Tonight, a National Champion will be crowned. Kansas vs. Kentucky. Bill Self vs. John Calipari. Perhaps the country's best in-game coach vs., perhaps, the country's best recruiter. An engaging, funny, and well-liked coach vs. a somewhat controversial, kinda-slimy, coach.
What's not up for debate is the fact that tonight's showdown features not of the game's best coaches heading two of the game's most storied programs. What couldn't be more different, however, is how their prevailing philosophies.
Whereas Kansas runs a true program by recruiting, developing, and retaining players, John Calipari runs a glorified Post-Grad 5th year oppprtunity, usurping those who otherwise would have declared for the NBA Draft had it not been for a faulty rule. And neither approach is wrong.
Believe it or not, the NCAA got this one right. They, despite popular opinion, are not at fault for this one-and-done controversy. Blame Billy Hunter--not David Stern--and the NBA. It's Hunter and the NBAPA that refuse to alter this moronic restriction that prevents guys to declare out of high school. I think college football and baseball have it best: you go out of high school or you spend 3 years in college. Heck, for basketball, you can even drop that to two years, but I'm tired of the one-and-dones. I don't resent guys like Anthony Davis or Michael Kidd-Gilchrist--I feel bad they weren't able to declare out of high school. It's not their fault. But, wow, has it created a dichotomy in the college game.
Kentucky's roster is flooded with All-Americans and future NBA players--some who don't even play, yet--and, their #1 fan, the beautiful Ashley Judd. Kansas doesn't have a single McDonald's All-American on their squad and receives contributions from high school stars neglected because of their baggage (Tyshawn Taylor), pure project players (Jeff Withey), and walk-ons (Connor Teahen). Kentucky receives contributions from lottery picks--plural.
I had the privilege of going to Phog Allen to watch Kansas play last year for the first time. There to broadcast the game--a game in which I got chills several times taking in the KU environment--I arrived hours before tip-off. Out walked these two white guys. One, a shaggy-haired swingman who just started shooting 3 after 3, and the other, a confused-looking big guy, who didn't seem to know how to score in warmups with no defense and no referees to prevent him from traveling. Now, Connor Teahen and Jeff Withey are big contributors to Kansas' success--the former, a gritty role player, and the latter, a beast in the middle, altering shots and taking pressure off of Thomas Robinson.
Bill Self developed them. Devoted time towards making them better players. They are now a part of a Kansas team that has no better than Sweet 16 talent, but is competing for yet another National Championship game.
I know recruiting is part of the game and I don't mean to suggest Calipari is not a good coach. But I think Self is better. I don't think Calipari takes Kansas to the National Championship game, not that he'll ever be asked to. I think Self gets more out of less, while recruiting kids to come to a school without the academic allure like Duke or a great location like UCLA.
Who am I rooting for? Kansas, without question.
Who is going to win? Kentucky. But man I hope I'm wrong.
Man, I can't wait until the players arrive and we get to feature them in the blog so that you can get to know them a bit. But, since they aren't quite yet ready for Inside the Dugout, why not bring the guy that will be announcing them all year? Here he is...Jerry O'Donnell
It was great to catch up with former Loons outfielder, Kyle Russell, last Friday on SportsNight.
Trivia Question: Four active NBA players have won both an NCAA Championship and an NBA Championship. Who are they?
Pick of the Day: Unfortunately, Kentucky over Kansas
On Friday, we talked to a few of the Sting players as well as Co-Owner, Rob Licht. Check it out.
REMEMBER, on Thursday we will answer your questions about anything, really? Maybe you want to know who we think the Pistons should be targeting in the draft or, perhaps, you want to know why I am a Packers fan. Whatever the angle is, we'll answer it on Friday. To submit your questions, comment below, email me firstname.lastname@example.org or tweet us @espn1009.
The craze of 'Tim Kurkjian' impressions reminded me of this classic.
The college announcement process has gotten out of hand over the years. With Harrison Barnes declaring for the NBA Draft, I thought we'd take a look back at how this humble, hard-working blue chip recruit from Ames, IA presented himself as anything but with this "show." How about Skyping your new team?
Champions. That's got such a special ring to it, just reverberating in my head. The last time a team I played won its ultimate championship (not a mid-season tournament or something like that) was in 6th grade on the hardwood. We, the Hornets, took down the heavily favored Knicks.
I remember we only got there because my best friend, Benjamin Goodman, nailed a baseline j as time expired in regulation. I remember the other team's best player was a girl named Ebony who scored over 40 points (I always wonder what happened to her...she was unbelievable). I remember my brothers laughing at me when, after hitting a three, I, a cocky little sixth grader, tried to pump up the crowd. I remember the combination of emotions I had as I jumped up and down--to quote the great Kevin Harlan--with no regard for human life, celebrating our achievement with my teammates--with my friends. It didn't matter that it was 6th grade basketball to any of us. A championship is special. Those were my last memories of being a champion.
Despite heavy consideration to hang it up as a champion--to go out on top--I resumed my athletic career the very next day with a baseball game. I don't remember how it went--it doesn't matter.
A combination of bad luck and bad timing got in between me and a high school championship a few times. I was lucky enough to earn 11 varsity letters playing football, basketball, and baseball. I'll spare you the stories, but injuries to stud teammates, a future NBA starting center, and a down-to-the-wire battle on the ballfield contributed to a successful high school career, but one without achieving ultimate glory. But, I remember those special moments shared with my teammates over the years. I remember jumping up and down and shoulder-bumping Jeffrey Boyd every time we scored a touchdown. I remember driving Parham Motaghedi--a Hurricane Katrina victim temporarily studying in Dallas at the time--home from practice and getting emotional after dropping him off realizing that such a good person did not deserve to face such dire adversity. I remember my pre-game handshakes in the dugout with Josh Glick, Zach Tobolowsky, and Greg Lyons.
As a member of the USC baseball program, I was a part of many special experiences, but no championships. In my four years USC, the school with more national championships and more history than any other program in college baseball, didn't even make the playoffs. But I remember that after batting practice, Grant Green and I would toast to a great game over a gummy bear. I remember hitting in the cage with Alex Sherrod until 2 in the morning. I remember Joe De Pinto, Garret Houts, Jordan Hershiser, and the rest of the senior class lifting me up and down on the chair in the clubhouse before our Senior Day game.
Not winning a championship still bothers me. I have utter envy for those who are on the other side of this equation. But I look back on my athletic experiences with complete joy, recognizing them as some of my most cherished memories. Each team--it's own unique story and bond. The long bus rides, the tiring practices, the team meals...being a part of a team at any level is special.
In the summer of 2011, I began my journey as a professional broadcaster, calling games for the Great Falls Voyagers, a rookie-level affiliate for the Chicago White Sox. A new year, a new season, a new opportunity to associate with success. Yeah, about that...The Voyagers finished the first half of the season in last place of their division. So much for that. But, with the Pioneer League format that erases records at thew midway point, we stood a chance at redeeming ourselves in the second half. And with the clean slate, the Voyagers became a different team. Despite fighting off two win-or-go-home games--and countless other 'win-or-you're-gonna-make-it-awfully-tough-on-yourself games--the Voyagers survived and, when all was said and done, climbed the Pioneer League mountaintop of the 2011 Champions, defeating the Dodgers' own Ogden Raptors (a team filled with many 2012 Loons, I'm sure) in the final series.
I didn't have a single plate appearance or throw a single pitch. I didn't steal a base or even take up space in the outfield. I wasn't even in the dugout to cheer on the team (I'd like to think my role as the guy who played movie-DJ on the bus rides was pretty important). But, with the acceptance of the players and a the field staff, I felt a part of it. I was a part of a championship team. I get chills thinking about the celebration and the elation of the fellas as they celebrated like they had just won the World Series. They deserved it. This was about them. Not me.
A week ago I opened my mailbox and found a package, much lighter than what its size would suggest. I saw the return address and new exactly what it was. My heart started to pound and my face lit up. I raced inside, whipped out a mini-knife, sawed open the box, and there it was...
picture courtesy of Alex Wassel
I am not flashy. I wear a necklace that, based on the circumstances in which I received it, serves as a constant reminder of family and love. I wear a synthetic livestrong-like bracelet that reads WinForever and AlwaysCompete. But I don't wear rings. I tried this one on and wore it for a bit, but I liked looking at it better. It reminds me that, finally, I was a part of a championship--my first since 6th grade.
picture courtesy of Alex Wassel
I will always remember the 2011 Great Falls Voyagers.
A title they can never take away.
Check it off the list.
But the ring? It doesn't remind me of the my final call. It doesn't remind me of the dogpile on the third base side of the mound or the champagne celebration in the clubhouse. It reminds me of the people. It reminds me of everyone that made my experience so special. I remember watching my Mavs in the NBA Finals my first week there with Erik Wolf and Scott Reasoner. I remember Fred Williamson and Keith Eackland, the biggest Voyagers fans in the world, there, each day, even before the gates opened. And I remember broadcasting one of my closest friends, Joe De Pinto, someone who wanted to win as badly as I did from our time at USC, celebrate his first championship.
And, finally, now I can move on. The season is almost upon us. Words can't begin to express my level of excitement and anticipation for the 2012 Great Lakes Loons season. It won't be measured against anything. Win or lose, first or last, it doesn't matter. In this whole process, I realized its about the people. Here with the Loons and ESPN 100.9FM, I have surrounded myself with great people that will help me create lifelong memories. I now have the ring. It will remind me about the summer of '11. Have I lost the desire to win? Never. But, remember, I don't play. I want the Loons to win for the fans and for the players. But the memories, the special memories--they don't come from the wins and losses--they come from the people.
Happy Thursday! So, here with ESPN 100.9FM and the Great Lakes Loons, we have the unique combination of having our studio/offices overlooking the beautiful Dow Diamond. We are the only radio station that we know of that works within the confines of a beautiful ballpark complex. Several people have asked for a virtual tour, so, below, we deliver. Remember, please pass along any questions, comments, or concerns with the blog by emailing me (email@example.com) or through Twitter @jsandlerESPN. Any requests for content, questions you want answered, or the like, let us know!
Believe it or not, a few people have asked about my desk area. It sparked an idea that we will execute from time-to-time called...Cribs: Office Edition. Alas...
Yesterday's Scholar Athlete of the Month Award Recipients, Presented by Hammer Restoration
Hey hey hey. Not a lot for you today. My transition into my role with ESPN 100.9FM and the Loons is really starting to kick up so I beg your pardon if this week is slightly slower than the norm.
Buuuut...HAPPY BIRTHDAY TO MY NEPHEW, CHASE! He turns 2 today. I miss him so much and love him even more. I can't tell you what I got for him because he won't receive his presents until Thursday, but it is Sports/Loons related. He comes from a family of athletes, especially his father (my brother), so hopefully he enjoys the gifts. So Chaseeee, here's to you. Have a wonderful day, a wonderful year, and many, many, many more. Love you, big guy!
In case you missed it, here is Matt Park's interview with head coach of the State Champion Saginaw Trojans basketball team, Julian Taylor.
How about this for brutal honesty?
As a Texas native, a former mutli-summer intern of the Rangers, and a die-hard Rangers fan, I'm proud to reassure you that, yes, they still do everything bigger (and unhealthier) in Texas. Don't believe me? Check this out.
Light day today, I know. But we are coming back strong with Chips and Dip tomorrow. Stay tuned. And be sure to check out SportsNight this evening. Jampacked show with interviews of Fred Townsend and Jeff Hill.
Congratulations to first-year coach, Julian Taylor, and the Saginaw Trojans boys basketball team, the 2011-2012 Class A State Champions. Check out this great article written by Mick McCabe about Julian Taylor and his transition in becoming the head coach.
After moving here at the beginning of March, I was very excited to immerse myself in the local sports scene. As a young and eager sports fan growing up, I remember hearing of the basketball talent that came out of the Saginaw area. How could you not hear about it? It seemed like Tom Izzo's Spartans, full of local talent, were in the Final Four every year. Needless to say, I was excited when I found out the first boys high school basketball game I'd get to attend was a rematch of arguably the biggest rivalry in the state: Saginaw High vs. Saginaw Arthur Hill. Better yet, it was for the Regional Championship.
I am a sucker for rivalries and big games with electric atmospheres. This game did not disappoint. Overcoming a double-digit first half deficit, Saginaw High--and in my opinion--the better team, won.
Saginaw High is a team full of guys that play hard and very well together. Do they have a superstar? No. But they all buy-in and they all compete.
In the first half of the Regional Championship, Travontis Richardson struggled. He took some good shots that didn't fall and forced some others that didn't fall, either. He was visibly frustrated that, in such a big game, he was facing such struggles. But, sure enough, sticking with it, he came out in the second half and keyed the Trojans' comeback with some huge plays, including two big threes.
With that being said, in the spirit of "Crunch Time," I decided to make the trip to Saginaw and get to know Travontis a little better.
**I would imagine the answer to one of the questions I asked would be different, considering his most recent accomplishment. This interview was conducted just before they set out to Lansing to complete their journey.
Got some good links of some funny links/videos--some old schools classics, others more recent. We also have my song of the day. For this, from time to time, I will post a song I really like--I have to keep it family style and, admittedly, not all of the music I enjoy fits this bill. However, I have about as eclectic a taste of music imagineable, so I'll definitely make sure to find some winners. Finally, I decide to express my admiration for a particular color analyst and the honesty with which he broadcasts. Enjoy.
The way I watch sports compared to most is different and has been for several years. I love listening to the broadcasters and picking up on tendencies and styles. I don' think that separates me from other broadcasters, but I don't know that all fans pay as much attention to the broadcasters. If were a fly on the wall in a room full of rising broadcasters, chances are within an hour a conversation breaks about the "big boys" and likes, dislikes, etc. Sometimes broadcasters feel like their expertise makes them more qualified to determine who the fans should like through an analysis of the technical side and minutia that others might not notice. But I love hearing what fans have to say because, at the end of the day, the fans are the consumers and the consumers rule the world.
I'm interested to hear what everyone thinks about Jeff Van Gundy's work as an analyst for ESPN NBA TV broadcasts. On the TV side, the analyst has a much bigger role and JVG, in my opinion of course, does an awesome job. There are some very good analysts out there ranging sports. I don't want to jump the gun and say that he is my favorite among them, but he is without question up there.
I love his honesty and his candor. Almost all analysts are former players or coaches and a part of their sports respective "fraternity." Many of them are quick to praise their peers, but they also struggle to criticize their peers, especially former teammates or former employers, afraid of the backlash. But JVG honors the responsibilities of his job and tells it like it is. I don't think he creates drama like Skip Bayless, but if he sees something he doesn't like, he lets you know. And he is doing it on the national platform that is ESPN.
And, trust me, its not easy to criticize friends and peers. I had the pleasure of broadcasting one of my best friends from college, Joe De Pinto, for an entire season last summer with the Great Falls Voyagers. Though he won the team's MVP, Joe struck out, had some mental lapses, committed a few crucial errors. You can't ride a guy for every physical miscue, but you can't always sugarcoat it either. De Pinto struck out but boy, has anyone ever looked better striking out? just doesn't fly.
It was even tougher on another occasion last summer when, current pitcher in the Dodgers organization and another very close friend, Adam Dedeaux, pitched on the opposing team. Struggling to find the strike zone, Adam had a very rough outing but, I have a job to do and, while I don't need to kick him while he is down, I do have to tell it like it is.
Have I perfected this art? Nooooo. Not at all. But that's why I admire JVG so much. Like many other color analysts, they like have a connection or a relationship to, I don't know, say 50% of the players and coaches in the league (probably more, to be honest)? So, while I had Joe and the occasional friend on the opposing team, JVG is dealing with that every time he gets on the mix to a much stronger degree. And, his brother is the HC of the Orlando Magic, to boot.
Trust me, he has no problem sharing his honest opinion about family. His daughter plays for a school in my high school's conference and had the pleasurable surprise of seeing JVG at a Greenhill (my school) v. Episcopal Houston (hers) matchup. Let's just say Van Gundy, whose daughter is a solid role player, has no disillusions about her future on the hardwood.
I can watch any game JVG broadcasts because whatever is on his mind is what you hear--and its not always basketball related. He does a great job of meshing with his partner, he provides great and fair insight, and adds a great sense of levity to each broadcast with his humor. He's my favorite color guy in the NBA. Who is yours? Let me know. firstname.lastname@example.org or @jsandlerESPN.
I am personally a huge fan of HBO's Hard Knocks, ?their award winning series that provides in-depth coverage of a particular NFL team during its preseason activities. With the lockout last year, Hard Knocks was absent from my life. As it plans to return in 2012, I am making a plea for it to cover the same team it did when it last aired in 2010: the New York Jets. Too many characters and great storylines. Plus, how much would you pay to hear Tim Tebow share his views and beliefs with Antonio Cromartie, the father of 8 kids with 9 different women (...and he doesn't even know their names!)
Broadcasting is a very tough profession to get into and, once you get in, it doesn't get much easier to progress. I am very thankful to have various mentors in the industry. I bouce ideas off of them, pick their brain constantly, and listen to their assessments of my work. Of these mentors, all but one came directly or indirectly from a summer internship. I was fortunate through these internships (For about three summers and some winters I would work for SportsRadio 1310 The Ticket in Dallas, the market's leading sports radio station, and then for the Texas Rangers in the broadcast booth in the afternoon and at night) to receive great instruction and experience. Instead of getting coffee and running mindless errands, I was put to the ask and provided with actual responsibility. In return, I was encouraged to ask questions and learn as much as possible. The idea was that, the internship with each was, for them, to have an extra competent body (my competence is still up in the air but I fooled them, apparently), and, for me, to learn and gain experience towards my goals.
We have three interns at ESPN 100.9 FM and I have encouraged them to take advantage of their internship the same way I did mine. There is nothing better than actual experience so, Chris Healey, decided to step up to the plate and orchestrated and produced an NBA podcast. Feel free to take a listen. Let us know what you think.
There are four audio files posted in this blog. The bottom three are interviews from recent SportsNight episode, highlighted by Tuesday talk with Michigan's Mr. Basketball award winner for 2012, Matt Costello. You will be able to find all interviews from SportsNight posted on this blog in case you missed them or simply want to listen to them again. Joining those three interviews is beginning of one of the blog's features: Chips & Dip...
As a sports fan, what's better than grilling out, sitting around a TV watching the big game, and just shooting the breeze with buddies? The main meal comes and goes but, so long as their is the right supply, the chips and dip remain throughout the game. Whether your team is playing and you are nervously munching on them each pitch or between each play (me), or you are just perpetually hungry (me), they are always there. Combine my association of 'Chips & Dip' with this scenario, and my love of food, the creation of the 'Chips & Dip' podcast.
Who: Brad Golder (Play-By-Play, Loons/ESPN 100.9 FM), Chris Lones (Asst. GM-Production & Entertainment), Alex Wassel (Director of Communications), and myself.
When: While our first episode took place on Tuesday due to scheduling conflict, we plan to gather every Wednesday and will post this promptly thereafter
What: Unscripted discussion about whatever is on our mind. Typically centered around sports, but if our minds venture elsewhere, we can dabble in other topics.
Why: Because we can
Unique element: Each week someone will provide chips and dip, preferrably varying combinations.
On the Menu: This week, we discussed how graphics have evolved the way we watch a game and what information we do and do not like for them to convey, sports fan etiquette, and food.
The 'Inside the Dugout' series is something I have very much enjoyed executing over the years. It lends attention to the lighter, more personal, side of the athletes and personalities you only get to know otherwise from the stands or through a radio. Though this, we will feature various athletes and personalities in the area and beyond. The leadoff hitter is my new broadcast partner, Brad Golder. Unfortunately, due to timing, we did it at Pizza Sam's, and not in the duguout, and due to technical issues and filming it three times, we were left with "unique" quality. Brad was a trooper through the process and I appreciate that. I also appreciate how helpful he has been, mentoring me through this adjustment/transitional period, and also serving as a friend to the new kid in town. I look forward to working with Brad in the studio and hanging out with both he and his wonderful wife, Lovisa.
First and foremost, I want to take this opportunity to informally introduce myself to Midland, the Tri-County community, and the fans of the Great Lakes Loons. In advance, I'd like to thank you for allowing me into your homes and, more specifically, into your ears as I host Sports Night and join the great Brad Golder in broadcasting Loons games this summer. I will also serve as the station's program director, focusing on the quality of the content, and will broadcast various sporting events in the area. It is truly an honor and a privilege (not lip service, I genuinely mean this) to be a part of the Great Lakes Loons/ESPN 100.9 FM team and family.
I started this blogging business two summers ago and have kind of kept it going...Before I get headstrong into the blog, I'd thought I'd start out with my goals and some rules of the blog.
1. With the blog I will post my thoughts, opinions, and content with several aims. First, I want to connect you closer to the athletic landscape by getting to know the athletes and personalities in a more personal light. Second, I want to add some color and personality to the athletic goings-on by providing my own opinions and adding a different spin. The blogs will include anecdotes, features, and multimedia content, some sports related, others reflecting my hobbies or the hobbies of others. I also love to laugh, and will frequently post funny videos and links. I love communication and feedback and I hope for my blog to evoke discussion and banter.
2. Everything printed in this blog will be 100% honest. I will not sugarcoat anything or print anything I do not firmly believe. If I do not feel a point or a topic is appropriate, then I will simply not address it. These views are my own and not necessarily shared views of either ESPN 100.9 FM or the Great Lakes Loons.
3. Why the name "Crunch Time" exactly? No deep, profound reason. I believe one of the best compliments and athlete can receive is earning the reputation of someone who plays his/her best or steps up in the biggest games and the biggest situations or in...Crunch Time.
4. I am not perfect and neither is my grammar. I am ADD so it was pretty much impossible for me to pay attention to all those grammar rules in 6th grade. Instead of taking notes on these rules, I perfected the art of bubble and block lettering.
And now, a bit of an introduction:
5. I am a die-hard sports fan and this extends well beyond the "major sports." To me, there is something special about competition--something special about having a winner and a loser.
6. I am 22 years old from Dallas, TX and a proud graduate of the University of Southern California ('11) in Los Angeles, CA.
7. I am a first generation American. My parents, Alan and Sheryl, come from South Africa, though they have been in the US for over 30 years. My oldest brother, Darryn (35) was born in South Africa, while my other brother, Jason (33) was born just outside of New York. I consider my dad to be my hero and my brothers as my best friends. Of those not blood related, I consider my former classmate and teammate, Benjamin as my best friend--I bring this up only because both he and his family are very special people to me and have really impacted me. His sister, Dani, is currently a sophomore at U. of Michigan (GO BLUE!) I am also lucky to have a loving step-mom, Frada, three step-siblings, Kim, Tracy, and Lonnie (all older), and a great sister-in-law, Amy. Saving the best for last, I am the proud uncle of Chase David Sandler, who turns two on March 27th and will welcome another nephew into the world on April 13, 2012 (sons of Jason and Amy).
8. In no particular order, my true passions in life are sports, spending time with my family and truly close friends, making people around me happy/seeing them smile, and competition.
9. My favorite teams: Texas Rangers, Dallas Mavericks, Dallas Stars, Green Bay Packers (There is a story behind this and I am not a bandwagon fan: I have been a fan since I can remember and certainly well before this past January, I have made the Lambeau Field pilgrimmage twice, and it isn't like the Cowboys were bad when I was growing up as they were a powerhouse in the 90's), the Tottenham Hotspurs, the USC Trojans, and, of course, every American's favorite team: USA.
10. I have had the biggest crush on Blake Lively since high school.
11. If you want to know a little bit more about me, ASK!
I am going to leave it at this for now. I look forward to sharing my thoughts and experience with you all throughout the summer.
As I mentioned above, I encourage communication and feedback, especially if you have any suggestions or ideas for the direction of the blog. Feel free to reach me via email (email@example.com) or at my Twitter (@jsandlerESPN).