May 14, 2013
I can’t remember who said it, but a basketball coach once told me that he wanted assistant coaches on his staff that wanted to be head coaches someday. It’s a simple point, but an important one. It all goes back to drive and motivation and self-actualization, but in the end, everybody benefits.
You can also usually tell how successful a coach has been by the number of assistants who have become head coaches somewhere; guys who have theoretically developed under his leadership and become great leaders themselves. It also means you’re hiring great coaches to begin with, but you get the idea.
At a press conference in Tennessee Tuesday, Will Wade will be introduced as head coach at Chattanooga, the third Smart assistant to become a Division I head coach. He joins Mike Jones (Radford) and Jamion Christian (Mount St. Mary’s) on Smart’s “coaching tree”.
Jones and Christian each walked into rebuilding situations, as Wade will with the Mocs, and each has earned a measure of success in a short time. Mike Jones, about as good a guy as there is in coaching, took over a one-win debacle and has won six and 13 games, respectively, the during his two seasons. In the two years prior to Christian’s arrival in Emmitsburg, Md., The Mount won 19 games. Last year, his first at the helm, it won 18 and reached the NEC Championship Game.
I have no doubt that Wade will enjoy similar success. He’s about as good a basketball mind as I’ve met. A terrific recruiter, the guy literally lives to coach basketball. He’ll do fine. Wade will be missed, however. Even at 30, he’s probably forgotten more about hoops than I’ll know. I enjoyed the conversations I had with him following VCU’s Final Four run when we were putting together a commemorative Ram Report. He gave me great stuff, especially about the Rams’ unforgettable overtime win over Florida State. From the magazine:
I thought the most improbable of the wins was Florida State. I had the scout going into that game, and Coach Smart looked at me and said, ‘what are we going to do to beat them?’ I said, ‘it’s going to be tough.’
Florida State’s fourth, fifth and sixth post players would start on any team in our league. That’s no exaggeration. Their fifth and sixth post players would’ve started at center for us. I just thought their depth and the bodies, that was the one team that physically [was a problem]. It didn’t do me any better when I went and watched them during shootaround.
I thought Florida State was the toughest matchup. They’re so long, so big. They’re huge at every position, they have a 27-year-old guy in the post against D.J. [Haley]. The way they fly at the 3-point line I thought was going to give us problems. Our guys did a good job of making the extra pass. I thought it was a poor matchup for us.
– Will Wade (April, 2011)
I appreciated his candor. It really helped make the magazine memorable. I wish Will the best of luck. Like Mike Jones and Jamion Christian, he’s a terrific guy, easy to root for.
Moving forward, Smart will undoubtedly fill his staff with men he thinks will make great head coaches one day, and VCU will benefit, at the very least, in the short term. And everybody wins. The beat goes on…
P.S.: We will miss this suit combo most of all. Thanks to thegalen for the screen cap.
May 9, 2013
RICHMOND, Va. – Troy Daniels made a career out of connecting on long shots. So what’s one more?
Daniels has been invited to an NBA workout May 22-23 at Barclays Center in Brooklyn, N.Y. Representatives from all 30 NBA teams are expected to attend.
“It’s time to get a job now. This is a lot different than college,” Daniels said Thursday. “It’s a great feeling. “It’s something that you dream about when you’re younger and it’s finally coming true now.”
Despite his sharpshooting credentials – Daniels ranks second in school history in 3-pointers (251) and owns the top two single season marks – the senior from Roanoke, Va. likely faces an uphill battle. He’s currently not expected to be drafted and is not listed among the top 100 NBA prospects by NBADraftExpress.com, NBADraft.net or CBS Sports’ Jeff Goodman.
But Daniels, who will graduate from VCU Saturday with a degree in criminal justice, says that won’t be a deterrent. He’s says he’s been working out twice a day, fine-tuning his skills and hopes to grab the attention of scouts and executives in Brooklyn. He’s also recently worked out with former Ram Eric Maynor of the Portland Trail Blazers, who typically spends much of his offseason in Richmond.
May 8, 2013
The league trumpeted the addition of Davidson Wednesday for the 2014-15 season, just weeks after George Mason announced it would leave the CAA and would also join the A-10.
“Davidson is an ideal fit for the Atlantic 10 – as a nationally recognized academic Institution complimented by excellence in a broad-based athletic program — the Wildcats will be competitive immediately. Their success in men’s basketball is important, bringing another nationally recognized brand into the league,” A-10 Commissioner Bernadette V. McGlade said Wednesday in a prepared release.
George Mason will become an A-10 member this summer, restoring a strong in-state rivalry with VCU. It also means the league will operate with 13 full members in 2013-14 and then – presumably – 14 in 2014-15.
In the short and long term, this is a boon for the Newport News, Va.-based Atlantic 10. The A-10 will lose four members this summer, Temple (All-American), Charlotte (Conference USA), Butler (Big East) and Xavier (Big East), but McGlade wasted little time shoring up the league.
From a men’s basketball perspective, which, realistically, is the driver in all this, the additions of George Mason and Davidson should be well-received. Given the landscape of college athletics these days, you could make a strong argument that these were the two most attractive and realistic targets for the A-10. Actually, that’s exactly the argument I’m making. The league adds two strong basketball programs with strong history in attractive TV markets; two schools which have each established themselves on the national scene at different points in the last eight years.
It would be impossible to completely replace programs like Xavier, Temple and Butler in a single year, but these are good moves nonetheless. If you count Davidson, seven of the A-10’s 14 schools finished in the top 100 in RPI last year.
Here’s a comparison of what the A-10 will gain the next two years to the schools that will depart (click to enlarge):
May 8, 2013
Here’s former Ram Michael Anderson (2005-08) hamming it up with fans, presumably in Japan, where he is playing professionally. Anderson is averaging 10.1 points and 5.6 rebounds per game for the Akita Northern Happinets (yeah, that name is for real and awesome). Mike is apparently borrowing his hats from Damon Stoudamire’s closet these days.
May 1, 2013
I met Luanne Norvell last year, just before the start of basketball season. Her daughter, Susan Brooks had sent an email, proudly gushing about her mother fighting cancer without missing a beat of VCU fandom. She had surgery in the morning and tailgated at the CAA Tournament in the afternoon. She baked brownies for the folks at Massey Cancer Center. She wore black and gold wigs. Brooks called her mother an inspiration.
Norvell worked in the VCU School of Dentistry and was as big a VCU fan as I’ve met. The impression I got after meeting her was that she loved three things: God, her family and VCU Basketball. She spent the first 15 minutes of our meeting asking about my son. She also told me about her time as a chaperone for the Varina High School band, and how she once caught a mischievous drum major named Ryan Kopacsi sneaking out of his hotel room. I eventually had to steer the conversation back to her for fear that I would run out of time before I had to leave.
Luanne was a delight. Unfailingly positive, greatful and optimistic, she talked about her breast cancer in the past tense. Unfortunately, a couple of days after the start of basketball season, she emailed me to thank me for the feature I’d written on her for the men’s basketball program and to let me know they’d found spots on her lungs.
We maintained an occasional email correspondence throughout the year as she battled the cancer, pneumonia, a bacterial infection. Even as she wrote about the awful stuff, she remained upbeat. In one of our last exchanges, she asked me if there was a way to secure a Briante Weber autograph for a little boy at her sister’s school who “thinks he’s the best basketball player alive.”
Luanne Norvell passed away on April 29 after fighting the good fight for the better part of the last two years.
In Luanne’s office, there was a decorative piece, a plaque, a framed photo, I don’t exactly remember, but it contained a quote often attributed to Ralph Waldo Emerson:
To know even one life has breathed easier because you have lived—this is to have succeeded.
She talked about how much that quote meant to her, how it inspired her. She kept chasing that ideal, to make other people’s lives happier, better. In turn, she inspired others. She inspired me. Someday, her unyielding spirit will help someone else beat cancer. Of this, I am convinced. Maybe she’ll save my life too. While Luanne has passed on, I hope she knows how successful she really was.
Below is my original feature on Luanne Norvell. I never ran it online after she learned the cancer spread. But I read it this morning for the first time since November. I thought it would be upsetting, but instead, it made me smile. I hope it captures even a sliver of her spirit, her joy, her hope for the future and her love of others (and VCU hoops, of course). I hope she inspires you too.
CANCER HASN’T SLOWED THIS RAMS FAN
By Chris Kowalczyk
It was a Thursday night, and Luanne Novell’s hair was falling out. The chemotherapy to treat the cancer in her right breast was killing her hair cells. Finally, she’d had enough. Norvell stopped cooking dinner and told her husband, Danny, she’d be right back.
Norvell drove to a local salon and asked to have her head shaved. The beautician flipped on the clippers and put them to Norvell’s scalp, but the 57-year old Varina resident stopped her.
“Do you think you could shave ‘VCU’ in the back of it?” Norvell asked.
April 26, 2013
Look, I don’t care if the Bucks are down 3-0 or 30-0 in their series with the Heat. This play says the future is bright in Milwaukee. Guys who are 6-foot-11 shouldn’t be able to do this. Larry Sanders is averaging 12.0 points and 7.3 rebounds while shooting 67 percent from the field against the Heat in this first round playoff series.
April 17, 2013
It didn’t take long for David Hinton to find his way back to a basketball court.
Hinton, a fifth-year senior who recently completed his eligibility with the VCU Men’s Basketball team, is in Anaheim, Calif. this week in conjunction with the Nike Elite Youth Basketball League (EYBL), a premier AAU basketball camp.
It’s the second major event in as many weeks for Hinton, who is serving as an event management intern for Position Sports, a sports marketing firm based out of Phoenix. Position Sports is closely tied to many of Nike’s major events, including Hinton’s first foray into event management, the Jordan Brand Classic at Barclays Center in Brooklyn, N.Y. on April 13.
The Jordan Brand Classic is known for its annual national high school all-star game, but there are actually three games, including an international and regional all-star contest, staged the same day.
Hinton spent a week in New York City helping organizers stage the event. Hinton’s title, event management intern, is in many ways a catch-all for, “pretty much anything we can think of”.
“It wasn’t anything,” Hinton said. “It was everything.”
He says he did everything from the physical set-up and breakdown of the event to assisting with will call and ticketing issues. It also helped, he says, that he played at Barclays Center just a month ago with the Rams in the Atlantic 10 Championship. Not only was he familiar with the layout of the building, but it allowed him to give feedback on things such as, which lockerrooms were preferred and other information.
Workdays were often 16-18 hours and, on the day of the actual event, Hinton says he pulled a 20-hour day. But he’s not complaining.
“It was fun though, doing something I love, working with basketball,” said Hinton, a 6-foot-8 forward who appeared in 75 games in four seasons for VCU.
Hinton earned his bachelor’s degree in Homeland Security last spring, but is currently enrolled in VCU’s Center for Sport Leadership master’s program. His work with Position Sports will earn him three credit hours for a required externship, but more importantly, it’s fleshing out his resume. At a time when openings for government jobs could be scarce, it doesn’t hurt to have other options.
“I’m glad I’m going to have degrees in two different areas, whereas some people have a narrower focus,” he said. “I’m glad I have another degree I can fall back on.”
Plus, Hinton is a self-professed “sneakerhead” who owns more than 100 pairs of Nikes. Working this closely with the shoe and apparel giant is somewhat of a dream for the Winston-Salem, N.C. native.
Hinton’s internship will continue through the summer, and he’ll zigzag the country for different events, including another EYBL session April 26-28 in Hampton, Va.