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Thursday, March 30, 2017

College Basketball

Jeff Van Gundy shares funny story about ‘brat’ Richard Pitino

Richard Pitino

Jeff Van Gundy shared a funny story on Wednesday about the time he had to take care of Rick Pitino’s son, Richard, whom he termed a “brat.”

Van Gundy was broadcasting the Spurs-Warriors game for ESPN when announcer Mike Breen talked about how Spurs coach Gregg Popovich spent time learning under Don Nelson in Golden State before becoming a head coach. Among other things, Nelson forced Pop to go golfing. That led to Van Gundy being asked to share a story about a time he was forced to do something for a great coach when he was an assistant.

Here’s the story:

Van Gundy says he was asked by Rick Pitino to take Richard, who is now the Minnesota Golden Gophers head coach, to a carnival. He was given $10 to let Richard play with, and the kid went through it quickly and expected Van Gundy to pitch in with some more funds.

“Richard Pitino, you were a brat that night!” Van Gundy joked.

Van Gundy thinks Pitino was around 7 or 8 years old at the time, which just puts everything into perspective considering Richard is now 34 and a head coach. Funny story.

Report: Referee John Higgins received death threats from Kentucky fans

John Calipari

Kentucky fans were angry with the amount of fouls called against the Wildcats in their Elite Eight loss to North Carolina on Sunday, and some of them have crossed the line in expressing their frustrations.

According to a report from ESPN’s Jeff Goodman and Dana O’Neil, NCAA referee John Higgins met with law enforcement officials on Tuesday to discuss repeated phone calls he has received from Kentucky fans to both his home and business lines. Some of those calls included death threats, and Higgins’ phones have supposedly been “ringing off the hook” since the game.

Higgins owns a roofing business called Rooferees, and Kentucky fans have been harassing him via the company’s Facebook page with false and damaging messages. Higgins is still expected to work the Final Four this week in Phoenix.

Kentucky was called for 19 fouls in its dramatic 75-73 loss to UNC, including two each on on Malik Monk, De’Aaron Fox and Bam Adebayo in the first half. John Calipari was forced to sit the players for longer than he would have liked because of the foul situation, and he ripped the officiating crew after the game.

“You know, it’s amazing that we were in that game where they practically fouled out my team,” Calipari said. “Amazing that we had a chance.”

The loss was heartbreaking for the Wildcats, as evidenced by the video we showed you of players bawling their eyes out in the locker room. Still, no basketball game is worth making death threats over. The Kentucky fans who were responsible should face legal consequences.

5 Final Four X-factors to watch

Joel Berry

Everyone knows about the stars of the Final Four — Justin Jackson, Nigel Williams-Goss, Sindarius Thornwell, and so on. But these aren’t just one-man teams, and there are lots of other factors, both on and off the court, that can impact how a team plays on any given night. The Final Four gets underway Saturday, with Oregon facing North Carolina, and Gonzaga taking on South Carolina.

Here are a few X-factors both on and off the court that could determine the success — or failure — of the four teams that will play for a spot in the championship game.

1) Coaching experience — or lack thereof

Entering the 2017 NCAA Tournament, this year’s Final Four coaches had a grand total of eight Final Four appearances. All of them belonged to Roy Williams.

Frank Martin, Dana Altman, and Mark Few had all coached in the Elite Eight, but much like their players, they are all Final Four rookies. In terms of experience, it’s all Williams — no contest. Williams is not only at his ninth Final Four, but he is also seeking his sixth career appearance in a title game.

If experience matters — and there is some evidence that it does — then Williams has a huge leg up.

Only twice since the turn of the century has a coach led his team to an NCAA title in his first Final Four appearance; Bill Self did it with Kansas in 2008, and Kevin Ollie’s Connecticut team followed in 2014. Every other championship coach since 2000 had been to at least one previous Final Four before grabbing their title. That is an advantage Williams will have against Altman’s Oregon in the national semifinal and, if they win that game, against whomever they face in the championship as well, be it Martin’s South Carolina team or Few’s Gonzaga squad.

2) Joel Berry’s ankles


Report: Mike Brey, Shaka Smart turned down Georgetown advances

Mike Brey

You certainly can’t accuse the Georgetown Hoyas of failing to cast a wide net in their search for a new head coach.

According to a report by Gary Parrish of CBS Sports on Tuesday, Mike Brey of Notre Dame and Shaka Smart of Texas both turned down advances from the Hoyas, who fired longtime head coach John Thompson III earlier this month.

Brey is a native of nearby Bethesda, Maryland and graduated college at neighboring George Washington University. But he’s been at the helm of the Fighting Irish for nearly two decades and has led them to two Elite Eights in the last three years. Meanwhile, Smart is best known for putting VCU, another university in close proximity to Georgetown, on the map with a stunning Final Four appearance in the 2011 NCAA Tournament. But though he has only been head coach at Texas for two years and is coming off an 11-32 season where the Longhorns missed The Big Dance altogether, Smart has a top-10 recruiting class coming in next year and seems perfectly content to stay in Austin.

Still, plenty of other qualified candidates appear to be in play, so the Hoyas should have no trouble finding a worthy heir to their head coaching throne.

Lonzo Ball on Markelle Fultz: ‘I’m better than him’

Lonzo Ball

The latest shot has been fired in the budding rivalry between top point guard prospects Lonzo Ball and Markelle Fultz.

In an appearance Tuesday on ESPN 710 LA, Ball spoke about Fultz, who is his primary competition to be selected No. 1 overall in next June’s NBA draft.

“Markelle’s a great player, but I feel I’m better than him,” Ball said, per ESPN. “I think I can lead a team better than him. Obviously he’s a great scorer — he’s a great player, so I’m not taking that away from him.”

Of course, you can’t really expect Ball to suggest anything to the contrary. But it’s at least a noteworthy development after Fultz appeared to subtweet Ball following UCLA’s loss to Kentucky in the Sweet 16 on Friday.

With just under three months to go before the draft, the ball is now in Fultz’s court (no pun intended), so we’ll see how/if he chooses to respond.

LaVar Ball reportedly shopping reality TV projects

LaVar Ball

LaVar Ball has made headlines countless times in the past several months for his outlandish remarks, but perhaps the father of UCLA basketball star Lonzo Ball is simply angling for his next business venture.

According to TMZ, Ball is “actively shopping” numerous television projects around Los Angeles, with the goal being to develop a reality TV series that centers around LaVar and his three sons, who are all star basketball players. Ball has reportedly started a production company called “Big Baller Media” and is said to have “several offers” already.

Though no contracts have been signed, a reality TV show would make perfect sense for the Ball family. LaVar’s passion is obviously being in the spotlight at all times, and his oldest son Lonzo could be the top overall pick in the upcoming NBA Draft. His two younger sons, LiAngelo and LaMelo, are star players at their high school. LaMelo, a UCLA recruit, scored 92 points in a game earlier this year.

Whether it’s beefing with Charles Barkley or making controversial remarks about LeBron James’ family, LaVar Ball loves creating a buzz. A reality show would be the perfect vehicle for him to deliver his hot takes, though it’s unclear if it would have a negative effect on his sons’ playing careers.

Stan Van Gundy: Georgetown should go all-out to hire Patrick Ewing

Patrick Ewing

Georgetown currently has a head coaching vacancy after John Thompson III was fired following a second straight losing season, and Stan Van Gundy believes the program should be putting on a full-court press to hire Patrick Ewing.

Ewing was a star at Georgetown and led the team to a national championship. The Hall of Famer is said to be more focused on trying to land an NBA head coaching job, but Van Gundy said Monday that Georgetown should try to get him to change his mind.

“I cannot imagine that you’re at Georgetown and you do not hire Patrick Ewing,” Van Gundy said, via Stefan Bondy of the New York Daily News. “I think that they’re incredibly fortunate that he would think about leaving the NBA to take that job.

“Look, first of all, college basketball, a large part of it is recruiting and I think Patrick’s got two things there. No. 1, he absolutely loves Georgetown University. Always has, always will, and so he can sell the school. The second thing is all these top-level players, the main thing they’re thinking about is getting to the NBA. Well, you’d have a Hall of Fame coach. I mean, all of the best big kids have to consider Georgetown right at the top of the list.”

Ewing, who has been an associate head coach with the Hornets since 2013, spent six years on Van Gundy’s staff with the Magic from 2007-2012. Van Gundy said it is “confusing to me and a little bit disturbing” that Ewing has not been offered a head coaching job in the NBA, but he believes Georgetown would be the perfect fit.

“I can’t imagine even what he’d be missing in that package,” Van Gundy said. “He’s got everything. He’s got the connection to the school, he’s got the coaching ability, he’s got the name recognition that will get him in any home in America recruiting and allow him to close the deal with just about anybody. I know I’m a little bit biased but just look at the whole picture. Tell me what the heck he’s missing?”

Ewing was reportedly close to landing at least one NBA head coaching job recently, so it’s possible he is going to remain patient and wait for his chance. If not, Georgetown could come calling.

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