Regardless of their coach’s job security, the 2006-2007 season was going to be a difficult one for the Colorado Buffaloes.
Coming off a 2006 season in which they narrowly missed the NCAA tournament, the Buffaloes were going to have to use as many as eight freshmen in the rotation. Other than standout guard Richard Roby, the Buffaloes didn’t have much coming back scoring coming back. Colorado’s second-leading returning scorer, Marcus King-Stockton, averaged just 1.8 points per game last season.
But on Oct. 25, Colorado’s season took a bizarre twist. Coach Ricardo Patton, annoyed that he hadn’t been offered a contract extension, said he was resigning effective at the end of the season. Patton said he didn’t want his players to worry about saving his job instead of worrying about more important things.
“We have a large, outstanding freshman class and a talented team this year,” Patton said at the time. “Our players need to focus on adjusting to the rigor of academics at CU and the level of competition in the Big 12 without being distracted by speculation regarding my contract.”
Despite saying he resigned to help his team, Patton’s announcement wasn’t received well by his best player.
“I think we were all surprised, shocked, and confused,” Roby said in October. “It is kind of hurtful when your coach leaves, but it is a part of life. You have a lot of relationships; sometimes they don’t last, sometimes they do. But you have to move on.”
After having a solid sophomore season, many expected Roby to enter the 2006 NBA draft. Instead, he decided to stay at Colorado for one more season. And it wasn’t to improve his draft position, but to get one more year under Patton. Roby’s draft position probably hasn’t improved, as most of his main averages have either stayed the same or gotten worse this season. NBADraft.net does not project Roby to be selected this June, meaning he could possibly return for a senior season.
That large freshman class Patton references may be the only positive from this season. Despite, or maybe because, a probable 11th or 12th place finish, Colorado has been able to get its young players plenty of playing time.
One of them, freshman guard Xavier Silas, is averaging 12.1 points per game and has been a starter for most of the season. He will be one of the players the new Colorado coach will depend upon.
“That’s one of the things we wanted to do, is make sure we left the program in better shape than we found it,” Patton said. “The other coach will have a chance to plug in a couple of guys to go along with his deal. I think the program has got a bright future.”
The present state of the program, however, isn’t bright. After winning 20 games last season, Colorado (6-18, 2-12 Big 12) has a good chance to lose 20 this season. There have also been whispers of attitude problems on the team, with starters Roby, Silas and Kal Bay recently getting benched.
Colorado has also suffered some of the ugliest losses in the Big 12 this season. The Buffaloes lost by 29 points at home to Kansas and 24 to Texas. They have lost only one Big 12 road game by less than 10 points.
Still, Patton hopes his team can “make something” of the last part of the season.
“My goal is that they go out and compete,” Patton said.
At this point, that may be the only attainable goal left for this team.