Posted on: February 29, 2012 11:33 am
Edited on: March 1, 2012 4:12 pm

Bob Knight dislikes Kentucky -- it's transparent

Indulge me for a second and imagine this was college football season. And imagine there was a team, late in the season, that was demonstrably better than almost everyone else, bearing down on a spot in the BCS title game. Imagine that team was, say, Alabama. And imagine it had the likely Heisman Trophy winner in, say, Mark Ingram.

And imagine the most famous college football analyst in America, when asked about the top teams and players in the country, never mentioning the words "Alabama" or "Mark Ingram."

Couldn't happen, right? I don't care who he is -- Lou Holtz, Kirk Herbstreit, Gary Danielson, whoever -- no analyst could get away with that.

So why is Bob Knight getting away with it?

Why won't Bob Knight say the words "Kentucky" or "Anthony Davis?"

Knight was on the Mike and Mike show today, and he was talking about some of the top teams in the country. He glowed about Syracuse but never mentioned Kentucky, which is odd considering Kentucky is No. 1 in both polls. Of the 96 available votes in the two polls combined, Kentucky received 94 this week. Kentucky is the leading candidate not just for a No. 1 seed, but for the No. 1 overall seed, and is the overwhelming favorite of Vegas oddsmakers to win the title.

But Knight doesn't want to mention the Wildcats -- coached by John Calipari, whom Knight has verbally attacked in the past.

You could chalk that up as a matter of opinion, as Knight being vintage contrarian Knight, but not when you combine it with another recent segment of his -- when he was talking about the best players in the country. He never mentioned Kentucky's Anthony Davis, which is odd considering the rest of the country considers Davis and Kansas' Thomas Robinson not just the leading candidates for national POY ... but the only candidates for national POY. And as an added bonus, Davis is the presumptive No. 1 overall pick if he enters the 2012 NBA Draft.

But Knight doesn't want to mention Davis -- coached by John Calipari, whom Knight has verbally attacked in the past.

This sort of thing, coming from an analyst, is about as brazen and ridiculous as a coach throwing a chair across the court or grabbing a player by the neck and having it caught on video.

So why is Bob Knight getting away with it?

Posted on: December 23, 2011 1:20 pm

A college graduate is an adult. Right?

The staredown between Saint Joseph's coach Phil Martelli and former Hawks center Todd O'Brien -- an SJU graduate who transferred to UAB but hasn't been allowed to play -- is being lost by both people. That's fairly clear. O'Brien is losing his final season. Martelli is losing the public relations fight. Why Martelli is doing what he's doing, we don't know.

But here's something that seems indisputable:

Going forward, the NCAA can -- and should -- make sure this doesn't happen again. And it would be so easy, too. So easy, and so fair. It would take the decision out of a coach's hands, even a coach who (clearly) feels he is justified in playing such hardball with a former player.

I'm not here to backtrack on what I wrote a few days ago about this. I'm not here to rehash it and defend that position all over again, either. I wrote it, I stand by it, and if you want to know why I still stand by it, read that story again.

But the NCAA's rule should be altered, dramatically, to reflect the real world. The real world being this:

Anybody who does what Todd O'Brien has done -- graduates from college with eligibility remaining -- shouldn't need anyone's permission to play somewhere else.

Again, make no mistake: I'm not saying Martelli is wrong here. NCAA rules allow him to decide whether to release a graduated player to transfer and play somewhere else, and he made the decision not to release O'Brien. Why? I have no idea, but he has his reasons for playing hardball with O'Brien, and without knowing those reasons, I'm not going to do the easy thing and scream that Martelli is wrong.

Is he wrong? Again -- I have no idea.

But I know the NCAA rule is wrong.

A college graduate is an achiever, a winner. More importantly, a college graduate is an adult who has fulfilled the obligations asked of him -- that being, to honor his scholarship by graduating.

The next Todd O'Brien who graduates with eligibility remaining shouldn't have to ask for Daddy Coach's permission to transfer. He should be able to tell the coach, the school and the NCAA that he has fulfilled his obligation, he has graduated, and since he has eligibility remaining, he's going to spend that eligibility somewhere else.

I mean, isn't that sensible and fair? I'm trying to find a hole in my proposed rule change, and the only one I can come up with is this: It could, in some folks' eyes, open the door to younger players who want to transfer. If the NCAA says that a college graduate should be free to transfer with no penalty incurred and no release needed, what's to stop a sophomore who is on track to graduate from making the same demand?

I could be snarky here and say, "Nothing should stop a college sophomore in good academic standing from being able to transfer wherever he wants and play right away." And honestly, there are days I believe that to be true.

But this isn't the day for that argument, and I'm not concerned about the slippery slope that might be created for underclassmen by allowing the next Todd O'Brien to do as he damn well pleases after he graduates.

The NCAA could make this very simple by making the rule very clear: If you've graduated college, and you have eligibility remaining, you're a free agent. You've done everything asked of you, so here's your reward: Free agency. Go play wherever you want, assuming you're wanted there in return. You've earned the freedom to choose. Go.

Underclassmen? This rule isn't about you, but it's for you as well. Because if the day comes that you've graduated -- with eligibility remaining -- you too would be free to transfer.

Obvious, right? Fair, too.

Of course it'll never happen. It just makes too damn much sense.

Posted on: December 11, 2011 2:29 pm

Cronin's press conference: must-see TV for all

What happened Saturday between Cincinnati and Xavier was disgusting, and it deserves words along those lines. Words of disgust and revulsion, heavy-handed words about the need for suspensions or expulsions after players from both teams brawled so badly that officials simply called off the game with time left on the clock. It was either that, or eject almost everybody and call it a forfeit on both sides. Which wouldn't have been a bad idea, come to think of it ...

But anyway, those are not the words I'm writing today. Other people have written those words, and they are fine words, but not me. Not here. Not today.

Because what happened Saturday after Cincinnati and Xavier brawled was beautiful, and it deserves words along those lines. Words of wonder and passion, high-minded words about the need for self-improvement and self-respect. In fact, it deserves words I'm not capable of writing, because nothing I write here -- with hours to think, edit, arrange -- can compare to the 12 minutes of words that flew out of Cincinnati coach Mick Cronin in the aftermath of the ugliest afternoon of his coaching career.

From here on out, you're going to read more from Mick Cronin than you're going to read from me, because I can't top what he said after the game Saturday. Maybe I can add some context here and there, and I'll try, but starting now the floor goes to Cronin, who sat down behind the microphones on Saturday and volunteered the following about what he had just witnessed:

"There is no excuse for that in basketball," Cronin said. "You've got to learn how to win on one side, you've got to learn how to lose on the other side. All these kids all need to realize they are here to get an education ...

"These guys, very few of them are ever going to make a dollar playing basketball. They are here to get an education at two great universities and they need to appreciate that. The world doesn't revolve around them, around basketball. They need to learn how to act -- they need to have respect for the fact they are on a scholarship, that people come to see them play."

From here, let me say that these are not words I would have expected to hear from Cronin. The first time we "met," it was a phone call in 2005 from Cronin after I had written something about his team at Murray State. I believe the word I used that set Cronin off was "renegade," a reference to any program that would allow Keith Jenifer to dress out. Cronin objected to the word. Maybe I was wrong in 2005. Maybe I was right, and Cronin has changed since then. I don't know, and I don't care. Today I'm marveling at Mick Cronin's reaction to Saturday's fight. More from him:

"Too much glorification of all of sports in our society," Cronin said. "The fact is, guys are here to get an education. They represent institutions of higher learning. Xavier has been a great school for years. We are trying to cure cancer at Cincinnati. I go to school at a place where they discovered the vaccine for polio and created Benadryl. I think that's more important than who wins a basketball game."

Notice how Cronin mentions both teams, both schools, because he was speaking not just as a coach, but as a human being. The coach in him was horrified at what his own players had done, but the human being in him was distraught about the actions of both teams. He made it a point not to lay the blame on Xavier, noting that players on both teams had been talking all game. Who said what, and when? Why did it escalate? Cronin wasn't worried about that. More from him:

"If my players don't act the right way, they will never play another game at Cincinnati," Cronin said. "Right now, I just told my guys, 'I will meet with my AD and my president and I'm going to decide who is on the team going forward.' I've never been this embarrassed. I'm hoping [UC] President [Gregory] Williams doesn't ask me to resign after that.

"I made everybody take their jersey off -- and they will not put it on again until they have a full understanding of where they go to school and what the university stands for and how lucky they are to even be there, let alone have a scholarship, because there's a whole lot of kids that can't pay for college and don't get to go to school. My mom didn't get to go to UC. She grew up on campus, [but] they couldn't afford it."

At this point, a media member asked Cronin if he'd literally made his players take off their jerseys. More from him:

"Absolutely -- they are all sitting in there with no jersey on," Cronin said. "Some of them I physically took them off. That whole scene, it's embarrassing. To be a part of that? Are you kidding me? It's a complete embarrassment. No matter who started what. Just the whole thing, it's a complete embarrassment."

Cronin's team had just lost 76-53, which was the score when officials called off the game. More from him:

"We talk all the time: Toughness is doing the right thing in life. That is what we talk about. If that is the case, [if] you are being provoked, this or that -- true toughness, you walk away from it. You take your ass-whipping and you go home."

Cronin then brought up something he'd seen on television in recent weeks, a segment on 60 Minutes about the rising number of homeless in Central Florida.

"Guys, there's thousands of people in our country -- watch 60 Minutes -- that's homeless. You are not that important. None of us. Have some class. Represent your university, and I am talking about everybody involved. Let's be honest, guys, come on. It's a basketball game.

"Represent our university. That is what I was hired to do six years ago. That's what will happen as long as I'm the coach. Whether we have five guys on the team on Monday or 10 or 13. There is enough guys out there that would appreciate the scholarship. I don't care how good you are."

Some tougher follow-up from Cronin would have been nice. It's one thing to talk tough, and it's something else to be tough. Cronin suspended his best two big men, Yancy Gates and Cheikh Mbodj, for six games after Gates sucker-punched Xavier's Kenny Frease, and Mbodj appeared to stomp on him. Cronin also suspended Octavius Ellis for six games, and Ge'Lawn Guyn for one.

Tough enough? Matter of opinion. Gates and Mbodj could have been kicked off the team, but I'm in no mood to second-guess Cronin. Not after what he said Saturday. Some will say -- based on the relatively short suspensions for Gates and Mbodj -- that Cronin was speaking empty words on Saturday.

Me, I'd disagree. Empty words? Those words were chock-full of outrage and perspective. They were words every coach in the country should show his players this week. Lord knows most coaches would never say those words themselves. Since when has a Division I coach ever said, "The world doesn't revolve around basketball," or, "You [players] are not that important"?

Cronin finished Saturday's speech with a flourish.

"That whole scene is just an embarrassment," he said. "Guys think they are way too important in the scope of what is going on in the world. It's not professional sports. Thanks guys."

Cronin got up and left. The video of the press conference ends there, but not before you can hear the final sound: Applause from those in attendance.

Posted on: August 23, 2011 1:10 pm

Pat Summit diagnosed with dementia

Former women's basketball players at Tennessee are getting calls today that Vols coach Pat Summitt, 59, has been diagnosed with dementia.

An announcement is expected later today, has learned. Former players are flying into Knoxville, Tenn., from all over the world to be there for Summitt -- who will try to coach this season, according to a former player.

Summitt is the arguably the most successful coach in U.S. college basketball history -- male or female, pro or amateur -- with 1,071 career victories, eight national championships and an Olympic gold medal. She was inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame in 2000.

Category: NCAAB
Tags: Pat Summitt
Posted on: August 23, 2011 1:06 pm

Pat Summit diagnosed with dementia

Former women's basketball players at Tennessee are getting calls today that Vols coach Pat Summitt, 59, has been diagnosed with dementia.

An announcement is expected today or Wednesday, has learned. Former players are flying in from all over the world to be there for Summit -- who will try to coach this season, according to one of Summit's former players.

Summitt is the arguably the most successful coach in U.S. college basketball history -- male or female, pro or amateur -- with 1,071 career victories, eight national championships and an Olympic gold medal. She was inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame in 2000.

Category: NCAAB
Tags: Pat Summitt
Posted on: May 6, 2011 12:09 pm

So, is Maryland basketball a Top 20 job?

Off the top of my head, as Matt Jones and I discussed the coaching vacancy at Maryland on our weekly podcast, I said I wasn't sure if Maryland is a Top 20 job. After further consideration ...

I'm still not sure. That doesn't mean no.

To me, there are a dozen jobs that are without question better. Why better? Some combination of tradition, facilities, fans, recruiting base, ability to compete within in its conference, and weather.

Those 12, in alphabetical order: Arizona, Arkansas, Duke, Florida, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Michigan, Michigan State, North Carolina, Texas and UCLA.

To me, there are another 12 jobs in the next tier. Maryland's one of them, which means Maryland could be the 13th-best job in America. Or it could be 24th.

The next 12, alphabetically: Gonzaga, Illinois, Louisville, Maryland, Memphis, North Carolina State, Ohio State, Oklahoma State, Pittsburgh, Syracuse, UConn and Xavier.

Bottom line? I'm positive Maryland is a Top 25 job. And possibly Top 20. Or not. It's close.

Category: NCAAB
Tags: Maryland
Posted on: April 19, 2011 11:16 am
Edited on: April 19, 2011 11:17 am

When an idiot speaks, starring Bob Knight

You don't like Kentucky basketball coach John Calipari? Fine. You have ammunition.

Calipari recruits kids he knows will spend one or two years on campus, kids interested more in pursuing the NBA than their college degree, and if that's the sort of thing that bugs you, complain about that.

Calipari has taken three schools to the Final Four, and two of them had to vacate that appearance because of NCAA violations involving a player -- not a coach, but a player. But if that's the sort of thing you want to lay at the head coach's feet, fine. Lay it there. Complain about that.

But what you can't do -- what ESPN commentator Bob Knight did do the other day -- is ignore the pile of facts at your disposal and make up your own. And come up with your own half-truth or even your own outright lie, and use that to attack John Calipari.

But again, that's what Bob Knight did the other day when he defamed the entire starting five on Kentucky's team in 2009-10 by saying, "Kentucky (that season) started five players in the NCAA tournament games that had not been to class that semester."

Interesting statement. But an outright lie. It makes Calipari, who clearly isn't on Knight's list of people he likes, look bad. But it makes five young men look awful, and unfairly so. Because John Wall went to class that semester and made the honor roll. Patrick Patterson went to class that semester and earned his degree -- in his third year. I don't know what Kentucky's other three starters earned that semester, but if Knight thinks they didn't go to school, well, that's all I need to know to believe otherwise.

Because Bob Knight has no idea what he's talking about.

I'm not big on, "So-and-so owes an apology!" But today, Bob Knight owes an apology to John Calipari, and to Patrick Patterson, and to John Wall, and to the rest of Kentucky's starting five. He said something awful about them, something blatantly untrue, and he needs to correct it.

But he's a bad guy, so he won't say a damn thing unless ESPN makes him.

So that's where we stand. What's it going to be, ESPN?

You going to allow this?

Category: NCAAB
Tags: Bob Knight
Posted on: April 4, 2011 12:18 pm
Edited on: April 4, 2011 12:33 pm

Shaka Smart staying at VCU

HOUSTON -- Shaka Smart of VCU will stay at VCU and not cash in on his instant superstardom, a source in Richmond told me a minute ago.

For the 33-year-old Smart (55-21 in two years at VCU),  it caps a whirlwind three weeks that saw him go from relative anonymity to rising star to the hottest commodity on this spring's coaching market.

Smart had talked to N.C. State on Sunday night and Monday morning. A formal offer was never extended, but that could be a formality. That information is beyond my pay grade.

Category: NCAAB
Tags: Shaka Smart, VCU
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