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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The RTC Interview Series: One on One With Tim Abromaitis

Posted by rtmsf on May 27th, 2011

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.

In a culture of one-and-dones and low academic performance ratings, it is always refreshing when there is an instance of a student-athlete who gets the job done on the playing court and goes above and beyond in the classroom. Notre Dame forward Tim Abromaitis thoroughly fits the description of one of those instances. Abromaitis has been a starting forward for Mike Brey’s Fighting Irish for the past two seasons and he flourished on the court as the team’s second leading scorer in both seasons as a starter. While it is well-known that Notre Dame carries stringent academic requirements for their student-athletes, the Big East Scholar-Athlete of the Year’s academic career is among the most impressive of all the students on the South Bend campus.  The  Unionville, Connecticut, forward graduated cum laude from the Mendoza School of Business (Business Week’s top rated undergraduate business school for the past two years) in just three years. Following his graduation, he enrolled in the school’s ultra-competitive one-year MBA program and will continue to take courses in 2011-12, his final season as a member of the Fighting Irish program.  RTC correspondent Walker Carey recently had the pleasure of speaking to Abromaitis about his remarkable academic career and the plans for his future.

Abromaitis is a Beast Both On and Off the Court

Rush the Court: For two years straight, Notre Dame has had the top-rated undergraduate business school in the country. Tell me a little bit about your major and the challenges you faced in such a competitive classroom setting.

Tim Abromaitis: As an undergraduate finance major, I took a variety of classes in the area such as Behavioral Finance and Investment Theory. With high-level classmates, it meant that courses would progress at a high speed and you had to stay on top of your game for every class.

RTC: Graduating in four years is an accomplishment, but graduating in three? How were you able to accomplish that? What was your workload like? Was it difficult to balance academics with basketball?

TA: Part of the reason why I was able to graduate early was the fact that I had a lot of credits from high school advanced placement tests. In addition to this, being on campus with the team for summer school and usually taking the normal full load of courses meant that I was able to graduate a year ahead of schedule. Balancing academics and basketball was challenging at times, especially when we would be traveling and missing classes. I have learned to manage my time well and focus on the right things to get the job done on the court and in the classroom.

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RTC Interviews Exclusive: A Conversation With Linda Gonzalez

Posted by nvr1983 on May 25th, 2011

Last Friday, Linda Gonzalez, the older sister of former Manhattan and Seton Hall coach Bobby Gonzalez, posted a column (link to our post because she took her original post down) that drew a lot of attention across the Internet and within coaching and journalism circles. In that post, Gonzalez listed ten columnists (some local, but mostly national) whom she felt wrote with an agenda and often did not report the facts as they are, but instead tried to twist them to fit the story. After the post started a mini-firestorm online, we reached out to Linda Gonzalez to inquire about her thoughts and reasoning. What follows is a 25-minute interview with Gonzalez that touches on her reasons for writing the piece, thoughts on the media in general and specific individuals, and her impression of what led to her brother’s firing at Seton Hall. We have to admit that Linda Gonzalez turned out to be a lot more reasonable than we expected over the phone based on her initial post and some of the rumblings that we had heard from various media members before we spoke with her. She also makes some salient points about the media as a whole and about the perceived agenda that some media members have.

Gonzalez has been a controversial figure in the media for years

Rush the Court: By now, most of our audience is aware of  your post listing the 10 writers you consider the most corrupt or biased in the country, but we don’t know much about you other than the fact that you are Bobby Gonzalez’s sister. Could you provide us with a little background information on who you are?

Linda Gonzalez: Before we start let me make something clear. There is a difference between a public and private person. I am not a public person. I used to be a public person because I was a columnist for a newspaper. That was a long time ago. Now writing is a hobby. I have a personal blog that I write. In fact, I have two. One I keep for notes and whatnot, but I have a personal blog that I write that people are welcome to read, but it is still a personal and private blog. I am a private person who lives in upstate New York. I am involved with my family. I live a quiet life.

I am a daughter, sister, aunt, substitute mom, nana, niece, and friend. I want for my family the same as you want for your own. I want my family to have  love, success and to live a meaningful life with purpose. I do what I can, whenever I can to help them and myself to achieve that. I’m sure anyone would do the same.

I have a mother who is 84 and a brother who is a disabled Vietnam Vet. My sister died 20 years ago and she had four children. Now her children are starting to have children so I have got my hands full. Bobby is a part of the picture, a big part, because when one suffers, we all suffer.

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The RTC Interview Series: One on One with Dave Telep

Posted by rtmsf on October 29th, 2010

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.

Scouting high school basketball players is a task that probably ranks just above weather prediction and winning trifectas at the track in terms of its certainty, but there are several folks out there who are among the best in the profession.  Dave Telep, former National Recruiting Director for Scout.com and current Senior Basketball Recruiting Analyst for ESPN, is one of those guys.  As a young college graduate in the mid-90s, he helped launch PrepStars before quickly rising up the ladder and developing his name at both Rivals and Scout, two of the pre-eminent recruiting services in existence today.  In the intervening decade, Telep built a sterling reputation for his workhorse approach to scouting, going from game to game in state after state to see players with his own eyes so as to fairly evaluate them.  He also founded Dave Telep’s Carolina Challenge in 2007, a one-day camp for 80 hand-picked North Carolina high school players in who want to learn what it takes to become a top college basketball player.  Some of the recruits who have attended this camp have been Duke’s Mason Plumlee and former Kentucky star John Wall.  The recruiting aficianado was in fact driving to a game in Virginia at the time of this interview — he never stops moving when there are players to be evaluated.  You can find Telep on both Facebook and Twitter — we’d recommend you friend/follow him to stay on top of all of the latest recruiting and scouting news.

Telep is a Scouting Mastermind

Rush the Court: Let’s start with the most newsworthy item in your life right now, the move from Scout.com to ESPN. Can you tell us a little bit about how this all came about and what the plan is for the immediate future there?

Dave Telep: Yeah, you know, I could not be more thankful and more grateful for the nine years I spent with Scout.com and Fox. My contract came up for renewal this summer and ESPN presented a really unique opportunity to do some things in the recruiting world on a bunch of different media platforms. It’s something where, to be honest, I’ve always wanted to work for ESPN. When I realized that I wasn’t going to be a professional athlete around the age of twelve, I realized one of the things I wanted to do with my life was to eventually work for ESPN. It’s really been a fun time for me and my family, and we’re having a great time with it. We have such a really neat team of guys there from the scouts to the guys who operate the database, that it’s really exciting to have so much support of a bunch of guys who are really woven into the fabric of college basketball. It’s awesome!

RTC: To many in this business, getting the call from ESPN is a dream come true. Is this the Dave Telep equivalent of seeing your name at the top of a recruiting list?

DT: The cool thing for me as the father of two boys is that I can someday look at those guys and say “if there’s something in your life that you really want to do, and you have the ability to, through hard work and luck and people helping you out, you can make that happen.” That’s been the neat thing for me with ESPN so far, just sharing and talking about it with my parents. You set these goals when you’re younger, and to see one of them come to fruition on a personal level is really cool. It’s not just a job for me. This is something I’ve always kinda had my eye on. I never knew what I would ever do at ESPN someday; I just knew that I always wanted to be around people who were excellent in their field. I knew from a young age that I would love to do that someday. This is definitely a dream come true for me.

RTC: Let’s move into some scouting questions.  Everyone has predictions from their career they’re proud of and a few they’re not quite as ready to shout from the hilltops. What are some of your most notable ones both ways?

DT: Great question. I was very excited the first time I saw Chris Paul, and I was happy to be one of the first people who spearheaded that charge. That worked out really well for me. You know, recently a couple of years ago we had DeJuan Blair in the top twenty, and the reason why I ranked Blair in the top twenty was because six or seven years before that I totally whiffed on Emeka Okafor by ranking him in the 80s. I was bound and determined that if a guy averaged as many rebounds as Blair did to not make the same mistake that we made with Okafor. I screwed up with Okafor but I’d like to think I learned something from it. Some others — I’ll never forget the day I saw Adam Morrison go for 30+ in a packed gym in Las Vegas, and I totally whiffed on that one. I learned a lot from the evaluation of Stephen Curry. I watched him all through high school. I evaluated him as a low-major player, a mid-major player, and at the end of his HS career, I rated him the highest level mid-major player possible. But if I could have stuck him into the top 100, that would probably be one of my bigger regrets in not doing so. My real job is to learn from all these mistakes and try to avoid them [in the future]. You see a situation like Emeka Okafor – he averaged 18-19 RPG in high school – that is a freaky number, to be frank. Then to see Blair come around and be that same kind of a rebounding force… they’re two different players, but although we screwed up Okafor it taught me a little more on the back end with Blair. When you see a guy with such a freakish skill set and such a knack for doing something extraordinary, your radar definitely goes up.

Telep Was Onto Chris Paul Before Anybody Else

RTC: You’ve talked in the past about ‘balancing potential with production’ when evaluating prospects. Which is harder – figuring out where a prospect can top out or figuring out where he will top out?

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The RTC Interview Series: One On One With Lefty Driesell

Posted by nvr1983 on October 14th, 2010

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.

Few college coaches have had careers with as much success at as many different venues as Charles “Lefty” Driesell. After playing at Duke under Harold Bradley, he coached a few years of high school basketball in Virginia finishing with a 57-game winning streak at Newport News High School before accepting a head coaching position at Davidson where he coached for nine seasons compiling a 176-75 record leading the Wildcats from the bottom of the Southern Conference to the Elite Eight in back-to-back seasons (yes there was basketball at Davidson before Stephen Curry). Following the 1969 season, Driesell moved to Maryland, which is where most basketball fans associate him with. After a rough start his first two years in College Park where his teams went a combined 27-25 (10-18 in the ACC), Driesell quickly turned things around making it to the NCAA Elite Eight twice more and winning the NIT in a span of four seasons at a time when only the ACC Tournament champion was awarded a bid to the NCAA Tournament.  This hit the Terrapins especially hard in 1974 when they were a top five team who lost what many consider to be one of the greatest college games of all-time, a 103-100 loss in overtime to David Thompson and eventual national champion North Carolina State. It was just prior to the start of that run in 1971 that Driesell instituted what would come to be viewed as the predecessor of Midnight Madness when he gathered his team a few minutes after midnight on the first day of practice for a training run around the track. In the subsequent 39 years, the tradition has transformed from a humble event into a media spectacle. Following that four-year run, Driesell’s most notable success came in the mid-1980s when the Terrapins re-emerged in the national consciousness with the play of Len Bias and his subsequent passing just after he was drafted by the Boston Celtics. After leaving Maryland in the wake of the Bias scandal, Driesell was away from the sidelines for two years before returning to coach at James Madison and later Georgia State, making the NCAA Tournament three more times including a 2001 win at GSU over Wisconsin in the first round of the NCAA Tournament. For his contributions to the game, Driesell was inducted into the University of Maryland Athletic Hall of Fame in 2002 and the National Collegiate Basketball Hall of Fame in 2008. Earlier this week we caught up with him to discuss the origins of Midnight Madness and other issues relating to the current state of college basketball.

Driesell Helped Build Progams at Four Schools

RTC: You started “Midnight Madness” in 1971 based on a 1.5 mile run, which it seems like you continued all the way through your Georgia State days. Could you talk a little bit about your motivation for coming up with the idea and what your thoughts are on what it has become today?

LD: My thought at the time was to make sure that the guys, when practice started on October the 15th [were ready]. We didn’t have all this conditioning and weightlifting like they have now. Until October the 15th you couldn’t have anything to do with the players. Right now they start conditioning with four hours per week for team practice or something. You know what I’m saying. Back then you couldn’t do anything until October the 15th. You couldn’t hold meetings. You couldn’t lift weights with them. You couldn’t run or condition them. It was a way for me to encourage them to get in shape for October the 15th when practice started. I always ran them a mile on October the 15th. That kind of messed up my practice on that day. So George Raveling and I were talking and we said why don’t we just run the mile at 12:01 and then we can practice at 3 o’clock that afternoon. So that’s what we did for the first year. You know we had cars on the track with lights on so nobody would cut the course, but I heard that [Len] Elmore did. So I don’t know if we did that one year or two years, but Mo Howard said, “Hey Coach. Why don’t we just have a scrimmage at midnight next year?” because they wanted to get out of the running. So I said, “Yeah. Alright we can do that.” So we did the next year. We had a scrimmage and had seven or eight thousand kids. . . In fact we had a lot of kids watching us run that night [in 1971]. It was like my second year at Maryland. We were going to have a good team. We had [Tom] McMillen and Elmore coming up as sophomores. We had our undefeated freshman team the year before so everybody was excited. We had a lot of people just watching us run that first year so Mo said “Let’s have a scrimmage at midnight next year” so we did and we had about ten thousand people show up and from then on we filled it up. So that was kind of the way we got it started. It let us get a jump on everybody. I told them we’re going to practice before anybody else in the country and we’re going to be playing on the last day in the NCAA Finals. You know just a little motivational thing.

From the Oct 16, 1971 edition of The Virgin Islands Daily News

RTC: Could you talk a little bit about its evolution and what it has become now? It’s on ESPN, ESPN2, ESPNU, all of the ESPNs, and a lot of other channels. What are your thoughts on that?

LD: I think it’s great. It has helped promote basketball. It gets the students and the fans thinking basketball in the middle of football and baseball and everything. I think it’s great. The only thing that I don’t like is that they let them have it at 5 o’clock in the afternoon instead of midnight. I think midnight created more interest because kids like to stay up late. I think one of the best teams I ever had was at James Madison and we played a game at midnight. I see that a couple teams play games at midnight this year. I think that’s great because college kids like to stay up late when they should be in bed. At least they are better off at a basketball game than somewhere else. I wish it was still at midnight. A lot of people call it “Basketball Madness,” but it really is “Midnight Madness.”

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The RTC Interview Series: One On One With Brad Stevens

Posted by jstevrtc on September 10th, 2010

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

It used to be that the first thing that people thought when they saw Butler head coach Brad Stevens was something along the lines of, “He’s a head coach? How old is he?” That changed on April 5th. By saying things changed for him after the title-game loss to Duke, we’re not saying that Stevens looks any older. We’re saying that now people will think of him primarily as one of the best coaches in our game instead of just a young-looking basketball coach, though Stevens would be the first to deflect such praise. When you talk with Brad Stevens (whose three teams have produced three perfect academic ratings, by the way), you are immediately aware of what seems to be an innate professionalism, and the fact that this man is much more comfortable talking about his team than himself, making sure that any incoming credit goes to everyone, not just him. Most of all, though, you recognize his absolutely inflexible belief in the abstract concept known as The Butler Way, that it’s, in fact, the best way for him to grow as a coach and for his players to function as the best team possible. RTC’s John Stevens (no relation) spoke with Coach Stevens earlier this week.

Rush The Court: Coach, as the current guardian of it, in your own words, what is “The Butler Way?”

Brad Stevens: You know, I don’t think it has anything to do with basketball, technically, first of all. I think it’s just about embracing a culture of (hopefully) unselfishness and accountability, and that doing the right things will lead to the results you ultimately want from a statistical and measurable standpoint. The definition we have online is probably the best it gets. Right when you go to ButlerSports.com, it pops up. But that’s the bottom line. If you’re going to define it, that’s as good as it gets. I think it’s a really hard thing to define, and it’s more about feeling and seeing that you’re moving in a positive direction.

After Only Three Seasons as Head Coach at Butler, In Our Opinion Stevens Is Already Part of the Coaching Elite.

RTC: Last year was in so many ways a dream season, and even though you didn’t quite achieve the ultimate goal for which you set out, it was obviously a phenomenal run. Was there any particular aspect of your squad’s play that showed up as the year progressed that even you hadn’t expected, something that pleasantly surprised even you, as coach?

BS: No particular individual did, and not really from a team standpoint, either, from how we were playing. I think from a results standpoint the thing that stood out to me, the thing I thought was the best accomplishment of the year was going undefeated in the league. I’ve never been a part of that and never dreamed that I would be, and I know how hard it is to do. You know, like everybody else, I’m listening to talk shows and everybody’s talking about Boise State’s schedule and everything else, and I’ve been in those shoes from the standpoint of…boy, the pressure that they play with in their league AND the fact that, everybody they’re playing against, that’s their super bowl. You can’t quantify that. That should add points to their strength of schedule. So I think that that’s something I’ll look back at fondly from last year. Obviously you’re excited about the run to the final game. But is it better to beat five really good teams that don’t know much about you, or is it better to beat every team on your league schedule twice, teams that know you inside and out? For me, it was the latter.

RTC: The Horizon League seems to be adding better recruits each season, players who are then developed over several years by their coaches; it seems the quality of that particular conference has improved each year over the past few…

BS: I think that’s the case. I agree with you that it’s getting better, but at the same time I think it’s been really good all along. When we do what we’ve done in the tournament, and when other teams win games here or there I think that always helps the perception [of the conference].

RTC: How long did it take you to get over the championship game, the Duke game?

BS: I’ll never get over it! I don’t know if I’ll ever get over that, I wish I could. I think obviously that you always move on, but it’s a hard pill to swallow.

Stevens' Bulldogs Held Their First Five NCAA Tourney Opponents (Including Syracuse, Kansas State, and Michigan State) to Under 60 Points. Duke Scored 61.

RTC: I remember that the Sports Science guys broke it down and found that, looking at where it hit the backboard, the last shot by Gordon Hayward would have gone in but for a mere 2.5 inches. I assumed you’d still be seeing that shot in your sleep.

BS: (Laughs) There’s no doubt, I see it in my sleep. But, that’s part of it. We were so fortunate to be there in a lot of ways.

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The RTC Interview Series: One on One With Arthur Agee

Posted by rtmsf on September 3rd, 2010

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

Arthur Agee is one of the inimitable names in basketball circles for his excruciatingly real portrayal of a hotshot recruit with dreams of the NBA in one of the greatest documentaries of all-time, Hoop Dreams.  The movie tracked Agee and his Chicago compatriot, William Gates, as they moved through the shady underworld of high school basketball star-making and college basketball recruiting in the late 1980s and early 1990s.  Agee, the player who seemed more likely to end up on the wrong path as a result of his tough home life, ended up winning the Chicago Public League championship in 1991 and attending Arkansas State on scholarship.  While he nor Gates never made it to the NBA, they both have found meaning through their experiences captured on film to pass on their lessons to youngsters in the community: Gates as a pastor, and Agee as a motivational speaker who travels around the country inspiring students to follow their “hoop dreams” in all walks of life.  Agee was kind enough to speak with us last week.

Rush The Court: Arthur, talk to us a little bit about what you’re doing these days with your foundation (Arthur Agee Foundation) and your upcoming Hoop Dreams Tour (@HoopDreams2010 on Twitter) in October.

Arthur Agee: My Arthur Agee role model foundation involves me speaking and doing motivational things for kids.  The tour coming up with Mike Brown at Hoop Connection will have us traveling around from city to city [scheduled cities: Chicago, Orlando, Dallas, Sacramento] in October to help young athletes in those places pursue their hoop dreams.  We’ll be picking one person in each of those places to tell his or her story about their struggle and try to help them achieve their hoop dream — whether it’s a scholarship to college, a job in coaching or whatever else.  Our hope is that a reality televison show will pick it up and air what happens while we’re on this tour.

Agee Reached his Athletic Pinnacle at Marshall, But Much More Was on the Way

RTC: It’s amazing that this low-budget independent movie still has so much resonance over fifteen years later.  We hear from basketball fans regularly that it’s their favorite movie of all-time.  Can you discuss how you’re trying to use the opportunities it is still providing for you now?

AA: Well, realize that my family didn’t see any money from “Hoop Dreams” the movie.  Maybe $150,000 to $200,000.  The filmmakers saw it as a stepping stone project for themselves, but often times we were forgotten about.  That said, they have authorized me to use the name Hoop Dreams to brand it.  A consultant we talked to says there might be about $4 million left in it, so we got permission from the filmmakers to start a full clothing line — sneakers, hats, and so on.  So that’s the business challenge that I’m currently facing with it — branding Hoop Dreams and making it profitable.

RTC: What about the movie itself?  What has changed from those days and what life lessons can you give to young people today as a result of your experiences?

AA: Well, the basketball landscape has changed.  From the mid-90s until a few years ago, you could jump straight to the NBA from high school.  But the statistics on actually making it to the pros is really small.  Kids should be thinking about the primary goal to get a scholarship to college, and let the rest take care of itself.  I use a phrase, “Education is a necessity… basketball is a privilege,” and it’s true.  In the movie we did a couple of years ago, “Hoop Reality,” which was a fifteen-year follow-up to “Hoop Dreams,” I helped Patrick Beverley achieve his hoop dream.  We focused on him in the movie, and he eventually went to Arkansas on a scholarship and just recently signed a $1.5 million deal with the Miami Heat.  At Arkansas State, I had to do everything on my own to get noticed, and some agents came to me because of the movie, but that was about it.

Many of the Lessons From 20 Years Ago Are the Same

RTC: How is your relationship with co-star William Gates [a minister in the Chicago area now] from the movie?

AA: Will is great, and I keep up with him quite a bit. You have to keep in mind, though, that William Gates in the movie was still a lot better player than a lot of people with two good knees.  His son, Will Jr., is sixteen now [Class of 2013] and at St. Joseph’s just like we were.  Still with Coach [Gene] Pingatore!  I’d tell him what I’d tell anybody with a hoop dream — live your hoop dreams and control your own destiny, which means to go hard after whatever you want and don’t let anybody else get in your way.

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The RTC Interview Series: One On One With Abdul Gaddy

Posted by jstevrtc on August 27th, 2010

Rush The Court presents the inaugural edition of One on One: an Interview Series, which we hope to publish weekly on Friday mornings throughout the year.  If you have any specific interview requests or want us to interview you, shoot us an email at rushthecourt@yahoo.com.

As Abdul Gaddy heads into his second season under head coach Lorenzo Romar at the University of Washington, he has a lot to prove. Ranked as the second-best point guard prospect in the class of 2009 (behind the #1 pick in this year’s NBA Draft, John Wall), Gaddy had a disappointing freshman season, averaging just four points and two assists per game despite starting in each of his team’s final 27 games. Romar said that as the season wore on, he noticed that Gaddy’s confidence dipped, and a big question on the minds of many college basketball fans is when will we see that calm, cool and confident Gaddy who earned such lofty appraisals in his high school and AAU days.  Andrew Murawa, a contributor here at Rush The Court as well as our Pac-10 and Mountain West correspondent, talked with Gaddy earlier this week, and we asked him about the recruiting process, his freshman season, and what to expect from the 2010-11 version of the Huskies.

Rush The Court: When you came out of high school you were regarded as the second-best point guard prospect in the country behind John Wall. Did you pay a lot of attention to those recruiting rankings when you were in high school?

Abdul Gaddy: At the beginning, no. But, as I became the second-best point guard and all that, I kind of did pay attention. I thought it was a great honor for me, so I kind of got into it and thought it was pretty fun, just to see all the rankings, so I kind of got into it a little bit.

Gaddy's confidence was low for most of last season, but he recovered late, settled into college life, and his team won 14 of their last 17.

RTC: You played at events like the McDonald’s All-American game and the Jordan Brand Classic and the Boost Mobile Elite 24 at Rucker Park, where you got to play with and against some of those same guys in those recruiting rankings. What was that like?

AG: It was fun to play against those guys, the top-ranked guys in my class. They were all stout competition. They brought out my competitive nature. Having fun, playing the game of basketball against them, just to see how I measured up against them, was great. It was a good measuring stick for myself to see where I was at and how much better I needed to get.

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RTC Remembers Loyola Marymount 1989-90: Interview With Jeff Fryer

Posted by jstevrtc on March 3rd, 2010

March 4, 1990.

Quarterfinals, West Coast Conference Tournament.

Loyola Marymount vs Portland.  13:34 left, first half.

Hank Gathers had just scored on a dunk to put his Lions ahead, 25-13.  Unfortunately, we all know what happened soon after.

Twenty years to the day have passed since that moment, one of the most tragic in the history of college basketball.  Gathers, of course, was much more than the leader of the most exciting college team ever to take the floor, and what he meant to people as a friend and family member cannot be explained or summarized in a hundred articles on this or any other website, or by the various 20-year remembrances of both Gathers and that 1990 Loyola Marymount team that you’re likely to see in the next few weeks.   After that moment, the entire WCC Tournament was stopped.  As regular season champions, Loyola Marymount was awarded the WCC’s automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament.  They were cast as a #11 seed in the West region, and given the “opportunity” to decline the bid for obvious reasons.  This was a good basketball team; they had posted a 13-1 WCC record and were 26-6 overall.  But if they chose to sit this one out — who could blame them?

The remaining Lions decided to play on, knowing that it was the most fitting way to honor their departed friend.  What came after that was probably the most remarkable three-game run in NCAA Tournament history, and not just because LMU was an underdog in each game.  Knowing that not playing was not an option, these guys had to find a way to go out and win games and enjoy basketball without feeling like they were minimizing the life of their fallen teammate.  Working this out in your head would be difficult at any age, let alone when you’re a college kid between 18-22.  Still, they found a way to get through the first game and defeat New Mexico State, 111-92.  They found a way to annihilate defending champion Michigan 149-115 — that is not a typo — hitting 21 three-pointers and forcing UM into 27 turnovers.  They found a way to endure and win the Sweet 16 game against Alabama, 62-60,  a game in which Alabama would actually pull the ball out even when the Tide had 3-on-1 and 4-on-2 fastbreaks so as not to get caught up in the LMU style.  It took the eventual champion in UNLV — one of the best college basketball teams of all time — to defeat them in the Elite Eight.

Fryer (#21) Celebrating

The entire nation had become fascinated with LMU even before Gathers’ death.  Everyone remembers the hyperdrive, speed of light, is-this-really-happening pace that coach Paul Westhead employed (LMU averaged 122.4 PPG that year).  Everyone remembers Bo Kimble’s tribute of shooting his first free throw of each game left-handed, and that he was 3-3  in the NCAA Tournament with the left hand.  The greatest part of the LMU run, though, was the 41-point performance by Jeff Fryer in the second round game against Michigan.  A perfect fit for Westhead’s offense, Fryer was a skilled shooter with classic form and unbelievable range who had the green light to go up with it pretty much as soon as he crossed half-court.  Against Michigan, he entered a rarified state of shooting consciousness, hitting 15-20 on the night — and an unbelievable 11-15 from behind the three point arc.  And if you ever get to see a replay of this game, you’ll notice — a lot of them weren’t exactly with his toes near the line.  It was phenomenal.  The 11 threes still stand as a record number for an NCAA Tournament game, and it was one of the great individual performances in the history of the event.  Mr. Fryer still lives in California and was kind enough to answer some of our questions about those days.

The Righty Kimble Going Lefty

RTC: To this day, when people think of Loyola Marymount, they think of the fast-paced style, the great tournament run in 1990, and Hank Gathers’ untimely death in the West Coast Conference Tournament quarterfinals that year.  The WCC Tournament begins on Friday.  It’s been 20 years.  What has been the impact of Gathers’ death on your life?

JF: The impact of Hank’s life on my life would be the privilege of playing hoops with one of the best college ball players ever.  I’m thankful that he decided to play his college years at LMU and the timing couldn’t have been more perfect.  I try not to dwell on his death, just try to remember his life, and that everybody has a time to pass on, and that was his time.

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RTC Interview: Seth Davis On College Basketball, His New Show, & Fannovation

Posted by nvr1983 on January 29th, 2010

Last week, RTC spoke with Seth Davis of Sports Illustrated and CBS to talk about a variety of topics on college basketball and a new promotion for Coke Zero. This is not the first time we have spoken with Seth as we interviewed him last March for the launch of his book “When March Went Mad” about the 1979 championship game between Magic Johnson and Larry Bird. Before the interview officially began, Seth expressed his displeasure about not getting linked every day in the Morning Five. We would give you the transcript of that discussion, but Chinese government regulations prohibit us from doing so.

Ed. Note: This interview took place last week, but due to some transcribing issues we are just putting it up now.

Seth Davis: Man of Intrigue

RTC: I guess we will start with your alma mater. Duke is looking strong again this year, but is different than they usually look as they are not relying on the outside shooting as much as a complete game. A lot of people have been talking up Duke. Do you think this is the year they can make it back to the Final Four?

SD: I do. I think they are legit. It’s kind of funny. Here they are ranked 5th or 6th in the country, putting together a great record, and there is not a lot of buzz about Duke right now. It’s funny to say that because they are so ubiquitous on television, but I think that we have all seen them get off to these great starts the past few years before they fall in the tournament. This team does things that those teams did not primarily defend and rebound. Those things are very important assets to carry into the tournament because at some point you are going to have an “off” shooting night and I think back for example to when they lost in the 2nd round to West Virginia. I think West Virginia was like +16 on the boards. At some point the shots aren’t going to fall. This team has the ability to overcome that so I don’t know from strictly a talent standpoint if I would put them on the Texas, Kentucky, and Kansas level, but do I think of them on a short list of contenders to get to the Final Four? Absolutely. I think by the way they will have a great chance of getting a #1 seed if they win the ACC regular season and then win the [ACC] tournament. I would be surprised if they aren’t a #1 seed.


RTC: Sticking with a US News & World Report College Rankings theme. Another team that has really made a lot of news this year is Cornell with a lot of close losses to very good teams, but that doesn’t impact their RPI and NCAA seeding as much as some people would think. How good is this team? How high do you think they could be seeded and how far could they go in the NCAA tournament?
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Adam Zagoria on Kyrie Irving, Recruiting, and Social Networking

Posted by nvr1983 on October 27th, 2009

When Adam Zagoria, a writer for SNY.tv and ZagsBlog.com, broke the news last Tuesday night about super-recruit Kyrie Irving‘s committing to Duke (note: initial report did not have Irving’s denial and had Chris Collins named in place of “[a Duke assistant]“) reaction across the blogosphere varied from ecstatic to negative after Irving denied Zagoria’s reports. After Irving eventually officially committed to Duke on an orchestrated ESPNU ceremony less than 48 hours after his initial denials and told multiple media outlets that he had decided on Duke long before he went on ESPNU several media members (Seth Davis and Gary Parrish being the most prominent) felt that Irving owed Zagoria an apology. We were a little more measured and felt that the entire episode reflected more of the circus that is college basketball recruiting. Since that time, the issue of the interaction between Zagoria (the journalist) and Irving (the recruit) has grown increasingly contentious on message boards across the Internet so we decided to go to Mr. Zagoria and get his take on it.

Rush the Court: What kind of background do you have doing this type of stuff [covering recruiting]?

Adam Zagoria: I’ve been a sportswriter for about 15 years and I’ve been doing basketball recruiting for I guess about 5 years. I was at a newspaper, The Bergen Record and The Herald News, in New Jersey for 10 years and I’ve been at SNY for about 2 years.

RTC: I don’t know if you have been reading what they have been saying on the Duke message boards and other places like that. Have you been keeping up with that at all or do you try to avoid that stuff?

AZ: I’ve read some of it. I’m pretty busy with my other job duties, but I’m aware of it.

RTC: Ok. Could you talk a little bit about how you developed a relationship with Kyrie Irving and his family and how that came about happening?

AZ: I cover metropolitan-area basketball and I know the players and coaches at the local high schools–St. Anthony’s, St. Patrick’s, and St. Benedict’s–for a number of years so I met Kyrie going to his team’s games and going to different events.

RTC: So your relationship with him was no different than the typical star recruit in the area? Or was it a little closer than that?

AZ: I have a lot respect for Kyrie and his family. I think they’re great people and he’s a tremendous player and person. I wish him nothing, but the best going forward.

RTC: Could you tell us a little bit about what happened when you broke the story [about his commitment]?

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Santa Clara’s John Bryant: Q&A With John Stevens

Posted by jstevrtc on February 20th, 2009

John Stevens is a featured writer for Rush The Court.

You’ll have to excuse John Bryant if he doesn’t exactly dwell on the past, these days.  Why should he?  When you’ve got as much going on as this guy, the past is something from which you’ve become expert at taking whatever lessons you can, and then letting it fall away.

Wait, what’s that name?  John Bryant?  Right now you are likely wondering why that name sounds familiar.  You are wondering exactly where you’ve heard it before.  In a moment, I’ll tell you.

The best player you dont know.  (credit: tucsoncitizen.com)
The best player you don’t know. (credit: tucsoncitizen.com)

Bryant plays center for Santa Clara University.  And he doesn’t just play center — he’s one of the best big men in the nation.  He currently has 21 double-doubles (points and rebounds) on the year, a mere one behind likely player-of-the-year Blake Griffin’s 22.  Yes, that’s more than some other guys you might hear more about, like Harangody, Thabeet, Blair, and Hansbrough.  Bryant is second in the nation in rebounds per game (an unreal 13.8), not to mention tied for 14th nationally with 2.6 blocks per game, and is now the all-time leader at SCU in that category.

But that’s not where you know him from.

In the middle of finishing up his senior season, including leading the Broncos to wins in seven of their last eight games, John was good enough to find time to answer some of my questions:

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