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Panthers being sold; The difference in UM's player development; Dolphins nuggets; Marlins, Heat

PLEASE SEE BELOW FOR THE WEDNESDAY BUZZ COLUMN

 

Wednesday update: Vinnie Viola, a prominent New York businessman, is closing in on buying the Florida Panthers from Cliff Viner, an industry source said today. Letters of intent have been executed, but the sale is not final and must still be approved by the league. The source said it's conceivable it could fall through but that is not expected to happen.

The Panthers' arena lease runs through 2028, so there are no plans to move the team.

Viola is a prominent hedgefund manager who previously was chairman of the New York Mercantile Exchange and is now chairman of Virtu Financial.

He previously was a Brooklyn Nets minority owner.

Viner had been losing more than $20 million a year and has been quietly looking to sell in recent weeks. It was unclear whether CEO Michael Yormark would remain with the team.

Here's a bit more about Viola, from the Nets' web site:

Vincent Viola was born in Brooklyn in 1956 where he went to local schools, St. Cecilia’s elementary school in Williamsburg and Brooklyn Tech High School. He received an appointment to the US Military Academy at West Point, graduating with a B.S. degree in 1977 as well as from US Army Ranger School. He served as an officer in the 101st Airborne following West Point. Viola and his wife, Teresa, now live in Manhattan after raising three sons in New Jersey.

What is the source of his wealth?
After leaving the Army, where he achieved the rank of major, Viola joined the New York Merchantile Exchange as a "local" trader, becoming a member of the exchange in 1982. That same year, he graduated from New York Law School with a J.D. degree. During his career, Viola served in various positions of leadership at NYMEX, serving as the Chairman of NYMEX from 2001 to 2004. He helped the exchange through the turmoil of the 9-11 attacks and took it public. Viola is a founder and principal of numerous successful proprietary trading and clearing firms and as such is one of the nation’s most successful commodities dealers. He is also a member of the New York Stock Exchange. He is currently the CEO of VirtuFinancial, an electronic commodities trading company and senior strategic advisor to NYMEX.

 Viola, who has been widely credited for his philanthropy, was discussed at length in a book by Leah McGarath Goodman. In the book, interviewee Ben Kaufman, the son of a big oil trader who interned at NYMEX, describes Viola:

"Viola was the street-smart Italian guy, always with a bunch of Brooklyn and Staten Island kids hanging around him. Vinnie had the influence and the intimidation factor going for him... He dressed and acted like a Mafioso don."

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WEDNESDAY BUZZ COLUMN

One of the encouraging signs of the UM football program’s resurgence has been better player development –- in other words, players improving significantly once they arrive. There wasn’t enough of that during Randy Shannon’s tenure. But this column is not about bashing Shannon.

In fact, though Shannon’s final UM class had a bunch of flameouts, he and his staff deserve credit for eyeballing a dozen two- and three-star players that Golden’s staff has deftly developed into key contributors (players that Shannon's staff obviously didn't have the time to develop because of his firing). Among those players, from Shannon’s 2010 class, the one before his final season:

### Stephen Morris: Don’t forget he was merely a three-star prospect from Miami Pace, with little interest from college football powers. Northwestern, Purdue, Virginia and Central Michigan were his next-best offers. His growth in the past year (14 touchdowns, one pick in last six games) has been dramatic, the second-half issues against UF aside. Now he’s in line to potentially become a mid-round NFL draft pick, or higher. (One scout said second round isn't out of the question.)

### Jimmy Gaines: A two-star player with very few offers (Buffalo, Syracuse), Gaines sent a highlight tape to UM, and Shannon offered him. Under this staff, Gaines has developed into a capable middle linebacker with a quick first step and an ability to decipher plays. His work against UF was among his best.

He’s “like a coach on the field,” defensive coordinator Mark D’Onofrio said, “and he puts himself in good position to make plays.”

### Clive Walford: Shannon’s staff wisely offered the three-star tight end who had only three other reported offers: FIU, Indiana and Purdue. And this staff has helped mold him into a dangerous weapon, with 15 of his past 16 receptions for touchdowns or first downs.

Why has he become a better player since last November? “I’m paying more attention to details,” he said Tuesday.

### Jon Feliciano: With offers from only Akron and Indiana at the time, Feliciano waited outside the UM bus after the 2009 spring game to give his tape to then-assistant Tommie Robinson. Shannon offered him, and he has become a better offensive lineman that many expected.

“He’s got a little bit of the devil in him,” offensive line coach Art Kehoe said Tuesday. “If you are lollygagging around him, he will take you out.”

### Others: Shayon Green, Curtis Porter, Allen Hurns, Malcolm Bunche, Kacy Rodgers and Tyrone Cornelius were all three-star prospects signed under Shannon in 2009 or 2010, and all have become useful pieces here. Though Green isn’t much of a pass rusher, he’s very difficult to dislodge and was a major factor in the UF game.

And Kelvin Cain -- a two-star player with offers from only Portland State, San Jose State and Nevada -- has had an up-and-down career here but gave the Canes good work playing on the second team in the UF game.

Among recruits in Golden’s three signing classes, the poster child for player development – aside from three-star Olsen Pierre -- has to be two-star Thurston Armbrister. The coach at Hollywood Hills convinced D’Onofrio to look at Armbrister, whose only offer was from Northern Colorado.

Armbrister and Cornelius were tweeners –- initially too small for linebacker, too big for safety. This staff has sculpted both into assets, with Armbrister emerging as a surprise starter, and Cornelius thriving in pass coverage.

“Armbrister is smart, versatile,” D’Onofrio said. “In the past, Cornelius did a good job… on third down, but when he got in on first down, it was spotty. You weren’t sure he was going to be in the right spot or do the right things. Now, when you take Denzel Perryman out… there is not much of a drop-off.”

So why are players improving under this staff? For linemen and linebackers, adding weight had a lot to do with it; Anthony Chickillo has jumped from 235 as a freshman to 275 as a junior; Armbrister from 195 pounds to 230, among many others. Now 240, Gaines and Perryman “are knocking guys back” when tackling them, D’Onofrio said. That wasn't consistently the case last year.

Attention to detail has made a big difference; this staff requires players to do things over, especially with technique, until they get it right. Feliciano said players are drilled to be “perfect on footwork.”

But Feliciano points to this as the biggest reason players are developing better under this staff than the last one: “We’re learning the game better.” He said this staff has more meetings with players about “how to get better,” with emphasis on specific skills.

Bottom line: No longer can UM fans make the case, as many did four years ago, that most players don’t become appreciably better after they sign here. And that’s critical for a program that is still taking more two- and three-star players than UF and Alabama do.

D’Onofrio, filling in for an ill Al Golden at Tuesday’s news conference, said coaches take pride in the player development. But more so, “I’m excited for the players. They put a lot of work into this thing.”  

### Dyron Dye has joined Thomas Finnie and Jontavious Carter at Bethune-Cookman. All three were dismissed from the UM team.

CHATTER

### While the Dolphins have extended the contracts of potential 2014 free agents Reshad Jones, Koa Misi and John Denney –- and made a proposal to Paul Soliai –- 2014 free agents Brent Grimes, Richie Incognito and Chris Clemons say they haven’t received offers.

Now that Grimes has fully recovered from last September’s Achilles’ injury and is thriving, a multiyear offer would make sense. “I hope so,” he said. “That would be cool.”

(Randy Starks, another 2014 free agent, hasn’t received a multiyear offer since February.)

### How things change in a week: Mike Wallace said owner Stephen Ross made a point to tell him how “proud” he was of Wallace after Sunday’s game (Jeff Ireland also said something similar). And Wallace said this offense is more “fun” for him than Pittsburgh’s because he can run several more routes and he's allowed to move around more “so nobody can key on me. I was the deep guy there [in Pittsburgh]. But I always want to show people I can do more than deep routes. So this is fun for me.”

He said the Dolphins have lined him up in the slot several times, which he said Pittsburgh didn't like to do.

### Daniel Thomas had more snaps than Lamar Miller (36-30) Sunday – and started the second half -- despite Miller having the far more productive game. But Joe Philbin said he wants to keep their playing time comparable unless “one guy is breaking tackles left and right and taking the ball a long way, and the other guy is not being productive.” But as much as the Dolphins like Miller, they don't view Thomas as a clearly worse player.

### We hear Marlins owner Jeffrey Loria was angry that manager Mike Redmond did not defend hitting coach Tino Martinez, Loria’s hand-picked choice, before Martinez was forced to resign over his verbally abusive conduct. There has been nothing so far to suggest Redmond’s job is at risk, but one close Loria associate cautioned that it's impossible to predict what Loria will do with managers. 

### Former FSU guard Von Wafer, who has averaged 5.3 points in 200 NBA games, is among players auditioning for the Heat this week. Wafer, who played in China last season, last played in the NBA in 2011-12, averaging 5.9 points in 33 games for Orlando.

Guard Julyan Stone, who played four games for the Nuggets last season, also has been auditioning, along with several other young undrafted players -- including Marquette rookie Vander Blue, who was invited back by the Heat for a second week.

### Former UM guard Trey-McKinney Jones will attend training camp with the Milwaukee Bucks.

Comments

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Zero Four

That was one of the biggest failures of Shannon and his staff - the players that they recruited did not develop due to poor coaching. He and his staff were way over their heads as evidenced by their glaring absence from any major coaching positions today.

202canefan

If you are going discuss the ones that improved, you should mention the players that have regressed(A Cleveland) under Golden. Other than Morris, he is probably the only player that will be drafted fairly high. I will give coach his props because the mental errors have been cleaned up..

Barry Jackson

Walford passed Cleveland. Wouldn't say Cleveland has regressed, just hasn't gotten the chance since his freshman year, when he was needed more. Obviously, not every player has improved. But a good number have.

Eddie

The best is yet to come with Golden. Championships to come.

dom

We are 1 more class(and this class is top 5 on espn and rivals now I believe to really load up the depth. 10 or 11 kids I believe are espn 300 players on this class list already ,and that's w/o those late 4-5 star kids that play hat game.........looks like a top 3 -4 class and we are really loaded with depth then

Coral Gables'81

Look some players improve some don't. Coach Golden is doing a good job in that area. However, look at the offensive linemen- Henderson, Linder, Bunche- according to this theory of Coach Golden's greatness, these guys should all be positioned to go in the first round of the draft.

jmike

Coral Gables'81, why.

Lt. Lois Einhorn

Coral Gables'81 - except no players improved under Shannon. None were positioned to go in the first round of the draft. Several high profile big time recruits completely flamed out and some even went undrafted.

TK SWANN

I AGREE SOME PLAYERS DO SOME PLAYERS DON'T DEVELOP BUT THAT'S AT EVERY LEVEL AND EVERY SCHOOL. AS A HIGH SCHOOL COACH THE BIGGEST DIFFERENCE FROM A PLAYERS FRESHMEN YEAR TO HIS SENIOR YEAR IS HIS"NATURAL GROWTH" DEVELOPMENT..AS A COACH IT IS MY JOB TO GROW HIM ATHLETICALLY BY CHARTING HIS GROWTH AND KNOWLEDGE OF WHAT IS REQUIRED TO PLAY THIS GAME.. IF A FRESHMEN OFFENSIVE LINEMAN IS 200LBS AND PLAYS WELL ENOUGH TO EARN AS SPOT ON THE VARSITY ROSTER BUT IS AT THE BOTTOM OF THE DEPTH CHART IT IS MY JOB AS HIS COACH TO DEVELOP HIM AS APLAYER SO THAT BY THE TIME HE IS A JUNIOR OR SENIOR HE HAS ADDED WEIGHT AND STRENGTH AND HIS SKILLS HAVE GROWN THRU EXPERIENCE.. THIS IS EXACTLY THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN COACH SHANNON AND COACH GOLDEN AND FURTHER EVIDENCE LOOK AT "JACORY HARRIS" SIZE AS A FRESHMEN AND LOOK AT HIM AS A SENIOR,, HE IS THE SAME SIZE PRETTY MUCH BUT WHAT ALSO HURTS A PLAYER DEVELOPMENT IS CHANGING COACHES WHETHER HEAD COACH OR ASSISTANT IT HURTS IF THIS KEEPS CHANGING,,EX STEPHEN MORRIS UNDER FISCH AND MORRIS UNDER COLEY SO FAR.

Esteban

coming off a big one brings info like this. not exactly true/correct but feels good at the moment. remember after the OU game under Shannon? we were ranked 9th in the country before the clemson OT game and it was all smelling like roses. loved the win, but yeah need to keep it up.

Steve B

Barry Jackson needs a raise. His reporting tidbits have become the most useful information the Herald puts out on the Canes.

ChampCane

Barry Jackson, you sound like you are from here in Jacksonville. Randy Shannon recruited students that were athletes. All the success he had was a result of his development of top students that he got the most out of their athletic talents. His lesser paid staff recruited superior students, but with much greater character than this greater paid staff.

I distinguish Jacksonville because of the clear dislike of African Americans by the media in this town. Your post look like you would fit in with these media types.

Lt. Lois Einhorn

There are so many Randy Shannon apologists out there and frankly there is no explanation other than reverse racism. These guys liked Shannon because he's black and dislike Golden because he's white, period.

There is no other explanation, Shannon was a bad head coach who didnt develop players or win enough games. He will never sniff another head coaching oppertunity in his life because of how bad he was at UM, it has nothing to do with his race, those are just the facts.

Greater character? They sure showed a lot of "character" by giving up and getting blown off the field by VIRGINIA the last game ever at the Orange Bowl.

AnonymousCane

Shannon is a dead issue, he is at Arkesaw now! Leave the past where it is, in the past. We have the right man at the helm of this program and it is without a doubt headed in the right direction!

Champs....Barry compared to Jacksonville media whom you say hates blacks, lol. You don't know him to say those things and it shows your ignorance by what you say.

You opened your mouth by blogging that ridiculous garbage and removed all doubt!

ChampCane

Character in the classroom is the first responsibility of student athletes, Lt. Lois Einhorn. No one was better for student athletes at a major college football program than Randy Shannon. Only two football programs graduated at a higher rate, The Air Force and Naval Academies. The student athletes recruited to Miami, by Randy Shannon, were top students first. He played and won games with less talented players. But that talent played to the maximum of their skill level. The number of lesser recruited players, in this column, expresses that point. There were less resources expended on his staff. But the results of those players was increased by that staff.

Your reverse racism accusation is obvious misdirection. The new method of racism is to make unfounded and outrageous accusations like you did.

Bobbyd12

Hopefully this new Panther's owner is willing to invest and likes to win. Why own a sports team if winning is not the number one priority? Look at Loria, his #1 priority is not about winning and the fans and team get screwed.
As far as Shannon goes, he was not a good coach. He obviously did not believe in weight training, just look at how big these guys are now and how they are playing. Luckily, he was just a blip on the Miami screen. Glad he is gone.

ORANGE BOWL 4EVER

Champ,

It is you who are showing your ignorance......

Character in the classroom 1st responsibility of the student athlete ??!!@##$%

REALLY!!@#$# What century are you living in ??

3/4 of the players take underwater basketweaving 101 as there core classes........

C'MON MAN WAKE UP & SMELL WHAT YOUR SHOVELING.....

Only reason they are given scholarships is so the University can make the money back for players tuition on merchandise & TV contracts...

ORANGE BOWL 4EVER

Further.......most of these guys that are good are coddled so much that they dont even do there classwork in High School......

But yeah it is there 1st priority now as a college student......

When you wake up from your nice rosy colored dream, is the only time you should be allowed to post anything on here....

Lt. Lois Einhorn

Graduation rate is a complete joke, they steer athletes into these garbage humanities majors like sociology and criminology so they can stay eligible and "graduate" but those degrees do nothing to help those kids get jobs in the real world.

And Shannon absolutely did not "play with less talented players", his recruiting classes were all highly rated, more highly rated than any of Al Goldens'. Problem is, he couldn't develop any of those players on the field.

I'm not the one who brought up race - you did, just like every other Randy Shannon apologist. It's first and foremost in YOUR mind, not mine.

Johngoode@johnnybfit.com sweet1968

Between champ cane and lt. Lois einhorn they just drug this blog post down. Randy Shannon is a good defensive coordinator just like Larry Coker was but a bad head coach. The recruiting classes for Shannon were anywhere from 15 to 20. I had also complained for 8 years about the lack of player development under Coker and Shannon. If you look back 30 years ago at an old Miami Hearld article Schnelenberger tallks about how having his players lift weights help their conditioning. Also, the 2013 class was ranked im the top 10, first time since Butch Davis. Drop the race baiting and let's have a real conversation about football.

Lt. Lois Einhorn
rbleigh

When is Loria going to get it over with and hire Billy Martin?

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