Doc Harper: Archie Goodwin and Business Decisions

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I don’t normally concern myself with things Archie Goodwin has to say.

As with most athletes his age, I’m not sure he has a full grasp of how quickly and widely his words travel, how people will react to anything he has to say, nor simply how famous he is in certain places.

Rarely if ever in their lives are they faced with the level of public shunning that comes with displeasing a large group of hometown sports fans.  So when they’re asked to respond to it, they typically don’t respond with the forced remorseful dignity of, say, a previously disgraced college football coach.

They say something silly like this:

 Even if you’re an Arkansas fan and spent the previous two hours booing Goodwin, you see that and you just want to scream, “STOOOOP! Archie NOOOOO!!”

On its most basic level, it’s just a wrong statement. Easy fodder for the twitter and message board crowd. Perhaps he knew it wasn’t true and was just trying to deflect the question and get out of Fayetteville as quickly as possible. Maybe he genuinely doesn’t feel a connection to Fayetteville like he does to Little Rock. Admittedly, when I was a high school student in Little Rock, I didn’t feel much connection to Northwest Arkansas either. Maybe it’s all those things.

But when I read that Goodwin said that, a feeling of pity did start to come over me.

Possibly the statement was a defense against dealing with the idea that people who supported him at one time are now against him due to his choice to wear blue instead of red. It’s one thing to see comments on a computer screen, but to see and hear it up close is different.

I didn’t have an issue with fans booing Goodwin during the game. (Specifically, I thought the “D League” chant was pretty clever.) When you spurn fans, they boo you. That’s sports at its most basic level. But I can’t imagine how heartbreaking it would be for me if I returned home and was the most hated person in the room. A room shared with John Calipari, no less.

Thus are the implications of making “business decisions”. That’s generally only a term used when one party ends up getting the shaft. Additionally, it’s used to infer that despite it being an unpopular decision, it’s the smart decision. Only Goodwin can say if, in retrospect, going to Kentucky was the smart move for him. But it’s worth wondering how he feels considering the difficulty the Wildcats have experienced this season after winning the national championship last year.

It’s hard to imagine folks in the Bluegrass will remember him fondly if he leaves Lexington after this season, which many believe he will. This is certainly the worst team Calipari has put together in Kentucky. This team is on the bubble and may be on the outside looking in to get into the NCAA Tournament. You have to go all the way back to his 2005 Memphis team to find a Calipari squad that didn’t at least make the Sweet 16.*

Furthermore, Calipari doesn’t even seem to like this team. He even stopped wearing ties about a month ago when Kentucky played South Carolina. It could be a sign of him feeling this team isn’t worthy of his full wardrobe. Here’s what he told Kentucky media after his first game sans tie:

Could this be because he doesn’t want anything else around his neck, except maybe his own hands? Might he be afraid that, watching his young team game after game, he might use the tie for hanging purposes?

“No,” said Calipari, smiling.

“I got aggressive in the second half, I got a little mean in the second half and I don’t want to coach this team this way because if they don’t want to bring it, then that’s on them, and I’m just going to coach basketball,” he continued.

“I don’t want to coach emotion. I don’t want to coach intensity. I don’t want to coach toughness. If you have no toughness, I’m not going to get it out of you. Then I’m just going to coach strategy. Part of it is I wanted to kick back a little bit. Plus, I was running out of ties. I was sweating through ties.”

Interpret that how you will. I think it’s a sign of “if you guys aren’t going to play hard, I’m not going to coach hard, and I’m not even going to put forth the effort to make it look like I’m trying hard.”

Calipari’s also been caught publicly telling Goodwin “I can’t coach you!” and another outburst led Arkansas students to chant “You are selfish!” at Goodwin when he was at the free throw line. This happened.

Maybe it’s just me, but this doesn’t sound like the type of year I’d enjoy.

Generally, I believe the best “business decision” for a potential college athlete in Arkansas is to go to Arkansas due to the level of support given to athletes when their playing career is done.  Of course, not all of them need it. If Goodwin is able to play professionally for several years and make far more money than I ever will, more power to him. Could he achieve the same level of professional success if he’d gone to Arkansas?  Most likely.  And instead of alienating two fan bases, he’d have endeared himself to the one in the place he calls home.

I don’t blame any college basketball players for going to Kentucky. I wouldn’t mind living in the Wildcat Coal Lodge. But with big decisions come risks, and the frustrations and ramifications of this year could be much bigger than simply enduring a single basketball season. This will be something Goodwin will have to deal with.

Maybe Goodwin’s decision is one he’s glad he made. Maybe it isn’t. Either way, at least he has Little Rock.

*Yes, yes, I’m aware that Calipari’s 2008 Memphis team officially didn’t win a single game due to NCAA sanctions

Doc Harper is the managing editor of Arkansas Expats and is a regular contributor to College Football News and Sporting Life Arkansas. You can email him here and follow him on Twitter.

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