BROOKVILLE, N.Y. -- The brochure for the Best of the Best Coaching Clinic at Long Island Lutheran High on Sunday advertised a talk on "Pressure Defense" and "Special Situations." The double entendres were unintentional. The speaker was Tennessee coach Bruce Pearl. The elephant in the gymnasium was the massive, self-imposed penalties levied on Pearl and his staff on Sept. 10, in anticipation of violations for allegedly hosting junior recruits in his home, making excessive phone calls and -- the big one -- lying to NCAA investigators.
Last month, SI senior writer Jon Wertheim filed a story detailing the decline of the Indiana University basketball program in the wake of the Kelvin Sampson recruiting scandal. He reacts with today NCAA's decision to place the school on probation for three seasons.
They'd come from the cities, and they'd come from the smaller towns. Old-timers and recent alums. Forwards and guards. Former players and former coaches. More than 180 in all, they converged on a resort during the last week in August. The event was described on the invitation as an Indiana Hoosiers "basketball reunion," a social gathering of men who had worn the cream-and-crimson jersey and those trademark candy-cane warmups. But, really, it was something deeper. A summit, perhaps, or a council meeting to address the crisis facing the tribe. "Most of all," says Bobby (Slick) Leonard, an All-America guard at Indiana in the 1950s, "it was the first step in healing, making it one big, happy family again."
In the months leading up to college basketball's first preseason poll, it's nice to have some suspense over No. 1. Last season there was the Memphis camp and the Kansas camp, the UCLA camp and the North Carolina camp, and the voters in each one had reasonable arguments. It made for healthy debate -- the kind of debate that is bound to be entirely absent from this summer and fall, because 2008-09 is shaping up to be the Season of Consensus. There is only one choice for the early throne, and that is the Tar Heels.
Greetings, Hoop Thinkers. Like you, I am still recovering from a wondrous four days of wall-to-wall hoops. When you get down to the Sweet 16, you just gotta rip and run. Herewith my thoughts on the week that was and the one about to be:
TAMPA, Fla. -- The Villanova career of guard Scottie Reynolds began, shockingly enough, with a phone call from Kelvin Sampson that didn't violate NCAA rules. Reynolds, then a happy Oklahoma signee, received a call from Sampson during the 2006 McDonald's All-America festivities. Sampson told Reynolds he had accepted the job at Indiana. On the other end of the line, silence.
Even the most able-bodied athletes can only withstand so much. So Indiana senior forward D.J. White lay motionless on the floor of the Hoosiers' locker room last Saturday night while the saline contents of two IV bags revived him from an acute case of dehydration and exhaustion. White had played in tougher games than Indiana's 85-82 win at Northwestern, and he'd endured plenty in an often difficult college career -- the resignation of embattled coach Mike Davis in 2006, foot injuries that cost him all but five games of his sophomore season -- but no challenge was tougher than the stress of the two-week-long miniseries Kelvin Sampson: Dead Man Walking.
Fear of a full-roster mutiny at Indiana -- as well as a dispute over who will be named interim coach in Kelvin Sampson's wake -- created issues with an announcement regarding Sampson's future at IU, a source close to the team told SI.com. But Indiana is expected to announce Friday that Sampson has either been suspended or has resigned and accepted a buyout package. Assistant Dan Dakich is expected to become head coach for the remainder of the 2007-08 season.
Greetings, Hoop Thinkers. For today's submission, I have resurrected my wildly popular Hoop Thoughts Stock Report to get you primed for the final stretch heading into March Madness. You know the drill: The mission is not to assess where teams are but to project where they are headed. Ratings have been assigned relative to a team's status as defined by record, ranking and buzz. So just because one team is rated a Buy and another a Sell, that doesn't mean the Buy team is better. But you knew that already.
In a Hoosier Utopia, the promises Kelvin Sampson made at his introductory press conference would have all come true, rather than serve as the prelude to a tragicomic game of telephony. When Indiana presented Sampson as its new coach on March 29, 2006 -- a time at which its basketball program was hoping to be ushered into a prosperous post-Mike Davis era -- Sampson pledged not to repeat the recruiting violations he committed at Oklahoma, and said, "I came to Indiana for one reason: I think you can win championships at Indiana. I think together we can do some special things at Indiana University."
When Indiana went outside the Hoosier family to hire Kelvin Sampson as its basketball coach two years ago, the goal was to find a leader who could dissolve the two decades of polarization that surrounded his predecessors, Bob Knight and Mike Davis. But when the word came down last week that the NCAA was accusing Sampson and his staff of five major recruiting violations -- including charges that Sampson repeatedly lied to NCAA and Indiana investigators, the news divided fans anew and turned Assembly Hall into a theater of the surreal, a Petri dish for the latest episode of the bipolar Hoosier Psychosis.
Last July, Yvonne Jackson, the mother of Devin Ebanks, a swingman who had recently committed to Indiana, was on a cruise in the Caribbean when she received a call from a member of Indiana University's compliance office. "It caught me off guard," says Jackson, who was named in the NCAA's 14-page list of allegations regarding impermissible phone calls by Indiana coach Kelvin Sampson. "They wanted to verify my cell number and Devin's. They were asking me about dates and calls that had been made. I answered to the best of my memory."
Before he blew his first whistle as coach at Indiana, Kelvin Sampson had one strike against him. He had already been sanctioned by the NCAA for making more than 500 impermissible phone calls to recruits while he was the coach at Oklahoma.
BLOOMINGTON, Ind. -- I had asked Kelvin Sampson to pick out a good lunch spot, so he took me to a corner store across the street from Assembly Hall on Thursday afternoon and recommended the meatloaf sandwich. He ordered the same, but when we took our sandwiches to the cash register, Sampson told me to put my wallet away and insisted on paying. "Listen, I know you're out 500 large," I told him. "I'm only trying to help."
SACRAMENTO -- A great deal has changed for both Indiana and Gonzaga since the 'Zags 90-80 victory over Indiana in the second round of last year's tournament, but here's one of the biggest differences: this time, the Hoosiers had their best big man available and Gonzaga did not. That helped lead to Thursday's reversal of fortune, a 70-57 victory for Indiana that propelled the Hoosiers into the second round against UCLA on Saturday.
SI.com: Air Gordonupdated: Tue Feb 20 2007 15:12:00
As often as he heard his coach's directive, "Let the game come to you, " Eric Gordon was getting impatient. His team, Indianapolis' North Central High, was slogging through a sloppy first quarter against a crosstown opponent, Broad Ripple. Shrouded by the usual double- and triple-team defense, Gordon had scarcely touched the ball.