The West Playoff Picture Went Down to the Wire and the Clippers Might Have Caught a Break

April 17th, 2014

Heading to Orange County for dinner with a few college friends. Of course, going to OC also gives us a chance to check in on #1 son, Andy, and see how our 25 year old is doing. The fact he lives with a couple roommates, a block from the ocean in Newport Beach, is a pretty big hint that all is well. He’s working for Booker, a company that sells software - mainly to health clubs, spas and salons. I’ve been privy to a demo presentation and, while I’m from another century, even a novice like me can see what Booker is selling will result in increased income for businesses. It’s easy to see why Andy, who is extremely tech savvy, loves the field he’s in and, for parents, that’s really comforting.

This blog will return Sunday, April 20.

The last game of the NBA season meant nothing to nearly everybody so, naturally, KD still went off for 42 - half of them in the fourth quarter - when you thought he’d be resting. Sure, Oklahoma City needed to win to lock up the #2 seed in the West (or have the Clippers lose) but did they get what they really wanted? Now, because of the other game out West that had playoff implications (Dallas-Memphis), OKC gets the Grizzlies (who beat Dallas for the #7 seed, sending the Mavs to San Antonio for round one). Also, it means the Clippers host the Warriors who 1) they have a mutual “hate” affair with and 2) they get to play without Andrew Bogut. The two teams split their four contests this season.

The Mavs and Grizzlies were both assured a playoff series (and the playoff shares they get for it), yet the game was hotly contested, in fact, not being decided until OT. It came down to the final second when Dallas ran a great OB play to get a open look for Monta Ellis. His jumper fell off the rim, sending the Mavs to San Antonio and a formidable challenge (the Spurs swept the four games with them this season). The Griz, meanwhile, go to OKC which will be no slice of heaven but more of a do-able goal than playing the Spurs.

Had OKC lost and the Clips won, however, the Thunder would have played depleted Golden State and Memphis would have traveled to LA, a team they’d certainly be underdogs to, yet one they’ve played well against in the past, beating them two of out three this year. Recall, last year, the Grizzlies knocked out the Clippers, coming from a 0-2 game deficit to win four in a row.

Maybe the Thunder will dispose of the Grizzlies in short order and all of this will be moot. It just seems like OKC would have had an easier go of it against the Andrew Bogut-less Warriors than they will against Memphis. Additionally, wouldn’t it have been much tougher for the Clippers to get past Memphis than Golden State? It might never have happened even if the Thunder lost because the Clippers followed that game. Had they lost it (like they did), the playoff picture would be just as it is.

The Eastern version of the NBA playoffs will be interesting because of how the top two teams, clearly better than the others early on, struggled during the second half of the season. The West, on the other hand, will have its intrigue because of how good all its teams are. The goal, as always, is to win the last game of the year - although don’t mention that to the Lakers who actually did it.

Maybe the moral for them this year should have been:

“Be careful what you wish for, you may just get it.”

Why Would Cuonzo Martin Leave Tennessee for Cal?

April 16th, 2014

Cuonzo Martin was never a good fit at the University of Tennessee mainly because no one would have been a good fit there. Not after Bruce Pearl - who was the perfect fit - was fired. Pearl had revived a moribund program. He was exactly what Vols’ fans had longed for - a successful strategist, a terrific recruiter with an effervescent personality and, to boot, he was a true showman. Then he broke (minor) NCAA rules. The university came out in support of him but after it was proven he’d lied to the NCAA authorities, they cut him loose. When the coach is beloved, that never matters to fans. Nothing does. I was an assistant coach at UT from 1980-87. Even got married in Knoxville - to a Tennessee graduate. Consequently, to this day, I have many, many good friends who are diehard Big Orange supporters. Quite a few told me Bruce Pearl reminded them of a certain former beloved Tennessee coach.

The history of Tennessee basketball, more or less, begins with the late Ray Mears, a coach from Division II power Wittenburg (see how the natives react if UT’s administration tries hiring a D-II coach, even one who won a national championship and whose record is 121-23 overall and 69-7 in conference like Coach Mears’ was). He blew into Knoxville and coached there for 15 years without a losing record, until he retired. Most importantly, however, he bucked the notion that the SEC was a football-only league. Back then, Kentucky’s Adolph Rupp was the bully of SEC basketball and the rest of the conference didn’t mind as long as UK remained a doormat in football.

This infuriated Ray Mears who felt his school, the others be damned, would fight and claw against the Wildcats. He turned everything in Knoxville orange during prospects’ recruiting visits - including the toilet paper. If ever a man was consumed by his job, it was this Ohio native. He had been thinking that although UT’s mascot was the Volunteers, he needed to separate his program from the others. One day while driving to work, he saw the giant billboard, advertising Marlboro cigarettes, proclaiming “This is Marlboro Country” and, eureka! he found his solution. Yeah, it was Ray Mears who coined the phrase Big Orange Country. He also proudly wore a flamboyant bright orange blazer on the sidelines. Battled Kentucky tooth-and-nail, too. The SEC is now known as a football and basketball conference because of Ray Mears.

Tennessee had been searching for him ever since. And then Bruce Pearl appeared from Wisconsin-Milwaukee, fresh off of a 26-6, Sweet Sixteen year. His tenure at UW-M was preceded by nine years at Southern Indiana - and a Division II national championship (maybe UT ought to look at a D-II coach after all). He embraced football - and Pat Summitt (the best coach, male or female, regardless of sport, I’ve ever been around in 30 years of college coaching at 9 different schools). Pearl was smart enough to know that being third in Knoxville was better than being first most other places.

As far as Martin’s departure from Tennessee for Cal, “in-the-know” basketball people will claim that being the basketball coach at Cal is actually a better job than its counterpart at UT. Granted, money in Knoxville goes a heckuva lot farther than it does in the Bay Area - and there’s a lot more of it for the hoops coach. There are two major reasons for this: the schools in the SEC get more bowl and television revenue than those in the Pac-12 and there’s this structure in Knoxville. The football stadium at UT is named after General Robert Neyland, the former director of athletics and football coach who made the Vols a national football power. Ground-breaking was in 1921 and the stadium, which had an original capacity of 3200, has been expanded 13 times - to its present capacity of 102,455 (although the attendance record is 109,061).

There are season tickets available but the least expensive will average out to be over $100 per game (based on 8 home games), once the cost of the annual donation is included. Multiply times a whole lot of tickets and that will give you several million in revenue per game - just in ticket sales. Throw in concessions, souvenirs and parking (example: there are shuttle buses from Farragut HS, about a 30 min drive, for $15 so figure . . . a lot for parking/shuttles).

Yet, as the cliche goes, “recruiting is the lifeblood of college athletics” and I’ve held a strong belief that the more fertile recruiting base a college has around it, the easier it is to recruit (football is different due to UT’s gridiron tradition). My philosophy is not just that young kids want to play in front of their family and friends but that, if you don’t have a strong local recruiting base, you’re always in someone else’s backyard, trying to convince them to leave home. Oakland has a history of producing great players, plus the state of California sends more college players than any other. Sure, Memphis has more than its share of big-time basketball players but, while I can’t recall the exact number offhand when I worked there, it was somewhere in the neighborhood of 32 Division I colleges that are closer to Memphis that the 300 mile distance that’s between there and Knoxville, so while they share the same state, Memphis is in many other’s backyard. On another note, UT has successfully recruited the Memphis area, keep in mind that the University of Memphis has always been at the bottom of the college feeding chain while their hoops’ squad is a perennial top 20 basketball team.

Martin was anything but loved - even after he took the Vols to the Sweet Sixteen - because he wasn’t Bruce Pearl. Now he doesn’t have to be. Nor does he have to be Mike Montgomery. Or Pete Newell. Or even Dick Edwards (who coached there in the ’70s). Although thousands of Tennessee fans signed a petition to bring Pearl back (while Martin was still coaching), they didn’t get him (Auburn did, further upsetting Big Orange Country). UT will hire someone (soon) and, if history is any indication, the fans will adopt the “Show Me” philosophy of one of their bordering states. Yet, the old adage will in all likelihood still remain true:

“Things turn out best for people who make the best out of the way things turn out.”


This Article and Subsequent Interview May, or May Not, Frighten You

April 14th, 2014

Trip to Stanford Pain Management for my standard procedure. This blog will return Wednesday, April 16.

Just as I was about to blog on the upcoming NBA playoffs, I came across an article which looked interesting. I had Googled “NBA Standings” to see which match up(s) intrigued me most and when I scrolled down to the bottom of the page, I saw an article about the NBA draft, so I thought I’d do a little investigative work for future blogs. It was when I got to the bottom of that article, a headline caught my eye.

Meet the Bag Man: The 10 rules for buying college recruits was the title. Steven Godfrey is the author of the piece that was posted on April 10. It was limited to SEC football recruiting but he inferred that it was pretty much universal and included big-time basketball recruiting, too. Since I had recruited basketball prospects on the college level for many years (including seven of them at the University of Tennessee), I clicked on and started reading. At the end of what would qualify as a substantial book excerpt, there is an extended (over 42 minutes) interview with the author.

This piece isn’t about out-of-control boosters such as the U of Miami’s infamous Nevin Shapiro. It deals with an organized network of people who desire to see their favorite school win and how they go about obtaining players. Rather than post a synopsis of it here, I strongly recommend you clear about an hour from your schedule. It can be found @sbnation.com. First read the article, then listen to the interview - whether you want to read the 1355 (as of now) comments depends on how much time and/or how interested a fan of SEC football recruiting you are.

While it’s easy to gossip, Godfrey claims he actually experienced, first-hand, an encounter with a bag man and a prospect. Naturally, he names no names but makes quite a compelling case of rampant abuse. In no way does he violate the old Yiddish proverb:

“What you don’t see with your eyes, don’t invent with your mouth.”

Past Blog Brings Back Fond Memories

April 13th, 2014

Yesterday I was with some friends and, as people our age enjoy doing, we started reminiscing. When the topic got around to baseball and who our favorite players were, I recalled blogging about mine. Here’s a reprint from 4/17/08.

If you were a kid growing up in New Jersey in the early ’50s, you rooted for one of three teams - the New York Yankees, the New York Giants or, my favorite, the Brooklyn Dodgers.  Although my father was a die-hard Yankees fan, he was a good enough sport (and good enough dad) to take me to Ebbets Field, home of my beloved Bums (my father always claimed I was brain washed by my mother’s side of the family, all of whom hailed from Brooklyn).

The first time we ever went to Ebbets Field, I was four years old.  My father was a toll collector for the New Jersey Turnpike and my mother was a secretary so disposable income was tough to come by and, although my father scraped the money together for a couple of train tickets (by far the most economical means to get to the city) and two tickets, we were watching the game from the nosebleed section (which was totally fine with me - hey, I was at a Dodger game! - and, to be perfectly honest, Ebbets Field was such a bandbox, any seat was a good one - unless you got stuck behind a pole).

I can remember many of the fans in our section being black and one, when he saw me, asked, “Hey, little fella, who’re you for?”  Now, one thing you’re going to get from a four-year-old kid is an honest answer (lying doesn’t become part of a youngster’s makeup until a few years later), so I looked up, wide-eyed and said, “The Dodgers!”  This was shortly after Jackie Robinson had broken the color barrier and the country was still divided on the race issue.  “Hey, get this kid a Coke - and a hot dog.  Get his old man a beer.”  We were subjected to the royal treatment.

I didn’t know why, but I figured out I must have given the right answer.  We might have gotten a chauffeured ride back to Jersey if they would have asked who my favorite player was because Jackie Robinson was my childhood idol.  All I saw was a guy who could hit, field, run bases, was strong and handled himself with so much class and dignity.  I’m sure I had no idea what class and dignity were at that point in my life, but I knew I wanted to be just like Jackie.

Don’t get me wrong: Erskine, Newk, Labine, Black, Spooner, Campy, Hodges, Gilliam, PeeWee, Cox, Amoros, the Duke, Furillo, all had their baseball cards on my bedroom wall, but it was Jackie’s that was front and center.  Naturally, being a Jewish kid, Sandy Koufax soon jumped to the head of the class but not until years later.  These Dodgers were the guys who won the first ever World Championship for the Dodgers in ‘55 and I can still remember the ground ball to PeeWee Reese who threw to Gil Hodges for the final out in Johnny Podres’ 2-0 shutout of the hated Yankees in game 7 that resulted in a roar from my house (the neighborhood boys on either side of me and the twins across the street were all Yankee fans and I’d finally gotten my chance to bask in glory).

My aunt, a good athlete and pretty big fan in her own right, mailed a birthday card to the club requesting all the guys sign it for her nephew who “lived and died” with the Dodgers.  They did, I got it back, but somewhere in the 20+ relocations I’ve made since, it’s nowhere to be found.  I’m still sick about it.

At that time, as I mentioned, I completely idolized Jackie Robinson for his superior talent, the way he carried himself and because he was the best player on my favorite team.  As I read about his life, I found out about how remarkable an athlete (football, basketball, tennis and track) he was and how intelligent he was.  He’d attended UCLA and starred in numerous sports there.  Further research into his life explained his ultra-competitive and courageous nature.  What had impressed me most was that Branch Rickey, the president and general manager of the Dodgers selected him to be the first player to break the color barrier, not merely because of any of those traits listed above, but more so because he knew Jackie had the mental makeup to withstand all that was about to be leveled at him and, rather than physically fight back, retaliate by thoroughly defeating his opponents in the best way he could to make a point for all of mankind and especially, for his people.

When I became a teenager and Jackie’s career was on the downhill side, his exit was the classiest move of all.  The Dodgers traded him to the Giants, and rather than play for the bitter rivals, he retired - he walked away and never looked back.  In my mind, he remains to this day without a peer.

If ever a line was appropriate for one person, Maxwell Anderson’s quote defines the legacy of Jackie Robinson:

“There are some men who lift the age they inhabit, till all men walk on higher ground in that lifetime.”

A Short Synopsis Heading Into Masters Weekend

April 12th, 2014

Everyone knows that the biggest thing on a television executive’s mind is ratings. The almighty ratings. No one knows what the exact definition of totally devastating news to a TV exec is but you’d be hard-pressed to top “Hey, did you hear, Tiger won’t be playing in this year’s Masters.” There just isn’t enough Kleenex. Sharp objects are removed (except for those tiny pencils).

But no executive ever rose to that exalted position without being able to pull himself (or herself) together - whether through motivational sayings, meaningful affirmations or deep diaphragmatic breathing. Soon the thought process becomes, “OK, so Tiger’s not playing. Let’s give fans a great show. At some point we won’t have Tiger anymore and golf will still continue (Oh, God, I just hope it doesn’t happen until after I’ve moved up or retired . . . or died). Before long undoubtedly, there would be positive attitudes abounding throughout the studio. After all, wasn’t it an executive who coined the phrase, “The show must go on?” (Actually, I don’t know who said it but if I had to guess, it was probably the owner who sold out the house and didn’t want to refund all that dough).

Then, Friday’s play concluded. Golfers all over the country were wearing their thumbs out sending texts to their weekend playing partners, “Did you see Lefty fly the green from one trap to the other - and back again? I told you my game and his had something in common.” That line lost all its humor when Mickelson missed the cut - by one stroke. No Tiger, no Phil. Ouch!

“Is there any good news?” asked the executive. At this point it would take unbelievable job security, e.g. the owner’s kid or someone with compromising pictures of people really high up in the organization, to bring up the fact that Ernie Els, Sergio Garcia and Dustin Johnson also missed the cut. Heck, no wonder Bubba Watson has a three stroke lead.

If ever a company line was heard, it was in the evening wrap up show with Jim Nantz and David Feherty when the affable Feherty made the statement (with a straight face), “I love this leader board.” When people speak of this Masters (barring anything other worldly happening during the weekend), “A Tradition Like No Other” will definitely not be what’s attached to it, but rather:

“Sometimes people don’t notice the things others do for them until they stop doing it.”

What’s the Chance the Pacers Regroup in Time for the Playoffs?

April 11th, 2014

During much of the year the answer to the question, “Who is the best team in the NBA?” was the Indiana Pacers. They had the best record, were playing lights out and seemed to be the standard at both the offensive and defensive ends of the floor. Paul George was starting to break through the conversation of who is the NBA’s best player. Roy Hibbert was the dominant rim protector every contender yearns for, while Lance Stephenson filled the role of sixth man as well as anyone in the league. David West was a difficult match up for everybody.

They started the season 16-1, then from Dec. 2-Jan. 8 they played at a .667 clip (down, but still solid) until they put together a five-game winning streak. They were on top of the NBA standings and their fans were on top of the NBA world. They even won six of the first seven games following the All-Star break. While they weren’t winning at the same clip, there didn’t seem to be anything to instill concern in Pacers-land.

But the issue wasn’t that they weren’t winning the way they were earlier in the season, it was that weren’t playing that same way. Now, they’ve lost 12 of their last 20 and play tonight at Miami, before hosting OKC and finishing at Orlando. Their struggles have been well-documented, e.g. too much individual ball, not as physically or mentally tough as they’d been and attitude questions, but their biggest downfall, one that has not only hurt teams’ chances in the past but, rather, destroyed them is one of the unwritten rules of any team: they let their problems out of the locker room and into the media. If it’s true “what happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas,” then it’s that times a million when it comes to team issues. As with any other team, group, club, organization or company, the key ingredient is trust.

It’s NBA playoff time which means “no excuses.” Maybe the best answer to the Pacers’ current problem is found in the quote from Charles Dubois:

“The important thing is this: to be able at any moment to sacrifice what we are for what we could be.”

Or, maybe, in their case, what they were.

Sports Clears Another Hurdle

April 10th, 2014

College sports is finally getting over another stigma. First, it was the racial barrier that needed to be broken. It’s not only been broken now, it’s been shattered - and the games weren’t ruined as opponents to integration claimed, they’re infinitely better. Then, we were forced to deal with the foreign invasion which was rejected by a segment of society. While it was not nearly as bad as the discrimination black players had to endure about a half a century or so ago, foreign players still had to hear people cry, “Every foreigner who gets a scholarship is taking away one from an American kid.”

There have been other mini-issues. I recall when A.C. Green was a dominant player for Oregon State (and later the Lakers) and had no problem telling people he was a virgin and planned to remain one until he got married. Many years later, Tim Tebow followed in A.C.’s shoes and there were people (naturally, behind his back) who would ridicule him. They couldn’t understand how a guy whose body was ripped and who had Hollywood good looks wouldn’t want to “share” himself. In between, there was the situation when Magic Johnson contracted HIV and, after consultation with his doctors, decided to play. As even the casual fan remembers, Karl Malone publicly said he didn’t feel comfortable competing against someone with that disease. Is it the fear of the unknown that’s so unsettling to people?

Since Jason Collins came out last year as the first professional gay basketball player, sports fans have acted as if it was no big deal. Because it isn’t. How does a person’s sexual orientation affect how he (or she) plays? It’s neither an advantage nor a disadvantage - although after Britney Griner and Michael Sam came out as openly gay athletes, maybe . . . Nah.

Now, UMass basketball player Derrick Gordon, the first openly gay player in Division I college men’s basketball, has come out and here’s how his life has changed. He says he is happy now, describing his life as “free” and “fun.” He told USA TODAY Sports he did it because he was “comfortable” with himself. “I didn’t feel like hiding anymore. It was killing me, eating me alive. No one should have to go through that. I want to help kids who don’t know how to handle (being gay). I want to show you can be an athlete and be gay.” Gordon also commented he felt like it was like a “weight lifted” off his shoulders.

Of course, in such a historic moment there had to be someone displaying ignorance, e.g. the reporter who asked if Gordon had a boyfriend in the past. Has this guy ever asked another athlete if they had a boyfriend or girlfriend? Unless it’s Andy Roddick or Rory McElroy (or, for that matter, Caroline Wozniacki), who cares who an athlete is dating? Is that why we watch them perform? “Wow, that was a great move! Wonder who he’s dating?

Gordon posted a photo of himself in a #BETRUE T-shirt on Instagram with the caption: “This is the happiest I have ever been in my 22 Years of living…No more HIDING!!!…Just want to live life happy and play the sport that I love…Really would love to thank my family, friends, coaches, and teammates for supporting me.”The only people who ought to be disappointed in Gordon’s announcement are the girls who had plans to date him.

At the very least Derrick Gordon can take some comfort in the statement Alan Dershowitz made many years ago:

“Candor and accountability in a democracy is very important. Hypocrisy has no place.”

         

Coaches Have Reasons to Root for Teams Too

April 9th, 2014

Most of the college coaches who aren’t involved in the final game have no vested interest in who wins it. Naturally, if a coach is close friends with one of the final two guys in it, he’s pulling for him. That’s called human nature.

Another version of human nature was on display in Dallas Monday night when veteran head coach John Calipari and recently promoted (OK, a couple years ago but don’t forget, it wasn’t before initially placing the “interim” tag on him) Kevin Ollie squared off in the national championship game. It was pretty simple. Guys with head coaching experience, especially those who hadn’t planned on their current stop being their final one, were pulling for Kentucky. They didn’t want to see a guy who got promoted from within succeed because there is usually one coach (if not a couple) on a staff who would like to move over the 18″ if the head coach were to leave. On the flip side, assistant coaches were hoping like hell KO could pull it off because maybe it would give their AD a reason to elevate rather than spend money on a head hunting agency.

The situation in Dallas was reminiscent of the 1989 national championship game in Seattle when PJ Carlesimo led the Seton Hall Pirates against Michigan who was being coached by last minute fill-in Steve Fisher who had been an assistant for Bill Frieder. When Frieds decided to jump to Arizona State after the regular season but before the NCAA tourney, UM’s director of athletics Bo Schembechler made the now-famous statement, “A Michigan man is going to coach Michigan” and replaced him with assistant coach Fisher. The game came down to the wire with Michigan winning on a pair of free throws after a block call was made on a drive.

Whether or not other coaches will admit it now, I can still recall how the line was drawn with every assistant pulling for Michigan (and their new coaching “role model”) and all the head coaches wanting the Hall to prevail. It’s the feeling I had and I was friends with PJ and, at that time, hadn’t even met Steve! Which brings me to another “game-within-the-game.”

Last night’s women’s final, between UConn and Notre Dame polarized the women’s maybe even more than Monday night or the 1989 game did for the men. And, usually, it’s like that every year. I have coaching friends, both male and female, in the women’s game. Near the end of my college basketball career (my final season was 2001-02), a coach on the distaff side mentioned that split to me. “I can envision how nasty recruiting must get,” I said.

“You can’t even begin to imagine it - especially during home visits,” was the reply. My female friends in women’s coaching as well as the men I know on that side concur that Geno Auriemma has never shied away from controversy which just adds fuel to the fire.

While it’s great for the media, it’s not so for the game because it takes away from the players - and they are the ones who ought to be in the news. Besides, as my late mentor John Savage said time and again:

“You don’t strengthen the weak by weakening the strong.”

Here’s Why So Many Experts Could Be Wrong

April 8th, 2014

Dick Vitale admitted he was 0-5 when picking UConn’s games in this tournament. Who watches more college basketball, is more passionate and puts more preparation into his job than Dickie V? And he wasn’t alone. Most of the so-called experts went with Kentucky in last night’s national championship contest. How could the majority be so wrong?

Whenever two teams play, there are a myriad of reasons fans want to know what experts think, especially who the winner will be. One of them might be the most obvious, i.e. they are putting some hard-earned (or inherited) money on the outcome. Another might simply be to gain knowledge. Not that they really care what the prognosticator thinks, they just want to sound intelligent when attending a function in which the outcome of the game could be a topic of conversation. Of course the number one reason people want to know what “experts” think is . . . to win arguments. The most fun people have is playing sports; debating who will win and why, who’s better (or worse) - and sounding intelligent while doing it - is probably second. As the years move on, that order becomes reversed.

Among items posted on the Internet following the game last night (obviously, by less gracious losers than John Calipari): “UConn never would have won had they not played in Madison Square Garden,” “UConn should have lost to St. Joe’s,” “The Virginia-Michigan State game was so physical it took its toll on the Spartans,” “The Kentucky-Wisconsin game took its toll on the Wildcats,” “UK had the toughest bracket - by far,” “If the ‘Cats had made their free throws,” “Kentucky would have easily handled them if Willie Cauley-Stein had played,” . . .  everything but “If only Joe B were still coaching.”

Probably the best line from one of these guys was delivered by Sirius XM hoops analyst and former Vermont head coach Tom Brennen after he disclosed his choice to win the national championship game. The witty and remarkably successful (I was an assistant at Vermont, believe me, winning there is as close to impossible as it gets in college basketball) made his pick (I can’t remember which way he went). Then he deadpanned, “No matter who wins, tomorrow I’ll still be an expert analyst.”

For the record, I filled out a bracket in the Capital One March Madness Bracket Challenge and finished with 40 points - good for 759, 241st place (8% percentile). When I was emailed a list of humorous statements recently, one of them captured my attention. It completely explained my - and many other people’s - success in attempting to select the winner of any game. It’s called the 50-50-90 rule:

“If there’s a 50% chance of picking the right answer and 50% chance of picking the wrong answer, there’s a 90% chance I’ll be wrong.”

Why Is Calipari Taking All the Heat for One-and-Dones?

April 7th, 2014

For those readers who are interested in younger son, Alex’s, shoulder surgery (and, I guess, for those who aren’t), it was successfully performed by Eric Hanson (who has done miraculous work on the shoulders and knees of many Fresno State athletes past and present). According to Dr. Hanson, the surgery was actually rather simple and straightforward. He said Alex should be shooting in three weeks (from the surgery date) and back to 100% by the middle of May. Alex just completed a week of rehab in Fresno, is now back in Monterey and will be continuing a strength and flexibility program there under the guidance of highly skilled trainer Mike Paddack. 

When the subject of “one-and-done” college basketball players comes up, all the talk centers around Kentucky’s John Calipari. While Cal might be the face of one-and-done, there needs to be additional conversation. Of course, everyone knows other coaches, several well-known and highly respected ones at that, who’ve recruited this type of player. Yet, the criticism always falls at the feet of the UK head man.

A check of his record would illustrate that Cal uses the rule to his advantage better than anyone, whether he was at Kentucky or, previously, at Memphis. People seem to give a pass to other coaches because they don’t have so many of these guys. It’s almost like fans are saying, “OK, recruiting a one-and-done player I understand, but Calipari takes a whole team full of those guys.”

One issue must be addressed, however. While some coaches have only one, one-and-done guy on their squad, it might not exactly be by choice. In other words, if they could have an additional one (or two), would they? You can pretty much bet that the majority of coaches who signed or recruited a one-and-done prospect would answer in the affirmative. Now, would these same coaches have recruited all seven of the freshman Calipari did? Who knows? Probably not, because most coaches would look at it as too monumental a task to install from scratch all the offense, defense, special situations, etc. (not to mention having to deal with all the egos, parents and “others”) they’d feel necessary in order to win. There is also the task of getting everyone on the same page.

Then, if they were successful (meaning for nearly every coach, at least a Final Four appearance), they would have to start all over again the following year. Add to the mix that if they were not successful that they would be subject to universal ridicule - many to their face and the rest (more than they could count) behind their back. The endeavor would simply be more risk than reward - even though the reward would be the Holy Grail of their profession.

What can’t be overlooked in the recruiting of the one-and-done player is the fact that Calipari has the charisma, the understanding of social media and the track record to accomplish such a feat. Heck, he ought to be admired, not criticized. Another thought to keep in mind is that if these guys don’t sign with Kentucky, they’re going to sign with somebody else! Chances are, with a rival team, or teams, Kentucky will have to play. It’s not like if they didn’t go to UK, they’d be headed to junior college.

There are thousands of people - coaches and otherwise - who would love to be in Cal’s shoes right about now but don’t forget everything he had to go through this season (which wasn’t exactly a bed of roses - with the exception of the thorns). First to sign them, then to coach them, deal with them and try to get them to disregard all the noise - that he and his staff also had to do. For the wrap up quote, we turn to Memphis (wouldn’t you know it, where Calipari began his mastery of the one-and-done) and its favorite son, Elvis Presley, who said (I would imagine on many occasions):

“Don’t criticize what you don’t understand, son. You never walked in that man’s shoes.