Friday, April 06, 2007
Last week, this blog wrote of a bidding war between Texas A&M and Arkansas for the services of one Billy Clyde Gillispie as basketball coach. The bidding war did not really materialize, as A&M offered him a raise, and he did not return the Hogs' calls to interview for their open head coaching job.
But, a funny thing happened as the Aggie Board of Regents was approving the new contract. Gillispie agreed to it, but decided not to sign it? Why? Because he knew he had a chance at the Kentucky job. Kentucky went after Billy Donovan first, was rebuffed, then turned to Gillispie. This morning, the Big Blue hired Gillispie as head coach.
This is a good fit. Gillispie is a tireless recruiter. He helped recruit great teams at Tulsa and Illinois, before becoming head coach at UTEP and Texas A&M. He performed quick turnarounds at two schools that were nothing but easy. He is an extreme workaholic. According to a story last month in the Dallas Morning News, he stays up all night watching film, and is known to call other coaches at 2 A.M. He usually does not make time to fix or go out for breakfast, choosing to grab peanut butter crackers and Dr Pepper on the way to the office. He has a 3,000 square foot house that rarely has food in the pantry or refrigerator. Recently, he went six months without grocery shopping. He is supremely committed to basketball, and makes fun of himself for his failed eight-year marriage. (His poor ex-wife. She was married to him when he was coaching in high school and junior college, not making any money, then he chose basketball over her. He happened to become a multi-millionaire as a result) His one outside interest appears to be horse racing. Kentucky is an obvious attraction.
The Big Blue Nation is equally obsessed with winning. They just ran off a coach because he was only making it to the second round of the NCAA tournament, and was finishing 4th in the SEC East.
I wonder, if in 1994, while he was an assistant coach at South Plains College in Levelland, Texas, that he even dreamed he would be the coach at Kentucky. I doubt if it even crossed his mind when he took his first head coaching job at UTEP. UTEP to A&M to Kentucky in six years is quite a career progression.
He has what we call a shirt-tail connection to Kentucky. In 1987-88, he was the head basketball coach at Copperas Cove High School in Texas. His boss: athletic director/head football coach Hal Mumme, who went on to become head football coach at Kentucky before the program fell victim to scandal.
As for A&M, don't worry about the Aggies. They have gotten a taste of basketball success, and won't allow themselves to fall off the basketball map. And, Gillispie wouldn't have left there for just any job. Kentucky is not just any job. Most coaches would crawl to Lexington for that job, as Eddie Sutton said he would do in the 80's when he went there from Arkansas.
The Big Blue Nation is in good hands.
Thursday, April 05, 2007
Florida coach Billy Donovan, fresh off a repeat national championship, pulled his name out of consideration for the vacant Kentucky job today. He was believed to be the leading candidate. Kentucky is a good place to be for someone. Their tradition and facilities are second to none. However, coaching there is like coaching in a fishbowl, and every move is judged and analyzed by an entire state. It is similar to coaching football at a place like Oklahoma or Alabama. At Florida, Donovan is the basketball king. He has created his own tradition. And, he can hide in the shadow of football, when necessary. Donovan has mastered the art of coaching basketball at a football school in the South.
Going down the road, however, is the lovable Huggy Bear. Bob Huggins, fresh off his inagural season at Kansas State, accepted the job today at West Virginia, his alma mater. In one season, he restored relevance to the K-State program, barely missing the NCAA tournament. He also had a top recruiting class lined up for the upcoming season. All of that is in jeopardy at this time. Huggins was born in Morgantown, and played and coached at WVU. He is leaving K-State in a big lurch, but you can't blame the guy for going home. It'll be interesting to see if the Big East schedules a game between WVU and his former school, Cincinnati, in Cincinnati. He is still a hero there.
The Arkansas athletic department continues to wallow in slop (pun intended).
A quick summary of recent events:
Athletic director Frank Broyles was forced to retire, but was allowed to stay until the end of the year.
Men's basketball coach Stan Heath was fired after taking his team to the last two NCAA tournaments. The Razorbacks were arguably the last team selected for the tournament, and were promptly pounded by USC.
In their search for a new coach, the Hogs zeroed in on Texas A&M coach Billy Gillispie, who wouldn't return the Hogs' calls. The Razorbacks were forced to look in another direction.
Arkansas then hired Creighton coach Dana Altman to fill the position. On Monday afternoon, he was introduced at a press conference, but then had a change of heart. Apparently, he learned of academic issues and positive drug tests. So, Altman was on a plane that evening for Omaha, and returned to his position at Creighton. The Hogs, meanwhile find themselves looking again for a basketball coach.
On the football side, coach Houston Nutt, hated by many sections of the Razorback Nation, finds himself the target of this report. An Arkansas fan/booster, Thomas McAfee, made a Freedom of Information Act request for Nutt's email and cell phone records. The results are found here: The Nutt House.
Among the charges in the document are of Nutt's alleged affair with a Fayetteville TV news anchor, and his list of text messages to her. My question is (among others): why is he using the school-issued cell phone to text message his lady friend? He surely knows there are people out to get him, and that cell phone records are the type of thing that can be traced. Many of these messages happen to be during the weekend in which Nutt was with his wife, as they were burying her mother in Oklahoma.
Also included in the report is a copy of the infamous email from physical therapist Teresa Prewett to quarterback Mitch Mustain.
This is a circus that would make Barnum & Bailey proud. Razorback Nation is peeved, for good reason.
There is a great Arkansas message board (registration required) at www.hogville.net. Those guys pull no punches.
Wednesday, April 04, 2007
UUOTD has been gone for several days, but not forgotten. It returns with a lemon-lime vengeance.
The Seattle SuperSonics have been wearing this yellow version of their updated look, modeled after their classic uniforms of the late 70's-early 80's. The white version looks fine, and the green version looks fine.
The yellow version leaves a lot to be desired. They look like five bottles of ReaLemon juice out on the court. The NBA is not a place for lemonade or lemon juice.
The Sonics are having arena issues, and are in danger of leaving Seattle. They have been purchased by a group from my hometown of Oklahoma City. Oklahoma City, the temporary home of the Hornets, is also the corporate headquarters of Sonic Drive-Ins. The possibility exists for the Sonics to move to Oklahoma. Surely the Oklahoma City Sonics wouldn't wear a uniform scheme designed to match Sonic. Let's see, what do I choose: lemon juice, or an extra-long chili cheese coney?
This blog would not be complete without paying homage to the greatness of Eddie Robinson. The former Grambling coach died early today at the age of 88.
Coach Robinson began coaching at Grambling in 1941, retiring in 1997. He was the first college football coach to reach 400 wins, retiring with a record of 408-165-15. More than 200 of his players went on to play in the National Football League.
Robinson began during the days of segregation, when he would have to make ham sandwiches for his players because they could not eat in whites-only restaurants on road trips. He was originally a one-man band, coaching without any assistant coaches and doing his own field maintenance. He built a program that graduated 80% of its players and sent numerous alumni to the NFL.
Any attention given to his life and his passing is very well deserved.
In the last 25 years, only six schools not currently in BCS conferences have qualified for the Final Four:
UNLV (1987, 1990-National Champions, 1991)
Utah (1998-national runner-up)
Houston (1982, 1983, 1984)
George Mason (2006)
Of those schools, only George Mason has been to a Final Four in this decade.
Of those schools, UNLV, Memphis, and UMass were caught cheating and later put on probation.
When they made their appearances in the 1980's, Houston and the former Memphis State were in "power" conferences of that day, the Southwest and Metro conferences, respectively.
Memphis would probably be off this list and in the Big East (BCS) if they were 300 miles east and in the Eastern Time Zone, to join their traditional rivals Louisville and Cincinnati.
It's really hard for a school in a middle-to-lower tier conference to get to the Final Four, especially without being caught cheating. In many ways, it's easier for a middle-of-the road team from a big conference to get on a run in the Tournament and advance.
George Mason's run in last year's tournament was a huge, huge, huge accomplishment.
Money will buy lots of things. Things like coaches, practice facilities, recruiting budgets, and chartered planes for road trips. Big money is generated through big-time football.
Now, more than ever, football (especially the BCS) drives the bus.
A College President With A Brain
Dr. Machen was formerly the president of the University of Utah, and has hired Urban Meyer as football coach at both Utah and Florida.
He gets it. Good luck to him as he tries to incite a revolution.
Monday, April 02, 2007
Or, more accurately, Gatorworld.
The Florida Gators, as expected by many, repeated as national champions tonight. Even more impressively, Florida has become the first school to win national championships in football and basketball in the same school year.
It's the Gators' world. We just live in it.
Now comes the fun part. Coach Billy Donovan will be making a ton more money. The question is, will it be coming from Gainesville, or from Lexington?
Four years ago, the top high school player in America was in the state of Ohio. There was a guy at St. Vincent-St. Mary High School in Akron that was filling up gyms wherever he went. He was identified at an early age as "the next Jordan". He had so many agents and shoe companies after him that college was not even an option.
But, just what if this guy had gone to college? He wouldn't have stayed at home to play for the Akron Zips. There's a good chance he would have gone down the road to play for The Ohio State University. Imagine LeBron James in college. Even more farfetched: what if he would have stayed for four years?
Wait a minute, though. LeBron wisely took the money and turned pro. And, TOSU wound up with a stud in Greg Oden, thanks to the NBA, and their new rule requiring players to be 20 years old before they are drafted. So, TOSU is playing for a national championship tonight.
Both parties are better off, after all.
Spring started on March 21st, but it doesn't really start in earnest until tonight, between 10:30 and 11:00 PM Central time. Spring begins after the end of the NCAA national championship, when CBS plays "One Shining Moment".
CBS has run a video montage to "One Shining Moment" for around the last 20 years or so. The song is kinda cheesy, but the tournament is incomplete without it. In its own way, it also serves as a signal that winter is over, and that spring is here.
CBS has tried to trick it up in various ways over the years, so in some years, it's better than others. In the past, the late Luther Vandross has sung the song. Teddy Pendergrass has sung it even more often.
Looking forward to what CBS puts out there tonight...
The era of the megaprogram is upon us.
What if Kentucky and North Carolina met in the BCS National Championship Game? We have its equivalent tonight. It'll be a good game.