Friday, March 4, 2011

Todays Thoughts

Friday March 4, 2011

Interesting basketball news all over America. Lets start with college basketball.

Seton Hall beats St. Johns at The Prudential Center!This is not an upset in my mind. This is how many people expected Seton Hall to play this season. Yes, again I understand the injuries that have happened in South Orange. But the SHU team has still under achieved all season long. I honestly expected a NCAA birth this season or at the least a high NIT seed! The talent is there, but the team just never seemed to jell. Those who disagree with me should only look at the performance against St. Johns last night. They beat the same St. Johns team that has beater some quality opponents and highly ranked teams. Name of the game is consistency, and Seton Hall showed very little consistency wise this season.

Now on the other hand, I would not want to play Seton Hall at Madison Square Garden in The Big East Tournament. The Rutgers vs Seton Hall game, if that is a matchup, will definitely be worth watching. The winner will be a hard out for the next opponent. And if the winner is Seton Hall, they just might go on a serious roll and surprise a lot of people. Remember this team really has good players.

St. Johns should recover well.  St. Johns is back and how they do next season will provide a glimpse of future years to come. It will be the time to reclaim NYC and all the fans they had at one time when the Garden was sold out for St. Johns games.  The new kids coming in are all highly rated and one or two will even be older freshmen from what I hear. But what they have in talent might not measure up to this years team experience wise. The Big East remains a Mans league and young players not named Carmelo Antony do not always come in and dominate.

All I will say about Rutgers is they are sneaking up on many people. Very good recruiting class but I am not convinced they are killers who can come in and dominate. Than again the coach seems like the type of guy that can make an average player into a household name! He gets his team to compete! He gets them to compete everyday, every week, and every month.  Rutgers with Mike Rice is quite scary to many!

Monmouth job is on the lips of many. Like I have said to many, that job is one of the best mid major jobs in America based on program potential. Only thing that hurts the job is the lame conference they compete in with many schools who really do not even know they have D1 basketball programs. Teams like FDU (Saddest D1 program in America hands down), St. Francis Brooklyn, St. Francis Pa.,  are a Horrible group of schools. Tom Green must be sick to his stomach watching what has happened to a program he built. I am not pointing at one coach in the NEC. I am pointing at the ADs and Presidents because Coaches are committed much more than the schools.  I often wonder why kids would turn down quality schools in the MEAC (Historically Black D1 Conference with Hampton, Florida A&M, Del State, etc.) to attend some of those schools that are like JV to the HS and AAU programs kids they are recruiting come from?

Back to Monmouth. This job could really be great if there was a plan, even a secrete plan, to change conferences. I honestly think the Patriot League with Lehigh, Bucknell, Lafayette, Holy Cross, etc. is a better conference.  The Patriot is a conference that is competitive with fan and school support. This is such a great opportunity for Monmouth to get the right person as coach and not just do the good ole boy thing with a local golden boy or favorite son. But if they plan on just averaging 1000 people in that nice building, playing FDU tough at FDU in front of 185 real fans, and at home in front of 700, than just do the usual and hire the local HS coach, the one not names Hurley.  I still feel they could have a long term plan for the MAC, The MAAC, The CAA, etc. Football or no football, it would not make a difference.

Looks like Manhattan will make a change. Again I am telling people the AD at Manhattan loves Tony Chiles, the current St. Johns Assistant. Columbia grad, connected in NYC, NJ, Pa, Delaware, DC, (which is why Steve Lavin hired him), kids love him, experienced, personable (No One Dislikes TONY), and hard working!  Plus he is a NYC CHSAA guy who played at All Hollows, and coached at Manhattan for a few years before going to Iona. Thats a story to share after he is named coach at Manhattan. This is a real no brainer! Time for Manhattan to do the right thing! Manhattan would never be sorry.

Look at how this all falls into place. Tony goes to Manhattan and guess who takes his place? You got it, the current Manhattan Coach who is a 5 star Assistant Coach and Recruiter.

I hope Marist stays with Chucky Martin. Nuff said!

Ditto the coach at Siena. Good guy who has coached at Fairfield, and even Cleveland State. But Siena fired Rob Lanier after one losing season last time out.

Here are other things I have heard over the past few days. Jamie Dixon leaves Pitt for? You got it right if you said  he will be the next coach at North Carolina State for $3,000,000 per season. Gary Williams is about done at Maryland. Maybe not after this season but in the very near future. Guess who replaces him? Again you are right. It is none other than Mike Brey! Remember Mike is from the area and attended Dematha and even was an Assistant there. Watch as the puzzle falls into place.

Back to Monmouth. This is a guess, but it could happen. If Bob Hurley wins the NJ Tournament of Champions, I feel he would have done all he could on the HS level. Hall of Fame, wins nationally, helping kids in Jersey City, and much more. This is the time when he could retire to his home on the shore and guess what job awaits him? You got it right if you say Monmouth. Only problem is his Son Danny is coach of Wagner in the same boring conference. But maybe Danny moves on after this year to a position on the North Carolina State Staff, and Bobby joins his dad at Monmouth. Ummmmmmmmm! Very interesting!

High School Basketball

I am really looking at all the schedules in the tri state area for games to attend. Now everyone knows I will be at Teaneck games before I go anywhere else. And if you have not seen Teaneck, you are missing out because they are very good with at least 3 mid major or higher talents on the team. And all are home grown and UNDERCLASSMEN! They also have some pretty good seniors who those NJAC teams should be knocking on the door for. Are they blind? How could they not be pushing up on those talented kids who really are good enough to start at Teaneck but are caught up in numbers.

If I was a tournament organizer I would be reaching out to this team for next season because they will be special regardless of how they end the year. They really should be the 3rd ranked team in New Jersey.

I am so excited about watching St. Anthony's vs St. Patrick's next week. WAIT! I am also excited about watching Gil St. Bernard's play St. Patricks. Gil St. Bernard's just might the best backcourt in New Jersey. Better than Seton Hall, Rutgers, and The Nets!  OK that is a stretch but they are the best underclass backcourt in NJ hands down. This game could be an exciting one. The suburbs vs the city lol. Almost like Hoosiers the movie. Do not sleep Gil St. Bernard!

The St. Anthony;s vs Hudson Catholic game could be a good one as well. Only problem is how to get into that small rec. gym St. Anthony's plays games in. I am sure people are on line right now.

When the smoke clears, we could be in for the biggest HS basketball game in the history of NJ HS Sports. A game that should sell out. In fact I need to head over to buy my tickets right now because I do not want to miss this game.

Over in NYC they are in the quarter finals of the city PSAL championships. My prediction is Boys and Girls will win it all. But a Lincoln and Boys and Girls championship game at Madison Square Garden will be huge as well. When those two play, anything can happen.

I still look for a final of Christ the King vs Rice in the CHSAA championship game. Interesting how schools like Lincoln, Boys and Girls, Cardozo, Kennedy, Wings, and Jefferson has knocked the CHSAA out of the automatic best NYC league category. The teams mentioned have held serve and convinced kids who in years past would have ran to Rice, Christ the King,etc., that PSAL programs are on the rise and in most cases even better programs.

Well, now off to plan my schedule for the next 8 days. What an exciting time of the year!

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

It Has Been A long Time!

Good Morning fellow basketball lovers. For those who are looking for the work of a person with an editor please do not read. 

I guess like most others I am really caught up in the NY Knick hype with the addition of Carmelo Anthony and others. What is surprising to me is how long it took the Knicks to pull the trigger. Does anyone besides me feel Chauncy Billips is a true improvement over Raymond Felton? How soon folks forget Mr. Clutch or Mr. 4th Quarter as he was called in the past. A solid point guard is the glue that holds any team together from biddy basketball to the NBA. Chauncy Billips will do this and more for the NY Knicks. I also look for Carmello and Amare to be as good a one two punch scoring wise as the NBA has seen in recent years. The three of them together will make everyone else around them better. Plus it makes the Garden the place to be again just as it was during the Clyde/Reed/Earl the Pearl days. 

Though I did not follow NBA basketball for a number of years, I now find myself watching more and more. I love the younger players in the league. Blake Griffin is something to watch. He is fearless and a true highlite film in the Dominique Wilkins category! Kevin Durant could be better than everyone else in the NBA very soon. Even in Oklahoma he cannot hide his greatness. Of course the big three in Miami are a sight to see even though in my eyes Chris Bosh is a tad overrated and not on the others level. Chris Paul is another star but will soon run from the South to a more glamor city to perform. NY just might be his destination.

The NY Nets are trying hard to keep up with the Joneses as best they can. But it seems to me they need some serious help in the front office. And as much money as the owner has, he is away in Russia way too much to really understand what is happening around the NBA. The trade they recently made for Deron Williams might be the biggest waste of time I have ever seen. Yes, he is great players! But being a midwestern guy will most likely mean he will sign with a midwestern team as soon as he can to get away from NJ or Brooklyn. 

Speaking of Brooklyn, I eagerly await the move of the NJ Nets to Brooklyn. However, seeing to me is still believing because in the back of my mind I still do not see this happening. But the experts say the Arena is going up and the move is no schedule. I just feel that an announcement will come in the near future that the Russian Owner has decided to stay in NJ and build yet another Arena away from Downtown Newark for the team. Just a hunch on my part.   I most likely am wrong but deep inside I think there will be a snafu soon regarding this move. 

College Basketball

I have been watching area college basketball very closely. Seems to me that St. Johns is back! This is despite the fact they have won some big games. They were back just being average. But thus far they have gone beyond expectations winning wise. Oddly it is being done with the type of players that made St. Johns and Lou Carnesecca famous, the very good players not on top 50 lists. Hardy was a very good player in HS but far from being on any top 50 lists. Not sure he was even on top 100 lists. But he is a player that has skills in the mode of the past legends that came out of NYC to make St. Johns a college power for years.

Many people forget that St. Johns was always mentioned as one of the true basketball powers nationally along with North Carolina, Kansas, Kentucky, UCLA, etc. There was no Duke, Memphis, Kansas State, etc. St. Johns was one of the top programs and they had a way of keeping many of the good NY area HS players home. From Northern NJ to Long Island, if St. Johns wanted you, you listened. And trust me, Lou Carnessecca had the ability to close the deal. Heck Lou is such a good man he could sell ice in Alaska. St. Johns past teams were tough and skilled just as they are now.

Last thing on St. Johns. Steve Lavin still needs to send Norm Roberts a Thank You Card for all the players he recruited that Lavin now coaches. These guys are doing great and honestly I expected them to do good this year even if Norm was the coach. However I never expected what I am seeing. But both St. Johns and Notre Dame are showing what can happen when you recruit 4 year players as opposed to one and done guys other than Carmella Anthony or Labron James types. 

Rutgers should keep its head up high because they have had a great season considering what has happened there over the past 4 years. It has been a zoo to say the least and it is not all because of Fred Hill or Gary Waters. Many players had a hand in the mess as did the AD who thought he was more important then the Rutgers President. Well, sometimes you have to tear down and re-build and that is exactly what is happening.

The way Coach Rice has Rutgers playing makes it easy for the current AD to get funds to renovate the RAC. I can see them gutting the entire inside and redoing all the seating, putting in new video scoreboards and sound system, installing a new floor, new locker rooms, and building a nice two court practice facility right next door. I see this happening in the very near future and when it does just imagine what would happen. As far as the current coaches? They all deserve a raise! In fact Mike Rice should get an extension ASAP to lock him in. He is the true face of Rutgers basketball!

Seton Hall has had what many would consider a very disappointing season. Here come the Seton Hall fans to debate me with butter knives against a sword. Look at the record against the talent on the team. OK I understand that Hazell was injured and others had issues that needed to be addressed. But what should have been a NCAA contending year seems to be out of the question at this time. I really wish Seton Hall was better if for no other reason than the many loyal and knowledgable Seton Hall fans who live and die with the Pirates.

Recruiting wise it looks like next year could be even worst than this year unless the returning players really step it up and compete as a team. But there seems to not be many reinforcements on the way! I sure hope the SHU staff is out looking at JC players and un-signed HS seniors with BE potential. Their first destination should be Hutchinson Kansas and the National JC Championships. Second would be every HS event they can attend in a 10 state radius. I still say Seton Hall is a great destination for players. A great learning environment, a great arena, very good fan support in an urban area with pro teams, and very good tradition.

I still have concerns over the current SHU Staff. Willard and Holloway are understandable. But again I say where is the killer recruiter who has ties to DC Assault, The LI Panthers, The Gauchos, Playez, or is it Playaz. Where is the guy who can open the door to HS programs nationally and has a track record of getting great players to campus for Willard to close the deal? Remember the assistant Coach sets the table and the head Coach cooks the meal, and makes the deal!

Looking at other area college teams I anticipated some openings. What these programs do now will determine what will happen for years to come. Monmouth is the first program that comes to my mind. If you have never been to that campus you might not fully understand what that program is capable of becoming. The campus, location, and facilities all make it possible to be one of the best mid major programs in the entire country! This is the type of job a big-time program Assistant would accept. It is the type of program that can pick and choose despite being is a very low D1 conference, the Northeast Conference. I can even see other area Head Coaches and EX HEAD COACHES attempting to get involved. Maybe Danny Hurley should have waited for this one? Kevin Boyle? Either of these guys could do a great job. So could Bob Hurley Sr. If he wins the NJ Tournament of Champions anything is possible. Why not go out a winner? What else is there to accomplish for him on the HS level?  Does he not have a home on the Jersey Shore? UMMMMMMMMM! 

But if not Coach Hurley, why not someone with great experience looking for a challenge. I would not be surprised if they looked at people like Ex Rutgers Coaches Bannon and Hill. I can also see them hiring a person with a great personality who will assist in putting butts in the seats at games. This is what Mike Brey did at The University of Delaware which at one time was the best mid major job on the East Coast. The hires after Brey have not done the PR job he did although all were very good coaches. But College basketball programs need coaches who can sell to recruits and fans alike. 

Not sure what is happening at Rider. However for a program playing games in a JHS type gym they sure do OK. FDU, wait I need a separate paragraph to talk about that place. Lets discuss Marist. Another sleeping giant in need of a winning basketball program. Chucky Martin is a great guy, but will he get it done there? I sure hope so. But many folks are watching from the wings thinking this job will open after the season ends. 

I hear a lot of kids are looking at Manhattan College. That is a wonderful but will the Head Coach, who everyone loves, ever get it done in Riverdale? I wonder if he is second guessing not taking the St. Johns Associate Head Coaching Job? I have heard this could be this wonderful mans last season. If so Seton Hall needs to be in the parking lot helping him with his bags and leading him to South Orange in a limo with a bucket of money! I hear a lot of big-time programs are positioning themselves to snatch him up if he departs Manhattan, 

Now if there is a change at Manhattan I know the perfect person for the job. None other than Tony Chiles, the current St. Johns Assistant who worked at Manhattan under Fran and Iona under Jeff Ruland.  Speaking of Ruland I would not be surprised to see him as a candidate at Monmouth. But Tony Chiles at Manhattan with the right staff would be great! And I would bet Tony would be great for folks to work for. Columbia grad with a lot of experience and knowhow. Also look for Tim Welsh to get involved at Monmouth!

Had an opportunity to attend the Bergen Jamboree at FDU last week. I cannot believe what I saw. They took a nice gym and turned it into a JHS gym. What was once 4500 seats is now around 2000 seats and they do not even match. Looks like a dump and thats exactly how the team plays. Not about the coaches at this time because what can they do with an administration not committed to a winning D1 program. This gym looks more and more like Pratt Institute looked years ago when it was unkept and dull. Where is the fund raising by the AD? Where is the President on this? Does the President know they have a team? This might just be the worst D1 program in the United States. No one cares, no one comes to games, and they seem to have no future. I will not be surprised if they announce that the school is moving to D2 or D3 status. Honestly what is the point if you are not giving your coach more support! How can he recruit against Monmouth and the new Arena and new Coach? I have always felt FDU needed a marketing team to get folks out. I now feel they can wait on that until they fix that terrible gym and bring back the seating or at least match the seating up to look decent. What a waste of a program! Tom Green must feel sick about this based on how hard he worked to make it a program and even getting to the NCAA's a few times. The current coach must feel helpless trying to recruit with those resources. I would not be surprised if they have the coaches using public transportation to get to games and recruit. 

HS Basketball

Congratulations to Pocono Mountain West HS for a great season and beating Pocono Mountain East in the last game. I still think many low and mid major D1 programs are missing some good players at those schools. Villanova came up and found a hidden talent at Liberty HS this season. I have told numerous coaches about talent at those places and either they are just too lazy or too stupid to make the drive that is between 1 and 3 hours for most schools. 

Looking forward to a great matchup between St. Anthony's and St. Patrick's at Rutgers. I might just drive down on Wednesday to purchase a few tickets. I have read that the game just might be moved to The Prudential Center in Newark if it happens. Either way I am in the building to witness the number 1 vs number 2 team in the nation  compete. 

After those two teams the rest of the State of NJ is almost even with any of a number of teams being the 3rd best. But if 6 Ft 9. Nevelle Fincher just learns to COMPETE by rebounding and playing solid defense, Teaneck just might be the 3rd best HS team in NJ. This team is young with the seniors, many worthy of a D2 or D3 look, coming off the bench. In fact tournament organizers should be looking at Teaneck and even Hackensack for tournaments next year and years to come based on the youth and ability of both teams players. Teaneck has at least 3 D1 players in the lineup with a slight possibility of 2 more joining them.

In NYC I am happy for Coach Dwaine Mitchell at Rice. No one should ever doubt his coaching because he has always been one of the best all the way back to his Biddy coaching days. Guy is a winner and developer of talent. I anticipate a Rice vs Christ The King Game soon!

Love the job Ruth Lovelace and Elmer Anderson along with my man Gene Carroll is doing at Boys and Girls. They are proving NYC toughness with skills and ability, and good coaching is hard to beat. Ditto Lincoln, Wings, Cardoza, Kennedy (Johnny Mathis is EXCEPTIONAL!!!!!) , These  schools have closed the gap between the CHSAA and the PSAL. In fact I think Boys and Girls, Lincoln, Wings, Cardoza, etc. could beat most CHSAA teams.

Speaking of Wings Academy. Caught them in a showcase tournament in NJ sponsored by the GYM Rats AAU at Ramapo College. Great event and great job by Dwight Morrow (Englewood NJ) Girls Coach Donald Osbourne who was the master mind behind this event. Wings was exceptional and the coaching was outstanding! I had heard of the coach for years and never really Watched him coach. But boy could he coach! Now here is the down side and what separates him from many other very good coaches. What in heavens name made him wear a t-shirt and sneakers on the sideline? I mean not even a team t-shirt. I might as well had said Joe's Soul Food Kitchen, etc.  Are you kidding me? He looked like he was coaching in July at Rucker Park? Why not a coaching shirt? Why not a nice warm-up suit? Despite his fine coaching many in attendance were shocked at his appearance. I am not looking to embarrass but just letting folks know that teachers and coaches need to have a professional look while at work. Because this Coach, and again he was OUTSTANDING, sure had the wrong image. And I am stunned that a guy who I consider the best Principal in the entire USA when it comes to understanding HS and College athletics has not mentored this future great coach better!  I guess some will say would i take a great coach in a t-shirt over a poor coach in a suit and tie? I would say both need to change up (smile).

Well thats it and as I sign off I want to thank Donald Osbourne, Bobby Holford, and others for inviting me and Jim Couch to a great day of basketball recently at Ramapo College. We also thank you for the awards you presented to us and the love you shared. Also nice to see Bobby on the side lines assisting a HS Program with a kid who might just be the best young player in NYC! After Bobby is finished I am sure he will be better than he is now. After all Bobby Holford is and always will be one of the best teachers of the game and the best station 5 (is that the tough station at 5 Star Camp?) Instructors of all time. Still amazed at him not coaching on a higher level!