Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Duke should hire outside the family

A story in Tuesday’s Raleigh News & Observer mentioned that there are several former Duke players with coaching experience who could join Duke’s staff now that associate head coach Johnny Dawkins has left to coach Stanford.

David Henderson, Robert Brickey, Quin Snyder, Nate James and Chris Carrawell all are mentioned as possible additions to coach Mike Krzyzewski’s staff.

Loyal though he is to his former players, Krzyzewski ought to resist the urge to hire any of them. He should hire somebody who doesn’t have connections to Duke.

Remaining assistants Chris Collins and Steve Wojciechowski are former Duke players, as is Dawkins. Collins and Wojciechowski are highly respected, and it’s great to have some assistants on your staff with intimate understanding of your system to teach it to your players.

It’s also good to have a respected adviser trained in another system. A diversity of ideas, backgrounds and expertise benefits any workplace.

Duke basketball is no exception.

One of the most welcome developments for the Blue Devils in 2007-08 came when Krzyzewski brought a bunch of different strategies back to Durham after working with Team USA last summer.

Krzyzewski incorporated some of Phoenix Suns coach Mike D’Antoni’s schemes on offense to spread the floor and take advantage of Duke’s athletic ability and shooting skills. At times, Krzyzewski used Syracuse coach Jim Boeheim’s zone defense.

Exposure to those different concepts made Duke better. Having a voice from outside the Duke program around on a daily basis also would improve the Blue Devils.

– Ken Tysiac

Saturday, April 26, 2008

Green declaring for NBA draft makes no sense

Junior forward Danny Green has always had an uncanny knack for making North Carolina coach Roy Williams’ hair stand on end.

The last time we saw them together on the basketball court, Williams was furious with Green for a lane violation against Kansas in the NCAA semifinals.

Williams accepts Green’s lack of judgment because his pure ability can spark North Carolina, as it did in comebacks against Kansas and Clemson, and in a win at Duke.

But now Green has made a questionable decision by entering the NBA draft without hiring an agent. If he withdraws from the draft by June 16 and doesn’t sign with an agent, he can return to school. He joins sophomore guards Ty Lawson and Wayne Ellington, who also aren’t hiring an agent, as an early entry from the Tar Heels.

That move makes some sense for Lawson and Ellington, who appear to have a shot at being first-round picks. Green does not, especially in a draft as strong as this one. There’s probably no harm in him attending the predraft camp if he’s invited, and working out for NBA teams.

But he isn’t likely to benefit, either. Green ought to stay in school, get his degree and enter next year’s draft when the competition will be weaker. When he tests the waters against the talent in this draft, he’s likely to get soaked.

– Ken Tysiac

Stanford a good fit for Dawkins

Stanford is the perfect job for former Duke associate head coach Johnny Dawkins, who will be formally introduced as head coach there Monday.

Dawkins is a classy, dignified coach who belongs at a school with a strong basketball tradition and an outstanding academic profile. He’s somewhat reserved and shy, so working with the media and public will be an adjustment for him, but there’s little doubt that he has the ability to coach and particularly develop players.

His departure leaves Duke in an unusual position of flux. Coach Mike Krzyzewski is preparing to spend the summer coaching the U.S. Olympic team, and already the school is without an athletics director.

(As an aside, it’s interesting how the dominoes fell here. Athletics director Joe Alleva left Duke for LSU, then hired Trent Johnson from Stanford as LSU’s basketball coach. That opened the Stanford position for Dawkins).

The most logical move for Krzyzewski in terms of replacing Dawkins would be to promote one of his two other longtime assistants and then hire a less experienced coach. Chris Collins and Steve Wojciechowski both are highly respected and have assisted Krzyzewski for more than six years.

Problem is, it will be difficult to promote one without disappointing the other. So Krzyzewski will have his hands full during a summer when he’s coaching the Olympic team and it’s also imperative to make progress in recruiting for a program that’s aching for a quality big man.

– Ken Tysiac

Friday, April 25, 2008

Testing the draft not a good thing

ESPN analyst Jay Bilas’ distaste for the NBA draft process for underclassmen was obvious Friday afternoon as he uttered three words – “testing the waters” – that he clearly despises.

Current rules allow underclassmen to declare for the draft and retain their college ability if they withdraw by June 16 – 10 days before the draft – and don’t hire an agent.

Those are the plans North Carolina sophomore guards Ty Lawson and Wayne Ellington announced Friday. At least 39 underclassmen have declared for the draft with Sunday’s deadline looming.

Among those who joined Lawson and Ellington in declaring Friday were Missouri’s Leo Lyons and DeMarre Carroll. You ask: Leo Lyons and DeMarre Carroll?


“It’s stupid,” Bilas said of the system. “I think it needs to be redone. All these kids who are declaring without hiring an agent are essentially saying, ‘Hey, I’ll give it a shot and see what happens.’ ”

According to The Sporting News, 21 of the 55 underclassmen who entered last year’s draft later returned to school. Among them were Brandon Rush, who came back to help Kansas win an NCAA title after a pre-draft injury, and Georgetown center Roy Hibbert.

“If you’ve got a system where half of the guys declare and come back, then the system is screwed up,” said Bilas, who lives in Charlotte and scouts draft prospects for ESPN. “If you put some certainty into the process, it would be a lot smoother.”

Bilas isn’t the only critic of the process. Florida State coach Leonard Hamilton complained a while back that the rule gives players who should be concentrating on their academics a reason to get away from school.

Meanwhile, the NCAA’s fledgling Academic Progress Rate system withholds scholarships from teams whose players don’t make progress toward a degree. So the rules squeeze coaches from both directions.

At North Carolina’s basketball banquet on April 17, coach Roy Williams said he already consults enough NBA executives to get a clear picture of an underclassman’s draft prospects. He said Friday that he talked to more executives than ever to help Lawson, Ellington and Tyler Hansbrough – who’s staying in school – decide.

“If we do it the right way, we’re going to get a lot of information,” Williams said at the banquet. “I don’t really know that you can gain much more by ‘testing the waters.’ ”

But on Friday, Williams said he supports Lawson and Ellington. The rules encourage them to do what they’re doing.That’s why Bilas thinks the rules should be changed. – Ken Tysiac

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Hansbrough decision harder this year

North Carolina coach Roy Williams said he didn’t spend much time a year ago discussing Tyler Hansbrough’s draft prospects with NBA scouts.

From the start of his sophomore season, Hansbrough had told Williams that he wanted to return to school.

“Last year Tyler thought he could get better (at North Carolina), and he was enjoying college life,” Williams said.

That’s why for much of Hansbrough’s junior season, many reporters expected Hansbrough to come back as a senior unless the Tar Heels won the 2008 NCAA title.

North Carolina didn’t win, so some reporters came to North Carolina’s annual team banquet Thursday night thinking Hansbrough might announce he will return, as he did after last year’s banquet.

Hansbrough made no such announcement. Williams revealed that he hasn’t yet completed his extensive research with NBA executives to rate the draft possibilities for Hansbrough, Ty Lawson and Wayne Ellington.

In other words, Hansbrough isn’t as adamant about staying in school.

Why are things different this year? Being the consensus national player of the year is a burden as well as a blessing. National magazines want you to pose for photo shoots. Reporters crowd around you after every game.

And Hansbrough is the strong, quiet type. He’s got a great sense of humor, but he’s also a bit camera shy. Another season at North Carolina would mean even more intense scrutiny as Hansbrough closes in on the ACC scoring record. On an NBA roster, Hansbrough could just be one of the guys rather than the focal point.

That’s not to say he won’t come back. Hansbrough has made no secret of his burning desire to bring an NCAA championship to North Carolina. He seems fond of college, his teammates and coaches. But this year, it’s not as easy to decide. – Ken Tysiac

Heels banquet may not produce news

Don’t be surprised if there’s not much news coming out of tonight’s basketball banquet at North Carolina.

Brandan Wright didn’t announce his decision to leave for the NBA draft at last year’s banquet. In 2005, Sean May, Raymond Felton and Marvin Williams also waited until later to announce for the draft.

Now Tyler Hansbrough, Wayne Ellington and Ty Lawson, the three top players from the 2008 ACC and East Regional champions, are mulling complicated decisions.

The 2008 draft is expected to be stronger than the 2009 draft, so the North Carolina underclassmen would face less competition for top spots next year. Hansbrough in particular yearns for an NCAA title and almost certainly would finish his career as the ACC’s leading scorer if he returns for his senior season.

But Lawson’s draft status has slipped since last season because of injury and the perception that he’s not productive enough in half-court sets. Only a handful of NBA teams run fast-breaking offenses like North Carolina’s that would capitalize on Lawson’s speed. If Lawson is afraid his draft status will slip further, he might not return to school.

If Lawson and Ellington decide to leave, it will be difficult for Hansbrough to achieve his NCAA championship goals next season. Without his two best teammates, he will be targeted for more defensive pressure (and physical abuse) than ever. And his marvelous work ethic already has come close to maximizing his potential, though he still could stretch his perimeter shooting ability beyond the 3-point arc.

Bottom line, all three players face extraordinarily difficult decisions and don’t have to apply for the draft until April 27. If they’re not sure what to do, there’s no reason for them to announce anything tonight.

Taylor King transfer creates buzz

A quote from ex-Duke forward Taylor King on his decision to transfer to Villanova has created a buzz in the anti-Duke crowd.

"I didn't feel that at Duke I was in the right position to get to the next level," he said in the Philadelphia Inquirer. "Coach (Jay) Wright will help me get to the next level. It's not that Coach K (Mike Krzyzewski) wouldn't, because he's done it his whole career, but I think Villanova is where I fit the best."

King was in a difficult spot at Duke. He plays the same position and is in the same class as Kyle Singler. Though Singler isn’t as good a 3-point shooter as King, he’s superior in just about every other phase of the game.

But King does make one good point. Duke’s lack of a true, muscular center to block shots, rebound and defend in the post put King, Singler and Lance Thomas in uncomfortable positions last season against more physical opponents.

If King sees himself as a shooter and not a banger, Duke probably wasn’t the right spot for him.

– Ken Tysiac

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Elite talent missing from ACC in '07-08

Though the NBA draft isn’t the ultimate indicator of the strength of a particular college team or conference, it does reflect the amount of elite talent a league has.

If current draft projections hold true, the draft will show that elite talent was largely absent from the ACC in 2007-08. The ACC appears likely to have its worst draft showing since 2000, when Jason Collier of Georgia Tech was its only first-round pick and Duke’s Chris Carrawell was the lone pick of the second round.

As of Thursday afternoon, NBAdraft.net projected N.C. State freshman J.J. Hickson as the ACC’s highest pick with the second selection in the second round. No ACC player was projected in the first round.

The ACC has had at least one first-round selection in every draft since 1988. The conference still could have one or more, particularly if North Carolina’s Tyler Hansbrough, Wayne Ellington and/or Ty Lawson enter the draft. But even if they all enter, the ACC probably will be far short of the six first-round picks it had in 2007.

– Ken Tysiac

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Roy wants to be liked by all, but that's impossible

Kansas hadn’t even completed its win over Memphis in the NCAA championship game Monday night when an e-mail from an angry reader arrived.

Two nights after Kansas crushed North Carolina 84-66 in the NCAA semifinals, Roy Williams was in the stands at the championship game wearing Kansas gear.

Some North Carolina fans want to know if their coach’s loyalties are with the Tar Heels or Kansas, which he coached for 15 years before coming to North Carolina in 2003.

The answer is easy. Williams’ heart always is with the players he’s currently coaching. He always seems devastated when a season ends without an NCAA title, and this season is no exception.

North Carolina did not look well prepared Saturday as Kansas stormed to a 40-12, first-half lead. Fans who believe Williams should have used a timeout earlier to stop the Jayhawks’ momentum have a legitimate gripe.

But Kansas simply was the better team and would have beaten North Carolina regardless of whether Williams, Dean Smith or Red Auerbach was coaching the Tar Heels.

Why would Williams wear Kansas apparel after the Jayhawks clobbered his team? I haven’t had a chance to ask him, but here’s a guess.

Unlike many coaches, Williams wants everybody to like him. That’s usually an endearing trait. He is generous with fans, and no ACC basketball coach makes more of an effort to give the media interesting material than Williams.

Many Kansas fans resented him, though, after he left for North Carolina. Some expected him to coach there until he retired, and they turned against him. Williams was hurt to hear that a poster bearing his image was placed facing the toilet in a rest room they call “Roy’s Room” at the Downtown Barbershop in Lawrence, Kan.

Wearing Kansas gear might have been his way of trying to show those fans that he still cares about them. Many Kansas fans will be able to forgive and forget Williams now that successor Bill Self brought them something Williams never did – an NCAA title.

Those who still can’t forgive him will hold grudges forever, so it’s pointless to try to change their minds.

Problem is, now Williams angered North Carolina fans. They expected an NCAA title this season from the tournament’s No. 1 overall seed. They didn’t get it after losing in such a way that Williams apologized to his players for not having them ready for Kansas.

Seeing him on CBS in Kansas gear after that was difficult to stomach. No matter how much you want everybody to like you, you’re always going to offend somebody when you’re in the public eye.

That might be the lesson Williams learns from his first meeting with Kansas as North Carolina’s coach.

– Ken Tysiac

Monday, April 7, 2008

NBA and NCAA venture to improve grassroots basketball

A panel with a stunning amount of clout gathered Monday to announce a new youth basketball initiative in San Antonio.

NBA commissioner David Stern and NCAA president Myles Brand head entities that occasionally have been at odds, but took center stage.

They want their organizations to work with college, high school and AAU coaches, plus the shoe companies, to improve grassroots basketball in the United States. The NBA and NCAA are launching a joint business venture to:
- Educate and certify coaches.
- Train and certify referees for various levels of competition.
- Advise players and their parents on athletic, academic and social skills.

These all are lofty goals worthy of pursuing. But keeping all parties on board will be difficult.

Shoe companies award college coaches with handsome contracts, but also try to gain influence with athletes during so many camps in the summer that players get exhausted.

The players might be better off staying at home and working on fundamentals. But is a college coach paid by Nike going to advise an elite player to skip one of Nike’s camps? Probably not often.

If a sleazy grassroots level coach is steering athletes to a particular college, that college’s coach will advise him to get certified. Then the NBA and NCAA will look bad when the grassroots coach gets into trouble.

And if the certification process is too rigorous, the desperately needed volunteers at the youngest youth levels will be even more difficult to find.

“It will be a long journey, and the process will require patience,” Brand said.

There’s no question about that. It’s nice that all these entities say they are going to work in the best interests of youth basketball. But the track record of these groups makes you wonder whether they will do what they say. – Ken Tysiac

Call a TO on criticizing Williams

There’s been much consternation on the part of North Carolina fans over coach Roy Williams’ failure to call timeout earlier as Kansas’ first-half lead grew at a startling pace in Saturday’s NCAA semifinals.

Criticizing Williams for that is like whipping your cow because it won’t lay eggs. Like coach Dean Smith before him, Williams doesn’t like to call a bunch of timeouts in the first half.

He likes to save as many as possible for the end of the game, when the Tar Heels might need them. He believes his players get better by figuring out how to get through slumps themselves. And when North Carolina falls behind, the need for those timeouts in a possible comeback situation increases.

North Carolina didn’t lose because Williams didn’t call timeout. It lost because Kansas was by far the superior team. This might shock North Carolina fans because the Tar Heels were the No. 1 overall seed for the NCAA tournament.

But Kansas overall was quicker, stronger and deeper. Memphis is, too. It just so happened that North Carolina didn’t play an opponent that good all season.

Kentucky and Ohio State were in rebuilding years. Duke didn’t have a post presence. Clemson was improved, but it was still Clemson.

Davidson might have been the best team North Carolina faced all season.

That is, until Kansas came along. And there wasn’t anything Williams could have told the Tar Heels during a timeout that would have stopped the inevitable.

– Ken Tysiac

Sunday, April 6, 2008

Hansbrough declines comment on future at UNC

North Carolina coach Roy Williams said Saturday night he has no idea whether the 84-66 NCAA semifinal loss to Kansas will affect Tyler Hansbrough’s decision about his senior year.

Hansbrough, the consensus national player of the year, hasn’t divulged whether he will leave for the NBA draft instead of returning to school.

“Tyler and I talked before the season,” Williams said. “We said we would discuss it after the season.”

Williams said he expects to talk to Hansbrough about his future on Tuesday or Wednesday. Hansbrough declined Saturday night to discuss his future with reporters.

After trailing Kansas by 17 at halftime, Williams said he thought North Carolina still had a chance. The Tar Heels cut the deficit to four, but crumbled again in the closing minutes.

“I apologized to them, because somehow, some way, I didn’t have my team as ready to play as (Kansas coach) Bill Self did. That hurts to day,” Williams said.

– Ken Tysiac

Saturday, April 5, 2008

Kansas gives UNC a first-half whuppin'

The last time somebody played this perfect a half of basketball at the Final Four, Roy Williams was coaching at Kansas.

In 2003, the Jayhawks clobbered Marquette and Dwyane Wade 94-61 in the NCAA semifinals.

On Saturday night, Williams was on the North Carolina bench, coaching against a Kansas team in its first trip to the Final Four since he left. And the Jayhawks raced to a 40-12 lead.

How bad was it for North Carolina? Kansas held the Tar Heels’ offense – which ranks second in the nation in scoring – without a field goal for nine minutes. Williams screamed at Danny Green for a lane violation, sent seldom-used substitutes into the game and even called a rare first-half timeout in order to stop Kansas’ surge.

The only thing that did go well for the Tar Heels was the foul situation, as they committed just five to Kansas’ 13.

But the Jayhawks still led 44-27 at halftime.

– Ken Tysiac

Memphis' athleticism too much for UCLA

An extremely short Memphis drought late in the second half ended dramatically when Chris Douglas-Roberts got the ball on the baseline.

He drove right to left and unleashed a wicked, left-handed tomahawk dunk in the face of UCLA center Kevin Love.

Center Joey Dorsey just laughed as the Tigers ran back to play defense. Memphis used its superior athletic ability to win the opening NCAA semifinal game on Saturday at the Alamodome and advance to Monday’s final.

Memphis will be a huge challenge for whichever team it faces in the final. The Tigers have two guards who are extremely effective off the dribble in Douglas-Roberts and Derrick Rose. They have a nice rotation with three solid players for two spots in their post rotation – Joey Dorsey, Robert Dozier and Shawn Taggart.

They appear vulnerable in only a couple spots. Rose is suspect defensively, and an opponent will have to exploit that the way UCLA did with Russell Westbrook.

Memphis’ big guys also are susceptible to foul trouble, and North Carolina and Kansas both have players who can take advantage of that.

As for UCLA, its third straight trip to the Final Four ended in a third straight disappointment because it ran into a team with superior athletes. Florida eliminated the Bruins twice on its way to NCAA titles.

Memphis isn’t as good as those Gator teams, but high-charged opponents have repeatedly shown that coach Ben Howland’s grinding style can’t keep a truly elite team in check for 40 minutes.

– Ken Tysiac

Fast break put Memphis in control in first half

Memphis’ Antonio Anderson got loose on the fast break and soared for a vicious, one-handed dunk over a helpless UCLA defender, causing Ben Howland to call timeout.

When UCLA’s Josh Shipp broke out of his slump to sink two 3-pointers in the first four minutes, it seemed like the Bruins were in good shape in their NCAA semifinal.

But quicker than you can say “Chris Douglas-Roberts,” Memphis took control of the first half with its fast break.

The key is freshman point guard Derrick Rose. He doesn’t push the ball up the court as quickly after made baskets as North Carolina’s Ty Lawson, but he runs the break just as well after opponents’ turnovers and misses.

UCLA reached its third straight Final Four with tenacious half-court defense. But with the way Rose leads Memphis on the break, it wasn’t going to be easy to turn this into a half-court game.

Lots of fans dislike UCLA because of Howland’s physical style. Some fans don’t like Memphis because of a renegade image, whether deserved or undeserved, that’s evolved under coach John Calipari.

Regardless of that image, Memphis’ ability on the fast break is beautiful to watch.

- Ken Tysiac

Friday, April 4, 2008

Larry Brown's influence on Final Four

Larry Brown sure attracted a lot of attention at the Alamodome on Friday. But there was good reason. Brown's influence has been huge on each of the four programs at the Final Four:
-- He played and was an assistant at North Carolina.
-- He was coach at UCLA from 1979-81.
-- He was coach at Kansas from 1983-88 and took the Jayhawks to the NCAA title in 1988.
-- Memphis coach John Calipari was a Brown assistant at Kansas and with the Philadelphia 76ers. David Scott

Hansbrough vs. Jordan?

It was almost sacrilegious, but probably inevitable.

With Tyler Hansbrough clinching consensus national player of the year honors Friday, he will be compared with the greatest players of all time in the ACC and at North Carolina.

During a pre-Final Four news conference, a reporter asked Williams to compare Hansbrough to Michael Jordan. Williams didn’t denounce the reporter as a blasphemer.

“Michael wanted to win every drill,” Williams said. “He wanted to beat you. Then he was going to tell you about it in the locker room. Tyler just wants to beat you.”

According to Williams, Jordan didn’t prepare as hard as Hansbrough early in his career. At times in the weight room, Jordan would try to sneak out without doing his work. Hansbrough does what he’s asked and then lifts some more.

It wasn’t until Jordan was in the NBA doing the “Breakfast Club” with Ron Harper and Scottie Pippen on game days, Williams said, that he became a workout junkie.

All this is true, of course. But so is something else. Jordan and Hansbrough are playing college basketball in different eras. In Hansbrough’s era, there aren’t nearly as many accomplished veterans because the best players leave for the NBA after their freshman season. So Hansbrough is playing against weaker competition.

That being said, each has been a treat in his own era. Jordan is appreciated for his unparalleled athletic ability, and Hansbrough for his unrivaled work ethic and desire.

You’ll be hard-pressed to find a coach who’d rather have Hansbrough than Jordan in any era. But Hansbrough can take the fact that the question even is being asked as a compliment. – Ken Tysiac

Hansbrough lives up to hardest-working label

The busiest man in San Antonio on Friday – aside from the reporters following him - is North Carolina center Tyler Hansbrough.

At 10 a.m. Eastern Time, he stopped at a place called Sunset Station to pick up the U.S. Basketball Writers Association’s national player of the year award.

Forty-five minutes later, he was at the Marriott Riverwalk Hotel, receiving The Associated Press’ player of the year honor.

He hustled out of the awards ceremony to change out of his dark pinstriped suit and black mock turtleneck for North Carolina’s practice.

Later, he will be off to the Alamodome to meet with more reporters – and perform in front of a crowd of thousands at the team’s open practice. Because the open practice isn’t much more than a dog and pony show, coach Roy Williams held the team’s real practice beforehand.

Hansbrough is known as the hardest working basketball player in the United States. He certainly lived up to that reputation Friday.

– Ken Tysiac

Thursday, April 3, 2008

College hoops Who's Who on River Walk

There really is nothing like San Antonio's River Walk. Thursday night, the serpentine waterway that winds its way through downtown already has the feel of a festival, which it actually is, with the Final Four in town.

A parallel event is the National Association of Basketball Coaches' annual convention, which is always held in the same city as the Final Four.

So the River Walk -- which is lined with restaurants and cafes and bridges and trees and low-slung walls -- is a who's who of the college profession on this night: Charlotte's Bobby Lutz (who says he's happy with his new contract extension), the entire N.C. State State staff (minus head coach Sidney Lowe), Saint Joseph's Phil Martelli, as well as guys who used to be coaches, like Mike Montgomery and Billy Tubbs, among others (including Woody Durham, voice of the Tar Heels). David Scott