Before the start of this season, the general consensus was that Jim Les was coaching to keep his job.
After many middling seasons in the Missouri Valley Conference, he hadn’t come close to recapturing the same mojo he’d given Bradley in the 2006 Sweet Sixteen run.
With a quick 4-0 start, including a win over a usually talented USC Trojans program, it seemed Les was going to take this team places.
Too bad it couldn’t end there for the Braves.
Since then Les and the Braves have gone into a tailspin. A loss in the finale of the Hall of Fame Tip-Off and losses to schools with directions in their names seemed to take all of the wind out of their sails before a matchup against a pretty good Duke team.
But in the end, all of that doesn’t have to matter. All that should is the Valley.
But instead of picking up the pace in the clutch, the Braves have become doormats. An 0-fer in conference play at the halfway point has left the Bradley without a solid squad for the first time in years.
With all of this in mind, Jim Les cannot be fired after this season.
It’s not fair to hold him accountable for this poor record if he’s playing without two of his cornerstones.
From the get-go, the Braves were down on their luck when Taylor Brown was given a medical red shirt this season. As their most gifted athlete and best rebounder, the Braves had a pair of shoes too big to fill on the doorstep of the season.
And after the Braves lost Sam Maniscalco to ankle surgery, the head had been cut off of the beast. Without Maniscalco’s leadership, the Braves were bound to struggle.
Should the Braves be this bad? Probably not. But remember, most of the players getting significant time now in the wake of these injuries are young players.
Jordan Prosser was forced into a starting role in his first season and Dyricus Simms-Edwards has been counted on to start rather than being first option of the bench.
After spending all summer preparing for this season, multiple monkey wrenches have been thrown in the scheme for Les and the Braves.
The 0-10 record in the Valley is not acceptable, and believe me, I don’t approve of that.
But to let Jim Les go after a season that never got off the ground because of injuries is not something I can get behind.
It’s not like the Braves haven’t exactly been getting blown out of these games.
Wednesday night against Illinois State, for example, was an absolute dog fight for Bradley. This team has shown a lot of fight for a team that hasn’t been able to get a win in conference.
If Bradley were to fire Les after this season, how attractive does that job look to other coaches? Who’s going to want to coach here if the previous coach was a local legend and had serious injury problems, but still got fired?
If Bradley wants to continue to make strides in the college basketball world, Les should be given a fair shake.
This isn’t professional sports where success should be demanded no matter what. There should be some level of grace for a coach with downtrodden luck.
To vilify him for a season riddled with monster speed bumps is not reasonable.