Morning Five: 07.29.13 Edition

Posted by nvr1983 on July 29th, 2013

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  1. We have no idea what is going through P.J. Hairston‘s head these days, but whatever it is it is not good. The beleaguered (we can use that word at this point, right?) North Carolina guard was suspended indefinitely on Sunday night after receiving a citation for speeding and reckless driving on Saturday afternoon. Hairston was reportedly pulled over in a 2008 Acura TL driving 93 mph in a 65 mph zone. Hariston, who has been under public scrutiny since a June arrest for possession of marijuana with a gun assigned to nobody that the legal system in North Carolina is apparently comfortable sweeping under the rug, has been under “investigation” for his dealings with Haydn “Fats” Thomas, but has managed to escape any punishment until last night. Our definition of punishment may differ from what Roy Williams has in mind as Hairston still has until October for Midnight Madness and November when regular season games start. We keep on saying this, but at some point it would appear that Roy needs to cut ties with Hairston or risk incurring punishment for the program down the road. If he decides to keep Hairston it will be interesting to see how long he sits Hairston given their early-season schedule.
  2. TCU got a big boost on Friday when the NCAA cleared incoming freshman Karviar Shepherd to play this season. Shepherd had been waiting to hear from the NCAA regarding his eligibility because of questions regarding his academics at Prime Prep Academy, but apparently whatever paperwork was submitted was good enough for the NCAA to sign off on him. Shepherd may not be one of the nation’s elite incoming recruits (77th in ESPN’s rankings), but the addition of a 6’10″ center should be a welcome addition for a Horned Frog program that finished last in the Big 12 last season.
  3. Late July might seem like a strange time to rework a college basketball coach’s contract, but that is what Loyola (IL) did as it extended Porter Moser through the 2017-18 season. We typically are a little bit leery of extending young coaches who just finished their second season (particularly if we are not aware of them being hot names for coaching vacancies), but Moser has done a nice job helping turn around the Ramblers who went 15-16 last season after going 7-23 in his first season. Of course some of this could be due to the increased maturity of his squad, which still ranks among the youngest in Division I. However, with 10 players returning this season and a new contract extension the pressure will be on Moser to perform soon.
  4. When we heard that Indiana State was building an on-campus statue for Larry Bird our first reaction was to wonder what took so long. Bird, who led the Sycamores to the 1979 NCAA Championship Game, will reportedly be in attendance as he will be honored with a 15-foot statute before the team’s first game of the season against Ball State on November 9. While there are certainly more iconic college basketball players we doubt that there is anybody who is intimately associated with a school as Bird is with Indiana State. With the relative resurgence the Sycamore program has seen in recent years it should be a nice added boost for the team to have the greatest player in the program’s history return to kick off their home opener.
  5. It has been 10 years since Lefty Driesell officially coached, but he made a return to the sidelines on Saturday to coach a team of former Maryland players in what is essentially a legends basketball league. Over the years supporters of Driesell have expressed their displeasure with how the school has treated his legacy in comparison to that of Gary Williams so it was nice to hear that Driesell is still associating himself with the school even if some of his supporters are still angry. We are rapidly approaching 30 years since Driesell last coached at Maryland so we are not sure that he will ever get his due there, but those who have actually followed the game and do not have an agenda are well aware of his contributions to the game and the school.
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Morning Five: 08.31.12 Edition

Posted by rtmsf on August 31st, 2012

  1. We know that all of you like us have spent the last couple of weeks waiting with bated breath to hear the official explanation as to how Julius Peppers‘ depressing UNC transcript ended up on an NC State message board. We now have our answer. According to North Carolina administrators, the saga began 11 years ago when a staffer made a test record of a de-identified copy of Peppers’ transcript and placed the original file on a secure server. Subsequently, during a 2007 technology migration to a new system, Peppers’ original transcript file came over with it and ended up on an unsecured server. It sat there for five years until some enterprising Wolfpack fan exhumed it a few weeks ago. UNC Chancellor Holden Thorp said on Thursday that he personally apologized to Peppers for the privacy transgression, but it wasn’t clear from his statement whether that phone call came before or after Peppers made a massive scholarship donation of $250,000 to the school.
  2. There was some big player movement news on Thursday as Memphis announced that junior college superstar Geron Johnson has matriculated at the school and is eligible to play immediately. Johnson has spent a career moving around and getting arrested rather than playing basketball — he was dismissed from both of his junior college teams, as an example — so this should make for an interesting situation under Josh Pastner next season. With a strong group of Tigers returning, the addition of a player the caliber of Johnson on the perimeter could potentially convert Memphis from a Sweet Sixteen team into a Final Four team. On the other hand, history has quite clearly shown that Johnson does not know how to avoid becoming a distraction. As a parallel, former Tiger Jelan Kendrick caused all sorts of headaches for Pastner before he was finally dismissed from the team on the eve of the 2010 opener, so the head coach clearly isn’t afraid to cut a trouble-maker loose. All in all, it’s probably worth the risk to Pastner to see how Johnson handles the first half of the fall semester and first few weeks of practice before making a final decision on whether he’ll wear the uniform next season.
  3. While on the transfer tip, Fresno State announced on Thursday that former Oklahoma State guard Cezar Guerrero has enrolled at the school and will pursue a waiver request with the NCAA to play next season. The rising sophomore spent a successful first season at OSU, averaging six points and a couple dimes per game in just about 19 minutes per contest, but he wanted to move closer to his hometown of Los Angeles to be nearer to his ailing mother. The Bulldogs were not very good last season, but with Guerrero possibly in the fold and a couple more nice transfers coming in (Kansas’ Braeden Anderson and Pacific’s Allen Huddleston), Fresno could be poised to make a leap in the rugged Mountain West. One other transfer note: former Xavier player Dez Wells is apparently looking hard at none other than John Calipari’s Kentucky Wildcats.
  4. We can’t say that we’ve every actually made it over to Terre Haute, Indiana, but if we ever had, you can rest assured that the very first thing we would have done was to make a beeline to the Indiana State campus and ask directions for the statue of Larry Bird. Imagine our surprise when our fake-traveler self would have learned that, alas, there is no such thing. At least not at ISU. Our next question,”how is this possible,” probably would have been met with a shrug and a “good luck,” but when we learned Thursday that Bird’s alma mater was finally making plans to build a 15-foot bronze statue of the Legend, we made a mental note to do a visit there eventually. Here is a short list of big-time basketball schools who cannot claim one of the top 10 basketball players to ever walk the earth: Duke, Kentucky, Syracuse, Georgetown, Indiana, Connecticut. But you know who can? Indiana Freakin’ State. How can it take 34 years to get this done — astonishing.
  5. What might be even more astonishing is when schools claim national titles that the simply do not have. Our disgust over treating Helms Titles in the same way as national championships won on the court is well-documented, but how should we feel if a school begins claiming that other (non-NCAA) tournament titles are also “national championships?” Can Pitt claim a national title for winning last year’s CBI? Does Mercer have one for winning the CIT? Well, Louisville has pushed forward with a new adidas t-shirt suggesting that the school (who, incidentally, has won NCAA championships in 1980 and 1986) has won four national titles. A little deeper research performed by Kentucky Sports Radio (who else?) shows that the Cards won a tournament called the NAIB in 1948 and the NIT in 1956. Is this trend of claiming national championships from whole cloth marketing genius or shameless deception disguised as celebration? We’re tending toward the latter. Don’t do this, Louisville.
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The Dream Team 20 Years Later: Reflecting On Their College Careers

Posted by EJacoby on June 13th, 2012

On Wednesday night, NBA TV will air “The Dream Team,” a brand new documentary that relives the 1992 Men’s Basketball USA Olympic Team that’s better known by that same name. This summer marks the 20th anniversary of the team, the inspiration behind documenting the players, and their legendary run through the 1992 Barcelona Olympics. The national team of 12 players included 11 future Hall of Famers and some of the greatest players in basketball history all in one locker room. The forgotten member of the team is Christian Laettner, the lone collegian at the time to make the squad, who was coming off of one of the greatest NCAA basketball careers of all-time as a two-time National Champion for Duke. Looking back, how did the other 11 players fare in their amateur careers? Was their collective NBA and international success predicated by dominance in college? On the day the documentary airs, we reflect on the Dream Team from a college perspective.

Michael Jordan hit the game-winning shot in the 1982 National Championship game for North Carolina 10 years before he joined the Dream Team (AP Photo)

As it turns out, the team wasn’t just a collection of all-time great professionals. Exactly half the players on the roster also qualify as some of the greatest collegiate players ever. Six players on the Dream Team were included on ESPN’s list of the 25 greatest players in college basketball history, the highest of whom was Larry Bird at #9. Bird averaged 30.3 points per game in his career at Indiana State, and in his senior National Player of the Year season he led the Sycamores to a 33-1 record and a loss in the National Title game to Michigan State and Magic Johnson. Johnson is another one of the greatest collegians on the list (#15), averaging 17.1 points, 7.6 rebounds, and 7.9 assists per game in two seasons for the Spartans that became a preview of the stat-sheet stuffing machine he would become in the NBA.

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National Championship Game Showcases Rare Treat: The Nation’s Two Best Players

Posted by EJacoby on April 2nd, 2012

Evan Jacoby is a regular contributor for RTC. You can find him @evanjacoby on Twitter.

This year’s National Championship game not only features the two winningest programs in college basketball history, but from a more tangible matchup standpoint it also pits the two best players in the country against one another. After Kentucky dispatched of Louisville on Saturday and Kansas survived the physical battle against Ohio State, we now get that rare matchup – Anthony Davis against Thomas Robinson in the National Title game. Why hasn’t this pairing received a flood of media attention? When’s the last time the country’s two National Player of the Year frontrunners faced off in the finals? And will these two interior forces even guard each other during the game? We attempt to answer these questions to prepare you for one of the many great stories to track during tonight’s National Championship.

Thomas Robinson vs. Anthony Davis is the Headline Matchup, but Terrence Jones (Left) Must Check Robinson on Defense (US Presswire)

Think it’s a given that the National Title game produces stud players facing one another? Remember how difficult it is to advance this far in the NCAA Tournament, and history proves how rare the opportunity is. Monday’s game will mark just the fourth time since 1979 that two first team All-Americans face off in the National Championship, and that simply encompasses any of the five best players in any given season. With Davis and Robinson, we are talking about the two leading vote-getters for National Player of the Year; two players that have gone toe-to-toe all season to decide the best and most valuable player in all of college basketball. Magic Johnson (Michigan State) against Larry Bird (Indiana State) in the 1979 National Championship game is the benchmark example of the scenario, and that matchup is still famous as one of the great individual battles in college history. The most recent matchup between All-Americans came in 1999 between Elton Brand (Duke) and Richard Hamilton (Connecticut), which is another good one but certainly does not resonate as strongly as Magic vs. Bird, and Hamilton was not a consensus Player of the Year candidate. It’s still unknown what kind of legacy, if any, Davis vs. Robinson will leave, but both players are forwards that are likely to be drafted in the top five of the upcoming NBA Draft, with Davis a near-lock for the #1 pick. The narrative of comparison between these two players truly begins on Monday night.

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Where 2011-12 Happens: Reason #29 We Love College Basketball

Posted by rtmsf on October 5th, 2011

Another preseason preview gives us reason to roll out the 2011-12 edition of Thirty Reasons We Love College Basketball, our annual compendium of YouTube clips from the previous season 100% guaranteed to make you wish games were starting tonight. We’ve captured the most compelling moments from the 2010-11 season, many of which will bring back the goosebumps and some of which will leave you shaking your head in frustration. For the complete list of this year’s reasons, click here. Enjoy!

#29 – Where Shades of Larry Bird Happens

We also encourage you to re-visit the entire archive of this feature from the 2008-09, 2009-10, and 2010-11 seasons.

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Morning Five: 01.25.11 Edition

Posted by rtmsf on January 25th, 2011

  1. You may have heard that Wisconsin destroyed Northwestern by thirty points on Sunday afternoon in Evanston.  But did you also hear that a little-known freshman named Josh Gasser pulled a trip-dub (10 points, 12 rebounds, 10 assists) for the first time in Badger history?  Well, he did.  The 6’3 guard came into the game averaging only 5/4/3 APG, but he put together a fantastic all-around floor game that day which represented the first triple-double by a Big Ten freshman since a guy named Earvin “Magic” Johnson announced his presence to the world at Michigan State in 1977.  Considering the number of phenomenal players who have passed through that league in the interim, that’s rather impressive.
  2. The San Diego Union-Tribune ran an article over the weekend discussing all of the inherent disadvantages that hometown school San Diego State suffers in comparison to other schools in the top ten in America.  Or the top fifty.  Maybe even the top 100.  Whether facilities, coaching salaries, guarantee games or charter flights, SDSU pales when matched up versus the other basketball powerhouses.  The good thing about sports, though, is that games are won on the court, not in the conference room (although we’d be foolish to suggest those things are unimportant).
  3. If you thought it was a little funny that The Jimmer seems to do most of his big-time damage on the road (or, at least, away from home), BiaH broke down Fredette’s season splits and ultimately concludes that he’s got some serious stones that enjoys stepping up in the face of adversity.  We’re always reminded of the old Larry Bird trick where he would show up at NBA All-Star Weekend’s Three-Point Contest still wearing his warmup jersey: OK, fellas, who’s playing for second?  That kind of mentality seems to be woven into the DNA of all the great shooters (Reggie Miller; Steve Kerr; etc.).
  4. This Thomas Robinson story is simply tragic.  His mother, all of 37 years old, died of a heart attack on Friday night, and the Kansas sophomore found out about it when his 9-year old sister called him because she didn’t know what else to do.  That horrific news, of course, came on the heels of the deaths of two of Robinson’s grandparents in the last month, presenting a question of what will now happen to his younger sister without a family guardian to raise her.  Robinson has already headed home to Washington, DC, to be with his sibling, and the rest of the team will play Colorado tonight before chartering to DC on Friday for the funeral services of Lisa Robinson.  There’s really no right way to handle these sorts of things, but the team solidarity that Kansas is showing in support of their teammate seems genuine and heartfelt, and we here at RTC applaud them for it.
  5. If it’s not one thing, it’s another for the Minnesota Gophers this season.  Tubby Smith revealed during his weekly teleconference that his point guard Al Nolen, the same player who missed the entire spring semester last year, will miss as few as four weeks and as much as the rest of the season again because he needs surgery to repair a bone in his left foot.  This is potentially a huge blow to the 15-4 (4-3) Gophers, as Nolen provides a steady influence and defense in addition to his 8/4/4 APG.  Smith’s depth at the perimeter is especially thin this year, as Devoe Joseph (last year’s replacement) transferred last month, leaving Minnesota with a couple of freshman guards to withstand the rigors of Big Ten play.
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Breaking Down the 2011 Preseason Wooden Award List

Posted by nvr1983 on October 5th, 2010

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

2010 Wooden Award Winner

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

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Morning Five: 02.16.10 Edition

Posted by rtmsf on February 16th, 2010

  1. Sad news from Memphis last night as it was reported that former Tigers coach Dana Kirk, died from a heart attack at 74 years old.  Kirk was essentially the architect of Memphis (State) basketball in the 1980s, as he turned a hoops backwater into a program that consistently recruited top players (mostly local), won 158 games, and made  regular trips to the NCAA Tournament.  Kirk coached the Tigers to the 1985 Final Four behind star forward Keith Lee, but he was dismissed by the school in 1986 and was later imprisoned a few months for federal tax evasion.  His legacy was further tarnished by numerous NCAA violations on his watch, which led to his F4 appearance getting vacated and the school serving a probation in the late 80s.  But make no mistake, Memphis probably wouldn’t have become the elite job it has become today without Kirk’s groundbreaking work there.  RIP.
  2. Wow, Nolan Richardson with an Isiah Thomas moment…  his target, however, wasn’t Larry Bird but rather John Wooden and Bob Knight.  Talking about some of the forgotten great black coaches in history, he said, “No matter how well they did the white power structure in college basketball mostly ignored them. If [John] McLendon had been white, he’d have been a star in the coaching world. If all the great coaches in basketball history like Knight or [John] Wooden had been black, they’d be nobodies.”
  3. In case you missed it on Saturday, Oklahoma’s Willie Warren did not travel with his team to take part in the shellacking in Stillwater (OU lost by 21).  He has the dreaded mononucleosis, which means officially that he’s out ‘indefinitely,’ but it could also mean that he’s shutting it down for the rest of the  Sooners’ miserable season.  OU has games left against Kansas, K-State, Texas, Baylor and Texas A&M in the next three weeks.
  4. We really have to get an invite to this thing one year.  Seth Davis gives his report from the annual NCAA Media Mock Bracket, which he was supposed to attend but couldn’t (weather).  He breaks down the bracket that the media came up with, pointing out the obvious and subtle errors in their version.  Honestly, we’re pretty surprised that the media bracket doesn’t do a better job with this each year — there’s very little pressure to ‘get it right,’ and these people are the ones who eat, sleep and breathe this stuff.
  5. Gary Parrish’s take on why John Calipari should at least listen in case the Nets come to him with an offer is the most compelling we’ve seen on the matter.  The next Phil Jackson will be the coach who gets to tell Lebron James when to pass the ball from time to time, and whoever that person is will ultimately become a legend because of it.
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RTC Interview: Seth Davis On College Basketball, His New Show, & Fannovation

Posted by nvr1983 on January 29th, 2010

Last week, RTC spoke with Seth Davis of Sports Illustrated and CBS to talk about a variety of topics on college basketball and a new promotion for Coke Zero. This is not the first time we have spoken with Seth as we interviewed him last March for the launch of his book “When March Went Mad” about the 1979 championship game between Magic Johnson and Larry Bird. Before the interview officially began, Seth expressed his displeasure about not getting linked every day in the Morning Five. We would give you the transcript of that discussion, but Chinese government regulations prohibit us from doing so.

Ed. Note: This interview took place last week, but due to some transcribing issues we are just putting it up now.

Seth Davis: Man of Intrigue

RTC: I guess we will start with your alma mater. Duke is looking strong again this year, but is different than they usually look as they are not relying on the outside shooting as much as a complete game. A lot of people have been talking up Duke. Do you think this is the year they can make it back to the Final Four?

SD: I do. I think they are legit. It’s kind of funny. Here they are ranked 5th or 6th in the country, putting together a great record, and there is not a lot of buzz about Duke right now. It’s funny to say that because they are so ubiquitous on television, but I think that we have all seen them get off to these great starts the past few years before they fall in the tournament. This team does things that those teams did not primarily defend and rebound. Those things are very important assets to carry into the tournament because at some point you are going to have an “off” shooting night and I think back for example to when they lost in the 2nd round to West Virginia. I think West Virginia was like +16 on the boards. At some point the shots aren’t going to fall. This team has the ability to overcome that so I don’t know from strictly a talent standpoint if I would put them on the Texas, Kentucky, and Kansas level, but do I think of them on a short list of contenders to get to the Final Four? Absolutely. I think by the way they will have a great chance of getting a #1 seed if they win the ACC regular season and then win the [ACC] tournament. I would be surprised if they aren’t a #1 seed.


RTC: Sticking with a US News & World Report College Rankings theme. Another team that has really made a lot of news this year is Cornell with a lot of close losses to very good teams, but that doesn’t impact their RPI and NCAA seeding as much as some people would think. How good is this team? How high do you think they could be seeded and how far could they go in the NCAA tournament?
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Morning Five: 11.23.09 Edition

Posted by rtmsf on November 23rd, 2009

morning5

  1. UCLA’s Nikola Dragovic was arrested and subsequently suspended by head coach Ben Howland for felony assault stemming from an incident at a Hollywood concert last month.  This is the second physical-force-related arrest for Dragovic in the past two seasons, as he was also arrested on suspicion of shoving his girlfriend during an argument last year.  He was not prosecuted for that allegation, but we’re starting to have serious reservations about the talented Serb’s anger management.  UCLA is not off to a good start at all this season, including numerous injuries, a loss to Cal State Fullerton, and now an arrest to one of their top returnees all within the first five weeks.
  2. Magic Johnson and Larry Bird headlined this year’s inductees to the National Collegiate Hall of Fame, along with several other luminaries of the game, including former Michigan State head coach Jud Heathcote, Oklahoma star Wayman Tisdale, all-time NCAA leading scorer Travis Grant, former UCLA/UAB coach Gene Bartow, USA Basketball leader Bill Wall, and Walter Byers, the first executive director of the NCAA.
  3. To that end, here’s a Bird/Magic story you probably don’t already know.  From the KC Star, the two players were invited to compete on a World Invitational Tournament team coached by then-national championship Kentucky coach Joe B. Hall.  Astonishingly, both players were put on the second string by Hall, and shockers, neither of them particularly liked that.  Read about the whole story at the above link.
  4. A lot was written after the Syracuse second-half bombardment of North Carolina on Friday night, including here.  Some of the better pieces were from Jeff Goodman, Seth Davis, and Adam Zagoria.
  5. In case you missed it, the #1-rated power forward in the class of 2010, Tobias Harris, committed to Tennessee at the end of last week.  The 6’8 player who likes what Tyler Smith has been able to accomplish in Knoxville is the highest-rated player UT has ever signed.  He also considered Maryland, Syracuse, Cincinnati, Kentucky, Louisville and West Virginia.
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Gerald Henderson Enters the NBA Draft (Sort Of. . .)

Posted by nvr1983 on April 25th, 2009

Since Duke ended its season in humiliating fashion against Villanova in the Sweet 16, almost every pundit has suspected that Gerald Henderson would forgo his final year of eligibility to enter the NBA Draft. In the middle of all the NFL Draft coverage earlier today, he announced that he would enter the Draft, but had not hired an agent yet.

Before any of the Cameron Crazies get their hopes up too high that he might return (and make Duke a heavy favorite to win the ACC next season), it should be pointed out that this is most likely a precautionary measure just in case he gets injured before the deadline or something along those lines. In addition, the fact this his father (Gerald Sr.) was an accomplished player who played with at least 3 current GMs (Danny Ainge, Kevin McHale, and Larry Bird) means that young Gerald will likely get plenty of feedback about what range he is most likely to be drafted if he decides to stay in the Draft.

Based on what the NBA Draftniks are saying, Henderson looks like he’ll be drafted anywhere from around #10 (NBADraft.net has him at #9) to a mid-1st round pick (ESPN.com’s Top 100–Insider access required). While most guys of Henderson’s ability tend to base their decision on whether or not they have guaranteed lottery spot, I can’t really see the benefit (in terms of NBA Draft status) of him coming back for his senior year. Everyone knows that he has NBA-level athleticism and he made a big jump between his sophomore and junior year, which should show scouts that he is improving. While he might hone his game  little more (add some 3-point range) with an extra season at Duke, the bump in his stock would be negligible since he’s never going to be a top-3/5 pick. For the Crazies holding out hope that he’ll return for one more year at Duke, the deadline to pull out of the Draft is June 15th.

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Time to Bet Heavily Against FIU

Posted by nvr1983 on April 14th, 2009

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

isiahthomas

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

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

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

So, um yeah, good luck with that FIU.

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