Tar Heel Fan

Saturday, April 29, 2006

Michael Irvin is an Idiot

I was watching the NFL Draft coverage and ESPN's "analyst"(and I use that term loosely) Michael Irvin is griping and complaining about the Houston Texans passing on USC's Reggie Bush in favor of NC State defensive end Mario Williams for the #1 pick in the NFL draft. Now, on one side, not taking Bush may turn out to be a bad move for the Texans given his incredible talent, but that is not how Houston sees it opting to build defense first. Irvin, however is irate at this choice and even went as far as to make the moronic assertion that he is tired of saying "defenses win championships" Irvins says this is not true since scoring more points and more specifically scoring more points than you opponent wins championships. He even cites his own Dallas team winning three titles in four years during the early 1990's as evidence that the power of the Cowboy offense was more important than the defense. Of course what Irvin fails to realize is that one way of scoring more points than you opponent is for YOUR DEFENSE TO KEEP THE OTHER TEAM FROM SCORING!!! How much is ESPN paying this pot smoking clown to get on TV act like a complete buffoon. How about looking at some stats before making such a stupid case. I would assert that you need balance on both sides of the ball to win a title, but even if you offense is mediocre a good defense can keep you in the game and in fact score points for you. If you look at the three Dallas wins from the 1990's they held Buffalo to 13 and 17 points and then allowed only 17 points to Pittsburgh. In fact the most points scored by a Super Bowl loser in the past 26 years is Carolina in 2004 scoring 29 points followed by a couple of losers at 24 points. Baltimore held the Giants to seven points in 2001, and in 2001 Ty Law's interception return for a touchdown accounted for 35% of New England's points in a 20-17 win. I get that Michael Irvin is an offense guy because he was a wide receiver. I also understand that if you do not have a good defense to stop the other team and get the offense on the field to actually score points then you will not win many championships if any. Michael Irvin: Football Genius

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

More Thoughts on the Duke Lacrosse Case

In considering the media role in the Duke Lacrosse Case I asserted that one of the deeply troubling trends found in the conclusions being made on the national coverage level exhibited an incredible level of hubris and illustrated little knowledge of Duke, Durham, and North Carolina in general. There was never a starker example of this than Michael Wilbon’s comments on the April 21 PTI program on ESPN. The discussion centered on the Duke Lacrosse topic du jour for that day; the sale of Duke Lacrosse apparel at Duke University stores. The discussion surrounded the motivations certain people had for buying the jerseys with some doing it for support and others as some sort of sick joke. Wilbon then bloviated that the selling and wearing of Duke lacrosse jerseys might not play well in North Carolina since it is a “Red State”(read: conservative) and also had population with strong religious convictions(read: Christian fundamentalists). I scarcely know where to begin with the implication made by that one point. The first is the use of the term “Red State” to imply that North Carolina is overtly conservative. While NC did vote for George Bush in two elections by overwhelming majorities and does have two Republican senators, it also has a majority Democratic state government. It also should be noted that while most of the state went red in 2004 and 2000, Durham County is a blue county largely due to the black population which traditionally votes at a 90% clip in favor of Democrats. Of course the question I would like Wilbon to answer is why NC being a Red State versus a Blue State makes a bit of difference in this case or why does having a population of individuals who trend towards a more Christian way of life matter either. I would hope that regardless of what you believe, who you vote for, who, where, or what you worship that you would be outraged at what allegedly happened in Durham on March 13th. Is Wilbon implying that Blue Staters or religious novices are somehow less sensitive to the issue or would be more accepting of people wearing Duke Lacrosse jerseys as some kind of novelty? I would think not and essentially what Wilbon did was make some kind of asinine speculation based on commonly held generalizations and patterns of behavior. Another point of note is two issues concerning the DA. The first is statements made by his opponents in the race for Durham County DA. The other two candidates are basically taking Mike Nifong to task for overexposing the case to the media. There is truth to what they are saying but somewhat in Nifong’s defense is the fact he got pulled into a media war with the defense and anything other than straightforwardness would have led to accusations of a cover-up. I honestly believe that Nifong has put what too much of himself and this case in front of the media. I think reelection politics has a lot to do with that as well the need to match the defense sound bite for sound bite. Time will only tell how much it hurts his case in the end. Speaking of hurting the case, a revelation was made Friday that the line-up the accuser used to glean the identifications of the two indicted players was made up of only the lacrosse team members and may have broken state procedures on how such photo arrays are done. According to experts photo arrays should include person who look similar to the suspect in question. This apparently was not done and it may jeopardize the identification in its entirety. One question that enters my mind is why they failed to use proper procedure. I think the answer lies with the police and the DA being unable to zero in on a suspect which made it impossible to assemble a photo array of similar pictures since they did not know who to start with in the first place. What basically occurred here was the accuser was presented with a photo array of the whole team from which she picked her alleged attackers. Now, this is not saying she misidentified her attackers or that she is lying. It is however disturbing to think that IF she was making this story up she could have in that moment picked ANYONE out of that array which could have and may have resulted in the indictment of an innocent person. The reason the procedure calls a photo array centering on one suspect is that it protects the rights of individuals who are not under suspicion. Imagine for example a man attacks a woman on the street in front of his apartment building and then runs inside to his apartment. The woman only gets a marginal look at him and did not see where he went once he entered the lobby. So the police decided to assemble a photo array including only the men living in that building. What are the chances she is going to wrongly identify the wrong man and land someone in hot water? I say the chances are really high and that is why the identification may be virtually worthless if it makes past pretrial hearings.

Monday, April 24, 2006

The Duke Lacrosse Case, Part 2

The Defense The defense lawyers in this case have been known for their penchant to put their case and counter evidence on display for the world to see. The most obvious reason why is they are influencing a potential jury and hoping the public opinion will tilt so far in favor of their clients it will force Nifong to drop the case altogether. Underneath all of that is another reason. It has been said that if these guys are innocent then their defense team has no reason to be out there in the media making the case now as though they are afraid to go to trial straight away. While this may be true I also think the defense team is waging a war to protect the players’ right to innocence until they are proven guilty. It is clear the defense team wants to wage a war to protect the reputation of the players. Aside from the jury implications, the defense is out to form public opinion about their clients. The accusations by themselves are damning enough to the point some of these guys have lost job/intern opportunities this summer and Syracuse University has announced that it will not accept a single Duke player into their program. Every member of that team is essentially tainted and the behavior of the university did not help matters in executing judgment on them before all the facts were known. Now, the defense could have easily said that the trial would prove their client’s innocent but let’s not be naïve here. The public is far more skeptical of an accused person who goes to trial and gets off than someone who avoids the mess altogether. The danger for the defense as it pertains to the reputations of these players is the legal mumbo-jumbo of a trial tends to cloud the facts and is followed by fewer people. Add to that the fact the trial is most likely months off when the interest will die down. It would appear the defense team made the decision present the evidence they have now while the iron is hot rather than wait until trial when the story will have died down and fewer people follow the trial because of the nature of legal proceedings. It also should be noted that the defense has been very good in shaping the picture they want to shape. The information they have released so far has been extremely damaging to the DA’s case. The proof is in the pudding since public opinion if very split. As is the case with the DA only the trail can tell us whether the decision to present the defense case in public first actually pays off for these guys. The Accuser She is a 27 year old NC Central student, mother of two, and yes she is a dancer/stripper. Now, I will say up front I find her line of work to be utter exploitation of her body and morally repugnant. I also think that being in that kind of work increases the chances she will encounter a situation such as this one sooner or later. Having said all of that she is entitled to justice if she was raped and under no circumstances did she ever surrender the right to say no when the time came. It is also a real possibility that her line of work muddies the waters of her own credibility. Aside from the information above we know very little except what the defense has willing told us based on pictures they have released and interviews their own private investigators have done. Based on the best available information the accuser was either falling down drunk or somewhat drunk when she arrived. Photo evidence shows that she already had bruises on her body when she arrived and that she fell down the stairs leaving the house. The police officer told the dispatcher that she was passed out drunk and the security guard at the Kroger she was obviously drunk when she was brought there by her friend. This is all through the light of the defense and hearing her on the stand may tell a different story. She also has the issue of her friend doubting the story until this past Friday when she magically found her way on to a TV screen to say she now believed her. Somehow I smell the odor of someone seeking 15 minutes of fame, but that’s just me. The ultimate question is what happened in that house. Was the accuser so drunk they she was assaulted while passed out? Did nothing happen and she was upset over the little dispute that occurred so she cried rape? Is it possible that she was drunk and engaged in activities with them but does not remember it? Is it as she says that she was sober and forced into a bathroom and assaulted? Tar Heel Fan’s Opinion And this is strictly my opinion. Since all of the evidence we have heard has come from the defense that case looks really weak. And as much as the prosecution has been in front of the media they have kept much of their case details closer to the vest than the defense. I think the lineup identification is worrisome and disturbing in the way that it puts the freedom and innocence of certain players at risk merely by association. Aside from the victim and accuser who has suffered in this situation, some of the players who had nothing to do with this crime and situation are also victims because simply by being on the team. They are victims of a media who for the sake of sensationalism and brevity cast this as the “Duke Lacrosse Team” story and not the story of some members of the Duke Lacrosse team being accused of sexual assault. And regardless of what happens the life of this woman has been ruined and if the allegations prove true she is truly scarred. To a lesser extent the players who are clearly innocent have had what is to be the best years of their life ruined by the whole ordeal and for that the media and Duke Administration is to blame. I only hope justice can be served for the accuser. I also hope those who have been needlessly maligned by this ordeal can find justice and perhaps some sort of vindication. Something tells me that if the case falls apart we will see lawsuits galore from both sides of the case.

Friday, April 21, 2006

We Have Movement!

The NC State coaching search which could be likened to 40 weeks of pregnancy has finally shown life after 10 days of virtual silence from officials and wild rumors from everyone else. According to 850 the Buzz regular interviewee Mike Decourcy of The Sporting News former UCLA coach and current ESPN analyst Steve Lavin has an offer on the table if he wants the job. After 20 days and two very public rejections this is probably not a bad choice for NC State. Just don't tell the NC State fans that however. The reaction at the Pack Pride message board has been more along the lines of "weeping and gnashing of teeth." Some State fans are obviously unhappy with the polished Lavin possibly being the head coach. And to those Wolfpackers I would simply say: BE QUIET YOU ARE GETTING ON MY NERVES!!!! Ahem. Run this through the mill. Every possible coach in the country has been linked to this job. Lee Fowler went hunting for big game and ended up facilitating raises for Rick Barnes and John Calipari. As the days have worn on the names have popped up and been shot down. According the David Glenn on his WRAL blog the candidates on this point were Lavin, John Beiline of West Virginia, and Dereck Whittenburg of Fordham. Beiline had a huge buyout and is viturally the same as Herb Sendek. Whittenburg would have been a Matt Doherty situation where he got the job because he was "in the family" without any major coaching experience. At this point you should all fall on your knees and thank the heavens it is Lavin if he actually signs the contract. He was 145-78 at UCLA which is a .708 winning percentage. That also includes a 10-19 final season so prior to that he was winning 81% of his games. And while he has not won the big one or been to a Final Four he has been to the Sweet 16 on numerous occassions. Also bear in mind he was 33 when he took the job at UCLA and undoubtedly his you and inexperience as a major head coach may have created problems for him. Three years on the outside as a observer and analyst of the game should help him come in with a proper perspective. The biggest complaint NC State fans had with Sendek was a lack of personality and a failure to get past a certain level of mediocrity. Lavin has the media gig down pat, he is a great personality and will provide an interesting contrast to the country boy Roy Williams and the business executive Coach K. His success at UCLA exceeded the level of success enjoyed by Sendek at NC State in terms of NCAA Tournament advancement. The only two questions out there are can he recruit to State and how well can he coach a game versus two of the greatest coaching minds in the country. I honestly think he will do fine and as long as Wolfpack fans do not expect a Final Four or national title in the first four years he should be able to mange expectations. Lavin is the best State is going to get and I think he will be a great fit. If they had any wits about themselves they would fall into full support and start living up to all of that "passionate and loyal fan base" malarkey they were trying to sell Barnes and Calipari when they were on the hook. This is a step up from Sendek and this satisfies the personality requirement. Only time will tell what happens on the court.

Thursday, April 20, 2006

The Duke Lacrosse Case, Part I

As a blogger from the Raleigh area one might construe that I have fallen short of my responsibilities for not having raised this issue already. Part of my hesitation was that I not be seen for jumping up and down on Duke just for the sake of doing it. The other side of it was that I simply did not have enough information to render an opinion on the matter. And while the media at large is often satisfied with blowing hot air out over the airwaves or printing whatever speculations they can get their hands on I tend to operate differently. Of course underlying this reasoning is the incredible complexity and confusion of the events of March 13, 2006 in that house on the outskirts of Duke's campus. I happen to think that a woman who cries rape should be given every opportunity to receive justice but I also think that a whole lacrosse team of players is innocent until proven guilty. As of this writing I have yet to render an opinion on who might be telling the truth. Here is my view of the parties involved. The Media Whether we know or not June 17, 1994 was a dark day for American society. That was the day of the O.J. Simpson Bronco chase in California which subquently ended in his arrest and led to his long trial for the murder of his ex-wife Nicole Brown Simpson. What the coverage of the O.J. trial brought was a genesis of the 24 hour news cycle where networks like CNN devoted the whole day to trial coverage and little know legal analysts who once got 5-10 minutes to address some issue became half hour fixtures on prime time news channels. Ever since that trial, every major crime that captures the imagination is picked up and carried by the media ad nauseum. The recent Natalee Holloway case in Aruba gave more life to this phenomenon and the Duke Lacrosse Rape Case has fallen into the same cycle of neverending coverage. One terrible aspect of cases like this is the news hosts pontificating on this case and its meaning for the Durham community and Duke have probably spent less time in Durham or at Duke than most anyone. In other words you have hosts interviewing people about a community or situation in which the hosts know very little about factually and everything else they know is based on generalizations. The second problem is that both the DA and the defense attorneys have made unabashed use of the media in their efforts to market the case to potential jurors. The media has been nothing less than a totally willing partner in this venture. The DA and defense are not at all bashful about leaking any and all information to the press which may aid their case. It is clear the intention was to try the case in the media. For the DA it was intended to show the community how tough the prosecution was being and for the defense it was to pressure the DA into dropping the whole thing. Both sides have failed and the result is a whole lot of evidence out in the open allowing people to form hardened opinions on the case, some of which may be called to jury duty. The media has been grossly irresponsible overall with the exception of local radio station 850 The Buzz which has been very reserved in its presentation of the case choosing to stick with verifiable facts. The sad truth is the case may have already been decided by the potential jury and that mean no justice for anyone. Duke University The fact that this is Duke makes this case all the more explosive. Duke is considered "Ivy League South" and has all the prestige and glory a highly touted private university can muster. In fact had this event occurred at East Carolina or even NC State the attention would be far less. The fact that it was Duke and also coupled with the fact that a black woman had accused a group of white men of rape gave in the racial element needed to make a national story. There is also a element where Duke's failure to properly administer the behavior of the lacrosse team may have created the situation. According to the News and Observer the lacrosse team had a long history of misdemeanors and violations of the campus judicial code. Numerous players on numerous occassions engaged in criminal activity or illustrated reckless behavior which was largely unchecked by anyone at Duke. Does this mean any one of them was guilty of rape? No, but it does indicate that there was, to use a favorite NCAA term, a lack of institutional control over the team on matters of off the field behavior. Now resigned Duke lacrosse coach Mike Pressler was surely aware of how his team was behaving and should have done more to rein them in and if he was incapable of doing so then AD Joe Alleva or President Richard Brodhead should have taken actions to bring the lacrosse players under control. This is not saying that had tighter controls been instituted it would have prevented the alleged incident but at least there would have been a record of some kind of attempt to bring these guys under umbrella of authority. One sure fire way of telling the world you knew you had a ticking time bomb and did nothing to stop it is to slap some kind of sizable CYA penalty down on the team. In this case Duke horribly overreacted and suspended the entire team and cancelled the season on the allegation that three of the 47 team members had comitted this act. This reeks of grade school discipline when the whole class stays in for recess because two attention seeking idiots in the back of the class decide upsetting the teacher is far more fun than slides and swings. What is an even greater travesty is the fact the whole team was tagged with these charges and based on everything I have read it is probable the whole team was not even present at the party. A whole bunch of good guys with excellent grades and overall decent records as citizens of Duke and the city are penalized because a few are accused of a heinous crime. A group of guys who want nothing more than to play collegiate lacrosse and exercise their talents at the highest level are now stuck sitting in their dorms with no season left. Of course in Duke's defense, the racial nature of the charges made virtually any decision they made a bad one. If they move too slow it is called a cover up and they are insensitive to the Durham community. If they come down too fast and hard they are seen as being to draconian and wrongfully punishing innocent students who may have not even been present. There was no middle ground here but part of that is based on Duke's failure to act when the charges were minor and the behavior controllable. The bottom line here is that Duke could have addressed the behavior of the lacrosse team which was by most accounts out of control. Dealing with the minor infractions would have given Duke opportunity to identify troublemakers and established a punishment track which would have made the actions they ended up taking completely in line with precedent. The Distict Attorney Mike Nifong is the DA for Durham County, he is white, and he is also running for reelection in a predominatly black county and city. That is pretty much all you need to know to draw a conclusion as to why Nifong has aggressively pursued this case. As much as I would like to think he is a zealous advocate of the people and will always employ this kind of passion in obtaining justice for any victim, years of watching politics has made me cynical. There are two absolutely inescapable motivators for Nifong here. The first is politics. Nifong is up for reelection and there is no way in Hades he gets reelected as D.A. if he ticks off the black community. A black N.C. Central student alleges rape against white Duke students and what you essentially have is a political time bomb. If Nifong was three years out from reelection, then he could afford to play this much more cautiously because voter memories are very short and as long as you say the right things during the year before the election the odds are a mistake you made 2-3 years back will not matter. Since this case fell into the election year Nifong had no choice but to go after the lacross players come hell or high water. Even as it appears the case is falling apart, Nifong pressed forward with indictments because if he does not he will be easily beaten when the voters hit the polls. The second aspect is race. Nifong is making a preemptive strike against a reaction from the black community. The last thing Durham officials want is Jesse Jackson or Al Sharpton leading a march down the center of Durham. Instead of allowing the outrage to fester and grow, Nifong headed it off by taking the hard line, even if it means putting innocent men through a trial. If Nifong so much as hesitates or fails to toe the line, the black community will take him to task. And I do not mean this is a necessarily negative action their part. There is still plenty of inequality in the world and enough reminders that black victims often get a raw deal when accusing white attackers. It also should be noted that there is a tenancy to play the race card when it is not a racial issue at all. As difficult as it is, we must strive to remember that someone alleged attack someone else in a sick manner. The act alone regardless of the colors of the skin should be enough to outrage the entire community of people, bring the zeal of the D.A., but at the same time create a proper environment where justice can trult prevail. Sadly, this is not occurring in Durham. The D.A. is using the media to play politics by using various leaks. The interest for Nifong is not justice for the victim or finding the truth, the interest is reelection and whatever truth ensures that is the one he will be presenting to the jury. Next: The Defense Paints a Picture, The Accuser, and The Case Itself

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

NC State Coaching Search: Day 18

Since it has been over a week since there was anything significant out of Raleigh. The interest has waned and people are starting to come to terms with their miserable lives such as they are. In my opinion Fowler has wasted the energy and enthusiasm of a rabid mob on the protracted coaching search to the point that when he does actually name someone they will be scrutinized until the cows come home. However, if there is a ongoing frenzy then the mob mentality will take over and the crowd will embrace whomever is hired as a conquering hero. Here are some ways Fowler could stir the pot to make things more interesting: 1. Schedule a press conference without revealing the reason why and then come to the podium and make a terse two sentence statement about the search continuing. Then take questions and answer every one of them with a quick, "No Comment" unless they mention a candidate by name then hesitate and shift the eyes a little before refusing to comment. 2. Have NC State booster Wendell Murphy dispatch his plane to any number of locations around the country just to spark speculation. 3. Drive to RDU airport with two other athletic department employees and walk through the terminal a couple of times just so enough people will recognize you then go back to your office and watch the rumors spread from there. 4. Send someone over to the RBC Center this evening around 9 PM driving your vehicle and have them turn the lights on inside for 30-45 minutes before leaving in a hurried fashion just as the media arrives. 5. Get your own account on Pack Pride and start posting vague but slightly contradictory rumors on the message board about the coaching search. Then when the posters are good and worked up make a suggestion that talks haven begun with Herb Sendek to bring him back to Raleigh while simulatenously starting the same rumor on the Arizona St. message board under a different username. There is a bevy of entertainment to be had over this situation and I honestly think Lee Fowler is duty bound to provides us enough inneuendo and vague speculation to flood the message boards with all the manic and delusional ravings we need to keep us all occupied until football season gets into gear. Plus, the money to be made off of new premium subscriptions at Pack Pride should be reason enough to stoke the fires of unsubstantiated speculation. I mean what else is there to do right now?

Monday, April 17, 2006

NC State Coaching Search: 16 Days and Counting...

The days grow long and list grows short. And considering it only took God six days to create the heavens and earth(humanity included) the length of this search has to be reaching an embarassing point. Or perhaps not since this is not the kind of decision Lee Fowler can afford to screw up because it would probably cost him his job. The unfortunate aspect of this whole ordeal for NC State is that the names having been dropping fast and furious. Since Barnes and Calipari were approached and turned down the job names like P.J. Carlissemo formerly of the 1989 runner-up Seton Hall Pirates and having been choked by Latrell Sprewell as an NBA coach. Billy Gillespie of Texas A&M was a popular choice among Wolfpackers and was even rumored to have gone underground just as Fowler has done. It would appear he has surfaced and seems to be happy at College Station and add to that the Aggies were just forced to cough up a scholarship for a low academic rating which looks more like Jim Valvano than Roy Williams. Jay Wright is happy as a clam at Villanova or his wife is either way he is not leaving Philly. Rumors about former UNC coach Matt Doherty or current South Carolina and former Wake coach Dave Odom appear to be just that. Fordham coach Dereck Whittenburg of 1983 National Championship fame is fan favorite but does not sport much in the way of a winning resume. In fact even the Pack Pride message board has reached a resigned state and seems to be discussing the topic less and less. I think there is a real possibility that Fowler intends to drag this thing out to the point everyone forgets NC State does not have a coach while he secretly hires someone who will covertly assume the job and be revealed the day before practice starts. The backlash would be minimum and how much complaining could anyone do considering it would be a done deal? Of course I am not serious, but I do wonder what is going on in whatever secret location Fowler is locked up in conducting this search. Fowler deserves a lot of credit for going after big game for all to see to quell anyone who would claim he did not try to get a name coach. And I think this long secret silence is actually brillant since it shows he is not panicked or at least not showing he is panicked. Fowler appears to be willing to take as much time as possible as not to make some half-cocked, rush-to-judgement choice just to get the job filled. This is what is commonly referred to as due-diligence and Fowler appears to be a master at it.

Friday, April 14, 2006

Why Doesn't He Talk About UNC More?

I am sure some people probably think it is strange that a blog called "Tar Heel Fan" has spent the last two weeks talking about everyone else but UNC? Good question and since I need a fluff piece to fill in the gap I will address my focus here. 1. No Real News From UNC The basketball season is over at UNC and the last piece of news we had was that Tyler Hansbrough would return for his sophomore season. Other than that it has been slow over there in Chapel Hill and since I am nowhere near the point I am ready to talk about football I really have nothing UNC related to pontificate about. Some more rabid fans will dissect the sping football game or even spent time talking about the super recruiting class UNC has coming. I really have no interest in discussing things on this level which seems better suited for the Inside Carolina message board rather than here on this blog. If anything new breaks in Chapel Hill, it will be on this blog, but right now, no news is good news for UNC fans. 2. Commenting on Rival Schools is Related Since I am local resident in North Carolina and I also am a UNC fan, the occurences in the Duke and NC State community are absolutely relevant. Perhaps it is good for a humor post but I also like delving into the intricacies of the coaching issue at NC State for example. And while this blog is also a Tar Heel fan blog it is also a blog about ACC basketball from a UNC fan's perspective. 3. Sports In General It is also my intention to delve into all sports issues and arenas. The NC State coaching search and the NCAA Tournament before than sucked all of the air out this little blog's room so that is all I have focused on so far. I will get into talking about baseball some and the NBA playoffs a little bit though I find the pro basketball scene very tedious. At any rate I forsee this blog being busier during the crux of the college basketball sports year from August until April/May. So summer blogging will probably be lighter unless something of monumental proportions comes to light in the ACC or at UNC. And yes, this was a filler post. I hope you enjoyed reading my vitually meaningless drivel.

Thursday, April 13, 2006

Salary vs. Value

It has been over a full day since NC State received it's second rejection in their search for a new head coach. The Wolfpack administration seems to have hunkered down somewhere secluded putting out feelers and attempting to construct some sort of plan to move forward on their so-called "B" list of candidates. Since we have this pause in the ongoing drama it is time to take stock of what has happened in these past 12 days. NC State AD Lee Fowler understood two things when he began this search. The first is he had to appease the NC State fan base by hiring a star coach. It was imperative that Fowler not start the search with another mid-major coach even if he was a proven winner. State fans wanted a name and a personality to match wits with Roy and K and they also wanted someone who could fire up the masses. The second thing Fowler knew was that he had to bring a "shock and awe" offer to the table to either outbid any school from the very start and express how much NC State really wanted that coach to come. The basic premise was based on the idea that NC State fans would settle for nothing less than an all out offensive to bring in a name coach. The pitfall was that if the offer failed to entice the coach in question, Fowler et. al are left with having raised enormous stakes and failed in the process. The logic was sound on Fowler's part and he should be commended for striking such a bold move to bring in what the fans were asking for since these same fans were the reason Sendek left in the first place. My question now is whether or not this has inappropriately skewed the salary landscape of college coaches? Based on the best available information UNC coach Roy Williams and Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski make in the neighborhood of $1.9 million by the time calculate their entire package. As best as I can tell they are close to the top of the college basketball salary ladder and rightfully so since they head the two top programs during the past 25 years. These programs are consistently elite programs and frequent Final Four contenders. These coaches have posted tremendous winning percentages and each have at least one national title(K has three) and numerous Final Four appearances. So in respect to the salary they get paid it seems to be a reflection of three factors: 1. The status of the program. 2. The success of the coach. 3. The priority of the program at that school i.e. Duke and UNC are both "basketball schools." The salary paid to these two coaches seems reflective of their value in terms of their success and the programs ranking in the country. The coach I think fall into the same category as coaches above are Rick Pitino, Lousiville(#2 and #3, but marginally #1), Tom Izzo, Michigan State(#1 and #2 and sometimes #3), Tubby Smith, Kentucky(#1 and #3, #2 somewhat in question), Lute Olsen, Arizona(all three), Jim Calhoun, UConn(all three). All of these guys coach at schools where basketball is huge, they are historically successful, and they each have a at least one national title and multiple Final Fours under their belt(with the exception of Smith who only has one FF.) In other words these are the type of coaches who warrant the top salaries and for the most part their schools have responded. Now the offers coming out of NC State were reported to be either in excess of the present salaries of many of the above coaches or in the case of the Calipari offer very close to it. However, if you take a step back and look at the three factors described above how does NC State and their two "A" list candidates fit into the criteria. Is NC State an elite program with a consistent historical success? No, they have do have two national titles but in most respects they have a flash in the pan period of 2-4 years followed by inconsistency. The records are clear that since the Everett Case days NC State has never been a consistent winner in college basketball. Skipping the second factor for a moment, NC State can probably be described as a "basketball school" simply because they are in North Carolina, the play in the ACC, and their football program is not anywhere close to being more noteworthy than the basketball program. So NC State is somewhat solid on the third criteria. Now let's back up to the second criteria and see how that applies the two coaches in question. I would describe Rick Barnes and John Calipari as being successful coaches. There is evidence that they have developed winners wherever they have coached whether it be Clemson or UMass in the early days or small school Memphis for Calipari and football school Texas for Barnes. That being said their success can be described as limited at best. Barnes has been to 1 Final Four at Texas, has never won the Big 12 Tournament, and just this year set a school record for wins with 30(the previous was 26.) While at Clemson, the Tigers moved from the ACC cellar to the ACC middle and did occasionally crack the Sweet 16. Now, Barnes is poised to do great things but so far all we have from him is a whole bunch of good things. Caliapri has the same kind of record. He has one Final Four appearance from the UMass days(later vacated) and this season Memphis made the Elite 8 with 33 wins and a #1 seed in the NCAA Tournament. Prior to that Calipari had fewer NCAA Tournament appearances in the past five years than Herb Sendek. As is the case with Barnes, Caliapri also appears on the verge of doing some great things at Memphis but again all we have so far a bunch of good runs. So having digested all of this information can someone please explain the logic of a school which has historically been a middle of the road college basketball team paying a coach who has been to one Final Four and never won the national championship more money than the most storied programs in the country pay their wildly successful coaches. The answer is that there is no logic to it because it is a maddening attempt to address the illogical expectations of a fan base who thinks a big name coach is the cure to all their basketball ills. I understand why Fowler and NC State went this route but it also scares me speechless because of the manner in which it threatens to skew the salary landscape of college basketball coaches. Try this logic on for size. If coaching job at NC State which is not an elite program is worth $2 million annually to a coach who has never seen Monday night at the Final Four the how much is the job at Maryland, Michigan, Illinois, LSU, or Marquette worth? Heck, if one Final Four is all you need to get a $2 million payday then George Mason needs to engage in some serious fundraising. Now, I know it is not that simple and there are a lot more factors involved that the ones I have put forward. But, in my humble opinion, the salary of college basketball coaches should be based on the success of the school under that coach and is primarily dictated in financial terms by the interest that school has in the program. In the case of NC State, the booster interest is there so the money is there. However, the success of the coaches in question and the status of the program simply makes the money being offered look like overkill. In fact the I would have to agree with 850 the Buzz's Adam Gold who said that Memphis got screwed on the deal because they ended up giving more money to a coach who has yet to do anything significant. Then again it is NC State's money and they have every right to do with it as they please. In our society the buyer determines the value of something by how much they are willing to pay. If people did not pay $5000 for plasma TV's then I am pretty certain they would be cheaper. So on a objective scale of stats and results it is easy to say that Barnes and Calipari are not $2 million coaches. However, to NC State fans and to the boosters they were see as a coming saviors who would finally push them to the upper tier of the ACC. From that perspective the value they would assign is far higher than what objective measures might say. The problem is when that skewed perspective based value is used in the open market as an objective standard it really mucks things up.

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

Strike Two

In the 10 days since Herb Sendek left NC State for Arizona St. two coaches have managed to parlay for themselves a total of $900,000 in raises from their respective schools. In other words, being on NC State's wish list for coaches is good for your personal portfolio. First Texas' Rick Barnes said no and was duly paid for his decision to stay in Austin. I honestly think Barnes made a decision based on the merits and not so much the money(though the money helps.) Next on the list was John Calipari of Memphis who I thought had a reputation of not being the most upstanding of coaches. Now we have evidence that is most certainly the case. NC State AD Lee Fowlet made the decision to make this run at Calipari a public affair after keeping the Barnes pursuit secret. Fowler was aggressive and I thought the public courtship was a bold move with built-in advantages for NC State. By putting it on the table in full view of the world, Calipari was forced to move quickly and Memphis was also forced to either pony up or let him go. So Fowler offers the big money, estimated at more than half a million dollars more than Memphis had recently bumped his salary to following the end of the season. This entered another factor into the mix which was an apparent rift between Calipari and Memphis AD R.C. Johnson who had only offered Calipari $100,000 more even though he had taken the Tigers to the Elite 8. Needless to say Calipari was not amused and essentially stood ready to play the "disrespect" card. NC State came calling(was called?) and Calipari entertained the offer in Memphis on Sunday and followed up Monday with a visit to campus. Now I know that signs are really good if the guy comes and visits. Why waste the time to travel there if you are not serious? If you a coach gets as far as the campus visit and further discussion then it is almost a sure bet. Of course UNC thought Virginia Tech's Frank Beamer was a sure bet six years ago when he came to Chapel Hill to talk turkey about the UNC football job and even verbally committed to take it. UNC AD Dick Braddour forgot to have him sign the contract and Beamer went back to Blacksburg, got all misty eyed, and he received a handsome offer to stay put. He did and a new venacular was born in the realm of North Carolina college athletics. UNC got "Beamered" And now NC State has had the joy of having been "Beamered" too. Calipari played the Wolfpack like a violin. It was a masterful performance in which Calipari led NC State down the garden path only to bash them over the head with a rock and walk off arm-in-arm with Memphis. Even before this occurred I had always felt Calipari was a weasel and now we have proof of it. NC State's rabid desperation for a "big name" coach and a personality of epic proportions was a huge weakness here. Also, it was known how much money they threw at Barnes, it was a safe bet they would throw similar money at the Memphis coach. Calipari played the situation every step of the way from the initial offer right down to the campus visit which scared the living daylights out of Memphis boosters to the point they immediately raised the pot of dough needed to retain their prized coach. Of course the most brillant charade of the whole act was the perceived tension between Calipari and his boss, Johnson, which lent further credence to the idea that Calipari was upset at his treatment. Many in the media thought Calipari was jaded enough to take another job because Memphis only chose to do the right thing after the NC State offer came and not out of recognition for his accomplisments. In the end Calipari did what one would expect Calipari to do and that is look out for himself. It is obvious that being king of Conference USA is enough to feed his massive ego and he is still under no restrictions as to the kinds of players he can recruit. Memphis will easily be a top 10-15 team next season with two good recruits coming in. Calipari had all of his ducks in a row at Memphis and was only missing one thing: a top flight contract. All Calipari wanted was his fair market value for building a contender and if he had to use NC State insatiable appetite for an established coach with great hair so be it. NC State got screwed, hands down. The problem they face now is getting more ominous as the days wear on. It can be reasonably assumed that every single AD in the country who even remotely thinks Lee Fowler might call has either locked their guy into a good deal or has one sitting his desk drawer ready to pull out if necessary. Make no mistake, Lee Fowler did everything he was supposed to do here. He made the big offers and fought for two big names who would have been good fits for NC State. Fowler led them to the water, they just wanted no part of it for whatever reason. It was a huge and calculated risk which would have made Fowler a revered person had it worked but now that it hasn't he is being maligned by the fan base. Now the NC State AD faces a daunting and difficult task which begins with the question: What now?

Monday, April 10, 2006

Secondary Target

Now that Rick Barnes has officially withdrawn himself from consideration for the NC State coaching job, the powers that be in Wolfpack land quickly moved to their second target: John Calipari, head coach at Memphis. Now in may respects I honestly think Calipari is a better coach than Barnes, at least in terms of the results he has yielded in the situations he has worked. Calipari took UMass to a Final Four in 1996(later vacated because UMass center Marcus Camby got paid.) Calipari took a school that did nothing but lose in basketball and made them a winner. After foolishly jumping to the NBA for four seasons he returned to Memphis and this past season had them at 33-4 and a #1 seed in the NCAA Tournament. So one thing is obvious, Calipari can recruit and seems to know what he is doing on the sideline. He also had done more with less and posted better records at schools who were not in power basketball conferences like Clemson was for Barnes or the big time state university like Barnes has at Texas. The lure of Barnes was his NC roots and the fact he got in Dean Smith's face one time during a game. NC State is focused on getting a big name coach and Calipari certainly fits the bill. The only problem with Calipari is one of reputation for the kind of players he recruits. NC State went through a two year probation because Jim Valvano played fast and loose with the rules and was willing to bring in less that astute players on the academic and character levels. Calipari operates on a similar scheme picking up a lot of players which could not cut it academically at other schools or have some spectre of trouble in the past which makes them radioactive to the North Carolinas and Dukes of college basketball. Current Oklahoma St guard JameSon Curry, who was a UNC recruit until he plead guilt to drug possession and was cut loose by Roy Williams, is the type of player who would end up with coaches like Calipari, Bob Huggins, and obviously Eddie Sutton. Then there is the incident at UMass where Marcus Camby accepted money and as a result UMass vacated the 1996 Final Four appearance. Calipari has been cleared of any wrongdoing in the case, but when that sort of thing happens on you watch as head coach, it does raise red flags. [PAUSE POST] Now in the ongoing war of rivals, NC State fans have been saying that UNC has no room to talk on this matter since Roy Williams was cited a minor infaction while at Kansas. It seems that Williams approved the giving of gifts to graduating players. First of all, the violations were self reported by Kansas and not the result of a NCAA investigation. Secondly, Williams made a full statement disclosing his side of the story and express remorse for what had happened. And finally, the basis of the violation is that a "student athlete is a student athelete for life" which means that if I am ever in Greensboro and a Spartan club member takes me out to dinner and pays for it then a NCAA violation has occurred since I ran cross country for the university. In other words Williams made the same assumption that I made about myself and that is the moment the last game was played or eligibility was officially exhausted then NCAA restrictions were officially lifted. It was a honest mistake and since the gifts involved were of such little value it is no wonder the NCAA has never categorized this a major infraction. Some NC State fans on the Pack Pride message board have categorized the Kansas gifts as far worse than anything Valvano or NC State ever did. This is an interesting position since according to the search results yielded by the NCAA database on infractions NC State was cited for major violations under Valvano as well as four other times in their history in various sports. In other words State fans need to shut up about this since history has proven there is but one school between UNC, Duke, and NCSU that enjoys a checkered past and that is the Wolfpack. [RESUME POST] I am not saying Calipari is dirty or will commit NCAA infactions the moment he walks on campus. What I am saying is there is a perception as to his commitment to things like academics and character. I think Calipari will be more likely to engage in behavior similar to Valvano in an effort to get the job done and the last thing NC State needs is the perception that they can only be successful on the same level with UNC and Duke if they cheat their way there or recruit the wrong kind of players. NC State fans want so much to be on the same level as UNC and Duke but part of that is not only winning on the court, part of that is running a clean program with model student athletes. Of course this is all water under the bridge. Yesterday some enterprising NC State fan used a flight tracking website to figure out that a plane registered to Wolfpack donor Wendell Murphy left Duplin County for RDU and then flew from RDU to Memphis. Yes, one can assume that planes leaving Duplin County en route to Memphis are not going for blues and BBQ. NC State AD Lee Fowler and NCSU Chancellor James Olbinger made the trip to offer what has been described as an "overwhelming" package. Translation: A lot of freakin' money. We do not know how much but one can only be humored by NC State's predelection to pay coaches who have only been to one Final Four and never been in a NCAA title game the same kind of money Roy and Coach K make. The other interesting part of this is how upfront NC State has been with their pursuit of Calipari versus Barnes. With Barnes it was backwater channels and middle men making the overtures all veiled in secrecy. In the case of Calipari it has been very obvious. It has been speculated that Calipari made the first move in this dance. The agressive and open nature of the NC State offer seems to give that theory legs. Why would NC State open itself to the public embarassment of rejection if they did not already think there was some kind of interest? The other part is that NC State's people want the media to know certain things at this point. Let's be honest, Fowler did not have to travel to Memphis to conduct this interview. The technology exists to do a conference call or even a video conference. Fowler and the gang wanted it to be known that they were meeting with Calipari and that, as sources are claiming, an offer is on the table. Why? Because it placed an extreme amount of pressure on Calipari. Everyone knows that the ball is in Calipari's court and he has to respond quickly as does the Memphis AD. The effect of this tactic means a quicker resolution putting Memphis at a disadvantage to counter effectively and it also may push Calipari to make the decision in favor of the Pack. For all the screaming in Wolfpack nation about Fowler he certainly seems to know what he is doing here, especially if this works out. I would expect some kind of resolution on this target in less than half the time it took with Barnes. So at this point we are left with the following questions: 1. Is Calipari truly interested or is he pushing for a raise from Memphis? 2. Calipari is a good fit in that he has taken programs at a certain level and put them near the top, but do the ends justify whatever means he might employ? 3. Is it wise to pay someone who has limited Final Four or NCAA title success as much as other coaches who have those accolades? 4. Are the Pack boosters and academic surrogates of the athleteic department going to be satisfied with whatever platitudes Calipari offers up? 5. Where does NC State go if he rejects them in this very public courtship? The next few days will tell an interesting tale.

Thursday, April 06, 2006

The NC State Coaching Search Timeline

The Wolfpack's #1 target, Texas coach Rick Barnes, made good use of the NC State drive to make him their head coach by leveraging their $2 million offer into a better deal for himself. Barnes made it official Thursday evening that he will remain in Texas. There are of course other candidates but before we delve into that let's review where we have been: On Saturday, April 1st, there was much joy in Wolfpack nation as embattled coach Herb Sendek left Raleigh to take the head coaching job at Arizona St. In fact the talk of the opportunity to hire a "big name" coach had many Wolfpack fans talking about national championship rings. Attention was immediatley turned to Texas coach Rick Barnes and efforts were made to woo him. As the wait began, the stress on Wolfpack Nation began to show. Three days soon past and the combination of little official news and wild rumors on the Pack Pride message board soon became almost too much to handle. Until finally this evening the news was broken that Barnes was not coming to NC State and uncertainty gripped the hearts of Wolfpack faithful everywhere. One can only hope they find a coach soon, there is no telling how desperate these people will become. Copyright © 2006, BCB Photo Credits: Still shots from The Lord of the Rings: Return of the King

NC State Fan Misconceptions

Now that we are approaching a week since Herb Sendek took his modified Princeton offense and went to Arizona St., Wolfpack nation continues it's vigil on message board and AM sports talk awaiting the naming of the coach which will take them where Sendek could not. Having spent some time reading the Pack Pride message board(they denied my application to be able to post there) I have learned that Wolfpack fans are operating through this fiasco with a number of misconceptions which make it all far more entertaining than it normal. Misconception: State needs a "big name" coach Real Motivation: Instant Gratification My answer to this is why? Why do you necessarily need a star coach when you think that Dean Smith, Roy Williams, Bobby Knight, and Mike Krzyzewski were big name coaches before they landed at their respective schools? Of course not, but it should also be noted that all of those coaches walked into situations where the program was at rock bottom or on probation from infractions committed by the previous coach. NC State does not appear to be in that boat. NC State has been to five straight NCAA Tournaments, is winning 20 games a season, the players are graduating, and the program is clean(Good thing they got rid of Sendek with those shenanigans going on.) It is the general feeling that since the program is in good shape, now is the time to spend the resources to get a big name who can build a mansion on top of Sendek's foundation. I would ultimatly disagree with that assumption. I think there are plenty of good mid-major coaches who carry a lesser price tag who can take the current foundation and build a nice house. The real problem with Wolfpack nation is they are tired of waiting and a big name coach is more likely to shortcut the development process because his name and status brings instant credibility and a almost instant recruiting pipeline. A successful mid-major coach would needs a few years to get the ball rolling. Finding the next coaching star would server NC State for much longer and much better than diving into the middle of a name coach's career. Misconception:The new coach needs ego and personality to stand toe-to-toe with Roy and K. Real Motivation: Inferiority complex when it comes to UNC and Duke As I have said many times before, the NC State neurosis over Sendek had more to do with him not being Jim Valvano than the actual win total. I am not going to rehash these reasons I discussed here but rest assured the low key Sendek did not sit well with State fans who spoke so highly of the sound bite at the ready Valvano. This mentality is what is playing out in this case. State fans want a coach who already has his own aura and orbit in space. They want someone who is a giant right next to Roy and Coach K. There is also some notion that head-to-head recruiting is an issue which seems a little silly. Going back to the first point they want someone who can come in and suck some of the air in the room away from the other two guys and match them not only in Xs and Os but also in the public relations battle. The folley in this thinking is that you are having the coaching search dictate not by what you need but how you can beat two other local coaches in what amounts to a chest beating contest. As much as I dislike Coach K and complain on this blog about the attention he gets and the media favorability I also realize that as a function of how UNC performs none of it matters. NC State fans seem so concerned about how well a new coach would "matchup" with the other two coaches they are obviously willing to pay $2 million a year for a guy in Rick Barnes who is 2-14 against those two combined. In other words they want their coach to look and sound as good as the other two and they do not want to wait for that to happen. Misconception: UNC and Duke fans are fearful NC State will land a top coach Real Motivation: They hope UNC and Duke fans are fearful I could really care less other than the tremendous entertainment value it all has in watching them get worked up over it. If Barnes or someone else comes in and revives the program to the point they are able to beat UNC more often then I will deal with the same way I deal with Duke's current run of dominance. These things run in a cycle, except in NC State's case the cycle has been going for a very long time. I honestly do not worry about such things because UNC's goal when it begins each season is to win a national championship. Since the chances of playing another conference school at any point in the tournament is usually quite remote, why should I care how good they get at NC State. UNC has beaten Duke a total of four times this decade. You know how many national championships UNC has in the same span. One, the same number as Duke. The point is that beating the rival is nice, winning the ACC championship is nice, but winning the whole thing is better. In fact UNC's past two national championship seasons have included ACC Tournament losses to Georgia Tech. I treat a team getting a new coach like a team getting good recruits, I will wait and see what comes of the situation and deal with it then. Besides I think I speak for both UNC and Duke fans in saying that we have so much confidence in our head coaches and the skill they show in exercising their craft that I really will not lose on moment of sleep worrying about what kind of coach ends up in Raleigh, Lexington, KY, or Bloomington, IN. We have two of the best in the business why should we worry about the other guys. Misconception: NC State is an elite program and desired coaching desitnation Real Motivation: Say it enough times and it might become true I have dealt with this some on my other posts and in short, no NC State is not a national elite program. It is also debatable whether thay have ever been that with any kind of serious consistency. NC State fans like to point to the 1980's which included the national title in 1983. The problem is NC State only made it put of the first round 3 out of the next 6 years when they hit the Elite 8 in 1985 and 1986. 1984 they missed the NCAAs and in 1987 and 1988 they went home early. 1989 was a Sweet 16 year followed by probabtion in 1990 due to misconduct. The 1970's were similar with two really good years which included a national title, but during the rest of the decade the Wolfpack was good but nothing to write home about. In fact you have to skip the 1960's and go right to the formation of the ACC and NC State's inital dominance under Everett Case to find anything remotely close to elite program status. Wolfpack fans are stuck in the past and hold up standards of winning which were not even adhered to that closely by the most beloved coach of all Jimmy V. The other part of the equation is that it is difficult to claim you program is elite and a desired job when the fan base runs the coach out of town for doing nothing more than running a clean operation and making it to 5 straight NCAA Tournaments in which he won four times in the first round and went to the Sweet 16 once. This is not to rehash the Sendek situation, but merely a reminder that coaches are going to consider the fan base as a crucial factor in whether or not they even want to put up with the pressure of having to instantly gratify a discontented group of fans who were dissatified with a level of success most schools would kill to have. And I am not saying NC State does not have a right to desire to win and be national champions, it is just a better road to get there if you actually ground view of your program in reality as a means of tempering your expectations. These four misconceptions along with many other delusional comments form a very clear picture of the state of mind in Wolfpack nation. As a group they have launguished in medicority and even when they enjoyed a few moments of glory in the 70's and 80's they were so starved for that kind of success they have woven those into a perception that they are somehow an elite program. This is also born out of the immense inferiority complex they feel being on the same street with UNC and Duke. It has made them utterly self concsious and narrow minded in their focus on the progress of the program. One telling moment this season was when UNC went to Raleigh to play NC State and Wolfpack nation viewed it as their Armegeddon. It was an important game for UNC in terms of momentum and improving their position in the standings and the same was true for NC State. Except Wolfpack fans saw it as a chance to take down UNC and engage in some kind of asinine chest beating when the tournament and the standings were far more important issues. The way that game was framed, I honestly believe was the reason NC State entered into the slide they experienced. If their focus had been on themselves and winning basketball games in pursuit of the bigger picture then perhaps they would have played better and even if they had lost, perhaps it would not have been so devasting. NC State fans are bent on a quest to be instantly catapulted to the top of college basketball and they want to stick it to UNC and Duke in the process. And make no mistake there is nothing wrong with that. However, that kind of climb is rarely instant and anyone who thinks UNC or Duke got there by worrying themselves sick over what the other team was doing would be flat wrong. NC State fans need to answer the question of which is the more important set of wins; 2 or 3 over your chief rivals or the six games in March/April. UNC and Duke know the answer to that question and understand pursuing the greater goal means you are good enough to take care of the other question as well.

Tidbits

****We interrupt the NC State coaching watch to bring you this important annoucement***** Duke Player Transfers Duke freshman center Eric Boateng a former McDonalds All American in high school has announced he will leave Duke for another program. No reason was given but the move was seen as odd since the graduation of Lee Melchionni and Shelden Williams meant there would certainly be more playing time available. Of course 7' 1'' Brian Zoubek is incoming and would have competed with Boateng for the center position. This is becoming a more common occurrence in the Duke program with players who were high school All Americans play 1 or 2 seasons than fly the coop. What is even more intriguing is how much care and attention these players and their surrogates give to selecting the right school. For one to leave as Boateng is doing or never develop as Shavlik Randolph never did makes the casual observer wonder what is going on at Duke. Are promises made on the recruiting trail not being fulfilled when the player arrives? Is Coach K simply stockpiling quality players in case he needs them or worse to keep other schools from having them? Or do guys want to play at Duke so badly they abandon the aforementioned careful attention and sign with Duke when the offer a scholarship? I am compelled to think that the former is more the case. I think that Duke coaches offer assurances and do everything they are permitted to do in order to land the recruit. It was obvious this year Coach K had neither the time or inclination to develop his bench and build up some of the freshman not named Greg Paulus and Josh McRoberts. Whereas Roy Williams was forced to put four freshman on the floor and develop them for UNC to have a chance, K seemed unwilling to make that effort. K settled on a strict 7 man rotation which left Duke players tired at the end of games. The lack of a bench was key in the UNC comeback in Chapel Hill and also in the win at Cameron when it was obvious that Duke did not have the energy to keep up with the young Tar Heels who rotated as many as 10 players in and out, some with good chunks of playing time. Whatever reason, all eyes are now on McRoberts who may turn pro and #7 ranked high schooler Lance Thomas who is still undecided as to his college destination. UNC picked preseason #1 by most. For what it's worth. Having watched the tournament this season we were reminded how no one can predict the outcome with any certainity three weeks before the title game so talking about who is #1 and who might win it all and year in advance is outrageous. However, there is truth to the polls and UNC stands to be really strong next season. But now we wait. ***Now we return to our program already in progress*** As the Wolfpack Turn Day 5 begins with no news from Texas. The likely scenario that is probably going to unfold tomorrow is an annoucement from Austin that Barnes is getting a nice raise for himself and his assistant coaches for remaining at Texas. In other words Barnes will take the hopes and dreams of Wolfpack nation and crush them. This is a leverage ploy by Barnes and he is taking NC State for a ride to motivate his own AD to sweeten his deal. NC State is quite plainly being used by Barnes for his own benefit. In fact no has offically contacted Texas about Barnes which means Lee Fowler is conducting this little venture on the QT, most likely using surrogates from the Wolfpack Club to facilitate some kind of discussion. Fowler is trying to avoid what happened to UNC in 2001 when Roy came to Chapel Hill and made a handshake deal to come but upon returning to Kansas changed his mind and stayed put. Before Fowler decided to put his credibility on the line and expose the university to embarassment by asking a simple question he would like to at least be somewhat versed in what kind of answer he will get back. Tommorrow we will know more and I also plan to provide some of musing from Wolfpack nation which will tickle the funny bone.

Tuesday, April 04, 2006

NC State: The Search for a Coach

Or an elite program whichever comes first. The absolute joy of Wolfpack nation has since subsided into a frenzy of anxiety and grandiose exaggerations of what NC State basketball was, is, and can be assuming the right coach is hire. In fact I was actually thrilled Herb Sendek took the Arizona St. job during the Final Four because it gave all of us here in Tar Heel nation a new source of unending entertainment instead of being fully subjected to one of the worst Final Fours in recent memory. Now the search is on and NC State AD who is loved by the State faithful about as much as Herb Sendek was is charged with orchestrating a coaching search which will meet the following criteria as set forth by the fans: 1. A proven winner or as some call it a "big name coach." 2. A coach who has an ego and can stand up to the evil machinations of Roy Williams and Mike Krzyzewski. 3. A coach who is able to return NC State to its rightful place as king and ruler of the basketball world which according to local basketball historians is a position the Wolfpack occupied for many decades before the fall of Jimmy V the Great of Long Island. 4. A coach who can bring back the passion and fire to Wolfpack basketball while wowing the press with pithy sound bites. 5. A coach who can recruit high caliber players, win ACC titles, drive deep into the NCAA Tournament, win a national championship, beat Duke and UNC at least once a year apiece, and also find a cure for the common cold or genital herpes. And there is but one man who is able to fulfill this criteria and resurrect the red and white from a curse of biblical proportions and that is.... Rick Barnes, Head Coach, University of Texas Rick Barnes was once the head coach at Clemson and the legend has been repeated many a time around BBQ cookers in and around Wake County that the Hickory, NC native once stood tall against the Dark Wizard of Chapel Hill Dean Smith during an ACC Tournament game. Smith had made a comment directly to a Clemson player and Barnes took exception. With the coaches huddled with the referees at midcourt Barnes expressed his displeasure with Smith who responded in kind and appeared to come very close to smacking Barnes upside the head. Clemson went on to win the game. Barnes also did build Clemson up to a Sweet 16 school and had them ranked in the top 10 at one point. Since arriving in Texas he has done similar work and since Texas is a bigger school with a bigger name he has been able to recruit many quality players and get Texas near the top of the college game. These two factors comprise the full extent as to why State fans want Barnes so bad. And make no mistake, he is target #1 to the point rumors are flying that he has been offered $2 million(which is more than Roy and K make and they actually have national titles on their resume.) It is believed that Barnes is the dragon slayer and he alone is able to take on the beast in Chapel Hill and Durham. It is believed that Barnes will be able to grab the great recruits and put NC State on the same level with UNC and Duke. That being said, there is no evidence that Barnes will have anymore success against Roy and K than he has at Texas or even while he was at Clemson. At Clemson Barnes was 2-10 against UNC which included the 1996 ACC Tournament win and the 2000. Barnes was 0-8 against K while at Clemson though the Tigers did beat Duke during K's "bad back season" in 1995 to register 2 wins. If memory serves Texas has played the Devils twice in two years and lost both games the last by 30 points. While Roy was at Kansas Barnes was 1-4 against him beating the Jayhawks in Austin during his second season there. He did beat UNC in the 2004 NCAA Tournament for his second win against Roy. So combining all those together Barnes has a 6-24 record against UNC, Duke, Roy, and K. Now, some will say that Clemson is Clemson, but his success against either coach or school is not one to blow the doors off. It also a folly to believe that he will necessarily be able to recreate the magic he had at Clemson or Texas at NC State. I have little doubt he will do well but how well? Texas and Clemson were a little more lenient on what kinds of players he recruited where NC State will be less likely to allow things to move in the direction of the Jimmy V days. Exhibit A in this line of thought is Texas guard P.J. Tucker who went to high school in Raleigh. Now, what possible reason could there be which permitted a quality talent such as Tucker to leave the state. If you said his grades then you win a prize. In other words recruiting at State may prove to be more difficult than recruiting at Texas or Clemson. I also should note that I have seen little evidence that Barnes is that great of a game coach. I saw one game this season versus Texas A&M in which he called timeout with 11 seconds on the shot clock and 18 seconds on the game clock, relayed a play, and then sent his team back out on the floor. P.J. Tucker proceeded to dribble the shot clock out because he ignored it and watched the game clock instead. The fault is primarily on Tucker but I would think that Barnes as a top flight coach would make sure than kind of stuff does not happen. There are other names to be bantered around but until the shoe drops on Barnes here I am not going to waste my time writing about them. I honestly think Barnes would be a fool to leave Texas. His program is successful, it is a football school which means he endures far less pressure than he would at NC State and being in the same orbit as Roy and K means you could at best the third choice for attention among local head coaches. And regardless of what State fans may say about how much they love him, if it comes five years have past and he still has not posted any progress above where Sendek was at they will turn on his like a moccassin in the summer. Staying at Texas is a win-win for Barnes since his program apparatus is already in place. Coming to NC State means starting over and if he truly misses the passion of basketball 24/7 which is found in North Carolina, then he may come back. Of course I despise moving so if I were him I would stay put for no other reason but the desire to stay settled.

National Championship: Not Even Close

On Sunday afternoon I checked my email and I was alerted to seven new comments on the blog here. I logged in and found that I had apparently ticked off UCLA fans with my Final Four post(which is interesting since I spent more time blasting LSU and Big Baby than I did anyone else.) Anyway, the comments ranged from intelligent and well thought out to idiotic and spinless such as refusing me permission to engage in oral activities with one commenters nether regions or calling me a hillbilly(oh and just because someone was born, raised, and resides in North Carolina does not make them a hillbilly, that kind of generalization about the South is only used by people who do not know better). Of course my favorite was being told that I was jealous of the UCLA legacy. Since I have been on this earth only 31 years and since my first basketball memory is the 1982 NCAA title win by my beloved Heels I really have no inkling of what went on during the UCLA dynasty other than what I read in the history books. I have only been concerned with what has happened in my lifetime. Does that mean I disregard the UCLA run? No, just like I would never disregard the 1957 NCAA Championship UNC won as a 32-0 team. However, it would be exceedingly difficult for me to be jealous of something which I never witnessed happening. So in the past 30 years UNC has thoroughly outperformed UCLA in every conceivable facet and this is not conjecture this is proven in the history books. Since 1976, the first year of the post-John Wooden era UNC has won 3 titles to UCLA's 1, been to 10 Final Fours compared to 4 by UCLA, and won 28 more NCAA tournament games than the Bruins with a higher winning percentage. UNC has made every tournament in that span except two while UCLA has missed 8. So if jealously can be defined by being envious of a program that has consistently performed worse than yours in the course of your lifetime then your are correct I am jealous. And if that was not enough, we also got this: Florida 73 UCLA 57 Now before I hear any "At least we got to the title game, UNC lost to a mid-major" let's look at a few things. First, the mid-major that beat UNC was at the Final Four too, so please do not try and tell me that George Mason was your run-of-the-mill mid-major team. Secondly, what goes around comes around, and looking back on NCAA Tournament history UCLA has had their share of first and second round losses to low seeds. Anyone remember only scoring 41 points in losing to #13 seeded Princeton in 1997? And finally, if you get to a title game, then you should at least show up and keep it close for longer than five minutes. In fact three of the five times UNC has been in a title game in the past 30 years they walked away a national champion which is more than I can say for UCLA now 1 for 3 in the same span. And where pray tell was that vaunted UCLA defense? The style of play which was heralded by one commenter as a "return to fundamentals" and that UCLA was "doing something special on defense" Well, Florida thought is was so special they got nine dunks in the second half. Ryan Humprey thought it was special he hit 4 for 8 from three point range. And how many turnovers did Florida have? Six? Seems a little low for a team playing against a great defense. Now I really am not trying to be a jerk or be completely classless. UCLA had a great year and will have great things to come. I am sure they will win a title down the road here and who knows it may come at UNC's expense and I will eat major crow. UCLA had a great year, they are Pac 10 champions and if anything the fact they had a 12 game winning streak may have played a part because it seems that teams with long winning streaks do not seem to win the tournament. And UCLA does play great defense and they would not have been a team I would have wanted UNC to face this season since the Tar Heels were largely focused on Tyler Hansbrough inside. That being said, if there is anything I have learned in watching basketball for as long as I have it is this: Measure your words very, very carefully and do not come onto a fan blog for a team you have not played in several years and flame him with talk of winning a 12th title or how UCLA will win 5 titles before UNC wins another one when you haven't actually won the championship yet! The result of excessive trash talking prior to sealing the deal is when you lose like UCLA did tonight is your words are out there in written form for anyone to see and in the end you look like an idiot. But hey at least you guys made anonymous comments. Congratulations Florida!

Monday, April 03, 2006

One Observation...

I will have more later, but I have one observation as Florida is taking UCLA to school at the moment. Anytime there is a sporting event where ESPN knows for a fact they will get zero ratings they will either show figure skating or bowling. Figure skating has been on all during the NCAA Tournament on ESPN and if you ever watched Monday Night Football on ABC and then flipped over the ESPN they are showing figure skating or bowling. I think we call that throw away programming.

Sunday, April 02, 2006

State Fans Looking For Justification

Now that the anti-Herb faction of Wolfpack nation has succeeded in creating a hostile enough environment to push Herb Sendek inyo taking the Arizona St. job the opinions addressed on the Pack Pride message board range from estatic to well estatic. A lot people over there are very happy tonight and there are also some people over there who are completely delusional. Now, I have written two posts about Herb Sendek and why I thought he should leave and why I thought the motivations in Wolfpack nation to get rid of Sendek were wrong. Some fans at NC State operate on the mentaility that NC State is entitled to elite program status irregardless of the teams performance in reality. They cite the two national titles as proof that NC State exists on the same plane as UNC and Duke. The other aspect of the State fan neurosis is the "Jimmy V effect" which I have written about before. It may also be referred to as the "Chuck Amato effect." Both "effects" simply equate fan support with the personality and antics of the coaches in question with little consideration to actual win totals. Valvano was successful to a point and had some good tournament runs while winning a national title. Valvano's longest NCAA Tournament streak was five seasons the same as Sendek and for the most part his win total is roughly the same as Sendek's. Now that Sendek is out the neurosis has taken a different turn. Wolfpack fans are now attacking anyone who criticizes for they way they have acted or questions their motivations for wanting Sendek out. When WRAL announced the news after the Final Four, sportscaster Bob Holliday commented that the behavior of Wolfpack nation towards Sendek as well as their expectations could be a problem in finding a new coach. Wolfpack fans immediately called foul and even accused WRAL and Holiday of being pro-UNC. There is truth in what Holliday said however. If you are a coach and you interview for the NC State job the biggest question you have to ask is why the previous coach was so hated by the fans even though he had gone to five straight NCAA Tournaments and averaged 19 wins a season? If I am a coach, especially an unproven one, I am going to ask that question. Let's face it, no big name coach is going to leave Memphis, Texas, Gonzaga, Florida or Louisville to come to NC State so the only option they have is a mid-major coach who is unproven on the big stage of the ACC and who has never been in the shadow of two perenniel powers like UNC and Duke. It is absolutely a tough job in terms of coaching in the ACC and playing those two powers each season. Couple that with the behavior of fans who seem completely unsatisfied with winning seasons, NCAA Tournament appearances, and a clean program you have a situation which is fraught with danger. So for State fans to pretend that ostricizing Sendek will have no bearing on current coaching propects is tatamount to outright stupidity. Any coach that gets hired should show up to the press conference with cool sunglasses, red shoes, and a pocket full of cute sound bites because if he does not he will already be behind the eight ball. The other cry being made on the State message board is that UNC fans have no credibility in criticizing State fans because of the Matt Doherty debacle in 2003. Just for review Matt Doherty was a member of the 1982 National Championship team and in 2000 was a first year head coach at Notre Dame. That same year Bill Guthridge announced his retirement after three years, having succeeded Dean Smith as a transistion head coach. The plan was for Roy Williams to come from Kansas at that point, but Roy felt loyalty to his players was more important and stayed. This kicked off a national embarassment as UNC AD Dick Braddour floundered around looking for someone in the UNC "family" to hire. Doherty was about seventh on the list and the only available candidate. I had mixed feelings about it at the time but after one season in which the Heels were ranked #1 at one point before losing in the second round of the NCAA Tournament to Penn St. it seemed like a good move. However, bad recruiting by Guthridge had depleted the ranks and an 8-20 season followed. 2002-03 was better with the Heels going 19-17 while beating Duke in Chapel Hill. Doherty had also stocked the pantry with great players so there was nothing but upside in Chapel Hill. Then all hell broke loose. Rumors began flying that Doherty was verbally abusive to the players and as a result key individuals were floating the idea of transferring. A full blown player revolt ensued and Braddour being the "capable" administrator he is saw fit to force Doherty out. Overtures were then made a second time to Roy Williams who accepted the post, leaving Kansas after a tough title game loss. I was living in MA at the time, so I missed the media onslaught. I gathered from recent discussions on the Inside Carolina message board that the UNC fan based was deeply divided over Doherty much the same as Wolfpack nation was over Sendek. I personally had no problem with Doherty and thought he should have been give a couple of more seasons to see his prime recruiting class through, if any of them stayed. That was ultimately the sticking point in that Doherty was liked but there were also questions about his intensity and how he related to the players. The only reason I raise this brief history lesson is that Wolfpack fans now are using the Doherty situation as a point of deflection on any criticism directed at them for their behavior. Since I am now on record as a UNC fan who was somewhat neutral in the whole Doherty debacle I am under no such restrictions in much the same way I bear no guilty conscience for slavery because my ancestors never owned slaves. One part of this is the reality that this is how fans act, period. State fans were probably ripping UNC fans left and right in 2003 for their behavior so in one way this is payback and in another way this is a fundamental part of how the system operates. Hypocrisy is an element of fan wars(and politics) among rivals so to say that UNC fans are in no position to criticize State fans is idiotic since that is simply how it is done. The other part of the equation is the actual reasons why UNC fans were upset at Doherty versus why State fans are upset at Sendek. In UNC's case, fans were not really that upset about the losing season and missing two straight NCAA Tournaments. The players were in place and there were no real issues with Doherty as a game coach. His intensity on the other hand was the dividing point. Some liked it, thought it brought a fire to UNC that had been absent under Dean and Guthridge but others, players included, saw it as crossing the line. The player interaction and the rumors of player transfers stirred the based into a frenzy and Braddour was put in a bad spot. As a matter of principle I think Braddour was wrong and as my late father said Braddour let the inmates run the asylum. This is not the NBA, the players do not get to decide who the coach is and the AD should have stood beside Doherty and called the bluff of these players threatening to transfer(and I believe it was a bluff orschestrated by Sean May's father Scott May. Does anyone really believe Rashad McCants and Sean May were really going to sit for one year somewhere else thus delaying their NBA careers?) In the case of NC State fans, the best as I can tell their chief complaints about Herb Sendek is not his winning or losing, his ability to go to the NCAA Tournament, or even that he is running a bad program. The problems they have with Sendek is his personality, the style of offense he coaches, and his failure to beat UNC and Duke more consistently even though no other State coach since Everett Case with perhaps exception of Norm Sloan in the early 1970's have done that. So, yes UNC fans complained about Doherty, but I tend to think that an inability to comminicate effectively with the players to the point they are threatening to transfer is a bigger deal than wanting Sendek to leave because he is too quiet or he is not running a flashy offense. And even if I accept that both lines of protest are equally moronic my first point applies. Criticizing a rival school is what fans are supposed to do. I think the deeper issue here is that Wolfpack fans either feel guilty now that Sendek is leaving or they realize that pushing him out is probably a mistake. Why else would they be so defensive in the face of criticism? I personally think they are protesting way too much for a group of people who believed themselves to be on the right side of this issue. If you think you are right about something and in this case if State fans honestly believe that Sendek leaving in favor of a new coach is the best move for them, then who cares what other people are saying. Ignore them or better yet come up with a better response than: "I know you are, but what am I!" Copyright 2006, BCB

Saturday, April 01, 2006

The Final Four: YAAAWWWNNN!!!!

Wow, that sucked. After a great set of games with most going down to the wire we got treated to a pair of games which were over by the first TV timeout of the 2nd half. Also what you had here was a classic case of clearly inferior teams being exposed for the frauds they were by somewhat more talented schools. Even Billy Packer, who probably ticked off the CBS brass, said it was "a weak Saturday evening." Harsh words but true. In fact there is a rumor that multiple individuals are being treated at local Indianapolis hospitals after being thrown from the Glen "Big Baby" Davis bandwagon which came to a violent stop this evening. Chances are they will be treated and released in time to jump onto the Joakim Noah bandwagon for Monday night Florida 73 George Mason 58 Florida just took the glass slipper from George Mason and smack them upside the head with it. The Gators put an end to any dreams of a Patriot title with a resounding 73-58 win. The common thread among George Mason opponents in the tournament was they none of them were playing particular well with the exception of Wichita St, who Mason had beaten earlier in the season. Florida was on top of their game and they did two things well. They had tremendous inside athleticism and Florida's Lee Humprey hit SIX three pointers. In fact Florida hit 12 threes to only 2 for GM which is a thirty point gap. I was beginning to wonder if GM was having trouble playing in a dome, which is something that has bothered shooters before. GM fell behind by ten early, came back to tie the game and trailed by 5 at half. After intermission Humprey hit two threes and all of sudden GM was down 19. The Patriots do not have an offense given to scoring a lot of points quickly unless the other team commits six straight turnovers like UNC did. Florida handled the ball better than that and in the end they not only were more talented but focused on winning the game unlike UConn. Florida goes to the title game for the second time this decade. UCLA 59 LSU 45 I knew this one would be ugly and it was. In fact 8 minutes into the second half, LSU had scored only three points while falling behind 50-27. That means UCLA scored only nine points the rest of the way and still won by 14. That is horrible. As for Big Baby Glen Davis of LSU who had been crowned as the best player in college basketball or something like that looked as though he needs to spend the offseason getting into shape. UCLA ran him up and down the court to the point LSU had expended all but two timeouts by halftime just to offer him more rest. UCLA was able to double him because LSU had a better chance of getting CBS play-by-play man Jim Nantz to refrain from espousing cheesy platitudes than they did of hitting a permeter shot. LSU got exposed because believe it or not beating Duke(which had basically two offensive options) and Texas(which is not as great as many think) is not really a huge accomplishment. And I can only assume that Jim Nantz and Billy Packer had two games worth of material on Glen Davis and LSU because every freakin' time I flipped over to watch a few minutes it was Big Baby this and LSU that. Here's a clue guys. Why don't you talk about the team that is actually cleaning LSU's clock. And LSU's Tyrus Thomas? He had 5 points, 6 rebounds, 3 blocks, 3 turnovers and 4 fouls. If you anyone had bought any of his NBA stock during the last week they would be out of some serious money tonight. So we get Florida vs. UCLA. I think Florda's Billy Donovan is shady and not only is Joakim Noah from France but he looks like girl. Not to be mean, but the only other time this week I saw someone pull hair like that back into a ponytail for a game was Tuesday night when was I was watching the women's regional finals. And I really would rather UCLA not get another title which will lead to talk about how great UCLA is. History has proven UCLA was great for a grand total of 10-12 years in which they won 10 titles. Yes, that is big deal but since Wooden left the barn UCLA has been to only four Final Fours in 30 years. They lost to Indiana in the 9176 national semifinal, dropped the title game in 1980, won it in all 1995 and now they are here again. [Edit: UCLA fans are quite upset with my perception they are uninterested so I am retracting that particular point since I may have made it in ignorance] In other words I will be taking a neutral position Monday night, though Florida is probably the lesser of two evils and heck they have never won it before.

Considering Herb Sendek Gone

Multiple media sources are confirming that NC State head coach Herb Sendek has decided that a $1 million annual salary and not having to put up with a slew of whiny and ungrateful Wolfpacks fans is enough incentive to go to Arizona St. and coach there. Given the pressure he has endured in Raleigh this will be a good move for him. He stays in one of the power conferences and he does not have the ghost of Jim Valvano or the specter of two past NCAA titles literally hanging over his head pushing the fan expectations through the roof. I actually did say on this blog I thought Sendek had done all he could and probably should consider his options. Sendek did a great job putting the Wolfpack house back in order even if he did not deliver ACC titles and Final Four appearances. I hope he does well in Sun Devil country. Now the real entertainment begins as we watch Wolfpack nation convulse and contort over all kinds of rumors and expectations of who Lee Fowler will hire with the juicy possibility that they will completely meltdown if Fowler(and the odd are really good on this) gets it wrong.