In addition to the tournament games, the NCAA basketball tournament is also about coaches on the move. Schools that did not make the tournament wait for smaller schools to be eliminated to hire a successful coach away or possibly for a major school to be eliminated so they can grab one of the assistant coaches there. One such school this year was Illinois; Bruce Weber and the Illini mutually agreed to part company after this dismal season. Nevertheless, the coaching search by Illinois suggests that – - despite its membership in the Big Ten – - Illinois may not be such a plum job in the minds of college basketball coaches. If reports are accurate, small “basketball school” coaches, Shaka Smart (VCU), Brad Stevens (Butler) and Anthony Grant (Alabama) have all turned down the job.
Frankly, I am not sure that Illinois is a “better job” than the ones at VCU, Butler or Alabama except for the fact that Illinois might represent a way for each of those coaches to get a pay raise. Illinois is not a perennial “contender” within the Big Ten; more often than not, Illinois is just another game on someone’s schedule.
The coaching move that is either “very interesting” or “very strange” is Frank Martin leaving Kansas State to go to South Carolina. Tony Kornheiser said on Pardon the Interruption that South Carolina is “the Mohave Desert of basketball”. It certainly has been a long time since South Carolina was anything more than an afterthought in any discussion of the top programs in the country. Martin had been successful at Kansas State; he had the Wildcats in the NCAA tournament four times in five years. Before Martin’s five-year tenure in Manhattan, KS, the last coach I can recall that had much success there was Lon Kruger and he was there about 15 years ago. [Aside: I just checked and Lon Kruger was there from 1986 to 1990 so that was 20-25 years ago]
The reporting has it that Martin and the Athletic Director at K-State were at odds after the AD suspended one of K- State’s starting players just before a tournament game. The player got a wire transfer of $200 from his former AAU coach. Martin previously coached in the inner city of Miami and he said openly that he had sent money to kids who had played for him when they went off to college because he knew they had no money and no family to provide them money. That did not fly at Kansas State; South Carolina is in the SEC where $200 transactions rarely get noticed let alone sanctioned.
Both parties here have their work cut out for themselves. Kansas State must always compete with Kansas for recruits; in addition, other Big 12 schools seem to be solidifying their basketball programs under coaches with a history of success such as Lon Kruger (now at Oklahoma) and Billy Gillispie (now at Texas Tech) along with Rich Barnes, Fred Hoiberg and Scott Drew. I do not envy the job facingKansas State AD, John Currie.
The same is true for Frank Martin who goes to a school that posted a 2-14 record in its conference last season. Prior to Martin’s arrival, Dave Odom had a couple of teams that were in the NIT – - one of them won the NIT as I recall – - but prior to Odom, the last South Carolina coach who was a roaring success was Frank McGuire in the 60s and 70s and the last great South Carolina player was Alex English. It has been a while since Columbia, SC was a focal point for college basketball.
Good luck to both Kansas State and to Frank Martin…
According to the guy who runs the race and sports book for the Las Vegas Hilton, the legal wagering on this year’s NCAA tournament will far surpass the wagering on this year’s Super Bowl. Granted, the Super Bowl was only one game and the NCAA tournament is 67 games, but it appears as if the betting on the first weekend of this year’s tournament alone was equal to the wagering on the Super Bowl. That would put the first weekend’s handle in the $95M category. That figure alone reinforces the statement I have made repeatedly in these rants:
If you really love college basketball, at least once in your lifetime you need to put yourself in Las Vegas at one of the prime sportsbooks for the first Thursday-Sunday offering of games. It is a pilgrimage you must make for yourself.
In baseball news, the group led by Magic Johnson will be the new owners of the LA Dodgers. The price for the club and the stadium is $2B plus current owner Frank McCourt and “certain associates” of folks in the consortium led by Magic Johnson will jointly purchase the land surrounding the stadium – - presumably for development – - for an additional $150M. Of course, the deal has to be approved by the federal bankruptcy judge overseeing the Dodgers’ bankruptcy proceedings which began last year. Given the price tag on this agreement, I suspect that will be a formality…
Forbes recently set the value for the Dodgers’ franchise at $1.4B – - second only to the Yankees in MLB – - so the value of this transaction exceeds the Forbes valuation by about 50%. If the same premium were applied to the Yankees estimate, that would mean the Yankees might sell for $2.7B. That is a lot of cheese…
Speaking of baseball, the Mariners and the A’s opened the 2012 regular season this morning in Japan. The Mariners won the game 3-1 in 11 innings. These teams will play another game in Japan and then return to the US to resume Spring Training until all the other teams are ready to start the regular season. I guess this is a good idea if MLB wants to promote its product more strongly in Japan but it does seem strange that two teams will have a regular season record while they continue to play meaningless Spring Training games.
Finally, here is a tidbit from a recent Sideline Chatter column by Dwight Perry in the Seattle Times:
“The Milwaukee Brewers picked the perfect spot at Miller Park to place a statue honoring Hall of Fame broadcaster Bob Uecker this summer.
“Just a bit outside.”
But don’t get me wrong, I love sports………