Morning Five: 05.25.12 Edition

Posted by rtmsf on May 25th, 2012

  1. It wouldn’t be the Morning Five without a John Calipari mention, as the sport’s biggest newsmaker spins the media like a top with his almost-daily appearances, interviews, and social media missives. Yesterday on his website the Kentucky head coach wrote that his new scheduling strategy — pushing for more neutral site appearances against marquee opponents — will result in a one-year hiatus in the Kentucky-North Carolina series, but the home-and-home battle between two of the best programs in the country will return in 2013-14. The purpose of this move according to Calipari is to alternate years where the Wildcats will have to travel to Chapel Hill and Louisville, meaning that UK will play at least one tough non-conference road game each year. The Wildcats have also picked up a home/neutral series with Baylor starting next season that will allow them to play in Cowboys Stadium in 2013-14, the site of that year’s Final Four. Perhaps most interestingly, though, is that Calipari says that he’s in negotiations with Duke to begin an annual rotating neutral site game that he says would be on the same weekend each year and become “THE GAME” to watch. We certainly can’t argue with that.
  2.  What we can argue with was a curious comment that Calipari made in his post explaining why he’s so gung ho on scheduling future neutral site games in football stadiums: “I’m convinced we would have won the title two seasons ago if we would have played in a dome during the regular season. Our guys weren’t prepared for it.” At first blush, this sounds reasonable on its face. But closer examination suggests that the head coach is tailoring the facts of his argument to justify what he wants. First of all, the Wildcats lost to West Virginia in the Elite Eight in Syracuse in 2010, which means of course that they had to win a Sweet Sixteen game in the Carrier Dome two days prior — on the same floor, in the same dome, only against a different team (Cornell). Did John Wall and company forget what they’d learned about playing in a dome environment just 48 hours before the loss to WVU? Next, the 2012 team that just won the national championship in the Superdome didn’t play in a dome environment at all in this year’s regular season or in the SEC Tournament. Still, without that ‘necessary’ experience, the Wildcats successively rolled through Indiana, Baylor, Louisville and Kansas to win it all. All in domes. If Calipari wants to play the lack of experience card to forgive the failure of the 2010 Wildcats, he probably should be looking at the ridiculously soft schedule that his Wildcats ran through on its way to a 35-3 record that year. When both teams matched up in the Elite Eight, the Mountaineers were by far the best team UK had faced all season. Kentucky’s lack of experience in playing good teams was the problem; it wasn’t that they hadn’t played in a dome. [Ed. Note: It is unclear which team Calipari was referring to, but the 2010 team was a far superior team if he was talking about winning a national championship.]
  3. From a coach spewing nonsense to players doing likewise… Deadspin published a really interesting piece on Thursday examining in great detail documents from the cottage industry of companies who are tasked with monitoring college athletes’ social networking accounts. The article describes how it works: First, the schools get access to each player’s account through a special tracking mechanism that scans their pages regularly. Then, “once the computers gather all that data, the firms’ software searches it for trigger words and reports back to coaches and athletic department functionaries. This happens in near real-time.” It wouldn’t be Deadspin-worthy unless the examples were equal parts hilarious and horrifying, so we’d just suggest you set aside a few minutes of your time and get over there to poke around. Of particular interest is one company’s documentation and definition of many of the most common trigger words and phrases that could get players in trouble. Let’s just end this by saying that if you’re over 30 years old, you’re probably going to learn a few new slang words or acronyms to test on your buddies during the long weekend.
  4. More conference realignment! And it doesn’t involve yet another rumor about Florida State, Clemson or Miami. No, UT-Arlington, a Southland school who is (we’re not kidding) joining the WAC on July 1, will spend one year in that league before movin’ on up to the Sun Belt, effective next summer. You read that correctly — in a span of 366 days (from June 30, 2012 to July 1, 2013), UT-Arlington will be a member of three different conferences. At the mid-major level, it’s just short of impossible to keep up with who is heading where, but we think that the Sun Belt will also pick up Georgia State and Texas State to replace the losses of FIU, Denver, and North Texas to the WAC and Conference USA. Whether the WAC survives all of this re-shuffling remains to be seen.
  5. A couple of head coaching positions at the mid-major level were filled on Thursday, with Rider and Binghamton inextricably connected through the transition. Binghamton hired Rider head coach Tommy Dempsey to take over for Mark Macon, a former star player at Temple who was unable to dig out of the morass left by his predecessor, Kevin Broadus. Rider acted quickly to fill the vacuum, promoting assistant coach Kevin Baggett to the helm for purposes of continuity. Rider has averaged 18.5 wins per season in the six years that Baggett was an assistant for Dempsey, so it makes sense that the administration wants to keep the momentum moving forward.
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The Hypocrisy of ESPN

Posted by nvr1983 on July 23rd, 2009

Before I get started, I want to reiterate our stance against the scumbags who surreptitiously videotaped Erin Andrews in the clips that apparently came out almost 4 months ago and somehow remained unknown before exploding on the Internet one week ago. . .

As you may know by now the past week has been a particularly trying one for the sports media overlords in Bristol as they have been hit by the aforementioned peephole video scandal, which their own sister network claims might have been an inside job [Ed. Note: Can ESPN sue its parent company?],  and the Ben Roethlisberger fiasco where they waited several days to announce the news that one of the most recognizable athletes in America had a sexual assault charge filed against him. Perhaps the most interesting story out of Bristol this week was that ESPN had decided to blacklist all New York Post staff members from appearing on any ESPN or any of their outlets after the Post ran screencaps of the infamous videos that left little to the imagination. On a basic visceral level, most people would agree to ESPN’s decision as they would  be disgusted by the decision of the Post brain trust to run the screencaps.

hypocrisy meter

The situation becomes a little more dicey when 2 other major media outlets (CBS and FOX News) decided to show the actual clips on their news broadcasts. If the front office people at ESPN actually had a policy or stance regarding the use of these illegally filmed clips, they should have taken a similar stance against CBS and FOX staff members. This raises an interesting question: Why did ESPN single out the New York Post? While some may argue that it was the way the Post utilized the images, we find that rather hard to believe. Although CBS and FOX were not as sensational in their presentation of the clips as the Post was they are in fact doing the same thing–using the illegal footage to try and further their story. For our money, there is a simple answer as to why ESPN singled out the Post staff members for their blacklist–because they can.

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Boom Goes the Dynamite: 03.08.09

Posted by nvr1983 on March 8th, 2009

dynamiteWe are finally here. Today is the last day of the college basketball regular season. What’s that? St. Mary’s didn’t get the memo? Ok, after today 99.99999% of the programs will be done with the regular season. After we attempted to write the college basketball version of War and Peace for yesterday’s Boom Goes the Dynamite, we get a little break as there aren’t quite as many high quality games today, but the ones that we do have look like they will be pretty entertaining. Here are the games that we will be following today:

  • Noon: #20 Purdue at #8 Michigan State on CBS
  • 2 PM: Virginia Tech at #24 FSU on Raycom, ESPN Full Court, and ESPN360.com
  • 2:05 PM: Illinois State vs. Northern Iowa on CBS
  • 3 PM: Old Dominion vs. Virginia Commonwealth on Comcast, ESPN Full Court, and ESPN360.com
  • 4 PM: #7 Duke at #2 UNC on CBS
  • 5 PM: Northwestern at Ohio State on The Big Ten Network
  • 6 PM: #19 Clemson at #10 Wake Forest on FSN
  • 6 PM: College of Charleston vs. Davidson on SportsSouth and ESPN360.com

There are a couple of big story lines here. Outside of the obvious ones happening in Chapel Hill (Tyler Hansbrough‘s last game in the Dean Dome, UNC’s quest for a #1 seed, Duke’s last gasp effort for a #1 seed, and all the injuries including the under-reported–not by RTC–injury to Ty Lawson), we’ll be looking in on East Lansing where the Spartans will be looking to solify a #2 seed (forget all the talk about them getting a #1–not happening), Saint Louis where the Missouri Valley will award a ticket to the NCAA tournament, and Chattanooga where Stephen Curry and his Davidson teammates will be battling for their NCAA tournament lives as they will not get in if they don’t win their conference tournament.

There are also some great games out in Las Vegas for the West Coast Conference tournament with Gonzaga vs. Santa Clara, which will be featured as our RTC Live event, that will be followed by Saint Mary’s vs. Portland (aka “The Return of Patty Mills“). Unfortunately, that’s past my bedtime on the East Coast (tips at 9:30 and 11:30 PM ET respectively) although if you’re really nice you might be able to talk rtmsf into staying up late for you since he’s on the West Coast.

11:30 AM: It looks like we only have 2 games (Purdue-Michigan State and Alabama-Tennessee) worthy watching in the noon time slot. Unfortunately, they’re both on CBS so most of the nation will only be able to follow one on television. Luckily, I’m getting the better of the two games (Purdue-Michigan State), but I will be following the game in Knoxville on GameCast as well. If any of you are in Tennessee or Alabama, feel free to send in your thoughts in the comment section so the rest of us will know what’s going on in the game beyond the box score.

While we’re waiting, I wanted to pass along a photo I found on Deadspin this morning featuring Erin Andrews, who found something in Freedom Hall a little disturbing (probably Rick Pitino‘s yelling).

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Billy the Kid Fallout

Posted by rtmsf on June 2nd, 2007

Billy Donovan Magic

As expected, the college hoops/NBA blogospheres have been abuzz with thoughts on the reasoning behind Billy Donovan’s decision to leave Florida for the Orlando Magic, as well as speculation as to how well BTK will do when he gets there. As we said on Thursday when the news was breaking, it’s unlikely that Donovan will become an abject failure in the NBA like his mentor Pitino in Boston or several of the other successful college coaches who made that jump – most notably, Carlesimo, Calipari, Tim Floyd, Mike Montgomery and even switching sports with another ex-Gator, Steve Spurrier. The key distinction is that Donovan’s opportunity with Orlando, very much in contrast with most NBA job openings, is a pretty good one. Orlando was a playoff team this season, albeit barely, and they do have a young stud in Dwight Howard to pair with solid PG Jameer Nelson and a surplus of salary cap space. Plus Orlando as a city has long been attractive to free agents because of its warm weather, exclusive neighborhoods such as Isleworth (Shaq and Tiger have homes there) and tax benefit (no state income tax in Florida).

So the question really shouldn’t be whether Donovan will fail in Orlando, it’s whether he will succeed. Can he shrewdly use his eye for talent to build around Howard to make the Magic a 50-60 win team over the next five years, eventually rising to the level of challenging the Lebrons for the JV Conference title? In the NBA, the old adage goes, it’s all about the players. The coaches above failed for many reasons, often including a lack of imagination and management acumen, but the most important reason was they simply had inferior talent. Billy Donovan is in a unique position as a new NBA coach where he should be able to avoid that pitfall, and for that reason, it says here that he’ll have a successful tenure in Orlando.

The media expectedly is falling into two camps on this issue:

Successful:

Kelly Dwyer at cnnsi.com:

From Mike Montgomery to Rick Pitino, John Calipari, Tim Floyd, Lon Kruger, Leonard Hamilton, P.J. Carlesimo, Jerry Tarkanian and Dick Vitale, the NBA landscape is littered with former college coaches who thought they could exhort and prod their way toward NBA glory. And, to a man, each fell well short. Only Pitino, Floyd and Carlesimo were offered second NBA jobs, with only Floyd (the most maligned of the bunch) improving his record in his second stint.

The overriding theme here is respect, and how to earn it from professionals making guaranteed money while the coach tries to sustain a sense of gravitas from training camp in October to, hopefully, a playoff run in the spring. NCAA coaches, who are allowed to wield scholarships and playing time over the head of impressionable youngsters, are able to get away with emptying all their motivational shells in the midst of what, at best, could turn into a 40-game season. NBA coaches tend to hit their 40th game in early February, with a playoff push and possible postseason run still weeks away.

Despite all the historical evidence suggesting failure, each pro team and each coach think their situation could be the one exception — the one marriage of pro team and ex-college coach that actually works. There is some evidence that suggests that Donovan, for all intents and purposes, could be the one who breaks the losing streak.

Ian Thomsen at cnnsi.com (linked yesterday but written on Apr. 9):

“Here’s what I’ve noticed about Billy,” a GM said. “A few years ago he realized he wasn’t very good at coaching defense. He moved one of his assistants — which is very hard to do for a head coach, because in that world it’s all about loyalty and sticking together — and [in 2004] he brought in an old veteran guy, Larry Shyatt, to fix the problem. And that’s why they were able to win two national championships.”

Here’s the picture I should have recognized last week. Donovan has been aiming toward an NBA career, and along the way he’s been humble enough to recognize his weaknesses and fix them. He will have a lot to learn in the NBA, but there is a feeling among his potential employers that he won’t be the typically dictatorial college coach who fails to form a partnership with his richer, more powerful NBA players. Donovan will adapt and grow into the job.

“When he hires his assistants in the NBA, he won’t go the buddy route,” the GM said. “If he perceives he’s not good enough in a certain area, he’ll go and get himself some help. He’ll figure out what he needs to be successful in the NBA, and he’ll put the right guys around him.”

Tony Mejia at cbs.sportsline.com:

Orlando has, in one single move, become relevant again. And even if Donovan fails, conventional wisdom is that he can always return to the college game the way mentor Rick Pitino did. He has had a nice re-birth, no?
But he won’t fail. He’s walking into a wonderful situation and was smart enough to recognize that. The Magic made his choice all the easier by ponying up the jack. I honestly never felt they had it in them. The climate has changed. Orlando wants to be more than mediocre.

The Big Lead:

Plus, unlike many college coaches before him, Donovan can win in the NBA: the Magic are already a playoff team in the East, probably will get Vince Carter this summer, and it looks like a couple teams in the East are going downhill (Miami’s old, Detroit’s aging, and Indiana appears to be on the path to rebuilding).

Failure:

Pat Forde at espn.com:

I sincerely hope Billy Donovan doesn’t wind up like all the others.

I hope he’s not the next Tark, the next John Calipari, the next Tim Floyd, the next Lon Kruger, the next Mike Montgomery. I hope he doesn’t follow the same failed path as his mentor, Rick Pitino. I hope he doesn’t wind up with his wind pipe being massaged by a player, like P.J. Carlesimo.

I hope he’s not just another college coach who, for some reason, couldn’t tolerate living with the happiness and success he built by hand, and chose the misery of losing in the NBA instead. I hope he’s not the next in a conga line of call-up coaches who flop when taken out of their element.

Bob McClellan at yahoo.com:

The NBA is grinding, demanding. It’s four games in a week, not two. It’s hitting the road 41 times, not 10 times like the Gators did last season (and two of those were in-state trips). There are no non-conference cupcakes, although there are two games with the Memphis Grizzlies.

The fact is coaches don’t leave the NBA because they get better gigs. They leave because they get pink slips. They leave exhausted, chewed up and spit out, black and blue.

Orange and Blue would have been the safer choice.

Dan Shanoff as guest blogger at deadspin.com:

And the final insult for any college fan, Florida or anywhere: What, exactly, is the lure of coaching in the NBA? On its face, it sounds like the shittiest job in sports.
Zero job security, with a “when” not “if” inevitability of a bad ending to nearly every coaching hire. (Welcome to Indiana, Jim O’Brien!) Star players who run the team. Financial realities that hamstring moves.

Roughest of all, the “Ring or Bust” mentality. Jerry Sloan is the ideal of NBA coaching longevity, yet he is best known for NOT winning a championship. And most of the coaches who have won a title recently (Jackson, Tomjanovich, Popovich) have enjoyed coaching the greatest players of their eras. Dwight Howard is the best post player in the East — not a bad foundation to build a contender — and they have double-digit cap millions to use (please God: NOT Vince Carter…hmm: Gerald Wallace?) But yeesh, those odds are still ugly.\Meanwhile, Billy D was on track to be one of the Top 5 most successful coaches in college hoops history. His style seemed MADE for college. (His weakness – Xs and Os – will be magnified in the NBA, while his strength – personality – will be mitigated.)

Brian Schmitz’s Magic Basketblog:

If hiring him winds up being the biggest transaction of the summer, it will mean the Magic failed to land a prized free agent or make a trade for the missing piece or pieces. And Billy’s NBA maiden voyage could hit rough water for a team that carries, perhaps, oversized expectations, firing Hill even after he led the Magic to their first playoff appearance since 2003.

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