The RTC Interview Series: One on One With Tom Brennan, Part II

Posted by rtmsf on June 30th, 2011

Rush The Court is back with another edition of One on One: An Interview Series, which we will bring you periodically throughout the year. If you have any specific interview requests or want us to interview you, shoot us an email at rushthecourt@yahoo.com.

Yesterday we brought you Part I of our One on One interview with the always-entertaining Tom BrennanIn addition to learning that integration helped knock him out of a starting spot at Georgia and that his athletic director at Yale all but pushed him out the door to Vermont, we re-discovered that the man simply loves to tell stories.  Whether it involves him telling his new boss that he’s already fulfilled all his career goals or thinking he had coaching all figured out at the tender age of 27, he had us riveted to each and every word.  Part II is only better.

Ed. Note: Brennan uses some colorful language during this interview, so if you’re sensitive to such things, you may want to skip past this one.

Rush the Court: Guys like us who study the sport knew you were pretty good in ’03 and ’04, but most of America, though, didn’t know about you guys until that ’05 season.  The ESPN program helped with that, but then of course the NCAA Tournament run built upon it.  You guys really caught lightning in a bottle in terms of national coverage, and with Taylor Coppenrath, TJ Sorrentine, and yourself, you all became national names almost overnight.  What was that like?

Tom Brennan: We were pretty.  We really were pretty.  I had this radio show every morning during morning drive-time.  It was like something out of a novel.  Sorrentine was the little street kid from Pawtucket [RI], you know, who was the leader and had his hat on sideways.  And Coppenrath was like Lil’ Abner; he was from a town of 200 people, and they loved him.  They loved him!  He never complained; he was really a treat.  And then I had three or four other guys that just really blended in.  I always say this — like, David Hehn — the first year we won [in 2003], we won at BU, and he made a jumper with about five seconds to go to win the game.  So now, it’s Vermont’s first championship, we win it on the road.  Everybody’s nuts, but then we had Coppenrath and Sorrentine.  You know, Sorrentine was out that year, and he’s coming back and he’d been the MVP.  And the year he was out, Coppenrath was the MVP.  So now I got these two studs, and they’re both really good, but I also have to manage all this sh– to make sure everybody is on the same page.  Like Hehn went from a superhero to A Chorus Line — he went back, “just let me guard the other team’s best player.”  But if any of those kids had ego problems, I think we could have blown up.  They were just so good about it, and everybody really was into the idea that we’re all better if we’re together, and we’re all better if we don’t care who gets the credit and that kind of stuff.  As cliched as it sounds, it really was the truth.  Coppenrath and Sorrentine were both ultimate teammates, and the other three guys were as well.  And we were tough!  We’d been around — all the same guys — for three years, then ESPN got interested.  ESPN The Magazine did a big story on us, and Sports Illustrated.  It was off the hook, and it’s such a little state and we’re the only Division I school, and people just went crazy about it.  Really, those guys were like the Beatles — they really were.

The Vermont Rock Stars Knowns as Brennan's Catamounts (Getty/J. McIsaac)

RTC:  So let me ask you about those three NCAA Tournaments.  In succession, you went up against Lute Olson, Jim Calhoun, Jim Boeheim and Tom Izzo.  [laughter]  There’s no break there, right?  What was that like?  Olson’s now retired — he coached until he was about 150, but these other guys continue to get it done even as they advance well into their coaching careers.  What is it about these coaches that makes them so successful?

TB:  I always said, “if God had another son, he would look like Lute Olson.”  It was remarkable what Calhoun did last year — he finished ninth in their league!  And it’s not like he’s going to rally them — he’s a bad-ass.  You know, he gets in those kids’ faces; he doesn’t take no for an answer.  I mean, he’s just ruthless, and yet, man, they did it.  They did it.  I was always impressed with that, and what happened was… it was funny.  I was so in awe of Lute Olson — it was just unbelievable, because, again, the guy was like a god to me — and I didn’t know him, but I just knew of him, and what he’d done and what he’d accomplished and how he looked and he was always so gracious.  And so I’m walking down, we’re getting ready to play them, and what happened was that his wife had died a while back, and then he ended up with this woman from Pennsylvania [Christine Olson] — I don’t even know how the hell it happened, but she was like a Republican leader, some big deal from Pennsylvania — and I read this thing where he was very happy.  That he’d met this woman and she’d really made him happy, so I didn’t think much of it, but when I was walking down to say hello to him, I was so nervous.  Honest to God, I wasn’t even nervous about the game, I was nervous about him!  Because I knew, they’re a #1, we’re a #16 — I mean, they had [Andre] Iguodala, they had all kinds of players on that team.  We had been stuck in the snow, we didn’t get to Salt Lake until 1:30 in the morning, and we played at 11.  It was crazy.  It was just crazy.  Our kids were like, “f—, look where we are.”  And that’s the thing, by the time the second year came around [against UConn in 2004], we really weren’t that shook, and by the time the third year came around [against Syracuse in 2005], we knew that we could win.  We really knew we were good enough.  So, anyway, I go up to Lute Olson, and he said, “Coach, how are you?”  And I said, “Coach, I just wanna say that I’m just so happy that you’ve found peace in your personal life.”  I’m thinking to myself, “what the f— are you saying?!?!”  I’m hearing these words come out, and I’m thinking, “you a–hole!”  I didn’t even know what to say to him; I was so awestruck, honest to God.  So he said, “well, thank you.”  And I just turned and ran like a rabbit, and thought “jeezus… good first impression, there.”  But you know what, when I retired, he wrote me the nicest letter.  He wrote me a beautiful letter, and so it was nice.  But you know, we never had a chance.  [Vermont lost 80-51.]  I have a picture on my cell and we were up, like 7-6, got it blown up and put it on my wall.  But then, and this is a cute story too.  We got stuck in the snow, and I went on [Tony] Kornheiser’s show, PTI or whatever it was — I guess it was his radio show at the time — and I said, “you know, this is ridiculous.”  I said, “they make billions of dollars on this thing, and they can’t get us from Denver to Salt Lake City?  If you think this was Duke in this hotel, we’d still be here.”  I wasn’t even finished, and the AD knocked on the door: “hey, yo, that’s enough about that.”  [laughter]  So that was enough about that.  So then anyway, but what happened was, we did get tapped out, and to take us home, the NCAA felt so bad and I guess my rant had a little bit to do with it, they sent us a plane that [Bruce] Springsteen uses, the Rolling Stones use, and you couldn’t even tell it was a plane.  So now, my wife and I are standing at the back, and the captain comes down, and he says, “are you the coach?”  I said, “yes, sir.  I’m the coach.”  He said, “well, you come with me, I’m going to take you to Mick Jagger’s suite.”  So I turned to Lynn [Brennan, his wife], I said, “hey, you gotta turn into a Brazilian model by the time we get to the top of the stairs.”  [laughter]  It was wild.  But it was a great experience; it was a great experience for our kids.  And I knew that we had a chance to keep going, that we had this group that was good.  So then the next year we played UConn, played them tougher than anybody as I recall, on their march to the championship.  [Vermont lost 70-53.]  I think they beat us less than anybody else, and then the next year we got Syracuse.     

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Morning Five: 06.30.11 Edition

Posted by jstevrtc on June 30th, 2011

  1. Ohio State welcomed home one of its own yesterday by hiring Chris Jent as an assistant coach. Jent has been an assistant for the Cleveland Cavaliers for the last couple of years and even served as a personal shooting coach for some guy who took his talents to South Beach last year. Jent was a solid swingman for the Buckeyes from 1988-92, and, if anyone had actually kept a crowd-dives or floorburns stat, Jent would have been on top with no real challengers. Good to have him back in the college game.
  2. Remember Chuck Culpepper? He’s written for Newsday, the Lexington Herald-Leader, the Los Angeles Times, he wrote a book about how he discovered and came to love English soccer, and now he writes for The National — not the former daily sports newspaper from 1990-91, or the utterly freaking phenomenal rock band from Cincinnati/New York, but an English-language paper published in the United Arab Emirates. In yesterday’s edition, he had a go at explaining John Calipari’s new $36.5 million deal to his readers in Abu Dhabi. It’s fun reading how he tries to explain to folks in the UAE that, yes, this does happen at the college level, and it does happen in Kentucky.
  3. Nice writeup here by Steve Walentik of the Columbia (MO) Daily Tribune about the recent group of coaches who turned down big names and big bucks to stay at their smaller programs, and how athletic directors are having (and will continue to have) a tougher time convincing these guys to stick around, what with the offered salaries getting ever larger, conferences that have TV networks attached to them, etc. We love that gentlemen like Brad Stevens, Chris Mack, Shaka Smart, et al, stayed at their respective current locales, but let us say now that if/when they leave for so-called “bigger” jobs, how unfair it would be to say they left just for the money. One of the things that makes great athletes and coaches great is their competetive drive, and if any of those fellows decides someday to move to a Big Six conference position, it will be for that reason more than it will be for the cash.
  4. We’ve loved seeing all the articles and tributes to Lorenzo Charles. It’s hard to go wrong with something like that, you know…paying respects to an obviously widely-beloved man who happens to be responsible for the most famous highlight in the history of our game, especially when he leaves us at such a young age. On Tuesday night, a Greensboro television station brought in former Terp Keith Gatlin to talk a little about Charles, since the two were friends and played together for the CBA’s Quad City Thunder. Gatlin offered a few quick comments, which were nice, and left us wanting more. Then, oddly, Gatlin (who at this point had to be thinking, “Someone please tell me why we’re doing this…”) and the anchor running the segment attempt an ill-conceived recreation of Charles’ iconic highlight. You can see how it went (video in that link). Bizarre.
  5. Is the knee-jerk impulse of players to transfer from one school to another a reflection of a problem within the current generation of kids? Evidently, Arizona State’s Herb Sendek and a fellow named Buddy Hobart (who helped Sendek write his book) think so. Sendek/Hobart describe Generation Y — of which today’s student-athletes are all members — as a group “not willing to pay their dues” and “impatient” because they feel today’s players would rather cut and run from an unpleasant situation than stick it out and see what happens. Um…don’t coaches do the same thing all the time? Sendek admits this, at least, but the author of the article conveniently forgets that point. It’s remarkable how every generation always bemoans the one that follows as unquestionably inferior in every way, the sentiment itself a mere rite of passage.
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The RTC Interview Series: One on One With Tom Brennan, Part I

Posted by rtmsf on June 29th, 2011

Rush The Court is back with another edition of One on One: An Interview Series, which we will bring you periodically throughout the year. If you have any specific interview requests or want us to interview you, shoot us an email at rushthecourt@yahoo.com.

You know him from his gregarious, affable demeanor as a studio host on ESPN as well as an on-air radio analyst for Sirius and Westwood One, but there’s a lot more to former Vermont head coach and media personality Tom Brennan than a friendly quip and a quick smile.  The personable transplanted Vermonter who has a Ben & Jerry’s ice cream named after him coached the game for thirty-five years, taking him from Georgia to Fairleigh Dickinson, Villanova, Seton Hall and William & Mary as an assistant, before elevating to the top position at Yale, then the Universitas Viridis Montis (UVM).  In talking to Brennan, you get a sense that he’s not only a guy you’d want to play ball for, but the kind of person you’d also ask to be the best man in your wedding.  He’s got so many stories, anecdotes and ironic twists from a lifetime of achievement that we decided to break up the interview into two parts.  In today’s Part I, we’ll track Brennan from his early days as a player in the segregated South to his crowning achievement as a three-time champion of the America East Conference at Vermont.  Tomorrow we’ll move into the broadcasting career he never thought he’d have, and talk about how likely it is that one of the neatest guys we’ve come across in this sport ever gets back onto the sidelines.

Ed. Note: Brennan uses some colorful language during this interview, so if you’re sensitive to such things, you may want to skip past this one.

Tom Brennan is as Entertaining as They Come

Rush the Court: Let’s talk a little bit about your career arc.  You’re an east coast guy who grew up in New Jersey.  How did you end up down  in the South in Athens, Georgia, in the early 70s playing ball — what was that like?

Tom Brennan: Segregation.  I can answer you in one word.  Segregation.  Seriously.  I loved going to Georgia, I loved every minute of it.  We had a coach [Ken Rosemond] from North Carolina who was on the ’57 championship team, and he was an assistant — he and Dean Smith were Frank McGuire’s two assistants.  Dean Smith got the Carolina job, and my guy got the Georgia job, and he really felt much like McGuire, that he wanted to get players from the North.  He felt the competition was better and that basketball was more important up this way.  But really, I’m not naive, there’s no way if it was ten years later that I think I would have been recruited to Georgia.  I think I was a Division I player, I mean I played in the SEC, and I would have gone somewhere and I could have gone a lot of other places besides Georgia, but honestly as I look back on it now, had integration been in play, I probably would have gone somewhere in the East.  I loved when I visited there.  He saw me in some all-star game, and I happened to have a good game, and so I just went down to visit and I really liked it.  He was going to get it going, and they had the same building [Stegeman Coliseum], honest to God, in 1967 that they have now.  They still play in it; they’ve upgraded it.  But back then it was like off the hook, it was like from Mars.  We had a lot of northern guys, and I just loved going to school there, made a lot of great friends.  Matter of fact, I just got off the phone with somebody I’m going to go spend some time in Maine with, who was our manager during my time there.  You know, I was the oldest of seven kids and I kinda wanted to get away.  I thought it would be like an adventure, and it kinda turned out to be that way.  I just think, and I don’t say it as a wise guy, I just think if it had been 1977 [rather than 1967], it would have been a lot different.

RTC:  It’s a beautiful campus — the Georgia campus — and I’ve been to the arena you’re talking about.  I’m just wondering, Vandy was one of the first schools in the SEC to integrate in the late 60swere there any other schools at that point that were integrated or was it pretty much still all white?

TB:  It was pretty much all white.  Perry Wallace [the first black SEC basketball player] was it for Vandy, and he was a stud.  He was a really good player, and I mean, you had to be a special guy to do it.  I don’t think there’s any doubt about that.  And then when I got there, the first African-American came to Georgia.  His name was Ronnie Hogue, and it’s a cute story because when I was a senior, he was a sophomore, and I was starting the first couple of games.  And he replaced me and got 43!  [laughter] [Don't tell Coach B, but Hogue actually scored 46 points!]  And so I became a contributor!  And you know what too is interesting, at that time, my brother who is now a PhD psychologist, was in Vietnam, and we had integrated at Georgia and we had the first African-American player, and I wasn’t even in tune to anything.  I’m thinking now as I look back on Vietnam, I should have written my brother a letter every day.  Every single day.  I just didn’t even think about it.  It was kind of the same way with Hogue.  He was just a good guy, a really good guy, and being from New Jersey, I’m thinking, what is taking so long [with respect to integration]?  How is this even an issue?  When are these people gonna figure out that we all are created equal and if a guy’s good enough to play, it shouldn’t matter what he looks like or what his background is.  I never really took it seriously.  And then I read a book about all the athletes that were the first to integrate, and Ronnie had some interesting comments in there, and there were things that I didn’t think about, but I wasn’t black.  I’m thinking, sh–, I never even thought about that, I never even thought to say to him, are you doing ok?  I was just trying to beat the guy out!  And he was a good kid, it wasn’t like he was a pain in the ass at all.  It wasn’t real prejudice, but he was just a player, and I was a player, and we tried to treat him as well as we could.  It was such a historic thing but I didn’t know it.  I didn’t have any kind of frame of reference about that at all.  It was neat being a part of that.  I’m proud of being a part of the first integrated team at the University of Georgia.  I’m not sure if they had a football guy yet — I think maybe they did.  I’m not 100% sure about that, but I know Ronnie was the first black basketball player. [Georgia had five black football players enroll in the fall of 1971.]  You know, we were boys and we hung out.  The thing is that there was a big black community in Athens, and it wasn’t socially mixed so much, but there was a lot of places he could go and there was a lot of people he could see, and he was really obviously a hero to all those people and I certainly understand that.

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Around The Blogosphere: June 29, 2011

Posted by nvr1983 on June 29th, 2011

If you are interested in participating in our ATB2 feature, send in your submissions to rushthecourt@gmail.com. We will add to this post throughout the day as the submissions come in so keep on sending them.

General News

  • Austin Hatch Makes Progress, Continues to Fight: An update on the health of the Michigan commit following the recent airplane crash. (UM Hoops)
  • Calipari’s Buyout Helps Retain Him At UK: “John Calipari’s new contract extension already serves as a sign of a long-term marriage between himself and the school, but there’s a little provision that might have been overlooked earlier that might strengthen that. Calipari’s buyout is set at $1 million for each of the next three years, higher than what was included in the original deal. Under the previous agreement, Calipari had a $1 million buyout after this season, $500,000 after 2013 and no buyout in 2014.” (Kentucky Sports Radio)
  • New assistant hoops coach has family ties to Arizona: A look at the background of newly-hired basketball assistant Joe Pasternack. (Arizona Desert Swarm)
  • FIBA Americas Cup 2011 — USA Beats Argentina Twice in 72 Hours, Takes Gold: Led by a group of talented high schoolers the US dominated the competition en route to the gold. (Villanova by the Numbers)

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Morning Five: 06.29.11 Edition

Posted by jstevrtc on June 29th, 2011

  1. There’s been understandably little information coming out of Traverse City, Michigan, about the condition of Austin Hatch since the decision was made on Sunday to attempt to bring him out of the medically-induced coma. We’re hoping, as the saying goes, that no news is good news. For this situation, the NCAA has elected to ease the restrictions regarding communication between schools/coaches and recruits so that the University of Michigan (where Hatch verballed about two weeks ago) may offer whatever support they can for the young man. Around here, we’ve been occasionally critical of the NCAA where we felt it was warranted, but we also try to point out when they do something of which we approve. As far as this decision is concerned, please hold while we stand on our chairs and applaud.
  2. We wondered when this would start happening. There is a pretty prolific long-range bomber who currently finds himself free after a two-year hitch at a Big Six conference program. He’s currently considering new schools. His first visit? Butler. Listen, there are a lot of big-time, blue-chip schools who would love to have this man’s shooting ability as part of their arsenal. He knows that. Still, he’s checking out Butler. And not a single person should be surprised. With the recent success and the family atmosphere Brad Stevens brought to that program, we’ll wager that this won’t be the last time you hear of a top-tier transfer putting Butler on his list of possible landing sites right up there with the more traditional powers.
  3. So, fans of which sport are the most digitally connected of them all? Would we ask that question here if the answer wasn’t college basketball? According to a recent study, college hoopheads dominate use of social media. That doesn’t surprise us terribly, but some of the numbers in the study do — specifically, the comparison of percentages of sports fans who use Twitter vs Facebook, and the chances of a fan buying something of a certain brand if an athlete mentions it on either of those two social networking vehicles.
  4. Larry Drew II is still taking punches. Roy Williams recently spoke to the Asheville Citizen-Times about how he was looking forward to next year’s championship-caliber North Carolina team and a little bit about last season’s Elite Eight squad. Commenting on the calmer atmosphere of the program now compared to last season, Williams said, “I don’t forsee having to dismiss anyone from the team, so that’s more pleasant…I don’t forsee having to watch anyone leave at midseason. That’s more pleasant.” That’s obviously a reference to Drew II in there; John Henson was only slightly less diplomatic, adding, “I hate to say this, but when Larry left we pulled together and became more of a unit.”
  5. Like sports fans everywhere, we’re still saddened and in shock about the way, WAY-too-early loss of Lorenzo Charles. It’s not because he was a basketball player and he hit the most iconic shot in the history of the Tournament. That would imply that his life was reducible to just a few seconds, and we guarantee that he was much more than that to his family and friends. As long as we remind ourselves of that, though, it seems OK to remember that moment in Albuquerque as a symbol of the man rather than something that summarizes him wholly. SI.com’s Joe Posnanski wrote about what Charles’ dunk meant to him, and it’s one of the best things we’ve read in some time. As soon as you finish here, do yourself a favor and click on this link to read it yourself. [Ed. Note: I read the whole story twice; I read the paragraph that begins "Outside our apartment window..." at least six times. Fantastic.]
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Morning Five: 06.28.11 Edition

Posted by jstevrtc on June 28th, 2011

  1. Coaches whose teams participated in the First Four in Dayton last March were repeatedly asked if they felt like they were part of “the real NCAA Tournament.” Our favorite answer came from VCU’s Shaka Smart, who noted that the backdrop behind him in the interview area was bedecked with NCAA logos and there was a big one in the middle of the court. Then his team went out and obliterated any future need for anyone to ask that question. We enjoyed the First Four — not just for the games, but because we also got to meet USC’s Song Girls (thank you, God), say hello to Kyle Whelliston and Bally, and groove with the bands from VCU (“You don’t wanna go to waaaaaar!…”) and Alabama State, the latter of which absolutely brought the house down and should have sold CDs at the door. Dayton has earned the right to keep this event. It belongs there. For the next couple of years, at least, it looks like the NCAA agrees. Don’t start no stuff, won’t be no stuff.
  2. What would you say to making just a shade over $5.4 million for each of the next eight years? Counting endorsements and incentives, that’s what Kentucky will be direct-depositing, on average, into John Calipari’s bank account from now until 2019 after a little re-working and extending of his contract. The Lexington Herald-Leader’s John Clay points out that, despite the big dollar amounts and talk of seasons in the distant future, all of this isn’t as meaningful as it sounds, since (like most big-time coaches) Calipari can leave any time he wants with little to no penalty. And we agree with Mr. Clay’s assertion that if Calipari leaves for the NBA someday, it will be for one reason and one reason only, and it has nothing to do with money.
  3. It’s been a tough couple of years for former Oklahoma State head coach Sean Sutton, to say the least, but now he’s officially back into coaching. Sutton has fought a lengthy battle with an addiction to prescription painkillers and was arrested in February of 2010 for attempted possession of controlled substances after leaving a rehab program. His brother Scott, the head coach at Oral Roberts, brought Sean aboard as an unpaid advisor last season, but obviously those volunteering days are over with Sean’s promotion to lead assistant. We hope it’s safe to assume that his ascent at ORU indicates that he’s doing well and staying clean. Glad to hear it.
  4. This Ed O’Bannon “likenesses lawsuit” still has a little life, yet, though it’s not clear how much. Yesterday, a cease-and-desist letter was sent by O’Bannon’s attorney (who also represents other previous athletes who’ve joined up) to ESPN, CBS, and other major media entities alerting them to the fact that they have no right to use the names, images, or likenesses of former college athletes without asking. Like any threat, a cease-and-desist letter is only as powerful as the punishment that could follow if the recipient doesn’t comply, which in this case is…well, nothing, right now. But if someone with power decides in the future that these guys have a point and the law then changes, O’Bannon’s representatives can now at least say, “Yeah, you were warned.”
  5. You may have heard that Jeff Goodman is now the FNG over in CBS Sports’ college basketball wing, which means that 1) he’s getting hazed like a freshman pledge by Seth Davis and Gary Parrish, and 2) Parrish got the first pick in the mock draft for 2012 that the two gentlemen posted yesterday. Seniority and all that, you know. Interesting picks and enjoyable comments reside therein, especially for a couple of rabid fanbases whose schools — we’re not going to tell you who they are, but they’re more loaded than Christina Hendricks — produced six of the first ten picks in the thing.
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R.I.P. Lorenzo Charles (1963-2011)

Posted by nvr1983 on June 27th, 2011

We are sad to report news out of Raleigh, North Carolina, where former North Carolina State star and 1983 NCAA Tournament hero Lorenzo Charles apparently died in a bus accident at 5 PM today. Charles is best known for his last-second dunk off an errant shot by Dereck Whittenburg to beat Houston‘s famed Phi Slama Jamma team that featured eventual NBA Hall of Famers Hakeem Olajuwon and Clyde Drexler. That North Carolina State team, a #6 seed–the second lowest seeded team to ever win the title–was known as the “Cardiac Pack” for its tendency to win close games late in the year (winning seven of its last nine games after trailing in the last minute), but none of those wins approached the theatrics of the championship night. Set in “The Pit” at New Mexico, the last university venue to host a championship game, the follow-up dunk by Charles ignited a raucous celebration that was highlighted by a stunned Houston team wandering around the floor and an ecstatic Jim Valvano running around the court looking for someone to hug. [Ed. Note: Please click through video to see the highlights on YouTube due to the NCAA disabling embedding.]

Both the dunk and the surreal celebration with Valvano running around like a madman rank up there with the greatest moments in sports history and have become a staple of every NCAA Tournament highlight package. Charles was selected by the Atlanta Hawks as the 41st pick in the 1985 NBA Draft and although he never achieved anywhere near the same notoriety at any other point in his career, he will forever be a part of college basketball lore as the only player to win an NCAA Championship with a shot at the buzzer. Details remain limited at this time, but we will update you as more become available.

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NBA Draft Thoughts From a College Perspective

Posted by rtmsf on June 27th, 2011

The NBA Draft has come and gone with one of the most boring evenings in its televised history.  Maybe it was the arena setting, maybe it was the lack of marquee names, maybe it was the fact that none of the draftees wore anything particularly ridiculous, but the league’s capstone summer event was so uninspiring that even Bill Simmons’ usually-hilarious draft diary felt trite and mailed in.  Still, the draft represents to every major college basketball player the culmination of a lifelong dream to hear one’s name called by David Stern, and it’s worth a quick reflection on how things went last Thursday for many of the players we’ve been watching and tracking for years.

The 1-and-Dones Did Well in This Year's Draft (AP)

The 1-and-Dones.  Generally speaking, the NBA Draft went well for the seven 1-and-done players who declared after their freshman season.  Excluding Enes Kanter, who never played a minute at Kentucky, from the discussion, six of the seven players who left school after one season were drafted, and five of those went in the first round.  Duke’s Kyrie Irving, Texas’ Tristan Thompson and Cory Joseph, Kentucky’s Brandon Knight, and Tennessee’s Tobias Harris were chosen in the first thirty selections, while Kansas’ Josh Selby was taken in the next thirty picks.  The lone holdout was Illinois’ Jereme Richmond, a player who clearly had a much higher opinion of himself than did NBA general managers (although if you listen to his uncle, delusions of grandeur may extend beyond Richmond to his extended family).  Whether any of the others are “ready” for the NBA is an irrelevant notion in this day and age, but seeing Thompson jumping up to the #4 selection despite not being able to shoot the ball, and Joseph going at #29 despite averaging only 10.4 PPG as a “scorer” has us raising our eyebrows. 

Sneaking Into the First Round... Not Exactly.  We heard time and time again in April that the impetus behind numerous marginal players deciding to enter the NBA Draft this year was because players like Harrison Barnes, Jared Sullinger, Perry Jones and Terrence Jones were not coming out.  The logic was that their staying in school opened up more first round spots for lesser talents, a statement certainly true in theory but in no way a sane justification for a dozen additional players to declare for the draft.  Four doesn’t equal twelve the last time we checked.  Interestingly, three of the four beneficiaries to earn guaranteed first round money were college seniors: Purdue’s JaJuan Johnson, Cleveland State’s Norris Cole, and Marquette’s Jimmy Butler (Texas freshman Cory Joseph was the fourth player to benefit).  As for the players who came out early in an attempt to sneak into the first round of this year’s weaker draft, it didn’t really work out for them.  We’re looking at second rounders like Shelvin Mack (Butler), Jordan Williams (Maryland), Trey Thompkins (Georgia), Darius Morris (Michigan), Malcolm Lee (UCLA), Travis Leslie (Georgia), DeAndre Liggins (Kentucky), and Isaiah Thomas (Washington), as well as undrafted guys like Scotty Hopson (Tennessee), Jeremy Green (Stanford), Terrence Jennings (Louisville), Greg Smith (Fresno State) and Carleton Scott (Notre Dame).  What’s going to be awesome is in future years when underclassmen have roughly two weeks to gauge their draft prospects before having to commit to the draft or heading back to school — we’re sure this will result in nothing but great decisions.

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We’re With You, Austin Hatch

Posted by jstevrtc on June 27th, 2011

At some point today, in the attempt to bring him out of a medically-induced coma, doctors will reduce the sedating medicine that they’ve been giving Austin Hatch since Friday. Hatch, a rising junior at Fort Wayne, Indiana’s Canterbury High, committed a couple of weeks ago to play basketball for Michigan starting in the fall of 2013. He suffered a punctured lung, swelling and bruising of his brain, and fractures in his skull, ribs, and collar bone when the single-engine plane piloted by his father went down on Friday near Charlevoix, Michigan. Hatch’s father and stepmother were killed in the crash. Hatch has been kept in the coma by his physicians at a hospital in Traverse City, Michigan since the incident.

Medically induced comas are (unfortunately) frequently used by doctors for several reasons, but the overall philosophy is that the coma gives critically ill patients time to rest and regain strength, and gain full benefit from the care given by the physicians and nurses. When the caretakers think a critical patient is ready, they reduce or remove the medicine that’s keeping the patient asleep, and then see how they do as they wake up. Obviously we don’t know the specifics of Hatch’s case, but depending on the medicine used for sedation, it doesn’t take long to figure out how a patient in this situation is going to do; we’re talking a few minutes up to a few hours. Even so, because of the understandable measure of caution that comes with reporting news of this nature, we wouldn’t expect an update of Hatch’s condition to be made public until the next day at the earliest. As soon as we see reliable accounts become available, we’ll have something up here or we’ll put something out over Twitter.

It hardly seems believable, but if Hatch does well off of sedation, there is another matter: remember, this is his second plane crash. He lost his mother and two siblings in a crash in 2003. Friday’s crash cost him his father and his stepmother. He doesn’t know it yet. Not only does he have to fight for his life today, but if he succeeds, he’ll have to be told about what happened to the rest of his family. It’s unspeakable.

Austin, we’re all praying things work out for you today, and that you’ll find at least some comfort in all the teammates, coaches, classmates and friends who have traveled to the hospital to be with you as you recover. The entirety of the college basketball world is behind you.

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Morning Five: 06.27.11 Edition

Posted by jstevrtc on June 27th, 2011

  1. Evidently former Texas star Jordan Hamilton feels he should have gone higher than 26th in Thursday’s NBA Draft, and he thinks his former coach may have had something to do with that. After the draft, a writer asked Hamilton how he felt about going lower than he’d been projected. Hamilton tweeted the writer back, saying that “(Coach Rick Barnes) called some teams and said that I probably wasn’t coachable and things like that.” Whether it’s true or not, it’s likely not the first time that such critiques have reached Hamilton’s ears; that opinion was put forth often enough last season by journalists, bloggers, and certainly UT fans. What’s important now is that Hamilton take advantage of this new beginning and make it so nobody can grade him in that fashion ever again.
  2. Hamilton’s complaint will fall on deaf ears, if those ears belong to former Notre Dame star Ben Hansbrough. The reigning Big East Player of the Year went undrafted on Thursday and has signed to play professionally in Germany for a year. Interesting move, and quite shrewd. You’d think an undrafted player who still harbored realistic NBA dreams would want to stay as near to the league as possible, and would hang around the D-league or at least play summer ball here. With an NBA lockout looming and the summer league cancelled, a quick jaunt to Europe for a year to get paid while keeping the skills sharp — and hey, we hear the beer’s good — seems a smart play.
  3. First it was the Celtics and Lakers, and maybe more recently…the Timberwolves? It looks like the Minnesota franchise may — or may not — have contacted Mike Krzyzewski about filling their recently-vacated head coaching spot. He’s not going. You know you’re a legend when people report that it’s possible someone contacted you about another job and you’re not taking it and nothing’s changing. Watch this space, because a little later we’ll have an update on the condition of former Spanish dictator Generalissimo Francisco Franco.
  4. Meteorologically speaking, it was a strange spring in the midwest; there was an extended winter followed by a much bigger-than-usual onslaught of tornadoes followed by a heat wave followed by more unrelenting rain. Gene Keady Court inside Purdue’s Mackey Arena has felt the effects, and in fact has been rendered unfit for use. All is not lost, however, as MSNBC’s Mike Miller points out.
  5. Yesterday would have been the 10th birthday of Emma Key, the daughter of Houston Baptist assistant coach Steven Key. Today is the birthday of Steven’s wife/Emma’s mom, Sherry. A couple of months ago, SI.com’s Andy Glockner wrote a story about Emma’s death and the effect — God, what an insufficient word — it had on not just the Key family but the HBU program, as well. We saw the author’s tweet from Sunday about Emma’s birthday, and that he included the link to Coach Key’s Twitter account, so we hope it’s OK that we choose to re-link Mr. Glockner’s story here today. If you didn’t read it back in May, please do so, right now.
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RTC Mock Draft: Final Edition

Posted by zhayes9 on June 23rd, 2011

1) Cleveland Cavaliers- Kyrie Irving, PG, Duke

2) Minnesota Timberwolves- Derrick Williams, PF, Arizona

3) Utah Jazz- Enes Kanter, C, Turkey

4) Cleveland Cavaliers- Jonas Valanciunas, C, Lithuania

5) Toronto Raptors- Brandon Knight, PG, Kentucky

6) Washington Wizards- Jan Vesely, PF, Czech Republic

7) Charlotte Bobcats- Bismack Biyombo, PF, Congo

8) Detroit Pistons- Tristan Thompson, PF, Texas

9) Charlotte Bobcats- Chris Singleton, SF, Florida State

10) Sacramento Kings- Jimmer Fredette, PG, BYU

11) Golden State Warriors- Klay Thompson, SG, Washington State

12) Utah Jazz- Kemba Walker, PG, Connecticut

13) Phoenix Suns- Marcus Morris, SF, Kansas

14) Houston Rockets- Kawhi Leonard, SF, San Diego State

15) Indiana Pacers- Markieff Morris, PF, Kansas

16) Philadelphia Sixers- Nikola Vucevic, C, USC

17) New York Knicks- Iman Shumpert, PG, Georgia Tech

18) Washington Wizards- Alec Burks, SG, Colorado

19) Milwaukee Bucks- Marshon Brooks, SG, Providence

20) Minnesota Timberwolves- Jordan Hamilton, SF, Texas

21) Portland Trail Blazers- Kenneth Faried, PF, Morehead State

22) Denver Nuggets- Tobias Harris, SF, Tennessee

23) Houston Rockets- Donatas Motiejunas, PF, Lithuania

24) Oklahoma City Thunder- Kyle Singler, SF, Duke

25) Boston Celtics- Reggie Jackson, PG, Boston College

26) Dallas Mavericks- Nikola Mirotic, SF, Serbia

27) New Jersey Nets- Justin Harper, PF, Richmond

28) Chicago Bulls- Charles Jenkins, SG, Hofstra

29) San Antonio Spurs- Davis Bertans, SF, Latvia

30) Chicago Bulls- Jeremy Tyler, C, Japan

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Around The Blogosphere: Draft Day Edition

Posted by nvr1983 on June 23rd, 2011

If you are interested in participating in our ATB2 feature, send in your submissions to rushthecourt@gmail.com. We will add to this post throughout the day as the submissions come in so keep on sending them.

General News

  • Rotnei Clarke Gets His Release: The Arkansas star has been granted a release after a rather complicated discussion with Razorback staff. (Kentucky Sports Radio)
  • Kevin Broadus Rejoins the Georgetown Staff; Hired as Special Assistant to John Thompson III: The controversial former Binghamton coach will join the Hoyas next season. (Casual Hoya)
  • Ed O’Bannon and Baron Davis Return to Westwood to Finish Classes: The former Bruin greats are back on campus taking classes. (Bruins Nation)
  • Tim Hardaway Jr. Makes USA U19 World Championship Team: “USA Basketball announced today that Tim Hardaway Jr. made the cut for 2011 USA U19 World Championship team. That means that Hardaway will spend the next three weeks training in Colorado and traveling to Europe to participate in the 2011 FIBA U19 World Championships.” (UM Hoops)
  • FIBA Americas Cup 2011 — U16 Americas Cup Field is Set: An overview of Team USA’s competition. (Villanova by the Numbers)
  • Georgia Tech Transfer Brian Oliver Thinking Big East, Maybe Syracuse: “According to Adam Zagoria, Georgia Tech transfer Brian Oliver is thinking about moving to a Big East school in the Northeast and that puts Syracuse on the list.” (Troy Nunes is an Absolute Magician)
  • Keith Urgo Lured to Penn State: “Patrick Chambers has plucked a Villanova coach for his staff at Penn State. Keith Urgowho was an Assistant Coach last year for Villanova will be heading to State College for the same role.” (VU Hoops)

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