Rick Pitino Lands Quite A Nucleus

Quite a haul, this latest University of Louisville basketball recruiting class, with muscle, speed and shooting ability to spare, giving Rick Pitino the nucleus he needs to nurture a contender for Big East and national honors. The descriptions provided by ESPN Insider will have basketball fanatics salivating:

Michael Marra, 6-5 guard, Northfield, Mass.

“Marra is an excellent catch and shoot player, and excels at coming off screens, and knocking in trifectas. He has a quick release, and very deep range. However, in watching him perform at the 17-Under Super Showcase in Orlando, Fla., in late July, Marra struggled to make his shots when pressured by defenders. He appeared to lack lateral quickness. He has been working to improve in this area, which would certainly enhance his playing opportunities at Louisville. This deficiency causes him problems defensively against quicker, more athletic wing guards.”

Rakeem Buckles, 6-8 power forward, Miami

“Buckles plays more like a small forward than a power forward. He scores in transition by sprinting the floor and beating the defense to the rim. He has good not great bounce but what makes him a high major player is his ability to make plays of the dribble. Buckles can get his own shot at will. He has all the dribble moves in his package. Buckles will show the crossover both ways, spin along and between the legs where he does a great job of raising up the defender before he explodes by him to the rim or into a pull up jumper in the lane.”

Peyton Siva, 5 -11, guard, Seattle

“Siva is a true point guard that has excellent speed and quickness with the ball. He pushes the ball in transition on the pass or dribble and his athletic ability makes him a threat to go coast to coast and finish with a dunk. Siva does a great job of running the offense and directing teammates. He is an excellent ball handler that weaves and slashes through the defense with inside out and crossover dribble moves in order to get into the lane for a drop off pass or kick out for an open shot … Siva is a rock solid floor leader.”

Stephan Van Treese, 6-9 center, Indianapolis

“Van Treese will provide Louisville (verbal) with a physical inside presence that has the strength and muscle to compete on the interior in the rough and rugged Big East. To compliment his body and strength, Van Treese has very good athleticism, which should help him immensely in Pitino’s up-tempo system. Van Treese runs the floor very well and should clean up by scoring points in transition, started by his defensive rebounding ability. Van Treese also has relatively quick leaping ability which makes him a very effective offensive rebounder.”

Ugly Underbelly Discourages Fans

Not To Attend Louisville-Cincinnati Game

Disclaimer:  No one here is blaming the fan base for anything that has happened on the football field, not even close.

It is understandable that many University of Louisville football fans are upset and angry about the way the season is going. The outlook for the anything better than three more losses is bleak. This dismal outlook is painful.

Deterred briefly by a surprising win over South Florida, numerous fans have resumed calling for Steve Kragthorpe’s removal after the two most recent losses. In fact, if some noisy malcontents had their way, Kragthorpe would be gone, jerked out of practice in front of the players, before the next game.

What’s mindboggling is that some irate fans are suggesting that Tom Jurich, vice president of athletics, is negligent. It didn’t take long for the underbelly of the fan base to reveal its ugly side, did it? Mind you that’s the Tom Jurich, the man behind changing the landscape on Floyd Street, getting U of L into the Big East Conference, and recognized by his peers as Athletic Director of the Year in 2006.

Tom Jurich is a big boy. He can take care of himself, and we trust him with the athletic program, even though he may have created a monster in terms of fan expectations.

What’s unacceptable, however, is that a few of the more vociferous people are discouraging other U of L fans from attending this Friday’s game with Cincinnati. They want to send a “message” to the athletic administration, as if Jurich were not acutely aware of the challenges.

People who stay home will send a message all right, demonstrating to potential recruits and current players that U of L is just another school with more than its share of fair weather followers – unlike those of a traditional power such as University of Tennessee where 90,000 fans will show up at the next home game despite the Vols’ 3-7 won-lost record and being an underdog to Kentucky, of all teams.

People who fail to show up aren’t hurting the university financially because, with eight home games, U of L has already sold more tickets this year than any season in the school’s history. They do, however, harm the reputation of the fan base and the program they claim to love.

Show up.

A Few Softball Questions For Jeff Walz

Our intrepid reporter was not armed with any deep probing questions but she did gain some interesting insights into the mindset of Jeff Walz, coach of the University of Louisville women’s basketball team. She interviewed him a few weeks before Chauntise Wright was injured.

By Sonja Sykes
You’ve been the Lady Cards head coach for 20 months now. How are things going?
Our time in Louisville has been a very fast but exciting time.  So much has happened in such a short period that my staff and I are trying hard to make sure we enjoy every moment.  I am very fortunate to work for a great athletic department with Tom Jurich and Julie Hermann.  They have both made this a very smooth transition.

What’s the biggest challenge about being a head coach?
The hardest thing are the months May through September. During the season, the daily schedule is pretty much set and you know when your next trip is, who your next opponent is and you prepare.  The other months consist of lots of speaking engagements, RECRUITING and many nights spent out in the community.  I have loved every minute of my time here and once I get adjusted, I know it will become easier.

Where are you in regards to your career?
I am very excited where I am at this point.  I have had the opportunity to work at Western Kentucky, Nebraska, Minnesota and Maryland as an assistant before becoming the head coach at Louisville.  I know that my time at those four schools and winning a National Championship at Maryland helped me get ready for this job.

If you weren’t coaching basketball, what would you be doing?
If I was not coaching basketball I would be a teacher.  My undergraduate degree is in Secondary Education with and emphasis in Business Education and I have a Masters Degree in Education from Western Kentucky.

Do you get pre-game nerves, and if so, how do you overcome them?
I really don’t get pre-game nerves as a coach.  I used to more so as a player but have learned to relax more before the games as a coach.  I have a great staff and we prepare as hard as anyone to make sure our players are ready for game day.  When the players are prepared, it allows a coach to focus more on the game instead of being nervous.

Continue reading “A Few Softball Questions For Jeff Walz”

Hostile Fans, Angry Coach and a Wannstedt

Rarely in its history has the University of Louisville football team dominated another team like its has Pittsburgh. The Cards have won seven straight games over the Panthers since 1983, owning a 7-4 advantage in the series, including three Big East Conference wins.

Card fans can take little comfort, however. Pittsburgh was impressive in a four overtime 36-33 win over Notre Dame last week. The Panthers are well aware of recent history between the schools, eager to take advantage of a team unable to handle lowly Syracuse.

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— A young U of L team may have been riding too high after a surprising win over South Florida, thinking they had arrived and could just show up and win. It happens to teams all the time. But for hostile fans trying to find a reason to excuse the coaching staff for previous disappointments, it was the equivalent of a backstabbing.

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— Coach Steve Kragthorpe hardly ever ventures off the optimistic path, but he has been seething this week:

“Nobody’s happy around here. I’m not happy. I’m as upset as I’ve ever been. I’m sick to my stomach that we lost that football game.”

“In terms of where we’re at as a program, I’m disappointed, I’m upset, I’m pissed off that we lost. But I’m not going to let it affect my preparation for Pittsburgh.”

One angry football coach. That makes it unanimous. Now everybody is mad.

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— Tom Heiser, who does the Courier-Journal blog, is not that optimistic but somehow manages to anticipate a Louisville win:

The prospects for the final four games are about as muddy as the Heinz Field turf. Let’s be honest: if the program has now become Syracuse’s silver lining, no game (home or away) can be considered favorable for victory. The momentum of a three-game winning streak, a 5-2 record and the upset of South Florida have vanished … I think U of L has a good chance to rebound and pull out a win — in essence, pretend last week never happened.”

It takes a dedicated fan to feel that way. Nice to know there is at least one with CJ connections.

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— Mike Rutherford at Card Chronicle points out “Looking for a reason to believe that has nothing to do with your team? Pitt, now ranked 25th, is 0-3 in home games when nationally ranked under Dave Wannstedt.”

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— By the way, the Fire Dave Wannstedt domain is for sale after his team managed to defeat Notre Dame 36-33 in four overtimes last week. Could a Panther fan be having second thoughts? Don’t count on it if the Panthers lose another game to U of L.

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— Roll Tide Bama apparently believes Wannstedt is the key to the game:

As bad as Louisville has been, you have to think that anytime something good happens for Dave Wannstedt, something bad can’t be far behind. Something like an upset loss to Louisville, perhaps? Louisville 21 Pittsburgh 14.

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— Win or lose, you’ll be surrounded by a lot of U of L fans Saturday at a fund raising event for Shawn Bowen at the BBC in St. Matthews. Shawn is the five-year-old son of Justin Bowen, better known as “Jerb” for his video capabilities.

All proceeds from this event, as well as a golf scramble tomorrow, will go help offset the family’s medical expenses. There will be numerous items availble in a silent auction and probably a few surprises. Hats off to Frankpos for organizing the event, which starts at 11:30 a.m. See you there.

Bob Weber Had Some Good Moments As U of L Football Coach

While eating breakfast at a remote hotel in New Mexico about 10 years ago, I did a double take at the man who had just walked into the restaurant. My eyes weren’t deceiving me: it was indeed Bob Weber, the former University of Louisville football coach. He and his dad were also vacationing.

Weber was happy to hook up again with people from Louisville, wanting to catch up on how things were going at UofL. Still able to turn the head of every woman in the room, he was the same laid back guy we remembered from 1980 to 1984. While there weren’t many highlights during those years, there were some significant victories and he was pleased to be reminded.

There was, for example, the surprising 17-9 win at Kansas in his first season, a huge win at the time. While not a major football power, Kansas was a big name school, which rarely found its way to the UofL schedule. One of my favorites was an unbelievable 13-10 win over ninth-ranked and undefeated Southern Mississippi the day after Thanksgiving in 1981. There was also a come-from-behind 30-28 win over a good Oklahoma State team at Fairgrounds Stadium in 1982. His teams were 3-1 against Memphis State, which, at the time, was a few light years ahead of U of L in football.

Weber showed no hint of bitterness about being fired by the school after five years with a 20-35 won-lost record. He had minimum support and resources from James Grier Miller’s administration and the program was on the edge of extinction in the pre-Schnellenberger era. He remembered only the good times at Louisville.

The son of a Russian immigrant and raised on a small farm in Colorado,  Bob Weber died of pancreatic cancer at 75 last weekend at his home in Tucson, Arizona. A memorial service will be held Wednesday, Nov. 15 at Our Saviour’s Lutheran Church, 1200 N. Campbell Avenue, in Tucson.