Men’s or Women’s NCAA basketball championship, which is more compelling?

UConn senior guard Shabazz Napier (l) and his head coach Kevin Ollie (r) hope to continue the school's winning tradition on Monday night.

UConn senior guard Shabazz Napier (l) and his head coach Kevin Ollie (r) hope to continue the school’s winning tradition on Monday night.

By Charles Glover, Jr.

On Monday night the Kentucky Wildcats will take on the Connecticut Huskies in the Men’s National Championship. On Tuesday night the Notre Dame Fighting Irish will challenge the Connecticut Lady Huskies in the Women’s National Championship. Both games have intriguing stories that are sure to make the matchups entertaining.

The Kentucky Wildcats freshman Julius Randle (l) and Aaron Harrison (r) will attempt to lead  the school to their second title in 3 years.

The Kentucky Wildcats freshman Julius Randle (l) and Aaron Harrison (r) will attempt to lead the school to their second title in 3 years.

The men’s championship features two schools that have been very successful over the past fifteen years, yet neither team made the NCAA tournament last year. Kentucky features five freshmen, led by forward Julius Randle and guard Aaron Harrison. Harrison has become known for his late game heroics in this tournament. When asked about his confidence late in games he expressed, “You can’t be scared to miss…you want to be the guy that makes all the big shots.”

Connecticut is led by senior guard Shabazz Napier, a member of the 2011 National Championship team which was led by current Bobcat Kemba Walker. Napier displayed confidence in his team as he proclaimed, “We believe in each other and continue to believe…we are going to win. That is what we do.” On the sidelines, Kentucky’s coach John Calipari will be seeking his second national title in three attempts. Meanwhile, Kevin Ollie is in only his second season as a head coach and is already demonstrating his ability to lead the Huskies through difficult situations.

Notre Dame's senior guard Kayla McBride (c) attempts to lead her school to their second ever national title on Tuesday night.

Notre Dame’s senior guard Kayla McBride (c) attempts to lead her school to their second ever national title on Tuesday night.

The women’s championship features two schools that have been among the best over the past several years. Notre Dame gained national exposure when it was led over previous years by Skylar Diggins. However, this year’s team was led by recently injured senior forward Natalie Achonwa and senior guard Kayla McBride. Both players have been members of Notre Dame teams that have defeated UConn several times over the past few season but not in the NCAA tournament. UConn is looking to repeat as champions and win a record ninth national title. Led by junior forward Breanna Stewart, the Lady Huskies are likely to be favored to win as they have championship experience and their main contributors are healthy.

Breanna Stewart will be leaned heavily upon to lead UConn to their record ninth national championship.

Breanna Stewart will be leaned heavily upon to lead UConn to their record ninth national championship.

The University of Connecticut is looking to make history as they can achieve a feat only once completed before (in 2004) in having both the men’s and women’s team win the national title in the same year. Both teams are aware of their unique opportunity. As Lady Huskies guard Bria Hartley describes, “Our men are excited for us and we’re doing the same for them…both teams worked hard this year.” Interestingly, the University of Louisville had a chance to accomplish this feat last year but was unsuccessful. Yet another intriguing reason to watch both national championship games.–OnPointPress.net

Charles Glover, Jr. is a sports aficionado and a management training consultant. Follow me @OpenWindowMES on Twitter.com.

Rooney Rule needed to diversify college coaching ranks

The Texas Longhorns announce the hiring of Charlie Strong for head coach Monday Jan. 6, 2014.

Charlie Strong smiles at the announcement that he is  the new head coach of the Texas Longhorns.

By Charles Glover, Jr.

Within a week of Charlie Strong, who is African-American, leaving the Louisville Cardinals head coaching job for the highly regarded head coaching position at the University of Texas, the Cardinals now have their replacement: Bobby Petrino. Petrino, despite his baggage, returns to Louisville, the place of his first head coaching opportunity. Lost in the conversation about both Strong and Petrino is the bigger issue: College football still has a very low number of African-American head coaches, although most of the players are African-American.

It seems as if a Rooney Rule is needed in college football to even the playing field and make it mandatory for African-American and other minorities to be considered seriously for head coaching jobs and given adequate resources and time to succeed when they are hired. At the beginning of the 2013 college football season, there were 13 African-American head coaches out of 120 FBS (Football Bowl Subdivision, formerly called Division I-A) universities. While it is reported that Louisville interviewed one its African-American position coaches for the top job, it seems as if the interview was a formality and that Petrino was their first choice all along.

Stanford head coach David Shaw has a successful 34 - 7 records over 3 seasons.

Stanford head coach David Shaw has a successful 34 – 7 record over 3 seasons.

The first major disparity in diversity is the small number of first chances given for head coaching opportunities to African-Americans. Some schools hire African-American coaches in various levels of the coaching hierarchy but are reluctant to appoint them at the highest levels. The next obstacle African-American coaches face is getting a second chance at head coach. To date, Tyrone Willingham is the only African-American head coach to be hired after being previously fired. The third glaring difference is African-American coaches have a hard time receiving support from university boosters, who donate millions of dollars annually to their alma maters. As universities continue to receive healthy contributions from millionaires and billionaires, it will be interesting to see how many Athletic Directors eschew negative booster input about African-American candidates in the future. The Stanford Cardinals’ success (34 wins – 7 losses in 3 full seasons) following the promotion of David Shaw to head coach, stands as a model that demonstrates schools can maintain success with first time African-American head coaches.

In the meantime, the Texas Longhorns’ hiring of Strong has been met mostly with positive skepticism. Although it is acknowledged that Strong is qualified to improve the Texas program, questions have been raised about his personality and demeanor. A senior ESPN writer states in his article on the hire, “the two coaches who won national championships at Texas, Darrell Royal and Mack Brown, possessed the back slapping, shoulder-rubbing personalities that kept a lot of rich, powerful people at bay.” As a result, the rich and powerful did not interfere with coaching decisions but with Strong being more reserved the suggestion is that his demeanor will invite all types of outside interference. So despite Strong getting the top job, he is still being placed under a microscope even before he has a chance to get acclimated to the job.

 

Successful businessman and Texas booster Red McCombs was outspoken about the hire of Charlie Strong this week.

Successful businessman and Texas booster Red McCombs was outspoken about the hiring of Charlie Strong this week, implying that Strong’s hiring is a mistake.

This assessment almost seemed prophetic because a day after that article was published, (1/6/14) billionaire Red McCombs, one of the Longhorns’ most prominent boosters, expressed ‘concern” over the Charlie Strong hire. Concern might be putting it mildly, however. The former San Antonio Spurs, Denver Nuggets, and Minnesota Vikings owner expressed in an interview on ESPN Radio that he views the hire as “a kick in the face.” McCombs continued to dismiss Strong’s impressive resume and claims that Strong could “make a great position coach, maybe a coordinator.” McCombs, who has donated over $100 million to Texas and bears his name on the Texas University business school, is likely joined with some fellow boosters in his negative view of Strong. However, other public statements have been supportive of the new head coach and his track record speaks positively for the great impact he is poised to have at the University of Texas.

Bobby Petrino returns to the Louisville Cardinals as their head coach.

Bobby Petrino returns to the Louisville Cardinals as their head coach, despite his heavy baggage.

Strong’s former school, Louisville, decided to replace him with the man who previously left them for another job shortly after assuring them he was staying. Petrino has had plenty of success as a college head coach, amassing an 83 – 30 win-loss record over his coaching career. If it weren’t for his character flaws and the circumstances under which he left Louisville in the first place, the hire would likely be unanimously supported.

Those who have followed Petrino’s career have seen him taint his on field success with enigmatic decisions such as quitting on his team mid-season and trying to cover up a motorcycle accident with his mistress on board. The Cardinals are making the statement by hiring him a second time that winning is the most important factor at their program. Louisville’s athletic director said that he is adamant in his desire to make the Cardinals’ football head coach position a “destination job.” It remains to be seen what else comes along with Bobby Petrino as he makes the Cardinals program his next destination.

College football continues to see advances that were previously thought to be unimaginable. The Heisman Trophy has been awarded to redshirt freshmen in consecutive years. Hopefully, Charlie Strong and David Shaw convince decision makers that African-American head coaches can have continued success–OnPointPress.net–

Charles Glover, Jr. is a sports aficionado and management training consultant. Follow me @OpenWindowMES on Twitter.com.

Sports memories of 2013

LeBron James continues to prove he is the best basketball player on the planet as he wins the NBA Championship and  Finals MVP in consecutive years.

LeBron James continues to prove he is the best basketball player on the planet as he wins the NBA Championship and Finals MVP in consecutive years.

By Charles Glover, Jr.

Every year has a unique sports identity and 2013 had a number of trends that immediately come to mind. This year the sports world treated us to fantastic moments like a Super Bowl that was decided in the final minutes and thrilling plays throughout a seven-game series in the NBA Finals. Game 6 of the NBA Finals might be viewed as the game of the year as it provided us with scintillating plays all the way to the end.

Ray Allen (r) makes what might be the play of the year in 2013 as he drills a 3 pointer to tie Game 6 in the final seconds of regulation over Tony Parker (c) and Kawhi Leonard (l).

Ray Allen (r) makes what might be the play of the year in 2013 as he drills a 3-pointer to tie Game 6 in the final seconds of regulation over Tony Parker (c) and Kawhi Leonard (l).

We also witnessed serious tragedy in sports, headlined by the bombings near the finish line of the Boston Marathon. While there was something memorable about the different sporting events throughout 2013, there were some trends that connected the various sports.

 

Derek Jeter (l) and Kobe Bryant (r) are hoping to fully recover from their injuries and have a much better 2014.

Derek Jeter (l) and Kobe Bryant (r) are hoping to fully recover from their injuries and have a much better 2014.

Superstar injuries: 2013 was a year in which some of the biggest names in sports spent a great deal of time on the injured list. Derek Jeter, Kobe Bryant, Derrick Rose, Rob Gronkowski, Matt Harvey, Robert Griffin III, Matt Kemp, Rajon Rondo, Arian Foster and Russell Westbrook were just several of the many All-Star caliber players  who suffered lengthy injuries this calendar year. Adrian Peterson has altered the perception of the impact of some of these injuries as he returned in record time to win the 2012-13 National Football League (NFL) MVP award after tearing the ACL in his knee at the end of the 2011-12 season. It is becoming apparent that Peterson’s recovery was exceptional and that it seems unreasonable to expect any athlete to return to action and be better than they were before the injury.

 

Serena Williams raises her title as she continues her dominance at the U.S. Open.

Serena Williams raises her title as she continues her dominance at the U.S. Open.

Elite performances by the elite performers: The 2013 calendar year was tremendous for the best players in almost every sport. Peyton Manning set NFL records for quarterback in the 2013-14 season en route to a likely fifth MVP award. Miguel Cabrera proved to be the best offensive player in Major League Baseball (MLB), winning the American League (AL) MVP award for the second consecutive season. Serena Williams and Rafael Nadal each won two out of four Grand Slam titles this year on the tennis tour. Tiger Woods reclaimed his position as the number one ranked golfer in the world while winning five tournaments in 2013. Perhaps no performance stands out more than LeBron James capturing his second consecutive National Basketball Association (NBA) Finals MVP award and fourth league MVP award this year as he led the Miami Heat to back-to-back championships.

 

Mariano Rivera was classy as he watched the mess that is New York sports crumble around him,.

Mariano Rivera was classy as he watched the mess that is New York sports crumble around him.

Tough year in New York sports: The Yankees and Mets both faced numerous injuries to key players and failed to make the postseason this year. The Yankees had to watch their rivals the Boston Red Sox win another title. They also have to try to cope with the retirement of legend Mariano Rivera, the loss of their best offensive player Robinson Cano, the unavailability of currently suspended, scandal-plagued player Alex Rodriguez while hoping that Derek Jeter is going to be healthy and productive all season. The Giants and Jets both had mediocre seasons and will be watching the upcoming NFL playoffs from home, missing the chance to play in the Super Bowl which will be played in their hometown. Both football teams will likely make numerous player changes as they look to rebound next year. The Knicks and Nets are off to painfully slow starts to the 2013-14 NBA season. Any talk about NBA championship contention for either team seems extremely far-fetched as both teams have a long way to go just to make the playoffs this year.

 

2013 Boston Marathon participants are emotional wrecks as they witness copious innocent people injured on the street.

2013 Boston Marathon participants are emotional wrecks as they witness copious innocent people injured on the street.

Sporting world’s negative headlines: The two bombs that exploded during the Boston Marathon on April 15, 2013 may be the most unfortunately memorable event that took place in sports. With approximately 264 people injured and 3 spectators killed that day, the tragedy unfolded slowly over the next few days after the marathon as the manhunt, shootout with one alleged perpetrator and eventual capture of the other alleged perpetrators played out on television like harrowing scenes from the FOX Network show 24.

Many were surprised to witness Aaron Hernandez being arrested in connection with a murder shortly before the start of the NFL season.

Many were surprised to witness Aaron Hernandez being arrested in connection with a murder shortly before the start of the NFL season.

2013 was also witness to the arrest for murder and gun charges of former New England Patriots tight end Aaron Hernandez. Hernandez is currently imprisoned as he awaits trial for the serious charges. The Miami Dolphins sparked greater debates about bullying in athletics as news surfaced about Jonathan Martin walking away from the team after alleging that he was bullied by teammates, specifically Richie Incognito. The NFL is still investigating this matter. Meanwhile, Heisman Trophy winner Jameis Winston was able to perform on the field while being investigated by local Florida prosecutors after he was accused of sexually assaulting a female who also attends Florida State. The prosecutor’s decision to not pursue charges against Winston still raised questions about whether some athletes get special treatment from law enforcement as the attorney for the accuser remains adamant that her client was violated. At the same time, Winston consistently asserted that his encounter with the accuser was consensual and that he “did nothing wrong.”

The Louisville Cardinals honor injured teammate Kevin Ware as they celebrate winning the National Championship in college basketball.

The Louisville Cardinals honor injured teammate Kevin Ware as they celebrate winning the National Championship in college basketball.

2013 was quite an eventful and memorable sports year. Kevin Ware breaking his leg during the NCAA men’s college basketball tournament was a gruesome sight but provided the impetus to propel the Louisville Cardinals to the national title. College football’s Nick Saban, coach of the Alabama Crimson Tide and Women’s college basketball’s Geno Auriemma of the Connecticut Huskies proved to be the dominant coaches in their sports as they led their teams to another national title.

Ray Lewis' last game in the NFL ended with him holding the Lombardi Trophy as the Baltimore Ravens were victorious.

Ray Lewis’ last game in the NFL ended with him holding the Lombardi Trophy as the Baltimore Ravens were victorious.

The Minnesota Lynx (WNBA) and Miami Heat (NBA) won championships in 2013 and have been in the finals each of the last three years. “Big Papi” David Ortiz led the Boston Red Sox through the post season again to win the World Series over the St. Louis Cardinals. Meanwhile, Ray Lewis was able to retire on top as the Baltimore Ravens pulled out a narrow victory over the San Francisco 49ers. With the Winter Olympics in Russia and World Cup in Brazil (for which the U.S. team was placed in the Group of Death) on docket, 2014 seems poised to garner even more interest than 2013 did in the sports world.–OnPointPress.net–

Charles Glover, Jr. is a sports aficionado and management training consultant. Follow me @OpenWindowMES on Twitter.com.