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Rick Pitino on Concussions: I Don’t Buy It

Awareness of concussions in sports has grown enormously in recent years.  As we’ve seen with all the to do surrounding head shots in the NFL, league officials and doctors are working to try to make sports safer — right now and down the road.  Is the raised awareness the result of advanced research in the medical field or just plain paranoia?  From the sound of it, Rick Pitino is going with the latter.

The Big Lead passed along a few comments Pitino made to The Courier-Journal after one of his Louisville Cardinals was diagnosed with a concussion.

It’s the seventeenth concussion we’ve had this year,” Pitino said. “I’ve been coaching now 35 years. I’ve seen maybe 5 concussions in 35 years. The new thing is everybody has a concussion. If you walk out and slightly brush the door, you have a concussion. That’s the way it is today.”

You might wear a white coat, Rick, but you aren’t a doctor.  From a coaching standpoint, I can understand how an increase in concussion diagnoses can be frustrating.  After all, there’s a good chance it means your guy can’t play in the next game.  However, I don’t see how you can argue that it’s a bad thing.  Doctors aren’t looking to screw players out of playing time by claiming they have some sort of injury that doesn’t exist.  Medicine advances and safety improves.  Rick Pitino and James Harrison will just have to learn to deal with it.

Geno Auriemma: Leader of UConn, Defender of Women

If ESPN’s headquarters were not located in Bristol, Connecticut, do you think the story of UConn’s women’s basketball team would be as prominent as it is now? Neither do I. But apparently all the coverage they receive on a regular basis and throughout their impressive 88-game winning streak has not been enough for Geno Auriemma. The coach of the women’s team, who’s already talked about his personal struggles, has taken the publicity of his team’s streak to turn matters into a gender issue.

Auriemma spoke out to the media after his team won its 88th straight game on Sunday. “I just know there wouldn’t be this many people in the room if we were chasing a woman’s record,” Auriemma said. “The reason everybody is having a heart attack the last four or five days is a bunch of women are threatening to break a men’s record, and everybody is all up in arms about it.”

“All the women are happy as hell and they can’t wait to come in here and ask questions. All the guys that loved women’s basketball are all excited, and all the miserable bastards that follow men’s basketball and don’t want us to break the record are all here because they’re pissed,” Auriemma continued. “That’s just the way it is.”

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Character, Reputation Gives Tom Izzo Benefit of Doubt in Suspension

Michigan State crushed Prairie View A&M Saturday 90-51, getting 25 points from Durrell Summers. The Spartans won the game despite not having coach Tom Izzo who was serving a one-game suspension for a secondary recruiting violation. The issue at hand was that Michigan State employed “an individual associated with a prospect” during a summer camp, a charge that had MSU befuddled.

Michigan State was worried that the punishment — a one-game suspension — would draw so much attention that the issue would not be buried. They were wrong. Because coach Tom Izzo is one of the most well respected, revered coaches in all of college basketball, he has received the benefit of the doubt. Many members of the media have taken Izzo at his word and have questioned the NCAA’s decision rather than the coach. The type of character Izzo displayed when he was courted by the Cavaliers and that he’s shown throughout his career is that of someone who plays fairly.

It’s hard to know what really happened or if Izzo is telling the truth, but he’s built up so much credibility it’s hard not to believe him. Additionally, some research suggests the matter is complete b.s., only confirming Izzo’s honest ways. If this Spartan Tailgate post is accurate, then Izzo was reprimanded for having a former player, Carlton Valentine, coach at the camp. Valentine is a local high school coach and his son happens to have committed to Michigan State. If the post is accurate, Izzo definitely deserves the benefit he’s been afforded.

Geno Auriemma Thinks About Coaching Men to Prove He’s Legit

You won’t find a more impressive coaching resume than that of UConn women’s basketball coach Geno Auriemma. In his 25-year coaching career at Connecticut, Geno has won seven championships and qualified for the NCAA tournament all but three times. His Huskies haven’t lost a game since they were bounced from the Final Four in 2008. Despite his mind boggling success, Auriemma is left wanting more.

The truth of the matter is Auriemma will never get the credit he deserves because he coaches women’s basketball. Both the men’s and women’s teams at UConn are in the highest division of competition, but women’s basketball is treated as a lesser league. Geno has never been hesitant to acknowledge that.

“I know a lot of guys in the men’s game and I always feel ‘yeah you know, if you were any good you would be in the men’s game.’ I think winning one or two national championships on the men’s side puts you at a level that people think you’re one of the greatest, or greats of all time,” Auriemma said in an interview with ESPN. “I think you could win six, seven, eight, nine, ten, 15, and there’s still a part of me that thinks ‘well, you’re doing it in the women’s game.’ That’s the perception out there.

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Kelser on Magic Johnson Homecoming: We Thought Larry Bird Was Black

ESPN televised one of its Homecoming specials on Tuesday, a return of Magic Johnson to his home state of Michigan. They filmed the program at Jenison Field House where Michigan State played basketball when Magic was in school. Several former teammates and prominent figures from Magic’s career were on hand to tell personal stories, but nothing topped what Greg Kelser had to say.

Kelser played six years in the NBA and is regarded as the second-best player from Magic’s Michigan State teams. When host Rick Reilly introduced Kelser and asked him to talk about the 1978 championship game against Indiana State, he shared the best anecdote of the night.

“We thought Larry Bird was a black guy in Indiana, killing everybody. He’s scoring 35 a game? He’s gotta be a brother!” Kelser joked. “We soon learned he was one bad white guy,” Kelser continued. “We had a lot of respect for Larry Bird.”

The story obviously brought the house down as people were roaring with laughter. What’s really incredible about the story is it makes you realize how much things have changed over the past 30 years. In 1978 not many college basketball games were televised nationally so most people had never seen Larry Bird play. Now we have games from different regions televised nationally on a daily basis in HD and 3D ensuring the same mistake will not be made again (unless we’re talking about Trot Nixon).

Xavier Coach Chris Mack Has Answer for His Arby’s Heckler

If Xavier basketball coach Chris Mack doesn’t make it as a coach, he may have a backup career as a comedian. Check out what the second year coach tweeted on Tuesday:

“Arby’s drive thru manager just screamed, “Go Bearcats” at me. I yelled right back at him, ‘Go McDonald’s!’”

Give that man some points for the quick wit! In case you’re unfamiliar, Xavier is located in Cincinnati where the University of Cincinnati is obviously also located. Mack led the Muskateers to a 26-9 record in his first year on the job last season and Xavier has become a powerhouse in the Atlantic 10. That Bearcats fans shouldn’t worry though — his team is 8-0 to start the year.

Bill Self Admits Kansas Was Outplayed by UCLA Despite Win

Buried in a great evening of sports on Thursday was an excellent college basketball contest between UCLA and Kansas in Lawrence. The Jayhawks squeaked out a 77-76 victory at home, extending their winning streak to 64 straight at Allen Fieldhouse. The game came down to a free throw make by Kansas senior guard Mario Little at the end to separate a tie. Little only went to the line after a questionable foul was called on UCLA’s Malcolm Lee when the two went after a loose ball (pictured in the grainy image).

Lee did bump into Little, but it wasn’t the type of foul that is generally called, especially at the end of the game. It had UCLA coach Ben Howland fuming “Really, really a poor way to end the game on a call,” Howland said. “Normally, you wouldn’t make that kind of call at that point in the game unless it was very obvious, and from what I saw it was very disappointing to have the game end on that note.”

The Jayhawks shot 51% on their field goals and made five threes, but the best player on the floor was Tyler Honeycutt who had 33 points for UCLA on five three pointers. Kansas was fortune to get the win, and their coach Bill Self admitted as much afterwards saying “[UCLA] outplayed us. It’s evident we were fortunate.” Self also said the crowd won them the game and that they would have lost it on a neutral floor. Bruins fans will disagree and say they refs, not the crowd, won Kansas that game.

Kansas is going dancing regardless, but this was the type of game that would have helped UCLA’s tournament chances immensely. Still, the way they looked in this one, the Bruins will contend with any opponent in the weak Pac-10.