Saturday, April 30, 2011

Hewitt In At George Mason

Former Georgia Tech head coach Paul Hewitt has been hired at George Mason to the same title. Hewitt seemed like he was on the proverbial hot seat for the last three decades in Atlanta, but it was probably more like the last three years. He was finally fired at the end of this season sometime during March (dates in that month don't actually exist due to the NCAA tournament). After reaching the NCAA title game in 2004 (and losing to UConn), Hewitt and the Yellow Jackets were never able to achieve the same level of success: they reached the second round twice in those seven years and missed the tournament four times.

This means that Coach Lonergan remains an obvious candidate at only one school, George Washington. This may have already been established considering that Lonergan never even interviewed at George Mason (to my knowledge), while his interview at George Washington was openly publicized.

It took Mason about a week to hire a coach. Monday will mark a week since George Washington fired Karl Hobbs, so you might anticipate hearing about who will be the new coach at GW early this week.

Buckle up -- the coaching carousel is awhirl.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

GW To Interview Lonergan

According to the Burlington Free Press, UVM head coach Mike Lonergan will interview for the open George Washington coaching job.

Lonergan has rarely shown any interest in interviewing for other jobs, so it would appear that he is definitively attracted to this job. I guess you can take the coach out of Washington D.C., but you can't keep him in Vermont unless you pay him more money. That's the saying, right?

Monday, April 25, 2011

Hobbs Out at GW -- Lonergan a Candidate There, Too?

The plot thickens. George Washington University announced on Monday that head coach Karl Hobbs has been fired. The highlight of Hobbs' ten year run in Washington D.C. was a 27-3 record in 2005-2006. The Colonels made the tournament again the next year before slipping into Atlantic 10 mediocrity the last few seasons.

Why is this significant in terms of UVM Basketball? For two reasons. It means two intriguing coaching jobs have opened up in the Washington D.C. area in the last few days. Coach Lonergan is from there, and has various coaching experience in the area, as my previous post takes note of. Perhaps more importantly, the man who fired Hobbs, Patrick Nero, had just been hired as the new athletic director at GW. His previous position? Commissioner of the America East conference. Nero will lead the search for a new coach to head the Colonels, and you have to believe Mike Lonergan is somewhere on that list.

The Nero connection is what UVM fans who hope to see Lonergan stay should be worried about; the GW job is not quite as alluring as the George Mason job. George Mason is coming off a solid season in which they were ranked in the top five of the mid-major poll for upwards of a month. They made it to the second round of the NCAA tournament only to suffer a brutal loss at the hands of Ohio State's shooting display that can only be described as hot fuego (my own words). Mason returns four out of five of their leading scorers from last season. Meanwhile, George Washington showed some signs of life last season, finishing fourth in the Atlantic ten, but they are not nearly as polished a product as the Patriots. That is to say, stepping into the George Mason job would seem to be much more desirable. Also, George Mason's iconic status as a mid-major juggernaut seems to have had some pull in the recruiting world over the last five seasons, something any coach must be attracted to.

With potential options springing up for Lonergan, Catamount country remains on high alert.

Friday, April 22, 2011

Lonergan Leaving?

WPTZ sports reported this evening that UVM Coach Mike Lonergan is a finalist for the coaching vacancy at George Mason. The other finalist, Bill Courtney -- head coach at Cornell -- has stronger ties to George Mason, having helped departing Coach Jim Larranaga build George Mason into a mid-major powerhouse. If you think "mid-major powerhouse" is an oxymoron, you may be right, but if it does in fact exist, George Mason helped that term become a reality with their amazing run to the 2006 Final Four. Larranaga left Mason a couple of days ago to become the head coach at the University of Miami, a decision that must have come down to money. I mean, honestly, who wants to coach the Hurricanes?

Why would Lonergan make sense at George Mason? He was born and raised in the Washington, D.C. area, which happens to be where George Mason is located. He won the NCAA Division III National Championship coaching the Catholic University of America, which is in D.C. He moved on to be an assistant coach at the neighboring University of Maryland in 2004, before joining the coaching staff at UVM shortly thereafter. You would imagine Lonergan and his family like Washington D.C.

The decision on who will fill the coaching vacancy will probably be made within the next couple of days, so we will keep our eyes on that. Some part of me thinks Lonergan really enjoys being at UVM, but I suppose that's what every naive college fan of a small school thinks until their coach up and leaves.

Who would be a good fit to fill Lonergan's shoes if he did leave? Here's my list:

Phil Jackson
Rudy Tomjanovich
John Thompson Jr.


I will create a real list if Lonergan actually does leave. Until then, I will continue to believe our coach is staying.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Houston, We Have a Contract

Marqus Blakely signed a three year, non-guaranteed contract with the Houston Rockets early yesterday morning. Blakely immediately flew into Minneapolis for the Rockets season finale so that he could, well, ride the bench for the evening. What does this all mean? It means at least one NBA team, and probably others, are interested in Blakely's future services. Does it mean we can expect to see him in a Rockets uniform next year? Absolutely not.

Blakely-- who is attempting to become the first UVM alumnus to play in an NBA game -- would need to make the Rocket's fifteen man squad at the end of next season's training camp for his contract to become solidified. This is the same deal that Blakely faced toward the end of training camp last summer, with the Los Angeles Clippers. He was the last man cut by the Clippers and played the 2010-11 season with the Bakersfield Jam and Iowa Energy of the NBDL.

It is significant that the Rockets made this decision just before their season came to a close (they finished ninth in the West at 43-39, so they will not be in the playoffs): it means they want Marqus to be working out with other Houston players this summer. This could help him impress his peers and coaches and give him an advantage over potential summer signees he will be competing against for a spot on the team in preseason camp.

One reason we shouldn't get too excited about seeing Blakely in a Rocket's jersey next season is due to the impending NBA lockout. Personally, I have trouble believing there will not be an NBA season played next year. I have a similar amount of trouble believing there will not be an NFL season next year. But people who know what they're talking about more so I seem to think there will be a lockout, so I'll give them the benefit of the doubt.

Meanwhile, Marqus Blakely and his devout followers will await the day we can finally don an NBA jersey with his name on the back. Now that will be some sweet stuff.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Marqus Blakely: Your Neighborhood Glass Cleaner

All Marqus Blakely did in 28 minutes of action last night was pull down 13 boards -- 6 of them offensive -- and score 15 points. Last night was the first game of the playoffs for Marqus' team, the Iowa Energy, who go into the NBDL playoffs as the top seed in the Eastern Conference. I cannot explain why this means they play the fifth seed in the Western Conference (the Utah Flash), but I'm sure there is a (not so) good reason. Trying to figure out the NBDL playoff system is kind of like trying to figure out why VCU made the NCAA tournament this year. Wait... they went to the Final Four? Seriously??!! Okay, bad example. But seriously, the NBDL playoff system makes zero sense. Two teams from the Eastern Conference made the playoffs while six from the Western Conference made it. And then it would appear random seeds play each other. Why have conferences?

Regardless, Blakely's passionate performance helped spark the Energy to a 103-96 road victory over the Flash to take a 1-0 lead in the best of three series. The next two games are Monday and Tuesday (if necessary) in Iowa.

Marqus also converted a nice alley-oop dunk at the start of the second quarter, which is always fun to see. Blakely was on the receiving end of that "didn't-you-learn-how-to-defend-this-backdoor-alley-oop-when-you-were-in-high-school" play which seems to work at every level of basketball for some reason. Let's just say he converted.

You can see highlights of the game here. That link leads to a website, NBA Futurecast, where you can actually watch all of the NBDL's games live and for free. I just found that out for myself this week and have enjoyed keeping up with Marqus via games being broadcast online.

Monday, April 4, 2011

Vermont Hung With The Top Dogs

As Jim Nantz inflicted us with his latest cheesy declaration of the college basketball season coming to a close -- this year it was "UConn is Top Dog in 2011" -- Vermont fans had to be thinking about a game that took place nearly five months ago. On November 17th, the Catamounts led the 2011 national champion Connecticut Huskies 36-33 at the half. They would go on to lose the game 89-73 thanks to Kemba Walker's 42 points (a career high, and likely to remain just that when he enters the draft in the next twelve minutes or so).

Vermont, or any other team from Divisions I-III would have had a good chance at beating Butler tonight, as UConn did. The Bulldogs shot an absurd 12-64 from the field in the national championship game. That is futility that will be remembered for a very long time, unfortunately. Butler was an exciting team to watch throughout the month of March, but tonight was absolutely excruciating. Their big men looked like Muggsy Bogues vs. Manute Bol in the paint. Their guards tried their best to imitate T.J. Sorrentine every time down the floor. It was a disappointing outcome all around. And assuming Butler does not make another crazy run in March anytime soon, it will be a bad way to remember a team that gave inspiration to mid-majors everywhere during two straight NCAA tournaments.

Meanwhile, the Catamounts watched from Burlington, considering the next time they might see a Vermont jersey during the annual version of "One Shining Moment".

For a reminder on what that looks like, we go to the tape: