SPINNING LIKE CRAZY
College basketball's coaching carousel makes little sense
By any reasonable measure, Seton Hall had a disastrous basketball
season. With the nation's top-rated freshman class, the Pirates
were preseason favorites in the Big East and by early December
had reached No. 7 in the country. Two weeks ago, however, the
Hall concluded a 16-15 campaign with a first-round loss in the
NIT, a result that might have had fourth-year coach Tommy Amaker
fearing for his future. Yet last Thursday, Amaker stood behind a
podium in Ann Arbor as the new coach at Michigan, where a
five-year, $4.5 million contract awaited his signature.
Talk about March Madness. Last month 30 Division I schools bade
farewell to their coaches, only three of whom left wholly by
choice. While such turnover has some observers caterwauling about
the perils facing today's sideline stompers, the reality is there
has never been a better time for a coach to be unemployed. It's
simple supply and demand: By creating so many job openings,
athletic directors across the country have produced a booming
seller's market for college coaches. That's not exactly smart,
considering that athletic directors are the ones doing the
Take Wisconsin A.D. Pat Richter. Though interim coach Brad
Soderberg guided the Badgers to an 18-11 record and an NCAA
tournament berth after Dick Bennett unexpectedly retired on Nov.
30, Richter fired Soderberg on March 19, wanting a bigger name.
But when it was clear he couldn't get Utah's Rick Majerus or
California's Ben Braun, Richter hired Bo Ryan, 53, who went 30-27
in two years at Wisconsin-Milwaukee. Instead of promoting the
perfectly qualified Soderberg, Richter disrupted two programs and
still ended up with a coach no one had heard of.
The paradox is that even as some athletic directors are setting
ridiculously high standards--can someone explain why Ohio fired
Larry Hunter after he went 19-11?--others are lowering the bar,
especially concerning contract extensions. Braun, Steve Alford
(Iowa), Paul Hewitt (Georgia Tech), Jeff Ruland (Iona) and Tim
Welsh (Providence) each has been at his school for three years or
less, and all but Alford lost in the first round of this year's
NCAA tournament. Yet all five have either signed or agreed to
lucrative extensions. "If you find someone who's a good fit, it's
incumbent on you to try to keep him there," says Providence
athletic director John Marinatto, who gave Welsh seven additional
years after Rutgers came sniffing around about its vacancy. "We
want stability, but that's hard to find in this marketplace."
Coaches, too, say they want stability, but what they really want
is opportunity, of which there's plenty these days. It's
unfortunate when capable men are shown the door, but there's no
need for folks like Hunter and Soderberg to despair. As long as
the coaching carousel stays in motion, there will be plenty of
room on board for everyone. --Seth Davis
Fab Five: Breakout players from the NCAA Tournament
Lonny Baxter, center, Maryland
After first-round no-show, averaged 19.8 points and 11 rebounds
over next four games.
Dan Dickau, guard, Gonzaga
Scored 29 in first-round upset of Virginia; Casey Calvary got
pub, but Bulldogs were 21-3 with Dickau in lineup, 5-4 without.
Trevor Huffman, guard, Kent State
Scored 24, including 11 of Golden Flashes' final 15--as they
rallied from 12 behind to upset Indiana in first round.
Marvin O'Connor, guard, St. Joseph's
Tied career high with 37 points in second-round loss to
Stanford. "I'd never heard of him before we drew St. Joe's,"
said Cardinal's Casey Jacobsen.
Tarvis Williams, center, Hampton
Averaged 16 points and seven blocks in his two games.
INTERNATIONAL TALENT INFLUX
TWO WAYS ABOUT IT
This week two heralded athletes will begin making their marks in
U.S. sports: 7-foot center Wang Zhizhi, who will become the NBA's
first Chinese player when he signs with the Mavericks, and
Mariners outfielder Ichiro Suzuki, who on Monday became the first
Japanese position player in the major leagues. Their paths to
their U.S. clubs reflect two very different methods of allocating
established foreign players.
Dallas picked Wang in the second round of the 1999 draft, but he
joined the Mavs only after two years of protracted negotiations
with his team, the Chinese Army-run Bayi Rockets. Nevertheless,
he was obtained through an essentially equitable system for
distributing international talent. As with stars such as Toni
Kukoc and Arvydas Sabonis before him, Wang was available to any
team willing to risk a draft pick on him.
By contrast, major league baseball teams acquire elite foreign
players through a bidding process that favors rich and powerful
clubs. Suzuki, perhaps the most prized player in Japan, left the
Orix BlueWave through so-called posting, a jerry-rigged
arrangement between the majors and the Japanese Leagues that
calls for big league clubs to submit sealed offers to the
Japanese player's team for the right to negotiate with him. That
all but guarantees that top talent from abroad will go to
deep-pocketed organizations. Nintendo-backed Seattle won the
right to negotiate with Suzuki by bidding $13.125 million. That
figure, which didn't include Suzuki's salary, an additional $15
million to $18 million over three years, was only $2.7 million
less than the Twins' payroll for 2000.
In baseball, pros and amateurs from outside Canada, Puerto Rico
and the U.S. are unrestricted free agents, a status that gives
the bargaining edge to foreign stars like Suzuki and the Yankees'
Orlando Hernandez. That's fine for the athletes, but it
exacerbates baseball's most nettlesome problem, competitive
imbalance. Last winter owners suggested a partial fix, voting to
modify the draft to include all amateur foreign players, a
proposal the players' association vigorously opposes. But even
that measure would not be enough; any meaningful change in the
draft would have to cover all foreign players. Until every team
has a real chance at players of the caliber of Suzuki and
Hernandez, bidding free-for-alls will determine the distribution
of foreign talent, a process that, while less complicated than
the NBA's, is less fair, too.
The Stripper vs. the Coach
Few things can vault a college athletic program from obscurity to
notoriety faster than a controversy over gender equity--especially
when it involves the rights of exotic entertainers. Such is the
case at Cal State-Fullerton, where Leilani Rios (left), a
nonscholarship hurdler, was booted from the women's track team
last year as a sophomore for refusing to quit her job as a
stripper at Anaheim's Flamingo Club.
Rios's extracurricular activity came to light after members of
the Titans' baseball squad caught her act and spread the word
around campus. Track coach John Elders issued Rios an ultimatum:
Give up the stage or give up track. She kept the job. In a
written statement Elders said, "I determined that Ms. Rios's
decision to remain an exotic dancer would detract from the image
and accomplishments of her teammates, the athletics department
and the university."
Rios believes she was treated unfairly, since no baseball players
were punished for visiting the club. (Unable to I.D. the players,
the school had the team review Fullerton's code of conduct, which
says student athletes must represent the school "in a positive
way.") Unlike the Alabama-Huntsville tennis player who was
declared ineligible after she posed nude for Playboy last year,
Rios violated no NCAA rules because she didn't profit from her
status as an athlete. "I don't think any of us should be in
trouble," says Rios.
Now a junior kinesiology major at Fullerton, Rios remains at the
Flamingo but would still like to run track. She's retained a
lawyer but says, "My objective is not to sue but to run." And,
perchance, to dance.
Traditionally, yoga has called to mind long-haired,
flower-powered peaceniks oming their way to nirvana. Try telling
that to the disciples of power yoga, the souped-up aerobic
version of the Eastern regimen that has knocked off Tae Bo as
the exercise fad of the moment. "I imagine there will be a few
guys in the whirlpool tomorrow," said Cubs first baseman Matt
Stairs after he and his teammates underwent their first power
yoga session this spring. "I might see stomach muscles I haven't
seen in 10 years."
The Cubs were introduced to yoga after manager Don Baylor invited
fitness guru Mack Newton to lead them in daily yoga workouts.
Other converts include Coyotes goalie Sean Burke (page 78) and
NBAers Brian Grant, Larry Johnson and David Robinson. "After an
hour you're in a downpour sweat," says Grant. "You're focused on
areas of the body that need to get loosened up."
What's the appeal? Athletes say power yoga helps them both
mentally and physically. "It cuts down the risk of getting
injured," says Titans running back Eddie George. "If I'm put in
an awkward position, my muscles have already experienced that
stretch before." Not to mention all that flower power.
The best big league games I've ever seen were played on the floor
of my boyhood bedroom. The players were cards inscribed with a
series of black-and-red numbers. When those figures were combined
with the numbers that came up on a pair of dice and those on a
stack of situational charts, I was transported into a world of
chance and omens and intricate formulas, the world of APBA.
APBA Major League Baseball was a game to which more than a
million Walter Mitty managers--including George W. Bush--lashed
their lives. Like fans of Strat-O-Matic (a shallower knockoff),
we APBAphiles entered a baseball fantasy world complete with
injuries, ejections and rainouts. We calculated averages, oversaw
careers, played God. Much of the mystique was in the cards, which
reflected player characteristics: White Sox slugger Dave
Nicholson's inability to hit a pitch out of the strike zone,
Yankees fireballer Ryne Duren's inability to throw a pitch inside
the strike zone. "Once you hold the cards," says agent Arn
Tellem, an APBA devotee, "you transcend the game and become the
players themselves. Each card has its own personality."
APBA is still around, though now it's also available in a
computer version. Players can plug in lineups and read the
printout box scores a few minutes later, as though the teams
were playing out of town. Which strikes me a bit like renovating
an Automat into a fast-food drive-thru; the service is quicker
and it's sort of the same product, but the flavor is gone.
The NFL, by former Browns tackle Orlando Brown, over the
career-ending injury he suffered in 1999 when struck in the right
eye by a referee's weighted flag. Brown seeks $200 million from
the league, including $50 million on behalf of his wife, Mira,
who claims the accident deprived her of her husband's "services,
society, companionship and consortium."
At the NFL owners meetings, a resolution clarifying the rule
against taunting. Among acts spelled out as unsportsmanlike
conduct are stomping on an opponents' logo, the throat slash,
prolonged gyrations and the Broncos' Mile High Salute when done
toward an opponent.
Juan Antonio Samaranch and other IOC officials, from the
witness list for the Salt Lake Olympic bid bribery trial. Defense
attorneys for former Salt Lake bid officials Tom Welch and Dave
Johnson cited the prohibitive cost of international travel to
depose reluctant IOC officials.
A proposal by cable network TNT to place heart monitors on the
wives of Winston Cup drivers to enhance the drama of its race
telecasts. The network dropped the idea after it was poorly
received at a press conference last week.
By Major League Baseball and RealNetworks, a three-year, $20
million deal giving RealNetworks sole rights to big league
broadcasts on the Web. Fans wishing to hear games on their
computers will no longer be able to do so for free; they'll have
to pay a $9.95 annual fee.
The name of former Celtics coach Rick Pitino's thoroughbred
stable. The Celtic Pride Stable will now be called Ol' Memorial.
How did you get into braiding?
I've been braiding since I was five and living in Liberia. The
kids taught each other in the neighborhood. Then when I moved to
America, I went to cosmetology school in North Carolina.
Who was your first NBA client?
Latrell Sprewell. I went to a charity event that the Knicks were
at and gave him my business card. That was two years ago.
How often do you do his hair?
About once a week. He sends a car to pick me up in Queens, and I
go to his home in Purchase.
So he doesn't wash his hair for a week?
He tries not to get his hair wet. Wet hair makes the cornrows
frizzy. When he showers he uses a shower cap.
How long does the session last?
Three hours. It takes an hour to undo the braids. Then I give him
a scalp treatment, and shampoo twice. Then I condition the hair
and blow it dry. He likes to be pampered. The actual braiding
takes up to an hour and a half, depending on the style. The
smaller, more intricate designs take more time.
Who decides on the design?
I do. It's different every time. Sometimes it's a swerve,
sometimes right-angled, sometimes triangular. I never give him
the same design twice.
What does Sprewell do while you're braiding?
He sleeps, or we talk. Sometimes he plays video games.
What do you charge?
I can't tell you the exact amount, but it's over $200.
What is the allure of braids?
When men grow out their hair, it gives them a stronger attitude.
They act more like tough guys. Even regular guys, when they get
braids, they're like, Oh, lord, it's all over now. Since [Knicks
forward] Kurt Thomas started getting braids last season, his game
got better. He got more macho on court.
What are the popular styles these days?
Men want more creativity; they want it wild and crazy. The zigzag
is popular. It's called the Spree.
Does Sprewell know the power his hair has on people?
He knows. I tell him all the time. --Anna Holmes
Remember the XFL's juicy pledge to encourage its cheerleaders to
date its players? So far none of the XFLers are known to have
taken the bait--perhaps She Hate Me?--but at least one NFL star
has. Marshall Faulk has been seeing L.A. Xtreme cheerleader
Bonnie-Jill Laflin. They met through friends at the Super Bowl
and have been conducting a long-distance romance since. (Faulk
lives in St. Louis, while Laflin is in L.A.) For Laflin's 25th
birthday last month, Faulk (below) arranged a romantic getaway:
He flew her to Las Vegas, met her at the airport with two dozen
roses and squired her to the posh Bellagio resort.....
John Grisham announced his newest project last week, a caper in
which a pair of underdogs battle to outwit a monolithic
organization. Except this time the plot doesn't involve lawyers
or the mob. He's written the screenplay for Mickey, a film about
a 13-year-old pitcher who, with his dad, conspires to get
another year of Little League eligibility. (Little Leaguers must
be 12 or under.) Grisham based the story on his experiences as a
Little League coach for his son, Ty. "When a 12-year-old's
season is over, there's a great deal of sadness," says Grisham....
Marlins pitcher Alex Fernandez is looking to sell his $2 million
Miami Lakes, Fla., mansion. The 9,219-square-foot house features
seven bedrooms, a gym, a billiards room, two pools, two outdoor
bars, a four-car garage and separate staff quarters. Fernandez
is going to build a new waterfront home in the Miami area. In
other real estate news, Troy Aikman bought a $6.5 million house
in Montecito, Calif. At least he didn't have to pay broker fees:
He bought the place directly from NFL great Marcus.
NBA scouts on hand for the McDonald's High School All-American
game, from which college coaches were banned.
NFL owners who missed the league meetings in Palm Springs; by
doing so they avoided being called to Los Angeles to testify in
the Raiders' $1 billion lawsuit against the NFL.
Age, in years and months, of Berry Thomas of Nashville when he
became the oldest person to bowl a sanctioned 300 game.
Days it took Jim Shekhdar, 54, of Great Britain to row from Peru
to Australia, becoming the first person to row solo across the
Yards Shekhdar swam to the beach at North Stradbroke Island to
complete his journey after a six-foot wave threw him from his
This Week's Sign of the Apocalypse
Australia's National Rugby League suspended John Hopoate for 12
games for inserting his fingers into opponents' rectums during
scrambles for the ball.
Maple Leafs enforcer, after grappling with a heckler who tumbled
into the penalty box during a game in Philadelphia: "It's nice to
see the fans get involved, I guess."