Pick My Post III - Enemies

Feb 21, 2020

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I decided to spread these out. It's something I have to work on. I've always been very "no posts for two days, then three posts one morning" about how I publish things here, but I need to look at this more like the websites I read. The ones that space out articles over the day so that the site has consistent updates. SO, this one goes up Friday at 11:00 am.

Here's the next Pick My Post question:

I thought about this while watching Georgia beat Bruce Pearl last night: Are there any Illini enemies left? Growing up, I had so much bile for so many enemies: Knight, Pearl, Keady, Dr. Tom, Aaron Kraft, even Heathcote (lovable bile, anyway). Who are our biggest enemies now?

-- Will Leitch (@williamfleitch) February 20, 2020

The obvious first thought is Fran McCaffery after he told his team to not shake hands in Iowa City a few weeks ago. Fans across the conference dislike him to begin with, and there's the obvious Bruce Pearl history with Iowa (plus all of the Idiots Out Walking Around stuff), but to tell his team to leave the court without shaking hands because an Illini assistant coach said something to him about the called-off-the-dogs dunk, well, it's just perfect. We needed someone to hate.

In a way, it really is perfect. Illini fans have always just naturally gravitated towards Iowa hate ("corn leans to the east because Indiana sucks and Iowa blows"), even though Iowa is mostly focused on Minnesota and Wisconsin (and, football wise, desperately trying to get Nebraska to hate them). So it all kind of fits. Across the conference, twitter fanbases make fun of Fran and his anger issues (all of the "FRANCON 2" stuff), so for Illinois basketball to be good again with Iowa coming to town after their anger-issues coach called off the handshake line in the last game... it all kind of fits, you know?

I agree, though, that it doesn't feel like 1990 or even 2010. I don't nearly have the same "someone needs to wipe that smug grin off Chris Kingsbury's face" emotions as I used to. Even opposing fanbases struggle to hate Illini players like they hated Lucas Johnson in the past. Where did it all go?

For me, personally, I still feel the bubbling bile, but I try to keep it (mostly) contained given that, you know, I'll be applying for credentials in opposing arenas and even the Iowa SID reading "wipe that smug grin off Chris Kingsbury's face" could lead to a denied press pass. But let's pretend like no one is reading this and I'll give you three players who make my blood boil. Let Fran coach them in a 3-on-3 tournament and I'll pass out.

Xavier Pinson

At the most recent Braggin' Rights game, Pinson yapped at an Illini fan standing directly behind me (with good reason, they were winning and the fan was all "Pinson, you suck") and then he turned to the fan and mouthed "bye-bye" after the Illini fouled down six with 10 seconds left (or whatever). Basically, I thought it was a test for me. Some guy in a van outside was in Pinson's ear and said "OK, now wave bye-bye to Illini fans while smiling and let's see what happens to Robert's blood pressure... OK, good - immediately spikes to 310 over 280". I passed the test, apparently. And I never want to see Pinson's "Illinois should have recruited me" smile again.

Luka Garza

If Fran is coaching this three-on-three team, he'll demand that one of his players be on there. Why not the Big Ten Player of the Year?

The thing that puts Garza on this list, for me, is that I have a special anger spot for "what did I do?" opponents. I tweeted about this during the Illinois/Iowa game a few weeks ago. In the last 35 years, Iowa laps the field in having players who get called for a foul, turn to their coach, and say "what did I do?" with their body language. I call it "daaaaaad" (which is funny because Fran has two actual sons on the team). Garza, great as he is, is as "daaaaad" as any player in the Big Ten. Just look at his reaction to a foul call late in the Iowa/Minnesota game on Sunday. We all have that friend who lives for "oh my GOD, dude" appeals. Garza seemingly mutters "oh my GOD, dude" in his sleep. And that puts him on the list.

(Also, this will be a pretty good three-on-three team.)

Brad Davison

No one likes a cheap shot artist, especially near the jewels. And Davison loves to "accidentally" nut punch while running around screens. After multiple infractions for it, he was finally suspended for a game earlier this season. The best part about the whole thing is that he's the perfect Wisconsin basketball player. Go find some random Wisconsin fan on the street. While speaking to him, attach a remote mic to his coat. Ask him about Brad Davison and he'll tell you how there's no place for that in the game and that Bo would have never tolerated that. Then walk away and listen to what that fan says to his wife. Guarantee it's "I lied - I freaking love Brad Davison".

One more thing: re-reading this, I think this list proves the point. There's not much here that comes close to Bruce Pearl/Iowa hate in 1993, or Aaron Craft hate 10 years ago, or even "Chris Kingsbury better wipe that smug grin off his face". It's probably a function of us, you know, not going to the Tournament for the last seven years and more-or-less not mattering in the world of college basketball.

Thank God that's changing.


larue on February 21, 2020 @ 12:19 PM

Anybody associated with Iowa is worthy of hate, and always will be. Pearl and Davis are the main reason, but you also have to remember the conference forcing Illinois and Iowa to take several years off from playing each other in football back in the '50s due to an Iowa fan riot. They should suffer forever.

iluvrt on February 21, 2020 @ 01:25 PM

I will hate Bruce Pearl into his grave. He is scum as a person and as a BB coach. Liar, cheat, two-timer, clown, pathetic "who me" attitude, arrogant, and disgusting

lucasmeducas on February 21, 2020 @ 01:39 PM

What about Mark Smith as the Mizzou guy in this scenario? I mean doesn't a St Louis area kid who played his first season at the beloved and then bolted to the "arch" rival while dragging our current coach through the mud get a little hate thrown his way? Still you're right that the hate is lacking far more than it was 10-20 years ago. I mean I still root against Pearl & Sampson coached teams.

212Daniel on February 21, 2020 @ 02:43 PM

Re IA, Fran & Garza---it's an IA thing. They're all whiners. Last night, winning by 10, couple minutes to go the other IA big guy, Kriener, gets called for an obvious 5th foul. He's whining all the way & onto the bench. You'd have thought the ref kicked his dog.

I can think of a way to stop this--when IA plays at IL in a couple wks, the refs call 30 fouls on IA; 4 on IL. And all game long the refs tell Fran & his players that the refs are just "paying attention" as IA has been demanding. That's what I'd tell kids when I ref'ed & they were mouthing off. "sure; I was looking; you fouled again."

DB50 on February 22, 2020 @ 10:23 AM

If you want to know one of the reasons Iowa whines, listen to their announcing crew for basketball(Gary Dolphin & Bobby Hansen) & even football(again Dolphin & Ed Podolak). They have whining down to an art-form!

orangejulius on February 21, 2020 @ 06:16 PM

This is a great subject. Maybe Teske & Simpson from Michigan. We wanted Simpson and he played and ditched us. Teske's punchable face and that obnoxious arrow thing he does. Ayo's winning shot over Simpson was beyond satisfying, as was beating them twice.

Not on the same level as Fran, but another coach who I despise: Little P.

It would be fun to have a villain again like Lucas. I think Coleman Hawkins might shape up as a bit of a heel, based on his highlight tapes.

OrangeBlazer on February 21, 2020 @ 07:50 PM

Iowa, Missouri, and Indiana remain the triumvirate of hate for Illini hoops fans, but one only need look at which game sold out long before the others (Indiana) and the secondary ticket market (Indiana twice as much as Iowa) to realize who Illini fans hate the most.

ATOillini on February 21, 2020 @ 10:53 PM

The question itself was fantastic. The names mentioned therein made my blood boil. Was there ever ever another coach that went by Dr.? Anyone remember when Lou Henson called Knight a bully (uncanny in its accuracy)? Not his fault in any way, but Aaron Kraft is unquestionably the most overrated player in Big 10 history.

Good stuff.

Giovantischixstripz on February 22, 2020 @ 08:21 AM

The hate will ratchet up if we become consistently good again. When we have seniors who has been in big 10 championship battles for 3 or 4 years against the same coaches and players.

Some underclassmen options to watch the hate grow in coming years:

Iowa: Connor McCaffery, CJ Frederick, Joe Wieskamp

THey all have already torched us with 3s, are all whiny Iowa players, and all will probably stay 4 years. Bonus points to Connor for being coaches son.

Wisconsin: Public enemy #1 Brad Davison throughout the entire Big 10 only has one more year, best chance to replace him is Tyler Wahl. I want to note I think Wisconsin is very hateable because of their fans. Robert described it perfectly above. Not only do they love Brad Davison, they won't even admit he is dirty. "He's grabbing a leg, just a trick to get around a screen, he isn't deliberately swinging at their nuts, even though he's done this 10 times." Add on top of that their acceptance of racism and blaming a 20 year old for trying to destroy their program in the Kobe King situation, and it becomes even easier to hate them. I respected Bo Ryan a lot for being a very good coach, now they just seem like a caricature of his teams. All the goonishness, much less of the machine like execution.

Indiana: First they have to get good enough to deserve being hated again. Regardless, none of their underclassmen seem very hateable. Jackson-Davis might terrorize us for a game, but he most likely won't be there more than 2 years.

Tolkien73 on February 22, 2020 @ 02:10 PM

Has to be Missouri. Yes, we don't play them in football (at least for a while), but I am sick of Cuonzo already.

Hoppy on February 22, 2020 @ 06:16 PM

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. Will Ferrell could easily pull off Fran McCaffery. I would love to watch that sketch.

Cuonzo definitely needs to be added to the list after his whole “I turned down the Illini job” BS when we didn’t offer it.

That guy did everything in his power to try and jump start his garbage brand of basketball at our expense (poaching players, the comment above) and it still didn’t work.

I. Love. It.

Eagle on February 27, 2020 @ 09:46 AM

Some journalist should repeat the whole Bruce Pearl story in detail about every three to five years. I’d build it up and announce its coming, like an ESPN 30/30. Though Pearl is long gone, I’ll hate Iowa the most forever because of the huge impact it had on Illini basketball for decades.

Bear8287 on February 28, 2020 @ 02:12 AM

(plus all of the Idiots Out Walking Around stuff),

Huh. I thought it was Wandering Aimlessly.

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