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Cleaning up from Thursday at The Branch

An actual crowd filled the lower bowl of U.S. Century Bank Arena for Thursday's men's basketball game against North Texas. The official attendance was 1,109. I guess free pizza made free admission look extra attractive. If that wouldn't have worked, the next stop is free beer and singing frogs.


A mere sprinkling of fans for this game would've turned somebody's Friday into a Monday. President Mark Rosenberg and his wife were among those in the seats, and I've heard the weak basketball attendance this season had been a concern to the Prez. To an alumni group earlier this week, I heard he presented poor football attendance as a reason for booting former head coach Mario Cristobal.

As I've stated before on this blog, even unto a year ago, attendance falls under the responsibility of the athletic director. Or, in this case, the executive director of sports and entertainment. Anyway, it was the first home crowd of the season officially over 1,000. I think free pizza also could be offered for Saturday's doubleheader against Louisiana-Lafayette.

By the way, if you were in the stands, you had just as many points as North Texas' sophomore forward Tony MItchell, one of the nation's most talented players. Mitchell's previous scoring low was three points. FIU did a good defensive job on Mitchell, playing a 2-3 zone and double-teaming him while playing a zone with the other three players. Mitchell also seemed frustrated and, eventually, simply not a part of the North Texas offense.

FIU senior guard Cameron Bell got his first start of the season Thursday in his fifth game of the season. Bell, who started at point instead of Deric Hill or Gaby Belardo, spent the first month and a half of the season coming back from a shoulder injury.

Bell played 27 minutes, went four of 14 from the field and grabbed six rebounds and a game-high four steals. He sank a couple of key free throws down the stretch as FIU nursed what a lead that once stood at 18 points to the final horn. Those free throws helped provide the buffer for his fouling North Texas' Niko Stojilijkovic on a three-pointer with 29 seconds left and FIU up 67-59. Stojilijkovic sank all three free throws. That was a play high in FIU coach Richard Pitino's mind when he said the Panthers needed to be "smarter" in closing out games.

"I don't think we have a pure point guard," Pitino said in explaining starting Bell at the point. "Teams are pressuring our point guard. And we've had what I call a lot of "live ball" turnovers. It's not so much anything Deric or Gaby did. We're just trying to figure it out. None of these guys have played together. Cam Bell just gets back. I wanted to give it a different look and see how it looked."

As for how Bell played, "I think he was good. I expect a lot more from him. Mentally, not as good as I hoped it would've been. But he gave us a good effort. Only turned the ball over one time in 27 minutes, so that was good."

North Texas coach Tony Benford said he wouldn't mind having some of FIU's guards -- and he wasn't kidding. Not only did Benford say the Mean Green were down to two true guards, but he got a call from FIU guard Malik Smith's junior college coach last year. Benford said he liked Smith, but couldn't find a scholarship for him.


Folks, pick a name and stick with it. I've started checking IP addresses on posts. I'll do so every couple of days. Double posts under various names means all posts under all names get deleted. For the last several days, I've only eliminated the postings under the second name.



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Such sad news about Coach Leiberman's baby. Reminds us that sports is a diversion, not the end all and be all of existence, eh? And by the way, what Richard Pitino has accomplished seems little short of amazing to me. Good on him and on those players who are clearly busting their butts out there. Soon they won't even have to offer pepperoni on that free pizza.

Thank you for making rules. This junk was getting out of hand.

Nice to see a crowd at the Branch. I hope I can make it down for a few games this season. The team is exciting to watch, especially compared to last year's playground team. Pitino is a very good coach and I hope he can stay down here a few more seasons, but that might be wishful thinking. This team's turnaround has been nothing short of amazing.

Totally agree with The Point. Repetitive unbased posts like that take away from this very good blog. Well done, DJN!

Pitino has, in just half a season, instilled some hope and pride in FIU's faithful for the very first time in over 12 years in terms of wins and losses and effort, in my opinion. Now it is time for our fans, students, and alumns to show up and actually cheer and get loud. If not this season, I'm really looking for next season and then the following one under Richard Pitino.

Go Panthers!

"Executive Director of Sports & Entertainment"


I almost wet my pants every time I see that title. FIU pays this worthless piece of trash $400K to do what ?

The (Sports) aspect has been a disaster for the most part since he took over in the fall of 2006 and what exactly is the "Entertainment" component ? They took the South Beach Food & Wine festival away from his filthy paws, so now what ?

One can only conclude that ENTERTAINMENT = free PIZZA to students and FREE WHORES if you donate more than $100,000 to Athletics.

People forget that this man and Butch nuked the Browns organization so badly in the early 2000s, that the franchise is still trying to recover and not to mention Butch had a nervous break down of massive proportions (well documented in coaching circles) because of the amateur decisions made by the current D.O.S.E. at FIU. I can't even believe Butch would continue to associate himself with the D.O.S.E.

FIU, you need some BiG TiMe C H E M O T H E R A P Y to smoke out this cancer.

Nicely done DJ Neal, FYI you can also block IP addresses that keep using multiple names, they did it on the UM blog once, worked well until that one guy got a new computer.

Excellent question asked by TheFIUtheproud but I'm guessing the kinds of quotes you'll get are "Cristobal was a great coach, shocked to see him go" and "Ron Turner seems like a great coach, can't wait to get started".

No other answer a player can give really, players' real feelings will show up in the recruiting classes and in the fact that none of the younger players considered transferring.

Geez, how many computers does that one gonzo drooler have?

Thanks for trying to clean this up DJN, the comments section had become simply unreadable with the guy that has a hard-on for Pete Garcia.
Any new updates on coaches that Ron is bringing in? I thought we were still missing some.

Is da Prez that clueless to say Cristobal was booted because of poor attendance? So Pitino has to worry, too? Where is Garcia and his sports marketing staff? FIU GOT SOME BIG PROBLEMS.

Regarding the players, they lost Cristobal and their position coaches. A lineman told me that Mirabal was special and Butkus having a hard time relating to the Florida kids. That Mirabal was a tough guy in a small body. The other coach them kids loved was Ponce. He's been around Miami for many years coaching high school. Kids knew him from those days. Now that Turner threw out some good Miami connected coaches. This makes no sense.

Wow, I am also shocked that Rosenberg would say that about attendance and Cristobal. Rosenberg needs to look in the mirror. Its not just about the AD, but also about who is in charge of student life; and Rosenberg has his hands all over that. FIU's student life is a joke. Since Rosenberg has taken over, FIU student life has gotten worse every years. Have you seen FIU's Fraternity Row? What a joke. FIU has such potential for tailgating, but they treat FIU students like High School.

Outcome Agent, that is some very interesting things you have written, you forgot to mention that FIU is still paying Modesto Maidique over $500,000+, money that could be spent on a real coach.

I am disappointed in Pete Garcia, and in FIU. FIU needs to fire their AD, and all the people that came with him from UM. Rosenberg grow a pair.

Bravo DJN, bravo.

That crowd sounds so lively.

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