No more OJs at USC?

Posted by nvr1983 on May 12th, 2008

I’m not even sure where to begin with this post. Here at RTC, we have discussed OJ Mayo several times most recently in what rtmsf myopically thought would be a final retrospective on the latest OJ to grace the USC campus. As pretty much everyone knows by now Mayo has been implicated in a rather large scandal involving Bill Duffy Agency (BDA) and Rodney Guillory, who appears to have been essentially hired by BDA to bring Mayo to them.

Most of my knowledge on the topic comes from Kelly Naqi’s Outside the Lines report I saw on Sunday morning while I was staying at a beach resort so this isn’t going to be some deep NY Times investigative piece that some of you may be expecting from RTC–we’ll work on that over the summer. Instead, I think it’s more interesting to consider the impact this will have on USC and recruiting/college basketball in general given the hype that Mayo brought with him to USC and the manner in which he handled his recruitment of USC–yes, the way he recruited USC.

Will OJ still be welcome at the USC campus?

According to the OTL report, Guillory gave Mayo cash,  a flat-screen television, cell phones, hotel rooms, clothes, meals, and airline tickets. Given Mayo’s celebrity status, it’s pretty hard to believe that Tim Floyd and others at USC didn’t notice this was going on. Some prescient writers like Gregg Doyel even warned USC about the specific threat as early as 2006, but USC never did anything about it. Floyd and USC just looked the other way and hoped nobody else would notice or at least that nobody would give them up while they raked in the money from the increased attendance and sales of Mayo’s jerseys. The transgressions are not at the same level as those involving Reggie Bush’s family at USC, but these directly involved a player (Mayo) while the majority of the financial benefit in the Bush situation appears to have been reaped by Bush’s parents who stayed at a million dollar house essentially for free.

The big question now is what the NCAA will do about it. There have been several reports over the past year that the NCAA has investigated Mayo thoroughly, but did not find anything. Given the amount of evidence presented in the OTL piece, it’s hard to imagine that the NCAA spent much time digging into Mayo if they never came across any of this stuff. Ever since Yahoo! Sports broke the Reggie Bush allegations, Internet message boards have been abuzz first with what sanctions would be levied against the Trojans and when none came with conspiracy theories about how the NCAA was protecting the Trojans while being much more harsh on other teams such as a dominant football power on the East Coast (Miami). Compounding the fans fury was the seeming indifference of the sports media outside of Yahoo! Sports (read: ESPN) to really go after USC. Fans claimed that ESPN was trying to protect its sacred cow as ESPN had hyped up the Trojans to the point where they ran a week-long segment on where the Trojans ranked historically even before their Rose Bowl game against Texas, which they lost thanks to a super-human performance by Vince Young (I Heart VY). Now that ESPN has decided to join the attack against USC, it will be interesting to see if the mainstream sports media will turn up the heat on the NCAA (still waiting for the SI cover asking USC to cancel its athletic program). For those of you who think I may be going too far, the list of transgressions by USC athletes goes far beyond Bush and Mayo and includes recent charges against athletes ranging from dealing drugs to weapons possession to sexual assault.

While I’m not on board with Pat Forde’s reactionary death penalty column, I think the NCAA should come down pretty hard on USC. I am not sure what the precedent is for multi-sport probation, but given the multiple transgressions by the USC football team and the Mayo fiasco that anybody could have seen coming, its pretty clear that the Athletic Director Mike Garrett has no control over his programs or doesn’t care as long as they win. I would think that a 1- or 2-year probation with a ban on postseason play would send a pretty clear message that the NCAA won’t tolerate this kind of behavior. However, I doubt the powers that be will punish USC that severely, but USC should at least have some scholarships taken away from them in addition to the ones they lost with their poor APR performance. If the NCAA fails to do that, the Internet and the parents’ basements that bloggers inhabit will be all over them and this time the mainstream sports media with ESPN’s support will be behind them.

The story about Mayo’s recruitment is well-known as an associate of his (Guillory) entered Tim Floyd’s office and offered Mayo and his “services” to USC. When Floyd asked for Mayo’s number to speak with him, he was told that Mayo would call him. Perhaps Guillory wanted to make sure Mayo stayed within the minute limits on the plans that Guillory was paying for. Hopefully, this fiasco will convince more coaches not to get involved in these situations as it was obvious from the beginning of this relationship who was in control. At least Floyd seemed in control over the team, but it won’t be too long before some 5-star comes in with his personal coach and pushes for certain personnel moves and demands that the offense runs through him so he can get his numbers to boost his draft status.

The final issue, and potentially the most important in terms of its overall effect on college basketball, is how this will affect the NCAA’s decision on the 1-and-done rule. It’s pretty obvious that Mayo and several other stars like Michael Beasley were never going to spend a minute more than required in college before jumping to the NBA. If it’s going to be like that for the next generation of college stars, I wonder if the trade-off is worth it. As much as opposing fans like to knock Tyler Hansbrough and J.J. Redick, they embody what we used to love about the college game with guys staying 4 years and developing their games and fans identifying teams with players and not just the coaches manning the sidelines. Unfortunately, Tyler and J.J. are not the caliber of player that we saw do that in the 1980s. College hoops fans need to face the reality that we will never see a Lebron James (would have finished his senior year last year) or Dwight Howard (would have finished his senior year this year) having those kind of historic college careers. The question is how much is it worth to bring in guys of that caliber (or Mayo who is clearly several steps below James or Howard) in for 1 year with the risk of it blowing up an athletic program like it threatens to do at USC now. Mayo’s career and eventual legacy at USC may go a long way in determining the future of this rule.

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Billy the Kid Fallout

Posted by rtmsf on June 2nd, 2007

Billy Donovan Magic

As expected, the college hoops/NBA blogospheres have been abuzz with thoughts on the reasoning behind Billy Donovan’s decision to leave Florida for the Orlando Magic, as well as speculation as to how well BTK will do when he gets there. As we said on Thursday when the news was breaking, it’s unlikely that Donovan will become an abject failure in the NBA like his mentor Pitino in Boston or several of the other successful college coaches who made that jump – most notably, Carlesimo, Calipari, Tim Floyd, Mike Montgomery and even switching sports with another ex-Gator, Steve Spurrier. The key distinction is that Donovan’s opportunity with Orlando, very much in contrast with most NBA job openings, is a pretty good one. Orlando was a playoff team this season, albeit barely, and they do have a young stud in Dwight Howard to pair with solid PG Jameer Nelson and a surplus of salary cap space. Plus Orlando as a city has long been attractive to free agents because of its warm weather, exclusive neighborhoods such as Isleworth (Shaq and Tiger have homes there) and tax benefit (no state income tax in Florida).

So the question really shouldn’t be whether Donovan will fail in Orlando, it’s whether he will succeed. Can he shrewdly use his eye for talent to build around Howard to make the Magic a 50-60 win team over the next five years, eventually rising to the level of challenging the Lebrons for the JV Conference title? In the NBA, the old adage goes, it’s all about the players. The coaches above failed for many reasons, often including a lack of imagination and management acumen, but the most important reason was they simply had inferior talent. Billy Donovan is in a unique position as a new NBA coach where he should be able to avoid that pitfall, and for that reason, it says here that he’ll have a successful tenure in Orlando.

The media expectedly is falling into two camps on this issue:


Kelly Dwyer at

From Mike Montgomery to Rick Pitino, John Calipari, Tim Floyd, Lon Kruger, Leonard Hamilton, P.J. Carlesimo, Jerry Tarkanian and Dick Vitale, the NBA landscape is littered with former college coaches who thought they could exhort and prod their way toward NBA glory. And, to a man, each fell well short. Only Pitino, Floyd and Carlesimo were offered second NBA jobs, with only Floyd (the most maligned of the bunch) improving his record in his second stint.

The overriding theme here is respect, and how to earn it from professionals making guaranteed money while the coach tries to sustain a sense of gravitas from training camp in October to, hopefully, a playoff run in the spring. NCAA coaches, who are allowed to wield scholarships and playing time over the head of impressionable youngsters, are able to get away with emptying all their motivational shells in the midst of what, at best, could turn into a 40-game season. NBA coaches tend to hit their 40th game in early February, with a playoff push and possible postseason run still weeks away.

Despite all the historical evidence suggesting failure, each pro team and each coach think their situation could be the one exception — the one marriage of pro team and ex-college coach that actually works. There is some evidence that suggests that Donovan, for all intents and purposes, could be the one who breaks the losing streak.

Ian Thomsen at (linked yesterday but written on Apr. 9):

“Here’s what I’ve noticed about Billy,” a GM said. “A few years ago he realized he wasn’t very good at coaching defense. He moved one of his assistants — which is very hard to do for a head coach, because in that world it’s all about loyalty and sticking together — and [in 2004] he brought in an old veteran guy, Larry Shyatt, to fix the problem. And that’s why they were able to win two national championships.”

Here’s the picture I should have recognized last week. Donovan has been aiming toward an NBA career, and along the way he’s been humble enough to recognize his weaknesses and fix them. He will have a lot to learn in the NBA, but there is a feeling among his potential employers that he won’t be the typically dictatorial college coach who fails to form a partnership with his richer, more powerful NBA players. Donovan will adapt and grow into the job.

“When he hires his assistants in the NBA, he won’t go the buddy route,” the GM said. “If he perceives he’s not good enough in a certain area, he’ll go and get himself some help. He’ll figure out what he needs to be successful in the NBA, and he’ll put the right guys around him.”

Tony Mejia at

Orlando has, in one single move, become relevant again. And even if Donovan fails, conventional wisdom is that he can always return to the college game the way mentor Rick Pitino did. He has had a nice re-birth, no?
But he won’t fail. He’s walking into a wonderful situation and was smart enough to recognize that. The Magic made his choice all the easier by ponying up the jack. I honestly never felt they had it in them. The climate has changed. Orlando wants to be more than mediocre.

The Big Lead:

Plus, unlike many college coaches before him, Donovan can win in the NBA: the Magic are already a playoff team in the East, probably will get Vince Carter this summer, and it looks like a couple teams in the East are going downhill (Miami’s old, Detroit’s aging, and Indiana appears to be on the path to rebuilding).


Pat Forde at

I sincerely hope Billy Donovan doesn’t wind up like all the others.

I hope he’s not the next Tark, the next John Calipari, the next Tim Floyd, the next Lon Kruger, the next Mike Montgomery. I hope he doesn’t follow the same failed path as his mentor, Rick Pitino. I hope he doesn’t wind up with his wind pipe being massaged by a player, like P.J. Carlesimo.

I hope he’s not just another college coach who, for some reason, couldn’t tolerate living with the happiness and success he built by hand, and chose the misery of losing in the NBA instead. I hope he’s not the next in a conga line of call-up coaches who flop when taken out of their element.

Bob McClellan at

The NBA is grinding, demanding. It’s four games in a week, not two. It’s hitting the road 41 times, not 10 times like the Gators did last season (and two of those were in-state trips). There are no non-conference cupcakes, although there are two games with the Memphis Grizzlies.

The fact is coaches don’t leave the NBA because they get better gigs. They leave because they get pink slips. They leave exhausted, chewed up and spit out, black and blue.

Orange and Blue would have been the safer choice.

Dan Shanoff as guest blogger at

And the final insult for any college fan, Florida or anywhere: What, exactly, is the lure of coaching in the NBA? On its face, it sounds like the shittiest job in sports.
Zero job security, with a “when” not “if” inevitability of a bad ending to nearly every coaching hire. (Welcome to Indiana, Jim O’Brien!) Star players who run the team. Financial realities that hamstring moves.

Roughest of all, the “Ring or Bust” mentality. Jerry Sloan is the ideal of NBA coaching longevity, yet he is best known for NOT winning a championship. And most of the coaches who have won a title recently (Jackson, Tomjanovich, Popovich) have enjoyed coaching the greatest players of their eras. Dwight Howard is the best post player in the East — not a bad foundation to build a contender — and they have double-digit cap millions to use (please God: NOT Vince Carter…hmm: Gerald Wallace?) But yeesh, those odds are still ugly.\Meanwhile, Billy D was on track to be one of the Top 5 most successful coaches in college hoops history. His style seemed MADE for college. (His weakness – Xs and Os – will be magnified in the NBA, while his strength – personality – will be mitigated.)

Brian Schmitz’s Magic Basketblog:

If hiring him winds up being the biggest transaction of the summer, it will mean the Magic failed to land a prized free agent or make a trade for the missing piece or pieces. And Billy’s NBA maiden voyage could hit rough water for a team that carries, perhaps, oversized expectations, firing Hill even after he led the Magic to their first playoff appearance since 2003.

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