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Who will be next head coach to win first national title?

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Last April, after a decade of proving himself as one of the very best coaches in all of college basketball, Tony Bennett shook the monkey off of his back for good as he led Virginia to the greatest redemption story in the history of sports.

The Cavaliers, if you have somehow forgotten, went from being the first No. 1 seed to lose to a No. 16 seed in 2018 to the national champs in 2019.

We may never see anything like that ever again.

But there are a handful of coaches that could follow in Bennett’s footsteps by joining the list of people that can put “Won A National Title” as a line item on their resume.

These are the eight coaches that are the most likely to do that in the next five years, with an added bonus of the threes most difficult names to leave off the list.

THE FAVORITE

1. MARK FEW, Gonzaga: This is obvious. Gonzaga is a top ten program nationally, they are just two years removed from a run to the national title game, they are churning out lottery picks at a rate we’ve never seen from a mid-major and their ability to A) tap into the transfer market, and B) identify and bring in overseas talent will ensure that their floor is as a top 25 team every year. Few is going to breakthrough eventually.

THE SECOND TIER

2. CHRIS MACK, Louisville: For my money, Mack is the best coach in college basketball to never reach a Final Four, and if the way his first season at Louisville played out is any indication, he’s going to lose that title pretty soon. Not only is he coming off of a 20 win season and NCAA tournament trip that few expected, he brought back his best player, brought in a loaded six-man recruiting class and has his program sitting pretty as a preseason top seven team.

Now, the major question mark here is the NCAA. What kind of punishment is the program going to face as a result of the recruitment of Brian Bowen? On the one hand, Louisville is not far removed from the fallout from the escort scandal, where they had Final Four and National Title banners taken down as a result of strippers and hookers that were provided to players and recruits by a member of the coaching staff. On the other hand, everyone involved is both of those incidents is long gone – from the AD to the head coach to the players and members of the coaching staff. Is the NCAA going to come down hard on an entirely new regime that, as far as we know, has never been on the wrong side of NCAA rules? Who knows, but that’s the reason why I have Mack a notch below few.

Chris Mack (Joe Robbins/Getty Images)

3. CHRIS BEARD, Texas Tech: Beard is a tough one here, because he is the only guy on this list that could end up working somewhere else within the five-year window. Obviously, if he stays at Texas Tech he seems like he would be a decent bet to breakthrough. The Red Raiders, when healthy, were the best team in the Big 12 two years ago, and this past season they ended Kansas’ reign atop the conference before making a run to the national title game. As of today, they are a consensus preseason top ten team. Beard’s ability to rebuild from scratch on a year-by-year basis means that the Red Raiders will likely always be in the mix, and it makes me confident that, wherever he ends up if he does leave Lubbock, his team will have a shot at being very good, very quickly.

4. MATT PAINTER, Purdue: I have the utmost respect for Painter’s coaching ability. In the last four years, he’s managed to play three very distinct ways. It started with all 6-foot-9, 250 pounds of Caleb Swanigan playing the four alongside A.J. Hammons and Isaac Haas. When Swanigan left, his team got better by putting four shooters on the floor around Haas. When four of the five starters on that team left, he totally rebuilt his offense by allowing Carsen Edwards and Ryan Cline to run off as many pindowns and DHOs as they could handle.

Should I mention that, in three of those four seasons, Purdue finished as a top ten team on KenPom, and the fourth season they finished 19th? Painter is a monster.

Mike White (Rob Carr/Getty Images)

THE NEXT BEST

5. MIKE WHITE, Florida: White, at 42 years old, is the youngest coach on this list by a significant margin, and while he has yet to truly live up to the legacy that Billy Donovan left in Gainesville, he’s been to the last three NCAA tournaments, he’s won at least a game in all three – including a run to the 2017 Elite Eight – and he has a preseason top ten team returning this year. I think this is just the start for White, who is arguably the best coach in college hoops under the age of 45.

6. CHRIS HOLTMANN, Ohio State: Holtmann has been a head coach for five seasons since he took over for Brandon Miller in 2013-14, and he’s won at least 20 games in all five seasons, he’s won at least one NCAA tournament game in all five seasons and, I think it’s fair to say, in each one of those five seasons he outperformed expectations. He’s only heading into his third year at Ohio State, which means that the arrow is going to continue to point up.

7. BRUCE PEARL, Auburn: Pearl is another coach that is currently sitting squarely in the NCAA crosshairs, and while he, personally, is only tangentially connected to the FBI’s investigation into college basketball corruption, Pearl has plenty to worry about. He’s already served a show-cause for lying to NCAA investigators, he was nearly fired 18 months ago because of his refusal to speak to Auburn’s investigators and he will undoubtedly get dinged by the NCAA with failure to monitor and/or head coach responsibility charges because of Chuck Person’s actions while on staff.

That said, Pearl has found a perfect fit for himself at Auburn. He’s coming off of a Final Four run, he’s sending players – hi, Chuma Okeke – to the NBA and he’s been able to recruit their replacements – hi, Isaac Okoro – to maintain the stability of his program thanks in part to his uptempo style. Throw in the fact that he’s turned Auburn Arena into one of the tougher places in the SEC to play, and I think he’s going to continue to succeed.

Penny Hardaway (Michael Reaves/Getty Images)

THE X-FACTOR

8. PENNY HARDAWAY, Memphis: To be completely honest, I am not quite sure where to put Penny on this list. The fact of the matter is that he has spent one year as a head coach at the college level. We don’t really know what to make of him as a head coach, and given the fact that this Memphis team is being wildly overranked heading into the season, there seems to be a good chance that the narrative on Penny could end up being that he’s a recruiter, not a coach, come the end of the season.

When that happens, remember this warning. And also remember that Penny landed two top ten recruits and seven top 100 players in his first real recruiting class, including a five-star from New York and a top 30 prospect that decommitted from Duke. He’s going to continue to land recruiting classes like this, and with the majority of this year’s No. 1 ranked class being two or three years players, I think everyone is a year early on the Memphis bandwagon.

We’ll see if all of that leads to a chance at winning a national title.

THE THREE TOUGHEST NAMES TO LEAVE OFF

SEAN MILLER, Arizona: “Most likely.” We’re talking about probabilities here, right? That cannot be done without factoring in the chance that A) Sean Miller gets fired, B) Sean Miller gets a show-cause and C) the Arizona program receives some kind of significant punishment for their involvement in the FBI’s investigation into corruption in college basketball. In a vacuum, it’s hard to ignore the success, both on the court and on the recruiting trail, that Miller has had, but it is also impossible to ignore what they could be facing in the very near future.

MIKE HOPKINS, Washington: I get why the college basketball community is bullish on Hop. He won 21 games in his first season with Washington, he won 27 games and the Pac-12 regular season title last season and he just landed a pair of top ten prospects in Isaiah Stewart and Jaden McDaniels. But before I go all-in on him, I want to see how well he does coaching one-and-done talent and what happens when the rest of the Pac-12 is actually worth talking about.

RICK BARNES, Tennessee: Barnes is the oldest guy on this list by seven years, he is coming off of two years where he had the Vols as close to program’s ceiling as you can get and, with Grant Williams, Jordan Bone and Admiral Schofield gone, they are entering something of a rebuilding stretch. I think that he has found a place where he can have sustained success, but he doesn’t crack the top eight on my list. .

Zion’s attorneys: Court filing claiming $400K payment contains fraudulent information

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Attorneys representing Zion Williamson in a lawsuit filed by former his marketing agent Gina Ford have claimed that the allegations set forth in her latest court filing are “fraudulent” and “a desperate and irresponsible attempt to smear Mr. Williamson.”

Ford claimed to have obtain “newly-discovered evidence” regarding her lawsuit against Zion, specifically that the player and his stepfather accepted $400,000 from a marketing agent named Slavko Duric in October of 2018. Zion signed a contract with Ford and her company, Prime Sports Marketing, on April 20, 2019, five days after he declared for the NBA draft. Less than two months later, he backed out of that deal to sign with CAA, the most powerful agency in the business that will also be representing his basketball interests. Ford is suing Williamson for breach of contract.

The outcome of the case hinges on a law in the state of North Carolina known as UAAA — the Uniform Athlete Agent Act — that requires a contract to make it clear to a student-athlete that by signing with an agent, they forfeit their remaining eligibility. This marketing contract did not have that language in it, and Williamson’s lawyers are arguing that this made the contract itself invalid. Ford’s attorneys, on the other hand, are attempting to prove that Zion was actually ineligible at the time, meaning that he was not protected by UAAA, and this evidence is their latest attempt to do it.

Except, according to the attorneys representing Zion Williamson’s family, all of the evidence in the latest filing in this lawsuit is fake.

Included in the exhibits attached to the motion filed by Ford’s lawyers is a statement from a man named Donald Kreiss, who claims that he invested in a company owned by Duric called Maximum Management Group. MMG purportedly had an exclusive marketing agreement with Williamson, the proof being an agreement that was allegedly signed by Williamson, a letter of declaration to repay the $400,000 that was paid in 2018 and a copy of Zion’s driver’s license.

“The alleged ‘agreements’ and driver’s license attached to these papers are fraudulent,” read a statement from Jeffery Klein, Zion’s attorney and obtained by Daniel Wallach of The Athletic. “Neither Mr. Williamson nor his family know these individuals nor had any dealing with them. We had previously alerted Ms. Ford’s lawyers to both this fact and that we had previously reported the documents to law enforcement as forgeries, but they chose to go ahead with another frivolous filing anyway.”

Here is a photo, courtesy of Wallach’s twitter feed, of Zion’s license.

Via @WALLACHLegal

Speaking as someone that bartended on a college campus for a decade, I would not accept this ID. The ‘E’ at the end of LICENSE is not in bold. The last three digits of his zip code are a different font than the first two. There is no shadow behind his ears in the picture, which is the first thing I was taught to look for on an ID I thought was fake. Most conspicuous? His weight is listed as a height and his height is listed as a weight.

Furthermore, Zion’s attorneys claim that Duric is the same man that tried to run a similar scam on Luka Doncic.

“A simple Google search reveals that Slavko Duric, whose ostensible sports marketing entity has no online presence, purportedly attempted to defraud Luka Doncic … using a scheme in which he forged Doncic’s and his mother’s signatures on a contract,” read a letter, obtained by Wallach. that Williamson’s attorney sent to Ford’s attorney before the motion was filed.

The intrigue into Zion Williamson’s lawsuit is about smearing Duke basketball’s image

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This column was originally published on May 11th of 2020.

The public intrigue into Zion Williamson’s current lawsuit and legal battle has nothing to do with Zion Williamson himself and everything to do with smearing the glossy veneer of the Duke basketball program.

That’s the truth.

The numbers involved in this litigation — reportedly up to $200 million is at stake — will certainly raise some eyebrows, but contract disputes are rarely interesting for anyone that isn’t in law school. That’s what this is. Zion signed a contract with Gina Ford and Prime Sports Marketing on April 20, 2019, five days after he declared for the NBA draft. Less than two months later, he backed out of that deal to sign with CAA, the most powerful agency in the business that will also be representing his basketball interests. Ford is suing Williamson for breach of contract.

The outcome of this civil case is going to hinge on a law in the state of North Carolina known as UAAA — the Uniform Athlete Agent Act — that requires a contract to make it clear to a student-athlete that by signing with an agent, they forfeit their remaining eligibility. This marketing contract did not have that language in it, and Williamson’s lawyers will argue that this made the contract itself invalid.

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(And no, I don’t, for a second, think that Zion was ever returning to Duke. Neither does Ford, or anyone with any common sense. It’s why I wrote this “column” last May, when the rumors of Zion returning to school started rolling through the basketball world. That said, if I was a cynic, I would take a close look at that timeline. Rumors of Zion returning to school just happened to start circulating right around the time that he was trying to find a way out of a marketing contract to sign with a bigger agency? Hmm. Interesting. But I’m not a cynic, so I certainly won’t suggest that it was nothing other than a well-orchestrated PR ploy knowing that this would inevitably end up in the court system one day. Wouldn’t dream of insinuating anything like it.)

Which brings us to Mother’s Day.

That’s when Daniel Wallach of The Athletic first published snippets of the latest Zion Williamson lawsuit that was filed by Ford and her attorneys. Among them were requests for admission that Zion and his family received all kinds of money, benefits and gifts to play at Duke and to induce him to wear Nike and Adidas at different points during his high school career. The legal ploy is simple, really: If Zion or his parents are forced, under oath, to admit that they accepted illegal benefits at any point during his recruitment or while on the roster at Duke, it would mean that he was retroactively ineligible. If he was actually ineligible during his one season in Durham, then the UAAA wouldn’t be relevant. The contract, which, according to Ford’s lawsuit, could only be terminated with cause, would stand and Zion would be on the hook for a lot of money.

At this point, it does not appear that there is much evidence proving that Zion accepted illegal benefits. When asked by Dana O’Neil of The Athletic if they have any proof of wrongdoing, Ford’s attorney said, “We have ideas, opinions and some leads of our own. We are looking for information to support our case. This is what we want to know.” Requests for admission are, essentially, fact-finding missions during discovery in civil cases. Put another way, at this point, these requests are nothing more than proof that Ford’s lawyers have heard the same rumors and read the same court docs that people in basketball circles and on college basketball message boards have.

But no one actually cares about the legalese here, because if they did, they’d realize that Zion is under no obligation to answer, and even if he is somehow forced to, nothing will come of this for a long, long time.

The people that care this case care about catching Coach K in a lie. They care about proving that the holier-than-thou way that Duke carries itself is fraudulent. They care about finding a way to get something — anything — to stick to the program that recruits better than anyone else in an era where recruiting is the Wild, Wild West.

Do you remember when Lance Thomas dropped $30,000 in cash as a down payment for $67,800 in jewelry a year before Thomas and Duke won the 2010 national title? Nothing came of it. Remember when Corey Maggette admitted to receiving payments from Myron Piggie before becoming a member of the team that made it to the 1999 national title game? Nothing came of that, either. Nothing happened when Wendell Carter’s name popped up on expense reports submitted by Christian Dawkins. Nothing happened when Michael Avenatti alleged that Nike paid Marvin Bagley’s family.

All told, there are 13 high-major programs that are dealing with the fallout from the FBI’s investigation into college basketball: Alabama, Arizona, Auburn, Creighton, Kansas, Louisville, LSU, Memphis, N.C. State, Oklahoma State, South Carolina, TCU and USC.

Duke, despite a cloud of smoke surrounding Zion that would make Seth Rogen envious, has been hit with … nada.

The public is looking for their pound of flesh, and nothing would satiate that bloodlust quite like an admission from Zion Williamson in this lawsuit that he was paid to go to Duke.

Ivy League calls off fall sports due to outbreak

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The Ivy League on Wednesday became the first Division I conference to say it will not play sports this fall because of the coronavirus pandemic, a person with knowledge of the decision told The Associated Press. The league left open the possibility of moving some seasons to the spring if the outbreak is better controlled by then.

The decision was described to the AP by a person speaking on the condition of anonymity in advance of the official announcement.

Although the coalition of eight academically elite schools does not grant athletic scholarships or compete for an NCAA football championship, the move could have ripple effects throughout the big business of college sports. Football players in the Power Five conferences have already begun workouts for a season that starts on Aug. 29, even as their schools weigh whether to open their campuses to students or continue classes remotely.

The Ivy decision affects not just football but everything before Jan. 1, including soccer, field hockey, volleyball and cross country, as well as the nonconference portion of the basketball season.

Power Five conferences told The Associated Press on Wednesday that they were still considering their options. But it was the Ivy League’s March 10 decision to scuttle its postseason basketball tournament that preceded a cascade of cancellations that eventually enveloped all major college and professional sports.

“What’s happening in other conferences is clearly a reflection of what’s happening nationally and any decisions are made within that context,” said Dr. Chris Kratochvil, the chair of the Big Ten’s infectious disease task force, adding that there is no “hard deadline” for a decision.

“Clearly, regardless of what happens in the fall, sports are coming back eventually,” he said. “So we want to make sure that whenever that time (is) right to return to competition, that we have the infrastructure and the recommendations in place to be able to do so safely for the student-athletes, staff, coaches, fans, students.”

Ivy League schools are spread across seven Northeastern states that, as of mid-July, have seen some success at controlling the COVID-19 outbreak. But most of those states still ban large gatherings; under the Massachusetts reopening plan, Harvard would not be allowed to have fans in the stands until a vaccine is developed.

Harvard has already announced that all classes for both semesters will be held virtually; dorms will be open only to freshmen and seniors. Yale said it would limit its dorms to 60% capacity and said most classes would be conducted remotely. Princeton will also do most of its teaching online, with dorms at half capacity.

Coaches 4 Change: Siena’s Carmen Maciariello spearheads social justice initiative

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Carmen Maciariello found himself in the same place so many of us did in the days after George Floyd was murdered by police in Minneapolis.

Devastated by what he was seeing. Motivated to find a way to use his platform as the head coach at Siena College to enact change. Struggling with how, as he puts it, “a white head coach from privilege at a school in New York,” can have real, honest, open dialogue with his majority-Black roster.

So he picked up the phone. He called Louis Orr, his former college coach and now an assistant coach at Georgetown. He called his closest friends in the coaching business. He called his advisor, Brad Konerman, an entrepreneur who connected him with a couple of talented website designers. By early June, 25 like-minded people from all walks of life were on a zoom call.

“I’ve never been pulled over and feared for my life for not using my blinker,” Maciariello, who is white, told me. “We had those conversations. How are we talking to our teams about that? What are we doing with the police? How can we help our young people navigate through these tough times?”

That’s how Coaches 4 Change was born.

Maciariello has grand plans for the organization. On a zoom call with nearly all of the 43 coaches that have committed to the group to date, he said he wants “to try to change the world. Let’s not think small, we’ve gotta think big with this.” He is not lacking for ambition.

But Maciariello also understands that something like this has to start small and it has to start locally. It’s why he limited the first group of invitees to coaches that are “doing this for the right reasons.”

“I didn’t want to have a donate link and bring in coaches that felt like, ‘I donated money, I did my part supporting it,” he said. “It was about the time commitment and the vision. We have to focus on one thing first.”

That first thing?

Voting.

C4C developed a sleek, interactive website to help educate young people about social injustice and the Black Lives Matter movement, things as basic as the difference between systemic and systematic racism and Jackie Robinson’s impact on sports. But the site also provides users with all of the information necessary to vote in this year’s elections, information on what makes voting so important in a democracy and — most importantly — a tutorial for how a person in every state can register to vote, where their polling stations are and whether or not they are eligible for mail-in voting. Their website also has a ‘Keep Learning‘ page that links to all documentaries, podcasts, audiobooks and literary resources available on all streaming platforms, including content for children.

C4C has partnered with Vote.org with a goal of “100 percent voter registration for all college athletes” regardless of the sport they play, Maciariello said.

Currently, the only coaches involved with C4C are men’s college basketball coaches, but that will change. They are in the process of reaching out to counterparts on the women’s side, and will eventually invite staff members from other sports as well. One of the barriers to entry to become a member will be ensuring that every player on a coach’s team is registered to vote.

Eventually, Maciariello envisions C4C developing community outreach initiatives. He wants the members of C4C to connect with their campus communities and put together voter registration drives for students. He wants to eventually connect with lawmakers and work on changing legislation that helps systemic racism continue to exist.

No one ever said he wasn’t ambitious.

But he knows he has to start somewhere, and that somewhere is this platform.

“I want to engage people in issues,” he said. “Educate them, empower them to change, encourage them to grow and evolve.”

CBT Podcast: Pat Chambers, moving the season up, Running Back Buddy Hield’s 46 points at Kansas

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In the latest edition of the Run It Back podcast, Rob Dauster and Bobby Reagan recap Buddy Hield’s memorable 46-point outburst in a three-overtime loss to Kansas in Phog Allen Fieldhouse in a battle of No. 1 vs. No. 1 back in 2016. The game was unbelievable. Before they dive into the game itself, the boys talk through Pat Chambers’ noose comments to Rasir Bolton and the potential for the college basketball season to get moved up.