While researching potential Top 10 Busts Keith Edmonson and Russell Cross, I learned an interesting sports trivia fact. Specifically, only three college basketball coaches have taken two different schools to the Final Four within four years. First, Gene Barlow took Memphis in 1973 and UCLA in 1976. Second, Lee Rose took UNC-Charlotte in 1977 and Purdue in 1980. Third, Roy Williams took Kansas in 2003 and North Carolina in 2005. Of note, North Carolina (18), UCLA (17) and Kansas (14) have been to 49 Final Fours between them. In contrast, UNC-Charlotte and Purdue have combined to reach only three (i.e. one without Rose). As such, Rose’s achievement should be viewed as the most impressive. Overlooked on every elite coaching list, Lee Rose may deserve special recognition.
Life couldn’t have been easy for James Earl Ray (the basketball player) growing up with that name in the South in the 1960s. After all, that name is associated most often with the assassin of Martin Luther King, Jr. While I won’t exploit that coincidence, I won’t ignore it either. After being named the Sun Belt Conference Player of the Year, Ray was taken by the Denver Nuggets with the 5th overall pick in the 1980 NBA Draft. Unfortunately, he failed to live up to expectations and tallied only 334 points and 228 rebounds in 103 career games (i.e. 3.2 ppg and 2.2 rpg). As an underperforming high draft pick, James Ray begins the countdown of Top 10 NBA Draft Busts at #10 on the list.
As a redshirt junior in 1997, Washington State quarterback Ryan Leaf won the Sammy Baugh Trophy as the most outstanding passer in the country. Helping his case, he led the nation in passing yards (3,968) and finished second in passing efficiency with a 158.7 rating. For as impressive as those numbers were, they seem even more impressive considering that Peyton Manning was a senior at Tennessee that year and trailed Leaf in both categories. In particular, Manning had 149 fewer yards on 67 more attempts and an efficiency rating that was 11 points lower. Returning the favor, Manning had more touchdowns (36 vs. 34) and won the Davey O’Brien Award as the most outstanding quarterback in the country. Given their success, it was no surprise when they went 1-2 in the 1998 draft. From that moment on, however, their paths diverged to the point of Manning becoming an all-time great and Leaf becoming an all-time bust. Of note, Leaf’s career totals of 3,700 yards with 14 touchdowns and 36 interceptions were horrendous. In addition, he had a 4-17 record as a starter. As if things couldn’t get worse, Leaf has been imprisoned for almost two years because of a drug-related crime. While certain players like JaMarcus Russell, Charles Rogers and Lawrence Phillips are all-time busts, Leaf tops them all as the worst of the worst.