Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Davidson-Winthrop in BracketBuster game?

Davidson will have another chance to showcase itself when the Wildcats play in the ESPN BracketBuster event Feb. 23.

The Wildcats won't know their opponent until February, but Davidson is already slotted to be a road team in the game. ESPN has already released all the home teams and road teams for the event, so Davidson could play at teams such as Southern Illinois, Old Dominion and Butler.

There's also another enticing possibility: Winthrop.

The Eagles are scheduled to be a home team in the event, and that could finally get the two local rivals on the court together, something that hasn't happened since 1992.

That matchup will certainly depend on how each team is doing. If Davidson and Winthrop can repeat last season's success, don't be surprised if the two schools end up renewing their rivalry in Rock Hill.

-- Kevin Cary

Thursday, August 23, 2007

UNC vs Kentucky series lives on

North Carolina and Kentucky will continue their highly anticipated nonconference basketball series through at least the 2009-10 season, North Carolina senior associate athletics director Larry Gallo said Thursday.

The Dec. 1, 2007 game in Lexington is the last game the schools have under contract, Gallo said. But Gallo said North Carolina coach Roy Williams and first-year Kentucky coach Billy Gillispie have agreed the series should continue.

"We think this will continue for a long time," Gallo said. ". . .It’s one of those great rivalries that should keep on going."

North Carolina has played Kentucky the last seven seasons, winning the last three times after the Wildcats won four in a row. The Tar Heels lead the overall series 19-10.

Kentucky is the winningest team in Division I, with 1,948 wins in its history. North Carolina ranks second in Division I with 1,914 wins. – Ken Tysiac

Wednesday, August 8, 2007

Gaudio has time on his side

The biggest round of applause by Wake Forest supporters at Wednesday’s news conference announcing Dino Gaudio as the Deacons’ new basketball coach came when athletics director Ron Wellman said Gaudio had been given a five-year contract. No "interim" tag for Gaudio, an assistant to the late Skip Prosser at Wake Forest and Xavier since 2000. "I never would have done that to Dino," Wellman said. "That’s the worst thing you can do. You’re saying you’re a lame duck. How do you coach like that? And you can’t recruit."

-- Gaudio’s record (68-124) in two previous head-coaching jobs at Army and Loyola (Md.) is less than impressive. But those have never been college basketball powers. He’s got more experience now and more resources with which to work. Still, he will be going against some of the giants of his profession in the coaching-rich ACC. "I don’t worry about him locking horns with some of the greatest coaches in the country," Wellman said.

-- Gaudio did a good job of deflecting some of the blame for Wake Forest’s defensive inadequacies in recent seasons off Prosser and onto himself, while promising more emphasis in that area.

-- Gaudio looked elegant in a gray pinstriped suit that included a double-breasted vest. "We have a new dress code at Wake Forest," Wellman joked. "It appears that vests are in."

-- David Scott

Tuesday, August 7, 2007

ECU's move only first step

The timing – five months after the end of East Carolina’s season – was the only odd thing about Monday’s news that Ricky Stokes is finished as the Pirates’ basketball coach.

Stokes was 14-44 in two seasons and clearly wasn’t getting the job done. Former associate head coach Mack McCarthy will serve as interim coach in 2007-08 now that Stokes has been moved to associate athletics director for basketball.

East Carolina athletics director Terry Holland has coached Virginia to two Final Fours, so he certainly has his own ideas about how to revive the program.

Here are some things the program needs and Holland should keep in mind as he searches for a new coach:

D.C.-area recruiting. Greenville is just 4 ½ hours from Washington, D.C., but has just one player on its roster (freshman Jamar Abrams of Richmond) from remotely near that fertile recruiting area. The new coach can build a stronger talent base if he is successful recruiting the D.C. area.

Stronger scheduling. Some people thought Holland overscheduled when he put coach Skip Holtz up against numerous ACC schools and West Virginia in football. Then the Pirates defeated Virginia and N.C. State last season to reinvigorate the program. East Carolina’s only intriguing basketball games outside Conference USA last season were against N.C. State and Wake Forest. The Pirates should find a way to play at least four ACC/Big East-caliber schools every season.

Commit to a style. Whether it’s fast paced or tough and physical, the new coach needs to come with a style and philosophy that can give him an edge in recruiting the type of players he wants.

This still is a difficult job because East Carolina basketball has little winning tradition and the high school talent level in North Carolina is in a swoon. But particularly with Holland running the department, the Pirates can and should do better.

– Ken Tysiac

Monday, August 6, 2007

Gaudio would ease transition at Wake

With Skip Prosser’s memorial services over, Wake Forest athletics director Ron Wellman at some point soon will turn his attention to the future of the school’s basketball program.

During Prosser’s funeral Wednesday in Clemmons, N.C., it became obvious the man for the job is Prosser’s associate head coach, Dino Gaudio. Wake Forest’s players appeared devastated by Prosser’s sudden death at age 56. Taking away the current staff from the players and forcing them to work with new coaches would traumatize them more.

Gaudio demonstrated he is ready for the job as he eulogized a man he started working with in 1981, when Gaudio assisted Prosser at Central Catholic High in Wheeling, W.Va. At an emotional time, Gaudio explained Prosser’s philosophy and devotion better than anybody else could, demonstrating the speaking ability necessary for any ACC coach to succeed.

Gaudio has been a head coach from 1997 to 2000 at Loyola of Maryland and from 1993-97 at Army. It’s been difficult for anybody to win at either place. Gaudio was 36-72 at Army – but that school has had just one winning season since Mike Krzyzewski left for Duke in 1979. Gaudio was 32-52 at Loyola, but predecessor Brian Ellerbe was 33-48 and successor Scott Hicks was 16-97.

Some have suggested the current staff be kept in place in an attempt to keep the high-profile commitments of Al-Farouq Aminu, Ty Walker and Tony Woods that gave Prosser one of the nation’s best Class of 2008 recruiting hauls. But that’s a short-term, short-sighted view, and there’s no guarantee it would work.

The reason to hire Gaudio (and give him a five-year contract) is to maintain stability when a hire from outside the program could make a chaotic situation worse. The timing of this coaching search would make it difficult to attract marquee candidates anyway.

If the man Wake Forest needs is already on campus, Wellman ought to hire him.

– Ken Tysiac

Wednesday, August 1, 2007

International basketball a benefit to players

North Carolina forward Deon Thompson and Davidson guard Stephen Curry demonstrated this summer why college coaches get excited when their players get selected by USA Basketball to play in international tournaments.

The Tar Heel players are raving about Thompson’s physical condition as he prepares for a larger role starting in the post opposite Tyler Hansbrough with Brandan Wright departed for the NBA.
Thompson averaged 10.0 points and a team-high 6.1 rebounds as Team USA won the silver medal at the Under-19 world championships. On the same team, Curry again showed he’s as good as players from so-called “major” conferences after his brilliant freshman season. He averaged 9.4 points.

Davidson coach Bob McKillop said Curry had a “very productive” experience with the Under-19 team, and he’s “delighted” with Curry’s progress.

“He’s an incredibly special player,” McKillop said. “He’s got the full package of talent and attitude and work ethic and team orientation and basketball IQ.”

The opportunity for top-notch competition with USA Basketball is so attractive that even injured players get something out of it. North Carolina guard Wayne Ellington played in just one game before suffering a sprained left shoulder, but merely making the Pan Am Games team ahead of Tennessee’s Chris Lofton and Marquette’s Wes Matthews and Jerel McNeal was an accomplishment. Ellington's shoulder is better, a university spokesman said.

After DeMarcus Nelson fractured his left wrist during Pan Am trials, Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski said he was still glad Nelson participated. (Of course, as U.S. Olympic coach, Krzyzewski probably needed to say that).

Coaches understand that USA Basketball tours are not for everybody. Hansbrough, who gets physically pounded all season and doesn’t enjoy flying, certainly could have made the Pan Am Games team if he’d tried out. He’s probably better off avoiding more pounding.

But those who play test themselves against the best college players and the best the world has to offer. That can only help.

– Ken Tysiac