LaVall Jordan leaves Wisconsin-Milwaukee to become new coach at Butler

Wow, that was fast.

Just three days after Chris Holtmann left Indianapolis for Columbus, Ohio to try and steer the Ohio State Buckeyes to respectability in the Big Ten, Butler pounced quickly for his replacement.

Beating out some major names from the likes of former longtime Marquette and Indiana Coach Tom Crean and Xavier assisatnt coach Travis Steele, LaVall Jordan returns to his alma mater with quite a resume already in hand.

He is 37 and was a player when current Athletic Director Barry Collier was a coach for Butler.  Although he started out as a head coach just this past season suffering some familiar growing pains going only 11-24 (4-14 in the Horizon League) at Wisconsin-Milwaukee, this should be a nice hire for Butler in the fact that he both played there and was an assistant there.

“LaVall is a tremendous coach who exemplifies ‘The Butler Way,’ ” He has played a major role in successful programs that have competed at the highest levels. LaVall also has a deep appreciation for our university and this program, and will recruit and develop young men who will represent Butler well.”

Butler Athletic Director Barry Collier in statement on Monday night in announcing LaVall Jordan as new men’s basketball coach

Financial terms of the deal, according to many broadcast outlets and websites were not disclosed.

Chris Holtmann leaves Butler to become new coach at Ohio State

Nationwide search lasted only four days

The news came rather swiftly on Friday afternoon.

According to media outlets ranging from ESPN, CBSSports.com, and the Associated Press, the 45 year old Holtmann leaves Butler after three very impressive years in which the Bulldogs reached the NCAA Tournament each time.

Something for the diehards in Columbus to hang their hat on is the fact that Butler reached the Sweet 16 this past March.

The contract is good for 8 years at a robust $24 million.

For Butler, the clock is ticking towards the July evaluation period and we will see if former longtime Marquette and Indiana coach Tom Crean will be heading north on desolate Indiana Highway 37 to reach the legendary Hinkle Fieldhouse.  According to Garry Parrish from CBSSports.com, he mentioned that Crean’s name is one huge name that the Bulldogs are hoping to covet.

We will see if and when anything transpires sometime next week.  In the meantime, it is back to Square One for the Buckeyes men’s basketball program.

Thad Matta Out at Ohio State

Definite head scratcher following two consecutive seasons of not reaching the NCAA Tournament

On Monday afternoon, Ohio State Athletic Director Gene Smith mentioned in a press conference that was seen live on BTN that “recruiting” was a central issue to why popular men’s basketball coach Thad Matta was relieved of his duties after 13 years.

Normally, when a coach is let go–it happens in late March after a team typically goes 17-15 or 18-16, barely posts a .500 record while in conference play and catches fire in the postseason conference tournament losing in the final game, either at the buzzer in regulation or getting their clocks cleaned in overtime.

The timing of this announcement was very odd, but it does have a bit of backstory to tell:

When the Buckeyes turned to the one-time head coach of Xavier, Ohio State’s program was in shambles.  They were on probation and ineligible for tournament play in March 2005, even though they won 20 games and had an even .500 record in the ultra competitive Big Ten Conference.

Matta’s team thrived in winning 337 games while losing only 123.  According to ESPN, his .733 winning percentage over the last 17 years is greater than what was accomplished by Roy Williams (first at Kansas and later at North Carolina) and Mark Few of Gonzaga.

His marks of consistency put him among the elite of Big Ten coaches all-time, reaching a level that was not seen by Bobby Knight, Gene Keady, or even Lou Henson when they were each in their prime at Indiana, Purdue, and Illinois respectively.

A national search will be conducted for his replacement, even though Thad Matta will be part of the search as well.  It definitely sounds crazy, especially when you think that any school–let alone a bonafide football power that resides in Columbus, all of the sports ranging from volleyball to lacrosse are typically billed as second fiddle.

Although men’s basketball is also a revenue driven sport along with football, the keys for most top flight schools are location, money provided by donors and key alumni.  Everything else is mostly secondary.

Please don’t get me started about his back injury following the 2007 Final Four that went awry.  I get that.  Coaching on the sidelines in any sport demands a strong back and a tough demeanor.

His teams also won five Big Ten regular season titles (2006-07, along with 2010-12) and four Big Ten Tournament championships (2007, 2010, 2011, and 2013).

Even with a surprise run to the 2012 NCAA Final Four, I felt that the wheels came off during their then labeled Second Round (later to be termed First Round) game at the Buffalo pod in 2014 against Dayton:

As I mentioned in my first full season of blogging on March 20, 2014:

“Aaron Craft’s driving layup with over 15 seconds gave the Buckeyes a brief one point lead.  But it was Vee Sanford’s driving layup with 3.8 seconds left that gave the Dayton Flyers a 60-59 lead.  However Craft, steady most of the way (even committing a flagrant 1 foul late in the second half) did not flinch.  All game long, he made threes and dished a lot of punishment on his own in getting baskets to go through.

However, the final shot of his college career curled around the rim and twirled out.”

Three new coaches in one of the nation’s premier conferences

Following the introductions of Brad Underwood moving from Oklahoma State to Illinois and Archie Miller departing Dayton for Indiana, it will be interesting to see who will take over for the Buckeyes.

Once the news of the hire becomes official, Yours Truly Online will chime in when the time is right to do so.  Thanks again for reading and following my blog and remember, comments are always welcome.

 

Remembering Frank Deford

We are often familiar with the famous literary quote:

“The pen is mightier than the sword.”

To Terry Armour and Mike Royko from the Chicago Tribune and Jim Murray of the Los Angeles Times, you have company in the form of longtime Sports Illustrated writer and reporter for NPR, CNN, and HBO’s Real Sports.

Frank Deford passed away last week after a recent illness.

With the many quotes he uttered through the decades from discovering Bill Bradley while he was a student at Princeton to friending Kathy Ireland, Rachel Hunter, Elle Macpherson and the great Sports Illustrated swimsuit models during the 1990’s, I found this piece on YouTube when he discussed about the NCAA and why he thought that the term “student-athlete’ does not mean much in our general American consciousness.

Please take a look at this clip from July 2012, which lasts a little over four minutes long and see what you think:

The way things are going with the NCAA giving many thousands of students access to some stipends in helping defray the escalating costs of room and board, along with getting key help with certain tuition measures just to attend the school of his/her choice should be a start.

Where we go from here, especially after the Northwestern football players attempted to unionize in the summer of 2016–it is going to be a very slippery slope.

The best way to remember him in my mind are his thoughts, again from July 2012 on how Sports Illustrated had a very narrow demographic in the early years.  He also discussed whether sportswriters need to fear about bloggers like myself and others here on WordPress and other sites attempting to take over as the truest typed word:

May Frank Rest in Peace.

It Is Official–Valparaiso Joins the Missouri Valley Conference

What a great opportunity this will present for the small private Northwest Indiana school (2016-2017 student enrollment was around 4,520) that produced ABC News meteorologist/taker of most things involving nature in Ginger Zee.

As I clearly posted in one of my last blogs, this will be a nice fit both in terms of fielding competitive basketball teams and also for fans and alumni traveling to places like Indiana State, Evansville, Bradley, Loyola of Chicago, Southern Illinois, and Illinois State.  Instead of traveling to Green Bay, Detroit, and Milwaukee, their longest in-conference road trips going forward will include stops at Drake, Northern Iowa, and Missouri State.  I expect many of the ESPN channels will feature Valpo on a lot more than in years past.

The Crusaders should blend in very nicely also in Arch Madness during the first weekend every March, as the Missouri Valley determines its’ automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament.  With every MVC Tournament game being televised (CSN Chicago and Fox Sports Midwest still cover the first two rounds, while CBS Sports Network covers the two semifinals on Saturday and CBS continues their tradition of airing the final game less than 12 hours after most of America switches their clocks out of Standard Time into Daylight Savings Time), I expect coverage of Valparaiso basketball to hit a fever pitch 100 times more than in Bryce Drew’s senior year prior to them shocking the world in reaching their first Sweet 16 berth way back in 1998.

For second year coach Matt Lottich, they will be without Alec Peters and two other graduating seniors–but with a pair of transfers in the names of Joe Burton (by way of Oklahoma State) and Bakari Evelyn (Nebraska), the future indeed looks bright.

The school that left the Missouri Valley in Wichita State will have the AAC grab the final spotlight before the 2018 draw is released

With the Big Ten holding their annual postseason tournament a week early in Madison Square Garden in New York next March, CBS and the American Athletic Conference agreed on Tuesday that the final three games will air on CBS the weekend of March 10 and 11, 2018.

The semifinals will begin at 1 and approximately 3:30 p.m. Eastern Time on Saturday, then the title game will begin at 3 p.m. ET on Sunday as they get the final honor of playing the final group of games before Selection Sunday.

The Big Ten will return with the final game honor when the tournament returns to the Midwest in 2019.

DePaul to Welcome Old Foes in Kicking Off Wintrust Arena at McCormick Place

The 10,000 seat arena is the Blue Demons’ first relocation since moving to the one-time named Rosemont Horizon (later named Allstate Arena) in 1980

According to the Chicago Tribune this past Thursday (May 18), the DePaul Blue Demons have announced their first set of opponents for Dave Leitao and the men and the nationally ranked women’s squad led by longtime Head Coach Doug Bruno.

The men will welcome old-time foes in the Notre Dame Fighting Irish on Veteran’s Day, November 11–while the women will host UConn on Friday, December 8 as the Lady Huskies look to be starting their attempt to possibly win 111 straight games in the future.

My best tip for those fans traveling on Lake Shore Drive during that time of year, please pay close attention to the weather forecasts by using either Accuweather, weather.com, or with a proper weather radio or smartphone app tuned to the NOAA Weather station for Chicago.

The arena will be housed in a portion of the new section of McCormick Place, which is the exposition hall where the popular longtime event in the Chicago Auto Show takes place each February.

Lake Shore Drive can get extremely nasty in times of horrible weather.  During the last 50 years, each time Chicago has been nailed with blizzard/white-out conditions (January 1967, January 1979, and February 2011 chief among them), the four-lane road adjacent to Lake Michigan would turn into a instant winter blunderland as dozens of cars, trucks, and buses would become stranded with no way to get out.

As we get closer to that time, I might think about providing a small checklist for fans who might be thinking of traveling to downtown Chicago for a game in trying to survive what Ol’ Man Winter would throw in that part of the Midwest.

When Mother Nature greets the Windy City with beautiful weather (watch out when popular meteorologists like Cheryl Scott of ABC7 say, “Cooler by the lake”), there are plenty of activities to do and shops to see, along with sampling from hundreds of awesome places to eat (but be prepared for slightly higher prices due to Illinois’ rather exorbitant 10 percent state sales tax).

For air travelers, you are around an hour outside of O’Hare Airport and a good 45 minute or so ride (depending on traffic and overall road conditions) from Midway.  Train travelers using either Amtrak or locally with Metra definitely have it made in the shade at Union Station which is located a good two miles away on the west side of the Loop.  From there, you could either hop a short CTA bus ride or take a healthy walk east into the heart of true Shopper’s Paradise along State Street and the always bustling Michigan Avenue.  For Uber passengers, good luck trying to get a good deal because those underground parking lots can be a bear–especially during any weekday from around 7 a.m. to well after 6:30 p.m.

How do I know all this?  I used to travel to Chicago a lot starting way back on Black Friday 1979 to my over two years being employed at a place that sold employment law publications over the phone around the turn of the century.

And from what I have read online about the new arena, it promises to be a really cool experience for the fans.  But for DePaul to come close to their last really great era (which was during the Ray Meyer years of 1979 through 1981 when they were often near the top of the national polls), they have to recruit quality talent and not lose on any local players that decide to bolt to other schools either in-state or at other popular out-of-state schools like Louisville, Michigan State, and Duke.

Valparaiso Receives Possible Invite to Missouri Valley Conference

Tuesday’s decision was unanimous among nine remaining schools

According to ESPN, CBS Sports Network, and scores of online sites–the Valparaiso Crusaders received an invitation to join the Missouri Valley Conference (MVC).  As most of you know, popular school Wichita State is heading to the American Athletic Conference on July 1.  No word on a decision by the Northwest Indiana school will be made public.

IMHO, I think this would be an excellent fit across all athletic and academic programs in lining up with the Missouri Valley’s core mission as a whole.  Also, this will be a boon as far as coaches, players, fans, and alumni who travel.  Valpo is about a 2 1/2 hour drive (give or take with Chicago traffic at any given minute, day or night) from Loyola and is only two interstates away from hooking up with the Stevenson Expressway (Interstate 55) to hook on to St. Louis and the always crazy Arch Madness during the first weekend of March.

Since Bryce Drew’s winning game-winning trey in the 1998 First Round to take down Mississippi at the Oklahoma City site, Valparaiso has made a bunch of tournament trips but it has not won an NCAA Tournament game in 20 years.

This will be a story I will be monitoring closely in the coming weeks.

Three coaches ink long-term deals

At Minnesota, Richard Pitino (the son of Hall of Fame Coach Rick Pitino in Louisville) signed a contract extension on May 3 keeping him as coach of the Golden Gophers until 2021-2022.  The next day, Leonard Hamilton of rising Florida State inked a deal to stay in Tallahassee for three more seasons.  Finally, on May 10, Nevada will have Eric Musselman continuing to roam the sidelines in Reno after signing a five-year extension through 2021-22.  The Wolfpack are coming off their first NCAA appearance in a decade after achieving 20 wins during this last regular season.

The Pit gets another makeover, in name only

With the recent proliferation of many arenas getting facelifts across the country from Villanova to Northwestern, the University of New Mexico Lobos announced on May 3 that a ten year deal was struck with Dreamstyle Remodeling, a home-remodeling business that operates in four Western states.

According to the Associated Press, this deal marks the largest philanthropic agreement in their athletic department’s history.  Besides the naming rights to The Pit,  it includes contributions to the University of New Mexico’s Business Management School, Performing Arts Center, and children’s hospital.