Bob Lipper – A-Hole Extraordinaire

Soupers–

There is nothing like a tirade from an ignorant Virginian to rouse me out of hibernation. Bob Lipper, who is apparently a professional sports journalist, wrote a grimy piece of yellow journalism for the Richmond Times-Dispatch about the Tyree Evans affair.

In his “article”, he trashes Gary Williams and the program that he built at Maryland. Lipper suggests that Tyree Evans is better off now that he withdrew from Maryland. That may be true, but Lipper’s rationale is nothing but a poor attempt at character assasination.

After you’ve read the article, I encourage you to read my email to Mr Lipper (below):

Bob, how dare you write such drivel about a coach who will be in the Basketball Hall of Fame! Did you interview any of Coach Williams’ former players for this story? Wouldn’t that have been a balanced way to write an article? Couldn’t they provide insights into how Williams is as a mentor?

Williams has been at Maryland for 19 years yet somehow Maryland is a “burbling stew”? I suppose Evans would be better suited to go to UVA where the coaching carousel has not stopped turning since Terry Holland left in 1989. Sure, the Terps have missed the NCAAs a few times in recent years; but Williams runs one of the best programs in the country.

Leaving Williams’ on-court achievements aside; your article disgraces Williams’ honorable track record of taking in players with troubled backgrounds.

He took in Juan Dixon—an orphan who’s heroin-addicted parents died of AIDS. Dixon completed his senior season 6 credit hours short of graduation. He is too busy earning millions in the NBA to worry about completing his degree right now. Williams also recruited a player by the name of Johnny Rhodes. Rhodes grew up on the hard scrabble streets of Southeast DC where he got shot in a drive-by while still in high school. Johnny Rhodes graduated. Williams recruited a player by the name of DJ Strawberry– a kid whose high profile father, Darryl Strawberry, spent much of DJ’s childhood in and out of rehab. DJ left Maryland in good academic standing and is currently making millions playing for the Phoenix Suns.

Those are three examples that I came up with in about 10 minutes of research on the Internet.

Not only does Gary Williams know how to turn young basketball players into NBA-caliber talent; he also knows how to turn them into men. Your claim that Williams did not graduate a player from 1997 – 2000 is completely misleading. Many of those players actually earned degrees after the six-year period that you use as a standard. Most Maryland players turn pro after their days in College Park come to an end, either in the NBA, the NBDL, or overseas. Earning a degree often takes a back seat to earning seven-figure salaries. Did you even check to see how many players earned degrees after this arbitrary “six-year period”? Of course not.

During Gary’s tenure, every single Maryland basketball player except for one (Chris McCray) was able to maintain academic eligibility during their college career. Gary Williams is not responsible for ensuring that his players graduate. His responsibility is to make sure that they reach their senior season on track to earn a degree. No senior Terp can take the floor unless they have completed enough credit hours to be a senior in academic standing. If they fail to graduate that is not Gary Williams’ fault or responsibility.

Just because you dislike the University of Maryland (perhaps because we consistently beat up on Virginia schools); it doesn’t give you the right to pen this libelous garbage. For shame!

Gary is not perfect. We all know this. But, running his name through the gutter because you have an axe to grind is disgraceful. I encourage you all to let Mr. Lipper know how you feel about his opinions.

He can be reached at (804) 649-6555 or blipper@timesdispatch.com.

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Tyree We Hardly Knew Ye

What a mess our program has become. He’s in, he’s out. He’s in, he’s out.

Tyree Evans is out, and the decision apparently has come from him. His applications for admission wasn’t even done yet. I’m not quite sure what happened here, but there is a lot going on behind the scenes and none of it is good.

You may or may not have been in support of recruiting a guy like Evans, but needless to say the administration is not on the same page as the coach and something smells. The Baltimore Sun reminded us of the early 90’s when Gary had Donyell Marshall and Lawrence Moten all signed up, later to learn they were not going to be admitted due to grades. Are we going to go through something similar with Evans and Sean Mosley?

I’ve never heard of a program being in such a mess when it had nothing to do with sanctions of any kind.

Gary said today in a statement that “after much thought, Tyree felt Maryland was not the best fit for him at this time and I support his decision. We wish him well in the future.”

Yah. I don’t know what to think of all this. Who knows what our roster will look like next year. What do you all think?? Is this craziness the begining of the end for Gary? I hope not, but this does not make it look like he’s as in charge as he used to be.

The State Of The Game

There have been many responses to Epi’s ‘farewell’ comment last week. All of them have valid points and interesting takes. Here’s why I think college basketball is still one of the more exciting sports out there and sooooo much better than the NBA.

First, it’s obvious that times have changed in college hoops. With the internet and the world’s love of gambling, fans can follow recruiting like never before and the NCAA tournament means more than it ever has. As far as recruting goes, with everyone knowing almost everything about a recruit, it has a two-fold effect. First, it makes these high school kids seem like superstars before they have played a game in college. Those high school stars want to emulate their NBA heroes so they end up with entourages and a holier-than-thou attitude. Now, of course, not all of them are like that, but enough of them are. Second, the love of gambling and the NCAA tournament has the game’s popularity rising to amazingly high levels. Perhaps second only to the NFL as far as the gambling goes. I have been to Vegas during the tournament in 8 of the last 9 years. I’m told the only weekend where it’s more packed is the Super Bowl. This popularity adds to the ‘entitled’ attitudes of the players and changes how the ‘game is played’ and by ‘game’, I mean recruiting.

You have to start kissing the asses of these kids in junior high or you won’t be giving them the ‘respect’ they seem to think they deserve. There is no teaching in coaching as much, it’s the coach needing to change his way (the way said coach may have been coaching for decades) to fit the style his star recruit wants to play. This is a troublesome issue that has to be dealt with these days and some coaches, like Gary Williams, have had trouble swallowing his pride to do it. And while it may have led to more wins, I don’t particularly blame him for not wanting to ‘play the game’. It’s like someone coming into your office and telling you to change everything that has gotten you to where you are in a company. Whether you decide to change or not, it’s still almost an insult. It’s not natural, but it has become necessary in order to deal with the college hoops of today.

Now there have been plenty of issues in college hoops for many years. The movie Blue Chips and it’s use of the phrase ‘friends of the program’ came out nearly 15 years ago. It was based on things that have happened in the sport long before. In the 80’s, you had players doing drugs on a regular basis, whether it was playing in the Final 4 on coke (Villanova), or dropping dead just after being drafted. (Lenny Bias) And don’t forget, Allen Iverson was no perfect recruit. The guy had to be granted clemency by the Governor of Virginia just to be able to play college basketball. That was 13 years ago. I don’t think Georgetown regrets that decision.

Sure, the dynamics have changed as far as which issues and problems coaches have to deal with, but like in all sports, there will always be something. College basketball has gotten more exciting in the past decade with the parity around the country. How great was it to see George Mason a few years ago. How about Gonzaga before they were legit. Sure, a lot of the parity has to do with impatient high school athletes who think their pro chances would be over if they actually had to sit and learn for a year as freshmen. Players will go anywhere to play these days but I think that has made college basketball better, not worse.

I will always have an issue with the young athlete’s attitudes of today. The sense of entitlement and the fact they can’t be ‘disrespected’ by a coach or authority figure. Coaches who yell and scream won’t be taken seriously anymore and you see fewer and fewer of those coaches around, or they changed their ways a bit, or those coaches recruit lesser known kids who will actually listen and learn from a coach, no matter what the style. It comes from the NBA where I can think of only a handful of coaches who are respected. Watch a Pistons game sometime. The players aren’t even looking at Flip Saunders when he is talking. Guys like Rasheed Wallace even walk away from the huddle. Talk about no respect.

I know I’ve rambled a bit, but my point is that the game is as popular as it’s ever been. Maybe not for all the right reasons, but it’s still a great game. Just watching the NBA playoffs makes my yearn for the college season to begin again. The NBA is a joke. In college, you see the emotion. Even if we make fun of Adam Morrison for crying, at least he cared. You think you’ll see Morrison crying if the Bobcats don’t make the playoffs? Hell no.

9 Conference Football Games? Nope.

With the hoop craziness quiet for a week, the latest news out of the ACC were the discussions regarding the possibility of adding a 9th conference game to the football season. What that would have done is take away one of the 4 non-conference games per season. But this afternoon, the league has backed off the plan and decided not to change a thing. I think it’s a good decision.

The only other BCS conference that plays a 9 game schedule is the Pac-10. The move would have ensured that half the ACC teams would have a loss – a roadblock to reaching a BCS bowl – but would ease ADs’ budgets because of rising costs to schedule the ‘creampuffs’ from Divsion 1-AA or any mid-major opponents.

Now that the idea has been squashed, my question is how can the ACC improve its football league? Is it as simple as hoping the struggling teams like Miami and FSU return to their former glory, or should they try and set up some more interesting out of conference matchups. I’m used to playing the NC States and Clemsons of the world. We see that every year. I like the games against Rutgers, Cal, and Eastern Michigan (only because I can go to that game!).

Anyway, strength of schedule is important these days with the crappy BCS situation, and it makes sense for all ACC schools to stick with the 8 game schedule and be able to play more non-conference games. That helps the ACC promote itself in its hopes to be rated as a top football conference, since we all know it’s been way down in recent years. Playing and winning against other top conferences would help build a reputation. I would love to see an ACC/SEC football challenge or something. That would be sweet.

Gary Bets It All on Evans

CNN/SI writer Luke Winn put together an interesting piece on Tyree Evans today. To put in mildly, it seems that the Maryland beat writers for the Sun and Post gave Gary and the program a pass on this one. After a quick read-through of Winn’s piece; It is clear to me that the Evans signing was not as much of a “slam dunk” as I had previously thought.

We already knew about the statutory rape charge. However, Luke Winn illuminated some details surrounding the charge are disconcerting. Coupled with his subsequent drug arrest (which somehow was missed by the local press) we have a greater cause for concern than I had originally thought.

Mr. Evans was stopped by police ( shortly AFTER pleading guilty to a lesser charge on his rape indictment) while he was in possession with over a half ounce of weed that was split up into a dozen or so little baggies. Police also found a scale with drug residue in his trunk. You don’t have to be Jeff Spicoli to recognize a drug dealer when you see one. (those are alarm bells you are hearing right now).

Now, I smoked my share of ganja in college and knew a handful of guys who sold the stuff. Scumbags, all of them. Maybe, they turned out fine, but I wouldn’t have pinned my hopes on them.

Now, by all accounts, Evans has behaved himself over the last year or so, and I am all for giving a guy a second chance; but as Winn rightly points out in his piece, this smacks of desperation.

By any estimation, Tyree Evans has the ability to become a star in the college game. His baggage meant that only a program in desperate need of some immediate help would take a chance on him. Enter Maryland and Gary Williams.

Desperate. How did it come to this? In five years, Maryland went from the penthouse to the outhouse. Now, our hopes hinge on a twice convicted 23-year old pot dealer.

What kind of message does this send to the current team? Clearly, Gary has so little faith in the current team, he is willing to take a make or break risk on Evans. It is as if Gary is saying “I don’t trust you, so I am pushing all my chips into the pot in the hopes that a 50/50 shot comes in.

Make no mistake: if the Evans signing blows up in Gary’s face; it is over. This is Williams’ crossing the Rubicon. There is no saving Gary if the Evans signing turns sour.

How did it come to this?

Another little known fact that Winn uncovered is that Maryland and Florida State have each recruited six JuCo players since 2002. The rest of the ACC has recruited six JuCo players COMBINED. Read that again. What is happening in College Park? Perhaps I have been living under a rock, but I had no idea that Maryland had deviated so far away from the median.

Since when did we become the Cincinnati of the ACC?

I appreciate the work of Mr. Winn. The press in Maryland has decided to give Gary a free pass on this signing but as far as I am concerned; it warranted greater scrutiny then the “phoned in” reporting that occurred with this story.

One final point, I sincerely hope that this time next year; I am singing the praises of Evans and hailing Gary for giving the guy a second chance. It’s just that the at happening seem lower than it did two weeks ago.