to the strengths of our players.”
### Former star cornerback Duane Starks: “Don’t just win the games you are supposed to win. Win games that make a difference. And I want to see them make adjustments at halftime and not have only the other team make adjustments.
“They get out-coached and they don’t make adjustments, and the biggest adjustment they need to make is putting guys in the right position, in the right place to defend different formations that come up during games. They need to be prepared with situational football. They need to understand football more than they do now. Last year, we didn’t make halftime adjustments on either side of the ball.”
### Former star receiver and WQAM pregame analyst Randal Hill: “Not only win games, but look good doing it. And beat people you’re not supposed to beat.”
### Whereas the Dolphins are pleased with left guard Dallas Thomas, we hear there is some disappointment internally with right guard Billy Turner and a concern about the number of times he has been beaten and the consequences of those breakdowns.
Rookie Jamil Douglas is being given an opportunity to challenge Turner. The front office entered the offseason fully expecting Turner to be a quality starter, but he will need to show more to keep the job all season, even if he opens the season as a starter.
The Dolphins liked Evan Mathis, who signed with Denver today, but only at a certain price. They weren't willing to pay as much as Denver did.
### Joe Phibin said Walt Aikens did a "good job" in his first game starting since Louis Delmas' season-ending injury... .Philbin, on Gerell Robinson, who has the edge in the battle for the No. 3 tight end job: "He’s a good athlete, a good target, runs well, catches the ball well and he seems to have a knack for finding the soft spot in zone coverages. He seems like has the ability to separate. He’s probably further along in the passing game than the run game. He’s done some good things.”
### This could help in creating a better home-field advantage at Dolphins and UM games: Under Sun Life Stadium reconfigurations, 2225 seats will be situated between 60 and 88 feet from the field. Last year, there were none within 88 feet.
Capacity has dropped from 76,018 to 65,326.
### Though there is no absolute edict from owner Micky Arison to trim payroll (and that's beyond Miami's control to a large extent anyway), we're told the Heat still would prefer to lower its looming tax bill, which would be around $23 million if Miami closes the upcoming season with this current roster.
Miami remains willing to dealing Chris Andersen (due $5 million) but hasn’t found much of a market for him, according to an NBA official who has been in contact with the Heat. There has been no evidence/confirmation that the Clippers are considering a Jamal Crawford-Andersen swap that has been raised only as a logical hypothetical by a couple of NBA media members. And though Crawford can't be ruled out for Miami, the Heat is happy with its perimeter depth.
The Heat expects to bring Mario Chalmers to training camp (as opposed to trading him first) but hasn’t ruled out trading him in October or beyond if it can find a taker, something it hasn't been able to do to this point.
### A bunch of Heat players have been training together on court in Los Angeles (Chris Bosh, Dwyane Wade, Hassan Whiteside and others), and Erik Spoelstra has now joined them to observe.
### Michael Morse, who batted .213 in 53 games for the Marlins before being dealt to the Dodgers (who released him), is back in his native South Florida with Pittsburgh this week and said of his short stay in Miami:
“I came out really bad [but] I wish they would have given me more at-bats just to prove myself. I really never got a chance to play much every day and it was weird because in spring training we had quite a good thing going and a steady lineup.
“When you sign as a free agent, you expect to play on that team those years and you expect to get at least some time to play. But I got this opportunity to come to an amazing ball club [Pittsburgh]. It's a gift and a curse.”
He appreciates that owner Jeffrey Loria and president David Samson called him when he was traded: “I made two friends for life with those guys.”
### The Marlins honored Juan Pierre and Dontrelle Willis on Sunday, but only Pierre attended and the Marlins aren’t happy that Willis didn’t show up and wouldn’t tape a video for the ceremony, either.
Willis broke his long-standing commitment to attend the Marlins' event when he got a chance to fill in as an analyst, replacing an ailing Frank Thomas, on Fox Sports 1, where he does studio work.
“We were disappointed fans didn’t have the opportunity to thank him in person,” Samson said. “We [then] asked him to do a video and were flummoxed by the fact he didn’t record a video for the fans.”