Breaking Down the 2011 Preseason Wooden Award List

Posted by nvr1983 on October 5th, 2010

Yesterday, the Los Angeles Athletic Club announced its preseason list of the 50 candidates for the Wooden Award. Among those listed are names of players with whom we are all familiar, like Kyle Singler, Kalin Lucas, and Robbie Hummel, but there are also many lesser-known but still talented players like Nikola Vucevic and Kawhi Leonard (feel free to yell “East Coast bias!” in the comments). Even though this is one of about a thousand Player of the Year awards it holds a special place for most college basketball aficionados because of its namesake, the late John Wooden, and especially the year after his death. Established in 1976, The Wooden Award has been awarded to an individual after a 26-member panel — I’m sure our invite is lost in the snail mail or got caught in a spam filter — narrows down the list of candidates down to 20 players and then lets 1,000 voters (seriously, where’s our invite?) pick the ten All-Americans and the Player of the Year (last year Evan Turner took home the hardware). Looking back through past winners provides you with a veritable “Who’s Who” of college basketball in the past quarter century and includes luminaries like Phil Ford, Larry Bird, Ralph Sampson (twice), Michael Jordan, David Robinson, Danny Manning, Larry Johnson, Christian Laettner, Tim Duncan, Elton Brand, Shane Battier, Jason Williams, Jameer Nelson, Kevin Durant, and Tyler Hansbrough.

2010 Wooden Award Winner

One of the big caveats for the early season list is that it does not include freshman or transfers. Now, the latter usually do not factor into these awards with the exception of Larry Johnson and Wesley Johnson, who picked up a few votes last year, but the former (like Durant and Michael Beasley) are beginning to play a growing role in this and other awards. We do have a few issues with the list, which you will see more of over the next few weeks as we unveil our “Impact Players” by region. For today we will just focus on our favorites and some notable freshman who were left off the list, but we expect to be in the running for the actual award later this season. We will leave off the non-freshman omissions because frankly we do not expect any of them to factor into the final ballots.

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Morning Five: 09.30.10 Edition

Posted by rtmsf on September 30th, 2010

  1. Jamie Dixon may have lassoed the highest-rated recruit in the history of Pittsburgh basketball yesterday, as 6’9, 200-pound junior forward Khem Birch verbally committed to his Panther program.  The athletic player originally from Canada is rated in the top five in both the Rivals and Scout rankings for the class of 2012, and he will undoubtedly be a force in the Big East in a couple of years.  Anyone expecting Pitt to “come back to earth” anytime soon is dreaming — so long as Dixon is there, the Panthers are going to remain a force not just in the conference but nationally.  We shudder to think what Dixon will be able to do if he starts getting top ten players at Pitt on a regular basis.
  2. Tomorrow is October, and these player profiles will be everywhere soon enough.  Here are a few to whet your appetite.  UNC’s John Henson (whom Gary Parrish expects to become the biggest breakout star of the year), San Diego State’s Kawhi Leonard (whom Mike DeCourcy reports is in much better shape than his freshman year, where he still averaged 13/11), and Florida State’s Derwin Kitchen and Michael Snaer (whom Jim Henry suggests will be the keys to FSU’s third straight NCAA Tournament bid).
  3. Mike DeCourcy points out that the Big East was a ridiculously tight league last season, with over a quarter of its games coming down to a single possession.  That may not mean much until you learn that a league like the Big 12 had similarly close games only half as much last year.  Marquette in particular seemed to have had a lot of those games, and it turns out that 13 of their 21 Big East games last year were three points or fewer (including four OT contests).  What we wouldn’t give for a single Marquette-Notre Dame game right now…
  4. Here’s a look at two coaches in vastly different situations at their respective schools who are using the art of recruiting blue-chip prospects to substantiate their coaching existences.  John Pelphrey would appear to be on the hot seat at Arkansas after three lackluster seasons, but according to Gary Parrish, he’s bought himself at least two more years with a strong incoming class that will arrive in Fayetteville in 2011.  On the flip side of things, Ohio State’s Thad Matta is in no danger of losing his job in large part because he continues to haul in fantastic players to his program year after year (Jared Sullinger only the latest stud of many).
  5. Former UNC head coach and Hall of Famer Dean Smith made an appearance at the Charlotte Bobcats’ training camp on Wednesday.  One of his former pupils, Larry Brown, is currently the head coach of the team and, of course, His Airness is the majority owner of the club.  This was the first public appearance for the legendary coach since the summer release of information from his family that he was suffering from a degenerative memory disease, but the 79-year old Smith was in good enough condition to keep up appearances — he made sure to wear a bright Carolina blue jacket to the camp (ed note: send us a photo if you’ve got one).
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LeBron Runs With The Hurricanes

Posted by jstevrtc on August 26th, 2010

Celebrities of all types have always been associated with college basketball. Just in the past few years, we’ve seen the likes of President Obama playing pickup at North Carolina and taking in a game at Georgetown; Michael Jordan’s been known to practice with the Tar Heels every so often; Ashley Judd considers herself Kentucky Fan #1, and last season John Calipari had the likes of Magic Johnson, Ben Roethlisberger, Mike Tomlin, and Drake showing up at Rupp Arena. Calipari’s association with LeBron James specifically ticked some people off. There are certainly more examples, and whether they admit it or not, coaches with such connections like it when musicians, actors, or athletes bring a little celebrity juice to their programs.

LeBron will probably make a few appearances at Miami's Convocation Center.

That last one, though, may have now found a new crew with which to play. The AP reported earlier today that James joined in some “informal scrimmaging” with the Miami Hurricanes, some of whom hadn’t been notified that he was coming, let alone bringing along the likes of fellow Heat members Udonis Haslem, Mike Miller, and Patrick Beverley, and Chris Paul from the Hornets. According to the AP report (via ESPN.com), NBA players who live in Florida often work out with the team, but this was James’ first visit to “The U.” LeBron’s assessment via Twitter: “Just left ‘The U’ hooping with the team….Great runs! Needed that.”

Messrs. Williams, Thompson, and Calipari — it’s your move. Who’s got Clooney’s number?

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September 15th Will Be “Mike Krzyzewski Day”

Posted by nvr1983 on August 24th, 2010

The past two years have been very good for Mike Krzyzewski. In addition to taking Duke back to the top of the college basketball world last April, he also led Team USA back to the top of the international basketball world (not that there was any doubt as long as we brought the “A team”) in Beijing. An inductee into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in 2001, he has won almost every title (four NCAA championships, 12 ACC championships in both the regular season and conference tournament, and an Olympic gold medal) and received almost every award (three Naismith College Cach of the Year Awards, two Basketball Times National Coach of the Year Awards, a NABC National Coach of the Year Award, and five ACC Coach of the Year Awards) that he could be expected to win.

K: Best in the Business

To add to that, earlier today the city of Chicago announced that it would make this September 15th into “Mike Krzyzewski Day” (over/under on misspelled signs and posters: 130) on the same day that he will be inducted into the Chicagoland Sports Hall of Fame and receive the Ray Meyer College Coach of the Year Award. [Ed. Note: We aren’t expecting Chicago great and Duke-hater Michael Jordan to be in attendance.] Coach K, a native of Chicago, graduated from Archbishop Weber High School before matriculating to the Army where he played under a fairly decent coach named Bob Knight. A solid but unspectacular guard at Army, he served in the Army for three years and coached at a prep school for two years before joining Knight as an assistant at Indiana where he left just before the 1975-76 season (the last undefeated Division I team) to take over as the head coach at Army. Although he compiled a 73-59 record at Army, he went 9-17 in his last season before getting an offer from Duke to become their head coach (a classic case of failing upwards). His first three years at Duke were not much more successful as after a merely mediocre rookie campaign he went a combined 21-34 over his second and third seasons. At that point many critics suspected Krzyzewski’s days in Durham were numbered, but little did they know that the freshman class that season (Johnny DawkinsMark AlarieDavid Henderson, and Jay Bilas) would wind up being one of the greatest classes in the school’s history. After that group made it to the 2nd round of the NCAA Tournament in their sophomore and junior campaigns they took off as seniors in what is widely considered one of the finest seasons in college basketball history. That group entered the championship game with a 37-2 record against a Denny Crum-led Louisville team before falling by three points to freshman sensation “Never Nervous” Pervis Ellison and the Cardinals.

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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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A Look At The Future Of The NCAA Tournament (For Now)

Posted by nvr1983 on April 22nd, 2010

Over the past few months this site and many others that cover college basketball were filled with columns about what was viewed as an almost certain expansion of the NCAA Tournament to 96 teams. It turns out that almost everyone in the media (including us) had it wrong as the NCAA announced its plans to expand to a 68-team tournament while being broadcast on CBS and the 3 Turner networks (TBS, TNT, and truTV). Technically the NCAA Board of Directors still has to approve the changes next Thursday, but that should be a rubber stamp situation given the unanimity in today’s decision. The deal, which should account for approximately 96% of revenue for men’s college basketball, will pay the NCAA $10.8 billion over 14 years (or a little over $771 million per year) compared to the previous deal of $6 billion over 11 years (or slightly more than $545 million per year). That deal, which was signed in 1999, allowed the NCAA an opt-out by July 31 of this year. Once the NCAA exercised that option it was widely believed that their intention was to sign with ESPN in the network’s attempt to take over all things sports-related. When it became clear that ESPN was no longer the front-runner in the bidding, everyone’s attention turned to the CBS/Turner bid. We will get to the whole 68 team thing in a bit just bear with us while we go through the TV issues.

Credit: Indy Star/S. Riche

Coming soon to TBS. . .

While everybody is familiar with CBS’s work on the NCAA Tournament since they have broadcast every NCAA championship game since the 1982 Tourney which involved a freshman named Michael Jordan hitting the game-winning shot, Turner’s association with college basketball is a little less well-known. When I say “less well-known,” I mean that I am unaware of any prior association between Turner Sports and college basketball.  Some news reports are indicating that the NCAA was leaning towards the joint bid because of their desire to have every game broadcast nationally, which would require four channels broadcasting games. Even though ESPN would have that capability (ESPN, ESPN2, ESPNews, and ESPN Classic) and we are still searching for truTV on our local cable provider (Comcast in Boston) it is being reported that this desire favored the CBS/Turner deal. All of the games will continued to be streamed online. What this will do is eliminate the need for Greg Gumbel to switch you to a different game (often at inappropriate times) and allow those of us who don’t get DirecTV’s March Madness package to watch two close games at once on a split screen (assuming you have picture-in-picture on your TV). [Ed. Note: TNT/TBS reaches almost six times as many households as DirecTV (99 million versus 18 million).] It is unclearexactly how much ESPN bid for the NCAA Tournament, but it is believed to have been relatively close to the CBS/Turner bid.

Credit: DickVitaleOnline.com

We won't be seeing these two broadcasting NCAA Tournament games any time soon

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March Moment: Three Reminiscences

Posted by jstevrtc on March 23rd, 2010

Few college basketball fans are born with their love for the game. For most aficionados, at some point on the way from infancy to college hoops fan, there is a moment. A single play, shot, player, game, or event at which point they say to themselves, “I will always have this in my life.” Because it is the time of the season that carries the most gravitas, these things often happen in March. We asked some of our friends and correspondents: what was the thing that turned you into a lifelong college basketball fan? What was your…March Moment? We’ll be posting some of their answers for the rest of the month.

In this edition, we have submissions from three friends.  In the first, RTC utility man Tom Hager remembers a time he had to improvise a way to celebrate after two buzzer-beaters; the second has RTC correspondent Jason Prizoborowski barely escaping extended hoops deprivation; the third has Friend of the Program Mike Kiffney — he of the patented “Kiffney three” — showing his age by recalling how he met a legend from his high school, and making a prediction that will please fans of the Orange:

TH: My March moment came when I was 11 years old. It was Friday night of the first round of the NCAA tournament, and I was sleeping over at a friend’s house. He had no interest in basketball, but fortunately for me, he had fallen asleep by 9:00 that night. I spent the rest of the night watching some of the most exciting basketball I had ever seen in my life. I was sitting in the lower bunk trying to keep quiet as I watched Georgetown defeat Arkansas 63-61 on a buzzer-beater. I remember watching Nat Burton drive to the lane and sink a shot just before time expired. When head coach Craig Esherick was asked for his thoughts on the game winner, he actually looked a little upset. “The play was not designed to go to him…” was how Esherick began the interview, but stated that Burton was a senior, and had the experience to take the shot.

That same night, I watched what I still think might be the best upset in the history of college basketball, when a team I had never heard of (Hampton) with a bunch of players I had never heard of (yeah, Tarvis Williams) defeat highly touted Iowa State. After Williams sank a hook shot with a few seconds left, and Jamaal Tinsley missed his shot at the buzzer, I saw Hampton’s cheerleaders, players, and even coach Steve Merfeld jump in the air. I was doing the exact same. I ran outside my friend’s room and into his kitchen, where I could jump and scream (internally) over what had just happened without waking him up. By the time I was done celebrating, I had done more fist pumps than Tiger Woods and I was out of breath. I remember trying to go to bed that night but I was too excited to fall asleep right away, as that play ran over and over in my head. To this day, it is still my lasting image of the NCAA Tournament.

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Bob Knight Decides To Go Back To Indiana

Posted by nvr1983 on November 20th, 2009

Just two weeks after turning down Indiana University‘s invitation to appear at his induction into the school’s Hall of Fame Bob Knight has announced that he will return to the Hoosier State for a fundraiser benefiting the Indiana Basketball Hall of Fame, which is different than Indiana University’s Hall of Fame. Knight will be the featured speaker at the event, which will take place on December 17th. While he hasn’t commented on upcoming ceremony, he has noted that he did not take part in Indiana University’s ceremony because he did not want to detract from the other inductees (a fair point given all the coverage leading up to his decision not to go to the ceremony). Although we are not typically fans of these types of dinners unless Michael Jordan is going to take the stage, this is an event we would love to be at just to hear what Knight will say. We suspect that he will find a way to be calm and respectful, but given his history of entertaining press conferences we wouldn’t be shocked if he gave a pretty entertaining talk. For those of you in the Indianapolis area, tickets go on sale to the public on November 30th for $30 (kids under 12) or $50 (for all others) with a table of 8 going for $400.

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Adi-dissed

Posted by jstevrtc on November 5th, 2009

Marcus Jordan just proved to the world that blood is indeed thicker than shoe leather.  As you may recall, Marcus — son of Michael (and yes, Marcus, you’re stuck with that for life) — signed on to play at the University of Central Florida, a school that has a multi-year, multi-million dollar contract with Adidas.  Marcus wanted to wear Nike Air Jordans for pretty obvious reasons.  The school and Adidas were said to have been attempting to find a “workable solution.”

Here’s your solution.  Marcus wore a pair of white Air Jordans in an exhibition victory over Saint Leo on Wednesday night.  It isn’t clear whether or not Adidas waited to see in what shoes Marcus came out before they released this statement, but according to the story from ESPN.com, an Adidas rep sent an e-mail to the Associated Press reading, “The University of Central Florida has chosen not to deliver on their contractual commitment to Adidas.  As a result, we have chosen not to continue our relationship with them moving forward.”

Was this the right move by Adidas?  It’s easy to see their point.  We don’t know what kind of player Marcus will be, but even if the guy averages a Blutarsky (0.0 PPG) and does nothing but sit the bench for four years (he won’t), he’s still going to be the most visible player on that team just because he’s Michael’s son.  Marcus offered to wear Adidas products in every other aspect — uniform, sweatbands, whatever — but evidently this was not going to satisfy Adidas. 

Like everyone else involved, Adidas had to realize that this was a rather strange set of circumstances, but could they really ask a kid to sort of stick it to his dad like that?  Adidas could have taken the high road, acknowledged the bizarre situation, and let Marcus wear the Jordan kicks and otherwise Adidas gear.  That way, the rest of the team still wear Adidas products, the contract is left in place, and it’s only one single player in non-Adidas shoes.  Instead, with Adidas choosing to bow out, now it’s a whole team wearing another brand instead of just one player.  Adidas must be doing pretty well if they can just give up team contracts to other brands (especially, say, a certain company headquartered in Beaverton, Oregon)?  Some might say, “It’s Central Florida, not North Carolina.”  But, no matter the school, they could have made themselves look better here instead of just taking their contract and going home.

And that’s the most interesting part of this.  Adidas could have sued to make UCF honor the contract, and probably would have won, but they would have looked worse in the court of public opinion.  Seeing this, instead of keeping the contract in place except for Marcus Jordan’s feet, they just decided to quietly exit.  The only matter now is to see if the University of Central Florida basketball team will go from being called the Knights…to the Phil Knights?

 

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He’s Back

Posted by nvr1983 on October 17th, 2009

When Jeff Jordan, the son of Michael Jordan, announced his intention of trying to rejoin the Illinois basketball team we figured it would only be a matter of time before coach Bruce Weber welcomed him back to the team. Last night Weber made it official with the announcement that Jeff was officially back on the team. In a statement released to media, Weber stated “After meeting with him and discussing the situation, we are pleased to give him this opportunity. He has obviously missed a great deal of time away from the program the last six months, and he has a lot of work ahead of him.” Like we said earlier, this won’t be a major shift in the balance of power in college basketball, but it should bolster the Illini’s backcourt. We only have 2 questions about Jeff’s return:

Not Quite the Same, But We'll Take It (photo credit: cnnsi.com)

Not Quite the Same, But We'll Take It (photo credit: cnnsi.com)

  1. Will Jeff get his scholarship back?
  2. Is there any way that Illinois could schedule FIU next year (assuming Isiah Thomas hasn’t run the program and the university into the ground)? This would be a ratings hit (as much as a game involving Illinois and FIU could be) because of the possibility of two things occurring–MJ showing up for a game (and possibly trying to get in uniform to stick it to Isiah one more time) and the return of the “Jordan Rules” (if Isiah is looking for a little payback for the Hall of Fame speech).
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Coach K Trying to Raise His Appeal to The 13-25 Year-Old Demographic

Posted by nvr1983 on April 22nd, 2009

I’m guessing that Coach K‘s publicist scheduled this one thinking that he might be able to pull in a few book sales from The Colbert Report’s viewers, but I have my reservations about that demographic buying much or reading anything. Regardless what ensued was an interview that was at times awkward, but mildly interesting. Personally I think Coach K is more in line with Oprah than Stephen Colbert  (plus an “Oprah’s Book Club” sticker would be worth at least a million copies sold to middle-aged women).

A couple interesting points from the interview:

  • He calls Michael Jordan the best player he ever coached (as an assistant on the Dream Team–if you need a clarification on which Olympic team that is you can leave the site) even though he played at UNC (blasphemy–expect a bunch of strongly worded letters to the editor of The Chronicle).
  • He thinks players should be allowed to go directly from high school to the NBA. Any guesses how long David Stern waits after finding out about this interview before he puts a price on Coach K’s head.
The Colbert Report Mon – Thurs 11:30pm / 10:30c
Mike Krzyzewski
colbertnation.com

(h/t to Chris Littmann of SportingNews.com)

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Time to Bet Heavily Against FIU

Posted by nvr1983 on April 14th, 2009

According to Jeff Goodman at Fox Sports, Isiah Thomas has accepted an offer from Florida International University to become their head coach. We briefly discussed the situation yesterday, but now that it’s all but official it is probably a good time to review Isiah’s prior experience. As a basketball player, there is no question that he was an all-time great. As a basketball executive/coach? Not so much.

isiahthomas

Here is a quick recap of his prior stints in a managerial role:

  • Toronto Raptors (1994-1998): Serving as the GM and part-owner, he started by taking B.J. Armstrong with the #1 pick in the 1995 expansion draft. While Armstrong isn’t what you would consider #1 pick material, when you look at the other luminaries that were available it was probably a pretty good pick (at the very least he could show the young guys all the three championship rings Michael Jordan won for him that he won). Unfortunately, Armstrong refused to report to the team and was promptly traded. Even though the team was 67-179, Isiah did exhibit some draft acumen by taking Damon Stoudamire (turning the #7 pick into the Rookie of the Year), Marcus Camby (the #2 pick who might have won Rookie of the Year that year if it wasn’t for some guy named Allen Iverson), and Tracy McGrady (with #9 pick out of high school just 2 years after Isiah’s hilarious plan for Kevin Garnett). Sadly, this was probably the high point of Isiah’s managerial career.
  • NBC (1998): Briefly worked with Bob Costas and Doug Collins. Not particularly memorable, but it worked out better than his last appearance on NBC (see below).

  • CBA (1999-2000): Purchased the league for $10 million on October 7, 1999 and turned down an offer from the NBA to purchase it for $11 million and a percentage of the profits, which according to some sources would have been a $2 million profit (or a 20% ROI) in March 2000. Isiah then promptly proceeded to show everyone what a shrewd businessman he was for turning down the 20% ROI in 5 months by running the league into bankruptcy. [Ed. Note: The fact that the CBA Museum has a page for Isiah Thomas is amazing. Isn’t that kind of like a Jewish charity museum starting an exhibit on Bernie Madoff?] Sadly, this was not the low point of Isiah’s managerial career.
  • Indiana Pacers (2000-2003): Took over a team that Larry Bird had coached to the Eastern Conference finals and decided to change directions with a youth movement by playing Jermaine O’Neal, Jamaal Tinsley, and Al Harrington more minutes. Even though he had a respectable 131-115 regular season record, his stint is largely considered a failure as his team’s lost in the first round in each of his 3 seasons as a coach. Heading into Isiah’s 4th year, Larry Bird came back as President of Basketball Operations. At his press conference, Bird assured the media that he would work with Isiah. He promptly fired Thomas and replaced him with Rick Carlisle. [Lesson: Don’t mess with the Basketball Jesus.]
  • New York Knicks (2003-2008): I don’t know what can be said that hasn’t already been said. I’ll just refer you to Jeff Coplon’s article that says everything in its title “Absolutely, Positively the Worst Team in the History of Professional Sports”. Quick Cliff Notes style summary: Threw away two 1st round picks for Eddy Curry. Fired Larry Brown (his best move) and made himself coach (his worst move–on the court). Ordered his team to commit a hard foul against the Denver Nuggets resulting in a brawl. Despite having the highest paid team in the league and the pipe dream of landing LeBron James he continued to blow money/cap space on over-priced/under-performing players. “Reassigned” and forbidden to have any contact with the Knicks’ players. Charged in a sexual harassment lawsuit that led Madison Square Garden to pay $11.6 million to his accuser and offended multiple sponsors. Reportedly overdosed on Lunesta and was taken to the hospital, but afterwards tried to throw the entire thing on his 17 year-old daughter.

So, um yeah, good luck with that FIU.

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