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A Few Thoughts on John Calipari

August 21, 2009 1 comment

(Pico’s note: this is by Raycroft, the head and Reverend of the Church of Bracketology.)

What a strange couple of weeks in College Hoops have just passed. I am not even going to touch the Pitino story.  We will save that for another day.

But, I do have a serious gripe with the John Calipari/Memphis situation and as the Reverend of The First Church of Bracketology, it is hard for me to just sit back and be quiet. (And, thanks to The East Coast Bias for providing me the forum.)

All I hear from people, time and time again, is how John Calipari is dirty and it is ‘only a matter of time’ before it catches up to him. It’s a simple thought because in these times of steroids and hanging chads, there is a natural skepticism from anyone when someone the other side excels to the top.

John Calipari has coached two Final Four teams and both times they have been vacated.  That’s right, Memphis too.  See, it’s happening again.  But, what is he guilty of? What has he done wrong?  What rules has he broken?

…I’m still waiting.

Exactly.  According to the NCAA, absolutely nothing.

In the case of UMass, it was Marcus Camby who took money from an agent, forcing the NCAA to retroactively declare him ineligible thus vacating their Final Four and their wins. Honestly, anyone that knows college sports knows that coaches sometimes break the rules to recruit a player – which may involve money – but a coach is never going to suggest that his player break the rules freely on his own.  If Cal knew anything about the Camby taking money from an agent beforehand, it would be to advise him against it because he knows the repercussions.  And, if he knew about it after the fact, he certainly would not blow the whistle. The argument that Cal was behind that is ridiculous Roveian spin. I have argued this many times with the Barstool Pundits I have met over time.  It goes a little something like this:

BP: Well, you know he know he was paying Camby anyway.

Me: I don’t believe that.

BP: Come on, we all know that.

Me: Really, What evidence do you have?

BP: You just know it.

Wow, so simple. We have many lawyers who are members of the Church of Bracketology, and I’m sure that none of them would even think of walking into to a court room with that as his or her case (I like to believe that my friends are a little bit intelligent.)   I have not seen any evidence to make that case, so until then I do not believe that Cal was involved with Camby’s incident.  But, I will also admit that it is possible that Cal has some violated rules to get where is. I am not going to just ‘know that’ because he seems to be very very good at his job.  I think I am the only person who ever asked the question, “Could he just be that good?”

With Memphis going down this week, the Barstool Pundits have now made their case, so they think.  Seriously, that tells you something when the same coach has another Final Four vacated for playing an ineligible player.  However, once you dig into the case, unlike the UMass case, which was pretty straight forward, you find some major problems with how the NCAA handled it. First, the NCAA Clearinghouse ruled Derrek Rose eligible to play by NCAA rules. Calipari started him. Then the NCAA says his SAT scores were ruled invalid, thus making him ineligible.  When Memphis questioned the NCAA Infractions Committee because the NCAA Clearinghouse made the error, the Infractions Committee said the Clearinghouse couldn’t be trusted to be accurate.  Really??  They are the same people!  There is so much more to the Rose case too which screams of incompetence, it is amazing that this got as far as it did without a smoking gun.  But, that is another story.

Despite what the Barstool Pundits believe, in both the UMass and Memphis situations, the NCAA did not rule that John Calipari committed any infractions.  Therefore he is not punished, so the NCAA had each school’s Final Four vacated.

The question still stands – Is he that good?  There is no doubt that he is ‘that good’ of game coach, ‘that good’ of an ambassador to the community and the media.  But, is he ‘that good’ of a recruiter to land top players at little schools.  Or, is he just ‘that good’ at hiding it all; the Ronald Reagan of college hoops, which nothing sticks to?  Since my agenda is to enjoy college hoops and not rip people down without evidence because they ‘seem shady’, I will believe the first one.

Reverend M.J. Raycroft

The First Church of Bracketology

www.churchofbracketology.com

I highly suggest reading two stories:

1. Matt Vautour’s (UMass beat writer) article about vacating Final Fours:

http://gazettenet.com/2009/08/21/ncaa-vacating039-penalties-have

2. Mike Decourcy (College Hoops correspondent to Sporting News) article about how Memphis should not get penalized:

http://www.sportingnews.com/nba/article/2009-08-20/ncaa-let-rose-play-so-why-does-memphis-have-pay

Bzdelik and the “casual talk”

July 17, 2009 Comments off

You may have heard that Colorado Buffaloes head coach Jeff Bzdelik (once the coach of the NBA Denver Nuggets), had a “casual talk” with the General Manager of the Minnesota Timberwolves while taking in an NBA summer league game. This blog thought it was curious that the Athletic Director of the University of Colorado put out a statement about the “casual talk”.

Turns out that, according to the Denver Post, the statement seems to be an effort to put the information out there and crush any rumor-milling that may come of the “unexpected”, “casual talk”. On the face of it, it’s good to make sure that, for recruiting efforts and team morale, it is very important to let the Buffalo players know that their coach isn’t going anywhere.

In fact, this bit of “news” helps reinforce Bzdelik’s bonafides – the NBA people hold him in high regard, despite the severe outclassing that Bzdelik’s Colorado tenure has been. After all, one shouldn’t lose toget blown out by Vermont and Texas Christian as a major conference team in a coach’s second year. Eyebrows, fully raised.

All of this may be blown up/ over-communicated on the web over essentially nothing. Jeff Bzdelik might be completely committed to the Buffalo basketball program. But this also might be a coach who would be happy to land on his feet after last year’s 9-22 record; or an AD who might look at his team, the unknown recruits and lack of size or competitive athleticism and think… well, if he left, would that be the worst thing?

The Buffs were simply awful last year, an uncompetitive 1-win skidmark on the Big XII schedule in basketball. They have a long way to go to make a turnaround, and their terrible rebounding highlights the struggles of a short team with one excellent talent in Cory Higgins and non-rebounding, distance shooting big men.

Faced with long odds, when does a “casual talk” become serious interest for Bzdelik?

Not with bang but a with a mewl + Sports Links

June 18, 2009 Comments off

The U.S. Men’s National Soccer team has taken their second loss in the Confederations Cup in South Africa, a 0-3 stomping that featured another red card (this time Sascha Klejstan was sent off; Ricardo Clark caught the card in the Italy game), another early goal given up on defense, and the perception that the United States can’t hang with the big boys on the pitch.

Ann Killion of the San Jose Mercury News put it best, comparing where the US MNT is as compared to the stated goals of 11 years ago; the U.S. felt that they were ready to emerge as a power, and Landon Donovan and DeMarcus Beasley were going to be key to that future.

There have been moments, for sure, and the team is far better than they used to be, especially in comparison to the local North/ Central American competition in the CONCACAF. And it’s not like the U.S. side is losing in basketball, a sport where the country has a long history, decided advantage, and deep fan appreciation/ identification.

But still… the results and notes from today just make it sound like a dog of a game.


After that downer, some links from this week:

emmanuelle chriqui throws out first pitch at dodgers game* Emmanuelle Chriqui threw out the first pitch at a Dodgers game earlier this week. Hat tip to popoholic.

* Boise State football is looking to go on the road for some guarantee cash money from a big school (h/t Fanhouse) in 2010. This will bring in some money from the bigger schools to the smaller (budget-wise) state school; but brings up an interesting question. What team would bring in Boise State for a challenge game? They are always competitive, even if they have lost their last few guarantee games against Washington, Georgia, Arkansas, and South Carolina.

* Florida State will have to vacate 14 wins from their football squad’s record for violations invovling academic fraud. Man, that’s tough. But now maybe coach Bobby Bowden and Penn State’s Joe Paterno can retire; one could look at them and think that while they do love football, the lure of retiring as D-1 college football’s all-time winningest coach has to help them when the job seems to stressful, when the kids are acting like fools, when the age-related injuries slow them down… it’s time for both to consider hanging it up. They are like coach emiriti these days.

* As you know, Tim Floyd resigned from the University of Southern California amidst allegations of cash to recruit OJ Mayo and a perception that serious sanctions were coming down, especially since the allegations of wrongdoing have been very public. Currently, USC is moving ahead with its coaching search and looking for coaches with pro experience. They have locked in on former Seton Hall and pro coach P.J. Carlesimo and former New Mexico State and pro coach Reggie Theus. Reggie Theus is interested. I think he’s a good call – he seemed to be a decent coach at New Mexico State, players wanted to come to play for him, and while his pro career wasn’t stellar, it wasn’t terrible (and was cut too short).  Put a pretty charming face on a couple of hard years and possible ineligibility for the Big Dance, USC!

* Some Japanese pro wrestlers are accused (and there is evidence) of some serious animal abuse with a pet monkey. Honestly, don’t read it if you’re squeamish. I thought it was some of the most juvenile, disgusting actions I have read about in a long time.

Arizona’s Plan D, E, F…

April 6, 2009 Comments off

The University of Arizona is having a hard time filling that coaching job in the Pac-10, and I have no idea why. The Wildcats have a solid name, solid tradition… though following a coaching legend – and his stormy last years – is a hard job.

But Sean Miller would rather stay with the Xavier Musketeers. It’s a good job there in Cincy, and his team has a lot of potential, but that’s a little surprising.

Who’s next on their list? Maybe Utah’s Jim Boylen (who seems like an decent hire who has spent time in the pros). More at UA Hoops Coach, I’ve been following that blog.

Shorts Stacks 3.31.09

March 31, 2009 Comments off

While the Chicago Sun Times files for bankruptcy…and as you wait for Google’s yearly April Fools’ joke… remember that some man was arrested for drunk driving on a bar stool… and you HAVE to check out this modernized telling of the Passover story… in Facebook form.

short stack iconJonathan Vilma’s apartment on Long Island was raided in connection to some drug beef that looks like it came out of a TV show (the reverse of “ripped from the headlines”): a Liberian immigrant with a suitcase filled with stolen cocaine or fake money, a body dumped in Paerdegat Basin, a person shot execution-style… how that ties in to the former Jets middle linebacker is unknown, but they were supposedly killed in his condo.

short stack iconRay Floriani, writing for College Chalk Talk, writes on Richmond’s run in the CBI, where they lost to UTEP (Texas El-Paso) in the semifinal game. He notes the ridiculously bad (30% of their possessions) turnover rate for St. John’s being the difference in the game… along with the inability to stop Richmond from hitting threes. Floriani also expresses hope that playing in the game helps St. John’s coach Norm Roberts, “one of the good guys,” as he calls him.

short stack iconHaters to the front! with this Louisville Courier-Journal article about how some question John Calipari’s recruiting and temper. I touched on this in the coaching candidates post, about how his players have not been class acts, even if (by some metrics) they do well in school. I thought Kentucky fetishized clean cut players… maybe not as much as winning. If someone in Wildcat country has a problem with the look of the kids – and even the occasional problem with graduating – they should get over it. Kids have tattoos, kids have swagger, and these kids win games. They’re not all going to be crew cut Adolph Rupp kids, and I’m sure those guys weren’t saints by any means. Though memory does have a way of sanctifying folks.

short stack iconMemphis boosters are working hard on getting Calipari to stay. Of course they are. Can they touch the reported 8 year, 35 million dollar offer? If Cal goes, will Roburt Sallie, Wes Witherspoon, and Angel Garcia leave? Inquiring recruiters want to know… and if Calipari leaves, the Memphis Commercial Appeal has some candidates to replace him… though Cal wants Tony Barbee, his former assistant coach now at UTEP, to replace him. Unofficially, a Kentucky TV station says Calipari is taking the Kentucky job.

short stack iconThe University of Virginia has hired Washington State coach Tony Bennett to pilot the Cavaliers’ men’s basketball team. Kind of a surprise – no runs at Jeff Capel or other prominent candidates, and a pretty quick, no-muss no-fuss hire. Bennett has not been a head coach for long, but has brought some talent to the talent-barren Wash State Cougar team. They play very, very slow, but they are crisp and NEVER turn the ball over. Sylven Landesberg could be an ace in this system… Is Portland State’s Ken Bone the man to keep the Cougars growling? Roaring? Do Cougars roar?

short stack iconAnd interestingly, from ESPN’s Andy Katz:

Siena’s Fran McCaffery hasn’t heard from any of the high-profile jobs but did get an e-mail from a search firm on the Boston University job…. McCaffery has no issues if he stays put. He said he should have a really good team again next season after the Saints won consecutive first-round NCAA tournament games, beating Vanderbilt and Ohio State in back-to-back tournaments.

There has to be a job opening that has Fran McCaffery’s name on it. Then again, the coaches who have moved have either been assistants (like Shaka Smart to Virginia Commonwealth) or have been major conference-level head coaches. So it’s not time for the mid-major guys who move up, yet.

Ashley Biden, CitiField Sliding, Final Four Arriving, and Guitar Hero Metallica

March 30, 2009 1 comment

Ashley Biden

Oh man. Ashley Biden (Joe’s daughter) has a “friend” trying to sell photos of her doing cocaine. Cue the "they did it to Bristol Palin" Republican crowd, the kind of people who prove our whole nation is filled with effing stupidity…

Word is coming out that Ashley Biden’s "friend" planted the camera out of sight. Nice work, tool. And which Presidential kids (Patti Davis, Dubya) DIDN’T do cocaine…? Dear America: rich kids still do lines. Photo taken from NY Post

And Northern Cali had an earthquake… thanks, Facebook friends for letting me know. The master of the end times, Glenn Beck, gets an article in the lib’rul New York Times…. Phantom Alert is software that allows your GPS to find red light and speed traps/ cameras so you can avoid them… a musical version of the movie Heathers is going to the stage – Kristen Bell has been reading for Winona Ryder’s role.

Now for Sports. College basketball links at the end.

* Thanks to Uni Watch I know about Google’s hosting of Life Magazine images from the 1860s through the 1970s. I could look at old photos for days, but this one of Tom Seaver crying gets me every time. Type in mets source:life in your google browser.

* There was a deadly stampede in an Ivory Coast/ Côte d’Ivoire football/ soccer match. 19 people died. I link to the BBC coverage because at least there, the comments below the article aren’t a-hole savages who say things like "typical black people" and "animals" and "Barack Obama blah blah hate" such… same stampedes happen worldwide when soccer is involved.

* In happier news, the US Women’s Professional Soccer League started play yesterday, and it was a solid game, a victory for the Los Angeles Sol. The Brazilian footballer Marta was quick as hell. The Fox Sports production left a little to be desired, and I’d like to hear better, more analytical announcing vs. "gosh this is historic!" talk (though both Jenn Hildreth and Mark Rogondino have some soccer/ football in their background), but I enjoyed watching it.

* Fans came out for the first game at CitiField, but the hometown St. John’s baseball team couldn’t beat Georgetown. FYI, the bathrooms are clean (quotes near end of article). I would hope, no one’s been in the freaking place yet.

* Wait, Spencer Hawes doesn’t suck? Even Shaq, the "Shogun of big men" is learning Hawes’ name.

College Basketball Links

* Get your Final Four storylines here! More analysis on the Final Four matchups by team.

* Video and analysis on how Michigan State’s offense wore out Louisville. I turned down the chance to go to this game, and boy, I should have stayed in Indianapolis! A pic or two of the games at Lucas Oil later this evening on the blog.

* Seth Curry is transferring from Liberty to Duke. He deserved better than some cut-rate non-basketball school in a low-level league. The education is far, far better in Durham. I hear at Duke, the girls are allowed to have sex, as well. In all seriousness, Duke, though? With guard after guard always coming in? And no big men to take the pressure off? Interesting, Steh Curry, interesting.

* Your 2009 college basketball All-Americans.

* Is Anthony Grant worth $2 million? Well, he doesn’t have the body of work that other coaches have, but $2 million ensures that Alabama won’t have to restructure his contract in a year if he does well. How the new Crimson Tide coach does will be interesting to watch, I’m rooting for him.

* The North Dakota State Bison men’s basketball team (who I had beating Kansas in my bracket, by the way) are volunteering along the Red River in Fargo, trying to stem the flood tide of the rising river.

And if you didn’t see the commercial over the weekend… Guitar hero Metallica commercial with Coach Mike Krzyzewski, Coach Bobby Knight, Coach Rick Pitino, and Coach Roy Williams.

Why Wouldn’t Calipari Go to Kentucky

March 30, 2009 Comments off

When I wrote the profiles of hot coaching candidates, there is one thing I didn’t think of – the dislike of Coach Billy Clyde Gillispie in Kentucky. So once he was fired, if any school was going to make a play for the best in the business, it would be Kentucky. And now, Kentucky put the money and the deal on the table for John Calipari.

There’s little to quibble about with Coach Cal, except for the air of impropriety that follows Mr. Calipari. In fact, he can be even more selective with the characters he brings in to another school; Calipari has not coached at one of the storied programs yet in his career. And I am sure – and this is no real dig at Kentucky – that when it comes to providing perks or contacting the parents of recruits with boosters, Kentucky knows how to not get caught.

It’s a win-win. A man who loves a big platform, knows how to market and gladhand? It’s a perfect union, Calipari and Kentucky. And in terms of wins and losses, if the SEC is anything like it is this year, his team might go undefeated in the conference again. Just for fun, he’ll probably use his higher profile and actually bring in a college player from China.

If Cal does sign, the Kentucky fanbase can start worrying about topping UCLA in the number of NCAA championships (yes, I know Cal’s never won one, but he is very close).

I’ll be surprised if Calipari stays at Memphis. And Memphis, we’ll see what they do, if they turn the reins over to some up and coming young buck like assistant coach Josh Pastner or if they bring in a new staff.

College Basketball Hot Seat: Billy Clyde, from this distance

March 26, 2009 Comments off

Man, he must have really acted like a jackass to get the Kentucky fans to throw him off the lawn in the Bluegrass State. Billy Clyde Gillispie says his fate is out of his hands, ridiculous rumors are flitting around the interwebs, like this one about Billy Donovan on a plane

Tough place to coach, that Kentucky. A different hoops world. Some say Kentucky has no choice, and I agree that at a certain point, the well’s just poisoned. But even if the coach is a turd and a half, he deserves a few years to recruit his guys!

Some St. John’s fans would love that kind of decisiveness; but New York fans and media are almost the same kind of attack dogs. And a lack of patience gives the idea that NYC doesn’t wait for a winner, which gets non-rebuilding efforts like the Layden and Isiah Thomas NY Knicks eras. And it gets people calling for the St. John’s head coaches’ job from his first year (even if the hire was curious at the time). Then again, anyone going to Kentucky knows you have to deal with, as Rush the Court so aptly puts it, the political side of the job. That is something Norm Roberts is very good at, even if his x’s and o’s are underwhelming. The administration would go through a wall to protect the coach.

It would be interesting to see if former UK player Travis Ford gets a sniff this time; he understands the culture down there and could thrive.

edit: As for Donovan, as my friend Martha says, his team has played in the NIT for TWO straight years… maybe he’s not the excellence that Kentucky is looking for.

Anthony Grant meeting with Alabama officials

March 25, 2009 Comments off

The University of Alabama has targeted Virginia Commonwealth’s Anthony Grant as the viable candidate in their coaching search, and they are having a second round of meetings now.

Read a little more on Anthony Grant here; this is an interesting turn of events. It’s great that they are targeting a candidate quickly, and I assume this means that Grant must be their man, or else they would wait on Mike Anderson and the weekend games. And having a coach in place gives him more time to try and attain those last-minute spring recruits.

Head in the Game, Lions Logo, Alex-Rod: A Link List!

March 24, 2009 Comments off

Hey, where’s the AIG facade? They’re changing the company name… The Onion on the Morning After Burrito, the contraceptimelt… Open up borders to skilled immigrants – opinion pieces in the Wall Street Journal and from the NY Times’ Thomas Friedman… some completely bizarre “perks” in Josh Freeze’s "pay what you will" pricing, especially compared to Radiohead – including lunch, a day at Disneyland, his Volvo, and the opportunity to have a song written about you… China’s central bank is talking about a new reserve currency

And now… sports.

+ Eric Devendorf – punk or not? Read the take on Rumors and Rants, and the take on Ballin’ Is a Habit (which is sensible). And a defense here. Personally, I just think his mind thinks of plays his body can’t finish; he’s gotten better at matching his actual talent with his imagined talent, but watching some of his drives, truer words were never spoken than Sean McDonough’s "Devendorf’s the kind of player that keeps both teams in the game."

+ Jonny Flynn’s going to return for his junior year, supposedly.

+ Pitt Blather will be hosting a roundtable discussion on Big East domination of the NCAA men’s basketball tournament.

+ Patty Mills gets the best of Stephen Curry and the Davidson Wildcats in their matchup at St. Mary’s, which was the best NIT game I have seen since St. John’s beat Georgetown in 2003. And that wasn’t actually a good game. Mills has a far better supporting cast, and doesn’t turn the ball over 6 times in a game with a questionable dribble and ill-fated passes.

+ Is Steph Curry going pro? Is that the last we see of him?

+ The Big Lead rips on Gonzaga’s Austin Daye and his disappearing act on the court.

+ Missouri’s Mike Anderson’s trying to stay focused on the upcoming game against Memphis, and not on the talk of him possibly going to Alabama to coach the basketball team. He’s high on my list of coaches who might be switching jobs. CBS Sports reminds us that it would be much worse if he lied, instead of saying that he doesn’t want to talk about the future.

+ Alex Rodriguez. More high-end blonde hookers. Making fun of him is just boring at this point. At least he went to one of Eliot Spitzer’s trim suppliers.

+ The new women’s soccer league is confident despite the recession. I’ll be checking it out; women’s soccer in the US has to be better than the men’s pro league, MLS.

+ The corny new Lions logo. Dammit, I meant to keep opinion out of it. From mlive and profootballtalk-

Lions logo

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