Friday, April 29, 2011

Divine Intervention For Lavin's Second Coming

St. John's fans can expect a lot of this from their newest recruit, 6-9 power forward God's Gift Achiuwa. (Photo courtesy of

When describing the unique situation that St. John’s would be presented with in regard to its 2011-12 roster, head coach Steve Lavin remarked that the Red Storm recruiting effort would be reminiscent of Noah’s Ark in that the coach would need two players at every position. In the fall signing period that ended just after the start of the college basketball season, the Johnnies had received at least a pair of commitments from each position except that of their frontcourt; where 6-10 California product Norvel Pelle remained the lone interior presence to publicize his decision to play his collegiate basketball under Lavin. So it remained, until now.

After a visit to the Queens campus that fittingly came during Holy Week, the aptly named God’s Gift Achiuwa has become the ninth recruit to declare his intent to play on the corner of Union and Utopia.

“I am excited to come to St. John’s and New York City. I really like the coaching staff and the way St. John’s plays. They are a running team and that’s what I like, fast paced basketball,” said Achiuwa. “I also like the winning tradition of the new coaching staff. They came into the St. John’s program and turned things around in less than a year. I think that’s a good indication that the program is on its way back. I like the city and have been to New York a number of times, it is a great place to play and live. Madison Square Garden is the biggest stage in the world and it is a great opportunity to have The Garden as my home court.”

The 6-9 Achiuwa transfers to Queens from Erie Community College in upstate New York after choosing St. John’s over Washington and Cincinnati; and will have two years of eligibility left starting with the upcoming season, giving the Red Storm experience it so desperately needs after losing its ten seniors off last year’s NCAA Tournament team to graduation. Achiuwa joins junior guard Malik Stith, sophomore guard Nurideen Lindsey, and forward Dwayne Polee as the lone upperclassmen in Lavin’s second season as the successor to former coach Norm Roberts; who is now an assistant under Billy Donovan at the University of Florida.

“Gift is a talented frontline player who possesses tremendous size, strength, speed and skill. He is an ideal fit for our baseline-to-baseline attacking style of play," said Lavin. “The maturity Gift gained from two years of junior college basketball with a combined 55-6 record will make him a nice complement to what will be the youngest team in the country next season. He is fundamentally sound, and comes from a program with a tradition of winning, where a strong work ethic, playing hard and discipline is demanded on a daily basis.”

Alex Nwora, who coached God’s Gift at Erie Community College, a Division II school, echoed Lavin’s feeling of his star big man. “He’s a good leader who leads by example, the first one in (the gym) and (the) last one out," said the coach. "He’s a good kid, always makes eye contact, and he’s very coachable.” In addition to all of that, God’s Gift, a native of Nigeria, is also more than just an inside presence; as noted by his averages of just over 22 points and under 12 rebounds per game, albeit at the Division II level.

Achiuwa will likely split time with the aforementioned Norvel Pelle at the center position, as well as with fellow newcomer JaKarr Sampson at power forward; which could enable Dwayne Polee to slide down to the small forward position at various points during games to give St. John’s a somewhat bigger lineup than most fans are accustomed to when the Johnnies open their 104th season this November.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

King James II Takes His Talents To South Beach

Five years after redefining Cinderella with George Mason's Final Four run, Jim Larranaga leaves the mid-major fraternity after being introduced as new coach at Miami. (Photo courtesy of USA Today)

Nine months ago, the world was witness to a controversial, yet historic, event in sports history when LeBron James announced he would "take his talents to South Beach" and sign with the Miami Heat after spending the first seven years of his career with the Cleveland Cavaliers. Less than a year later, South Florida gets a new recruit named James; only this one will be recruiting others in his line of work.

Jim Larranaga, best known for his fourteen-year tenure at the helm of George Mason University that was highlighted by the Patriots' miraculous Final Four run in 2006 that saw the mid-major darling dispose of three previous national champions on their way to the national semifinals, accepted the vacant head coaching position at the University of Miami in a press conference last night. Although 61 years old, Larranaga replaces Frank Haith as the Hurricanes' new head man after Haith left South Florida earlier this month to replace Mike Anderson at Missouri after the "40 Minutes of Hell" architect was hired at Arkansas.

"It's kind of the last piece in a coaching career," said the New York native, a former player under legendary high school coach Jack Curran at Archbishop Molloy in Queens. "This opportunity is very special to me. I'd love to coach in the ACC, take teams to Cameron, (Indoor Stadium) the Dean Dome, compete at the highest level." Larranaga will approximately double his salary at Miami after leaving George Mason on the heels of yet another NCAA Tournament appearance with the Patriots, one in which Mason defeated Villanova in their first game before being
thoroughly decimated by Ohio State in the round of 32.

After this hire was speculated upon earlier in the week before becoming official last night in Coral Gables, I had mostly positive feelings on the direction in which the Hurricanes decided to pursue. Larranaga, who I honestly did not ever expect to leave Mason, emerged victorious in a race that included Wisconsin-Milwaukee coach Rob Jeter, Mike Davis of UAB and Florida Atlantic's Mike Jarvis after Tommy Amaker opted to remain at Harvard and Frank Martin, regarded by many as the frontrunner after Haith's departure was made public, chose to stay at Kansas State. While some view this move as a transfer similar to Oliver Purnell bolting Clemson for DePaul a year ago, I do not see the correlation. Miami may not be as attractive a position as its ACC brethren North Carolina, Duke, or Maryland; but there is a great talent pool available to Larranaga, who is just as great a coach as he is an underrated recruiter. Not only that, but Larranaga's personality and track record should endear him to alumni and fans rather quickly as Miami looks to return to its past glory not seen since Leonard Hamilton paced the sidelines.

From another standpoint, I consider Larranaga a fallback option after Amaker decided to turn the Hurricanes down; yet at the same time Miami should have at least taken a look at Bobby Gonzalez. I won't build another case for Bobby in this article, as I have already done so in a previous piece; but the mere inclusion of Gonzalez in the search would have added more attention to a program that has quickly become overlooked in the Atlantic Coast Conference in both basketball and football since leaving the Big East to join the league in 2004. As recently as a few years ago, Miami football was among the top ten programs in the country on a perennial basis. Now, new head coach Al Golden has his work cut out for him as he looks to restore the 'Canes to national prominence.

It's much easier for Miami to succeed in basketball despite the likes of North Carolina, Duke and Maryland, as the ACC does not look as strong on paper going into the 2011-12 season as it did in this past year; and Jim Larranaga, despite what people may think about his perplexing hire, is one of the better guys to spearhead a resurgence.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Thank You For All Your Support

Two years ago today, I was sitting inside the executive offices of WSJU Radio with the room to myself in an attempt to kill time before the station's annual year-end party known simply to WSJU's brethren as "the formal." With nothing really taking center stage in my life; as I had graduated from St. John's four months prior and had yet to land the broadcasting opportunities I currently enjoy, I spontaneously decided to go into amateur sportswriting through the launch of this blog. At the time, the blog didn't have a particular theme or niche, so my two debut posts that early evening chronicled newsworthy nuggets from earlier in that particular week: The retirement of John Madden after a distinguished career that revolutionized color commentary in not just the National Football League, but also sports in general; and the tragic death of longtime Philadelphia Phillies radio play-by-play announcer Harry Kalas.

And so began a journey that has taken me to places I had not envisioned would find me, at least not this soon in my life, which celebrates its 25th year of existence this August 22nd.

Through several reinventions, a six-month hiatus at the end of 2009 and moderate success, I decided to shift my attention toward one arena in February of last year in an attempt to make a name for myself and potentially gain credibility as a media member in what has come to be my greatest passion since becoming a play-by-play announcer in the fall of 2007 at WSJU: College basketball.

Enter "A Daly Dose Of Hoops:" A site intended to be a one-stop source for not just the Big East, (a conference I had come to know intimately through my on-air work calling St. John's men's and women's basketball) but college hoops in general. As the weeks and months progressed, I decided to inject some more opinionated content into this space, as evidenced by my most recent columns; as well as scouting reports and recaps of big games across the country, aspects that I am proud to say will return for the 2011-12 campaign that I (and hopefully all of you) eagerly anticipate the start of in November, not to mention creating an exclusive Twitter account that you can follow here.

Enough background information. Let's get to the real reason behind this post. Two years later, this site has become something I literally never expected it to be: A worldwide hit. Since the inception of this portal for information on April 17, 2009, a grand total of over 8,300 (8,373 by exact count as of the time I write this) visitors have made their way to the "Daly Dose" at some point over the last 730 days. Over eight thousand hits from not just the United States of America, but countries and continents as far away as South Korea and Australia. This past month, I am happy to announce that the blog broke its own record for most hits in a single month by amassing 1,496 views. Whether or not that number was enhanced by the NCAA Tournament (and I'm sure it was) is irrelevant. It's an accomplishment that I have all of you to thank for; because without you, there would be no me.

It's a refreshing feeling to realize that there are people out there that appreciate a person's work, no matter how insignificant it may be. I take even greater pride in the contacts I have established and friends I have made through this space. There are many moments I can look to as instances where this part-time passion took off, like the piece I recently wrote about why Bobby Gonzalez deserves a second chance in the college coaching ranks; a column that earned me the respect of Bobby's sister, Linda, a misunderstood defender of her brother that is attempting to set the record straight (and doing a good job of it at that) on her own blog. Since Linda posted my views toward Bobby in her space, I'll return the favor by plugging her blog here. I implore you to take a look at if and when you have a chance. If nothing else, at least appreciate the effort that went into it. Then there was a short and inadvertent speculation about who would replace Barry Rohrssen at the helm of Manhattan College that started in a Twitter meeting of the minds between myself and the Rochford brothers (David and Quinn) that have earned the right to be known as my two biggest fans. One month later, Steve Masiello was introduced in Riverdale in an event that brought about the creation of a hashtag that has become synonymous with Jaspers hoops; an embodiment of coaching search discussions that spun off several other similar forums: The one and only #mcmbbcoachingsummit.

Those are just two moments that I am grateful for; but the accomplishments I am most proud of are the ones that have yet to make their way into the annals of time. It is with great hope and enthusiasm that I look to the future here, and it is my desire to have all of you join me on the road to what lies ahead. Like I said earlier, without you, there would be no me; and all of you are much bigger parts of my life than any of you will ever know.

For that, and all of the ardent and undying support you've given me over the last two years, I thank you.

Let's make this thing bigger and better than ever by proving that the best truly is yet to come.

Jaden Daly

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Masiello Still Finds Manhattan Special

Flanked by athletic director Bob Byrnes and Manhattan College president Dr. Brennan O'Donnell, Steve Masiello makes his return to Riverdale as Jaspers' new head coach. (Photo courtesy of

In a well-chronicled (search the #mcmbbcoachingsummit hashtag on Twitter) effort to find the replacement for former Manhattan head coach Barry Rohrssen, the Jaspers officially welcomed the start of a new era yesterday in Riverdale by introducing a former face of their past as their leader of the future.

Steve Masiello, a former Jasper assistant under Bobby Gonzalez who most recently spent six years on Rick Pitino's staff at Louisville, was introduced yesterday at Draddy Gym as Manhattan's 23rd head coach in program history after Rohrssen was dismissed following a five-year tenure that started in 2006 when Gonzalez left for Seton Hall. Masiello, who turns 34 on September 2nd, becomes the sixth-youngest head coach in Division I; just ahead of VCU's Shaka Smart and Butler's Brad Stevens, both of whom were referenced in the new coach's opening statement after taking their respective programs to a national semifinal and championship game just two weeks ago.

"If the Final Four this year didn't allow young men to dream today, I don't know what will," said Masiello shortly after being introduced by Manhattan athletic director Bob Byrnes. Masiello then quipped to Byrnes: "Just don't expect me to go to the Final Four."

All kidding aside, Masiello injects a breath of fresh air and youthful presence into the northwest corner of the Bronx; along with a set of dreams and aspirations as big as the city in which Masiello joins Steve Lavin, Glenn Braica, Jim Ferry, Danny Hurley, Tom Pecora and Kyle Smith as part of the New York coaching fraternity. "As far as Manhattan basketball, everybody better watch out," gushed Masiello in regard to taking over a program that won two MAAC championships and an NCAA Tournament game when he was an assistant in Riverdale. "We're going to create a new brand, and it's going to be the best in the city." The coach has no easy task ahead of him, as he inherits a team that went 6-25 in its fifth and final campaign under Rohrssen; but the successor to the man known as "Slice" had great things to say about the team he can now call his own, a team that appears to be impressed with their new coach by all preliminary accounts. "There's so much room to grow, so much potential to improve and get better," said an ecstatic Masiello. "I think Barry did an unbelievable job of evaluating talent and bringing guys in that have great ability. Now it's a matter of molding them into players."

If anyone knows about molding players, it's Masiello; who learned from a man that has taken players and coaches and turned both into winners wherever he has gone. "He (Rick Pitino) has taught me everything I know: How to walk into an office, how to eat at dinner, how to coach," said Masiello about his mentor. No one pays more attention to detail and molds people more." Masiello also insisted that Manhattan's style will mirror Louisville's on-court play, telling me that "it will be sort of like a mini-him" in regard to just how much the 2011-12 Jaspers will be Pitino-influenced.

However, Masiello is no Pitino, even if he did play for and coach under the collegiate legend; and until he coaches his first game, all that sets him apart from fellow Pitino disciples Mick Cronin and Kevin Willard (aside from experience) is the name on the front of his players' jerseys. Masiello did leave the media with this enthusiastic nugget:

"Manhattan basketball is back. That's all I know. We're going to win and win big. I can't explain to you my passion and my excitement about this."

That's something better left to his new players once they open the Jaspers' 106th season this November.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

You Can't Ask For Much Moore In A Player

After a stellar four-year career at UConn, Maya Moore now pursues bigger and better after being selected first overall by Minnesota Lynx in Monday's WNBA draft. (Photo courtesy of New York Daily News)

Good players come a dime a dozen. Great players come every few years. Exceptional players (you know, the ones that define their sport and transcend it for future generations to marvel at in the history books) are those rare gems that come along every decade or so. We've seen it in the NBA, for example. You have your good players, (Karl Malone, Kevin Garnett, etc.) your great players, (LeBron James, Karl Malone, Shaquille O'Neal, etc.) and the exceptions to the rule named Michael Jordan and Kobe Bryant. The University of Connecticut women's basketball program shares that axiom. Geno Auriemma has had his good players over the years, (Jennifer Rizzotti, Nykesha Sales, Swin Cash, etc.) and his great players; (Rebecca Lobo, Diana Taurasi and Sue Bird) but never had that one player that rose above and beyond the perennial national championship contender known as UConn to become a household name in women's basketball and sports in general.

That is, until Maya Moore walked onto the campus in Storrs, Connecticut; and left four years later as not just the Lady Huskies' all-time leading scorer and a two-time national champion; but in the opinion of this writer, quite simply the greatest college player he has ever seen.


That's right, Moore has done more in her four years than I've seen anyone else at the collegiate level attempt in my quarter-century (I turn 25 in August) on this earth. In fact, Moore would be the greatest player I'd ever seen had it not been for Jordan and Kobe. Never has a player been able to take the court and make what she does look so effortless. When I had the pleasure of calling a UConn women's game when the Lady Huskies took on my alma mater St. John's two years ago at Carnesecca Arena, (click here to see my take on how much the Lady Huskies' record 89-game winning streak means to me) a then-sophomore Moore stood out for being, quite simply, amazing. An athlete who is just as attractive physically as her on-court skills are? If you're a true sports fan, you're probably saying "Sign me up!" before even reading any further. My former colleague Reginald Bazile shared his thoughts on Moore in an e-mail to me recently, and he had this to say:

"Maya Moore is the greatest women's college basketball player of all-time!

Now before you throw names such as Cheryl Miller, Chamique Holdsclaw and Diana Taurasi at me, just read on.

With their fourth NCAA Final Four appearance in four years, the UConn Lady Huskies have again showed why they are still the team to beat. The overall number one seed destroyed the Duke Blue Devils in the Elite Eight after the game was close early.

When you start to break down this team's success, two words come to mind; and
even though head coach Geno Auriemma has built this program from the ground up, I was thinking more of their senior guard, Maya Moore.

Moore, who just surpassed 3,000 points for her career, was also named to her fourth consecutive All-America Team; making it the second time in women's basketball history that this ever occurred. (Courtney Paris of Oklahoma being the other from 2006-2010) The Connecticut Post has a list of some of her other accomplishments here:

She has had to shoulder more of the load on this team this season with the graduation of Tina Charles and the injury to Caroline Doty to start the season. Playing much of the season with a minimum of 4-6 freshmen and sophomores per night, Moore never did seem to get down on her teammates or chastise them for making a poor play. She was always there to motivate and lead not only by example; but also to cheer her teammates, as shown on ESPN's broadcasts throughout this NCAA tournament. Even when their winning streak of 90 games was snapped back in December in Palo Alto against Stanford, there was still no breaking of this champion as they had not lost a game since.

Although the Huskies were defeated by Big East foe Notre Dame in their Final Four matchup, I won't be the only one wondering if Maya Moore is the greatest of all-time."

Two days ago, Moore officially wrapped up her career at UConn when she was selected first overall by the Minnesota Lynx in the WNBA draft. It is my hope that Moore's arrival will do for the WNBA what Michael did for David Stern's National Basketball Association when he was drafted out of North Carolina by the Chicago Bulls in 1984, and that is rejuvenate a stagnating brand that is admitting that it has seen better days. Look at what Jordan did for the game over his career. Maya Moore can do the same for the ladies on the professional circuit; and when she does, hopefully we can all agree that she will take her deserving place among the aforementioned exceptional players that only come along once or twice in a lifetime and will be treasured forever.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Why Not Bobby?

Everyone deserves a second chance, even former Manhattan and Seton Hall head coach Bobby Gonzalez. (Photo courtesy of New York Post)

Yesterday's announcement of former Alabama head coach Mark Gottfried resurfacing to take the vacant position at North Carolina State became the latest in a new era of former college hoops bosses leaving the bench for a short period of time only to make a return to their former vocation, a trend that started up again last year when St. John's turned to Steve Lavin when naming a successor to Norm Roberts after Lavin spent the preceding seven years as an analyst at ESPN following his dismissal from UCLA. Ironically, Gottfried is himself a former ESPN personality; and even more ironic than that, a fellow assistant on the same staff as Lavin (and current Washington coach Lorenzo Romar as well) under Jim Harrick in Westwood in the first half of the 1990s before they all went their separate ways in the wake of the Bruins' national championship in 1995.

Gottfried's hire, coupled with coaches that have received additional shots to prove themselves despite committing transgressions far greater and more severe than baseball players who used steroids, is living proof that college basketball programs across the country feel the same way I do by validating their beliefs that anyone and everyone deserves a second chance. What I am about to offer as an example may not be popular with some readers, but the opportunity for redemption even extends to a man who unfortunately spent the better part of 2010 becoming a basketball pariah following a stunning and acrimonious termination from his most recent line of work. A man who has recently returned to the conversation in Division I college basketball as one of the rumored candidates for the now-vacant head coaching position at the University of Miami after Frank Haith decided to leave South Florida to replace Mike Anderson at Missouri in what is among one of the more puzzling hires in recent years in the collegiate landscape. A man that, regardless of what you hear about him, remains misunderstood to those who have had the chance to see him up close and personal.

I'm talking about none other than Bobby Gonzalez.

Everyone knows Bobby from his time as the head coach at Manhattan College (1999-2006) and Seton Hall University (2006-2010) just as much as they know him from his alleged legal issues, which will not be referenced in this article because they are simply irrelevant. Say what you want about Bobby; and some of it may be true depending on whom you hear it from, but don't lose sight of his success on the bench because the perceived negatives outweigh the positives. Gonzalez knew how to win, plain and simple. Any coach that wins two conference championships and takes his team to four postseason tournaments (two NCAA Tournaments and two NIT appearances) the way Gonzalez did at Manhattan qualifies as someone who knows what they are doing. Although Gonzalez only made one trip to the postseason at Seton Hall, it doesn't diminish the fact that he guided the Pirates to a 66-59 record over his four years in New Jersey; four years in which his teams progressively improved in each season, culminating with their participation in what turned out to be Bobby's last game at the helm, their first-round loss at the hands of Texas Tech in the 2010 NIT. By the way, the Big East is regarded to be the strongest conference in the nation on an annual basis. Barry Rohrssen and Kevin Willard, who succeeded Gonzalez at Manhattan and Seton Hall respectively, were unable to replicate their predecessor's winning ways despite being left with considerable talent that Gonzalez had recruited. Rohrssen went 13-17 in his first year at Manhattan, while Willard finished his first campaign in South Orange this past season 13-18 despite having to navigate through injuries and player dismissals with a team many expected to be an NCAA Tournament contender at the start of the year.

Personally, I have nothing negative to say about Bobby Gonzalez after spending the first three years of my career covering him both as a student play-by-play announcer at St. John's (I was fortunate to call three St. John's-Seton Hall games in Bobby's tenure) and also as a writer in this very space. Any stories of Gonzalez being difficult to approach or confrontational with the media may as well be urban legends, because he was anything but that whenever I spoke to him. In fact, Bobby even shared a laugh with me when I asked him about playing St. John's inside the Red Storm's on-campus venue of Carnesecca Arena; something that was well-documented by the local newspapers here in New York after Gonzalez expressed his desire to play St. John's at Madison Square Garden, his rationale being that a rivalry as big as St. John's-Seton Hall should be showcased at a venue just as prestigious. In fact, at Big East media day this past October, I noticed something missing from the Seton Hall program when I interviewed the aforementioned Kevin Willard. No disrespect to the former Iona coach and Rick Pitino assistant, but the energy and buzz I had seen emanating from the Pirates while Gonzalez was in charge was seemingly nonexistent under Willard. It could be a difference in philosophy or even the product of Pat Hobbs' desire to start fresh, (something that came back to hurt him this past year) but the difference was as clear as broad daylight. I don't know for sure that Bobby would have had the same tragedy befall his team, but one would assume the Pirates would be more competitive had he stayed for two reasons: Familiarity with Bobby's system, and the coach's track record over his previous eleven years as a head coach.

Back to the vacant Miami job, if I may. Miami has all the right pieces for Bobby Gonzalez to succeed right away. It's a major market in a major conference with resources that, although not as plentiful as some of their ACC counterparts, are adequate to recruit and build for the future. Having a Hispanic surname would also be a boost for Gonzalez, who would be taking a job in a city whose population has historically been primarily Latin-American. In fact, Gonzalez was considered for the Miami job in 2004 before Haith was hired; and no less an authority than former Miami baseball player and current New York Yankees third baseman Alex Rodriguez reached out to Gonzalez in an attempt to lure him from the Bronx to South Beach.

Some others may view Bobby's time away from the game and his age as causes for concern, but Gonzalez has only been on the outside looking in for thirteen months. Rick Pitino and John Calipari (the latter will be mentioned again later) left for the completely different world of the NBA and stayed there longer than that, only to return to Division I at Louisville and Memphis, respectively; and each took their programs to the postseason in every year since returning, a streak Calipari has taken with him to his current job at Kentucky. As far as age, it's nothing but a number. Gonzalez turned 48 last month, and that's still pretty young in the college world that features coaches going well into their seventies before calling it a career. Connecticut head man Jim Calhoun will celebrate his 69th birthday next month, and isn't ready to go anywhere just yet; and that was before winning his third national championship two nights ago. Former Stanford coach Mike Montgomery is another example, leaving for a failed opportunity with the Golden State Warriors only to appear for a collegiate encore in 2008 at Cal, taking the job at the tender age of 61. For what it's worth, Montgomery took the Golden Bears to back-to-back NCAA Tournaments in his first two years and the NIT this past season.

Finally, there are (as I mentioned earlier) other coaches who have done far worse only to get another shot somewhere else. Larry Eustachy was dismissed from Iowa State following an alcohol-related incident, but found employment at Southern Mississippi a year later. Tim Floyd left Southern California in the wake of a scandal involving O.J. Mayo and took the job at UTEP the following season. The aforementioned Calipari has had Final Four appearances at Massachusetts and Memphis vacated, but continues to shine at Kentucky. Jerry Tarkanian resurfaced at Fresno State after the infamous Lloyd Daniels recruiting saga at UNLV. Isiah Thomas was implicated in a sexual harassment lawsuit while general manager of the Knicks; but that didn't stop him from coaching the Knickerbockers or Florida International, who plays in the Hurricanes' backyard of Miami. My point is that Bobby Gonzalez has NEVER had an officially documented off-court issue that approached the severity of those listed above. He may not be perfect, but who is? All that matters is that he was successful at what he did and that he is incredibly passionate and driven to be nothing but the best; and in the profit-seeking enterprise that is collegiate athletics, that's really all you need. Coaches whose reputations have preceded (and sometimes destroyed) them have been able to turn their lives and careers around by getting a second chance at another institution after being disgraced in a more prominent position.

There is no reason to deny Bobby Gonzalez that same fate, be it at Miami or any other program that may be interested in him.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Making Sense Of Madness

Despite best ratings in almost 20 years, Greg Gumbel and Greg Anthony being part of four-network setup hurt presentation of NCAA Tournament. (Photo courtesy of The Big Lead)

As the dust settles on Connecticut's third national championship in thirteen years, it's time now (at long last for some fans of mine) to give my thoughts on this year's edition of the gripping real-life drama that twists and turns its way through three weeks of the spring; an event known as the NCAA Tournament. I won't comment on what turned out to be the Final Four and national championship game, but rather on some happenings behind the scenes and on the set of all four networks that broadcast the tournament. So, without further ado...

This four-network setup gets mixed reviews from me before I go any further. I did like the fact that I was able to watch every game at some point without having to rely on the ever-popular live look-in; as whatever I couldn't get on the big screen (I knew where to find TruTV by the way, months before hand in fact) could be had through the power of the iPhone and the March Madness On Demand app. Thankfully it was available for free, but I would have paid the $9.99 like I did last year if necessary. In addition, the decision to revert to the Luther Vandross version of "One Shining Moment" after a disastrous experiment with the Jennifer Hudson cover was a plus for all real college hoops fans. Unfortunately for CBS, TruTV, TBS and TNT, most of the accolades end there.

The quality and presentation of each of the 67 games made me wish that ESPN had shelled out more for the broadcast rights to the tournament. Gone was the authentic and sometimes emotional free-flowing CBS production, replaced instead by a more contrived and forced (at least in the eyes of this broadcaster) presentation that relied WAY too much on Turner influence, Turner graphics, Turner personnel and Turner insights. Let's face it, the only tolerable aspect from the Turner camp was Ernie Johnson in one of the studios; perhaps because he had CBS analysts Seth Davis and Greg Anthony there to back him up. Greg Gumbel, on the other hand, was not as lucky. Never mind the fact that Gumbel referenced ESPN during a pregame show, which you can see below:

Gumbel was also stuck with NBA guys in Charles Barkley and Kenny Smith that proved that they had no place working the tournament through most of its on-air stay. CBS did, however, redeem themselves with the analysis of Rick Pitino and Jay Wright in guest spots after the coaches were eliminated from the "Big Dance" on its second day. Honestly, the best analysis came before the tournament from CBS College Sports. Never mind the fact that the two names I'm about to mention next are both friends and colleagues of mine, because I'm complimenting them from a professional and unbiased standpoint. The insights shared by Rutgers coach Mike Rice and MSG/1050 ESPN New York college basketball insider Jon Rothstein to those able to watch their six-hour preview hours before the First Four games tipped off should be recorded and shown to producers and network executives at CBS and Turner weeks in advance of next year's tournament in order to get an idea for what the standard should be moving forward.

Finally, I offer this nugget: Suppose ESPN did acquire the broadcast rights to their NCAA Tournament. Here's a look at what their announcer and studio pairings might look like:

1) Sean McDonough, (play-by-play) Jay Bilas and Bill Raftery (color)
2) Brent Musburger (play-by-play) and Bob Knight (color)
3) Dan Shulman (play-by-play) and Dick Vitale (color)
4) Gus Johnson (play-by-play) and Len Elmore (color) - I know Gus works for CBS, but he used to be employed by ESPN; and a profit-seeking venture like the "Worldwide Leader" would recognize the ratings potential and likely boom they would get by bringing the one and only Gus in for two weekends in March.
5) Dave O'Brien (play-by-play) and Dan Dakich (color)
6) Mike Patrick (play-by-play) and Fran Fraschilla (color)
7) Dave Pasch (play-by-play) and Doris Burke (color)
8) Brad Nessler (play-by-play) and Jimmy Dykes (color)

Sideline reporters: Any combination of Erin Andrews, Holly Rowe, Beth Mowins and anyone else whose name currently slips my mind.

By the way, it's also worth noting that ESPN could have done the four-network setup too; airing games on ESPN, ESPN2, ESPNU and ABC, (being that ABC is a Disney property as well) with ABC carrying the Final Four. A two-studio rotation could also have been done as it was by CBS/Turner, with the following personnel:

Studio Crew #1: Rece Davis, (host) Digger Phelps, Hubert Davis and Jay Williams (analysts)
Studio Crew #2: John Saunders, (host) Andy Katz, Doug Gottlieb and Adrian Branch (analysts)

Just a little something to think about for the future.

Friday, April 1, 2011

Grand Marshall Of The Underrated Coach Parade

After winning NIT with Wichita State, Gregg Marshall may finally get his long-awaited shot at a major program. (Photo courtesy of

Far too often in the world of college basketball do we see players and coaches that are unable to show the world just how good they really are on a larger scale, be it for varying reasons. In the coaching landscape, postseason success is the biggest indicator of how one moves up or down the ladder; and with the success of mid-majors in March, it's safe to say that coaches like Shaka Smart of VCU and Butler's Brad Stevens (the latter insists he isn't going anywhere) will have their pick of offers from programs within the six BCS conferences that comprise Division I hoops. Not too far away from Smart and Stevens is a coach that has been making believers out of critics for pieces of three decades going back to his first head coaching gig in 1998, culminating with his most recent triumph last night at Madison Square Garden in the NIT championship. If you don't know Gregg Marshall yet, all I can say is that it's a shame you haven't been introduced to the name and man who is one of the country's most underrated head men.

Marshall came to Wichita State following Mark Turgeon's departure for Texas A&M, joining the Shockers after spending nine years turning Winthrop into the model program in the Big South Conference and giving the league its first NCAA Tournament win outside of a play-in game when the Eagles defeated Notre Dame in the first round back in 2007. Having only posted just one losing season in 13 years at the helm of a Division I school, Marshall will enter the 2011-12 season wherever he ends up with a 276-138 record and one postseason championship after the Shockers defeated Alabama 66-57 last night to win their first NIT title. Where he goes with it is anyone's guess; but if he does leave Wichita State, it will be for a much-deserved opportunity elsewhere that he could (and should) have received years ago.

Last year, I mentioned that Marshall would be a good fit for my alma mater St. John's had Steve Lavin not come along as a candidate. Mind you, this was before Lavin was even considered; back when the list of candidates included luminaries such as Paul Hewitt, Seth Greenberg, Fran McCaffery, Al Skinner and Tommy Amaker. In retrospect, Marshall would have been just as good a fit at Seton Hall had the Pirates looked elsewhere when replacing Bobby Gonzalez with Kevin Willard. However, hindsight is 20/20; and if a guy like Marshall has to wait to get his chance to work magic at the BCS level, it's better late than never.

With Matt Painter opting to remain at Purdue, Missouri still needs a coach after Mike Anderson returned to the Arkansas program he once served as an assistant at; and Oklahoma is still looking after Buzz Williams spurned the Sooners to re-sign with Marquette. Aside from the two Big 12 institutions is North Carolina State, a school that was rumored to have looked at Marshall back in 2006 before turning to Sidney Lowe. Ironically, Lowe was a fallback as well; as the Wolfpack's first choice was none other than the aforementioned Steve Lavin.

If Marshall goes to the ACC, he inherits a team returning most of its talent, but will have to live in the shadow of North Carolina, Duke and Maryland in a never-ending battle for top talent that just attracted a new member when Brian Gregory was announced as the new coach at Georgia Tech. It's a little off topic, but here's a look at Gregory inside the numbers from my friend over at The East Coast Bias:

Marshall will also pick up coveted 2011 commitment Tyler Harris should he go to the Wolfpack. Oklahoma isn't in as good shape as North Carolina State may be; and maybe even harder to win right away given the level the Sooners are at compared to in-conference rivals Kansas, Texas, Kansas State and Missouri. Speaking of the Tigers, who were spurned indirectly by Cuonzo Martin as well when the Missouri State coach left for Tennessee despite being considered the top choice to move to Columbia; Missouri returns their whole team from their 2010-11 campaign, one where they made the NCAA Tournament as a No. 11 seed in the West regional, losing their round of 64 matchup against Cincinnati. Taking the Missouri job would also be easier on his family in that it wouldn't be as difficult of a move as Oklahoma or North Carolina State would be from Wichita State, something Marshall referenced a few years ago in an interview with The Mid-Majority that asked him about his transition from life in South Carolina while coaching Winthrop to moving to the Midwest and the Missouri Valley Conference.

Regardless of where Gregg Marshall ends up, one result will show itself sooner than later: His ability to turn a mid-level team in its conference into a winner. Wherever he goes, you'll see his team in a postseason tournament within one recruiting cycle; and maybe this time it won't be under the radar for one of the most underrated coaches in the nation.