The RTC Interview Series: One On One With Clark KelloggPosted by KDoyle on November 20th, 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 email@example.com.
This time our interview subject is Clark Kellogg. Most of you probably just know Clark from his work at CBS first as a studio analyst, but eventually as their lead college basketball analyst during March Madness. While that is impressive by itself, just saying that would be selling Clark’s on-court accomplishments short. Clark was a McDonald’s All-American, All-Big Ten, and was the #8 overall pick in the 1982 NBA Draft. In his rookie year, he averaged a ridiculous 20.1 points and 10.6 rebounds per game while being named All-Rookie First Team, but his career was cut short due to knee injuries. Clark joined us to talk about the new season of college basketball and his association with the Capital One Cup.
Kevin Doyle: How long have you been with the Capital One Cup and, in your opinion, what does the Cup stand for?
Clark Kellogg: This is year three for the Capital One Cup and my involvement as an advisory board member. To me, when you look at what the Capital One Cup represents—recognizing the top Division I athletic program on the men’s and women’s side over 39 total sports for cumulative on-field performance—the recognition not only comes in the reward of a Capital One Cup trophy, but also in $400,000 in total scholarship money for student-athletes. This combines the best of both worlds. Recognition for on-field and on-court performance, as well as supporting academic pursuits and achievement; I don’t know if you can get any better than that. The way the sports are recognized and the point system is tallied, there is a premium for winning national championships, but a school gains points for finishing in the top 10 in the end of season polls for the respective sports. So, there is yearlong involvement and opportunity to earn those points from the fall sports season through the spring sports season. When you are able to combine recognizing excellence for on-field and on-court performance with supporting and fueling academic pursuits and scholarship, that speaks volumes.
KD: The Capital One Cup is so unique because it doesn’t place a premium on one sport versus another. We see in the national media football and basketball primarily takes precedence, but the Cup doesn’t favor any sports. How much does a school’s success in the Capital One Cup standings speak to the strength of their programs across the board?
CK: The points you just made are good ones because all sports are involved, and men’s and women’s sports are of complete equal value to each other. The fact that you separate and have recognition for a winner on the men’s side in Division I athletics over multiple sports, and one on the women’s side is fantastic because all of those student-athletes get a chance to contribute to their program and school. This is what makes it so unique and comprehensive in its approach. I love the fact that student-athletes who sometimes don’t get the same recognition that high-profile and revenue-generating sports do have a chance to feel like they’re contributing to something that’s bigger than themselves.
KD: Transitioning to men’s basketball now, with the season just days old, what are some of your early impressions? What teams and players should fans be keeping an eye on this year?
CK: Well there really is so much that can be talked about. I mean, you’re talking about close to 350 Division I programs. Obviously, the attention goes to the power six conference schools primarily, from the Pac-12, Big East, Big Ten, SEC, and ACC and so forth. But to me, it’s always fun this time of year, not only to revisit the high-profile and marquee programs across the country, but to start to look at some of the teams that may have struggled last year and now have a chance to turn things around. I think of some of the non-power conference schools that have put together good basketball programs like Memphis, VCU, Davidson, UMass, and so forth. I love seeing how teams develop. I am always excited to see highly-touted and highly-talented first year players coming into the game and how they perform. Also, there are always players—be they, incoming freshmen or others who have flown under the radar a bit—who, by virtue of performance, announce themselves to the college basketball world. A player that didn’t play much last year because he had better players in front of him, but continued to work, develop, and be ready for his opportunity to play. Thomas Robinson is a perfect case in point. Player of the Year candidate last year at Kansas, but spent his first two years basically incubating behind better players, and then splashed onto the scene as a junior. Go back a few years ago with Steph Curry who was notable as a freshman, but then really accelerated as a sophomore. So that, to me, is part of the excitement—seeing where those unexpected stories are going to emerge with teams and with individual players. Even coaches, too. Sometimes coaches splash onto the scene.
KD: That leads me into my next question. Everybody knows about the top coaches in the game—Coach K, Jim Boeheim, Roy Williams, and on down the line—but, in your opinion, who are some of the best up-and-coming coaches who are poised to make a real name for themselves in the near future?
CK: You’ve got a plethora of them, quite honestly. Shaka Smart from VCU—really impressed with him. Brad Stevens at Butler. I think Josh Pastner at Memphis is going to be an outstanding coach; he’s young and he’s growing, but you see improvements and the willingness to do the work to get better. There really are just so many names. I think of Mark Few. Sean Miller out in Arizona is outstanding as a young coach. And then you see some of the more seasoned coaches in different places, a guy like Bruce Weber at Kansas State has a chance to emerge and show the quality of coach he is, even though he’s developed a pretty strong resume to this point. Frank Martin at South Carolina. When you start naming names it’s almost unfair because there are so many. I look at Billy Donovan and Thad Matta as guys that will basically be the next level of really great coaches as Mike Krzyzewski and Roy Williams and the other upper echelon coaches begin to move towards their twilight. The game will certainly be in good hands with guys of this caliber. We’ve got good coaches across all the demographics when you talk about young up-and-comers, and then guys in the middle of their careers, and then with guys who are in the third quarter or early fourth quarter of their coaching careers.
KD: One coach that we haven’t mentioned is Tom Crean, who I think is a borderline marquee coach in today’s game. I’ve really liked him since his early days at Marquette. With what he has done at Indiana in recent years, can we say that the Hoosiers are officially back and here to stay?
CK: Oh yeah, no question. You talk about the quality of that program over decades, okay. This is a program that has won multiple national championships [Indiana has won five national championships: 1940, 1953, 1976, 1981, and 1987]. That has had Hall of Fame coaches [Everett Dean, Branch McCracken, and Bob Knight]. That has had All-Americans and Player of the Years [Scott May and Calbert Cheaney] in a number of different seasons. They went through a bit of a turbulent and choppy time, if you want to use those phrases—it may be more than that in some people’s minds. But now, Tom Crean and his coaching staff have gotten the wheels back on the ground and things moving in the right direction. It’s one of the elite programs and it has been for a long time. They’re back, they’re clearly back. They’re going to continue to get high-quality players within the state of Indiana and beyond, and they’re going to be coached up and developed, not only as players, but as young men. They will represent themselves and college basketball in a really strong way due to Tom Crean. It is great to have them back, and they are back for a while.
KD: Looking back to the 2011-12 season, specifically the NCAA Tournament, how special was it to watch your son Nick and the Ohio Bobcats make that deep run into the NCAA Tournament? If I recall correctly, you were calling the Xavier-Baylor and Indiana-Kentucky games in Atlanta, so was it difficult at all to be calling the games in front of you, while paying attention to how Ohio was doing?
CK: Well, that weekend was actually a little easier than the weekend before because there was a bit of a stagger in times between the Atlanta start where we were broadcasting and the St. Louis start where Nick [Kellogg] was playing, so I actually had a chance to watch, without interruption and distraction—there may have been a few minutes of the first half that I missed. But, obviously, I had butterflies. I was excited for the opportunity that he and his team had, and I was really proud of the way he represented himself between the lines and with interactions with the media. I got word from a lot of people that were there that he handled himself really well. It’s beyond being able to describe as a parent, as a dad, or as a mom—for my wife—to see him on that stage. Seeing the things he’s capable of doing as a player, and to compete with great confidence, sportsmanship, and handle everything the right way it gives you a thrill and joy that, unless you’re a parent, it’s really kind of hard to know how that makes you feel. It gives you one of the great, great sweeteners in life seeing your children do well in something they’ve chosen to pursue. Being the fact that it was on such a public and visible stage resonated with other people in a way that I could have never anticipated. The way folks responded to seeing that dynamic was something that was special for our whole family, and beyond anything that we could have imagined. But, like I’ve told him: ‘Last year’s over, man. It’s time to ramp up. You guys [Ohio University] are targets; you got everybody back from that team.’ He talks about the fact that they haven’t won a regular season title there yet. They’ve gone to the Tournament one of his two years, but he wants to see them hang a regular season conference banner. So, I like what he’s thinking there.
KD: Transitioning away from the game itself, a major storyline the last few years across all of college athletics has been conference realignment. Do you ever foresee college basketball having a similar layout as what college football has done with the FBS (Football Bowl Subdivision) and FCS (Football Championship Subdivision)? Essentially, having two divisions.
CK: Wow, that’s a great question. You know what, the landscape certainly looks like it’s in place for that. When you talk about the 68 teams that make up the Men’s Division I Tournament, and the fact that the vast majority of those teams do come from power conferences, you could very easily—in theory—take that next step to where those types of programs, from a basketball standpoint, would be able to capture and handle what the NCAA Tournament has become. To me, that is a bit of a discomforting thought because of, perhaps, losing what makes the Tournament so special—the teams that actually have a chance to qualify by virtue of conference tournaments who wouldn’t be invited otherwise. If we go there—I hope we don’t—but, I’m not naïve enough to think that this may not be spinning in the minds of some. You think about it, there are 347 teams—or whatever it is between 340 and 350 Division I programs—and 68 of them have a chance to be a part of the NCAA Tournament; that’s 20 to 25 percent. What if the heavyweights, all of the power conference schools and big time basketball programs, said: ‘Hey, we’re going to do our own thing and separate from the full Division I landscape and do something like football.’ Could it be viable? Could it be successful? I think on the surface, you’d have to say that it would have a pretty good chance. I’m not sure if I agree with it, but clearly it is something that will be talked about and thought about.
KD: It definitely would be a shame to lose the entire “Cinderella story,” but it is, no doubt, a looming question.
CK: Yeah, I like where we are, but the reality is that economics and power sometimes drives things more than we’d like.
KD: One final question. I want to take you back to your playing days at Ohio State from 1979-82.
CK: You know I can’t remember those days [laughter]. Someone has to show them to me on DVD now.
KD: [laughter] Give me one memory that you will always carry from your playing days at Ohio State.
CK: Wow. One memory. Man, it’s tough because we lost the game, but my freshman year we played Indiana on the last day of the season for the undisputed outright Big Ten title, and lost in overtime [76-73]. There were probably seven or eight future NBA players [Ten future NBA players: Clark Kellogg, Kelvin Ransey, Jim Smith, Granville Waiters, and Herb Williams for Ohio State. Butch Carter, Isiah Thomas, Jim Thomas, Ray Tolbert, and Randy Wittman for Indiana.] in the game and the quality of the game, as I recall, was tremendous. The atmosphere was absolutely scintillating in terms of the crowd and the intensity. It was a really special environment. The only regret is that they got to hang the banner and we didn’t. That’s still one of my great regrets is that I can’t go back to Ohio State and see a regular season conference championship banner in there. But, that was one of my most memorable moments. Being able to have a chance to play in that kind of environment with what was at stake.
KD: Mr. Kellogg, I appreciate and thank you for your time today, and I think we can all say we’re excited for college hoops to be under way.
CK: Oh yeah, if you can’t then something’s wrong with you.