Wednesday, June 10, 2009

This has been one hell of an off-season

The NBA Draft is just 15 days away. The deadline for early entrants that haven't signed with an agent to pull out of the draft is next Monday, all of five days away.

But how much have you read about the Draft - which prospects could go where, potential trades on draft night, who is hurting/helping their stock with workouts - over the last few weeks?

Seriously, go through the archives of your favorite basketball blogs and major media outlets. How much has been written about the Draft?

Not a lot. Why?

A big reason is that this college basketball off-season has turned into a season of the OC. And I'm not talking about the first or second seasons, that were at worst watchable and at best awesome. I'm talking about the fourth season, when Marissa had been killed off and Cohen had become played out and predictable.

All kidding aside, can you remember an off-season with anywhere close to this much drama?

It started while the NCAA Tournament was still going on, when Yahoo! Sports released a report accusing UConn and hall-of-fame head coach Jim Calhoun of pretty serious recruiting violations. The report stated that, among other things, the Huskies had well surpassed the allowed number of phone calls while recruiting Nate Miles and that they knowingly used former student manager and (aspiring?) NBA agent Josh Nochimson as a go-between for Miles and Ater Majok.

A hall of famer that coaches a team that has won two titles in the last decade (and reached this season's Final Four) being accused of major recruiting violations is a big deal, and usually would be enough to keep the college hoops world talking through October.

But this year, we were just getting started.

The next saga to play out was in the state of Kentucky, where Billy Gillispie failed to get the Wildcats into the NCAA Tournament a year after being bounced in the first round. Of course, this was unacceptable in Big Blue Nation. After much speculation, Gillispie was fired by the university, but not before he was infamously chased through the UK basketball offices by a reporter.

That wouldn't be the end of Gillispie, as he sued Kentucky for $6 million for breach of contract. Kentucky counter-sued because, among other reasons, Gillispie never in fact signed a contract.

With arguably the best job in all of college basketball available, rumors began flying as to who would replace Gillispie in Lexington. It was fitting that Kentucky AD Mitch Barnhart would choose John Calipari, the very man he passed over for Gillispie two years ago because of the "baggage" that Coach Cal carried (food for thought for you Kentucky fans singing Coach Cal's praises. Say Barnhart gave Cal the job in 2007 instead of Gillispie, and Cal was able to bring Derrick Rose with him to Kentucky. All this talk of NCAA sanctions would be involving your school instead of Memphis. Good decision by Barnhart? But I digress).

Cal's first order of business? Dismantle his loaded recruiting class at Memphis and redirect them to Lexington, where he has managed to put together the most talented team in the country. In his wake, however, he left Memphis a program without a star player or a legitimate head coaching candidate.

Perhaps the strangest storyline of this off-season was how much trouble Memphis and Arizona had filling their head coaching vacancies. Memphis was reportedly interested in, well, everyone - from Baylor's Scott Drew, to Missouri's Mike Anderson, to USC's Tim Floyd, and everyone in between - before finally settling on up-and-comer Josh Pastner. Arizona was rebuked by a number of candidates, including Pitt's Jamie Dixon and USC's Tim Floyd (yes, Arizona was desperate enough to offer the job to Tim Floyd, more on him in a bit), before they inked Xavier's Sean Miller ... after Miller initially rejected their offer.

Back to Cal, the most important by-product of his move to Kentucky was that, for the second time in his coaching career, he left a school with a slew of NCAA allegations hanging over their head.

Those NCAA allegations were, and still are, quite a story all by themselves. First, news broke that Derrick Rose may have been ineligible for the 2007-08 season. Why? Because someone else allegedly took his SAT's for him. Then, word came out that Rose may have had his grades changed when he was in high school. Specifically, he had a D changed to a C on the transcripts that were sent to colleges.

Of course, Coach Cal knew nothing about it (which, for you cynics, may have actually been true).

Then, word gets out that not only was Robert Dozier not allowed in Georgia because of his SAT's (apparently, after scoring a 1260 on his first test, Dozier's score was flagged, and he scored a 720 on the next attempt), but Doneal Mack was not allowed into Florida because of questions involving his SAT scores.

Could anyone on that Memphis team even spell Final Four?

Coach Cal wasn't the only coach in bluegrass country to make a splash in the national headlines. You can't forget about Rick Pitino, who called the FBI on Karen Sypher, the estranged wife of a former Pitino colleague, after she attempted to extort him out of $10 million. She was interviewed by a local TV news station, but her claims were so incredible (and, apparently, unbelievable) that journalistic integrity said they could not report them until the claims could be verified.

I would love to know what Sypher claims happened. She has since been indicted on extortion charges.

And then we have Tim Floyd. Not three months ago, Tim Floyd was living the dream. After reaching the second round of the tournament (his third straight trip to the dance), Floyd had a roster full of talent set to return and a great recruiting class set to come in.

But then everything started to unravel. First, Renardo Sidney was denied entrance into USC for a multitude of reasons, the majority of which involve Sidney possibly being ineligible for college hoops. He eventually signed with Rick Stansbury at Mississippi State.

Then, came the bombshell - Yahoo! Sports confirmed that Louis Johnson, a former associate of Guillory and Mayo, said, under oath nonetheless, that he saw Floyd hand Guillory an envelope full of benjamins. The players must have known that this was coming, because even before the May 12th article was posted online, USC was hemorraging players. Daniel Hackett, Demar Derozan, Taj Gibson (who hasn't hired an agent, but is almost guaranteed to stay in the draft at this point), and Marcus Johnson all went pro. Noel Johnson, Lamont Jones, and Solomon Hill all withdrew from their commitments/LOI's to USC.

Things were so bad at USC, that Floyd was looking at possibly having to start Percy Miller, aka Lil' Romeo, who had come to USC as a package deal to land Derozan as an under the radar prospect.

And yesterday, the icing on the cake. Floyd stepped down as head coach at USC, leaving the school, in mid-June, without a head coach and with a roster that is half-full. It may be a while before we see USC back in the dance.

I still haven't mentioned stories like Isiah Thomas' hiring at FIU, the Jeremy Tyler-Nick Calathes-Terrence Oglesby trek abroad, the fact that Lance Stephenson - a top 10 recruit, a program changing talent, and a kid that went toe-to-toe with OJ Mayo as a HS freshman - has still yet to find a program that is willing to take on his baggage, or the spat that Paul Hewitt and Steve Cohen had over the NBA's age limit.

And everyone thought Brandon Jennings going to Europe was a big deal last summer.

1 comment:

Kyle (easily distracted from bar studying) said...

put drose on a team with bradley, crawford, jasper, legion, patterson, stevenson, meeks, and any other recruit calipari could have swindled away from memphis... are you kidding me? ill take that national championship thank you very much and bet on the ncaa letting us off the hook because their own clearing house said drose could play