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Fred Faour: Applewhite's hiring of former Baylor assistants is a bad look for UH

Major Applewhite made a couple questionable hires. Jennifer Stewart/Getty Images

We will start this article with a disclaimer. When it comes to the local teams, it is hard to do my job and be a fan. I want the teams to do well, but I also have to try to remain detached so I can offer fair analysis. When it comes to the things I remain truly passionate about, UH football is at the top of the list (right behind the Toronto Maple Leafs. That’s another story for another time).

I believe UH’s program deserves a better conference than the AAC and can compete at the highest level. I loved the hire of Chris Pezman as athletic director. And I think it is fantastic that Tilman Fertitta is so involved. But Saturday, the school made a very questionable move. UH hired a pair of former Art Briles assistants, including his son Kendal as offensive coordinator.

Unless you live under a rock, you know what happened with Art Briles at Baylor.

From a pure football perspective, it makes sense. Kendal Briles is a former UH player who has had success as an OC at both Baylor and Florida Atlantic. He is a damned good coach who will make the offense better. The question is at what cost? Not every decision can be made from purely a football perspective.

It’s a slippery slope to speculate what Kendal Briles or any of the assistants might have known about what was going on at Baylor. It seems unrealistic to assume they had zero knowledge. Should those coaches be punished forever based on speculation? Should they never get other jobs? Those are hard questions, and there are no easy answers.

However, there is the good old eye test. UH did not need to hire Kendal Briles or Randy Clements. Tom Herman did not need to hire former Baylor assistant Casey Horny at Texas last year. He justifiably took flak for it.

Major Applewhite should take the same flak for Saturday’s hires. There were other qualified assistants who could have been offered the job. Others who came without the stigma of what happened at Baylor. If you are a UH fan who ripped Herman for his Horny hire last season, can you give Applewhite a pass for the same thing?

Applewhite and UH clearly were convinced Kendal Briles was not involved in the scandal, as Lane Kiffin was when he hired Briles last season. Should Briles continue to be punished if he was unaware of the issues? Should his name be held to the same standard as his father? Of course not. I do trust the judgement of UH’s leadership. But why even go there? Let it be someone else’s problem. Let someone else take the flak. It is not a hire that needed to be made. UH probably recognizes that from the timing of the announcement; a Saturday in the middle of the NFL playoffs? It misses a media cycle and will likely not get the same traction as it would have during the week.

From a purely football perspective, absolutely it could work out. UH’s offense, which took a huge step back last year, could thrive under Briles. The Cougars might improve their disappointing 7-5 record in Applewhite’s first year. But at what cost? There were no other coaches out there who could take the offense to the next level? Public opinion should matter. How something looks when you are trying to build a program does matter. It can never be just about winning.

It brings to mind the famous quote from the Bible:

“For what shall it profit a man, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul?”

At best, it is a bad look. At middle, it screams tone deaf. At worst? The school has just endorsed one of the worst scandals in college football history.

There are those who still swear by Art Briles. They believe he could not have been involved because he was a “good guy” and more importantly, a winner. Baylor reached heights it had never achieved with Briles at the helm. There were those who wanted the elder Briles to replace Tom Herman at UH last year. Fortunately, that gained no traction. The message would have been simple: Win at all costs. That should never be the mandate. Bringing on his son was unnecessary and sends the wrong message.

Pezman defended the hires in a statement.

“Every hire in our athletic department, from the top to the bottom, is an important one and we vet every candidate for employment in our department,” the statement said. “We have done our research on the backgrounds of both Kendall and Randy, and coach Applewhite has been in close contact with myself and our university leadership providing all necessary information and to gain approval.

“We hold all our staff to the high standards the University of Houston demands, and will continue to do so with all of our current staff. Both Kendal and Randy know our expectations and we look forward to their growth while members of our department.”

I have faith in the leadership at UH, but Saturday’s hires are not a good look for the school.

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ROCKETS BEAT THUNDER

Rockets blast Thunder in home opener, 124-91

Rockets take care of business in home opener. Photo by Tim Warner/Getty Images.

The Houston Rockets had an impressive outing versus the Oklahoma City Thunder after an embarrassing loss against the Minnesota Timberwolves Wednesday night. They took care of business at home on Friday night, which was a surprising blowout. The Rockets didn't have to worry about Karl-Anthony Towns screaming at Alperen Sengun or Anthony Edwards telling Coach Silas to call a timeout. Instead, they took their frustrations out on the Thunder (another younger core).

"We responded and bounced back from that game 1," Silas said. "I wouldn't say it was taking anything out. It was just learning and applying to what you learn and that's going to be us this year. Applying to what you learn and getting better and having some games like we had the other day. Veteran teams have some games when they don't play as well they want."

Christian Wood led the way, as he controlled the paint on all aspects with rebounding and putbacks. He played an incredible game after having a poor performance versus the Timberwolves. Silas showed complete trust in allowing Wood to open sets, as he walked the ball down the court several times, and in transition too. Wood became aggressive on the perimeter with open shooting and tough shots, and long strides towards the rim. He finished the night with 31 points and 13 rebounds off 66 percent shooting from the field.

The young core for the Thunder had a tough night defending Wood from every aspect. Hopefully, he keeps this play up. Silas loved the space that was created throughout the game for Wood, which included the help from Eric Gordon, as he continued to play better. Wood continues to develop underneath the Silas umbrella. He had a great feel for off-the-dribble shooting a few times. Wood becomes more dangerous when space is created on the court.

"It allows me to show what I can do. It allows the floor to be open and I can create for other guys and create for myself," Wood said.

As Gordon continues to impress, his teammate Kevin Porter Jr was amazed with his performance.

Gordon looked marvelous inside and outside of the paint, as it looked like a time ripple. The younger guards of the Thunder had a tough time staying in front of Gordon. His size and strength gave the Thunder a huge problem. Gordon is shooting the ball better too, as he is shooting the three-ball at 70 percent this season. Although it's a small sample size, Gordon is trying to overcome his shooting struggles from last year. Gordon finished with 22 points on 66 percent shooting versus the Thunder.

"EG is the biggest part of this squad," Porter said. He comes in and just scores. We need somebody off the bench to do that. He is our guy when me and J come out, it's EG time and he knows that, and comes in aggressive. So much energy on the bench, and we need that every night from him if we want a chance to win."

As I recently mentioned Porter, his facilitation did look better versus the Thunder than the Timberwolves. Porter had nine turnovers in his first game but managed to have two Friday night. He made great slip passes and found open teammates in the open corner. Porter forced a good number of passes versus the Timberwolves but looked more relaxed Friday night. The hardest position in the NBA is the point guard position, but Silas will not allow Porter to fail. Instead of nine turnovers, Porter dished out nine assists. Silas said:

"Bounce back right, going from nine turnovers to nine assists… I think he had two turnovers tonight, which is great. He is making plays for his teammates, and he was really focused."

Porter's shiftiness and creative ability allowed his teammates to get open looks near the rim. He had 18 points because of his step-back threes and first step going towards the basket. Thankfully, Porter is a great ball handler, which confuses defenders on different spots on the court. It's almost like watching a ballerina skate on ice in the Olympics. Hopefully, his confidence continues to get better throughout the year. Porter shot the three-ball at 50 percent tonight. Efficiency is key for Porter this year.

"I'm just trying to let the game slow down," Porter said. "I had a lot of turnovers last game and I just wanted to piggyback and learn from them and learn from some of my forced passes and reads. And sometimes I still force it a little bit. My guys hate that, and sometimes I'm still passive and I'm working on that. When to pass and score and bounce it out, and tonight I felt like I did a good job of that."

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