The RTC Interview Series: Talking Recruiting with Dave Telep and Jeff Borzello

Posted by WCarey on August 7th, 2013

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.With the summer recruiting window coming to a close, much was learned about the top prospects in the Class of 2014 and the Class of 2015. When it comes to acquiring information about prospects and the recruiting process, you’d be hard-pressed to find better sources than ESPN’s Dave Telep (@DaveTelep) and CBSSports’ Jeff Borzello (@jeffborzello). Over the past few decades, Telep has earned a much-deserved reputation as a scouting and player evaluation workhorse. If there is basketball being played in the summer, you know Telep is going to be close to the action. While Telep has been a mainstay on the recruiting scene for many years now, Borzello is a relative newcomer to the scene – he started covering recruiting in 2009 – but in that short period, he has developed a strong reputation as a high quality college basketball and recruiting scribe. RTC correspondent Walker Carey recently had the pleasure of speaking with both Telep and Borzello about the Class of 2014, the Class of 2015, and a few notes regarding this coming college basketball season.(Ed. note – we spoke to each individual separately, but for the sake of expediency, combining their answers into a round table format made the most sense.)

Rush the Court: With the summer recruiting window now closed, who are some of the top performers in the Class of 2014 and what makes those players so special?

Dave Telep: To be honest with you, I have not had time to really process all of that yet. But I think when you are talking about 2014, you have to include Jahlil Okafor (Chicago, IL/Whitney Young), Tyus Jones (Apple Valley, MN/Apple Valley), Cliff Alexander (Chicago, IL/Curie), Myles Turner (Euless, TX/Trinity), and Emmanuel Mudiay (Dallas, TX/Prime Prep Academy) – in some order. I think with this class, whoever ends up being number one right now will be challenged and pushed throughout the year by the rest of the guys. I think we learned a lot in the month of July, but I do not think we have one guy who is ripping away from the rest of the pack to a point where he cannot be caught.

Okafor Was First Mentioned From the Experts as the Top Player in 2014

Okafor Was First Mentioned From the Experts as the Top Player in 2014

Jahlil Okafor is the complete package at the post position. His ability to catch the ball and position himself near the basket is outstanding. Cliff Alexander probably had the best summer – start-to-finish – of any big guy in the country. He is a large human being who is relentless and loves to rebound. Tyus Jones is the ultimate game manager. Skip Prosser used to say about Chris Paul, “I hand him the ball at the start of the game and at the end of the game, he hands it back over in good shape.” To me, Tyus Jones is that same kind of player. Emmanuel Mudiay plays the game like he is on skates. He reminds me of John Wall a little bit with his approach. They are different players, but they are both scoring point guards, with good size, scoring ability, and really want to just rip it and go. With Myles Turner, I am not sure two years from now we will look at this class and Myles Turner will not be the best prospect. When you stack up all these guys in-terms of long term potential, I am not sure that there is anyone who is like Myles Turner.

Jeff Borzello: The three weeks in July were great for helping to establish the rankings because you were able to take into account head-to-head matchups and things like that. Jahlil Okafor is just so skilled. There are not many guys his size that are able to do the things that he does. He passes so well, he can play in the high post, and he can play in the low post. When you look at his AAU teammate Cliff Alexander, the guy is just a physical specimen. He is stronger than most players he goes against. He might be the most productive big man in high school basketball. He might not be the best prospect, but he is so productive because he is so big. Myles Turner is probably the biggest riser of the past two months or so. He is a seven-footer who can shoot threes, run the floor, he is a great shot blocker, and might be the best interior defender in the country. It is kind of fun to compare the elite point guards – Tyus Jones and Emmanuel Mudiay – just because they are so different. Tyus Jones is more of the cerebral/runs-the-team winner. He is a really good passer and keeps things under control. Emmanuel Mudiay, on the other hand, is a legitimate possible future NBA All-Star. He is that talented. His ceiling is extremely high, he is stronger than most guys he goes against, he can get in the lane at will, and he is a much improved jump shooter. The elite guys in the country do a lot of different things. This year, they are not too similar in their skill sets.

RTC: Jahlil Okafor and Tyus Jones have long made known their intentions to play college basketball at the same school. This is definitely a unique situation given the fact that Okafor and Jones are from different states, are not related, and are two of the top players in the Class of 2014. What are your thoughts on this rare situation and is there any possibility that this package might get broken up?

Telep: Most of the time when two guys tell you they are going to school together, you are just waiting for the ceiling to fall in. You do not necessarily believe that things are going to work out the way they let everyone believe it will. However, the dynamics of this relationship is very special. You have two guys who already won a gold medal together at the 2012 FIBA U-17 World Championship and roomed together during the games in Lithuania. They have spent a lot of time together. One is the best point guard and the other is the best post player in the class, so you can understand why they would want to go to school together if they are already friends. It almost makes too much sense. Now, there are colleges as we speak that are trying to rip and pull this package away – as they should – because they do not think they can get both guys. Just to give you the reality of the situation – Minnesota is on Jones’ list, but it is not on Okafor’s list and Illinois is on Okafor’s list, but it is not on Jones’ list. On the other hand, you have a group of other schools (Duke, Kentucky, Baylor, Ohio State, etc.) that are actively going after both players. One official visit is already scheduled at Baylor and I strongly believe another one will be set for Duke. I would imagine a lot more will come out about both guys’ recruitment over the next few weeks, so we will have a better idea of where things are at with it.

Read the rest of this entry »

Share this story

The RTC Interview Series: One on One with Elwyn McRoy

Posted by WCarey on July 5th, 2013

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

Elwyn McRoy is what one would call a coaching nomad. Over the last 16 seasons, McRoy has held 12 different jobs at 12 different schools. After a playing career that saw him play at two different junior colleges before finishing his eligibility at Cleveland State, McRoy embarked on a coaching career that has taken him to stops at every different level of coaching. He has coached at the high school level, the junior college level, the Division-II level, and the Division-I level. During the 2012-13 season, McRoy served as an assistant at the D-II Stillman College in Alabama. In a recent profile for the Chronicle of Higher Education, Brad Wolverton described how McRoy spent his season at Stillman, earning $3,000 while living in a dorm, being away from his family (his wife and four kids stayed in Seattle), and eating off of a meal plan. Following his season at Stillman, McRoy was able to earn himself another crack at a D-I job when he was named to newly-hired UT-Pan American coach Dan Hipsher’s staff in Edinburg, Texas. RTC correspondent Walker Carey recently had the pleasure of speaking to McRoy about the trials and tribulations of his career and his new job at UT-Pan American. You can follow him on Twitter @CoachMcRoy

Rush the Court: When did you decide you wanted to become a coach and why?

McRoy's Journey Has Been Long and Arduous (Chronicle/ Tamika Moore)

McRoy’s Journey Has Been Long and Arduous (Chronicle/ Tamika Moore)

Elwyn McRoy: I always knew I wanted to become a coach at some point. Both my parents were coaches, as well as educators, and I always saw how much influence they had on their students. Also, once I had the unique opportunity to play for five coaches (ed. note: freshman season at Butler Community College – Randy Smithson, redshirt freshman season at Hutchinson Community College – Steve McClain, redshirt sophomore season at Hutchinson – Randy Stange, redshirt junior season at Cleveland State – Mike Boyd, and redshirt senior season at Cleveland State – Rollie Massimino) in five years of college basketball, I knew I had a ton of information I had learned and could pass along. Being a point guard, I learned a great deal from all these coaches! Also, it was easier to accept getting into coaching after I knew I would not be making a lot of money chasing the dream of playing professionally. My semi-pro career consisted of playing with the New York Nationals, which is another name for the Washington Generals, who play their games against the Harlem Globetrotters. I did that for five months in 1999.

RTC: You were the subject of a tremendous profile chronicling your nomadic career in The Chronicle of Higher Education at the beginning of June. Since that profile was published, what sort of response have you received from those in the basketball community, and also, from those outside of the basketball community?

Read the rest of this entry »

Share this story

The RTC Interview Series: One on One with Eric Musselman

Posted by WCarey on July 1st, 2013

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

As the son of the fiery, late coach Bill Musselman, Eric Musselman grew up around the game of basketball. Not long after his playing career finished at the University of San Diego, the younger Musselman followed in the footsteps of his father and became a coach. Starting as a head coach in the CBA and USBL, Eric Musselman soon earned the reputation of being one of the top young coaches in basketball. The NBA soon took notice and he earned spots on the staffs with the Minnesota Timberwolves, Orlando Magic, Atlanta Hawks, and Memphis Grizzlies. He broke through for the first time with the Golden State Warriors, where he coached from 2002 to 2004, and later with the Sacramento Kings in the 2006-07 season. Following his stints in the NBA, he worked as an NBA and college basketball analyst and color commentator for several national networks. Musselman returned to coaching in the 2011-12 season when he took the helm for the Los Angeles D-Fenders of the NBDL. In his only season with the team, he was named the NBDL Coach of the Year. In September 2012, Musselman became a member of Herb Sendek’s staff at Arizona State. In his first season coaching in the collegiate ranks, Arizona State improved from a 10-21 mark in 2011-12 to a 22-13 mark in 2012-13. In May, Musselman was rewarded for his efforts, being promoted by Sendek to associate head coach at ASU. RTC correspondent Walker Carey recently had the pleasure of speaking to Eric Musselman about the 2013 NBA Draft and Arizona State’s development as the 2013-14 season nears. You can follow him on Twitter @EricPMusselman.

Rush the Court: The 2013 NBA Draft was widely viewed as a weak draft. What are your thoughts on the draft in terms of its overall strength?

Musselman Has Coached Elite Talent at Both the Professional and College Levels

Musselman Has Coached Elite Talent at Both the Professional and College Levels

Eric Musselman: Obviously, there are going to be years where the NBA Draft is going to be down, just like any other sport. A lot of people are already talking about the 2014 draft – and for good reason. Regarding this year’s draft, I think a few guys like Anthony Bennett, Otto Porter, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, Trey Burke, and Shabazz Muhammad – to name a few – could end up making a impact . Then, there’s an assortment of other guys that were drafted that come could in and make an NBA rotation. As a whole, yes, the draft was down, but there are still guys that can help an NBA team. A lot of that depends on opportunity and fits with teams. Just because there was not a LeBron James or Kobe Bryant in the draft does not mean it was that weak. There are some good point guards in the class and a lot of hungry guys – like Nerlens Noel and Cody Zeller – who have something to prove to the critics. A lot of these guys have been questioned for being picked either too high or too low, so they are a hungry bunch.

RTC: What player do you believe has the most upside among the 2013 NBA Draft class?

EM: Anthony Bennett. At the end of the day, he is a young player who only played one year in college. He is a dynamic four or a three who has the ability to play both inside and outside. Not to mention the fact that he is already an impact player. I think he is only going to get better and he could end up being a key piece in helping the Cavaliers get back to the playoffs – sooner rather than later. Trey Burke is another guy whom I feel has a lot of upside.

Read the rest of this entry »

Share this story

The RTC Interview Series: One on One with Will Wade

Posted by WCarey on June 24th, 2013

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

After a 13-19 campaign in 2012-13, Chattanooga found itself in a coaching search. That search ended on May 13 when the Mocs named Will Wade as the program’s 18th head men’s basketball coach. While Wade is just 30 years old, he has an impressive résumé from working with several established, veteran head coaches. Wade’s coaching career began as a student manager at Clemson where he worked under both Larry Shyatt and Oliver Purnell. After graduating from Clemson in 2005, Wade stayed on with the Tigers for two more seasons – one as a graduate assistant and another as the director of operations. Following his time at Clemson, Wade moved on to Harvard where he served on Tommy Amaker’s staff for the 2008-09 and 2009-10 seasons. After his two seasons at Harvard, he then took a position on Shaka Smart’s staff at VCU where he helped coach the Rams to postseason appearances in each of his four seasons in Richmond. Among those four postseason appearances were three consecutive trips to NCAA Tournament and a Cinderella run to the 2011 Final Four. RTC correspondent Walker Carey recently had the pleasure of speaking to Will Wade about his career and his plans for his first head coaching job at Chattanooga.

Will Wade

Will Wade Takes Over Chattanooga as One of the Youngest Head Coaches in Division I Basketball

Rush the Court: You have been on the job at Chattanooga for a little over a month. What have you been able to accomplish during that time?

Will Wade: The time has gone very quickly, It has been a smooth transition. In the first month, we have hired a staff, recruited three new players and met a ton of boosters and donors. We have been very active in the community.

RTC: Other than your ties to Tennessee as a Nashville native, what attracted you to the job at Chattanooga?

WW: Tremendous growth opportunity. Chattanooga is a basketball town and we have been very good in the past – we can do it again. We have a great arena, a lot of local interest, our own practice facility, and an administration that wants to win. That is all of the ingredients needed for us to be successful.

Read the rest of this entry »

Share this story

The RTC Interview Series: One On One With Clark Kellogg

Posted 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 rushthecourt@yahoo.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.

Once known for his skills on the court, Kellogg has now become one of the more recognizable faces in the sports broadcast industry (OhioDominican)

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.

Read the rest of this entry »

Share this story

The RTC Interview Series: One-on-One With Kenny Smith

Posted by rtmsf on March 22nd, 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 rushthecourt@yahoo.com.

Last week we were lucky enough to spend 15 minutes with one-half of the Inside the NBA analyst crew on TNT, Charles Barkley. This week we are back with his compatriot on that show as well as during Turner Sports’ studio coverage of the NCAA Tournament, Kenny Smith. The Jet is promoting Coke Zero during March Madness with its Watch & Score Instant Win Game, where fans  pick a team to advance to the next round and a with a correct pick, a shot at winning a trip to the 2013 Final Four in Atlanta. 

Kenny Plays off Barkley on Inside the NBA on TNT

Rush the Court: Kenny, let’s jump right in to the biggest news coming out of the weekend, which is that the point guard at your alma mater, North Carolina, has a broken wrist and may or may not be able to play this coming weekend. Can you relate the situation facing Kendall Marshall and UNC right now to the situation you dealt with in your freshman season there when you broke your wrist?

Kenny Smith: Except for the timing of it, it’s pretty much exact. He broke his wrist. I broke my wrist. He has a pin in his wrist. I have a pin in my wrist. At the time, I was out three or four weeks and it was earlier in the season, but I had to wear a cast when I came back. Keep in mind, though, this is not an injury. This is not an injury like a sprained ankle. This is a break. It’s broken. He has a broken wrist. Guys can play through a sprained ankle or whatever else if it’s an injury, but this is a broken bone. What makes him a great player is his ability to distribute the basketball. His effectiveness is a little different than what I could do then, in terms of scoring and so forth, but I am not sure that he can get back on the court and play with a broken wrist.

RTC: He had surgery on Monday and nobody seems to be able to say whether he’ll be able to play or not at this point. My question is whether a guy who isn’t necessarily a great scorer needs to have full capacity of both hands in order to help his team out. Can he dribble or distribute the ball at all with a pin in his wrist five days after breaking it?

KS: The question isn’t whether he can do those things, the question is whether he can get on the court. Because if he can get on the court, he can manage it. But when you’re talking about a broken wrist and whether it will bend without terrible pain or even if you can move it at all, that’s the bigger issue. But if he can get on the court, he can manage it. The problem is that very few people in his position can get on the court that quickly.

Read the rest of this entry »

Share this story

The RTC Interview Series: One on One With Charles Barkley

Posted 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 rushthecourt@yahoo.com.

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. 

Charles Barkley Will Provide Analysis All March Long for the NCAA Tournament

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?

Read the rest of this entry »

Share this story

The RTC Interview Series: One On One With Clark Kellogg

Posted by nvr1983 on February 1st, 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 rushthecourt@yahoo.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 taking over as one of their lead college basketball analysts replacing Billy Packer. 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 by the Indiana Pacers. 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 to talk about college basketball and the Capital One Cup.

Rush The Court: One of the big topics in college sports recently has been the issue of paying athletes, whether it is the $2,000 stipend or more radical proposals. What are your thoughts on what has been proposed and how realistic do you think the proposals have been?

Clark Kellogg: I think it is a worthwhile proposal and it is realistic. Obviously, you have to look at the budgetary constraints of different programs, but I think that every Division I player in the major revenue-producing sports (men’s basketball and men’s football) because the demands of the scholarship are a full-time job should be able to supplement that with the cost of attendance, which is what the stipend is attempting to close the gap on. I think it is reasonable and practical. Obviously, it raises a question as to how you do that and what’s the right amount, but I think it is a good proposal and one that should be implemented and I think it will be in some form and fashion. I think it is a positive step because of the nature of those two sports and because of the demands on the time and minds and bodies of those student-athletes it is a full-time job and the cost of attending college is more than the cost of tuition, food, room, board, and books. That is a wonderful blessing to have that covered. All three of our children have been Division I scholarship athletes and we understand the blessing that is, but at the same time I was in a position to send each of my kids a certain amount of money each month to cover some of the incidental expenses. I think it makes sense for the universities to try and cover some of those incidental costs.

Kellogg Believes Schools Should Cover Cost Of Living

RTC: Getting back to basketball itself, one of the topics that after UNC got blown out by 33 points at Florida State people started to suggest that they are not a championship team. [Clark laughing in the background.] That championship teams don’t get blown out like that [more laughter] and they cite all these figures about how no championship team has ever lost by that much.

CK: Can you tell by my reaction? [Even more laughter] I think that is nonsensical. You play 30 to 35 games in college basketball and everybody is going to get drummed. I don’t care if you are championship caliber or not. There are a lot of factors that go into being drummed. One is being on the road. Two you play against a good team that has a terrific performance. Three is you are human; there are all kind of things: travel, finals, schools, 18- to 22-year old guys being brain neutral and not there. It happens in the NBA. Teams that win the championship get beat badly sometimes. That doesn’t change who they are. Now if it becomes a pattern then that is different, but a one-game situation I just chuckle when people say that. It is part of the context of our culture because we so want to analyze something every five or 10 minutes and make a conclusion about it. A season is indeed a season. It is made up of individual games and some games are going to be better than others. It is about consistency. It’s about being healthy. It’s about getting better. Every now and then you are going to have a game that is inexplicable. You could go crazy and make 8 out of 13 three-pointers. How often is that going to happen? So it goes both ways. It was comical to me that people automatically started thinking that Carolina was unworthy of being one of the favorites to get to New Orleans. Now they have got issues with [Dexter] Strickland being out. Who steps into his role? That is more something to analyze than the fact that they got blasted in Tallahassee.

Read the rest of this entry »

Share this story

The RTC Interview Series: One On One With Taylor Branch

Posted by nvr1983 on September 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.

This time our interview subject is Taylor Branch, who is best known for his Pulitzer Prize-winning Parting the Waters: America in the King Years, 1954-63 and receiving a MacArthur Foundation genius grant. However, Branch took something of a sabbatical from his usual works on history to study the NCAA in “The Shame of College Sports” that was published in this month’s edition of The Atlantic and a recently released Byliner.com e-publication, “The Cartel: Inside the Rise and Imminent Fall of the NCAA”. Branch’s recent work has generated a lot of discussion and has led Frank Deford to write that it “may well be the most important article ever written about college sports.” When we were extended the opportunity to speak with him on the subject, we jumped at it and what follows is our discussion with him.

Branch Has An E-Book That Supplements His Article

Rush the Court: When we found out that we were going to speak with you we asked some of the other sportswriters that we knew what their thoughts were about your article, and we were surprised to hear that almost all of them had heard about it but very few of them had read the 14,573 words. For those people, could you summarize what the major thesis of your piece is about, because I feel like many people have read the critiques of your essay, but have not read the original article and miss some of the meat of it, which is where I think a lot of the substance is?

Taylor Branch: Right. It has kind of gone at warp speed right past me because there is already an e-book just days after the article came out. An original e-book company asked me if I had any more material and I had another 10,000 words so this is an extended version that includes more basketball. That is already an original e-book. That is what I was doing a Twitter chat about today. My kids are laughing at me because I have been print author for 40 years and now in just a week or 10 days since this thing went on a newsstand I already have an original e-book expansion called “The Cartel,” which is 25,000 words, and I had a Twitter chat just over an hour ago, which I didn’t even know how to do. [laughs] Obviously, I have stumbled into something. I just did this as a temporary magazine assignment between books and didn’t really realize that it was going to get this much attention. It began and is a survey of college sports including its history. I am a historian. I write about history for a living. I have been writing history books for 40 years. They asked me to write about it because I don’t write about sports so I could come at it fresh. My basic question was why is the United States the only country in the world that plays big-money sports at institutions of higher learning and where does that come from in our history. A lot of the book is that. Where did the NCAA come from? Where does it derive its powers and where it came from? I went to North Carolina and everybody in North Carolina cares about basketball. Where does the money from March Madness go? Inevitably, the focus became more and more on money because money is the driving force of college sports. And more and more for me the focus became how do we justify the amateurism rules that the NCAA applies to the players in college sports, but not to the coaches and the schools themselves, who have been making more and more money and marketing themselves more aggressively. Ultimately, I came to the conclusion that you cannot justify these rules. The sum total of what holds them up is like The Wizard of Oz because we put up with it. We don’t put up with it for the adults or coaches, but we do impose it on the kids. I think those rules cannot be justified.  That really touched a nerve because people are saying that I am demanding to pay college athletes. That’s not quite right. I am not demanding that any college pay an athlete. What I think you cannot justify is the college banding together and saying that we refuse and will conspire not to pay the athletes anything more than the value of your scholarship. I don’t think that can be justified. I think it is doomed. I think it is already falling apart. That is the basic thrust of my article.

Read the rest of this entry »

Share this story

The RTC Interview Series: One on One With Ken Pomeroy

Posted by Brian Goodman on July 8th, 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.

One of the great things about college hoops is that with nearly 350 Division I teams, you can find any and every playing style under the sun. Some teams push the ball at frenetic paces in an effort to wear down the opposition, while others prefer to slow down and make every possession count. Smaller teams rely on outside shooting and bigger teams assert their dominance down low, so in comparing teams to one another, how do you account for such widely varying styles of play? This is the question that cult hero and statistician Ken Pomeroy longs to answer. The solution isn’t always simple, but it boils down to evaluating how teams fare on a possession-to-possession basis, rather than using the commonly-held method of measuring events from game to game. At KenPom.com, fans can track the performance of all 345 Division I teams in his tempo-free style. Over the last few years, his approach has moved from the underground into the mainstream, mentioned by media outlets such as ESPN.com and The Wall Street Journal during the college hoops season.  He is also a regular contributor to Basketball Prospectus and you can follow him on Twitter (@kenpomeroy). In this interview, Ken took a few minutes to talk with us about his methodology and the growth of his website.

RTC: For our readers who are used to the more traditional “counting stats,” what makes your analysis different and worthwhile?

Ken Pomeroy: In all of the statistics I use, I’m trying to equalize opportunities. If you’re going to compare one offense to another, it’s not fair to look at raw points. North Carolina, for instance, has more opportunities to score (than an average team). It’s also not fair to compare defenses for the same reason. We look at rebounding percentage, for instance, which takes into account how many rebounds are available to a player when he’s on the floor to get an appreciation for whether he’s a good rebounder or not. Those are the things I try to do with all these stats.

RTC: One thing that makes your analysis easy to digest is that most of the teams that excel in traditional stats and occupy the top spots in the rankings also excel according to your tempo-free analysis. There are some exceptions, though – what are some schools in recent years that may not have had those alluring traditional stats but were more eye-catching in your analysis?

KenPom darling Belmont compensated for a lack of size with a brigade of long-range shooters like Mick Hedgepeth. (Getty Images)

KP: Wisconsin played at the second-slowest pace in the nation (ed. note – 58 possessions per game, compared to the national average of about 67), but had a very effective offense. They weren’t effective all of the time — they obviously had that ugly game against Penn State in the Big Ten Tournament which called into question just how good their offense was.  Georgetown in their Final Four run in 2007 had an outstanding offense, but played a very slow pace. North Carolina’s 2005 championship team was criticized for their defense based on the points they allowed, but tempo-free, their defense was one of the best in the country. If you win 90-75, it looks like you gave up too many points, but when you factor in that the game was 80 possessions, it reveals a better defensive performance. Read the rest of this entry »

Share this story

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.     

Read the rest of this entry »

Share this story

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.

Read the rest of this entry »

Share this story