Tuesday, November 29, 2011

The Holiday Coaching Season

It's that time of the year again when college football head coaches start dropping like flies. Butch Davis got a jump on the holiday season when he was fired in late July from North Carolina.

UNC football interim head coach Everett Withers said last week he believes he's a candidate for the job. We would have been more inclined to believe that when the Tar Heels were 5-1, but then UNC dropped four out of five before beating Duke.

I believe new UNC athletic director Bubba Cunningham will announce the new coach the week of Dec. 5. It's a week that falls after the conference championships when all the schools without coaches will be scrambling for their new ones. Here's a look at head coaching changes/vacancies this season. Note that the list doesn't include schools whose current head coaches will likely jump ship elsewhere.

My list for UNC head coaches has been Larry Fedora, Kevin Sumlin and Gus Malzahn. I've had Chris Petersen and James Franklin rounding out the top five.

But let's not forget about the guy who has left UNC with this vacancy. Butch Davis still wants to coach football, and coach football he will. Whether it be the 2012 season or the next, I expect to see Butch Davis on the sidelines of a BCS-conference team.

I'm not going to get into what he did or did not know or what he should or should not have known. While I believe UNC did the right thing in firing him, it doesn't mean he's taboo for other teams. After all, Davis' next school could easily point to him not being named in the notice of allegations, screen his assistant coaches closely and ban all football players from social media. That would cover it, right?

Davis' $2.7 million buyout from UNC is contingent upon him not getting another job (he gets the payment in fixed installments over a couple of years). But Davis and his PR staff didn't put out this laughable nine-minute YouTube video for him to continue sitting back at home and messing around on his 216 phone.

I don't know where Butch Davis will end up (an SEC school wouldn't surprise me least). Maybe it's too soon for some school to take a chance on Davis. But this holiday coaching season, don't be shocked if you see Davis underneath one school's tree.

Just as long as he doesn't bring a certain Santa along with him.

Friday, September 16, 2011

Parting is such sweet sorrow

This week the Triangle has said goodbye to three of its favorite UNC news sources. I wish to bid them adieu.

The Fayetteville Observer will dearly miss Dan Wiederer, who is moving on to cover the Minnesota Vikings. Dan was simply one of the best ACC writers in the area and deserved any praise he got and then some. I'm honored to have covered his final UNC game with him.

Briana Gorman did her thang with the Durham Herald-Sun for a good bit and is picking up to move to Australia. (She's been taking victory laps and left the gig a while ago.) A former DTHer, she was great to have in the Triangle for both revenue and non-rev sports and I hate to see her go.

@TarHeelWire shockingly left Twitter on Wednesday, leaving a void in so many Twitter hearts. For two years he was the best at sharing UNC-related info and adding smart commentary and insight. He ruffled some feathers sometimes, but it was usually for the greater good. Also, I will miss the weather reports.

Good luck to all three of you; I hope to see you down the road. Well, except you @TarHeelWire, because I still have no idea who you are.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Larry Drew's mom to Basketball Wives?

Admit it: You've seen at least one episode of Basketball Wives.

You know, it's that really awful show on VH1 that follows around a cliquey group of women who are married, divorced, dating or whathaveyou former and current NBA players. Don't think it's awful? I refer you to an expert on the matter -- an ESPN NBA analyst, nonetheless.

Aug 28 RT @jalenrose Basketball Wives has set back minorities and the athletic climate 40 years! #mockery

Well guess who may be the newest member of the clique? The wife of the Atlanta Hawks head coach, Sharon Curry-Drew, who otherwise may be known to most readers of this blog as the mother of Larry Drew II.
Credit: Daily Tar Heel

Here are some tweets from August 29 between Larry Drew II and Shaunie O'Neal (ex-wife of Shaq), which them turned into a quick conversation between Sharon and Shaunie.

RT @shaunieoneal Lots of ppl asking lol. Yes I'm exec prod of the BBW brand however I've got a lot going on right now so am not hands on w/ the LA series.
(Editor's note: The Miami series is the more famous/controversial/trashy series. Apparently the LA series is not nearly any of that...yet.)

RT @LarryAngeles Scuse me, @ShaunieOneal. My names Larry, Im cool w @marlonyatesjr. Anyway I'd like 2 sign up my mom @DrewCrew3 for bbw la season 2 please :)

RT @shaunieoneal @LarryAngeles not scuse me LOL...Hey Larry I know ur Mom, we met a couple times. Anywho, r u signing her up without her knowing? lol

RT @shaunieoneal @LarryAngeles @DrewCrew3 ok just realized she does know cuz u at'd her. Hey!!!! Girl, u might need 2 come to BBWMiami instead lol

RT @DrewCrew3 Hey Girl! I thought you'd never ask! LOL

RT @shaunieoneal @DrewCrew3 girl, u see it needs some help lol. I'm gonna have 2 do/say something abt this. Let's talk soon... Dm me ur info.

RT @DrewCrew3 Ok Girl, let's chat! Check your dm ;)

RT @LarryAngeles my job here is done.

As for some background on Sharon Curry-Drew, after UNC's loss to Kentucky in the Elite 8, she tweeted out Boyz II Men "End of the Road" lyrics as well as lyrics to Ice Cube's "It Was a Good Day." For more, check out Greg Barnes' story here.

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Stuart Scott -- Cooler than you

I spoke with ESPN's Stuart Scott by phone on Friday afternoon for a story I wrote for the News and Observer. I can't begin to describe how cool a cat this guy is and I really urge you to click that link and read how he battles cancer for a second time before you read anything else on this page. There's the link again in case you didn't know I was serious.

We spoke for 22 minutes and he probably would have given me an hour had I needed it. But get this: During the entire interview, despite me asking him at least two questions that involved ESPN, not once did he ever feel the need to say "ESPN." The guy was so humble about his work that he only said "the organization" and "what I do." That's cool.

Originally slated to be a Q&A, I had to turn it into a feature because of the verbal gold that he spun. But because it was supposed to be a Q&A, I had a few UNC-related questions for Booyah himself.

JJ: You've been hosting Late Night with Roy for the past number of years. Will you be back this year?
Scott: I think so, i hope so. I need to get back with them because they've been asking me. Part of it is trying to see where I am with this latest bout of cancer. I'm schedule for 12 rounds of chemo, I have one more left and I just don't know what they're going to say after. But I want to, I plan to, I intend to. And I've given you more of an answer than the people at Carolina. So Carolina folks, sorry I haven't gotten back to you.

Credit: BJ Dworak/DTH
JJ: You're a loyal supporter of your university. What were thoughts after Butch Davis was fired?
Scott: I got to know Butch a little bit. I've always thought he was one of the best coaches in the country and I still think that. I'm pretty sure by the way things worked out that Coach Davis did not know about it. But at the same time, as a coach, if you're the coach of a football program and there's some serious infractions, you gotta be held accountable. And it's not a personal thing. If I were coaching Carolina and the same stuff went on, then I got to be held accountable because that's my job. That's part of my encompassing job is walking into parents' living room and saying, 'I'll take care of your son.' I'm not recruiting them just for football. 'I'll take care of your baby.' So you've either got to know or you got to accept responsibility. And I wasn't surprised he was fired and I wasn't surprised that Jim Tressel departed Ohio State. That's just the way it is. Let say that I have my daughters and nieces and nephews with me on vacation and they get into some trouble and get into things they shouldn't be doing. Yes, they should get in trouble, but I have some of that responsibility. I'm a parent, I'm an uncle. And if they're in my care, I have a responsibility. So I think these coaches should have a responsibility for these players. If there's some serious infractions going on, then coaches have to accept that responsibility. And I don't think Coach Davis had a problem with that.

JJ: Do you think the UNC basketball team will cut down the nets in New Orleans in April?
Scott: Yes. Yes. Every year. Next question. Yes. Every year. NCAA Tournament time I don't do these pools and things. I can be objective when I do highlights. You can go back and look at every single Carolina highlight I've done on SportsCenter, there's nothing but objectivity. And I will challenge anyone to find one that isn't that. If I'm doing a Carolina highlight, win lose or draw, you'll never know that I went to school while I'm doing their highlight. I may have a co-anchor who says something about it, but if Duke is wearing us out in the fourth by 30 and I'm doing the highlight, I'm doing it with same excitement as everything else. When I'm not doing SportsCenter and I'm not doing Carolina highlights, I'm not objective I'm just subjective. Carolina's going to win every year and if they don't then it'll be next year.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Pat Summitt's future gig

However I try to express what Tennessee Volunteers women's basketball coach Pat Summitt means to the game of basketball won't do her justice. Summitt has single-handily engineered a dynasty at UT, brought the amateur sport national recognition as one of its leaders and, in my opinion, is the greatest ambassador for women in sports. If you're looking to quantify her achievements, try her 1,071-199 all-time record.

On Tuesday, CBSsports.com broke the news that Summitt, at age 59, has been diagnosed with dementia. Although she's in the early stages, and although she told GoVolsXtra that "there's not going to be any pity party" for her, she knows that this is the disease that will end her career as a basketball coach.

But where her involvement on the bench will end sooner rather than later, her work with the university likely will not. In a few years down the road, Summitt will be to Tennessee what Dean Smith is to North Carolina -- and in more ways than two of basketball's greatest people.

Last summer it was revealed that Smith, who retired from coaching the Tar Heels after the 1997 season, has short-term memory loss. (I spoke with James Worthy, Antawn Jamison and Phil Ford about it here.) But his condition (Aside: This condition was not around when he stepped down as coach) never stopped him from continuing his work with UNC. Yes, Dean Smith is still employed by UNC.  According to UNC's athletic website, Smith works in the athletic director's office as a consultant to the athletic department.

One of the reasons, and this is not the only, that he still has an office is to conveniently be around when a recruit comes for his official visit. Because of his obvious ties to the university, should Smith reach out and speak with a recruit on behalf of UNC and not be employed by it, under one of those arcane rules in the NCAA bylaws it could be considered a violation. (To UNC haters: Please don't look too much into this. It's not worth your time.) Wouldn't it help convince you to come to North Carolina if, when you're strolling down the hallways of the basketball offices, you just happen to run into Dean Smith?

For Tennessee and Summitt, the same will likely happen. Summitt seems to have caught the disease early and the stories linked above show that she does mind exercises nightly to stay sharp and delay the effects of dementia. She won't stay on the court that bears her name much longer, but she'll always have a comfy spot in UT's basketball office once she steps down. Because after all, it's not that she is Tennessee basketball; Tennessee basketball is Pat Summitt. UT will inevitably make a big hire to replace her and keep the tradition going, but I won't be surprised when she's offered a similar, low-paying consultant position in Knoxville. She's earned it and she'll actually do work just like Smith.

It's a continuity thing. UNC men's basketball and UT women's hoops have traditions, and both are fortunate enough to have living legends. Summitt won't be making house calls anymore, but when recruits come to campus, she may just happen to pop her out and say, "Hi, I'm Pat Summitt, and I'm a Volunteer."

Sunday, August 21, 2011

A Little Sunday Innuendo

The Raleigh News & Observer dropped a partial transcript of Marvin Austin's academic record they somehow obtained and accompanied it with a little talk about what it all means. Here's the full story.

Firstly, I'd like to touch on the transcript itself. Austin was enrolled in several classes that are known to be taken by athletes. Whether or not they're "easy As" is not something I care to discuss. In fact, while I have never taken an AFAM class, there are five courses on his transcript that I have taken for requirements or electives. I'm not writing to pass judgment on what courses he took. I don't care.

Credit: N&O
Here's a bit of information for those of you who aren't UNC students and are unfamiliar with this particular transcript. It comes from the old StudentCentral portal that used to be the place you went for class registration (it's now been switched to ConnectCarolina, which is hated by most anyone who uses it). This transcript is not an official one and did not come from the University, as said in the article. It also seems to have been printed during the final exam period in Spring 2009 -- he has final grades in two courses while others haven't been finalized and his class schedule for the upcoming semesters has been made. My conclusion: Whoever got this transcript had access to Austin's StudentCentral account. All that's necessary to know his Onyen (mine is jjones9 and anyone can find that anywhere) and his password, which UNC forces you to change every three or four months. Is it possible he left this up at the computer lab and someone scooped it? Maybe. But this looks like someone had this puppy for a while before turning it over.

As for the reporting in the article, I don't know Dan Kane but I have read his work plenty and respect what I've read. A lot of folks on Twitter have brought up the point that the article contradicts its premise and that it attempts to say something but doesn't come out and say it. Let's look at the contradiction first. Kane leads with the oddness of Austin taking a 400-level course as a college freshman. But he later writes that UNC spokesman Mike McFarland "said university registrar records show 1,033 freshmen took a 400 level course in the last academic year." Yes, plenty of freshmen take 400 level courses -- it's not that strange. However, it is strange that it was his first-ever class in college, though. Especially when he wasn't even able to be placed into English 101 and had to take 100 first. Kane points all of this out, but I think people are a little too preoccupied with the 1,033 number to recognize it.

Now for the innuendo. Joey Powell, whom I met Friday and keeps my timeline entertaining, tweeted at me today that he's "tired of these parsed stories that are innuendo and no more." Indeed, this story seems to be saying there's an issue with this particular professor, Julius Nyang'Oro, and his AFAM class. But it doesn't actually say it. Why? Because no one would talk. Kane reports that the N&O called, emailed, probably texted and even showed up at the guy's house and no one came to the door. The next step would be to talk to his bosses, but Chancellor Thorp and the Dean of Arts and Sciences did not make themselves available for comment, the article states. 

Kane did his due diligence by reaching out to those who needed to comment and he could not get those comments. Powell said he should have waited on those quotes before running with the story. What Kane presents is the story as he can tell it with what he had. He can't torch Nyang'Oro without the man being able to speak for himself (a no-comment would have even helped). In a newspaper article he can't say the professor is crooked without asking the professor "Are you crooked?" The story does what it can with what it has. In my humble, journalistic opinion, I think you run the story with what you have. There's no telling how long the N&O had to sit on that transcript working to build the story before finally saying, "All right. He's not even answering his front door. Let's write what we can write."

As for me, I've taken three 400-level course in my six semesters at UNC, and they were all in the spring of my junior year. I don't know how those freshmen did it.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

The Wire vs. The Shield

In the past few weeks I've had the same conversation with two of my friends. Their answer to the Tupac vs. Biggie debate is quickly Biggie. I retort "But have you really listened to Tupac?" "Honestly... not really."

While the Black Frank White is undoubtedly one of the best ever, Tupac, in my opinion, was better. Biggie gets the shine with folks in my generation because his songs are catchier, "Notorious" was an awesome movie and there's a bit of East Coast bias thrown in there.

"The Wire is better than The Shield" my friends say. "Okay, but have you really seen The Shield?"

A Facebook wall post from my friend Jonathan Brice: "I aint a killer but dont push me....still like biggie better. You switch to the wire yet?" The Wire has more shine than The Shield. It has a cult-like following that makes it cool to say you've watched it (see: "Fight Club"). It was on HBO so anything was fair game, making what they showed seem extra gritty with a hint of wow. The Wire also (popularly) cast actors that were relatively unknown and even some off the same streets it was shooting.

I've gone through both series. Hell, I've gone through entire series of The Shield four times. And I can say with little* bias that The Shield is better.

*Bias upfront: The Shield is the first and only TV show that I truly loved. There's that certain feeling attached to it that I will always get whenever I talk about it. I get that feeling because the show was great and earned it, but nevertheless, The Shield would always get an extra bump for me because of that.*

(Non) Spoiler Alert -- I will spoil The Wire for those reading. However, I will not spoil The Shield. It's my assumption that most of you reading have seen as much as 50 minutes of The Shield despite the 88 episodes that aired on FX that won it a Best Television Series award in 2008.

Pilot: The pilot of The Wire is slow and methodical. The Wire is a series that you can't just pick up in the middle of Season 3 and expect to know what's going on (see: Mad Men). It's a show that you must watch from start to finish. While it's recommended you do that for every show, including The Shield, it's not nearly as necessary for The Wire (the advantages of being on HBO instead of cable). Nevertheless, I watched The Wire pilot in March. I didn't watch the second episode until June. The Shield, on the other hand, forces you to watch the next episode as soon as "Bawitdaba" finishes at the end of the pilot (Note: This is by far the worst song in The Shield's coup of music. The music on The Shield gets much better as creator Shawn Ryan works out the kinks.)

Strongest Characters: I told my friend Louie Horvath, who really pushed me to watch The Wire and whom I push equally as hard to watch The Shield, that I would be devastated and consider leaving the show when Stringer Bell dies. He died -- we'll talk about that later -- and I kept watching. I kept watching because Omar Little is so damn good. He robs and kills people, but he has a strong moral code, almost Dexter-like. He doesn't cuss, he takes his grandmother to church once a month, he doesn't turn his gun on anyone who doesn't deserve it. Then I realized why I love him so much. The paradox that his character is reflects perfectly with Vic Mackey of The Shield. Vic, whom you may remember from The Commish or The Thing in Fantastic Four, leads his small unit of police with gusto. The anti-hero plants drugs on suspects (who are guilty of something), screws around on his wife and he kills people. But he loves his kids -- two of whom are later found to be autistic -- he's good police and he, too, never turns his gun on anyone who doesn't have it coming. Omar and Vic are the same but in completely different places. With The Shield, you get Vic as the main character for seven seasons. With The Wire, you're lucky to get Omar for ten minutes a show.

Villains: There's no one else I'd rather see catch a bullet than Marlo Stanfield. He comes out of nowhere and takes over all of the Baltimore drug trade as a 20-year-old, all for the sake of wearing the crown. I hated him so much because I liked Avon Barksdale and Stringer just as much. B&B were a great mix of street smarts and business that ruled Baltimore fairly, but as Avon said, "There's always gonna be a Marlo." Marlo entered unassumingly, practicing his golf swing when politely telling Bodie to get off his corner. I never thought I'd see the guy again. His rise to power was quick and lethal -- the number of bodies he left in The Wire rivals the number in the final minutes of "The Departed." The villains in The Shield, those pitted against Vic's strike team, aren't as strong because you know they'll be disposed by the end of the season -- it's cable after all. But the heroes that turn into villains are incredible, and The Shield takes a much more subtle approach to creating a Marlo Stanfield.

"Did that really happen?": The first episode I ever saw of The Shield had that "Wow" moment. Police captain David Aceveda, a smug soon-to-be politician who Vic refers to as a "quota baby" for his Hispanic heritage, little background in police work and quick appointment to lead a police station, is cornered by two men and sexually assaulted. ON CABLE TELEVISION. You can't top that. The Wire could do anything it wanted on HBO and nothing ever matched that. The only time it even came close is when Rawls is seen at the gay bar for a brief moment in Season 3. I thought it'd be an interesting subplot to see how Rawls battles being homosexual in a male-driven police department that oozes masculinity. Instead, it's never brought up. Not a slight look at a man as he passes by, not a look into Rawls' home, no flashbacks to his childhood. It's like when JK Rowling said after the Potter series was over that Dumbledore was gay. Uhh... where is that?

Weakest season: The Wire Season 2 stands alone as the weakest season of all. I spoke with Joe Ovies about this yesterday and he revealed to me that seeing how the dock workers (a white group) are forced to help the drug dealers (a black group) when neither really want to work together over a long, begrudged period of time is what The Wire is about. I agree with you, Joe, and that is quite an insight. I still hated Season 2. Ziggy was weak and never heard from again, the gratutitous showing of Frank's nephew at the Mayor's speech at the dock in Season 5 was lackluster and the ending of 2, the "Hahaha I'm not even Greek" was hokey and below The Wire's standards. Likewise, The Shield Season 6 stands out as the weakest of the seven. It sets up a perfect and beautiful Season 7, but the entire time you can just tell it's a space filler for the good stuff, busy work from the teacher.

Deaths: This section will be more about The Wire since I cannot spoil deaths on The Shield for you readers. While I said Stringer's death would drive me away from the show, I still came back. I came back because of how satisfying the death was. While he should have known Avon was setting him up (when a hardened criminal and your best friend asks you for the first time in your life when a run-of-the-mill meeting is happening and you're on the verge of turning him into the police, you should make a mental note of that) the scene of him attempting to flee the warehouse like a businessman -- instead of a street-smart gangster -- is incredible. He tries to talk his way out of it instead of standing like a thug and saying "How's my hair look?" Masterful stuff from The Wire. The same, unfortunately, cannot be said for Omar. Yes I understand the scene: The normally precise and cautious Omar goes to the store to buy his favorite Newports (which, by the way, owns nearly 50% of the African-American market -- a true monopoly), looks as someone enters and pays the child no mind, and is promptly capped in the head by the kid who wanted to impersonate Omar earlier in the show. Yes, I got it. The fact still remains that OMAR LITTLE IS CAPPED BY AN INFANT. Forget the poetry of it, Omar deserved a death in the streets with a rival or to be imprisoned beside Avon. To be done by a kid? Omar? Really? As for The Shield, the death in the Season 5 finale is heartbreaking and perfect.

Series finale: Again, I won't ruin The Shield for you, because I know that all of you are going to illegally stream The Shield as soon as you're done with this post and embark on the best experience of your life. Suffice it to say that the series finale of The Shield is fulfilling. I didn't think I'd know what to do when The Shield came to a close. But that damn finale did the entire series justice and made every Tuesday night that I spent watching that show from 13 to my freshman year in college worth it. Every end was tied and every person got what they deserved based upon their morals. The Wire's series finale was overdone. Okay, so Michael becomes Omar, Dequan becomes Bubbles, Marlo becomes Stringer, Pearlman becomes Judge Phelan and so on. It drives home the point that Baltimore life is cyclical, but I didn't need all those examples. Dequan's fall to the land of junkies makes complete sense, and seeing how he asks for money from Prez is tough to watch -- a really well-done ending to his character. But Marlo becoming Stringer is too much. Levy telling him not to talk to the guy unless he's in the room, the tan suit, the Clay Davis sighting -- all of it was a little much for me. But then Marlo going back on the street to show how he was once king and getting scraped up? C'mon. He misses the streets and he's not a business man, I get it. But for a slow, methodical show like The Wire, that came a little too fast.

The moral of this story: Listen to Tupac and go watch The Shield. Just try it out. If you made it through this entire story then you'd be foolish not to watch The Shield's pilot. Not because I think my argument is convincing -- I tried to balance the merits of both shows but also break any grandiose aberrations the cult following has left folks --but because you just made it through this whole post. The Wire is a great show and fully worth watching, but so too is The Shield.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

What to expect

I've long said that I wouldn't get a blog unless I knew I could keep it updated. Well... I now have a blog, so here's to keeping it updated.

The main reason for this is to expand on my thoughts on Twitter, a place where I feel deck.lys and extra-long tweets are useless because often times people never click them. Another reason for this jjones9plus blog is to make sure I have a house for topics I want to write about and not make efforts to get them printed by one of the publications I currently write for.

So what you'll see on here is:

  • ACC-related posts, but mainly UNC, of course
  • Media commentary and recommendations
  • Observations on sports topics that interest me
  • Links and small write-ups to any stories that I do
  • A very small sampling of TV reviews (I can go ahead and tell you a post on The Wire vs. The Shield is forthcoming.)
I now have a blog. It's a brave new world for me, even if I'm getting to land about 15 years late and 10 years removed from calling this a web blog.

I beg you. Enjoy.