Michigan State’s Tom Izzo says he’s ‘definitely not retiring,’

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Facing the media for the first time following a bombshell report regarding Michigan State’s handling of sexual assault allegations within the athletic department, Tom Izzo made one thing very clear: He’s not retiring.

“I’m not going anywhere, in my mind,” Izzo said, what could only be interpreted as the coach acknowledging that, yes, he could get fired over this. “I’m definitely not retiring.”

“There’s a lot of things that happened today that are part of life. I’m going to worry about my team, I’m going to worry about the survivors, and I’m going to worry about what I’m going to do.”

That was about the only thing that Izzo definitively responded to on Friday night. In a press conference that lasted just under 12 minutes, Izzo repeatedly referenced those survivors and that he would “hope that I’m a big part of the healing process for them and our campus community.”

More than anything, it sounded as if the coach was coached.

He repeatedly said that he would not answer questions about ESPN’s bombshell report, which included allegations against a former player-turned-assistant coach, Travis Walton, as well as four former players, only two of whom were named — Adreian Payne and Keith Appling.

“We’ll cooperate with any investigation going forward as we have always done,” Izzo said in a prepared statement, conveniently ignoring the simple truth that Michigan State had been nothing but uncooperative with any investigations in the past, going as far as suing ESPN three times to prevent them from obtaining documents that made their way into today’s story. “And that’s about all I have to say about it. I understand you might have a million questions. I’m probably not going to answer them. I’m going to stick to what I said and talk about the game.”

This was expected. Last week, Izzo created a firestorm when he spoke off-the-cuff about former Michigan State president Lou Anna Simon. “I have to say, though, that I have the utmost — the utmost — faith and respect for the leadership of our president, too, at Michigan State,” adding that, “that’s a woman who has dedicated over 40 years — and I’ve been here 33 with her, and I think I know what she stands for.”

Izzo would walk back those comments, and three days later Simon would resign from her post for her inaction in regards to Larry Nassar and allegations that were made about him.

There was never any chance that Izzo was going to say anything other than what the PR professionals told him to say. He was never going to answer for why he allowed Walton to remain on his coaching staff, to allow him to be a part of a Final Four run, after he was accused of knocking a woman out with two punches in a bar. Walton was eventually fired after he was accused of a sexual assault along with two of his former teammates. Both of those teammates, unnamed in ESPN’s report, remained with the program. Izzo was never going to answer any questions about that, either.

And he certainly wasn’t going to answer any questions about why there was no discipline for Appling or Payne when they were accused of sexual assault as freshmen. The duo was never charged with a crime, but Payne essentially copped to the assault during the investigation, telling investigators that he could “understand how [the victim] would feel that she was not free to leave” during the alleged assault.

The complicating factor is that much of this was reported at the time. I wrote about it in 2010. It is convenient that it is not becoming a national story because Larry Nassar was allowed to prey on children on that campus for two decades.

I get that.

But eight years after these allegations were made, Walton and Payne both lost their G-League jobs, Walton as a coach with the Clippers and Payne as a player with the Magic, on the day the report came out when they escaped punishment from Michigan State at the time. (Appling is currently in prison on unrelated gun charges.)

That is a bad look for Michigan State.

It something that Izzo needs to answer for.

It is something that he will continue to be asked about, likely as soon as Sunday, when the Spartans play at Maryland.

Just don’t expect anything more than a canned response.

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.