The Georgia basketball head coach gave us something to talk about during football season by turning up at a Georgia game. Not only did he show up, he sat with the superfans known as the Spike Crew. And you don’t just sit with the Spike Crew, you dress up like a refugee from Oakland’s Black Hole if you hang with the Spike Crew.
Mark Schlabach got photographic evidence of Fox dressed up in red and black body paint, wearing spiked shoulder pads. A picture is worth a thousand words, so I’ll shut up now.
Syracuse’s top assistant Mike Hopkins has long been a staple of the offseason rumor mill. When openings come up, Jim Boeheim’s right-hand man hears about them. According to a recent article by Mike Waters of the Syracuse Post-Standard, Hopkins usually gives them short shrift. He’s been in serious discussions with St. Bonaventure and Charlotte in the past, but ended up staying put.
When USC came calling at the end of last season, however, Hopkins sat up and listened. Hopkins grew up in southern California, and his parents still live there. The idea of coaching in front of the people who brought him into the world really appealed to Hopkins.
Family ties weren’t just pulling him westward, according to the Post-Standard article, however. Hopkins’ eldest son Griff was none too happy about the idea of moving.
Last winter, Griff Hopkins got off the school bus and raced inside his house to see his father.
“Dad,” said the sixth-grader, “the bus driver said that you’re going to take the USC job. That you’re leaving us. Is that true?”
Mike Hopkins, the long-time assistant basketball coach at Syracuse University, had been in discussions with officials at the University of Southern California about the school’s open head coaching position since mid-February.
And now, there was Griff Hopkins, fresh off the bus, asking his dad if he was leaving Syracuse.
“All he knows is Syracuse,” Hopkins said. Griff is the oldest of Mike and Trish Hopkins’ three children. “No question, if I would’ve left, my son might’ve stopped talking to me.”
Moving your kids from the only home they’ve ever known is a big deal, but it’s a decision parents in and out of the coaching profession make every day, with the overall good of the family in mind. Making his kid happy wasn’t the only thing weighing on Hopkins’ mind. He’s also the presumptive heir to Jim Boeheim, and that’s nothing to sneeze at. Hopkins says he welcomes the challenge of following his mentor, and sustaining the success Boeheim has made commonplace in Syracuse.
In the end, USC chose Andy Enfield instead of Hopkins. Hopkins was somewhat disappointed, but realizes he’s in a great spot.
Hopkins is, so far the exception. Other top assistants have moved on recently, with Coach K sending Chris Collins off to take the helm at Northwestern, and Bill Self’s top lieutenant Joe Dooley sliding into Enfield’s vacated position at Florida Gulf Coast. Those situations are somewhat different, as Collins was surrounded by contenders for K’s eventual open chair, and Dooley was backing up a relatively young coach who likely isn’t going anywhere for a while yet. Boeheim is 68, and has mused on retirement on occasion recently.
It’s interesting to hear the stories behind the coaching carousel. We might as well get to know something about Mike Hopkins now. With Syracuse in the ACC and Boeheim possibly edging toward retirement away from his beloved friends in the media, Hopkins may just inherit one of the most coveted jobs in college hoops, sooner rather than later.
The notion that big-time football should forge its own path has been in the wind for a while now. It makes us college hoops fans feel pretty squeamish, even if we happen to root for a big-time program, because we like our Big Dance and our Cinderellas, and that would change for good if the FBS schools break away.
I, for one, just stick my fingers in my ears and sing “I can’t heeeeeear youuuuu!” when someone brings it up, even in a theoretical context.
A group known as the Division 1-A Faculty Athletics Representatives (FAR) has taken the next step, however. The group, as presented in a letter to the NCAA on September 11 of this year, has drafted a proposal for a so-called “Division IV” that would be composed solely of the universities currently playing FBS football.
The FAR board supports a new division, “more closely aligned in resources dedicated to athletics programs and in types of issues faced,” according to FAR president Brian Shannon, a Texas Tech law professor.
“There is wide consensus that the current Division I governance model is not working,” said Jo Potuto, Nebraska constitutional law professor and past president of the I-A FAR. “A separate FBS division offers more streamlined governance among schools with comparable revenue streams.”
There was no mention at all in the FAR proposal about the effect this new division might have on college basketball, but it doesn’t sound good. The current NCAA tournament model would have to be pretty much scrapped, which shouldn’t sound particularly appealing to the governing body, The NCAA tourney is a huge money-maker, even if basketball’s overall money-making potential pales in comparison to the juggernaut that is big-time college football.
It’s worth noting that FAR has no official power to recommend anything at all to anybody, but they did take the initial step of doing the legwork on a governance model for a separate branch of the NCAA power structure. Chances are, this is just the first shot fired over the bow in this particular battle,
All month long, CBT will be rolling out our 2013-2014 season preview. Check back throughout the day, as we’ll be posting three or four preview items every day.
To browse through the preview posts we’ve already published, click here. For a schedule of our previews for the month, click here.
We’re doing things a little differently this year. Instead of semi-arbitrarily organizing players into artificial five man teams based on the quality and musicality of their names, we’re going to semi-arbitrarily arrange athletes into a power ranking structure, honoring only the top twenty-five player names, with definitive explanations of why each name is so awesome.
First, I’ll tell you what does NOT qualify someone for All Name status. Simply being from another country and having a representative regional name is not enough. Mildly uncommon first names are actually becoming rather standard in the sports world, so your everyday Dundrecous isn’t going to catch my eye. Names that might be funny if pronounced a certain way don’t make the grade on those merits alone, though I did bend that rule a bit.
So who did make the grade, and why? Only one way to find out. Read on, my friend.
1. God’sgift Achiuwa, St. John’s – It’s only fitting that the top spot go to a name that will go down as an all-time great one. God’sgift is the only player I’ve ever seen who’s sporting an apostrophe that signifies possession rather than a quick glottal stop. In addition, his first name is two words smushed into one, and it glides rather naturally into Achiuwa. His given name is impossible to shortcut; you say the whole thing, or you sound blasphemous. This is a Hall of Fame name.
2. McWisdom Badejo, Florida A&M – Would this name have ranked this high if I hadn’t seen Superbad? Probably not. But the image of Bill Hader in a cop uniform shouting “McWisdom, Why?!?” when Badejo commits a turnover or gorks a dunk attempt will not leave my head. In addition, this puts the A&M Rattler center in the somewhat questionable realm of McMansions and McNuggets, indicative of a mass-produced, pre-packaged imitation of real wisdom.
3. Indiana Faithfull, Wofford – First name is one of the 50 United States, check. Last name meaning loyal, constant and steadfast, check. Didn’t go to Indiana, double check. The capper is that he’s from Australia, so he’s more than likely named after Indiana Jones, and not the state.
4. Four McGlynn, Towson – I firmly believe that Moses Malone gave the McGlynn family the inspiration for the Vermont transfer’s first name when he said “Fo’, fo’, fo” in 1983. Prove me wrong.
5. Dakota Slaughter, Alabama – First name is one (technically, two) of the 50 United States. Last name meaning to kill in a violent or brutal manner. Almost as good as Indiana Faithfull, but points off for being a bit terrifying. (Note: when I first published this list, I had the wrong page linked, showing Dakota as a walk-on with no photo or info. ‘Bama emailed me with the proper link and politely requested I change it. When Dakota Slaughter corrects you, believe me, you hop to.)
6. Sir’Dominic Pointer, St. John’s – Sir is not being used as a title here, but it sounds like it when you say it out loud. The random apostrophe is a piquant addition. And Pointer gives St. John’s two players in the top ten. Too bad great names don’t win championships all by themselves.
7. Staats Battle, NC State – If the 6-foot-6 guard is truly in a battle to accumulate staats, er, stats, he’s losing. He’s scored 11 points in two seasons as a member of the Wolfpack. He got in trouble last season, and was reportedly kicked off the team, but the school has listed him as a junior on this year’s roster, so he stays.
8. Biggie Minnis, Rhode Island – His real name is DeShon, but Rhody isn’t keen on that fact. They list him as Biggie on the official website. Throw in the fact that he’s a 185 lb. guard instead of a 300 lb. rapper/center and the picture is complete.
10. Wanaah Bail, UCLA – He did want to bail on Texas Tech after Billy Gillispie kicked off the abusive coaching trend, so he did. A knee injury will cause him to miss some of this season, but we’ll enjoy him as soon as he gets into the rotation for Steve Alford in Westwood.
11. Claybrin McMath, Bryant – Sounds like a character on Adventure Time. His McMath wasn’t too impressive last season, only adding up to 23 points in 26 appearances.
12. Leek Leek, Campbell – The best of a handful of redundant names this season. Brings to mind an escape of fluid from a supposedly sealed container, even though it’s spelled like a double helping of a mild onion-like veggie.
13. Drake U’u, Cal Poly – This guy has been a favorite for years. Plenty of people have random apostrophes in their names, plenty of guys have names with too many vowels or not enough. But the combination of all that in one gloriously short surname is worth celebrating.
14. Jordair Jett, St. Louis – It’s tough to live up to a name that combines parts of Michael Jordan, His Airness, and the speedy imagery of a jet. Jordair might not be quite that good, but he does pretty well for himself on a quality team. Bonus points for the dreads and the Lionel Richie moustache.
16. Daveon Balls, Northern Illinois – You know why this is funny. Don’t make me be crude. If someone has a photo of the back of his jersey, I’ll love you forever.
17. Basil Smotherman, Purdue – If he doesn’t drink tea, play cricket and bow to the Queen he’ll have some explaining to do.
18. Jaron Blossomgame, Clemson – His last name seems so hopeful. Like he’s growing his game into something beautiful under Brad Brownell’s tutelage. That’s the hope, after he spent his first season in school redshirting due to injury.
19. Grandy Glaze, St. Louis – If you can’t order this as a specialty drink at a Starbucks near Chaifetz Arena, there’s something wrong with this world.
20. Jeremy Bogus, Jacksonville – I hope the Dolphins sell his official jersey in the team store, and crack down on any bogus, er counterfeit replicas.
Honorable Mention: Rashad Whack, Mt. St. Mary’s; Chris Manhertz, Canisius; Christian Standhardinger, Hawaii; Yilret Yiljep, American; Alex Biggerstaff, UNC-Asheville; Raven Barber, Mt. St. Mary’s; Canyon Barry, Charleston; Stetson Billings, Arkansas-Little Rock; Gee McGhee, Chattanooga; Onochie Ochie, Southeastern Louisiana; Dusty Hannahs, Texas Tech; Willis Turnipseed, Morgan State
And, not for nothing, two parents of the same generation came up with the same tortured spelling of a fairly common name without, one assumes, conferring first, giving us Xzaivier James of Northern Colorado and Xzaivier Taylor of Bradley. Good show.
In closing, I’d like to pay tribute to the godfather of all run-on basketball names, Dikembe Mutombo. Thanks to comedian @Adam_Newman for specially editing this clip of his performance on Letterman for CBT:
For years, the annual choice to hold the Colonial Athletic Association’s men’s basketball tournament at Richmond Coliseum came under fire from fans of schools outside the borders of Virginia, who felt the location essentially gave teams like VCU, Old Dominion and George Mason a home court advantage.
Anecdotal evidence would seem to have borne that argument out: UNCW is the only team from outside the state borders to win a CAA title since 2000, and James Madison’s auto-bid last year was the first to come from outside the Mason/ODU/VCU triumvirate since 2005.
Of course, that’s largely because none of those three schools will play in the CAA in the future. With the Virginia-based heart of the CAA cut out by realignment, the league tournament has moved to Baltimore, leaving the concrete starship of Richmond Coliseum sadly empty in March.
When the championship tips off in Richmond, it will mark just the third time in its 32-year history that it will take place at a neutral site. Tsongas Arena in Lowell, Mass., played host in 2011, while Showplace Arena in Upper Marlboro, Md., served as host in 2010. The Atlantic 10 is one of only eight conferences (out of 31 league) where the women’s basketball championship will be played at a neutral site, separate from the men’s championship.
I can hear the bitter laughter coming from old-school CAA partisans even now. “Neutral” was only uttered with a wry twist during the CAA’s reign in Richmond, as VCU players and fans didn’t even really have to find parking to make the trek to the Coliseum. In the A-10, that distinction will belong to the Rams and the Richmond Spiders. And Mason will be there, too. Still, the Coliseum provides a nice downtown location and plenty of seating for fans who choose to make the trek.
Hofstra hasn’t made much noise on the court since Charles Jenkins graduated in 2011. With former Niagara head man Joe Mihalich hoping to kick off a new era for the frequent CAA also-rans, something has to change, and fast. The Pride are starting with their uniforms.
From the front, the new Nike uniforms don’t look too terribly different from the old Hofstra image, but I do like the piping down the side of the shorts, which resembles a tie my father would have worn in the 1970s.
As part of the unveiling of the uniforms, four men’s basketball student-athletes showcased the jerseys in a photo gallery. Donning the exciting new gold uniform is junior forward Moussa Kone, while graduate guard Zeke Upshaw is in white, graduate guard Dion Nesmith is in blue and junior guard Juan’ya Green is pictured in the reversible blue and gold practice gear.
As you can tell from the recurrence of the word “graduate” in that snippet, Mihalich will start his tenure at Hofstra with some decent experience to draw on. With just four holdovers from the Mo Cassara era, the Pride have brought in a number of transfers from other programs to fill out a roster that achieved very little last year, finishing 7-25.
If that recipe sounds familiar, it should. Transfers helped another CAA team – the Towson Tigers – engineer the best one-year turnaround in college basketball history last season. Can Hofstra pull off a similar feat?