24 Sep

Jeff Long on Cheating, Texas A&M & Scheduling Woe from the Wolverines

Jeff Long

Heading into tonight’s game against No. 10 Texas A&M, Arkansas has excelled in close games since last September — to the oint where ESPN now deems the Hogs as the SEC’s  “Drama Kings.” Arkansas has won five of its last six games decided by eight points or fewer, including three straight overtime contests.

It’s been quite a turnaround from the first 25 months of the Bret Bielema era, when the Razorbacks lost nine straight games by eight points or less. And within that stretch no team has stuck in the side of the Hogs’ program more than the Aggies. In 2014, an unranked Arkansas lost 35-28 in overtime to No. 6 Texas A&M.

Heading into last year’s clash, Texas A&M had slid to No. 14 nationally while Arkansas was still unranked. Rinse and repeat on the heartbreak:  the Hogs led 21-13 late in the fourth quarter but eventually lost in overtime 28-21.

Arkansas athletic director Jeff Long knows this year’s go-around, again in Cowboys Stadium in Arlington, Texas, is big. The winner, after all, will be in the front seat to challenge Alabama and LSU for the SEC crown.

Below are excerpts from Long’s recent interview on Sports Talk with Bo Mattingly. We start with Long laying out the advantages of playing this series in the DFW metro as opposed to a home-and-home:

 

Jeff Long: It’s a big win for us to play down there, in many many ways.

First of all, we all know the recruiting that goes on down there. For Arkansas to have that place. We also know how important it is to play in the world’s most fabulous stadium, Dallas Cowboys’ stadium. AT&T Stadium. That’s huge for us. It’s also where we go to recruit students. We get a high number, high level, a high quality students. It’s our second largest alumni body outside the state of Arkansas. There are many many reasons why it’s a big positive for Arkansas.

I think we’re very fortunate to have the long term contract down there because it does allow us to do so many things. So much presence for Arkansas in the state of Texas.

Bo Mattingly: We talked about how big the TCU win was. What’s the importance of this game. What does it do if you win the game? What kind of impact is it beating a Top 10 team in that stadium?

Jeff Long: The focus on Top 10, I get it. To me, it’s just beating an SEC team on a neutral site. Again, huge for us. Huge for the conference rights, but also in the eyes of the college football playoff eventually. When we, hopefully, we’ll get to that point where that’ll matter. Playing that game in a true, neutral site, is a even bigger bonus for us.

Bo Mattingly: Where are you on replacing the Michigan game? What happened there? Did they just call you and be like, “Hey, we’re out.

Jeff Long: We had heard some rumors that they might have something going. Kept waiting to hear from them. Heard from a number of other people first. Finally heard from them. Their deal was already done with Notre Dame by the time they let us know and just informed us that they were going to buy out of the contract, which they have a contractual right to do, but it does leave us in a bind. Struggling is a kind word to say. We’re struggling to fill that opening.

Bo Mattingly: As an athletic director, you’ve been approached about other jobs. Did you get a call on the Florida job?

Jeff Long: I’m not sure why people continue to ask me. The last guy had the job for 50 years. Why do you guys think I’m ready to run out of town?

Bo Mattingly: I didn’t ask if you were leaving, I asked you if they called you. Tom, check the phone records.

Jeff Long: We’ll say it for fans because you already know my answer: I don’t comment on searches of other institutions. That wouldn’t be appropriate.

Bo Mattingly: Why have you decided to stay at Arkansas when you could get interest from others? You could seek interest from others. But you’ve, you’re going on your ninth year here. Some people thought you sold your home and maybe you were leaving.

Jeff Long: Seriously, you all know. Some of you have lived here your whole life. Those who’ve been out to other places, this is a very very special place. Northwest Arkansas. University of Arkansas. The natural beauty. The friendliness of the people. It’s a great place. Plus, you know, I think we build our athletic program into one that can compete against anybody.

I’ve said before too, and I hope people don’t take this the wrong way, we are from a small state. We don’t have all the advantages of some of the larger schools or the more populated schools. We don’t have the alumni base. I’m not well with me. I’d respond better as an underdog than I do as the favorite. I’ve always thought of myself as a fighter. I want to fight with Arkansas to win on the highest level. That can be football, basketball, all of our sports.

Bo Mattingly: … Does it feel better [to] win in Arkansas than in some other places?

Jeff Long: I think it does. I know for personally, it does me. When we beat Alabama or we beat LSU, we beat Ohio State. These other schools that maybe have more resources or more things going for them in some respects, yeah, it means more to me. Like I said, I’m always felt like I was an underdog. Again, I got to be careful how I say that. I think we built a program that is not really an underdog to very many people, but the fact that we’re in a state than less than 3 million people, and our University has just recently grown to 27,000 [students], we don’t have that huge alumni base to draw from. But we’re growing and we’re getting better.

On one hand, I’m really proud that we built a program that I think can stand toe to toe and compete against the perceived big boys, but there’s still a little chip on our shoulders that we want to get it done. When we do get it done at Arkansas, doing it the right way, it’s a little more special.

Interviewer: Do you ever feel like people aren’t doing it the right way? Does it bug you?

Jeff Long: Absolutely does. Absolutely it bothers me. Yeah.

Interviewer:  What do you tell your staff? What do you tell your coaches when they come up and they go, ‘Hey, so and so school doing this. Look at the success’?

Jeff Long: Turn them in. I’m a big believer, if you’ve got information on people cheating let’s not just talking about it. Of course, there are always rumors. Anybody who has a great recruiting year, they “cheated,” right? So I don’t mean that stuff, that’s coffee talk.

But if you’ve got something on someone doing something inappropriate, I want to know. I’m gonna share it and we’re gonna hopefully get it stopped at that institution…

 

The above excerpt has been lightly edited for clarity 

07 Sep

The Razorback Football Travel Coordinator’s Hilarious Annotation

Bielema big guy
This photo almost says it all.

Tanya Webb, a University of Arkansas travel coordinator, appears to get along well with the school’s head football coach. She notes that when it comes to seating, former lineman Bret Bielema needs his space for good reason.

Ample proof is provided through her comment at the bottom of this travel reimbursement claim Bielema and former offensive line coach Sam Pittman made to the university. It appears they might have been on a Hawaii recruiting trip relating to Reeve Koehler, a former 3-star lineman who did sign with the Hogs.

Hawaii 1

This scanned receipt is probably the funniest thing I saw in a 121 compilation of Bret Bielema-related expense claims provided to me by the UA. I did this in collaboration with Vice.com, which has an upcoming series looking at college coach expenses across the nation. The editor of that series told me the UA, which only took less than a week to reply, provided one of the quickest responses of any of the programs to which he made FOIA requests.

He also appreciated the UA, unlike other schools, didn’t try to nickel and dime us for ridiculous scanning costs. They simply provided what was requested without fuss.

Read my upcoming AMPPOB.com piece for a deeper (as in stomach-deep) look at some of the more interesting charges Bielema has made while working on the UA’s behalf.

Here’s a scanned receipt dump of some of the expenses I discuss on the new Arkansas Money & Politics website. Click on the image second to the top below to see details of a $2,343.35 charge made during the Arkansas-Texas A&M game in 2014.

Jerry's World 2 Jerry's World 1 Theo's Incipience Hawaii 2 Ella's $105.08 Doe's 245.06 Hawaii 3 Theo's Incipience 2

 

05 Aug

Lou Holtz’s Top 3 Most Important Assistant Coach Positions

The former Hogs head coach on why he always hired o-line coaches second, with some Donald Trump endorsement thrown in for good measure.

The below is via Via Sports Talk with Bo Mattingly

“The first thing I wanted was a good defense at court. I got a couple great ones. Monty Kiffen at Arkansas, Barry Alvarez at Notre Dame. The next important is your offensive line, you third was your defensive back to your coach. The offensive line dictates everything. If they have togetherness, they have confidence, and their a unit, it sends a whole message to your offense. When your leaders are the wide receivers, running back, quarterback, you’re going to usually struggle there because they’re all statistically inclined. The offensive line is just about putting points on the board, that’s the only thing.

It’s not just that you have some problems. You look at what we scored in the season. You have two sophomores and a freshman in your starting line-up coming out in the spring. You do have only one senior, Skipper coming back. The offensive line, either you’re playing young people because they’re outstanding, or else because you don’t have an awful lot of options, you’re building for the future. I would like to think it’s because they’re outstanding. Your offensive line. It’s particularly in Enos and Bielema, offense, they have to run the ball, that’s what they want to do. They want to establish the running game. You’ve had a lot of great running backs in the past, you had some very talented, yeah. If you can run the football, that’s when your play action passing come in. You look at Wisconsin when the coach was the head coach of Wisconsin, they always ran the ball really well. Dan Enos, who was a head coach at… Central Michigan.

He left a head coaching job to come there. They obviously had good leadership, the ran the ball very well. Everything should be based on their ability to run the football on offense. I don’t believe that he’s the type that wants to throw the ball 35, 40 times. They don’t play an awful lot of spread offs. The don’t run the spread off. The had a lot of difficulty stopping the spread off last year. I’m sure they’ve studied it in the off season and they’ve come up with a plan. The best way to stop a spread off is your 3-3-5, which is what? Your defensive coordinator. I believe it’s Robb Smith.

His take on Bret Beliema’s performance at  Arkansas

Lou Holtz : I knew Bret, I think Barry Alvarez was playing a football game and he had me come over and visited. Bret Bielema, at that time, was a defensive coordinator. Barry had already announced that he was going to retire and be athletic director. He told me that Bret would be the guy that he hired, he spoke very, very highly of Bret. I’ve known Bret, I’m very impressed with him. I like his attitude. I met his wife when he was dating her. They came to ESPN. I absolutely love her. I think she is a beautiful, talented young lady. I think he’s a very good coach, he’s a very solid coach. I think he’ll do an excellent job. I know he’s been there 3 years and he’s only 18 wins and 20 losses, but he’s building that program.

That’s what people don’t understand. I’ve said this to so many different people. How many good athletes do you have in the start of Arkansas? Every year, you will have anywhere from 12 to 15 big time prospects coming out of the state of Arkansas. They don’t get the national recognition because many people go into the state and try to recruit against Arkansas because everybody’s a hog fan there. Everybody wants to go to the University of Arkansas. Consequently, players are very much unrated when they come in. I remember when I was … Dan Hampton, Jimmy Walker, Dale White, that was our three defensive line. All from Arkansas. I’ll tell you what, they were big time players. Then what you have to do is go to Texas, Florida, Missouri or somewhere. You pick up your other ten or 11, but you can build as good a program entire country. I think Frank Broyles proved that when he was there.

On his endorsement of Trump and pro-life speech at the Republican National Convention

“I said somebody has to be the voice for the unborn child. Everybody should speak about it. That was the majority of the speech. Then I made a comment about where are we as a country. These are facts, these aren’t my facts. We have more people in poverty, welfare, foodstamps then ever before. I made a comment about immigration. The only thing I ever said about immigration: Please come here to become us, don’t come here and want us to become you. I’ve never said a negative word about a person, a nationality, or anything else concerning their character, their integrity, their work habits or love of their family. For somebody to put out a national story said I called deadbeat, that is just a blatant lie. If you really want to upset somebody, tell a lie to them or about them. That’s what upset me so much, in fairness.

The only thing is, maybe my speech about abortion, said it was effective. Everybody has to make their decision for themselves. I made mine for myself. I think we have an obligation. I’ve asked every youngster here: Look at everything and vote your conscience. Republican, democrat, I don’t care. Please study the issues and vote your conscience. That’s all. That’s all.”

 

24 Jul

Oldest Arkansas Razorback Jersey Known to Man

vintage hogs

An Arkansas baseball uniform dating back to William Taft’s presidency

 

Today, precious, precious few Arkansas Razorback artifacts older than 100 years old are publicly viewable.  College sports simply weren’t that popular in Edwardian Era Arkansas. It didn’t catch on here like it did in more densely populated metro areas in the northeast, where folks had more expendable income and time to travel and see the likes of Yale and Harvard clash.

So, exactly how unpopular were UA sports?

“We had no bleachers. If you had 50 people to look at you, you felt fortunate,” Will F. Thomas said* of his time as Arkansas’ quarterback in 1901. “They’d pay 25 cents for a tag, which served as a ticket. If they could sell enough tags, they drove stakes and put up rope, and sent marshals out to keep the crowd back. Most of the students didn’t care much about football then, and people downtown didn’t show much in it, either.”

Given these dark ages, you can imagine my surprise when I recently came across a Razorback jersey which the Arkansas Sports Hall of Fame claims is 106 years old. The museum usually can’t verify the age of its donated artifacts, but no question this uniform looks legit old.

vintage hogs

Its owner, Boyd Cypert, played third base while also quarterbacking the football squad. Cypert later graduated from Harvard Law School, played for a brief spell in Major League Baseball with the Cleveland Naps, practiced law in Little Rock, got caught up in some creationism/evolution controversy and served as the business manager for the UA’s athletic department.

Besides this Razorback jersey of outrageous yore, I found other awesome memorabilia on my recent visit to the  Arkansas Sports Hall of Fame, on the ground floor of Verizon Arena in North Little Rock. To wit:

A Veritable Shrine to Clyde Scott

All-everything back Clyde Scott might have been the most impressive dual-sport athlete to ever play for the UA football program. He set a UA record in the 100 meters (9.4 sec) and won a silver medal in the 110-yard hurdles in the 1948 Olympics — in the middle of his college career.

clyde scott

 

He did a lot of impressive things on the football field, too. Former UA athletic director John Barnhill said: “Clyde Scott meant more to the Arkansas program than any other athlete. His coming to Arkansas convinced other Arkansas boys they should stay home.”

His #12 is only one of two Razorback jersey numbers retired.

Apparently, the cleats below were worn by Scott during his four NFL seasons with Philadelphia and Detroit.

clyde scott NFL

Here’s a fun little anagram collage — a kind of 1940s equivalent to the heavily Photoshopped tribute images modern college football programs blast out to pump uptheir stars up for postseason awards.

clyde scott arkansas

 

Lance Alworth’s Razorback jersey

lance alworth

Lance Alworth ranks alongside Scott as one of the program’s most electric players pre integration. This future pro and college Hall of Famer, who become known as “Bambi,” led all colleges in punt return yardage in 1960 and 1961. Like Scott, he starred in track, running the 100 and 200-yard dashes (in 9.6 seconds and 21.2 seconds). He also long jumped. 

This is the jersey from his last game — a 10-3 loss to undefeated national champion Alabama in the Sugar Bowl.

 

1965 Media Guide

arkansas football national champions

This is obviously one of a kind, as 1964 is the only season to which Arkansas football can lay claim to a national title. What are the chances Arkansas again wins the championship this year? Nowhere near as good as their chances of routing Louisiana Tech in the season opener, according to these college football lines.

 

Football used during the “Great Shootout” of 1969

frank broyles

Terri Johnson, director of Arkansas Sports Hall of Fame, told me this football was taken by an Arkansan ball boy right after the No. 2 Arkansas lost to No. 1 Texas in an epic showdown in Fayetteville. That teen and his children played with the ball throughout the 1970s and 1980s. He did, however, get Frank Broyles to sign it at a speech.

You’ll notice Broyles also scribbled “Go Hogs Go” onto the leather.

Later, the man tracked down Texas’ legendary head coach Darrell Royal and got him to sign it as well. Royal obliged and told him it’s the only thing he ever signed with a “Go Hogs Go” on it, Johnson recalled with a chuckle.

The man, whose name I didn’t request, recently donated the ball to the museum.

***

*This quote is attributed to an article in an unspecified newspaper in 1974. The quote is on an Arkansas Sports HOF banner.

08 Jul

Legendary Good Byes

muhammad ali arkansas

Only halfway done, 2016 has already seen the deaths of a number of unparalleled sports legends.

Most recently the sports world lost the most towering figure in all of women’s basketball in  longtime Tennessee Volunteers head coach Pat Summitt. She won eight national championships, 16 SEC regular season and tournament titles and put together a perfect 39-0 season in 1998 in which her Vols beat the Lady Razorbacks in Arkansas’ only Final Four appearance. Summitt also won a gold medal as the coach of the 1984 U.S. Women’s Olympic Basketball team and was named the Naismith Basketball Coach of the 20th Century. Naturally, she’s in the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame.

But Summitt was far more than just a basketball coach. A great leader, she lifted her program to heights not before seen in the women’s or men’s game (outside of John Wooden’s UCLA dynasty), inspired millions and changed the way many Americans think about women’s sports.

Hockey legend Gordie Howe, a six-time Hart Trophy winner as the NHL’s Most Valuable Player,  also recently died. Dubbed Mr. Hockey, Howe’s NHL career lasted 26 seasons and resulted in four Stanley Cup wins for the Detroit Red Wings. He also played another six seasons in the World Hockey Association. In all, his pro career stretched from the 1940s through 1980s.

He will connect more than far-flung decades: The new bridge being built over the Detroit River that will connect Michigan and Canada is to be named for Howe. As a tribute to Howe and his iconic #9 jersey, a public visitation with his casket was held in Detroit from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. soon after his passing.

But there was probably no bigger worldwide loss this year than that of Muhammed Ali. A truly transcendent figure, you didn’t need to be a boxing fan to be a fan of the self-described greatest of all-time. Brash, bordering on arrogant, and always controversial during his boxing heyday, Ali lectured at the University of Arkansas among other universities during his suspension from boxing for resisting the draft during the Vietnam War. He eventually returned to the ring and the top of the sport, and spent the three decades after his retirement as one of the world’s most respected ambassadors of sport, religion, and race.

In recent years Parkinson’s disease took him out of the public eye and, as some writers predicted, the neurodegenerative illness eventually took his life. But never his spirit — nor the long shadow he still casts in the world of boxing. The tributes keep rolling in for this transcendent figure who demolished so many walls dividing sports, religion and politics.

When Ali, then Cassius Clay, became heavyweight champion in 1964 he was a 7-1 underdog against Sonny Liston. Born to a sharecropping family is St. Francis County, Ark., Liston spent his childhood working long hours in the fields and taking beatings from his father. As a product of that brutal upbringing, coupled with scant schooling, he eventually landed in a St. Louis prison. In a fortuitous twist of fate, it was prison that freed Liston’s true calling — boxing.

Liston trained hard in jail and, a year after his release, turned pro. He rose to No. 1-ranked contender in six years. In 1962, the fearsome bruiser took on world heavyweight champion Floyd Patterson, and 2:06 into the first round felled him with a left hook that Sports Illustrated’s Gilbert Rogin wrote “crashed into Patterson’s cheek like a diesel rig going downhill, no brakes.”

 

Two weeks from now, heavy underdog Chris Arreola faces undefeated WBC heavyweight champion Deontay Wilder in Alabama. The boxing betting is going almost exclusively to Wilder, and right now the odds are 1/16 that he will win. You can get 7/1 odds on an Arreola upset – the same exact numbers for Clay in 1964.

Wilder has reach, while Arreola has the power. If he gets inside to land a knockout punch, expect a new WBC heavyweight title holder.

06 Jul

Is LRSD Football Destined for Downsizing?

LRSD football

The Little Rock School District’s new superintendent lays out a vision in which dollars could flow to technology, pre-K and “wrap-around services” instead of football.

On Tuesday, new LRSD superintendent Michael Poore expanded on his plans to help turn around the long-struggling district. He covered a wide gamut of topics, from going to the ER this past weekend to pre-K education and “wraparound services” for poor students.

He stressed plans to build partnerships between middle school and high school students and local business leaders, leading to mentorship opportunities and project-based learning that would involve more after-school, weekend and summer learning sessions. He advocated for tech lab-like settings, likely in a business, near each of the LRSD high schools where this learning could take place.

Not once, though, did he mention athletics.

What role do sports — specifically football — play in the LRSD’s future if Poore’s vision becomes reality? Football is expensive and many of Poore’s ideas for expanding school services while expanding technical infrastructure will involve a lot of money. It’s probable insurance premiums for high school football will rise in the coming years as more data is uncovered linking “micro-concussions” and long-term cognitive defects. Meanwhile, starting after the 2017-18, the LRSD will lose $37 million in supplemental aid stemming from desegregation case settlement.

For years, LRSD football has leaned on that money to pay for the buses that transport students to and from practice and games.

Little Rock football

 

In 2013, busing for LRSD football players alone cost $75,000. When encompassing all sports, at all schools, and including drill team and cheerleaders, the cost was $350,000 in all. That cost has surely risen.

What will happen to LRSD students who need busing for sports events when the desegregation money runs dry?* Perhaps the money will come from another budget(s) within the district. Such an expenditure may spark a domino effect ultimately leaving less money available to invest in the programs and technology tools that Michael Poore is now espousing.

When discussing his ideas for project-based learning opportunities with local companies, Poore noted the success he had experienced with students at his previous superintendent job in Bentonville. This town (my current residence) does not lack for local civic pride and, by extension, strong support of its public schools. For proof, simply walk through the Tigers’ swank football stadium and basketball arena. The scoreboards and walls around those facilities are swamped with advertisements from local companies, many are Walmart or its vendors. Moreover, Bentonville High boosters (many of whom work for Walmart or its vendors) pay good money to buy season seats to attend football and basketball games.

But Little Rock, my native city and residence through 2014, presents a different story.

Read More

22 Jun

David Pryor Rails Against Taxation of College Football Premium Seating

David Pryor

The below article, originally published in the 1986 by The NCAA News, provides some good background on former U.S. Senator David Pryor’s role in laying the groundwork for the charity status involving much of major college football. I write more in-depth about the issue, and its relevance to the recent expansion plans of Reynolds Razorback Stadium, in an upcoming Fox Sports Arkansas article. 

 

A bill has been introduced in the U.S. Senate by Sen. David Pryor, Arkansas Democrat, that calls for full tax deductions on contributions to athletics scholarship programs and the revoking of previous IRS rulings to the contrary.

Sen. Pryor submitted the legislation last month, calling for the application of the 1RS Code of 1954, allowing full tax exemptions for such donations and the repeal of an IRS ruling modifying the exemption.

In 1984, the IRS issued a ruling that essentially revoked prior IRS determinations that such contributions were tax-deductible. The ruling held that if the donor received the right to purchase season tickets (other than as a member of the general public), there was no gift involved.

Under well-established tax principles, Pryor said, if there is no gift of property to a charity, no charitable contribution results; therefore, no tax deduction is allowed.

The IRS ruling threatened what was estimated at more than $100 million a year in contributions to athletics programs. Because of objections by the NCAA and other organizations and institutions, the IRS withheld the ruling for public hearings.

An administrative hearing was held on the ruling January 7, 1985.

The IRS then issued a revised ruling  (The NCAA News, May 7, 1986).

“While a few minor features have changed, the basic thrust of the most recent announcement is that if the athletics scholarship donor is allowed to purchase season tickets in any way  other than as a member of the general public, no gift is involved,” Pryor
said.

“Therefore, the scholarship donation is not tax-deductible under Section 170 of the Internal Revenue Code,” Pryor said in a statement accompanying his bill.

The revised ruling by the IRS says the contributors can take a partial deduction if the college can provide a reasonable estimate of the value of the privilege extended to them.

To estimate the value, the IRS says a college can consider such factors as the level of demand for tickets. But the ruling gives no method as to how this demand itself can be valued.

The New York Times said the clarification “leaves the situation just as
controversial and more cloudy than ever.”

Pryor said, “I remain very concerned over attempts to define what is or is not tax-deductible when a donation is made to any college or university in the country. Many colleges and universities around the country use these scholarship funds to provide much-needed aid to student-athletes.

“All of us want to do all we can to maintain and strengthen our educational system. It seems to me that this latest ruling runs counter to that effort”

Pryor says his bill is “very simple.”

“It repeals Revenue Ruling 86-63 (the IRS revised ruling) and provides that the tax law shall be applied as if it had not been issued.

Pryor is a member of the Senate Finance Committee.

17 Jun

Scottie Pippen, Charles Oakley Agree ’96 Bulls Would Make Kebab Of Warriors

pippen

Arkansas native Scottie Pippen, Alabama native Charles Barkley and Ohioan Charles Oakley have a long history of disagreement. Oakley and Barkley have seemingly never gotten along, with perhaps the worst of it coming in 1999 around the time of a lockout. Oakley, then a free agent, claimed he power-slapped  Barkley, then heavily involved in the players’  union, in the face — during a meeting. “I’m fed up with him, ” Oakley later said. “I told him you need to change your name. I’m the only Charles.”

This was coming off Oakley’s decade-long stint as a key player for the Knicks, a perennial playoff opponent of the mighty Bulls, which featured Pippen and Michael Jordan. Yet even when Pippen and Oakley were Bulls teammates in the late 1980s, Oakley was still slapping the mess out of him.

Check this evidence from the Pippen’s rookie season in 1987-88:

At last, though, these three can agree on something: the best team of the 1990s was a helluva lot better than the best team of this decade. The debate of whether the 1995-96 Chicago Bulls or 2015-16 Golden State Warriors are better has been raging all season long, with Charles Barkley wading in early. “That Bulls team would kill this little team,” Barkley said in December.

Pippin got into the action a few months later, opining that if the ’96 Bulls were matched up with the ’16 Warriors in a seven-game series he and Jordan would cause severe problems for the Warriors’ gunners with their length and quickness.  Enough problems to sweep the Dubs.

Finally, Oakley joined into the fray yesterday on The Mike & Mike Show. He gave his take on the NBA Finals between Cleveland and Golden State and upcoming Game 6, in which Cleveland is a slight favorite according to William Hill. Then Oakley was reminded of Pippen’s take and asked for his own on the same question.

I think Scottie might be right,” Oakley said.  “They were too long, they had some great guys back then and like I said, to play in my era, you had to be a student of the game. I don’t see that no more. I see guys  out there just playing basketball and doing individual stuff, not team chemistry. Golden State is pretty fine playing together as far as guys knowing who should get the ball, who shouldn’t get the ball.”

“I think the Bulls, there was Scottie, Michael, Ron Harper, Horace, everybody just knowing that whatever they do, they got to shut down scorers. I think they’ll really trap guys, they’ll work guys with the ball coming up the court, and I don’t think [the Warriors] will have the legs by the time the fourth quarter comes — because they having to be really, really strong individuals.

I think some of them are, but I think that being smart, like I said the Bulls wouldn’t be winning six, seven, eight years if they wasn’t that smart of a team. They had to go through a lot with other teams and on the court and they found a way to win.”

I can see why Oakley would reflexively think more highly of his own generation, but I don’t agree with his reasoning. The NBA is more team-oriented and complex now than it was 20 years ago. The elimination of the illegal defense rule has created a domino effect which has allowed teams to deploy complex and sophisticated zone and hybrid defenses. Those, in turn, have inspired the evolution of more intricate and fluid offenses, like the one which the Warriors employ as they hunt for a dynasty of their own.

30 May

Joe Johnson’s All-Time Top 20 NBA Razorback Rankings

Joe Johnson

Among NBA Razorbacks, Johnson now ranks No. 1 in points, rebounds and assists

 

This post means I am officially an old, old man.

In the late 1990s, Joe Johnson and I attended LR Central High School together. As a ridiculously fluid, skilled 6’6″ “point center,” he had “future pro” written all over him from the start of his sophomore year. It surprised absolutely nobody when he ended up being taken in the Top 10 of the 2001 NBA Draft.

But who thought he would end up playing more minutes than any other NBA player besides LeBron James in these last 15 years? Or become such a coveted prospect that even at age 34 James would openly petition him to join Cleveland to push the Cavaliers toward its first world championship?

Johnson is blessed to have enjoyed such longevity over the course of his career. While not quite as powerfully built as James, Johnson is close at 6’7″ and 240 pounds. No doubt, that sturdy frame has helped. So has the hatha yoga he started regularly doing in 2008.

I also think he can credit his inability/unwillingness to jump very high around the rim. In the painted area, I’m certain Johnson has prevented a few injuries to his lower extremities by simply pulling up and jumping 16 inches in the air for a quick floater where other players might have attempted to explode to the bucket (and open themselves up for a higher risk of injury upon landing).

It’s hard to blame Johnson for his reticence to attempt dunks after this play from the 2005 NBA Playoffs:

 

While Johnson can’t/won’t jump very high these days, he has certainly leapt to the top of the class among his NBA Razorback peers.

Seasons ago, he surpassed fellow Little Rock native Sidney Moncrief as the top-scoring NBA Hog of all time. This past season, he’s actually lapped Sid in field goal attempts and he is on track to lap him in points in the next couple years.

Points 

Totals Shooting Per Game
Rk Player From To G FG FGA 3P 3PA FT FTA PTS ▾ FG% 3P% FT% MP PTS
1 Joe Johnson 2002 2016 1143 7403 16733 1832 4928 2680 3346 19318 .442 .372 .801 36.0 16.9
2 Sidney Moncrief 1980 1991 767 4117 8198 110 387 3587 4319 11931 .502 .284 .831 30.2 15.6
3 Alvin Robertson 1985 1996 779 4412 9245 236 800 1822 2451 10882 .477 .295 .743 31.7 14.0
4 Corliss Williamson 1996 2007 822 3603 7355 6 44 1935 2710 9147 .490 .136 .714 22.8 11.1
5 Darrell Walker 1984 1993 720 2469 5682 6 102 1445 2027 6389 .435 .059 .713 25.8 8.9
6 Ron Brewer 1979 1986 501 2497 5437 30 121 947 1149 5971 .459 .248 .824 25.7 11.9
7 Todd Day 1993 2001 483 2036 5017 568 1646 1277 1727 5917 .406 .345 .739 25.3 12.3
8 Joe Kleine 1986 2000 965 1902 4201 13 48 849 1069 4666 .453 .271 .794 15.2 4.8
9 Andrew Lang 1989 2000 737 1780 3785 5 20 866 1164 4431 .470 .250 .744 20.8 6.0
10 Ronnie Brewer 2007 2014 502 1554 3169 90 355 742 1099 3940 .490 .254 .675 23.0 7.8
11 Oliver Miller 1993 2004 493 1536 2874 5 43 548 858 3625 .534 .116 .639 23.0 7.4
12 Jannero Pargo 2003 2015 499 1228 3140 400 1124 319 369 3175 .391 .356 .864 14.9 6.4
13 Lee Mayberry 1993 1999 496 950 2287 379 1006 267 405 2546 .415 .377 .659 20.8 5.1
14 Tony Brown 1985 1992 360 860 1969 36 139 407 566 2163 .437 .259 .719 16.7 6.0
15 Patrick Beverley 2013 2016 224 740 1796 367 984 222 291 2069 .412 .373 .763 27.8 9.2
16 Scott Hastings 1983 1993 578 584 1323 28 96 451 556 1647 .441 .292 .811 10.4 2.8
17 Sonny Weems 2009 2016 183 514 1106 34 120 127 181 1189 .465 .283 .702 18.2 6.5
18 Bobby Portis 2016 2016 62 186 436 16 52 48 66 436 .427 .308 .727 17.8 7.0
19 Dean Tolson 1975 1978 80 153 280 96 176 402 .546 .545 8.5 5.0
20 Corey Beck 1996 1999 88 93 206 3 5 52 76 241 .451 .600 .684 10.8 2.7
Provided by Basketball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 5/27/2016.
Rebounds 
In recent years, Johnson has also surpassed Alvin Robertson as the top rebounding pro Hog. This one is definitely a function of his longevity, as Johnson has only been a mediocre rebounder for his size. He’s essentially got this one locked down for the next seven years, and the only way he loses it after that is if Bobby Portis starts snagging eight or nine boards a game on the regular.
Totals Totals
Rk Player ORB TRB ▾ BLK Minutes per game RPG
1 Joe Johnson 1020 4644 235 36.0 4.1
2 Alvin Robertson 1621 4066 323 31.7 5.2
3 Joe Kleine 1268 3991 285 15.2 4.1
4 Sidney Moncrief 1424 3575 228 30.2 4.7
5 Andrew Lang 1188 3511 1099 20.8 4.8
6 Corliss Williamson 1214 3183 261 22.8 3.9
7 Darrell Walker 1057 3134 225 25.8 4.4
8 Oliver Miller 940 2893 758 23.0 5.9
9 Todd Day 578 1649 291 25.3 3.4
10 Ronnie Brewer 451 1427 120 23.0 2.8
11 Scott Hastings 424 1287 153 10.4 2.2
12 Ron Brewer 335 971 249 25.7 1.9
13 Patrick Beverley 257 792 93 27.8 3.5
14 Tony Brown 352 766 40 16.7 2.1
15 Jannero Pargo 112 701 28 14.9 1.4
16 Lee Mayberry 142 642 43 20.8 1.3
17 Sonny Weems 88 402 28 18.2 2.2
18 Bobby Portis 123 337 22 17.8 5.4
19 Dean Tolson 85 179 27 8.5 2.2
20 Corey Beck 36 125 9 10.8 1.4

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17 May

Talking with Scotty Thurman and Jaylen Barford

scotty thurman

The new Razorback assistant and top-rated recruit share their thoughts on the 2016-17 season.

I recently had a good talk with Hog signee Jaylen Barford, the nation’s No. 1 JUCO player, on behalf of OnlyInArk.com. Barford’s heading to Fayetteville in late May. For those of you salivating for some Hog factoids, here are a few little nibbles:

  • Jaylen Barford talks to Daryl practically everyday. He’s looking to go to Daryl’s place one weekend in Little Rock and work out. He and Coach Anderson talk every few days and talks to T.J. Cleveland almost every day. “I’m just ready to get up there and be coached by one of the greatest coaches in the country,” he says. “They are just excited for me to get up there and lead the team, to bring a lot of energy and excitement.”
  • He hadn’t talked to Moses Kingsley except when he visited campus, but believes his return is huge. “On offense and defense especially he affects the game a lot.”
  • On Jimmy Whitt, who transferred earlier this spring: “He would have helped probably, but him leaving I guess we’ll cover that spot by playing a couple more guys. I think our backcourt should be in full effect, really. I think we’ll show a lot of people next year.”
  • On incoming Hogs freshman C.J. Jones, who has played against in a camp and in high school: “He’s an athletic wing who can really knock down a shot. He was a shooter in high school, but athletic too. He could be a great wing for us.”
  • As far as summer ball goes, Barford typically stays around his hometown of Jackson, Tenn., although he has played in the Nashville Pro-Am before. Casey Prather, a former Florida Gator who plays in Australia, is one of the few Division I players from Barford’s hometown. When he comes home, he has given Barford pointers and advice about what SEC basketball is like. He told him “play tough, and go out with a chip on your shoulder. Where we’re from, not too many people get out like that. Go there hungry, and realize you’re blessed.”

The next day, I asked new Razorback assistant coach Scotty Thurman how he would take advantage of time to be able to work directly with rising senior Razorback Dusty Hannahs. Hannahs has already established himself in the pantheon of great Hog three-point shooters alongside the likes of Pat Bradley, Rotnei Clarke, Alex Dillard and Scotty Thurman himself. Does Thurman have any ideas to take Hannahs’ shooting to even another level?
“Definitely, I have some ideas,” Thurman said. “I’m not at liberty to say those today. I definitely have some ideas and things that I think I can maybe share with him that will allow him to be even more effective, more efficient. He’s a great shooter already, but there’s always some old tricks that we have that maybe he can be able to utilize.”

And just like that, Thurman had smoothly pivoted around the question while still technically answering it.  Not bad media navigation for a rookie coach!

Below are some more excerpts from Thurman’s insight via a recent press conference:
Q:    What’s your reaction to being named assistant coach?
Scotty:    I’m very excited about the opportunity. Obviously, I know that it’s a huge task. It’s my first time doing it, but I’m very, very excited about it.
Q:    You’ve been a month now or so, just recruiting. What’s it been like out there on the road?
Scotty:    It’s been pretty good. I had an opportunity to connect with some people that are in the business, and I had an opportunity to compete against every player, and obviously, had the chance to get to know some of them as well in the business. I’m real excited about continuing trying to establish relationships both on a high school level, AAU level, as well as collegiate level…
Q:    You’ve obviously been here, been involved with the program, but this is a new role for you. Do you have any qualms or nervousness about doing this for the first time at a really high level?
Scotty:    I don’t really get nervous too often. Obviously, having played here, having an opportunity to work here, and be able to set the foundation of what we’re trying to do, I wouldn’t say I’m having qualms. Obviously, there’s always going to be some nerves. Every time I’ve ever played in a big game or had to go and speak in front of a group, there’s always been butterflies. Once those go away, there’s still a job that has to be done, and I’m prepared to do the job.
Q:    What makes you feel that you’re ready for this?
Scotty:    Well, I’ve done it. Aside from having the opportunity to do on the floor here, I’ve had the opportunity to recruit some athletes to this campus when they arrive here. I had an opportunity to go out with coach when he first came in, to go out and identify those guys who were in transition on whether or not they were going to stay with the coaching change and all. I had an opportunity to do it there, so I do have experiences outside of what popular belief is.

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