Monday, May 17, 2010

Interesting To say The Least!

I think it is a good time to say a few things that will make people think about future actions. Let me start with a short story about the City of Chicago. Years ago DePaul University was the toast of the country with Head Coach Ray Myers. With a team of very good local players who grew up loving DePaul and two kids from New Jersey including Whitney Hustons brother, Coach Myers took the team into the NCAA's and they became the darlings of America.

Great story and one that could not have happened without the assistance of local HS and AAU Coaches. Ray knew how to wine and dine these guys and make them feel important. He listened to them and they always left feeling they were part of something special. Those Coaches, including many who are still in power in Chicago, had the same type power as NY/NJ HS and AAU types but used it differently.

Lets look at Philadelphia. Years ago Temple University went out and hired a new coach from "The Neighborhood." That neighborhood guy was John Chaney who was an outstanding player in his time, a very good D2 coach at Chaney State, and a fixture at summer games in the Baker league and Sonny Hill HS League. Temple not only hired John Chaney local legend, they hired an entire city and the gates opened up to Temple to get the best in the City. Put that with Johns greatness as a coach and motivator, and the rest is history. Soon Temple became a national player and had to build a larger arena. The big thing here is the community felt they were part of this rebirth and celebrated the success. They were so good that when national type recruits came in for visits to places like Villanova, the Villanova staff would make sure to drive all the kids being recruited by both schools past the then (no bad side now) bad side of Temple.
Think NY/NJ will not embrace the same way?

I now turn to the NYC area including New Jersey. We laughed when St. Johns met with local AAY types to discuss the coaching opening. What are they doing we all including me cried out! I could see Gary Charles walking in with a 5 piece suit and matching hat. I could see Jim Salmon with his Playaz gear on stopping by. I could see the New Heights staff attending. I could see Riverside and The Gauchos in attendance. What would they talk about? Now reflecting on what happened in both Chicago and Philadelphia, I see what happened as brilliant. Nothing had to happen. But they all felt as if they had a say whether they did or not.

Look at all the winning programs and you will see Head Coaches who are very connected and personable. You will see guys who many in the AAU ranks feel are approachable. It is a gift that only one recent coach in the area had. That was Tommy Ameker the ex Seton Hall Coach. Tommy made everyone feel he was their personal friend. Everyone felt they could get to him. Everyone felt what they had to say to him was accepted. Tommy would take a call from a AAU guy pushing a kid with D5, yes D5, talent and act as if he was really interested because he knew in the future that coach would have an Andrew Bynum type kid. Trust me on that one lol.

Well now we are heading into a new basketball season with new coaches all over the place. Yes the X and Os are important. Yes they need to be out generating interest. And yes the recruiting is very important. But when they start the recruiting process they must understand the importance of the current players on their rosters. These are the same players who have come from high schools and AAU programs they will be contacting for future players. These programs must be also recruited. And that starts with the professional and considerate treatment of players signed and in the program. Trust me Pat Kennedy The Ex DePaul Coach realized this and will never ever recover even though he is at a Towson University riding it out. What goes around comes around I always say!

This brings me to the main points. I think one of the biggest mistakes is running kids off teams thinking you will get better talent. I love the fact Mike Rice has convinced Carroll to honer his scholarship and attend Rutgers. Do I think Carroll will be an impact player? No! He will be solid! But I know who his Dad is lol. I am disappointed at what is happening at St. Johns. Omari Lawrence transferring? Now you know he was encouraged to do this. Why would anyone look to leave a revitalized program that will be exciting this season? How about Devonte Grace? We all know the deal! Now the interesting thing will be what damage control is in place. Remember they already parted ways with a very good player named Ronald Roberts who will have a great career at St. Joe's in Philly. I say not a good start and it takes away all that was done with the summit they had.

One thing that could allow area coaches to do as they wish is the ego on the part of area coaches. Some are more interested in getting positions than they are in the well being of kids that played for them. If this happened in Chicago or Philly they might just close those programs down as they did with Depaul years ago. And DePaul still has not recovered! Personally I think alot of eyes are being raised by some of the moves taking place. St. Johns ridding themselves of current and future players? Iona hiring a full-time assistant coach of color with no college experience over candidates of color who would really help right away?

Sooner or later people will wake up and really take a look at what is happening locally. Some are making the correct moves while others might just feel they are so big they can do what ever, to whom ever, they wish. I have my thoughts on what the season will bring. To put it lightly, I expect to see similar changes in the spring of 2013. I hope I am wrong!

Friday, May 14, 2010

Local College Stuff and Calvin Chamberlain

The going home services for Calvin Chamberlain was held yesterday in Hackensack NJ, and what a send off it was. Calvin must be pleasantly surprised as he watches from Heaven all the love people have for him. You would have to be part of the local AAU/Rec/HS basketball scene to really understand the importance of guys such as Calvin. From a distance an outsider would never understand what relationships mean when it comes to grass root athletic programs.

Calvin was a true Ambassador for all the great things we can talk about in a sentence that includes AAU, Street Teams, and community programs. Low key and very humble, all he wanted to do was be a part of something positive for kids. He made all the kids he came into contact with feel as if they were special. Even those destined for Division 5. That's not a typo folks I said D5. That means these kids most likely could not even buy themselves a scholarship to the worst D3 school in the country. But in Calvin's eyes they really had a chance to be good. All of them! He was known to meet kids at FDU and beg the FDU Staff to allow them to attend summer camp for free because they came from families who at that time could not pay. Funny thing is most could not pay, nor could they play. But Calvin felt an obligation to help them. He did this for years proudly wearing a Riverside Hawk shirt around Harlem and The Bronx as he helped out.

When Calvin moved to Bergen County NJ he continued to reach out to any kid that wanted assistance. Often piling kids into his car and taking them into NY for a Riverside workout. Most of those kids were only good enough for the Riverside B team, which just might have been established to help kids Calvin worked with.

The turnout was larger than the crowds at many local D1 games. He sold the place out and those who came were a whose who in tri state basketball. Ron Brown the FDU Associate Head Coach spoke as well as Al Eford a former NYC guy who now coaches HS basketball in Maryland. Also in attendance were Dermon Player the ex Seton Hall Assistant, Mike Mcawaine (Sp) a great coach who last was Head Coach at Pace University and a Riverside leader, Mo Hicks the Head Coach presently at Rice HS, Jim Salmon the head of the Playaz Basketball Club, Tim O'Toole the ex Head Coach at Fairfield University, Kenny Pretlow the Lincoln HS Assistant and Riverside Coach, and many others who came out to show support for one of their own.

Well, rest in Peace Calvin! But knowing Calvin as many of us do, he is in Heaven organizing workouts for alot of kids he feels can be good even when others think the opposite.

Robinson and Hazell return to SHU for next season means trouble for many teams in the Big East and a great present for Coach Willard . What a way to go into next season as a 1st time BE Coach. Makes the job a bit less difficult. Or it could put serious pressure on the SHU coaching staff. Add Herb Pope to the mix and it could be great times in Newark at the Prudential Center.

I really like that Mike Rice picked up a great addition in David Cox. This gives Rutgers credibility all the way to the tidewater area of Virginia. Cox can concentrate on that DC/Va. corridor with Martelli concentrating on Pa. and Southern NJ, and others doing NYC and area to the north. Not bad. They seem to have it covered well. And remember Tom Young did a great job working that DC area where he got a great one in Eddie Jordan.

St. Johns getting Moe Hicks still is a steal to me. I honestly feel he could have gone directly to a smaller D1 program as Head Coach. A terrific pickup who gives St. Johns that street credibility they had many years ago. Plus again I say he can coach his butt off. However I am still a bit upset that many kids in NYC will not get to experience Mo Hicks. He was a terrific coach at Rice and a true role model.

If St. Johns works it out with Dunlap they are set, even though it is not the super star staff folks were expecting. But good enough to make things happen. Especially with Tony Chiles and Mo Hicks in the fold.

I see Iona hired its last Assistant Coach. Glad they see the importance of a diverse staff. Had me concerned for a minute. Still think there were some strong candidates they looked past in order to hire a really safe choice in their eyes.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Warning....Some might not like!

My Thoughts and Only My Thoughts

Let me first say rest in peace Calvin Chamberlain, ex Riverside Church / Metro Hawks official who was really one of the great guys working with youth. Many might not remember Calvin because he was one of those behind the scene guys who was only involved to help kids. He had no interest in being a college coach, HS coach, or even coaching one of the elite AAU teams at Riverside. All he wanted to do was HELP OUT! Boy will Calvin be missed.

Now about the current landscape in the NY Metro area in regards to Colleges and the Coaches that have been hired.

To say I am stunned would be an understatement!!! What is happening?

Hofstra hires a guy no one has ever heard of. Are they kidding? Have they lost their mind? Am I missing something? Now I know I do not know the names of every eligible coach in America. But I sure know who 95% of them are. I have never even heard this guys name. I understand he was an assistant on Al Skinners staff at Boston College this past season. That is very odd considering Al Skinner was rumored to be very interested in the Hofstra Job after not getting the Rutgers head coaching position. Not sure what happened but why would they hire the Assistant and not give the job to Al? Or at least reach out to the current Fairfield University HC who is a former BC Assistant who was the chief recruiter? Many people are asking where did this guy came from? Al was such a great choice when Hofstra had to make a move which I also thought was too damn extreme! Maybe this guy will be the next hot thing in mid major coaching. Maybe he is really a great recruiter. Maybe Hofstra has taken 3 steps backwards with this hire. Time will tell but it sure looks interesting to me.

Lets look at Rutgers again. Folks will hate me for saying this but I have a strange feeling that Rutgers will never be more than a middle of the pack Big Easy (Thats right easy and not east) Team based on who they hired and who they did not hire.. I really see someone with the same connections as Fred Hill. I also see another Hoop Group Guy or affiliate just as Fred was although Fred was unofficial. Now I am sure as heck a Hoop Group Fan, and I think the world of Rob Kennedy, although those one day prices for HS games could be cheaper lol. I just feel why fire Fred Hill if you are not bringing in a bonifide super star/stud head coach?

Now I think Mike Rice is worthy of a Big East head coaching position. In fact i spoke with a few college coaching guys and even one ex head coach Monday night. They were all in agreement that Mike Rice is a Heck of A Coach! I could see that by watching Robert Morris play for two seasons. But the Big East is about more than coaching. The Big East is also about big time recruiting and closing deals hook or crook. It is a conference of big time coaches. Mike Rice will do a heck of a job coaching wise. But who will he be coaching? Mike would have had a easier time as head coach of Pitt if Dixon left, West Virginia if Huggins left, or even Boston College. Those teams have a winning history! At Rutgers he has to create a buzz while attempting to get a team who has not been to the NCAA's in years back in the mix.

Again not a knock on Mike Rice as much as a knock on Rutgers for not having the experience to know the importance of hiring the biggest name stud coach on the market to get the program in the right direction. Both Fran and Skinner could have done just that. But I do wish Mike Rice luck and only hope he gets the support he needs to make Rutgers attractive to HS stars and impact transfers.

Lets look at Seton Hall. Not thrilled initially at the hiring of Kevin Willard. But after watching what is going on there I realize for SHU he will do fine. Especially with the nucleus now returning for another season. In fact I think Mike Rice would have excelled at Seton Hall as well. Really glad Robinson, and Hazell are returning. I now hope Pope get well soon and joins them for what could be a memorable season in South Orange and Newark. By the way, I love the fact Seton Hall hired Ann Donovan as the Women's Head Basketball Coach. Because the program was struggling, they get a NAME COACH with great connections. I am sure alot of players who would not usually think about Seton Hall will now consider attending there.

St. Johns and Steve Lavin will regret the day they did not take Ronald Roberts from St. Peters of Jersey City! Trust me on this one. That kid will be great at St. Joe's in Philly and wind up being an all A10 player. What a terrible thing to do by not honoring this kids scholarship. I hope Roberts uses this as motivation for future games. I have always hated it when Head Coaches ran kids away based on talent. I guess Roberts was told " You are welcome to stay but the style we will be playing really does not fit you so your playing time might be little if that." That's the standard stuff that is usually said.

I do think the new St. Johns Staff with Lavin, Dave Lateo, Slice, and Grasso is a great staff. Oops I forgot. Lavin did not get that staff. he went out and got a former player with California Connections, and a very good X and O guy from the West Coast in Dunlap. He did get Tony Chiles who is GREAT!!! Tony is a pick up that would have also went well with the super star staff that Lavin was bringing. Mo Hicks is also a good pick up although I will never understand why he would leave what he is doing for the position of DOB. Hicks is a steal for St. Johns. But DOB? Why? I doubt Kevin Boyle would accept that job at Rutgers. Danny Hurley is a head college coach now and has nowhere near the resume of Mo Hicks, although he is one of my favorite coaches.

So who did Iona hire as assistant coaches? Now I have heard some unflattering rumors about staff make-up. But before I say anything I will see who is on that staff, Stay tuned.

I cannot believe CW Post hired Casey from St. Johns when Darryl Jacobs was available and very interested. I am shocked at this one as well. Casey will most likely do a good job. But Darryl Jacobs would have done a GREAT JOB and he has alot of D2 head coaching experience. Wow!

All the great candidates here in the North and Columbia hires a guy from California. What the heck is going on? I would think they would have tried to steal Tony Chiles from St. Johns before he started. Or how about Mo Hicks? At the least Norm Roberts, the ex St. Johns Coach.

Lots of talk will take place at the Black Coaches Convention in June. Seems the number of Coaches of Color is getting smaller each year. Just in the NY metro Area alone there is not a single D1 coach of color anywhere unless you count Fairfield. Last season there were at least 3. At one time there were at least 5. Now zero! Places such ( my mistake Derrick Whittenburg was at Fordham and Gary Brokow was at Iona) Manhattan, FDU, West Point, St. Peters, and St. Francis have never had a Minority head basketball coach. Now do not kill me on this because I am only saying what it is. I wonder if they will ever have one?

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Tuesday Thoughts

Rutgers Signs Mike Rice

Rutgers University choosing Mike Rice from Robert Morris University of the Northeast Conference, one of the lower level division 1 conference in America, is something I and many others would not have imagined one year ago. Though the NEC has many fine coaches, making a jump from a low D1 program to the toughest conference in America is something that does not happen often. If it did Tom Green, the ex FDU Coach, would have left for a school like Notre Dame or Michigan after his various runs/games in the NCAA tournament years ago.

Mike Rice really showed he was a rising star in coaching when his team almost beat Villanova in the opening round of the 2010 NCAA tournament. He also proved his worth by turning around a program in Robert Morris that rarely experienced success in or out of NEC conference play. I really like Mike Rice and have since his days running Hoop Group Events. I even liked him as a player at Fordham University. I like the fact he is personable, bright, hard working, can coach, is approachable, and a true discipline guy despite being only 41 years old. So I wish him well and know that his heart will be in this job from day 1.

Now all that I said is fine for a person taking over at a program that is established. A program with a history of success such as Gonzaga, Pitt, and even Butler. All hired assistant coaches who took them even farther than they had ever been. But Rutgers is a different type of program. Rutgers is a school in need of a complete basketball overhaul from staff to facilities to marketing and promotions.

Is Mike Rice the person who can get this done? Will he demand a practice facility be completed in the next year or two? Will he demand that the RAC be renovated from score boards to sound system, to seating, to concessions, to a few luxury boxes, to locker rooms, and to a great weight training facility dedicated to basketball in The RAC? Or did he just sign a contract and left it at that. Anyone who understands Big East or high D1 basketball programs understands the need for great facilities to recruit great HS and JC players. They also understand the need for sold out crowds cheering and motivating current players while impressing potential recruits watching in person or on TV. I really Hope Mike Rice is on top of this. He deserves it, the players deserve it, and those loyal patient Rutgers Fans deserve it.

Personally I really thought Rutgers would fight and claw for a person who was a head coach on a higher level. I also thought Eddie Jordan would really be the choice and if he was and surrounded himself with a great staff it would have been a bases loaded home run. Rutgers should have worked harder to get him.

I thought Al Skinner would have been a great choice and a home run based on winning basketball games with talent equal to what Rutgers will get for the next few years. I doubt Rutgers will see any top 10 guys anytime soon and not because Rutgers is not worthy. As I have often said, those top ten guys often come with certain demands if you know what I mean. Rare exceptions do occur including kids like Kyrie Irving and even Tobias Harris, who just wanted good places to play. But most go to those who can deal with special needs. This is why Skinner would have been great. He would have won with some top 10 NJ kids and some top 10 NYC kids, and a few under the radar kids from North Carolina and other places.

Fran would have been an Ideal choice and a home run because right out of the box he would have had Rutgers in the homes of the very best and had the support of international basketball federations. I am sure he went in with some concerns about the direction Rutgers wanted the program to go. He probably asked the important questions that would dictate if Rutgers wanted a baby sitter to just hold the program down or a coach to take the program to a much higher level. He most likely asked about the facilities, upgrading The RAC, travel, budget, etc. He asked all that he needed to know in order to see if winning big could happen in Piscataway. I would bet this is what made him not be selected. Hard to turn down a very good candidate in Rice to get a very good candidate who demands improvement right away and just might cost you alot more contract wise as well.

Well the choice is made and Mike Rice, hopefully Red Tie and all, will lead Rutgers for the next 6 years. I wonder where they will be in 2013? Big East Champs? Middle of the pack? Bottom 5? Will the facilities be improved for the fans and recruits in the next 2 years? Will the marketing improve? Will there be sell outs at The RAC? Or will it be business as usual with Mike Must Go postings on various Rutgers Basketball Message Boards? I really hope Mike Rice does a outstanding job and The RAC comes alive again. Rutgers long suffering fans deserve it!

Tim Welch

I am saddened that Tim Welch resigned at Hofstra without coaching one single game. Tim remains a great guy and has always been one of the good guys in college basketball. So interesting how folks judge each other without thinking about their own personal lives. I just hope Tim rebounds and gets another chance at coaching because he will be missed. I honestly feel Hofstra loses out on this deal because Tim really stepped back to coach at Hofstra of the CAA. I feel he could have gotten much bigger jobs if he waited. Maybe Hofstra will attempt to steal another high level coach like Al Skinner who grew up less than 10 miles from the Hofstra campus.

Innocent Until Proven Guilty

Unless I missed something the two ex Seton Hall players accused of armed robbery have not gone to trial. Often there are two sides to a story and people often judge based on the first version. If those young men did indeed randomly rob fellow students they should be punished. If there is more we need to wait before passing judgement. What seems to be is not always what it is, as they say in my old neighborhood in New York City. So yes I hope for the best for those young men and hope things work out best for them one way or another.