The New Coach

April 15th, 2015
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I guess there has been lots of radio talk show and blog comments about the coaching decision made by the Chancellor based on the recommendation of the incoming AD and his committee. I do not intend to get involved in that discussion ( see my response to my "Its Duke" blog) other than to say I know how hard Dave Matlin worked in Indy to get a coach quickly so that the coach could hit the ground running in a timely fashion.

There were many good applicants and several ' finalists", including Benji. After all the interviews and due diligence, Eran was selected. A disclaimer from me. Eran has been my friend since he coached here. I think he is a great choice. I also wish Benji the best wherever he winds up. The reality is that coaches come and go, but we all need to get behind the program.

The early signs are that the players are all staying and that is great news. With losing only one Senior, and even with a late start on recruiting, UH has the talent to compete with the top teams in the league next season. Yes there are roadblocks ahead including The NCAA investigation and the self-imposed and possible NCAA sanctions, possible academic issues including APR , and as mentioned, a slow start on recruiting. But the future is bright. We have a young, talented, enthusiastic head coach who has been at one of the Country's top mid majors for the past several years who has coached here and knows and loves Hawaii.

Eran will be live in the studio tonight on Hoopstalk. I hope he will get to answer some of your questions. Its been a whirlwind few days for the new coach. He needs to pick a staff, find a home, bond with the players, get our on the road to recruit, etc, etc.  I have said all along that the UH men's basketball job is a coveted one. Eran knows that. With all of our support, the program will survive and prosper.

And I would remiss if I didn't say what a relief it is that Coach Beeman is staying.. I am sure it was not an easy choice for Laura, but our Women's basketball program is on the rise both on the Court and at the gate. I cant wait for the season to start anew.

 

Jeff Portnoy is a member of the UH Board of Regents. The views expressed here are his and do not reflect those of the board.

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It's Duke

April 6th, 2015
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Boy I am glad my heart won out over my brain. Down eight midway thru the second half,  the Devils showed grit and no freshman jitters as they pulled away down the stretch to capture Coach's K 5th Championship. Is there any doubt that he is the greatest coach since Wooden. There really cant be.

This is a team that starts 3 freshmen and has only 8 players. They beat a veteran Wisconsin team that looked like they would win the first basketball National Championship since 1941. It was not to be. Time for me to join my fellow Dukies and celebrate. It will be a long nite with an early morning flight back ahead of me.

More on Hoopstalk weds night

 

Jeff Portnoy is a member of the UH Board of Regents. The views expressed here are his and do not reflect those of the board.

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Three minutes to play

April 6th, 2015
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It's the game everybody expected. with a little over  three minutes to go, its Duke by 1. it will be an incredible finish. the difference right now is a 8 point advantage for Duke at the line. Duke still with only 5 fouls and Wisconsin already at 10

Jeff Portnoy is a member of the UH Board of Regents. The views expressed here are his and do not reflect those of the board.

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At the Half

April 6th, 2015
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well what a half. the teams are tied at 31. As expected, the Badgers are led by Kaminsky and Decker, Duke by Winslow and Okafor, with complimentary scoring by assorted others on both teams. Duke is shooting 50%, Wisconsin only 39%, but the Badgers have made three more "3's" on only 4-11 from outside the arc. Duke has only attempted 4 threes and made only 1 ( remember my keys to the game). Interestingly, Wisconsin has been bad from the line, making only 3 of 7, while Duke is a perfect 4-4( another key). The Badgers are controlling the boards, but Duke has 5 blocks.

So its anybody's game. No real trends in half number one.

But perhaps the big news is that a few minutes into the game, the NCAA tapped me on my shoulder, asked if I was from the Honolulu paper, and moved to a front row courtside seat next to the NY Times. Unbelievable. I am in the corner about 20 feet from the actual playing surface. Only Jim Nance and a few others have a better seat.

 

Jeff Portnoy is a member of the UH Board of Regents. The views expressed here are his and do not reflect those of the board.

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40 minutes to tip off.

April 6th, 2015
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and so the game is finally here. The town is awash in Red. So is the stadium. and most importantly to Wisconsin fans, so are the bars. You occasionally see some Duke Blue, but they are few and far between.

The day has been spent talking to folks, going to the NCAA museum to see 60 years of NCAA Final Four pictures, and going to the US Basketball Writers award luncheon ( yes I am a member). Hanging out with Duke friends from my law school days has been fun. But none of that matters tonight.

The Duke folks are VERY optimistic. I must say I am less so. It will be a home game for the Badgers, and as I have said before , they are a mature, disciplined, and very relaxed team. Duke will have to shoot well as I don't think they can penetrate against the Badger frontline like they did so easily against Michigan State.

Duke beat Wisconsin by ten in Wisconsin early in the year. On one hand Wisconsin Dekker played with an injury, but on the other hand the Duke Freshmen had only played a few games together. They are now playing like upperclassmen.

I predicted a Duke-Wisconsin Final at the beginning of the Tournament with Wisconsin winning the Final game. I hope I am wrong.

Jeff Portnoy is a member of the UH Board of Regents. The views expressed here are his and do not reflect those of the board.

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A Sea Of Red

April 6th, 2015
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Sunday was, as usual, a day of concerts, touring, and for many, drinking as the games took a day off.

The town is awash in Red as thousands of Wisconsin fans have taken over the the town replacing the Blue of Kentucky. Its only a few hour drive to Indy from Madison, and I expect that the Stadium will be 70% Badger fans tonight. It wont be as bad for the Duke fans as it was 5 years ago when they played Butler in a memorable final, but very few folks like Duke anyway.

Yesterday I spent lunch time at a high roller Duke alumni event ( as a guest). It was at the home of a Duke alumnus. Well I call it a home, but really what it was is a several acre estate with its own lake and a separate building with its own indoor basketball court where the reception was held. It is Indiana as you know.

Went to some of the outdoor free concerts they have been having all weekend. Saw Lady Antebellum. They were great. Did not stick around for the Zac Brown band. The park where the concert was held is just across from my hotel. There were several thousand in attendance and, in fact, the police had to close off the venue.

Last night was the " try to find a restaurant night. I was lucky and got into the famous Indianapolis steak house St Elmo. Every coach in town makes it there at sometime during the weekend.

Tonight its back to basketball and what a game it should be. Two number ones for the first time in years, and two teams playing their best basketball. The Duke contingent is very optimistic, and as Dukie, I see a real opportunity for Coach K to win it again in Indy ( he has won it twice here before). But candidly, I picked Wisconsin to win it all back in the beginning of the Tournament, and I am not changing my pick now. They are a Senior dominated team with two great players, and I think Kaminsky will neutralize Okafor which will mean Duke will have to hit threes to win. They were only 2-1o Saturday. I don't think Duke will be able to drive to the hoop as easily as they did against Michigan State, and if it comes to free throws, Wisconsin has the edge. Winslow against Decker, however, is the key. I think Winslow is quicker and has the body to contain Decker, but it seems to me Decker is on a mission along with his team-mates as Wisconsin hasn't been National Champs in basketball since Pearl Harbor.

As usual, many of the coaches have already left town. Not many stick around for the Championship  game as there is last minute recruiting to do and the coaches convention is over. The ticket market was in full force Saturday after the Kentucky loss and continues. The NCAA is getting in on the action with an " official" ticket exchange, but commerce continues strong in hotel lobbies and every street corner. I am told scalping is legal everywhere but around the Stadium. With the throng of Wisconsin fans in town, I would guess the ticket price for a good seat tonight is not cheap. You can always sit in the nose bleed section and watch the game on the big screens. My seat? Well I am in the first media row in the corner right behind the students in the first level off the floor. Not great, but better than 80% of the seats. Not complaining.

So my heart says Duke. My brain says Wisconsin. I cant lose. In Vegas, its an pickem game, but some sports books have either Duke or Wisconsin as 1 point favorites.

By the way, lots of talk here about the comments uttered by Andrew Harrison about Frank Kaminsky. For those who don't know what I am talking about,  Harrison of Kentucky, who is black, is alleged to have called  Kaminsky , of Wisconsin, who is very White,  a ***N*** under his breath at the postgame press conference Saturday night. Apparently it was picked up by an open microphone. I must be getting old as I was right there and never heard it. Anyway, he has " apologized", but it will not go away.  Need a little controversy at every Final four to go along with the Basketball.

 

 

 

Jeff Portnoy is a member of the UH Board of Regents. The views expressed here are his and do not reflect those of the board.

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On Wisconsin

April 4th, 2015
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There won't be a 39-0 team this year. Wisconsin has slain the monster.

Kentucky, after taking a 4 point lead late, went into a stall which led to three consecutive 35 second violations. And then Wisconsin's poise, senior leadership and free throw shooting was all she wrote. What a game and what an upset to some, but not to me.

I told you Kentucky could be beat by a smart, disciplined team, and it happened. Notre Dame exposed this Kentucky team. And how. What a scene right now in the Stadium.

Frank Kaminsky showed why he is the National Player of the Year, and Decker proved a worthy colleague. This Wisconsin team is all you can want in a college basketball team. And a Duke-Wisconsin final has the two best teams playing. Two number 1's for the first time in 7 years.

 

Duke has already  beaten Wisconsin earlier this year.  Both of these teams are playing great basketball. And I wont have to listen to the legion of Wildcat fans who as I write are getting in their cars to drive back to Kentucky.

Four Badgers in double figures. Clutch free throw shooting. and a very questionable strategy by the Coach of the Year means there will once again not be an undefeated team in College basketball. Its fitting that in Indianapolis, The last undefeated team ( Indiana) sees its record survive. What a game.

Jeff Portnoy is a member of the UH Board of Regents. The views expressed here are his and do not reflect those of the board.

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I told you Duke ( and by more than 5)

April 4th, 2015
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Duke just outmanned the Spartans. At times it looked like men against boys. Michigan State had no answer for the guards who penetrated at will and for Okafor who dominated inside. Duke beat the Spartans in every element of the game except three point shooting ( State wasn't all that good from there either), Duke made layup after layup or got fouled. It was truly a dominating performance.

Michigan started quickly making three quick threes, but it was all Duke all the time thereafter. The Dukies had a 20 point lead more than once in the second half, but the Spartans didn't quit ( what do you expect from a Tom Izzo coached team). But Duke kept getting fouled and several Michigan State players played through out the second half in foul trouble.

Several of Duke's baskets came after spectacular passes.  Justin Winslow was unstoppable, and   Quinn Cook, the loan Duke senior, had a memorable game. Duke did not need to shoot from beyond three feet for most of the night ( except from the line), as State played like a 7th seed most of the night and Duke like a 1. For the Spartans, their big men had no answer for Duke's inside game, but give credit to Denzel Valentine who lead the Spartans with 20 plus points.

So its on to Game 2. I am still going with Wisconsin. Can I actually be right twice. We'll see.

 

 

Jeff Portnoy is a member of the UH Board of Regents. The views expressed here are his and do not reflect those of the board.

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two hours to game time.

April 4th, 2015
By

The Stadium doors have opened and folks are slowly drifting in. The ticket buyers and sellers are out in force with lower court tickets going for several thousand. Not a surprise when you figure Kentucky is only a few hours drive away and Wisconsin and Michigan State within reasonable driving distance'

It has been a beautiful early Spring day here in Indy. Started the day at the Jewish coaches breakfast at Indy's deli, Shapiro's. Yes there are Jewish basketball coaches at all levels. There are even some head coached like Pastner at Memphis , Pearl at Auburn, and Shyatt at Wyoming. More than 100 folks at the breakfast, including media folks Doug Gottlieb and Seth Greenberg.

Then the Duke pep rally. Several thousand in attendance. Each school had a similar event. Earlier I ran into former Syracuse assistant coach Bernie Fine. We all know the story ( or at least what some folks believe). Bernie told me that Syracuse great Louis Orr's son is transferring to HPU . Chancey Orr played at Bowling Green part of last season and left for "personal reasons".

Also met with former Wichita State, Vanderbilt and South Carolina head coach Eddie Fogler who retired from coaching some years ago. He now advises Universities on basketball coaching search matters, although he is not involved in the UH job search

Now the games. Most people pick Duke to beat Michigan State , with more than a few predicting Duke will beat the 5 point spread. I am biased, but I Like Duke's chances. Okafor will have to play better than he did in the regionals where he looked tired, and the Duke Freshman guards will have to hit threes and play like upperclassmen. Michigan State is on a run, and you can never count out a Tom Izzo senior dominated team led by Travis Trice. Duke beat State early in the season ,but these are both different teams in April. Duke wants to slow down the Tempo and Michigan State wants to run. Rebounding will be key to what style will dominate.

The second game is the game most of America is waiting for. The undefeated Wildcats against the Badgers. I like Wisconsin. I think Notre Dame showed that a smart, disciplined,  good shooting team can overcome Kentucky's skill, talent and depth. This Wisconsin team has not forgotten last year's Final Four loss to Kentucky, but I realize Kentucky remembers its loss to UCONN in the final. But Wisconsin is led by talented seniors and Decker will be the key even though Frank Kaminsky is the Div 1 player of the year. Kentucky's defense has been awesome in this Tournament, but the Badgers shot the lights out in the second half against Arizona'

So I am predicting a Duke-Wisconsin final. How likely is I?. Probably not so likely. My guess is CBS is wanting Duke-Kentucky, The ratings for that game would be off the chart. We'll see in about six hours.

 

 

 

Jeff Portnoy is a member of the UH Board of Regents. The views expressed here are his and do not reflect those of the board.

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Day 1-The "Calm" Before the Storm

April 3rd, 2015
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its been cloudy and cool here in Indy today, but it hasn't stopped thousands of fans from attending the Fan Fest and watching team practices at Lucas Oil Stadium. It never fails to amaze me how many folks will come out to watch the teams " practice", My guess is that there were at least 15 to 20,000 thousand. Maybe because its free.

This afternoon I attended the Reese Div 1 All-Star game which I usually avoid. But this year the West squad had two Big West players on it in Alan Williams and Cory Hawkins, each of whom played very well. Its fun to watch Seniors play the game.

I talked to several coaches today, and not surprisingly, some wanted to talk about things at UH, including the coaching search . Just a lot of interest.  In fact I was fortunate to talk to Coach K and his wife Micki who I have known since I first hosted Duke in the late 80's. ( sorry he did not express interest in the job).

Speaking of Duke, I saw a great t-shirt on a Kentucky fan. It said " I still hate Laettner, a reference to the greatest play in NCAA Tournament history ( my opinion). Folks here talking about a Kentucky-Duke rematch, but I wouldn't count out either Wisconsin or Michigan State.

There is something different about this Final Four. Riley is not here. He has been a fixture along with Larry Little and others for years. Larry , as many of you know, passed away several weeks ago, and Riley is recovering from his stroke. I spoke to him on the phone and he sounds strong and optimistic that he will be back next year.

One person who is here is incoming AD Dave Matlin. He arrived very early this morning and I would guess he is attempting to sift thru the coaching applications and set up interviews with coaches who may be here. As always, there is a lot of basketball business that goes on off the court, and this year UH is in the mix. I haven't seen Benji, but I believe he is here as well

Tomorrow is in my view the greatest day in Sports. Better than the Super Bowl and even Monday's Championship game. In fact many of the coaches leave on Sunday. Four teams and all their fans will rock the Stadium. I have been to prior Final Fours in Indy and once before in the new Stadium. I don't think there is a better place for this event ( ok, New Orleans is in the mix).

Next blog tomorrow, hopefully after a Duke win ( I know, I am supposed to be impartial, but it is my blog)

 

Jeff Portnoy is a member of the UH Board of Regents. The views expressed here are his and do not reflect those of the board.

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