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The College Sports View: NBA Draft Recap by Eddie Mayrose

June 30, 2009 under College Basketball

CollegeBasketball1Maybe I’m missing something. Each year, I watch college basketball from November to April and come away amazed at the performance of many collegiate stars. No hoops novice, I leave each season thinking I have a good feel for who the elite players are, only to have my opinions blown up by NBA general managers on draft night. This year, in particular, a number of the NCAA’s top performers fell into the second round while those projected to have higher ceilings populate the higher end of the draft. Potential seems to trump an established body of work every time.

For starters, it was strange to see Pitt’s DeJuan Blair, the best player on one of the top teams in the country’s most elite conference, have to wait until the 37th pick to hear his name called. Now, I realize that professional scouts are concerned by the fact that Blair stands just 6’6″. I’ll also give them a pass on their reservations about his jump shot.  However, one look at the second pick reveals a contradiction of their own opinions. UConn’s Hasheem Thabeet, dubbed the best big man in this year’s lottery, was completely and thoroughly dominated by the smaller Blair in both of their head to head meetings during the ’08-’09 Big East campaign.  Any questions about whether Blair will be able to succeed on the next level should have been answered right then and there.

USC basketball alum Taj Gibson, despite averaging 14 points, 9 rebounds and 3 blocks per game, fell to pick 26 of the first round; three picks later than Omri Casspi, a 6’8″ small forward from Tel Aviv, Israel. One scouting report on Gibson says that he may lack the size strength and athleticism you’d expect from a power forward, an assessment that seems ridiculous given his college production. Even sillier, while hundreds of Pac Ten players have starred in the NBA, no Israeli player has ever played in the league. Once again, potential wins out over an established resume.

What really gets me, however, is how many of these “potential” picks, wash out. History, it seems, is disregarded on an annual basis. Where would the Celtics have been last year when, after losing Kevin Garnett to injury, if they didn’t have Glenn Davis?  Davis, despite carrying LSU to the Final Four, fell to the second round because of perceived deficiencies in the very repertoire he displayed in college. Big Baby was able to lead the Celtics through the first round using the skills that were doubted as he entered the league. We’re not trying to solve the problem of global warming here. It’d be nice, though, if NBA scouts gave a little more credibility to a college career.  Check back sometime in January to see how DeJuan Blair and Taj Gibson are doing.  I wouldn’t be surprised to see both performing at a higher level than many selected before them.

The View from the Cheap Seats

June 23, 2009 under NBA

Say this for the 109th US Open at Bethpage; it certainly wasn’t boring.  There was Lucas Glover, the surprise winner whose steadiness belied the fact that he cheap_seats_3_owumhad but one previous Tour victory on his resume.  Ricky Barnes, another unknown who set a thirty-six hole Open scoring record, collapsed in the final round and finished tied for second.  David Duval, the best player in the world before Tiger, found some of his old magic and was one of three runners-up; his first top ten finish in seven years.  The third to finish two shots off the pace, Phil Mickelson, enjoyed a weekend long outpouring of love and support from New York fans sympathetic to his wife Amy’s battle against breast cancer.  And, then, there was the rain.  Rain that postponed play, soaked fans, diverted parking, moved tee boxes and, mostly, exposed the USGA as an organization that really doesn’t think well on its feet. 

 In sending golfers out for Thursday’s opening round in a steady downpour that was predicted to get much worse, tourney officials not only made a terrible error in judgment but also set into motion a full four days of bad decisions.  First, they informed fans who saw very little golf that their tickets would not be refunded or honored on another day, a decision they rescinded after being beaten up in the press and on the airwaves.  Then, on Friday, they stayed with the original schedule of tee times, resulting in the very strange situation where many in the field played two rounds while others, namely Tiger Woods, played just twelve holes.  Finally, late Friday and then again late on Saturday, the USGA had players start the next day’s round, even though there would only be enough light for two or three holes, at best.

 Here’s what should have happened.  Thursday’s first round never should have started.  Those that went off that morning were put at a severe disadvantage for the rest of the tournament simply because, over the first two rounds, they played a distinctly different golf course than those who played thirty six on Friday, the only day that saw decent weather.  Those golfers enjoyed a second round with soft greens and fairways; conditions that changed on Saturday.  Had the first round been postponed, officials could have sent foursomes, not threesomes, off of the front and back nines in the morning and afternoon, creating a level playing field for everyone.  As it was, not one of the more than sixty golfers who teed off early on the first day finished the tournament below par while just three were in the top twelve. 

 The allure of holding the Open at Bethpage is that it’s a public course, one played by the best in the game as well as the fans behind the ropes.  Maybe next time, they’ll take it a step further and enlist the services of a local starter, as well. 


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Did a double take while watching the Mets the other night.  During an in-game spot advertising Thursday afternoon’s game, the Mets urged kids to, “play hookey from school.”  Not such a big deal, as public schools close this week, but I couldn’t help wondering how someone in the PR Dept. thought it was a good idea.


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Kudos to NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell for cleaning up the mess left by the criminal justice system in Florida. Despite pleading guilty to DUI manslaughter, Cleveland Browns’ receiver Donte’ Stallworth will serve just thirty days in jail.  While Stallworth will also serve two years of house arrest, compensate the victim’s family and have his license permanently revoked, none of these sanctions would have prohibited him from resuming his career.  Goodell however would have none of it, suspending Stallworth indefinitely. 


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We may never know the actual reason behind Alex Rodriguez’s absence from the Yankee lineup in Florida.  His two game benching may have come about as a result of a conference call between ARod, Yankee brass and team doctors, been mandated by Brian Cashman or handed down by Joe Girardi after Rodriguez broke curfew.  While each version of the story was reported in some publication and debated at length, the one constant theme was that the third baseman’s poor production is a result of his being fatigued.  Funny, fatigue is the chief symptom of the withdrawal experienced by many after prolonged steroid use.  But that couldn’t be true of ARod, as he only used the juice that one time when his cousin, Sancho Panza, stuck the needle in his fanny.  Just that one time, right, Alex?


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It’s become the common belief among Knick fans that all of the team’s troubles will disappear next summer when LeBron James and Dwyane Wade sign on with the team.  That the odds of that actually happening are much longer than their optimism would allow them to admit is a subject not often addressed.  The reality, however, is that it is more likely than not that neither will be in a Knicks uniform on Opening Night 2010.  To that end, team President Donnie Walsh must focus on the more traditional avenue for building a team; player development.


New York has the eighth pick in this year’s draft and many have projected that it’ll be used to select Davidson’s Stephen Curry, the best shooter in college basketball who can also play the point.  With Curry in the fold along with last year’s first rounder, Danilo Galinari and holdovers Wilson Chandler and David Lee, Walsh would accomplish two things.  Establish a core group solid enough to attract big name free agents or, if that fails, a collection of young stars capable of growing into an elite squad.  Either way, the only logical way to proceed is under the impression that the draft is significantly more important than free agency.   At least until next summer. 


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Why Do Dirty Coaches Get a Free Pass?

June 21, 2009 under College Basketball

USC basketball coach, Tim Floyd, resigned last week amid allegations of alleged recruiting violations that included, but were not limited to, handing cash to a CollegeBasketball1handler of O. J. Mayo to influence the then high school star to choose USC, resulting in an NCAA investigation. As a result of the probe, several key recruits either decommitted or chose different universities.  Lucky for them, as the players currently on the Trojans’ roster, young men that committed to Floyd and thought he had committed to them, must now remain with a fractured program or sacrifice a year if they decide to transfer.  Floyd, however, is free to seek the employment of another school with no strings attached.

John Calipari, late of the University of Memphis basketball program, recently agreed to an eight year deal with Kentucky estimated to be in the range of $5 million per year.  After leading Memphis to the NCAA title game in 2008, Calipari guided the Tigers into the Sweet Sixteen last year despite a completely new starting lineup.  Armed with a bevy of recruits expected to follow the coach to his new address in the Bluegrass State, Calipari was the most attractive candidate on the market and was irresisitible to Kentucky officials.

Many reports erroneously noted Calipari’s two trips to the Final Four; one in 1996 with the University of Massachusetts in addition to his ’08 appearance.  However, a quick check of NCAA record books reveals no mention of the UMass appearance as it was vacated due to Marcus Camby’s association with an agent.  Coach Cal was nowhere to be found when the sentence came down, though, having skipped to the NBA.  Calipari may soon be a coach with no National Semi-Final appearances on his resume as the second Final Four is now in danger because of an allegation of “knowing fraudulence or misconduct” on an SAT exam by a player who competed on that team.  Be careful what you wish for, Kentucky.

Last year, the storied basketball program at the University of Indiana suffered through the worst season in its history; posting a 6-25 record that included just one Big Ten conference win.  New coach Tom Crean made do with a limited roster that included just a handful of scholarship athletes as many of those recruited by his predecessor, Kelvin Sampson, either left or were dismissed.

Sampson left the University of Oklahoma to take the Indiana job just after the OU hierarchy froze bonuses and contract negotiations for a two year period while it conducted its own investigation into illegal phone calls to recruits.  Turns out Sampson and his staff made close to six hundred such calls.  Then, a little more than a year into his tenure with the Hoosiers, IU officials discovered that Sampson had made many of the same calls while in their employ and terminated his contract.

In each of these cases, the coach left for another job while the institution and the players were left to pay the price for the violations.  As for the school. itself, there has to be a level of accountability.  But for the athletes, their only indiscretion was to commit to a dishonorable coach. Faced with the choice of sitting out a year as a result of a transfer or play for a coach that didn’t recruit them in a system for which they may not be suited.  The guiltiest party in the whole scenario, however, is free to pick up and move to the highest bidder.  Not exactly an equitable situation.

While the NCAA has never been known for the logical disposition of transgressions, this one seems easy.  Whatever sanctions are handed down to the university in question follow the coach to his new job. Simple stuff.  Let’s see how quick Kentucky is to reach for its checkbook when faced with a possible ban from the NCAA tourney.  Want some accountability from these coaches?  Hit ’em in their wallets and see how fast they fall in line.

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