UNC Greensboro’s Wes Miller reflects on his speedy ascent in the coaching profession

14 Sep

Unlike most young basketball players who grow up dreaming of playing in the NBA someday, Wes Miller always knew he wanted to coach.

Miller was so confident in his chosen career path he left James Madison in 2003 to walk-on at North Carolina mostly because he wanted to spend the next four years learning from Tar Heels coach Roy Williams.

That decision is one of the biggest reasons Miller has risen so rapidly in the coaching profession. The 29-year-old briefly became the youngest head coach in the nation last December when UNC Greensboro fired Mike Dement after a 2-8 start and named Miller as its interim replacement.

Miller, now Division I's second-youngest coach behind Wagner's Bashir Mason, earned a longterm contract this March after leading the Spartans to 11 wins in their final 16 games. He chatted with me this week about the challenges of being a young head coach, how he has leaned on Williams for advice and which former Tar Heel nemesis was his favorite player as a kid.

JE: How long have you known you wanted to get into coaching?

WM: I knew at a really young age that I wanted to coach. That's one of the main reasons I chose to go play for Coach Williams at North Carolina. I wanted to learn. I wanted to be part of that network and that family. I loved playing the games but I knew there would be a time it would end. I knew what I wanted to do for my career was to coach.

JE: Where does that passion for coaching come from? Did anyone in your family coach or teach?

WM: I don't have anyone in my family who coached or taught. I grew up in Greensboro and Charlotte, right in the middle of college basketball country. I joke all the time that North Carolina is the mecca of college basketball cities. With the history of the ACC and the ACC tournament, there's just so much energy for the college game around here. I grew up in the middle of that. I couldn't name a lot of players in the NBA, but I could tell you all the players who played for North Carolina, Duke and Wake Forest each year. I think I just had a passion for basketball at a really young age and coaching just seemed like a natural progression.

JE: So if I say the name Randolph Childress, for example, you're going to have some fond memories?

WM: You're playing with my emotions now. I wore No. 22 my whole career because Randolph Childress was my favorite player. The ultimate irony was I ended up at Carolina and Randolph was an absolute monster against Carolina as a player. I was wearing that number because I idolized him as a child. My dad went to Wake Forest, so we went to all the Wake Forest games. When Randolph was playing there, that's kind of when I started really taking my passion for the game to another level. I wore No. 22 my whole life at every level I played.

JE: Has anyone ever had a better three days than his ACC tournament in '95?

WM: I was there in Greensboro. I'll never forget it.

JE: When you were at North Carolina, did you observe Roy Williams in a different way than your teammates since you knew you wanted to go into the coaching profession?

WM: I think I always had a mentality that I wanted to learn while I was there and understand why we were doing things rather than just what we were doing. My first year there, I was a redshirt because I transferred from James Madison. I remember watching Coach Williams during timeouts and thinking to myself, 'Man, he's really, really good. I don't know if I'm cut out for this.' But I do think that redshirt year allowed me to look at it a little differently. I tried to always keep coaching in the back of my mind. Coach Williams also knew I wanted to coach and he'd occasionally say things to me along those lines to help me. Let's just say it was the right decision to go there. I pretty much steal everything I do now from what I learned.

JE: So you definitely feel like you emulate Roy Williams as a coach?

WM: The philosophy I have about the way we're going to play and the things we're going to do in our program, that comes from my time at Carolina and from being around Coach Williams. I have things I learned from other places and there are things I do differently, but the foundation for who I am as a coach and what I want our program to be about is really derived from the experiences I had under Coach Williams.

JE: How much have you leaned on Roy Williams for advice since you've gotten into coaching?

WM: I've always talked with Coach Williams before I made any career decisions. Getting into the business, taking different assistant coaching jobs, I've always tried to go back to Chapel Hill, watch practices and ask questions. I've sat in coaching meetings when I had time. I've really tried to take advantage of the fact that I have a resource most people just don't have. Again, I think I'm really fortunate and lucky that the person I can call for advice is arguably one of the best coaches in the history of the game.

JE: How emotional was it for you when you were named head coach last season?

WM: You've got to remember we were 2-8 and there's a ton of adversity when there's a coaching change in the middle of the year. Whether it's the players, assistant coaches or you're in my position where you're being elevated to the interim role, there's adversity. One thing we tried to preach with our players throughout the whole time was we can't control what the situation is but we can control how we deal with it. I tried to lead by example in that way. I didn't have a whole lot of time to think about what was going on, but I tried to approach every day positively and help us get better.

JE: You're only a few years older than a lot of the players you're coaching. Is that an advantage? Disadvantage? Both?

WM: I say to our guys all the time, I'm young and that means I'm not as experienced as a lot of coaches. That's probably a disadvantage. I'm sure people say that about us in recruiting all the time. But the positive is it wasn't that long ago I was in their shoes. I feel like I still have a really good feel for what they're going through. That's probably the biggest positive to being this age. I think it's probably the biggest positive to last year. During that situation, I tried to put myself in their shoes and think about what it would be like if I had to go through that.

JE: Diagramming the game-winning play to beat the Citadel in the final minutes last season, how big was that in terms of getting the team to believe in you?

WM: There were lots of moments throughout the season that helped our players gain confidence in me and ultimately helped the university and the community gain confidence in me as a coach. The Citadel game was certainly one of those moments. We drew up the simplest play on the board before that last possession. I've gotten a lot of credit for it, but it was pretty simple and elementary what we put on the board. What was amazing was that our guys were able to go out and execute it with perfect timing and precision. I think it was one of those moments where our guys maybe started to believe in me a little bit more. All that said, the reason we were successful last year was they were the kind of kids that were resilient, stuck together and fought through adversity. I think it had a lot less to do with me than who they are as people and what they were able to do in a difficult situation.

JE: Do you think the players didn't get enough credit for how they handled the midseason coaching change?

WM: I feel like our guys had so many chances to give in. They would have had so many excuses everyone would have understood, yet they never chose to take that path. That's unique in itself and really unique with the culture of college basketball today. They chose to take the harder path and fight through adversity the correct way. I think more than anything I'm fortunate to have these types of kids. It makes me look a lot better than I am.

JE: You guys had a particularly significant commitment last week. I know you can't talk about an unsigned recruit but speaking generally, how excited are you about how recruiting is going?

WM: Recruiting is obviously extremely important to any college program. I feel like I hired a staff that's charismatic, energetic and positive. I feel like I hired a staff that understands the game but also understands how to develop players on the floor and in life. I think that's a really important part of recruiting, and I hope that people and prospects out there are going to want to be part of some of the really positive things we're doing with this program.

JE: I look at your roster and I see a team that will be good next season and loaded the year after. Can you contend in the SoCon next season or are you a year away?

WM: My personality and belief is if you don't think you can contend, then why the heck are we even practicing. Our goal as a program is to contend for conference championships every year, and I don't care if we're starting five freshmen or five seniors. Next year, we have a team that I hope comes out and competes. It's not going to come easy. We have to be great defensively. We're really going to have to play better team basketball this year. But I think with Trevis Simpson, who led the league in scoring last year, and Derrell Armstrong, who was our second-leading scorer, I think we have some pieces. If we work hard and take the right steps, I think we'll be competitive in the league.

Tags: , , , , , , , profession, , UNC, Wes Miller
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Arizona fills huge need by landing elite small forward Rondae Jefferson

14 Sep

For Arizona's 2013 recruiting class to be considered a success, Wildcats coach Sean Miller had to land a standout wing capable of making an immediate impact.

Mission accomplished.

Arizona landed its top wing target Thursday afternoon when 6-foot-7 Pennsylvania native Rondae Jefferson committed in the wake of his official visit to Tucson this past weekend. Jefferson, a consensus Top 20 recruit, will help the Wildcats absorb the departure of seniors-to-be Solomon Hill and Kevin Parrom next season.

Adding wings was critical for the Wildcats because they figure to be strong at every other position for the 2013-14 season. Duquesne transfer T.J. McConnell is the heir apparent to Mark Lyons at point guard, while perhaps the three most heralded members of the Wildcats' decorated 2012 class were all big men.

Jefferson has drawn comparisons to ex-Kentucky star Michael Kidd-Gilchrist because of his defensive prowess, his relentless rebounding and his ability to attack the rim off the dribble. Like Kidd-Gilchrist, Jefferson's jump shot remains a work in progress and is not a strength of his game at this point.

That might be more disconcerting for Arizona were it not for the other wing the Wildcats have already landed for the class of 2013. Elliott Pitts, a 6-foot-5 standout at Northern California's Concord De La Salle High, figures to contribute immediately as a perimeter shooter.

Arizona is still in the running for two more elite recruits: forward Aaron Gordon and shooting guard Keith Frazier. Even if both go elsewhere, however, Jefferson makes the Wildcats' 2013 class an instant success.

Tags: , , , , Jefferson, Kevin Parrom, , need, Rondae Jefferson, the Wildcats, , Wing
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Kevin Ollie won’t be intimidated by the challenge of following Jim Calhoun

13 Sep

About a month after UConn ended its disappointing 1992-93 season with an opening-round NIT loss to Jackson State, assistant coach Howie Dickenman summoned point guard Kevin Ollie to his office for a heart-to-heart chat.

Dickenman warned Ollie his starting spot might be in jeopardy the following year because of a decorated recruit on his way to Storrs. UConn had out-dueled Kentucky and Temple to sign Doron Sheffer, a 6-foot-4 Israeli phenom whom head coach Jim Calhoun envisioned as the heir apparent at point guard.

"Kevin looks across my desk as serious as you can be, and he says, 'Coach D, I don't care who you bring into this program. I am the point guard for the next two years," said Dickenman, now head coach at Central Connecticut State. "As the story goes, Ollie was right. Doron Sheffer started at off guard and Ray Allen came off the bench behind both of them."

Stories like that illustrate why Ollie won't be intimidated by the challenge of replacing the legendary Jim Calhoun on the UConn bench this season. The Huskies' new coach has relied on impeccable character and relentless work ethic to help him accomplish what others thought he couldn't throughout his basketball career.

[Les Carpenter: Jim Calhoun sacrificed his legacy to pursue fame and titles at UConn]

He started his final three seasons in college despite Calhoun's initial misgivings. He carved out a niche for himself in the NBA as a steady point guard despite going undrafted out of college. And he played 13 NBA seasons despite only once receiving a contract longer than one year.

The challenge Ollie inherits at UConn is no less daunting than any he overcame during his playing days. The Huskies are undermanned by their standards and postseason ineligible in 2013 due to substandard APR scores, yet Ollie will have only one season to show sufficient progress to persuade school administrators he deserves a long-term contract.

Although Ollie has never been a head coach and has only spent two seasons as an assistant at UConn, those close to him still believe he'll thrive in his pressure-packed new role. Ex-UConn teammate and current Quinnipiac assistant Scott Burrell wishes UConn would have awarded Ollie a three-year contract right away, but he's confident the qualities that made the former point guard successful as a player will translate into coaching.

"I think Kevin is a great choice for the job," Burrell said. "Even though he only has a one-year deal, he'll make the most of that one year the way he did in the NBA. He firmly believes he will be the right person to lead them through the tough times they're going through right now, and I think he will."

It's a testament to Ollie's mother that he developed the work ethic that has made him successful throughout his life.

Dorothy Ollie, a school teacher and ordained minister, raised Ollie and his two sisters in Gardena, Calif., after she and his father separated when he was 4. Gang violence was rampant in Ollie's neighborhood at the time, but his mother did her best to keep him out of trouble and focused on school and basketball so he could make something of his life.

Ollie eventually emerged as a capable scorer at Los Angeles powerhouse Crenshaw High, but it was his competitiveness and effort level on defense that former coach Willie West remembers most. In a playoff game against city rival Westchester late in Ollie's sophomore year, West says Ollie came from 25 feet behind the play to swat away a fast-break layup attempt from an opposing guard who show-boated too much on his way to the rim.

"That's the kind of intensity he played with," West said. "Here's Kevin coming from half court to block the shot against the backboard. That inspired us enough to come from behind and win the game."

Among the college coaches who appreciated Ollie's throwback game was Dickenman, who first spotted him at an AAU tournament in Portsmouth, Va. Dickenman became enamored enough with Ollie that he flew from Hartford to Los Angeles a handful of times, took a cab to the guard's home and put in 10 or 15 minutes of face time before jumping in the same taxi and heading back to the airport.

UConn was recruiting two point guards for the 1991 class: Ollie and Connecticut native Travis Best. As signing day approached, the Huskies staff informed both point guards they would take whichever one committed first.

"Kevin called on a Saturday and said he was going to come to the University of Connecticut," Dickenman recalled. "We then called Travis Best's father and said we hope that he enjoys Georgia Tech."

Ask anybody who saw Ollie's off-target jump shot and suspect ball handling when he got to UConn, and they all say the same thing. At that point, none of them thought he had much hope of a pro career, especially not compared to the other members of a celebrated UConn recruiting class that included Donyell Marshall, Donny Marshall, Brian Fair and Rudy Johnson.

That changed over the course of Ollie's UConn career as he transformed himself into a more disciplined person on and off the court. He ate only healthy foods. He spent hours in the gym every day shooting by himself or working with assistant coaches to improve his dribbling or passing. And he'd leave his teammates huffing and puffing during conditioning by doing five-mile runs in less than 25 minutes.

"Kevin wasn't a vocal guy at that time, but he led by being in the gym every day," Donyell Marshall said. "We used to walk in the gym sometimes and be like, 'Kevin, what are you doing? Coach said we have the day off.' He'd say, 'If we're going to win this year, I've got to get my jump shot right. I've got to get my assists right.'"

All that effort is what enabled Ollie to inherit UConn's starting point guard role from star Chris Smith his sophomore year and keep that job the next three seasons. He never averaged double figures in points any season but he played solid defense, improved his shooting percentage every year and had nearly three times as many assists as turnovers, helping the Huskies reach the Sweet 16 and the Elite Eight his final two years.

Instead of quitting basketball or going overseas when he went undrafted in 1995, Ollie kept clawing his way closer to the NBA. He spent two years with the CBA's Connecticut Pride, then received a series of 10-day contracts with NBA teams before finally spending his first full year in the league in Philadelphia for the 1999-2000 season.

Ollie played 13 seasons in the NBA with 12 different teams, averaging a career-best 8.0 points per game in Seattle during the 2002-03 season. The only way he was able to stick was by being a selfless teammate off the bench and by keeping himself in the best shape possible via legendary 2 1/2-hour weightlifting and conditioning sessions.

Being a consummate professional actually made Ollie more marketable by the end of his playing days. Cleveland acquired him mostly to mentor a young LeBron James during the 2003-04 season. Oklahoma City did the same in 2009, signing him to set a good example for Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook.

[Related: LeBron James switches agents to team up with longtime friend]

At the end of the summer of 2009, Ollie flew to Oklahoma City to go apartment hunting so he'd have somewhere to live for the upcoming season. Ollie, then 36, joined some of his younger teammates for a workout, outlasting guys 10 and 15 years younger than him who had been doing these drills all summer.

"The guy dropped by in between apartment hunting, blew everyone away in the workout, showered, looked at another apartment and then got on a plane and went home," Oklahoma City general manager Sam Presti said. "I thought it was a great example of how prepared it was. He obviously kept himself in tremendous shape over the summer and he was in good enough shape to be the last man standing."

Presti was so impressed by Ollie's approach to the game and consistent attitude in the face of success or adversity that he took the veteran to a teppanyaki-style Japanese lunch near the end of the 2009-10 season to discuss Ollie's post-basketball goals. What Presti learned was Ollie had interest in a coaching or front office position with the Thunder but his first choice was to return to his alma mater and coach under Calhoun.

Sure enough, Calhoun made that dream happen in summer 2010 when he added Ollie to his staff as an assistant coach and began grooming his former player to one day become his replacement. Ollie has done especially well in recruiting, forging strong relationships with kids and coaches and helping the Huskies continue to reel in top prospects despite the uncertainty about Calhoun's future.

Those close to Ollie admit he's walking into a tough situation with the program in some turmoil and only one year to prove himself. Nonetheless, they believe UConn officials would be making a mistake so many have throughout Ollie's life if they doubt his ability to rise to the occasion.

"This kid is polished, he's humble as all get out, he's appreciative, he's determined, he's a great teacher and he has charisma," Dickenman said. "He's one of my favorites. And I don't say that about every Tom, Dick or Harry. He has a lot of supporters, and I'm as big a supporter as he has."

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Tags: Dorothy Ollie, Howie Dickenman, Jim Calhoun, Kevin Ollie, , UConn
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How Butler will try to replace dismissed guard Chrishawn Hopkins

13 Sep

Butler lost a key member of the versatile backcourt the Bulldogs hope will propel them into league title contention next season in their first year in the Atlantic 10.

Chrishawn Hopkins, an athletic 6-foot-1 junior guard, was dismissed from the program Wednesday night due to an accumulation of team rules violations. His guardian Vince Stennett released a statement to the Indianapolis Star on Wednesday expressing Hopkins' "extreme regret" for letting his team down.

"Although the mistakes he's made were enough to constitute his dismissal from the program … These mistakes will not define who Chrishawn is as a person or a player," the statement read. "He will move forward and accept these mistakes as life lessons. We would like to thank the Butler Athletic Department, Coaches, Players and Administrators for the opportunity. Additionally, on behalf of our family, we extend our deepest and sincerest apologies to everyone whom this impacts."

Butler has sufficient returning talent to absorb the loss of Hopkins and still contend in the Atlantic 10, but the absence of a returning starter who averaged 12 points per game over his final 12 games last season certainly is a blow. Hopkins had the speed and quickness to get to the rim on offense and the athleticism to eventually grow into an elite defender if he embraced that aspect of the game.

The tradeoff for Hopkins athleticism was that he was turnover-prone and a liability from behind the arc. Butler will improve in those areas no matter which guard Brad Stevens chooses to insert in Hopkins' spot in the starting backcourt alongside Arkansas transfer Rotnei Clarke.

He could go with senior Chase Stigall if he wants added experience and defensive prowess. He could go with sophomore Jackson Aldridge if he wants a second point guard on the floor besides Clarke. Or he could go with sweet-shooting freshman Kellen Dunham if he wants another shooter on the floor and he's comfortable that Clarke and 6-foot-6 Roosevelt Jones can handle the ball and create for their teammates.

The best guess is that all three see additional playing time as a result of Hopkins' absence with Stigall and Dunham absorbing most of it. Butler will miss Hopkins' explosiveness off the dribble, but the Bulldogs are better equipped to cope with the loss in the backcourt than they would be down low.

Tags: absence, backcourt, , Butler Athletic Department, Chase Stigall, Chrishawn, Chrishawn Hopkins Butler, Hopkins, junior guard, , , , Stigall
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On the eve of Jim Calhoun’s retirement, UConn braces for an uncertain future

12 Sep

Whether it was prostate cancer, NCAA allegations or merely a more talented basketball team than his own, Jim Calhoun never backed down from any fight no matter how high the odds were stacked against him.

In recent years, however, the legendary UConn coach finally encountered one opponent even he could not overcome: Age.

Calhoun reportedly will announce his retirement on Thursday, his 70-year-old body too achy and sore to coach another season after suffering a fractured left hip in an offseason bike accident and missing a month of last season due to an ailing back. He leaves behind a complicated legacy rife with historic victories and occasional controversies.

In 26 seasons at UConn, Calhoun won seven Big East tournament titles, made four Final Fours and captured three national championships. Connecticut was a basketball lightweight prior to Calhoun's arrival in 1986, but the fiery Massachusetts native built the Huskies into perennial Big East contenders for more than two decades.

Some of Calhoun's success was tainted a bit by the revelation he and his staff used a former team manager turned agent to help recruit Nate Miles. Calhoun fought bitterly to prove his innocence and keep his reputation untarnished, but the NCAA suspended him for three games last season and ruled that he failed to create an atmosphere of compliance.

[Related: UConn guard Shabazz Napier has surgery on injured right foot]

For all the great accomplishments Calhoun had at UConn, the one thing the Hall of Fame coach did not manage to do was leave his program at its peak. As a result, the future of the UConn program looks more uncertain than it did at any point in Calhoun's remarkably consistent tenure.

Interim coach Kevin Ollie will have to audition for the permanent job during a year in which the Huskies are ineligible for the postseason due to substandard APR scores and undermanned by their lofty standards. Jeremy Lamb and Andre Drummond bolted for the NBA draft last spring and veterans Alex Oriakhi, Roscoe Smith and Michael Bradley all transferred.

Left amidst the rubble is a young, mostly unproven team with uncharacteristic holes in the frontcourt. Capable junior Shabazz Napier, electric sophomore Ryan Boatright and 6-foot-6 freshman Omar Calhoun anchor a promising backcourt, but the Huskies have no dominant force in the middle and they'll need a breakout season from Deandre Daniels to solidify the forward spot.

The youthful roster and lack of postseason opportunities provide both advantages and disadvantages for Ollie.

On the one hand, he'd probably only need a moderately successful regular season to win over UConn fans and ratchet up the pressure on the administration to award him a long-term contract. On the other hand, the Huskies are not well-positioned for Calhoun-level success long-term yet fans will clamor for a big-name head coach if Ollie doesn't have UConn contending for Big East titles and Final Fours within three years.

Of course, Ollie is likely only getting the chance to replace Calhoun because the legendary coach wants it that way.

Calhoun has stated many times he believes Ollie should succeed him, but it's no secret first-year athletic director Warde Manuel was too wary of Ollie's lack of head coaching experience to name him coach-in-waiting. Well, by dragging out his retirement until mid-to-late September, Calhoun has left Manuel with little choice but to hand the reins to someone within the program on an interim basis -- and Ollie is clearly the most obvious candidate.

The consistency Calhoun achieved for so long would make it difficult for his replacement to live up to his standard under any circumstances. As a result of the chaotic state of the UConn program at the moment, it will be even tougher.

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Tags: , , , Jim Calhoun, Kevin Ollie, , , Omar Calhoun, , , Shabazz, UConn
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Notre Dame color analyst Jordan Cornette weighs in on how the Irish will fare in the ACC

12 Sep

Since college basketball programs generate less cash and therefore have less power than their gridiron counterparts, they often must function within the conference framework football has wrought.

Sometimes, that can mean an illogical move to a low-profile league (San Diego State to the Big West) or the death of a 100-year rivalry (Missouri vs. Kansas). In the case of Notre Dame basketball, however, it may actually turn out to be a positive.

While easing concerns about football scheduling as an independent was the main reason Notre Dame shifted every sport but football from the Big East to the ACC on Wednesday, the basketball program may thrive in its new league. The Irish will be playing in what should be the nation's most powerful basketball conference yet will maintain some of the natural recruiting ties they had in the Big East.

To evaluate how the impending move to the ACC will impact Notre Dame basketball, I spoke with Jordan Cornette, ex-Notre Dame forward and current Irish color analyst. Cornette described the buzz the move has already generated, why he thinks it was the right decision and how the Irish will stack up against the likes of North Carolina, Duke and Maryland in the ACC.

JE: Well, let's start with the obvious. What's your initial reaction to Notre Dame basketball in the ACC?

JC: I think it's a home run. People who grew up with your father's Big East or even the Big East I played in from 2001 to 2005, that's going to be no more without Syracuse, Pitt and West Virginia. I think that would be cause for recruits to shudder a little bit because it's a hard sell to play in a Big East that really wasn't what it was before. Now you shift to the ACC, which becomes in my opinion the most powerful conference in the nation. To align ourselves with that, I think it's great for basketball.

JE: I know it's only been a few hours, but have you sensed there's excitement among Notre Dame fans and players about the move?

JC: There's no former alumnus or current player who's not looking at this with excitement. This is a match made in heaven on both fronts. I slept in today and woke up at 8:45 this morning, and I had texts from a bunch of former teammates and friends I went to school with. I texted with coach [Mike] Brey today, and he was over-the-moon about it. A lot of this realignment stuff is typically football-driven. The fact that basketball was able to come out in such great position in this, that's great.

JE: Notre Dame enjoyed a lot of recruiting success in a Northeast-centric league like the Big East, but it seems like that can continue with the way the ACC is changing. Do you think it will be easier or harder to recruit in the ACC than it would have been going forward in the Big East?

JC: From a recruiting standpoint, the ACC is great because coach Brey does great in that area. He has ties there from his Duke days and one of his assistants has Virginia and Clemson ties. Plus, the ACC has good football, but let's be honest, it's a basketball-first conference. You'll be able to go to Duke and play at Cameron. You'll be able to go to North Carolina and play at the Dean Dome. For a young kid who wants to play big-time basketball, you've got to be over the moon for an opportunity like this.

JE: Was it important for Notre Dame basketball to stay in a league with footholds in the New York and D.C. area rather than going to the Big 12 for example?

JC: I'm sure coach was hoping he could stay in that region. When people started saying the Big 12 could be an option for us, I thought right away you'd have to reinvent the wheel in terms of how you recruit. You'd have to start looking at kids in the Midwest. As you look at our roster annually, you don't see a lot of kids from Texas or Oklahoma. We don't typically get guys from there. I do think we dodged a bullet there. Now coach can still comfortably go into the D.C. pipeline, which he has often. You've still got the New York and Boston area. It works out perfectly for them.

JE: So is there any downside to the ACC for Notre Dame basketball in your mind?

JC: The only downside is you have to play Duke and North Carolina every year. I say that jokingly. Notre Dame can definitely compete with those guys. We've shown we can compete with teams at the highest level. That's a testament to the job coach Brey has done at Notre Dame.

JE: The ACC is going to be loaded with Duke and North Carolina always strong, Syracuse and Pittsburgh coming in and Maryland and NC State both on the rise again. Can Notre Dame compete for league titles in a league like that?

JC: One of the biggest keys to our success recently is we've been able to play a style that is so drastically different from most teams in the Big East. We've used the ability to slow it down to our benefit. That's still something that's going to be an advantage in the ACC as well. I think when the Big East was at its highest level in recent years, it has been an incredibly strong conference. You've seen national champions come out of it -- Syracuse and UConn -- yet Notre Dame still figured in that top tier. When you compare what the ACC will be to what the Big East was then, it's comparable. So there's no reason to think that Notre Dame doesn't remain in that top tier in the ACC. I expect them to compete with the Dukes and North Carolinas year in and year out.

Tags: , , Big East, Brey, , Cornette, Jordan Cornette, , , , Notre Dame basketball
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Winners and losers from Notre Dame’s blockbuster move to the ACC

12 Sep

There's no question who the biggest winner is in Notre Dame's decision to move its non-football sports to the ACC.

Without a doubt, it's the Irish themselves.

From a football perspective, Notre Dame remains independent and keeps its national TV deal with NBC while making scheduling easier in the future. Other conferences going to nine-game league schedules made it more difficult for the Irish to find quality opponents in October and November, but playing five games a year against ACC opponents mitigates those concerns.

From a basketball perspective, Notre Dame joins what should become the nation's most powerful league without having to give up its Northeast recruiting footprint. The Irish have enjoyed great success under coach Mike Brey and his predecessors recruiting in the New York area and in the D.C. area. That will be significantly easier to maintain with the ACC's new Northeast presence than it would have had Notre Dame gone to the Big 12.

As with any move in conference realignment, there are ripple effects that impact other schools and other leagues. Here's a look at some of the other winners and losers from Notre Dame's blockbuster decision:

Winner: ACC Basketball

Notre Dame hoops isn't as significant an addition as Syracuse or Pittsburgh, but the Irish are no slouches either. This is a steady program under coach Brey that has gone to five NCAA tournaments in six seasons and finished in the top three of the Big East the past two years. Granted the Irish have done little in the NCAA tournament during that time span, but they'll still add depth to a league that will soon be college basketball's most formidable again after several years of being North Carolina, Duke and little else.

Loser: Big East Basketball

Remember way back in 2010 when the Big East was college basketball's juggernaut? Those days are long gone. The Big East has now lost Syracuse, Pittsburgh and Notre Dame to the ACC and West Virginia to the Big 12, a devastating exodus, albeit not the death knell some have proclaimed it to be. The good news for the Big East is that the ACC does not appear intent on adding a 16th basketball member for now. If that changes in the future,  the most likely possibilities are probably UConn, Louisville or Georgetown.

Winner: ACC Football

While adding Notre Dame as an actual league member would have been the best-case scenario for the ACC, having the Irish play five football games a year against ACC teams is a great consolation prize. That means every ACC team will play Notre Dame about once every 2 1/2 years and host the Irish once every five. Every football game against Notre Dame is marquee national TV game for ACC programs and every visit from the Irish is very likely a guaranteed sellout.

Loser: Notre Dame's annual Big Ten football opponents

It looks less and less likely Notre Dame football will continue to annually face Big Ten foes Michigan, Michigan State and Purdue once the Irish have  five ACC programs on their schedule each year. The Chicago Tribune's Brian Hamilton tweeted Wednesday he expects the Irish to protect cross-country rivalry games with USC, Stanford and Navy. Since that leaves only four holes on the schedule and Notre Dame will surely want some flexibility in football scheduling each year, the most likely scenario would be a rotation among those Big Ten opponents. Purdue, Michigan State and Michigan don't need Notre Dame on their schedules to thrive, but that's still a marquee, revenue-driving game for each of them.

Loser: UConn

Even though the addition of Notre Dame gives the ACC an unwieldy 15 members for basketball, commissioner John Swofford says the league does not intend to add another school to get to an even 16. That means Swofford is essentially paddling away in the last available life raft that could have helped UConn escape the floundering Big East. The Huskies have made it no secret they wanted to follow Syracuse and Pittsburgh to the ACC, but that's not an option right now. And even if the ACC changes its mind in the future and seeks a 16th member, Louisville, Rutgers, Georgetown and Villanova are all just as strong possibilities as UConn.

Loser: Big 12

Notre Dame reportedly had also been in negotiations with the Big 12, so it's a blow to the league that the Irish ultimately chose the ACC. Worse yet, the news that the ACC upped its exit fee for members to $50 million may put any Big 12 expansion hopes on hold for the foreseeable future. Florida State and Clemson reportedly were expansion possibilities for the Big 12, but would either of them pay that kind of penalty to leave the ACC? Probably not, especially when their ACC TV deals should get even sweeter with the partial addition of the Irish. That makes Louisville maybe the best potential option for the Big 12 if it were to decide to add members in the near future.

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Roy Williams out-blings John Calipari during visit with Julius Randall

12 Sep

Having read that John Calipari wowed elite recruit Julius Randle with his brand new championship ring during an in-home visit Sunday evening, North Carolina coach Roy Williams one-upped his Kentucky counterpart two days later.

Williams showed up to Randle's home with a case that held 30 rings commemorating anything from conference championships, to Final Four berths to national titles. Once Randle finished admiring those, Williams then reached into his pocket and pulled out the coup de grâce: The 1992 NBA championship ring Tar Heels legend Michael Jordan won with the Chicago Bulls.

USA Today's Jason Jordan has spent the week with Randall in Plano, Texas, chronicling the in-home visits the Class of 2013's top-ranked recruit has received from coaches from the likes of NC State, Kentucky, Duke, North Carolina and Kansas. Jordan asked the 6-foot-9 power forward whether holding Michael Jordan's ring topped trying on Calipari's.

"Come on now. It's Jordan. No comparison," Randle responded.

"[Williams] said Jordan gave it to him to show his players what they could achieve with hard work and determination. I was just shocked. I couldn't believe I was holding Jordan's ring."

The anecdote from USA Today demonstrates the lengths top coaches will go in competing with one another on the recruiting trail. It's no accident Calipari was wearing his national title ring to Randle's home Sunday night. And it's no coincidence Williams just happened to bring a case of rings two days after Randle and his mom gushed about how impressive Calipari's ring was.

It's going to be tough for any coach in the Randall sweepstakes to top Williams' haul, but Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski certainly has more championship rings to showcase.

And if that's not enough, perhaps Krzyzewski can place a call to Lance Thomas. If Friday's news is any indication, the ex-Duke forward has plenty of diamond-crusted jewelry he could lend his former coach.

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4 Northwestern Football Tickets 9/22 Only $9

11 Sep
See Chicago's Big 10 team Northwestern live at Ryan Field for just $9!! Metroseats.com is selling 4 tickets to South Dakota Coyotes at Northwestern Wildcats at Ryan Field on 9/22/2012. The tickets are for seats in section 109 row 12 - can split tickets if necessary.

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OU – K State Football Tickets

11 Sep
See the Sooners take on the K State Wildcats!! Metroseats have the CHEAPEST tickets to see Kansas State Wildcats at Oklahoma Sooners at OU Memorial Stadium on 9/22/2012. These are incredible seats in section SOONER row TAILGATE - Don't miss your chance to see Oklahoma Sooners Football live in Norman.

PRICE & AVAILABILITY SUBJECT TO CHANGE. USE DISCOUNT CODE FREESHIP FOR FREE SHIPPING ON ORDERS OVER $150! Click below for current prices and availability of Kansas State Wildcats at Oklahoma Sooners TICKETS

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