FIU's sand volleyball season, which ended Sunday, could've come with the Brooklyn-esque "Wait 'til next year!"
Three of the four players on FIU's top two pairs, Jessica Mendoza/Maryna Samoday and Kate Stepanova/Ksenia Sukhareva, are juniors. The 6-3 Stepanova finished her graduate work at FIU and will be the only player out of eligibility.
Mendoza/Samoday got to the semifinals of the (deep breath) American Volleyball Coaches Association Collegiate Sand Volleyball Championship pairs championship before losing to Long Beach State's Caitlin Ledoux and Tara Roenicke 21-11, 21-16.
Before that, Mendoza/Samoday beat Chelsea Cabrajac and Delainey Aigner-Swesey in three sets, 21-11, 22-24, 15-12, then got past Florida State's Jace Pardon and Sara Wickstrom, 21-19, 21-15.
Stepanova/Sukhareva outlasted Saint Mary's Dalas Dodd (daughter of 1996 Olympics beach silver medalist Mike Dodd) and Jordan Shaw 12-21, 21-18, 15-13. In the quarterfinal round, Georgia State's Lane Carico and Katie Madewell took out the FIU pair, 21-15, 13-21, 15-12.
When you've got a small roster that might be getting shorter after grades say some guys had trouble with the "student" part of student-athlete, you start recruiting the next class as soon as possible.
FIU's thrown out offers to Neptune Beach Fletcher quarterback/punter Luke Medlock (brother of Jake Medlock), Jacksonville Bishop Kenny John Wolford....
Davie Western defensive back Juwon Dowels and Vero Beach wide receiver Will Dawkins.
Grades posted Thursday. I'm hearing the football Panthers either ineligible for the first four games (at least) or in need of summer savings number at least eight. Most of the names I've heard are on defense, but three are offensive skill position players.
Of course, considering FIU's looking at a 1-3 record in the first four games -- going to Maryland in the first game for a new coach, hosting Bethune-Cookman and Central Florida, going to Sugar Bowl-champion Louisville -- not much harm there. But there won't be much time to integrate those players heading into the Conference USA schedule.
Meanwhile, FIU exported two pairs to the 16-pair "Best of the Rest" tournament at the American Volleyball Coaches Association Sand Volleyball National Championship. Each went 2-0 Friday.
Jessica Mendoza and Maryna Samoday, the No. 3 seed in their group, today face No. 2 seed Kelly Reeves and Meg Norton from UCLA and Bethanie Thomas and Kariana Hirini from Alabama-Birmingham. Kate Stepanova and Ksenia Sukhareva No. 2 in their group, will face No. 1 Tylor Nyquist and Sammie Strausbaugh from Jacksonville U. That's in the afternoon, after they get Loyola Marymount's Felicia Arriola and Litara Kell earlier in the day.
Leading scorer Tymell Murphy announced via Twitter that he'll be staying at FIU for his senior season.
That's what this weekend was. Students moving out. Students moving in. Players getting told where to move next.
And guys moving from here to there in 10.63 seconds. That's how long it took FIU football signee Wilkerson Myrtil, out of Orlando Jones, to win the Class 2A state championship in the 100 meters Saturday. Myrtil finished fourth, with a 21.49 in the 200.
In the postdraft frenzy of collecting undrafted free aget clamshells hoping to find a pearl (or, in the case of most, collecting bodies to beat up in training camp, then cut), Current Cleveland Browns signed offensive tackle Caylin Hauptmann and Former Cleveland Browns (Baltimore) signed cornerback Jose Cheeseborough. Junior Mertile's size and athleticism got some NFL scouts attention this season and the Giants signed him.
FIU defensive end Tourek Williams heard his name in the big NFL choose-up when San Diego picked him in the sixth round, 179th overall.
Now the Norland High graduate gets a shot at making a team in one of North America's most beautiful cities. Williams' training camp mission (and you know he'll decide to accept it) is simple: Get to the quarterback, perhaps as an outside linebacker in the 3-4, or get to the returner on special teams. As a sixth round pick, he's got to do one or the other or don't bother sending for his boxes of stuff.
Kind of funny that the two drafts that FIU's seen two players taken, 2007 and 2013, followed seasons of 0-12 and 3-9. And Antwan Barnes is entering his seventh NFL season. It reinforces something forgotten all too often these days when people thump "Well, how many titles/games did HE win?": you can't confuse an individual with the whole. Good players, even great players, can be found on bad teams at every level.
And, as agent Drew Rosenhaus pointed out, by going in the second round, FIU safety Johnathan Cyprien will get a four-year contract instead of a five-year one. Back to the Jacksonville bank earlier if he plays well.
Jacksonville finished last season 2-14. Second round picks should be starting on teams coming off 2-14. New head coach Gus Bradley opined recently that the Jaguars didn't have a true strong safety on their roster. NFL Network scouting analyst Mike Mayock sees Cyprien as similar to Seattle's Kam Chancellor, if not as long, but able to play the "enforcement safety" in the defense Bradley brings with him from Seattle. NFL Network's Charles Davis, a former player, thinks Cyp's got more range than Chancellor.
Bradley mentioned Cyprien's angles to the ball. In almost every radio interview I've done discussing Cyprien, I lauded his closing speed to the ball while also noting it's faster than his 40 time would indicate. That's why. A half-step saved in an angle is the different between a tackle and a cameo in a highlight film.
Safety Johnathan Cyprien's party got started quickly Friday night as Jacksonville took him with the first pick in the second round of the NFL Draft. I'll have video from the party on the blog later. Right now, I've got to crank out the story, edit the photos and video, blah, blah, blah.
But rarely will you see a public release of joy such as Cyprien let out after getting off the phone with ESPN.
Oh, well. The draft watch party's tomorrow anyway.
NFL Network's Mike Mayock, the best of the draft analysts, had FIU safety Johnathan Cyprien as the third best safety in the draft. One of the two he rated better was Florida's Matt Elam, who went to Baltimore with the last pick in the first round. So, Cyprien's right where Mayock figured he'd be.
He should go during the second or third round Friday. If defensive end Tourek Williams gets picked, it'll be during Saturday's last four rounds.
San Francisco, Green Bay, Dallas, Cincinnati, Baltimore, Washington, over to 27th Avenue and turn north to the Dolphins...all have been mentioned as possible landing spots for safety Johnathan Cyprien either Thursday or Friday in the NFL Draft.
I like that Cyprien's holding his draft watch party Friday, the night of Rounds 2 and 3. That way, the party's either going on when he gets picked in the second round or a celebration of being taken in the first round Thursday night.
What's interesting to me is instead of climbing draft charts based on being a workout warrior -- he did only the vertical jump among the decathlon-type measurements at the combine -- Cyp impressed draftniks enough at Senior Bowl practices to send draftniks back to the game tape on him. Seeing Cyprien as first two rounds material comes from football analysis, not athleticism-birthed hope.
All the buzz could be wrong. But you'd rather bet on analysis than hope.
Sun Belt champion FIU predictably dominated the Sun Belt conference's awards, which were announced Thursday.
Freshman Meghan MacLaren, medalist at the conference championship tournament, was named Freshman of the Year, and Joe Vogel received Coach of the Year honors. MacLaren, Shelby Cole and Sophie Godley comprised half the All-Sun Belt First Team. Yolecci Jimeez and Tania Tare were voted to the Second Team by the league's head coaches.
New FIU men's hoop coach Anthony Evans wasted no time trying to get more size onto the roster, signing 6-10 Daniel Robinson to a letter of intent.
Robinson spent the 2012-13 season across the state at the IMG Academy after going to high school at Chesapeake (Va.) Atlantic Shores Christian. As a senior, he averaged only 9.3 points per game, but 8.4 rebounds and 3.3 blocks.
FIU lacked size and a fearsome defensive presence inside last season. If teams could avoid FIU's thievery in the backcourt and on the perimeter, open or easy shots often resulted. The Panthers ranked 253rd in blocked shots per game and 279th in field goal percentage defense. Clearly, Robinson's meant to address some of that.
Early in the season, sand volleyball coach Rita Buck-Crockett said FIU's top two pairs could stand up against any in the country. FIU just needed to get some depth behind them for team success.
While FIU got enough depth to get to No. 8 in the nation, that still left them outside the velvet rope when it came to this year's American Volleyball Coaches Association Sand Volleyball Championship in the team category. Pepperdine, Long Beach State, USC, North Florida, Florida State and Louisiana-Monroe comprise that field.
But FIU's top two pairs, Kate Stepanova/Ksenia Sukhareva and Jessica Mendoza/Maryna Samoday got picked for the 16-team pairs competition -- the No. 1 pairs from the six schools in the team championship and 10 other pairs adjudged by the nation's coaches as the nation's best. Among those 10 pairs, only FIU and UCLA have two pairs in the group.
All of this will take place May 3-5 at Gulf Shores, Alabama. The final of the team championship Saturday as well as the semifinal and final of Sunday's pairs championship will be on CBS Sports Network.
About an hour into Saturday's scrimmage, public address announcer Jay Rokeach announced a first down for the offense. It jarring me into a realizing how rare I'd heard JayRo make that announcement today.
Even the one touchdown shouldn't have been. A cheap pass interference penalty when Jake Medlock overthrew a covered T.J. Lowder extended the drive before Medlock zipped the 29-yarder to Willis Wright.
That and an earlier 18-yard completion to a sliding Wright amidst three defenders were Medlock's two best passes of the day. You could almost see he and second string E.J. Hilliard thinking the progressions. Certainly defenders could -- they were hijacking routes like Jimmy "The Gent" Conway all day. Jugglers and butterfingers on the defensive side let the offense get away with only one interception, Sam Gervais' clutching of a tipped pass.
The offensive line got stampeded, making the defensive line look like the 1975 Pittsburgh Steelers and putting the running backs in the role of victims. Jakhari Gore, Shane Coleman and Lemarq Caldwell sometimes did well to get back to the line of scrimmage.
Though certain units were rotated with others (say, second team defensive backs with first team everything else), here's the two-deep as best as I could determine from Saturday as FIU leaves spring (none of this says who'll be academically eligible come August):
First team offense: QB Medlock; RB Kedrick Rhodes; FB (when FIU uses one) Lemarq Caldwell; WRs Willis Wright, Glenn Coleman, Dominique Rhymes; TE Ya'keem Griner; LT Aaron Nielsen; LG Delmar Taylor; C Donald Senat; RG Trenton Saunders; RT David Delsoin.
Second team offense: QB Hilliard; RB Jakhari Gore; RB Shane Coleman; WRs T.J. Lowder, Jairus Williams; TE Zach Schaubhut; LT Dieugot Joseph; LG Edens Sineace; C Michael Montero; RG Ian Koch; RT Aaron Nielsen.
First team defense: DEs Paul Crawford, Giovanni Francois; DTs Fadol Brown, Greg Hickman; LBs Davison Colimon, Patrick Jean, Luis Rosado; CBs Richard Leonard, Sam Miller; S Demarkus Perkins, Antwoine Bell.
Second team defense: DEs Lars Koht, Denzell Perrine; DTs Leonard Washington, Darrian Dyson; LBs Derrick Jones, Jr, Markeith Russell, Michael Wakefield; CBs Sam Gervais, Jeremiah McKinnon; S Justin Halley, Mitch Wozniak.
(Saturday, the second team linebackers played with the first team most of the day, but Turner's comments and the previous practices indicate the above is accurate.)
Special teams: K Sergio Sroka; P Jake Medlock, Chris Ayers; PR Richard Leonard, Jakhari Gore.
Medlock said of punting, "I've got to get back into it. I've got to take lessons from my little brother. He's been kicking the crap out of it so I've got to go back home and learn from him."
Medlock's two punts were just as good as Ayers three Saturday. At the practices I've attended, that's the way it's been all spring. Saturday, both Leonard and Gore muffed a punt, running counter to how well they've been fielding punts this spring.
When I asked Hickman to conpare the present coaching staff with the previous staff, he said, "It's similar. All the coaches are tough on you and want you to be the best you can be. Then again, Coach Turner brings an NFL mentality to it, which Coach Cristobal didn't have as a coach."
Turner often references the NFL when talking to the team. As Dire Straits said, them guys ain't dumb. Coaches know nothing gets a college player's attention like bringing up the names of the players and teams they grew up following or still follow. Sometimes, coaching's not so much about conceptual innovation as getting the player to listen, understand and put to use what you're saying. Often, that first hurdle, listening, is the high hurdle.
Turner was talking about the quarterbacks and the new offensive system when he said, "They'll have a summer to digest it, a summer to work on it on their own, to study it. We'll put all the cutups on film and make it available to them. They can come in and watch that. Watch themselves instead of watching Peyton Manning do it or Jay Cutler or Kyle Orton. We've been showing them those kind of films to watch those guys do it. Now, they'll watch themselves. That's the best way you can learn."
A few things from Saturday afternoon's scrimmage. I'll expand on this post or have an entirely new in-depth post later after writing my news story on the scrimmage.
There was one touchdown, Jake Medlock zipping a line drive to Willis Wright on a post for 29 yards; one interception, redshirt junior Sam Gervais picking off a Medlock pass that sophomore linebacker Michael Wakefield tipped; and one fumble, running back Lemarq Caldwell on the second play.
That fumble was recovered by the star of the scrimmage, sophomore defensive tackle Fadol Brown. Brown also had four sacks, innumerable tackles and just took advantage of FIU's immature offensive line.
FIU coach Ron Turner said running back Kedrick Rhodes has had one of the best springs of any individual player, but didn't play Saturday because he was "banged up." He said had Saturday been a real game, Rhodes could've played. (Heck, anybody who follows FIU knows that. Whenever Rhodes played last year after the third game, he did so on two imperfect ankles).
Kicker Serge Sroka made five of six field goals with a long of 47 yards. Medlock punted almost as well as Chris Ayers.
FIU's only conference titleists over the last two academic years: women's soccer in 2011 -- they lost 1-0 in the Sun Belt final in 2012 and with almost everybody back should contend in Conference USA next year -- and 2013 women's golf.
So you can understand why the latter got a nice welcome from athletic department folks upon being dropped off by Super Shuttle at The Branch after winning this week's Sun Belt tournament.
"We really had the best team oging in and I was hoping we'd be able to play to what our capabilities were," FIU coach Joe Vogel said. "They were really able to do that. We've got a balanced team. My No. 5 player (Sophie Godley) finished in the top five in the tournament. When that happens, you're in pretty good shape. Meghan (MacLaren) won and Tania Tare finished right up there at the top as well."
Vogel pointed to Tare's Wednesday 69 as a key to FIU bringing home the title.
"We were not up by that much going into the backside. Then Tania whipped off three birdies in a row, actually birdied four of the last five. Three girls birdied No. 17. That pretty much sealed it right there."
MacLaren, who finished with medalist honors by two shots with a 4-under 212, said, "I thought the course was pretty tough because we played the practice round in hot conditions. The first round, I played solid and I started to think there were a few birdies out there. And I hit it well all week."
This team is truly Florida (freshman Jasmine Wade, junior Shelby Coyle) and International (the other five players on the roster).
"I always wanted to come to America and I spoke to a few different people and they got me in touch with Coach," said MacLaren, from Cambridge in the UK. "Right from when I started speaking to him, I knew this was a serious possibility. He made me feel really welcome."
FIU athletic director Pete Garcia named golf as a sport he felt FIU should be good in out of location, location, location. True, two-fifths of the PGA Tour lives in Palm Beach County and another two-fifths seemingly live between Orlando and the Florida-Georgia line, but golf's got the same problem as tennis, swimming and other sports where the best young talent flows past the collegiate level. The best young studs and studettes have the choice of playing for a paid education or playing to get paid. That cuts down the talent pool.
"It's hard to recruit. Any time you go after good palyers, there will be several other schools after them as well," Vogel said. "I like to have the advantage of being in South Florida with the weather, especially when I reach out to the girls in Europe or even South America. It's such a good fit for them. They can come over here and practice all the months we're here versus up north where they don't have the weather we do."
A 3-16 season ended Thursday with FIU getting booted from the Sun Belt tennis tournament by Arkansas-Little Rock. But freshman Carlotta Orlando was named to the All-Sun Belt team.
FIU's ranked No. 8 in the American Volleyball Coaches Association national poll that came out Thursday. The 6-5 Panthers have two losses to No. 1 and undefeated Pepperdine and one to No. 2 Long Beach State University. Six teams get invited to the national championships May 3-5 in Gulf Shores, Alabama.
Three FIU players finished in the top five as FIU ran away with the Sun Belt Conference women's golf title after three days on the Robert Trent Jones Golf Trail's Fighting Joe Course at The Shoals (phew) in Muscle Shoals, Alabama. FIU gets an automatic berth to the NCAAs East Regional, to be hosted by Auburn, May 9-11.
Freshman Meghan MacLaren did an Ayrton Senna in a McLaren-Honda or Bruce McLaren in his Can-Am McLaren on the field, leading wire-to-wire in winning medalist honors with a 4-under 212. Freshman Sophie Godley's 2-over 218 got her a tie for fourth and senior Tania Tare finished in fifth, 3-0ver 219.
Amidst the fumes from The Beach at The Branch, FIU introduced Anthony Evans as its new men's basketball coach. Packing the suite were coaches (including Ron Turner, Rita Buck-Crockett and Cindy Russo), some of last season's FIU team and a plethora of folks connected with the athletic department, past and present. More people there than at the start of the FIU-FAMU game.
"For the recruits in the South Florida area, we're going to recruit you extremely hard," Evans said. "We want to build this program on local talent, so we can get this community energized and behind this basketball program."
Evans said he thought he was close last year to getting the FIU job that went to Richard Pitino. "Obviously, Richard has a great reputation as a recruiter. I know that's something (FIU athletic director) Pete (Garcia) was huge on." Garcia said Evans lost to Pitino "by a nose."
Evans thanked Pitino "for saying great things about me. For being an advocate for me getting this position and for building a solid foundation moving forward for years to come." He also thanked South Carolina (and former Miami High) coach Frank Martin and Marquette coach Buzz Williams, whom he called "great friends," for recommending him to Garcia.
Evans said he liked The Beach at The Branch: "I love it. Naw, it's unique. if Pete had anything to do with it, I knew it would be unique...I think it sets us apart from other schools and I think that's what you want."
Garcia said FIU would tour Spain for two weeks in August.
Evans explained afterwards that the APR bouncing during his time as Norfolk's head coach was the result of players not adhering to the structures and rules in place and not being made to do so by the coaching staff. And by "coaching staff" he made clear he meant himself, not any assistant.
The team's leading three-point shooter, guard Malik Smith, might not be transferring as he indicated on Twitter and via Instagram the night Minnesota announced Pitino's hiring.
Evans hadn't made any decisions yet on how many of his Norfolk assistants he's bringing with him.
About eight seconds after I started my Monday with a car crash, I thought, this FIU men's basketball coach thing will break today.
Now that I've returned from the emergency room (my daughter, an earring, an embedded second back...sigh. I really need a drink), let's take a quick look at Anthony Evans. And if you're going to read a Herald story on Evans, read the one online now. I didn't get much of a chance to update the quickie early online version before we had to go to print.
Norfolk State went Division I in basketball in 1997. An annual 20-win team at the Division II level, Norfolk put up a winning season in its second D-I season, the only season Mel Coleman coached. After that, the program lived at the same just-under-mediocrity neighborhood that FIU's lived in most of its time in Division I. They didn't have another winning season until Evans' first year, 16-15 in 2007-08.
Though Norfolk put up losing records each of the next three seasons, the conference record never got worse than 8-8. That says Evans never let his program fall into being the least among its peers. He was considered one of the great bargains in coaching. He made only $125,000 per season before last year's contract extension.
In basketball, so much more than football, sometimes, all it takes is one player to turn a program in the right direction for a little while. Kyle O'Quinn, a 6-10 forward who slipped through the cracks and down to Norfolk, and 6-6 guard Pendarvis Williams were those guys for Norfolk in 2011-12 and 2012-13. O'Quinn became the first player to be named Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference Player of the Year and Defensive Player of the Year in the seame season.
Norfolk did have more than those two players. In fact, O'Quinn was gone last year and Norfolk still put up impressive defensive numbers and slipped only a little (40th to 49th) in the national blocked shot rankings.
The Academic Progress Rate situation at Norfolk over the years might give a little pause. Progress has looked more like the charting of a Wall Street rumble between bulls and bears.
Norfolk's 888 multi-year APR in 2006-07 was enough to draw a public notice finger wag from the NCAA. It slipped to 885 next year, but the Four-Letter Organization noted that the basketball team still was outperforming Norfolk State's regular students in this regard.
A 2008-09 APR of 962 bumped the multiyear to 904. But an 840 the following year dragged the multiyear APR down to 894. Scholardhips were reduced to 11 and basketball time was cut to only five days a week and 16 hours total. Another year of 962 in 2010-11 brought the multi-year back up to an acceptable 926.
Unless I'm missing my count, that means Evans coached a 26-win team while under some pretty serious NCAA restrictions. That's an attractive accomplishment to a program that's looking at some NCAA sanctions.
At least FIU got this done before the signing period starts for men's basketball. Between seniors, a couple of transfers and probably a signee getting out of his letter of intent, the Panthers should be back on the player hunt.
FIU leads the pack after the first round of the Sun Belt Women's Golf Championships. The Panthers leads Middle Tennessee by two and Troy by 3. Freshman Meghan MacLaren is on her way to a possbile medalist award, tied atop the leaderboard with Arkansas-Little Rock sophomore Sofia Berglund.
Norfolk State's Anthony Evans will be thenew FIU men's basketball coach, a source close to FIU confirmed.
Evans was Norfolk's head coach for six seasons, the last two ending with postseason bids. Norfolk upset Missouri in the 2012 NCAA tournament and lost to Virginia in this year's NIT tourament after a 21-win season. He had three winning seasons at Norfolk and five seasons over .500 in the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference. This season, Norfolk went 16-0 in conference play.
Norfolk also plays the type of up-tempo, pressure defense game FIU athletic director Pete Garcia said he wanted to see the Panthers continue to play.
A few things from Friday morning's football practice, occasionally in cooling rain:
Wide receiver-turned-strong-safety Adrian Jenkins picked off E.J. Hilliard in team drills. But when working in the red zone, Hilliard looked like he had a better day than Jake Medlock.
"I think both of them right now are just focusing on learning the offense, knowing exactly what we're doing so they can react," head coach Ron Turner said. "Neither are to the point where they can react yet. Every play they're thinking. That's going to happen for a while."
Turner said he doesn't know whether his offense exceeds FIU's previous offense in complexity or diversity, but knows "it is as opposite as it can be. So, it's completely different. Terminology, schemes, techniques, fundamentals, there's not one thing that's similar."
Freshman linebacker Patrick Jean and redshirt freshman wide receiver Dominique Rhymes, at separate times over the last few days, complimented the coaching staff on its teaching ability and attention to instructional detail.
Jean said linebackers coach Tom Williams, "explains football to us in a way we understand, so that we actually know the game.”
When I asked for an example, Jean said, “In meetings, he showed us the mannerisms of the back. That’s something I never knew before. I never looked at the footwork of the back, I never saw his shoulders. I always watched the o-lineman in front of me. He’s training my eyes instead of my feet. The physicality, that’s going to come. The technique, that’s going to come. I can work on that. But if I get it right with my eyes, I can play faster now.”
Wide receiver Raymond Jackson hasn't been at the last few practices. Turner gave the almost euphemistic explanation that Jackson is "taking care of some personal stuff, focusing on academics" but also said, "We'll get together at the end of spring and see where we go." I suspect offensive lineman Prince Matt's in the same boat.
I'm hearing that Tymell Murphy, last year's leading scorer, will wait to see who the new coach is before deciding whether or not to transfer.
Local native Tony Pujol, now an assistant at Alabama, has been in the mix the last couple of times this job came open. Pujol worked at Virginia Commonwealth and Alabama under Anthony Grant, another Miami native. Also, at Appalachian State, Pujol helped with a multi-year team APR that was consistently above 970.
The Pitino-Donovan connection: Grant coached under Billy Donovan during Donovan's first 10 seasons at Florida before heading for VCU and Bama, five of those seasons as associate head coach. Donovan thinks highly of Grant who thinks highly of Pujol.
FIU enters next week's Sun Belt Conference tournament with the best team stroke average and the individual with the best stroke average, freshman Meghan MacLaren.
Jonathan Winters, an artist as a comedian and a comedian who was a funny artist -- some of his paintings possessed smarter wit than a season of average sitcoms. Winters might've been the most complete comedian we've seen. He could bring down the house and leave other comedians in awe doing stand up, prop, improvisation as well as comic acting, a comic cycle few attempt.
Winters reminds me of Dave Letterman in that some people just didn't get him, but those that did laughed very hard. For a very long time. He died Thursday.
Coming up on the seven to 10-day period FIU executive director of sports and entertainment Pete Garcia set last week for hiring a new basketball coach, there's no smoke coming out of the athletic offices wing of The Branch. The court's almost finished, though. You can go to my Twitter feed, http://www.twitter.com/DavidJNeal for that photo as I'm still having trouble uploading photos. Video still works, so perhaps I'll do a little Oscar Micheaux tomorrow when I'm out at Camp Mitch for football practice.
Florida assistant coach John Pelphrey didn't want to comment on any interest in the open head coaching position 5 hours to the south. Pelphrey played under Rick Pitino at Kentucky and has been an assistant under Billy Donovan at Florida twice. Between those assistant periods, Pelphrey was head coach at South Alabama (80-67, one NCAA, one NIT bid in five years) and Arkansas (69-59, one NCAA bid in four years).
If he's going to get another shot at a head coaching job, it'll be at an FIU or another Conference USA-level school. He's making $180,000 at Florida, so this job would be a bump in salary if not program profile.
Rivals.com reports that Maryland assistant Scott Spinelli interviewed for the job. Spinelli's been an assistant under Mark Turgeon at Maryland, Texas A&M and Wichita State. Pitino/Donovan connection? Spinelli played at Boston University while Pitino, who had just left BU, was coaching at nearby Providence and became an important prep school coach in a Boston basketball world Pitino knows well.
Spinelli earned just over $207,000 for the 2011-12 season, according to the Washington Times.