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Wednesday night at The Branch

So it was back out to Camp Mitch Wednesday night for the FIU-Florida A&M basketball game. I'm one of the few people who can say that on a night with school still out, the Heat playing at the Jetsonsesque Triple A and the University of Florida getting battered in the Sugar Bowl by Louisville.

  

Richard Pitino has said he wanted his team ready to play whether the crowd was five or 5,000 and after a shaky first few minutes, FIU looked happy to be home against Florida A&M. The women's hoop team dealt FAMU some pain in Tallahassee with Jerica Coley's 35 points and Finda Mansare hitting a shot with six seconds left for a 70-69 win.

At The Branch, 5-9 Deric Hill played defense like a one-man gnat swarm, deflecting 20 passes by FIU's count and making an official seven steals. At least two other times, his pressure led to steals by others and FAMU's shot clock violation came after Hill discombobulated a possession by deflecting a pass. Meanwhile, forward Tymell Murphy had the rare 20-20 night, 24 points and 20 rebounds, one game after having zero rebounds.

"No," Pitino laughed when I asked him if he saw this night coming from Hill. "He plays very hard and he's a disrupter defensively. He's always given us a lot, but giving us seven steals and eight assists is something I didn't anticipate."

At times, play rambled along with the raggedness and barely controlled speed of a hooptie with turbo. FIU's aggressiveness on defense eventually carried the day as the Panthers pulled away late to a 88-72 win. FIU forced 25 turnovers and ran to a 21-6 advantage in fast break points.

"This is the way I want to play," Pitino said. "I want to play a lot of guys, pressure teams, speed them up. Try to create offense from our defense. And we did that. We had almost 100 offensive possessions. We really got out and ran. We tried to emphasize that because the pace was too slow. We don't want to do that. We want to make conditioning a factor."

Marco Porcher Jimenez also gave FIU valuable minutes, especially in the first half when he had nine points and two rebounds in just six minutes.

"We've got very good walk-ons. Marco's a very good player, Juan (Ferrales) is a very good player, Deric Hill's a very good player," Pitino said. "The thing about Marco I love is he knows how to play, he guards and he can shoot. If you can shoot in our system, you normally are going to be successful. And he's not scared to shoot, too, which I love."

After six consecutive road games, the Panthers were happy to be back in their own house even if there was only about a house party's worth of folks there. (Official attendance was 778. By a late first half count, 278 is closer to actual attendance.)

"I'm very happy with that performance," Pitino said. "We haven't played great at home. We haven't played much at home. But when you're trying to rebuild a culture, you want to show your fans the brand of basketball you're trying to play. With the people who showed up today, they go home, they tell people and they come back and I think that's the way you build your program the way you want to build it."

A couple of conference gatherings, the Sun Belt and Conference USA, will be in South Florida soon. Look for this possibility: FAU and Middle Tennessee making the jump from The Belt to C-USA this coming academic year with FIU and North Texas instead of 2014. Apparently, there's been tension between those schools and The Belt. Middle-philes found it awfully suspicious that their 8-4 team, which finished tied for second in The Belt, played in the winner-take-all game for The Belt title and had beaten Georgia Tech soundly, got left out of the bowl party while 7-5 Western Kentucky went to a bowl. Shortly before bowl bids were announced, Middle announced it was moving to Conference USA.

SEARCHIN'...

Some athletic department staff allegedly were told Wednesday that the football coaching search could go another seven to 10 days. That does put it close to the Jan. 15, when Butch Davis will get another $592,000 from the University of North Carolina. What Davis' lawyer told me via e-mail was posted here previously. After almost two decades waking up next to a lawyer (Harvard Law '82, same class as John Roberts and Alberto Gonzales), I know that lawyers who started practicing before e-mail almost reflexively avoid putting things into e-mail that aren't certain. 

The American Football Coaches Association convention is Sunday through next Wednesday. Usually, that's a bonanza of interviews as everybody tries to get their staffs filled out before recruiting (college) or free agency (NFL). Mario Cristobal's staff remains technically in FIU's employ and will remain so until the new coach is hired. Then, whomever that person is will be given the option of what to do with the staff.

TRACKING SEARCHES...

To those who don't like the use of "sources," you obviously haven't followed a coaching search before. If you've noticed, rarely does a candidate for a job admit on the record that he's even looking for a job, much less has interviewed for it. Nor do schools or franchises often admit on the record who they're going after, especially if the group of folks running the search is small (as is the case here). What the Dolphins did last year, announcing interviews, is far from the norm. More the norm was Dallas offensive line coach Tony Sparano being almost the only person in Dallas who wouldn't talk about Tony Sparano as the next Dolphins head coach in the 24 hours after the Cowboys lost in the 2007 NFL playoffs. I think he was introduced as Dolphins coach two days later.

As I don't spend all waking hours at Camp Mitch -- wouldn't mind it some days -- nor am I Gene Hackman's character in The Conversation or Enemy of the State, several somebodies likely are going to see things I don't and hear things I don't. So I see what I see and sift through a lot of "you didn't hear it from me, but..." or "off the record, I heard..." Sometimes, people are honestly wrong. Sometimes, people lie.

Today, I told you about the two very different things I was hearing about Danny Hope. Back in the days before blogs and 24/7 reporting, I wouldn't have written anything. Or, maybe if this search hadn't gone on for a almost a month, I wouldn't have written anything. I've done coaching searches for over two decades, but this is my first with a blog.

For those who think I'm angry about things said in the comments, I'm not. Tired and undercaffeinated, yes, maybe a little miffed in a "Seriously?" way, but not truly angry. I'm too old for that (stuff).

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"Sources" hahahahahhahah, DNJ we still love you; and appreciate your work.

Wow, that arena was rocking!!! Keep doing what you do DJN. In the words of the great Jedi master Yoda.... “Fear is the path to the dark side. Fear leads to anger. Anger leads to hate. Hate leads to suffering.” I sense no anger in you wise Jedi of journalism.

If we lose is because we lost and would be an article about that.If we win we get a panoramic view of the arena to show that nobody cares. Can we ever win in this Blog?

I read the whole thing about the new coach and I learn one thing: the writer has no idea who the next coach would be, same thing as anybody else. The sources continue to be tweets.

Not all that surprising you read things and can't understand what was said.

Butch Davis' lawyer emailed with DJ Neal, that's not a "tweet".

^^^^ LOL!!!

Sad thing is, I kind of agree. I've been trying to move forward from Uherald conspirancy theory. Trying to move forward from the light that Pete Pelligrin shed on us a few years ago.

I'm giving DJN the benefit of doubt . After a rough start to my readership of DJN thru twitter ;-), DJN has been pretty cool.

But, we are still watching you Herald!! And still watching our backs. And looking forward. And looking at our blind spots.... Hell our heads are cinstantly spinning!

Right now as I said, I'm hoping (for ease of mind) that DJN will go sherlock Holmes on PG. That way we can put all rumors and disgruntled former employees to bed and know if PG is the AD we need going forward.

BTW, that pathetic attendace is the responsibility of PG.

I don't blame the attendance on P. Garcia. I actually blame it on the 45K students, and the hundreds of thousands of Alum's that leave no more then 15miles from campus (that would include myself). During football season you see the same problem. In most games the student section is at least Half filled, but the alumni section has no more then 500 fans in it. Only game we didn't go was the last home game because once the team gave up all hope there was no point in going. And yes the upper class-men GAVE UP!

As for the New Coach. I think we all have to move from the possibility of having Butch. I think that would have been an amazing pick-up, but its NOT going to happen. Very upset that we will start next week with NO COACH! I personally thought we would have a final answer sometime before Sunday (and that will not happen).

Go Panthers!

Did anyone watch the Sugar Bowl. Louisville gave the Gators a spanking or a simple ass kicking in a BCS Bowl, and this was the team FIU beat last year in KY!! Talk about two programs going in different directions in ONLY 365 days.
Three things I got from the game:
1) Louisville did not give a crap that they came in 14point underdogs and with a VERY WEAK running game. They used ALL their strong weapons, and stayed away from their weaknesses. You can feel the energy they where playing with.

2) Louisville sold 15K tickets to students, and Alum's, while U.F sold 7K. Talk about BIG time support from the student body and Alum's.

3) They OPENED up the playbook, and then some! They never held back even when they had a 3 score lead. Way to go!

Can we get back to winning a Bowl game in the next 2 years? I sure hope so!

Speaking of Bowl Games. Here is the list of all Bowl games C-USA has ties with.. Plenty of choices as long as you have a good season:

Liberty Bowl #1 seed (@ Tenn)
Hawaii Bowl #2 seed (@ Hawaii)
Armed Forces Bowl #3 seed (TX)
New Orleans Bowl #4 seed (N.O) if available
Beef O Brady's Bowl #5 seed (Fl)
Military Bowl # 6 seed (DC) if available

Yes i know Im getting WAY ahead.. Lets find a good coach and staff first. LOL

Go FIU!

David J Neal what was the whole point of you showing us the video of the bleachers? It seems like you are always trying to take shots at FIU, such a hater, you are worthless.

GoochSiete,

PG's contract clearly states attendance is his responsibility along with fund raising.

I posted the link to PG's signed contract from 2011 a few blogs ago.

Wether his fault or not any performace evaluation should include this point. also should include the upgrade to C-USA. Just like MC wasn't the coach going forward (my opinion) we need to evaluate if PG is the AD going forward. I'm leaning to yes particularly if we land an expirienced coach. And I do fault him for the contract extension issued to MC after a fourth place sunbelt finish. However I have not looked to check if th MC buyout was altered with the extension. If the money to be paid by fiu was increased in the event of termination by the school, than PG really screwed up.

DJN, you've made enough trips around the sun to know what you're dealing with here. Keep on keepin' on my man. We're lucky to have you here.

Can we just hire the HC already? The clock's really ticking now. I never understand how other schools can fill in their vacancies within a week or two and yet we're still searching? PG does now that NSD is right around the corner right?

That attendance is pretty sad, though, and it is hardly DJN's fault. Used to be 750 for most of the TAAC games, twenty years ago. I think that the decision to drop radio broadcasts has impacted both football and basketball (it just makes it all seem pretty rinky-dink when you don't have a radio presence)--I know that PG has said that it is more cost effective to give free turkeys and whatnot to students to entice them to roll out of the dorms but it doesn't seem to have worked; there was an initial surge for Isaiah, but when he proved to be beyond woeful, attendance tanked. Maybe by next year, Pitino will be able to win a few and draw. For football, the students do roll into the tailgate lot regularly but that ensuing climb up the stadium steps seems to be pretty arduous for many. I don't think one-tenth made it in from the parking lot during the last home game. Another factor affecting football attendance in the alumni section this year was the decision to require a substantial donation to the Panther Club in order to hang onto sideline seats. Not sure FIU alums are quite that anxious to post yet, Pete--you can't simply declare "We are now a big time program, so cough up." And whether it is Butch Davis, Danny Hope, or Roary coaching next year, I don't see those stands filling until the wins start piling up. FIU can eventually draw 20,000 (and more for marquee games), but it is going to take a quality product trotting out there for a few years running to make it happen. The failure to field a disciplined and competitive team this year can scarcely be over-emphasized. Whether it was the coaching, the players, the AD, or plain old bad luck, the result has been profound. I'd like to believe that there will be a sparkling new hire soon, that many of the former recruits will be retained, that we will be an exciting team to watch next year, and that we can avoid a return to square one. Then again, I keep thinking that next year will be the Browns' year, too.

Robert that was very funny, you should go to a comedy club with that.

When you put the words "Cristobal" and "greatness" in the same sentence I knew you were joking. Nobody that actually has watched an FIU game can say that.

Cristobal is as great as Sparano, Cam Cameron or Wannstash.

1. neal has received the runaround from fiu on garcia's personnel file because fiu board of trustees chairman albert maury is garcia's party buddy. maury greased the independent firm brought in to evaluate garcia. the independent firm recommended fiu fire garcia due to his poor performance as ad.

2. maury and garcia take the leon medical center plane to las vegas for booze-filled weekends with hookers. leon donated $10 million to fiu medical school.

3. sandra perdomo put up with garcia's abuse until she had enough. perdomo complained to madique and left fiu.

4. hey cristobal congratulations on becoming the golden panthers coach. by the way you will be missing scholarships.

5. hey pitino congratulations on your first head coaching job. by the way you will be missing scholarships.

6. i heard about those football team flights on small planes that were overweight and delayed the golden panthers arrival before games this season.

7. butch davis will not be the golden panthers next coach. this coaching search the past month has been a sham hoping davis will reconsider fiu after his lawyer said he would not take the fiu job.

8. don't forget fundraising is also the ad's responsibility and there has been none done by ad.

9. tony sparano has a similar mustache to garcia so there is your new golden panthers coach.

what was the point of david posting the video of the empty arena? i don't see manny posting video of the empty bank atlantic arena in coral gables which we all know suffers from its own attendance problems.

disappointed in david. ur turning out to be another adam beasley.

same ole, same ole from the Herald. you get paid extra for the video David? I guess we've all got to make ends meet.

Funny, DJN was sitting next to Garcia during the game and chatting as well. Heh.

A little about the overpaid athletic director who just hired Tina Turner....

1. Garcia was supposed to have been fired by FIU. There are documents that existed, according to former employees, and which FIU has failed to provide. David has received the runaround.

2. Garcia is buddies with the chairman of the board of trustees, who has a bad reputation himself. These two are of the same questionable character.

3. Garcia's former assistant left FIU in a cloud of scandal and was paid hush money by former president Madique. Everyone who worked inside FIU Athletics knows of this. There were several allegations of abuse and harrassment that would have hurt the university big time if handled in the legal system.

4. Garcia failed to inform Cristobal about the loss of scholarships when Cristobal accepted the job.

5. Garcia did the same with the new basketball coach. Go ask Richard Pitino.

6. Cristobal had no financial resources for the football program. He had to scrape together pennies to pay his assistants. It was expected that the top talent in the coaching rankes would be poached. Nobody would stay and work for the salaries paid, all of which are under 100k a year for what amounts to work around the clock.

7. The current recruits and their families are angry. They feel as if FIU has taken them for a ride. Other programs have already filled their coaching vacancies. FIU's inability to do so speaks to problems that exist within the athletic department.

8. Attendance is the responsibility of Pete Garcia and sports marketing. They earn an F for their work.

9. Cristobal will move on to greatness. We will be left with a program in shambles. Butch Davis? Not a chance. Another broken down coach on the way down? Possibly. More likely it will be an inexpensive coach on the way up.


1. neal has received the runaround from fiu on garcia's personnel file because fiu board of trustees chairman albert maury is garcia's party buddy. maury greased the independent firm brought in to evaluate garcia. the independent firm recommended fiu fire garcia due to his poor performance as ad.

2. maury and garcia take the leon medical center plane to las vegas for booze-filled weekends with hookers. leon donated $10 million to fiu medical school.

3. sandra perdomo put up with garcia's abuse until she had enough. perdomo complained to madique and left fiu.

4. hey cristobal congratulations on becoming the golden panthers coach. by the way you will be missing scholarships.

5. hey pitino congratulations on your first head coaching job. by the way you will be missing scholarships.

6. i heard about those football team flights on small planes that were overweight and delayed the golden panthers arrival before games this season.

7. butch davis will not be the golden panthers next coach. this coaching search the past month has been a sham hoping davis will reconsider fiu after his lawyer said he would not take the fiu job.

8. don't forget fundraising is also the ad's responsibility and there has been none done by ad.

9. garcia is an fau plant and hired turner because garcia is a big fan of tina turner and thought Ron could get him concert tickets.


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