Tag:Matt Norlander
Posted on: August 24, 2011 9:22 am

Gary Williams will still work for the Terps

By Matt Norlander

Gary Williams isn't leaving Maryland just yet.

The Hall of Fame coach retired from the school -- surprisingly -- in early May, but he'll remain on board with the program in an advisory role, according to Terrapins Insider. And this part-time position pays prettay, prettay ... prettay well. How's 400 grand a year for five years sound? After all Williams did to put Maryland basketball back on the map and in the national conversation, he earned it. 

Williams, who will have the court named after him this upcoming season, will be an assistant to the athletic director, Ken Anderson. It's an ironic situation, given the fact Williams often clashed with his former AD, Debbie Yow, who is now in that position at North Carolina State. Williams' new gig wasn't always in the cards. Per Terrapins Insider, this arrangement was sparked once Williams was firm in his decision to leave coaching with a 461-452 lifetime record.

Under terms of his five-year employment contract, released in response to an open-records request, Williams will help Maryland Athletic Director Kevin Anderson with fundraising and represent the university in speaking engagements “from time to time as reasonably requested” by Anderson, the document states.

According to his new employment agreement, Williams officially retired as coach July 1, the same day his job as special assistant to Anderson began. The contract runs through June 30, 2016. If Williams chooses to resign the post before then, he will be paid $200,000 annually until the contact expires on June 30, 2016.

Such sweet terms! Williams can bail and still rake in serious coin. It's clear the heart can't ever leave on first attempt, and so Williams' attachment to his alma mater makes sense. He'll be as good as anyone in the sports realm when it comes to fundraising. The school needs him right now; there's been a ot of overhaul in the athletic offices in 2011, considering the football and basketball programs have hired new coaches, the university brought in a new president and a new AD.

My lingering concern: the Maryland uniforms. If Williams has any pull, their won't be an adjustment made to the basketball team's threads. We've already seen the monstrosity that's overtaken Terps football.

Photo: AP
Posted on: August 23, 2011 3:44 pm
Edited on: August 23, 2011 3:55 pm

Gillispie era at Texas Tech isn't going smoothly

By Matt Norlander

Few major, BCS-level athletic directors would have hired Billy Gillispie to coach their basketball team. He was radioactive, to say the least. In fact, that probably doesn't do it justice.

Honestly, Texas Tech AD Kirby Hocutt may have been the only major-conference AD willing to take a chance on Gillispie. The former Texas A&M and Kentucky basketball coach is known for his ability to win games but also carries with him a reputation that seems will haunt him forever, much of that stemming from how hard he is to interact with. There are also concerns with his penchant for drinking.

Fortunately for Gillispie, Hocutt went all in on him a few moths ago. Yet, before a game's been played under Gillispie, it turns out he couldn't even make it through an offseason without headaches and turmoil at his new job. There's already erosion within the Texas Tech program, considering Gillsipie can't hang on to assistant coaches, trainers or even secretaries.

He's scaring, bullying and forcing people away from the buildings in Lubbock. People who'd spent the better part of a decade there no longer are because of the new basketball coach in town.

SPORTSbyBROOKS ran with a story today that details some of what Gillispie's put Hocutt through in a few months' time, including the departures of the people referenced above. The post's primary conflict centers around longtime assistant Chris Beard, who left the program in mid-June -- an uncommon time for an assistant to jump ship.

Fighting? Yes, there was fighting. Fighting of the physical variety that came to after Beard couldn't take Gillispie's verbal abuse anymore (a mere 10 weeks' time since he was hired on March 21). Fighting of a variety that apparently boiled to a point where Hocutt had to separate Beard and Gillispie. An athletic director playing peacemaker between two basketball coaches.

Picture that scenario unfolding in your mind, then appropriately ask yourself, What has happened at Texas Tech?

Beard left the program after multiple, heated altercations with the irascible and intractable Gillispie, the final of which was physically broken up by ... Hocutt.

That final conflict was a mediation of sorts after Beard had previously decided to leave the program because of Gillispie’s poor treatment of Tech employees, a former player and concern over Gillispie’s fast-and-loose recruiting tactics.

Remember, Beard was a guy who got along famously with Bob Knight throughout the notorious coach’s tenure and was a close confidante of Pat Knight as his top assistant. Gillispie was also a previous admirer of Beard, having tried to hire Beard at one of his previous coaching stops.

But the throwdown in front of Hocutt was the final straw for Beard, who was cursed by Gillispie on multiple occasions in front of Hocutt before responding to the Tech coach in kind.

In exchange for Beard’s silence about Gillispie’s ill-advised stewardship of the program, Texas Tech has since paid Beard a hefty sum in an exit agreement that included a confidentiality clause. (Beard was not a source for this story, nor did he initiate or have any role whatsoever in its production or publication.)

I can confirm that many around and formerly with the Tech program have been very tight-lipped about what seems to be tenuous-at-best circumstances right now. There's also another person not stated in Brooks' story who joined Gillispie's staff briefly in the spring only to leave shortly thereafter.

Gillispie's burned so many bridges at this point. Not a lot of assistant coaches are willing to work for him because word spreads, obviously. College coaches absolutely love to talk with each other and bury the guys who've tried hard to bury others before. It's part of the fun of the July recruiting trail.

Gillispie did recently replace Beard. After a weeks-long search, Jeff Kidder, who spent the past six years coaching at the junior college level, joined Gillispie's staff on Aug. 3.

Texas Tech is in a tough spot right now. Even if you eliminate all of the tension built up from a human resources standpoint, think about if Gillispie would even be a head coach right now if it was known how much money he'd been bilked out of in Ponzi schemes. No way he gets hired by Hocutt if that's known. We're talking about a coach that never officially signed a contract when he was at Kentucky. Do you think Gillispie would have been hired at Tech in the first place if his ties to David Salinas and Jim Donnan were public prior to April?

So this is what the Red Raiders are faced with: Before the season begins, its coach is already fighting a bad environment within the office, a worse reputation on the recruiting trail and an uphill battle in the whittled-down, weakened Big 12.

Have to think Hocutt wonders daily how he could have avoided this, and how he talked himself into hiring Gillispie in the first place.
Posted on: August 23, 2011 2:36 pm
Edited on: August 23, 2011 2:43 pm

Video: Pat Summitt on her dementia diagnosis

By Matt Norlander

The most shattering news of the day came when it broke that Pat Summitt has been diagnosed with early onset dementia. It's related to Alzheimer's and could one day lead to that. At just 59 years old, Summitt is suffering from a condition that most victims of the syndrome don't encounter until their 70s, 80s or 90s.

She'll try to coach this year. Numerous columns are in the process of being written right now about her vigor and resolve and how she's suited to fight this as well as anyone in her profession. For more, I also point you to the Knoxville News-Sentinel's story on Summitt.

Summitt released a video in unisom with a press release Tuesday afternoon on why she waited to make the announcement and what lies ahead in the immediate future for her and Tennessee basketball.

Posted on: August 23, 2011 11:48 am

The JUCO effect on mid-majors

By Matt Norlander

Junior college transfers will occasionally receive attention when they can break through at the high-major level. A few contemporary examples would be Marquette's Darius Johnson-Odom and Jae Crowder, as well as Lazeric Jones (UCLA) and Ricardo Ratliffe (Missouri).

John Templon, the proprietor of NYCBuckets.com, looked a layer beneath that, though. Templon whittled down his list of reliable junior college transfers from the 2010-11 season to 86 at the mid-major level. From there, he had to knock off 27 of those 86, as they didn't play 100 minutes last year, a requirement he put into his examinations.

JUCOs are an interesting lot. They're considered tougher than the average player because of what they've had to overcome in order to make a D-I roster, but they're also enigmatic. For every one JUCO player that earns a starting spot, three or four never pan out. Or do they? Am I just making up statistics for the sake of perspective in an argument? Yes. That's why I'm going to hand things over to Templon, who points out how much success and impact junior college players had in 2010-11.

59 players did make it onto campus and into some semblance of the rotation. They averaged playing 45.9% of their team’s minutes, a 96.1 offensive rating and using 20.2% of their team’s possessions while they were on the court. That’s a mid-rotation, slightly below-average, significant contributor in statistical terms.

There were some big hits too. The top five recruits in terms of offensive rating were amongst the best in nation last season with an offensive rating of 116 or better. (That was good enough to rank [Gonzaga's Marquise] Carter 151st in the nation last season.)

But that’s all the junior college players that went mid-major in the Top 150. That includes a lot of different players. What if we limit it to just the All-Americans in the group. Well, the attrition rate is still high (3/10), but the players that got on campus and played made a big impact. The seven players averaged 47.8% of their team’s minutes, a 106.5 offensive rating and using 19.7% of possessions. That’s a player that almost any team would want to add to their rotation immediately. (And according to Luke Winn’s 2009 study of top freshman recruits the equivalent of player ranked somewhere in 30′s in the RSCI.)

So it seems there's a feast-or-famine effect going on. Most of the time, having two years of eligibility means it's often tough for JUCOs to truly impact a team. There are ways to make it work, though. And to go back the major-conference example, Darius Johnson-Odom was fairly critical to Marquette's season last year. In fact, I think it's completely fair to say Buzz Williams' team doesn't reach the NCAAs if DJO isn't on the squad.

The upside still proves worth the risk, and that's why programs are still chasing after these guys, still getting their noses black looking for the diamonds.

Category: NCAAB
Posted on: August 23, 2011 10:19 am
Edited on: August 23, 2011 10:20 am

Austin Hatch's recovery makes a big jump

By Matt Norlander

There's still so much more to go, but for Austin Hatch, the Michigan basketball recruit who survived the second plane crash of his life in June, significant progressed has occured. He's able to talk -- even sing! -- and is putting down solid foods.

Monday night, we saw the 12th update from Hatch's Journal. It was written anonymously by someone I can only assume has spent hours and hours by his side, sacrificed sleep, work and luxury.

This is far and away the most encouraging update yet on Hatch's condition.

Austin is well underway with his a-maize-ing comeback. Although his recovery will be long and difficult, his progress causes us to rejoice and hope. A few highlights from the past week are:

-So far Austin prefers chili rather than hamburger or ravioli

-Austin sang 'Hail to the Victors' with us

-Austin is working hard on his mobility skills

'Team Austin' includes a wonderful group of therapists who push him hard and all of us celebrate his success. Austin and his family are especially mindful of all his classmates and the entire Canterbury family as they returned to school today.

We've seen incremental signs of improvement from Hatch, but nothing like this until now. Nearly two months after the plane crash that killed his father and stepmother, this is the most positive news yet. And if you missed it earlier this month, I can't recommend this Elizabeth Merrill feature on Hatch enough. It's tactful and eloquent.

If you're still compelled to, you can sign his Guestbook page at CaringBridge.org. He's closing in on 2,000 messages. Send him over the top.
Posted on: August 22, 2011 5:25 pm
Edited on: August 22, 2011 5:26 pm

Penn State gets plucky Southern Miss transfer

By Matt Norlander

Fittingly, the previous post to this one here at the Eye on College Basketball blog is about Iowa State. Its coach, Fred Hoiberg, has come to a conclusion: he can't win in the grand scheme only by recruiting players from his primary base. No -- he'll take the misfit toys, too. And that's what he's done.

Winning in a BCS conference when you're a perennial program that lingers in the basement requires some jerry-rigging. You need to be able to bring in transfers with game and a chip on their shoulder, all the while knowing they've been humbled, too. New Penn State coach Pat Chambers is already hip to that, as it was announced Monday afternoon that D.J. Newbill, a Southern Miss guard who averaged 9.2 points and 6.2 rebounds in his 2010-11 freshman campaign, will become a Nittany Lion. In fact, he already is; per the AP, Newbill was on campus to attend the first day of classes Monday.

Newbill isn't from a BCS conference, like what Iowa State's done with Chris Allen and Royce White, but he's still a potential difference-maker in the Big Ten two or three years from now. Per standard transfer rules, Newbill will sit out the upcoming year, then have three years of eligibility in State College.

Newbill is from Philadelphia.

"D.J. will make an immediate impact on our program with his toughness, basketball IQ and work ethic," Chambers said in a statement. "It's great to get a Philadelphia kid that is passionate about Penn State basketball and wants to be here. We are very confident he will show that a Philadelphia player can have great success and an outstanding career at Penn State."

Despite being just 6-4, Newbill led the Golden Eagles in rebounding 11 times last season. It's only Chambers' first transfer, but Penn State's long needed to become a consistent player within the league. Perhaps the new coach will try to bring in another ringer or two in the next couple of years while he recruits the kind of players that have led him to land a BCS job.

Photo: AP
Posted on: August 22, 2011 2:19 pm
Edited on: August 22, 2011 2:21 pm

Trippin': Liberty hits up Belgium and France

In our Trippin' series we're talking to teams as they return from preseason trips to foreign locales. Click here for all Trippin' related stories.

By Matt Norlander

Think the small-time schools can only afford trips to Canada and the like? Nah. Thanks to Liberty head coach Dale Layer’s friends overseas in Belgium and France, his team was able to take a nine-day trip to those locations, and the team (judging by these pictures) had one of the cooler overseas experiences of any program this summer.

Layer’s friends are involved in church work and do basketball ministries in both countries. About 18 months ago, Layer began planning for the trip, back when he was in his first season at Flames head coach. The trip, which included a plane encounter with Mandy Moore (OMG!), started at the beginning of August and ended late last week. The Flames spent six days in Belgium and three France, going 4-2.

What Layer learned: “That’s a good question. I think I have a sense on who has improved and how much they’ve improved from the end of the year through August. A lot of that is speculative when you don’t have (regular-season) games, but when you have 10 full practices and six games, it’s revealed pretty much as it is.”

What or who impressed him: Chene Phillips, a sophomore point guard, has improved more than anybody, Layer said. Tavares Speaks is a junior college transfer who Layer said showed signs playing exceptionally well. John Caleb Sanders, a sophomore, had spectacular moments, too.

What concerned him: “I would say fitting it all together. I think we’re deeper, a little more talented and more experienced, but fitting this together with the role guys. How’s it going to look? Who’s going to handle minimal playing time the right way, who can’t?”

Layer said he’s never had a huge issue with his Liberty teams in regard to player issues over playing time, but it always takes some communication in August, September and October to ensure problems to ferment come winter. Layer said a guy used to getting 30 minutes in high school, playing a role is different. Even at the Liberty level, certain guys can handle it better than others.

— The team ended last season on a five-game losing streak. Why? Layer said road play was a factor.

“I think we lost an edge. We had second place in the Big South wrapped up, couldn’t get first and couldn’t get third. I thought we relaxed just a little. We were winning games by two and three possessions, and then we were losing games by two or three possessions. We didn’t fall off a cliff, but we didn’t maximize possessions like we were, when we weren’t a dominant team to begin with.”

Injuries: Stephen Baird red-shirted last year due to a left ACL injury. He played on the overseas trip, and the coach said he’s currently at about 90 percent. The rest of the team is healthy, according to Layer.

—  Liberty has three seniors, all of whom saw a lot of playing time last year: Jesse Sanders, David Minaya, John Brown. Layer’s loving it, because he’s not had a team at Liberty with three seniors who have this much impact on the team.

“I think they will take us, wherever we end up, it will be because of those three guys. We have not had three really good seniors on a team to this point in my tenure.”

The team is undersized but a very good rebounding group despite that. Brown was 11th in the country in rebounding last season. He was 41st and 43rd in offensive and defensive rebound rate.

Category: NCAAB
Posted on: August 22, 2011 12:11 pm

It seems nobody of note wants to play Nebraska

By Matt Norlander

Nebraska's move to the Big Ten hasn't dovetailed with an allotment of willing non-Big Ten BCS suitors.

You'd expect the Big 12's 10 teams to coldly look away if Nebraska ever had the gall to call.

But Pittsburgh, Duke, Gonzaga, North Carolina, Kentucky, Notre Dame and plenty of other programs haven't found the need, desire or room to fill Doc Sadler's team on their schedules.

The Huskers will have Southern Cal, Oregon and Wake Forest in the non-conference this season. None of those teams should vie for an NCAA tournament bid. Assistant coach Chris Croft has been at the center of scheduling, and Huskersextra.com really presented what he and Nebraska were dealing with this summer.

You've probably heard that Croft has called every BCS school inquiring about playing a nonconference series.

"Every time somebody says, ‘No,' I just ask them if they would play us in the future," Croft said.

Notre Dame's response?

Not this year, not next year, not ever. Please stop calling. Thank you.

"You hate to hear that," Croft said, "but you'd rather they be up front with you."

Not ever? That's harsh. Reminds us all of when we really overshot the landing and finally built up the guts to ask out The Girl back in high school.

Right? ... Uh, right?

Scheduling is an issue for 90 percent of teams. Thing is, we mostly only hear about the mid-majors who can't get a big boy to agree to do a home-and-home or a two-for-one. That's the problem here for a BCS school, though. Take Duke. As its accustomed to doing, the program did not agree to play a return game with Nebraska. The story says Sadler would've made an exception for Duke, but Mike Krzyzewski couldn't arrange a game in time, since there was a conflict on Dec. 4.
"With their name and recognition and how good they are, we decided we'd do that," Croft said. "Our guys deserved the challenge. We were ready to roll the dice on that one."

The problem: NU had already scheduled Creighton on Dec. 4. The Bluejays, Croft said, initially weren't willing to move the date, so Nebraska said no to Duke.

It will be a vicious cycle for Nebraska, which probably won't be able to get some respectable opponents to come to Lincoln until it makes consistent runs at the NCAA tournament -- then wins a game or two in late March as well. Right now the program doesn't have the cache or a low number of enemies, it seems. Moving to the Big Ten has its repercussions. This one may linger for a few years.

Photo: AP
Category: NCAAB
The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com