Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Redux: Tubby Smith, Billy Donavan, and Thinking Outside the Paint

Note: Since Billy Clyde is out, I thought I would reprint this blog from two years ago just for the heck of it. If John Calipari does indeed take the job, I thought he might need to be ready for the worst.


[Originally posted 3/26/07]

Having just returned from the Kentucky Boys Sweet 16 High School Tournament, and having watched college tournament action on television all week, I have to admit that basketball is on the brain. We all sit in the same seats every year (the picture shows my view; great seats!). Every morning I get there a little early, drink my coffee, and read the newspapers. I read a book review in the Lexington Herald-Leader that caught my eye last Thursday: “Hoops Philosophy: Knight Morally Above Wooden?”

Bobby Knight? The General? When he was at Indiana, didn't he throw a chair once when they were playing Purdue?

Don’t laugh. While Adolph Rupp and John Wooden are certainly kings, they weren’t always known for playing by the rules. They were wizards with the magnificent players they always got. Knight, on the other hand, made a lot of players. His players performed academically. He didn’t play favorites. Overall, Knight may not be the bad guy we portrayed him to be.

Back to the High School Sweet Sixteen. While in Rupp Arena one afternoon, I noticed all of the sudden that the press were frantically typing on their computers and people’s cell phones were going off all over the place. I initially thought that perhaps a tornado was headed toward downtown Lexington, or that our country was under attack. I was close: Tubby Smith was leaving the University of Kentucky (UK) to coach at Minnesota.

What about Tubby Smith? I’ve lived in Kentucky on and off for 7-10 years. I’ve never heard anything poor about his character. The Tubby-bashers say that he can’t recruit. Possibly. But while at UK, he won over 20 games every season (won over 30 games in two seasons). Won a national championship. Went to the Sweet Sixteen five (5) times. Swept every national coach of the year award in 2003 (only he and Bobby Knight have done that), after going undefeated in the SEC. Oh, they won the conference three years, too. And in the midst all of that, he was also a gentleman and a scholar.

Does that count? Not at the University of Kentucky. Tubby is gone. What are the qualifications?

• You need to be perfect. Damned perfect. Perfect as an Alabama football coach.
• Don’t be a nice guy or moral influence. You’ve gotta be cutthroat.

Mark Story of the Lexington Herald-Leader was more blunt: UK’s coach needs to be an all-consumed Type A personality. A guy with an unyielding commitment to the bottom line and little else. A tyrant. Sometimes a jerk. In fact, here is the job search he put in the paper:
Wanted: Head men's basketball coach, University of Kentucky. Must employ up-tempo style of play. Must recruit with a relentless fervor. Must consistently beat Louisville, Indiana, North Carolina, Florida, Tennessee and everyone else. Consistent Final Four appearances mandatory. One final requirement: It helps to be a jerk. – from “The Meek Should Not Inherit the UK Job”, 3/25/07, the Lexington Herald-Leader (the whole article is here.)

Since Adolph Rupp is dead, and John Wooden is 96, who can UK get that is perfect? A lot of folks are submitting Billy Donavan's name from the University of Florida. Some have said Tom Izzo. A few have said Travis Ford. Well, what about these guys?

Jesus Christ? I think the man from Nazareth has kept up with basketball, and would be a darned good coach. But Jesus was always slow to offend, and a slow offense won’t work with Kentucky fans. Nope, Jesus is out.

The Apostle Paul? He is immediately disqualified; in his letter to the Romans (chapter 7), he remarked that the holiest of our actions, even the holiest of the actions of the holiest saints, are still full of imperfections and defects. We may be saved by grace through faith, but that’s not perfect enough for UK fans.

Peter? Too fickle, and don’t forget that he jumped ship. Would remind folks of Rick Pitino too much.

John the Baptist? HEY! There’s an idea. Brash, loud, demanding, unrelenting. I think he’s the one.

The head-on-a-platter experience will serve him well.


Thursday, March 26, 2009

Too Busy

[from the church newsletter 3/26/09]

It is a Lenten discipline that I do not do so well. I get too busy. Too busy for Sabbath. Too busy to pray. Too busy to read the Scriptures outside of everyday work and maybe a hurried morning or evening prayer. Too busy to eat a meal. Too busy to watch a basketball game on television.

As I was traveling back from Lexington earlier this week, I listened to a lot of music in the car. One song (a Dave Matthews song) struck me in particular: “Ants Marching.” The song has a very unique rhythm and cadence, and you can envision the ants marching along. The lyrics, however, are not just entertaining – they are a bit damning:
Driving in on this highway
All these cars and upon the sidewalk
People in every direction
No words exchanged
No time to exchange

And all the little ants are marching
Red and black antennas waving
We all do it the same
We all do it the same way
Are we so busy as to not notice each other – or worse, pretend not to notice each other – as we pass by each other day after day? Are we just ants marching along?

Those that we pass by, they will know we are Christians if we have Christ in our heart and on our face. Let us not meet strangers each day – but find generous friends.


Monday, March 23, 2009

Guaranteed Pastoral Appointments - A Luxury We Can Afford Anymore?

In United Methodism, all full-connection elders, provisional elders, and associate clergy members are guaranteed an appointment. While I don't have a 2008 Book of Discipline yet, the 2004 version states it this way: : “Every effective elder in full connection who is in good standing shall be continued under appointment by the bishop...” (¶334.1). The history of the guaranteed appointment goes back to 1956, when there were fears that women clergy would not be treated fairly and that pastors might not be able to freely preach the Gospel for fear of being fired. The Discipline then read, “Every traveling preacher, unless retired, supernumerary, on sabbatical leave, or under arrest of character, must receive an appointment.” (¶149, 1956).

I've always worried a little about what this could mean ever since I became the chair of our conference's commission on equitable compensation. By church law, the cabinet, conference, and commission all bear the responsibility of insuring that all full-connection and provisional elders are compensated at the minimum salary level as set by each annual conference. So, what happens if there are more people than appointments? Who pays the compensation (which each elder has a claim upon) if there is no place to appoint them?

Before you say, "No way this can happen," the Western North Carolina conference is facing this very issue. A portion of Bishop Goodpaster's letter to the WNC Conference reads as follows (emphasis mine):
We entered our work together aware of the anxiety and turmoil that fill our society and many of our churches during this time. We knew there would be challenges. Eighteen of our churches decided to eliminate an Associate Pastor position; others, because of the economy, had notified us that the compensation package of the pastor would be lower in July, many at substantial cuts. We have a dozen of elders who will be returning from either Extension Ministry appointments or various Leaves. With the downturn in the value of the pension funds, fewer of our clergy opted to retire this year. And, in response to the continuing call of God, we have a number of Western North Carolina students graduating from seminary and returning to serve Christ in their home conference.

We are not yet ready to notify any person or church about a projected appointment for the coming year. The reality: after working for more than four days, we arrived at an unprecedented moment. Having tentatively “filled” every open and available charge with a clergyperson, there were still more than two dozen clergy (most either full connected ordained elders or provisional elders) without a placement. That, of course, is unacceptable, and contrary to the principle of the itinerancy system that is part of our Wesleyan heritage.

We have now returned to our homes and offices to continue our work, committed to prayer and fasting, and to consultations with clergy and churches as we seek a way forward together. We will gather again during the week after Easter to continue and complete our work. We anticipate being able to share appointment information with you following that April meeting. We ask for your patience, prayers, and understanding. We are living in extraordinary times with never-before-experienced circumstances. We are absolutely confident that God will continue to bless our conference, and will provide a way.
- Bishop Larry Goodpaster, 3/20/09 (the whole letter can be read here).
When you have (a) a decrease in the number of pastoral appointments, (b) seminarians who are finishing school ready to serve, and (c) some pastors who have previously served in extension ministries that now are coming back into the pastorate (and guaranteed an appointment), pitted against (1) the situation of churches who have to scale back salaries and drop staff positions, (2) folks who have to work longer and retire at a later age, and (3) a denomination that is losing members... well, the math just doesn't work. Something has got to change.
  • Do away with the guaranteed appointment. Bishops and cabinets are often frustrated by having to appoint ineffective clergy year after year. And now, conference budgets can no longer afford to supplement pastor salaries for the sake of making appointments.
  • Lower the conference minimum salary. While that's certainly not a popular notion, you could solve some of the problem of trying to appoint pastors who have a claim on minimum salary by lowering it.
  • Limit the number of candidates approved by boards of ministry to the number of elders retiring. That's certainly not a popular notion, though, nor good for raising the next generation of clergy.
I don't have a good solution, and I will be praying for Bishop Goodpaster and his cabinet. But I know the problem will be one not just for Western North Carolina, but for many conferences in the Connection.

That is, unless we start to grow the Church again. That would be the best option.
Your ideas?


Saturday, March 21, 2009


Click on the image to enlarge:

My bracket didn't do too badly, but it's far from perfect. There's goes my $1 million from Yahoo...

Friday, March 20, 2009

March Madness

I write this as I am taking some vacation time at the Kentucky Boys State Tournament. Last night was pretty exciting - a record crowd for a 1st round game of 21,408 folks made the atmosphere even more charged. Our own 1st Region team Graves County lost a heartbreaker on Wednesday to 6th Region's Louisville Central 53-31. For those who might not know: Kentucky still has open-division basketball; no classifications. Big schools, little schools, and in-between schools all compete against each other. It wasn't so long ago that I came here to watch Region One's Carlisle Co play in the Sweet Sixteen - a school of about 260 students. There are lots of David vs. Goliath stories to be told throughout the years.

I am uploading my NCAA bracket. I'd love to see Memphis win it all, but I don't think it will hold - and I am going with my family roots and picking Kansas, who is no stranger to the roundball. Best of luck to all on their brackets. You can click on mine to enlarge it.


Thursday, March 12, 2009

Nice, But It's Still a Change from What I'm Used To...

I said I wouldn't get one - because it was a cliché. Too trendy. It's more of a toy than a tool. I said all of these things about an iPhone. And even though I've had Macs since seminary, I wasn't sold on the iPhone.

Until yesterday.

I had a Treo 650 for years - a great phone, wonderful tool for ministry, great calendaring abilities and contacts management. Email worked seamlessly. If I needed to surf the net, I could. It synched with all my stuff on my laptop and office server. Palm OS was great to use and easy to update. It was a powerful little PDA.

Mine had some age on it. I'd dropped it one too many times. Our cat played hockey with it a few times. No problem, I thought, I'll buy the latest Treo and stuff will easily upgrade. Except that the Treo isn't as supported on the newer upgrades of software as previous Treos were. It can't even sync up with the new version of Microsoft Office. So I studied and decided that for what I needed, a Blackberry Bold was what I needed. I studied it and the iPhone and decided the Blackberry was the ticket.

All was well until the price - the Blackberry was priced $100 HIGHER than an iPhone. And my data plan was going to be LESS than my present one. So, while I can't believe it, the iPhone turned out to be cheaper. And I got it. And it's growing on me; slowly, but it's getting there. I like the music abilities. It talks to my Mac more seamlessly than my Treo did. And I found some apps that are helpful for work, such as MileBug for keeping up with business travel. I'm still not used to typing on it, but I'm trying to be patient. Change doesn't come easy to me.

In a way, perhaps it's a way to practice embracing my Lenten discipline to be more aware of my need to be a disciple in the world. I need to get out of my comfort zones and be a disciple and be the church. I need to be less set in my ways and be open to the Spirit in new ways of hearing, doing, and being in the work of the Kingdom. I need to let go and let God. That means trying new things, and being willing to part with the static and comfortable.

That is, no doubt, my growing edge. How much am I willing to give up for the sake of Christ and His Kingdom? How much are we all willing to give up?

In the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit,