Pac-12 Morning Five: Leap Day Edition

Posted by AMurawa on February 29th, 2012

  1. It’s the last day of February, a glorious time to be a college hoops fan, right? But for UCLA fans, not only are they on the verge of being on the outside looking in during the NCAA Tournament for the second time in three years, but Sports Illustrated today publishes an “extremely negative” article about the Bruin basketball program. Pulitzer Prize winner George Dohrmann – author of “Play Their Hearts Out”, among other things – will publish a piece today, which deals with the downfall of the program, from Final Four installation to Pac-12 also-ran. The bulk of the story deals with destructive behavior from a handful of players in UCLA’s 2008 and 2009 classes (most notably – surprise! – Reeves Nelson), but plenty of blame is laid at the feet of head coach Ben Howland for not dealing with that behavior promptly or fairly. The content of the article certainly didn’t live up to the fears that UCLA fans experienced on Tuesday, when they found out that Dohrmann, breaker of the Minnesota cheating scandal in 1999 and the Ohio State football scandal last season, was dropping a bombshell on the program, but certainly any negative article about the Bruins at this point is not a good thing for the long term prospects of Howland, already regarded as being potentially on the hot seat. Howland commented on Tuesday that he can’t talk specifically about former players, and that “everybody makes mistakes, I’m definitely not perfect” but that he thinks he has “for the most part” handled things correctly. We’ll have more on this story later today and in the future as events warrant.
  2. Sort of annoying that we have to deal with that kind of story right at the start of what should be about a month-long holiday for fans of the sport, so let’s try to wipe away that story by focusing on some good stories. And there may be no better story in the Pac-12 this year than Arizona’s Kyle Fogg. Fogg came from being an afterthought in the 2008 recruiting class, only signed by Lute Olson because the Wildcats were losing Jerryd Bayless after just one year, as well as a couple graduating seniors, and needed some “fresh blood.” Now, four years later, Fogg is well on his way to becoming an All-Pac-12 performer and he already occupies spots in several Wildcat career top ten lists.
  3. Another senior who has come from relative obscurity to claim a spot as one of the conference’s best players is Oregon senior guard Garrett Sim, who just got done torching in-state rival Oregon State, the alma mater of both of his parents, to the tune of 25 points on ten-of-14 shooting. And for one Duck fan, Sim is the perfect player for the home crowd to root for – not only effective, but eminently annoying to opposing teams and opposing fans. And yes, annoying is a good thing in this context.
  4. Sim has certainly turned it on as a senior, but California’s Jorge Gutierrez has got the whole “thorn in the side to opposing teams” thing down pat after four years of experience. Even as a freshman, Gutierrez’s relentless energy, hustle and defensive pestiness drove opposing fanbases crazy, but over the years, as the Golden Bear combo guard developed his game, he has earned grudging respect from up and down the conference. While just about every coach – save one – in the conference will be glad to see Gutierrez’s eligibility expire, we’ll certainly be missing a little fire in our game next season.
  5. Lastly, let’s jump up to Washington State for one last bit of finding that silver lining, because as Jeff Nusser at CougCenter points out, this year’s Cougar team actually improved offensively, despite the losses of Klay Thompson and DeAngelo Casto to the professional ranks a year early. Of course, what he fails to mention is that the WSU defense took a complete nose dive. They fell from 46th in the nation in defensive efficiency last year to 199th this year, propelled mainly by their inability to do anything particularly well on that end of the court; they’re in the bottom half of the nation in opponent’s effective field goal percentage and in forcing turnovers, while they’re not a whole lot better than that in hitting the defensive glass or keeping their opponents off of the free throw line.
Share this story

Pac-12 Weekly Honors: Week 15

Posted by AMurawa on February 27th, 2012

Team of the Week

Washington – In coming back from what was a 13-point deficit with just 11 minutes left, the Huskies not only managed to pull off a season sweep of Apple Cup rival Washington State, they also, combined with California’s loss on Sunday, vaulted themselves into sole ownership of first place in the Pac-12. While their win over WSU certainly wasn’t a thing of beauty, the Huskies managed to gut one out, overcoming Terrence Ross’ foul trouble and ineffectiveness to put it away down the stretch. Despite shooting just 62.2% from the line for the season, the Huskies shot made 78.9% of their 19 second-half free throws, including 58%-free-throw-shooter Tony Wroten knocking down seven of his nine attempts in the second half. With a road trip to the Los Angeles schools the last remaining hurdle on the Husky schedule, it looks like it comes down to this: beat UCLA at the Sports Arena on Saturday and claim the regular season conference title.

Kyle Fogg, Arizona

Kyle Fogg Is Wrapping Up His Arizona Career With His Best Basketball Yet (Chris Morrison/US Presswire)

Player of the Week

Kyle Fogg, Senior, Arizona – Fogg has been rock-steady in his four seasons in Tucson, but with his career rapidly coming to a close, he has begun showing a newly developing personality: glass-eating double-double machine. After going 130 games as a Wildcat without once grabbing 10 or more rebounds, in the past four games Fogg has recorded two double-doubles, two near-misses with nine rebounds and has averaged 15.8 points and ten rebounds per game over that stretch. This week it was 18 points and 10.5 rebounds per night in helping to orchestrate a home-sweep of the Los Angeles schools and keeping the Wildcats in line for a opening-round bye in the Pac-12 Tournament. He came to Tucson as a Lute Olson recruit, but never played a minute for the icon whose health forced him to retirement. But over the years, Fogg has become a fixture in Tucson. When the Wildcats eventually open up the Pac-12 Tournament, Fogg will tie Jason Gardner for most games played in Arizona basketball history and he ranks in the top ten in the school’s list for minutes played and three-pointers.

Read the rest of this entry »

Share this story

Pac-12 Mount Rushmore

Posted by AMurawa on February 20th, 2012

The history of this conference is pretty lopsided. UCLA has won 11 national championships while all the other schools in the conference combine for five titles with no other school winning more than one. UCLA has been to 18 Final Fours; Arizona and Utah are a distant second with four appearances. As such, you can expect the faces on the Pac-12 Mount Rushmore to be heavily skewed to the blue and gold. In fact, the argument could be made that the Bruins deserve all four spots on the monument to Pac-12 basketball. But, since the Arizona schools joined the conference in 1978, things have tightened up considerably, as UCLA has only won a single national title since then, appearing in just five Final Fours. Still, this is a monument to the history of the sport, and there is little doubt that you can name the first three names on this list without giving it another moment’s thought; they are icons of the game we love. And really, the fourth spot here seems to be a no-brainer also, although there are some interesting people that finish just off the mountain. To the list:

  • John Wooden, Coach, UCLA (1948-75) – As the head coach at UCLA for 27 seasons, the Wizard of Westwood’s teams of the sixties and early seventies have become the gold standard by which other great sports dynasties are judged. There are the ten championships in the course of 12 years, including seven in a row from 1967 to 1973. There are four perfect 30-0 seasons included in that span and a NCAA record 88-game winning streak. Still, aside from all that, Wooden is known not just as a great basketball coach, but as a great teacher. His Pyramid of Success is more of a life lesson than anything specific to basketball and he was known for his inspirational lectures and sayings which apply not only to success in basketball, but success in life.
  • Lew Alcindor (Kareem Abdul-Jabbar), Center, UCLA (1966-69) – During Alcindor’s three seasons at UCLA, his team won 88 games, lost just two and took home three straight national championships. He was literally a game-changing athlete (the NCAA banned the dunk in 1967 in part due to his dominant use of the shot) who won the National Player of the Year award in both his sophomore and senior seasons (Elvin Hayes won in 1968) and was the Most Outstanding Player in the NCAA Tournament in all three of his seasons. Alcindor played at a time when freshman were ineligible for varsity competition, but in 1966 Alcindor led the UCLA freshman team to a 75-60 victory over the varsity team in an exhibition to open Pauley Pavilion. More than forty years after he played his final collegiate game, Alcindor is still widely regarded as the greatest college basketball player of all time. Read the rest of this entry »
Share this story

Pac-12 Morning Five: 01.27.12 Edition

Posted by AMurawa on January 27th, 2012

  1. Sometimes, life just ain’t fair. After earning Pac-12 Player of the Week honors last week after averaging 28.5 points per game last week, Washington State senior guard Faisal Aden left the Cougars game with Arizona late in the first half Thursday night with a knee injury. While we are by no means doctors here, it is quite possible that Aden has played his final game in a Washington State uniform. Washington State beat writer Christian Caple reports that it is a sprained MCL, but we will get more details later. After what appeared to be a complete makeover in his game the last several games, the prospect that Aden does not get a chance to work towards proving his growth as a player and proving his critics wrong is, in a word, depressing. Who knows? Maybe the injury isn’t as bad as it seemed, and he’ll be back sooner rather than later. We can hope. As for the rest of the game, the Wildcats hit 15-of-27 three-point attempts, shot a 63.6 eFG%, held WSU to 38.5 eFG%, forced 16 Cougar turnovers and committed just nine. In short, a confidence-building performance heading into Saturday’s tough match-up with Washington.
  2. Herb Sendek got excellent effort out of his undermanned Arizona State team Thursday night, but they still struggled to score with consistency, scoring just one point in the first six minutes of the second half as Washington turned a two-point halftime deficit into an 11-point lead. Arizona State got back within four late in the game, but Washington held on for a six-point win. Tony Wroten had a great game for the Huskies, scoring 22 points on 12 field goal attempts (including a serious throw-down late in the game), grabbing six rebounds, handing out four assists, swiping a couple steals, and only turning the ball over twice, in what may have been his second-best all-around game in a U-Dub uniform. Freshman Jonathan Gilling did his best to keep the Sun Devils around, scoring a career-high 20 points and hitting five threes (three in the second half), but it was not to be.
  3. UCLA took apart Utah is a game only a mother could love (and really, that mother would be up for a mother-of-the-year award for pretending to love this thing). After a sluggish Bruin first half (in which they still out-scored the Utes by 15), they really turned it on early in the second half, building their lead up as high as 37 behind balanced scoring. Seven Bruins scored eight points or more, UCLA shot a 68.5 eFG% and held Utah to just 42.4 eFG%. Beyond that, yuck.
  4. At least the game across town was interesting in a train-wreck type of way. USC’s nightmare season continued as they got absolutely owned by Colorado, who earned their first-ever Pac-12 road win in dominating fashion. It’s hard to take a lot out of a win over these Trojans this year, but winning at USC may be a good first step towards further road success for the Buffaloes the rest of the way. Thursday night, they were mighty impressive, holding USC to 36.4 eFG% and killing the Trojans on the boards. Colorado grabbed 92.9% of defensive rebound opportunities and 43.5% on the offensive end. Five Buffs scored in double figures, and five grabbed more than five boards while the trio of Colorado players making a return to their Southern California home (Carlon Brown, Askia Booker, and Spencer Dinwiddie) combined for 34 points and 27 rebounds. Even worse for the Trojans, sophomore center DeWayne Dedmon left early in the first half with a knee injury and did not return. USC has already lost three players for the season to injury.
  5. Lastly, ESPN’s Jay Bilas weighed in on the weakness of the Pac-12, blaming not only the early defections of some conference players to the NBA, but also the number of new coaches up and down the conference. Certainly Arizona has had to deal with the transition from the Lute Olson era to the Sean Miller era, while USC’s struggles in the wake of the Tim Floyd era helped bolster the Wildcats a bit. Then there’s Oregon’s struggles keeping players around the start of the Dana Altman era, and the loss of Tony Bennett from Washington State was a crushing blow, but that explanation does nothing to excuse the problems at UCLA, Washington, or Arizona State.
Share this story

Pac-12 Morning Five: 01.02.12 Edition

Posted by AMurawa on January 2nd, 2012

  1. For awhile, as Herb Sendek seemed to be building a new power in Tempe and the Lute Olson regime was falling apart in Tucson, it appeared that the balance of power in the Arizona basketball landscape was shifting. The Sun Devils were ticking up, with James Harden taking ASU to the Second Round and Arizona missing the Tournament for the first time in 25 years. But, after three straight double-figure victories by the Wildcats over their in-state rival, including a 17-point thrashing on Saturday, and with the best recruiting class in the nation headed to play for Sean Miller next season, clearly Arizona is again widening the gap.
  2. In California, the gap is closing, at least temporarily, as California completed its first home sweep of the Southern California schools in eight years by handing UCLA its biggest loss in the series in almost ten years. It is the first time since Walt Hazzard’s final year as the UCLA head coach that the Bruins have started conference play with two losses. While two Bruins went off for career high’s offensively (Tyler Lamb with 26, David Wear 17), Ben Howland stubbornly stuck with an ineffective man defense (although, to be fair, his team’s zone defense wasn’t much better) through most of the loss as all five Cal starters, plus reserve Robert Thurman, scored in double figures, shooting a 71.1% eFG and handing out 28 assists on 34 field goals. In short, California did what they needed to do to begin its chase for a conference title in style, while UCLA left Bruin fans considering a coaching change.
  3. Washington State bounced back from a horrible defensive performance of its own in its conference opener to hand Oregon State its second loss on the weekend. It was a “gut check” game for the Cougs, according to junior forward Brock Motum, and he came through in a big way, scoring 26 very efficient points and grabbing eight rebounds. Freshman guard DaVonte Lacy was also huge for Ken Bone’s squad, scoring 18 points (just a point shy of his 19-point career-high he set in the loss to Oregon on Thursday), while Reggie Moore handled OSU’s pressure defense with aplomb, turning it over just once in 35 minutes while dishing out nine assists.
  4. For Utah, a bad season got worse on Saturday, as the Utes played their first ever Pac-12 conference game and scored its fewest points in a game since 1947 in a 73-33 loss to Colorado. The Utes scored just 11 points in the first half and shot just 24.5% eFG while allowing Colorado to shoot 60%. They allowed CU to grab 42.9% of their own misses, along with 82.1% of the Utes’. Leading scorer Josh Watkins hit just one of his 12 field goal attempts and the whole team was treated to a post-game tirade from head coach Larry Krystkowiak that included threats for future benchings and suspensions for players who were either late to or absent from team-related functions, a problem that has been ongoing and has already resulted in an earlier one-game suspension for Watkins. With 17 games remaining in a season from hell, it remains to be seen how low this proud program can go.
  5. Lastly, while some may attribute Washington’s strong start to the conference season to lessons learned in a home loss to South Dakota State, head coach Lorenzo Romar sees these results growing from lessons planted throughout the season. He’s been preaching defense for weeks now in the hopes of correcting some of their problems, and now that is paying off. Not only are stars like Tony Wroten and C.J. Wilcox buying in defensively, but Romar has gotten redshirt freshman forward Desmond Simmons to play like a “junkyard dog,” killing it on the glass and working hard away from the ball.
Share this story

Morning Five: 09.16.11 Edition

Posted by nvr1983 on September 16th, 2011

  1. St. John’s was dealt a major blow yesterday when the NCAA ruled that three of its prized freshman recruits–Amir Garrett, Jakarr Sampson, and Norvel Pelle–were ruled ineligible by the NCAA for the fall semester. This will be a huge blow for Steve Lavin, who was looking to build on his success last season with one of the top freshman classes in the country. St. John’s is planning on appealing to get the trio eligible for the spring semester, but the earliest that they could join the team would be for a practice on December 19 and see their first game-time action against Texas Pan-American on December 21. Of course, rumors have already started spreading about all three players exploring their other options while they await that decision. Until then, Lavin will have to try to make it through challenging non-conference schedule that includes a game against Arizona in the 2K Sports Classic in Madison Square Garden and a game at Kentucky with a young, but talented group of players.
  2. It took almost a month, but Frank Haith has finally come out to (sort of) defend himself against the reports of wrongdoing while he was at Miami. In an interview with a local reporter, Haith denies any wrongdoing on his part, but states that he cannot explain much more including his relationship with Nevin Shapiro, the Ponzi scheme artist at the center of the controversy. Haith also claims that it has not affected his recruiting, but we will believe that when we see what kind of recruits he is able to lure to Missouri. Outside of potential NCAA sanctions against him (we still can’t believe the NCAA acted so swiftly against the players, but has not made any indication that it will punish the coaches involved) there is the looming concern about Haith’s job security at Missouri and that’s before they even evaluate his on-court performance, which left a lot to be desired at Miami.
  3. As usual Dana O’Neil has come up with another outstanding profile piece. This time it is on new Princeton coach Mitch Henderson, who was the iconic image from Princeton’s shocking upset of defending champion UCLA in the 1996 NCAA Tournament. Henderson took the job after his former teammate Sydney Johnson (in the background of the image with Henderson leaping) left Princeton to take the same job at Fairfield. Fortunately, Johnson left his former teammate with a program that was in good shape, but Henderson will have to find a way to replace the contributions of departed seniors Kareem Maddox and Dan Mavraides.
  4. Former Arizona coach Lute Olson filed a lawsuit earlier this month claiming that he lost a little over $1 million in the David Salinas investment scam. Olson was among the approximately 100 investors who lost a combined $39 million to Salinas and his partner Brian Bjork, but to our knowledge Olson lost the second biggest amount of any investor as only Billy Gillispie‘s reported $2.3 million loss exceeds Olson’s $1 million. According to the lawsuit, this loss has taken away a significant amount of the money that Olson had planned to use in retirement. Olson, like many others, was reportedly lured in by promises of low-risk corporate bonds with 9% yields, which any investor with even minimal experience would tell you is too good to be true. It is unclear how much if any of the $39 million will every be returned to the investors.
  5. This year’s ESPN Tip-Off Classic had to be altered after Hawaii had cancel its Rainbow Classic after one of the participants pulled out leading the other two schools to follow suit. As a result Hawaii had to quickly schedule a game against Cal State Northridge to be played at 11 PM local Hawaii time. For Cal State Northridge, it is a huge break as the program is ineligible for postseason play due to its low APR score, but now they get to play on national television in one of the premier events of the regular season.
Share this story

Around The Blogosphere: July 22, 2011

Posted by nvr1983 on July 22nd, 2011

If you are interested in participating in our ATB2 feature, send in your submissions to We will add to this post throughout the day as the submissions come in so keep on sending them.

General News

  • McDonald Injury Update: An interview with Leslie McDonald talking about his injury. (Tar Heel Fan)
  • Lute Olson releases statement on David Salinas involvement, Arizona fans can breathe more easily: Olson says that he did not invest money with Salinas before his retirement. (Arizona Desert Swarm)
  • Johnson Sidelined for Europe Trip: “Incoming Villanova Freshman Tyrone Johnson will not be able to play during Villanova’s Summer Tour of Europe. The 6’3″ point guard sustained a broken foot during a pickup game last month and had surgery according to Joe Juliano who spoke with Head Coach Jay Wright.” (VU Hoops)
  • Kansas Prominently Featured As Part Of The 2012 Big 12/ESPN Big Monday Schedule: “SPN released it’s 2012 Big Monday schedule and it’s no surprise that Kansas will once again play a prominent role in one of the premier weekly matchups in conference play. For years Kansas has dominated the Big 12 Big Monday slate and with 4 of 7 slots scheduled this year, that continues.” (Rock Chalk Talk)
  • Calipari Thinks A Redshirt Could Work Out Well For Hood: “With the news that Kentucky junior Jon Hood tore his ACL in a pickup game Monday came the question of whether or not he would end up taking a redshirt this season while he recovered. The man that will ultimately make the decision, John Calipari, doesn’t think that’s a terrible idea. He’s not sold on it yet, but he’s definitely considering it. Calipari told ESPN’s Andy Katz, ‘We’ll see how it goes. It’s a possibility. It might help him.’ If they end up giving Hood a redshirt, Calipari thinks that it could help his career out in the long run by letting him spend this season working out with the loaded roster the Cats have in place. He would return next season with two years of eligibility remaining.” (Kentucky Sports Radio)
Share this story

Around The Blogosphere: July 19, 2011

Posted by nvr1983 on July 19th, 2011

If you are interested in participating in our ATB2 feature, send in your submissions to We will add to this post throughout the day as the submissions come in so keep on sending them.

General News

  • Maryland-Kentucky to Play First Game in Nets’ New NYC Stadium?: A look at the rumored game.(Testudo Times)
  • Josh Pastner takes after John Calipari – Memphis still doesn’t want to play Tennessee: “Look, there’s only one John Calipari, and Josh Pastner has a long, long way to go to even be mentioned in the same breath as the former Memphis, current Kentucky coach in terms of not just wins, but general disdain among Tennessee fans.  But he took a step in the right direction today on Sports 180 in Knoxville, commenting on the Tennessee-Memphis rivalry and his desire to discontinue the series.” (Rocky Top Talk)
  • David Salinas Connected To GU, Now What?: Exploring Gonzaga’s potential connection to Salinas. (The Slipper Still Fits)
  • Lute Olson tied to investment adviser under investigation for Ponzi scheme: “David Salinas, an investment-adviser and founder of a Houston summer league basketball program, was found dead at the age of 60, according to CBS Sports. The news here is that the report written by Gary Parrish and Jeff Goodman says that sources say Salinas might have had a Ponzi scheme going, and the United States Security and Exchange Commission was scrounging around, looking into Salinas’ dealings with several high-profile basketball coaches. One of those named was former Arizona coach Lute Olson.” (Arizona Desert Swarm)
  • Kenner League Day 6 In Review: An update from the Georgetown summer league. (Casual Hoya)
  • Europe ’11 — Villanova to Participate in Euro Jam 2011: A preview of the Wildcats trip to Europe next month. (Villanova by the Numbers)
Share this story

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

Posted by rtmsf on June 30th, 2011

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Read the rest of this entry »

Share this story

Time For The Hall of Fame To Reevaluate Itself

Posted by nvr1983 on April 12th, 2011

A little over a week ago, the Naismith Hall of Fame announced its Class of 2011 during the NCAA Final Four festivities in Houston. Chris Mullin, Dennis Rodman, and Arvydas Sabonis were among the individuals selected to join the list of luminaries in Springfield, Massachusetts in August. We would have a difficult time arguing against any of the individuals selected this year or previous years, but when we looked at the list of those currently enshrined in the Hall of Fame we were shocked to see which players the HOF voting committee (done anonymously) left out. Cases can certainly be made for at least a dozen individuals who have not already been inducted to the Hall, with many of them being some of the African-American pioneers of the game who played in less well-recognized venues and leagues, but the two who stand out for us — Ralph Sampson and Christian Laettner — do not fall into that group by any measure.


Sampson soared over the competition in college

Both players already meet the Naismith Hall of Fame’s requirement of being retired for five years, so they are eligible for selection. There will be some who will argue that neither player had a great NBA career, and we will not even try to argue that because there is little debate that both had disappointing pro careers although both had their moments. But that misses the point of the Hall of Fame. It is not solely a forum to recognize achievement at the professional level. As its own site states, since 1959 it has “honored and celebrated the game’s greatest moments and brightest stars.” There is nothing on its website stating that it is specifically for professional basketball either at the NBA level or overseas. Another argument you will hear is that both Sampson and Laettner were exceptional college basketball players who already have been honored at the National Collegiate Basketball Hall of Fame in Kansas City, Missouri in the past two years. Once again, that misses the point, as there are multiple coaches in both Halls of Fame, including Mike Krzyzewski, Jim Calhoun, and Lute Olson, none of whom ever coached at the professional level. The fact that neither player has been selected yet is simply a travesty and raises questions about the utility of the Naismith Hall of Fame when two of the greatest college basketball players of all-time (probably both in the top ten on most lists) are not included.

Read the rest of this entry »

Share this story