Friday, May 28, 2010

Your Homework Assignment - Read Defiantly Dutch When You Get A Chance

Hey guys.  I know this is my first post in three weeks.  Been really a busy time.  This month I have been administering exams, preparing summer projects, dealing with family stuff and I am here in Chicago for certification training.  I will be also busy for the next week or so.  I will write more in June once things calm down.

Here's your homework assignment.  Read Jerry Beach's article from yesterday about Hofstra softball.  And follow it up with my December 2009 article on supporting Hofstra basketball.   Jerry's right on target.  That softball team, which has been one of the most dominant softball programs at its level in the country, and Hofstra sports in general deserves Hofstra fans support next season.  I have been guilty as much as anyone by not going to see them play.  I won't make that same mistake next season.

Let's never ever again give our school a reason to take away a major sport from their collegiate program.  Show up and attend softball games next season.  And don't forget to show up and attend Hofstra basketball games this season to see the best player in the local region and one of the best players in the country - Charles Jenkins.

And here's a scary thing.  Basically the entire softball team returns next season.  How scary good will they be?

As usual, Jerry, great work.

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Hofstra Decides It's Gotta Go to Mo, Kanacevic Lands Nicely, and Why Players Sometimes Shouldn't Leave for the Draft

Give Jack Hayes credit.  He didn't waste any time.  Barely 48 hours after Tim Welsh resigned as head coach, Hofstra hired his assistant, Mo Cassara, as the new head coach of the Pride.  It was a surprising move in that there was the mindset that Hayes would want no remnants of the Welsh regime around.

And after Welsh "resigned", I spoke with several Hofstra basketball fans who thought the program might have been set back a couple of years due to this incident.  They wondered where Hofstra would turn to next for their coach.   Would any recruit want to go to a program where they would have their third coach in a little more than a month?   Would the assistants stay under a completely different coach?  There was also the NY Post article about Al Skinner being a candidate and that was after I wrote my previous article comparing Hofstra's program to Stevie Ray Vaughn's "Couldn't Stand the Weather".

But Hofstra made the right move by hiring Cassara.  First, it brings stability to the program.  Apparently in the span of a month, the current coaching staff has worked very hard to bond with the players in hopes of keeping everyone together (still, Halil Kanacevic requested and received his release - more on that in a second).  Second, the staff has already spent a month recruiting.   By hiring Cassara and keeping the current coaching staff of Steve DeMeo and Allen Griffin, it shows potential recruits that Hofstra has a long term commitment to this staff and program.

Plus I am hearing from several people that Cassara has a very engaging personality and is winning over people quickly.   He certainly impressed Hayes and President Rabinowitz.  Hofstra certainly could use a dynamic presence in their basketball program.   Here's wishing him well.

As for Kanacevic, he has enrolled at St Joseph's and will be sitting out the year for the Hawks.  It's a nice pickup for Phil Martelli's program.   It happened so quickly that one has to wonder if someone from St Joe's immediately reached out to him (I am sure they did).  He now jumps up a level in class by going to the A10.  But I think he has the ability to certainly play on that level and I think he will be very good.  As we were driving back to our hotel room from the game against Kansas, we listened to the Kansas post game news conference.  Bill Self singled out Kanacevic,"15" as he called him, for his play against his big men.

Also I want to give an update to something I stated in my previous article about the Hofstra signed recruits for 2010-11 which mentioned Devon McMillan and Marvin Dominique.   McMillan was let out of his signed agreement early in this past basketball season.  I do not know about Marvin Dominique at this time.

Yesterday was the deadline for players who didn't hire an agent to withdraw their names from the NBA draft.   A good number of players who might have been drafted such as Jimmer Fredette, E'Twaun Moore, JaJuan Johnson and Malcolm Delaney withdrew their names.  Players who likely weren't going to be drafted also withdrew their names.  The one that comes to my mind is Rico Pickett.   Wise choice, Rico.

And then you have some that stayed in the draft, with the biggest name that comes to mind being Gordon Hayward.    Hayward announced on Friday that he was hiring an agent and officially staying in the draft. And he will be likely picked in the 15-20 area in the first round of the NBA draft.  He certainly has the talent and game to be picked in the first round of the NBA draft.   It was interesting reading the columns of writers who were in favor of Hayward going, like Gary Parrish's article and those who were against Hayward leaving, such as Doug Gottlieb.  Unfortunately, Gottlieb's article is on ESPN insider. But a quick snippet on that article - Gottlieb basically says that Hayward needs another year and a half in the weight room and the gym.

I understand fully that there are several reasons for Hayward leaving for the draft.  One, that this is the last draft before the likely NBA lockout.   And the result of the new agreement from that lockout will be less money for NBA draft picks. Two, there is the mind set that Hayward's draft stock is at its highest point and if he stays in school, he may risk losing stock, similar to what Craig Brackins did by staying in school another season.

Here are my responses to both those arguments.  First, if you are a good enough player, you will make your money in the NBA, whether there is a lockout/new agreement.   Lottery picks will still be lottery picks and make a lot of money.  And even a non lottery first round pick who turns out to be pretty good in the NBA will make his money in the long run.

Second, who says that Hayward's stock for sure will fall if he had stayed in school?  Unlike Brackins, who was a one man show on an at best mediocre Iowa State team, Hayward was the star player on a Butler team that made the NCAA Championship game.  Had Hayward stayed, he would have been one of the four starters returning for next season.   A team that likely would be favored to return to the NCAA Final Four and no doubt a top five team in the country.

Plus Hayward's stock is not at his highest.  His three point shooting percentage went significantly down this season - 28.6 percent as opposed to 44.8 percent in his freshman season.  So he could have come back and improved on that.  And here's the scary thing, he still shot 46 percent overall this season.  Imagine what he could shoot from the field  with an improved three point shot.

And I will give you an example of someone who was in a similar circumstance but opted to return from his junior season.  Stephen Curry.   Curry had an even greater NCAA Tournament performance than Hayward and I got to witness in person his awesome display at the Raleigh Regional in 2008.  He could have left for the NBA Draft right then and no one would have blamed him. He was certainly first round material right at that moment.

Yet, what did Curry do?  He returned for his junior season so he could work on his point guard skills.  Sure enough, he nearly doubled his assists per game average from the previous season, while still averaging more points per game than the previous season (and yes, despite his FG and three point FG percentages slightly declining).   His team didn't even make the NCAA Tournament in his junior season, yet it all worked out for Curry.  He was taken sixth overall in the NBA draft, one spot short of the Knicks, whose fans were dying to have Curry selected for the Garden faithful.

Plus, there is that little discussed issue known as a college degree.  Also on ESPN insider, Jay Bilas wrote a very good article about how it's ridiculous to say you "limit" a college player by telling him to stay in school and not going into the draft.  As Bilas notes, a student who played four years and gets his degree has more options in the business world and in the coaching world once his playing career is over, as opposed to the student that leaves early for the draft and never gets that degree.

That's why I literally cringed when Kentucky AD Mitch Barnhart announced he had started talks on with John Calipari on a new deal in light of the report on the Wildcats GPA for the fall semester.  Perhaps Barnhart hadn't talked yet to senior associate athletic director Sandy Bell who noted "It's not something we're happy with, I'll tell you that."  Will Wall, DeMarcus Cousins, Daniel Orton among others eventually get their degrees?   I don't know about that. But I do know one thing  - we got confirmation of what really matters in Kentucky.

In conclusion, Hayward could have stayed and improved on one skill he needs to be a successful NBA player, outside shooting and probably increased his draft stock.  I believe that if you are guaranteed lottery material, you should go.  John Wall, Evan Turner, can't disagree with their choices.   But if NBA draft prognosticators are talking about you being selected in the 15-20 range right now, then you might want to go back to school and work on improving your stock.  Especially if you are coming back to a really good team like Hayward would have at Butler.

But more importantly, Hayward, an engineering major, could have got a year closer to his degree at one of the better liberal arts schools in the country.  Certainly an engineering degree won't "limit" Hayward in his future options.

For every Craig Brackins, there is a Stephen Curry.  Unfortunately we won't find that out about Gordon Hayward.  But here's hoping he makes it in the NBA and has a nice long career in the NBA.  Here's also hoping he gets his degree “in the near future" as he puts it.

Something tells me he eventually could have a great career in the coaching world.  But you need that degree son.

Monday, May 3, 2010

The Welsh Era Ends Before It Started

I thought this song was very appropriate for what's going on in the Hofstra basketball world. Plus a little Stevie Ray always helps a bad situation.

Well as you all know by now, Tim Welsh resigned today as head coach of Hofstra.   Welsh put himself in a no win situation by being arrested for DWI early Friday morning and registering a .18 blood alcohol level two hours after he was arrested, more than double the legal limit.  Chances are he would have been likely fired if he didn't resign, and Brian Mull tweeted that he was "forced to resign".

And if that was indeed the case, that Welsh was forced to resign, Hofstra did the right thing.  Yes, there was a lot of bad press surrounding the Welsh arrest.  It was the top headline on ESPN since the arrest occurred Friday morning.   And this morning, as I drove into work, Boomer and Carton on the FAN discussed the matter, both noting that Welsh had to be fired due to that high blood alcohol level (more on that in a second).

But it wasn't just the bad press that was a deciding factor in Welsh's resignation.   Welsh had been at the position 33 days.  He had no years of good will vested in the position where a mistake, even huge as this one, might have been looked at with a lenient light.

Welsh was also at an academic institution, where he was looked at as not just a coach, but a leader of young men.  Your players need to believe you when you tell them "That’s what you are as a coach: You’re a teacher too, and you’re kind of a father to these guys, because you’re with them everyday. So you’ve got to continually try to teach life lessons."  Then you go out and get arrested for DWI in a county that is rightfully strict on drunk drivers given recent history.  Will those players be able to trust you or take you seriously, especially since you have been on the job barely a month?  No.

Then there was the matter of the university finding out through news reports that he had been arrested instead of being contacted by Welsh directly.  That notes a serious lack of responsibility on Welsh's part.   And finally, the .18 blood alcohol level is not the characteristic of someone not realizing they had one too many drinks that night.  Had it been .09, then perhaps (and that's a slight perhaps), you could maybe have some leniency towards Welsh.   The fact that it was .18 denotes a hardcore drinker, or at least a hardcore drinking night.  It really is amazing that he didn't end up hurting or killing someone when the police found him asleep at the wheel.

Welsh still has to face the DWI charge.  Whether he accepts a plea deal or has his day in court, his career for now is ruined.  And he has no one to blame for this but himself.

Now Jack Hayes has the unenviable position of having to decide whether to start from scratch and hire a new coach or perhaps let one of the already hired Welsh assistants, Steve DeMeo or Mo Cassara have a chance at the job on an interim basis.  Hayes may very well decide that's its best to have no remnants of the Welsh regime at Hofstra and bring someone new in.  He could also go back and hire Van Macon to bring stability to the program.  Names such as former St John's coach Norm Roberts and West Virginia assistant coach Larry Harrison are being bandied about as well.

As for the Pride players, they will soon have their third coach in the span of two plus months.   For seniors, Charles Jenkins, Greg Washington and Nathaniel Lester, along with now eligible Brad Kelleher and Fordham transfer Mike Moore, there is likely nowhere to go and they will stay.  However, Chaz Williams couldn't be blamed if he decided to seek another home, along with the other underclassmen such as Yves Jules and David Imes.  Halil Kanacevic had already received his release prior and Branden Frazier decided to follow Pecora to Fordham.

And then there are the incoming freshmen as well Marvin Dominique and Devon McMillan.  What will they decide to do?   And with apparently two scholarship openings remaining, will anyone want to come here now to fill them (Josh Elbaum is probably now off the radar)?

The program is truly at a crossroads and it's not a good thing for the players or the fan base the school is trying to increase. What seemed like such promise a month ago with an established coach in Welsh with a seemingly talented senior laden team, is now up in the air with fans openly concerned (and rightfully so).    One man's incredibly poor judgement not just ruined his career but may have set the program back at least a year, maybe two, maybe even more.

How this all plays out in the next several weeks is anybody's guess. For Hofstra basketball fans it seems grim.   And I can't tell you it's not. As I noted in my previous post, the rough times started weeks ago and hit a real bad point the last few days with the Welsh DWI and subsequent "resignation".  As bad as it seems, it may actually get worse before it gets better.

As Stevie Ray once sang, "Understand, it's time to get ready for the storm."

Saturday, May 1, 2010

A Rough Few Weeks for Hofstra

If you are a Hofstra men's basketball fan, the last few weeks have been various types of punches to the chin. You could say that it all started in late March when long time coach Tom Pecora left Hofstra to go to Fordham. It was a haymaker from Thomas "Hit Man" Hearns, but you braced yourself enough, knowing that it was coming. It wobbled you but you got yourself righted and sort of delivered a haymaker of your own, which could describe at least how I felt when Hofstra hired Tim Welsh as their new head coach.

But it really started two weeks ago with Branden Frazier following Pecora to Fordham. That was kind of like making a stupid comment to your wife, then she slaps you in the face. Based on your actions, you knew it was coming. Yes it stings, but you shake it off in a few minutes...and then go back for more :-) . Frazier had originally given a verbal agreement to come to Hofstra, but that was when Pecora was head coach. So no surprise that Frazier would go to Fordham once Pecora and the entire Hofstra staff followed suit.

Then last week, Halil Kanacevic delivered a Sugar Ray Leonard right hand to the chin when it was announced that he asked for and received his release from Hofstra. It was definitely a punch you hadn't seen coming, which resulted in knocking you down for a five count. You eventually get up, but you remember the punch for a while and do anything you can to avoid another one.

In an interview on Defiantly Dutch, Kanacevic talked about how he may have signed up with Hofstra but he had really signed up for Pecora and his coaching staff. Strangely, when he met with Welsh, he originally told him he wasn't leaving. But he explains in further detail what his thought process was during that time

Kanacevic said his biggest regret was telling Welsh earlier this month that he wasn’t thinking about transferring. “Someone gave me a little advice, talk to the coach, reassure him you’re not leaving,” Kanacevic said. “I was like ‘All right.’ I did that. I probably never should have done that, because I kind of lied to the coach [and gave him] the wrong impression [saying] ‘I’m not going anywhere’ as far as the rumors.
“He brought it up, when I had a meeting with coach Welsh, and I basically told him ‘Man, that was a mistake I made and I shouldn’t have done that to you. I misled you.’ He asked if there was a reason and it was the reason I told you—not the situation I signed up for.”
No doubt that Welsh got a Marvin Hagler hook to the chin. He never saw that coming (as did I and numerous other Hofstra fans). It's really a strange decision. First, if he transfers to another DI school, he must sit out a year. Also noted in Beach's article is that AD Jack Hayes gave Kanacevic a conditional release, where he can not go to ten teams. No doubt Fordham is one of them. Most of them are probably other local teams (St John's Manhattan, Iona, Stony Brook to name a few though no verification on that). And he certainly won't go to any other CAA teams, because the rule in the CAA is that you have to sit out TWO seasons, not the mandatory one the NCAA rule mandates.

So if Kanacevic is looking locally, his choices are probably limited. And really, it's a mistake. He had a very good freshman season where he made the CAA All Rookie Team. He certainly showed he is a CAA level quality forward and would only likely get better. Also, had he stayed, Kanacevic had a chance to go to the NCAA Tournament with Jenkins, Washington, Chaz Williams and him back. Throw in Fordham transfer Mike Moore and a now eligible Brad Kelleher and there was much hope. Plus he was apparently well liked by the new coach. So it all doesn't make sense.

After spending a week shaking off the Sugar Ray Leonard right hand, I thought, well at least Welsh's recruiting skills will now be put to the test. And I heard through the grapevine that Hofstra was looking at an up and coming prospect in Josh Elbaum. Elbaum actually came to Hofstra for a visit (Siena also has interest in him).

Then late yesterday morning, I was checking my e-mail from my IPod when I received a message from my good friend Tieff. It was also addressed to our friend Mal as well. So that usually means it's either Hofstra related, since we have Pride season Tickets, or Jets related
since we have season tickets for them. The e-mail said the following;

Is his contract void now?
Immediately, my heart sank. I had a truly bad feeling it was Hofstra related and I knew that the link was about Tim Welsh. And then my finger pressed the link and the WINS story appeared, complete with his mugshot. My worst fear had been confirmed. Welsh had been arrested for a DWI and shortly after was suspended by Hofstra University pending an investigation.

I felt like I had got hit by the big one, a right cross from Mike Tyson in his prime. Out on the canvas for the ten count, in a state where you need to be scraped up with a spatchula. A blow that it will take weeks to recover from. For a Hofstra fan, who had such high hopes on April 1st watching the Welsh press conference streaming live on my computer, it's utterly demoralizing.

First and most importantly, it's fortunate no one got hurt. He was very lucky in that regard. Second, it was incredibly stunningly poor judgment on his part. Why would you risk losing a five year, three million dollar contract in such a way? Especially after your second part of your interview with Beach where you state the following about an incident at Providence where several Friars basketball players were dismissed from the team.

Five years later, I showed the videotape of that to a team, I think, of how it was exposed locally on the news. We took all the articles that came out from it and handed them out to our team.Basically put it on them that you’ve got a lot to be responsible for, but the main thing is how embarrassing it is to your family. You get your players [to think about] your mother and father—what would they think if they picked up the paper and saw you in handcuffs? How devastating would that be?
It's truly mind numbing that someone gives an interview like that (which is published the morning of his arrest), which should be fresh in his mind, yet goes out and gets arrested yesterday morning. It may be the most damming evidence for Welsh when AD Jack Hayes reviews the situation. Welsh states in the above how important it is to conduct yourself, then he is on news web sites with his mugshot.

And yesterday, I did a stupid thing. For maybe the last time, I reviewed the Hofstra CAA Zone Board just to see what Hofstra fans' reactions were to the arrest. There were several people who did try to offer support and talked with reason about the situation. But then, I also read on the site someone calling the hiring of Welsh to be a mistake.

Mistake? No, it was not a mistake. Many major college coaches thought the hiring of Welsh was a home run (Jim Boeheim, Jim Calhoun among others). Jack Hayes contacted Jay Wright for advice on hiring a new coach. And Wright advised Welsh about Hofstra and thought it was a great move. So to say it was a mistake? Sorry, no way.

And it's not like Welsh has a history of trouble. When Hofstra hired Welsh, Welsh had just finished his second year of working for both ESPN and SNY. I am sure they did their background checks as well on Welsh. This seems to be one truly bad case of judgment on Welsh's part.

But I could live with someone saying it was a mistake. As I read further on in the discussion on the Hofstra CAA Zone, you had one person, who names himself after a John Candy character, gloating and I mean gloating about what happened.

Excuse me, but what rock did you crawl out of?

First, no one and I mean no one, should be gloating about this. Again, someone could have been seriously hurt. Fortunately, no one was hurt. Second, a man's career may be ruined as a result of this. How can someone gloat about this? Seriously?

Then this genius has as his signature line about how the administration killed Hofstra football. Ok, this begins a tangent.

I have said this before in an article in December and I will say this even more bluntly this time, the Hofstra fans, student body and the community in general is to blame for the loss of Hofstra football by not supporting it enough. And I will put myself in that group. We all could have tried showing up to games and rallying support. We had a good program, but the stadium was two thirds empty at least for most games I went to.

And as I noted in my aforementioned article and as Jerry Beach notes in his article today, that even the basketball program "struggles to draw fans even in the best of times". It's sadly a malaise that Hofstra has had since at least I have first been on the campus in 1984. So you certainly can't blame that on the current administration.

I was there on November 10, 2001 when Villanova with Brian Westbrook traveled to now Shuart Stadium to face Hofstra with Marques Colston. The game was for first place in the A10 (which is now the CAA in football). Westbrook had over 300 all purpose yards as the Wildcats defeated the Pride 54-34. It was really a great game to watch.

And I remember getting there right before kickoff time and still getting good seats. Why? Because the stadium was a third full, that's why! And this would be the second season in a row that Hofstra would make the I-AA playoffs in football. So it was not like Hofstra football was an unknown quantity. And it was like that even in the late 80's when Hofstra was still Division III and I went to a playoff home game vs. Fordham on an extremely cold day. The stadium again was a third full.

And again, it's not like Hofstra was the only team to end it's football program. Iona did it a few years ago and Northeastern did as well last season. They understood the economics and how a football I AA program (sorry that's how I still look at the Football subdivision) with poor attendance is such a drain on the program. Kyle Whelliston talks about this in his article about Xavier basketball. Xavier did that back in 1973 and never looked back. Worked out pretty well on the basketball front for the Musketeers I would say.

Yes, there are two facebook groups that have "Save Hofstra Football" and the two groups combined are 2000 people. And that's great to see that support, but the total members combined are less than 1/5 the size of Shuart Stadium.

Hofstra said it was not taking the money spent on football away from the athletics budget. And it went out and spent money on a CBI home game, which turned out to be a mistake, but at least they tried. And then Hofstra went out and got a top notch men's basketball coach.

And yet you have a yahoo like the John Candy named character on CAA Zone gloating about Welsh's arrest because it's somehow karma for the administration for killing the football program. I have one thing to say to this guy.

This hurts all Hofstra fans and has nothing to do with football. Get over it and get a life.

Now back to Welsh. I don' t have any idea how this is going to play out and nor am I going to speculate. Currently, though it seems Steve DeMeo, Mo Cassara and Allen Griffin were all hired by Hofstra, there is no formal recognition of them being hired. I don't know where that leaves them, though they have been recruiting apparently.

All I know is this. What seemed like a glorious second chance for Tim Welsh a month ago, came crashing down in one month due to a very poor decision. All he can do is admit his wrong doing. Be up front about it. As recent history has shown, people will respect someone if they admit they did wrong and are remorseful for it. And as a result, people often will give that person a second chance.

Here's hoping Welsh will do the right thing. And maybe he will get a second chance.

I just don't know if he will get it.