Brad Stevens and Shaka Smart Prove Elite Coaching Can Get You to the Final Four

The Final Four is set, and the four teams headed to Houston are Kentucky, Connecticut, Butler, and Virginia Commonwealth. While both Kentucky and Connecticut are from power conferences and have the pedigree to warrant a Final Four berth, many people are surprised to see Butler return and VCU to be there at all.

Both Butler and VCU did not build their teams recruiting 4 and 5-star high school players, and you won’t find many McDonald’s All Americans on their rosters. Neither school is an NBA player factory unlike their colleagues in the Final Four. So how did Butler and VCU get to college basketball’s ultimate stage? Superior coaching is how.

All four schools have elite coaches, and in the case of Butler and VCU, their two coaches are some of the best around, and have the brains, organization, and personalities to get their kids to play at a high level.

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Barry Zito’s Team Attitude Was Critical to Giants’ World Series Run

Opening day for the 2011 Major League Baseball season is a week away, and this year’s defending champions are the San Francisco Giants, much to the surprise of many people who follow baseball. The Giants won last year’s World Series with incredible starting pitching, a dependable, shut-down bullpen anchored by an eccentric closer, timely hitting with cagey and hungry veteran players, and the emergence of a franchise catcher who will anchor the team for years to come. But there is one more factor that played into the Giant’s success last season. Barry Zito.

Barry Zito did not record one win, get one out, or even throw one strike last post season. He wasn’t even on the active post-season roster. But the southpaw’s contribution went beyond the line score because of his professionalism and understanding of the bigger picture and how the pieces fit into the Giants championship puzzle.

Last season, Barry Zito began the year looking like the pitcher who won the 2002 Cy Young Award as he started out 6-0 with his curveball snapping and fooling hitters, a renewed explosiveness and command with the fastball, and deception and control with his changeup. However, Zito had an early flame out, finishing the season 1-8 in his last 11 games with a 6.66 ERA. His 1.79 strikeouts-to-walks ratio was 80th of 92 qualifiers, and he finished with fewer than 10 wins for the first time since his rookie season and a higher ERA than his 2009 season, all while making $18.5 million. Zito’s poor performance, which was capped off by a three inning outing in the last series against the Padres where he walked two batters with the bases loaded in the first inning, resulted in him getting booed off the field.

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Rulon Gardner: Wrestling with Weight Loss

Athletes are seen as symbols of health, fitness, and immortality in American society. They are what everyone wants to be physically. Kids pretend to be their favorite athlete when playing in the front yard.

Rulon Gardner was one of those role models in 2000 and 2004, competing for the United States in Greco-Roman wrestling at the Olympic Games. He won two medals, a bronze and the coveted, immortalized gold medal in 2000. Despite his already large, muscular stature, Gardner was larger than life.

After his Olympic career ended, Gardner became a wrestling coach and opened up a gym to pass on the championship knowledge he obtained. But he also stepped away from wrestling, and that included leaving behind his strict training regimen. Rulon tried MMA and fought in Pride for a short while, but before long he stopped competing altogether. Gardner stopped working out yet he continued to eat the high calorie meals he was used to consuming during his wrestling days.

Before long, Gardner found himself at a crossroads when he was inducted into the Wrestling Hall of Fame. He needed a custom-made tuxedo because of his size.

One night while eating a with his wife, he saw himself on TV couldn’t believe it was him. At that time he knew something had to be done.

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Kevin Love Deserves an MVP Vote

The NBA MVP award goes to the person who supposedly was the most valuable in the National Basketball Association in a given year. It looks like Derrick Rose will probably win the 2011 version of the award, or LeBron James will claim his third in a row. However, there is a player who deserves it more than those two.

While James is playing on a team that has not lived up to its expectations and Rose is surrounded by All-Star talent, there is one player who is breaking records that are over 30 years old, and is quickly becoming an elite power forward in the NBA. The consistency in the numbers and the impact he has on the game cannot be debated. And, in the true definition of the word valuable, take this player off his team and it would be significantly worse. I’m talking about Kevin Love who would receive my vote for NBA MVP.

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Chauncey Billups Will be More Central to Knicks’ Success Than Carmelo or Amare

When the New York Knicks were down 84-82 to the Miami Heat Sunday in one of the most anticipated games this season, it was not one of the five All-Stars on the floor who became the hero of the game. Chauncey Billups drained a three to give his New York Knicks the lead, and one they would not give back.

It’s no big deal for Billups, whose nickname his whole career has been “Mr. Big Shot,” and that bucket re-certified his nickname.

The Knicks won the game — only one of 82 regular season game — but what many people are not saying, or do not even know, is that Chauncey Billups will mean more to the Knicks’ success this season than Carmelo Anthony or Amare Stoudemire will.

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Sacramento Kings May be Moving, and Heartless Maloofs Don’t Seem to Mind

The Sacramento Kings filed a request for an extension with the NBA for its March 1st deadline involving teams wanting to relocate. This action by the Maloofs confirms the worst fears of every Sacramento kings fan since the owners took over the organization in 1999 — that they were going to move the team. Kings fans always thought the celebrity-driven Maloof brothers would jump at the first chance to move the team to a bigger market, and despite all of the messages, talk, and actions, Sacramento fans seem to have had their team and hearts ripped from them by two cold businessmen who tried to be one with the people.

Sacramento Kings fans were very cautious of the Maloofs because they thought the family would move the franchise to a bigger market. However, when the Maloofs took over, they promised not only to keep the team in Sacramento, but to make Sacramento an elite NBA city. That did happen for a while, and the fans forgot about their previous fear. It showed that perhaps the Maloofs really were one of us. Then the Maloofs began lobbying for the city to pay for a new arena that would make the Maloofs richer, but not necessarily make the team better. Kings fans started to worry when the Maloofs started working on their public image. The 2006 Carl’s Jr commercial where they were seen enjoying $6,000 bottles of wine with their burgers put the fear back in Kings fans’ heads.

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