Archive for March, 2011

Butler and VCU Coaching Comparison

March 30, 2011

By: Nate Jervey
Assistant Sports Information Director

Is there anything more popular right now then the head coaches of VCU and Butler. I swear, if I have one more female friend tell me how “adorable” Brad Stevens of Butler University is I may just die. And Shaka Smart, the coach at VCU, has won over plenty of followers, though not as many of the lady variety, with his exuberance on the floor and his candor off the floor. While I never would have picked either of these teams to reach the promised land of college basketball, I must say that I have enjoyed the ride.

Brad Stevens, Head Coach of Butler, the epitome of calm, cool and collected.

Stevens, looks as though he is 12 years old and has not business being on the sidelines of an NCAA Division I basketball game. But don’t let the boyish good looks and affable personality fool you. He is a stone-cold killer. It’s the perfect disguise really. He lulls his opponents into a certain level of tranquility and calm and then unleashes his Bulldogs on them who have proven that their bite is, indeed, as big as their bark.

Butler, behind its president of the high-school chess club doppelganger of a coach, has reached the Final Four for the second-consecutive season with what many perceived to be an inferior team to last season’s national runner up squad. They lost their best player, Gordon Hayward, to the NBA and Butler is not a team that boasts a great deal of blue-chip recruits a la Kentucky or North Carolina. So how did they do it. To be honest, you got me. I get that they have some talented players, and I would contend that they had a favorable route through the tournament, but how does this school of roughly 4,000 find itself once again at the epicenter of the American Sports? How does Butler accomplish something never done by Indiana, Purdue or Notre Dame?

Its simple…Stevens. And I can’t give you an answer, but whatever he is doing in Indianapolis is working, even if he looks like should be a librarian.  So good in fact, that Butler is going to have to shed the Cinderella moniker. No longer is anyone totally surprised to see Butler’s name on the advancing line of the NCAA Tournament, they are no longer an unknown. I fell that Butler has moved into the Gonzaga territory. A once-feared mid-major school that made a few runs (albeit not as deep as Butler’s) that is now always-feared and on the cusp of becoming a big-time program. Butler has entered that realm and I think that Stevens has done very well to position himself and his program just far enough under the radar to be taken lightly and just far enough on the radar to not be discounted entirely.

On the other hand, Smart over at VCU has a chip on his shoulder and will let you know about it. He played at Div. III Kenyon and always felt he was good enough to play at the Div. I level. He gets his players to buy into the “they didn’t think you/we were good enough” mantra and his players, to me anyway, are a direct reflection of the personality of their coach.

I love that he takes his jacket off at the beginning of the game, knowing that it would only be a hindrance to the amount of chest bumps and arm waving and any of a thousand things that this ball of energy does on the sidelines.

Shaka Smart, Head Coach of VCU, a bit intense to say the least.

He is the exact opposite to Stevens in this respect. While Stevens always seems calm, cool and collected on the bench, Smart looks as though he is about to explode. And I love that about him.

Smart makes no bones about the fact that very few believed in his team and that, quite frankly, only his 14 players need to believe and the Jay Bilas’ and Dick Vitales of the world can keep not believing all the way to New Orleans.

Now, while Stevens has put Butler in a position to assume a place among, if not basketball’s elite, then at least its very well respected. VCU on the other hand, despite its impressive run, does not have that kind of staying power (yet) in my opinion. Regardless of how VCU has done in the tournament, that does not make the arguments against the Rams making the field wrong. The field is not picked on how well you think a team will do, but how well they did in the regular season and, honestly, VCU did not deserve to make the tournament in a lot of people’s opinions. I just don’t think that VCU is in anywhere near the position that Butler is and while the run has been magical this spring, it does not figure to repeat next season. If for no other reason than four of the Rams’ top five scorers are all seniors.

While I like both coaches and what they have done, I see Stevens doing well at Butler for a long time while Smart would be smart to get out of VCU while his name is at peak popularity and see what he can accomplish with his coaching acumen at a bigger school on a large stage….as if the Final Four was not a large enough stage.

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What’s in a name?

March 25, 2011

By: Brian Laubscher
Sports Information Director

Freakonomics has an interesting chapter about names

One of the unintended affects of being a sports information director is how it affects your thoughts about names.  It’s something that most people wouldn’t consider, but if you really think about it – we are constantly typing and viewing names.

I don’t think a day goes by when I don’t view a roster of one of our teams or one of our opponents and over the years, I’ve developed some pretty strong opinions based upon what I’ve come across.  I’ve always shared my thoughts with my assistants and some close friends, and they know how I feel about such things as “misspellings” of names and the ever-present “unique” names.  It has only recently become more relevant and I’m concerned that the list of “absolutely not” names has become much longer than the list of “yeah, I could see that” names.

Here are some reasons why that list is continually growing:

1) Why must someone have a truly unique name?  Shouldn’t their personality make them unique instead of searching for ways to make them different or “special”?  I recently read Freakonomics and the book has a chapter dedicated to names.  This chapter explains that people have actually named their kids, get this — Unique.  Seriously?  Your unique name is to name your kid Unique?  Over the years, I’ve seen some real doosies on opponent rosters – everything from Tuesdee, Tianna, Ebet, Andra, Nushaa and Karis.  Let’s just say that none of them is going to make my list.

2) Blatant “misspellings” of names for the sake of being unique.  Freakonomics explains that there are several different spellings of the name Unique, including Uneek, Uneque, Uneqqee.  Again, if you have already gone with a unique name to make your kid stand out, going so far as to misspell the name Unique is just lunacy.  Some other popular “misspellings” include: Ashleigh instead of Ashley, Ginnifer instead of Jennifer, Rachael instead of Rachel, Bryan instead of Brian, Jakob instead of Jacob, Ricci instead of Ricki and, seen above, Tuesdee instead of Tuesday.  This topic gets me more than anything else because when writing a game story, the last thing you want to worry about is whether you have the name spelled correctly — but you really have to because so many people have decided to misspell their names on purpose.  The worst is the name that is unintentionally misspelled on the birth certificate like — Micheal.

3) After 13 years of watching W&L teams play, along with our opponents, I’ve definitely developed opinions of some names based upon whether I liked a particular player or, worse yet, didn’t.  Just as my wife has had some poor students who have ruined names for her, there have been several players in the ODAC that have ruined names for me.  I’m pretty sure I wouldn’t name my kid Jared because of my dislike for a former ODAC basketball player by the name — or because of those annoying jewelry commercials.  Same is true with Mason (last name of a former ODAC lacrosse player) and Carson is out because of Carson Daly (I despise him).

4) My last reasoning against certain names is because there are far too many accepted spellings of a name.  These are the absolute worst when writing a story because of the sheer number of possibilities for me to make a simple and honest mistake when typing their name.  It also takes extra time to verify that you have the correct spelling of the name.  Examples of such include:

1. Zac, Zack, Zach
2. Brittany, Britney, Britany, Brittani, Brittni
3. Catherine, Katharine, Katherine, Kathryn
4. Jasmine, Jasmin, Jasmyn, Jazmyn, Jazmine
5. Antoine, Antwan, Antawn, Antwon, Antwone
6. Kristen, Kristin, Krystin, Kristyn, Christen, Christin

So, after considering how much is eliminated for one reason or another, the question is what’s left?

Staying Involved

March 22, 2011

The following blog was authored by Megan Weinlein, W&L Athletics Extern.  She is in her third year of law school at Washington and Lee after graduating from Tulane University in 2008 with a bachelor of arts degree in communications.  Megan played two seasons of soccer at Tulane, was named Tulane Women’s Soccer Newcomer of the Year after her freshman season, and earned two letters before the sport was suspended after Hurricane Katrina. In her two seasons, Weinlein played in 31 games, started 29 and accumulated three points on three assists. She received a postgraduate Scholarship from Conference USA following her undergraduate career.

By: Megan Weinlein
Athletics Extern

Weinlein from her playing days at Tulane

When my collegiate soccer career ended, I assumed it also marked the end of athletics in my everyday life.  But somehow, even in law school, athletics remained a consistent part of my life.  Shortly after enrolling in law school at W&L, I became a member of the University Athletic Committee.  This committee, including faculty, university administrators, student athletes, alumni and athletic administrators, is charged with acting in an advisory capacity with regard to all aspects of University athletics, from intercollegiate to recreational.  I have served on the committee all three years of law school.  Over the past three years, I have spent a significant amount of time deliberating the career I want to pursue.  On every occasion, I came back to university athletics as the career field I excelled in, and most importantly, enjoyed.  Last year, I decided to commit my job search to opportunities in university athletic administration.

In order to better prepare myself, I am serving as an extern in the Washington and Lee Athletic Department.  As an extern, I work on several different assignments.  Every week I research and draft answers to compliance questions that are raised by coaches or administrators.  Additionally, I am assigned special projects that come through the department.  Last month, I helped draft policies and procedures for the new athletic department manual.  Currently, I am working on W&L’s Institutional Self-Study Guide (ISSG).  In order to maintain NCAA compliance, each member institution must complete the ISSG every five years.  Over the next couple of weeks, I will go with the Associate Athletic Director, Shana Levine, to interview several University administrators in different departments (e.g. registrar’s office, financial aid, etc.).  Each of these projects has required the use of my legal education in some form or another.

When I first decided that higher athletic administration is the career I wanted to pursue rather than that of a traditional lawyer, I assumed my legal education would come in handy every once in a while, but I had not idea the extent to which I would use it.  I notice, everyday, a different application of my legal education.  I don’t use any knowledge of a specific Virginia statute or piece of Federal legislation, but it’s the “thinking like a lawyer” that is applicable.  I have to research NCAA rules and interpret their meaning and appropriate use.  Although my “client” is the athletic department, I still interview other administrators and staff members like “clients” for various department projects.  I have become much more aware of everything I have learned in law school because I am actually using it on a daily basis.

I never believed my legal education would be a waste, but I also didn’t think it would be used every day in the field that I want to pursue.  In my externship, I have realized that my legal education is going to make me a better athletic administrator and it is something that I will be grateful for as I pursue this career.

Helmet Talk

March 18, 2011

By: Megan Moore
Assistant Women’s Lacrosse Coach

A few days ago one of our players asked me if we were really going to be made to wear helmets. I said that I hoped not. I realized though that ignoring the prospect as I have for the past few months since it took serious shape at the IWLCA convention in November was not going to make it go away.

On whose shoulders does the responsibility fall to deter the helmet talk and ensure the safety of our players? And if, as our player expressed with disgust, we really are going to be made to don headgear, how will the game change and will I want to change with it? While the first vote of its kind reached a 9-2 decision against the implementation of hard helmets by the New York State Public High School Athletic Association (the same entity that first adopted the rule that protective eyewear be instated in 2005), it is not a discussion that I expect to dissipate.

We teach our players to be more aggressive. Run through a ground ball, you’ll either come up with it or get fouled. Step up and make contact on defense, take a charge. In a battle of two evenly matched teams, the more aggressive competitor leaves the field with a W. There is much to be said for controlled aggression, but I know of few successful coaches whose game-plan it is to be less physical. In every game we’ve played this season against Top 10 level opponents we’ve prepared our team to expect sticks to be swinging and bodies to be flying.  And while when aggression is controlled, ideally by the players themselves if not the officials, safety is less called into question, there are individuals and teams whose lack of control attests to a need for more protective measures.

Example of illegal contact in women's lacrosse.

There were a lot of conversations at this year’s convention about what coaches can do to annul the helmet proposition. Many in opposition have taken it upon themselves to keep their teams safer in their own play. But they also grapple with sacrificing a better team because of it.  At what point does it become disadvantageous to the team who practices a safer game when trying to prepare for rougher opponents? By swallowing a whistle in practice, are you then giving into the mindset that only encourages that which you are trying to avoid? It’s hard to get things done when play is being stopped every time a foul is committed and two hours is not enough time to accomplish everything as it is.

A month ago the Sports section of the New York Times ran an article on the game’s continuing to ban the use of hard helmets. The article focused on the argument by US Lacrosse and other proponents of the game that enforcing head equipment would only encourage rougher play and increase injury, citing the speculated increase in more aggressive hits in football and hockey since each sport imposed face masks and helmets as example. The counter-argument comes mostly from doctors who have seen enough women’s and girls’ lacrosse related concussions to believe protection needs to be instated.

It may be irresponsible, but I don’t worry so much about the head injuries as much as the game becoming something it’s not. If nothing else, the article highlighted the grave misunderstanding that those unfamiliar with the sport often hold; men’s and women’s lacrosse are the same game. The article cites a statistic from the Nationwide Children’s Hospital that girls’ lacrosse has the third highest rate of concussions among female scholastic sports, behind soccer and basketball. I may be overlooking one or two but I can only think of about five female sports in which players actually come in contact with their opponents. Being third out of a handful doesn’t seem worthy of this debate, especially when the first two aren’t seriously entertaining the idea.

 

Some people are calling for the adoption of helmets in women's lacrosse.

I can’t help but think that an association with the men’s game is what drives a lot of this helmet talk. Even within the article there are allusions to the games being the same. “…as a freshman midfielder for Columbia women’s lacrosse team who is fully aware of the dangers of head trauma, Richardson makes one thing clear: She has no interest in wearing a helmet, as the men must.” (Schwarz, Alan. “A Case Against Helmets in Lacrosse.” The New York Times. 16 February 2011 http://www.nytimes.com/2011/02/17/sports/17lacrosse.html) Yes, the men must wear helmets, but they are two totally different games, and not just in the fact that their pockets are deeper and they can hit each other. The games are of different speeds, there are different scoring tactics, different field lengths, different rules and different penalties. Really the only similarities are that they both use a similarly shaped stick to throw and catch a ball and that they share the same name, which I can see as tricky to those who don’t speak lax. I can count on two hands the number of people who’ve been shocked to realize that I coach a sport that has little to do with long stick midfielders or man-up units, let alone shoulder pads and helmets. While this is a little disheartening, I find it much more discouraging to think that should we adopt helmets, those already confused will have less from which to differentiate.

If we get helmets, I don’t see some padding being far behind. Not that I envision the contact rules to completely change, but if we’re taking the approach of as many safety

measurements as possible like those in favor are advocating, then why not go ahead and be proactive and start suiting up? I like

that our game is different; it gives female athletes something to excel in that isn’t constantly being compared to the men’s side. And while I think both games are great, I’d like for ours to stay the way it is.

A Mid-March Shoutout

March 15, 2011

By: Rachel Buck
Sports Information Assistant

March is undoubtedly my favorite month of the year when it comes to sports. In the professional world baseball is underway, and teams have now reached the point where rotations and lineups are starting to solidify. The NHL playoff hunt is in full swing, with a bevy of teams vying for a spot in the postseason. The NBA is heating up down the stretch, and if it were a normal year the hype surrounding the NFL, free agency and the impending draft would also be in the forefront.

In college basketball, the Division I men’s and women’s basketball tournaments have once again captured the nation, drawing in fans of all levels of college basketball knowledge to see who can pick the best bracket. Even the woman in the cubicle next to you who hasn’t watched one minute of college basketball this year participates, picking her favorite teams based on mascots instead of seed or overall record (which, amazingly, can sometimes pay dividends). The Division I men’s hockey conference tournaments (my love) are underway, and the women’s hockey tournament has already progressed to the Frozen Four. High school tournaments are also underway, with my heart holding a big spot for the wrestling, basketball and hockey tournaments back in Sconnie.

And in Lexington, the winter sports have drawn to a close and the spring sports are in full swing. I love the spring season because I get to spend gamedays at the gorgeous Watt Field watching women’s lacrosse, and on days I don’t have anything to cover a trip out to Dick Smith Field to hang in the pressbox and chat with the groundscrew is always a welcome adventure.

Instead of waxing poetic about the spring and my love for the season, I am dedicating today’s blog to shout-outs for some of my favorite teams (outside of Lex) in competition this month.

Buzz and the Golden Eagles have a good matchup against Xavier in the first round

1. Marquette Golden Eagles (or as so many old-school broadcasters still like to call them, the Warriors).
My boys made the big dance! I will be the first to say that I didn’t fully agree that they deserved the nomination, but I won’t lie and say I’m not excited that they did make it. Sometimes lacking in senior leadership on the court (Jimmy Butler, bless his heart, is trying), it really depends on what team decides to show up whether or not they win. But I think the matchup against Xavier in the opening round is a good one and I am trying to remain a little more optimistic than I was during the Big East Tournament (unless they wear those bad luck powder blue uni’s again). Heck, my boys even got a shoutout in the Wall Street Journal today !
And I’ll simply end this segment with those lovely words, RING OUT AHOYA!

2. University of Wisconsin-Madison Badgers women’s hockey
I love watching these girls play. I also admire their head coach, Mark Johnson, of 1980 Miracle on Ice fame, who also coached the USA women’s team to a silver medal in the 2010 Winter Olympics. The Badgers are currently in the hunt for their fourth NCAA championship in program history, and are coming off their second-consecutive WCHA championship. The No. 1 seed in the tournament, they will face No. 4 seed Boston College on Friday in the Frozen Four semifinals, and look to advance to the finals on Sunday. I wish I could say the UW-Madison’s men’s team was doing as well, but just one season after advancing to the championship game of the Frozen Four they didn’t even qualify for the WCHA Final Five, which means I probably won’t see them in postseason play.

3. Merrill High School Bluejays, Merrill, Wis.
Yes, my alma mater spells bluejay as one word, and I am OK with that. Especially considering how its winter sports have played recently. The wrestling team advanced to the WIAA state tournament for the 25th consecutive year (wrestling is our No. 1 men’s winter sport) and had individual qualifiers for what I believe is the 37th consecutive year. The men’s hockey team made it to the WIAA postseason, and our men’s basketball team advanced to the WIAA state tournament for the first time since 1964 and only the second time in school history (yeah, yeah, it’s a long time, but basketball is not our marquis winter sport).
Also, a big shoutout to senior basketball player Paul Jesperson, who made the SportsCenter Top 10 plays last Friday with this awesome three-quarter court shot. Jesperson is a University of Virginia recruit, so I can’t wait to see him next year in Charlottesville!

The Wild are in line for a playoff berth this year

4. Minnesota Wild
My boys are hurting right now with some serious injuries to key players, but somehow are managing to hang in for a playoff spot. Right now they sit in the 11th spot with 77 points, only four points out of eighth place, six points out of fifth place and seven points out of fourth…so it’s pretty wide-open. I would love to see them make the playoffs, but right now they are in a little bit of a slump, right when you don’t want them to be in a downward trend. Although if they keep hanging around, my April could be quite interesting: when I’m back in Minnesota for the Frozen Four (April 7-9), the Wild will play their final contest of the regular season the day after the tourney ends. Against the Dallas Stars. At the Xcel. Which means not only will I get to enjoy hockey four days in a row at my favorite barn, but my boys could also be fighting for a playoff spot on the final day of regular-season competition against a team that the State of Hockey fans have the most hatred toward. Alright, it’s really towards Norman Green, who is no longer associated with the Stars, but the bad blood still boils. I can’t wait!

5. Milwaukee Brewers
Earlier this month I got back into baseball mode by listening to my first game called by Bob Uecker on the radio. There is not much better listening on the radio than hearing Uke call a Brewers game, and it was my official signal that the boys of summer were back on the diamond. I’m really excited about my boys this year, even with a new manager, especially because the team went ahead and added pitching in the offseason. Granted, Greinke is not in good graces right now with the Brewers faithful after breaking his ribs playing basketball in the offseason, but when you look at the schedule, it may not hurt the Crew early on. The team should only need to go five-deep with the pitching rotation Opening Weekend, and after that they should be all right with a four-man rotation through April. Gallardo, Marcum, Wolf and Narveson look like they will be a solid rotation, and the bullpen can lean on former starter Parra to play long innings, with Axford, Braddock, Saito and Hawkins also decent in relief. Baseball is my favorite sport after hockey, and I really can’t wait for the season to get underway.

So there you have it, a big shoutout to some of my favorite March competitors. Good luck for the remainder of your seasons and in the playoffs!

Score One for the “Bad” Guys

March 11, 2011

By: Bryan Snyder
Head Volleyball Coach/Assistant Athletic Director

I’m sure everyone has heard the old saying that “those who can play are players, and those who can’t are coaches”.  I will admit that I used to take offense to that saying when I was younger, since I (thought I) could still play at the time.  As I have grown older, it doesn’t bother me as much anymore.  However, I have often wondered … who does that leave to officiate the games?  They must be even lower than those who can’t play, right?

In general, I think officials in all sports do an average job at best (except in the NBA, where they do exactly as the league office instructs them to do), but I also think they are really in a no-win situation since no matter what call they make, at least half of the players, coaches, fans, media, etc. will disagree with them.   I have officiated baseball, basketball and volleyball games at different levels, and I can tell you that it is definitely not an easy job, and every official is bound to make mistakes.  I typically do not yell at officials when I attend sporting events, and I almost never have conflicts with officials over specific calls in matches that I coach.  I have however, heard many fans and coaches get very upset with officials in different sports, and voice their disagreement quite adamantly.  I think the officials who receive the worst of the verbal abuse are basketball referees, with home plate umpires in baseball (calling balls and strikes) a close second. (as a side note, there is NO reason that NFL officials should EVER miss a call since they have a crew of about a dozen or more officials AND can use instant replay for almost any call)   It is amazing how many fans think that EVERY call a basketball referee makes is wrong, not to mention that BOTH coaches are usually arguing on every call, whether it was for or against them.  Quite honestly, having been courtside for many college basketball games, I could not do what they do without throwing just about everyone out of the gym every game.

My biggest problem with officials is that there never seems to be any repercussions for them when they do make blatant errors, and they will hardly ever take any accountability for those bad calls.  However, recently there have been a couple of examples of officials handling things the right way, and since they always seem to get scrutinized and never get applauded, I wanted to take this chance to showcase two examples of officials who have really earned my respect just by admitting that they made a mistake … something WE ALL DO!

Umpire Jim Joyce and Tigers pitcher Armando Galarraga shake hands as Galarraga presents Joyce with the Tigers lineup card, one day after Joyce's missed call cost Galarraga a perfect game.


The first example was last year when baseball umpire Jim Joyce at first base when video replay clearly showed that the runner was out.  Normally this would not have been a big deal, but the “hit” should have been the last out in Armando Galarraga’s perfect game, which would have been just the 21st perfect game in Major League Baseball history.  After watching the replay, Joyce admitted that he had missed the call, and tearfully apologized to Galaragga, who also handled the situation with class by supporting Joyce in all of his comments to the media.

The second example happened just this week, and was the reason I decided to write about this.  At the end of the Big East Men’s Basketball Tournament second round game between St. John’s and Rutgers, a St. John’s player intercepted a full court pass with about four seconds left in the game.  He then travelled with the ball and stepped out of bounds before throwing the ball into the air as the clock expired.  In the post-game press conferences, both head coaches, Steve Lavin from St. John’s and Mike Rice from Rutgers, did not take shots at the officials, and both of them praised the crew as being one of the better officiating groups that they have had this season. (WOW!!)  After reviewing the video, the Big East Conference issued a statement admitting that two mistakes were made, but that the violations were not reviewable under NCAA rules, so there was really nothing that the officials could have done anyway.  The best part of this story was that the next day, all three officials from that game took themselves out of consideration for officiating any games during the remainder of the tournament.  They were not suspended by the Big East or the NCAA, the officials just did not want the attention on them, and realized that they had made some mistakes.  They took responsibility for their actions, and for that, I think they should be commended and stand as role models for officials in all other sports.

Both of these examples just stand to remind me that officials are people, too.  They have good games and bad games, just like players and coaches, and in this instance, they showed their human side.  I tip my cap and give a standing ovation to all of these officials, and I ask everyone to think just a second about the people inside the officials uniforms the next time you are about to call some official blind, dumb, incompetent, etc. at some game.  Well done, gentlemen!

The “Real Philly” Experience

March 8, 2011

By: Kelly Mathis
Assistant Women’s Basketball Coach

Trying an original Philly Cheesesteak is quite the experience!

A Word of Warning! “Be prepared and know how to order, because the service is fast and the line keeps moving. For example, on a cheese steak with onions specify which kind of cheese you’d like (Provolone, American or Cheese Whiz). By the time you have given your order, your money will be taken and your sandwich will be out the window nice and hot! At the next window you can pick up your soda, fries and coffee”.

“Where are you from, Alabama?” That is what the man at the window asked me before I could even say anything.  I just stood there amazed and said with my southern accent, “No, actually I’m from Virginia/Tennessee”.  After I got over the initial shock of the question, I quietly turned and asked my Philly friend from college to order for me.  My friend proceeded like this, “wiz wit-out” (meaning cheese wiz without onions).

We quickly paid for our $8.50 cheese steaks, $2.50 fries, $1.50 drinks, ran to the car and I enjoyed my first bite of “REAL” cheese steak with cheese wiz.  The taste of the steak, however, was priceless.

To back up a little, the hardest part of my “real cheese steak” decision came down to, Geno’s or Pat’s.  As I pondered on the question, my basketball mind decided to interrupt and lead me to Pat’s.  Yes, once again I probably shouldn’t have mentioned that I couldn’t finish my cheese steak but also I decided to go with Pat’s because of Pat Summit.  The real story of Pat’s is as follows:

Pat's is a no-frills cheesesteak stand.

Pat’s King of Steaks® was founded by Pat Olivieri in 1930. Pat had a modest hot-dog stand at the base of the famous Italian Market in South Philadelphia. One day he decided to have something quite different for lunch, so he sent for some chopped meat from the butcher shop. He cooked the meat on his hot dog grill, placed the meat onto an Italian roll, and dressed it with some onions. Just as he went to take a bite, a cab driver who ate a hot dog everyday asked what he had there. Pat said that it was his lunch. The cabbie insisted that Pat make him one. The cabbie took one bite and said to Pat, “Hey…..forget ’bout those hot dogs, you should sell these.” The steak sandwich was born. As the years passed, both employees and customers alike demanded change..cheese was added.

What a hit!

I am very proud to say that I am officially part of the South Philadelphia tradition.  Not only I am a part of this tradition but these people are also part of the Pat’s experience:  Vice President Biden, Senator John McCain, Governor Ed Rendell, Larry King, N’SYNC, Brian Setzer, Steve Case (AOL) and Rachel Ray.

The Shadows of Youth

March 4, 2011

By: Adam Hutchinson
Head Men’s Basketball Coach

"The Shadows of Youth" -- what a great book!

Basketball season is one long emotional roller coaster.  It starts in October, ends in February or March, and is filled with highs and lows.  This February we were in the midst of a really tough stretch where we were not playing our best, winter term was in full swing, the academic pressure on our guys was heavy, and all of us were just generally frustrated. This type of period happens to every coach (at least the ones I know) every season, and it causes such confusion because you often know how you FEEL about everything from your team, to your style of play, to your very profession, but don’t always know what you THINK about those same things.  Usually clarity returns after the season ends and you have time to get away and reflect.  This brings to mind the saying that experience is a cruel teacher, because it gives the test first, and then provides the lesson.

I was in the midst of just such a confusing period when I purchased The Shadows of Youth: The Remarkable Journey of the Civil Rights Generation by Andrew B. Lewis from our campus bookstore.  At first glance one would not think that a book focused on people and events that contributed to the Civil Rights Movement would have much relevance to a college basketball coach in 2011, but two quotes from the book immediately resonated with me:

1)      “This world demands the qualities of youth: not the time of life, but a state of mind, a temper of will, a quality of the imagination, a predominance of courage over timidity, of the appetite for adventure over the love of ease . . . it is the young people who must take the lead.”  Robert Kennedy

2)      “There go my people: I have to run and catch up with them because I am their leader.”  Gandhi

The general direction of the book seems to be that to focus on a small group of adults as leaders of the  Civil Rights Movement, as the Movement is often depicted, provides an incomplete and inaccurate picture .  The Movement instead was fueled by the energies of numerous young people, and their efforts to correct the inconsistencies and injustices they perceived in American society.  One central premise of the book, and implied in Kennedy’s quote, is that the movement could ONLY be lead by young people, because they had less invested in the way things were, and less to lose if things changed.

Oddly enough, Tunisia, Egypt, Yemen, and several other countries in the middle east were experiencing profound societal pressure and change around the same time I was reading The Shadows of Youth.  The news coverage that I was able to follow in Time, Newsweek, USNews, etc. is in agreement that this change was led by young people and their desire for more open, democratic and fair society.   Mubarek, Ghadaffi and some other leaders in question seem don’t seem inclined to follow Ghandi’s model of leadership, and instead seem intent on maintaining their position of power.

Both Shadows of Youth and the current events in the middle east reminded me that games are just games, but they also challenged me to continue thinking about leadership and group dynamics in ways that challenge conventional wisdom.  For example, why does so much literature focus on leaders instead of doers?  Is it because it would be unwieldy to study and talk about all of the contributions of French soldiers (doers), while it is relatively simple to tell a story about Napoleon (leader)?   These are just a few examples of the many questions that came to mind, most of which would require more length than this blog allows to analyze fairly.  The clarity though can be summarized simply:  the young people on our team were intent on getting us a victory that night, and I had to put this book down and catch up with them.

Uncommon

March 1, 2011

By: Jan Hathorn
Director of Athletics

"Uncommon" by Tony Dungy

I just read a great book, Uncommon, by Tony Dungy.  It’s a book that Coach Dungy, former head football coach of the Indianapolis Colts, wrote to help people, particularly young men, find and understand their real significance in their life.  Although it is targeted for this certain segment of our society, the book is really for anyone who is either seeking to know what their purpose is in life, or who wants to reflect and reassess if they have found and living their true purpose.

I read the book because I signed up for it as part of the reading colloquium for Science, Society, and the Arts this Friday.  I can’t say why I decided to choose to be part of this book reading – there were so many great books I could have chosen, yet I’m so glad I chose this one. When I finished it, all I could think was, “Boy, I needed that!”

Throughout the book Coach Dungy shares stories of his life as a father, son, husband, friend and coach. His coaching stories caused me to think of some of our coaches as they go through, or wind up, their seasons.  Coaching can be such a roller coaster of emotions – giant highs and lows that can really do a number on the psyche.  Yet, these highs and lows are what make sport so addicting – I like to call it “the drug of sport” – you can’t stay away even when you feel as if you can’t find another way.

At the start of every chapter, Dungy uses quotes to set the stage for his thoughts.  Many of these quotes really hit home to me.  Here are my 10 favorite quotes he used in the book. I believe, as simple as they are, these words of wisdom can really help bring perspective to life, and especially the life of a coach.  If you are someone who is seeking a fresh outlook, or is questioning if you’re in the right business, maybe these quotes will help you, as they did me.  And if you get a chance to read this book, I highly recommend it.  You’ll be glad you did.

1.      Success is measured not so much by the position that one has reached in life as by the obstacles which he has overcome.  ~Booker T. Washington

2.      Insist upon yourself.  Be original.  ~Ralph Waldo Emerson

3.      Don’t settle for style. Succeed in substance.  ~Wynton Marsalis

4.      Only those who dare to fail greatly can ever achieve greatly.  ~ Robert F. Kennedy

5.      Be who you are and say what you feel, because those who mind don’t matter, and those who matter don’t mind.  ~Dr. Seuss

6.      We can’t all be heroes, because somebody has to sit on the curb and clap as they go by.  ~Will Rogers

7.      Honesty is the first chapter in the book of wisdom.  ~Thomas Jefferson

8.      Men are respectable as they respect.  ~ Ralph Waldo Emerson

9.      It’s faith in something and enthusiasm for something that makes a life worth living.  ~Oliver Wendell Holmes

10.   Do all the good you can, By all the means you can, In all the ways you can, In all the places you can, At all the times you can, To all the people you can, As long as ever you can.  ~John Wesley