Kentucky’s John Calipari on short list of coaches with four Final Four appearances over five seasons

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Last weekend Kentucky head coach John Calipari joined an esteemed group of coaches who have managed (at the very least) to lead their schools to four Final Four appearances within a five-year span.

Below are the other coaches in the history of the event who have made four Final Four appearances within a five-year period or better, with John Wooden and Mike Krzyzewski. Also listed are coaches who have managed to lead their programs to three Final Four appearances within a four-year period or three consecutive appearances (which includes Michigan State’s Tom Izzo).

Coaches who have reached four Final Fours in five seasons:

– John Wooden (UCLA) 1964-65, 67-75
In regards to championships won Wooden is the gold standard in the sport, and after dealing some complaints about the lack of a Final Four appearance he led the Bruins to 11 Final Fours in a 12-year span. UCLA won ten national titles during that period, with 1966 (didn’t reach the NCAA tournament) and 1974 (national semifinal loss to NC State) being the exceptions. That NC State loss was also the lone defeat UCLA suffered in the Final Four during this run.

– Mike Krzyzewski (Duke) 1986, 88-92, 94
Coach K is in Indianapolis this weekend, and his first great run at Duke began with the 1986 team reaching the national title game where they lost to Louisville. Two years later Duke began a streak of five consecutive Final Four appearances. Duke lost in the national semifinals in both 1988 and 1989 before losing to UNLV in the 1990 title game, and they would break through with national titles in 1991 and 1992. Add in a title game appearance in 1994, and Duke reached the final four in seven of nine years.

– John Calipari (Kentucky) 2011-12, 2014-15
In Calipari’s three prior Final Four appearances with the Kentucky program, two of the runs were ended by UConn. The Huskies eliminated UK in the national semifinals in 2011, and they beat them in the 2014 national title game as well. Kentucky won it all in 2012, beating Kansas in the title game.

Coaches who have led their program to three Final Four appearances in a four-year period (or three straight):

Harold Olsen (Ohio State) 1944-46
These were the early days of the NCAA tournament, when there was just two regions (East and West). Olsen’s Buckeyes lost in the regional final, which would be today’s national semifinals, in each of their three appearances and won the first-ever third-place game in 1946.

Adolph Rupp (Kentucky) 1948-49, 51
Rupp’s Wildcats won the national title in each of their three Final Four appearances during this stretch, becoming the second program (Oklahoma A&M) to win back-to-back titles in 1948 and 1949.

Harry Combes (Illinois) 1949, 51-52
The Fighting Illini had an up-close view of two of those Kentucky teams, falling to the Wildcats in the regional final in both 1949 and 1951. Kentucky wasn’t around to serve as a roadblock in 1952, but Illinois ended up losing to eventual runner-up St. John’s that season.

Phil Woolpert (San Francisco) 1955-57
Woolpert’s national title teams were led by the great Bill Russell, with the Dons beating La Salle in the 1955 national title game and Iowa the following season. USF’s run came to an end in the 1957 national semifinals, where they lost to a Kansas team led by Wilt Chamberlain.

Ed Jucker (Cincinnati) 1961-63
Jucker led the Bearcats to consecutive national titles in 1961 and 1962, his first two seasons as head coach. George Smith led Cincinnati to the Final Four in both 1959 and 1960. After winning the two national titles, Cincinnati lost to Loyola (IL) in the 1963 national title game.

 

Vic Bubas (Duke) 1963-64, 66
Some may not realize just how good the Duke basketball program has been throughout the history of the game, and not just when Mike Krzyzewski has been in charge. Bubas led the Blue Devils to three Final Four appearances in a four-year period, falling in the semis in both 1963 and 1966 and in the national title game in 1964 to UCLA.

Dean Smith (North Carolina) 1967-69
Smith was one of many whose runs to prominence wound up being overshadowed by UCLA during the 1960’s. His Tar Heels made three consecutive Final Four appearances from 1967-69, with their loss to the Bruins in 1968 coming in between national semifinal losses to Dayton (1967) and Purdue (1969).

Guy V. Lewis (Houston) 1982-84
Lewis led the Cougars to their first Final Four appearance in 1982, losing to North Carolina in the national semifinals, and in each of the following two years Houston reached the title game. UH lost both of those contests, falling to NC State in a thriller in 1983 and to Georgetown in 1984.

John Thompson (Georgetown) 1982, 84-85
During the infancy of the Big East it was Georgetown that made the biggest splash nationally, reaching the national title game in 1982 and winning it all two seasons later. Thompson’s quest for a repeat in 1985 fell short however, as fellow Big East member Villanova beat the Hoyas in the title game.

Tom Izzo (Michigan State) 1999-2001
Of the four coaches at this year’s Final Four, Izzo is the one with the most recent run of three consecutive appearances as his occurred from 1999 to 2001. The 2000 national title was sandwiched in between national semifinal losses in 1999 (Duke) and 2001 (Arizona).

Ben Howland (UCLA) 2006-08
The new head coach at Mississippi State managed to lead UCLA to three straight Final Four appearances but none resulted in a national title. After falling to Florida in 2006 (title game) and 2007 (national semifinals), UCLA lost to Memphis in the 2008 national semifinals.

Information from Sports-reference.com was used in the compilation of this post.

Kentucky’s Tionna Herron recovering from open-heart surgery

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LEXINGTON, Ky. — Kentucky coach Kyra Elzy says freshman Tionna Herron is recovering from open-heart surgery to correct a structural abnormality.

The 6-foot-4 post player learned of her condition after arriving at school in June and received other opinions before surgery was recommended. Senior trainer Courtney Jones said in a release that Herron underwent surgery Aug. 24 at Texas Children’s Hospital in Houston and is recovering at home in DeSoto, Texas.

Elzy said Herron “is the definition of a warrior” and all are grateful to be on the other side of the player’s surgery. Herron is expected back on campus early next month and will continue rehabilitation until she’s cleared to return to normal activity.

“Her will and determination to eventually return to the court is inspiring, and it’s that `game-on’ attitude that is what makes her such a perfect fit in our program,” Elzy said in a release. “We are so thrilled for Tionna’s return to our locker room; it’s not the same without our full team together.”

Herron committed to Kentucky during last fall’s early signing period, rated as a four-star prospect and a top-70 player in last year’s class. Kentucky won last year’s Southeastern Conference Tournament and reached the NCAA Tournament’s first round.

Emoni Bates charged with 2 felonies

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SUPERIOR TOWNSHIP, Mich — Emoni Bates, a former basketball prodigy who transferred to Eastern Michigan from Memphis, was charged with two felonies after police found a gun in a car during a traffic stop.

The 18-year-old Bates failed to stop at an intersection Sunday night and a search turned up the weapon, said Derrick Jackson, a spokesman for the Washtenaw County sheriff’s office.

Defense attorney Steve Haney told The Associated Press that the vehicle and the gun didn’t belong to Bates.

“I hope people can reserve judgment and understand there’s a presumption of innocence,” Haney said. “This was not his vehicle. This was not his gun. … We’re still gathering facts, too.”

Bates was charged with carrying a concealed weapon and altering identification marks on a firearm. He was released after his lawyer entered a not guilty plea. Bates’ next court hearing is Oct. 6.

“This is his first brush with the law,” Haney said in court. “He poses no threat or risk to society.”

Less than a month ago, the 6-foot-9 Bates transferred to Eastern Michigan to play for his hometown Eagles. Bates averaged nearly 10 points a game last season as a freshman at Memphis, where he enrolled after reclassifying to skip a year of high school and join the class of 2021.

“We are aware of a situation involving one of our student athletes,” EMU spokesman Greg Steiner said. “We are working to gather more details and will have further comment when more information is available.”

Bates was the first sophomore to win the Gatorade national player of the year award in high school basketball in 2020, beating out Cade Cunningham and Evan Mobley. Detroit drafted Cunningham No. 1 overall last year, two spots before Cleveland took Mobley in the 2021 NBA draft.

Bates committed to playing for Tom Izzo at Michigan State two years ago, later de-committed and signed with Memphis. Bates played in 18 games for the Tigers, who finished 22-11 under Penny Hardaway. Bates missed much of the season with a back injury before appearing in Memphis’ two NCAA Tournament games.

In 2019, as a high school freshman, the slender and skilled guard led Ypsilanti Lincoln to a state title and was named Michigan’s Division 1 Player of the Year by The Associated Press. His sophomore season was cut short by the pandemic and he attended Ypsi Prep Academy as a junior, his final year of high school.

UConn to pay Kevin Ollie another $3.9 million over firing

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STORRS, Conn. — UConn announced Thursday it has agreed to pay former men’s basketball coach Kevin Ollie another $3.9 million to settle discrimination claims surrounding his 2018 firing.

The money is in addition to the more than $11.1 million in back salary Ollie has already been paid after an arbitrator ruled in January that he was improperly fired under the school’s agreement with its professor’s union.

“I am grateful that we were able to reach agreement,” Ollie said in a statement Thursday. “My time at UConn as a student-athlete and coach is something I will always cherish. I am pleased that this matter is now fully and finally resolved.”

Ollie, a former UConn point guard who guided the Huskies to a 127-79 record and the 2014 national championship in six seasons as head coach, was let go after two losing seasons. UConn also stopped paying him under his contract, citing numerous NCAA violations in terminating the deal.

In 2019, the NCAA placed UConn on probation for two years and Ollie was sanctioned individually for violations, which the NCAA found occurred between 2013 and 2018. Ollie’s attorneys, Jacques Parenteau and William Madsen, accused UConn of making false claims to the NCAA for the purpose of firing Ollie “with cause.”

The school had argued that Ollie’s transgressions were serious and that his individual contract superseded those union protections.

Ollie’s lawyers had argued that white coaches, including Hall-of-Famers Jim Calhoun and women’s coach Geno Auriemma, had also committed NCAA violations, without being fired, and indicated they were planning to file a federal civil rights lawsuit.

The school and Ollie said in a joint statement Thursday they were settling “to avoid further costly and protracted litigation.”

Both sides declined to comment further.

Ollie, who faced three years of restrictions from the NCAA on becoming a college basketball coach again, is currently coaching for Overtime Elite, a league that prepares top prospects who are not attending college for the pros.

Dream’s McDonald returning to Arizona to coach under Barnes

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TUCSON, Ariz. — Atlanta Dream guard Aari McDonald is returning to Arizona to work under coach Adia Barnes.

The school announced that McDonald will serve as director of recruiting operations while continuing to fulfill her WNBA commitments. She will oversee all recruiting logistics, assist with on-campus visits, manage recruit information and social media content at Arizona.

McDonald was one of the best players in Arizona history after transferring from Washington as a sophomore. She was an All-American and the Pac-12 player of the year in 2020-21, leading the Wildcats to the national championship game, which they lost to Stanford.

McDonald broke Barnes’ single-season scoring record and had the highest career scoring average in school history before being selected by the Dream with the third overall pick of the 2021 WNBA draft.

South Carolina, Staley cancel BYU games over racial incident

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COLUMBIA, S.C. – South Carolina and women’s basketball coach Dawn Staley have canceled a home-and-home series with BYU over a recent racial incident where a Cougars fan yelled slurs at a Duke volleyball player.

The Gamecocks were scheduled to start the season at home against BYU on Nov. 7, then play at the Utah campus during the 2023-24 season.

But Staley cited BYU’s home volleyball match last month as reason for calling off the series.

“As a head coach, my job is to do what’s best for my players and staff,” Staley said in a statement released by South Carolina on Friday. “The incident at BYU has led me to reevaluate our home-and-home, and I don’t feel that this is the right time for us to engage in this series.”

Duke sophomore Rachel Richardson, a Black member of the school’s volleyball team, said she heard racial slurs from the stands during the match.

BYU apologized for the incident and Richardson said the school’s volleyball players reached out to her in support.

South Carolina said it was searching for another home opponent to start the season.

Gamecocks athletic director Ray Tanner spoke with Staley about the series and supported the decision to call off the games.