State Got Lucky

You may remember a few months back when NC State’s coaching search got all hot and heavy with Memphis coach John Calipari.  I pointed out that the many Wolfpack fans who were so excited about his impending hire – and it did seem like a sure thing – should be careful what they were wishing for.  The man may be a great recruiter and a good coach, but he’s a snake.  He runs a shady program with an incessant odor of scandal and controversy.

Well, consider this most recent story out of Memphis as a big WHEW! for the Red and White nation. Just think, these sorts of stories could have been (and would have been) coming out of Raleigh in the coming years. Winning just isn’t worth it. Hopefully Sidney Lowe can make you all forget your brief fling with the devil.

Thanks to the Sports Frog for digging up that outstanding article.

Track Is Dead

Ned Barnett of the News & Observer wrote a nice piece this weekend about how the local track empire of Trevor Graham is in ruins. You could take Barnett’s article and take it a step or two further – the entire sport of track and field – like cycling – is rubble. There was a time after the post-Ben Johnson rules changes when I thought it was largely cleaned up. I knew that some athletes still doped, but not everyone. After the allegations of the past couple of years that include positive tests and/or bans of Tim Montgomery (the one-time 100m world record holder), Justin Gatlin (the current 100m world record holder) and now Marion Jones (by far the biggest name in women’s track and field), it’s clear that everyone is cheating. They have to be. If those at the top are cheating, there’s no reason to believe that the less talented folks are clean. If US athletes can find ways to get the drugs they need, how hard can it be in other countries that have much less regulation in their pharmaceutical industries?
The sport is completely broken. No performance is to be trusted. Maybe the whole sport needs to take a year off while they figure out what can be done. Do they boost their drug testing? Maybe require every single athlete to give a monthly drug test plus one just after each meet? And then store those samples for five years or more in case better tests come available?
Or maybe instead they should just give up their hopeless chase and let the athletes compete with whatever chemicals they can find. Make it like NASCAR – you have a driver and a pit crew. At least that way, it’d be more honest.
Something has to be done, because the sport couldn’t be less interesting or more disgraceful at this point.

The Little Four

I have to try harder not to fall behind on my David Glenn reading. Glenn has a nice post about North Carolina’s “Big Four” ACC teams and how (and why) they are struggling right now in football.
The most interesting part of his post is the section where he breaks down the number of Division 1 football prospects by state compared to the number of Division 1 teams in that state. Glenn estimates the numbers, but I’d love to see some actual figures. If I had more time, I’d see if I could compile that myself from current college rosters. Maybe it could be collected from espn.com or some other big site using a tool like Bukster.
Anyway, the bottom line of Glenn’s point, and one that I’m sure the actual numbers would corroborate, is that the state of North Carolina just isn’t well-situated to support a consistent, major program. There simply aren’t enough good players to go around compared to schools in states like Georgia or Florida. In fact, NC might just be the toughest location for any BCS team.

K And USA

I was sealing the grout in my kitchen floor last night and decided I needed some background noise to break the tedium. I flipped on the TV and there was the US basketball team, playing an exhibition game against Puerto Rico. The last time I watched our national team play the Puerto Ricans, they were kicking our ass in the ’04 Olympics. It was ugly and embarrassing.
Last night’s game was the exact opposite. It a textbook example of beautiful basketball by our men as they destroyed their outmatched rivals by 45 points.
Just the other day, I read another article (I don’t remember who wrote it and it’s not worthy of a Googling to find it) where the author smugly noted how Mike Krzyzewski was an idiot for asking his players to actually play hard and dominate all four quarters of a game. Some hack sportswriter actually thinks he knows better than Coach K. Well, if you watched any of last night’s game, you know damn well that K not only knows what he is doing, but he has gotten through to this team. He knows that when you have the better team, full of superior athletes, that you can demoralize your opponents by not letting them do anything on offense. I’ve seen Duke do it a million times and I saw it again last night – the US defenders were pressuring the ball and then jumping into passing lanes. Puerto Rico couldn’t even make the first pass to set up their offense so they panicked. Steal, run, dunk. Steal, run, dunk. It was gorgeous. Offensive explosion through defense.
And the notion that they can’t play that way for a whole tournament? Please. The team has 12 players and every single one of them will play significant minutes. International games are just 40 minutes long instead of the 48 minutes of an NBA game. The tournament will consist of fewer than a dozen games compared to the NBA season of 82 plus the playoffs. Our guys will NOT burn out and they will NOT lose this tournament.
Maybe it’s not all Krzyzewski. He is very fortunate to have come in at a time when a new wave of young stars is taking over the league – young players who are not only better than the previous generation, but they have better attitudes as well. These guys want to prove themselves and they want to dominate every quarter. This isn’t Allen Iverson, Stephon Marbury and Paul Pierce hogging the ball, it’s Dwyane Wade, Chris Paul, LeBron James and Carmelo Anthony sharing the ball and playing as a team. It’s scary.
And it’s beautiful.

Dean Smith And Jim Valvano

The friendship that developed between Jim Valvano and Mike Krzyzewski after Valvano retired from NC State is well chronicled. Coach K and his wife are still quite active in the various V Foundation activities in the area.
The boys at The Red and White From State have dug up a story that sheds a little light on the relationship between V and Dean Smith. Now, Smith was never a terribly social man and wasn’t really a favorite of his coaching peers, but that didn’t keep Valvano from asking for (and receiving) a big favor from Coach Smith. It’s a cool little story.
BTW, Dean Smith was just chosen as one of the first five selections to the new National College Basketball Hall of Fame. If they are only going to pick five people a year (and that’s the only reason why I can think of for why only five are in the first class), it’s going to take them a while to get all of the worthy candidates in the Hall. Maybe that’s the point, to help keep the inductions relevant for several years.

Blogger At The WSOP

You probably remember the mgoblog, it’s the site that put together the BlogPoll for college football (yes, I’m a voter). Brian, mgoblog’s creator has evidently forked over $10K of his own money and went out to Vegas to play in the WSOP. According to this entertaining update, he made it through Day 1 and managed to do a little star (and cleavage) gazing while he was at it.
Go Brian!

Uh Oh

Could Floyd Landis become bike racing’s Ben Johnson? Top of the world one day and the sport’s signature goat the next? I certainly hope not, but reports are that Landis has failed blood tests. The tests showed unusually high testosterone levels on the day he made his miraculous ride.
Bad news. They’re going to run tests on his B sample to verify. Let’s hope the first results were wrong.

Blog Highlight – Every Day Should Be Saturday

Earlier today, I linked to Ed Zipper’s divorce notice for ESPN. The one problem with the idea of leaving the country’s foremost supplier of sports information and artificial cool is that you need to find a replacement. Fortunately in today’s Internet world, there are many places to look.
So maybe it’s time for a new feature, one that I’ve thought of doing for ages. At some indeterminate interval (hey, I’m not penning myself in here), I’m going to pick a worthy site (probably a blog) that you should be reading.
You already know about the big, famous ones like The Sports Frog and Deadspin and personal faves like ACC Basketblog, The Duke Basketball Report and StateFans Nation, so for my first pick I’m going elsewhere.
Every Day Should Be Saturday is a phenomenal college football blog written by guys calling themselves Orson Swindle and Stranko Montana. Swindle in particular has an unhealthy knowledge of the college game and is a damn funny guy.
A sampler of some recent goodness:
Notre Dame’s Jimmy Clausen looking, uh … available.
A fantastic series of posts on offensive line play. The prologue is here and it was followed up by two parts (1 & 2) of a three-part series written by former NFL lineman Jim Richards. Great stuff here that you just don’t find most places. Why, it’s nearly as good as Bobby P’s Eleven series!
UT Recruit Allegedly Improved Grades With Penis
The Troy State offensive linemen will regret this series of pictures for the rest of their lives.
Love for the Sackrider.
OK, that’s enough. I think you get the point. Some seriously good stuff there. Who needs the WWLIS anyway?

What The Zipper Said

Ed Zipper of the Sports Frog wrote what I’m sure many of you have thought for a long time – it’s time to move on from ESPN. Ed wants a divorce and I do too. Hell, we barely ever spend time together anymore and when we do, I’m never happy. The only thing (outside of PTI) they do right is live sports, and I’m not including darts.
BTW, Zipper is a professional stand-up comic in his spare time.
Previous clues that ESPN and I were coming to this point in our relationship:
Ombudsman
Scam
“Reality show”
I’m not paying
Most annoying personality?
Insufferable Sports Guy