Run The Floor: Expect a break from the constant “ACC is the best conference ever” articles we got used to in the preseason. The conference’s performance to date has been less than satisfactory, to say the least, which Michael Rogner makes very obvious with the categories: “Could have been a statement win but wasn’t,” “Losses at home to plucky mid-majors,” “Home losses to teams which were beaten by Coppin State or Winthrop,” and “Losses to teams whose mascot is a yippy dog wearing a sweater.” Bottom line: The best conference on paper is sputtering a bit at the start. Also, Boston College fans should be very wary of the team’s slow start if they have any NCAA Tournament hopes at all.
College Basketball Talk: Everyone get ready for the semi-annual “Roy Williams can’t coach” meme after a lackluster start from the lineup challenged Tar Heels. Now’s the time everyone will take quotes and throw on their imaginary coaching hats where they are sure they could do more than Williams with the current roster. But here’s the thing: North Carolina is playing a lot of people (read: the rotation at center and members of the eligible backcourt not named Marcus Paige) either before they’re ready, or out of position. Rob Dauster makes an important point that Williams is likely focused on getting players acclimated to his system. But another worthwhile point is that this roster is going to struggle without PJ Hairston.
Richmond Times-Dispatch: Trevor Thompson has been a very pleasant surprise this season for Virginia Tech. The team’s relative success has also been a surprise — especially considering the conference’s lackluster start (see above). Thompson has earned a spot in the rotation, though with CJ Barksdale‘s return last night his role probably will be more limited. Regardless, Thompson played well in the second and third games of the season. James Johnson desperately needs depth at the forward position, so Barksdale’s suspension may end up being a positive for the Hokies.
Tomahawk Nation: Ian Miller drew a lot of praise from Leonard Hamilton following Florida State‘s win against Tennessee-Martin. Obviously, the level of competition for Florida State hasn’t been high thus far (though a road win against UCF will likely prove valuable), but right now Miller appears to be getting back to the player many thought he could be until his injury last year. Miller was known as an explosive scorer, but has worked very hard the last two years at getting better on defense. If he can become a good defender, it will help the Seminoles dramatically on the perimeter. The real test will come this Thursday against Virginia Commonwealth. The Rams and their havoc defense look like trouble for turnover-prone Florida State, but Devon Bookert and Miller are much better than they were a year ago. If they can limit turnovers and Ram fast breaks, I like Florida State’s chance at keeping things competitive.
Fox Sports Carolinas: Lauren Brownlow highlighted the best and worst from early ACC play. Surprise finisher on her week’s All-ACC team? Donnavan Kirk. For the record, any Miami player making the list will be somewhat of a surprise this year. Brownlow also highlighted two Maryland players – Shaquille Cleare and Nick Faust – whose struggles have been killing the Terrapins this season. Cleare managed more turnovers than points and assists in the loss to Oregon State, while Faust’s career-long shooting slump has continued into his junior season. Strangely enough, Faust had the reputation of a shooter coming into College Park as a freshman. To be fair, maybe he’s just trying to make up for Pe’Shon Howard‘s transfer.
EXTRA: Yesterday marked Len Bias’ would-be 50th birthday. Here’s a great article on Bias from Mike Wilbon’s archives.
It seems that Maryland athletics has had more than its share of controversy regarding how to recognize some of its legends. We discussed the case of Lefty Driesell last week and this week the media focus is on former Terrapin great Len Bias. In this case, the controversy is not around the University of Maryland’s decision on whether or not to recognize him, but instead his old high school where a state senator (also a graduate of the school) wanted to spend $50,000 to erect a status honoring Bias. Despite Bias’ on-court accomplishments the idea has been withdrawn to a combination of controversy honoring a person who died of a cocaine overdose and spending $50,000 of public funds to do so.
We will likely never be able to read the full notice of allegations the NCAA sent to Miami, but some details are leaking out including the fact that the NCAA is accusing Nevin Shapiro of “only” providing $170,000 in impermissible benefits between 2002 and 2010. While nearly $20,000 per year is certainly a decent amount of money it falls well short of the “millions of dollars” that Shapiro claimed to have given Miami players over the years (of course, this is coming from someone who perpetrated a $930 million Ponzi scheme). Interestingly more than half of that was spent on trying to get two football players to sign with a sports agency that Shapiro was affiliated with so most of the reported violations involved relatively small sums of money on an individual basis.
With Indiana falling at Minnesota on Monday there is a new #1 in Luke Winn’s Power Rankings. As usual Luke has a smörgåsbord of interesting facts and trends, but the two that stuck out the most to us are (1) how much more efficient Victor Oladipo is this year from the perimeter and (2) why Michigan State might be better off getting the ball more to their star freshman guard. However, the most interesting part of the column might actually be the link to TeamRankings’ simulated Bracketology that simulates/predicts the NCAA Tournament seedings based on what it predicts will happen the rest of the season. We are not sure how well this simulator has done in the past, but it might be something worth checking up on over the next weeks if for no other reason to kill some time during the middle of the day.
Over the past few years posters of celebrities and the occasional random person have become fairly common at college basketball games, but we were not aware of the origins of the trend before George Dohrmann’s article on the birth of the “big heads”. We never quite understood the use of celebrities to distract shooters unless they are unusual such as the original big head of Michael Jackson. The use of coaches, players, and even the occasional poster of yourself all seem like they would be much more effective. Of course, this is probably some college kid that is trying to figure out which faces have the biggest effect on free throw shooting.
We have seen a lot of interesting uniform designs in college sports recently most notably in college football, but it looks like adidas, the company that brought you the atrocious alternate uniforms from Louisville, Cincinnati, and others is planning on bring short-sleeve jerseys to the NCAA Tournament. We still don’t know which schools will wear whatever monstrosity adidas can dream up, but to their credit both Michigan and North Carolina State have come out and said they will not wear the short-sleeve jerseys.
The men whose visages grace the face of the Mount Rushmore of the Atlantic Coast Conference were chosen based on a simple set of criteria. The faces of those who grace the mountain must belong to truly legendary individuals; men who changed the game, left a lasting legacy, or otherwise accomplished feats of greatness that remain unmatched or unequaled. The ACC is fortunate to have such a rich history of legends that there is an embarrassment of riches, and it’s difficult to choose only four. Ultimately, the four that were picked were the ones whose accomplishments stand out not just as spectacular in the conference, but in the entire sport.
Mike Krzyzewski – Simply put, he’s the most successful men’s basketball coach alive today. He has more wins than any coach in history, four national titles, and built Duke into a perennial national power. He has the most (77) NCAA tournament wins of any coach ever and has the second most Final Four appearances ever. In the history of all of college basketball, only John Wooden and maybe Adolph Rupp can point to coaching accomplishments that come close to what Coach K has achieved. Krzyzeski is a coaching icon whose adaptability and disciplined approach makes Duke a threat to win the national championship any given year. The continued success of Krzyzewski and Duke are a credit to the ACC, and the high profile of the sport’s most famous active coach has helped to keep the national attention on the conference.
Dean Smith – When Dean Smith retired, he had set the all-time record for wins in men’s college basketball at 879, had won two national championships, been to 11 Final Fours (second to John Wooden, tied with Krzyzewski), and won a record 65 NCAA tournament games (he now ranks second, having been surpassed by Krzyzewski). While Frank McGuire won the ACC and North Carolina’s first national title in 1957, Smith is the man who built North Carolina into a regular championship contender. Over the course of 36 years, Smith built the Tar Heel program into a national heavyweight and helped turn the conference into a serious threat to take the national title any given year. Smith won the ACC Coach of the Year award eight times, a record that still stands. As a coach, he was a pioneer of advanced statistical analysis and his use of “points per possession” came literally decades before tempo-free statistics were a part of the national conversation. Similarly, his book, “Multiple Offenses and Defenses,” is the best-selling basketball strategy book of all time. While Smith’s quantitative accomplishments and coaching record may be surpassed, his outlook and philosophy have left a much deeper mark on North Carolina, the conference, and the game itself. Read the rest of this entry »
Huffington Post: Dave Ungrady found out that one of CJ Leslie‘s role models is Maryland’s tragic hero, Len Bias. While Leslie is definitely thinner than Bias, their games do have a little resemblance. Leslie has a long way to go before claiming a spot with the all-time ACC great, but his developing jumper and tremendous athleticism definitely evoke some memories of Bias’ play. Leslie’s parents also used Bias’ story to teach him a valuable lesson about the dangers of drugs — especially for star athletes.
Miami Herald: First year ACC coaches Jim Larranaga and Mark Turgeon have a history. Back when Turgeon was the coach of Wichita State and Larranaga was the coach of George Mason, they faced off three times in two seasons. George Mason took the first two meetings, a BracketBuster matchup and again in the Sweet Sixteen (en route to the school’s Final Four appearance). But Turgeon’s Shockers had the last laugh, beating the Patriots the night they hung the Final Four banner the next season. Hopefully, this history will raise the stakes on this week’s game at Miami.
Hampton Roads Daily Press: It’s becoming a bit of a broken record with this Virginia team. Every game is low-scoring, and every game is close. Critics point to Virginia Tech’s upset over the Cavaliers as proof that the team’s system creates “too close for comfort” games night in and night out. Yet again on Tuesday, Virginia eked out a win over a lesser ACC opponent, Clemson, on the back of a great shooting night. Mike Scott and Joe Harris won the Cavaliers the game, going 15-20 from the field for 39 points. The game was a perfect advertisement for Scott’s incredible season, as he finished with 10 rebounds in addition to the nearly 20 points. That said, despite the strong veteran performances, Clemson had a chance to tie the game with under a minute to play, down three with the ball. Even though Virginia survived, that’s the danger of low-possession basketball. Late-game runs can totally erase a very strong performance.
Sports Illustrated: Florida State was in trouble after a 20-point beat-down to Clemson. Even I jumped off its bandwagon. Between a lackluster conference opener and only managing 10 points in the first half against Princeton (who is currently 1-2 in the Ivy League), it looked like the Seminoles were totally out of it. But the team finally came together. A major reason is that Bernard James stepped up and got everyone on the same page. Regardless of a change of attitude, the Seminoles’ resurgence has been incredible. They’ve stopped turning the ball over and are one of the top shooting teams in the ACC. It’s likely that those two stats may regress a little bit, but I still expect Leonard Hamilton’s team will be here to stay.
Lost Lettermen: Take a look at the top 10 uniforms (and worst) in college basketball. Maryland checks in as the worst uniforms in the conference (and second worst in the country), though I think there’s a little grief being piled on from the team’s atrocious football digs. Boston College also earns a spot in the bottom 10 thanks to too large of lettering and a clash in styles. Not surprisingly, Duke checks in to the ‘good’ top 10 (its home whites are classic) and North Carolina sits at the very top of the list.
Fox Sports Carolinas: Fox Sports‘ Andrew Jones offers a throwback list of the top ten players “capable of significantly enhancing their team’s fortunes.” I only call the list throwback because Jones ignores the two extreme geographic points of the ACC (Boston College and Miami) when constructing his list. In general I agree with all of his selections, though I possibly would’ve substituted Miles Plumlee for Ryan Kelly based on recent reports. For Boston College, I would’ve chosen Danny Rubin (the most productive of the Eagles’ only three returning players), and I would choose sophomore Rion Brown for Miami.
Boston Globe: Speaking of Boston College, Patrick Heckmann is hoping to make an impact on the Eagles this year, coming by way of Germany. This Globe piece gives a little insight into the recruiting world for international prospects, and Heckmann is a frosh out of Germany with a pretty unique story. He’s also a 6’6″ slasher who will get plenty of playing time for a young team. The story offers an especially interesting look at Heckmann’s decision in choosing Boston College over playing for a club team in Germany.
Fayetteville Observer: Looking for more lists? Bret Strelow and Sammy Batten compiled a pretty interesting list of superlatives for ACC basketball that will definitelybe good for starting debates. Sure, Milton Jennings is a great breakout candidate and Staats Battle definitely has the coolest name in the conference, but is Andre Dawkins really the most underrated dunker? He dunks almost rarely, which makes each time feel special, but we need to see more frequency in order to garner a superlative. Also, I wonder why they chose to ask a freshman (Wake Forest’s Travis McKie) about the toughest arena. For the record he chose Clemson’s Littlejohn Coliseum, though this coming year will be McKie’s first trip to the unfriendly confines of Cameron Indoor Stadium.
TarHeelBlue.com: North Carolina and NBA legend James Worthy will be elected into the college hoops hall of fame alongside of Virginia’s Ralph Sampson. Worthy was the first overall pick of the 1982 NBA Draft, led the Tar Heels to Dean Smith’s first NCAA Championship that same year (scoring 28 points on 13-17 shooting in the championship game), and is already a member of the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame.
Searching For Billy Edelin and Fayetteville Observer: A couple of ACC previews and predictions with more “controversial” picks. For Nick Fasulo at Searching For Billy Edelin, the conference is down. Fasulo’s most interesting predictions come in his individual accolades, where he picked Jim Larranaga as Coach of the Year and Tyler Zeller as Player of the Year. Personally, I see Zeller as more of a complement (as he was at the end of last season), but “everything is in place for this guy. Assuming he stays healthy, there should be no [...] unexpected things to limit his production,” Fasulo tweeted. The Fayetteville Observer‘s contrary nature shows up in its projected finish: Unlike the media, the newspaper projects Virginia to finish eighth in the conference (NIT-bound), while Miami takes the fourth place spot and earns an eight-seed in the NCAA Tournament.
Around the greater world of college sports, one of the most sickening alleged scandals in the history of college athletics came to light over the weekend. In a story that will turn your stomach, former Penn State football defensive coordinator Jerry Sandusky has been accused of 40 crimes (21 felonies and 19 misdemeanors) involving eight sexual abuse victims who were minors at the time. The worst part is that the PSU athletic department reportedly knew about some of the crimes and never reported them to the proper authorities despite extensive discussions internally. While the article is tough to read, Sara Ganim of The Patriot News does a great job breaking down the details of the case. As of today, Penn State Athletic Director Tim Curley has been placed on administrative leave and Senior Vice President for business and finance Gary Schultz has stepped down (both have been accused of perjury), but I’d be surprised if the punishments end here based on the heinous nature of these allegations.
Picture of the Day:
Len Bias Posts Up Michael Jordan in 1984. (Manny Millan/SI) h/t SI Photo Blog
ESPN: two (and a half) ACC schools will be represented during ESPNU’s coverage of college basketball’s Midnight Madness on October 14. Coverage starts at 9 PM EDT. ESPNU will cover eleven schools’ official season kickoff, including Duke, North Carolina, (future ACC member) Syracuse and defending national champion Connecticut. Stuart Scott will be holding down the fort at the Dean Dome, while Lou Canellis and announcing legend Bill Raftery will be at Cameron Indoor Stadium. My one disappointment is Raftery won’t be joined by rap aficionado and Duke alumnus Jay Bilas, which would truly make for must-see TV.
The Collegiate Times: Virginia Tech‘s student newspaper takes an in-depth look at the university’s dynamic duo of compliance, Tim Parker and Bert Locklin. The Hokie journalists also manage to throw in a couple of warranted jabs at conference rivals Miami and North Carolina for their respective compliance struggles. The article is a great look at the men behind the curtain who normally only make the news when there’s been a major violation.
Palmetto Sports: Clemson has an official visit scheduled with point guard Adonis Filer of Chicago. According to Rivals.com, the 6’3″ Filer is a top 150 player who already has offers from Baylor and Oregon State, but definitely hasn’t made a decision. He noted his final decision “will come down to where I feel comfortable and the amount of playing time I’m going to be looking at my first year.” My guess is Filer would see a good bit of playing time right away with the Tigers.
Washington Post – Terrapins Insider: Maryland basketball legend and subject of ESPN’s 30 for 30 “Without Bias” (a must-watch for any hoops fan), Len Bias is being inducted into the Washington Metropolitan Basketball Hall of Fame along with Maryland announcer Johnny Holliday on November 9. Bias’ tragic cocaine overdose, immediately following being taken second overall in the NBA Draft by the Boston Celtics, forced the country to come to terms with the drug’s rampant use amongst athletes in the mid-to-late 1980s.
Winston Salem Journal: Wake Forest baseball player Kevin Jordan is back in practice. In one of the most amazing stories you’ll ever hear about in sports, Demon Deacon coach Tom Walter donated a kidney to Jordan last year. On seeing Jordan back in action, Walter exclaimed: “This is the best day of my coaching career [...] I mean by far. Just to see him back out here doing what he loves to do.” This stands in stark contrast with all of the cut-throat recruiting, oversigning and general dishonesty so often reported in college sports.
A report by the National College Players Association and Drexel University professor Ellen J. Staurowsky is set to be released today that claims that the average Division I men’s basketball player is “worth” nearly $265,000 per year and Duke players come in at nearly four times that (approximately $1 million). We had a brief recap of the information that was released yesterday and plenty of pundits and fans weighed in yesterday across the Internet claiming that this as yet unreleased study was clear evidence that the players were being cheated out of small fortunes. We are reserving judgement until we have time to review the data and how the extrapolated the players reported values. As Homer Simpson once said, “People can come up with statistics to prove anything. 14% of people know that.”
Another story that was all over the place yesterday was John Thompson Jr. revealing that he was scheduled to be on American Airlines Flight 77 that was deliberately crashed into the Pentagon on September 11, 2001 before a producer from The Jim Rome Show persuaded him to take a flight a day later. According to the report, the Georgetown legend was planning on flying to Los Angeles to make an appearance and wanted to fly there on September 11th so he could make it to a friend’s birthday party in Las Vegas on the 13th, but when the schedule for the interview did not work out Danny Swartz, the show’s prodcuer, insisted that he fly to Los Angeles on the 12th and he would make sure that Thompson made it to Las Vegas for the party on the 13th. Thompson noted that at the time he was quite harsh with Swartz, but after learning that he would have been on the doomed flight if not for Swartz’s persistence he now thanks him for saving his life.
An earlier proposal name the court at Maryland‘s Comcast Center after Gary Williams appears to have run into some significant roadblocks. While support for the proposal still seems strong there appears to be an influential minority that is against the idea because of their belief that it would be a slight to Lefty Driesell and women’s coach Brenda Frease as well as a potential loss of revenue by passing up on having a commercial entity sponsor the court because apparently having the arena named after a corporate entity isn’t enough. [Ed. Note: Seriously though we think Rush the Court sponsored by Apple has a nice ring to it and we know that Tim Cooke has the money for it.] On some level we can appreciate wanting to honor Driesell, who was an accomplished coach during his run at Maryland, and Frease, who also won a national title, but neither of them is associated with the university’s reputation at this point to the degree that Williams is. We also understand the sentiment to “make amends” with Driesell, whom some feel was wrongly fired after the death of Len Bias, but based on our brief interaction with him we don’t think that Driesell harbors any major grudge against what the university did based on the situation although we do think he might still be upset with how the media reported the situation.
It looks like Arizona might be on its way to locking up another major recruit as Kaleb Tarczewski, one of the top high school players in the class of 2012, has narrowed his choices to Arizona and Kansas and scheduled visits to both schools. Tarczewski also still has North Carolina on his list, but did not schedule a visit there so we are guessing at this point crossing off the Tar Heels from his list is just a formality. As for the two remaining schools, Tarczewski is scheduled to visit Kansas this weekend and Arizona next weekend, which will coincide with their football game against Oregon. Although it is possible that the visit to Lawrence could blow him away and he could commit to play for the Jayhawks after some Blue Chips-like scene at Allen Fieldhouse (the scene involving Bob Cousy not the ones involving bags of cash, a tractor, a Lexus, or a new house for mom), but we tend to lean towards the team with the last shot at a player. If that is the case, Sean Miller may be adding another big piece to a class that will be a consensus top 5 class even if he does not add another player after Tarczewski.
As we mentioned only half-jokingly yesterday, we are going to be having a conference realignment item pretty much every day here and we are not going to disappoint you today. Ok, maybe the fact that this continues to make news will be disappointing to many of you. In the latest twist, a group from Texas traveled to Oklahoma on Sunday in an attempt to convince the Sooners not to leave the Big 12 for the new Pac-12 in anticipation of their reported formal application to become the Pac-12′s thirteenth member. Chalk it up to schadenfreude, but the fact that officials from Texas are going up to Oklahoma essentially on their hands and knees begging a school to stay in the conference is hilarious after the Longhorn essentially spit in the face of every other school in the conference by signing a 15-year, $300 million contract with ESPN to create the Longhorn Network in what was a power play to separate themselves from the rest of the conference.
Consider this a cautionary tale in terms of trusting online entities claiming to have primary source information, especially when it comes to recruiting. Meet Jonathan Paige, the recruiting guru who wasn’t. In just two short months, Paige, a pseudonym for someone claiming to follow “AAU basketball all summer every summer,” gathered over 500 Twitter followers, was cited on numerous reputable blogs and team message boards, and generally became an up-and-coming “name” within the sometimes-shady scouting and recruiting information industry. In his words, all he did to develop his growing profile was to tweet and re-tweet confirmed information from other sources, mine the major message boards for rumors, tailor his posts to specific fanbases, and make up the rest. There’s no telling how much further he could have taken this should he have chosen to do so, but we should all learn from “Troll’s” deception — not in the sense of thumbing our nose at the guy, but rather to remind ourselves that anything read or viewed online needs to served correspondingly with a healthy dose of skepticism.
It’s been a tough several days for San Diego State head coach Steve Fisher. Last week, several establishments including RTC noted that Fisher’s 400th career victory, achieved on January 12 against UNLV last season, was not in fact a milestone win given the NCAA’s new “Calipari Doctrine.” Over the weekend, former SDSU transfer commitment Kevin Young announced that he would instead attend Kansas for his final two seasons of eligibility. As a result, Fisher vented to the San Diego Union-Tribune that he was angered that Kansas (and by proxy, Bill Self) had recruited someone he says had “made an eight-month commitment” to the Aztec program but had been swayed in recent months to view Kansas as an alternative. Self, to his credit, claims that Young had already “de-committed” from SDSU before KU got involved, but the fact remains that Fisher will enter 2011-12 not only a few years away from that elusive NCAA-verified 400th win, but also without a roster (including Young) prepared to re-build from the loss of his top four players.
When we read something like this article outlining the mammoth salaries that the six BCS conference commissioners make as CEOs of their leagues, we really start wondering just how much longer the NCAA as we know it will continue to exist. From Jim Delany’s $1.6M Big Ten salary (2009) to John Marinotti’s $366K prorated pay (half of 2009), it’s easy to forget that these organizations supposedly looking out for the best interests of their student-athletes are 501(c) non-profits. As anyone who knows anything about the world of non-profits, when they are run like profit-making entities, the clients that they purport to serve are usually the first ones left by the wayside.
The long Fayetteville nightmare is over, as Arkansas guard Rotnei Clarkewas finally given his release by the school to transfer wherever he likes. As reported by several outlets over the weekend, Clarke had asked for his release several times but new head coach Mike Anderson appeared to be stonewalling his best returning player in an attempt to keep him around for his senior year. The 6’0 all-SEC second team guard is originally from Verdigris, Oklahoma, a town just outside of Tulsa, which makes us wonder if Travis Ford, Lon Kruger and Doug Wojcik already have the prolific scorer on their speed dials.
We missed this over the weekend, but June 19 wasn’t just Father’s Day it was also the 25th anniversary of former Maryland forward Len Bias‘ tragic death in 1986. Bias is on a short list of players whose mythology over the intervening years has probably outgrown his proven abilities, but make no mistake, the guy was a stud in college and could have become an NBA superstar in the right situation. His shocking death, a mere two days after he had been drafted by the then-NBA Champion Boston Celtics, carried repercussions beyond sports that are still felt to this very day in America’s criminal justice system. As Salon’s Jonathan Easley outlines in an interview with the House counsel that helped write the shameful 1986 Anti-Drug Abuse Act, a law that Congress passed that summer that would ultimately result in an explosion of America’s prison population for drug-related crimes and utilizing an arbitrary and racially-tinged “logic” behind making the distribution of crack cocaine more “criminal” than that of powder cocaine. The death of Len Bias, a seemingly innocent and well-spoken young man by all accounts, helped to drive this legislation in the Nancy Reagan-led Just Say No era. It’s a very interesting read, and one you probably won’t hear when watching sentimental testimonials to Bias such as this one from ESPN’s John Saunders last week.
The announcement out of Maryland that Gary Williams would be stepping down from his position as head coach to become a special assistant to the athletic director is one of the most stunning pieces of news we have come across this offseason. In any other offseason we would say it was the most stunning piece of news, but the Missouri coaching search saga probably trumps it due to its sheer lunacy. Still, the fact that Williams, who while not at the top of his game (that was back around 2000-02), would step down when he appeared to be building up the Terrapin program after a recent rough patch, is jarring.
Williams has been a large presence on the Maryland sideline
Much of the talk regarding retirement this off-season has centered around UConn coach Jim Calhoun, who also has more well-documented history of medical problems, an impending three-game suspension looming, and, of course, the ability to go out at the absolute top of the game having just won a national championship. Looking at the announcement in retrospect it does make some sense as Williams is 66 years old and has accomplished just about everything that a coach could imagine accomplishing at this point in his career, but it still seems strange. Although his numbers might not seem like much in the era of huge win totals like those amassed by Mike Krzyzewski, Dean Smith, Calhoun, and Jim Boeheim, when you look at them in a larger historical perspective they are very impressive. While most fans associate Williams solely with Maryland, his career is more extensive. It includes stops at the following schools:
American: 72-42 including two trips to the NIT (at a time when the school couldn’t automatically qualify for the NCAA Tournament)
Boston College: 76-45 including two trips to the Sweet 16
Ohio State: 59-41 (the only blemish on his coaching resume)
Maryland: 461-248 (1 NCAA title, another Final Four appearance, and another five Sweet 16s along with two ACC Coach of the Year awards)
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 email@example.com.
Few college coaches have had careers with as much success at as many different venues as Charles “Lefty” Driesell. After playing at Duke under Harold Bradley, he coached a few years of high school basketball in Virginia finishing with a 57-game winning streak at Newport News High School before accepting a head coaching position at Davidson where he coached for nine seasons compiling a 176-75 record leading the Wildcats from the bottom of the Southern Conference to the Elite Eight in back-to-back seasons (yes there was basketball at Davidson before Stephen Curry). Following the 1969 season, Driesell moved to Maryland, which is where most basketball fans associate him with. After a rough start his first two years in College Park where his teams went a combined 27-25 (10-18 in the ACC), Driesell quickly turned things around making it to the NCAA Elite Eight twice more and winning the NIT in a span of four seasons at a time when only the ACC Tournament champion was awarded a bid to the NCAA Tournament. This hit the Terrapins especially hard in 1974 when they were a top five team who lost what many consider to be one of the greatest college games of all-time, a 103-100 loss in overtime to David Thompson and eventual national champion North Carolina State. It was just prior to the start of that run in 1971 that Driesell instituted what would come to be viewed as the predecessor of Midnight Madness when he gathered his team a few minutes after midnight on the first day of practice for a training run around the track. In the subsequent 39 years, the tradition has transformed from a humble event into a media spectacle. Following that four-year run, Driesell’s most notable success came in the mid-1980s when the Terrapins re-emerged in the national consciousness with the play of Len Bias and his subsequent passing just after he was drafted by the Boston Celtics. After leaving Maryland in the wake of the Bias scandal, Driesell was away from the sidelines for two years before returning to coach at James Madison and later Georgia State, making the NCAA Tournament three more times including a 2001 win at GSU over Wisconsin in the first round of the NCAA Tournament. For his contributions to the game, Driesell was inducted into the University of Maryland Athletic Hall of Fame in 2002 and the National Collegiate Basketball Hall of Fame in 2008. Earlier this week we caught up with him to discuss the origins of Midnight Madness and other issues relating to the current state of college basketball.
Driesell Helped Build Progams at Four Schools
RTC: You started “Midnight Madness” in 1971 based on a 1.5 mile run, which it seems like you continued all the way through your Georgia State days. Could you talk a little bit about your motivation for coming up with the idea and what your thoughts are on what it has become today?
LD: My thought at the time was to make sure that the guys, when practice started on October the 15th [were ready]. We didn’t have all this conditioning and weightlifting like they have now. Until October the 15th you couldn’t have anything to do with the players. Right now they start conditioning with four hours per week for team practice or something. You know what I’m saying. Back then you couldn’t do anything until October the 15th. You couldn’t hold meetings. You couldn’t lift weights with them. You couldn’t run or condition them. It was a way for me to encourage them to get in shape for October the 15th when practice started. I always ran them a mile on October the 15th. That kind of messed up my practice on that day. So George Raveling and I were talking and we said why don’t we just run the mile at 12:01 and then we can practice at 3 o’clock that afternoon. So that’s what we did for the first year. You know we had cars on the track with lights on so nobody would cut the course, but I heard that [Len] Elmore did. So I don’t know if we did that one year or two years, but Mo Howard said, “Hey Coach. Why don’t we just have a scrimmage at midnight next year?” because they wanted to get out of the running. So I said, “Yeah. Alright we can do that.” So we did the next year. We had a scrimmage and had seven or eight thousand kids. . . In fact we had a lot of kids watching us run that night [in 1971]. It was like my second year at Maryland. We were going to have a good team. We had [Tom] McMillen and Elmore coming up as sophomores. We had our undefeated freshman team the year before so everybody was excited. We had a lot of people just watching us run that first year so Mo said “Let’s have a scrimmage at midnight next year” so we did and we had about ten thousand people show up and from then on we filled it up. So that was kind of the way we got it started. It let us get a jump on everybody. I told them we’re going to practice before anybody else in the country and we’re going to be playing on the last day in the NCAA Finals. You know just a little motivational thing.
From the Oct 16, 1971 edition of The Virgin Islands Daily News
RTC: Could you talk a little bit about its evolution and what it has become now? It’s on ESPN, ESPN2, ESPNU, all of the ESPNs, and a lot of other channels. What are your thoughts on that?
LD: I think it’s great. It has helped promote basketball. It gets the students and the fans thinking basketball in the middle of football and baseball and everything. I think it’s great. The only thing that I don’t like is that they let them have it at 5 o’clock in the afternoon instead of midnight. I think midnight created more interest because kids like to stay up late. I think one of the best teams I ever had was at James Madison and we played a game at midnight. I see that a couple teams play games at midnight this year. I think that’s great because college kids like to stay up late when they should be in bed. At least they are better off at a basketball game than somewhere else. I wish it was still at midnight. A lot of people call it “Basketball Madness,” but it really is “Midnight Madness.”
Maryland (#10, West, Kansas City pod)
Vs. California (#7)
Thurs., 3/19 at 2:55 PM
Vegas Line: Pick ‘em
General Profile Location: College Park, MD Conference: ACC, At-Large Coach: Gary Williams, 417-228 at Maryland, 622-356 overall 08-09 Record: 20-13, 7-9 Last 12 Games: 6-6 Best Win: Defeated UNC, 88-85 on February 21st Worst Loss: Lost to Morgan State, 66-65 on January 7th (Ed. Note: We think the 41-point loss at Duke on January 24th may have been just as bad.) Off. Efficiency Rating: 108.2; 72nd Def. Efficiency Rating: 93.5; 47th
Nuts ‘n Bolts Star Player(s): Greivis Vasquez (17.2 PPG, 5.5 RPG, and 5.1 APG) Unsung Hero: C Dave Neal (8.3 ppg, 39% 3pt shooter) Potential NBA Draft Pick(s): Greivis Vasquez (58th in 2010) Key Injuries: PF/C Jerome Burney, out for season Depth: 28.3% (233rd nationally); percentage of minutes played by reserves Achilles Heel: Lack of size. Maryland doesn’t have anyone on the team bigger than 6’7″. The Terps’ starting center is 6’6″ and can’t jump. If a team has good big men, they can have some great games. They’ve been able to neutralize by extensive use of zone defense, but it can only do so much. Will Make a Deep Run if…: Greivis Vasquez gets hot and someone else (Eric Hayes, Landon Milbourne, or Sean Mosley) can step up and provide another consistent offensive option. Will Make an Early Exit if…: They can’t defend in the post or get any rebounds. That’s caused quite a few losses this year already.
NCAA History Last Year Invited: 2007. Lost to Butler in the second round. Streak: N/A Best NCAA Finish: National Champion (2002) Historical Performance vs. Seed (1985-present): +0.28. On average, Maryland wins 0.28 more games per year than would be expected for their seed based on historical standards.
Other Six Degrees to Detroit: Two famous Terrapins (Juan Dixon and Joe Smith) have played for the Detroit Pistons in recent years, but the Terrapin with the greatest success in Detroit was Gene Shue. Shue was a 5-time All-Star as a Piston including a 1st team All-NBA selection and a 2nd team All-NBA selection. Distance to First Round Site: 1,072 miles School’s Claim to Fame: On the field/court, Maryland’s renowned for having a great all-around athletic program – soccer, lacrosse, field hockey, football, basketball, and even competitive cheer all consistently compete at the highest levels. Outside of the playing field, Maryland grads are responsible for Curb Your Enthusiasm and Seinfeld (Larry David), the Muppets (Jim Henson), 30 Rock (Beth McCarthy), The Boondocks (Aaron McGruder), The Wire (David Simon), Outback Steakhouse (Robert Basham), SIRIUS Radio (Robert Briskman), and Under Armor (Kevin Plank). Oh, yeah, and Google, too (Sergey Brin). School Wishes It Could Forget: Several things, unfortunately. First, there was the near-death sentence punishment passed down by the NCAA, which set the program back several years. There was also the massive riots after the Terps won the natty in 2002 which included burning couches and massive crowds throughout the streets. (Ed. Note: Len Bias too.) Prediction: I have Maryland winning over Cal, simply because Cal’s size advantage isn’t nearly as pronounced as some of the teams Maryland has played recently. Having a team to go eye-to-eye would be quite a change. Memphis just has too much athleticism, though, and will probably have a chip on their shoulder due to the seeding. Major RTC stories:Gary Williams Hates Graduation, Maryland Responds, Make Your Case: Maryland Terrapins, Daily Obituaries: 03.08.09 (oops), More Intrigue at Maryland, Trouble in College Park,
Well it’s the series everybody has been waiting for (ok, not rtmsf). I’ll try to limit my bias in this preview although all of my friends are well aware of the extent of my taunting. Honestly, they’re just happy there isn’t a potential Triple Crown (and eternal bragging rights) at stake here. Anyways, on to what might be the most hyped NBA Finals since 1991 when Michael Jordan formally took the throne away from Magic Johnson (and Larry Bird).
By now, you may have heard that the Boston Celtics and Los Angeles Lakers have a little bit of basketball history. Boston comes in sporting an amazing 16-3 record in NBA Finals, but no appearances since 1987 andno titles since 1986 (following that title they selected a forward out of Maryland named Len Bias). Meanwhile, LA comes in with a 9-13 record, but had a 3-peat from 2000-2002 and appeared in the 2004 Finals. However, as Rick Pitino said during his ignominious stint in Boston:
Despite all the hype ESPN has given (wonder who has broadcast rights) to the history of this rivalry–think hammer versus nail (sorry, I can’t help myself)–none of the players that led the franchises to their numerous titles will be walking through that door except for some guy named Kobe Bryant. So instead of focusing on the glorious past of this match-up, I’ll focus on the present and this season.
Point Guard: Rajon Rondo vs. Derek Fischer. It seems like this match-up hasn’t been getting much press, but I think it could be the most pivotal of the series. This is definitely a young gun versus experience veteran type of match-up as Rondo is much more athletic than Fischer, but is more prone to making silly mistakes. Along with experience, Fischer has a big edge on Rondo in terms of shooting. With all the helpside defense that Kobe demands, Fischer will likely get a lot of shots. Advantage: Fischer. This match-up is closer than you might think because of Rondo’s athleticism and his surprising maturity. Unfortunately for Boston, Rondo is too inconsistent to give Boston the advantage at PG, but if he plays well he should be able to equal Fischer.
Shooting Guard: Ray Allen vs. Kobe Bryant. Somehow this turned into a rivalry soon after Shaq left LA and Ray Allen told the media that Kobe would go to to Mitch Kupchak in a few years and demand a trade (a few years later. . .). Later, Kobe said that he and Jesus Shuttlesworth shouldn’t be mentioned in the same sentence. Now, the two All-Stars are saying that there never really was a feud. Why do I bring this up? Well because even though these two play the same position, I can’t see them guarding each other much. LA might put Kobe on Allen particularly if he goes into another one of his funks, but Kobe roams too much and that’s a very bad idea against Allen even if he hasn’t been performing up to his standard. As for Allen guarding Kobe, even Doc Rivers isn’t that dumb. Kobe will see a steady diet of James Posey and occasionally Paul Pierce although Ray Allen will probably play some matador defense against him early in the game as Kobe will probably defer to his teammates early as he notes “I can get off any time I want” (insert Colorado hotel room joke here). Advantage: Kobe. This one isn’t even close. Allen has sort of become a wild card for the Celtics. Even when he’s on this position goes to Kobe and the Lakers, but if Allen can hit from the outside he can keep Boston in the series.
Small Forward: Paul Pierce vs. Vladimir Radmanovic. This might be the biggest mismatch of the series (not including the coaches). If they match up head-to-head, Pierce will dominate Vlad. As Shaq once said, “My name is Shaquille O’Neal and Paul Pierce is the motherfucking truth. Quote me on that and don’t take nothing out. I knew he could play, but I didn’t know he could play like this. Paul Pierce is the truth.” An Inglewood native, Pierce grew up idolizing Magic and the Showtime Lakers, but during his time in green, he has torched the Lakers for a career average of 27.9 PPG (his most against any team). My guess is that Kobe will be guarding Pierce in crunchtime. The rest of the time Vlad will try to stay in front of him. The key for LA is for Vlad to hit his 3s, which usually energizes the Hollywood crowd (if it’s after the 6 minute mark in the 2nd quarter when the crowd shows up) and will make Pierce or whoever is guarding him work. Advantage: Pierce. Big edge although this might turn into a Kobe vs. Pierce match-up, which Kobe would still win.
Power Forward: Kevin Garnett vs. Lamar Odom. This is the most interesting match-up of the series. Although Pierce is Boston’s go-to guy, KG is the heart-and-soul of the team. Usually he is able to dominate at the 4 because he is much more versatile than the opposing player. However, Odom’s unique skill set could theoretically pose a problem for KG especially with the amount of help defense he will have to play with Kobe and Gasol. Odom has the type of game that could limit KG’s ability to roam, but Odom is so inconsistent that it may not matter. Advantage: Garnett. If you look at the match-up on paper based on skills, it would be pretty close other than defense, which Odom doesn’t seem to care about most of the time. However, KG’s consistency and effort wins out over Odom’s tendency to space out (insert bong joke here).
Center: Kendrick Perkins vs. Pau Gasol. The Boston fans will really hate Chris Wallace by the time this series is over. Not only did he kill a few years of Paul Pierce’s prime by trading Joe Johnson for Rodney Rogers and Tony Delk (some blame falls on Paul Gaston, the Celtics owner at the time, who refused to resign either player), but he also gave the Lakers Gasol, who poses a tough match-up for Perkins. One of the 3 straight-to-pro starters this series (you probably know the other two) Perkins has grown a lot this year. Playing alongside KG has certainly helped during games, but perhaps more importantly off the court in practice and it shows in his improved performance. Unfortunately for Kendrick, Gasol is basically the worst match-up he could have. While Perkins is a hard-nosed defender with good strength, he isn’t particularly agile and the Lakers pick-and-roll with Kobe and Gasol could give Celtics fans nightmares over the next 2 weeks. Gasol will probably dominate this match-up unless Perkins can somehow turn this into a physical match-up. To limit the Lakers advantage, Perkins will have to try and dominate the glass as the Lakers don’t really have a great rebounder (Gasol can put up numbers, but isn’t going to get physical) while the Celtics have two (Perkins and Garnett). Advantage: Gasol. The Lakers have a clear advantage here as Gasol is one of the best centers in the league, but it’s closer than most people think. Perkins has had some big games in the playoffs and will need to do so in this series if the Celtics are to win #17.
Bench: James Posey, P.J. Brown, Eddie House, Leon Powe, Glen Davis, Tony Allen, & Sam Cassell vs. Luke Walton, Sasha Vujacic, Jordan Farmer, Ronny Turiaf, & Trevor Ariza. The Celtics will probably use Posey quite a bit on Kobe and Brown on Gasol as neither of the Celtic starters appear to match up particularly well. If Posey can focus on staying in front of Kobe and knock down 3s on kickouts, he could become an important facto in the series. Outside of Posey, Brown and House are the most likely to play key roles in this series. Brown primarily for his interior presence against Gasol and House to spot up for 3s assuming Doc notices Cassell couldn’t cut it in a YMCA league. Powe and Big Baby could also contribute in spots, but I have a feeling that Doc will yank around their minutes too much to give either a chance to contribute for more than a game or two. If Doc is smart, Allen and Cassell won’t take off their warm-ups as neither of them has contributed much this season. Meanwhile, the Lakers have a very strong bench. I’m pretty sure Walton would start on most teams in the league. He’s one of the rare players who can come into the game and make an immediate impact, which I attribute to Luke being one of the few players in the NBA who plays with his head instead of his body. Vujacic and Farmer have also proven to be valuable and will spell Fischer when Rondo starts to wear him out. Both of them can hit 3s, which will make them valuable when Kobe decides to drive. As for Turiaf, he’s not a great player, but he’s the only legit thing the Lakers have as a 4/5 backup. Advantage: Lakers. This may be the difference in the series even if Doc doesn’t screw up the rotations like he usually does.
Coaching: Phil Jackson vs. Doc Rivers. The Zen Master with 9 rings as a coach (tied with Red Auerbach) and 11 rings overall (tied with Bill Russell) versus the least stable rotation in basketball history. Advantage: Jackson. This is probably the biggest mismatch in Finals history. Even Ubuntu can’t save Doc in this one and it might cost the Celtics a shot at the title.
Prediction: Lakers in 6. If the Celtics play to their potential (that means you Ray), I think they can win, but he’s just been so inconsistent and the Lakers have been so dominant (in a better conference) that I just can’t pick them to win as much as it kills me if you haven’t caught my bias in the preview. I think LA and Boston will split the opening 2 games and Boston will come back to win 1 of 3 in LA before Kobe takes over in Game 6 and puts the Celtics away.