|Jim Calhoun's Huskies are having a fine year after going on probation for recruiting violations. (Getty Images)|
Saint Joseph's is breaking tradition and moving more games on campus. In the meantime, Bruce Pearl is completely out of basketball, and Jim Calhoun is killing it at Connecticut in a way that is both impressive and troubling.
Let's do Five for the Weekend.
1. Is a player who once lived in a group home in Tennessee really giving up his scholarship at Connecticut so he can pay out-of-state tuition?
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Yes, and it's a little crazy, isn't it? I mean, if Michael Bradley is OK with it, I guess the rest of us should be OK with it too. But after facing all the criticism he's faced over the past few years for running a program that's now on probation because it used a booster/agent to help secure a commitment from a recruit, it's rather bold of Jim Calhoun to just up and take a guy's scholarship in August because he needed to make room for Andre Drummond, especially when the only reason the Huskies didn't have an available scholarship is because the NCAA took one after its investigation and two more to hit UConn for a poor APR. In other words, the scholarship losses are supposed to punish UConn. But UConn hasn't been hurt at all. The only person really affected by this is a kid who spent part of his youth in a group home, and that seems ridiculous on lots of levels.
2. Jim Calhoun is a gangster, isn't he?
He's a badass these days, no question -- especially when you consider that since the moment his program went on probation for major recruiting violations, Calhoun has a) won a national championship, b) lured a surprise commitment from Class of 2011 star DeAndre Daniels, c) lured another (and even bigger) surprise commitment from Class of 2011 star Andre Drummond, d) essentially got his athletic director fired (Calhoun disputes this, I know, but it's accepted as reality in basketball circles), e) taken a scholarship away from a player with a humble background, and f) learned that the three-game suspension that highlighted his slap-on-the-wrist punishment will be served during games against St. John's, Seton Hall and USF.
(Now take a breath and go read that again.)
It's unbelievable, really. So I don't know if Calhoun is a gangster or whatever hip term we like to use. But I know this: his program is stronger today than it was the day the NCAA launched its investigation, and that can't be the way the system is supposed to work.
3. Do you have a problem with Saint Joseph's moving certain home games from the Palestra to Hagan Arena?
I realize there's something special about Saint Joseph's-Villanova and Saint Joseph's-Temple at the Palestra. And I know the Palestra is a special place. It's the one building I regret not getting to yet. But Phil Martelli owes it to himself and his program to do what's best for his career and his team, and it's hard to argue that Saint Joseph's wasn't giving up something by playing all Big 5 home games at the Palestra while Villanova and Temple play the Hawks every other year on their own campuses. Home-court advantage is massive in college basketball, and folks don't typically give it up for nothing ... or even for the sake of tradition. So I have no issues with Martelli doing what he did. He probably should've done it years ago.
4. Are you surprised Bruce Pearl took a job in marketing with a wholesale grocer?
I certainly didn't predict it or even consider it, but the decision makes some sense when all things are considered. It allows Pearl to stay in Knoxville, where he's comfortable, and keeps him from trying to sell a mansion that he'll struggle to sell. His wife will get to remain around her friends and family, Pearl will get to stay around his children, and I'm sure the money is great, too. So though the development was surprising when I heard it, it's not crazy once you look at all the factors. Put simply, Pearl likes the life he's carved out in Knoxville, and he'd rather live it than coach in the NBDL. I get that, I guess.
5. But will this decision hurt his career?
It would've been wiser for Pearl to take the NBDL job if the goal was to be an NBA head coach or relevant NBA assistant. But Pearl has been consistent in saying he wants to be a college coach again, and if that's the case, his resume is already more than solid enough to get him that opportunity once the three-year show-cause that the NCAA handed down expires. Truth be told, there's really not much Pearl can do to enhance his reputation as a good college hire for down the road except let time pass and the story transform from a story about a lying and cheating coach into a story about a coach who only had a few recruits over to his house for a cookout, then lied about it only because he panicked just like most of us would've panicked. In three or four years, trust me, that's how this story will be remembered and relayed by the athletic director who tries to hire Pearl. And there's absolutely going to be an athletic director who tries to hire him because, as I and others have detailed many times, Pearl is very good at running a college basketball program even if he screwed up what he had going at Tennessee in a pretty big way.