Thursday, June 30, 2011

Images and thoughts of Lorenzo Charles

Every once in a while something happens that shakes you more than you thought it would. I remember when Tom Seaver retired in 1986 feeling old because Seaver had been my boyhood hero and I remembered so vividly his early years with the Mets when I hung on every pitch he threw as if it was the most important moment of my life.

Seaver taught me a lesson early in my career about athletes and how they view what they do and how different it is from how we (fans) view what they do. He was pitching in Cincinnati—that alone was a jolt to my system that I’m not sure I ever completely got over—and the Reds were in Houston. I was also in Houston covering an NBA playoff series between the Rockets and the Kansas City (yes it was a long time ago) Kings.

On an off-night between games 3 and 4 I went to The Astrodome and asked Seaver if he could give me some time to talk. I had successfully pitched the idea of a Seaver feature to my boss who felt the same way about down time on the road as I did: If you’re somewhere and there’s a story to write, go write it.

Seaver agreed on one condition: That I would tell him everything I knew about Janet Cooke, The Washington Post reporter who had made up a story about a 6-year-old heroin addict. The story had won The Pulitzer Prize but the award had been returned by The Post when a series of events led to Cooke admitting she had made up the whole thing.

As it happened, I had been on The Metro staff with Cooke and knew her fairly well so I was happy to tell Seaver what I knew. I was also intrigued that he knew about Cooke. The story had been front-page news but I didn’t know a lot of athletes who actually read the front page.

What he said that I’ve always remembered came during a discussion of the 1969 Miracle Mets. I had gone to 66 Mets games at Shea Stadium that season, paying $1.30 to sit in upper general admission most days and nights. I had sat in front of the TV and watched—always keeping score—most of the other games the Mets had played.

As Seaver and I talked, I kept asking very detailed questions because my memories were so vivid and the whole thing had been SO important to me. Finally, Seaver smiled indulgently at me.

“You need to understand something,” he said. “You remember this the way a fan does and I get that. But as a ballplayer it isn’t the same. Sure, there are some moments that stick out but not all that many. We played, what 170 games that year including postseason. I just don’t remember as much as you do.”

I was stunned. And yet, now, looking back, I realize that a lot of those moments when I was yelling from the upper deck or my parents living room weren’t that big a deal in the grand scheme of 170 games. I remembered September 10th as a seminal day in my life because it was the first time The Mets ever went into first place. Seaver remembered that at some point in September they went into first place. I remember that it was at 9:07 on September 24th that the Mets clinched The National League East (I can still hear Lindsey Nelson yelling the time right after Joe Torre hit in to a double play to end the game). Seaver remembered that a lot of champagne got poured on people’s heads that night.

Because of that conversation and because he had been so important to me as a kid, Seaver’s retirement, which came ironically after he was inactive for the Red Sox during the 1986 World Series, made me feel very old.

Lorenzo Charles’ death on Monday was stunning in a different, yet similar way. Seaver’s retirement reminded me that my boyhood was long gone, especially since it came at almost the exact moment that my first book was published. Charles’s death brings back what are now bittersweet memories of a time when The Final Four was still the best event there was on the sports calendar, especially for a then-young sportswriter.

I probably saw that 1983 North Carolina State team play at least a dozen times. I watched the Wolfpack grind through February without Dereck Whittenburg (who had a broken foot) and listened to Jim Valvano talk about what might-have-been if Whittenburg hadn’t been hurt.

Everyone knows the rest: Whittenburg hobbled back just before the ACC Tournament and State pulled off one miracle after another. They should have lost to Wake Forest in the first round of the ACC Tournament but somehow won in overtime. Seven wins later—even after winning the ACC Tournament they didn’t receive a first round bye and were very fortunate to beat Pepperdine in the first round of the NCAA’s—they found themselves playing Houston for the national championship.

My friend Dave Kindred wrote a column on the morning of that game declaring, “Trees will tap dance and elephants will drive in the Indy 500 before N.C. State beats Houston.”

We all know what happened that night. The trees tap-danced and the elephants grew racing stripes. State hung in the game somehow; Guy Lewis made the critical mistake of deciding to try to run out the clock and Whittenburg fired a last second prayer towards the basket from 35-feet. To this day I remember thinking while the ball was in the air, “no way can they win this in overtime.”

At the very instant that I got to the end of that thought Charles rose, seemingly from out of the floor, caught the ball and dunked it in one motion. Twenty-eight years later the next few minutes remain a blur: Valvano running in circles looking for someone to hug; Cozell McQueen sitting on the rim; the Houston players on their knees in complete shock, most of them crying. Having watched the tape about a million times I can still hear Billy Packer saying, “They did it!” in total disbelief when he realized that Charles had dunked the ball just before the buzzer and State had won the championship.

Of course nowadays if the same play occurred we would have to wait five minutes for the officials to determine that the shot beat the buzzer. Talk about sucking drama from a moment.

What’s interesting, thinking back to that night, is that I can’t remember a single thing Charles said about his dunk. Valvano developed an entire 15-minute bit about the last play that he used when he spoke; Whittenburg insisted for years that his shot was a pass and he and Sidney Lowe and Thurl Bailey are remembered together as the three seniors who were the glue on that team.

Which they were. But it was Charles, just a sophomore at the time, who made them champions.

I only interviewed him one-on-one once. It was during his senior year in 1985 when he was the respected veteran on a very talented team of knuckleheads that included Chris Washburn and Charles Shackleford. All I can remember about our talk is that Charles was quiet but clearly very in tune with his team and his coach. He was like the wise elder who had seen it all.

Which, in a sense, he had.

He played just one year in the NBA and was apparently a co-owner of a bus and limo company when his bus went off the road on I-40 nearly Raleigh on Monday. The first thing that struck me when I saw the news that he had died was his age: 47. Valvano was 47 when he died of cancer in 1993. It was just a bit eerie.

For me, thinking about Lorenzo Charles at 47, driving a bus down a familiar highway and having his life suddenly end is both sad and depressing. My image of him will always be the same: rising above a scramble under a basket one night in Albuquerque and making a play that will always be a part of the basketball pantheon.

He was just a kid back then. In a very real sense so was I. Time passes in this life much too fast.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

This week's radio segments (The Sports Reporters, The Gas Man)

Wednesday I joined The Sports Reporters in the Wednesday 5:30 time slot. Click the permalink, then the link below, to listen to the segment from this week. Coming off last week's US Open, we discussed the tournament and playing conditions, the chances the US Open returns to Congressional in the future, and what will become of Tiger during the second half of the season.

Click here to listen to the segment: The Sports Reporters


I also joined The Gas Man, out of Seattle, for my weekly spot. We spent much of the time focusing on what Rory McIlroy has done in winning the US Open, and not looking on what he might do in the future. 

Click here to listen to the segment: The Gas Man

Monday, June 20, 2011

McIlroy near perfect, has all the intangibles to be The Next One

I woke up this morning shortly after 6 o’clock, blinked at the clock and thought to myself: ‘What time do I need to be at the golf course?’ Then I realized I didn’t have to be at the golf course at all. The U.S. Open is over. For me, having the event a few miles from my house at Congressional was great, but it also made for a hectic week.

In all though, it was fantastic. If there was one player in the field I wanted to see win it was Rory McIlroy. Here’s a simple fact: he’s a wonderful golfer who has the potential to be a truly elite player—as in winning a half-dozen major championships or perhaps even more—before he’s done. But I honestly think he may be a better person than he is a golfer.


I think everyone who follows golf marveled at the way he handled himself after his Sunday meltdown at The Masters. He answered every question; never snapped at anyone; kept his sense of humor intact and made no attempt to rush off at any point. His behavior was in direct contrast to You-Know-Who.

Look, I don’t want to turn this into a “Rory-is-good-Tiger-is-bad,” deal. But it is impossible not to see the differences between the two. Tiger plays clenched-teeth golf and has played it at a level never seen before in the game. If he doesn’t break Jack Nicklaus’s record of 18 major titles it won’t be because he didn’t have the ability, it will be because he self-destructed.

I think McIlroy is sneaky competitive. He doesn’t clench his teeth and he doesn’t bark at people but the fact that he came back from The Masters disaster to not only win the next major but to absolutely dominate it from start-to-finish says a lot about him as a competitor. A lot of players would have subconsciously held back, not wanting the spotlight again so soon, not wanting to face all the questions about, ‘well what if you blow THIS lead.’ McIlroy embraced it.

If you watch the kid play golf, you have to love his game. He’s got a swing that makes other pros sigh. He’s got a smile that makes young girls sigh. He has about him a star quality that you just don’t see very often. It is no knock on guys like Graeme McDowell, Louis Oosthuizen, Martin Kaymer and Charl Schwartzel—all major champions—to say that they are champions and McIlroy is a star—who is now also a champion. It’s just a fact, one that they would probably all agree with.

That’s NOT to say—as some inevitably will because of all the record-breaking numbers he produced—that he is the “next Tiger.” There is no next Tiger. There are only four players in the history of the game who have won double-digit major titles: Nicklaus, Woods, Bobby Jones and Walter Hagen.

The likelihood that anyone will join that list anytime soon is slim. Padraig Harrington was way over the top on Saturday when he said that McIlroy could break Nicklaus’s record. The kid, who sounds more like 42 when he talks than 22, just shook his head when he heard that and said, “Oh Paddy, Paddy Paddy….I’d just like to win my first one.”

Exactly right. Now that he’s done that we can all revel in that victory and hope there will be more to come. But let’s not say the Jack or Tiger words yet. As of this moment he’s got ONE major title.

But there’s no doubt he is going to be looked at as The Next One in golf and that’s good because of all the non-golf qualities he brings along with him. He’s smart and he’s funny. The other players don’t just respect him, they like him—really like him.

Last Tuesday, I bumped into him in The Congressional locker room. I hadn’t seen him in Charlotte and I told him right away that I wanted to be the millionth person to tell him how remarkable his post-Augusta behavior had been.

He smiled. “Well, I certainly had plenty of time to think about what I was going to say didn’t I?” he said, laughing since his collapse had been pretty much complete by the 13th hole.

Then he shrugged. “Honestly, I meant it when I said I was disappointed but in the end it was a golf tournament. I would think I’ll get to play in plenty more.”

That’s just a little different from, “second place sucks.”

He had just finished playing so I asked him what he thought of the golf course. “I think,” he said, “that it’s very score-able.”

I guess he had that right. He didn’t so much score as he overwhelmed. Sure, the golf course was soft and there will be some questions if—amazingly—the USGA went TOO far in trying to give the players birdie chances since 20 players finished under par. None were within shouting distance of McIlroy although I will say this: If you don’t take note of Jason Day, who now has two second place finishes in majors this year, you’re missing something.

Day is also very likeable but he plays at a snail’s pace. That’s another thing about McIlroy: he plays FAST. Woods always copied Nicklaus and plays as if he is being paid by the hour. McIlroy is more like Tom Watson: pick a club, check your target, stand up and swing. My dream final twosome in a major would be McIlroy and Rickie Fowler, not just because having the two most like-able kids in golf going head-to-head would be great, but because they might play through the entire field.

Put those two on a golf course with no one in front of them and they’ll play 18 holes in under three hours with time to spare. And both will probably shoot in the 60s.

For now though, Fowler is still about potential. McIlroy is here and we can only hope he is here to stay for a long, long time. My wife, who knows me very well, said to me on Sunday night, “I just know you cried when he hugged his father and said, “Happy Father’s Day.”

Damn right I did. It was one of those sweet, genuine moments—the word genuine is important here—that make sports and the people in them worth caring about. (By the way, am I the only one who thinks Mr. McIlroy looks like a Bill Parcells double?).

Honestly, I’m not sure how the week could have turned out much better than it did. Okay, I do have one complaint: Why couldn’t McIlroy’s six-iron at No. 10 on Sunday have gone in? That would have been one of the most amazing moments ever in major championship golf. He missed by about 10 inches.

So, as it turns out, he's not perfect. But boy does he come close.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

The US Open at Congressional; Notes from last week, including The National and the 'cat' incident


A week ago it was so hot in Washington I was dreading the thought of spending a week at Congressional because just walking out the door when it is 100 degrees out is miserable. The thought of walking a hilly golf course in that kind of weather makes me want to become an editor.

Okay, that may be a bit radical but you get the point.

So, the weather thus far has been spectacular---cool, low humidity—everything you could possibly want. Of course by the weekend it will probably be awful again.

Right now though walking around here is a delight and, for once, I actually know my way around, which is a bonus.

Since I’m the local guy for this event, I’ve had more requests for radio and local TV interviews than normal. I bring that up only because it is so easy to tell the difference between those who follow golf regularly and those who don’t: The golf types want to know about the tournament. The non-golf types want to know about Tiger.

C’est la vie.

When I did my regular bit on Washington Post Live on Monday (from the golf course as opposed to the studio) Ivan Carter told me before we went on that his first question was going to be, “Why should I come out there if Tiger’s not there?”

Ivan and I joke about this all the time. I say he isn’t a golf fan because he only cares about Tiger. He insists that he is a golf fan because he likes Tiger.

So, I said, “My answer’s going to be that no one really cares if you come out here or not—they can hold the tournament without Tiger, they can certainly hold it without you.”

Ivan never asked the question.

Here’s my latest theory on Tiger: If he doesn’t play in his tournament in two weeks he won’t play the rest of the year. (It is worth remembering that I’m oh-for-Tiger this year predicting what he’s going to do: I thought for sure he would skip The Players Championship because the event means nothing to him and he’s never liked the golf course. So, he tries to play, shoots 42 for nine holes and withdraws. I thought for sure he would be healthy for the Open and he’s not here. So, take anything I say here with a grain of salt and, no, he hasn’t consulted with me on what to do next.)

The reason I believe Philadelphia will be the tipoff is this: Because of various injuries and off-course issues, Woods has missed events that he’s the ‘host,’ of on a couple of occasions since 2008. He missed that 18-man exhibition in California after his knee surgery in 2008 and missed it again after hydrant-gate in 2009.

Earlier in 2008 he couldn’t play in his tournament when it was played here at Congressional after his knee surgery. The sponsors—notably AT+T—understood that Woods couldn’t play but they very much hoped he would get on a private plane and fly in for a day to glad-hand with all their clients. Woods couldn’t make it.

Now, three years later, with the future venue of the tournament in question—it is supposed to come back to Congressional next year for the next three years but neither the club nor the Woods Foundation is thrilled with the idea—Woods’ absence this year would be a very big deal and not a good thing at all.

So, my theory is this: if there’s any way he can play he will. If he really can’t play, I think he’ll take the break a lot of people believe he should take and MAYBE play the PGA if he can get himself healthy to play at least once, maybe twice, before then.

Okay, enough Tiger. There is, after all, a major championship starting here on Thursday.

Congressional—my biases aside—is a very good venue for The Open. It isn’t Pebble Beach or Shinnecock but it is long and hard but not unfair. Rory McIlroy—who I would LOVE seeing with the trophy on Sunday—described it this morning as, ‘scoreable.’

I think that’s accurate and it is what the USGA, under Mike Davis, has wanted the last few years: play well, you score; play anything less than well and you have serious issues. A lot of players think the 16th hole might be pivotal. The area around the green—especially right and back—has been shaved to the point where if you miss the green at all you’re in big trouble. McIlroy told me his instinct after playing it a couple of times might be to lay-up rather than risk bringing six into play by hitting a long iron in. Keep an eye on how guys play the hole beginning on Thursday.

Oh, one other reason Congressional probably isn’t in the long term future for Woods’ event: The USGA has made it clear to the club that if it wants The Open back in the future, it can’t host a PGA Tour event. The USGA will look the other way on that issue for Pebble Beach but that’s because it’s Pebble Beach AND because the golf course in February is a lot different (especially with a USGA set-up) than in June.

Of course the question I’m asked most often is who I’m picking to win. That’s understandable since I’m the only media member who was smart enough to walk the first round last year with Graeme McDowell.

He was playing with Rocco Mediate and Shaun Micheel who were key figures in my last two books. I was out there to watch them. The thought that I might be walking with the winner of the championship never crossed my mind once all day.

Any of you who picked McDowell—or Louis Oosthuizen at St. Andrews or Charl Schwartzel at Augusta in April—please let me know. I’d love to get some stock tips from you.

Which of course is the beauty of golf.


Couple notes from last week: Final word on my friend Scott Van Pelt: First, thanks to Scott for naming me the ‘arbiter of all things.’ That’s just about as good as being the ‘czar of sports,’ as Tony Kornheiser used to call me. I’m flattered. Second, to the couple of posters who said I mis-quoted Scott by saying he met Jordan Williams when he spoke to the Maryland team before a Duke game two years ago (not that he had ‘crossed paths with him at a couple games,’ as Scott said. How did that happen since Scott doesn’t actually DO basketball games?) I was quoting JORDAN WILLIAMS who said he met Scott when he spoke to the team. Bad writing on my part if anyone misunderstood….

Oh, and then there was the question about the alleged, ‘cat,’ incident that supposedly sunk The National in 1991. If you read the story Frank Deford pretty much has it right. There were a number of reasons I wanted to come home and the cost of my coming home between The French open and Wimbledon was LESS than if I stayed. I did NOT fly home on The Concorde. The only time I flew on the Concorde was when I used USAIR points to fly on it to and from the British Open in 1994. The return flight left London at 3:30 and arrived in Washington at a little before 2 p.m.

That was cool.

Washington Post Column: Former USGA executive director plans to keep his distance

Here is the latest article for The Washington Post ----------------

As the golf world gathers at Congressional Country Club this week for the 111th playing of the U.S. Open, a lot of talk will center on the man who isn’t there, Tiger Woods. Anyone who knows a birdie from a bogey will have an opinion on what the future holds for the 14-time major champion who has so stunningly fallen to earth during the past two years.

Another man will also be absent, someone who won’t be the subject of very much discussion and won’t care even a little bit if his name isn’t mentioned all week: David B. Fay. For 21 years, Fay didn’t just attend the U.S. Open; he ran the U.S. Open as executive director of the United States Golf Association. Last December, having just turned 60, he retired. So, instead of running the Open this week he will — more or less — be running from the Open.

“I might sneak in wearing a cap and sunglasses for one of the practice rounds,” he said last week. “But I’m not even sure I’ll do that. I mean, seriously, why would I go? At this point in my life, I’m a lot more interested in my own golf game than in the guys who will be playing in the Open.”

This will be the second Open Fay has missed since 1978. In 1979, he spent his honeymoon in Toledo, putting up the ropes at Inverness for that year’s Open. From 1979 through 2010, Fay missed one Open: Shinnecock Hills in 1986, after he had spent almost six months in the hospital receiving radical treatment for Burkitt’s lymphoma, a rare form of cancer.

“They let me out [of the hospital] on Thursday,” he said. “My plan was to drive to Shinnecock and work on Friday. The minute I got home, my fever spiked, and I ended up back in the hospital for another month.”

Three years after surviving cancer, Fay succeeded Frank Hannigan as the USGA’s executive director.

Even though one of Fay’s jobs in later years was to appear occasionally on television to explain rules issues, he preferred to operate under the radar. A liberal Democrat living in a decidedly Republican world, he had a unique approach to the job.

Click here for the rest of the story: Former USGA executive director plans to keep his distance

Thursday, June 9, 2011

This week's radio segments (The Sports Reporters)

Wednesday I joined The Sports Reporters in the Wednesday 5:30 time slot. Click the permalink, then the link below, to listen to the segment from this week. Virtually the entire segment this week was spent discussing Tiger Woods (injury, pursuit of records, what he may do the rest of the year, etc) and next week's US Open, including the set-up of the course at Congressional and whether or not Tiger's tournament returns in future years after this two year hiatus.

Click here to listen to the segment: The Sports Reporters

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Maybe it’s time for Tiger to take extended break; ESPN book; Thoughts on the Jordan Williams and Scott Van Pelt story; Notre Dame follow-up

I’m not really sure where to begin today but let’s start with Tiger Woods because, well, he’s Tiger Woods and my phone began going crazy the minute he announced on Tuesday that he wouldn’t be playing in The U.S. Open here at Congressional next week.

I was so hoping he’d come by the house for a cookout one night.

It is hard for me—or anyone—to judge the soundness of this decision because, as is always the case with Woods, we’re reading tealeaves. His doctors have told him playing next week would be a bad idea. Makes sense. But he hopes to play in the event he ‘hosts,’ in two weeks. Does that make sense? If his knee and Achilles injuries are bad enough to keep him from playing a tournament he once won on a broken leg, they’re going to heal enough in two weeks for him to tee it up at Aronomink? Makes very little sense.

Here’s Tiger’s problem right now—in my opinion: He knows that all the various sponsors for his event, notably AT+T which is putting up about $8 million, aren’t going to be happy if he no-shows no matter how legitimate his injuries may be. There was a good deal of whining in 2008 when he couldn’t play after his knee surgery although Woods didn’t help things by not making the effort to get on a private plane and even make an appearance just to shake a few sponsor hands.

In truth, that was unlike him because the one and only group of people he’s ever been loyal to at all are those who pay him. Of course AT+T and the other sponsors weren’t technically paying him, they were paying to put on a tournament that benefits his foundation. Maybe that was the difference. Who knows?

Now Woods has those same sponsors wanting to know if he’s going to play or not. To them, showing up in Philly is a lot more important than showing up at Congressional or for The British Open or The PGA Championship this summer. Woods shouldn’t think twice about that. His skipping the Open is the first time I’ve had any sense that he’s looking at the big picture—which isn’t the next three months but the next three years, five years, ten years.

Early this year I thought he needed to play more golf. He kept talking about the ‘process,’ of working on the new swing Sean Foley has been teaching him. Fine. You can’t find true swing keys on the range. You have to take them to the golf course and see how they hold up under pressure. My friend John Cook was quoted back in March as saying Tiger was hitting it as pure as he’d ever seen on the range.

The range is irrelevant. Even hackers can hit good shots on the range. My thought was that Woods should go play four weeks in a row, even if that meant changing the schedule he has been so wedded to for years. Of course he didn’t do that and then he got hurt at The Masters.

Why he tried to play at The Players I have no idea. He doesn’t care about the event—nor should he—doesn’t like the golf course and clearly wasn’t close to 100 percent. For all of Tim Finchem’s claims that Woods looked completely healthy during the practice rounds, the fact is he was carted almost everyplace he went—which he doesn’t normally do—and other players saw him limping during the 18 practice holes (total) that he played. Does that sound healthy to you?

He obviously hurt the knee and the Achilles again trying to play there. So now I’ve come 180 degrees the other way: I think Tiger should just pack it in the rest of the year. Stay home and rest his mind and his body. Hang out with his kids, get some real rehab to be SURE he’s 100 percent before he tries to play again and just RELAX. I mean seriously, when was the last time in his life he did that for more than a week or two?

It wasn’t right after the infamous accident when he was in hiding and then in some kind of rehab and then making speeches to try to convince sponsors who were running for cover that he was a new man. A real break—not one forced on him by injury or public humiliation—might do him a lot of good. He might come back fresh and eager to play, rather than feeling he HAS to play. It might recharge him. Staying home for awhile might (though I doubt it) give him a chance to do some real reflecting on his life and his future. He should bring in a crisis manager—because the guy is still in all sorts of crisis—to tell him how he should deal with the media, with fans, with sponsors and with his travel schedule (Dubai et al should go away; play to be a champion, not to get richer). It should be someone who will tell him what to do not what he wants to hear the way his current ‘team,’ does.

Woods can still break Jack Nicklaus’s record of 18 major titles. He’s that talented and, when he isn’t in crisis, that mentally tough. But he needs to take a deep breath before he starts back up that mountain.


I try very hard to steer away from ESPN-related subjects. My opinions on the people who run the network are pretty well known even if Tom Shales and Jim Miller didn’t call me for their book.

A note on the book: I don’t intend to read it if only because I haven’t found any of the excerpts particularly compelling. I mean, seriously people don’t like Chris Berman? That’s news? Keith Olbermann was crazy? Film at 11 stuff there, right? There were sex and drugs at parties in the 80s? No kidding, really? I’ve certainly never been to a party like that in my life.

The fact that the book is getting the attention it is getting is a tribute—unfortunately—to how important a part of our culture ESPN has become. There’s just no getting around that fact.

In the meantime, Scott Van Pelt has been in the news because of his Maryland connections—again. Van Pelt and I had a disagreement last year because I commented on his behavior while sitting in the stands at a Duke-Maryland game in College Park. He took offense to my saying that, as a public figure, who at times talked about college basketball on TV and radio, he needed to show some decorum, even while sitting in the stands. I wondered how people would react if say, Jay Bilas or I sat in the stands at Cameron Indoor Stadium in Duke gear and yelled at officials during a game.

Scott took offense and called me and we had a good talk and ended up, I think, agreeing to disagree. (He also took a shot a my brother during a speech at Burning Tree last summer since my brother had been the one who told me how Van Pelt behaved. For the record, my brother is close to Gary Williams and was sitting in front of Van Pelt because—like Scott—he’d been given tickets by Gary. Anyway, Scott, did you think someone wouldn’t report your crack back to me? I do have other sources).

No big deal actually. The other day Jordan Williams, the now ex-Maryland center who put his name into the draft after his sophomore year, told reporters Van Pelt had played a major advisory role in his decision. Then, after he and Van Pelt talked, Williams sort of withdrew that statement, said only that he had asked Van Pelt to get him some feedback from NBA people before making his decision and that the media—it’s always the media isn’t it?—had blown the thing out of proportion.

I don’t doubt it was blown out of proportion—what isn’t? And I’ve had coaches and athletes ask me for advice. I remember Eric Montross’s dad asking me years ago if I thought Eric should go to Indiana and play for Bob Knight. I was careful to limit my answer to what I had written in ‘A Season on the Brink.’ I did almost the same thing a few years later when Alan Henderson asked me the same question after I had spoken at Five Star. Knowing Henderson was being recruited by Duke, I was even more careful in how I answered the question.

So, I understand Scott’s dilemma. That said, I think he should have told Williams that the person he should be talking to is his college coach and to the NBA advisory board that gives a player an objective opinion on where he might go in the draft. It wasn’t Scott’s job to be Williams’ go-fer. I’m a little amused by Scott’s claim that he had, ‘crossed paths with Jordan while doing games.’ The truth is, they first met when Gary Williams asked Scott to speak to the team before a game at Duke two years ago. He was there as a Maryland grad who is a celebrity and a friend of Gary’s. Actually he was a Friend of Gary (FOG), an official support group of Gary’s.

It’s never easy to decide where you draw the line between being friendly with someone you are covering and becoming their friend. After all these years I’ve learned it is impossible NOT to be friends with some of the people you cover, especially if you know them for a long time.

I think Van Pelt made an innocent mistake not telling Williams he wasn’t the one he should be coming to for information or feedback. If I were him, rather than try to downplay the role he played, I’d just say, ‘yeah, I should have told him to talk to Gary or the advisory board and wished him luck and left it at that.’

One last thought for the day to those who (surprise) thought I was too tough on Notre Dame last week: I have read the report on Declan Sullivan and I am familiar with Father Jenkins’ pre-Notre Dame biography. Neither changes my opinion on him or on how Notre Dame has handled the situation. Oh, and I see where Michael Floyd has been cleared to get ready to play this season. Gee, what a surprise.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

This weeks radio segments (The Sports Reporters, The Gas Man)

Wednesday I joined The Sports Reporters in my normal time slot (5:25 ET on Wednesday's). Click the permalink, then the link below, to listen to the segment from this week. We started the segment discussing Gary Williams and whether he will ever coach again then moved on to the topic of the week, Jim Tressel's resignation and if Gordon Gee and Gene Smith are next. Based off that topic, maybe its time for the major college programs to break off from the NCAA. We ended this week's talk discussing Jack Nicklaus's comments on Tiger Woods.

Click here to listen to the segment: The Sports Reporters

Also Wednesday I joined The Gas Man in my normal weekly spot. The Gas Man's broadcast was live from Vancouver, prior to Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Final, so we jumped off talking about Seattle's love for the Canucks. After that we moved on to the power NCAA programs and as more problems creep up, will the schools look to break off from the NCAA?

Click here to listen to the segment: The Gas Man