In THE SPORTS LANDSCAPE Bill Sullivan on February 24, 2012 at 11:06 pm


BLOOD IS THICKER THAN…Wouldn’t want to be a head coach at the University of Illinois…first, athletic director dispatches football coach and now has basketball coach Bruce Weber in his firing cross-hairs… it’s the same old story of a boss wanting “his own people” in leadership posts…despite Thomas’s micro-managing and refusal to support his coach in mid-season, Weber’s Illini tem still may wind up with 20 wins and a .500 record in the Big Ten…plus, his squad played in the national championship game only two years ago

IT’S A RAINY NIGHT IN KENNESAW…At the bottom of the Atlantic Sun Conference is Kennesaw State – still winless in league play at 0-16 under its first-year coach….but across town, first-year coach Ron Hunter aims for 20 victories with Georgia State in the Colonial, which had six 20-game winners last season and may have five this year…plus, the Colonial has advanced two teams (George Mason and VCU) to the Final Four the last six years

CAPITAL COLLAPSE…a once-proud basketball program now struggles to reach.500…Siena, located an air-ball away from Albany is 12-15 and in 6th place in the 10-team MAAC…the Saints are 7-9 while crosstown rival Albany is 17-13 in the America East Conference…problem with the Loudonville, N.Y. school is it can’t keep a coach: Fran McCaffrey left two years ago for Iowa…other defectors include Paul Hewitt (Georgia Tech, George Mason), Mike Deane (Marquette), Louis Orr (Seton Hall) and John Griffin (St. Joseph’s)…another Jesuit school (Xavier) with a search committee on staff is Xavier, which has also lost five coaches to the “bigger” time: (Pete Gillen) Virginia, Skip Prosser (Wake Forest), Bob Staack (Wake Forest), Thad Matta (Ohio State) and most recently, Sean Miller (Arizona)…only six other college programs have “lost” more basketball coaches than both Siena and Xavier.

GOLDEN YEARS TARNISHED…what has happened to Oliver Purnell at DePaul? The Maryland-Eastern Shore native went 7-24 in his first season there and is 11-12 this year. His combined Big East record is 3-26. The results in Chicago are unlike Purnell’s resume, which includes stints at Radford, Old Dominion, Dayton and Clemson. Three times, he was named “coach of the year” – each time in a different conference. In his last year at Radford, he was 22-7.  At ODU, he won 20 games in two of three seasons, advancing to the postseason each time. At Dayton, he won 20 or more games in five seasons with just as many postseason visits. At Clemson, his Tiger teams played in the postseason 6 of 7 seasons. He won 93 games in his last four seasons at Clemson before being granted a 6-year contract extension. But two years later, he bolted to DePaul. OK, Purnell is 0-6 in NCAA Tournament play, but still…the ACC may be “hell” if you aren’t Duke or North Carolina but playing Georgetown, Syracuse, Marquette, West Virginia, Pittsburgh, UConn, Notre Dame and Louisville on a nightly basis isn’t much easier.

ANYONE REMEMBER BRUCE HORNSBY? If you do, you know that Bruce loves the game of basketball and frequently would play pick-up games (against the advice of his talent agent) in his hometown on or near the campus of William & Mary. Nowadays, Bruce’s son, Keith plays for NC-Asheville, which leads the Big South Conference with a 19-9 record, 14-2 in league play.

CAMPUS JEWEL…the Rotunda may be the cornerstone of the University of Virginia campus but the John Paul Jones basketball arena is special. Recently, I watched the Cavaliers trounce Maryland before a sellout crowd of 14,500. In the “end zone” lobby is a Hall of Fame, which honors the Cavalier hoop greats – Buzzy Wilkinson, Barry Parkhill, Wally Walker, Jeff Lamp, Ralph Sampson, Sean Singletary and Cory Alexander. The JPJA dwarfs neighboring University Hall, where the Cavs played until 2006. “You could put that building inside this one,” said Parkhill, after the game.

WHAT HAVE I DONE? First-year coaches with a season to mothball include Mark Montgomery (3-23 at (Northern Illinois), Mike Longeran (9-18 at George Washington), Mike Jones (6-23 at Radford), Brian Gregory (9-18 at Georgia Tech), Lewis Preston (3-26 at Kennesaw State) and Pat Skerry (1-29 at Towson)

SECOND-YEAR NO BETTER…Buzz Peterson is 9-18 at NC Wilmington. One of his team’s losses came to Towson, which is 1-29…Peterson, again may be moving on…he’s had six head-coaching jobs in 12 years…Chuck Driesell, Lefty’s son, is hurting at the Citadel with a 6-22 mark… former Temple guard Mark Macon is 1-26 at Binghamton

NAVY SINKING…the Midshipmen basketball team has lost 20 straight and 24 of the last 25 under first-year coach Ed DeChellis, who previously coached at Penn State for seven years…the Mids are young with just three seniors on the roster and one with scoring punch – Jordan Sugars (11.7 ppg) from Winchester…meanwhile, fellow Patriot League member American is 18-10 and in third place

LARRANAGA STILL A WINNER…Jim Larranaga, the former coach at George Mason in his first year at  Miami, is 16-10 and in sixth place in the ACC with a 7-6 league mark…outside of losses to North Carolina by an average of 13 points, the Canes other league losses have been close: to Virginia (by 1), to NC State (by 5), to Florida State (by 5) and to Maryland (by 5)…Miami also has defeated (then #5) Duke by four in overtime in Durham

  1. I think it’s been a bit longer than two years ago that Bruce Weber had the Illini in the championship game. That game two years ago was Duke vs. Butler, right?

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