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?

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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.

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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.

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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 »

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

Posted by rtmsf on June 30th, 2011

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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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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