College Hoops: Penny Taking His Talents to College Coaching

It’s crazy to think that had it not been for the coaching of Nick Nolte in Blue Chips and starring next to Shaquile O’Neal, Penny might not have gone to the Magic. Shaq had such high praise for Penny during the filming of the movie, Magic held a private workout with Penny and was blown away. The consensus pick that season was Chris Webber from the Fab 5 at Michigan. The Magic drafted C-Webb with the first pick and the Golden State Warriors selected Penny, eventually trading him to the Magic for Webber.

Memphis- Blue Chips

Penny 1Penny Hardaway was one of the most likeable players in the NBA, and there is no reason to think that is going to change during his next chapter as a college head coach for the Memphis Tigers, also his alma mater. Penny has a huge spot in his heart for Memphis State University, a place where he dominated on the court averaging 20 ppg, 7 rpg, and 6 apg. He was a two-time conference POY and a consensus All-American. Hardaway’s passion for Tiger basketball is off the charts. He loves the city and the opportunity in front of him as the head coach. After an illustrious 15 year career, Penny was waived by Pat Riley and the Miami Heat. Penny was brought into coaching from long time friend Desmond Merriweather, head coach of the Lester Middle School basketball team and Penny became his assistant coach at Lester.

After the start of the season, Merriweather was battling cancer and the chemo got so bad that he asked Penny if he would fill in for the rest of the season. Without hesitation, Penny took the role for his friend. That season Penny led Lester Middle School to the city and state championship. Penny went on to win three consecutive state championships with Lester. Merriweather was there on the bench the whole time cheering him on. When this group of kids were 6th graders they had an idea that they wanted to see these kids through high-school. Most of the kids went to East High School, so Merriweather assumed head coaching duties there, while Penny decided to take a break and go back to be close to his kids in Miami. Then, Merriweather lost his fight with Colon cancer in 2015. Penny watched from the stands as East High School was eliminated in the state semifinals. After the season, Penny vowed to make sure Merriweather’s vision stayed on track, being named the East High School head coach. His first season he went 32-2 and claimed the state championship and they were ranked the No. 21 team by USA Today. Following that season, he took the Mustangs of East High to a 33-3 and finished No. 2 in the country. In Penny’s 5 years as a head coach (3 with Lester and 2 with East), he had five state titles. Young kids seem to be able to share Penny’s vision and that will only benefit him, coaching amongst giants now.

The Memphis athletic department needed to make a major splash in their head coaching search. They have a giant arena that holds 18,000 people and coach Tubby Smith averaged just over 6,000 per game the past two seasons. Four years ago Memphis was top 10 in attendance averaging 16,000 per game. It had been slipping at a drastic pace, so drastic, they had to fire Tubby Smith before it hit triple digits in attendance per game. Penny is first looking forward to turning around the attendance numbers. Winning changes everything.

I look forward to the fans coming back to the FedEx Forum, packing the house like we did in the Coliseum and in the Pyramid. – Penny Speaking on the Decline in Attendance

Memphis- Miller pennyHis relationship with top recruits in the country is very special. Penny took his talents even further by coaching an AAU team called Team Penny, which included top 10 player James Wiseman, a 6’10 player that played for Penny at East. Penny has Memphis in play with the likes of Kentucky and Coach John Calipari, Sean Miller at Arizona, Bill Self and Kansas, Roy Williams at North Carolina, and Coach K at Duke. Hardaway wasted no time trying to go “all-in” with recruiting.  Penny brought in a former NBA champion Mike Miller. Combined, the two coaches played for 31 years in the NBA. Of the top 65 players in the 2019 recruiting class, five of them are deeply tied to Penny or Miller. No. 1 James Wiseman, No. 14 Trendon Watford, No. 30 Kira Lewis, No. 37 DJ Jeffries, and No. 65 Chandler Lawson. If Penny can land even one of these guys, that is a major score for a coach in his first year recruiting. Something Sean Miller, John Calipari, and Coach K have in common is that they never stop working. Once the season ends, the work gets much harder. The travel miles add up with the in-home visits to different families once March Madness is over. To Penny, it’s about the city of Memphis and repaying the city back for what it taught him in life. In an article published by The Undefeated, Hardaway had nothing but love for Memphis.

I’m not just coming here to be a face… I’m coming here to make a difference, with the help of getting the fans back in the stands like it was back in the old-school days. I am dedicated to this team that just finished this season. Like I told those kids in the locker room, it was kind of unfair a little bit to them that nobody really showed up, but those days are gone. Also bringing some really good talent here that the city of Memphis would love to see on a nightly basis.- Penny Post Hire News Conference

Miller and Penny’s networking through the AAU circuit is tremendous. They way they have built relationships with a lot of these younger kids is going to jump-start this program. Young kids would be pumped to play for two younger coaches that know what it takes to play at the next level. If Memphis wants to stay relevant, they have to continue to recruit high-end talent, meaning NBA-caliber type of players. Who better to transition them to that life than Mike Miller and Penny Hardaway? Absolutely scary how good this move will be in about 2-3 years, if not this next year. We’ll have to see how recruiting shakes out, for now it’s fair to say the major coaches in college hoops better circle Memphis on the calendars.

NFL: Plenty to Watch In First Preseason Game for Chargers/Cardinals, Including a Small Chance at Redemption for Mike McCoy

Pre Seas CoachesFootball season is finally upon us. For the Chargers and Cardinals it starts this Saturday in Glendale Stadium. The stadium is going to be electric, not because of the game, because football season is finally back. Now the hard part, getting through these games with no injuries to either team. Coaches have to be smart in the play calling, substitutions, and how much playing time they give the first team. With that being said, Philip Rivers and Sam Bradford don’t need to  see any game action. Rivers because he’s got a consecutive games streak of over 200 straight games. Sam Bradford on the other hand is the exact opposite of Rivers. Loaded with talent, just can’t stay healthy. We’re going to look at the key players to focus on in week 1 of the preseason. The Cardinals also signed former Chargers Head Coach, Mike McCoy, who should be looking forward to this game, preseason or not.

Cardinals Storylines and Players to Watch

Rookie head coach Steve Wilks has a challenge with Bradford because he should be getting reps with the first team to learn a new offense. But how much do you play him in the preseason with his injury history? Word is that Wilkes plans to give Bradford some snaps this week. Steve Wilkes brought in the perfect offensive coordinator in Mike McCoy. McCoy’s biggest contribution is his ability to get the most out of every QB. He really focuses on the players strengths and calls plays accordingly. With Bradford he has him working on quicker drop backs to get the ball out quick. We’ll see if that holds true on Saturday. Wilkes is a defensive-minded coach, so bringing in former head coach McCoy was crucial. Most Cardinals fans want to see 1st round pick Josh Rosen, former 1st round pick Robert Nkemdiche, 2nd round pick and local boy Christian Kirk, rookie center Mason Cole and free agent Tre Boston.

Pre Seas RosenJosh Rosen has impressed so far in camp, earning the respect of the huddle and the veterans on the team. The lineman and veterans on offense are very impressed with how he controls the huddle. As the QB, that is one of the most important aspects of your game. You need the other 10 to know you got this. He’s got the confidence to handle it so far in practice. Once the whistle blows on Saturday, we’ll get our first chance to see how the young signal caller handles the lights and speed of NFL defenses, even though he’ll be playing against mostly backups.

Pre Seas KirkSecond round pick Christian Kirk is coming home, what better feeling can a rookie have then being drafted by your home town team? Kirk was a standout at Saguaro High School then went on to be a standout at Texas A&M. In three years at A&M, Kirk had 2,856 yards, 26 Touchdowns, and mixed in 10 scrimmage touchdowns too as a returner. This was an outstanding pickup for the Cardinals, who lack wide receiver depth outside of Larry Fitzgerald, who will be in Canton soon. Kirk has blazing speed and has been getting first team reps. Kirk is slotted to take the punt returns this weekend as well. Kirk will be on full display this Saturday.

Pre Seas- NkemThe former 1st round pick Robert Nkemdiche is a physical freak, but has been far from ‘freaky’ on the field in his first two seasons. Nkemdiche has 12 tackles and zero sacks. Going into his 3rd season, he is starting to look confident in his unique mix of strength and quickness up the middle. He has the ability to be a ‘star’ in the NFL, but we’ve yet to see any sort of consistency. Nkemdiche has all the potential in the world. Back in 2013, he was the number 1 overall recruit out of high school. Then went to Ole Miss and was a two-time second team All-American and 29th overall pick by the Cardinals. Now it’s in his court, we need to see how he comes out against two-time pro-bowler Mike Pouncey, if he plays. Year three is going to be a major year for Nkemdiche.

Pre Seas Mason ColeOne of the biggest blows to any team is losing a starting center. The loss of A.Q Shipley is very significant, but rookie Mason Cole has been given a vote of confidence from coaches and teammates. He will be given the task of going up against run stuffer and former Super Bowl champ, Brandon Mebane. Although it is highly likely that Mebane plays many snaps in the preseason. Gus Bradley’s defenses have a lot of pre-snap movements and different blitz schemes. The Chargers get to the QB with the top pass rushing duo in the NFL a year ago — Joey Bosa and Melvin Ingram. Cole will see plenty of snaps Saturday and will gain a lot of valuable information going up against a Gus Bradley defense.

Pre Seas TreFinally, the last person I want to talk about is former Charger, Tre Boston. Boston led the Chargers top pass defense in interceptions a year ago. He is a top 10 safety in the NFL, a ball hawk, not afraid of contact, and secures interceptions. Once free agency started, Tre Boston laughed at the Cardinals offer. Unfortunately, the offseason wasn’t very friendly to safeties. The market for safeties wasn’t very great having a few great safeties looking for work towards the beginning of camp. The Cardinals hit an absolute home run with the Boston signing.

Chargers Storylines and Players to Watch

NFL: Los Angeles Chargers at Jacksonville JaguarsLet’s take a look at Super Bowl favorites in the AFC, the LA Chargers. Ok, maybe that is a stretch. Chargers fans remember finishing last season 9-3 and missing out on the playoffs in the final week of the season. It left a very bitter taste in the mouth of Chargers fans. Still saddens me to say LA and not San Diego. Philip Rivers will probably only get one series tops. The backup QB battle is actually pretty exciting in LA. Cardale Jones and Geno Smith are battling it out to be River’s backup. The competition between Jones/Smith, the growth from year one to two for Mike Williams, 1st round pick Derwin James, and the Tight End Virgil Green are the players we’re going to focus on for the Chargers. Last year, special teams kept the Chargers from getting into the Playoffs without a reliable kicker. Caleb Sturgis and former first round pick Aguayo look to battle it out for the job in Preseason.

Pre Season QBThe most sure thing for the Chargers is that number 17 is the starter Week 1. After that, it’s a two-man competition between former top 10 pick Geno Smith and former National Champion at Ohio State, Cardale Jones. Right now Jones has the edge over Smith in knowing the play book. Jones was with Lynn in Buffalo and was here last year learning the plays. Geno Smith has more experience in the NFL though. This is a competition that is going to be won in the preseason. No real front-runner right now, Anthony Lynn has them both listed as number 2 on the depth chart.

Pre Seas KickingAs mentioned earlier, the Chargers took a risk last year on Younghoe Koo. Long story short, it didn’t work. The Chargers started out last season 0-4. Started off having a field goal blocked Week 1 on MNF against the rival Broncos to tie the game with 5 seconds left. Week 2, Chargers Dolphins, the Cutler-led Dolphins I might add, Koo missed a 44 yard field goal to win the game. Finally, Week 4 against the Super Bowl Champion Eagles, the Chargers lost by two points to the Eagles. In 2018, the Chargers bring in two new kickers. Former Eagles kicker Caleb Sturgis and former first round pick Roberto Aguayo. Maybe a change of scene is just what Aguayo needs, he was a former All-American. Sturgis is in his 6th season in the NFL, so he brings a lot of experience to the table, something the Chargers need late in the season.

Pre Seas Mike WillyIn 2017, the Chargers had very high hopes for the WR out of Clemson, coming of a National Championship performance in which he dominated the ‘nasty’ Alabama defense. He is big, strong, and fast. The issue in 2017 was that Williams started camp battling injury and attempted to play catch-up for most of the first half of the season. In 2018, he enters camp in great shape with no injuries to report. Together, Keenan Allen and Mike Williams look to be a very scary duo, toss in Tyrell Williams and Travis Benjamin, and Rivers has options all over the place. Williams looked unsure of himself at times last year, and that is mainly due to falling behind early in camp. With a full season under his belt and now that he has seen NFL action, look for Mike Williams to establish himself early in the Preseason.

Pre Seas- DerwinMoving on to the Gem of 2018 for the Chargers. Safety from Florida State, Derwin James. A top 10 pick that fell down the board to the Chargers at 17. Mind blowing. The comparison I see with James is the late Sean Taylor, RIP. Taylor was an absolute beast. He looked like a DE playing safety. Derwin James has similar size, 6’2, 212 lbs, with the quickness to stay with receivers and the power to play with tight ends. He has a very unique skill set that will make him a starter from day 1 in Southern California. Saturday will be his first test against the receiving corps of Fitz and Kirk.

Plenty of solid storylines in this first preseason game against these squads. Highly talented draft picks, two newer head coaches, and plenty of veteran firepower makes this game one to keep an eye on in the 2nd and 3rd quarters, 4th quarter being uneventful.

 

 

 

 

 

NFL: Warner Leinart 2.0?

Once upon a time in Arizona the franchise that had little success in the desert drafted another Star quarterback out of Southern California with the number 10 pick, his name was Matt Leinart. Although I think rookie Josh Rosen is much better than Matt Leinart, there are some similarities. For instance, Josh Rosen was also taken number 10. At the time, Kurt Warner was an after thought, all the hype surrounded former Heisman trophy winner and national champion Matt Leinart from USC. Leinart went down due to a crushing hit from the Rams Will Witherspoon, Warner stepped up having his best season since his MVP days. The only person that can validate this theory is Larry Fitzgerald, who played with Warner and Leinart. Fitz seems to be pretty high on Sam Bradford telling everyone to bet the “Over” of 5.5 wins for the Cardinals next year. To make the situation even more ironic, Bradford is joining the Cardinals in his 8th NFL season, Warner also joined the Cardinals in his 8th NFL season.

Warner Leinart

Like Matt Leinart, the Cardinals drafted Josh Rosen knowing that he was one of the most NFL ready QB’s in the draft. A proven college leader and winner. Rosen has a chance to learn from Sam Bradford, who’s been in this league for a while. With Bradford starting there is always the chance at an injury, even if it’s a gust of wind, there is still a chance Bradford gets hurt. With that being said, Rosen needs to be ready to call a game. Bradford has a ton of football knowledge and is one of the best practice players you’d ever see. Watch him in 7 on 7 drills, he’ll pick you apart. He gets the ball out quick, has good size, high football IQ, and a good teammate.

Leinart and the new look Cardinals had so much hype going into the first year of the new $450 million stadium. A big knock on Leinart was if his heart was truly in it. He was seen countless times out enjoying the night life of Scottsdale and Phoenix. Leinart last played with the Raiders in 2012 and now is a broadcaster for College football. This wasn’t bad for Cardinals fans, because Kurt Warner took them on the greatest ride in team history and he cemented himself in the same conversation with the great QB’s that have ever played. Now let’s shift focus to Kurt Warner 2.0, Sam Bradford.

KURT

It’s hard to truly feel bad for Bradford and his injury-laden career because he continues to cash paychecks. He earned $50 million guaranteed as the number 1 overall pick by the St. Louis Rams. The most recent team to overpay Sam Bradford is Arizona, signing him to a 1 year, $20 million deal. If for some reason Bradford finds the fountain of Youth like Warner did, the ceiling is very high. He’ll have a top 5 RB in David Johnson and Larry Fitzgerald, the second best Wide Receiver in NFL history. If the Offensive line can keep Bradford on his feet there is no question he has the quick release and IQ, which can translate into wins. Vegas has the Over/Under of Cards wins at 5.5. Something Fitz laughs about, urging fans to go to Vegas to lay it down on the Over. Bradford looks to avoid being the target of countless funny memes about his injuries.

bradford

So all joking aside. If Bradford stays healthy, he can lead the Cardinals in 2018, earning him another big contract in 2019. Steve Keim is no stranger to the “One-Year Deal” that pays off. Look at Jermaine Gresham and Chris Johnson before he got injured he was leading the NFL in rushing a few years ago. Bradford would love to show teams that the former number 1 pick still has some juice left. Having Rosen sit back and observe can only benefit the young signal caller. I know Cardinals fans want to see Rosen earlier than later. Patience is key with young quarterbacks. Dak Prescott and Russel Wilson are anomalies in football. The NFL is a grown mans league if Rosen can avoid the early career hits that ended David Carr’s career before it began, that would be great. Especially since the supporting cast surrounding Rosen aren’t as strong as Prescott or Wilson. Not saying Bradford is going to be like Kurt Warner, but he certainly has the skills and knowledge to compete and push Rosen every day in practice. Bradford can also control a huddle which is invaluable for a quarterback. Cardinals fans should be pulling for Bradford because the rest of the Cardinals like their chances with Bradford. Especially when you add in former Chargers HC and Broncos OC who won a playoff game with Tim Tebow, Mike McCoy. McCoy is outstanding with quarterbacks.

Bradford CardsSo here you have it, no quarterback controversy in the Desert in 2018. Fans want to see the young UCLA standout but the former Heisman is better suited to lead this team. Especially with a rookie head coach like Steve Wilkes, a veteran like Bradford can really elevate his confidence as well as feed the ball to the future Hall of Famer, number 11. Mike McCoy is poised to reestablish himself as an elite offensive coordinator after an unsuccessful tenure in San Diego. He’s capable of calling a great game based off the quarterbacks strengths. How else do you think he can get a playoff win out of Tim Tebow against the Steelers? McCoy plans to use a quicker drop back with Bradford to avoid hits and so far in camp he’s on point. Now, if only the dude can stay healthy and confident. Then we’ll see the next Kurt Warner in AZ and Rosen’s time will have to wait. If Bradford does go down, then we’ll have to see what the young QB can do on the fly. Although the Rams are the team to beat, the Cardinals should out perform their projection of 5.5 wins in ’18.

MLB: National League Playoff Race Getting Lit!

Sports fans love October baseball and the excitement that comes with it. So much history happens during playoff baseball. In the National League right now, it feels like October baseball every single night. One loss can move you from a playoff spot to out of the playoffs. The playoffs are in full effect for about 10 teams still trying to lock up a spot at October baseball. As it stands right now the playoffs would be the Cubs, Phillies, D’Backs are atop the division and the two wildcard teams would be the Milwaukee Brewers and the LA Dodgers. But there are 5 more teams that are a 3 game winning streak away from a playoff spot. First we’re going to get into the WILDCARD teams.

NL Playoffs LABeginning with the 6 seed or the second wildcard team. If the season were to end today. The LA Dodgers are sitting at 61-50, the same exact record as the Diamondbacks in Arizona. The D’Backs owned the Dodgers early on in the season and have the better record head to head against the Dodgers so far this year so they hold the tie breaker. That was then this is now. Playoffs are on the line and the Dodgers and Diamondbacks have 7 games left against each other beginning the end of August. For right now the Dodgers have a very slim grasp on the final spot. The Dodgers went all in on Manny Machado, who is most likely a rental player. They also grabbed Brian Dozier from the Minnesota Twins. With the loss of stud SS Corey Seager, they had to pick up the slack somewhere. Still not a lock to make the playoffs. Hopefully giving up those prospects to secure Machado for half a season comes back to bite them, yeah I am a D’Backs fan stop hating.

NL Playoffs CrewThe number 4 seed, or the 1st wildcard team, are the Milwaukee Brewers. They actually have more wins than the 1st place Cubs but are in second place by 1 game because they have more losses. They’re 64-49 right now and have made a few moves to go all in trading away some pieces and are neck and neck with Chicago. It’s safe to say both of those teams are sitting in the best position right now. The Brewers had 5 representatives in the All-Star game. Jesus Aguilar, Lorenzo Cain, Josh Hader, Jeremy Jeffers, and Outfielder Christian Yelich were there 5 All-Stars. The team is balanced offensively and play great defense. Starting Pitching is the only question mark heading into October.

NL Playoffs GOldyMoving out to the Wild, Wild West. The Arizona Diamondbacks hold the slightest of advantages over rival Dodgers. As of right now, the D’Backs and Dodgers have the same record but the D’Backs are 8-4 against the Dodgers this year. The biggest flaw in the D’Backs post season blue print is the bullpen. They were a very aggressive team with a very depleted farm system. The D’Backs had limited top 100 prospects to package in trades but they made it work. Bringing relief pitcher Brad Ziegler back, who has more appearances than any reliever in D’Backs history. Also adding Matt Andriese from the Rays, he’s a relief pitcher that can log multiple innings out of the pen giving the D’Backs a long relief option. D’Backs also brought in Jake Diekman, the hard throwing lefty from the Rangers. Offensively, the D’Backs added two HUGE pieces in John Jay, with world series experience and recently added the switch hitter Eduardo Escobar to play 3rd. The pickup of Escobar turned out to be bigger than expected when Jake Lamb elected to have shoulder surgery shutting down his season. Terry Lovullo is prime to make another run at the post season. This time hopefully they won’t be playing in the stressful wildcard game.

NL Playoffs ArrietaMoving out east to the NL East. The Philadelphia Phillies are sitting in first place at 61-48. So the D’Backs, the Dodgers, and the Phillies all have 61 wins. The Phillies haven’t been relevant since Cliff Lee was throwing scoreless innings in his sleep. Ryan Howard and Chase Utley are long gone now. Now they have Jake Arrieta who helped break the Cubs World Series slump. If they make the playoffs having Jake Arrieta is a serious advantage with his experience and toughness. Another huge off-season move was bringing in Carlos Santana from the Indians. Santana also has a lot of post season experience contributing to the Indians World Series Run in 2016. Santana has 16 dingers and 63 RBI’s. Moving to free agency picking up Asdrubal Cabrera from the Mets was a move that helps offensively and defensively. A Web Gem machine and adding 18 homeruns in 2018, Cabrera looks to help Philidalphia secure a playoff spot in the crowded National League.

NL Playoffs CubsFinally, the Chicago Cubs. The team we all used to cheer for because we felt so bad that they have gone so long without a World Series. Well, a lot has happened since that and am now looking for them to get dethroned in the division. None the less, the Cubs can put up runs in a hurry, play very good defense and have good enough pitching to make a deep post season run. The Cubs still have the core nucleus that won a World Series two years ago. Anthony Rizzo, Kris Bryant, Javier Baez, and Wilson Contreras. Of course, they also have John Lester, who’s no stranger to big time games and the spotlight. Lester is 9-7 in the post season with a 2.55 ERA. Id be happy to have a pitcher like that on my squad to take the bump game 1 of a playoff series.

NL PlayoffsOk, so now we’ve seen the teams that are in as of now. We still have 2 months to go, but it should be safe to say that this playoff race will come down to the final week of the season. Starting in the NL East, the Atlanta Braves are only .5 games behind the Phillies. Sitting at 3rd place in the NL Central is the Pittsburgh Pirates who are 57-53 and 4 games back in the wildcard, 6 games behind the division leader Cubs. Oh lets not forget the Cardinals who are right behind the Pirates. Last time the Cardinals won the World Series they were 9 games out of the playoffs in early September. Having the Cardinals lingering around is not good for any body. The Giants, currently in the middle of a 4 game set with the D’Backs and 5 games out of 1st place. The team that is the scariest team is the Rockies who are 2 games out of 1st place in the NL West and have probably the best offensive lineup in the National League. Gold Glove 3rd basemen Nolan Arenado leads the team with 28 homeruns followed by Charlie Blackmon and Trevor Story with 21 bombs. Ian Desmond is lagging behind with 19 homers. That is a lot of power in one lineup. 

The final playoff outcome is going to come down to the final week of the season. There are 10 solid teams scattered throughout the NL. A few winning streaks and losing streaks and these playoff spots will be turned around. A lot of these teams minus the Giants and Rockies made a ton of free-agency moves to get to the playoffs. We’ll see which moves paid off the most and if the patience of the Rockies paid off. Going to be a fun two months in the NL leading up to the REAL October baseball where legends are born.

 

 

College Football: The Trojan War, The Pete Carroll Version

Didn’t take long for Pete Carroll to settle into the bright lights of Hollywood. His smile was contagious, same with his love for being on the football field, acting like a kid. Most of the time you can see Carroll throwing the ball with his quarterback getting warmed up and pumped up banging on player’s shoulder pads, it’s a pre-game ritual. The glamour of LA, the bright lights, the red carpet were all useful tools for Carroll and recruiting. What 18-year-old would not want to come play in LA. Also doesn’t hurt that Snoop Dogg was a frequent visitor of the football program, also stars like Will Ferrell, P. Diddy, and many more would frequent the facilities.

USC- Ferrell and Snoop Dogg

Many boosters, alumni, and SC fans were upset about the Carroll hire because he wasn’t a home run candidate, he was an unknown, generally speaking. Carroll laid out goals during his first coaches meeting, that was to beat ND and UCLA, win the Rose Bowl, then win the National Championship. Before taking his talents to the Pacific Northwest, Carroll accomplished all 4 goals he set out for. Winning 2 National Titles, one of them was the Rose Bowl and going 16-2 against ND/UCLA. Carroll’s attitude and ability to communicate with the younger generation separated him from anyone else in the country. He also had NFL experience so he was able to handle the spotlight having coached in New York. If you’ve coached in New York, you can coach anywhere. One reason Hall of Fame Safety Ronnie Lott left the Raiders to player for Carroll with the New York Jets. He has high praise for Carroll, for the same reasons any player had high praise for him.

One of the reasons I wanted to play with the Jets is I wanted to play for Pete… I wanted to learn more about the game of football and I thought he was a great teacher. So for me — he was the defensive coordinator one year and head coach the following year — it was great.”- Ronnie Lott on his 2 years with the Jets

The Trojans were the biggest ticket in town. Pete Carroll was lucky to inherit Carson Palmer as the QB and Mike Williams at wide receiver. Made it an easier transition back to coaching college and he took off from there. With LA not having an NFL franchise, the Dodgers struggling, Wayne Gretzky was traded, and the marriage between Shaq and Kobe had recently ended. The city of LA was up for Grabs and Pete Carroll had the perfect cast to grab LA, Reggie Bush, Lendale White, and Matt Leinart were players that weren’t afraid of the spotlight and the big city and pressure of Hollywood. I’ll take that ’04 and ’05 team against any college team since 2000.

USC- Trojan War

Reggie Bush, Lendale White, and Matt Leinart were Carroll’s major chess pieces. All 3 were made for LA, thriving in the spotlight. They had a swag you really haven’t seen since Jimmy Johnson was coaching the Miami Hurricanes, The U, as they were referred to. The ground attack and Matt Lionheart were fearless. They brought USC back to Championship level.

USC- White BushWhite and Bush were better known as thunder and lightning. Bush was lighting because he was so shifty and he was a nightmare in the open field. Lendale White was a ‘savage’ just blowing up tacklers and embracing contact. White was known as Thunder because of his bruising style of running. That bruising style of run caused Lendale a series of hurt post football, saying he had about 20-30 concussions during his college and NFL career. They were constantly challenging one another to outdo the other. White had an insane 52 TD runs in 3 years at USC, and he was the second best RB, according to ‘experts.’ While Bush had 4,470 total Yards and 38 TD’s. Combining for 7,960 total yards and 95 TD’s in a 3 year-span. That is insane to think about. Not any coach would be able to handle two stars like that in the same backfield, Pete Carroll embraced the challenge. Managing their play was a major challenge for Carroll, but he used them to perfection. Leinart threw for just under 11,000 yards with 99 TD’s and 25 INT in 3 years as well.

USC Vince

Vince Young trampling in for a an 8 yard TD to beat SC in the National Championship game was just the beginning. Trojan fans wish that was the worst part. Unfortunately, that was the start of a very tumultuous time in Southern California. In April of 2006 the NCAA opened up an investigation into USC football, mainly the possible benefits given to Bush’s family. Finally, the NCAA came out and crushed USC. They issued one of the harshest penalties given to a university short of the “Death Penalty.”

They were placed on probation for 4 years and lost 30 scholarships over a 3 year span. They were given a postseason ban for 2 years, had to vacate 14 wins from Bush’s games in 2004 and 2005, including the national championship game in 2004 and the appearance in the title game in 2005. Bush gave up his Heisman voluntarily before the NCAA could strip him of it. Bottom line you can’t blame an 18-20 year old kid to say no when he is given the world. His family came from hard times and a few big names funded housing and paid out benefits. All Reggie Bush did was played football. This had a major effect on USC football and basketball because OJ Mayo was also found guilty of accepting benefits. It looks like USC is on their way back to contention but they need to beat up on teams outside of the West Coast to get that respect they once had. Young breaking the hearts of all Southern Cal fans was just the start of the Trojan War.

 

MLB: AJ Hinch, Then and Now… Ousted By The D’Backs Becoming A Gem In Houston

A tale of two Cities. Arizona and Houston. Former Diamondbacks GM, Josh Byrnes decided that he wanted to change the current trend of a major league manager. When the D’Backs canned Bob Melvin, Byrnes went straight to AJ Hinch, who had zero managerial experience at the time. At the time he was hired by Byrnes, he was Director of Player Personnel in the farm system. AJ didn’t get much of a chance to succeed being that he was replacing Bob Melvin, who was loved in the clubhouse, and he has never been a skipper before. He went from T-Ball to the Major’s overnight and he wasn’t ready to lead a team at the time. however, he did get invaluable experience that prepared him to be a World Series Manager. He was hired at 35, fired at 36, with a record of 89-123. After he was axed from the D’Backs, he had no idea if he’d ever be given an opportunity like this again.

AJ Trophy

People questioned Josh Byrnes over and over again for the Hire of Hinch in 2009, but in reality, Byrnes was ahead of his time. GM’s are looking for the next AJ Hinch. At the time, the move was a disaster, Hinch and Byrnes were fired 14 months later. Being a Head Coach is one of the most insecure jobs, it is very cutthroat. If you don’t produce early, you’ll be on your way out real quick, and that is what happened for Hinch and Byrnes. Hinch didn’t even get to make it through a full season from start to finish before he was shown the door. At the time, D’Backs fans weren’t upset about it because Hinch was such a no name. Also, D’Backs fans were eager to have Kirk Gibson take over the team. Having Gibson the bench coach for Hinch didn’t seem right, given Gibson’s MLB resume.

He brings unique leadership and perspective to the job… We’re not here to reinvent the wheel, but to change the nature of the job a little bit? OK, we’ll do that. A.J.’s a leader. He connects with people. He gets things done.- Josh Byrnes after Hiring AJ Hinch.

The Astros GM, Jeff Luhnow, couldn’t stop thinking of AJ Hinch when he was doing his managerial search back in 2015. Hinch had a background unlike anyone else on the Astros short list. Hinch was only 40 years old which helps relate to the players in a clubhouse being younger, he also has 20 years of experience in the game. He’s ambitious, relates well to the players and has a psychology degree from Stanford. He’s worked as a catcher for 7 years, he’s worked as a farm director, an instructor, and Front-office executive.

AJ

This was a very bold move for Luhnow, the Astros were averaging 104 losses for the past 4 years prior to the Hinch hire. Astros Fans at the time wanted a big name. They were tired of losing and Hinch wasn’t a huge name, but he was the right name. The Astros were infused with young talent, Jose Altuve was a star, but he was producing all by himself. Carlos Correa was dominating the minors as a teenager and George Springer was a young talent that was a few years away. Luhnow wasn’t phased by Hinch’s win-loss record at the time. When those younger players hit rough patches or slumps, who better than to talk them up than AJ Hinch, “Been there done that,” he says. Hinch’s rough AZ stint only makes him a better manager today.

He’s a great human being… He loves the game. He loves the competition. When things haven’t gone well, he evaluates and tries to get better. I hate to be corny, but it’s his character… People who know him well trust his judgement, character, intentions. Those are important things in a job like that.- Josh Byrnes after Hinch was Hired by the Astros

Since taking over the Houston Astros, Hinch is 338-254 and took them to a 86-76 record his first season, including a post season appearance. The previous 4 seasons before Hinch they were 56-106, 55-107, 51-111, and 70-92 the year before Hinch. Hinch’s ability to connect with young players is what separates him from anyone else. He wanted to change the culture in Houston, and to let the young guys know that it is OK to fail. It’s how you respond to failure that separates a player. 

Why isn’t anyone around here talking about Winning? We’re not doing this just to get better. We’re doing this to win. The talent in this room is good enough to win right now, and it’s not OK to be mediocre anymore. – AJ Hinch addressing the Locker Room after being hired.

World Series Astros Dodgers Baseball

AJ Hinch’s path to the World Series was not easy and was filled with adversity, from his time as a catcher that only hit .200, or his very short time as skipper for the D’Backs. All of those struggles have made him a great leader. The Astros wouldn’t trade AJ Hinch for anybody. They’re a young team hungry to repeat as World Champions. Altuve, Correa, and Springer would run through a brick wall for Hinch, he’s a players coach and gets the most out of whatever lineup he throws out there. Currently, the Astros hold a 5 game cushion over the Mariners for 1st place of the AL West. AJ’s first words to the team have really resonated and sunk in. He said,  “Why doesn’t anybody talk about Winning?” Well, now that is the only thing the Astros talk about.

Sports: Top Sports Movies of All-Time

There is no such thing as a Top Sports Movie list that doesn’t include The Sandlot, The GOAT of Sports movies. Sports movies are a huge part of youth sports, without movies about sports demonstrating teamwork and hard work kids would be playing the game with less passion. If you want something bad enough, you have to work for it. Sports instill a lot of core values that help you in everyday life and movies are a great way to connect young kids to sports. A group of kids playing baseball in an open lot during the summer and going to the pool when it got too hot is a perfect picture of middle school kids. Sports Movies also show the power of equality and inequality such as Remember the Titans. Movies about sports also appeal to the non-sports fans. Going over the top 10 of all-time, followed by a few that fell just short, making our honorable mention list.

  • Blue ChipsBlue Chips
    • Before John Calipari, Sean Miller, Bill Self, and the other recruiting monsters in College Basketball, there was Pete Bell. Bell was desperate to compete with the big boys of college hoops and stops at nothing to make West University in Los Angeles relevant. College basketball programs are paying recruits to stay competitive. A 5-star prospect or “Blue Chip” prospect as are referred to. This movie has some of the biggest college names in history like Dick Vitale, Bobby Knight, Bob Cousy, Larry Bird, Jim Boehoem, Rick Pitino, Shaq, Penny Hardaway, and many more. This movie is so great and was ahead of its time. This has been an issue for a long time and is only recently being brought to light. The recent FBI probe that is naming schools like Arizona, Kansas, Louisville and many more as paying players. This movie came out in 1994, way before it’s time.

If You’re Going To Win At Any Cost, Be Prepared To Pay The Price.- Movie Tagline

  • Cool RunningsMovies- Cool Runnings
    • The story of the Jamaican bobsled team is amazing. Led by one time cheater and outcast of the Olympics Irving Blitzer who was played by John Candy. Blitzer has put weights in the front of the sled to make it go faster. Since then, a healthy diet of coffee and donuts took over his life and was lying low in Jamaica. A push car driver and 3 sprinters were so desperate to get out of Jamaica they embraced it. But team spirit and a healthy self-confidence leads to a few surprises in Calgary during the winter Olympics.

One Dream. 4 Jamaicans. 20 Below Zero.- Movie Tagline

  • Movies- Remember the TitansRemember the Titans
    • We are the Titans, the mighty mighty Titans! One of the most classic football movies about race and teamwork. Denzel is asked to come into an all-white school and take over the head coaching duties. An awkward situation to say the least. This is a powerful story of a top-tier white high school football program that’s forced to segregate with the black school. The movie turns when you hear Julius and Gary Bertere come together saying “Left side, Strong side,” and hitting each other than all of a sudden they’re a “team”. Same common goals. The character development that takes place is great watching everyone come together, the white kids singing country music while the black kids teaching the white kids the temptations and four tops. This movie was based on actual events in 1971, this team becomes the unifying symbol for the community as the boys and adults learn to depend and trust one another.

History is Written by the Winners.- Movie Tagline

  • Major LeagueMovies- Major League
    • The Cleveland Indians were destined for the Cellar in the division, the very bottom. Due to the owner with evil intentions, as she puts together the worst team possible. If the Indians lose very badly she is able to move the team to Miami. Starting with an aging catcher with bad knees, Jack Taylor. A very shrewd pitcher that is well past his prime, but doesn’t want to admit it. An ultra wealthy, pre-madonna 3rd baseman afraid to dive or put his body in jeopardy, Roger Dorn. A young felon, fresh out of the pen that hits triple digits on the radar gun, just can’t throw a strike to save his life. Ricky Vaughn A.K.A The Wild Thing. A voodoo loving slugger that can’t hit a curve ball. Finally, a base-stealing lead-off hitter that can’t put the ball on the ground to use his speed. Together this group starts winning in spite of the owner’s plans to move the team to Florida.

When These Three Oddballs Try to Play Hardball, The Result is Totally Screwball. -Movie Tagline

  • Field of DreamsMovies- Field of Dreams
    • An Iowa corn farmer (Kevin Costner) takes a major risk, from the voice of a ghost. If you build it they will come. Nobody heard the voices except for Ray, who then concluded the “It” is a baseball diamond, and the “they” is Shoeless Joe Jackson and the other members of the 1919 Chicago White Sox. Ray grew up listening to stories told by his dad about that team.  Ray goes on the road because he believes two people are apart of this. One being famed writer Terrence Mann. The other is Archie “Moonlight” Graham, who only played half of an inning in 1922 and died in 1972. Ray must dig through these puzzles to find out the meaning of why they wanted him to rip up his cornfield, and his livelihood, to build a baseball diamond.

All His Life, Ray Kinsella Was Searching For His Dreams. Then, One Day, His Dreams Came Looking For Him.- Movie Tagline

  • Space JamMovies- Space Jam
    • In a desperate attempt to save their freedom, the Looney Tunes Crew recruit the greatest, Michael Jordan. Space Jam is a classic that is truly one of a kind. An owner of an amusement park, Moron Mountain, is struggling to fill his park. His name is Swackhammer and he wants to steal the Looney tunes characters to bring to his park. He thinks it would boost the parks revenue stream. They choose to play basketball and the team led by Swackhammer steal the talents of NBA players and call themselves the Monsters. The tunes counter by grabbing the GOAT, Michael Jordan. MJ, Bill Murray and the Looney Tunes go to battle against the Monsters who have taken the talents from Shawn Bradley, Mugsy Bogues, Larry Johnson, Patrick Ewing, and Charles Barkley. MJ and the Looney Tunes take them down, Making MJ 7-0 in Championship games. Barkley and Ewing still don’t have a ring.

Get Ready To Jam.- Movie Tagline

  • Varsity BluesMovies- Varsity Blues
    • In the small town of Texas, winning is the only thing that matters and football is a religion. Jon Voight is the legendary Coach Kilmer who didn’t care one bit about anything except for the final score. Winning on Friday nights is the only thing that mattered. Paul Walker was the star QB who had a serious injury, was also forced into taking cortisone shots to play from Coach Kilmer. The team had to lean on backup James Van Der Beek, Mox in the movie. Coach Kilmer coached for 35 years, winning the district championship in 23 of those 35 years. Nothing else mattered. Varsity Blues digs into our obsession with sports and how teenage athletes respond to the extraordinary pressure to win at all costs.

Make Your Own Rules- Movie Tagline

  • He Got GameMovies- He Got Game
    • The story of Jesus Shuttlesworth and Jake Shuttlesworth, a father-son story. Jesus is the top high school basketball prospect in the country while his father Jake was the top inmate in prison. Jesus has a giant decision coming up, does he go straight to the NBA draft, or does he go to College. Jake Shuttlesworth is given an opportunity to shorten his sentence. The governor asks that Jake talks to his son Jesus about attending his Alma Mater University. Spike Lee does a great job depicting what it is like for an upcoming star like Jesus. A lot of people come hanging around wanting money or fame. His father, although wanting to get out of prison and help sway his decision, legitimately loves his son. The idea that a boy cannot live without his father plays a major role in this movie. This movie proves that in life you can benefit more by forgiving than forgetting.

The Father, the Son, and the Holy Game- Movie Tagline

  • Bad News BearsMovies- Bad News Bears
    • In 1976, Walter Matthau changed the coaching game when he made a few lineup changes and kicked back a few extra beers and boom, he had a winning team. Making two huge midseason pickups by grabbing pitching ace, Amanda Whurlizer and Kelly Leak, a motorcycle rider that is the best baseball player in the area. Morris Buttermaker sat back and drank his suds watching this team of misfits keep winning all the way to the championship against rival Yankees. Buttermaker was a lazy former minor league player that was just collecting checks, until he decides to start a winning culture.

The Coach is Waiting for his Next Beer. The Pitcher is Waiting for her First Bra. The Team is Waiting for a Miracle. Consider the possibilities. – Movie Tagline

  • The SandlotMovies Sandlot
    • Now, we look at the GOAT of all sports movies. The story of Benny “the jet” Rodriguez taking in Scottie Smalls under his wing. Smalls is the new pip squeak in town that has little to no respect let alone any friends in his new neighborhood. These kids showed what its like in the summer when school is out. Adventures in the treehouse, spending quality time at the local pool with Wendy Peppercorn, beating the snooty rival ball team, and testing chewing tobacco at the local fair. The last adventure they would have is when they lose another home run ball over the fence, to the Beast. Except it wasn’t just “another” home run ball. It was signed by Baby Ruth. They spent days trying to recover this ball from the biggest dog in the neighborhood, owned by James Earl Jones, a former baseball  player. Great story about friendship and the power of sports in relationships.

The Adventure of a Lifetime, The Summer of Their Dreams… The Dog of Their Nightmares.- Movie Tagline

Choosing only 10 sports movies is pretty impossible. There are so many great ones. Some of my Honorable Mentions are Rocky, Sylvester Stallone shows that with hard work and determination, you can accomplish anything. Rookie of the year shows us that even at 12 years old and a freak accident you can play for the Cubs. Any Given Sunday, Caddyshack, and the Replacements are all honorable sports movies of our generation with different meanings and messages. I’m sure everyone will have a different list but this is BigCat’s Top 10.