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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.

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

Jim Calhoun out for Opening Round Game

March 19, 2009 Comments off

CBS Sports reported on the online/ March Madness on Demand feed that Jim Calhoun will not coach tonight’s game against Chattanooga due to illness.

2009 College Basketball Hot Seat: More Fire – Leitao, Lowe

March 16, 2009 Comments off

Virginia’s Dave Leitao has resigned as head coach of the University of Virginia Cavaliers basketball team. We know he was asked to resign. There’s a quote from ACC rookie of the year Sylven Landesberg’s dad expressing regret… St. John’s fans, of course, hope Syl will come home and play for St. John’s. We can always hope.

And I am sure that, though the administration of DePaul doesn’t want him back, the Blue Demon faithful would take him in a heartbeat over who they have now.

I see an axe hanging over North Carolina State’s Sidney Lowe, as well… Both schools are willing to spend, even in these times of belt tightening. Check out profiles of some of the hotter coaching candidates, and comment freely.

2009 College Basketball Hot Seat: The Candidates, Part 1

March 15, 2009 5 comments

Coaching Candidates

see earlier posts in this series: 2009 College Basketball Coaches on the Hot Seat | 2009 Coaches On the Hot Seat: The Firing Squad Started, Gottfried + Felton

It’s part of the job, and every college coach knows. They probably fear it. No one wants to hear they they are on the hot seat. It means abuse for your family who come out to watch the games, it means the kids you recruited are going to be called “bums,” it means that every fan all of a sudden knows the Athletic Director’s name, email, and phone number, and writes impassioned (or just plain rude) screeds imploring him or her to REMOVE THE COLLEGE BASKETBALL COACH! Froth, anger, and a spinning carousel of coaching possible swirl in the local papers. National columnists write off your team for good.

Fully understand – putting together a quality basketball program and achieving the metrics of success that a coach promised in their interview – conference banners, fans in the seats, an exciting style of play that attracts students and players, an increase in “Q” score – all of that is a tough task in the face of competitive conferences. Fans are dissatisfied with anything short of a national championship, though for most teams, a lot less will do.

But sometimes, there is so little improvement or so little consistency that an Athletic Director really needs to turn the reins over to someone else. And there are different reasons, such as the abject failure of DePaul; the 5-year mostly uncompetitive streak at one of the top-10 winningest programs of all time at St John‘s (I’ve written about it here, here, here, and here, I think that counts as “ad nauseum“); the perennial hot seat and vast (ridiculous? over-marketed?) resources at Oregon; the Lute Olsen retirement at Arizona; the not meeting expectations when bringing in a major conference coach like Larry Eustachy at Southern Miss; or not meeting the big-time in everything expectations at Georgia and Alabama, where the coaches are already at home getting over the ignominy of a mid-year firing, settling into a good book between networking calls. No one wants to hear how hard the job is – the call is for results.

Interestingly, a mix of a down economy and more likely, decent success may keep the coaches at Northwestern, Florida State, Penn State, and even Rutgers and Seton Hall in place; it might even save some of the coaches who work at previously mentioned schools.

Meanwhile, some good coaching jobs are being done out in college basketball. Some coaches from the professional ranks might like a different kind of pressure and the opportunity to teach. Some retreads are looking to recapture their good name. And schools are looking to make the right kind of hire, the guy who will excite the fans, sell season tickets (in a down economy), get the buzz out to recruits, and help but a little shine on the school.

Without further ado, here are some candidates, broken up into categories:

Sexy Candidates – The [Fill In Name of Flash in the Pan Actress Here] of coaches, 2009

John Calipari

John Calipari coachI don’t know what’s got people thinking that he’s such a candidate to leave. Certainly, Memphis is not the heart of the world, but he has a fiefdom.  And he makes his win total swell in bunches every year he’s there.  He is nearly guaranteed to make the tournament every year. Maybe he likes being a huge fish in a pond (and with a schedule) of his own making, pumping up his win total and tournament achievements.

Why So Sexy: Winning. Slickness. Top Recruits. Great on defense and offense. He understands marketing.  He has handled top-level one-and-done players, sends ballers to the NBA, gets his teams to play tough.  Getting to the NCAA finals sure doesn’t hurt his name any, either.

Drawbacks: Gosh, I don’t know… vacated Final Fours/ Camby taking money, players’ off court indiscretions, more off court indiscretions, the presence of Worldwide Wes, Worldwide Wes and Milt Wagner’s employment at Memphis, the recruiting calls to Abdul Gaddy from a Memphis booster… he is perceived as too slick. Wonder why.

Good for: The team that doesn’t mind winning at all costs… and he wouldn’t come cheap, commanding one of the highest fees for coaching in the nation.

Anthony Grant

Anthony Grant VCUBeing nearly named the next head coach of Florida before Billy Donovan reconsidered has its perks. His Virginia Commonwealth team knocked off Duke in the NCAA tournament and has done well in the parity-filled Colonial Athletic Conference, but it’s the only place he’s coached.

Why So Sexy: He’s been the “it” name for SEC openings, seems to be able to recruit a little. Personally, the fact that he has single digit losses in each of his three years means the man can likely coach a little.  He has a very good “name” point guard in Eric Maynor to his credit, one who beat Duke in 2007’s NCAA Tournament.

Drawbacks: He’s only been a head coach for 3 years. His roster still includes the former coach’s players, and the former coach is Jeff Capel… Hasn’t sent players to the NBA as a head coach, but he is in the CAA.

Good for: The south; teams who want a solid, young name; a school with a solid recruiting base (he made his name as a recruiter at Florida).

Jeff Capel

Jeff CapelHaving a top-5 Oklahoma Sooner team all season – and possibly a #1 seed in the NCAA Tournament – brings in accolades. As does recruiting very well, being a former Duke player, and getting Virginia Commonwealth to the NCAA Tournament. The coach that quickly turned around the scandal-marred post-Kelvin Sampson Sooners has done a great job.

Why So Sexy: See above. Winner. And he’s young. Georgia has a bit of a chubby for Capel.  He’s a former standout Dukie, so he knows successful systems from Coach K.  His dad’s a coach as well.

Drawbacks: Oklahoma’s a football school that pours money into its athletics. Would Capel leave to come back to the southeast? If the region isn’t a draw, Oklahoma can either match whatever money Capel’s offered or drive up Jeff’s price into the prohibitive range.  I can’t think of any top NBA draft picks that have come out of either school, but Blake Griffin will soon change that.  Not many negatives here.  But he’s only been to the NCAAs twice and has reached just the second round.

Good for: The team willing to spend oodles of money on a near sure-thing.

Sean Miller

Sean MillerThe Xavier Musketeers coach comes from the Pittsburgh system, and has brought Xavier to even better heights than the program has enjoyed under the other great coaches they have had. Single digit losses for three years running (only 3 losses in 08-09) and a 72.5% winning percentage. His team will soon make it 4 straight NCAA appearances in what is probably the best conference that is not SEC/ ACC/ Big East/ Big 10/ Big 12/ Pac 10. The man can coach. He recently brought in Book Richardson to help him recruit the New York City area.

Why So Sexy: He’s good. Tough defense. Deep runs in the NCAA Tournament. Good recruiting, good staff that helps with recruiting.  Has worked with a McDonald’s All American (transfer Drew Lavender).  Was a standout guard at Pittsburgh.  Worked well with a young team and a freshman point guard.  Has an Elite Eight run to his credit.

Drawbacks: It’s gonna cost ya. Xavier is a lot better than a lot of other jobs; and Miller might choose to wait for the Pittsburgh job, or he might love being in Cincinnati.

Good for: What ails ya. Besides the fact that he hasn’t been a head coach at the top levels – he elevated the level of his team instead – I don’t know why teams wouldn’t want him… but the price will be high.

Bob Knight

Bob KnightOne of the most famous names in coaching has over 900 wins. He also quit on his team in the middle of a season. Personally, I think that is low, and not the behavior of someone I would hire for a head coaching position. That is not the way to teach young men perseverance. You can google video of many of his misdeeds. But Knight’s got a interest in the sweet peach of Georgia.

Why So Sexy: Name recognition. Doing it the “right way.” Solid fundamental basketball. Tough disciplinarian. Puts fans in the seats by that name recognition.  Has had great teams, doesn’t take guff, wins with very little talent.

Drawbacks: You think this guy wants to recruit top-level athletes? Name the top athletes he’s brought in… over the last 15 years! He does things the “Knight way.” He is tough to deal with for administrators (though that can be a good thing). Mediocre results in the past 20 years. Doesn’t use the three-point shot enough. Quit on his Texas Tech team in mid season.

Good for: A school that wants things done the old-school disciplinarian way. A school with okay talent that wants to maximize it, and prefers good students to high-level talent, and isn’t thinking about a long-term solution at coach.

Mark Few

Mark FewFor nearly ten years Mark Few has been rolling at Gonzaga, overseeing an expansion of the Gonzaga brand and helping fund their conference. He is often mentioned for coaching openings, and is a friend of the Oregon athletic director Pat Kilkenny (edit: who is now the former AD, giving up the job to former football coach Mike Bellotti); rumors had Ducks men’s basketball coach Ernie Kent run out so the AD could bring in Mark Few. Now, Kent’s probably near the end of his tenure at the U of Oregon (8-22 overall) so is the time right…? Others, like Arizona, would like to make a run at Few’s coaching skills as well.

Why So Sexy: Winning. Building a mid-major program that rivals Memphis and is the goal for teams like Xavier. A near 80% win percentage. Players know his name, and he has sent a few guys to the NBA.

Drawbacks: He’s only coached at Gonzaga. His teams are often… a little soft. No final four teams. High-ranked Bulldog squads that routinely are upset by lower seeds in the tournament (see: 2002, 2004 as a 2 seed losing to a 10, 2005, 2008).  Most of those guys sent to the NBA are not there anymore, outside of Ronny Turiaf… but he does coach at Gonzaga, so he might get better talent at another school.

Good for: A team that needs a strong, experienced coach who knows how to build a whole program. A coach clearly motivated by things other than looking for the next stop, or he would have left Spokane long ago.

Brad Stevens

Brad Stevens ButlerThe youthful-looking Butler Bulldog coach inherited a solid squad from now-Iowa coach Todd Lickliter. With freshmen and sophomores this year, however, he is burning up the win column. His team was picked to finish fifth in the Horizon league, and finished first. He’s not just youthful looking… he’s 32 years old…

Why So Sexy: He’s young, he’s successful, he’s building a great program. Well-spoken, he’s led an experienced team (last year) and led an inexperienced team of talented freshmen he brought in. Seriously, those freshmen were amazing, and that has to do with training and getting his point across.

Drawbacks: He’s only been a head coach for 2 years. It’s not entirely known if he can sustain strong recruiting (but the class he brought in was great). He’s been coaching at a small school, different than the frothy fishbowl of schools like Georgia.

Good for: A team who needs a young, dynamic coach and a face of the program.


Coming up: Part 2, the more likely candidates.

2009 Basketball Hot Seat: Firings 3.12.09

March 12, 2009 Comments off

Surprisingly, DePaul’s Jerry Wainwright got a vote of confidence.

But those let go from their jobs:

Boston University logoBoston University‘sDennis Wolff (which really surprised me) – Coaching record by season; Boston Herald | Boston Globe

Conference: America East

Tenure: 15 seasons;

Record: 17-13 in 2009 + 11-5 conference, 247-197 overall at Boston

texas pan-americanTexas-Pan American‘s Tom SchuberthCoaching record by season; article

Conference: Independents

Tenure: 3 seasons

Record: 10-17 (no conference record), 42-45 at UTPA

elon logoElon‘s Ernie NestorCoaching record by season; article

Conference: Big South

Tenure: 6 seasons

Record: 11-20 in 2009 + 7-13 conference,
61-116 overall at Elon

high point logoHigh Point‘s Bart LundyCoaching record by season; article

Conference: Big South

Tenure: 6 seasons

Record: 9-21 in 2009 + 4-14 conference;
96-87 overall at High Point

Meanwhile, an uncertain future at St. John’s.