Thursday, June 23, 2011

Nix Joins Wake Forest Basketball Staff

Wake Forest basketball coach Jeff Bzdelik has tapped into his long-time NBA connections to land Jeff Nix as the Deacons' new director of men's basketball operations.

Nix spent 15 years in the New York Knicks organization with responsibilities ranging from assistant coach to assistant general manager and director of scouting.

“We hit a home run in the hiring of Jeff Nix as our director of basketball operations,” said Bzdelik in a statement. “His loyalty, integrity, knowledge and experience takes a backseat to no one. He will be a great asset to our basketball program and the entire Wake Forest University community.”

Bzdelik and Nix worked together for one season with the Knicks in 1994-95 under Pat Riley.

Nix was a member of the Knicks’ coaching staff for the organization’s Eastern Conference Championship teams in both 1994 and 1999. Nix served as an assistant under three Knicks head coaches, including Pat Riley (1992-95), Don Nelson (1995-96) and Jeff Van Gundy (1996-2000).

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Duke mourns ex-basketball captain Emma

Thomas Emma, a Duke basketball team captain in 1982-83 who ushered the Blue Devils through a difficult transition after coach Mike Krzyzewski took over for Bill Foster, is dead of an apparent suicide.

Emma was 49. Police say he plunged from the 12th floor of the New York Athletic Club in Manhattan. His body was found at 11:30 a.m. Tuesday on a second-floor landing of the building on Central Park South.

Former teammates reacted with shock.

“This one’s especially tough,” said Jay Bilas, a freshman on the 1982-83 team, “because I didn’t know he was that bad off.”

Emma (No. 22, above, in January 1983) was drafted by the Chicago Bulls but never played in the NBA. He was a high-scoring high school standout in Manhasset on Long Island and enrolled at Duke in 1979, before Foster’s final season.

A 6-foot-2 guard, Emma started three seasons under Krzyzewski, scored 784 career points and made perhaps his most lasting contribution to the program as a captain during his senior season.

In 1982-83, Johnny Dawkins, Mark Alarie, David Henderson and Bilas arrived and immediately took over starting roles as one of the most anticipated freshman classes in school history in Krzyzewski’s third season.

The captain and lone senior starter, Emma prevented discord by accepting a less prominent role as Dawkins and Alarie, respectively, were Duke’s top two scorers.

“He did not play as much as he should have because. . .the players who were considered the future of Duke basketball were going to be given playing time,” Alarie said. “He was unbelievably gracious in accepting that role of captain and also, I call it ‘transition facilitator.’ ”

Bilas said Emma had a great sense of humor and kept everything light while he displayed extreme tenacity on the court. One day before practice Emma gathered the team to say that day’s session would be especially grueling and that a fight might break out if they didn’t keep their cool.

Emma cautioned his teammates to remain calm, but a fight did break out. Emma was right in the middle, and his teammates teased him about it afterward.

“Tom had a pretty good feel for the fact that with us coming in with all this hype and No. 1 recruiting class and all that, that there could be some tension between the older players and us,” Bilas said. “He made sure that there wasn’t.”

Emma (right) was drafted in the 10th round by the Bulls, and later became president of Power Performance, Inc., a company devoted to training young athletes.

The New York City medical examiner will determine the cause of his death.
Alarie said he kept in touch with Emma, reviewing a book he wrote called “Basketball Player's Comprehensive Guide to Strength Training," and talking about the good, old days when they were teammates at Duke.

“It’s really come as a shock to everybody,” Alarie said. “No inkling that there was a problem with depression or any issues like that. So it’s really a shocker.

“He just had a never-say-die, never-give-up attitude when he was on the floor, and we all respected him and admired him for that, and that’s why he was a captain, because he had that attitude, that kind of fight and competitiveness in him. He was a great teammate.”

The Associated Press contributed.

Ken Tysiac

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Krzyzewski prefers 16-game ACC schedule

DURHAM – Mike Krzyzewski knows little about what kind of system Duke will run next basketball season.

Instead, the Blue Devils’ coach will wait until after the team’s trip to play exhibition games in China and Dubai in August to form a rotation and a system of play after losing first-team All-ACC seniors Nolan Smith and Kyle Singler from last season’s team.

“We have so many new guys,” Krzyzewski said Wednesday during a media opportunity at the beginning of his yearly K Academy fantasy camp.

Krzyzewski has a firm opinion, though, on the ACC’s great scheduling debate. After the ACC got just four of its 12 teams into the NCAA tournament last season, school and conference officials discussed in April the idea of increasing the conference schedule from 16 to 18 games beginning in 2013-14.

The Big East, Big Ten and Pac-10 all play 18-game conference schedules. Krzyzewski doesn’t want the ACC to follow their lead. He would prefer the ACC schedule to remain at 16 games to allow teams to continue playing high-profile opponents from outside the conference without making the schedule too strong.

Krzyzewski would like ACC teams as a group to schedule stronger outside the conference while keeping the 16-game league schedule. According to, the ACC had just the sixth-best schedule strength among the nation’s conference last season.

Just two teams in the ACC – Duke and North Carolina – played a top-25 schedule.

“Part of our problem is that as a conference, we have not scheduled nonconference wise hard enough to promote a good enough RPI which would benefit everyone,” Krzyzewski said. “If we could still keep 16 games and each team takes it upon itself to schedule stronger, I think we need that.”

Krzyzewski also is pushing for the ACC and its television partners to develop regular slots for nationally televised games to entice audiences to develop consistent ACC basketball viewing habits.

He suggested slots on Wednesday night and Saturday afternoons.

“Our conference has been built on people turning radios on, in little towns and big cities throughout the mid-Atlantic region,” Krzyzewsk said. “And they knew at a certain time there was going to be an ACC basketball game on, and things like that, where we as a conference need to do that.”

Last week, ACC commissioner John Swofford said he was impressed with the way the basketball coaches conducted themselves with the league’s best interests at heart at the conference’s yearly spring meetings.

Just four of the ACC’s basketball coaches have been working in the conference for more than two seasons. Swofford sounded encouraged with the way the coaches interacted.

“They’re very bright, very engaged, very knowledgeable and appreciative of our conference’s history and tradition in basketball and are proud to be part of it,” Swofford said.

Krzyzewski echoed those comments.

“The group of coaches we have in here are really smart,” he said, “and I think they look at it as a conference. I think for a little, the last few years, I think sometimes we’ve gotten too territorial about individual programs and not looked collectively on what the conference needs to do.”

Regarding his own team, Krzyzewski said it will take time to figure out how to play in 2011-12. Duke has just one senior, Miles Plumlee, next season and loses 52.8 percent of its scoring off a 2010-11 team that finished 32-5.

He will keep things simple on the trip to China and watch to see which players emerge as contributors and leaders before making any decisions.

“We have very good talent, and we’ll have good depth,” Krzyzewski said. “But we don’t have anybody coming back who for a whole year, you knew he was that [key] guy. So the China trip, we’ll keep it simple. We’ll get to know our guys.”

Ken Tysiac

N.C. State picks up preferred walk-on

Broughton grad to walk on at N.C. State: Staats Battle, a 6-foot-5 basketball standout at Broughton, is going to N.C. State as a preferred walk-on. Battle, who averaged 13.7 points last season for the Caps (22-6), will graduate this spring and enroll at N.C. State in the fall.

He made a school-record 61 three-pointers during his senior season at the Raleigh high school.

“He is a tremendous three-point shooter,” said Broughton coach Jeff Ferrell. “I think he is going to do a great job at State. He plays well with other people, and he plays within his capabilities. He is very much a team player. Staats is a person of great character.”

Ferrell also coached former State player Will Roach, who went to State as a walk-on and played for four years.

“Will and Staats are different in their physical characteristics, but as far as the way they play with a team and with being people of great character, they are similar,” Ferrell said. “They are both just very good people.”

-- Tim Stevens