Monday, September 08, 2008

Men's Hoops Schedule Released

Aptly called "the toughest schedule in school history", Mike Brey and company will make more national television appearances than ever before in 2008-09 as they look to extended the longest home court win streak in school history and match the longest one in Big East history.

Complete schedule here.

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Friday, September 05, 2008

Highlights from A.D.'s Induction

Adrian Dantley was the first member of the Basketball Hall of Fame Class of 2008 inducted this evening.

The emcee for the event, Mike Breen, introduced AD by saying one of the most difficult assignments in the NBA was to guard Adrian Dantley. While he was considered undersized, he said, AD's opponents were often overmatched. This "unstoppable offensive force" was one of the most dominant players of his time.

Following the introduction was a video montage detailing Dantley's career, including a number of tributes. Morgan Wootten described AD's offensive moves as being "like an eye surgeon, cutting the opponent up", and credited Dantley for starting DeMatha's High School's weight training program with his prescient interest in the philosophy. Former Irish coach Digger Phelps also mentioned Dantley's physical regimen and how he used jumping rope and other programs to keep his stamina at the necessary level to "take the pounding" in the low post.

George "Iceman" Gervin talked about Dantley's tireless work ethic and his knack for getting his defender off the ground. Joe Dumars echoed Gervin's comments, calling AD "the most disciplined player he ever met in his life", and talked about how he helped instill that discipline into the Piston team that won the NBA Championship two seasons later. "Focus, professionalism, and discipline ... [Dantley] embodied all those things."

Video complete, Coach Wootten escorted AD to the stage for his remarks.

He started by thanking the committee and congratulating his fellow inductees, especially Cathy Rush, with whom, he said, he had something in common: "We both waited [for induction] ... and waited ... and waited." (Rush was inducted on this, her sixth nomination. This was AD's seventh attempt)

He credited Morgan Wootten for his career. Under Wootten, he learned fundamentals, respect for the game, and the right way to play the game. "He has been my teacher, mentor, and friend."

He then introduced and gave his love to his family: his wife of 27 years, Dinitri; his son, Cameron ("he plays football, I'm not sure why"); and his daughters, Kalani and Kayla.

He talked about his mother, Virginia, and her effect on his life. "She instilled honesty, loyalty, and respect for yourself so you can respect others. She always said, 'Do not embarrass yourself or me in public.'"

But it wasn't all serious with mom. "She used to ask me what a rebound was. Now she wants to know who she should be plugging on the pick and roll."

He talked about other family members: his Aunt Rosie, his "number-two mom and number-one fan"; his grandmother, who "always told [him] to read with [his] third eye and listen with [his] third ear"; and his grandfather.

Then came people he'd emulated. Elgin Baylor's first step. Chet Walker's head- and pump-fake, which everyone always went for.

Following that, coaches he'd met. He met Red Auerbach, who told him, "Adrian, John Havlicek weighs 205 pounds. You should weigh 210." His best playing years, AD said, were played at 210 pounds.

Bob Knight, the first college coach he met, had AD demonstrate taking a charge and diving for loose balls. Knight told him, "If you work hard, you'll be a great player," and sent him his first recruiting letter as the head coach at West Point.

On weekends, AD would play on the DC playgrounds, and afterwards listen to John Thompson tell stories about basketball and life. He got to play for Thompson on the 1976 Olympic Team under the head coach, Dean Smith. Smith taught him to value every possession, which Dantley believes "must be a North Carolina thing" given how often George Karl says it to him today.

He talked about remaining steady and focused through changes and trades, and expressed his joy at finally being a member of a team that couldn't trade him.

He was told so often he was "too short, too fat, and too slow", and was warned that "short players make short money" (by a player who was 5'2"). But those people discounted his "brain, heart, and work ethic", all of which served him well.

He thanked his friends and extended family, and said it would be a day he would always cherish, and left the stage.

I'll have a full writeup on Irish Eyes on Monday, once the hoopla on SDSU dies down and before Michigan gets fully rolling. But this was a wonderful experience for him, and all Irish fans should be proud of their newest Hall of Famer.

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Presser-ing Thoughts

The intro and discussion is complete.

The six inductees present were introduced in alphabetical order, meaning A.D. was the first one on the stage. The emcee, Eddie Doucette, read a quick bio on each member of the class, who then proceeded to the stage, was presented with his/her blazer, had some pictures taken, and then took a seat. Kudos to A.D. for being the only one who wore a tie, meaning he looked especially sharp with the blazer ensemble. Patrick Ewing was dressed like he'd just come in off the beach. Come on, Pat, it's the HOF.

Each inductee then got up to say a few words. Most of them went through what would be considered a typical statement, thanking their families, coaches, players, teammates, and God, not necessarily in that order. But there were a few chuckles.

A.D. and Pat Riley both reminisced about A.D.'s Laker days. At that time, Riley was a Costanza-like traveling secretary with the team, and was in charge of boarding passes for the planes. Invariably, A.D. would find himself seated next to Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. He complained to Riley because Kareem wasn't big on talking during flights. Riley replied, "I have to sit you there, Adrian, you're the only one who isn't afraid of him."

Hakeem Olajuwon reflected that growing up in Nigeria, he didn't have the knowledge or the appreciation for what the HOF really was. He focused on winning, and it was the winning that got him here.

Riley said he always believed in the philosophy Magic Johnson espouses: Keep your dreams big and your worries small. He said he feels some players were born to get to the Hall of Fame, but he was able to get there because of the help and support of those people.

Cathy Rush talked about how the HOF was never something she dreamed, but was certainly a dream come true. Back in her day, women's basketball was an afterthought, and she took the job at Immaculata "to have something to do while [her husband] was out refereeing". The job wasn't supposed to be anything. She grew up when girls didn't have dreams, but now have "an equality of dreams", for which she was very thankful.

Dick Vitale was, of course, his usual effusive self. He said his throat is doing much better, although he's headed to Boston after the induction to get another checkup just to be sure. He remembered back when he and Eddie Doucette were partners, when he warned him, "Eddie, I hope you're not getting paid by the word, because by the time I'm done, you won't make a dime." He warned the HOF CEO, John Doleva, he wasn't going to be able to work with a five-minute window in speeches tonight because "I can't say 'hello' in five minutes!" And he said the best thing that ever happened to him was meeting his wife. I know he gets a lot of flack on NDN and elsewhere, but if there's a more genuine person in college basketball than Dick Vitale, I haven't met him.

The biggest thing I noticed about the class was their camaraderie. All of them played for, with or against one another, and all have strong relationships off the court as well as on. They spent more time talking about each other than they did themselves, something Riley pointed out to me later as being "necessary for events like this, but easy when it's people like this".

The pep rally is going on as we speak, but I declined since I was trying to get this done. The media work area is a theater where the event will be shown tonight. I don't know if I'll be watching it in here or in there.

The pre-event reception starts about 5:30. Mike Brey and Morgan Wootten and Digger Phelps will be in attendance, and I'm going to try to get quotes from them for the Irish Eyes stories I'll eventually write about the event. I'll try to check in later this afternoon, but definitely tonight with a report on the induction itself. The IE story probably won't get posted until Monday, since I don't want it to get lost in all the SDSU post-game hoopla.

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Tuesday, September 02, 2008

A.D. Coming to EsPN Classic

On HOF Induction Day, this Friday, September 5th, EsPN Classic will be showing prominent games featuring the various inductees.

Adrian Dantley will be featured between 1 and 3pm EDT when they show the 1987 Eastern Conference Finals between AD's Pistons and the Boston Celtics.

Then at 7:30pm, the induction ceremony will be carried live on both EsPN Classic and NBA TV. A one-hour version will run on Sunday the 7th at 5:30pm EDT.

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Monday, March 10, 2008

Living the Dream

Those of you who regularly read NDN know our relationship with the South Bend Tribune has been rather contentious. Under normal circumstances, I'm not prone to link things I find there. However, a good friend e-mailed a link to me I felt I should share with the ND basketball fans.

The Trib is taking a poll to determine ND's dream team for the ages. ND did their All-Century Team back in 2005, but the SBT is looking for a more focused list.

I encourage ND hoops fans of all shapes and sizes to participate. With the Irish enjoying their strongest hoops success in a while, it's good to reflect on the past and know how we got here. You don't have to stick to the All-Century list --- there may be a player not on it you think deserves mention, as I (almost) did with Ray Meyer.

As a start, or perhaps as an exercise in narcissism, here's the team I submitted:

1) Austin Carr. Duh.

2) Adrian Dantley. Duh II, the revenge.

3) Edward "Moose" Krause. The man revolutionized low post play in his era. Every time you (should) hear a whistle for three seconds, you have Moose to thank for it.

4) John Moir

5) Paul Nowak.

ND has had precious few three-time consensus All-Americans, and these guys are two of them. Moir was National Player of the Year in 1936, when the Irish won the national championship, and it was the first time the guy had ever played organized basketball.

6) Tommy Hawkins. The Hawk still holds a lot of rebounding records at Notre Dame, all achieved in only three years of playing.

7) Dick Rosenthal. What Moose was to ND hoops in the 30's, Rosenthal was in the 50's. He was a dominating low-post man, and led the Irish to the Elite Eight in his senior year ... the last time they'd get there until Digger's Final Four trip.

8) David Rivers. Not only was he one of the most gifted guards ever to play at ND, he led his junior year team to the Sweet 16 seven months after lying on the side of a road with his abdomen slashed open. If that's not balls, I don't know what is.

9) Collis Jones. He'd be considered one of ND's greatest if he hadn't had a teammate named Carr. And to his credit, he's never complained about it once and remains AC's greatest friend and supporter.

10) Kelly Tripucka. The last spot came down to him or Ray Meyer, who I wanted to put in there based on what he brought to the game of basketball over 50 years. But I decided leading ND to their only Final Four so far had to trump that.

Jump on their site and share your own team with the poll. They'll be releasing the results on the 21st.

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Wednesday, March 05, 2008

Numbers Game

There are no more Joyce Center games for Rob Kurz and his Irish teammates, and kudos to them for pulling off what no Big East team has done before: Completing a home conference schedule unscathed two seasons in a row. They haven't set the home conference win streak record yet ... Pitt still owns that 20-game mark ... but we'll be looking for that in January.

I've talked before about the 24-game record Mike Brey and his charges broke back in December. As I said then, I believe pulling off a second straight undefeated season at home makes this streak superior, UCLA or no UCLA. And as I also said then, it's time to start looking at the 38-game streak the Irish are poised to break as the next season dawns.

The current record home win streak started December 11th, 1943, with a 41-31 win over Wisconsin, and ended February 9th, 1948, with a 68-51 loss to St. Louis. It spanned five seasons and almost as many coaches -- Moose Krause bookended it in its first and last two seasons, with Clem Crowe and Elmer Ripley taking one season each while Moose was in the Service. All-Century Team member Leo "Crystal" Klier (yes, that was his nickname) and All-American Vince "Magilla" Boryla (no, that most definitely was not) spent the first part of the streak claiming and re-claiming the Notre Dame scoring record, and fellow All-Century man Kevin O'Shea contributed at the other end during his outstanding freshman season. Marquettte and Piggy Lambert-led Purdue each fell four times during its course, with Northwestern and Butler three times and Wisconsin and Michigan State twice. And the streak even had its UCLA: the 1948 Kentucky team they beat was a juggernaut featuring Ralph Beard, Wallace Jones, and Alex Groza that went on to an NCAA championship that year.

So which one is superior? Which cuisine reigns supreme?

Part of me says the 38-game streak. But then I remember some other things about it.

As impressive as three straight undefeated home seasons is, in the days of the Fieldhouse, most top teams wouldn't play ND there and ND played most of their games on the road or at neutral sites. In addition to its reputation as a snake pit, the Fieldhouse only sat around 4,000 people, and once you factored in the students (who watched games for free), there was precious little gate to split with the road squad. ND did beat that 1948 Kentucky squad, but that was the only time the Wildcats appear on the victims list. Meanwhile, Loras, Bunker Hill, Franklin, Drake, Alma and Valpo are all taking up slots too.

There was also a war on, and a lot of major programs were shells of their usual selves. Notre Dame, thanks to the Naval ROTC on campus, was able to stay competitive, but a lot of programs had to shut down during the 1945 and 46 seasons. Even ND had to employ journeyman coaches to stay afloat.

The current streak still lacks the top-five (or top-ranked) crown jewel to really make it special, and maybe next season we'll see one. But they've added a couple more ranked teams to the list of pelts this season in #13 UConn and #21 Marquette. They've done what no team in Big East history has been able to do, winning the conference home slate two years in a row. And they've captivated crowds that wandered away from the program during the dark decade, making the Joyce Center a feared venue once again.

Perhaps this will be like breaking the 24-game record ... right now, the current streak hasn't differentiated itself enough to make the comparison clear. But a couple more games, and there'll likely be no doubt.

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Tuesday, February 19, 2008

The Return of the King

Scout asked me to put together something for Austin Carr's return to ND this Thursday, and I wanted to share with folks who don't frequent their site.

Link to the article


Monday, February 04, 2008

Good Knight

I know this is an ND blog. But when an icon like Texas Tech coach Robert Montgomery Knight retires, it behooves all college hoops fans to reflect. And on this his retirement day, I'm both glad I was able to see someone achieve what he did on the court without sacrificing his principles, while sad at what could have been for college basketball's winningest coach.

My first exposure to Coach Knight was my father receiving the book A Season on the Brink for Christmas. He was (and, I believe, remains) a big fan of Coach Knight. When he finished it, I asked if I could give it a read. I guess I wanted to see what all the hoopla was about.

I know Coach Knight isn't fond of the book and believes it paints him in a negative light. I didn't find that to be the case. I was fascinated by what I saw as a portrayal of a complete human being rather than a two-dimensional cutout you sometimes see in tomes like this. John Feinstein, his opinions regarding Notre Dame notwithstanding, is an outstanding writer, and he captured the essence of Coach Knight in prose I couldn't put down.

The day I finished that book, in my room in Cavanaugh Hall, I became a fan, and I sent Coach Knight a letter telling him so. He responded with a very nice letter thanking me for my kind words, which I appreciated also.

I didn't get to watch too much success by Notre Dame teams against his Hoosiers, but I remained a fan. I watched him as his IU career wound down and he was reborn, guns up, in Lubbock.

When the time came for me to realize my dream of writing a book, I contacted Coach Knight again, asking him if he'd be willing to provide the foreword (Al McGuire being unavailable and all). Once again, a gracious note in reply, explaining he had an exclusive literary contract which prohibited him from participating, but wishing me luck in the project and expressing an interest in the result. His was one of the first copies I mailed when I received the box of hardbounds. I never got a review from him, but maybe he's just waiting for retirement to give it a read.

As a Notre Dame grad, Coach Knight's priorities resonate with me. His players' graduation rate staggers the imagination in the current atmosphere of one-and-dones. His consistent handling of players who crossed the line and refusal to let the short-term-win tail wag the life-lesson dog is refreshing in our participation-trophy culture. His was a belief if you took care of the little things, the big things would take care of themselves, and his career certainly stands as an example of making that work.

At the same time, however, his retirement leaves me sad. Not sad for what college basketball is losing (although that's certainly a shame), but moreso what Coach Knight could have had over the years.

Coach Knight's teams won over 900 games and saw graduated over 90 percent of their players because he demanded of them a level of concentration, maturity, discipline and excellence both on and off the court. Coach Knight's problems bubbled up (and over) because he didn't always demand those levels from himself.

It takes discipline to make the extra pass when the shot seems to be there. It also takes discipline not to respond to a question you think is foolish by harassing the questioner for five minutes.

It takes maturity to pass up a night of partying to get your studying in, knowing you'll miss class time during the road games next week. It also takes maturity not to manhandle a wise-ass teenager.

Excellence is taking teams without stars to amazing heights. Excellence is also treating the people who work with and for you with respect.

Coach Knight has a forceful personality, and some have said I have issues with people with forceful personalities. Perhaps I do, and that may be a failing on my part. And maybe the pressure Coach Knight brought to bear on folks in his orbit helped them collectively achieve the accolade-worthy accomplishments that permeate Coach Knight's career.

But I believe soliciting trouble and confrontation is a waste of energy and resources, and I get frustrated thinking of the quality of resources Coach Knight wasted on people who probably weren't worth the time. It's not right to kowtow to idiots, but Max Ehrmann's Desiderata tells us to stay on good terms with people outside of surrender. There was plenty of space between surrender and Hell, and I wish Coach Knight would have explored some of it.

I doubt a career in broadcasting awaits Coach Knight, given his disdain for the profession, but I hope his voice is not gone from this arena. As I noted, his priorities fly in the face of some of the more negative things about the sport these days, and a bully pulpit for him in retirement would do the game a lot of good.

I hope he's willing to talk and others are willing to listen. As long as the speaking is soft.

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Tuesday, January 08, 2008

Mostest Bestest

That's how my daughter, many years ago, described Sesame Street's Elmo -- her mostest bestest friend. I thought it captured the relationship perfectly.

So I would describe this week as one of the two mostest bestest for Notre Dame basketball fans in a typical season: one featuring a game against Marquette. As SC is to Notre Dame football, the Warriors (none of this Eagle or Golden Gold crap) are to Notre Dame basketball -- a rival without peer.

Yes, the Blue Demons had Ray Meyer, and for that they will always have a special place in ND lore. And our history with UCLA is certainly a vibrant one with multiple high-stakes contests won by each side.

But the statistics and lore are undeniable. Marquette tops the list.

Saturday's meeting will be the 109th between the two schools, far and away the most ND has played against any opponent, with the Irish holding a 76-32 advantage (and 32-21 in Milwaukee). And were it not for Marquette's Conference USA commitments in the 1990s and the horrible accident that resulted in Eddie Hickey being born without testicles, the number would be even higher.

Note: For those unclear on the concept (or who haven't read the book), Eddie Hickey is to ND basketball what Fielding Yost and Fritz Crisler were to ND football. Moose Krause recruited Dick Rosenthal right under Hickey's nose when he was at SLU, and the little man was never able to let go of it. He blew up the ND/SLU series, and once he got to Milwaukee, did the same to ND/Marquette during the 1960s.

Lopsided as the series may be in ND's favor, people on both sides can point to games where they stuck daggers into their opponent's hearts. Digger having his players sneak back into the arena to cut the nets down in Milwaukee after breaking the Warriors' 81-game home win streak, or pulling out the green socks at the (then) A.C.C. before a 65-59 win when Marquette was ranked #1. The triangle-and-two that shut down Adrian Dantley and left him 1-4 against Marquette in his career.

But even if none of those things were true, Marquette would still sit in the catbird seat for one reason:

Al McGuire.

Was there ever a basketball coach you loved to hate more? Heck, maybe you were like me and couldn't bring yourself to hate him. For someone who never walked a sideline or scored a point for the Irish, Al was the closest thing to a Notre Dame Man you'd find out there. He spoke the blarney. He had the attitude. He was a spunky Irishman from New York City. And the minute he became a broadcaster, you couldn't find a bigger Irish booster out there. He was Dickey V before even Dickey V was Dickey V.

Trying to remember my favorite Al McGuire story is like trying to remember the best hot fudge sundae I ever ate. But after thinking, I decided it was the story Digger told in his "Tales from the ND Hardwood" book. He had opened his practices early in his career, trying to get the student body out and interested in the team. Lo and behold, about three weeks later, he gets a letter from Al along with pages and pages of diagrams. Apparently a life-long Marquette fan had decided to attend Notre Dame, and not only had gone to every practice, he had diagrammed ND's offense and mailed it to Al in the hopes it would help him prepare for ND. Sportsman that he always was, Al sent the data back to Digger rather than use it against him.

If you an Irish hoops fan, you have to love this week. Forget the antiseptic nature of the Bradley Center and think about the plethora of watering holes surrounding it for pre- and post-game libations. Forget the antics of Tom Crean and remember he's taken a team to the Final Four and Mike Brey hasn't (yet). Forget the attitudes of Warrior fans and remember the reason you don't like them is, down deep, they're a lot like you.

It's like a late-arriving Christmas. ND basketball as it should be, as it always should have been.

Irish and Warriors, together again.

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Wednesday, December 05, 2007

They Call Him The Streak

I'm not a superstitious man, although I understand why folks won't talk about no-hitters and the like while they're going on.

So I'll risk upsetting that group and the Sports Luck Deities and talk about the momentous event most likely taking place around 9pm on Saturday. When the Northern Illinois game ends, Mike Brey's squad hopefully will have set a new Joyce Center win streak record with their 25th straight victory in that duck-taped edifice.

A couple weeks back, I talked about the streak, and at the time, I didn't think much of it. But as the date drew nigh, I realized I didn't want to give Rob Kurz, Tory Jackson, Luke Harangody, Kyle McAlarney, and all their teammates short shrift if they were entitled to a taller one.

So I decided to set the wayback machine for February 3rd, 1973, the day the current record streak of 24 games started. The previous home game had been an 82-63 loss to UCLA, in which the Bruins had set a record of their own -- their 61st consecutive win. The streak started with a blowout of Xavier, 94-68, and the Fighting Irish held serve until Bob Knight's Hoosiers ran off a 94-84 win in December of 1974. Along the way, we had the big 71-70 win over UCLA and a 69-63 nailbiter against #5 Marquette. The undefeated-at-home season of 1973-74 was ND's first in 14 seasons.

So let's look at how the current streak compares:

Last season, ND went undefeated at home for only the second time since that 1973-74 slate (1985-86 was the other). That's a pretty damn good accomplishment. Some ND teams played tougher home schedules in those 33 seasons, but others didn't, and none of them pulled off what this team did in that third of a century.

ND went 684 days between losses back then. Assuming the record is set on Saturday, ND's last loss will have been 652 days prior. Not sure what that means other than this streak team played more home games in their seasons than the prior one.

It's hard to top UCLA as a crown jewel for the current run. But the 24-gamer had a total of four ranked teams -- #19 South Carolina, #1 UCLA, #5 Marquette, and #7 Kansas -- while the current streak features three -- #4 Alabama, #21 West Virginia, and #16 Marquette. Teams like DePaul and Villanova were victims in both streaks.

Any dispassionate analysis of both streaks would indicate the slate of the prior version was tougher overall, but it's not like the current streak was against Division II opponents. To that end, my prior commentary linked above was probably too harsh, not to mention incorrect ... Indiana and Kentucky weren't home games during that streak, and Michigan State wasn't ranked.

Mike Brey and the guys have worked hard to put this streak together, and a second look tells me there's more to it than I thought. I hope to be there on Saturday to cheer them on and celebrate the win, but if not, I'll be watching on UND and quaffing a beverage in their honor, and I'll catch them up at the San Francisco game.

Next on the docket: ND's overall home win streak record of 38 games, set by the 1943 through 1948 squads in the old Fieldhouse. If the Irish can finish this season undefeated at home as they did last season, they'll have won 37 in a row and can tie/break the overall record next year. To do so, they definitely will have earned it -- WVU, UConn, Marquette, Pitt and Syracuse stand in their way. We'll check back on this one in February.

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Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Student and Friend

I finally got the AC article written, no thanks to my clunky tape recorder.

Austin Carr: Student and Friend

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Monday, November 19, 2007

Kansas City is Lovely This Time of Year

Finally back after a plane delayed thanks to a computer crash in Dallas. I'm hoping to have a writeup or two on Irish Eyes in the next 24 hours. But a couple notes floating through my head.

SWA's new boarding procedure is good, but the people who camp out 30 minutes before departure have been replaced by the people who, if their number is lower than yours, absolutely have to worm their way in front of you even if you're both standing in the same five-number area.

I got honey roasted peanuts both ways. I used to think those were reserved for the Florida routes. The FA on the flight there refused to take my money for my screwdriver, wishing me "happy holidays" instead.

Never been to KC before, seems like a nice enough town. Traffic accidents make the 10pm news, which is refreshing in a way. The Crowne Point Hyatt is a high quality place.

The event was outstanding. AC knew Collis Jones would be there to introduce him, but didn't know a lot of his teammates were showing up. The look on his face when he saw John Tracy and Jackie Meehan walk in was priceless.

Speaking of which, I give Kevin White a lot of grief on this blog, so I want to make sure to give him kudos for making the trip out to KC on Sunday with John Heisler when he could have bolted down to the USVI's for some sun or been noodling around South Bend after a long day on Saturday and with another long day in Terre Haute for the cross country NCAAs today. Say what you want about him (and I say plenty), but I appreciate him making that kind of effort.

I understand Jim Lynch was in the group as well, but I didn't get a chance to make his acquaintance. Good of him to cross the sports lines that way.

Dick Barnett is an interesting guy. Very focused on education, which is good in this day and age. Quoted poetry both in the presser and at the event. I'd love to see him talk at ND sometime, his speech was engrossing.

Kareem also spoke about the importance of the college experience, and you can tell he doesn't think much of the one-and-done philosophy. He was his typical, understated self.

There were video tributes before the event. Mike Brey's was the only one that didn't sound like it was being read off cue cards. Whoever put together Coach K's certainly skimped on the makeup -- the guy was virtually glistening with some kind of secretion. Never let 'em see you sweat, Mike.

I hung around the ceremony after AC was inducted long enough to listen to Lefty Driesell, who has always been an entertaining character. He was doing fine until about three quarters of the way through his speech, when he told us all he referred to his African American players as "players with good suntans." Air went out of the room a little bit after that. It'll be interesting to see how ESPNU handles that before the broadcast.

AC is the second ND representative in the college hoops HOF, joining former coach George Keogan. ND needs to send the HOF guys a picture of Keogan so they can include it in the interactive history stuff they have there. Next step is to get either KC or Springfield to recognize Adrian. ND, to their credit, is working as hard as they can to make it happen. I'd rather see KC get him first.

If you have some spare good prayers, Frannie Collins could use them. The architect of the "DC Connetion" that brought players like AC and Collis Jones to ND, along with Bob Whitmore, Adrian Dantley, Duck Williams, and the rest, is in poor health these days, and I hope the ND family can keep him in their good thoughts.

Last, but certainly not least, I was the only person there representing any of the ND publications. I got the whole trip done for less than $300, guys, and I don't get paid to do this. Shame on you salaried first-row-in-press-row guys for blowing it off.

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Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Getting the Clap

The good folks at made the new montage video available on their site here (if you click on Video View), which means I've had a chance to watch it a couple times and digest its content further.

I still believe there's too much emphasis on the current team. The current-team stuff in the video is great as a standalone, and should be used when the player intros start. Right now, there's the black screen and interlocking ND over "Carmina Burana O Fortuna" as an intro to "Hate Me Now". The first scene after the fade-out of the current video should be the first player being introduced. Meanwhile, they could beef up the footage from the past, adding more action shots.

But more important than that is the music. I've been trying to figure out why it doesn't work for me, and I had an epiphany last night:

It doesn't give me the clap.

No, not the STD. The energy.

Aside of it just being a great song and ND's musical heritage, one of the reasons the Victory March has always worked as a hoops intro is its driving rhythm that invites the crowd to clap along. That clapping, in turn, creates an energy in the crowd, which we've been looking for in the Joyce in recent seasons. The old "Halloween" intro worked the same way -- that DO-do-do-DO-do-do-DO-do-DEE-do baseline evoked a similar pulse from the stands, and as a result, everyone was fired up.

The music in this montage doesn't do that, primarily because the beat is too slow. That's always been the problem with "Hate Me Now" (along with me being perplexed an ND team would use a song whose video features a rapper carrying a cross with a crown of thorns on his head), but "Remember The Name" by Fort Minor that the new montage uses has the same issue. The beat is there, and if we were dancing, it wouldn't be a problem. It's just too slow to get a crowd really fired up.

I referenced the Sox the other day and their montage. Both "He's a Pirate" and "Thunderstruck" have a fast cadence to them. A fan put together his own montage on YouTube and used the theme from Van Helsing, which has similar characteristics:

This theme pervades these kinds of intros at other places. The Chicago Bulls (and, I'm led to understand, the Philadelphia 76ers) have long used the Alan Parsons Project's "Sirius":

Not only does it have that driving rhythm, the long bass tone to start the song creates anticipation energy in the crowd.

You see further examples of solid beats with the Phoenix Suns...

... and the Toronto Raptors:

The current one is excellent and can work, but if there are going to be future tweaks, a better beat should be considered.

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Tuesday, November 13, 2007

We Need a Montage

Tonight was my first opportunity to watch the 2007-08 Irish live. Since my schedule won't allow me to do it again until (what will hopefully be) the streak-breaker against NIU in December, I tried to take in all I could.

There's plenty of analysis on The Pit right now, and I'm pretty much down with all of it. This is going to be a damn fun team to watch. They're unselfish, they hustle, they put (successful) effort in on D, they distribute the ball, they've got ballhandling skills and body awareness.... After suffering through football season, this is going to be a breath of fresh air for Fighting Irish fans.

But rather than focus on that, since the Pit is getting the job done, I wanted to focus on a new addition to the Irish gameday experience -- new player intros.

They still use the same song to introduce the players (along with those air cannon things I'm not fond of). But there's a new wrinkle this year via video. On two drop-down screens positioned in the rafters behind the baskets (approximately where the screen appears in this picture, they followed the intro of the LIU starters with a video montage that showed previous ND players and the current team (over music whose title I can't remember -- I know the "Here Come The Irish" tune started it out, but I'm hoping one of the younger set can remember what I can't). During the spotlight intro, a picture and info of each player was shown when he was introduced.

OK, let's get right to it. I loved it. I loved every freaking part of it with my whole body. This is just the kind of thing I was hoping we'd get with the upgraded video whatevers in the Joyce, and it seems my hopes will be realized in a snuggly fashion. FisherJ08 opined it would "make the 'More awareness of basketball history' crowd very happy". Darn tootin.

(And yes, I realize I strongly oppose the addition of a video screen in ND Stadium. Football and basketball are very very different animals)

But I wouldn't be me if I didn't mention two things that would make it even better:

1) Better music. In the interest of full disclosure, I hate that "Here Comes the Irish" song with the white-hot hate of a thousand suns. But that aside, I don't think it drives enough. You need something with a solid beat to get the crowd fired up. Whiny lilting lasses don't get that done.

2) More history. They opened with pics of AC and AD, of course, had at least one of current ND radio personality (and dred-sporting) LaPhonso Ellis, and including a picture of Colin Falls and Russell Carter was a nice touch. But there was way too much of the current team. I'm not advocating taking them out entirely, but the crowd is about to spend the better part of two hours watching these guys, and there are good pics of them during the intros already. Let's see a little more Hawk, Hanzlik, Pax, Rivers and Garrity, and a lot more action shots. I need to see Dwight Clay stick a dagger in John Wooden's soul every game. Need. Every.

As a White Sox fan, I'm intimately familiar with their intro montage:

The first part, which shows the various uniforms and trophies, uses "Elk Trot" from Last of the Mohicans. It then segues into the history shots (with some of the previous season thrown in) set to "He's a Pirate" from the Pirates of the Carribean movies. The actual player intros are done to AC/DC's "Thunderstruck". If that intro doesn't fire you up, you're the third eunuch -- dead. I believe it was put together by former Irish hoopster Brooks Boyer and his marketing squad. Perhaps he'd let us borrow it.

I think the whole video intro concept is an excellent idea, and a standing ovation to the ND marketing folks that put it together. With a tweak or two........

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Friday, September 28, 2007

12th Street and Vine

I don't know if being in love means never having to say you're sorry, but I do know being a Notre Dame basketball fan means getting excited about a trip to Kansas City in November.

On November 18th, Notre Dame will take its place in the nascent College Basketball Hall of Fame when Austin Carr is inducted. Joining him will be former greats like Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Dick Groat, along with coaches Norm Stewart, "Lefty" Driesell and Adolph Rupp. This is the Hall's second induction class -- the first included such luminaries as John Wooden, Dean Smith, Oscar Robertson and Bill Russell.

Thanks to, I'll be making the trip to cover the induction. Unfortunately, because of the team's commitment to the Paradise Jam, they'll be in the Bahamas. So insteade of Mike Brey, AC will be introduced by his good friend, classmate, and fellow member of the ND All-Century Team, Collis Jones.

Even though the team will be otherwise occupied, I'm hoping there'll be a quality ND crowd there. I've heard great things about the ND Club of KC, so I'll be getting in touch with them about putting the word in the streets. Meanwhile, if you're in the area, consider coming out and supporting the best hoops player in Irish history. We'll be posting info on NDN with the schedule and how to get tickets.

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Friday, August 03, 2007

What if: The Doctor was Out

The boys at Blue-Gray Sky had a little fun last week playing the what-if game, reviewing various binary events in ND football history and hypothesizing as to the effect if they'd gone the other way.

At the end, they mentioned a couple of hoops-related possibilities. Since I'm not as encumbered at the start of football season as they are, I decided to take on a couple of them, and will be doing so over the course of the next couple of days.

I decided to start with a variation on the first one they suggested:

What if George Keogan had retired after his first heart attack?

George Keogan is the greatest basketball coach in Notre Dame history, and it's a shame more people don't know about him and what he was able to do. He was hired by Knute Rockne in 1923 after coming to Rock's attention as Valparaiso University's football coach. His teams won the only two National Championships in ND hoops history in 1927 and 1936. He was known as "The Doctor" by his peers, and some of his innovations like his switching man-to-man defense and low-post techniques used by Moose Krause changed the game -- the latter leading to the creation of the three-second violation.

But those honors were coming at a price. Keogan was a hopeless workaholic, sometimes laying awake for hours scheming and gameplanning. He took losses very very hard, and any hint of failure chewed at the man's insides.

By the time the 1940-41 season dawned, Keogan's doctors were trying to put the brakes on him. His blood pressure was sky-high and the physicians worried what would happen if he didn't slow down the pace.

Keogan, as was his wont, told them to go scratch. But he did agree to depart from his usual routine and hire an assistant coach, a first for the ND program. He didn't have to go far to find one, bringing in 1938 ND alumnus Ray Meyer out of Chicago.

Meyer had dabbled in coaching -- he even took over a game as a player after Keogan stormed off the bench in disgust at halftime, leading the Fighting Irish to the win. So even though it meant a bit of a pay cut, he and his wife packed their things and travelled 90 miles east to campus.

Turns out the hire was a good thing. After a loss in overtime to Illinois that season, Keogan's health finally began to crack under the strain, and he suffered a heart attack. Meyer took over the day-to-day management of the team while Keogan recovered, and coached ND for the rest of that season.

Keogan's future as coach was in serious doubt. The doctors continued to warn him of grave results (literally) should he not take their advice and ratchet back his activities. Meyer had coached the team well and was the obvious heir apparent. Elmer Layden had just resigned as football coach and athletic director, so the conventional wisdom was the new hotshot football coach, Frank Leahy, would not assume the A.D. chair and the position would be given to Keogan, who would turn his hoops squad over to Meyer.

But it didn't happen.

Keogan decided to remain as head coach, and Leahy took the A.D. position in addition to his football coaching responsibilities, just as his predecessors had done.

At the end of the 1941-42 season, Ray Meyer, seeing no end in sight for the Keogan regime, took advantage of an opportunity with DePaul. He coached the Blue Demons until 1984, making 21 postseason appearances and reaching the Final Four twice.

And on February 17th, 1943, while sitting in his easy chair at home following a practice, George Keogan died of a sudden, massive coronary.

A quick aside: for those of you who have watched "Wake Up the Echoes" and remember Johnny Lujack's story about Frank Leahy telling his players to "visit that man during the basketball season", he's talking about Keogan. I've never looked around Rock's grave to see if Keogan's is there. Next time you're there, check it out.

So what if it had happened?

Given it was so long ago, it's hard to speak definitively. But that's never stopped me before.

If Keogan had retired, Ray Meyer definitely would have been Notre Dame's coach. However, I'm not certain he would have remained at Notre Dame for the 42 years he was at DePaul.

While Meyer had the two Final Fours, one was at the beginning of his career (1943) and one at the end (1979). There were a number of years in between when the Blue Demons did not have spectacular finishes, including many strings of consecutive seasons near or below .500.

DePaul in those days, by Meyer's own admission, wasn't putting a lot of emphasis on basketball during those times. In fact, he tells a story of Fr. Joyce having to write a letter to DePaul's president to keep him from cutting Meyer's budget in the early 1970s. DePaul was content to keep Meyer as a known commodity rather than have to search for a coach for a deemphasized sport. Notre Dame would not have done that.

On the other hand, it's also very probable Meyer would have recruited much better at Notre Dame than he did at DePaul. Notre Dame was a much better-known name during his time, even in basketball. Some of the blue-chippers he couldn't convince to play on Chicago's north side might well have come to South Bend. Moose Krause, John Jordan and Johnny Dee certainly had no trouble getting talent to Notre Dame, and with all due respect to all three of them, none of the them was as accomplished or talented a coach as Meyer. Meyer's accomplishments might well have been higher at Notre Dame than he achieved at DePaul on that basis.

Still, there's no denying the ND basketball job was a lot more pressure-packed than DePaul's during that period. Would that pressure have gotten to Meyer and driven him into retirement long prior to 1984?

All evidence considered, I believe it would have. I think Notre Dame would have two or three more Final Fours (and possibly an NCAA title) to their credit, but I also think Meyer would have left Notre Dame within 25 years. And since Johnny Dee wouldn't have attended ND as a transfer, he probably would not have ended up coaching there, meaning the D.C. Pipeline would not have happened and Austin Carr, Adrian Dantley, and all that crowd probably would have ended up wearing Carolina Blue rather than the Blue and Gold.

Would we still have seen Digger Phelps? Probably, since Digger grew up an ND fan independent of who was coaching the hoops program. But would he have had the cachet to create recruiting momentum instead of continuing it, and would he have had a UCLA series to work to his advantage? Might have turned out a lot differently if he didn't.

With regard to Keogan as A.D., I don't think he would have taken the job. The football coach ruled the roost at ND, and it was pointless to put a basketball guy in the slot. When they eventually split the position, it's telling Moose Krause, an ex-footballer (and hoopster, to be sure) was given the position. It's much more likely Keogan would have retired in fact as well as name, possibly going on to work with one of the nascent conferences as a commissioner or some other leadership position.

Keogan's decision, therefore, was a major tipping point in Notre Dame basketball history. Meyer in place of Moose would have set the Fighting Irish on a much different path. Whether or not that path would be better is a matter of conjecture.