Tag:Matt Norlander
Posted on: July 20, 2011 2:56 pm
Edited on: July 20, 2011 3:18 pm

Dave Leitao lands in Portland ... Maine

By Matt Norlander

When I took my connecting flight from Charlotte to Houston for this year's Final Four, there were a number of coaches on that plane. Plenty of coaches you'd know and recognize instantaneously. No one worked the bird harder that afternoon than Dave Leitao, though. The former Virginia and DePaul coach only sat down for takeoff and landing -- no exaggeration. He hopped row to row, standing with his arms leaned against the overhead bins, making conversation and keeping inroads with plenty of coaches.

"That man is desperately trying to get himself a job," an assisant coach next to me said.

Well, Leitao's found one, but it's not in a place most would guess. The 51-year-old will take the gig that was once rumored to be an option for Bruce Pearl: coaching the Maine Red Claws in the NBDL.

"He's one of the great guys of all time,'' said Carter Bernhardt, the director of marketing at Next Level. "You're getting a wonderful guy. He's a focused, wise individual.

"He just can't shake the coaching bug. He's wanted to get back into it.''

He'll replace Austin Ainge, who coached the Red Claws for their first two seasons before taking a position with the parent Boston Celtics.

Leitao was a much-praised assistant when he was at UConn, from 1996 to 2002. But he could never get his teams to have longterm success. His clubs at Northeastern, DePaul and Virginia combined to go 143-129. He was fired from Virginia after the 2008-09 season.

The team will announce Leitao's hire officially at a 11 a.m. press conference Thursday. Leitao's never coached at the pro level before; the NBDL qualifies as that. Is he out of the college game for the long haul? We'll see. In terms of coaching futures, running an NBDL team could be a fork in the road.

Photo: AP
Category: NCAAB
Posted on: July 20, 2011 2:06 pm
Edited on: July 20, 2011 3:22 pm
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Posted on: July 20, 2011 11:30 am
Edited on: July 20, 2011 11:31 am

Johnny O'Bryant's dangerous bravado

By Matt Norlander

Even if you believe it, don't say it aloud. Not now, not before the season, and certainly not during the season.

Incoming LSU freshman -- and McDonald's All-American -- Johnny O'Bryant was completely transparent this week when he told the Times-Picayune that he absolutely expects to be one year and out in Baton Rouge.

O'Bryant said he's aware of the expectations among Tigers fans that he will help turn the program in a positive direction. One question mark will be how long he stays. If he improves at an accelerated rate, he could declare early for the NBA draft.

"Of course, I want to have a big impact from Day One," he said. "When I signed, I knew a lot would be expected of me. I'm going to accept the role and try my hardest to get better each day. (On the NBA) I just know if I come out and play hard, let the NBA decide. Hopefully, I won't be too long, but if I do, (I'll) try to help the team."

When asked if he would like to be a one-and-done player he added: "Of course."
You don't see that kind of public expectation from many 18-year-olds. There's a reason why -- most are usually trained to the point where they know how this kind of sharing on the record can entrap them. Saying he's hoping to be out by next spring is like an underclassmen declaring he'll be back next season, minutes after his team loses in the NCAA tournament.

Who you are then isn't who you'll be a few weeks removed from the moment.

O'Bryant shares a goal and mindset with about 30 other to-be freshmen. It's not wrong, but it is misguided about 90 percent of the time, if not higher than that. Being public about this right now is not the way to go. O'Bryant isn't guaranteed a good draft spot, especially in 2012, when the field should be absolutely stacked. As of now, he's yet to play a minute of college ball. He's setting a bar too high for himself, one he's unlikely to leap to.

Particularly because he was a four-star, not five-star, prospect who was closer to No. 30 than 1 in national rankings.

Now LSU fans and everyone within the community know O'Bryant's preoccupied with playing well enough to get out of college after one year, make that quick dash for NBA cash. It's part of the farce that's the one-and-done rule. I can't fault O'Bryant for being forthright, as he's saying what, again, so many others in his class are thinking. If he had a choice, would O'Bryant even be entering college this fall?

But put aside the worthwhile-yet-played-out one-and-done argument for now. What if he's just misguided in his ability right now? That's where it's dangerous. O'Bryant should be more focused on getting better and building a tournament-worthy team at LSU. What happens if O'Bryant doesn't play well in the first month of the season? Then this becomes a distraction, a reason for reporters to ask him why his dream of going to the NBA after one year could be slipping away. LSU was not a good team last year. It's got a fairly stocked freshmen class, led by O'Bryant. There are other stepping stones to get to long before an NBA contract enters into the equation.

Dare to think it, dream it, believe it. Just don't say it, Johnny. You only hinder yourself by doing so.

Category: NCAAB
Posted on: July 20, 2011 10:43 am
Edited on: July 20, 2011 10:52 am

Badgers' bros keep fit thanks to Ultimate Frisbee

By Matt Norlander

Just join in, brah, and embrace being an element in this crazy universe.

A story today by my former colleague, Jeff Eisenberg of Yahoo! Sports, details how the Wisconsin men's basketball team trains in a different way each July. They play Ultimate Frisbee.

To this I say: Why the heck not? And where is the University of Vermont team in all of this? You're slacking up in Burlington, boys.

Turns out the idea was the brainchild of a longtime Wisconsin strength and conditioning coach, who thought it was necessary to give the team something different in the offseason to maintain an element of teamwork and break up the typical summer cycle.

The annual ultimate Frisbee competition began 16 years ago when Hettenbach concocted it as a way to break up the monotony of the basketball team's daily weightlifting and conditioning sessions during the summer. Hettenbach chose ultimate Frisbee because he enjoyed the game and he believed it could improve players' hand-eye coordination and test their ability to fight through fatigue.

Before the competition begins each year, veterans spend an afternoon in early July scouting how comfortable the newcomers look throwing and catching a Frisbee, then two senior captains draft their teams in alternating order. The two teams compete in a best-of-three competition in which games are held once a week on the final three Fridays in July.
I find it ironic that Wisconsin's team, of any, is spending its summer running around. The Badgers' style of play, in that swing offense, moves at about 10 mph, relatively speaking.

Most freshmen are confused by the practice at first, but then soon realize why it's stayed on the schedule for well over a decade. There are principles in Ultimate Frisbee, it turns out, that correlate to basketball as well. Former Badger Brian Butch told Eisenberg how important -- yes, important -- the July competitions on the green and fluffy fields in the Badger State were.

"That was one of the better times my freshman year," Butch recalled. "To have the whole team jump on you like you'd hit a game-winning shot, it was a pretty cool thing for me as a freshman. Every year after that, I always looked at ultimate Frisbee a little differently.

"Our team chemistry is the reason we've won all these years, and that starts in the summer time. It starts by hanging out and it starts by doing the goofy ultimate Frisbee."

Now it's time to implore other teams to take up offseason sports that can build team chemistry. UCLA, how about water polo? Oklahoma seems like a good spot for an old-school afternoon of capture the flag. And if those Ducks in Oregon aren't getting their egg-and-spoon race on soon, then what is this all for, anyway?

Category: NCAAB
Posted on: July 19, 2011 9:22 pm
Edited on: July 19, 2011 10:33 pm

Kentucky's Jon Hood rips up ACL

By Matt Norlander

Here's an injury that won't mean much.

My condolences to Jon Hood, and well wishes to a fine young basketball player for a speedy recovery.

But have you looked at Kentucky's roster for next year? Hood, who tore his ACL in a pickup game Monday afternoon, probably wouldn't have been seeing much time as is. (Perma-counterargument: onetime pine-rider Josh Harrellson's 2010-11 season, which ended in him being drafted.) The talking point can -- and will, time and again -- be made that the 2011-12 Kentucky group John Calipari's assembled is the best team of 12 he's ever coached.

Hood didn't seem to factor much into that. He played in nearly every UK game last season but averaged just one point per game. The legitimate concern over his injury is the lack of leadership that can't make it onto the floor with a team that's particularly young -- even by Calipari standards. But the 'Cats have overcome that before; no reason to think it can't be hurdled yet again.

Hood, a junior, will have surgery on his right knee once the swelling goes down.

The Lexington Herlad-Leader's John Clay spoke to Hood's father Tuesday about the freakish happenstance.

“He wasn’t hit or anything,” said Brian Hood via phone. “It was a non-contact injury where he just came down wrong, apparently. It was just a freak thing.”

Brian Hood said his won was “a little frustrated and a little upset” but that, “We’ll just try to find something positive out of this and move forward.”

UK announced the injury on Tuesday saying that Jon Hood would undergo surgery once the swelling subsides.

“I think he has a pretty bad bone bruise, which you get from a torn ACL,” said Brian Hood. “I think they just want things to calm down before they do the surgery. There’s no real timetable right now.”

So he could very well be back in time for plenty of play this season. ACL tears can be a funny thing, and if the patient is persistent in rehab, they can return to action weeks or months before first estimates.

Photo: AP

Category: NCAAB
Posted on: July 19, 2011 8:51 pm
Edited on: July 19, 2011 10:38 pm

The Salinas story gets more salacious

By Matt Norlander

A report by Sports Illustrated's Pablo S. Torre from Tuesday afternoon adds not only context but real gravity to the severity of the David Salinas situation.

On Sunday night, Gary Parrish and Jeff Goodman broke the news that Salinas, a man from Houston who funded the Houston Select AAU basketball team and was also a booster to Houston, Wichita State and Rice universities, was found dead. It was believed to be a suicide. Many coaches were financially involved with Salinas, who was and still is being investigated by the Securities and Exchange Commission.

Torre's report uncovered the known losses tied to Salinas to be a staggering $7.8 million among dozens of coaches, primarily from college basketball. His case has also now caught the attention of the FBI, according to Torre. That's because many more millions are missing from folks outside the athletic arena.

Among the coaches identified in SI's story -- many of whom were confirmed from the CBSSports.com initial report -- were Billy Gillispie, Mark Few, Scott Drew and Lute Olson (pictured), who has been out of the game for a few years. 

Gillispie has reportedly lost more than anyone in Salinas' Ponzi scheme, with Olson also flushing more than a million away.
According to documents reviewed by SI.com, the value of Gillispie's investment alone was purported to be $2.3 million; Olson's, $1.17 million; Drew's, $621,000; Few's, $353,000. ... SI.com has identified Few and former Rice, Wichita State and Cornell basketball coach Scott Thompson (investment most recently valued at $65,000) as the latest names to be added to an initial list of nine basketball coaches first reported by CBSSports.com. Those nine included: Gillispie; Olson; Drew; Nebraska coach Doc Sadler ($38,000); Texas A&M-Corpus Christi (and former Rice) coach Willis Wilson ($642,000); Gonzaga assistant (and former Utah head coach) Ray Giacoletti ($1.2 million); United States Merchant Marine Academy (and former Nebraska) coach Danny Nee ($23,000); Augustana College coach Grey Giovanine ($533,000); and former Houston and Nevada coach Pat Foster. Save for Foster, SI.com was able to independently confirm each of those individuals as clients of Salinas.

Salinas' tentacles reached beyond the college hoops world, though. The SI story states that football coaches from Texas, Baylor and Houston were duped, as well as Rudy Davalos, who was once the athletic director at New Mexico as well as an assistant with the San Antonio Spurs. Beyond that, plenty of other folks not involved in sports have lost money, and the expected total of assets lost could clear into the tens of millions of dollars, if not hundreds.

It seems we've only just begun with this saga. There are more names to come out, surely, and more money to be discovered as lost. Then ... the NCAA. What will it do about this? Nothing for a while, rest assured. The federal authorities will sift through this monstrosity of a catastrophe before the NCAA can even step through the threshold.

But the evidence will hang in the air until the NCAA gets its chance to speak. You have a man, now dead, who was tied into an AAU program. Myriad coaches were investing money with him for personal interest in inflating their assets. And that's supposed to not influence where players may have gone to college? This is an entirely new scenario, one without precedent for the NCAA to try and get its thick fingers around.

The fallout's only just begun. Will there be a paper trail? Will we see retroactive retribution from the NCAA if it can uncover any wrongdoing on behalf of the coaches? The coaches who trusted Salinas so much with their money, why wouldn't they trust him to help steer a player to this program or that one?

We've never seen it all. There's always another skeleton waiting to be unearthed.

The really interesting aspect about this situation is you've got all these coaches who've lost all this money, right? And few things make people as angry and chatty as losing significant portions of their wealth. Significant portions. But now they're going to be caught in a quandary. Bad enough that this is a public embarrassment for them, they can't talk too much on the subject, lest they risk implicating themselves. Only so much anger and dispersal of disappointment can be distributed before traceable illicit behavior on the recruiting trail surfaces as well.

Be mad and confused and angry as hell at Salinas over this mess but don't talk out of turn. Seems there could be a domino waiting to get the line clicking with one flick from a coach's mouth.

Welcome to the newest rabbit hole of intercollegiate sports.

Photo: AP

Category: NCAAB
Posted on: July 19, 2011 2:02 pm
Edited on: July 19, 2011 2:24 pm

UNLV fan does his part to lure top prospect

By Matt Norlander

As a younger generation comfortably grows into an era where Web savvy and creative techniques on the Internet become second nature, we can expect more and more eye-catching courtings from fans of programs.

Top-ranked prospects will spring eternal. And this week, we've seen a UNLV fan put forth a quick viral video that mimics a Nike campaign in an effort to let No. 1 CBSSports.com/MaxPreps 2012 prospect Shabazz Muhammad know he's very much loved in the Nevada desert. The video is below. This isn't revolutionary; fans go back decades in terms of trying to lure prospects to school. It used to be so simple then.

Now we have the Internet and all the toys that come with it. In 10 years, it's going to be pretty insane -- and I encroach upon that word with as much literal emphasis as possible -- what fans of programs do to rally and rah 15-, 16- and 17-year-old kids to pick a school at which to play basketball or football. We haven't seen anything yet. Still, this is a healthy, refreshing dose of school pride in an effort to get UNLV back on a truly national level.

Artist Josh Meeter made the quick video. Simple, but pretty cool. And certainly helps UNLV. (Kentucky fans, your move.) Muhammad's being sought after by nearly every major program in the country -- and UNLV. He lives in Vegas, has for most of his life. If you want a glimpse of the type of player he is, check out the profile I wrote on him two weeks ago. The Rebels seem like they could make it into Muhammad's top three -- most hometown schools usually do, out of guilt if nothing else -- but I'm not sure how realistic of a chance UNLV has at this point with a player whose stock is streaking into another stratosphere.

I'll be watching Muhammad for the first time this weekend, when me and the other guys here at the blog head out to Vegas to watch his Dream Vision team play in the Adidas Super 64 on Friday. If he puts up another set of 40-point games, UNLV's going to have to do a lot more than videos and hometown familiarity.
Posted on: July 19, 2011 11:21 am
Edited on: July 19, 2011 11:22 am

Will Tennessee-Memphis series be ending soon?

By Matt Norlander

If Josh Pastner gets his way, the Tigers and Tennessee Volunteers will have an annual meeting no more.

Pastner hates playing the game. Doesn't see the value in Tennessee coming into Memphis -- where recruits are ripe as ever -- and playing the Tigers every other year. He said as much on the radio Monday. Per the Memphis Commercial-Appeal:
“I have no desire to play Tennessee,” Pastner told hosts Josh Ward and Will West on WNML-AM 990. “I don’t think it does us any good. I’m just being honest with you. For us, it’s a game that, I don’t know why we play it, but we play it because the athletic director wants me to play it and he’s my boss and what he says goes.”
This stems from the fact that, while its an in-state rivalry, Tennessee is ultimately getting more out of the deal than Memphis. There aren't a lot of players to recruit in Knoxville, which is quite a haul from the River City. But Tennessee is always trying to entrench itself in Memphis and pluck a recruit here or there. Ergo, the Vols are getting more out of the proposition than Memphis.

They're also winning more. Tennessee is 3-1 in the recent history of the rivalry.

I can't help but ask: Is Tennessee coming in to play Memphis every two years really damaging Pastner's recruiting ability? Unlikely -- but this is how coaches are. Any advantage possible, please. And eliminating Tennessee from the equation is the best thing for Pastner, so he's going to push for that. Plus, since Bruce Pearl is now gone, Tennessee is seen as a weaker opponent -- and it is -- so this is the perfect time for Pastner to let his opinion be known.

I like the game, but most outside the state won't really have an opinion on it if it goes away. That No. 1 vs. No. 2 game back in 2008 was pretty exciting, though. I think in-state series between national brands are good for the sport, so ultimately, I'd like to not see this go away. But if Pastner can trade this game for an annual meeting with another school (I think I saw Louisville tossed out as a possibility on Twitter), then I'm fine with it. And Tigers fans should be, too.

We've still got at least two more meetings between the clubs on tap, though. Memphis hosts this year, then travels to Knoxville for the 2012-13 season.

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