Thursday, March 29, 2007

30 Years Ago, UNC-Charlotte Made a George Mason Run

Everyone wet their pants over George Mason getting to last year's Final Four.  It was a great site to see, a little guy knocking off Michigan State, North Carolina and UConn en route to college basketball's biggest stage. 

Of course, it used to be that those little guys would get to that stage routinely.  In the 1970s, we had Penn, Indiana State, Western Kentucky, Jacksonville, St Bonnaventure and New Mexico State.   And schools like Florida State, Memphis, Providence and Marquette weren't household names either. 

Oh, and there was UNC-Charlotte.

I went to school at UNCC in the early 1990s when the basketball program was making it's re-emergance to the national stage.  We were transitioning from the Sun Belt conference to the Metro Conference to what would eventually be Conference USA.  Still, the signature moment of the basketball history is the 1977 season.  The 1977 Final Four in Atlanta. 

To get to the Final Four, the 49ers [who were in just their 7th season of D-1 hoops] had to beat Central Michigan, Syracuse and Michigan.  The year before, this team played in the NIT title game [back when it still had a little bit of flavor] and now is in the Final Four. 

When you think of that 1977 season, you think of Al McGuire's Marquette team smacking up North Carolina for the National Championship.  It neatly didn't get to that point.  Marquette skimmed by UNCC, 51-49, in the semifinals. 

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Why Would Billy Donovan Leave Florida?

With UKKK's basketball job opening up, rumors are swirling that Florida's Billy Donovan is the favorite for the gig.  Kentucky is smart to go after him [or wait to go after him] since he is a guy that has done great things already and would unite a fragmented Wildcat Nation.

But why, really, would Donovan leave?

As the Florida head coach, he's a god there.  He's their Dean Smith, their Coach K, their Bobby Knight, their John Wooden.  He took a decent program at a football school in a football conference and taken them to a few Final Fours and a National Championship.  And he did so by passing Kentucky in the fast lane. 

At Kentucky, Donovan will still be great ... but just another in a line of greats.  Not that it totally matters.  It may not bother him, but the pressure to perform is greater in Lexington and what he did at Florida won't carry over. 

As a UNC fan, I know this whole deal.  When our job opened because the controversial coach we had was ran off, we believed that Roy Williams was going to take it.  After all, he was a big time coach at a big time school who used to be here at one time.  Roy took a Kansas team to the championship game ... then left for Chapel Hill as his stars left for the NBA.  Sound familiar???

And Roy turned it around and won a National Championship in just his 2nd season in Carolina.  What a way to celebrate!!  Of course, Tubby Smith won a title in his first season at Kentucky ... yet the shine from that trophy has all but been extinguished.  My point is that Donovan would have to get Kentucky back in a hurry.  He can do that ... and he better do that.

If I was him, I'd use the leverage to milk some more money out of the Gator athletic department and stay put.  Your mark is on Florida hoops and you are entering elite heights right now. 

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Frank Caliendo: Ol Skool

If you love Frank's this.  The Ted Knight impression has me rolling!  Oh, now it's the Rick Moranis!!!

"Putting Kobe In Perspective"

          Kobe Bryant

Putting Kobe in perspective

Kobe Bryant is better than Michael Jordan.

Not more successful.

Hasn't had a bigger economic impact.

Hasn't won more MVPs.

Hasn't won more titles.

But he's a better player.

Kobe can do everything Michael did, and even a few things Michael couldn't do.

Kobe is just as good a defender. His killer instinct is just as pronounced. He can shoot, finish and explode. And just like Jordan, the more he's pissed off, the more unstoppable he is.

At the very least, Kobe's scoring spree over the last week should put to rest any lingering doubts that he's the best player in the NBA. Yes, better than Steve Nash, who is the best point guard, but not the lethal force that Kobe is. Yes, better than Dwyane Wade, who is certainly closer to the Kobe-Jordan level than LeBron James, but D-Wade's game is not as polished as Kobe's.

Kobe's streak of four straight 50-points-plus games is something none of those players can do, and it's something that hasn't been done since Wilt Chamberlain, who had an NBA-record seven straight 50-point games. Truthfully, Kobe should have tacked another 50 on Golden State on Sunday night.

Of course, the idea that Kobe is better than Jordan -- or even the best player in this league -- is as repugnant to some folks as a rectal exam. Even though Kobe has proven himself under pressure countless times, he gets the A-Rod treatment.

Kobe can't please anyone. And it doesn't help that most people suffer from revisionist history when it comes to Jordan, forgetting that he was just as poor a teammate and a ball hog and that he ran off coach Doug Collins like Kobe ran off Phil Jackson the first time.

In fact, you could argue that Jordan was even worse. Far as we know, Kobe hasn't jacked up any of his teammates the way Jordan punched out Steve Kerr and Will Perdue at practice.

Kobe will never be forgiven for Shaq's departure, but you're delusional if you think Jordan wouldn't have had any ego issues playing alongside a player with Shaq's star power.

The best-player argument shouldn't be determined by personal dislike. But if you want to take it there, fine. Jordan was hardly the ideal husband, but only the tabloids were brave enough to venture into his personal life. And what about those gambling issues? If Jordan's life had been covered like Kobe's, we would have an entirely different opinion of His Airness.

Besides a different level of media scrutiny, there was definitely a difference in the level of competition during Jordan's heyday compared to now.

Yesterday's NBA player certainly was more fundamentally sound, but there's no question that today's player is bigger, stronger and faster. When Jordan played, he was a singular force that could not be equaled. Jordan was guarded by the likes of John Starks and Joe Dumars, who were fine players but weren't nearly as skilled or physically imposing as LeBron, D-Wade, Tracy McGrady or even Vince Carter.

The NBA is tougher now.

Kobe, like Michael, is surrounded with mediocre to below-average talent, and Phoenix, Dallas and San Antonio are all better than the Utah, Portland and the Charles Barkley-led Phoenix team that Michael met in the NBA Finals.

Hakeem Olajuwon, David Robinson and Patrick Ewing will be among the best centers ever, but none of them affected the league the way Shaq and Tim Duncan have. There are two two-time MVPs in Kobe's own conference (Duncan, Nash), which is a problem Jordan never faced during his championship runs. Seven-footers weren't launching 3s back then. Magic Johnsonand the Lakers were on a downward spiral, and the Pistons were on their last legs. It was Michael and everyone else. That's not the case for Kobe.

The shame of it is that Kobe might finish his career without a MVP, even though his ability can be compared only to that of Jordan and Wilt Chamberlain. All this time we've been looking for a player who is better than Jordan, but most of us can't get beyond whether we like or dislike Kobe as a person to recognize his contributions to the game.

Ultimately the MVP award will go to either Nash or Dirk Nowitzki, who are deserving this season, but neither are as good as Kobe. Dallas and Phoenix are strong enough to make the playoffs without their stars. The Lakers, however, are a lottery team without Kobe.

Now that's a valuable player.

Jemele Hill, a Page 2 columnist and writer for ESPN The Magazine, can be reached at

Sunday, March 25, 2007

I Have An Idea For a TV Show!


My wife had the Surreal Life show on where they were competing for something....I dunno...but it gave me a great idea.  A great idea for a TV show that will link people who watch reality stuff like this and sports fans alike. 

A Surreal Life Sports Edition!

Why not?  We have plenty of people to choose from.  And with Emmitt Smith winning over mainstream fans during his time on Dancing With The Stars, it could be a rating bonanza. 

Here is my picks for the Surreal Life: Sports Edition house

*Terrell Owens.  We all love watching him now, so how about in a house filled with other nuts?  Nothing would be better than watching him trying to use rationale with these folk.

*Ron Artest.  Artest could be the lovable one of the group.  He'd be a bit quiet, just laying in the weeds.  Then you know he'll end up in the thick of the worst incident the house will face.

*Barry Bonds.  Soon to be HR-king already has some of the reality lifestyle on his usually hush-hush life.  If it gets really bad, he can bring his son. 

*Mike Tyson.  Really, would anyone screw with him?  An ego ridden house like this needs a truly crazy person.

*Johnny Weir.  You have a flaming ice skater in this mix. 

*Bobby Knight.  What, it can't all be athletes.

*Insert Wrestler Here.  I don't watch wrestling, but I'm sure there is someone out there that would fit this spot excellently.

You may notice I have no women in the house.  Well, would you subject any women around these guys?     

Thursday, March 15, 2007

Fillin' Out The Brackets

March Madness takes over
At NCAA tournament time, it's not whether you win or lose, it's how you fill out your brackets

For college hoop fans, this is the most exciting time of the year - the time of the NCAA men's basketball tournament, which begins today and ends April 2. This is when we pull for the local and regional teams - Xavier, Miami, Kentucky, Ohio State, Indiana, Louisville, Wright State - as they compete for the national championship.

Even better, it's when we fill out the brackets in friendly betting pools, trying to predict which teams will win each round. By some estimates, as many as 10 percent of all Americans (including many women and some children) jump into a pool every March, making the basketball tournament second only to the Super Bowl in betting popularity.

Because there are often so many upsets in the tournaments, almost anyone can win. Sometimes a hunch or luck is more important in filling out the brackets than knowing the team's won-loss record or some other statistic. Which is why, for fun, many come up with wacky ways for picking their winners. Maybe this another reason they call it "March Madness."


Ron Minges of White Oak usually fills out a "serious" bracket - one in which he tries to put his basketball knowledge to use - and another, "not-so-serious" bracket. For this one, he employs the "fierce mascot" principle: The mascot he thinks would win a knock-down, drag-out fight will win the basketball game. Minges, a Realtor, picks cats over bird mascots, and dogs, wolves and other canines over cat mascots - although this year, he does have a special feeling about the Memphis Tigers. Minges especially likes teams with bulldog mascots - Gonzaga and Butler.

And who does he choose if the team has a really unusual mascot, such as the No. 1-ranked Ohio State Buckeyes?

"If they're playing a team that has a panther mascot, then I might say the panthers would climb all over the trees (Buckeyes)," he says.

The beauty of his and other crazy bracket methods, of course, is you make up the rules as you go.


Listen to John Meyer's system. For his "fun" brackets, he also chooses teams based on mascots. Meyer, an investment accountant who lives in Mount Washington, is an Ohio State fan. How could he possibly choose the Buckeyes - the mighty trees - to beat anyone?.

"Well, maybe the tree's nuts are poisonous," Meyer reasons. (Actually, if you eat enough of them, buckeye nuts are toxic.)

Meyer guesses he'll devote more time to researching these brackets than his pool choices based on sports sense. His wife, Sarah, chose teams last year based on cities where she'd like to live.

"I did pretty well until the Final Four," she says.

Evidently, Sarah has no desire to live in any of last year's Final four towns: Gainesville (University of Florida), Los Angeles (UCLA), Baton Rouge (LSU) or Fairfax, Va. (George Mason University).


Pharmacist Carrie Christofield of Fort Mitchell chooses her winners based on mascots - but not necessarily the meanest mascots. Christofield, who admits she doesn't follow college basketball closely, almost always chooses the Maryland Terrapins over other teams - and yes, she knows a terrapin is a turtle. There's just something about the sound of "terrapin,' she says.

Christofield relies on her husband, Joe, the city clerk of Florence, to research team mascots for her. He is somewhat of a sports wonk, who studies team records and other statistics. Joe has been a little perturbed in the past, she says, when her brackets have beaten his studied choices.


Dave Tryling of Loveland won his company's office pool last year using a wacky and slightly complicated selection method. Tryling, who is partner of Acutek in Evendale, prefers fierce - definitely not cute - mascots. But he also favors teams from states with beaches, such as Florida and South Carolina. Color is another consideration: Blue is his favorite uniform color, but he'll quickly pick teams from "red" or Republican states over those from "blue," or Democrat states.

Team cheerleaders are a criterion as well, but he won't elaborate.

A UC grad, Tryling is one of those pool players who claims he could care less about basketball, but was coerced by employees to play the brackets.

"He did check to see how he was doing every day during the tournament last year," says his business partner, Sue Rodgers of Mason.

Tryling says several serious basketball fans at his company were upset he won the $3 pool pot last year.


Susan Collier of Anderson Township had the same experience several years ago when she won her company's $200 pool. Sports fans were mad because Collier used a loosey-goosey, mostly intuitive method.

She loves pale blue uniforms, so she picked North Carolina.

Her son likes Florida, so she chose the Gators.

She used to live in Pittsburgh, but hates the Steelers. So Collier, a medical sales rep-turned-Realtor, never picked a team from the Steel City.

Follow that?

"Oh, and I would pick some teams just based on their names," she says. "Like Gonzaga. That's a cool name, don't you think?"


Talk about your long shots: When John Kahles of North College Hill plays his family's basketball pool, he picks the four 16th (lowest) seeded teams to make the final four round. Kahles, CEO and president of Metcut Research in Oakley and Forest Park, doesn't care that he probably never will win this contest. It's all in fun.

The rest of his family, including his wife, Linda, their three children, their spouses and four grandchildren, don't care because Kahles puts up the $1,000 pool money every year.

But you can bet if Kahles ever wins with four 16 seeds, someone will hear about it.


Finally, there's Karen Carter of Erlanger, who tells how she and her daughter, Michelle Hilliar of Florence, came up with a peculiar method for choosing bracket winners 10 years ago. The women wrote team names on paper, wadded up two for each bracket and threw them against the wall. The name on the ball of paper that bounced back closest to them was their winner.

Carter swears no alcohol consumption was involved in this exercise.

She never won with this off-the-wall method, but Carter remembers how much she and her daughter enjoyed the time together. So this week, they tried it again.

In their championship game, the women have Kansas defeating Michigan State. This is hard to stomach for such loyal Kentucky fans - but that pick, at least, doesn't sound terribly wacky.

Monday, March 12, 2007

Comedian Jeni Dies In Apparant Suicide

Richard Jeni, a standup comedian who played to sold-out crowds, was a regular on the "Tonight Show" and appeared in movies, died of a gunshot wound in an apparent suicide, police said Sunday.

Police found the 45-year-old comedian alive but gravely injured in a West Hollywood home when they responded to a call Saturday morning from Jeni's girlfriend, Los Angeles Police Officer Norma Eisenman said.

Eisenman said the caller told police: "My boyfriend shot himself in the face."

Jeni died at a nearby hospital.

Eisenman said suicide had not been officially confirmed and the investigation was continuing. An autopsy on Jeni would be done Monday, said Lt. Fred Corral from the investigation division of the coroner's office.

Jeni regularly toured the country with a standup act and had starred in several HBO comedy specials, most recently "A Big Steaming Pile of Me" during the 2005-06 season.

Another HBO special, "Platypus Man," won a Cable ACE award for best standup comedy special, and formed the basis for his UPN sitcom of the same name, which ran for one season.

Jeni's movie credits included "The Mask," in which he played Jim Carrey's best friend, "The Aristocrats," "National Lampoon's Dad's Week Off," and "An Alan Smithee Film: Burn, Hollywood, Burn."

He had guest appearances in the TV shows "Everybody Hates Chris," "Married: With Children," and updated versions of the game shows "Hollywood Squares" and "Match Game."

Frazer Smith, standup comedian who often opened for Jeni and the emcee at the Ice House, where Jeni often performed, said young comedians looked up to him.

"He was probably one of the best standup comedians in the last 50 years," said Smith. "He had tons and tons of material. He was looked up to by all the young comedians, a total pro."

The Brooklyn-born comic first received national attention in 1990 with the Showtime special "Richard Jeni: Boy From New York City." Two years later, his "Crazy From the Heat" special attracted the highest ratings in Showtime's history.

Jeni became a frequent guest on "The Tonight Show" during Johnny Carson's reign and continued to appear after Jay Leno took over as host.

He also wrote comic material for the 2005 Academy Awards, which was hosted by his friend Chris Rock.

Thursday, March 8, 2007

Why Won't You Kill Me!!

This has nothing to do with sports, but to me is a bit funny.   A dude on North Carolina's death row is wondering why it's taking so long to kill him. 


N.C. inmate upset about delay in execution 'Why do they have a problem?' ESTES THOMPSON Associated Press Writer
Allen Holman


A convicted killer on North Carolina's death row who fired his lawyers and wants to die said Thursday he's frustrated a dispute over the role doctors should play in executions will keep the state from putting him to death as scheduled.

Allen Holman's execution is one of several on hold in North Carolina, where the state medical board has threatened to punish any doctor who takes part in an execution.

"Why do they have a problem? They perform abortions, murder babies all the time," Holman told The Associated Press in an interview at the state's Central Prison. "They all of a sudden got conscience about their Hippocratic oath."

While state law only requires a doctor be present, a federal judge allowed an execution to go forward last year only after authorities said a doctor would monitor the inmate to ensure he didn't feel pain as officials injected him with a combination of three deadly chemicals.

In January, the medical board responded by declaringthat any doctor who participates in an execution violates medical ethics and risks sanction. The resulting conflict has effectively imposed a moratorium in capital punishment in the state.

Holman, 47, has declined further appeals since the state Supreme Court affirmed his conviction and death sentence for the 1997 murder of his estranged wife, Linda, who was gunned down after a car chase in Wake County.

He fired his attorneys last year, but they filed a motion last week anyway asking a judge to place his execution - set for 2 a.m. Friday - on hold. Had the legal process moved faster, Holman said Thursday, he would have been executed already and not caught up in the current dispute.

Holman said he didn't understand why a doctor needed to be present at his execution, saying a nurse or someone else with proper training could insert the needle used to deliver the lethal drugs.

He also said the state could streamline its system of putting inmates to death. Instead of using the combination of three chemicals to deaden pain, paralyze the body and cause a fatal heart attack, he said the state should use a massive dose of single, fatal drug.

"I can't think of any more humane way for them to perform an execution," he said.

Monday, March 5, 2007

UNC-Duke: Bad Blood

I cannot really write about the game here, on, since I write ACC basketball for AOL's The FanHouse.
I can, however, direct you to my writings on the subject.  Please go to the links and leave comments.