It’s a Love/Hate Relationship: Volume XVII

Posted by jbaumgartner on March 30th, 2011

Jesse Baumgartner is an RTC contributor. In this weekly piece he’ll review the five things he loved and hated about the previous seven days of college basketball. This week, Jesse continues his alienation of Kentucky fans, suggests Mr. Sullinger calm it down for a little bit, and wants D-Will to get his props.

Five Things I Loved This Week

I LOVED…..watching 40 minutes of North Carolina-Kentucky and coming away fairly certain that it was the highest quality of play we’ve witnessed this season. Guard play, NBA talent down low, spurts both ways, a tie game with a few minutes left…wow. There’s no doubt in my mind that those were the two best teams left in the tournament, even though that doesn’t mean the Wildcats will bring home the crown.

I LOVED…..that Kentucky athletic director Mitch Barnhart had to say that “this Final Four banner will stay.” Stay, as in not be taken away like the other two banners that John Calipari has – excuse me, HAD – on his resume. Quite a statement, that your athletic director needs to accentuate that point right after the big win. Yes, I can’t stand Cal. Sue me.

Could the Devils Have Won It All Without Him?

I LOVED…..trying to decipher the Kyrie Irving situation. Common sense said getting him back anywhere near full strength put this Duke team right back in the title picture. But after Nolan Smith struggled in the shocker against Arizona (eight points, six turnovers), you found yourself balancing the effects (Irving had 28 points). The bottom line was summed up perfectly by ESPN’s Jay Bilas. Is there any way that you justify not playing the nation’s best PG? No. And do they win the title without Irving? No way.

I LOVED… NC State keeps holding out hope of being a big time program again. Maybe it’s just because I spent four years in the state, but the kooks in Raleigh crack me up every time. With the Wolfpack job open, I’ve already heard “rumors” about Arizona coach Sean Miller and VCU coach Shaka Smart in connection with the job. Who in their right mind would want to go there, especially over a job like Arizona, which is a stay-there-till-you-die destination (weather, history, recruiting, etc.)? State fans are crazy, and any coach who wants to follow Sidney Lowe is crazier. If Smart lives up to his name, he’ll steer clear.

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NCAA: Kanter Can’t Play, But He Can Coach

Posted by jstevrtc on January 7th, 2011

The NCAA has issued the final ruling regarding the eligibility of Kentucky recruit Enes Kanter, saying in a statement today that the “new information” issued by Kentucky to the NCAA Reinstatement Committee “did not change the original statement of facts agreed to by the university and the NCAA.” Kanter is therefore permanently ineligible and will not play college basketball. The NCAA statement confirms that this is the final appeal.

Enes Kanter Is Permanently Ineligible To Play College Basketball, According to the NCAA

The “new information” Kentucky based its request for a re-hearing on was the NCAA’s recent decision to let Auburn quarterback and Heisman Trophy-winner Cam Newton play after it was revealed that Newton’s father had shopped his son to at least one program for around $200,000. The NCAA essentially felt that because Cam evidently didn’t know about any of that, he was free of any guilt and his eligibility was to remain intact. By saying that the “new information” submitted by Kentucky “did not change” anything, the NCAA is saying that they see no parallels between those two situations.

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10.22.09 Fast Breaks

Posted by rtmsf on October 22nd, 2009

It’s coming fast and furious now.  Eighteen days…

  • Adidas/Nike Flap at UCF.  So you probably know that Michael Jordan’s other son (the one not acting all wishy-washy at Illinois) is a freshman guard at Central Florida.  It didn’t take long, but Marcus Jordan has already become notorious in the national media for something other than his play on the court.  The issue is that UCF allegedly promised him during his recruitment that he could wear Nike shoes (hundreds of millions of dollars to the trust fund might have something to do with that), but the school has an airtight agreement with adidas that all of their sports teams will be outfitted with their shoes and apparel.  This is a huge deal for UCF, who, as a mid-major cannot afford to lose the $3M that adidas is paying for the privilege; but, it brings up issues of individual rights versus contractual obligations and appears to be getting messy.  The practical solution would be what often happens when a rich kid is in trouble – Daddy Warbucks swoops in with the checkbook in hand.  The Jordan brand could theoretically buy out the adidas contract and add UCF to their portfolio, but ultimately that would have to be Nike’s decision, and we’re not convinced there’s enough added value in a mid-level CUSA team to justify the cost.  Of course, bad publicity is still publicity, and there will probably be people somewhere out there that want to buy the shoes that MJ designed for his kid(s), so that’s another factor that the company may consider.  A final possibility is that Jordan could play in his bare feet, but that would probably reduce his height to 6’1.5 and his quickness by a factor of half. 
  • UK Lowballed Gillispie.  Word was released late last week that one reason Billy Gillispie pursued legal action against UK was because they lowballed him with an offer well below one year of his current salary and buyout ($925K).  Was there a single good decision involving Mitch Barnhart and Billy Gillispie over their two-year relationship?  Let’s recount:  1) hiring him (bad idea); 2) hiring him without a contract, instead relying on an MOU (worse idea); 3) hiring a driver for him and generally ignoring his extracurricular activities all over town (even worse idea); 4) firing him (ok, that was a good idea); 5) lowballing him with a $925k offer of settlement when he was owed $6M from the MOU agreement (horrible idea because it only pissed him off; a reasonable offer would have likely been accepted); 6) settling with him for $3.25M (anything ending this debacle now is a good idea).   
  • Preseason Stuff.  10 teams under the radar in 2009-10, Parrish’s top 10 point guards and top 10 wings, Goodman visits Notre Dame and Michigan State, Luke Winn’s 16 impact freshmen, and Seth Davis breaks down Cal.  The Big East media came out with its preseason awards here, and Zagsblog followed up with its preseason awards this week (Gody: POY; Oriakhi & Stevenson: ROY), but why aren’t Syracuse’s Wesley Johnson and Seton Hall’s Herb Pope (both made the all-Big East team) eligible for the “rookie” award?  Here’s the SEC’s, and it makes absolutely zero sense that John Wall was voted second for SEC POY but didn’t even make the all-SEC first team.  Florida #5 in the SEC East is just painful for Billy Donovan.  And once again, here’s Vegas Watch’s SEC preview, where we too came up with the conclusion that Florida is the fifth best team in that division.   
  • Quick HitsLarry Drew: the key to UNC’s repeat hopesKansas: moving forwardUCLA: facing a ‘rebuilding’ year in Westwood.  Memo to Dana O’Neil: It’s CORN HOLE not CORN TOSSButler & Purdue: seeking to play in their back yard next April.  Midnight Madness: a nice pictorial of several from CNNSI.  Jay Wright: talks about the Bataan Death March of Big East scheduling.  Illinois: back in the mix locally recruiting-wise.  Binghamton: freeze all records for investigation (h/t Carpy).  Rivalry: is UW-Gonzaga back on?  Memphis: makes a statement at Midnight MadnessIsaiah Thomas: yeah, that’s a 5’8 guyOne man’s bracket: not enough B10 teams, and JMU in the CAA?  Brady Morningstar: $500 and keep your nose clean for a year (at least Self suspended him for the semester).  Pitino: finally moving on?
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Price of a Memorandum of Understanding: $2.98M

Posted by rtmsf on October 13th, 2009

Let this be a lesson to all eager-beaver ADs who rush to hire a hot new coach before taking the appropriate amount of time to ensure that the contract they want has all the Is dotted and the Ts crossed.

We all know the story by now.  Kentucky AD Mitch Barnhart hired then-Texas A&M coach Billy Gillispie to a seven-year deal at over $2.3M per year one day after he interviewed for the position in early April 2007.  To make things official, Gillispie signed a three-page ‘memorandum of understanding’ that outlined his salary and general expectations to that effect, with the caveat that the two parties would come to a final agreement on terms and conditions within sixty days.

Barnhart Blew This One

Barnhart Blew This One

Well, that sixty days turned into nearly 700 days, as Gillispie never signed a contract with UK in the two years he coached there.  Over time, as Gillispie repeatedly refused to come to an agreement with Kentucky that would clearly define expectations, it was clear that he was relying on the vague language in the MOU to protect him as he increasingly came under fire for bizarre off-court behavior and questionable game decisionmaking.   When he sued the school for a $6M buyout soon after his firing in spring 2009, it was obvious to most observers that UK would have to make some kind of payment to Gillispie.  The only question was how much would he get?  We got our answer today, as UK announced the results of a mediation with Gillispie:

In a statement, the university said the lawsuits were settled through mediation. The agreement, signed Tuesday, said Gillispie would receive a little more than $2.98 million. About $260,000 will be paid by the university for attorney’s fees, as well as about $5,600 in mediation fees.

It’s very instructive that when Kentucky signed new coach John Calipari in March 2009 to a $32M, 8-year deal, the contract was written in standard boilerplate  legal language and was twenty pages in length.  Looks like Barnhart learned his lesson this time around, but his amateurish mistake in 2007 will end up costing the school an extra $3M, money that could have been better spent paying those high-priced UK attorneys to send over the template a little sooner.

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Daily Obituary: 03.09.09

Posted by rtmsf on March 9th, 2009


Team: Kentucky Wildcats

Record: 19-12 (8-8)

Preseason Expectations: The Wildcats fell into the “others receiving votes” category in both the AP and the ESPN/USA Today polls. But in a year most people predicted the SEC to be weak, Kentucky was predicted to finish third in the SEC East by most publications, and were considered a good bet to be in the NCAA tournament come March. A distant glimmer from AD Mitch Barnhart saying the Wildcats would accept an NIT bid.

Best Wins: Kentucky won the Las Vegas Invitational at the end of November, and had to beat Kansas State (74-72) and West Virginia (54-43) to do so. But there most impressive win is obviously their 90-72 victory in Knoxville over Bruce Pearl and co. If you were hiding under a rock during that game, Jodie Meeks dropped 54 points on the Volunteers. They beat  Tennessee again in late February, 77-58.

Worst Losses: Allowing VMI to score triple digits in a 111-103 loss on in their opening game was not the start that Billy Gillispie was looking for. But their worst loss came just five days ago when they had a chance to strengthen their tournament resume and got beat by a scuffling, rudderless Georgia team at Rupp Arena.

Where it ended: Right after their second victory of Tennessee, it looked like Kentucky was in a great position to make it to the field of 65 as they sat 19-8 (8-4). But just four days later the ‘Cats got embarrassed on the road by South Carolina (77-59), which started the four game losing streak they are currently on which includes uninspired losses to LSU, Georgia, and Florida.  Now a deep SEC tournament run is the only thing that will save them.

What went wrong: It should be impossible to finish just 8-8 in the SEC with two players as good as Meeks and Patrick Patterson, but the Wildcats did a darn good job of it and their lack of a point guard is to blame. Darius Miller, DeAndre Liggins, and most recently, Michael Porter, have all tried their hand at the position with mixed results. In fact, no one on Kentucky averages more than 3.1 assists per game and only little used reserve Landon Slone carries an assist/turnover ratio better than 1.2/1. Sloppy play and rookie mistakes plagued the ‘Cats all season and have cost them down the stretch.

What’s next: A lot of analysts seem to think that if Kentucky fails to make it to the NCAA tournament, they could lose both Patterson and Meeks to the NBA which would be a crippling blow to Gillispie. Kentucky has four prospects signed for next year, including five-star center Daniel Orton, but no one outside of Lexington thinks that three-star GJ Vilarino will come in and save the team at the point position. Kentucky’s best hope is to put on the full-court press for uncommitted stud Eric Bledsoe and hope that Meeks and Patterson stay around another year.


Team: Virginia Tech Hokies

Record: 17-13 (7-9)

Preseason Expectations: The Hokies were predicted to finish sixth in the ACC but received no love from the national polls and were left out of everyone’s top 25. But, they were a trendy sleeper pick at the beginning of the year if they could get improvements from sophomores Malcolm Delaney and Jeff Allen.

Best Wins: In the middle of January the Hokies traveled to play a streaking Wake Forest team that had just earned the No.1 ranking, and thoroughly outplayed the Demon Deacons, weathering a late rally to hold on for a 77-71 victory. Their only other victory of note came in late February when they beat Clemson 80-77 in Blacksburg and get Hokie fans talking about the tournament.

Worst Losses: For Seth Greenberg and his team, it really depends on how you define “worst”. This team wouldn’t even be on the bubble if it hadn’t been for some heart-palpitating, last second losses. The team lost to Xavier in the O’Reilly Auto Parts Puerto Rico Tipoff 63-62 on a 60-foot buzzer beat from Dante Jackson. Just 10 days later they got beat by Wisconsin 74-72 when Trevon Hughes hit an improbable runner in the lane with less than one second left. Then, at the end of January, they lost to BC by one point (67-66) on a Rakim Sanders put back with less than one second left as well. The team also had bad losses to Seton Hall, Georgia, and Virginia, but those three heartbreakers are what they will remember if they are playing in the NIT this year.

Where it ended: One might say in ended when Sanders hit that put back, because since then, the team is just 3-6, and although they have beaten Clemson and North Carolina State over that time, playing well down the stretch counts, and the Hokies have lost their last three games, albeit all to ranked teams. The Hokies don’t have the worst RPI (59), but they are the No. 8 seed in their conference tournament, and even if they do make it past Miami, that means a date with No. 1 seed North Carolina in Greensboro…Good Luck!

What went wrong: Virginia Tech is a very hard team to figure out. You could cite end of the game execution and focus as to where they went astray with those three back-breaking losses because if they didn’t lose those games, we would be talking about a 20-win team. But really they went wrong when their big three (Delaney, Allen and A.D. Vassallo) started disappearing in key games. For example, in losses to Wisconsin, Georgia, and Florida State, Allen had two, eight, and six points respectively. In losses to Xavier and Duke, Vassallo had four, and seven points respectively. And, in their past three losses, Delaney has shot a combined 10-40 from the field. If those players had stepped up in crucial moments, this season would have gone differently.

What’s next: Seth Greenberg must be getting frustrated. Every year, the Hokies are so close, and yet fail to come up big down the stretch. But, assuming that both Allen and Delaney will be back for their junior seasons, the Hokies are in good shape. They lose their leading scorer in Vassallo, but they only lose one other player, and Cheick Diakite is a non-factor. Greenberg has also been successful on the recruiting trail. He has signed a solid, well-balanced, five-man class that features all three-star players. With added depth, and continued improvement, the Hokies should be a tournament team in 2010.

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03.09.09 Fast Breaks

Posted by rtmsf on March 9th, 2009

There were no Fast Breaks this weekend as I was in Atlanta all weekend and returned only to find a ridiculous amount of work still left to do in the real world. But all that means is that the limits of the phrase “link dump” will be put to the test today. I am even skipping out on last minute studying for a history midterm to bring you more links…because that is just the kind of guy I am.

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What’s the Holdup?

Posted by rtmsf on November 16th, 2007

We’re hearing out of Lexington today that Billy Gillispie, seven months after his hiring at Kentucky, still hasn’t signed a formal contract.  He’s operating as head coach under his offer letter from AD Mitch Barnhart, which essentially described the terms and conditions of his compensation, but didn’t touch on the many legal ambiguities that arise from reliance on such things.   (memo to MB: next time you send an offer letter out for a contract worth eight figures, you might want to edit it so the word “contact” isn’t used in place of “contract” at least twice that we noticed.  Just sayin’.)

Gillispie MOU p.1

Our first thought other than realizing we’re in the wrong business ($2.3M base) was what’s the holdup?  The Lexington Herald-Leader points out that the offer letter doesn’t have a provision explaining what “termination for cause” means, which could theoretically include prohibitions on anything from shagging coeds Larry Eustachy-style to deweys (of which Billy G. already knows a little something).  Or the problem could have to do with the size of the buyout clause should Gillispie decide to walk away at any point in any of the first four years.   

Gillispie MOU p.2

Taking a cue from John Beilein, who ended up settling his dispute over a buyout with West Virginia for $1.5M when he skedaddled for Michigan, perhaps Gillispie would be best served to not sign that contract after all.  Especially in light of UK’s worst loss in nearly twenty seasons against Gardner-Webb last week.   

Update:  UK nation thinks this is a non-story, and they’re probably right.  ASoB and KSR riff on the situation.   

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