• Nov. 29 | 9:30 p.m. PT
This one had it all (almost)
Ohio State almost did it. And I enjoyed every minute of it.
The No. 3 Buckeyes traveled to North Carolina (probably the most talented team in the country, just ahead of Kansas, Florida and UCLA) without star freshman center Greg Oden, led throughout the first half and hung tough in the second half until losing 98-89.
There was plenty of build-up to this game, from Thad Matta declaring North Carolina to be the program he wants to emulate, to Roy Williams mildly wondering what life would’ve been like by trying to recruit Greg Oden a little harder and one columnist speculating about the Buckeyes’ chances to be a football and basketball school.
But without Oden, the general thought was that the Buckeyes just didn’t have enough inside to hang with the Tar Heels throughout the game.
Well, Ron Lewis going 11-for-16 from the field for 30 points solved their offensive questions, while the freshmen, Mike Conley, Daequan Cook and David Lighty matched everything the Heels’ freshmen class of Brandan Wright, Ty Lawson and Wayne Ellington did.
It was enough to cement this as a Final Four rematch people should hope for (and may very well get). I’ve gone on record saying how this event isn’t that competitive (more on that coming) but this was one game I’d like to see again, preferably in late March or early April and hopefully in Atlanta. By then, both squad’s freshmen will be even better and we’ll get Oden, all 7 feet of him, on the national stage.
However, one great game still shouldn’t be enough to save the ACC-Big Ten Challenge as the NCAA’s league showdown event.
(And yes, it is a made-for TV event. But that’s no reason it can’t be better.)
Some Wednesday e-mails said I’m too hard on the Big Ten, but the fact remains that after the ACC went 4-1 on Wednesday (with Purdue’s win over Virginia the lone ‘W’ for the conference), the ACC went 8-3 this year and now owns a 48-27 advantage. Isn’t it time to see if a Big East-SEC Challenge or a Big 12-Pac-10 Challenge produces more competitive games?
As our college hoops expert, Ken Davis, explains, both of those will likely be realities by the 2007-08 seasons.
For those of us eager to see something new, it’ll be a welcome treat.
• Unsure how good the basketball is on the West Coast? Ask the Hoyas about Oregon. Ernie Kent may have finally figured out how to get the best out of Aaron Brooks.
• Nov. 28 | 8:30 p.m. PT
An actual challenge ... would be nice
The ACC still owns this event.
Sure, the games are usually competitive, but the ACC has won more games in the ACC-Big Ten Challenge every year it’s been held.
When it first started in 1999, the Big Ten came up just short each season, going 4-5, 4-5, 3-5 and 4-5 in 2002. In 2003, ACC teams won seven of nine games, did it again the next year and then went 5-4 last season.
This year, the ACC started off well again, with N.C. State handing Michigan its first loss of the season, then Maryland staying unbeaten with a win at Illinois, one of the nation’s toughest places to grab a win. The other games Tuesday went as you might expect: Wisconsin and Georgia Tech each won at home (though Penn State hung with the Yellow Jackets throughout), Northwestern held off Miami and Duke stayed unbeaten in the event, beating Indiana.
That gives the ACC a 4-2 edge entering Wednesday’s games. And the thing is, the ACC teams haven’t ever looked that much better than the Big Ten teams. For instance, take the Indiana-Duke game.
The Hoosiers got a lousy game from D.J. White, and didn’t anything going from the outside (Armon Bassett’s 4-for-5 game from beyond the Arc last night notwithstanding). But, like a lot of Kelvin Sampson’s teams, they slowed the game down, played stout defense and managed to cut a 15-point deficit to two with about a minute left.
But when Duke couldn’t out the game away, the Hoosiers couldn’t capitalize. White had a shot blocked by Josh McRoberts with about 70 seconds left, Indiana couldn’t get another good look, and missed two more opportunities for its golden chance to hand Duke its first loss in the ACC-Big Ten Challenge.
At some point, the Big Ten is going to win one of these things, right? How, I don’t know. But an Ohio State win over UNC would be a big push.
• Nov. 27 | 10:45 p.m. PT
At least one hot seat getting warmer
There are plenty of coaches who could use a big season to save their jobs (Michigan’s Tommy Amaker, Oregon’s Ernie Kent and Wyoming’s Steve McClain — at least among my friends — would head that list) but after the first few weeks of the season, one coach is already having some trouble.
Minnesota’s Dan Monson.
Monson, who set the stage for Gonzaga’s emergence as a hoops power when he took the Bulldogs to the Elite Eight with that remarkable 1999 run, took over at Minnesota after the Clem Haskins academic debacle that landed the school on a four-year probationary period, a loss of some scholarships and even had some of the fallout land in court.
So Monson cleaned house, got the Gophers to the 2005 NCAA Tournament and guided them to a winning record without much talent last season. Still, Monson didn’t seem to have a vote of confidence and was rumored to be taking the coaching job at Idaho, his alma mater.
Not so. Monson instead focused on this season, one that could resemble that 2005 year when Minnesota went 21-11 and grabbed that Big Dance bid.
But this season his Gophers (2-4) have lost four straight games, the latest a 72-65 loss to Montana in the seventh place game of the Old Spice Classic. You know you’ve hit rock bottom when three mid-major schools have their way with you.
Monson told the St. Paul Pioneer Press that he hoped the tougher nonconference schedule would make his team tougher, but it hasn’t worked. “I had more confidence that we would play better than we have now. We are very fragile.”
Minnesota has winnable games against Clemson (Wednesday), Arizona State and UAB coming up, but they’re crucial games. Without getting at least two victories, the Gophers would be hovering around .500 when Big Ten play begins — and they’ll be hard pressed to come out of the season with 10 wins.
And that would just about end his tenure in Minnesota.
(Quick aside on Amaker: It’s his sixth season at Michigan — he’s 93-72 in that span— but the Wolverines haven’t been to the NCAA during his tenure. After a 7-0 start this season, Michigan suffered its first loss of the season Monday to N.C. State. Not bad? Hardly. Only one of the teams the Wolverines have beaten has a winning record and only three of them had winning records last year. Michigan has four more cupcakes, then plays UCLA and Georgetown before starting Big Ten conference play. The NIT may loom again or may he may face the same fate as Monson.)
• Anytime you can watch Eastern Washington play, spare a few minutes. Rodney Stuckey (the nation’s leading returning scorer) gave Washington fits on Friday night, and he saved the Eagles on Monday against Cal State-Fullerton. At 6-foot-4, Stuckey can get his shot off against any guard, but he doesn’t take many bad shots, either. Here’s hoping he gets Eastern into the NCAA Tournament so he can strut his stuff in March.
• Nov. 25 | 11:45 p.m. PT
Now who’s the 1?
No, this doesn’t mean Oral Roberts is the country’s best team.
Florida’s loss simply reinforces that college basketball’s early season is a wild ride worth watching. When it comes time to fill out your bracket, though, you may need to chuck those mental notes.
Just over a week ago, Kansas lost to Oral Roberts — at home. That Kansas team was slow, didn’t shoot very well and couldn’t defend the three-point shot. In Saturday’s win over No. 1 Florida, the Jayhawks still weren’t great at defending the three-pointer, but its interior passing and defense improved enough to beat a team that hadn’t lost in 17 games.
But the KU win shouldn’t have been a huge surprise.
Kansas is as loaded as any team in the country. And early season upsets are more common than Coach K commercials in March. Just this week, five top 10 teams lost (No. 2 North Carolina, No. 6 LSU, No. 7 Wisconsin, No. 8 Georgetown and No. 9 Duke).
This begs the question: who is the nation’s No. 1 team? (Vote here.)
This is the time of year when the good teams are sorted out from the preseason hype and when good teams simply take turns beating on each other. That’s the best part of all the early season exhibitions — we’re often treated to NCAA Tournament-esque games.
And it doesn’t stop here, either. Starting Monday, the ACC-Big Ten challenge kicks off and we get to watch UNC play Ohio State. Indiana against Duke. Boston College-Michigan State. Maryland-Illinois.
The point is, a lot of this doesn’t mean much come March. The regular season is when teams gain experience and build their tournament résumés. The Gators know this because their coach, Billy Donovan, said so during last season’s title run.
“I’ve never been a big believer that the Tournament has any correlation to the regular season. It just doesn’t. It’s a total, separate, different entity,” he said. “You could start this tournament over again, and you could have a totally different group of Final Four teams.”
That’s a fair statement. It’s what makes the Big Dance so fun and one of sport’s great events.
But here’s hoping we can see a rematch of Saturday’s game on April 2 in Atlanta. Watching Kansas beat Florida would be even sweeter then.
• Nov. 24 | 7 p.m. PT
Best team in Indiana
What is it, 2003 all over again?
As a 12 seed in the NCAA Tournament three years ago, Butler stunned No. 5 Mississippi State and No. 4 Louisville (Darnell Archey just buried the Cardinals, funky jump shot and all). Friday night, the Bulldogs capped a marvelous run in the Preseason NIT with a dominating win over Gonzaga.
The Indianapolis-based school had already beat in-state rivals Notre Dame and Indiana on Nov. 13 and 14, then shut down No. 22 Tennessee on Nov. 22 to reach the NIT finals.
This makes the Bulldogs, in the post-George Mason era, a mid-major to watch come March — though they’re not a lock for the Big Dance. They’ll have some serious competition in the Horizon League from Wisconsin-Green Bay and Loyola (Ill.). Still, even if they don’t claim the automatic berth, their RPI should be high enough to warrant serious consideration no matter how they finish in the league tournament.
And, for those Indiana residents keeping score, Butler plays five more in-state foes in an upcoming six-game run: at Valparaiso on Nov. 29, Ball State on Dec. 6, at Indiana State on Dec. 9, Purdue on Dec. 16 and Evansville on Dec. 22. That’s a nice bit of bus travel.
• First it was the cover of Sports Illustrated. Now it’s certified team leader. Turns out Washington’s Jon Brockman is the guy who steps into Brandon Roy’s leadership role. Still, freshman center Spencer Hawes and guard Justin Dentmon remain the keys to the Huskies’ season — especially when the defense struggles.
• Anyone who wondered if UCLA would miss point guard Jordan Farmar this season had quite a few questions answered in the Maui Invite. The Bruins, who beat Georgia Tech for the crown, are getting enough from Darren Collison, Luc Richard Mbah a Moute and Lorenzo Mata to keep them in the top 10 all season. Of course, they’ll still need Aaron Afflalo and Josh Shipp to be great to make another run to the Final Four.
• Kentucky, after losing to UCLA in the Maui semis, seems like a longshot to make the Final Four. But the Wildcats should be formidable in the SEC. And I still wouldn’t want to play them in March.
• Nov. 21 | 2:15 p.m. PT
The lighter side of Bob Knight
You didn’t know he had a lighter side, did you?
Knight’s Red Raiders were KO’d from the Guardians ... er ... the CBE Classic on Monday, which did prevent Knight from coaching against his former player and assistant coach, Mike Krzyzewski. After his much-hyped “slap” of a player last week, the matchup would’ve provided some much-needed on-court time for the General.
But Marquette — which my buddy Casey said used a marvelous zone defense that stifled Tech’s motion offense and became, as any Marquette grad would be, giddy for the Golden Eagles’ chances in the Big East this season — played the spoiler and ruined any future fodder from the game.
(Not that I’m complaining. Duke vs. Marquette will be a better game than Tech-Duke would’ve been. It just doesn’t have that added intrigue.)
So we turn to Norman Chad for the fodder and the lighter side of Knight’s history. I particularly like this aside from 1982. “Yells maniacally at ESPN's Dick Vitale, but, as luck would have it, at that very moment Vitale is also yelling maniacally and does not hear a word that Knight says.”
• J.R. Giddens never won over the crowd at Kansas, mostly because he was never the slashing, full-court player people expected him to be when Roy Williams recruited him. Instead, Giddens was a guy who stayed around the three-point line and was never an adequate defender. That said, I’m glad to see he’s thriving at New Mexico. A player of his talents should be able to find an offensive scheme that suits his abilities (like Williams’ would have...)
• Nov. 20 | 11:30 p.m. PT
The late shift
After a stinker of a Monday Night Football game (the Giants either look great or awful this season, no in-between), the college hoops action was an even bigger treat than expected.
• In what used to be called the Guardians Classic, there was no slapping or much yelling by Bob Knight in Texas Tech’s loss to Marquette. He never had the chance because the Eagles “jumped all over us.” Marquette showcased its defensive intensity, which is something to brag about against a Knight-coached team. Usually his squads are the ones playing the stiff man-to-man.
And, though I’ll enjoy watching Marquette’s Dominic James take on the Blue Devil defense, (headed by DeMarcus Nelson and his timely steals in a win over Air Force that coach Mike Krzyzewski said his squad was “fortunate” to win) it would’ve been cool to see Coach K go against Knight, especially when his mentor is so close to breaking Smith’s career wins record.
• UCLA didn’t mess around with hosts Chaminade at the Maui Invite. Good thing, too. They’ll have to be ready for Kentucky. The Wildcats got all they could handle from DePaul (which looks like it could be a factor in the Big East this season; the Demons were aggressive and looked pretty athletic) but it must be reassuring for Tubby Smith to see center Randolph Morris make the difference down the stretch. I’m guessing this could be the game to watch in Maui, much the way Gonzaga-Michigan State was last year.
• Oregon coach Ernie Kent is hoping for more of this: Aaron Brooks scored 30 as the Ducks beat Rice (and its high-scoring guard Morris Almond) on the road.
• Finally, I haven’t seen them play yet, but I’ll be watching for VMI. The Keydets have outscored their opponents 300-222 in their last two games.
• Nov. 20 | 6:30 p.m. PT
The early roundup
Some of the labels ESPN throws out stink (Separation Saturday? Does every big day/week have to have a moniker?), but some, like Feast Week, are apt and only make me want to watch college hoops, even when the Giants are playing MNF.
The early games didn’t have many surprises, so check back again later tonight or tomorrow morning for thoughts on the late action.
• Memphis was “a team trying to play fast” in its win over Oklahoma at the Maui Invitational. But what really stuck out about John Calipari’s squad is the talent and balance that remains from last year’s loaded squad that ran roughshod over C-USA and made it to the Elite Eight. This year’s version starts three sophomores and a freshman — resulting in 18 turnovers — but figures to only get better.
• After an 11-17 season, Georgia Tech is a lock for the Big Dance this season. Freshmen Javaris Crittenton and Thaddeus Young are that good. Exhibit A: Throttling Purdue.
• It’s a whole new world out there, fans. Texas A&M is the highest rated team in the Big 12. (At least in the coaches’ poll...)
• Nov. 19 | 9:30 p.m. PT
A recap, preview
Who knew the week of the Ohio State-Michigan showdown would have so much college hoops news and killer games? Some quick thoughts on the week I missed pontificating...
• Bobby Knight’s “slap” of one of his players created a huge stir, as one might expect. But in all the reaction that followed, whether people defended him, or said it was another boneheaded move, the whole thing just seemed like the kind of event that only someone like Knight — or Terrell Owens — could generate.
• Other notable games? Georgetown’s loss to Old Dominion, Jermareo Davidson made his return to ’Bama, Creighton lost the battle of Nebraska, Drew Neitzel stunned Texas in the NIT, only to have Maryland shock the Spartans the next night and Virginia opened the week with a killer win over Arizona.
• And, on a different note, why did a college hoops hall of fame just now get started? Guess they needed to wait for the most amazing founding class of all time.
• So what now? It’s tournament time for most teams.
The Maui Invitational has its usual stellar field (this one headed by Kentucky, Oklahoma, Georgia Tech and UCLA), the old Guardians Classic (now called the College Basketball Experience Classic) has its championship game Tuesday and the Great Alaskan Shootout is already underway as is the Las Vegas Invitational — though the potential title-game showdown of Florida-Kansas has lost a little luster.
Need more? The Sporting News’ Mike DeCourcy offers his thoughts on which will be the best to watch. I’m waiting for Saturday, myself.
• Nov. 12 | 10:30 a.m. PT
On your mark...
Kansas fans have been waiting three years for this.
Roy Williams’ Jayhawk teams pushed the pace relentlessly (still do at North Carolina, in fact), while Bill Self’s squads tend to focus on defense and working out of a half-court offense. Not that they couldn’t run, but it wasn’t all-out like Williams’ teams.
Well, if Saturday’s win over North Arizona is any indication, those high-speed ’Hawks are here for the 2006-07 season. With their defensive intensity, depth and talent, the Jayhawks know “everyone can get up and down the floor” and make life miserable for opponents.
To be clear, KU isn’t “40 Minutes of Hell,” as Self said after Saturday’s win. “That’s not who we are anyway. But I think we can play much faster offensively. I still think we can play faster. … Certainly the pace is better than it has been, but I think we can play faster.”
Faster is good, especially for those of us eagerly awaiting the Nov. 25 game against defending national champion Florida. Without an experienced big man to slow down Joakim Noah, KU will have to push the pace against the Gators.
Makes one wonder why that showdown is only on ESPN2...
• George Mason opened its season in non-Final Four fashion and nearly lost at the same time.
• Duke’s Josh McRoberts says he’s “a completely different person” on the court than he is off of it.
• That’s it from me for a week — vacation time. But check our college hoops homepage for the latest news and game stories.
• Nov. 11 | 11:15 a.m. PT
Worth your time
Sure, it’s from our college basketball expert, Ken Davis, but this piece on Pittsburgh coach Jamie Dixon is one of those stories that sticks with you.
Dixon’s sister, Maggie, died of a heart arrhythmia in April at the age of 28. She had just finished her first season as the Army women’s basketball team, guiding the Cadets to the NCAA Tournament, when her death stunned the Dixon family and basketball community.
Seven months later, Dixon has helped set up the ‘Maggie Dixon Classic,’ which he hopes will be a tournament that both honors his sister and helps be a little ‘therapeutic’ for him. Dixon would call his sister often during the season, usually late at night when the two would have free time to talk about hoops and each other’s day.
Needless to say, he still misses her.
It’s her memory that he hopes sparks the ‘Classic’ into an big-time annual event. This year’s version has his Panthers playing Western Michigan, while the Army women play Ohio State in the second half of Sunday’s twinbill.
Expect some great basketball in honor of a great coach.
• If there was any remaining doubts about Ben Howland at UCLA (and there were few after last year’s run to the title game), getting arguably the nation’s top recruit erased them.
• Bob Huggins convinces another top-ranked prospect to come to Manhattan, Kan. Big 12 coaches are taking note of what’s happening at K-State.
• Nov. 9 | 10:30 p.m. PT
The main course is coming up
The lone Top 25 game on Thursday wasn’t much of a game, but deserves a quick mention.
Texas lost five starters from last year’s team that reached the Elite Eight, but started this season off with an easy win over Alcorn State. More important? Heralded freshman Kevin Durant already seems like the team’s go-to guy. Durant is one of the few freshmen who could give Ohio State center Greg Oden a run for freshman of the year.
The ’Horns’ win was the first Top 25 game of the season, but the season starts in earnest on Friday.
Eleven Top 25 teams start the season, including defending champion Florida, two SEC teams hoping to dethrone the Gators in Alabama and Tennessee, Big East powers UConn, Marquette and Syracuse, a couple of ACC contenders in Georgia Tech and Boston College, Top 25 newbie Texas A&M, Ohio State (sans Oden) and the newest mid-major power in Nevada, with its Wooden Award candidate and All-American Nick Fazekas.
It’s nice to have a Friday with college hoops, let alone one with so many quality teams. When the season gets going, that kind of Friday night action is rare — and I plan to enjoy it while I can.
With all that said, turn your attention to three of our special features for this season, if you haven’t already. They’ll help you get ready for all that viewing.
• If you’re late to the party, you’ll need the basics with our Top 25 preview.
• And if you don’t have a schedule handy, click here for the biggest games of the season.
• Finally, George Mason’s run to last year’s Final Four was one of the great feats in sports history. What teams could duplicate that feat this season?
• Nov. 8 | 11 a.m. PT
Nice 12-hour period for Maryland basketball.
The men’s team opened the season Tuesday night with a 102-75 win over Hampton in the 2K Sports College Hoops Classic (a.k.a Coaches vs. Cancer) and turns around to play against Wednesday night against Vermont.
Gary Williams’ team is seeking its first NCAA Tournament berth since 2004 (he thinks the ACC should be “more aggressive in publicizing the conference” after it received just four bids last season) and seemed pleased with the Terps’ start. He “was glad to play a lot of guys” in a fairly frantic game compared to last season, according to Ken Pomeroy.
It’s unclear if Maryland, which finished 19-10 last season, will benefit from that type of play, but it can’t hurt, either. The Terps are one of the country’s most athletic teams around the perimeter.
The next morning, the Maryland women’s team was voted the overwhelming No. 1 in the preseason AP poll. The Terps, who won the school’s first women’s NCAA Tournament last season, should be among the top 5 all season.
They return second-team All-American Crystal Langhorne and guards Shay Doron and Marissa Coleman (all three are preseason Wooden Award candidates) and bring in high-profile transfers Christie Marrone (Virginia Tech) and Sa’de Wiley-Gatewood (Tennessee).
Will they compete with the men’s squad for headlines in the D.C. area? Maybe. But they both could play second fiddle to the resurgent Georgetown Hoyas...
• Nov. 8 | 10 a.m. PT
Here’s a big congratulations to Mr. Miller’s undefeated 7th grade football team, which capped its season with a 2-0 win on Tuesday. Good work, Goodson.
• Nov. 7 | 7:15 p.m. PT
From bad, to worse, to gone
Just when C.J. Giles got another chance, he blew it.
Days after reinstating the junior center, Kansas dismissed Giles from the team Tuesday for a “pattern of irresponsible behavior and disrespect for team rules.” That behavior, was, simply put, for getting rough with a woman.
Giles was ticketed by police Monday night for misdemeanor battery on a female student and admitted to police that he dragged her across the floor by her hair, but did not hit her in the head. Yeah, that’s great, C.J. At least you didn’t hit her.
The woman reportedly refused to leave Giles’ room.
The school announced last week that Giles would not play in any games this semester, this coming a few weeks after coach Bill Self told the media that Giles was barred from practices until he resolved “personal issues.” Those personal issues included allegations of owing $4,097 in child support to the mother of his 1-year-old son.
Self said Monday that the school was “not now making a judgment about guilt or innocence” regarding Giles’ behavior, but that it could not have him as part of the program because he keeps “putting himself in a situation in which negative things can happen.”
Giles’ future won’t be in Kansas, though I’m sure some team will take a chance on an athletic, 6-foot-11 center. I just hope, for Giles’ sake and his future girlfriends’ sakes, that he can finally resolve those personal issues.
• Texas Tech shows Kansas how to handle a problematic player.
• No surprise here: Manhattan, Kan., is quickly becoming Bob Huggins’ town. And the season just started...
• Kentucky may have found itself a stud in freshman Parry Stevenson. At the very least, he’ll be a great complement to Randolph Morris.
• Star Washington recruit Isaiah Thomas (yes, he’s a point guard, not he’s not that Isiah) has academic issues, which may prevent him from being a Husky next season.
• Nov. 6 | 7:30 p.m. PT
Who’s No. 1 and who’s overrated
The AP men’s poll landed Monday, which, predictably, had Florida as the overwhelming No. 1 team. North Carolina, with its top-ranked recruiting class, got the only other No. 1 votes, while Kansas, Pittsburgh and LSU rounded out the top five.
There weren’t many surprises, though Ohio State is probably ranked too high at No. 7, as our college hoops expert, Ken Davis, writes this week. Also too high? Memphis at 14 (not a top 25 team, but will have a good record because C-USA stinks), UConn at 18 (too young right now), Syracuse at 20 (maybe after Christmas) and Georgia Tech at 23 (let’s wait to see how the Jackets do after Maui).
Southern Illinois and Indiana both should be ranked (the Salukis may be the country’s best defensive team and the Hoosiers will give the Buckeyes a run for the Big Ten title).
Why the AP and coaches both underestimate the Hoosiers is beyond me. As blogger John Gasaway writes, Indiana may have trouble scoring, but their defense will be vastly improved thanks to D.J. White’s return (better on the interior) and because of new coach Kelvin Sampson (only one of the best defensive coaches in the country).
The Hoosiers are the team no one wants to play this season. They may not have Eric Gordon yet, but they’re worthy of the top 25 right now.
• Nov. 5 | 6:10 p.m. PT
Great read on a Sunday
The most amazing stat I read today is not game-related.
There are seven black men’s basketball head coaches in the 12-team ACC. That’s more than any other major conference in men’s hoops — and two more than in all of D-I football. That’s out of 117 football schools.
Like I said, amazing.
This excellent article from the Raleigh News & Observer starts off with new N.C. State coach Sidney Lowe excited about taking the Wolfpack’s reins, then goes into detail about the conference’s history of hiring black coaches, what they had to deal with and what the black coach has to deal with today.
The ACC’s first black coach, Bob Wade, was hired by Maryland in 1986 after Lefty Dreisell resigned after the Len Bias tragedy. As one might expect for a guy breaking a color barrier, Wade dealt with hate mail and racial slurs painted on his home. It wasn’t easy, but league coaches like N.C. State’s Jim Valvano, UNC’s Dean Smith and Georgia Tech’s Bobby Cremins all consulted with Wade and offered support.
Wade’s hiring didn’t make it easier to hire other black coaches, though. He resigned in 1989 and the ACC didn’t have another black head coach until Florida State hired Steve Robinson in 1997. After Robinson, ACC schools hired black coaches like Clemson’s Oliver Purnell, Georgia Tech’s Paul Hewitt and brought in schools that already had black coaches like Boston College’s Al Skinner.
And it’s Hewitt that emerges as the article’s star giving credit to groundbreaking black coaches like John Chaney and John Thompson and shrugs off the notion that one of the main reasons schools hire black coaches is for recruiting.
After all, he says, Duke’s Mike Krzyzewski and North Carolina’s Roy Williams recruit as well as anyone.
But more than anything else, Hewitt emphasizes the need for more black head football coaches — and not just because they’re black, but because they’re good coaches.
Which isn’t new news.
The Black Coaches Association issues reports every year that stress the need for more black coaches and for search committees to consider black coaches more often, and not just in the college ranks, either.
Men’s basketball isn’t teeming with black head coaches — the seven major conferences combine for 25 coaches (the ACC has seven, the SEC, Big East, Big 12 and Pac-10 all have three, the Big Ten two and Conference USA four) out of 89 schools — but at nearly 30 percent, it’s far better than every other major sport.
It comes down to this: In a sport where the majority of players are black, there must be plenty of qualified coaching candidates. And the sport should reflect that.
• Nov. 4 | 10:30 a.m. PT
Eddie’s good news
Former Oklahoma State coach Eddie Sutton was found unconscious in his car outside of a Stillwater convenience store on Friday, which was the type of news that makes your stomach drop.
Sutton, 70, resigned as the Cowboys’ coach last season, about three months after a drunken driving accident caused him to miss the team’s final 10 games. He had already designated his son, Sean, as the team’s future head coach, which just meant Sean took over the program from his dad sooner than expected.
But for Eddie, a guy who has had health issues in the past and battled with the demons of alcohol, initial reports of him being taken to a hospital had to be worrisome. At his age, anytime one heads to the hospital is a big deal.
Thankfully, it wasn’t related to his alcohol issues last season. Officials said that his hospitalization was because of an allergic reaction to new medication for neck pain. He was released Friday night and even attended the Cowboys’ exhibition win over Pittsburg State.
A relapse from Sutton would have been surprising.
He recently spoke about the need for more substance-abuse programs for OSU students, even raising the hope for a building dedicated to dependency rehabilitation. Sutton’s worked hard to rehabilitate his own image after last season’s end, which is fitting for one of the game’s most un-heralded coaches.
The man won 798 games in his career, eighth all-time among all NCAA coaches and fifth among D-I coaches. He took four different teams to the NCAA Tournament and reached three Final Fours in 36 years at Creighton, Arkansas, Kentucky and OSU. He’s one of the game’s legends, especially when it comes to coaching defense.
So when he can recover from a health scare like the one of Friday, it’s nothing but good news. Legends deserve all the time they can get.
• Nov. 3 | 4:30 p.m. PT
Go West, young man
I have no idea if Horace Greeley was a hoops fan. Just wanted to use the line to talk about the Pac-10.
UCLA was picked to repeat as conference champions, despite losing point guard Jordan Farmar, center Ryan Hollins and all-around guard/forward Cedric Bozeman. I suppose voters weren’t sure what Arizona and Washington had yet — except for two of the country’s best freshmen in Chase Budinger (’Zona) and Spencer Hawes (Washington) — and can’t expect much from Oregon yet.
Or they could just be focused on Aaron Afflalo, who will probably be conference player of the year, and the return of guard Josh Shipp, who says his reconstructed hip is still sore, but has been explosive in practice and exhibitions so far. Throw in sophomores Luc Mbah a Moute and Darren Collison, and the Bruins should be good again.
But I’ll reserve judgement until we get to see Arizona in action (does anyone put together more explosive teams than Lute Olson?) and what awaits the Huskies with a healthy Hawes. Lorenzo Romar’s team will fiddle with its lineups until Hawes, a 7-foot center, recovers from knee surgery.
Also, it looks like luring coach Herb Sendek away from N.C. State has paid off for Arizona State. The Sun Devils, for once, aren’t picked to finish last in the league. Still doesn’t mean they’ll contend for any titles, though. They don’t have any talent.
• As expected, Greg Paulus’ injury is already helping the Blue Devils. Freshman Jon Scheyer ran the point in their exhibition win on Thursday. He didn’t blow anyone away, but coach Mike Krzyzyewski said it was good for Scheyer to run the offense instead of working on his spot-up shooting. Bad news for Duke opponents down the road.
• If there’s a silver lining for Iowa in Mike Henderson’s broken pinkie finger, it’s that he’ll only miss 3-6 weeks. The Hawkeyes can’t afford to be without the senior guard any longer than six weeks. Their roster already has too many question marks.
• Nov. 1 | 10:30 p.m. PT
An exhibition roundup
The real season starts in less than a week (Tuesday, in fact), which means we’re still in the meaningless round of exhibitions. Still, here’s some of the more interesting games from Wednesday.
• North Carolina used 13 players in an easy win over St. Augustine’s, but apparently no one was as impressive as freshman Brandan Wright. He had 15 of his 19 points in the first half, showing off his considerable athleticism for some easy dunks. It’ll be interesting to see how Roy Williams manages all that talent and divides playing time.
That was one of the impressive wins. Not so much with some others.
• Syracuse did beat Bryant University, but had 24 turnovers in the process. Ouch.
• UConn had trouble with its ballhandling and passing in a win over American International. Their defense also was sloppy. Then again, few teams are younger than the Huskies this season.
• Another less-than impressive display came from Maryland, which held off California University of Pennsylvania 79-78. The D-II school made a run late in the second half, which forced the Terps to hit some late free throws.
• Louisville didn’t start freshman forward Derrick Caracter, but needed every bit of his 25 points and 11 rebounds to beat NAIA school Georgetown of Kentucky.
• And in non-exhibition news, the Florida-Kansas game on Nov. 25 in Las Vegas could be a long day for the Jayhawks. Who’s gonna guard Joakim Noah?
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