The first two weeks of the Jerome Tang era at K-State have been far from smooth sailing. In fact, the waters have been pretty choppy. Three scholarship players remain on the Wildcat roster after eight players have entered the transfer portal. Nijel Pack was the biggest name to enter the portal, stating that he would also consider K-State when making a decision. However, with programs like Gonzaga and Duke already showing interest in Pack, it is unlikely that he will return to Manhattan. Tang and his newly assembled staff of assistant coaches have their work cut out for them in rebuilding the roster. They have been actively recruiting the transfer portal, but have not signed anyone as of this writing. Granted, it has only been two weeks. If the plan was to let eight players on the current roster go, you would think they would have some aces in the hole to come in and help fill the roster spots. Maybe they do. I guess we will find out. I thought they would have tried much harder to make sure Nijel Pack stayed at K-State. He should have been priority number one, and if Tang was unable to convince him to stay, it is his first major recruiting fail.
I am already getting a bit of a bad feeling about the basketball coaching staff. I expected a lot of transfers due to the coaching change, but not quite this many. The rocky start makes me question if the coaching staff knows what they are doing. It kind of reminds me of the Ron Prince football hire in 2005. Everyone loved the hire at first, and, as Prince assembled a coaching staff, he hired a bunch of his buddies as assistants, just like Tang has. Fans were excited about the hire until Prince and company coached a game, and it was a train wreck. That coaching staff did okay their first season, but when James Franklin and Raheem Morris bailed, the program went downhill fast. Tang and his guys are recruiting hard, but they will need a recruiting class of nine kids (hopefully)? I have never heard of anything like this before, at least not at K-State.
Normally, I am a reasonable, level-headed, yet skeptical fan when it comes to coaching hires and point out red flags when I see them. Losing this many players off of the roster is a huge red flag to me. If Tang and his staff can pull together a competitive roster by this fall, I still like the prospects for the future. If he can’t, he may have a rough go of it his first season as head coach of the Wildcats. There are some great recruiters on staff, and they have already spoken with numerous four and five-star players in the class of 2023. Unfortunately, the Class of 2023 will not help this upcoming season.
I was struck watching the NCAA championship Monday night when NCAA President Mark Emmert gleefully congratulated Kansas (actually, he misspoke and said “Kansas City”) and Bill Self and presented them with the championship trophy. Kansas basketball faces five level one violations for recruiting violations in an ongoing investigation. Monday night, the NCAA got up in front of the world and basically said “cheating doesn’t matter. We don’t care.” They glorified teams like Kansas, Duke, and North Carolina for the past three weeks, and I never heard one media person, announcer, or NCAA official mention that Kansas was there under nefarious circumstances. I took it as a big middle finger to college basketball fans. All it says to the public is that cheaters get the glory. It was a surreal ceremony to witness, and it made me want to vomit.
What does this have to do with Jerome Tang and Kansas State? Unfortunately, as long as the NCAA allows this kind of stuff to go on, there is not much chance that a program like K-State can rebuild and consistently compete for championships, especially when they have to build their program from scratch. If Tang, athletic director Gene Taylor, and University President Richard Linton play things by the book, I hate to say it, but in the current atmosphere of college basketball, they will find it hard to compete at the level that they hope to. Look at what running a squeaky clean program has gotten Bruce Weber in the last three years. Last or next-to-last place finishes in the Big 12 and three of the worst seasons in program history. Speaking of Weber, he said he wasn’t cutting his hair until the NCAA leveled punishment on Kansas. At this rate, he may never be able to cut it.
It is very discouraging being a college basketball fan right now. Cheating pays off for the blue bloods. Playing it clean doesn’t. Prove me wrong, NCAA.