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New-look WCC feature Stoudamire and Porter’s NBA pedigrees

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SANTA CLARA, Calif. (AP) Herb Sendek walks across Santa Clara’s campus from his Leavey Center office to the iconic Mission church and stops for a moment at his favorite landmark. It’s a special spot for a brief respite from the fundamentals-focused basketball preparation with his Broncos.

While Sendek is busy rebuilding men’s basketball at Santa Clara, Damon Stoudamire and Terry Porter have brought some serious NBA pedigree to coaching in the mid-major West Coast Conference trying to get their programs on track. Add to the list of new faces first-year San Francisco coach Kyle Smith, fresh off an impressive six-year run at Columbia.

The league, still largely unheralded despite its decades-long run of postseason success, is suddenly boasting some high-profile coaching names to go along with the old staples of No. 14 Gonzaga’s Mark Few and Randy Bennett at 17th-ranked Saint Mary’s, which might have one of its best teams yet after a 29-win season . The Zags and Gaels shared the WCC regular-season crown last season and are picked by the coaches to go 1-2.

“I have a very healthy respect for the West Coast Conference and I really believe it’s on the verge of exploding,” said Sendek, back on the bench following a year away after his dismissal at Arizona State . “Clearly you have the top tier that has been dominant for the last many years but you also sense a renewed commitment from the other schools to be even more competitive. It’s a terrific basketball league.”

In Portland, Porter sometimes points to examples of NBA players emerging from the WCC to make big impacts at the next level.

Smith, who went 101-82 at Columbia with a Tournament title and 25-10 record last season, is hardly new to the WCC yet now takes on a storied program determined to be a regular contender again. A former top assistant under Bennett at Saint Mary’s who also worked at San Diego, he has connections to several programs and most of the other coaches.

“I coached in the league for 17 years and I’ve always thought it’s really the one league I know, so I think it’s a great time,” Smith said. “Over the last five years you’ve had three programs that have emerged and they’ve been good, they’ve kind of gotten to the top, and it looks like some other programs are really trying to regain some of their past glory and make it interesting. I think they will, and I think it will be healthy for the league with these new coaches. It’s a big investment trying to make the league better.”

Porter rarely speaks of his own playing experiences while chuckling and noting, “they’re so young” and won’t remember him anyway. Rick Adelman has stopped by Pilots practice to provide “another set of eyes on things,” and Porter speaks to his former coach with the Spurs, Gregg Popovich, on occasion for any tips on starting something new and building a system – and family atmosphere.

“It’s personal core values and me being on championship-caliber teams sharing what do we hold true and what helped us be successful,” Porter said.

Smith’s ties to Bennett are just a start in the close-knit conference.

Porter’s son, Franklin, played for Bennett in the suburban East Bay hills of Moraga.

Bennett is thrilled to see the WCC generate more attention with all the change.

“I knew Terry because of Franklin. He’s just a class act,” Bennett said. “I’ve known Damon Stoudamire since he was about 15 and always considered him a really good guy, and a guy that’s a friend. I’ve known Herb and have a lot of respect for him as a coach. We’ve gotten to know each other because he’s been out West. Obviously Kyle, I have a long history with and a really good friend.

“All four of them I know, it’s pretty cool that way … good, talented people. It’s going to help the league. The league’s going to get stronger.”

Sendek’s own coaching tree is strong: He has watched 12 of his former assistants or other staff members become Division I head coaches. He has found a good fit.

“I do feel refreshed,” he said.

All of the new coaches are realizing challenges with starting fresh.

Porter accepted the job right before his players took finals, then they went their separate ways for the summer. So he has spent much of the preseason finding a groove.

“Being around them and talking about some of our team identities and trying to build some of those things, it was something we’ve had to get into a little bit later,” he said. “The guys have really embraced it.”

New Golden State Warriors top assistant Mike Brown played at San Diego for Bennett and also knows Smith, Few, Porter and Stoudamire. Brown’s allegiances will stay in Southern California with the Toreros and coach Lamont Smith, an ex-USD player and another former Saint Mary’s assistant.

Brown is eager to watch Bennett – who has been turning up at Golden State practices this fall – face off with good friend-turned rival Kyle Smith.

“This is a big-time conference,” Brown said. “This conference is not an easy conference. It will be interesting to see how both those guys do. I’m sure they’ll do great. I’m glad I’m so close to be able to pop in and catch a game. It’s going to be a fun year for the West Coast Conference.”

The WCC sent three of its then-eight teams to the NCAA Tournament in 2008 for the first time then again in 2012 once BYU joined the 10-team league.

“The coaching and the turnover this year has changed dramatically but you still have the two major staples in Mark and Randy,” Porter said. “It’s going to be fun to see the conference get after it.”

Louisville challenges NCAA over recruiting allegations

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LOUISVILLE, Ky. — Louisville has refuted NCAA allegations against its men’s basketball program in the wake of a federal corruption scandal, requesting that the highest-level violation be reclassified.

The university also is challenging that former coach Rick Pitino failed to promote an atmosphere of compliance in his program.

Louisville filed a 104-page response last week to the Notice Of Allegations sent to the school in May. The document stated that college sports’ governing body seeks to ignore wire fraud convictions against several people involved in the scheme – including a former Adidas executive – by suggesting they were representing its athletic interests. Louisville’s contract with the apparel maker was a standard sponsorship agreement rather than a promotional deal, the response added.

“This argument is as novel as it is wrong,” the school wrote in its response. “Even if an institution has some responsibility for the conduct of its suppliers, that responsibility plainly does not extend to acts of fraud perpetrated against the institution itself.”

Louisville also seeks to have several second-tier violations reclassified even lower. The NCAA has until Nov. 15 to respond with the school responding 15 days after before a decision is made whether the case will proceed through the traditional Committee on Infractions or Independent Accountability Review Process (IARP).

The NCAA’s Notice of Allegations states that Louisville committed a Level I violation, considered the most severe, with an improper recruiting offer and extra benefits along with several lesser violations. Those lesser violations also include Pitino failing to promote an atmosphere of compliance.

The NCAA notice completed a two-year investigation following a federal corruption probe of college basketball announced in September 2017. Louisville acknowledged its involvement in the federal investigation related to the recruitment of former player Brian Bowen II. Pitino, who’s now coaching Iona, was not named in the federal complaint and has consistently denied authorizing or having knowledge of a payment to a recruit’s family.

Louisville has previously indicated it would accept responsibility for violations it committed but would contest allegations it believed were not supported by facts. The school also noted corrective measures taken in the scandal’s immediate aftermath, such as suspending and then firing Pitino and athletic director Tom Jurich.

Louisville also dismissed the NCAA’s contention that former Adidas executive James Gatto and amateur league director Merl Code represented the school while funneling illegal payments to recruits at several schools.

“The enforcement staff’s remaining allegations lack factual support and overread the relevant Bylaws,” the response stated, “and rest on the erroneous contention that the conspirators were representatives of the University’s athletics interests.

“For these reasons and others set forth, the panel should reject the enforcement staff’s dramatically overbroad theory, and classify this case as involving a Level II-Mitigated violation.”

Bubbles brewing with season on horizon

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INDIANAPOLIS — With the coronavirus pandemic already forcing changes for college basketball, a bubble may be brewing in Indianapolis.

Indiana Sports Corp. released a 16-page proposal Friday that calls for turning the city convention center’s exhibition halls and meeting rooms into basketball courts and locker rooms. There would be expansive safety measures and daily COVID-19 testing.

The all-inclusive price starts at $90,000 per team and would cover 20 hotel rooms per traveling party, testing, daily food vouchers ranging from $30-$50 and the cost of game officials. Sports Corp. President Ryan Vaughn said the price depends on what offerings teams or leagues choose.

“The interest has been high,” Vaughn said. “I think as conferences figure out what conference and non-conference schedules are going to look like, we’re we’re a very good option for folks. I would tell you we’ve had conversations with the power six conferences, mid-majors, it’s really kind of all over the Division I spectrum.”

Small wonder: The NCAA this week announced teams could start ramping up workouts Monday, with preseason practices set to begin Oct. 14. Season openers, however, were pushed back to Nov. 25 amid wide-ranging uncertainty about campus safety and team travel in the pandemic.

There is already scrambling going on and some of the marquee early-season tournaments have already been impacted.

The Maui Invitational will be moved from Hawaii to Asheville, North Carolina, with dates still to be determined and organizers clear that everyone involved “will be in a bubble environment that limits their movement and interaction outside the venue.” The Batttle 4 Atlantis has been canceled. The Cancun Challenge will be held in Melbourne, Florida, not Mexico.

More changes almost certainly will be coming, including what to do with the ACC-Big Ten Challenge.

“I think we’re past the guesswork on whether we play 20 conference games or more than that,” Purdue coach Matt Painter said Friday. “We’re trying to get everybody set like in terms of MTEs (multi-team events), figuring out when to play the ACC-Big Ten challenge.”

Painter, who was part of the NCAA committee that recommended how to start the season, noted part of the uncertainty stems from differing protocols imposed by campus, city and state officials.

In Indianapolis, Vaughn believes the convention center, nearby hotels, restaurants and downtown businesses, many within walking distance of the venue, could safely accommodate up to 24 teams. The 745,000-square foot facility would feature six basketball courts and two competition courts.

Anyone entering the convention center would undergo saliva-based rapid response testing, which would be sent to a third-party lab for results. Others venues could be added, too, potentially with more fans, if the case numbers decline.

If there is a taker, the event also could serve as a dry run for the 2021 Final Four, also slated for Indy.

“It’s not going to hurt,” Vaughn said. “I can tell you all the planning we’re doing right now is the same for a Final Four that’s been scheduled here for any other year. But it would be nice to have this experience under our belt to see if it can be done.”

Maui Invitational moving to North Carolina during pandemic

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ASHEVILLE, N.C. — The Maui Invitational is moving to the mainland during the coronavirus pandemic.

One of the premier preseason tournaments on the college basketball schedule, the Maui Invitational will be played at the Harrah’s Cherokee Center in downtown Asheville, North Carolina.

Dates for the tournament announced Friday have yet to be finalized. The NCAA announced Wednesday that the college basketball season will begin Nov. 25.

This year’s Maui Invitational field includes Alabama, Davidson, Indiana, North Carolina, Providence, Stanford, Texas and UNLV.

All teams, staff, officials, and personnel will be in a bubble environment that limits their movement and interaction outside the venue.

Burton eligible at Texas Tech after 2 seasons at Wichita State

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LUBBOCK, Texas — Junior guard Jamarius Burton has been granted a waiver from the NCAA that makes him eligible to play this season for Texas Tech after starting 52 games the past two seasons for Wichita State.

Texas Tech coach Chris Beard announced the waiver Thursday, which came five months after Burton signed with the Big 12 team.

Burton has two seasons of eligibility remaining, as well as a redshirt season he could utilize. He averaged 10.3 points and 3.4 assists per game as a sophomore at Wichita State, where he played 67 games overall.

Burton is from Charlotte. He helped lead Independence High School to a 31-1 record and the North Carolina Class 4A state championship as a senior there.

NCAA season set to open day before Thanksgiving

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The NCAA men’s and women’s basketball season will begin on Nov. 25, the day before Thanksgiving.

The Division I Council voted Wednesday to push the start date back from the originally scheduled Nov. 10 as one of several precautions against the spread of coronavirus.

The later start date coincides with the decision most schools made to send students home from Thanksgiving until January out of concern about a potential late-fall and early-winter flareup of COVID-19. Closed campuses could serve as a quasi bubble for players and provide a window for non-conference games.

The maximum number of regular-season games has been reduced from 31 to 27. The minimum number of games for consideration for the NCAA Tournament was cut from 25 to 13.

Teams can start preseason practices Oct. 14 but will be allowed to work out 12 hours per week beginning Monday.

No scrimmages against other teams or exhibitions are allowed.

In other action, the council voted to extend the recruiting dead period for all sports through Dec. 31. In-person recruiting is not allowed during a dead period, though phone calls and other correspondence are allowed.

The men’s and women’s basketball oversight committees had jointly recommended a start date of Nov. 21, which would have allowed for games to be played on the weekend before Thanksgiving. The council opted not to do that to avoid a conflict with regular-season football games.

The council is scheduled to meet again Oct. 13-14 and could delay the start date and change other pieces of the basketball framework if circumstances surrounding the virus warrant.