The Silver Lining for Wednesday, August 6

By Adam Silverstein
August 6, 2014

Looking for more gold in Cleveland

Giving up more money, more years and a starting role, former Florida Gators forward Mike Miller officially inked a two-year contract with the Cleveland Cavaliers on Tuesday, returning to the side of LeBron James for the second time in his career.

Miller will continue his career at a rate of $5.6 million with the Cavaliers. Cleveland gave the 34-year-old a player option for the 2015-16 season for the second year of that deal as well as a 15 percent trade kicker should it try to move him.

A two-time NBA Champion, the 2001 NBA Rookie of the Year and 2006 NBA Sixth Man of the Year has put together an exceedingly successful career since being selected with the No. 5 overall pick in the 2000 NBA Draft by the Orlando Magic. In fact, he may very well be the most successful former Gators player in NBA history when his total list of accomplishments is taken into account.

Now with his sixth team, Miller will spend his fourth season next to James. During the first nine seasons of his career, Miller’s teams won just 46.2 percent of their games; however, over the last four, he’s been winning games at a 68.3 percent clip. Miller no doubt expects that that trend to continue with the Cavaliers.


It all started at Florida

An ESPN Magazine feature on new Texas head coach Charlie Strong not only takes a look at his plans to lead the Longhorns to a resurgence but also how he got to this position. That road, of course, included four separate stints at Florida, the first of which was a graduate assistant role he held from 1983-84.

So he landed in Gainesville and set about the long, hard task of never going back [home]. He bought a stack of spiral notebooks and carried one everywhere. He took it to meetings, to the practice field, home every night. “I wouldn’t write down much X’s and O’s,” he says. “It was about how people taught and felt. Different approaches to players. What type of player you’re looking for. What makes the great great. It starts with trust: someone trusting you and you trusting in someone else.”

He broke down film obsessively and lived in the dorms and ate in the dining commons and studied for his second master’s degree in education. He saved $8,000 and bought his first car, a Nissan Pulsar. He spent his nights typing up his notes and arranging them in files he still has in his office. And somehow, he found time to meet his wife, Vicki, while he was working at, of all places, a Florida football camp.

On the practice field, Strong watched the coaches grow frustrated with the scout team, hollering to “Do it again!” and “Give us a look!” He studied the way the players slumped, and their performance worsened with every harangue, and he summoned the courage to tell head coach Charley Pell, “Just let me handle it. I promise it’ll work.” Pell figured what the hell, and Strong began building relationships with the scout-teamers and outlining realistic expectations. For the rest of the season, he led a more effective and harmonious scout team.

“He could always read people,” says Texas offensive coordinator Joe Wickline, who was a graduate assistant in Florida with Strong. “He was insanely organized. He had a structure and a plan, and he stayed with it.”

Every step created another point of no return. The graduate assistant’s job at Florida meant never having to go back to Batesville. The first coordinator’s job meant never having to go back to being a common assistant. The first head-coaching job meant never having to go back to a lesser program.

Check out the rest of the feature on Strong, which can also be read offline in ESPN Magazine, on ESPN.com right now by clicking here.

How early could Will Muschamp be fired?

The most frequently-asked questions I have received this offseason is how many wins Florida needs in order for head coach Will Muschamp to secure his job.

Muschamp and athletic director Jeremy Foley have both addressed this topic directly, with Foley stating he is more concerned with how the Gators look on the field as opposed to how many games they wind up winning by the end of the year.

No matter how much Foley believes in Muschamp or claims to be “1,000 percent” behind him, he has a history of taking decisive action in the middle of a season, such as when he fired Ron Zook almost immediately after Florida fell 38-31 on the road to Mississippi State, dropping to 4-3 back in 2004.

So if the Gators struggle early on in 2014, when could Foley take a similar action?

Florida first fell to Tennessee (the last time UF lost to UT, coincidently) before MSU took it down in 2004. What if the same thing happened this year? Even if the Gators win that game but drop contests to Alabama, LSU and Missouri, would Muschamp survive with the same 4-3 record entering the bye week ahead of the Florida-Georgia game?

I suspect the answer to that question is, “Yes.” Unlike with Zook, Foley also believes in what Muschamp has accomplished off the field. Though the bye week is an ideal time to give a new coach an opportunity to get the team under his control, Foley will absolutely give Muschamp a chance in the World’s Largest Outdoor Cocktail Party before pulling the plug on his project.

While Foley’s assertion that there is no set number of games Muschamp needs to win – seven, eight or nine – in order to keep his job may be accurate, you can bet he has a list of games that Muschamp cannot lose and still be respected as UF’s head coach.

The Georgia Southern debacle cannot be repeated, so Idaho, Eastern Michigan and Eastern Kentucky must be victories, if not blowouts. Kentucky and Vanderbilt should also return to being no-contests, like they were for so long. Lose any of those games, barring unforeseen success over the rest of the schedule, and Muschamp should be gone by season’s end. Even a still-rebuilding Tennessee team should be a sure win for Florida.

But even those contests would only amount to six wins for the Gators. Can Muschamp really get away with winning just one against Alabama, LSU, Missouri, Georgia, South Carolina and Florida State? Could he hold onto his job with a 2-4 record against those six standout teams? He is going to need to do more than that to instill confidence that he can succeed as the man charged with turning around the Florida football program.

Defensive back finds a back-up career

The player-interviewing-player thing has seemingly been done on an annual basis by every college and professional program but few are as legitimately entertaining as the three minutes that redshirt freshman defensive back Nick Washington put on tape during UF’s media day on Sunday.

Interviewing a wide variety of his teammates, mostly those on the defensive side of the ball, Washington asked quality questions that elicited great responses. Redshirt senior linebacker Michael Taylor, as usual, was particularly entertaining when discussing his teeth-brushing habits during fall practice.

“If you get me up before 7 o’clock, I’m not brushing,” he said. “Now, if we get me up at 8:30 or something, [making brushing noises] I’m gonna be good. But 6 o’clock in the morning, and you’re gonna to come coach me? You’re going to feel all this halitosis.”

Only gators…get out alive

A baby alligator named Carlos became the first animal to escape the GarLyn Zoo in Michigan, a family-run institution that houses approximately 100 animals and has existed for more than two decades.

According to MLive.com, the zoo’s owner believes Carlos had an accomplice in his getaway as he is housed with two adult alligators and a “large tortoise that walks in the area, wearing the dirt away from the bottom of the fence” that Carlos slipped through.

Owner Gary Moore did not learn of Carlos’s great escape until a state trooper alerted them that a small alligator had been spotted along the U.S. 2 highway.

“I’m asking people that if they see a little alligator holding a sign on U.S. 2 that says, ‘Florida or bust’ to call us,” Moore said.

This Week’s Movie Trailer

Birdman:

The Top 5 List
From the home office in Wahoo, Nebraska…

Best sports movies starring Kevin Costner:
1. Field of Dreams
2. Bull Durham
3. Tin Cup
4. For the Love of the Game
5. Draft Day

Thanks for reading. Now leave your comments.

17 Comments

  1. sjkoepp says:

    Loving these! Had a question about Charlie Strong: in your opinion, why was he never made head coach for the gators? Not hating on Muschamp, just curious.

    • senuod says:

      I don’t remember exactly what the timeline was, but didn’t Strong just accept the Louisville Head Coach position before the Florida position became available? Personally, I don’t think Strong would be the type to jump ship like that, even for what may have been his dream job at the time.

      The are other rumors running around. Having been born and raised in Florida, I don’t doubt that there’s some truth to those rumors, but I don’t think we’ll ever really know about that.

      I’d be interested in your take as well Adam…

    • Strong took the Louisville job ahead of the 2010 season and was entering his second* season when Meyer officially called it quits the second time.

      If I had to guess as to why Foley ultimately went after Muschamp ahead of Strong, it would probably be because of all the behavioral / locker room issues. I think he wanted someone to come in and completely change the culture as opposed to continue much of what Meyer was doing.

      Timing definitely had a big part in it. Looking back on the decision in a couple years, Foley may wind up kicking himself for not going right back after Strong. We’ll see though.

      *edited

      • jimmyjohns says:

        He was actually entering his second season. That’s one of the reasons that was going around – that there was no way he would jump ship after just 1 season. May not have mattered like you said – Foley may have wanted someone fresh/different anyway.

        • Right, that’s what I meant, entering his second season.

          I do not necessarily believe that was the case though, that he would not jump after one year if Foley came calling. Strong has spoken about Foley not offering him the job (especially after Ron Zook was fired) and how that bugged him. He thought he deserved the opportunity then.

      • gatorboi352 says:

        “If I had to guess as to why Foley ultimately went after Muschamp ahead of Strong, it would probably be because of all the behavioral / locker room issues. I think he wanted someone to come in and completely change the culture as opposed to continue much of what Meyer was doing.”

        Hmm really? Because… http://espn.go.com/dallas/college-football/story/_/id/11303427/charlie-strong-confirms-suspensions-dismissals-texas-longhorns-players

        Are you saying stuff like that wouldn’t have happened had he come to Florida, and that he only did these things because he was at Louisville and Texas?

        • I’m quite aware of what he’s doing at Texas right now, but he was a major part of the Florida locker room operating the way it was at that time. You don’t instill major change by bringing back a piece that was part of the problem. I think it was LESS about Strong and MORE about “someone else.”

  2. LJ Vickery says:

    By my recollection, Strong had been at Louisville already when the UF job became available. It’s all about timing!

  3. SC Gator says:

    Gotta remember just how many times Strong got passed over for less talented coaches. He wasn’t going to leave after a single season, all else ignored.

  4. Michael J. says:

    One reason that Strong was not hired was that it would have caused a major revolt by some big time boosters. You know, the old white men with money. I don’t think they would have liked to socialize with Charlie strong. Not so much because of Charlie’s race, but the race of his wife. Now you can not believe what I say if you want, but I don’t think it takes a rocket scientist to figure out that North Florida is not a liberal bastion. I think it was made clear to those in a decision making capacity that hiring Strong would not be well received by many of the deep pocket boosters.

    • That’s certainly something Strong had mentioned before but at the same time I’m not sure that was legitimately the main reason.

      Is Texas liberal?

      • Michael J. says:

        Maybe they are more enlightened or maybe they have a President and athletic director that would tell anyone that raised the same objection to Strong that Texas didn’t need them or their money. If you’ll recall, Strong wasn’t exactly welcomed with open arms by some of the boosters at Texas.

        • No question about it regarding some of the boosters. But you’re also making an awful lot of assumptions without any legitimate proof.

          Ultimately, I do not believe – based on being around the program and years covering the team – that Strong’s personal life was the reason he wasn’t hired at Florida.

    • Michael J. says:

      For those of you that don’t like what I said, I’ll give you a reminder. It wasn’t that long ago that a President of the University of Florida called another President of a university, the University of North Florida, an “oreo” The president he referred to was a black man, and he was using the term to describe him as being black on the outside, but white on the inside, meaning that he’s ok, he’s really one of us. Herbert, the UNF President, was a conservative Republican. Just like Mitt Romney revealed what he really thought when he was speaking to rich people in Boca Raton, but would never have said such a thing if he knew people were going to hear it, the same goes for those who didn’t want Strong as a coach. They won’t say what they really think in public, but their meaning is clear just the same.

    • senuod says:

      “This” is the rumor I had heard as well….I don’t entirely doubt it

  5. Michael Jones says:

    Loved the Muschamp section. Refreshing candor. Thank you for calling Georgia Southern a “debacle,” because it was.

    I like this side of you, Adam. I’m liking “The Silver Lining” more each week.

    As for Strong, I was among those who misjudged him. Nothing to do with his blackness or his wife’s whiteness (which I wasn’t aware of nor could care less about). His demeanor and mannerisms (many of which Muschamp shares in my opinion) I mistook for not being bright enough to be a head coach. He seemed like a fiery, overly-emotional, scowling, muscle-bound jughead that maybe would struggle or be overwhelmed with running a program like ours. Boy was I wrong when I judged that book by its cover.

    Proud of Coach Strong and what he has accomplished. We might have missed the boat by not hiring him. Only time will tell.

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