I haven’t hung out with Marcus Smart or anything, but I’ve interviewed him more than a few times. And by all indications, he’s a solid citizen in the basketball world. When I hear famous national coaches like Syracuse’s Jim Boeheim and Michigan State’s Tom Izzo rave about the kid, I have to take their word for it. Oklahoma native Bill Self went on-and-on in his praise for Smart the player AND person after OSU shocked Self’s Jayhawks in Lawrence when Marcus was a true freshman.
So do we really know Marcus Smart at all?
I think we do – and I think I know a BUNCH of college kids who make mistakes and have to own-up to them. So I totally bought Smart’s sincere apology after the fan-shoving incident last Saturday night at Texas Tech. I even understood when OSU wouldn’t let the kid take questions following his statement saying he was sorry.
But the apology doesn’t dismiss the inexcusable.
Regardless of what the chubby fan said to him, Smart could NOT react the way he did. In reality, the Big 12 conference had nothing to go by when they decided on it’s punishment. And because of that, I think OSU is LUCKY the league only decided to suspend Smart for three games. The commissioner, Bob Bowlsby, is VERY image conscious and could’ve easily benched Marcus for the rest of the regular season. “See you at the Big 12 tournament” could’ve been the decree. After all, when is the last time ANY of us can remember a college kid going into the stands to physically confront a fan, in ANY sport?
Even though Jeff Orr insists he didn’t throw a racial slur Smart’s way, I don’t believe for one minute Orr only called Marcus “a piece of crap” either. To see the replay over-and-over (which I have, repeatedly), Smart was being helped up off the floor and looked like he was ready to head back onto the court when he whipped his head around quickly upon hearing something he didn’t like at all. And trust me, having been to games in Lubbock (especially football), calling an opposing player a “piece of crap” would be considered a compliment to a kid, compared to what’s usually free-flowing from the stands on that campus. There’s a reason former OSU stars Desmond Mason and John Lucas III vividly recall their games in Lubbock to this day – a decade or more after their college careers ended. Even Thunder star Kevin Durant, who only spent one season at Texas and played, what, once in Lubbock, remembers all the “crazy talk” he heard from the fans on that trip to West Texas.
But nothing, and I mean NOTHING, can excuse Smart’s reaction and now the All-America has hurt his team in the worst way possible. A team already woefully thin, in terms of able-bodied players, is down to the bare minimum. Michael Cobbins is gone due to injury, Stevie Clark is gone due to stupidity and now Smart is gone for three crucial games (at Texas, OU in Stillwater and at Baylor).
Without Marcus Smart, the Cowboys will now be in the pressure-cooker of needing to win almost *every* game after Smart’s return. And included in that run will be Kansas, Iowa State and Kansas State.
That REALLY “Smarts” without Marcus, and could mean the Pokes have fallen out of the saddle for good already, a “Final Four” contender now mired near the cellar of it’s own conference.