Oh Damn, another remote broken over the last few days...
Greetings from the Hoodwood where that sound you heard was the all the brackets being busted
NCAA: The Coaching Carousel spins up
The coaching carousel is usually something that starts up after the last strains of “One Shining Moment” have finished this year it seems that its already revving up before the first weekend of the tourney. UCLA axed Ben Howland after ten seasons. I remember when Howland was one of the hottest young coaches in the game. He came up as a head coach of Northern Arizona. I remember him because in 1998 he lead the Lumberjacks to their first NCAA berth as Big Sky champs and they pushed my beloved Bearcats hard in their first round game losing by 3. Howland was a hot coaching commodity and was at the head of a lot of wish lists, but he eventually moved on to Pittsburhgh were as coach of the Panthers his star continued to rise fast, he took the Panthers to 3 straight Big East title games and winning it in 2003. Howland was on the rise and UCLA made him an offer he couldn’t refuse. Steve Lavin was on the way out and Howland was charged with repairing a program that had fallen on hard hard times. He got the Bruins back to prominence within a couple years and making the first of three consecutive Final Fours in 2006. Howland was the toast of the city as the first coach since the legendary John Wooden to take UCLA to consecutive Final Fours, though the Bruins never captured a title losing to Florida in the title game in and the national semifinal in 2006 and 2007 respectively and Memphis in the 2008 semifinal. Howland moved into 2nd in all time wins at UCLA in 2011. But there was rumblings of a program in trouble as soon after the semifinal loss to Memphis, Howland reportedly backtracked on a recruit who was a diehard UCLA fan and had wanted to be a Bruin since his sophomore year in high school. Howland cooled on him and was trying to recruit outside of SoCal, ignoring the fertile base that had produced a number of solid players like Russell Westbrook, Arron Afflalo and Josh Shipp. His misses on recruits outside of SoCal and the ignoring of a deep recruiting base eroded their title hopes. Though the Bruins continued to make the tourney, they got housed repeatedly when they got there. The nadir being a 20 point thrashing by Minnesota (more on them in a bit) Combine that with repeated stories that Howland’s abrasive coaching style was wearing thin on players and fans. There were an alarming number of players that were not only transferring out but starring at other programs. UCLA Dan Guerrero had decided that 10 was enough and relieved Howland of his duties.
In a move that caught some by surprise, the University of Minnesota fired their coach. Tubby Smith made the move to the Twin Cities in 2007 after 9 tumultuous years in Kentucky. Gophers alum Tony Dungy assisted in bringing Smith to Minnesota’s attention. He resigned at Kentucky to take the Minnesota job and was welcomed in the area as much as he was criticized in Kentucky. The Gophers went to the NIT in his first year and made the NCAA the following two. After an injury marred 2011, the Gophers got all the way to the NIT finals in 2012 and made the NCAA tourney this year. But Tubby was under increasing fire for his teams repeatedly playing inconsistent especially late in the season. Tubby’s laconic style must have not set well with the locals, because they were increasingly vocal about the results. Now with both Howland and Smith out, the speculation ramps up on who will be their respective sucessors. Shaka Smart is high on both schools wish lists. Smart was hired by current Minnesota AD Norwood Teague at VCU, and has a tight relationship. Also coveted by UCLA Smart is once again a hot commodity as is Butler coach Brad Stevens. Minnesota reportedly is also interested in Gopher alum Flip Saunders who was a long time coach in Minnesota with the pro Timberwolves.
NCAA: You’re gonna have to work
Im hearing the media wonks whine about, the “lack of sexy matchups” in the sweet 16. Im already annoyed. The wonks hate that a team like Florida Gulf Coast, Wichita State, and LaSalle are all still dancing. Doing the chicken dance, cabbage patch and running man while the established bluebloods like North Carolina, Georgetown, Oklahoma State all look on in horror and disgust from the outside. Guess what Wonky Wonk, you’re gonna have to work. You are going to have a few days to learn about the spunky kids from Philly who bring a combination of grit and toughness to their game. You’re going to have to learn about a team that wasn’t playing D-1 ball two years ago from a school that was founded during the 2ndClinton administration.
I mean, I admit the teams I hyped got nowhere. The MWC sent five teams and none got out the first weekend and only Colorado State and San Diego State even got wins. An A-10 team from Philly is still dancing but its LaSalle not Temple, a rugged team from the Missouri Valley keeps on dancing but its Wichita State not Creighton . Im sorry wonky wonk…you’re gonna have to work!
Real Musings from the Bandit…20 years has it been that long?
As I sit at my office desk here at Black Bandit Productions and Enterprises looking out the window its snowing and I think of the last few times that it has snowed in March, five years agomy youngest Princess Jazzie was born the day after Hoodwood got socked with 9 inches of snow and I clowned on the fact that people were waiting in the snowy maelstrom for a fuckin’ IKEA to open. I really cant knock it too much now since Im sitting in an IKEA office chair (shaddap!) but I digress. I see snow in March and think of my Grandma. 20 years ago I was dealing with losing her and how all of a sudden my childhood was really over. I worried for my Grampy who had been married to her for almost 47 years and wondered how I would fend for myself. I saw Jim Valvano’s now iconic speech at the inaugural ESPY awards and drew comfort and inspriration from the dying coach’s immortal words. It was almost as if I could hear my grandma saying a lot of the same things that Coach V was saying about never giving up and to live life to the fullest. I look back at it now and think where I was and what was going on. In the blink of an eye 20 years has passed I have two daughters. The NCAA tourney is still a staple of March, The Canadiens are dark horse contenders for a Stanley Cup (They haven’t won it since 1993) and when it snows like this I get wistful thinking of my grandma and the coach…a weird juxtaposition I know but hey.
NBA: Heat keeps on streakin’
The count is now 27, the Heat 108-94 win over the Magic keeps the Heat win streak intact. When I saw the Heat lose to the Pacers on February 1st, I didn’t think that I would be watching the last time that they walked off the court a loser. That was nearly 2 months ago. The Heat have trailed multiple times by double digits. Still just over the horizon is the Valhalla like 33 game mark that the 71-72 Lakers set. If we’re talking about the Heat next week they will have hit 30 games and they will have beaten the team that I say will take them down. The despised Spurs. I have the feeling that the NBA will twist it just enough to keep the Heat in check and further lionize their golden child team. But if they get past that and the Knicks on April 2nd watch out.
PGA: Look whos back on top
Heeeeeees Back! Tiger, who dominated at Bay Hill to win his umpteenth Arnold Palmer (no rumor that Arnie is thinking of retiring the name and calling it the Tiger invitational) but his 2 stroke win gave him his 8th win at Bay Hill but more importantly it moved Tiger back to the #1 world ranking for the first since 2010 before his marital woes brought him down. Now does this mean more everyone playing for 2nd like back in the day when Tiger was winning tourneys by double digit strokes? No, hes back on top of the golf world and I think all is back right. He now has more rivals and players like Rory McIlroy, Justin Rose and Bubba Watson who would be able to push Tiger to stay on top. But it will be fun to see Tiger once again being the player everyone is gunning for.
To flying under the radar, the Pittsburgh Penguins have won 12 in a row, and under the radar of the Blackhawks long unbeaten streak. The Pens have won 9 of the 12 in regulation. Say what you want about the Blackhawks, I think the Pens are more impressive. They will go for 13 wins in a row tonight against Montreal.
Also a Dap to B-Dub who you see in this slot on Mondays. B-Dub is moving on to other endeavors. It was a pleasure to have followed you, a Hoodwood salute to you!
To Costa Rican soccer who incessantly whined about losing to the US in a World Cup qualifier in the snow in Denver. The game was played with a yellow ball since near whiteout conditions were in effect. But the Americans won 1-0 and the Costa Rican team filed a protest, saying that the condition was unplayable. Gee its funny that the game was close throughout and they had a number of chances to score. FIFA is looking into the protest and if it was filed properly. Costa Rica wants the game replayed. Head Slap to a sore loser