That’s right, it’s Andy Katz.
In his most recent column, Katz attributes the Kansas State Wildcats’ troubles to an absence of leadership. Apparently, seniors Jacob Pullen and Curtis Kelly – who both displayed their veteran savvy by getting suspended by the NCAA – do not have the leadership necessary to lead a team. To fair to Katz, this wasn’t his idea. He’s merely parroting and expanding upon what coach Frank Martin said:
“Everyone said Jacob was our leader last year,” said Kansas State coach Frank Martin, a day after the suspensions were announced. “But last year it was [departed seniors] Denis Clemente, Luis Colon and Chris Merriewether. Jacob talked. The media talked to him. Denis didn’t like talking to the media because he was challenged in English. Luis scored two points a game so no one talked to him. Denis, Luis and Merriewether taught people how to work. Those were the guys when the game started that got us through games. We lost that.”
Of course, that doesn’t stop Katz from interjecting his own brand of contradictory silliness into the discussion. Even though Pullen and Kelly are apparently inadequate leaders, “the absence of Pullen and Kelly, the only two seniors on the team, is a crushing blow for the Wildcats.” Why is their loss crushing? Presumably because Pullen and Kelly are the team’s first and second-leading scorers. That is, their loss is crushing because they are arguably the team’s two best players. Not best leaders – best players. Then later, Katz writes: “But what [Pullen and Kelly’s suspension] has underscored is the issue of where Kansas’ State leadership is going to come from if it’s to achieve those goals.” This is after he writes in the second paragraph that Pullen is not performing as a leader on this year’s team. So the Wildcats need to replace the leadership that Pullen and Kelly weren’t providing?
Katz doesn’t know it, but he is inadvertently arguing the same point that I’ve been hammering away at for a while now: that talent, not leadership, wins games. He can repeat and agree with Martin’s words all he wants, but Katz is singling out Pullen and Kelly not because the team will have trouble replacing their leadership, but because the team will have trouble replacing their production.
As for coach Martin, I hope he actually knows that a lack of leadership isn’t why the Wildcats are struggling (if a 9-3 record can be called struggling). They’re struggling because their offense is light years worse than it was last season. They hit a below-average percentage of their twos and threes, turn the ball over constantly, and absolutely, positively cannot shoot free throws. That’s all there is to it. It has everything to do with the loss (or immaturity) of talent, and nothing to do with the absence of leadership.