Posted on: March 8, 2011 3:51 pm

Dayton has one of March's best stories

Not a single bubble team matters to me, not one, except for Dayton. That's the only bubble team that must, and I do say must, make it into the 2011 NCAA basketball tournament.

The women's tournament, I mean.

Because of the Ebony Gainey story.

You probably don't know the Ebony Gainey story, which is why it needs to be told with the platform only the NCAA tournament can give to a women's program like Dayton.

See, Gainey could have died four years ago. Her older sister, Kenyattia, did die four years ago. In her sleep. Heart problems. At the time Ebony Gainey was the star recruit at Dayton, the team's best recruit in years. It was the summer of 2007, and her freshman season was about to start.

Instead, her career ended.

What happened was, a few months after Kenyattia died, Ebony was having trouble breathing at practice. Shortly before the season opener, tests were run -- and they showed Ebony has a form of cardiomyopathy, the heart disease that killed basketball players like Reggie Lewis, Hank Gathers and Jason Collier. Just like that, her career was over. But not her connection to basketball.

Dayton coach Jim Jabir honored Gainey's scholarship for that season, and for the next three as well. She became a student assistant, a cheerleader, part-time practice player (half-court settings only). She was a part of the team. She just never played.

Until ...

Well, now we're getting to the cool part of the Ebony Gainey story. See, on Feb. 26 the Flyers had their annual Senior Day. Gainey is a senior, and Jabir wanted to do something special for her. But what? What do you do for the player who can't play?

"We'd been thinking about it, talking about it, for months," Jabir said. "Literally, months. She's an important part of the program, and we wanted to do something special."

A few days before the Senior Day game against Fordham, Jabir summoned Gainey to his office and told her the plan: She would play. She would have a play run for her. And she would score.

Nothing fake, mind you. This wouldn't be a pity basket. Fordham would be asked for no favors, and honestly, Gainey didn't need one. When the topic was raised in the basketball offices about Fordham's possible cooperation, Gainey's teammates squashed it. One of them told Jabir, "She scores on us at will."

And that's true. Gainey is a 6-foot guard who could do it all in high school. She was destined to be a star.

"She would have been one of the best players we ever had at Dayton," Jabir said. "But there are certain things in life you can't control."

Getting her on the court for one shot? Jabir could control that. He put team trainer Jamie Potter on the case, and Potter received clearance from the school's compliance staff, the NCAA, even the medical folks. By the time Potter was finished, everything was set. All that was left was the play to run, and associate coach Kyle Rechlicz took care of that, designing a screen on the wing for Gainey that would let her use her left hand to attack the rim.

The play fell apart, of course.

As it happened, on Dayton's first possession Fordham pressured the perimeter so much that the first pass to Gainey was hurried and squirted low, between her legs for a turnover. See? No pity from Fordham. No mercy. This was a Division I college basketball game, not a carnival.

Gainey figured she was coming out of the game.

"I was ready to go," she said. "Nobody went to the scorer's table, so I went back for defense."

On Dayton's next possession, the same play was called. This time Gainey got the ball on the wing, got her screen, got her bucket.

Then she got taken out of the game. Her college career, so cruelly stolen from her four years ago, had happened after all. She was a player. She played. See for yourself.

"For someone like me to not be able to play, and then to get that small feeling ... amazing," Gainey said. "It does bring some closure. I was out there. I did it. Nobody can ever take that amazing feeling away from me."

Someday Ebony Gainey will become a coach. Meantime there's the 2011 NCAA tournament to be played. With its 21-11 record and No. 44 RPI, Dayton is on the bubble.

Lord I hope they get in. What a story Ebony Gainey is. It needs to be told again. And again.

Category: NCAAB
Tags: Ebony Gainey
Posted on: March 2, 2011 6:27 am

Really starting to like BYU

I don't understand Brigham Young. Not the man, not the University, not the religion associated with both. I'm not bashing any of them -- just saying, I don't understand them.

But I understand the BYU mission, and at risk of seeming like a naive kid, I love it.

The Cougars care about winning, yes. But they care more about something Jack Nicholson talked about in A Few Good Men. They care about honor, and when one of their best players showed a lack of it -- in some way the rest of us would consider small, I'm guessing -- he was kicked off the team.

Gone is forward Brandon Davies. Gone, too, possibly is the Cougars' No. 1 seed, since the NCAA Tournament selection committee will seed BYU not just on how it played this season, but how the committee thinks it will play without Davies. So how will the Cougars play without Davies? They'll play well, of course. They'll play like an NCAA Tournament team. But they won't play like a No. 1 seed. How could they? Davies was their best inside player, and now he's gone.

That's a debate for another day, but this is clear right now: BYU put honor above wins, possibly even above a national championship, unlike one basketball program I won't mention.

Like I said, I don't "get" Brigham Young. But I like BYU. Even more than when I wrote this story last year.

Category: NCAAB
Tags: BYU
Posted on: February 22, 2011 3:50 pm
Edited on: February 22, 2011 4:01 pm

NCAA nickel-and-dimed UConn

I can't make this math work, so maybe someone can help me. I'm talking about the arithmetic behind the NCAA's punishment of UConn for some fairly outrageous violations within the men's basketball program.

The math eludes me here. First you've got the NCAA deciding that the director of operations -- a de facto assistant coach under head coach Jim Calhoun -- was so scummy that he cannot work for anyone in the NCAA for two years. Then you've got a former UConn team manager, also working under Calhoun, becoming an agent and heaping illegal benefits on a recruit. Then you've got the NCAA saying that Calhoun "overlooked indications" that those violations were taking place.

I add all of that up, and I see a major penalty for UConn -- and for Jim Calhoun.

The NCAA added it up and didn't see it. Maybe because it's hard to see with your head buried in the sand. Or buried somewhere else.

Calhoun was suspended for three conference games. That's something, but not much. The team lost a scholarship or two, lost some recruiting days on the road, lost some phone calls. That's also something, but also, it's not much. Instead of giving UConn a meaningful smack across the chops -- a postseason ban of a season or two -- the NCAA threw a whole lot of small stuff at the Huskies. Maybe the NCAA was trying to fool people like you and me into thinking it was coming down hard on the Huskies.

Look at that long list of penalties! It just goes on and on!

Don't be fooled. Think of those penalties as a handful of nickels and dimes. I could throw coins at you for 30 seconds and it wouldn't add up to anything significant. That's what the NCAA did with UConn. It threw a bunch of nickels and dimes at the Huskies. Total cost? Nothing significant.

Unless my math is wrong, but I doubt it. I was always pretty damn good with numbers.

Category: NCAAB
Tags: UConn
Posted on: December 3, 2010 2:21 pm
Edited on: December 3, 2010 2:33 pm

Free Enes

I'm reading about Cam Newton, but I'm thinking about Enes Kanter.

I'm reading about Josh Selby, but thinking about Enes Kanter.

Reading about? Renardo Sydney. But thinking about? Enes Kanter.

Those were all athlete-affirmative rulings by the NCAA. Newton's father was trying to cheat but couldn't consummate the deal, and anyway, Newton didn't know. So he can play for Auburn. Terrific, sincerely. Love that ruling.

Selby was driving around in someone else's Mercedes, and ultimately Selby was found to have received almost $5,000 in extra benefits from Carmelo Anthony's business manager, but the NCAA decided that the business manager was a longtime friend of the family and not a scuzzball. So Selby will be able to play for Kansas in a few weeks, and that's great.

Sidney is the Mississippi State basketball recruit whose family received so many thousands of dollars -- almost $12,000 -- that he was sidelined the entire 2009-10 season. But after that year suspension, and after missing a portion of this season, he'll eventually be able to play -- even though he misled NCAA investigators. And I say, fine. Sidney and his parents made huge mistakes, but the kid paid a huge penalty. Good for him that he can play.

But what about Enes Kanter? What about him ?

Kanter's father was the one who received the money from the Turkish national team, not Kanter himself. Enes had no idea what was coming in, or where it was going. He never saw the money, and anyway, the money was reimbursement for travel expenses, and coverage of educational expenditures. Not a Mercedes. Not clothes. Not cash.

Kanter never lied to the NCAA. Never sought payment from a school. Never drove someone else's fancy car for weeks at a time.

But Kanter can't play. Ever.


I don't get it. I don't think I ever will get it. But with Kanter's appeal still being considered, it's not too late for the NCAA to do the right thing and let him play. This year, next year, whenever. Let him play, NCAA, or you're the biggest scuzzball in this story.

Category: NCAAB
Tags: Enes Kanter
Posted on: July 28, 2010 4:02 pm

You want my take on Rick Pitino? Fine. Here:

Hi. My name is Gregg Doyel, and I'm addicted to McGriddles.

And thank God for that, because it could have been so much worse. My weak spot didn't have to be syrup-infused sandwich bread. It could have been sex. Sounds fun, right? Downfall by sex? Well, let's ask Tiger Woods how much fun he's having. Let's ask Rick Pitino how much fun he's having. Hell, let's ask Karen Sypher, Pitino's unfortunate table-top fling, how much fun she 's having.

Sex addiction is no fun. It's a brutal way of life, and Sypher has it to a really bad degree. She must. Already in her extortion trial she has been linked to some form of intercourse with three different men, all for some kind of benefit. In her world, sex leads to goods, services or money, which means that she's a prostitute minus the pimp. And I don't say that with malice. I say that with sympathy, and pity, because she's sick.

And if Pitino got involved with her, on a table at a restaurant, he's sick too. Or he was for one night. And if this is where I'm supposed to laugh at Pitino, sorry. I'll pass.

I love me some John Calipari, which means I'm all about his team, the Kentucky Wildcats. But that doesn't mean I can sit here with a straight face and be gleeful about the tragedy unfolding in a federal courtroom in Louisville. This is tragic, with Sypher clearly a lost soul and Pitino paying a heavy price for his own actions.

Having fun, right here, at their expense would be despicable. I can't do it. And you shouldn't want me to do it, not if you're addicted to cigarettes or beer or food or gambling or anything else that's legal and yet destructive. Not unless you're a hypocrite. And you're not, right?

Sex addiction is no joke. It's real, and it's awful, and it's the root of what's going on in that courtroom in Louisville.

You want me to mock Pitino? Look somewhere else. I'm a professional sports writer, not a mean-spirited thug.

Category: NCAAB
Tags: Rick Pitino
Posted on: June 5, 2010 12:32 pm

A great man, gone

John Wooden lived almost 100 years. He coached hundreds of young men, and coached against thousands more. He beat everyone, and beat them badly. Over the years he probably even indirectly helped a few men, who kept losing to UCLA, get fired. Because college coaches who lose don't stay college coaches for long.

John Wooden stayed a college coach for decades. It's a cutthroat world. Everyone talks bad about everyone.

And in all that time, and in all the time since, I've never heard, read or seen someone say a bad word about Wooden.

Maybe there are things on the periphery people have taken issue with. Who was booster Sam Gilbert, and where did he come from, and why was he allowed to linger? I've seen that said about the UCLA program under Wooden. But about John Wooden himself? About John Wooden, the person? Not a single derogatory word. Not one.

Incredible. That's a long life, well-lived.

Rest in peace, sir.
Category: NCAAB
Tags: John Wooden
Posted on: March 20, 2010 7:52 pm

One of biggest NCAA upsets ever

Not sure where Northern Iowa's 69-67 victory against Kansas ranks on the NCAA Tournament Upset Meter -- but it's somewhere near the top.

For one thing, Kansas wasn't just a one seed, but the No. 1 overall seed. Best team in the tournament, allegedly, loses in the second round? To a No. 9 seed, not even an eight? And to a No. 9 seed from the Missouri Valley? That's enormous.

Especially the way this happened. Northern Iowa didn't just beat Kansas. It owned Kansas. Pwned Kansas. Got 3-pointers from its 7-footer (Jordan Eglseder) and 3-pointers from its 6-footer (Ali Farokhmanesh) and tenacious defense from everyone. The Jayhawks had more size and quickness and still couldn't get comfortable on offense, falling behind 47-35 in the second half before mounting a rally that didn't quite get it done.

So where does it rank among the all-time upsets? It's somewhere close to George Mason over UConn in 2006, which is the biggest shocker I've ever seen. It's better than Nova-Georgetown (1984) or NC State-Houston ('83) because those were upsets, yes, but they were big schools beating big schools. This is an upset and a small school beating a biggie.

So it's up there. Maybe it's even first.
Category: NCAAB
Posted on: December 17, 2009 6:20 pm

Come to your senses, Royce White

You're 6-foot-8. You weigh 250 pounds. You have enough basketball skill to play someday for a six-figure contract, possibly even in the NBA for a seven-figure deal.

And you're quitting basketball? Because the going got tough?

Grow up, you big baby. It can't be easy dealing with allegations that you stole a laptop from a dorm room, and if charges come and a conviction happens, well, wow. That would be awful.

But don't quit basketball. It's your ticket to the good life. You're going to throw that ticket away?

Come on. That's crazy talk.

Category: NCAAB
Tags: Royce White
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