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Hall of Fame coach and administrator C.M. Newton, 88, dies

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Officials at Alabama and Kentucky say that Hall of Fame former administrator and basketball coach C.M. Newton has died. He was 88.

The schools announced his death Monday night.

Newton was a member of Kentucky’s 1951 NCAA championship squad during a basketball career spanning more than 50 years as a player, coach and administrator.

He also influenced selection of the original U.S. Olympic “Dream Team” in 1992.

Newton was 509-375 as a coach at Transylvania College, Alabama and Vanderbilt and worked on several NCAA Division I basketball committees.

Inducted into the Naismith Hall of Fame in 2000, Newton was also a member of several halls of fame.

As Kentucky’s athletic director, Newton’s hiring of eventual Hall of Famer Rick Pitino as men’s basketball coach helped the Wildcats overcome NCAA sanctions to win the 1996 national title.

He integrated Alabama’s basketball program and later hired Kentucky’s first African-American women’s and men’s basketball coaches in Bernadette Mattox and Tubby Smith, respectively.

“Integrating the program was the thing,” Newton said in a 1999 media guide biography. “It had importance not only at Alabama, but also around the league. We took in-state talent and won nationally. That opened the door for a lot of African-American youngsters.”

Current Kentucky athletic director Mitch Barnhart said Newton was “a giant” at the school, with the SEC and throughout the sport.

“His coaching accomplishments and honors at Transylvania, Alabama and Vanderbilt speak for themselves,” Barnhart said in a release. “His contributions to the sport of basketball continue to this day.”

Born in Rockwood, Tennessee, Charles Martin Newton was a baseball pitcher at UK in addition to playing basketball from 1948-51, where he lettered on the ’51 Wildcats team that won their third national title under legendary coach Adolph Rupp.

Newton began his coaching career in Lexington at nearby Transylvania College before moving on to the Southeastern Conference at Alabama and Vanderbilt. The Crimson Tide won three consecutive SEC titles from 1974-76 under Newton and reached the postseason six times. He also was named The Associated Press’ SEC Coach of the Year in 1972 and 1976 while at Alabama and again in 1988 and 1989 while coaching Vanderbilt.

“Coach Newton was a true leader in intercollegiate athletics,” Alabama athletic director Greg Byrne said. “He took risks and was willing to do the right thing even when it was not the most popular thing.

“Thousands of student-athletes have been positively impacted because of his approach as an athletics director, a coach and an exemplary human being.”

Newton also served as an assistant SEC commissioner. Kentucky coach John Calipari said that Newton’s hiring of Smith motivated to learn more about SEC history, particularly with integration.

“I asked him how he was able to have the courage to go against the grain in Alabama at that time,” Calipari wrote in a blog last week. “He told me, ‘I saw people as people. And I wanted to win. I was trying to bring in the best players. I didn’t care if they were black, white, green or gold. I wanted to win.'”

Vanderbilt hired Newton in 1981, and he went 129-115 with the Commodores, notching his 500th career victory in 1989. He also coached Vanderbilt to the Sweet 16 in the 1988 NCAA Tournament with Barry Goheen knocking down not one, but two 3-pointers late in a dramatic overtime victory over Pittsburgh.

Former Vanderbilt and NBA player Will Perdue said Newton was more than a coach.

“He was my father away from home, a role model for me to look up to, a motivator and a truly patient individual,” Perdue said. “He taught me basketball, but he also taught me what’s expected of a man. The basketball community has lost its best friend.”

Newton returned to Kentucky as athletic director in 1989 to shepherd the men’s program’s recovery from NCAA sanctions that included a two-year postseason ban. His hiring of Pitino as coach was the key step in Kentucky’s difficult climb from the penalties.

“From a competitive standpoint, the key in my coming to Kentucky was to have men’s basketball succeed in a short period of time,” Newton said.

Kentucky’s journey included heartbreak, with a stunning 104-103 overtime loss to eventual champion Duke in the 1992 NCAA Tournament East Region final. A last-second jumper by the Blue Devils’ Christian Laettner won that game which has come to be called college basketball’s greatest contest. A year later Kentucky was in the Final Four before climbing back on top of college basketball as the 1996 champion. But Newton’s astute personnel decisions didn’t stop with Pitino.

In 1995 he made Mattox, a Pitino assistant, the Wildcats’ first African-American women’s coach. The program went 21-11 in 1988-89 and reached the second round of the NCAA Tournament, its first 20-win effort and postseason berth in nearly a decade. After Pitino left Kentucky for the NBA in 1997, Newton hired Smith as his replacement.

The Wildcats earned the 1998 national title in Smith’s first season, and Newton handing the first-year coach the championship trophy while serving as chairman of the NCAA Tournament committee. Newton retired as AD in 1999. Newton also made his mark during the 1990s on the national level as director of USA Basketball from 1992-96, overseeing the U.S. Olympic Team’s roster transformation from college players to a collection of NBA superstars.

Michael Jordan, Magic Johnson and Larry Bird were the most famous of a powerhouse lineup of future Hall of Famers comprising that initial 1992 “Dream Team” that dominated the Summer Games in Barcelona and won the gold medal.

Newton was enshrined in the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in 2000, three years after receiving the John Bunn Lifetime Achievement Award. Newton had three daughters with his first wife Evelyn, who died in 1999. He is survived by wife Nancy, whom he married in 2002.

Duke lands commitment from five-star forward Matthew Hurt

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For the fourth time in the last five years, Duke is tapping into that Minnesota pipeline to mine talent.

Following in the footsteps of Tyus Jones, Gary Trent Jr. and Tre Jones, Matthew Hurt, a 6-foot-9 forward and a top ten prospect in the Class of 2019, announced on Friday that he will be playing his college ball for the Blue Devils.

Hurt ultimately picked Duke over Kansas, but he was also pursued by the likes of Kentucky, North Carolina and Minnesota. He joins Vernon Carey, Wendell Moore and Boogie Ellis in Duke’s 2019 recruiting class.

Hurt is the perfect compliment to Carey, a powerhouse low-post force, and Moore, who is a talented wing. He has size and is extremely skilled, with the ability to stretch the floor out to 25 feet and the potential to be a dangerous face-up scorer, both in the mid-post and on the perimeter. He needs to get stronger and tougher, but that will come with time. As it stands, he’s the piece to the puzzle that Duke needed to add.

UNC women’s coach Hatchell resigns after findings from program review

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RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) — North Carolina women’s basketball coach Sylvia Hatchell had built a Hall of Fame career over more than three decades with the Tar Heels, including a national championship and becoming the Atlantic Coast Conference’s all-time winningest coach.

That tenure ended with her resignation after a program review found concerns over “racially insensitive” comments and pressuring players to compete through medical issues.

The school announced the 67-year-old Hatchell’s resignation late Thursday, along with findings from that external review conducted this month by a Charlotte-based law firm. Among the issues: a “breakdown of connectivity” between Hatchell and the players after 28 interviews of current players and program personnel.

The was enough to end Hatchell’s time in Chapel Hill, which began in 1986.

“The university commissioned a review of our women’s basketball program, which found issues that led us to conclude that the program needed to be taken in a new direction,” athletics director Bubba Cunningham said in a statement. “It is in the best interests of our university and student-athletes for us to do so. Coach Hatchell agrees, and she offered her resignation today. I accepted it.”

Hatchell — who has 1,023 victories, with 751 coming in 33 seasons at UNC along with the 1994 NCAA title — and her coaching staff had been on paid administrative leave since April 1. At the time, UNC announced the review amid player concerns to “assess the culture” of the program.

“The university will always hold a special place in my heart,” Hatchell said in a statement. “The game of basketball has given me so much, but now it is time for me to step away.”

In its release, UNC said the review found “widespread support” among three areas of concern, including the Hatchell-players connection.

The first centered on the racially insensitive comments, compounded by her failure to respond “in a timely or appropriate manner” when confronted by players or staff.

“The review concluded that Hatchell is not viewed as a racist,” the school said, “but her comments and subsequent response caused many in the program to believe she lacked awareness and appreciation for the effect her remarks had on those who heard them.”

Regarding injury concerns, the review reported frustration from players and medical staff with Hatchell’s “perceived and undue influence,” though medical staffers “did not surrender to pressure to clear players” before they were ready.

Wade Smith, Hatchell’s attorney, had defended her earlier this month by saying players had misconstrued comments she made as racist and that she wouldn’t try to force someone to play without medical clearance. That came after The Washington Post, citing unnamed parents of players, said complaints had been made about inappropriate racial comments and players being pushed to play while injured.

In a statement to The Associated Press at the time, Smith said Hatchell “does not have a racist bone in her body” and “cares deeply about (players’) health and well-being.”

Hatchell, who reached 1,000 wins in 2017, trailed only Tennessee’s Pat Summitt, Stanford’s Tara VanDerveer and Connecticut’s Geno Auriemma in women’s Division I career victories. But there had been difficulties in recent years.

She missed the 2013-14 season while battling leukemia and undergoing chemotherapy. The program also spent several seasons under the shadow of the school’s multi-year NCAA academic case dealing with irregular courses featuring significant athlete enrollments across numerous sports, a case that reached a no-penalty conclusion in October 2017.

UNC returned to the NCAA Tournament this year for the first time since 2015 after upsets of top-ranked Notre Dame and No. 7 North Carolina State on the road, though her contract was set to expire after next season.

Hatchell said she will still support the school, including raising money for UNC’s Lineberger Comprehensive Cancer Center and advocating for gender equity issues.

“While this is a bittersweet day, my faith remains strong,” Hatchell said. “After the fight of my life with leukemia, I count every day as a blessing.”

St. John’s expected to hire Mike Anderson

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The coaching search St. John’s started earlier this month is coming to an end, and its finality looks to be as bizarre as the process.

The Red Storm are expected to hire former Arkansas coach Mike Anderson, a source confirmed to NBC Sports. Roger Rubin of Newsday was first to report the development.

Anderson has a perfectly respectable resume after eight years with the Razorbacks and five at Missouri over the last decade-plus, but his history doesn’t suggest why he’s a great fit at St. John’s, a smaller private school in New York City rather than two large public institutions in college towns. New York City is also considerably more northeast than both Fayetteville and Columbia.

St. John’s swung big in a way that made sense when it hired Chris Mullin four years ago. There were question marks given his lack of college experience, but given his status as a Red Storm legend and NBA pedigree – both as a player and executive – you could connect the dots to success, even if Mullin ultimately couldn’t do it himself.

This hire, however, doesn’t make much sense. Anderson just got fired for not progressing enough with Arkansas, a place he spent 17 years at under Nolan Richardson prior to becoming a head coach himself. He had serious legacy there, but it wasn’t enough to overcome just three NCAA tournament appearances and no Sweet 16s in eight years.

That’s the guy that is now, with no clear ties to either the Big East or St. John’s, going to reinvigorate the Red Storm program? Anderson might do it, I guess, but his selection only highlights what a botched search this has been. Bobby Hurley, Porter Moser, Ryan Odom and Tim Cluess all reportedly spurned interest, and it’s about as inarguable as inarguable gets that St. John’s should be a slam-dunk better job than Loyola Chicago, UMBC and Iona, while Hurley is the type of guy an athletic department goes out and gets done if it wants to show it really means business.

Instead, St. John’s search falls to Anderson, who probably won’t win the press conference and didn’t win enough at Arkansas.

Ayo Dosunmu returning to Illinois for sophomore season

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Wins have been few and far between in two seasons for Brad Underwood at Illinois, which makes Thursday’s victory all the more important.

The Illini got a major April boost with Ayo Dosunmu announcing he would return to Champaign for his senior season rather than heading to the professional ranks.

“I stayed home to help coach Underwood turn the Illinois program around,” Dosunmu said in a video released on social media. “We tasted some success, but we didn’t dance. And Illinois has to dance.

“We are building. We will be better. I will be better, and that starts now.”

Dosunmu averaged 13.8 points, 4 rebounds and 3.3 assists during his freshman campaign, which led to speculation he might be off to the pros, leaving Illinois without its most dynamic scorer and playmaker heading into a critical third season for Underwood, who is 26-39 overall and 11-27 in the Big Ten the last two years. Instead, he’ll be returning giving Illinois a second season with an intriguing young core that will likely be a trendy pick to make a significant jump up the B1G standings next winter.

Oklahoma State lands commitment from top-150 guard Chris Harris Jr.

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Oklahoma State is adding another top-150 piece to its 2019 recruiting class as Chris Harris Jr., a guard from Texas, pledged to the Cowboys on Thursday

“I will be committing to Oklahoma State University,” Harris announced via a video on social media.

The consensus three-star recruit picks Mike Boynton’s program over offers from the likes of Texas A&M, Baylor, Kansas State and Georgia Tech. The 6-foot-3 guard visited Stillwater officially late last month. He previously was headed to the Aggies, but was released from his National Letter of Intent after Billy Kennedy was fired in College Station.

His commitment gives Oklahoma State what is increasingly looking like a major recruiting class for Boynton, who has largely exceeded expectations during his short tenure with the Cowboys. Boynton has already secured commitments from top-75 wing Marcus Watson of Georgia and top-125 guard Avery Anderson III as well as three-stars Kalib Boone and Keylan Boone.