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Thank You Pat Summitt

23 Apr

Thank you. Those are the first words that came to mind as soon as I found out Pat Summitt was stepping down as the Head Coach of the Tennessee Lady Vols last week.

Even though I usually root against the Lady Vols, I will forever be indebted to Pat Summitt and everything she has meant to college sports and specifically, women. The impact that Summitt has had on the world of women’s basketball will never go unnoticed. Even those who criticize women’s basketball know who Pat Summitt is and would never deny the impact that she has had on the sports world. And not only does Summitt own the record for the most victories in all of college basketball (Men and Women), no one is really that close to beating her either.

I have been lucky enough to see Summitt coach in person.  The sidelines of a Tennessee basketball game l will never be the same. The energy and prowess that she brings to the court will probably never be matched.

Pat Summitt built the Tennessee Volunteers Women’s Basketball team into one of the biggest powerhouses in sports. The legacy that she leaves behind is one filled with championship victories and successful student-athletes. But she is not done yet. Summitt will still be a presence on the Tennessee Lady Vols team as Head Coach Emeritus.

In a week where I have seen countless articles about the struggle of women in the sports world, Pat Summitt has been the model of just how far women have come.  She has elevated the sport of women’s basketball to what it is today and has also been integral in the elevation and status of women in the sports world. What Pat Summitt was able to accomplish during her 38 years at Tennessee, some people just hope for in their lifetime. She took the Tennessee Women’s Basketball team from a small gymnasium where they had to fight for practice time to a state of the art, basketball only practice facility. I had the opportunity to visit that basketball facility last year and let me tell you, its beyond amazing.

While the sports world has always been faced with scandals and violations, Summitt was never in that part of the spotlight.  Pat Summitt has reached all of her accomplishments without controversy. She hasn’t needed violations to get to where she is today and her legacy is richer because of that.

No matter what, Pat Summitt will always be a part of sports history.

After being diagnosed with the early stages of dementia and coaching an entire season through this diagnosis, it was time. As any fan could tell you, there were times when she just didn’t look the same on the sidelines. Alzheimer’s is a tough disease for many reasons but what saddens me the most, is the effect that dementia can have on a person’s memory. Pat Summitt has so much to remember and be proud of that its a shame she might not always remember her accomplishments, accolades, and experiences.

But let’s not think about what Pat Summitt might or might not be facing in the future, because based on the challenges and accomplishments she has had in the past, she won’t be backing down from this fight either. She will continue to be a spokesperson for Alzheimer’s and work with her fund, the Pat Summitt Foundation Fund. Summitt has meant so much to the world of sports and while she has stepped down from being head coach of the Lady Vols, I doubt that she is done making her impact.

So from one woman to another, thank you, Pat Summitt. Thank you for everything.

 

 

the one and done dilemma

18 Apr

last night, 5 student-athletes from the university of kentucky’s championship men’s basketball team declared for the 2012 nba draft. freshmen anthony davis, michael kidd-gilchrist and marquis teague, and sophomores terrence jones and doron lamb sat at the head table complete with their coach, john calipari and explained their intentions over a televised news conference. with their departures, kentucky loses 93.3% of their offense from this season.

let me just say, i don’t think anyone was too surprised by the announcement. the media present at the conference and espn3’s coverage could not have been better suited for a more deserving group of guys. they played a complete team game en route to the 2012 national championship victory over kansas.

but its not about the media or the hype its about the whole “one and done” situation. these 5 guys are projected to go in the top 30 picks of the nba draft (davis at #1 and kidd-gilchrist at #2) and have chosen to leave college after 1 year and pursue the nba.  the critics will talk about this for years. 5 students who are basically throwing away their opportunity at a college education to play basketball. but seriously, who wouldn’t jump at this amazing opportunity? this is the world we live in and i can’t really blame any of them for taking this opportunity.

as a fan of the game of basketball but also as a person who works in the world of academic support for college athletics, i have been struggling with my feelings and opinions on this very matter. i’m completely torn. this is a decision and a choice that is also present in many other intercollegiate sports that have a professional league. i’m a big believer in the “stay in school” mantra and therefore a big fan of the ncaa commercials that declare the importance of school and being a student-athlete (“just about all of us will go pro in something other than sports”). i don’t think anyone will ever deny the importance of a college degree.

however, i can’t help but be happy for the 5 guys from kentucky who have just declared for the draft. its not like they declared they would be going to the draft when they started school and its not like they spent the entire basketball season playing by themselves. yes, there are the people who argue that calipari is a “one and done” coach and that he just prepares his players for the nba. its not like this is the first time that any of his players have chosen to leave school after one year. but, this isn’t about calipari. its about these 5 guys. its about the way they have played as a team this whole year and brought a national championship to their school. its about their personal situations. and, its about their futures. ultimately, this is each one’s own choice.

if the nba did not allow people to enter the draft then this wouldn’t be a problem. but they do. so it is.

i can guarantee that this wasn’t such an easy decision for any of these guys to make. they have themselves, their families, and their futures to think about.

ok…so put yourself in one of their shoes. pretend you are michael kidd-gilchrist and you have this opportunity to probably be picked #2 in the nba draft and make all your dreams come true. what would you do?

see, its really not so easy.

breaking the rules…

10 Apr

so many violations. so many scandals. and just another typical week in sports. its been a few weeks since we found out about the saints bounty scandal and only just a few days ago we find out about baylor university’s violations and impermissible recruitment of many of its star athletes.

to give a quick recap.

after careful investigation, the nfl found that the new orleans saints were in paying money and offering incentives to their players to knock players from other teams out of the games and injure them as well. obviously, no one really knows what went on but there is significant proof of these incentives and completely wrong acts. the nfl has since suspended the head coach, sean payton , for the entire season and suspended their general manager and one of the assistant coaches. not only were the bounty activities wrong, but people in the saints organization failed to report what they had seen and heard. many of the penalties could have been prevented had someone just said something but instead they let it go.

the baylor thing is a little more fresh. an athletic department that has had arguably their best athletic year in their college’s history is now being shown in another light. their violations have to do with the recruitment of their men’s and women’s basketball players. impermissible texts and visits have been found to have occurred by both coaching staffs. yes, both baylor’s men’s and women’s teams have been extremely successful this year. and the women’s team has the best player in the country, brittney griner. while the baylor athletic department has imposed some penalties on their own, the ncaa could offer further penalties. for now, we just sit and wait.

there is no question that what the saints and baylor athletic department did was wrong but the question is where do we go from here?

let me say first that these are completely separate issues. imposing harm on someone is very different from improper recruitment of athletes. yet, the coaches of both teams broke the rules. the saints could have in fact caused injuries to people and baylor might have unfairly won a championship. how is it fair for teams who break the rules to win and be successful while other teams can do it without breaking the rules? trust me, teams that don’t break the rules can win fair and square.

rules are basically what sports are based on. if there were no rules, then there could be no winners or losers. if there were no rules then we wouldn’t really have anything to measure our sports and our athletes with. so when will it stop? when will coaches, players, and fans realize that by breaking the rules they are damaging the perception of sports?

it’s not like these are the first rule violations that we have seen. the ncaa has come down hard on some of the sports and athletic programs that have broken rules (usc, ohio state, uconn etc.). i’d need a completely new post to discuss the ncaa and their varied penalties and punishments so i’ll stop here. but again, the ncaa, just like roger goodell, has the opportunity to set a precedent that will greatly affect the sports world.

im not going to tell you what i think the nfl and roger goodell or the ncaa should do because frankly, they have their own set of rules. the bigger issue here is why? why do people feel the need to break rules that are so fundamental to the world of sports?

i don’t know how we make people follow the rules but i do think that the more we talk about it and the more we bring these issues to the forefront, the less likely people will be to break the rules. it’ll be interesting to watch and see how this year’s saints team responds and what the ncaa chooses to do with the baylor athletic department over the next few weeks.

kentucky vs kansas questions

1 Apr

its been about 3 weeks since i started my blog and sadly, that means were nearing the end of the ncaa tournament. but im not sad at all because it just means that tomorrow is the men’s basketball national championship game. and wow, this game bears no disappointment.

i don’t think anyone is really surprised by either team. kentucky is the obvious favorite to win and still, my pick but there are a few obviously huge match-ups that will be key to this game and the team that wins the majority should be the winner of this game.

first, you have probably the two best men’s college basketball players in the country going head-to head. anthony davis is hands down the best player in the country right now but kansas’ thomas robinson is right there behind him. will this be a game where davis dominates in the paint? or will this be grueling battle under the net and on the boards.

second, if both teams’ final four games are any indication, this game could be close. kentucky easily pulled away from louisville in the beginning but then allowed them to come incredibly close. louisville did this with their defense. then in the 2nd game, kansas was down by double digits to ohio state and came back riding their defensive pressure. im gonna guess that this game will be close throughout. in fact, i hope this game will be close. will kansas’ defense give kentucky a problem?

third, the supporting casts. while davis and robinson are the “stars” of each team, they would not be in this game if it wasn’t for their supports casts. michael kidd-gilchrist, terrence jones, marquis teague and darius miller have showed that they’re not a one man or even three-man team. they are a team for a reason. when one guy is in foul trouble, they can still beat you. and then you have kansas’ team. tyshawn taylor is a huge part of what kansas does as is jeff withey. but if taylor and withy don’t show up this could be a long night. so which team is better?

lastly, two of the biggest coaches in men’s basketball are meeting in the biggest game of the season. but wait, didn’t they do this in 2008? yep. john calipari and bill self met each other when calipari was the coach of memphis. can calipari finally win a championship? memphis looked poised to win in 2008 but they let it slip away to kansas. can self pull off another upset victory over coach cal? this will probably be one of the biggest stories of the game.

well…kentucky is one of the best freshman-filled teams ever. they are pretty unselfish despite their futures in the NBA and if they play like they have, they should win this game.  im going with kentucky like i have since march madness started. but, im hoping this game is close and i hope that everyone who has kentucky as the winner gets nervous, because isn’t that what the ncaa tournament is all about?

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one more thought: while everyone is complaining about anthony davis’ unibrow here’s my thought. if i was anthony davis and the best basketball player in the country, i would do whatever i wanted. i would say who cares if they make fun of my unibrow? im anthony davis. and then i would laugh. its his signature. good for him.

Final Four thoughts

26 Mar

So the stage has been set. The final four features 4 really great teams. #1 seed Kentucky, #2 Ohio state, #2 Kansas and #4 Louisville.

Final Fours are always filled with what ifs and stories about which teams didn’t make it but this is about what teams made it and how they have gotten where they are.

The only team I’m really surprised by is #2 seeded Ohio state. I’m thoroughly impressed by their resilience and the path they have taken to reach the final four. They played a great game against a Syracuse team that was struggling. We can’t sit here and ask the questions “what if” about Ohio state. They have made it. Great for them. Jared Sullinger and Thad Motta have taken this team far.

I really like this Kansas team because I honestly feel like they are a complete and together team. Bill self has done a great job making them a team and they did just beat UNC.

Wow. I am so impressed by Louisville. I actually have them in my final four because I was so impressed by their play in the big east tournament. They have definitely shown that they are a team to be reckoned with and if I was Kentucky, i would beware right now. Rick Pitino is one good coach.

Oh. But then you have Kentucky. The lone #1 seed left in the tournament. I still have them winning it all. Now I know, Kentucky is the “safe” pick but they are the most complete and the best team in this final four. They have star power,Coach Calipari, play as a team, and can now make their free throws!

So I picked Kentucky because I think they will win but I’m not going to lie, I would love to see Louisville pull the upsets.

There are so many great things about the final four. What I love about it is the hoopla that leads up to the games, the states, and the effort and excitement that follows it all.

Here we go….

the battle of the coaches

23 Mar

so syracuse vs. ohio state, louisville vs. florida. or should i say boeheim vs. matta, pitino vs. donovan?

i bet if you heard all 4 of these names you would probably know how huge they were. if you didn’t know 4 of probably the biggest names in ncaa basketball coaching right now. just another reason why the 1st two games of the elite 8 are going to be fun.

so first you have syracuse and ohio state. so many people thought syracuse would be the first #1 seed to lose because of their recent player woes. but they have actually been one of the biggest surprises so far. they have shown that they are still a team made up of great players and coaches. it wasn’t easy against wisconsin but they pulled out a win and deserve to be in the elite eight. plus, they’re led by jim boeheim, 3rd on the all time coaches win list and clearly a coach who can inspire his players to play past the scandals.

i am probably the most surprised by this ohio state team. while they are the #2 seed in the region, i honestly didn’t think they would make it this far. in the past, they have not made it past the sweet sixteen so it’ll be interesting to see how thad matta and his team handle the pressure of a big game like this and the defensive pressure of syracuse. thad matta is probably the least storied coach of these 4 but he is big time. jared sullinger and aaron craft have both proved to be important to their team and will need to have big games in order to get past syracuse.

earlier this week i said i was rooting for louisville to win and they definitely won big. louisville shocked many last night when they won a huge game versus the heavily favored and #1 seed michigan state spartans. from the beginning, louisville’s defensive pressure was too much for michigan state to handle. louisville used their defense together with some huge 3s in the second half to show everyone why they won the big east championship a few weeks ago. the big east has been here before. last year uconn took their big east tournament win all the way to the national championship and won. so can louisville do what uconn did last year? what i love about this louisville team is that they are not just a one man show. they are led by petyton siva but they have a few guys who have stepped up and could prove to be huge when they play florida on saturday. louisville is coached by rick pitino, a highly regarded coach known for his defense.

and then there is florida, the other side of this story. a #7 seed who is clearly peaking at the right time. florida has been battle tested and clearly shows why its important to play a tough schedule throughout the season. the gators are definitely not your typical #7 seed and with bradley beal playing like he is now, their game saturday will be a site to see. if florida can handle the defense of louisville, this could be the best game of the elite eight. plus, the last time billy donovan made the elite eight, he won the national championship.

this will again be a battle of coaches, pitino vs donovan, who will win?

looking forward to these games but definitely not looking past the exciting games that will be on tonight!!

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cinderella at the big dance

19 Mar

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its the story we love to read, its david beating goliath, the little man beating the big man, and its what march madness is all about. this past weekend was just another reason why we love to be sports fans. it was not about the best team in the country, it was about the team with the heart, the coach who takes his team to great heights, and the athletes who take everyone by surprise.

this past weekend we saw two heavily favored #2 seeds go down and in true cinderella fashion. lehigh and norfolk state showed why we love to root for the underdog. while neither team made it onto the sweet sixteen, no one will forget those wins for a long time.

this year’s tournament sweet sixteen is exactly what defines the ncaa tournament. we still have all 4 #1 seeds, kentucky, unc, michigan state, and syracuse but only two #2 seeds left (ohio state and kansas).

let’s look at the midwest region first. right now it seems that unc has the easiest game coming up playing #13 seed ohio. but if this past weekend is any indication, i don’t think unc will be taking them lightly. its going to be interesting to see how unc will respond with the injury to kendall marshall but they did well without john henson so i would not be too worried.

#11 nc state/#2 kansas is a matchup that seems to be another easy one for kansas until you look at what nc state has done these last few weeks. nc state just beat san diego state and georgetown. at this point in the tournament, seeds don’t really matter, and if you ask duke or missouri, they’ll probably tell you they haven’t mattered since the beginning.

im really looking forward to both games in the west region. #1 michigan state is looking great right now but so is #4 louisville. both teams have a highly regarded star in draymond green and peyton siva and two highly successful coaches in tom izzo and rick pitino. will it be green or siva? izzo or pitino? im a huge peyton siva fan and im rooting for louisville but im thinking the winner of this game could go to the final four.

but then you go to the other game: #3 marquette and #7 florida. again, i wouldn’t underestimate this lower seeded florida team. they have had some questionable losses this season but they played a tough schedule for a reason. im going to guess that they have learned from their losses this season and are at their peak. but, im rooting for the big east team here because i think marquette is a solid team with great coaching and star power as well.

#1 kentucky will probably be the team to emerge from the south region and into the final four (i still have them winning the championship) but i don’t think the road will be easy. they have to get through a highly successful #4 indiana team who the last time they were in the sweet sixteen, made it to the championship game. this game could be close.

and then there is #3 baylor/#10 xavier. im not surprised that baylor is in this game but i am surprised by xavier. however, xavier showed everyone that they can come back from big deficits. it’ll be interesting to see which team plays better in this matchup.

one more region, the east region. this region definitely features some surprise teams. #1 syracuse has definitely shocked people in the way they have responded to the loss of fab melo but they looked good in their last game versus kansas state. however, this #4 wisconsin team did just beat a heavily favored vanderbilt team. im excited to see what defense the badgers will use and how the orange will respond. wisconsin might have been the favorite to beat syracuse last week but so was kansas state.

and then you have #6 cincinnati vs #2 ohio state. wow. that’s the word to describe cincinnati and their win over highly favored florida state. no one saw them coming, except for maybe syracuse, who cinci beat two weeks ago in the big east tournament. im surprised by ohio state because they seemed to be a better team early in the season. however, it does not look like jared sullinger will let his buckeyes lose in the sweet sixteen again.

will some cinderella teams emerge in the sweet sixteen rounds? or will all the higher seeds prevail?

march 22nd and 23rd should be a fun-filled two days…