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 rushthecourt@yahoo.com.

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.     

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

Posted by rtmsf on June 29th, 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 rushthecourt@yahoo.com.

You know him from his gregarious, affable demeanor as a studio host on ESPN as well as an on-air radio analyst for Sirius and Westwood One, but there’s a lot more to former Vermont head coach and media personality Tom Brennan than a friendly quip and a quick smile.  The personable transplanted Vermonter who has a Ben & Jerry’s ice cream named after him coached the game for thirty-five years, taking him from Georgia to Fairleigh Dickinson, Villanova, Seton Hall and William & Mary as an assistant, before elevating to the top position at Yale, then the Universitas Viridis Montis (UVM).  In talking to Brennan, you get a sense that he’s not only a guy you’d want to play ball for, but the kind of person you’d also ask to be the best man in your wedding.  He’s got so many stories, anecdotes and ironic twists from a lifetime of achievement that we decided to break up the interview into two parts.  In today’s Part I, we’ll track Brennan from his early days as a player in the segregated South to his crowning achievement as a three-time champion of the America East Conference at Vermont.  Tomorrow we’ll move into the broadcasting career he never thought he’d have, and talk about how likely it is that one of the neatest guys we’ve come across in this sport ever gets back onto the sidelines.

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.

Tom Brennan is as Entertaining as They Come

Rush the Court: Let’s talk a little bit about your career arc.  You’re an east coast guy who grew up in New Jersey.  How did you end up down  in the South in Athens, Georgia, in the early 70s playing ball — what was that like?

Tom Brennan: Segregation.  I can answer you in one word.  Segregation.  Seriously.  I loved going to Georgia, I loved every minute of it.  We had a coach [Ken Rosemond] from North Carolina who was on the ’57 championship team, and he was an assistant — he and Dean Smith were Frank McGuire’s two assistants.  Dean Smith got the Carolina job, and my guy got the Georgia job, and he really felt much like McGuire, that he wanted to get players from the North.  He felt the competition was better and that basketball was more important up this way.  But really, I’m not naive, there’s no way if it was ten years later that I think I would have been recruited to Georgia.  I think I was a Division I player, I mean I played in the SEC, and I would have gone somewhere and I could have gone a lot of other places besides Georgia, but honestly as I look back on it now, had integration been in play, I probably would have gone somewhere in the East.  I loved when I visited there.  He saw me in some all-star game, and I happened to have a good game, and so I just went down to visit and I really liked it.  He was going to get it going, and they had the same building [Stegeman Coliseum], honest to God, in 1967 that they have now.  They still play in it; they’ve upgraded it.  But back then it was like off the hook, it was like from Mars.  We had a lot of northern guys, and I just loved going to school there, made a lot of great friends.  Matter of fact, I just got off the phone with somebody I’m going to go spend some time in Maine with, who was our manager during my time there.  You know, I was the oldest of seven kids and I kinda wanted to get away.  I thought it would be like an adventure, and it kinda turned out to be that way.  I just think, and I don’t say it as a wise guy, I just think if it had been 1977 [rather than 1967], it would have been a lot different.

RTC:  It’s a beautiful campus — the Georgia campus — and I’ve been to the arena you’re talking about.  I’m just wondering, Vandy was one of the first schools in the SEC to integrate in the late 60swere there any other schools at that point that were integrated or was it pretty much still all white?

TB:  It was pretty much all white.  Perry Wallace [the first black SEC basketball player] was it for Vandy, and he was a stud.  He was a really good player, and I mean, you had to be a special guy to do it.  I don’t think there’s any doubt about that.  And then when I got there, the first African-American came to Georgia.  His name was Ronnie Hogue, and it’s a cute story because when I was a senior, he was a sophomore, and I was starting the first couple of games.  And he replaced me and got 43!  [laughter] [Don't tell Coach B, but Hogue actually scored 46 points!]  And so I became a contributor!  And you know what too is interesting, at that time, my brother who is now a PhD psychologist, was in Vietnam, and we had integrated at Georgia and we had the first African-American player, and I wasn’t even in tune to anything.  I’m thinking now as I look back on Vietnam, I should have written my brother a letter every day.  Every single day.  I just didn’t even think about it.  It was kind of the same way with Hogue.  He was just a good guy, a really good guy, and being from New Jersey, I’m thinking, what is taking so long [with respect to integration]?  How is this even an issue?  When are these people gonna figure out that we all are created equal and if a guy’s good enough to play, it shouldn’t matter what he looks like or what his background is.  I never really took it seriously.  And then I read a book about all the athletes that were the first to integrate, and Ronnie had some interesting comments in there, and there were things that I didn’t think about, but I wasn’t black.  I’m thinking, sh–, I never even thought about that, I never even thought to say to him, are you doing ok?  I was just trying to beat the guy out!  And he was a good kid, it wasn’t like he was a pain in the ass at all.  It wasn’t real prejudice, but he was just a player, and I was a player, and we tried to treat him as well as we could.  It was such a historic thing but I didn’t know it.  I didn’t have any kind of frame of reference about that at all.  It was neat being a part of that.  I’m proud of being a part of the first integrated team at the University of Georgia.  I’m not sure if they had a football guy yet — I think maybe they did.  I’m not 100% sure about that, but I know Ronnie was the first black basketball player. [Georgia had five black football players enroll in the fall of 1971.]  You know, we were boys and we hung out.  The thing is that there was a big black community in Athens, and it wasn’t socially mixed so much, but there was a lot of places he could go and there was a lot of people he could see, and he was really obviously a hero to all those people and I certainly understand that.

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Morning Five: 05.09.11 Edition

Posted by nvr1983 on May 9th, 2011

  1. Most of the attention of the college basketball world was focused on the retirement of Gary Williams and who would replace him. Over the weekend quite a few names were thrown around as potential replacements, but it looks like the Maryland athletic department may have a harder time finding a suitable head coach than they expected as their apparent initial targets – Sean Miller, Brad Stevens, and Mike Brey – have all turned down the Terrapins. Miller was able to parlay the offer into a contract extension at Arizona, while Brey is expected to sign one later this month. We doubt that this will turn into a fiasco like what NC State experienced trying to find a coach, but it is worth keeping an eye on the situation if the search drags on as the list of suitable replacements will certainly grow shorter.
  2. While Maryland continues to search for its head coach, another school in the DC area (George Washington) was able to find its guy as they are set to announce Vermont coach Mike Lonergan as its next head coach. Lonergan will replace Karl Hobbs, who struggled to keep the Colonials at the level of excellence they showed between 2004-07 when he led them to the NCAA Tournament in three consecutive seasons. Lonergan may not be as well-known to the casual fan, but he has a solid resume with an excellent career at Catholic University where he won a D3 national championship and then at Vermont where he succeeded Tom Brennan and managed to keep the Catamounts near the top of America East.
  3. In another coaching move that will probably go underreported, former Oklahoma head coach Jeff Capel has decided to return to Duke to serve as an assistant under Mike Krzyzewski. The move shouldn’t come as much of a surprise given the fact that Capel probably would have had to take a mid-major position if he went straight back to the sidelines as a head coach. Now Capel can get back to Cameron on the sidelines with a contingent of other well-known former Blue Devils and hope that he can parlay some of Coach K’s success into another major coaching position. The bigger question for us is whether this potentially puts Capel in position to succeed Krzyzewski when he decides to call it a career (a scary notion for Duke fans?).
  4. Most of the interest in player movement over the weekend was focused on players deciding on whether or not to enter the NBA Draft there was also some major transfer news as Aaric Murray decided to transfer from La Salle to West Virginia and Gonzaga forward Kelly Olynyk is reportedly considering leaving the Bulldog program. The Murray news isn’t particularly surprising as he had considered joining the Mountaineers coming out of high school, but he should be a major addition for them when he becomes eligible in the 2012-13 season. Olynyk’s potential transfer is more interesting as it raises questions about Mark Few‘s program in that multiple players have transferred from GU in the past few years. We would imagine that Few is working pretty hard to keep Olynyk in the program as the transfers are beginning to pile up and could ultimately affect Gonzaga’s ability to recruit.
  5. As we near the time of year when high school seniors are graduating, it is interesting to look at which players are still available. Skimming through the latest top 100 (feel free to use the rankings of your own preference) there are only a few top guys available with DeAndre Daniels, Kevin Ware, Trevor Lacey, and Joseph Uchebo being the biggest. We would expect to see them announcing their decisions in the next few weeks and each of these guys could help round out some school’s class that is missing a crucial piece.
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O26 Primers: America East, Missouri Valley, and Northeast Conference Tourneys

Posted by KDoyle on March 3rd, 2011

RTC’s Kevin Doyle, author of the weekly column, The Other 26, and the Patriot League Correspondent, will be providing conference tournament previews for all non-BCS conferences.

Three more conferences get underway this evening with teams in the America East and NEC all gunning for the coveted automatic-bid to the Tournament, while the Missouri Valley is vying to send two teams to the Dance. Boston University is all of a sudden the favorite to win the America East with the uncertainty of Evan Fjeld‘s ankle, while Missouri State and Long Island are the favorites in their respective leagues. Something tells me though that the Wichita State Shockers will be looking for vengeance following their two losses to the Bears earlier this year.

America East

The Favorite: Vermont appears to be the favorite, but a lot depends on the status of Evan Fjeld’s ankle that he injured in UVM’s final regular season game against Boston University. In what very well could be the America East championship game, BU went on to defeat the Catamounts in overtime. Allison Shepherd told John Fantino of the Burlington Free Press Blog that: “[Fjeld] is receiving daily care and treatment for the injury. We will have a better idea regarding his playing status for the upcoming America East tournament as the weekend approaches.” Something tells me that even if Fjeld and his ‘Stache are able to go, he will not be at 100%. I like Boston University.

Dark Horse: Behind senior Tim Ambrose, Albany is a team that has come on strong as of late and is capable of making a run in the A-East tournament. The Great Danes have won four straight to end the regular season, but getting by Stony Brook will be no easy task in the first round.

Who’s Hot: Boston University has not lost in February and is 8-0 during the month. They defeated Vermont to conclude the regular season and are flying high with John Holland—arguably the league’s best player—leading the way.

Player to Watch: John Holland has been a staple in BU’s rotation since the day he stepped on campus. The senior has averaged double-figures in scoring for all four years, and his 19.2 points a game this year is tops in the league.

First-Round Upset: Hartford over Maine. The Black Bears were an intriguing team and story to follow early on in the season. They beat a solid Penn State team and began league play with an 8-1 record, but since then they have fallen flat on their faces. Although their date with Hartford is technically not in the first round—the America East essentially has a play-in game between the #8 and #9 seeds to begin the tournament—fourth seeded Maine will have their hands full with Hartford who has already beaten them twice.

How’d They Fare? As a 16 seed last year, Vermont could not handle the athleticism or shooting ability of Syracuse as they lost 79-56.

Interesting Fact: Not an interesting fact, but simply one of my favorite NCAA Tournament highlights of all-time:

Easily the best part of the clip is Tom Brennan’s reaction after T.J. Sorrentine swishes home the three from about 35 feet away, and if you look even further past Brennan the reaction of the guys sitting on press row are priceless too. This is what makes March so Mad!

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Morning Five: 12.16.10 Edition

Posted by jstevrtc on December 16th, 2010

  1. Missouri has suspended sophomore point guard Michael Dixon indefinitely for a team rules violation that head coach Mike Anderson has declined to reveal. Dixon had been solid in directing traffic for the Tigers this season, averaging a team-best 4.3 APG and 2.4 SPG, leading the team in assist-to-turnover ratio (2.6), and hitting 82.5% from the free throw line (second on the team), in addition to his contribution of 10.7 PPG. Freshman Phil Pressey (3.8 PPG, 3.0 APG, 1.4 SPG) is Dixon’s understudy, and it looks like it’s the young fella’s team until further notice.
  2. Oklahoma freshman T.J. Taylor has decided to take his services elsewhere — at least we hope so. By that, we don’t mean that we want Taylor to leave the Sooners (he’s already decided on that), it’s that we just want to him to eventually play somewhere. Taylor, a top-100 recruit overall and a top-20 point guard in last year’s class, never played a second for OU, having suffered a concussion in the preseason. He’s said to be leaving the school for personal reasons and headed to junior college, and the quotes from the linked story indicate that the split is an amicable one, but we hope he can put any physical or mental/personal blocks behind him and that we’ll see T.J. back on a bigger stage soon, if that’s what he wants.
  3. Oh, Scoop Jardine. What happened, man? You somehow manage to overcome some pretty tall hurdles during your early days at Syracuse — and then this?? Hey, we’ve made mistakes, too. And we love your game, and acknowledge your apology, which we saw before you were taken down. But seriously, pardner…your newsworthiness should come from the classroom and the basketball floor. You’re an upperclassman. You’re so close; we think the Twitter hiatus is an appropriate move.
  4. Rise up, Kenny “Mouse” McFadden disciples! The Cleveland Cavaliers are underwhelming their constituents to such a degree that some Free Stampers are deserting the Cavs for the local undefeated college team — namely, 12-0 Cleveland Stateaccording to ABC affiliate WEWS. We can’t advocate the abandonment of any team at any level just because they’re not doing so hot, but we do love that people are taking time to head over and support the Vikings. We love the quote from CSU student Jessica Longstreet that finishes the article (and embedded video). We don’t know Miss Longstreet, but with such insights, we think she deserves high honors in all of her courses this term.
  5. Boy, can we get behind this: yesterday was the debut of College Basketball Today, the new college hoops talk show on Sirius XM. We’re talking about daily roundball discussion from noon to 3 pm ET with former Vermont coach Tom Brennan (!), ESPN’s Bob Valvano, some former-player perspective with Kenny Anderson and Jim Jackson, all tied together by NYC-based broadcaster Jason Horowitz. Many of us here are Sirius XM users [RTC Legal just handed me a memo asking me to remind our dear readers that any comment or endorsement found here about said satellite radio provider is unsolicited], and we’re glad to see this niche filled, especially considering how much we enjoy the nightly selection of games when we’re on the road. There’s just one problem. The show’s only on Wednesdays until — grrrrrooooooan — the end of the college football season, then it goes daily. Come on!!
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07.01.09 Fast Breaks

Posted by rtmsf on July 1st, 2009

Already halfway through the calendar, which means that we’re almost equally distant from Midnight Madness as we are from last Selection Sunday…

  • Rumors Be Damned.  In case you missed it, the rumor mill has been flaring up considerably this week.  Lance Stephenson to CincinnaticonfirmedXavier Henry and brother CJ to KentuckydeniedCoach K to the Lakers – not a chance.  RTC to Vansterdam – pending.  The rumor that had us vexed was the Henrys leaving KU story.  When your father is going on talk radio shows and spouting off about his kids’ unhappiness and unwillingness to stay in a particular place (Kansas), that’s usually pretty convincing evidence that something is afoot.  Turns out, though, that Carl Henry is just a smidge on the aft side of crazy athlete-dads, and he came off as a real sh*t-stirrer in follow-up radio interviews he gave earlier this week.  If Bill Self can manage to get the Henrys to sacrifice self for team, that’ll be a really impressive accomplishment, it appears.
  • All Games Are Presumed Equal.  Even though some are more equal than others.  Um, ok.  The NCAA revised its Tournament criteria to remove the “last 12″ record analysis (which used to be “last 10″) because the selection committee found it confusing to give more value to games played later in the season over games earlier in the season.  In other words, every game is now supposed to count equally in their analysis.  The conventional wisdom is that this is a good thing, but we’re uncertain.  Think about it: all else being equal, would you want a team that started 15-1 but finished 4-8 getting into the Dance over a team that started 9-7, but finished 10-2?  We think that there needs to be some reward for finishing strong.  Basketball is a tournament sport, and teams are built to be working on all cylinders by the time tournament season rolls around, not in November and December.  Our general feeling is that committee members will still reward strong closers over strong starters, but it just won’t be officially sanctioned.  Let’s hope they do, at least.   
  • Bruins Pony Up.  In what’s becoming a national trend in both football and basketball, schools are holding their long-time season ticket holders hostage by requiring enormous donations to reserve the best seats at their venues.  We recently read about this occurring as Cal upgrades its football stadium, and now UCLA is requiring up to a half-million dollars worth of largesse to get the choicest seats courtside at the new and improved Pauley Pavilion (set to re-open in 2012).  Schools can obviously do whatever they want with the seats in their stadiums, but it seems absurd that a family that has held on to seats for generations but may not have hundreds of thousands of dollars lying around won’t be able to keep them.   
  • 2010 Mock Drafts.  Here’s a version from Jeff Goodman, NBADraft.net, DraftExpress, and Draft Depot.  Everybody and their brother has Kentucky PG John Wall as the #1 guy right now. 
  • More Quick Hits.  Cameron Dollar: high hopes for fledgling Seattle U.  SEC Coaches: we don’t suckCraig Brackins: two national articles on the Iowa St. big man in the same week!  Ohio St. AD Gene Smith: will chair the 2010 and 2011 NCAA Tournament CmtesRenardo Sidney: NCAA eligibility meetings postponed to next weekGreivis Vasquez: sweeping the ACC titles next season.  UNC: University of Nike Carolina.  Coach K: of course he doesn’t like the one-and-done rule.  Of course he doesn’t.  Tom Brennan: first Whelliston, now Brennan.  ESPN is shedding all of its best CBB studio people, and that’s sad.
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Checking in on the… Patriot League

Posted by rtmsf on February 6th, 2009

Marty Leon is the RTC correspondent for the Patriot League.

Leon’s Leads - Tom Brennan to Georgia !!!  The Current ESPN Hoop analyst and Georgia Alum could bring his Vermont Magic to Athens.

Rush the Courts Ten Reasons Why Tom Brennan Could Coach Georgia !!

  1. Graduate and former player.
  2. Great Recruiter.
  3. Will demand academic performance of players.
  4. Players coach.
  5. Turned losing Vermont team into nationally respected program.
  6. Terrific at promoting University.
  7. Never takes himself to seriously.
  8. People of Georgia would love him.
  9. Beat Syracuse.
  10. Would be a great addition to homecoming festivities.

Holy Cross Getting It Done

At 6-1 in the league, Holy Cross has  proven they are for real and the top contender to take the title away from American. Freshmen R.J Evans has been awesome, averaging 13 ppg and second in the league in steals. The guard from Norwich Free Academy in Connecticut has been rookie of the week SEVEN times!!  Andrew Keister has helped carry the load, leading the Patriot in field goal percentage and seventh in rebounding. Ralph Willard has done a great job regrouping his team after a rocky injury plagued start to the season.

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ESPN Marathon of Hoops Live Blog

Posted by jstevrtc on November 17th, 2008

11/17/08

11:45pm ET — Greetings, fellow hoop lovers, and welcome to the ESPN 24-hour Marathon of Hoops Rush The Court live blog.  John Stevens, here, ready to truly kick off the college hoops season in freakin’ insane style.  I’ll be live-blogging the entire way — that’s right, baby, the WHOLE WAY! — so if you’re out there watching the games, by all means leave a comment.

Of course, I don’t mean to imply any connection between ESPN and RTC with the title of this post.  But a while back it was posted here that ESPN really had a great idea when they came up with this, and I for one definitely appreciate that they’re kicking off their coverage in this way.  So the title merely refers to the fact that…well, if they’re gonna broadcast it, I’m gonna watch it, and what the heck, I might as well live-blog it.

Why, you ask?  Several reasons.  First and foremost, my love for college basketball.  This off-season has seemed especially long and I’m happy that my favorite sport is finally back.  I’ve also got the next 6.5 days off from my real job, an occupation that sometimes has me up overnight anyway.  So what better way to kick off my leisure time.  I also assume that the more teams I familiarize myself with, the better served I’ll be when the annual mid-March (read: first-and-second rounds) Rush The Court field trip to Las Vegas happens.  We go for the museums, but in case we happen to catch an early-round game on a gigantic TV (or six), well, I’ll know more about who I’m watching.

When RTMSF and I first talked about me live-blogging during this offering by ESPN, as usual he was worried about liability; he suggested I go have a quick physical to make sure I could make it through the next 24 hours intact.  The address he gave me, though, turned out to be a guy working out of the trunk of his car behind the local movie theatre.  I called RTMSF to verify that I had gone to the right place, and he said, “Yeah, the guy in the beret?  Yep.  That’s him.  He’ll take care of you.”  Naturally I fled, so let me just say that even though I haven’t been medically cleared for this, I’m doing it of my own accord.

So let’s do this thing.  I’ve got 24 hours of college hoops ahead of me.  I’ve retired to the cushy environs of the Rush The Court Eastern Compound and assumed a spot in one of our beautiful leather home theatre reclining chairs that would make Turtle from Entourage proud.  I’ve got the three LCD HD’s going.  I’ve got a fridge stocked with energy drinks.  I’ve got a remote control the size of a law school textbook in my hands.  I’ve got snow falling outside.  And did I mention the 6.5 days off???  It’s time for some serious hoops.  We’ll kick things off with UMass-Memphis in about 15 minutes.

11/18/08

12:09 am — We’re off.  Two big pieces of news have already come down today, so let me mention them now.  The biggest is the death of Pete Newell, a name that sounds strange to say without the words “Big Man Camp” coming directly after.  His influence on the game of basketball is immeasurable.  As you’ve seen already, not only did he achieve that rare (as in three people, ever) basketball trifecta of coaching an Olympic gold medal squad (1960), an NIT champion (1949), and an NCAA champion (1959)…he only worked with some of the biggest names in the history of the game via his Big Man Camp, like Abdul-Jabbar, Olajuwan, Walton, O’Neal, and countless others.  He might not be one of the names that immediately comes to mind if you were to sit down and come up with a “Mt. Rushmore” of American basketball, but he sure makes a strong case. 

The other bit of far-less-important news is that Tyler Hansbrough is a no-go against Kentucky on Tuesday night.  Not surprised at this.  It wasn’t discussed much last year, but quite frankly Kentucky’s Patrick Patterson outplayed Hansbrough; hoops fans who wanted to see how Hansbrough would respond will have to wait a while, unless UNC and UK end up meeting in the tournament somehow.  It’ll have to happen in the NBA — and Kentucky fans hope it won’t be next year.

12:20am — We’re through two TV timeouts and this has been a YMCA game.  More turnovers than field goals.  Lots of threes gettin’ jacked up.  UMass has come out in the “sagging man-to-man” which is daring Memphis to bomb away from the outside.  They’re more than happy to oblige, which is why they find themselves only up one point almost midway through the half.  This will probably be the trend in a lot of these games in the next 24 hours — sloppy Y-ball for the first half, then guys relaxing into their roles in the second and things becoming a little more organized.

12:45am — Memphis’ athletes are starting to assume control with about 5 minutes left in the first half.  Tyreke Evans is an absolute pest on defense and despite the strange anatomy of his jump shot, it’s kind of nice to watch.  UMass is relying on the drive-and-kickout right now, and Ricky Harris is keeping them in it.  Memphis’ turnovers are helping, too.  UMass only down 6 right now…

12:58am — Memphis with a 33-25 lead at the half.  UMass is still in this game for two reasons:  1) Memphis’ shot selection, or lack of desire to work inside the paint.  Robert Dozier is indeed the Tigers’ leading scorer with 12, but he’s 0/3 from the 3-pt line, and he has zero attempts from the line.  2) As soon as Memphis expanded the lead to double-digits and looked like they were about to out-athleticize the Minutemen, UMass showed an ability to grab a loose ball or force a Memphis turnover and capitalize on it.  If UMass can calm themselves (no small feat in this environment), they can stay close and may find themselves within striking distance late.  If Memphis calms down and plays to their strengths (size and athleticism), they could put this one away rather easily.

1:01am — We have a Tom Brennan sighting!  He is very subtly giving a nod to his past at the University of Vermont, with the dark green blazer and yellow tie.  He agrees with me in his assessment of the game so far — “It’s a mess.”  Amen, sir.

1:15am — Shooting stats for the first half:  From 3pt range…UMass 3/13 (23.1%), Memphis 1/12 (8.3%!!!).  Egad.

1:22am — The second half starts with not much new…hectic pace, lots of bad shots.  UMass is actually outhustling Memphis to every loose ball but they’re giving up some easy points off of turnovers.  Memphis has decided to exploit their athleticism by picking up full court, but UMass seems ready; props to Coach Kellogg for prepping his team for this.  Unfortunately for the Minutemen, on their last four possessions, Memphis has gone inside (a couple of ill-advised threes led to offensive boards) and the lead is now 11.

1:31am — Tony Gaffney is playing his butt off for UMass with 9 points and 12 boards, but Memphis is starting to look a little too long and quick.  Tyreke Evans got an earful from Coach Calipari after a terrible three-point attempt, has gone inside on his last two touches, and scored twice.  He’s got 17 now.  Still…UMass continues to frustrate Memphis on defense…it’s still only 11 at the under-12 TV timeout.

1:42am — RTMSF just called me to tell me he’s going to the St. Mary’s game.  Jackass.

1:46am — Memphis is starting to wear down the Minutemen and are getting some easy layups, and the lead is 61-44.  The UMass players are standing straight up on defense.  Coach Kellogg calls a timeout 2 seconds before the under-8 TV timeout — definitely a testimonial to the fatigue of his squad.

Calipari is begging his team not to chuck threes.  It’s hilarious.  Every time one of his players goes up for a long-range jumper, Calipari assumes the expression of someone who has just had his face farted on.  His players have gotten the message, though.

1:56am — I’m not sure I’m on board with the Memphis home uniforms.  The front is a clean white, and the back is a slightly darker beige/grey.  UMass is of course wearing their away maroons, so at times, on the hi-def, it looks like there are three different teams on the floor.  Maybe I’m getting a little chippy because it’s a 21-pt bulge (70-49) with five minutes left.  And because RTMSF is going to the freakin’ St. Mary’s-Fresno State game.

2:04am — 76-49.  Tony Gaffney’s played his tail off for UMass (14p 20r) but Memphis’ seemingly interchangable parts have put a lid on this one.

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Finally, It’s Here.

Posted by rtmsf on November 10th, 2008

rtc-08-09-preview

John Stevens is a featured columnist for RTC.  His columns will appear on Tuesdays throughout the season.

We can stop now.

No need to continue going to YouTube to relive highlights of last season.

We can stop reading (and re-reading) those strange single-issue pre-season magazines.

We don’t have to keep checking the listings at ESPN Classic or the Big Ten Network for a stray college basketball replay.

Somewhere in Florida, Dick Vitale has been taken out of a moth-ball-filled crate (or out of his tasty Tampa Bay Rays box seats) and has had his big bald pumpkin dusted off.  He is drinking hot tea to prepare his voice.  He knows that the weekly Mike-and-Mike appearances are not enough, now.  He knows it’s time to go to work.

Somewhere in New England, the always delightful and informative Tom Brennan is shopping for blazers.  Hopefully with his wife’s help.

At this moment, Digger Phelps is in a Staples, eyeballing the highliter section with genuine concern, holding up ties next to them to insure proper color-coordination.  Jay Bilas and the Davises (Rece and Hubert) are watching replays of the Tim Tebow pep talk and laughing like Charley Steiner

They’re polishing the floors at Pauley and Cameron Indoor.  Oh yes, they’re setting up chairs at Rupp and O’Connell.  If you listen hard enough, you can hear that blessed sound, that sweet, echoing collision between basketball leather and hardwood, coming from Louisville and Lawrence, Spokane and Storrs.

And we know why.  It’s back.

opening_night

God, it’s always been this way for me.  Ever since I can remember, the middle of October has meant – political rhetoric aside — well, a feeling of new hope.  Not just for the prospect of a great season for my favorite team(s), but for the fact that there WAS a season; that for the next five months, my favorite sport was going to take over everything – the TV, the radio, the conversations between me and my friends – and man, how sweet it was going to be. 

“Take over” is the correct term, there.  Seriously, some of my earliest memories of childhood were sitting with my basketball-coach father in front of a TV as he taught me why you have to “overload” a zone, or the best way to break a 2-2-1 full court press, or how, by looking at your defender’s feet, to tell the exact moment to go on a dribble-drive.  On random weekdays in grade school and junior high, my friends and I would be bleary-eyed having stayed up to catch the end of, say, Seton Hall at UC-Santa Barbara, or Loyola Marymount at Gonzaga, because if you were in our crowd you had better be able to discuss it.  Especially during the season, we’d be fired up to play HORSE, 21, or 5-on-5 on any playground we could find.  Rain or snow?  Didn’t matter, makes it more interesting.  3am and the cops showed up?  Who cares, we’ll find another court.  Yeah, we were geeks, at least about college basketball.  We didn’t care.  We still are.

I’m willing to bet that if you’re reading a college basketball blog, you probably share my excitement, and you probably have similar memories to the ones I’ve recounted above.  Maybe you have a specific moment in college hoops’ glorious history that made you an immediate lifelong fan.  Perhaps you can recall the exact details of where you were for the Bryce Drew Miracle.  Or Tyus Edney coast-to-coast.  Or Gabe Lewullis in 1996.  Well take heart, friends.  November has arrived.  It ain’t March, but it’s still pretty damn good.

And the upcoming season is already intriguing in so many ways.  So many questions are waiting to be answered.  For the first time in a while, we have a true Goliath to start a season, this time in the form of the 2008-09 edition of the North Carolina Tarheels.  Can they live up to the already-churning hype machine and take their place as one of the greatest squads ever assembled?  Can Ol’ Roy live up to the challenge and complete this task?  What absolute sickness does Stephen Curry have in store for us this year?  Will this new three-point line redefine the position of the 2-guard?  Will the traditional center re-emerge as the premier position on the floor because of it?  Will it bring back the lost of art of the mid-range jumper?  Is Duke over- or undervalued this year?  Is Davidson the new Gonzaga?  Speaking of the Zags, is Austin Daye as special a player as he seems?  Will Billy Gillispie’s second season in Lexington be as impressive as his second seasons at UTEP and Texas A&M (therefore catapulting him to deity status)?  And what is it going to be like to look over at the Arizona sideline and NOT see Lute Olson?  Jeez, you might as well make the baskets 26 feet high and make the court triangular, because it will seem like a different game.

I can’t wait to have them all answered.  So serve it up, let’s light this candle.  With everything that’s gone on in this country (sports and otherwise) in the last seven months, it seems like a million years ago that we crowned Bill Self and his Jayhawks as champions.  So give me Big Monday.  Love him or loathe him, give me Dickie V having one of his on-air seizures of hoops happiness.  Give me Gus Johnson on the mic with a last-second shot in the air.  Bring on Bracketology and let’s have some mid-majors.  It’s time for Rick Pitino’s white suit and the Fox Sunday night game. 

Because finally…it’s here.  Rejoice, college hoops fans.  Our game is back.

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Conference Primers: #25 – America East

Posted by rtmsf on October 16th, 2007

Season Preview Banner 3

Predicted Order of Finish:

  1. Vermont (21-7) (13-3)
  2. Boston U. (18-10) (12-4)
  3. Albany (16-13) (10-6)
  4. Binghamton (14-13) (9-7)
  5. Maryland-Baltimore County (13-16) (8-8)
  6. Maine (9-19) (6-10)
  7. Stony Brook (10-18) (6-10)
  8. Hartford (9-21) (5-11)
  9. New Hampshire (6-21) (3-13)

America East Logo

WYN2K. The Am East has a tendency toward top-heaviness, with a couple of good teams in a given year that are competitive with mid-major and (sometimes) high-major teams while the rest are relegated to the morass of low-major fiefdom. Over the last several years, the three sentinels of America East basketball have been Vermont , Boston U. and Albany, the three of which have won the last six regular season and conference tourney championships of the league (although only once in the same year – Vermont in 2005) . Led by these programs, the conference has gone 119-176 (.403) against nonconference opponents over the last three seasons, which is a clear step up in success from the conferences below it. We expect the same three programs to battle it out for this year’s crown.

Predicted Champion. Vermont (#16 seed NCAA). Choosing UVM here was an extremely close call, as we fully expect BU and Albany to make a push for the league crown as well. Despite the losses of rebounding fiend Chris Holm (#3 in oReb% nationally) and rising star Joe Trapani (transfer to BC), the Catamounts return probable Am East POY Mike Trimboli at the point guard slot. We feel that his heady play, combined with the losses at the other schools will allow Vermont to hang on to the top spot.

Others Considered. BU is rising quickly, led by a quartet of precocious sophomores who surprised the league by finishing 8-8 in the conference last season. The most interesting of these players is Tyler Morris, reigning Am East ROY who also has the distinction of being the HS teammate of Greg Oden and Mike Conley, Jr. See if you can find him in the video below (look very closely for the white kid in green). Two-time defending NCAA entrant Albany must also be dealt with, despite losing Am East POY (twice over) Jamar Wilson. Brent Wilson and Brian Lillis (Am East DPOY) have more than enough support to make another run at the title. A final consideration goes to Binghamton, who hired Georgetown assistant coach Kevin Broadus to bring the Princeton offense to upstate NY. Considering that Binghamton was already one of the most sure-handed offenses in the nation (#9 in oStl%), we think this group will be ready for the transition. It also doesn’t hurt that the 2008 conference tourney will be located in Binghamton. Watch out for the Bearcats as a darkhorse.

Games to Watch. As a one-bid league, only one game will matter to most people.

  • America East Championship Game (03.15.08). ESPN2.

RPI Booster Games. The America East shies away from playing numerous BCS conference teams (18 games scheduled last year; 16 this year), but it makes up for it by playing quite a few winnable games against mid-major teams. For example, last year Albany defeated Utah to go along with the league’s three wins vs. BCS opponents (Vermont 77, BC 63; Binghamton 79, Miami (FL) 74; Stony Brook 59, Penn St. 51). There are several such opportunities this season.

  • Vermont @ George Mason (11.09.07)
  • Vermont @ Virginia (11.11.07)
  • Boston U. @ George Washington (11.14.07)
  • Maryland-BC @ Wichita St. (12.04.07)
  • Albany @ Duke (12.17.07)
  • Boston U. @ UMass (12.29.07)
  • Albany @ Iowa St. (12.30.07)

Odds of Multiple NCAA Bids. Zip. Even with Vermont going 15-1 in the league last year and losing to Albany by one point in the conference tourney final, they were relegated to the NIT (losing to Kansas St. 59-57). This year will be a more competitive race, which leaves no opportunity for multiple bids.

Neat-o Stat. We have several today. The Am East is a league where coaches get their starts – names like Jim Calhoun, Rick Pitino, Mike Jarvis, Mike Brey, and Jay Wright all earned their chops in the league before moving onto bigger and better things. Will Binghamton’s Kevin Broadus be the next coaching star from the America East? Also, just call Maryland-Baltimore County’s Brian Hodges the Human Cannon this season – he ranked sixth in the nation in shots attempted, taking 37.4% of his team’s shots while on the floor. Finally, everyone thinks UVM stands for University (of) Ver… Mont, right? Well, no – it actually is latin (Universitas Viridis Montis) for University of the Green Mountains. Go figure.

64/65-Team Era. The America East is 3-23 (.115) over this era, with three first-round victories from 1989 (#14 Siena over #3 Stanford), 1996 (#12 Drexel over #5 Memphis), and 2005 (#13 Vermont over #4 Syracuse). #13 Albany was blitzed last year by #4 Virginia, but in 2006 the Great Danes were leading #1 seed UConn 60-48 with eleven minutes remaining before Marcus Williams took over and finished them off down the stretch (34-9 run by the Huskies). And who can forget the Sorrentine and Coppenrath show vs. Cuse in 2005?


Final Thought. The Am East is one of our favorite low-major leagues. In the few games we see involving these teams, the fans seem to be incredibly rowdy and into the games. The level of basketball as a rule is decidedly below the rim, but teams make up for it in execution and shooting. And how can you not like resident Am East cheerleader (and former UVM coach) Tom Brennan doing studio work for ESPN all winter.

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