Deep Hoops Thoughts: On Holloway, Coach K and NBA

The Coastal Carolina men’s basketball program dodged a bullet from the NCAA inquiry into the recruitment of Desmond Holloway.

What looked scary last season, thanks in part to an accusatory New York Times story, turned out to be nothing more than a kid taking a $25 T-shirt – a secondary violation to the bean counters at the NCAA.

It seems Holloway’s ability to score and make steals were not limited to the court. He lifted a shirt during his recruiting visit, then showed up wearing it at his signing day ceremony.

Did he really think no one would notice? From the findings of the investigation, Holloway is either not the brightest individual to set foot on the CCU campus, or he is taking one for the team.

The NCAA ruled in favor of the former, which is a good thing for the Chanticleers. After the 1994 Russ Bergman saga, Coastal folks were understandably flinching before the NCAA ruling.

The earlier run in with the NCAA was far more serious than this one, but it decimated the program for more than a decade. Just when Coastal was starting to rise from the ashes, there was a hint of smoke in the air.

But fortunately for the Chants, the Holloway case was more smoke than fire. Now they can start the season with a clear conscience and the desire to prove people wrong.

If there is one lesson to take from this case, it’s that CCU – now more than ever – needs to keep it clean. Along with success on the court comes jealousy and rumors and peering eyes from the NCAA’s private eyes.

No one wants to see a repeat of the devastation caused by the last time the NCAA cops stopped by on a business visit.

Coach K vs. Bobby K

On Tuesday night on America’s biggest indoor stage, Madison Square Garden, Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski will surpass his mentor Bobby Knight’s record for the most victories in NCAA Division I basketball history.

The Blue Devils face Michigan State in the State Farm Classic, so he might have to wait until Friday against Davidson at America’s wildest indoor stage, Cameron Indoor Stadium, to get win No. 903. But sometime soon it will happen, and it can’t come soon enough.

Hear me out, Duke haters. I come to bury Bob Knight, not praise Coach K. As much as I admire Knight’s ability to coach, it’s his temper that makes me cringe to think he is the winningest coach in college basketball (at least for a few more hours).

Knight’s fiery spirit and win-at-all-costs attitude make him an icon among many fans, including his own former players. But that doesn’t negate his embarrassing public outbursts that represent the kind of things we don’t want to associate with college athletics.

It’s truly hard to believe that Krzyzewski is a product of Knight’s. Coach K played under Bob K back when he was Player K at Army. Krzyzewski was the feisty point guard that Knight has loved to hate (and sometimes choke) over the years.

Coach K couldn’t be more different from Knight in terms of their approaches to coaching. Knight needed to resort to physical intimidation to get his players’ attention; Coach K uses his mind to make his players perform at their peaks.

Coach K will say he owes his coaching philosophies to Knight, and that may be true. But he didn’t take the same foul-mouthed, bullying behavior that Knight was known for during most of his time at Indiana and Texas Tech.

Not that Krzyzewski has never gotten angry. Find me a college coach who doesn’t have a competitive spirit that occasionally shows and I’ll show you a former coach who didn’t get the job done.

But Coach K’s demeanor in the face of adversity is calm, willing his players not to panic. Knight was more likely to throw a chair on the court or throw a temper tantrum on the sidelines.

It’s not just good for Duke fans that Krzyzewski takes the all-time wins title away from Knight; it’s good for college basketball.

When your grandkids ask about the winningest coach in history, you can tell them about all the great things a coach should be; not about a loose cannon who is better known for his outbursts than his coaching talent.

There’s still the formality of Duke defeating Michigan State. Coach K and Spartans head coach Tom Izzo have combined for 1,285 wins, 17 Final Four appearances and five NCAA championships.

Of course, Coach K and Knight have combined for 1,804 victories, more than any two college coaches you can put in the same room at the same time. I, for one, will celebrate when it’s 1,805.

The NBA: It’s non-existent

It seems the NBA is closer than ever to cancelling the 2011-12 season over the ongoing lockout.

The players passed on the owners’ last, best offer and opted to decertify the union. The owners are calling it an attempt to undermind the process and refusing to budge another inch except in favor of a better deal for themselves.

No matter what side of the argument your are on, it’s safe to say the players may have blown a big opportunity to save the season.

By going the same route as the NFL players union last fall, the chances for a settlement are further complicated by decertication.

Both sides now run the risk of learning just how little the public cares about its product. Unlike football, which had fans on the verge of a riot, the NBA does not carry the same weight as the big boys in cleats. And selling sneakers isn’t going to be as easy for the players now that the only game they are playing is Madden ’12.

Neither the owners nor players want to know how the public really feels about their game. Basketball fans will simply turn to the college game for what really is a better product among the purists of the game.

The NFL is like bread and milk; people can’t live without it. The NBA is more like wallpaper; people don’t even notice when it isn’t there.

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