The RTC Interview Series: One on One With Charles BarkleyPosted by rtmsf on March 15th, 2012
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
Hall of Fame power forward Charles Barkley has become without question one of the most entertaining analysts on sports television. TNT’s Inside the NBA has been must-watch television for over a decade now in large part because of his wit and wisdom, and Barkley’s recent foray into college basketball analysis with Turner Sports has helped pick up what had been a somewhat stuffy studio environment. For the past month, Rush the Court has been providing a weekly column called What Would Charles Say? on Barkley’s website, and he was gracious enough to allow us to spend some time with him this week for a short Q&A.
Rush the Court: Charles, the big news early this week was the news that Fab Melo was ruled ineligible for the NCAA Tournament. I was hoping to get your take on how you feel that impacts the chances for Syracuse and Jim Boeheim to get to the Final Four and win a national championship this year?
Charles Barkley: Well, I think that they probably can’t win the championship, but they’re still deep enough to go deep into the Tournament. But I don’t think they can win it without him… but they’re still the deepest team in the Tournament, honestly, top to bottom.
RTC: So the news has come out that this relates to an academic issue for Melo, and with all the academic services that schools give these guys nowadays, how does that happen? How do you drop the ball so badly that you’re not even eligible for the Tournament?
CB: Well, to me it’s very frustrating, because if you get this deep in the season, you should already have all that stuff squared away. I mean… c’mon man. You’re really letting your team down at this point.
RTC: Certainly. Well let me ask you about last year, there was a little bit of criticism with you, Kenny [Smith], and Ernie [Johnson], as knowledgeable as you guys are about NBA stuff, coming in to the college basketball world and giving your takes with maybe not having watched games the whole season. But that ended very quickly with your take on the Big East — how it wasn’t as good as everybody thought — with nine out of the 11 teams gone by the end of the first weekend. Do you have any early takes this year on maybe a conference or teams that you’re just not buying?
CB: My biggest take this year is that — last year I said that there were maybe 20 teams that could win it — the problem is that #20 team won it!You know what I mean? I think this year is different. I think Kentucky and North Carolina and Syracuse — they are better than everybody else. I don’t know how the Melo thing is going to play out, but I think North Carolina, Kentucky — they’re better than those other teams.
RTC: Gotcha. A follow-up question, if it’s sorta viewed that Carolina and Kentucky have the most NBA-level talent, with Ohio State, Michigan State and Kansas probably a tier below them… Excluding Syracuse because of the Melo situation, out of that group of five or six teams, who is the most vulnerable?
CB: (sigh) Michigan State.
RTC: You don’t like the Izzos?
CB: I love him. I think he’s a great coach. But they don’t make enough shots for me.
RTC: He is a great coach. I wanted to ask you about your playing days for a minute back at Auburn for a minute. You had one NCAA appearance back in ’84. My brother used to say that you wore [Kentucky's] Mel Turpin out all over the court in those days. In that one appearance against Richmond, you had 24 points, 17 rebounds, four assists — how did you guys lose [to #12 seed Richmond]?
CB: Man, listen, well, Chuck Person had a horrible game. I think, if I remember, he was probably like 3-for-25. He had a horrible shooting game. [he was actually 5-16 from the field, still awful] Listen, they had two little guards that were 5’10”, that drove us crazy. Now they had Johnny Newman, who played in the NBA for a long time. But they had two little guards that were driving us crazy. We could not contain them. Because if you go back and look at that game, we were down like 25 at halftime, we got it down to two with like a minute to go, and we just couldn’t get over the hump.
RTC: The Tournament’s great because there are so many upsets like that where teams can make a name for themselves by beating an Auburn with a Charles Barkley and a Chuck Person. Along those lines, do you see any of those type of games coming up here this week, maybe like a Davidson or a Harvard or somebody?
CB: Man, you know what people don’t understand? Once the first round is over, anything can happen. People say, ‘what’s the difference between the NBA and the NCAA Tournament?’ and I say, ‘well the best team always wins in the NBA because you have to beat them four times.’ Last year Kansas was the best team in college. They were the best team. But in the game against VCU, they go 2-for-27 outside the paint. VCU would never beat Kansas in a seven-game series, but on that one day, Kansas went 2-for-27. That’s seriously one of the beautiful things of the Tournament.
RTC: People, myself included, were wondering if North Carolina, because they took such a beatdown to Florida State by 33 points in Tallahassee, if that made their toughness a little bit questionable heading into the Tournament? Is that an issue with them?
CB: I think what happened with them is that they were like an NBA team this year. But they were just bored waiting on the Tournament to start. Because they came back to win the [ACC regular season] championship. There are teams in the NBA, where it doesn’t matter what they do in the regular season, they have to win the championship or their season is not a success. And I actually think, watching Carolina play — people forget they only lost five games — they only lost four really because you have to put an asterisk by the last game because the big guy [John Henson] was out. People are like, ‘oh, y’know, they were ranked preseason #1, blah blah blah…’, but they’re like 27-4, it ain’t like they stunk up the joint. But you know, they were bored for the regular season, and that one particular game, you sometimes get off to a bad start and you try to turn it on, and then the crowd was just going crazy and that game just got out of hand.
RTC: Charles, as a star player yourself both in college and the NBA, you can tell when a guy has star power, when he has ability beyond most other players…
CB: Yeah, no question…
RTC: …Is there one guy out there that you see can just carry a team deep because of that — what you know and can see that someone like me wouldn’t know or see?
CB: I actually think we’re missing the boat on the kid at Kentucky, the big [Anthony] Davis kid. Because man he is special. He is very special. You know, people say that team plays great defense. They can only play great defense because he’s back there. He’s Bill Russell. I tell people, he reminds me of a young Patrick Ewing — remember those old Georgetown teams that played defense? That’s what Kentucky does. They force everything to him. But they can only do that because he’s back there. He’s leading the country in blocks obviously, but man, those perimeter guys play great defense too, but they can only do it because he’s back there. He blocks everything that gets back there to him. The thing is, he’s never really in foul trouble either.
RTC: You said he reminds you of a young Patrick Ewing — does he remind you of anybody else?
CB: Oh, from a body standpoint, he reminds me of Marcus Camby. He’s really light. Marcus Camby, Patrick Ewing, those type guys. He blocks everything.
RTC: I know we have to go, Charles, and I do appreciate your time. To close out, before we go, can I get your Final Four teams and maybe a dark horse?
CB: OK. Let me look at my notes here. I had North Carolina, Kentucky, Syracuse, which now I’m not sure about, and Missouri.
RTC: Missouri. What do you like about Missouri so much?
CB: Ah, man, they guard you. They make shots, and they get in the open court. Now, normally I don’t like little teams that live by jumpers, but I like them in that draw. I think they got a very favorable draw.
RTC: Marcus Denmon has been one of my favorite guys all year long. I think he’s just been fantastic.
CB: He’s been fantastic, and it’s great to see Paul Pressey’s [Phil and Matt] kids there too.
RTC: And a darkhorse?
CB: Memphis and San Diego State. Yeah. I love Memphis. I’ll tell you a team that’s gonna surprise some people — Wichita State. The only negative about Wichita State is that they gotta play Kentucky in the Third Round. But I like them to win the first couple of games. And I like Memphis against Michigan State.
RTC: Let me ask you about one possible weekend matchup — Connecticut and Kentucky. You’ve got unbelievable talent on UConn but they haven’t really meshed. Do you think Jim Calhoun could get them together for one game to beat Kentucky?
CB: No. I think they’ve been so disjointed all season they won’t be able to turn it on. Because I don’t think they have a Kemba Walker-type player who can bring it together.
RTC: Have you been on teams like that where you guys have a lot of talent, but for some reason the chemistry just wasn’t working out?
CB: Well, you know, when guys all have a different agenda, yeah, I’ve been on teams like that before. [pause] But the notion that everybody has the same agenda is not true. Some guys are trying to have a good year because they’re a free agent. People don’t understand that stuff happens all the time.
RTC: It’s hard to see it from the outside too.
CB: But you can just tell, with all the stuff going on sometimes…
RTC: Definitely know what you’re talking about. Thanks again for your time, Charles. Best of luck to you the rest of March.