Monthly Archives: April 2009

Sun Belt coaching thoughts

So by now every major media outlet knows what and where Florida International is with the addition of Isiah Thomas as their new head coach. Thomas doesn’t have a sterling reputation recently in coaching, but since that was in the NBA, maybe being at a program with a lot of great talent (i.e. Sun Belt freshman of the year Freddy Asprilla) and the potential to go somewhere with it will cause him to succeed. Basically, he can’t run the team into the ground worse than they already are, given five straight losing seasons and only one NCAA Tournament bid in the program’s history.

Recently, the Sun Belt has made a lot of great coaching additions. Obviously, WKU coach Ken McDonald made a splash as a rookie head coach, but with former St. John’s coach Mike Jarvis taking over at Florida Atlantic and former LSU coach (and Final Four participant) John Brady becoming the head man at Arkansas State, the Sun Belt is starting to look promising.

It’ll be interesting to see how well Thomas does. Look for more on this topic later.

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Coming to a Sun Belt arena near you: Isiah Thomas?

Yes, you read that right, and now ESPN.com is reporting that it’s pretty much a done deal for the former Pistons star and New York Knicks coach to become the next head coach at Florida International.

FIU fired Sergio Rouco yesterday, after he went 55-94 in five years at the helm of the Panthers.

We’ll have more on this and how it could affect the Sun Belt later today.

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Baseball news and notes

Some notes as the Toppers head into the last five weeks of the baseball season:

– Sophomore catcher Matt Rice went 5-for-13 in last weekend’s sweep of New Orleans, extending his hitting streak to 29 games, a Western record. If the streak continues, he could match the Sun Belt Conference record of 34 games in next Wednesday’s game against Eastern Kentucky and break it at home against Florida Atlantic on April 24.

A few weeks ago, coach Chris Finwood said, “We’ve always known Matt Rice would be a good hitter– he just needs to get his at-bats.” So far, Rice has the most at-bats on the team (141), and he’s made the most of them. He’s got a team-best .418 batting average and 59 hits, with 20 of those being extra-base hits.

– Though Middle Tennessee State is projected to finish eighth in the SBC, the Blue Raiders are sitting at 13-5 in the conference, a game and a half behind Western. MTSU closes the season with series against Louisiana Monroe (fourth), at South Alabama (ninth), and at Troy (third) before hosting a season-ending series against Western.

The Toppers, on the other hand, will travel to Arkansas State (seventh), then face Florida Atlantic (eighth) and Arkansas-Little Rock (10th) at home before going to Murfreesboro.

When senior shortstop Terrence Dayleg and junior third baseman Wade Gaynor were asked about a series that they had circled on their schedules, Dayleg started to answer, but Gaynor grinned and said, “No, I got this one. (Junior pitcher) Matt Ridings and I were just talking about this.”

He mentioned the MTSU series before saying that the team has to take care of business in the three series before they meet the Blue Raiders.

“We have nine games coming up, our next three series, where we feel very confident going in,” he said. “Those are really important.”

Dayleg downplayed the importance of individual games or series, saying no fewer than six times that “every game counts”.

But Finwood mentioned the Blue Raiders as well: “Of course you never know what can happen, but the way it’s shaping up, looks like that last weekend at Middle’s going to be a big one, which is great. They’ve got a heck of a ball club, and good thing, so do we. I like our chances.”

– The Toppers are now 20-1 at Nick Denes Field, with the only loss coming on March 3 to Belmont. They’ve won seven straight SBC series at home, and ten straight home series overall.

“We really do take pride in winning at home, just because it’s our place,” Gaynor said.

Junior first baseman Jake Wells said a few weeks ago that the team is “used to the scenery” at the Nick because they play there throughout the fall, as well as practicing there in January before the season begins.

“When other teams come in, they see how well we’re playing at home,” he said. “There’s maybe sort of an intimidation factor when they come to our place, which helps us a lot.”

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More on the transfers

So three players are leaving the WKU basketball program. From an on-the-court standpoint, there’s not much lost here. Magley did provide some much-needed size and had a great postseason compared to the regular season, and Cvoro made 10 starts to help aid the bench, with Sergio Kerusch coming off of it. Komadinic was bothered by foot injuries for most of the season and, outside of a 15-point outing in the season opener, hadn’t contributed much. Overall, though, these spots opening up will be filled well by the incoming signees, so in the end, this episode might do more good than harm. A few more thoughts on the transfers and what they mean:

  • The loss opens up two scholarships to give for next season. The NCAA allows 13 scholarship athletes to a roster. Redshirt senior transfer Nemanja Milosevic will be a walk-on, so with five players coming back on scholarship and five apparent incoming freshman — with academic redshirt Jameson Tipping probably gaining a scholarship next season — that will leave two openings for players. Look  for McDonald’s final two recruits to be big — that is, unless he decides to give Milosevic the scholarship.
  • One part of this whole deal that makes me wonder is the Komadinic part. McDonald said that regardless of next season, he would not have been on scholarship anyway. Was he a quick fix? Who knows? But I must say that if McDonald does this well with the players he got this season, no telling how well McDonald can do with the players he has coming in next season.

A few more quotes from the cutting room floor:

  • McDonald on Cvoro: “As the season went on, I think all freshman hit a wall, and he never got through the wall. And a lot of freshman take the time to get over the hump and continue to get better, and he struggled with that. He’s going to have to eventually deal with that and understand that if he does want to get better, where his ceiling is, he’s going to have to go up and step up physically and mentally. The long practices, the physical part of the game gave him trouble, and competing, to be honest. You want your kids to have a lot of pride, and he has to get better in those areas to reach his potential. But he does have a high ceiling. He’s talented.”
  • McDonald on Magley: “Focus is a big thing for him. He has the ability. He dropped weight at the beginning of the year. He lost 30 pounds, so I give him a lot of credit for working hard. Now, that doesn’t guarantee you’re going to have a lot of success. You gotta do it on the court and continue to improve. So no matter what system he goes in to, he might go in to a situation where he is the big fish in the small pond, and obviously a lot of time and effort can be put in to making sure he touches the ball all the time. And there’s no question that players develop that way…But as we talked about his role coming back, nothing changed. We gave every opportunity to every player at the beginning of the year to give us some confidence to run plays for him, to be an inside-outside team…I hope the right situation gets to be honest, so that he can have a great two years.”
  • McDonald on their need for size next season after the loss of Magley: “We’ve got some coming in. The void that will filled the most is at the center position with (redshirt senior Nemanja Milosevic) sitting out and being ready. Obviously, a guy that’s played Division-I and has a chance to really help us. He’s really been through now a year of practice, and we fully expect him to be a big part of what we’re doing. I’m really excited we have him right now. And anything that comes in, the guy that comes in after this, is a guy that we can bring along and develop.”

As far as where these guys end up: After talking with Magley, he says he has prospective teams but didn’t care to comment on who. McDonald said he thought Komadinic could end up in Division-II due to his need for a scholarship and because he is not that well-known. As for Cvoro, McDonald believes he can play at a high level when he learns to compete, but he would not be surprised to see him and Komadinic on the same team in Division-II because of their close friendship.

-David Harten

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Magley and two others released from scholarship

The Western men’s basketball program announced today that three players were released from their scholarships.

Sophomore forward D.J. Magley, freshman guard Dejan Cvoro and junior guard Uros Komandinic were all granted releases from their scholarships today to pursue other opportunities.


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Another one from the rumor mill

cbssports.com reporting this morning that Ken McDonald has been publicly connected to the Xavier opening after Sean Miller departed for Arizona.

We’re keeping our eyes and ears open, of course, but don’t expect this to materialize at this point.

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Recruiting possibilities?

So by now, everyone knows that John Calipari taking the head coaching job at UK has sent a rift through the recruiting world, with eight of the nine recruits that former head coach Billy Gillispie got to commit either reneging on their commitment or seeking a release. As my editor Andrew Robinson said in a column last week, WKU could gain from this.

But the question is, how much? Most kids that grow up in this state dream of suiting up for the blue and white, but think of a possibility: former UK commitment Daniel Orton to WKU.

Assistant coach Ray Harper has amazing ties to Orton’s hometown of Oklahoma City, being the former coach at NAIA powerhouse Oklahoma City University, and used them to nab Terrence Boyd earlier this season. Could it happen again? Doubtful, being that Orton is a far superior prospect than Boyd and doesn’t have any of the issues Boyd has academically, but one has to wonder.

I, for one, won’t rule it out. A number of people didn’t believe that the staff could get a commitment from Boyd, with his West Coast roots and the offers he held from schools like UConn, Pitt and Kansas State, but Harper was instrumental in getting him.

As for the in-state kids, Scott County’s Dakotah Euton is now looking around, and after seeing him play firsthand, I think WKU could get this kid. But that’s the only benefit I could see from this UK fiasco in the recruiting ranks. Kentucky Mr. Basketball Jon Hood is a firm commit for UK, as is in-state transfer Vinny Zollo at Clark County.

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