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Kallas: Jack Taylor’s Record-Setting Game Misses The Point (Part 2)

Screenshot of Grinnell Athletics' landing page on Nov. 21, 2012. (credit: pioneers.grinnell.edu)

Screenshot of Grinnell Athletics’ landing page on Nov. 21, 2012. (credit: pioneers.grinnell.edu)

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By Steve Kallas
» More Columns

Well, a lot of new information has come out since the initial this-is-wonderful reaction to Jack Taylor, a 22-year-old sophomore, scoring 138 points in a college basketball game against non-NCAA school Faith Baptist Bible College on November 20, 2012 (final score, Grinnell 179, Faith Baptist 104).

PRELUDE TO A “RECORD”

With the full game now up on You Tube (courtesy of Grinell Pioneers Athletics, by the way), much can be learned by watching the game and listening to the announcers. The most interesting thing? Well, it is submitted that this is the most interesting thing discussed during the game by the announcers:

“An interesting note here, Grinnell, this game will count for their season wins and losses but for Faith Baptist this will be counted as an exhibition game for their record. Today I’ve been told that our athletic director and head coach were confirming to make sure that, although this will not be going on Faith Baptist’s record, it can still count for Grinnell and IT IS CONFIRMED THAT IT WILL STILL COUNT FOR GRINNELL.” (emphasis added).

Hard to believe, but, obviously, the coach and AD, realizing that they could script the game against a very weak opponent, actually called somebody (presumably at the NCAA) to make sure that this shooting-fish-in-a-barrel game, DESPITE being an exhibition game for the opposition, would still count in terms of wins, points, and oh yes, records, for Grinnell.

WHO IS THE NCAA DOPE WHO ALLOWED THIS TO BE A “REAL” GAME?

Well, hopefully, one of these major institutions (you know, ESPN, The New York Times, Sports Illustrated, etc.) with big “investigative reporting” budgets and/or great access can delve into this question.

While there are many other things to discuss (including, see below, did Jack Taylor start believing his press clippings?), this main question (how is this even a real basketball game against a college team that, in their mind, is playing an exhibition game and is a college that plays in the NCCAA (that is, the National Christian College Athletics Association – not to be confused with the NCAA)) should be answered.

A FEW OTHER QUOTES FROM THE GAME

Special thanks to Deadspin, Tyler Burns and @Busted Video for being on the downside of this game from the get-go. Before the game, when asked what Grinnell fans should look forward to in this game, the color commentator (named Dan) said: “Tonight, Rob [the play-by-play guy], we are looking for records, we want to see points scored and a lot of them.” Rob then said: “Tonight that record [89 points in a D III game held by Grinnell senior Griffin Lentsch] was going to be attempted possibly to be broken by another Grinnell member, not Griffin Lentsch, but new transfer sophomore Jack Taylor,”

Clearly, everybody on the Grinnell side knew this was a joke game and they were going to shoot for many records, Bible College or no Bible College.

But wait, there’s more. Early in the game (and forgive the grammar or lack thereof), an announcer said, “The plan would be to try and see how as much as he [Taylor] can score.” And this gem: “This is a game that the [Grinnell] Pioneers scheduled. They’ll try and look for those records.”

Anybody getting disturbed yet?

The first time an announcer mentioned the word “blowout” was with about 8:30 left – in the first half (Grinnell was up about 33 at the time). Shortly thereafter, the announcer mentioned that there were “bone-chilling chants of GC pride” (Grinnell College pride).

There were some (unintentionally, it is assumed) comical statements during the game. About 9:30 into the game, Grinnell called timeout because, according to an announcer, “Grinnell’s coaches not appreciating the recent lack of defense.” Well, it’s part of the plan, apparently, to try to press and steal and, it seems, to NOT play defense if the other team breaks the press. The score when this timeout was called was 33-12. Late in the game, an announcer said, “At this point, Grinnell’s not even playing defense,” which, one would guess, was a downtick from their prior barely playing defense.

When Taylor scored his 100th point, an announcer said, “Wilt Chamberlain, what do you gotta say.”

Seriously. As you may know, Wilt was not available for comment.

When the game ended, announcer Rob said that he was “speechless.” Shortly thereafter, however, he said, “All I have to say is GC pride, GC pride, GC pride.”

It would have been better if he had remained speechless.

One other comical note: when the game ended, announcer Rob said, “and the fans are mildly storming the court – more like walking out there.” The view on You Tube of a little more than half of the court showed two students on the court.

Hey, maybe some of the intelligent Grinnell students (Grinnell, a fantastic liberal arts college) actually understood that maybe, just maybe, this was unsportsmanlike?
Here’s hoping.

WHAT ABOUT THE FAITH BAPTIST COACH?

Interviewed by the New York Times, Faith Baptist coach Brian Finchum said “we tried” and “I’m proud of my guys and the effort they put in.” He also said that they double and triple-teamed Jack Taylor at times.

But a review of the game tape shows that, of Jack Taylor’s 108 shots, he was double or triple-teamed less than 10 times (it’s probably six, but some of the You Tube video seemed to freeze in certain spots (despite multiple viewings on two different computers), so it’s not perfectly clear). Finchum apparently was never asked things like, why didn’t you go box-and-one or why didn’t you run the shot clock down at least once in the entire game or why didn’t you just throw two or even three guys at Jack Taylor to make him give up the ball (hey, he might have gotten one assist that way).

None of the above suggestions (that a rec league coach probably would have tried) was tried by Faith Baptist.

Hey, maybe the Faith Baptist coach was playing the game like an exhibition (or is that half an exhibition; it’s still not clear).

WHAT ABOUT GRIFFIN LENTSCH?

Lentsch, the previous record-holder in D III (89 points in a game last year against Principia), was actually announced as the team’s “shooting guard.” Lentsch shot 2-3 from the field and made two foul shots for seven points against Faith Baptist.

In another unintentional comedic comment, one announcer said that Lentsch “has been uncharacteristically quiet this game.”

You think?

WHAT ABOUT DAVID LARSON?

As pointed out by Derek C in a comment to my first article last week, Larson was the recipient and beneficiary of Grinnell’s “system.” You know, essentially no defense. So, while Larson did make 34-44 from the field, the overwhelming majority of them were lay-ups. Despite my thoughts originally that this could be a debate (who had the better game), Jack Taylor clearly had a better game than Larson.

WHAT ABOUT THE GRINNELL COACH?

Well, he had some shaky comments after the game. He told the Times he was going to take Taylor out with about five minutes left but he was on a hot shooting streak. He told the Times, “I wasn’t going to take a guy out who was in the zone. I’ve never been in a zone like that, and if I was I certainly wouldn’t want my coach to end it for me. So we just let him go.”

Gee, coach, even if he already had over 100 and your team was up 60 or more?

Actually, a look at the play-by-play shows that this is simply untrue. At the five-minutes left in the game mark, Taylor had been just 2-6 in the previous 1:43. Under no definition of “in the zone” was Taylor in the zone at that time. Indeed, he would make SEVEN threes in a row from 3:54 left in the game until 1:57 left in the game (by the way, for the record, Grinnell kept its full-court press on after all seven threes; hey, that’s just how they play). Given his New York Times comments, it’s surprising that the coach took Taylor out of the game with 1:33 left because THAT was when he was REALLY in the zone.

WHAT ABOUT GRINNELL COLLEGE?

Well, they wrapped themselves around this “achievement.” Grinnell posted videos, etc. to publicize the achievement. But wait, there’s more. Grinnell’s media relations department put out a press release entitled “Grinnell College by the Numbers – 138 and More.” It explains some of the greatness of Grinnell academically, presumably to get the word out on what a fine academic institution it is (and it is).

Maybe Grinnell should have put out a copy of its “Mission Statement” instead. Originally chartered in Iowa in 1846, that original statement set forth a mission to educate its students “for the different professions and for the honorable discharge of the duties of life.” The 2002 statement, up at Grinnell’s website, concludes with “The College aims to graduate men and women … who are prepared in life and work to use their knowledge and their abilities to serve the common good.”

By the way, did anybody notice that the New York Times reported that, the day after the event, Jack Taylor had to take a two-hour break from doing interviews to attend two college classes, one of which was “Introduction to Christianity.”

Is there a conflict there, between scoring 108 points against a Bible College, taking all of the accolades and then, the next day, going to Intro to Christianity.

Was that really the “Christian thing to do?”

Just asking.

FINALLY, WHAT ABOUT JACK TAYLOR?

Well, on Rick Wolff’s Sports Edge show this past weekend, virtually all of the callers were disgusted with the record, one even suggesting that his team would have gone after Jack Taylor, maybe even hurt him. While that happens in the schoolyards of New York City on a not-infrequent basis, hard to believe that Faith Baptist Bible College would do that.

But Jack Taylor seemed to start believing his press clippings. Interviewed by ESPN a few days after the game, Taylor actually said the following: “I think I was just in that mental state to where it really didn’t matter what the defense did.”

Come back to us, Jack. You were pretty cool before that statement. And as we said repeatedly on Rick Wolff’s Sports Edge show (up under Rick Wolff’s picture at wfan.com), nobody could blame Jack Taylor. He did what the coaches wanted him to do.

But after that statement, he should take a step back. The defense (and the Faith Baptist coach) did virtually NOTHING to stop Jack Taylor. Very few double teams (less than 10 on 108 shots), no box-and-one, no 30-35 second possessions (NONE), no run two guys at him to make him give up the ball.

Frankly, the fish in a barrel had a better chance.

CONCLUSION?

A basketball team with 10 kids of 275-300 enrolled in a Bible College, playing an exhibition game, was torched by a very good shooter whose coach and AD called in advance to “confirm” that any records set that night would be valid. They were inexplicably told that they would be valid (real game for one team, exhibition game for another). So, Grinnell College, apparently, reached the goals they wanted to attain by winning 179-104 and having one player score 138 points.

Just as Part I concluded, draw your own conclusions.

POSTSCRIPT

The goal of letting Jack Taylor take a ton of shots against Faith Baptist Bible College was, according to many, to let Jack Taylor “shoot himself out of” his shooting slump. It apparently did not work. Taylor shot just 6-21 (29%), 3-13 on threes (23%), against a good William Penn (Iowa) team as Grinnell lost it’s next game, 131-116.

Does Grinnell play Faith Baptist Bible College again this season?

That’s a rhetorical question.

Was Taylor’s performance an embarrassment to sportsmanship or something to be celebrated? Weigh in below…