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Has UTEP’s Gambling Controversy Doused Floyd’s Fire?

utep,tim floyd,college basketball,miners
Duke Keith

Brash and bold, mostly hot but sometimes cold, Tim Floyd has always been the coaching equivalent of a stand-your-ground law.

Ask Andy Enfield, Steve Alford or Mike Garrett if they ever once saw Floyd flinch when the nitty started to get gritty. When he tried to throw Floyd under the bus, ask former Miner Myron Strong if he didn’t turn to find his old coach already behind him at the curb with a hand on his back.

But then there was last Tuesday’s press conference and we watched UTEP head men’s basketball coach recite the date and time of day he’d gotten a tip that two of his players were gambling, watched him talk about going to the FBI and speaking to parents and guardians about their sons’ dismissals, watched him discuss the descent of a program that has been eaten away from without and within as what was supposed to be a champagne season has turned to vinegar in mere months.

Whatever you think of Floyd, watching was tough. And we saw a tinge of something different — something mournful — in his usual bulldog’s demeanor.

Self-pity? Mercy no. If that trait had ever existed in Floyd, it or he would have wilted under the fiery gaze of his surrogate father, Don Haskins, back when Floyd got his first graduate assistant’s job with UTEP’s irascible Bear.

Regret? There are many who will say Tim Floyd should have a few; that he is reaping what he has sown and that UTEP is his purgatory. Or worse.

Frankly, many of those people don’t know “Hell Paso” is his hometown. Enfield found that out when he assumed Floyd actually liked LA, though he probably did enjoy the recruiting.

Resignation? Much closer. Not the hands-in-the-air kind, more an acknowledgement of reality for a team with nine scholarship athletes that will have to play walk-ons to finish the season.

But Floyd’s resignation is tempered with something else, too: frustration from the stillbirth of expectation.

This really was supposed to be a special year. Until Isaac Hamilton. Until McKenzie Moore and Jalen Ragland and then Justin Crosgile.

Such is life when you make a living in part by convincing teenagers to roll the dice on you, and doing the same in turn.

There is frustration, too, from being in a place where recruiters have to punch above their weight to bring in the kind of players who can add pounds to the Miners’ profile.

Frankly, you could see the same thing in Haskins after 1992, his last run in the NCAA Tournament. He had the plan. He had the ability. He didn’t have the horses, nor the key to the stable. After a while, he didn’t have the health or patience, either.

Floyd doesn’t have his mentor’s health issues, but he does have something his old boss never had. A decent pile of money.

This is his fifth season coaching the Miners and there is no NCAA berth in sight. Four of his five predecessors had already scaled that mountain in their first four years, including Haskins. How much more will Floyd want to butt heads with UTEP’s hardscrabble athletic existence?

Something tells me we won’t find that out until Floyd dances at least once in March with the one that brung him back to college basketball.

In the meantime, Tim Floyd will stand his ground.

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