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Thursday, February 20, 2014

College Basketball and American Presidents

Monday, February 17, 2014 was Presidents Day.  Naturally, this got me thinking about what American Presidents would make up a successful college basketball program.  It takes more than just the guys on court to have a successful program, so this post is going to give you a breakdown of everything from athletic directors to coaches to boosters.

Head Coach:  A team made up entirely of Presidents of the United States would certainly not lack leaders on the floor, but someone needs to make the finals for the team.  Andrew Jackson would be the idea coach for this squad.  Jackson is a highly regarded tactician from his military days, and he proved himself as a recruiter when he convinced a group of French pirates to aid the Americans in the Battle of New Orleans during the War of 1812.

Point Guard:  The ideal point guard is a floor general who is capable of leading a team through adversity and yet willing to step out of the spotlight to facilitate the success of other players.  That makes George Washington the natural choice for this position.  Washington displayed grit and determination during the winter of 1778 at Valley Forge.  He showed creativity and the ability to attack when he crossed the Delaware to launch a surprise assault on Christmas night.  And he demonstrated unselfishness when he turned down the chance to be king and chose to serve only two terms as President.

Shooting Guard:  This position goes to Teddy Roosevelt, if for no other reason than the position has the word "shoot" in it.  No President loved to shoot more than TR.  Roosevelt was renowned for his hunting before, during and after his term in office.  At 5'10", Teddy might be a bit undersized for this position, but the fearlessness and grit he demonstrated by forming the Rough Riders and leading them in the Spanish American War will make up for his physical shortcomings.

Small Forward:  Small forward is the most versatile position in basketball today.  To be truly great at this position, a player needs to be able to handle the ball like a guard at times and dig in to play post defense at other times.  In other words, this position is a bit of a chameleon.  For that reason, Bill Clinton is the perfect choice at small forward.  President Clinton could be all things for all people.  He was equally comfortable eating barbecue at fundraisers as he was eating filet mignon at state dinners.  There are some legitimate concerns about Clinton's issues off the court, but with Washington setting the tone in the locker room, Clinton should thrive.

Power Forward:  There are five players on a basketball team, but only one basketball.  That means that some players will need to embrace a gritty role on the team.  This team needs a power forward who will hold his ground in the post and box out for rebounds.  That is why William Howard Taft secures this spot.  Taft is the biggest President the country has ever had.  Legend has it that Taft once got stuck in the White House bathtub.  If Taft can't be rooted out of the bath without the assistance of his aids, then there is no way an opponent will root him out of the paint when a rebound is up for grabs.

Lincoln assassination
Center:  Abraham Lincoln is the clear choice at center.  At 6'4", Lincoln is the tallest President our nation has ever had, and he has good physical strength from his rail splitting and wresting days as a young man in Illinois.  There are definitely questions about Abe's mobility and awareness since an amateur assassin was able to get a gun right up to his head without Abe ever moving a muscle to respond.  Overall, though, Lincoln is a space eater who will keep defenses honest.

LBJ laying down the law
Sixth Man:  It takes more than five guys to cut down the nets at the end of March Madness.  Every championship team needs a solid bench.  There is no better bench player than Lyndon B. Johnson.  Johnson proved he can come off the bench and contribute in tough spot when he took the oath of office in the hours after JFK's assassination.  Plus, Lyndon Johnson has a bit of a mean streak that will allow him to serve in the role of enforcer when necessary.

Team Manager:  Barack Obama's love of basketball is well-documented, but, as many of us found out the hard way, love of the game alone will not get you a roster spot on a college basketball team.  We have all gotten to see Obama's actual skills on the hard court.  He can only go left off the dribble and his jump shot kind of resembles that of a junior high girl.  Sure, it's a tough break for Barack that his game has gotten enough exposure to allow this sort of nit-picking, but ask anyone who comes back for an extra year of college instead of turning pro.  That's just how things go.

Harding hosting a golf event
Booster Club:  It's a dirty little secret that booster money drives the engine of major college sports.  Okay, it's really not much of a secret.  The main man in the President's college basketball boosters organization would be Warren G. Harding.  Sure, under Harding's leadership, the boosters would constantly court scandal, but Harding is a good time guy who will make make the booze and the cash flow at alumni events.

Athletic Director:  The guys that sit behind the desks are not as exciting as the guys on the court, but every winning program needs vision at the top.  John Adams is the kind of man that can put together a focused plan and implement it.  It's well-documented that he had the brains to write the Declaration of Independence but lacked the winning personality to galvanize others in the rebellion.  For this reason, he cannot be coach of this team, but his intellect will still be an asset to the program.  Also, Adams' Protestant sensibilities will help keep Harding's boosters in check.
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