Friday, October 7, 2011
No Fear – Oladipo Looking Good; Coaching Drama Down South
Victor Oladipo is ready for a big basketball season, both as an individual and for the Indiana Hoosiers. The sophomore guard made significant impact last year, and wants to do more this year, and that goes beyond rim-rattling dunks.
Oladipo benefited from a summer trip to China to play basketball, playing in the summer pro-am event in Indianapolis and just another year in IU’s strength training program. He’s stronger, fitter and more experienced.
All that’s good, but Oladipo also has an edge he didn’t have before. What is it? We’ll let him explain.
“I’m more confident. I don’t want to say I was scared last year, but I had fear in my mind. I was nervous. I was very nervous.
“This year I’m a little nervous, but I’m more confident than I was. I know what to expect. I know I’ve been working hard enough that when I go out there, I can be just as good as anybody and I can help my team win.”
In the end, it’s about winning. Look for Oladipo to help make that happen.
Welcome to Basketball Coaches of the Big Ten, a new show that features high-profile, highly paid coaches tapping into their inner Housewives of New Jersey.
The premise is simple –- take shots at each other, but do it subtlely rather than dramatically like some of the women’s reality TV shows.
Let’s face it. Nobody wants to see men cry or claim their feelings got hurt or accuse each other of back-stabbing nastiness. What people REALLY want to see is WWE theater or mixed martial arts mayhem, but you can’t get away with that in a college setting.
So instead you have the apparent drama between Louisville’s Rick Pitino and Kentucky’s John Calipari, with Indiana Tom Crean now getting into the mix -– sort of.
Yes, it should all make for terrific TV ratings and program publicity when these coaches and teams meet.
Calipari started things off with a TV interview promoting UK’s Midnight Madness. It was innocent enough until Calipari threw in this little jab:
“There’s no other state -– none -– as connected to their basketball program as this one,” Calipari told TV station KSTV, “because those states have other programs. Michigan has Michigan State. California has UCLA … North Carolina has Duke.
“It’s Kentucky throughout this whole state, and that’s what makes us unique.”
Now you could argue that Calipari was just speaking the truth. UK is huge throughout the state and certainly has more in-state fans than any other in-state program.
Still, it does have a big rival in Louisville, which won national titles under Denny Crum and gone to Final Fours under Pitino. It has a big, new, expensive arena. It is a member of the Big East, which at least in basketball is saying something.
Reading between the lines could lead a person to conclude Calipari was taking a shot at Pitino's program. The two coaches were once close, but iciness now dominates what’s left of their relationship.
Here’s what Pitino told CBSSports.com as far as a reaction to Calipari’s comments:
“Four things I’ve learned in my 59 years about people. I ignore the jealous. I ignore the malicious. I ignore the ignorant and I ignore the paranoid.
“If the shoe fits anyone, wear it.”
The word in cyberspace and beyond is that the coaches don’t like each other and that Calipari is jealous of Pitino’s success. Pitino has a national title. Calipari does not. Pitino has taken five teams to the Final Four and none of those achievements were stripped from the record book, as Calipari’s was for Final Four trips while at Massachusetts and Memphis.
Is the word true? That's what speculation is for.
Crean entered the picture, not from jealousy or pettiness, but to promote his Hoosier program and the Dec. 10 game with UK at Assembly Hall.
“I think on Dec. 10th at 5:15 in Assembly Hall (Calipari) is going to see he forgot about how The State of Indiana feels about this program,” Crean tweeted, “No question the UK fans are behind the program, but there is NO WAY OUR FANS TAKE A BACKSEAT TO ANYONE! GO HOOSIERS!”
Now, somebody from Purdue or Butler or Notre Dame might find that irritating, but that wasn't Crean’s purpose. He’s totally focused on restoring IU’s basketball tradition, not on slamming others, and promoting a game in which he wants a huge, raucous crowd shaking Assembly Hall as it's never been shaken before.
As for what’s going on with Calipari and Pitino, you can decide for yourselves.
Indiana is looking for instant impact on defense in its Class of 2012 football recruiting, and that includes junior college players.
Consider defensive back Ladarius Gunter, who is originally from Alabama and who spent last year playing at Fort Scott (Kansas) Community College. He’s good enough to have gotten an offer from North Texas (yes, the same North Texas that roughed up the Hoosiers a few weeks back) and strong interest from Nebraska, Texas A&M, Iowa State and Baylor.
The 6-2, 200-pound Gunter is set to make an official visit this weekend as IU hosts No. 19 Illinois.