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JMU Preseason Primer

October 25, 2011

The 2011-12 installment of the James Madison basketball team will be on display for the first time Wednesday night, when the Dukes host an exhbition game at 7 p.m., against Philadelphia University (a Division II team coached by recent Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame inductee Herb Magee).

These Dukes are different than the ones we saw last, being pummled 85-65 by Davidson in the CBI Tournament. So before you ask where’s he? and  who’s that?, read on.

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Three New Coaches At The Poker Table

October 24, 2011

There are three new basketball coaches in the Colonial Athletic Association, and all three say they want their teams to play energetic basketball and win right away.

But Northeastern’s sixth-year man Bill Coen may have put it best when describing the situations of George Mason’s Paul Hewitt, Towson’s Pat Skerry and Georgia State’s Ron Hunter.

“Each guy has been dealt a different hand,” said Coen, who knows all three personally.

Read more…

CAA Basketball In This Week’s DN-R

October 22, 2011

Each weekend I’ll post links to the CAA basketball stories that appeared in the previous week’s Daily News-Record.

(Yes, they’re paywalled. All the more reason to purchase a subscription. I’ll stop my salesman bit now.)

Wednesday: Dukes In Hunt? (JMU’s men’s team is picked fifth in the CAA, and coach Matt Brady’s outlook is positive).

Wednesday: Women Picked 3rd (JMU’s women’s team has won the last two CAA titles, but they lost a lot of talent and aren’t the favorites to 3-peat.)

Friday: North Rising In CAA? (For a change, it wasn’t a Virginia school and it wasn’t UNC-Wilmington picked to finish first in the CAA. How projected No. 1 Drexel has built a winner in the south-dominated CAA)

The CAA Book Club

October 20, 2011

Yesterday we tackled the CAA coaches’ favorite basketball movies. Today it’s books.

There was no Hoosiers-like popular choice, but a couple coaches referenced Pat Riley’s book (I’m assuming they meant The Winner Within, but neither knew the name of it).

“I use it a lot when I talk to my guys,” Brusier Flint said. … I always reference it. … [The message is] don’t talk about injuries. Don’t make the team miss the guy that’s out. How to deal with a star on the team and how to treat people, things like that.

Blaine Taylor is a Riley reader as well.

“It parallels life business with basketball. The basketball books that I hate are the ones that, January 7th: I got up, I had brunch. Had shootaround. Went and played University of Arizona. Post-game meal: spaghetti. Calipari and some of these guys write those books. Like, oh jeez. Get a life if you read one of those books. It’s like reading somebody’s diary.”

I’m praying Old Dominion plays Kentucky in an NCAA Tournament some day and Taylor tells John Calipari, “Hey, your book sucks,” while they shake hands.

As you can imagine, books by coaches are popular among coaches. The best college coach ever? John Wooden. Apparently his writings are valued too.

“I always refer back to them on a regular basis, the John Wooden books, and he has five or six of them out there,” Bill Coen said. “And they relate to life, they relate to basketball and they link the two. There’s so much wisdom in there and probably the greatest coach who’s ever coached in college. If you go back there, his wisdom is very simple and direct and it’s very useful.”

Shaka Smart is partial to another legendary coach’s teachings. His favorite book is Sacred Hoops by Phil Jackson.

I was surprised initially surprised, because I think of Smart like this and think of Jackson like this, but Smart said there are definitely some similarities between the two coaches.

I’m really into the spiritual stuff like he is,” Smart said. “I’m my own guy. He’s got 10 or 11 NBA championship rings, so he’s a good guy to emulate.”

Only one coach actually had a copy of his favorite book handy when I asked. That was Buzz Peterson, who pulled a beaten hardcover of The Carolina Way out of a black bag.

“It always stays with me,” Peterson said of his former UNC coach Dean Smith’s book. “It never leaves me because there’s so much in here and I respect the man a lot … I correlate things in here to my team.”

Matt Brady tries to correlate what he reads to his team, but it isn’t from a basketball book, per se. He said he reads books like Outliers and Good To Go – practical books in which life lessons can be extracted.

“That’s the genre that I read,” Brady said. “I read stuff like that, that applies to athletics but is not necessarily about athletics.”

I mentioned Malcolm Gladwell’s 10,000-hour rule from Outliers – which basically says that it takes a human being 10,000 hours of practice to perfect a skill — and Brady talked about how he sees it, related to his sport.

“To me, ordinary people can do extraordinary things if put in the right situation, or more to the point, if you’re willing to put the time in,” Brady said. “To me, the Beatles, who are my favorite group, they were not a group that was destined for greatness until someone needed them to play 300 nights a year, and they honed their craft. … To become great at anything, it’s all about time.”

Paul Hewitt said he’s more interested in baseball books, citing The Summer Of 64 and The Last Good Season. Ron Hunter said he only reads religious books.

Back on the basketball track, Pat Skerry – a Medford, Mass., native –offered Basketball Junkie by former Boston Celtic and Fall River, Mass., native Chris Herron.

Monte Ross’s said A Season On The Brink while Mo Cassara claimed another John Feinstein work: The Last Amateurs

“It’s about the Patriot League before anyone had scholarships,” Cassara said. “I love that book. I think it details what college basketball is, or should be all about.”

It’s A Hoosiers-Happy League

October 19, 2011

CAA coaches are modern-day Norman Dales

You can tell a lot about a person by the movies they watch and rewatch. Like, if you were on a first date with a girl who said her favorite flick was Gigli, wouldn’t you terminate the potential relationship right there?

You can’t sever ties with your favorite CAA coach if you don’t like his movie selection, but it’s good to know where he stands.

While most of the other reporters at CAA Media Day were busy asking coaches about depth charts and parity, I was more curious about movies and books.  Here’s what everybody is watching (the book  club will be discussed another day).


5 – Hoosiers (Matt Brady, Mo Cassara, Bill Coen, Bruiser Flint, Buzz Peterson, Tony Shaver)

“I could watch that over and over and over,” said Buzz Peterson, who we also learned watches the DVD box set of the Andy Griffith show (purchased for more than $300, to his wife’s chagrin) over and over – sometimes instead of game film if he doesn’t feel like compounding a loss with more disappointment.  “My son and I watched [Hoosiers]. It’s motivation, just inspiring to watch that thing over and over.”

“How can you not go with Hooisers?” asked Coen, whose staff was ready to deport me to Guadeloupe when I suggested – gasp! – that maybe Hoosiers is a little overrated. “Just because it’s basketball in its pure form.  It’s high school basketball, it’s small vs. big, it’s David vs. Goliath. Some great acting and some great emotions.”

2 – None (Ron Hunter, Blaine Taylor)

“I don’t like basketball movies,” Taylor said. “They’re all fakies.” Ok.

How about you Mr. Hunter?

“There’s only one show I’ve ever watched; it’s American Idol. I don’t watch SportsCenter or anything. … You know why I like it? I love competing. I love competition.”

So he’s never seen a basketball movie but he’s seen General Larry Platt pull his Pants On The Ground?  Hunter said his all-time favorite Idol contestant was Season 2 victor Ruben Studdard. And Hunter himself claims to have pipes.

“I told my guys, we get to the point where we get to theNCAA Tournament, I’ll sing the national anthem.”

1 – Love & Basketball ( Monte Ross)

“I love the part at the end when [protagonist Quincy McCall, played by Omar Epps] says to [love interest Monica Wright], ‘Double or nothing.’”

Solid movie with a great late-80s R&B song, I Want To Be Your Man by Roger, on its soundtrack.

Ross’ assessment of Hoosiers: “ That’s overrated.” Join me in Guadeloupe, Monte!

1 – The Fish That Saved Pittsburgh (Paul Hewitt)

In addition to Hewitt choosing the Dr. J movie as his go-to hoops flick, Flint also mentioned it as one of his faves, before settling on Hoosiers. Without an actual league to promote, NBATV has been showing The Fish That Saved Pittsburgh a lot recently. I’ll have to DVR it and check it out.

1 – One on One (Pat Skerry)

Skerry explained that One on One is a fictional movie about a small-town high school and its basketball phenom, played by Robby Benson, and suggested I watch it some day. I was more interested in what Skerry took from another movie: The new Towson coach battles his 6-year-old son with light sabers. “He wants to be a Jedi from Star Wars,” said Skerry, who uses the red saber, and admits that his green-wielding son often beats him.

1 – Hoop Dreams (Shaka Smart)

Ding, Ding, Ding. We have a winner.

I knew Smart was wise when he led VCU to the Final Four last year, but his choice in basketball movies is even more impressive. Hoop Dreams, a 1994 documentary about two Chicago teens and their path to college basketball is gritty, heart-wrenching and 100 percent genuine. (A little trivia via @Dukie95: Steve James, who wrote, directed and produced Hoop Dreams, is a 1977 JMU alum.)

“Real life, man,” Smart said. “Hoosiers was too, but I think Hoop Dreams relates much, much more to what we deal with in day-to-day reality.”

Shaka makes the best date. I wonder if he’d join me for a double-feature with Celtic Pride.

My favorite omissions: He Got Game, White Men Can’t Jump, Blue Chips.

Other notables: Teen Wolf, Basketball Diaries, Above The Rim, The Sixth Man, Coach Carter, Sunset Park, Space Jam, Like Mike, Glory Road, Semi-Pro, Eddie, Air Up There.

CAA Media Day: A Quarter (of an hour) With Matt Brady

October 18, 2011

In the next couple days Courtside will feature some lighthearted, fun stuff. But after spending a few hours transcribing the contents of my trusty Olympus recorder, here’s a quote-full post from my 15ish minutes today with James Madison coach Matt Brady.

There were plenty of questions asked and answered, so I’ve broken them up into general themes for your reading ease…

Read more…

CAA Preseason Picks

October 18, 2011

Drexel — Courtside’s pick to win the Colonial Athletic Association — was the popular choice, as the Dragons have been selected first in the official CAA Preseason Poll.

Returning six of their top seven players, the Dragons are the only team to have a player represented on both the preseason first and second teams (senior forward Samme Givens and junior guard Chris Fouch, respectively).

JMU, which finished sixth last year, was picked to finish fifth, with point guard Devon Moore as a Second team selection. JMU hasn’t finished a season in the top five since 1999-2000, when it tied for first.

Moore might not be academically eligible to play during the first semester, but he would only miss one conference game if that’s the case. Last year, after returning from a tore knee that wiped out his entire 2009-10 season, the 6-4, 180-pounder averaged 11.3 points and 4.2 assists per game. He leads all returning CAA players in assists.

Here’s are the official  lists…

Predicted Order Of Finish

  1. Drexel
  2. George Mason
  3. VCU
  4. Old Dominion
  5. James Madison
  6. William & Mary
  7. Delaware
  8. Hofstra
  9. Northeastern
  10. UNC-Wilmington
  11. Georgia State
  12. Towson

First Team

G- Kent Bazemore (Sr.), Old Dominion

G/F- Bradford Burgess (Sr.), VCU

F- Samme Givens (Sr.), Drexel

G/F- Quinn McDowell (Sr.), William & Mary

F- Ryan Pearson (Sr.), George Mason

Second Team

G- Chris Fouch (Jr.), Drexel

G- Devon Moore (Jr.), James Madison

G- Mike Moore (Sr.) Hofstra

F- Keith Rendleman (Jr.), UNC-Wilmington

G- Devon Saddler (So.), Delaware