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How Blogs and Bagels Killed Coach L's Tweets


(2008 photo by Joel Richardson - TWP)


Having covered Jim Larranaga as a serious journalist for one basketball season, I know this much: the man doesn't speak in 140 characters. Ask him a question about, I don't know, a missed elbow jumper, and then lean back, grab a bottle of water and a bowl of pasta from Brion's Grille and hire yourself a stenographer.

Still, Coach L managed to do a pretty swell job Tweeting his way through this spring, posting nearly 800 times, attracting more than 1,500 followers, using appropriate slang like tmw and lol, and managing to be both interesting and unique. Heck, he even did a TV interview about Twitter.

But subtlety doesn't necessarily shine in 140 characters, and eventually what was fresh and sweet turned sour and moldy, after Larranaga gently tweaked an NCAA rule allowing him to provide his players with bagels but no cream cheese.

"There is nothing I like better than a dry bagel after a hard work out. LOL," he wrote earlier this month.

His offhanded remark wound up on Sports By Brooks and Deadspin, on NYTimes.com and as the inspiration for an entire column in the Las Vegas Review-Journal. And with school resuming and his basketball work ramping up, Larranaga decided he'd had about enough of Twitter. This is not a man who seeks out NCAA-related controversy, and it turns out he actually likes the bagel doctrine, as he explained on the Mike Wise Show last week.

"Tongue in cheek, I made a comment that has been blown out of proportion and used to fuel some other columns, and I didn't feel good about that...." Larranaga told Wise. "There's reasons for these rules, and I poked a little bit of fun, but it got out of hand. I said, 'Well, that kind of ends my twittering.' I'm too busy now to work with my own team to keep doing these things."

Thumbs down on that decision, Coach L. We all knew that you meant no dairy department harm with the cream cheese bit, and of the local coaches who went online this year, no one was doing it better.

Anyhow, as someone who wasn't entirely sure what he thought of Twitter, Larranaga abandoned the site in the perfect way: twice.

"As the Terminator said "I'll be back" but I just," he wrote.

"As the Terminator said "I'll be back" I just don't know when. Thanks for following. Coach L," he then posted.

Since he added a lot more context than the above, here are Larranaga's full remarks on the rise and fall of @MasonCoachL.

"Well, it was a decision to start twittering that was a suggestion by my staff," he said. "Eric Konkol and Chris Caputo, two of my assistants, were talking about it. And I was just coming off of hip replacement surgery, I was gonna be home for five weeks, and it seemed like a good way to kind of stay in touch with our fans. They explained to me, what it was and how it worked, and I really enjoyed it, I really got into it and I stayed with it for about four months: May, June, July and August.

"But as we reach the end of August now, we're getting ready to stat school, and the focus of my attention is gonna be on preparing our George Mason men's basketball team...for the season, and Twitter was taking a lot of my time. Believe it or not, I had to think about what I was writing. And then as it went on, I had a situation just about two weeks ago, where tongue in cheek I made a comment that has been blown out of proportion and used to fuel some other columns, and I didn't feel good about that.

"I did it basically for our fans, I made reference to an NCAA rule, kind of tongue in cheek. And it's actually gonna be a very good rule, it's gonna be a very good rule. Because basically what the NCAA said is kids need to be very very careful about their nutrition, the amount of time and effort they put into their sport and the number of calories that they put back into their system. So they made it possible for basketball programs, football programs, all athletic programs, to supply their players with fruit and nuts and bagels after a workout.

"And I just made the sarcastic comment--I'm from New York, I can't not be sarcastic once in a while--but it was tongue in cheek. I said, 'Oh I love having a bagel but no cream cheese,' because the rule did not include your ability to put cream cheese or butter on the bagel.

"You know, when I said that, I was really just being sarcastic, and I think the readers of my Twitter page probably got a chuckle out of that and moved on. Unfortunately, some news media people picked up on it to reinforce and fuel their article criticizing the NCAA, and that's the last thing I want to do. I think the NCAA has a very, very difficult job, and when people start criticizing them, they're focused on the wrong people.

"Because the NCAA makes the rule because of what someone else has done, it's kind of a reactionary thing. So, for example, college basketball coaches can make two phone calls a week to student athletes that they're recruiting, no more than two phone calls. Now someone might say, 'Why can't you call them whenever you want to?' And that's a viable question. But if you go back into the history of recruiting, the reason the rule was put into place was because there were coaches recruiting young men and calling them three, four times a day, hounding them, their parents, their friends, everybody they could get to.

"So there's reasons for these rules, and I poked a little bit of fun, but it got out of hand. I said, 'Well, that kind of ends my twittering.' I'm too busy now to work with my own team to keep doing these things."

By Dan Steinberg  |  August 31, 2009; 7:50 AM ET
Categories:  Atlantic 11 , College Basketball  
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