MEET THE NEW BOSS

John Granato: Aggies pay steep price for Jimbo Fisher, and he is saying all the right things. Will it pay off?

Jimbo Fisher is well liked in College Station right now, but he will need to perform. Andy Lyons/Getty Images

Jimbo Fisher was in Houston this week at the Touchdown Club annual luncheon. Some 300 Ags filled the hall with howdies and whoops. For most of them it was the first time they got to see their new leader of men up close and personal.

Jimbo did not disappoint. He was at his Jimbo best schmoozing the crowd with stories and enthusiasm for his new football team. The honeymoon is in full bloom. There are only a few coaches out there that have won a national championship and the Aggies have one of them.

Sure there’s a tinge of hesitation. He was 5 and 6 last year and it’s five years now since he won it all. Make no mistake that’s the job here: to win it all. $75 million is a lot of money and that will be a major point of contention if he’s not successful. By the end of 10 years they’ll either build a statue of him or run him out on a railcar.

The latter is more likely. There’s only one national champion every season and it hasn’t been the Aggies in almost 80 years. That’s a long time ago and by the looks of things on the football field they’re still a long ways away from being champs in the SEC West let alone the nation.

No one wants to hear it but it’s going to take baby steps. They’ve got to upgrade the players first. He’s been in this division as the offensive coordinator at LSU. He knows what it’s going to take to win football games here. He skirted the issue when I asked him whether or not this team is talented enough to compete in it.

“I don’t know where everyone else is. We’ve got work to do but we’ve got good players that we can win with and be successful with. There’s no doubt. And the biggest thing is realizing who we are as a team. I think that’s one of the biggest things that we have to realize. Play to our strengths, minimize our weaknesses and develop an identity and continue to recruit and put things in place for the future of the program. There’s a one year plan. There’s a three year plan. There’s a five year plan and there’s a ten year plan. You have to have those in mind to go about what you’re doing.”

In other words be patient. That’s going to be the most difficult part for this fan base. Jimbo joked about not having to worry about looking for a job for ten years but a 10-year $75 million contract is not something you joke about. That’s serious money. It won’t be funny if he’s not making huge strides by year three.

To get there he needs players. They haven’t been good enough to compete with the Bamas and the LSU’s year in and year out. That starts with the big guys. His key to winning is the guys with their hands on the ground. You can’t win in the SEC without them and he’s working tirelessly to get the right ones here. Behind the scenes they say he’s a dogged recruiter and taskmaster.

It’s different in College Station these days. There’s more accountability. He’s installed a unity group of 12 players who will be the go-to guys for any problems that arise. If a guy isn’t playing hard or doing some undesirable things off the field he’ll have his teammates to deal with.

He’s not big on social media.

“I text guys and communicate that way but I don’t need everybody knowing what I think. It’s none of their business. Why you gonna put your life on it? Why you gonna put your thoughts on it? We’ve communicated with the kids quite well. We’ve done quite well everywhere I’ve been recruiting and I’ve explained just be careful what you say and how you handle yourself. And still at the end of the day it’s going to come down to personal relationships.”

One thing you take away from him is that there’s no wasted motion. He’s a fast talker. You better keep up or you’ll miss something. I’m not sure how that’ll play in these parts if he’s not winning 10 games a year. We don’t take kindly to fast talkers.

He’s got a tough job ahead of him but it won’t take much to get the fan base behind him. Beating LSU and Alabama would be a good start. One Bama win got Kevin Sumlin multiple extensions and sparkling new facilities, something Florida St. wouldn’t give Jimbo even after a national championship.

On the other hand if he doesn’t take advantage of the facilities and bring in big time recruits and start beating Bama and LSU it won’t take long for the fan base to turn on him and that 10 year deal will look like an eternity.

Jimbo pumped ‘em up yesterday and left a nice impression for those that had never heard him before. It’s a great start but there’s a long, long way to go.





 

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The media has mixed feelings about the James Harden trade. Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images

James Harden was 100-percent exactly right earlier this week when he said the Houston Rockets were "just not good enough."

How could they be? Not when their moody superstar scorer, who makes about half a million dollars per game, shows up chubby, looking like a kielbasa about to explode in the microwave. Hey, some people eat when they're unhappy, it's a defense mechanism. In Harden's case, the only defense he's exhibited this season. At least he had a good excuse for missing pre-season training camp and alienating his teammates - he was busy partying with Cinnamon and Cherish in Atlanta and Vegas without a mask. Worst of all, he went into the tank his last four games in a Rockets uniform, standing around, arms folded, scoring fewer than 20 points each time, all Rockets losses. Fans in the front row were asking him to move, he was blocking their view of players who cared about winning. James Harden sabotaged his own team, a team that offered him $50 million a year to stay. Something that crazy could only happen in professional sports these days.

There's a saying that drives the American labor movement: "a fair day's wage for a fair day's work." It's the motto of the American Federation of Labor. The National Basketball Players Association is not a member. Harden's sulking on the court, cheating the Rockets and their fans, was unforgivable.

Harden, sitting out games while somehow being on the court, forced the Rockets to trade him - and quick - to Brooklyn. The trade, when you ignore the fine print and unindicted co-conspirators Cleveland and Indiana, sent Harden to Brooklyn in exchange for Caris LeVert (immediately flipped for Victor Oladipo), Jarrett Allen, three first-round draft picks and four swapped first-rounders. It's true, when you trade a superstar, you never get back equal value. The other team wins.

If it makes Rockets fans feel any better, the media in New York already has problems with their new problem child. I should say newest problem child. Kyrie Irving plays for the Nets.

"They (the Nets) gave up everybody! There's nothing left now. I just want to cry, It's awful," weeped WFAN Radio talk host Evan Roberts. For those who don't subscribe to weekly Arbitron ratings reports, WFAN is the most powerful, top-rated sports talk station in the Apple.

"You're leading down the road of doom. Harden and Durant could be gone in a year and a half. I'm not convinced this gives them a better chance to win a title. I'm living a nightmare again. They better freaking win."

Circle March 3 on your Rockets schedule. That's when the Brooklyn Nets, with their Big 3 of Kevin Durant, James Harden and possibly Kyrie Irving visit Toyota Center. I hear talk radio salivating over the record jeers that will cascade over Harden's name, although I'm not buying it. Fans don't think like the media does. I'm thinking that Rockets fans will welcome Harden back - one night only - with cheers.

Toyota Center public address announcer Matt Thomas: "Usually when former Rockets come to town for the first time since leaving, I give them a positive introduction. It's up to the fans how to react."

James Harden spent eight seasons with the Rockets. He is a spectacular player who watched other NBA players engineer trades so they could compete for a title. Harden didn't think the Rockets were good enough, and he's right. So he wanted out. We've all been there, a job we didn't like for a company we didn't like, for a boss we didn't respect. Harden wanting to be traded is understandable. How he went about it was deplorable. He hurt his co-workers.

Houston will make Harden pay for his disrespectful departure. He has an upscale restaurant set to open here. The name of the steakhouse will be "13." Harden's business partners may want to change that number ... before the restaurant's telephone number is disconnected. There are plenty of other restaurants in Houston. Rich people who can afford steakhouse prices hold grudges.

Rockets fans searching for a silver lining say, "We got two decent players and a whole bunch of precious first-round picks" for a malcontent who would rather be anywhere (except maybe Sacramento) than Houston." Yes, a bunch of first-round picks does bode well for the future. Anywhere, except maybe Houston.

Houston's draft war room isn't the most successful operation in the NBA. Over the past decade prior to 2000, under the direction of general manager Daryl Morey, the Rockets made 16 draft picks. Not one of them is still in a Rockets uniform, many of them have sought employment outside of America, some outside of basketball. Among their first-round whiffs: Nikola Mirotic, Terrence Jones, Sam Dekker - all out of the league. Best of all, Royce White, who played three whole games in his NBA career and finished with a scoring average of 0.00 points per game.

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