On Dean Smith And Memories

Posted by jstevrtc on July 19th, 2010

Over the past couple of weeks we’ve all heard about the memory loss to which former North Carolina coach Dean Smith has fallen victim.  The subject was recently visited in an article that appeared in the Fayetteville Observer earlier this month, and John Feinstein soon followed up with a statement on his site regarding the matter, since he had worked with Smith on what now sounds like a abandoned project that was to be a book about the coach.  The tragic irony — that Dean Smith, the very creator of so many college basketball memories for so many people, is now having trouble remembering parts of them — has been lost on nobody.

Then, over the weekend, Smith’s family sent a letter to his former players via current chief Roy Williams, a letter that served as an update on Smith’s condition, a note of appreciation, and a request for privacy.  There are positives and negatives in the picture that’s painted, and the actual problem that Smith is having isn’t specifically named — on which more in a moment.

The living legend may have some memory problems, but the collective conscience of college basketball does not.

Smith is the second legendary coach we’ve seen in recent times who’s had to deal with a problem of this nature.  Lute Olson, a man who’s face, voice, coaching style, and overall debonair still stand as symbols of Arizona Wildcat basketball, also dealt with issues of a neurological nature.  Back in 2008, Olson underwent profound personality changes in a relatively short period of time, sometimes showing behaviors so inconsistent with his usual self that a subsequent MRI revealed a “previously undiagnosed” stroke as the causative factor.

Do not, however, make the mistake in assuming that Coach Smith’s situation is the same as Coach Olson’s, or that they will follow the same course.  The scenarios are quite different.  Olson’s behavioral change had a specific cause, but there doesn’t seem to be a specific reason cited to account for Smith’s spotty but evidently progressive memory loss.  In Feinstein’s article, he mentions that both he and Coach Smith himself had noticed some changes in Smith in 2005, but that there was also a knee-replacement surgery in 2007 that had complications in the form of “neurological issues.”  The words “Alzheimer’s Disease” have popped up in a couple of places (we are intentionally not linking them here), and while that would fit under the umbrella of what Smith’s family refers to as a “progressive neurocognitive disorder which affects his memory,” there are several other things that fit there, as well.  We haven’t spoken directly to the family, haven’t examined Smith, and have no other data to use, so it might be a little early to make that diagnosis.  There are at least 20 other disorders that could fall under that heading.

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Morning Five: 07.14.10 Edition

Posted by nvr1983 on July 13th, 2010

  1. Of course the biggest news of the summer to date was Monday’s announcement that the NCAA Tournament “First Four” would include four auto-bids along with the last four at-large bids.  Mike DeCourcy got some immediate reactions on the configuration from head coaches Gary Williams, Trent Johnson and Scott Sutton.  Whether politically correct, a compromise, much ado about nothing, or a punt, the two decisions that the NCAA made in the past three months regarding the best thing this sport has to offer shows that they’re listening to the public.  For such a staid institution that has been heavily criticized over the years, this is not a bad thing.
  2. Next year’s DeMarcus Cousins could come in the form of Mississippi State’s Renardo Sidney, so circle your calendars for the December 18 debut of the talented big man in the Atlantis Paradise Island Invitational, where the Bulldogs seek to beef up their RPI standing with a possible game (contract pending) against fellow eternal bubbler Virginia Tech.
  3. New England high school basketball talent no longer an oxymoron?  According to this report by Bostonian Jeff Goodman, the long-underwhelming area of talent may be moving forward in much the same way that the Pacific Northwest has over the last five years.  We’ll have to remain watchful on this one.
  4. Wow, this description by John Feinstein on the book he hoped to do about legendary former UNC coach Dean Smith is stifling in its austerity.  Smith’s memory loss problems were publicly broken last week by the Fayetteville Observer, but it was Feinstein’s tales of trying to discuss past events with Smith for his book that really put things into focus.  Sad, sad story.
  5. Tennessee treasure and women’s head coach Pat Summitt’s son, Tyler, will walk on for UT beginning next season.  He had opportunities to play at the Division III level, but he will use his experience as a member of the men’s team to develop what he hopes will one day turn into a coaching opportunity.  The only question we have is whether he’ll try to coach men’s or women’s ball?
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Morning Five: 07.09.10 Edition

Posted by nvr1983 on July 9th, 2010

Now that we’re done with the ridiculous LeBron ego-fest the sports media can get back on people who actually care about sport rather than just making themselves into even bigger celebrities.

  1. The CBE Classic (not Tournament) has announced that Duke, Kansas State, Gonzaga, and Marquette will host the regional games against Princeton and Miami (OH); James Madison and Presbyterian; Bucknell and Wisconsin-Green Bay; and IUPUI and San Diego State, respectively. The hosts will automatically advance to the semifinals in Kansas City regardless of whether they win or lose the regional games.
  2. The US National Team announced the practice squad of college players that will scrimmage against the NBA players prior to the lead-up to the World Championships later this summer. While the National Team won’t be that loaded this summer don’t expect these college players to beat the National Team in any of these scrimmages like the 1992 team did against “The Dream Team” in the first scrimmage (where Michael Jordan only played 3 minutes).
  3. Some sad news about the health of Dean Smith during his retirement. Although we could speculate about the causes and prognosis much like we could have with the recently departed John Wooden we won’t out of respect to both the coach and his family and instead wish them the best in what is undoubtedly a difficult situation.
  4. And more sad news out, but this time out of Lexington as we noted  former Kentucky All-American Mel Turpin committed suicide at his home yesterday. A dominant player in college (scroll down), Turpin was less successful in the NBA where he was drafted #6 in the 1984 NBA Draft where his teammate Sam Bowie was drafted 2nd above some guy named Jordan. Still Turpin seemed to keep things in perspective once telling Sports Illustrated, “In my day, they thought the big man was supposed to be thin. They didn’t know too much. It was medieval.”
  5. ESPN and the ACC have reached a 12-year TV deal worth $1.86 billion for both basketball and football. We can only hope this means that ESPN will broadcast more games during the season instead of all of their non-entertaining entertainment shows that they have filled air time with in recent years.
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Selected Thoughts From Final Four Weekend

Posted by rtmsf on April 8th, 2010

You know how this works… here are some random thoughts bouncing around our head as we come out of a pretty damn good Final Four in Indianapolis.

Welcome to Indy!

Coach K is the Current Dean of Coaches.  But let’s get one thing put to rest right away.  He’s not John Wooden.  For all you presentists out there convinced that the era we’re currently in is tougher than any other previous one, get your head out of your sphincter.  Make all the excuses you want, but Wooden beat all comers west AND east, year after year after year after year (ten times in twelve seasons).  We could go on and on about this, and if the numbers were anywhere near each other (like if K had eight titles to Wooden’s ten), we’d entertain the argument.  But they’re not, and Coach K would probably be the first to chastise you of such foolishness.  Now, with that said, Krzyzewski is a clear #2 all-time with his most recent title.  Tom Izzo came into the Final Four with everyone gushing about his six appearances in the last twelve years, but it’s K who has done it better for longer, now with eleven F4s and four national championships to his credit.  Whenever he decides to retire, and there’s a good chance it won’t be for another decade, Coach K will have far surpassed the man whom he set his eyes on as a target way back in the early 80s — UNC demigod Dean Smith.  What seemed like a herculean impossibility at that time ultimately came to pass, as Coach K is now the Dean of Tobacco Road and the Smith family tree of he and Roy Williams must combine championships at UNC to simply match those of K (something undoubtedly not lost on Williams in his lair at this very moment).  Furthermore, Krzyzewski proved with this year’s team that he doesn’t have to have better talent than everyone else to cut down the nets — his other championship teams were stacked to the brim with future pros, but it will ultimately be the 2010 national titleist that raises his legacy from one of the coach with the best talent to one of the talent with the best coach.

K: Best in the Business

Greatest Title Game Ever? Had Gordon Hayward’s half-court shot found net, we’d be on board with this.  The storyline is just too good.  Even better than Villanova taking down big, bad Georgetown in ’85 or NC State’s miracle of miracles two years earlier.  The Jimmy Chitwood/Bobby Plump comparisons would have been endless, and we’re a little more than halfway convinced that we’d have seen our first-ever title game RTC should the ball have gone through.  Unfortunately for most of America, like many life-story endings awkwardly forced into a Hollywood template, reality leaves you waiting for the next moment that never comes — the Hayward shot didn’t magically bounce up in the air and fall back through…  The truth is that the national championship game was a hard-nosed, calculating, defensive-minded drama between two teams where every single point came with a price tag.  But it wasn’t beautiful, and in order to have greatness bestowed upon a game, it usually needs to end with a make rather than a miss.  This is not always the case, but it’s difficult to buy into the GOAT argument when the last made field goal occurred with just under a minute remaining (as a comparison, the widely-accepted greatest game of all-time, 1992 Duke-Kentucky, had five lead changes in the last 35 seconds of overtime).  So where does it rank?  Still pretty high — for our money, this was the best championship game since 1999 UConn vs. Duke (yes, Memphis-Kansas was thrilling, but not for the entire game), and is definitely in the top 6-8 in the post-Wooden era, but let’s keep our wits about us here. 

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09.14.09 Fast Breaks

Posted by rtmsf on September 14th, 2009

In the last week or so, we’ve noticed that the days are distinctly shorter than they were, which means only one thing…  darkness.

  • What, no Matt Doherty?  Carolina celebrated its 100 years of basketball with a blowout extravaganza two Fridays ago featuring such UNC luminaries as Dean Smith, Michael Jordan, Vince Carter, Phil Ford, Larry Brown, Antawn Jamison, George Karl, Julius Peppers and a bunch of other dignitaries, both past and present.  The tribute video they presented at the beginning of the evening should be mandatory viewing for every recruit that steps into Chapel Hill (sidenote: 2010 #1 Harrison Barnes and several others were there), but the featured event was the scrimmage, nicknamed the “Professional Alumni Game,” where the White team (starters: Raymond Felton, Brendan Haywood, Marvin Williams, Antawn Jamison and Jerry Stackhouse) defeated the Blue team (Vince Carter, Jawad Williams, Dante Calabria, Sean May and Ed Cota) 113-92.  It sounds great and all, but it was the trotting out of that old Carolina/Dean Smith warhorse, the Four Corners offense, that just about made this writer puke.  Let’s sully one of the greatest collections of collegiate talent ever put together in a single place at a single time by reminiscing and celebrating one of the biggest abominations the game has ever witnessed.  For you youngsters, the 4C was largely responsible for the implementation of the 45-second shot clock in the mid-80s, and is widely ridiculed as one of the worst inventions of the modern game.  Bad, bad idea, Heels.  As another sidenote to this Carolina joyfest, did anyone else feel that MJ’s acceptance speech at the HOF induction last weekend was completely petty and mean-spirited?  From our cheap seats, it appears that more than one Jordan Myth was defused this weekend (h/t TBL).
  • Memphis Appeals.  Last week Memphis sent its timely notice of appeal to the NCAA based on the Derrick Rose Scandal, arguing that the Tigers’ 38 wins and NCAA Tournament runner-up appearance from 2007-08 should not be removed from the history books.  Among the findings that led to the penalties, the only one that Memphis is appealing is the violation involving Derrick Rose’s SAT score.  This is presumably because it is also the most difficult one to prove (cf. with Memphis getting cold-busted for providing illicit airfare and hotels to Reggie Rose).  The school, now represented by “NCAA defender to the stars” Mike Glazier, has thirty days to present its arguments to the NCAA Infractions Committee, and their argument is going to undoubtedly hinge on the seeming inconsistency of Derrick Rose being cleared by the NCAA Clearinghouse prior to his freshman season only to be later deemed ineligible after the fact.  Sadly for Memphis, in this case and in the real world, what is an apparent inconsistency is incongruent with the fact that the justice system (and the NCAA) doesn’t work like that.  The bottom line is this: so long as the Clearinghouse made a good faith effort to determine the basis for Rose’s initial eligibility (and we presume it did), the revelation of later evidence indicting Rose’s SAT provenance has no bearing on the initial assessment.  The NCAA had no basis to believe that Rose had cheated on his SATs until the allegations surfaced after his freshman year.  The real-world analogy would be if the police did a cursory investigation of someone related to a crime and found no evidence to initially support their involvement, only to receive credible information a year later that the person investigated might have indeed committed the crime.  Rose was no more “cleared” than any of us are – there is no “get-out-of-jail-free” card that we can present in perpetuity; if additional information comes to light, it is entirely reasonable for conditions to change in response.  Furthermore, the fact that Rose then ignored three letters from ETS (who administers the SAT) questioning his score, and two other letters from the NCAA requesting an interview, does not help his case.  Unless he plans on showing up to the NCAA hearing on Memphis’ behalf with evidence to the contrary (LOLable), we’re afraid that Memphis is going to be forced to eat those 38 wins and the $600K they stand to lose here.  Maybe Josh Pastner could simply request that Rose write him a check?
  • Back To Renardo Sidney.  The NCAA stated last Friday that Mississippi St.’s Renardo Sidney is not certified to play this season because his family did not turn over the financial documentation that they requested as part of the investigation into how the Sidneys afforded to live in high-end homes in the LA area.  Or as they put it, Sidney is “not certified due to non response.”  The NCAA went on to say that if or when the Sidneys send the information requested (and not a stack of random papers they found in someone’s locker), then his certification will be re-evaluated.  What does all this mean?  Basically, the NCAA doesn’t want to get caught with its pants down again, as in the cases of OJ Mayo and Derrick Rose where they certified players as initially eligible only to watch as those same players danced on the NCAA Clearinghouse’s grave en route to the NBA.  Sidney’s attorney is threatening lawsuit, and we suspect that his argument “that the Sidney family has to establish the existence of non-violations” probably has some merit, but none of this may matter given we’re only two months from the first games and the justice system moves slower than molasses.  It’s unlikely that MSU will risk playing Sidney while the wheels of justice are turning simply because they don’t want a Rose giveback of all the Ws they’re anticipating this season.
  • Vegas Watch: Big Ten.  VW got his third installment of the major conference previews up today, and once again we were invited along for the peep show.  What’s interesting about the Big Ten ratings is that we all pretty much agreed that Purdue is the best team in the conference in 09-10, but (at least for our money) Michigan St. is the team more likely to do damage in the NCAA Tournament.  Another good exercise, and the league is looking at being way up – up to seven solid NCAA bids this season.  For the ACC and Big 12 ratings and discussion, see these posts.
  • Quick HitsSlam Magazine: finished its Top 25.  Arizona St.: more than just Harden and PendergraphParrish: why Butler is no Boise.   Goodman: 25 players you should know for 09-10, and his all-americans (John Wall for POY = bold).  Incredible Shrinking Center: Memphis’ Pierre Henderson-NilesJim Griffin: RIPJohn Pelphrey at Arkansas: agreedSeton Hall: extends Bobby Gonzalez to 2015Florida St.: haven’t we heard this song before?  Travis Ford: wow, how do you get a 10-year extension after one year on the job?  Larry Eustachy: Gillispie has a diseaseFreshmen: here’s the top 20 for 09-10Memphis: down to 8 scholarship playersBlue Ribbon: go ahead and order it.
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Thoughts On The Sporting News’ Top 50 Coaches List…

Posted by jstevrtc on July 31st, 2009

By now you’ve probably seen the list published earlier this week by The Sporting News naming their Fifty Greatest Coaches of All Time, across all sports.  And most likely you’ve at least seen that the legendary John Wooden tops that list, a selection about which this blogger has not heard one single detractor, not even one with a bad argument.  What’s interesting to me is the names from the college basketball world that follow Wooden on that list.  Here they are; I added two coaches at the end who did not make the TSN list (though one would think they might) just for the discussion:

TSN all-time coaches

The first thing that strikes me is where John Wooden ranks on the all-time Division 1 wins list.  21st??!?  It’s always been obvious that in these lofty heights number of wins has never been a great indicator of coaching ability, since teams just didn’t play as many games until the 80s when that number really took off.  That would seem to make winning percentage a more important statistic.  But not on this list, it appears.  If that statistic mattered here, you wouldn’t expect Dean Smith to be quite as high, and you’d expect Adolph Rupp to be higher; you would certainly expect Roy Williams to at least make the list.  Final fours?  Nope.  Dean Smith would be appropriately stationed, but Mike Krzyzewski would be higher along with Rupp, and again you’d think Williams would get on.   And so on.  No single major statistic appears to have guided the thinking, here.

The question is, does this reduce the validity or credibility of the list?  According to TSN, their panel consisted of “seven World Series-winning managers, four Super Bowl champion coaches, and the winningest coaches in the NBA, NHL, and college basketball.”  I’m not saying they necessarily got anything wrong — who better to ask about coaches than players and other coaches?  It is at least obvious that there’s only one thing the panel considered, at least in terms of how the best coaches in college basketball fell on the list — reputation.

No contest.   (credit: scout.com)

No contest. (credit: scout.com)

The selection of Wooden at the top cannot be argued because he’s got the reputation, the aura, and too much of the overall look of the statistics on his side.  After that it’s a crapshoot depending on what you think is the most important determiner of coaching greatness.  To the TSN panel, it’s something akin to curb appeal that influenced them.  Would Bob Knight not have been higher than 16th on an all-time coaches list were it not for his acerbic nature?  Would Adolph Rupp and Dean Smith have been closer together were it not for Rupp’s reputation (whether you think he deserves it or not) as a bigot, and/or Smith having an image bordering on — dare I say it — holy?  Is Roy Williams still being punished for his inability to win the big one while at Kansas?  And what of Pat Summitt?  She’s the only one who could even challenge Wooden in terms of college basketball coaches; her numbers are barely conceivable, and then you throw in her 1oo% graduation rate (yes, that’s right, every Tennessee player on her watch who has completed their eligibility there has also graduated).  Should she be higher than 11th on the whole thing?  And if you want to talk about the effect of reputation on this list, there probably isn’t a better example than the appearance of the late great Pete Newell.  Only 357 games coached, a single title, only two Final Fours, and the lowest winning percentage on the coaches on the above list.  But he goes and forms the Big Man Camp — and eventually what he would call the Tall Women’s Basketball Camp (I guess “Big Woman’s Camp” wasn’t an appealing name for such a place) — and finds a way to coach players in a way that didn’t directly show up as wins and losses, and here he is, on the overall list ahead of people like Joe Torre, Tom Osborne, Toe Blake, and Chuck Daly.  In addition, if you ask any coach, they’ll tell you that, before he died, you’d have been hard-pressed to find a better coach and man than Mr. Newell.  Does he belong on the list?

I don’t know the answers to these questions, but I do know one thing — the list generates great discussion (especially in the summer lull), so come on…let’s hear from the Duke fans who think Coach K got screwed, let’s hear from the UNC fans who think Smith-Williams should be 1-2.  Let’s hear from the UK fans who think Rupp is too great to be even considered on such a list.  Knowing the passion of college hoop fans and the readers of this site, it should be good.

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UNC Overwhelms Michigan St. to Win the 2009 National Championship

Posted by rtmsf on April 7th, 2009

Carolina is the 2009 National Champion.

Head Over Heels (John McDonough/SI)

Head Over Heels (John McDonough/SI)

If we had to pick one series of plays from tonight’s shellacking that perfectly illustrated Michigan St.’s problems throughout, it was a series from early in the second half.  If MSU was to make any attempt at a comeback, it had to happen soon.  Immediately was more like it.  Goran Suton had just hit a three to reduce the lead from 21 to 18, and at the other end, the Spartans forced a contested three that rattled out by Wayne Ellington.  The Spartans’ Durrell Summers looked ahead to start the break, but instead he threw the ball into the waiting arms of the defensive back thief extraordinaire Ty Lawson, who saved it to his Carolina teammate, who then immediately found a waiting Ed Davis underneath the basket, foul, and-one.  Ballgame.

That Kind of a Night for MSU (Andy Lyons/Getty)

That Kind of a Night for MSU (Andy Lyons/Getty)

Yeah, the game was decided in the first five minutes, but that singular play seemed to happen to Michigan St. a hundred separate times tonight.  But by saying it ‘happened to’ MSU doesn’t give the proper amount of credit where it lies, which is that UNC was doing the happening all over the Spartans.  It was UNC’s defense that was forcing all thirteen of those first-half turnovers; it was UNC’s offense that was nailing everything (no rim) en route to a 24-8 start to the game; it was UNC’s preparation and poise that silenced the 60,000 green-clad Spartan fans by the game’s first TV timeout, never to be seriously heard from again.

Once Ty Lawson, Wayne Ellington and Danny Green decided to return to Chapel Hill, we wrote last June that UNC was #1 with a bullet, because on paper at least, there is “nobody on the horizon who can pretend to match up with the Heels.”  Part of the reason for this was seredipity – Carolina kept its pro prospects while the teams better than it last year (Kansas, Memphis, UCLA) didn’t.  The silly talk about going undefeated in the preseason was just hyperbole gone wild, but there should never have been any question about which team had the strongest combination of talent and experience returning this season.

The MOP Splits the Double Team (Eric Gay/AP)

The MOP Wayne Ellington Splits the Double Team (Eric Gay/AP)

When the brackets came out, we thought UNC had the easiest road to the Final Four, and we only saw three teams that could realistically give the Heels all they wanted there – Pitt, UConn and Louisville.  UNC avoided playing any of them.  But that’s not their fault or any kind of a hedge against the validity of their 2009 national title – you can only play the teams in front of you, and each of those other schools blew their chances along the way.  Even that’s not to say that any of those three would have necessarily won such a fictional game – it’s only to say that they would have had a reasonable chance to do so.

We won’t bother going through all the particulars of tonight’s game or cast all the platitudes about the illustrious career of Tyler Hansbrough; there’ll be plenty of others who will do that for us.  But what we will do is talk about how tonight Roy Williams went from merely a great coach to one joining the pantheon.  As CBS pointed out tonight during the broadcast, only thirteen coaches have won multiple national titles, and several of those (most recently Billy Donovan at Florida) did so with the core nucleus of the same players.  Ol’ Roy has now done it with two completely different teams, both within the last five seasons.  He’s also been to five of the last eight Final Fours, and to say that he’s figured outthis whole recruiting/coaching/tournament success balance is the understatement of the new millenium.  It seems like eons ago when Williams was known as a coach whose players came out tighter than a drum in big postseason games.  Did you see any tightness among tonight’s players wearing the light blue and white?  We didn’t either.  And at this point, it wouldn’t shock us in the least if Roy gets a couple more of these things before he hangs it up.

Roy Could Realistically Do This a Couple More Times (John Blever/SI)

Roy Could Realistically Do This a Couple More Times (John Blever/SI)

For Carolina fans, this is exactly what they were hoping for when they lured Williams away from Kansas in 2004.  Five short years later, in the 1-and-done era no less, Williams has already equaled the number of national titles that his mentor and resident deity Dean Smith brought back to Tobacco Road.  Enjoy #5, Heel fans, but don’t insult us by claiming six.  Yet.

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Bill Laimbeer: Not a Fan of the Highlighter

Posted by nvr1983 on March 20th, 2009

We were granted the opportunity to speak with Bill Laimbeer, a 4-time NBA All-Star, member of 2 NBA Championship teams (“The Bad Boys”) and former team captain of Notre Dame as part of a promotion that Coke Zero is doing for http://www.TasteTheMadness.com.

I have to say going into this interview I was a bit apprehensive. I’m not the world’s smoothest sports interviewer on the planet (as Seth Davis can probably attest to) and Bill Laimbeer has a bit of a reputation although looking back now I can’t remember any Jim “Chris” Everett moments from Laimbeer so maybe my concerns were unnecessary. It turns out that he was much friendlier than I expected and actually laughed at a few of my jokes. Even though it was part of the Coke Zero campaign, we spent most of the interview discussing basketball (college, NBA, WNBA, and even Boston fans like Bill Simmons) and not just the promotion.

One of the things that stuck out when I reviewed the interview was that Laimbeer still seems to harbor some animosity towards Digger Phelps, who coached him at Notre Dame. Looking back I probably should have dug deeper into that, but we were on a schedule. If either Bill or Digger are reading this, shoot me an e-mail at rushthecourt@gmail.com and we can get to the bottom of this.

RTC: Coming from the West Coast, what made you decide to go to Notre Dame?

BL: Well, a few reasons. One was that my parents were moving from Los Angeles to Ohio at that time after my senior year of high school. That played a little part in it. The second part was that I thought Notre Dame was a national university both basketball-wise and school-wise, and I spent most of my life in the Midwest, but I spent my high school years in California so it seemed like a good fit. And Notre Dame was on TV every other week. There was only one game a week on TV.

Laimbeer at Notre Dame (Credit: Notre Dame Media Guide)

Laimbeer at Notre Dame (Credit: Notre Dame Media Guide)

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10.15.08 Fast Breaks

Posted by rtmsf on October 14th, 2008

 There’s a lot of news out there today…  which only means one thing…

  • Goodman continues on his crusade to expose the underbelly of the game with today’s lead – the father of UK’s new hotshot recruit, Daniel Orton, was paid three times over the summer to give talks at Billy Gillispie’s camp.  This is completely legal, by the way.  Discuss. 
  • Too many preseason/holiday tourneys?  ESPN announced today that the Diamond Head Classic will begin in 2009 at the University of Hawaii.  It will finish up on Christmas Day, which will provide a nice collegiate alternative to the annual Shaq-Kobe matchup in the NBA.
  • Please read this, “conference fans.”  It’s even truer in basketball.
  • Is it sad or compelling that this endorsement could tip North Carolina to Obama in three weeks? 
  • Ok, great.  Players are graduating more than they used to.  But is that because they’re committed to the degree program or schools are making it easier to get that degree?
  • A quick Class of 2009 recruiting update from NW Wins, as well as a nice overview of the likelihood of Carolina running the table in the regular season this year.
  • WAC coaches pick Nevada to win their conference, while Big South coaches/media picked Winthrop to win it again. 
  • NBCSports picks AJ Price, Stephen Curry, James Harden, Tyler Hansbrough and Luke Harongody as its all-americans.  We’re just not feeling Price, sorry UConn fans.
  • Parrish thinks that this year’s Florida squad will be quite a bit better than last year’s, and we can’t say that we really disagree with that.
  • Andy Katz assures us that KU’s 2008 national title is safe in light of the re-opening case of Darrell Arthur’s HS transcripts.  You know, because we were worried, or something.
  • He also gives his preseason view of 37 teams that he thinks can make a run next March.
  • Hey, we’ve always been Stacy Dales fans, BC!  Even when she was married to someone named Schulman.  Looks like we may not be able to root out Psycho T for her attention, though. 

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“I Could Give a Sh!t About North Carolina”

Posted by nvr1983 on March 31st, 2008

I know the topic has been written about ad nauseum before, but I haven’t seen anything substantial written in the major news sources about it after the Elite 8 so I’m going to pretend that I’m breaking this story. . .

As most of you know after the 2003 season, Matt Doherty of 8-20 in 2001-2002 fame “resigned” from his position as head coach at UNC. Because Doherty resigned before the Final 4, much of the talk in the week leading up to the Final 4 that year (along with a freshman phenom Carmelo Anthony) was about who would take over the prized position as coach of the Tar Heels. After Dean Smith retired, he was succeeded for a brief period by Bill Guthridge, but that was only viewed as a temporary fix as, well let’s just say that Guthridge had a lot of “experience” by the time he became a head coach. UNC hired Doherty who was fresh off a great run at Notre Dame where he won a Big East Coach of the Year award. After a strong start, Doherty’s team fell apart the next year before entering the 2002-2003 season with a talented group of freshman that you may remember (Sean May, Rashad McCants, and Raymond Felton). They got off to a hot start that year winning the Preseason NIT with wins over then #2 Kansas (and Roy Williams) and a very talented Stanford squad. However, they fell apart when Sean May was injured soon after. Doherty’s resignation sparked widespread rumors with potential coaches ranging from the absurd (Dean Smith returning) to the more realistic choices (Williams and Larry Brown). Even Dick Vitale chimed in with his thoughts on the candidates.

All of this led up to the championship game, where after a week of questions about their coach leaving, Kansas fell to Syracuse 81-78 when Hakim Warrick came out of nowhere to swat away Michael Lee’s attempt to tie the game. In the post-game aftermath, Roy Williams was interviewed by Bonnie Bernstein. What followed was one of the great moments in sports TV history. Watch and enjoy:

It turns out that in some ways this “interview” became more famous or infamous (depending on your point of view) than the game itself. Some media members were quick to defend Bernstein. As for Williams, who late on April 7th denied even thinking about the UNC job for a second, he ended up leaving Kansas and his recruits and signed with UNC on April 14th. We won’t get into all the details of the process because it ended up being really convoluted, but Joe Posnanski covered it fairly well in his interview with Roy Williams soon after Williams decided to go to UNC.

The domino effect of this saga is pretty interesting in its own right:
– UNC hires Roy Williams from Kansas.
– Kansas hires Bill Self from Illinois.
– Illinois hires Bruce Weber from Southern Illinois.
– In 2005, UNC (Williams) defeats Illinois (Weber) in the national championship game.
– On Saturday night, Kansas (Self) gets a shot at revenge against Williams.

I can’t wait to see what the Kansas fans have in store for Old Roy on Saturday night. . .

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Welcome Back, Dick!

Posted by rtmsf on February 6th, 2008

Presumably ESPN is marketing tonight’s clash between Duke and North Carolina as the first big game of the season, with the thinking that most casual sports fans are only now checking into hoops now that the Super Bowl is out of the way.  That’s all fine and well, but there have been other big games already (Memphis-Georgetown and UCLA-Wazzu come to mind), and plenty of interesting storylines at this point in the season (not the least of which is the Bob Knight weirdness). 

 Duke v. Carolina

Photo Credit:  www.charlottecritic.com

So we come to Duke-Carolina, the mere uttering of which either conjures up images of the college rivalry upon which all others are measured, or projectile vomitus from the rest of the country.  No matter your position, everyone still watches.  In 2006, ESPN received its highest college hoops ratings in four years for this game, and there’s no reason to believe this year, with the #2 and #3 teams in the AP and Coaches polls sparring, will be any different.  There’s also the curious backstory of whether Tyler Hansbrough will greet Gerald Henderson with a friendly pat on the behind or feed him his own teeth after what the Duke forward did to Psycho T’s face last year. 

But what we’re most excited about tonight is the triumphant return of Dookie V. from an operation on his vocal cords (yes, we know), who has no doubt earned that moniker over the years with his unabashed slurping of the Duke program and Coach K in particular.  But what maybe much of the Duke-hating public doesn’t also realize is that Vitale was a Dean Smith promisekeeper long before he became reborn as a Coach K disciple.  Roy Williams, as Deano’s former right (and left) hand man,  is just as much a part of Vitale’s nightly prayer routine as Krzyzewski ever was.  What we’re trying to say here is that when Dickie V. envisions heaven, it surely involves an eternal game of “class and sportsmanship” exhibited by the “true student-athletes” at the “fine institutions” of Duke and North Carolina.  Blue heaven, indeed. 

Duke Vitale

Photo Credit:  www.dickvitaleonline.com

We have to admit, though, that we’ve actually missed the guy this season.  As much as we tend to view him these days as an unprepared clown and shill for the big boys, we know that he deeply cares about the status and sanctity of the game itself, and his boyish enthusiasm for it surely rubs off on kids today the same way it did when we were watching him gush on about Pearl Washington and Rex Chapman back in ’87.  The guy really cares about the game and its personalities, and for that much, we salute him and welcome him back as a true ambassador to continue carrying on the spirit of college basketball (as opposed to, say, Billy Packer, who along with Dick Cheney, hates everyone and should be excommunicated to some bunker together).  With that, we say…

Welcome back, Dick!

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NBA Draft Picks by School Part II

Posted by rtmsf on June 27th, 2007

Thanks to everyone who took a few moments to look at our post from yesterday – NBA Draft Picks by School (1949-2006). There was an overwhelming response, and we appreciate all the commentary and advice, which is how we learn how to manage this thing a little better day-to-day.

First, let’s address a couple of the points we heard from you via email, msg boards and commentary.

  • The “modern draft” refers to the era in which the NBA began using a round-by-round system. Even though there was an NBA Draft in 1947 and 1948, the round system did not begin until 1949, which is why we decided to start there.
  • Following up on that point, we also chose to only review the first two rounds of the NBA Draft during this period. The current version (two rounds) began in 1989, and after a cursory review of the “extra” rounds – which totaled as many as twelve over this era, we realized very quickly that the vast majority of the players drafted in rounds 3+ never saw action in the NBA. For that reason, we decided to focus solely on the first two rounds.

Now, on with the data. We promised a breakdown by round and by decade, and we’ll deliver on half of that promise today. We also have sliced the first round into a “Top 10″ and “Top 5″ pick column, just for kicks. See Table B below.

Table B. NBA Draft Picks by School & Round Taken (1949-2006)

Notes: this table is sorted by the 1st Rd column, and is limited to schools with six first round picks since 1949. The yellow shading refers to the highest value in that column.

NBA Draft Picks by Round - 06 v.1

Observations:

Super Six. Remember what we were saying about the so-called Super Six yesterday? Well, these six schools – UNC, Duke, UCLA, Kentucky, Indiana and UCLA – take a larger piece of the action the higher up the draft board we go. They collectively comprise 13.4% (149 of 1115) of the all-time first-rounders, 14.8% of the top 10 picks (86 of 580), and 17.6% of the top 5 picks (51 of 290). In other words, more than a sixth of the top 5 picks in history came from one of the above six schools.

Jordan and Perkins

With Studs Like These, How do They Ever Lose?

Blue Heaven. The school with by far the most first-round picks, the most top 10 picks, and the most top 5 picks clearly resides in Chapel Hill. Let’s put this in perspective. UNC has had more top 5 picks than all but ten schools have had first round picks. It accounts for 6.2% of the top 5 picks in history all by itself, and dominates each of the above categories. That’s unbelievable. Nobody can ever say that Carolina hasn’t had a surplus of talent. Maybe that criticism of Dean Smith “only” winning two national titles at UNC has some legs after all.

Who doesn’t belong? Notre Dame, and again, Minnesota, seem to be the extreme outliers here. Was Digger Phelps really so bad of a coach that the Irish can produce twenty first-rounders (fifth on our list) and five top 5 picks but ND has only been to one F4 in its history? Guess so. We still can’t figure out Minnesota either. The Gophers are behind only UNC, Duke, UCLA and Kentucky in all-time top 10 picks. All we can guess is that Whitey Skoog, Ed Kalafat and Dick Garmaker must have been tremendous players back in the day. Also, a tip of the hat to Alabama and Missouri for producing a combined 27 first-rounders with nary a F4 to show for it. Nice work, gents.

Digger Phelps 2

Digger Must Have Been Even Worse as a Coach

We have a lot of good, but not great, players. The second round is always a fascinating hodgepodge of players who may have been fine collegians but were undersized, overslow or otherwise fraught with concerns about their transition to the League. Nothing says slow like Indiana, who coincidentally leads the way with 22 second round picks. Of course, Arizona follows up with 20 and UCLA with 19 second-rounders, so maybe that theory is a little half-baked. Nevertheless, it was cool to see the schools that consistently produce top talent vs. mediocre NBA talent (in the eyes of the GMs, at least). For UNC, it’s first round or bust, mostly (81% of its draftees went in the first round); for a school like LSU, either you’re drafted in the top 5 (8 of its 12 first-rounders) or you’re likely to end up in the second round (11 of the remaining 15 picks). One other neat example is Utah, where 9 of its 10 first-rounders went in the top 10 picks – maybe praying to Joe Smith (not the former Terp) or whatever it is that they do out there for a high NBA pick only works if you’re taller than 6’9 (e.g., Andrew Bogut, Keith Van Horn, Tom Chambers, Bill McGill).

Penn State Logo

Evidence that Penn St. Basketball Exists

Who is missing? Several schools with some solid history, including Marquette (5 first-rounders and 14 (!!) second-rounders), Pittsburgh (4/4), Xavier (4/6), Gonzaga (3/3) and UTEP (3/8), didn’t make our cut. Just for fun, the BCS schools with the least successful draft histories belong to… South Florida (only one second-rounder) and Penn State (two second-rounders). USF we understand – they’re new to the Big East and all – but Penn State? – that school has been in the Big 10 for almost fifteen years. That’s pathetic.

Coming Next: the final installment will take a look at draft picks by decade, so we can see how things have trended over the years. Which schools have consistently supplied talent to the NBA and which have long since passed or are rising fast? View Part III here.

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