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.
While most memories tend to be vague and fade over time, certain moments become cemented in our minds forever. Most of us can vividly recount our first kiss, our 21st birthday, and the birth of a child. Unlike those personal memories, others have a broader reach. In particular, we each can say, “I remember exactly where I was when I heard about ______.” Depending on your age, you can fill in the blank with President Kennedy’s assassination, the Challenger explosion, or the 9/11 terrorist attacks. With respect to the world of sports, the sentiment applies to the USA Hockey Team’s victory over the USSR in the 1980 Olympics. This post explores why the death of Len Bias also seems to be one of those unforgettable moments.
Bo Kimble was a 2nd Team AP All-American who led the nation in scoring with a 35.3 point per game average during the 1989-90 college basketball season. Regardless, most of us remember him for the special way he paid homage to Hank Gathers, a former teammate who tragically died after collapsing on the court during a conference playoff game in March 1990. Up to that point, the teammates were inseparable. They played together on the same high school team in Philadelphia, and then enrolled at the University of Southern California before transferring to Loyola Marymount. During LMU’s magical run to the Elite Eight after Gathers’ death, Kimble shot his first free throw in each game left-handed, just like his long-time friend. This post provides the backstory behind one of the most touching moments in NCAA Tournament history.
I predict that the NBA D-League eventually will become a legitimate system for NBA teams to develop talent. For now, it primarily caters to players who just can’t let go of their dreams or teams which need somewhere to stash marginal players for a few days. I’m not saying that the players don’t have any talent. Instead, they likely won’t have a meaningful career in the NBA. If the league intends to keep better players from going overseas, it’ll have to pay a lot more than the current salaries of approximately $20,000 per year. Until NBA owners commit to subsidizing the league properly, the D-League will be the basketball equivalent of Major League Lacrosse.
Established in 1967, the ABA helped change professional basketball for the better before “merging” with the NBA in 1976. To name only a few positive developments resulting from the ABA:
– Players got paid more due to the competition for their services;
– Fans were treated to a faster paced game and the introduction of the 3-point shot; and
– The sport got stronger as superstars became ambassadors for the game.
At the same time, fans had to put up with questionable styles (such as the red, white and blue basketball), and players had to endure schemes to convince them to join the newer league. As described in the following post, Jim Chones was such a player who joined the ABA under unsavory circumstances.
As described in my previous post, NBA Commissioner David Stern implemented a draft lottery in 1985 as a way to remove the implicit incentive teams had to lose games intentionally in order to improve their draft status. Clearly, Stern was a genius because the accusations of teams tanking have been removed from the game. Actually, not only have the accusations increased over the years, but also the league’s handling of the lottery system has led to conspiracy theories that the process is rigged (e.g. the bent envelope resulting in Patrick Ewing going to the Knicks). Whether fair or not, the NBA has a shoddy reputation regarding the integrity of its draft process. Perhaps more accurately, replace the “odd” from shoddy in the previous sentence with the cousin from the Adams Family (i.e. replace “odd” with “itt”). Either way, the NBA Draft seems to create enough controversy year after year for it to be considered a bust in its own right.
While the NBA generally has relied on the principle that “worst picks first” when determining draft order, the league has always altered this principle with assorted gimmicks. As described in my previous post, the NBA originally allowed teams to declare a territorial preference as a way to trump draft order. After eliminating this preference in the mid-1960s, the league began using a coin toss to award the #1 overall pick to the worst team in the East or the West. The draft order for the remaining teams was determined strictly based on the inverse order of how each team finished in the prior season regardless of division (or conference). The coin toss system was considered acceptable for almost 20 years, but NBA Commissioner David Stern decided to scrap it before his first anniversary on the job. This post will review the NBA Draft during the “Coin Toss” Era.
Throughout its history, the NBA has relied on an assortment of gimmicks to determine how teams could select new players. Well before the use of lotteries and coin flips, the league gave teams a preferential right to select local players who presumably offered a built-in following. This type of draft exemption ended by the mid-1960s, but not before the rule was applied inconsistently for one player. Wanna take a guess?
You shouldn’t need me to tell you how bad the New Jersey Nets were as an organization in the late 1980s and early 1990s, but let me indulge you anyway. As a case in point, the cover photo from 1989-90 Nets Media Guide/Yearbook was actually taken two seasons earlier. In particular, Roy Hinson (#21) hadn’t worn that uniform and Buck Williams (in the bottom right) hadn’t played for the Nets since the 1987-88 season. I remember similar mistakes in my high school yearbook as pictures of previous graduates somehow slipped by the watchful eyes of the editors; however, that was an extracurricular activity done by unpaid students and not a work assignment done by paid employees. Regardless, all was not lost for Nets’ fans during the 1989-90 season because they got to see two of the worst all-time draft picks (i.e. Sam Bowie and Dennis Hopson) play for a team that finished the season with a 17-65 record. I was fortunate enough see them play in a game that year; however, the evening was memorable for an entirely different reason.
If you’re like I am, you probably have heard of the Ted Stepien Rule but know little about the man or the rationale for the rule. As an owner of the Cleveland Cavaliers in the early 1980s, Ted Stepien made numerous boneheaded trades. The one garnering the most attention involved giving up the draft pick which resulted in 1982 #1 overall selection James Worthy. In all, Stepien traded five early first-round picks from 1982-1986 without getting anyone of value in return. His seemingly irrational decisions decimated the team. In response, the NBA enacted a rule prohibiting any team from trading away first round picks in consecutive drafts. Ergo, the Ted Stepien Rule.