The uncertainty of hope, understanding, and an apology to fans

What might have been...? It doesn't have to end this way..  or does it? 😐

Looking back on my predications for this season I can't help but feel like our worsening season in spite of the fact we landed a Top 5 recruit, is a bit like the characters in the financial novel, "When Genius Failed" about the collapse of Long-Term Capital Management.

Much like the story of Enron, a combination of extreme hubris and leverage led to LTCM's demise. In a more perfect economic history, LTCM (as well as Enron) may have been able to survive had they not gotten greedy and "unable to see the forest for the trees" when it comes to understanding risk in derivatives trading.

We too, may be able to survive as a reputable basketball program if we wake up- the moment this long, strange season commences- and chart a new, safer course that does not rely on 1-and-done prospects and players understanding offensive and defensive strategy more than the coaches. It's that bad; I thought it was just a game or 2 but sadly... no 😑. 

When you are fortunate enough to obtain a genius or unparelled talent, that is undoubedtly a valuable asset to the organization. But it cannot be everything. A genius alone cannot and will not "stay solvent as long as markets can stay irrational" as the saying goes. When you're in too deep, you're in too deep. You cannot rely on genius alone to see you through a successful endevour.

Continuing down the path that has already led to a lost season and a "fool me once" fanbase reaction to the recent abscence of communications from the Milwaukee SID and AD would be the epitome of folly.

"Of course, this would have been predicated on the idea that (1) Patrick stays healthy and plays most of the season and (2) that we are able to field a good enough team to win the Horizon League and/or the Horizon League Tournament"

Instead of bond spread hedging going south, our bets were on the individual games that PBJ would play this season- without the aid of proper coaching and scouting and player development. I am probably not alone in once thinking that we were likely to not just win- but win big- and make a statement a in the Horizon League that "Milwaukee is back".

We were counting on the absurd notion that we could rely on a 5-star recruit to be both our best player and our entire coaching staff. Who would have known. How could this not prove too much for a freshman who was playing high school basketball in Sussex, WI just a couple years ago?

I honestly thought Coach Baldwin and his assistants were ready; not only for cultivating and utilizing the fruits of Pat Jr.'s talent, but also ready to develop the other Panthers who were expected to make a jump this season like Gholston, Thomas, Lathon, VBJ and Newby. There has been zero player development since Baldwin Sr. got here in 2017 and we've little reason to believe there will be any development going forward.

We owe it to the guys who have continued to put in work despite being dubbed as a "supporting cast"- tune in or show up if you can

Pat Baldwin is supposedly in the last year of his current contract. Nobody will ever know, but this may well have played into Pat Jr.'s decision to play for Milwaukee over the likes of Duke and Northwestern. Perhaps the idea was that with that 5-star recruit leverage and a likely successful '21-'22 season, Pat Sr. may be able to get a 2 or 3 year extension.

Of course, this would have been predicated on the idea that (1) Patrick stays healthy and plays most of the season and (2) that we are able to field a good enough team to win the Horizon League and/or the Horizon League Tournament. Both of these assumptions did not hold true, as we are now probably looking at PBJ shutting it down at least until the HLT and possibly for good (including the HLT)- for what will have amounted to a very abbreviated one-and-done season with Milwaukee.

An ephemeral, viral meme that the average college basketball fan has all but forgotten about.

When this photo was taken, we still had all the confidence in the world 😑

That's what hope yields sometimes, and it is nobody's fault for injuries keeping 3 good players out if that is indeed why all 3 (PBJ, Kane, Browning) are out. Sports and recruitment and developing players is never a sure thing. Some coaches and programs are better than others.

However, "our" program seems to be letting down our amazing men's basketball student athletes at: every. single. turn. Our coaching staff cannot seem to even coach the basics; they are leaving our team to fend for themselves. It is not surprising why PBJ seems reluctant to return (we certainly haven't heard a ringing endorsement of him wanting to come back- or really anything since the Bucks game tweet mishap); there isn't a lot of upside playing within this system (or lack thereof)).

We've seen nothing resembling a well-coached team and a disciplined program who is all marching to the same beat. What we've seen, since Jeter left in 2016, is nothing short of utter failure. We had a coach leave for a promotion (LaVall Jordan) after posting an 11-24 record with the Panthers. Pat Baldwin Sr.'s record- 52-81 with no post-season appearences- speaks for itself and even a thrilling run to the Big Dance this March is unlikely to save his job (in a normal world at least... who knows with this AD). 

The line from Amanda Braun in justification for firing Jeter, "we expect MBB to be in the top 1/3rd of the Horizon League every season" is Exhibit 1A for everything that is duplicitous and wrong with the current Athletics Department. We haven't had a winning season or 20 wins since, you guessed it: 2016 (the last season Jeter was coach). 

"Sadly, [consistent Panther Basketball Success] may not return in many of our lifetimes."

It has been like this, at least since 2013 when Amanda Braun took over. But it really started in the revolving door that was the AD office before Braun- Amanda Braun simply made a bad situation unfathomably worse. Specifically, after Bud Haidet decided to retire to Florida in 2009. However, Rob Jeter was the one constant we had that at least produced winning basketball, even if the relevancy of Milwaukee Panther Basketball quietly faded for most Wisconsinites after our 2005 Sweet 16 run.

Love him or hate him, Rob Jeter is a far better coach than Pat Baldwin Sr. and LaVall Jordan who happened to be in the right place at the right time when the Butler HC job opened up.

That brings us to this lonely Thursday evening inside Panther Arena. Are you there? I'm not; I should be but I cannot participate in the charade anymore. The jig is up, the music has stopped and the Panther fan base is quite obviously realizing that we paid the dream seller for nothing more than smoke and mirrors and a bunch of nice sentances about UWM, for about 1 day, on a web application (Twitter).

It is now time to come to terms with the fact that we are an abysmally-coached team and likely won't win the 20+ games a lot of us expected.

Expected. Expectations. The management of them should always contain a healthy dose of skepticism when concerning Milwaukee Basketball since ~2013. However, regardless of how the AD has mismanaged the program and now this crisis, I feel responsible for adding to the choir of ignorant voices shouting to the moon that this was our year. PBJ would raise all boats and we'd be ranked (#24!) and feared by both UW and MU. How pollyanna does that all sound now.. I know.

Having Baldwin Jr. on our team always seemed too good to be true; with no backup plan, our front line is suffering sans Kane and PBJ

For that I strongly apologize and wish I could have helped temper expectations a bit more. Having a 5-star recruit play at this school was always going to be a risk. But we seem to have royally screwed up this "NBA prospect integration" at: every. single. turn.

Now- our bleak reality sets in. Everything is constantly in doubt. The AD seems to no longer be a source of even injury updates; where PBJ is now (obviously out long-term yet) a "tip-time" decision until the Milwaukee Athletic Department has pocketed all of the "General H. Fan interested in watching an Elite Recruit" dupes' money in their coffers.

Frankly it is deeply embaressing, and reflects so, so poorly on our university. If we still had boosters, there would be a lot of discussion about the direction of the Milwaukee AD and who should be held responsible for what is clearly a mutany, a schizm and a general "laisez-faire" attitiude from the AD about all of it (as if lying to donors and fans is par for the course in collegiate athletics administration)- all in 1!

I really hope this "PBJ tip-time decision" doesn't repeat itself for the remainder of our home games or people (casual fans who only want to see PBJ) will revolt at being fleeced; regular Panther fans are used to the mistreatment of information and communications with the Panther Basketball fan base. Don't take advantage of more people.

"An ephemeral, viral meme that the average c-hoops fan has all but forgotten about."

Alas! Hope can yet spring from the void! ...maybe.

We can still catch lightning in a bottle in March which, as ridiculous as it sounds, would certainly drive the remnants of the Panther fan base postively mad, albeit very temporarily, and then we could all go back to arguing about who the next Milwaukee head coach should be (with the peace of mind that we didn't, in the end, fail everyone on the team who invested so much to make this season a successful one).

We owe it to the young men on the bench and on the court to keep following and to keep cheering the rare glimmers of hope. I'll continue to document the steps or "tracks" of our Panthers as well as I can from afar. I hope the Milwaukee AD transforms itself from the apathetic, astroturfed, self-congrulatory version of late that seems more interested in promoting soccer games that draw 200 fans and baseball for 500 in Franklin, than in resurrecting the life of Milwaukee Men's Basketball at UWM, what once upon a time, was the lifeblood of Milwaukee Athletics.

It is not only a tremendous marketing tool to get more great students and faculty to the East Side of Milwaukee, Wisconsin; it's a bridge. And it's a bridge you want to rennovate- not burn down. 🔥🚒

A simple Google search will tell you more than you want to know about how AD Braun treats people

Sadly, consistent Milwaukee Panther Hoops success may not return in many of our lifetimes. 

But we can hope against reason for an HLT run of the decade and for a new coach starting next season, regardless of how this all pans out in the end. The former may well actually result in a 1st or 2nd round HLT exit, but at minimum (we've no lower to go) the latter should be a certainty for all of us to look forward to for '22-'23. With this AD however, nothing is ever certain.

Their capacity for confounding the few remaining Milwaukee Panther Hoops fans knows no bounds. It's time for this bizzaroworld version of Panther Hoops that barely has any prominance in the Milwaukee AD's "Path to Prominance" boondoggle-to end. We need to "raise" our flagship program. Greater SE Wisconsin Area is over 2,000,000 people, and many of those people are UWM alumni, not a small number of whom, recall much fonder seasons under Pearl and even Jeter who at least managed winning seasons in 7 of his 11 seasons here.

Somebody has to stand up to the madness and get our nationally-facing men's hoops program back in the winner's lane or we can kiss any affinity to this Uni from 99.999% of its alums- goodbye. 

Choose wisely, Chancellor Mone and UW Board of Regents. It is almost time to turn out the lights... 

go panthers
press on.