Several news outlets are reporting that Colorado men’s basketball coach Jeff Bzdelik, Air Force’s former coach, likely will be leaving Boulder to take the head coaching job at Wake Forest.
A source close to the situation told The Boulder Daily Camera that Bzdelik’s departure “is a done deal.”
Well I, for one, am just shocked – absolutely shocked – that Bzdelik would leave a program and its players in the dust after only a few years for a better opportunity.
But, all kidding aside, I hope – for the CU kids’ sakes – that Bzdelik learned something from his incredibly poorly executed departure from Air Force.
You might remember the day news broke of Bzdelik’s exit. I had reported it in the early afternoon, after getting confirmation from an Air Force source, that Bzdelik had told athletic director Hans Mueh earlier in the day that he was taking the job at CU. It was, the source said, definite. Bzdelik was gone.
Then, out of nowhere, Bzdelik came to Air Force to meet with his players in the early evening. In the meeting – and I’ve heard this from several people who attended – he told his players that he hadn’t decided what he was going to do. That it was “50-50” between Air Force and Colorado. He also told the players he’d call each of them personally to tell them his decision.
After looking his players – some of whom he’d recruited – in the eyes and telling them this, he jumped in his car and drove straight to a South Denver hotel to meet with Colorado players and boosters to be introduced as the Buffs’ head coach. Later in the evening, a press release was issued announcing a news conference for the next day in Boulder to introduce CU’s new coach. Somehow, and this is amazing considering Bzdelik hadn’t decided anything, CU had planned a whole day of parading its coaching hire around to different spots – including Coors Field, where he was to throw out a ceremonial first pitch.
One footnote: Only one Air Force player got a call from Bzdelik that night – and he was told to execute an awkward phone tree to relay the news to the rest of his teammates.
The next day, when he was introduced at CU – to the dismay of Air Force folks who’d attended his meeting the previous afternoon with the Falcons – Bzdelik had an altered story for the gathered crowd. He said he had told his Air Force players the day before that he was “leaning heavily” towards going to CU. Folks who’d heard him tell those players he was 50-50 were dumbfounded at the revised history.
As painful as it is to lose a coach – especially one who’s having success – it’s a fact of life in major college athletics. And here’s the bottom line: The CU job offered Bzdelik more money, a bigger and much better conference and a better situation for his family. As “Smilin’” Jack Ross said in his opening argument in “A Few Good Men,” “Those are the facts. And they are undisputed.”
And because those are the facts, no one rationally could have begrudged Bzdelik’s decision to leave – even scorned fans. Every day people leave good jobs and good friends for better jobs and better opportunities. But what most do is graciously thank their former employers, say it was a tough decision but then admit the opportunity was too good. They don’t manufacture tales that they felt they weren’t getting enough support and they were pushed out.
And most of all, they don’t tell the people who most deserve the truth – in Bzdelik’s case, his players – that they’re not sure when really are. (Some of the players didn’t believe him anyway. One of the seniors on that 2006-07 Air Force squad talked to reporters on the record after the infamous meeting about how Bzdelik had told them it was 50-50 and a tough decision. Then, when the tape recorders were put away and we were just chatting, he told me, “He’s gone, man.”)
Anyhow, here’s my point: If the Wake job is better, Bzdelik shouldn’t tell reporters off the record that he felt he had to leave because CU was dragging its feet on new facilities or something like that. He should just say he wanted the Wake job because it was a better opportunity.
You know. The truth.