Last night featured the annual ESPYs in prime time, and although the host of the event, Rob Riggle, struggled through numerous cricket-chirping moments, we still managed to sit through it. College hoops had a number of good candidates as potential winners (as we handicapped last week), but the crowdsourcing style of the event ensured that few were were validated. The Unibrow was up for several awards, including Best Breakthrough Athlete (which went to Jeremy Lin), Best Male College Athlete (Robert Griffin III, which is reasonable even if we disagree), and Best Team (even Big Blue Nation couldn’t overcome the Miami Heat). Perhaps the two awards that bothered us most were Coach K’s snub in Best Record-Breaking Performance (sorry, but a single-season NFL passing record doesn’t trump 900+ wins over a career) and Best Upset (how do the LA Kings outdo Norfolk State, a MEAC team, downing a team in the conversation for a #1 seed? Ridiculous.). The one silver lining for our game was that Christian Watford’s game-winning three to lift Indiana over #1 Kentucky back in December was chosen as Best Play of the Year. Oh well — that’s the nature of the event — fan voting. The women’s game, as an aside, cleaned up with Tennessee head coach Pat Summitt winning the Arthur Ashe Courage Award (well deserved) and Baylor’s Brittney Griner winning both Best Female Athlete and Best Female College Athlete of the Year.
We know that Mike Krzyzewski may not have had a good enough year to win Best Record-Breaking Performance, but he’s more than good enough to lead Team USA into the 2012 Olympics in a matter of a few weeks from now. Interestingly enough, Team USA will scrimmage John Calipari’s Dominican Republic team tonight, but the real test for him and his charges is to come together as a team in the next few weeks so as to bring home another gold medal for USA Basketball. Dan Wolken writes that Coach K has had to take a different tack than he has at Duke in coaching the elite group of players he has on this team, and that, frankly, he’s a much more likable person in this setting than he is in Durham. It makes sense when you listen to Krzyzewski in any interview talk about his “kids” — his Blue Devils — but he also knows that the likes of LeBron James, Kevin Durant, Chris Paul and the rest are grown men who don’t need to be publicly protected or coddled. He’s not been so successful over these many years by not having a keen sense of that very thing — this is yet another example.
It’s been a week of coaching extensions, and Wednesday kept the rally going with the news that Quinnipiac’s Tom Moore recently received a one-year extension to his deal that will keep him under contract until 2016-17. In five seasons in Hamden, his teams have performed admirably well, going 93-65 with three invitations to postseason tournaments. At a NEC school, any postseason appearance is a cause for celebration, so even thought there haven’t been any NCAA bids in that period, a series of NIT/CIT/CBI isn’t too bad. Of course, if or when Jim Calhoun over in Storrs ever retires, the former Connecticut assistant Moore would already have his vehicle GPS set with the directions.
The nation’s top recruit in the Class of 2013 has narrowed his list down to only 10 schools. Jabari Parker used Twitter (what else?) to announce his revised list on Wednesday night, and here are the lucky suitors (he says they’re in no particular order): UK, Stanford, Michigan State, Kansas, Florida, Duke, BYU, Georgetown, DePaul, UNC. The Chicago native certainly has an interesting mix at play here, and perhaps most notably Illinois is no longer on his list. Aside from four of the top six programs of all-time (sorry, Indiana and UCLA), Michigan State, Florida and Georgetown are unsurprising choices. Stanford is clearly the academic choice, BYU is the religious one, and DePaul is throwing a bone to the homeys. If he really is the best high school prospect since LeBron (or Greg Oden), the school that gets him will have a tremendous shot at the Final Four during his only season on campus.
Finally, ESPN announced its 24 Hours of Hoops Marathon lineup on Wednesday, and although the Champions Classic games involving Michigan State-Kansas and Duke-Kentucky are the monsters, there are as always a number of other interesting matchups. WVU visiting Spokane to tip things off, followed by a Davidson trip to The Pit will be fun, but Harvard going to Amherst to take on UMass and a battle of blue-blooded mid-majors in Cincinnati are also well worth skipping out on work. Maybe there’s more coming in the next few months, but in past years there were multiple games broadcast in the evening hour slot, so hopefully ESPN will fill in the blanks a little more just in case one of those Champions Classic games isn’t worth the time.
The top of the ACC might look a little different next season after C.J. Leslie announced that he would will return for his junior season at North Carolina State. An argument can be made that the return of Leslie, who would have been a borderline first round pick this year, could shift the balance of power in the ACC next season. We will always assume that Duke and North Carolina will be up there too, but both teams lose significant pieces from their teams and frankly Duke overachieved last year. With Leslie returning and a very solid freshman class coming in it does not seem that far-fetched that the Wolfpack could be considered the favorites in the ACC next season, which is something that we have not seen for a very long time.
With most of the top incoming recruits committed the battle for the few remaining top recruits is heated and that certainly is the case for Tony Parker. The 6’9″ 280-pound high school senior has narrowed his list to Duke, Georgia, Kansas, Ohio State, and UCLA. Although reports earlier this week indicated that Parker was headed to UCLA, but Parker’s high school coach denies that anything has been set and will announce his decision on Monday. If Parker is indeed headed to UCLA, it could give the Bruins a legitimate argument for the top class in the country. Of course, it would also lead to plenty of Josh Smith jokes (you can figure those ones out yourself).
For much of the past year we have been keeping an eye on Connecticut‘s 2013 APR ban and their eventual failed appeal. For the most part we ignored the similar plight of Toledo, but now the Rockets will be joining the Huskies on the sideline as they will also be banned from the 2013 NCAA Tournament due to their low APR scores. Obviously Toledo’s absence will be much less noticeable than Connecticut’s (primarily because they probably would not have made it even if they were eligible). Toledo seems to be holding out hope that the NCAA will allow them to count their 2011-12 APR score which would allow them to sneak over the low threshold. UNC-Wilmington appears to be in a similar situation. Since the NCAA did not grant an exemption to Connecticut we are not sure how the NCAA would let them get away with that now.
With Johnny Jones having left to take over at LSU the administration at North Texas has been looking for his replacement. However, unlike many schools they do not appear to be in a hurry to name his replacement. According to the school’s athletic director they are looking at a variety of potential replacements including a current assistant coach at the school, a few fairly big-name former coaches, and a few other assistants. The school claims that it plans on having made a decision within the next ten days so it should be not too long until they have a coach, but we would not expect anything in the next few days.
Frequent readers of this site are aware that we rarely talk about women’s college basketball and when we do it is for a major issue. This one definitely qualifies. Just a year after she revealed that she was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s, Pat Summitt has given up her title as head coach at Tennessee. Summitt will have the title of Head Coach Emeritus that allows her to come to practices and participate in on-campus recruiting, but the team’s actual head coach will be Holly Warlick. We are not a women’s college basketball site or we would have probably devoted the next week to posts about Summitt so we will sum it up with this: 1,098 wins, 38 seasons, 18 Final Fours, and 8 National Championships. Greatest women’s college basketball coach ever.
Matt Patton is the ACC correspondent. You can follow him on Twitter @rise_and_fire.
Kentucky and North Carolina: College basketball’s “Game of the Century” lived up to the hype coming down to the last possession (even if it ended bizarrely) and was fun from start to finish (well, almost finish for Tar Heel fans). The game was a reminder that North Carolina can be the team people thought it would be coming into this season. The Tar Heels were aggressive, knocked down perimeter shots, and controlled a little over half of the game. Harrison Barnes was outplayed by Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, but Kendall Marshall was passable on defense [Author’s Note: That wasn’t meant to be a bad pun. He actually played solid defense on Teague most of the game.] and his usual self on offense (though I was very surprised he saw as much time guarding Marquis Teague as he did, considering Teague’s turnover woes). I’m not sure any college basketball fan would mind seeing a rematch this spring.
Terrell Stoglin Can Score: Unfortunately, his teammates are struggling to keep up their end. Only three BCS-conference teams (Penn State, Washington, and Utah) have players with higher usages, and none have players more likely to take a shot (shot percentage). Stoglin is the only player on the team averaging over 20 points a game with 22.4. His field goal percentage could be a little higher, but right now he’s the best scorer in the conference. For more on Stoglin, check out our post from yesterday on his scoring ability.
Sportsman of the Year: Mike Krzyzewski and Pat Summitt joined the prestigious ranks of Sports Illustrated‘s “Sportsman of the Year” winners and are only the third and fourth college basketball coaches to be chosen for the honor (Dean Smith and John Wooden are the other two). Both are worthy choices, as they both signify excellence over the course of 73 combined years of coaching.
Terrell Stoglin is Maryland's Offense.
1) North Carolina (6-2) lost to the #1 team in the country on the road by one point. But it was the second straight game that the Tar Heels were unable to control the tempo. Is this a problem going forward, or is the defense good enough to win ugly? Ken Pomeroy Fun Fact: The only player in Roy Williams’ rotation that is not averaging over a point per possession? James Michael McAdoo (fellow frosh PJ Hairston leads the team with a 129.0 offensive rating).
2) Duke (7-1) hasn’t played since last week. My guess is this means a lot of quality time watching film on Ohio State. Ken Pomeroy Fun Fact: Duke has the third worst free throw defense in the country, as opponents are shooting a whopping 80.6% from the charity stripe against the Blue Devils this year.
CBSSports.com and Grantland: For a slightly different look at the North Carolina – Kentucky game from the weekend, check out these articles evaluating the myriad pro prospects that suited up on both sides. The first article is a very straightforward look at the prospects with evaluations for each one, while the second article breaks down each position. It’s definitely a different perspective than one concerned primarily with college athletics, but an interesting perspective nonetheless.
The Sporting News: How long will it take Durand Scott to live down the shoelace incident? Either way, Jim Larranaga has gotten players to buy into his system, which is a lot more disciplined than the one advocated by former coach Frank Haith (who’s currently doing a very, very good job over at Missouri with a more disciplined system than Mike Anderson… sometimes sports don’t make sense).
Sports Illustrated: Mike Krzyzewski and Pat Summitt are in pretty prestigious company after SI named them “Sportsman and Sportswoman of the Year.” The pair are the first college basketball winners since Dean Smith (1997) and John Wooden (1972). It’s a little surprising that it took so long for both coaches (I agree with Matt Norlander that either of the winners was deserving to hold the title on his or her own), but Coach K setting the all-time men’s win record may have pushed the winningest pair over the top.
Fox Sports South: The ACC is 59-34 this season. That’s horrific. It’s slightly worse than “two steps forward, one step back.” Andrew Jones grades each team’s performance so far with a very critical eye. I don’t know how much research he did into the conference’s historical non-conference performance, but here’s the conference-wide evaluation: “The conference hasn’t struggled this much perhaps since it was formed in 1953. Eight ACC teams already have at least three losses, while two don’t have winning records. […] Grade: F.”
Charlotte Observer: Mark Gottfried is frustrated. His team can’t close out games. It’s competitive, but steadily he’s got to see his NCAA Tournament hopes becoming less and less likely. Gottfried even tried the patented Roy Williams jacket-throw in the hopes of firing his team up at the end of the game against Stanford, but it was to no avail. If this team can learn how to win, it has the talent to be pretty good. Gottfried will be crucial in that respect.
“I thought we’d wait and let him announce it on his Twitter,” Williams deadpanned. “I did step in the trainer’s room and told Chris [Hirth] to put some extra tape on his ankles. So he could run a little bit more at practice. I’m tired of answering dadgum questions because some player put something on his Twitter account.”
You know those anthologies called the Top Fiction/Non-Fiction/Sportswriting/etc. in America that come out every year around the holidays? Have you ever wondered what the best college basketball sportswriting in America looks like (ahem, other than RTC, of course)? Here”s your chance. The USBWA announced its five winners for its Best Writing Contest in 2011, and each selection is well-received. The top column award went to David Teel of the Newport News (VA) Daily Press for a piece on Ohio State athletic director Gene Smith; the top game story award went to David Woods of the Indianapolis Star for his recap of the Butler vs. Florida Elite Eight game last March; the top enterprise piece award went to Dan Wiederer of the Fayetteville (NC) Observer for his three-part look at Mike Krzyzewski; the top magazine length feature award went to Sean Gregory of Time for his reflection on Princeton’s historic 1996 upset of UCLA; and, the top moderate length feature award went to Luke Winn of Sports Illustrated for his poignant story about Kenneth Faried’s life and passion for rebounding. If you have time, we’ll see you again in a half-hour. If not, just bookmark the page and get back to it later. Think of all the garbage you read (willingly or not) every day — if you’re a true college hoops fan, each of these five articles is well worth your time and energy.
Speaking of SI, the magazine released its Sportsman and Sportswoman of the Year yesterday and it had a decidedly college basketball theme. The all-time wins leader on the men’s side, Duke’s Mike Krzyzewski, will add yet another honor to his mantle with his selection, while the all-time wins leader on the women’s side, Tennessee’s Pat Summitt, will do likewise. The duo of coaching titans have combined for a total of 1,982 wins, roughly fifty to seventy wins behind the grand total that schools like Kentucky, Kansas and North Carolina have had in their entire histories. In the nearly-60 year history of the award, only three other college basketball personalities have been honored — Ohio State’s Jerry Lucas (1961), UCLA’s John Wooden (1972), and North Carolina’s Dean Smith (1997). They will be honored tonight in Manhattan at a special ceremony.
Folks around the college basketball nation are still buzzing about Anthony Davis’ game-winning rejection in the North Carolina-Kentucky game from Saturday, where one of the top storylines involved all the future NBA talent playing in that game. DraftExpress‘ Jonathan Givony (doubling up at Grantland) took a look at the game from an NBA scouting perspective, and here is what he found. Perhaps exhibiting how evenly matched these two teams are, Givony broke down each position and picked a player advantage between each starter — the final tally was a 3-2 advantage. You’ll have to get over to read the piece to see which team “won” the NBA Draft component of Saturday’s blockbuster of a game.
Utah is already on its way to an epically disastrous season, having lost six games against Division I competition by an average of over 20 points per game. How bad has it been? So bad that Utah is rated lower than Utah Valley and Southern Utah within its own state in the KenPom ratings… ugh. On Monday it got worse. Starting point guard Josh “Jiggy” Watkinswas suspended indefinitely by head coach Larry Krystkowiak for failure to live up to team expectations (reportedly he was late for practice and had fallen asleep in class). Considering the fact that Watkins is the top usage player (39.7%) and seventh-highest shooting player (37.7% of Utah’s possessions) in America through four weeks of the season, but accounts for over half his teams assists (52%), his benching might be a good thing or a bad thing. Then again, how much worse could the Utes get?
Seth Davis was back yesterday with his Hoop Thoughts column, and as usual, it’s a must-read. The topic this week is ten sophomores who were not stars as freshmen to keep an eye on this season, and he lists many of the most important names. Here are five more that should most definitely be considered as super sophomores after quieter freshman seasons — Terrell Stoglin (Maryland), Trae Golden (Tennessee), Eric Atkins (Notre Dame), Jamaal Franklin (San Diego State), and Deshaun Thomas (Ohio State). All of these guys have made significant strides in their second seasons on campus.
We don’t often wander into the territory of women’s college basketball. In the past, it’s taken some landmark occurrence — say, a coach reaching one of those round-number milestone games, or some ridiculous play, or an awesome fight may have gotten a mention in the Morning 5. This isn’t really because of any animosity or lack of respect toward the women’s game. It’s simply not what we cover. You could say the same thing for the men’s game in Division II or III. It’s not what our editors and correspondents all have in common. Only the most extremely newsworthy circumstances would result in a mention around here.
By now, you’ve heard the news that Tennessee coaching legend Pat Summitt has been diagnosed with a disease called early-onset dementia of the Alzheimer’s type. There’s a good chance you’ve read at least one or two of the glowing articles about Summitt, all unquestionably well-founded in their praise and their rememberances of her career. Other than to mention that surreal number of career wins and preposterous-looking record — that’d be 1,071-199 and counting (on which more in a moment), an 84.3% win rate — we will not cover that well-documented ground here. We’re not going to use this woman being diagnosed with a cruel disease as a reason to start talking about women’s college basketball or what she’s meant to that game like we’ve been secretly following it all along as some sort of afterthought. We all know she’s a legend, a title she’s earned regardless of her gender or that of the athletes she coaches. Everyone’s aware of how she belongs in the discussion, if not carved into the theoretical rock, of possible candidates for a basketball coaches’ Mount Rushmore, if one were ever to be constructed. She needs our approval about as much as she needs a flat tire or an IRS audit.
Although we focus primarily (OK, solely) on men’s basketball, we would be remiss if we did not talk about Tennessee women’s coach Pat Summitt, who disclosed yesterday that she was suffering from early-onset Alzheimer’s Disease. In addition to announcing the news, Summitt also stated she intended to continue coaching her basketball team next season and for the foreseeable future. We are sure that many members of our audience have either had loved ones or interacted with individuals who suffered from this progressively debilitating condition. Like the rest of the college basketball community, we wish Summitt the best of luck in her battle with Alzheimer’s. Also if you are going to read just one column about Summitt today, we suggest this piece by Sally Jenkins in The Washington Post.
The day’s other big college basketball news also came out of Tennessee, but this time it came from the men’s program where it appears that recently-fired head coach Bruce Pearl will receive a three-year show cause penalty while three of his assistants will receive one-year show cause penalties. Outside of the penalties against these four coaches and the school’s previous self-imposed ones, the school got off with relatively little damage, including the football program and former coach Lane Kiffin. For new coach Cuonzo Martin this means that he has an opportunity to rebuild the program without having to deal with a significant amount of fallout from Pearl’s prior indiscretions. As for Pearl and his assistants, this means that they will have to be away from the game of basketball for a little while. Oh wait, the NBA…
It seems like the athletic department at Miami just can’t seem to catch a break. First there was Reggie Johnson‘s knee injury that will sideline him until at least the start of ACC play. Then there was the small matter of the ongoing Nevin Shapiro debacle. Now there is news that senior Julian Gamble may be lost for the season after tearing the ACL in his left knee. Gamble’s junior year numbers (3.8 PPG and 4.0 RPG) might not make this seem like a big loss, but in the context of losing Johnson’s huge inside presence, the injury to Gamble will make life even more difficult for new coach Jim Larranaga. The way things are going, Frank Martin must be feeling pretty good about being passed over for the Miami job.
If any coach in men’s college basketball is having a worse summer than Larranaga it may be new Texas Tech coach Billy Gillispie. After being caught up in not one, but two high-profile Ponzi schemes, the former Kentucky coach finds himself in the news again after Sports by Brooks reported that he was already causing havoc within the basketball program in Lubbock. In addition to having several members of the staff leave the program, Gillispie was reportedly in “multiple, heated altercations” with an assistant, who eventually left. It is possible that Gillispie might just be the unluckiest guy in college basketball, but at this rate he may develop a reputation bad enough to make him untouchable, even with his stellar resume prior to his arrival in Lexington.
A number of big-time recruits in the class of 2012 announced that their “lists” had shrunk yesterday, but only one — Kris Dunn — is set to make a verbal commitment. According to Adam Zagoria, Dunn, one of the top point guards in this year’s senior class, is set to commit to Providence at a conference at 1 PM today. While this would be a huge pick-up for new coach Ed Cooley it is worth pointing out that the Friars also had a verbal commitment from Ricardo Ledo earlier this year, but he later backed out of the commitment, although Ledo is still considering the Friars in his new final five. The lesson here is that while you should be happy when a recruit commits to your school, don’t get too excited until he signs a letter or, even better, sets foot on campus.
Ralph Nader has been a crusader for numerous causes particularly consumer protection, but it appears that he is shifting his focus to college athletics as he is set to announce a proposal banning all athletic scholarships and replacing them with need-based financial aid. The NCAA has understandably fired back saying that athletic scholarships are no different than other merit-based scholarships that other students can receive. Regardless of the outcome this should be an entertaining debate although we feel the NCAA will win this one in the end.
After Tennessee fired Bruce Pearl earlier this week there was a lot of speculation about potential replacements. Most of the the proposed candidates have been a bit of a stretch (Jamie Dixon, Jay Wright, etc.), but Jeff Pearlman has a suggestion for one candidate who would be somewhat outside the box while still being well within the box–Pat Summitt. We think it is extremely unlikely that the school would go in that direction and equally unlikely that Summitt would take the offer, but it is an intriguing possibility.
Speaking of Tennessee, Mike Hamilton, the much-maligned Athletic Director, announced that the university would not be granting a release to recruits who signed a National Letter of Intent with the impression that they would be playing for Pearl. Instead, Hamilton has asked those recruits to speak with the new coach before he would consider letting them out of their NLIs. However, this does not mean that Hamilton will let them out of the NLIs if they meet the new coach and the recruit states afterwards that he does not want to go to Tennessee any more, which means that the recruit would have to sit out a year before being able to play for another school. The lesson here, for all recruits and people in general, is not to sign anything unless you absolutely have to sign it.
Most college basketball fans have moved beyond the Enes Kanter situation and are focusing on the players that are allowed to suit up, but it seems like some of the media has not as someone asked John Calipari yesterday if his Kentucky team might look like Ohio State‘s if Kanter had been ruled eligible. Of course, Calipari deflected the question with the usual (I like the team I have, etc.), but it might end up being one of the “subplots” that the announcers focus on tonight particularly if Jared Sullinger has a big game.
With the Sweet 16 getting underway last night and a number of notable seniors finishing their careers with each game it is worth considering whether some of the less talented ones will be playing competitive basketball again. For those that aren’t NBA material the decision comes down to whether or not they are willing to play abroad. Jon Jacques, who graduated from Cornell last year, decided to pursue his dream of playing professional basketball and offers some insight into the process that these players face.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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?
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:
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)
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.
John Stevens is a featured writer for RTC. His column appears on Tuesdays throughout the season.
So of course now there’s speculation that Bob Knight is headed to yet another school where all he’ll have to do is change the logo on his red sweaters and he’s good to go. I obviously don’t know if he’ll end up taking the position, but despite Knight’s feeble attempt to downplay the issue, I think we can say for sure that he’s considering it.
Questions, Indeed… (photo credit: daylife.com)
Note how the initial reports stated that “a friend” of Knight’s stated that he was interested in the job. Ok, fine. But the General’s response to this? He didn’t say anything about whether or not he’s talked to friends about the job, he never said anything about how his friends would NEVER talk to local media about Knight’s speculation over a job, he never said anything about how he flatly didn’t want that job. In fact, he’s made it a point to reiterate his previous statement of “I never said I wouldn’t coach again, I’d be interested if the right situation came along,” though he adds that he hasn’t had any contact with anyone “at Georgia” about that particular vacancy. “I haven’t talked to anyone from Georgia about it” is not an answer to the question. “Are you thinking about taking a job that an alleged friend of yours said you were interested in?” Woodward and Bernstein would call that a non-denying denial. Seems like Knight’s had contact with SOMEONE or else he’d be angrier and more direct in his lack of interest. And he’d most certainly have this “friend” publicly flogged.
Another interesting wrinkle is the timing of this Pat Summitt situation, with her 1000th win coming up sometime soon. Summitt didn’t get it on Monday, but as you likely know, they had Knight, as the all-time-winningest NCAA men’s coach, calling that game with Brent Musberger for ESPN. I wonder how easy that is for Knight to be around. I’m not saying he begrudges Coach Summitt anything, but the worship for the Tennessee coach has increased so much lately ahead of that pending 1000th win. You don’t think a competitive guy like Knight wouldn’t mind a little of that reverence and adoration, himself? To go down as the ONLY NCAA men’s coach to get into the quadruple-figures, and therefore don the implied “best-coach-ever” mantle that comes with a number like that? I think Knight would consider that to be an absolute acquittal and justification for everything he’s ever done, and that might be to tasty a legacy to pass up.
It was either this, or a shirtless Bruce Pearl. (photo credit: afrothunder.wordpress.com)
On Monday’s “Tirico and Van Pelt” program on ESPN Radio, the first question Mike Tirico asked Coach Knight was about the possibility of Knight taking the Georgia job. You know Coach Knight’s response (as above). But later on in that interview, in my opinion, came a more telling moment. Mr. Tirico asked Knight about how he communicates with his son Pat after incidents like the one Pat just had down at Texas Tech, and specifically inquired whether the conversation more resembles that of a father-son interaction or if it is more like two coaches talking shop (a great question). In his response, Knight hesitated for a moment, and then stated, “I just can’t stay away from it, Mike…” and explained that he basically let Pat consult him with basketball-related questions from time to time. I don’t blame Pat Knight for this, of course — I mean, who wouldn’t occasionally call up their winningest-NCAA-men’s-coach-ever-dad for some coaching advice if they had the chance? — but does Bob Knight’s response to the Tirico question sound like a man who is ready to leave the coaching profession behind? When your name comes up as a possible candidate for a coaching job and you’re saying things in interviews like “I can’t stay away from it,” no matter how you try to downplay your interest, I’m going to call you on it.
For what it’s worth, I totally agree with rtmsf’s earlier piece about Knight not being a good fit for Georgia (that second photo makes me think I’m personally a GREAT fit for UGA, but I digress). He’d be a basketball coach going to a football school and I can’t see Bob Knight going anywhere where he doesn’t have the biggest office and, as Mel Brooks would say, the biggest schwartz, as it were. And, as Mark Schlabach reported in a phone interview on ESPN.com on Monday night, the current president of the University of Georgia is Michael F. Adams. And who is Dr. Adams good friends with? Dr. Myles Brand, the current president of the NCAA…and the man who fired Knight from Indiana in 2000. Methinks the current UGA administration and Mr. Knight might not see eye-to-eye on a few matters.
The Smiling General. (photo credit: lubbockonline.com)
But Knight has never been one to back down from a challenge. It might not be the best idea for Knight to go to UGA. It’s also not a great idea to throw chairs across floors, physically threaten your AD, or hurl plants in your office, but that didn’t stop him. Listen, I have no problem with Coach Knight taking the reins at some program. I can’t blame a man who think he still has it in him to achieve excellence — and indeed, further cement his “all-time” status by breaking that 1000-win barrier. There’s nothing wrong with wanting to be known as the all-time greatest at what you do. I’d miss his wit on the GameDay set, but who knows, maybe he’ll take this job and be reborn and make everyone forget about Dennis Felton and Jim Harrick. I don’t think it’s the best fit, but he could certainly prove me and rtmsf wrong. In my view, though, despite his attempts to downplay the issue and make it seem like he’s not interested, I think we have a lot of evidence to the fact that he’s either considering the job…or he likes the attention, and at least wants us to think he’s considering it.
Between Bruce Pearl and Pat Summitt, UT basketball is the gift that keeps on giving. From Forbes (h/t Deadspin):
Tennessee basketball coach Pat Summitt had offseason shoulder surgery, not for a sports injury but because of a tussle with a raccoon. The winningest basketball coach in NCAA history had problems with her right shoulder after dislocating it while chasing a raccoon poised to attack her Labrador. The attack came near her home on March 5, just days before the Southeastern Conference tournament. A month later, Summitt guided the Lady Vols to their eighth NCAA title.
Labs are pretty big dogs – it’s odd that Summitt would feel the need to chase down a raccoon… Of course, maybe she remembers what happened to Vol Mascot Smokey VII.