Archive for May, 2011

O.H.I.Oh Sh@#!

May 31, 2011

By: Nate Jervey
Assistant Sports Information Director

Pretty good day to be an Ohio State Buckeye, wouldn’t you say? Sports Illustrated published a scathing report on its website today that sheds a great deal of light on the goings on at OSU. Reports so bad in fact, that on Friday Ohio State officials told Head Football Coach Jim Tressel that he either resigns or he will get fired. Needless to say, Tressel cashed in his chips over the weekend and walked away from the Scarlet and Gray.

Tressel and Pryor may forever be linked following the latest allegations to surface in Columbus

Now, Tressel had already been suspended for the first five games of the upcoming season for failing to report violations to the NCAA, so news of transgressions committed by he and his staff are nothing new. The report recently published by Sport Illustrated doesn’t have that one single major blow that many people expected; instead it was a death by a thousand cuts. Numerous allegations of improper benefits being handed out, illicit drug use and a systematic cover up of the transgressions that, as Barry Petchesky of Deadspin puts it is: “… an immaculately reported dossier that Dohrmann and David Epstein have put together, a pattern of shady business under Tressel’s watch going back to the ’80s.”

That’s a pretty glowing/damning endorsement depending upon which side of the aisle you are sitting on. Keep in mind that the Dohrmann being referred to is George Dohrmann, who is renowned among sports writers for being the last sports writer to take home a Pulitzer Prize (2000). So its not some young whippersnapper looking to make a name for his/herself who is writing this piece and aiming for shock value, but an already revered member of the press who may have just put himself in a position to win a second Pulitzer.

Among the violations committed by Ohio State players, in particular senior quarterback Terrelle Pryor, are things like being given cars by various car dealerships, profiting off of game-worn memorabilia and equipment, trading of memorabilia for services such as tattoos, and a laundry list of other transgressions when taken by themselves are not Earth-shattering, but the sheer number of them combined with the overt hubris with which the players and coaches conducted themselves has put one of the nation’s premier athletic programs under the proverbial microscope.

Before everyone goes crucifying the Buckeyes, Tressel, AD Gene Smith and University President Gordon Gee, be sure to crucify them for what they did and/or covered up. Lest we forget how many people were quick to condemn Auburn and Heisman Trophy winning quarterback Cam Newton. Everything brought against Newton was “alleged” and in the end he and the University were not found to be guilty of anything. Now, I understand that Tressel and OSU have already been found guilty of some of this, but lets not crucify him/them for the alleged stuff until it comes to light that they actually did anything further.

Athletes like Georgia's A.J. Green have their likenesses marketed for the NCAA's gain. However, Green was suspended for profiting off of the sales of one of his own jerseys.

Which brings me to what they did. Yes, Terrelle Pryor appears to have committed some rather serious “crimes” in his time in Columbus, but does that mean that everything that he did is “crime”-worthy? I, for one, do not believe that signing a jersey, a pair of shoes, or a pair of gloves and selling them should be against NCAA rules. Georgia wide receiver AJ Green was found guilty of the same thing a year ago. He sold the jersey that he wore in the Bulldogs’ bowl game to a collector for a few thousand dollars (I believe it was $2,000). People all over this country take game-worn memorabilia, have it signed and turn around and sell it. Why is it that the player can’t do it himself? He did perform in the jersey, he is the reason that it is valuable, the apparel belongs to him, so why can’t he do with his personal property as he sees fit? Now, Pryor is not charged with doing only that. Apparently he sold/traded such things as helmets, shoulder pads and other equipment that the University would more than likely have asked for back. But his shoes, his gloves, and even some of the jerseys? The University was not asking for them back at any time and, thus, they belong to Pryor and if he wants to sell them he should be able to in my opinion.

The current NCAA President, Mark Emmert, has said that he would be in favor of finding a way to compensate athletes beyond their scholarships. The NCAA makes hundreds of millions of dollars a year on licensing fees and using the likeness of various athletes in a multitude of ways. Money that those athletes never see. While I don’t think that they should be entitled to all of it why can’t they get some of it. Or, as ESPN talking head Jay Bilas recently said, treat them like Olympic athletes. Olympic athletes are allowed to earn money through endorsements and other avenues, while still maintaining their status as amateur athletes. I don’t know if the same system would work for the NCAA, but something along those lines would probably be in the best interest for all parties, because the current system is obviously not working.

To be fair to Ohio State, I am sure that they are not the only school that is breaking the rules in this manner, or in any one a 1,000 different ways. They just happen to get caught. Lets not make them out to be the villain….yet. As long as there are Bruce Pearls, John Caliparis, Lane Kiffins, Jim O’Briens (who coached basketball at OSU coincidentally enough) and other coaches that are less than squeaky clean, there will be the constant threat of athletes/coaches/administrators committing violation after violation. And as long a administrators continue to look the other way and refuse to police their employees and athletes boosters and other “friends of the program” will continue to push the boundaries in what has a become a multi-billion dollar arms race.

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Here we are at the end…

May 27, 2011

By: Brian Laubscher
Sports Information Director

So here we are at the end of yet another school year.  Dear God, where does the time go?  At the risk of sounding cliché, I could say something like “seems like just yesterday we were getting started”, but clearly it was not just yesterday and so much has happened between today and last June.  I would like to think of the 2010-11 school year as among my favorite in my time at W&L.  There have been so many significant moments for me personally and I think I’ll spend the next 30-40 minutes of writing time to share a few of them with you.

We’ll go in chronological order here.

May 28, 2010 – You may think I’d be nostalgic about graduation and losing all those great student-athletes that have provided so many highlights for the last four years and you would be half right.  I do think fondly about their careers ending and never seeing them put on that uniform again, but on the day after graduation I am usually happy that they are gone.  You’ve got to look at it in that the school year is like a marathon for those of us that work 6-7 days a week for nine months of the year.  The day after graduation is like reaching the finish line.  After a few weeks of down time and golf my nostalgia generally sets in and I begin to realize what is gone with the latest graduating class.

June 26, 2010 – This was my wedding day, something I truthfully never imagined happening after my first 11 years in the dating prison known as Lexington. Anyone who has ever spent more than 1 year as a single person in this town knows exactly what I’m talking about.  The wedding was a blast and, aside from my groomsmen referring to the pastor as Ned Flanders, all went off without a hitch.

June 28-July 6, 2010 – Anyone who wouldn’t count a honeymoon in Hawaii in their list of significant events during the course of a year is probably suffering from a crack addiction.  I’m already counting down the days until we return for an anniversary sometime in the future.

Early August, 2010 – I can’t remember the exact date, but last August I attended the Philadelphia Eagles training camp for a day to interview W&L alum James Urban ’94, who was the Eagles quarterback coach.  As an Eagles fan, it was certainly a thrill to stand on the sidelines among the players and coaches.  At the time, the hot interview was newly-minted starter Kevin Kolb and because of that, my interview time with Kolb lasted for all of one question as he walked to his car.  If I wanted, I could have talked with Vick all afternoon – he was an after thought.  Interesting how quickly things change.  Kolb got hurt in the opener and never got his job back.  Interesting though that this summer, Kolb is the hot name again but for a different reason.  He’s become the face of the lockout as he is desperate for the lockout to end so the Eagles can trade him and he can finally become a starter.

September 18, 2010 – My wife and I traveled to East Lansing during the W&L football bye week to take in the Michigan State-Notre Dame football game.  She’s a MSU alum and we decided to make a quick weekend trip to take in the game.  It’s now known as the “Little Giants” game.  The Spartans knocked off the Irish in overtime as the winning touchdown was scored right in front of us on a fake field goal which was called “Little Giants” in the Michigan State playbook.  A great game and significant in another way – it was the game where the MSU coach had a heart attack after the game.  He later returned to lead the Spartans to an 11-win season and a share of the Big Ten title.

October, 2010 – This entire month was when the football team sort of arrived, going 5-0 and rushing for more than 400 yards in every game.  I also enjoyed the night game on Friday, October 29.  It was a different experience to take the metro to the game, see the Generals set a conference record with 496 rushing yards, and then see all the interesting Halloween outfits sported by the Catholic and Gallaudet students as they headed out for a night on the town.

January 5, 2011 – On this date, I saw the best basketball game to be played in the Warner Center in my time at W&L as the Generals defeated Eastern Mennonite, 93-92.  It was by far the best I’ve seen W&L men’s basketball play against a top-notch opponent.  The Generals shot better than 55 percent from the floor and out-rebounded the Royals, 44-30.  There have been a few road games that could stack up, but this was the best home game I’ve seen.

January 17, 2011 – You might remember this day as Martin Luther King Day.  But I remember it as the day I learned that I was going to be a Dad.  What could be more significant?

March 18-20, 2011 – I was fortunate enough to have the opportunity to work the first and second rounds of the NCAA Division I men’s basketball tournament in Cleveland, Ohio.  It was pretty awesome to have a press row seat to watch teams like Ohio State, Villanova, Marquette and Syracuse.  Unfortunately, my Wildcats lost on a last second shot to George Mason.

May 27, 2011 – Today I’ve crossed the finish line once again. I’m looking forward to what the 2011-12 year will bring, especially that little one that is due in September.  But for now, I’m content with getting some much-needed R&R.

And the Comeback Athlete of the Year Goes to…

May 25, 2011

By: Shana Levine
Associate Athletic Director

No matter how many times I hear the story, it still makes me cringe.  Our men’s tennis team was playing a match away at Christopher Newport on March 26, 2011.  Unfortunately the weather did not cooperate and the match was moved inside to the tennis facility at William and Mary.  The tennis facility at William and Mary was built in 1995 and includes six tennis courts in two enclosures. When you walk into the facility, the lobby is a bit lower than court level so you can see players’ feet and the ball at about head level through small windows when you walk into the facility.  See photo for a great shot of the courts.

The teams were playing doubles and Mac Davis and Will Hall were partnered for W&L.  While I was not at the match, I have heard the story told many times – The Generals were up 6-4 in the set tiebreaker with two match points. Mac Davis was rallying down the line with the Christopher Newport player and Will trying to poach and win the match. As Coach Detwiler recalls, “I saw Will take off in a full sprint to intercept the ball with a winning volley.  Will was a little late and the ball went off the end of his racket.  His momentum carried him into the concrete block wall next to the court.  As Will turned his body his left shoulder and left hip hit the wall.  I knew exactly what he was trying to do.  I have seen many athletes in indoor sports hit a wall and then push off with their legs in order to land flat on their feet.”  What happened next, no one saw coming.  Will and Mac were playing on the court closest to the lobby, so while the wall was concrete block at the top, the bottom of it had the glass viewing panels.

So, when Will went to push off on the wall, his foot actually hit the glass and went right through it – all the way to his lower hamstring.  Not good!  Now, let’s be clear – Will is not an overly large person that the glass just couldn’t hold.  Nope, Will is the size of a good Division III tennis player.

Right as the accident happened David remembers thinking, “As he pulled his leg out, I knew we were in big trouble-his right calf was literally hanging in mid air.”  At this point, so many people snapped into action and really made a difference – David, our assistant wrestling coach Mike Bennett who had traveled with the team, and two doctors and a nurse who happened to be there watching the match.  They all worked quickly to slow the bleeding.  The EMS showed up quickly and Will was on his way to the hospital within 15 minutes – and still conscious – a tribute to the many people that helped on the scene.  At this point, the medics in the ambulance were worried he was going to lose his lower leg. They used artery clamps to stop the bleeding.  As Will was being wheeled of the court by EMS, he yelled “GO GENERALS!”

David pulled the team together and asked them if they wanted to go to the hospital with Will or play the match. To a person, the team was convinced that Will would want them to play (and win) the match first.  “We asked for 30 minutes and I have never seen a team so inspired in my life,” David remembers.  All six singles players won! Hayden White beat the #4 player in the nation and Jeremy Becht beat the #6 player in the region.  After the match, the team headed to the hospital and waited for Will to get out of the surgery recovery area and into his own room.  When they were finally allowed to see Will, the first question that he wanted to know was who won.  The team told him that W&L had won all 6 singles and he immediate responded, “that’s what I am talking about!”

When Will made it back to campus on Sunday, he met with our athletic trainer that works with the tennis team, Matt Phillips.  Matt’s recollection of the injury – “I met Will and his mother 72 hours after the injury.  Will was in a knee immobilizer and a walking boot.  His leg looked like it had been attacked by a shark.  He had over 100 stitches in addition to staples from his hamstring down to his calf.  His calf was completely torn from the bone.”  At this point, everyone was thrilled that Will was okay and no permanent damage had been done.  The operative from the doctor stated that Will was to remain in his immobilizer and walking boot for 4 weeks and no running or jumping for the next two months.  Clearly, there was very little talk of tennis.

It would’ve been easy – and probably what most of us would’ve done – to pout, mope and be miserable because of what happened.  Especially given that it was Will’s senior year and he and his partner were nationally ranked in doubles at the time of the accident.  Instead Will was ready to go – didn’t even miss a class that Monday.  If this was me, I definitely would’ve milked it for at least a day or two of laying on the couch and watching lifetime moves or HGTV – c’mon, its senior year!

Hall returned to win at No. 2 doubles in W&L's NCAA match with North Carolina Wesleyan

But that’s not Will.  Will was captain of the team and made the amazing effort to go to class and get his rehab done so he could go and watch practice every day.  As he gained a bit more mobility, he even served as a student-assistant coach with David for a few matches.  David loved remembering this part!  “Will realized how hard it is to coach,” David said with a smile.  Apparently, 18 to 22 year old males are not always willing to take advice or coaching and Will got to see that firsthand.

Will also checked in with our Athletic Director because he wanted to make sure he would be eligible to travel with the team to NCAAs during spring term.  As a result, he signed up for and took a spring term course just so he would be eligible to travel with the team and help coach and serve as team captain.  Will was on the court coaching and cheering his team onto a 2nd-straight ODAC championship late in April and graciously accepted the ODAC championship plaque as team captain.  But, Will was not willing to accept just attending and helping to coach matches.  He wanted to play.  Matt recalls, “Will had the heart, dedication, and desire to play again.  He worked every day, and sometimes twice a day, to build up his strength again.”

Just two weeks later, Will was able to show everyone his hard work and dedication.  On May 14, 2011 (just 7 weeks post injury), Will took the court for W&L’s NCAA match against North Carolina Wesleyan.  He played #2 doubles with Jeremy Becht and the duo were down the whole match, but were able to come came back and win the match 8-6. Unbelievable!

W&L ended up falling in the match against NC Wesleyan 5-1, but it was fitting that our one point came from Will and Jeremy at #2 doubles.  While he never stopped contributing to the team when he was out of the lineup due to his injury, it was great to see him be able to motivate the team and contribute one last time on the court for the Generals.

So, in case it’s not already obvious, the W&L Comeback Athlete of the Year Award goes to…Will Hall.

The Value of Coaching

May 20, 2011

By: Megan Moore
Assistant Women’s Lacrosse Coach

I heard from a lot of people about how valuable a coaching background is when I decided to take on the job. Although I’m not quite weathered enough from my three years to call myself wise, I now understand the advice. I had hoped they were right but was a skeptic, finding it difficult to believe that tracking down 20-some orders for Panera Bread and putting together parent handbooks was going to teach me much more than how to talk my way into a group discount and patience. While both important, I was looking for a few more life-lessons to send me off to wherever I was headed and to figure out where exactly that might be. Like all good things, they haven’t happened quickly, been obvious or easy, but I’m happy to be taking away the value of a few things that will serve me well in the future.

1. Humility. There are many answers I don’t know and admitting so is far better than dodging a question or even worse, making one up. Despite the difficulty of mouthing those three painful words, the aftermath is not nearly the catastrophe I’d imagined it to be. It’s often freeing, because who says you’re supposed to know all the answers? I’ve found my best teaching moments have come from throwing schemes at players with only “I don’t know what’s going to happen, but let’s try it and see,” as a guideline. Those times were often followed by crossing my fingers, holding my breath and praying that my karma had been good enough to let something worthwhile happen.  When things have fallen into place,  I’ve felt pretty good about myself.

2. Perspective.  If you drop a pass, lose a game or even lose a receipt, the sun will still rise tomorrow.  Yesterday’s mishaps and blunders become quite fixable in the morning. No matter the outcome of a contest, there are far more important things in life to be thankful for. And as much as you think about lacrosse, basketball or soccer, your players do not. Take the amount of time you spend in a day analyzing defenses and breaking down film, subtract that by about 12 hours, and you’ll arrive at the measly one hour combined time that their sport dances across their brains. So when a Saturday game gets moved to a Sunday, they will feel that some awful injustice has been done and that the world is ending, but it doesn’t mean they don’t care. It just means they have a lot going on. So hopefully they’ll grumble a bit, decide to put their resentment to good use, get a W and gain a little perspective of their own.

3. Confidence.  You’re only as great as you believe you are. As intimidating as a group of some of the country’s brightest young men and women can be, they expect you to teach them something. While that might make the task that much more intimidating, it means they have some faith that you know what you’re talking about, and you should have a little too.  As previously mentioned, you don’t need all the answers, just the ability to improvise and the resolve to figure it out.

4. Patience. It is, in fact, a virtue. There hasn’t been a time when I’ve snapped about a forced shot or a twice (or thrice) answered question that I haven’t felt silly for, regretful of and ineffective about.  Irritating and disappointing things are going to happen, and while sometimes you need a little tough love, it doesn’t serve its purpose in the form of off the cuff aggravation. If anything, it only alienates its recipient. Sometimes such problems are results of communication breakdowns, the root of which stem from my own hotheaded behavior on the sideline or rushed, nervous explanation of a drill.  This of course has only happened sometimes.

For someone who’s been at it for much longer than I have, these realizations probably come as no-brainers.  But I hope they are relatable. Though I’ve learned a thing or two about each of these, I still have to work at them, and imagine that I will for quite awhile. And while coaching may not be in my immediate future, I find it hard to believe that it won’t sneak it’s way back in sometime.

Can fans be fans anymore?

May 18, 2011

By: Rachel Buck
Sports Information Assistant

If things keep up, you may not see fans showing this type of support for their teams anymore

It’s an intriguing question, considering the current environment of society, which at times, almost seems like if you look at someone wrong you have to worry about showing up in court the next month.

Yesterday I stumbled upon this story of a restaurant owner in Montreal, a Canadiens fan, who is now being sued by the NHL for having a banner on the side of his building that says “Go Habs Go”.

http://ca.news.yahoo.com/nhl-lawyers-demand-89k-montreal-restaurant-using-habs-195416637.html

There are several more examples that have surfaced recently, and I’m sure there are many more that haven’t received the national attention:

Here’s another Canadian business owner and hockey fan that was discouraged from supporting his team

http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/british-columbia/story/2011/04/29/bc-canuck-honda-sign.html

Deadspin (and everyone else) has issues sharing video from MLB

http://deadspin.com/5793065/we-need-youth-baseball-teams-to-reenact-mlb-highlights-for-us-because-mlb-hates-its-fans-and-probably-children-too

And in a semi-related story of fans not being allowed to support their team, a guy in Florida who was asked to remove his support for the Lightning from his front yard

http://sports.yahoo.com/nhl/blog/puck_daddy/post/How-Lightning-fan-outwitted-petty-HOA-over-playo?urn=nhl-wp4283

I’m not arguing that leagues and teams don’t have rights to protect its logos, colors and other trademarks. But to come out and say that someone can’t have a sign that says “Go [insert favorite team here] Go” seems a bit excessive. Does this now mean anytime I enter an arena and use the same words in a chant or make one of those clever poster board signs to help support my team I have to live in fear of being sued? If that’s the case I’m sure my next sporting event will either require me to sign a waiver allowing me to use selective language and text (which may already happen considering the fine print that now fills the back of most tickets) or all fans will be sitting on their hands, fearful of cheering for their favorite player when something happens because the players’ name may fall under protective rights.

There is a difference between preventing the manufacturing of knockoff products and loyal fan support, and the NHL (and other teams/leagues) need to take a step back and differentiate on these issues. Because at some point it becomes more of a hindrance and almost petty behavior to stop fans from supporting their teams, especially from a public relations standpoint. Bad press and terrible approaches to dealing with minor infractions is never a good way to build a positive rapport with fans.

Common sense tells me that the restaurant in Montreal [most likely] does not have an endorsement from the Canadiens. Just like the shoe shine guy at the Chinatown Metro stop in DC isn’t the official shoe shiner of the Capitals or the homeless man standing outside Miller Park with a “Go Brewers…help the homeless” sign isn’t the official homeless guy of the Brew Crew. Instead, those signs represent a fan showing support for their [favorite] team.

The Montreal business owner did the right thing by removing the trademarked logo from the poster, but the fact that he had to remove the “Go Habs Go” seems a tad absurd. I think back to my high school days when we painted the windows of downtown businesses with “Go Bluejays” or my current set of washers boards that I painted Marquette “blue and gold” and wonder if I should hide them in the closet for fear of the color police coming after me for painting something an eerily similar color combination to that of my alma mater.

We as fans already pay through the nose for team memorabilia because of trademark and licensing costs. Have you seen the price of a hockey sweater lately?! Even simple things like trading cards and smaller tchotchke items can leave a fan dropping a significant chunk of change at the gift shop. Once I was at Miller Park and a family of four walked in. Each kid was given $10 to spend and in the end they walked out with pencils because it was the only thing within their budget. Please don’t let the leagues take away the one last affordable item at arenas: Our freedom of speech and obnoxious chants at games!

In my finals words I’d like to say: Dear Mr. Bettman (I hope your name isn’t trademarked under the NHL or I’m in trouble); You have two failing franchises, declining attendance in major markets and dismal TV ratings…perhaps you should focus on some big-picture items to improve the league rather than nit-picking fans who are supporting the cause.

Three Up, Three Down … not a Baseball blog

May 16, 2011

By: Bryan Snyder
Assistant Athletic Director/Volleyball Coach

Charles, Kenny and Ernie need to get on board with the one and done perspective of college hoops

I was really struggling to come up with a topic for this month’s blog entry, but something I heard on Sportscenter the other day sparked an idea.  The phrase I heard was “the best two words in sports … Game 7!”  That got me thinking back to the NCAA men’s basketball tournament, where for the first time ever, games were broadcast on several networks and not just on CBS.  Because of the TV contracts, the TBS/TNT NBA analysts Charles Barkley, Kenny Smith, Ernie Johnson, Steve Kerr, etc. were part of the studio show and game announcing crews.  The one common thread I heard from all of them was a complaint about the “one and done” scenario of the NCAA men’s basketball tournament.  Yet, these same analysts LOVE game 7’s.  Does that seem somewhat odd to anyone else?  In the NCAA tournament EVERY game is a game 7!!  I am not an NBA fan in the least, and in fact, I am convinced that if the pick and roll was not allowed, that NBA games would have final scores of something like 32-30.  I love college hoops (although it is slowly going to the same type of play as the NBA as the officials get looser and looser with what they call) for the passion the players and fans display, and I think that basketball is one of the few sports were the “amateur” game is played more fundamentally sound than the pro game.

This whole argument of NBA vs. College hoops got me to thinking that everything in the world of sports fans is based on perspective.  SO …. I am going to give my perspective on three things that have happened recently in the world of sports that I like and three things that I don’t like.

Thumbs Up:  Dennis Rodman’s election to the Basketball Hall of Fame

Dennis was an interesting soul and one of the best ever at his craft

I have to say I was unsure if this would ever happen, and to see it happen so soon really restores a lot of my faith in those in the media, etc. who have a say in these types of things.  (Side note – Pete Rose SHOULD DEFINITELY be in Cooperstown!!)  I despised Rodman when he was with the Pistons (I was a big MJ and Bulls fan back then), but I always liked the role he played on his teams.  Once he started getting tattoos and dying his hair, I was able to like his personality as well as his game, and he will go down as one of my favorite players of all time (probably in the top 4 along with MJ, Dr. J, and Shaq).  Whatever your thoughts are on Rodman’s antics, the guy was one of the best defensive and rebounding forwards the game has ever seen.  He was also a winner (5 NBA rings), and had great longevity.  I think his resume is clearly worthy of this honor, and I am glad that the voters were able to look past the cover and realize the book was a classic!

Thumbs Up:  Kyle Singler returning to Duke for his senior season last year

This is one of those instances where most people will think Singler made a mistake by returning to Duke for his senior season after being name the Most Outstanding Player of the 2010 Final Four and leading the Blue Devils to an NCAA title.  He probably would have been a lottery pick last year, and after what most are calling a down year (16.9 PPG/6.8 RPG) in 2010-11, he is probably going to be a late first-round or early second round pick.  Now, he probably cost himself some money on his initial contract (the second contract will be in line with what he does in the next 3-4 years), but I would argue what he gained has no price.  Some are making comparisons to Kiki Vandeweghe, but, unfortunately, I see him more like Luke Walton in the NBA.  So, in my opinion, he traded one year of sitting on the bench on a weak NBA team, for being a starter for a team that was ranked #1 for quite a bit of the year and played to a packed house at the best basketball venue in the world (that is obviously my biased viewpoint), as well as one more year in college.  To me, it is a no brainer, and Singler made the right choice.  If I could go be a bench scrub in the NBA or go back and relive my senior year of college, I am choosing the latter.

Thumbs Up:  Ohio State winning NCAA Men’s Volleyball Championship

Although I was rooting for Penn State to win the title, it was absolutely great to see Ohio State finally win their first national championship in men’s volleyball after making it to the final four so many times and being in the championship game on two other occasions.  They become the first team from the Midwest region (Lewis had to vacate their championship in 2003) to win a title, and that will only help grow the game.  Men’s volleyball is one of the most powerful and dynamic sports that you can ever see, yet there are so few opportunities for boys and men to play at the varsity level both in high school and in college.  I hope this trend will continue and the people will start to recognize that good volleyball can be found all over the country, and not just in “beach” states.

Thumbs Down:  Phil Jackson retiring

We'll miss you Phil!

As a fellow coach, I am very sad to see the “Zen Master” leave the coaching profession.  I have always admired him, and if not for Mike Krzyzewksi (remember my perspective on college basketball vs. NBA), he would be my favorite coach of all time.  Phil has always won, albeit with GREAT talent, but more than any other modern coach, I think he has kept winning in perspective.  You never hear “Van Gundy” type rants from him, he wasn’t afraid to challenge the superstars either publicly or privately, and several of the greatest players in the history of the NBA (Jordan, Pippen, Rodman, Shaq, Kobe) all speak very highly of him as a coach.  The two most important measures of a coach are his win/loss record and the relationships he creates and maintains with his players.  Few have done that better than Phil.  We’ll miss you!

Thumbs Down:  Tiger Woods

What in the world is going on with Tiger?  He is my favorite athlete of all time, even above Jordan.  There was a time when he would pull off the impossible every opportunity he had.  He still shows flashes of greatness (front nine on Sunday at Augusta this year), but he is physically, mentally, and emotionally in a bad place right now.  I have kept believing in him, and will still root for him, but he has become a “side show freak” at this point.  He is usually not in contention, and he plays so infrequently, that when he does play, everyone wants to watch him, but he cannot deliver anything other than wildly inconsistent golf.  I think Tiger has always put a lot of pressure on himself, but I think he my be putting so much pressure on himself these days, that it will be impossible for him to live up to his own expectations.  Here’s hoping he can do the impossible once again.

Thumbs Down:  NFL Labor Issues

I am going to keep this one short and sweet (hopefully).  The owners AND the players are ALL making MILLIONS of dollars!!  Quit whining about the revenue split, share your info and data with one another, and get a deal signed.  I can’t believe people are falling for the “we get treated so poorly and have no retirement benefits” line the player’s union is spouting.  Now, I agree that the NFL owners are probably the most greedy collection of people on the planet, but players who play in the NFL CHOOSE (that’s right, it is their choice to play, nobody is holding a gun to their head) to play football for a living.  The reward of all of that money comes with the risk of injury.  The real problem with the players is that they are not fiscally responsible.  If I had a 5 year career in the NFL at the league minimum ($325,000 in 2010 with a $15,000 increase every year), that would earn me about 1.6 million dollars, not to mention all the per diems and other perks that the players get.  If they manage that money wisely, and don’t try to live beyond their means, they could live a very respectable upper middle class life for probably 15-20 years …. with health insurance.  They can also get another job once their football career is done – WOW, what a novel concept … work for a living instead of playing a game for a living!  As someone who works in athletics, I know just how lucky I am to be able to do something I love so much and actually get paid enough to provide for my family.  It irks me to no end that the players complain about their compensation!  On the other side of the coin, if the NFL owners (and oil executives) would cut their personal profit/income by 5%, we could probably end world hunger!

I love spring

May 6, 2011

By: Adam Hutchinson
Head Men’s Basketball Coach

I love spring!  Many people, like my wife for example, love spring because of the blooming flowers and buds on trees. I like that stuff too.  But to me, spring has always been about basketball.  Growing up, there were two distinct basketball experiences that I looked forward to every spring:  gearing up to prepare for the summer basketball that I would play, and watching the NBA playoffs.

Living in Lexington offers few, if any, meaningful basketball playing experiences for a man my age.  A couple of summers ago I decided to drive to D.C. every week to play in two summer leagues up there.  Given the amount of driving required, and the price of gas, I wondered if maybe I was a little crazy for doing it . . . but not for long.  The first week was rough, but by the second week I was getting that old feeling back of seeing improvement in my game, and looking forward to the next opportunity to test myself against new opponents.  But before I could play summer ball, I put myself through a good spring training.  I tried (though unsuccessfully) to replicate the best spring/summer training that I had ever experienced, but it turns out I was missing a couple of key ingredients.

Lots of former players will tell you that their favorite basketball memory is from a big game in a packed gym, while playing for some state or national championship.  My favorite basketball memories occurred in an un-airconditioned gym with three people, and we were playing only for the championship of each other.  My two cohorts (and opponents) in this insanity were Jamal, a D3 All-American and Perry, a former guard in the NBA.  We would work out for three or four hours, and THEN play full court 1 on 1 on 1.  No foul calls.  To 15.  Best of 7 games.  Which to our warped minds meant you had to win 4 games to triumph, and since each of us often got 3 wins, we were often playing 10 games.  Needless to say it was exhausting, and obviously these two guys were tremendously skilled opponents, but what really fascinated me and kept me coming back was how these contests inevitably became tests of will.

When I watch the NBA playoffs each spring I see the same thing, and this year’s playoff is no different.  Obviously all players and all teams at that level are tremendously talented, but if you watch the games closely, you can see where when and how Boston broke New York’s collective will in the first half of game 3.  After that, game 4 was a mere formality.  Of course no Knick will admit this occurred, but it doesn’t change the fact that it did.  I believe that all games are contests of will, and sometimes the result is decided in the first minute, other times in the last.

The best thing about the NBA playoffs is seeing a team crack in one game, and then muster the will to battle harder or smarter in game 2.  The San Antonio/Memphis series offered a great example of this.  The Spurs were the top seed and Memphis was 8.  Even after Memphis took a 3-1 lead in the series, and had a 3 point lead in game 5 with 5 seconds to play AND the ball, the Spurs refused to fold.  The Spurs hit a 3 to send the game into overtime, where they went on to win and force a game 6.  Memphis prevailed in that game to win the series, but the Spurs never conceded gave up.  Nonetheless, at some point in the series, Memphis pushed that action to a place that the Spurs were unwilling or unable to go, and imposed their will on the Spurs.

I’m not sure if watching the playoffs triggers it, or it’s some form of muscle memory, but every spring I start DREAMING about playing basketball.  I mean those kind of dreams where I wake myself up because my body actually does something I was dreaming about.  And the competitive juices get flowing.  I’m 39 and coming off of ankle surgery, but Jamal is 36 and rehabbing a broken leg.  Perry is 52, and he must have started slipping by now.  I have their phone numbers, and access to a gym.  If I set my mind to it, I can win 4 games of full court 1 on 1 on 1 . . . all it is, is a test of will.