Left Wanting More: A Complicated Goodbye to Lavoy Allen

Left Wanting More: A Complicated Goodbye to Lavoy Allen

I'll be the first to admit that this is at least a day or two late. For practical reasons, I held off on writing a Temple-San Diego State recap until my emotions no longer clouded my judgment. A rant about what went wrong would have been just as unthoughtful as a gushing lovefest about "how hard those boys fought." Sometimes, it just takes a bit to put it all together, especially when you're discussing something as emotionally consuming as sport.

What you'll find below still isn't a recap. It's actually a lot more complicated. And, it is because it's complicated that I have devoted more than 140 characters to the topic's consideration.

Many, if not all of you, by now know that the Temple Owls were eliminated from the NCAA tournament on Saturday night following a double-overtime loss to the San Diego State Aztecs. During and following the game, Temple senior Lavoy Allen became and stayed a "trending topic" within the city of Philadelphia on Twitter. While some of the words were complimentary, many of them—the large majority, in fact—were not.

This isn't really about the reductive qualities of (at maximum) a 140-character box, because I think those limitations are pretty self-explanatory. Instead, this is about what happens when we confuse what we want with what we think we're owed.

Over the course of the 2010-11 season, I have consistently heard the following two phrases more than any others from Temple coach Fran Dunphy:

  1. Well, I appreciate the question...
  2. I've said it before, and I'll say it again: I don't know where this program would be without Lavoy Allen. 

With Lavoy's last game in a Temple jersey now played, we're somewhere around seven months from figuring out the latter. In the meantime, there are those observers who feel no need to wait. 

Because I lack both the desire and the know-how to find all those uncomplimentary tweets, I'll sum up their general message. "Lavoy Allen let Temple down on Saturday. He let his coach down. He let his teammates down. He let his fans down. Lavoy Allen is no leader. In a word, Lavoy Allen...is soft."

Line by line, tweets poured in ripping him for his 12-point, 11-rebound performance. And, while "soft" was the word most often used, you can search your imagination for synonymous expletives, because they were typed, too.

The question I had then, and still have now, is simple—"Why?"

Lavoy Allen has hid under no rock. He's played in a total of 135 games in his college career, giving you 135 chances to get to know him as a basketball player. While he has indeed improved every year, he has also retained some of the limitations he possessed when he came to campus as a freshman. This can hardly be considered an anomaly in college athletics. In truth, it can hardly be considered an anomaly in professional athletics.

Here's a fair question: have I ever criticized Lavoy Allen? Yes. I've done it on multiple occasions for multiple reasons. I encourage you to click the "Temple University" tag and start digging for evidence. I've wanted him to put on weight. I've questioned his rationale for shooting from range. I, like those people on Twitter, have wanted to see a killer instinct. I've spent 135 games over the course of four years looking at a 6'10 monster and wanting him to act the frigging part.

When Michael Eric was lost to a season ending knee-injury more than a month ago, I finally got that Lavoy Allen. I got a Lavoy Allen who finished his college career with seven straight double-doubles. I got a Lavoy Allen who treated opposing defenders like a joke, and offensive rebounders like a waste of time. I got a Lavoy Allen that asserted his will not just because he could, but because his team needed him. There has always been potential in Lavoy Allen, and there remains still more untapped.

And that's the real issue: we have been left wanting so much more.

We've watched watched Lavoy Allen. We know what talent that lies beneath his friendly and, yes, even passive exterior. And, it is because that talent has been there the whole time that we wanted it all the time. Now, we won't even get it some of the time.

From here on out, I'll stop using "we" and switch to just "me." When he was here, I wanted more from Lavoy Allen. I wanted him to be great. I wanted him to reach his potential. I wanted him to dominate. I wanted him to grip the basketball, take two massive steps and assault the rim like it owed him money. But, when I'm really honest about it, more than anything else, it's that I wanted to watch him do it. I wanted to see him become the player I wanted him to be, and I wanted him to become that player when and where I could see it. I think that goes for all of us.

Sports fans are selfish by nature. We want people we've never met to justify our arbitrary decision to support them on our own terms.

Though I don't know Lavoy Allen, I've see him around quite a bit. I've passed him on the street. I've shook his hand. I've wished him "good luck." I've told him he "had a good game." I've begged him to "beat the Hawk." Hell, I've even participated in a snowball fight with him. But I don't know Lavoy Allen. And he doesn't know me. A great many of you don't know him either. And, more than likely, he doesn't know you.

Still, by the time you're done reading, I will have devoted more than 1,000 words to him. And 48 hours before I embarked on this endeavor, enough of you devoted at least 140 characters to expressing opinions of your own. 

After 135 games spread out over four years, watching Lavoy Allen play basketball has taught me a lesson. We don't always get what we want, and we aren't owed it either. Lavoy Allen is the textbook definition of judging an athlete not for who he is, but for who we want him to be, and then confusing the two. We wanted him to be a killer; it was just never his style. Of course I wished for more both for and from Lavoy, but I feel damn privileged to have gotten what I received. I've seen four NCAA tournament appearances, three Atlantic 10 titles, two columns with double digits and one brand new all-time leading rebounder in my program's history. We just all fell into the trap of confusing who he was for what we wanted.

So, who was he? Lavoy Allen was one of the greatest Owls in a rich Temple history, and he could have been even better. Somewhere between his 1,421 points, 1,147 rebounds and 4,352 minutes played, that point got lost. I used to want more from him; now, I just want more of him. 

Maybe I didn't need 1,188 words to sum up how I feel about Lavoy Allen; because, now that it's over, I don't even need 140 characters—just 47 will do. "Thank you, Lavoy, and good luck. I'll miss you."

Stay or Go Part 8: Ryan Mathews to Steven Means

Stay or Go Part 8: Ryan Mathews to Steven Means

In the eighth of our 12-part offseason series examining the future of the Eagles, Reuben Frank and Dave Zangaro give their opinions on who will be and who won't be on the roster in 2017. We go alphabetically — Part 8 is Mathews to Means.

Ryan Mathews
Cap hit: $5M

Roob: The Eagles have to get better, younger, faster, healthier, more durable and more reliable at running back. I love the way Mathews runs when he’s healthy. The guy runs hard and he runs physical and he runs aggressive. Then he always gets hurt. Mathews actually has the third-highest per-carry average among running backs in Eagles history, but they just can’t rely on him anymore. How can you count on a running back who misses significant time every year? Time to move on. Factor in the cap savings — $4 million if the Eagles release him — and it’s a no-brainer.

Verdict: GOES

Dave: The Eagles can save $4 million in cap room to cut the running back who needed serious neck surgery after his season was ended in the Giants game. Mathews played pretty well in his two seasons with the Eagles, but, as has been the case during his career, health was an issue. And now he’s 29 and will turn 30 early into next season. Time to move on. 

Verdict: GOES

Jordan Matthews
Cap hit: $1.57M

Roob: Matthews is going into Year 4 and I’d still like to see him make a jump and become a 1,200-yard type of receiver. Maybe it will happen with another year under his belt with Carson Wentz. Matthews has the 11th-most catches in NFL history by a player in his first three seasons — 225, or 75 per year — but his 2,673 yards are 50th most. Matthews is as hard a worker and as committed a player as you’ll see. He'll get the most out of his ability. I’d just like to see him take his game up one more level, and I think he will.

Verdict: STAYS

Dave: It’s a shame the Eagles don’t have any legitimate threats at their outside receiver positions, because if they did, so much of the burden wouldn’t fall on Matthews. No, he’s not a great receiver, but he’s a very good one who has been solid in his first three years in the league. In his first three seasons, Matthews has 225 catches for 2,673 yards and 19 touchdowns. There have been just 10 receivers in the league to put up those numbers or better: Antonio Brown, Julio Jones, Demaryius Thomas, Odell Beckham Jr., DeAndre Hopkins, Emmanuel Sanders, Doug Baldwin, Mike Evans, Randall Cobb and Brandon Marshall. Matthews isn’t going anywhere and it’s time to think about an extension. 

Verdict: STAYS

Alex McCalister
Cap hit: $557K

Roob: McCalister, a seventh-round defensive end, spent the year on injured reserve but considering the Eagles’ lack of pass-rush potency, he’ll definitely get a look this summer. McCalister had 17½ sacks at Florida, so he’s got that going for him. Still a long shot.

Verdict: GOES

Dave: This is tough because McCalister was a seventh-round draft pick who was placed on IR with a injury that didn’t appear to be serious. The last year was a redshirt season for the defensive end who has some pass-rush ability but needed to work on packing more muscle onto his frame. Haven’t seen enough to think he sticks. 

Verdict: GOES

Leodis McKelvin
Cap hit: $3.45M

Roob: The Eagles have to do better than McKelvin. He made a few plays, gave up a lot more, and as far as I’m concerned, the Eagles should hang onto Jalen Mills and get rid of all their other corners. Not to mention the $3.2 million in cap savings the Eagles would gain if McKelvin is released. See ya.

Verdict: GOES

Dave: The Eagles can save $3.2 million by cutting McKelvin, which will probably happen. If it doesn’t, it’ll be because the Eagles think his lingering hamstring issue played a big role in his play and because defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz goes to bat for him. Ultimately, I think McKelvin’s days in Philly are over. 

Verdict: GOES

Rodney McLeod
Cap hit: $5.6M

Roob: McLeod played really well most of the season, tailed off the last few weeks, and goes into next year a question mark because of that inconsistency. When he’s right, McLeod is a sure tackler, willing run supporter, big hitter and capable in coverage. But those last few weeks raised some eyebrows. There were times you just wondered what he was doing out there. If the Eagles can have the first-10-games McLeod for a full season, they’re fine. But he has to be consistent. He’ll be here through 2017 but after that is anybody’s guess. Another mixed year will likely spell the end here for McLeod.

Verdict: STAYS

Dave: There were a few plays that showed questionable effort from McLeod this season, which was shocking based on his past. He was an undrafted rookie who worked his way into the league and into a contract with the Eagles. This ended up being a pretty good signing; he had a nice season. He’s under contract through 2020 and the Eagles hope he hasn’t yet fulfilled his potential. He and Malcolm Jenkins should only get better after more time playing together. 

Verdict: STAYS

Steven Means
Cap hit: $690K

Roob: Means, a veteran journeyman defensive end, played only 36 snaps all year. He did pick up one sack against the Vikings, but as far as his future? Most likely, he won’t be back.

Verdict: GOES

Dave: Means did everything in his power last training camp to make the 2016 roster. He flashed every day and in the preseason games. But in 2016, he didn’t get to play very much and was clearly buried on the depth chart behind Connor Barwin, Brandon Graham, Vinny Curry and Marcus Smith. The Eagles need to upgrade at the defensive end spot, which might be bad news for Means if more bodies come in. But for now, he's a good depth piece. 

Verdict: STAYS

Temple names Keith Gaither wide receivers coach

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USA Today inage

Temple names Keith Gaither wide receivers coach

Temple head coach Geoff Collins on Monday added two new members to his coaching staff.

Keith Gaither will take over as the wide receivers’ coach and Kyle Lane is the new video coordinator. 

Gaither comes to Temple with 21 years of coaching experience. He spent last season as Army's wide receivers coach. Prior to that, he spent time with Tusculum College (1998-99), Thomasville City Schools (2000-04), Winston-Salem State (2005-08), Elon (2009-10) and Ball State (2010-14).

Gaither spent his collegiate career at Elon, where he was a four-year starter and voted all-region at defensive end before graduating in 1997. Collins originally had retained Frisman Jackson from the 2016 staff, but Jackson was hired by the Tennessee Titans. 

Lane is a Temple alum who spent time with Kansas during the 2016 season as its assistant video coordinator.