Finally the Finals: HoopsHD interviews Charleston coaching icon John Kresse

Most college coaches measure their success by how many games they win in March, but some of them are lucky enough to make the leap to pro basketball and try to win a championship in May/June.  1 who has achieved success at both levels is former coach John Kresse.  This month marks the 45th anniversary of Kresse making the ABA Finals as an assistant to Lou Carnesecca with the New York Nets.  After heading back to the amateur level as head coach at Charleston he won an NAIA national title in 1983 and made the postseason 6 straight years from 1994-1999.  He won more than 550 games in his Charleston career and eventually had the arena and court named in his honor.  HoopsHD’s Jon Teitel got to chat with Coach Kresse about playing for 1 Hall of Fame coach (Joe Lapchick) and working for another (Carnesecca).

You walked onto the St. John’s basketball team as a freshman, and earned a scholarship from Hall of Fame coach Joe Lapchick as a sophomore: what was it like to play for the legendary Lapchick? He was an “Original Celtic” from the 1930s who later coached both St. John’s and the Knicks.

When Lapchick retired in 1965, Hall of Fame coach Lou Carnesecca hired you as his assistant coach: what made Carnesecca such a great coach? He is really my mentor as he helped me come to St. John’s and then get a job as a high school coach in 1964. I spent 11 years with him at St. John’s. He had great energy/enthusiasm and stressed the fundamentals of the game with his ABC’s. He was a player’s coach who did not have a big ego.

In 1970 you joined Carnesecca as assistant coach/director of player personnel/chief scout for the ABA’s New York Nets: what was the biggest difference between college and the ABA, and what are your memories of the 1972 ABA Finals (Roger Brown scored 32 PTS in a 3-PT win by Indiana in the decisive Game 6)? In the pros you had to deal more with individuals/personalities so relationships/motivation were very important. 1972 was 1 of our best teams and we made it to the Finals before losing to a great Pacers team. It was a great experience. We played 116 games that year including exhibitions/playoffs!

In 1979 you became head coach at Charleston: why did you take the job? We had a great run in the 1979 NCAA tourney before losing to Penn in the Elite 8 and a couple of weeks later I took the job at Charleston. I was in my mid-30s and had been an assistant for 15 years so I wanted to see if I could become a head coach. We had some great players and I ended up staying 23 years.

In 1983 you won the NAIA title after PG Stephen Yetman drew a charge in the final seconds to clinch a 4-PT win over West Virginia Wesleyan: what did it mean to you to win the title, and where does Yetman’s play rank among the best defensive plays that you have ever seen? It was the 1st year we had won the conference title and got to go to Kansas City for the national tourney. We played 5 games in 5 days, which was tough. We beat Chaminade in the semis after they had upset #1 Virginia earlier that season. Stephen was named tourney MVP: he was a great offensive PG and a great defender.

What are your memories of the 1994 NCAA tourney (freshman Tim Duncan had 16 PTS/13 REB/8 BLK in a 10-PT win by Wake Forest)? When we made the jump to D-1 we were not allowed to get an NCAA tourney bid for 7 years, which I thought was unfair. We gave them a good game and kept it close for most of the game. It was a great moment in our school’s history to finally have a chance to be a part of March Madness.

What are your memories of the 1997 NCAA tourney (Stacy Harris scored 22 PTS in a 9-PT upset of Maryland after Gary Williams benched Laron Profit/Terrell Stokes for being late to a team meeting, but tourney MOP Miles Simon scored 20 PTS in a 4-PT win by eventual national champion Arizona)? We were a #12 seed but had some great seniors like Thad Delaney/Anthony Johnson.  Arizona coach Lute Olson had a really good team despite only being a #4-seed. We were down by 2 PTS with 20 seconds left but Jermel President’s shot bounced off the rim. We finished 29-3 (#16 in the AP poll) with losses to Oklahoma State, Kentucky, and Arizona.

What are your memories of the 1998 NCAA tourney in Chicago (Mark Madsen had 16 PTS/17 REB in a 10-PT win by Stanford)? That was another close game. We took the lead with 4 minutes left but could not hold on.

What are your memories of the 1999 NCAA tourney (your team made a 25-1 run but fell short in a 9-PT loss to Tulsa to end your 25-game winning streak)? Bill Self was Tulsa’s coach. We fell behind 25 PTS in the 1st half but our conference POY Sedric Webber helped us make a run in the 2nd half by making four 3-PT shots. We finished #16 in the AP poll: we had some great teams during the 1990s.

Your career 79.7 W-L% remains 1 of the highest of any D-1 coach in history: what made you so successful? Great players make the coach and I was very lucky to have a great run for a long period of time. I stressed defense which helped us won a lot of close games. It was great to see the program grow both on and off the court. After retiring I remained at the college to teach some classes and do a couple of games as a TV analyst. I owe it all to Lapchick/Carnesecca.

The John Kresse Arena is named after you, and in 2008 Charleston moved to the Carolina First Arena where the playing surface is named John Kresse Court: what was your reaction like when you heard that the school would be doing this, and what does it feel like to walk into an arena and see your name on the court? When they told me that they were doing that I was baffled/excited. To have something named after you while you are still kicking is extremely special. Now we are at the TD Arena where the court is named after me. We even got to host St. John’s in a game on ESPN, which was beyond my wildest dreams.

When people look back on your career, how do you want to be remembered the most? I want to be remembered as a teacher/coach who valued his student-athletes. I waved the flag at Charleston and tried to get people engaged in our program. I will say “Go Cougars” for the rest of my life!

2017 NBA Mock Draft (Version 1.0)

The NBA draft will take place on June 22 and we will do our best to predict where everyone will get selected. Some websites do their mock drafts based on “best player available” but we try to focus on team needs: for example, if a team like Phoenix already has Devin Booker at the 2-spot, then they are probably not selecting an SG with the #4 overall pick. So, please see our 1st round predictions below and then let us know in the comments section what looks good and what might need a re-pick.

#: TEAM-NAME, POSITION (SCHOOL OR COUNTRY/YEAR)
1: Boston-Markelle Fultz, PG (Washington/FR)
2: LA Lakers-Lonzo Ball, PG (UCLA/FR)
3: Philadelphia-Josh Jackson, SG/SF (Kansas/FR)
4: Phoenix-Jayson Tatum, SF (Duke/FR)
5: Sacramento-Jonathan Isaac, SF/PF (Florida State/FR)
6: Orlando-De’Aaron Fox, PG (Kentucky/FR)
7: Minnesota-Dennis Smith, PG (NC State/FR)
8: New York-Malik Monk, SG (Kentucky/FR)
9: Dallas-Zach Collins, C (Gonzaga/FR)
10: Sacramento-Lauri Markkanen, PF (Arizona/FR)
11: Charlotte-Jarrett Allen, C (Texas/FR)
12: Detroit-Donovan Mitchell, SG (Louisville/SO)
13: Denver-Frank Ntilikina, PG (France/INTL)
14: Miami-Justin Jackson, SF (North Carolina/JR)
15: Portland-John Collins, PF/C (Wake Forest/FR)
16: Chicago-Justin Patton, C (Creighton/FR)
17: Milwaukee-Terrance Ferguson, SG (USA/INTL)
18: Indiana-TJ Leaf, PF (UCLA/FR)
19: Atlanta-Luke Kennard, SG (Duke/SO)
20: Portland-Harry Giles, PF/C (Duke/FR)
21: Oklahoma City-Ivan Rabb, PF/C (California/FR)
22: Brooklyn-Rodions Kurucs, SF (Latvia/INTL)
23: Toronto-OG Anunoby, SF/PF (Indiana/SO)
24: Utah-Ike Anigbogu, C (UCLA/FR)
25: Orlando-Bam Adebayo, PF/C (Kentucky/FR)
26: Portland-Tyler Lydon, PF (Syracuse/SO)
27: Brooklyn-Hamidou Diallo, SG (Kentucky/FR)
28: LA Lakers-Jonathan Jeanne, C (France/INTL)
29: San Antonio-Jawun Evans, PG (Oklahoma State/SO)
30: Utah-Isaiah Hartenstein, PF (Germany/INTL)

Filed Under: CBB

A Matter of Basketball and Death: HoopsHD interviews “Disgraced” director Pat Kondelis

College basketball has had small scandals and big scandals but it has never had anything quite as mind-blowing as the 2003 murder of Baylor basketball player Patrick Dennehy by teammate Carlton Dotson.  In March SHOWTIME premiered its feature-length documentary “Disgraced”, which examines both the murder itself as well as the resulting accusations against both the school and Coach Dave Bliss.  The impact of the film was rather immediate, as Coach Bliss resigned from his job as coach at Southwestern Christian University in early April.  Hoops HD’s Jon Teitel got to chat with award-winning director Pat Kondelis about the crime and the cover-up.

This documentary revisits the 2003 murder of Baylor basketball player Patrick Dennehy by his teammate Carlton Dotson: why do you think Dotson did it, and why make a documentary about it 14 years later? I do not know why Dotson did it, which was a big motivator in making the film. Once you begin to look at the details and examine the evidence you see that there is way more to this story than what has been reported so far. My goal was to get closer to the truth in what happened in Waco in 2003 and figure out why this happened.

In October 2004 Dotson was declared incompetent to stand trial and sent to a state mental hospital, where psychiatrists said that he appeared to be suffering from hallucinations/psychosis including a belief that people were trying to kill him because he was Jesus: do you think that he was insane at the time of the murder? I really do not know. Dotson had a history of hallucinations and showed signs of paranoia while he was at Baylor. The school even took the step of sending him to a therapist. It is unclear if he was insane at the time of the alleged action, but the steps he took immediately following those alleged actions suggest that he knew right from wrong and was intentionally hiding evidence.

In June 2005 Dotson pled guilty right before his trial and was sentenced to 35 years in prison: do you think that it was a fair sentence? No I do not. IF Dotson pulled the trigger in cold blood then I think he should have received a life sentence. If there is evidence to suggest that he was not alone or that there is more to this, which I think there is, then the trial is where that could come out…but unfortunately that never happened.

Baylor instituted some self-imposed punishments but the NCAA took it up a notch by extending their probation through 2010, eliminating 1 year of non-conference play, and issuing a 10-year show-cause penalty against Coach Dave Bliss (1 of the harshest penalties ever imposed on a D-1 program that did not include a “death penalty”): how do you think the Baylor violations compared to those at SMU almost 2 decades earlier, and how much credit does the school deserve for taking action once the violations came to light (which SMU administrators failed to do after learning of its own school’s violations)? I do not think that Baylor deserves any credit. I think that all of their actions were specifically motivated to avoid the death penalty, which according to inside sources was seriously being considered in this case. You have to look at the history of major athletic scandals at Baylor: it is second to none. The federal prosecution of the entire Baylor men’s basketball coaching staff in 1994 for federal conspiracy/wire fraud/mail fraud, the tennis team scandal in 2000 concerning financial aid/improper benefits, and Bliss in 2003. That is 3 major athletic scandals in a 10-year period.  SMU was more blatant about their pay-for-play scandal and refused to cooperate with the NCAA investigation, but at this point Baylor has far exceeded SMU in the realm of college scandals. The issues at Baylor are far more serious than simply paying students to play sports.

Bliss had reached the limits on team scholarships so he secretly paid a portion of the tuition for Dennehy/teammate Corey Herring that was not covered by financial aid, then later attempted to convince his players to lie to school officials/NCAA investigators by saying that Dennehy was a drug dealer to create reasonable doubt about why Dennehy had received extra cash: is this just a prime example of the adage that “the cover-up is always worse than the crime”? No: the crime is terrible and there is plenty of evidence to suggest that the money Bliss used to pay the tuitions was not his own but in fact came from booster payments. These details are laid out in in amazing detail in the public NCAA report. Bliss had created a basketball booster program called “The Fast Break Club” which he took sole control of, removing it from the standard accounting procedures/oversight of the Athletic Department, and had checks made out to himself personally. According to the NCAA report, Bliss gave 1 AAU team (The Houston Superstars) over $87,000 in 1 year to get their players to sign letters of intent with Baylor. The NCAA found that over $100,000 was given to different AAU teams in a single year. It is my belief that Bliss used money from boosters to pay tuitions.

Bliss also allegedly threatened to fire assistant coach Abar Rouse if he did not go along with the scheme, but Rouse turned whistleblower after recording some conversations on tape: do you feel that the secret recordings are the juiciest part of the film?  There are so many crazy things that happened in this story that it is hard to nail down one as the most important/salacious. The biggest benefit of having the tapes is that they put the audience in the room as the cover-up/conspiracy is unfolding. You get to hear something that most people would have dismissed had they only been told by a witness that Bliss said those things. It is hard to believe without hearing the actual tapes.

There were further allegations about widespread abuse of marijuana/alcohol among players that were ignored by Coach Bliss and his staff, as well as recruiting violations when Bliss/assistant coach Rodney Belcher were present during a pickup game involving recruit Harvey Thomas during his official visit to Baylor (which constitutes an “illegal tryout” under NCAA rules): murder is obviously an uncommon occurrence at a college basketball program, but do you feel that the other stuff has become “standard operating procedure” at a majority of D-1 programs around the country? I think they are more common than not. Violations occur at most schools but what happened at Baylor is remarkable. I think this story highlights the pitfalls of a “win at all costs” attitude that most D-1 programs subscribe to.

Toward the end of the film Bliss stands up during an on-camera interview and keeps talking while he thinks the camera is turned off: were you surprised by his admissions during this segment, and does he honestly believe that others are to blame? I was shocked. That was very early on in our filming so I did not know if what he was saying was true or not. We had not interviewed the police yet so when he says that the police knew everything yet did not charge him, he is basically saying that there was a police cover-up. He is also saying that Bill Underwood (the head of the Baylor internal investigative committee) was the source of his lie. Bliss does not think that the camera is off and I never told the crew to stop at all: he just kept talking. I decided to use that because he repeated that statement in the second interview we did and made it clear that it was on the record. It was very important to show that he would say one thing and then completely contradict that to deflect any blame.

Coach Scott Drew had the Bears ranked #1 in the nation last season and reached the Sweet 16 before losing to South Carolina: why did the school choose him to replace Bliss, and how has he been able to turn things around 180 degrees? Coach Drew has done a great job of resurrecting the program but has also been busted for major recruiting violations and just wrapped up a 3-year probation by the NCAA.

In 2015 Baylor again made headlines due to a football sexual assault scandal and announced that it chose not to comment on your film: how have things changed in Waco since 2003, and how much more disgrace is yet to come? I have no clue. I really hope that Baylor steps up and commits to full transparency. Maybe the Texas Rangers law enforcement agency will get that result.

*DISGRACED can be seen on all of Showtime’s video-on-demand services including SHOWTIME ANYTIME, SHOWTIME ON DEMAND, and the SHOWTIME stand-alone streaming service.

HoopsHD at the Final 4: Photo Essay (Day 3)

The Final 4 is not only the culmination of the best 3-week tournament in sports: it also serves as the final step of our season-long journey from Midnight Madness to 1 Shining Moment.  With his home state of Arizona playing Final 4 host for the 1st time ever, there was no way that HoopsHD’s Jon Teitel was going to miss the chance to head out west and check out as much of the action as possible.  While he was unable to finagle a press pass from the NCAA, he was able to attend all the ancillary activities including the College Slam Dunk & 3-Point Contest, an open practice featuring all 4 teams, the College All-Star Game, and the Fan Fest.  We already covered the 1st 2 days during the past few weeks, and we conclude with all the action from Fan Fest the day before the title game.

I tried to interview Christian Laettner earlier that weekend but everyone wanted a piece of him.  On April Fools Day he was back on the court leading a clinic, so this was the closest that I could get:

It was mostly a day full of players, but for you ESPN fans there was also a Seth Greenberg sighting:

The star of the show was Hall of Famer David Robinson.  The line to get his autograph seemed to go on forever, but the Admiral looked great for a guy who graduated from the Naval Academy 3 decades ago.  I just wish I could figure out who was sponsoring his appearance:

All the Wildcat fans came out to see Robinson’s former San Antonio teammate Sean Elliott.  If he had any eligibility left then perhaps Arizona would have made it back to the Final 4:

The Suns fans who like their crafty veterans came out to see Eddie Johnson just blocks away from where he used to regularly light up the scoreboard with his sweet jump shot:

The schedule makers saved the best for last.  Exactly 8 days after becoming the youngest NBA player to ever score 70 points in a game, Suns SG Devin Booker showed up with a small army of security to a boisterous reception from the hometown fans, even though his Kentucky Wildcats were unable to join him at the Final 4.  I do not know if the 20-year old is ever going to make an All-Star team or win a title, but when you cheer for a team that just lost more games than the LAKERS you take pride in his career so far and maintain hope that there is nowhere to go but up:

And that is a wrap from Arizona, scene of a fantastic Final 4, hope to see you next spring in San Antonio!

Filed Under: CBB

Hammink It Up: HoopsHD interviews draft prospect Shane Hammink

The most (in)famous father in next month’s draft is turning out to be LaVar Ball, but his son Lonzo is not the only draft prospect whose dad you should know. Shane Hammink’s father Geert was a 1st round pick by Orlando in the 1993 NBA Draft and played professional basketball for more than a decade. Shane’s own basketball career began overseas at the Canarias Basketball Academy and as part of the Netherlands’ national team. After starting his college career at his dad’s alma mater of LSU, he transferred to Valparaiso and helped his team reach the 2016 NIT title game. HoopsHD’s Jon Teitel recently got to chat with Shane about trying to follow in his father’s footsteps and what sets him apart from other shooting guards in the draft.

You were born and raised in the Netherlands and have played for their national basketball team: how big is basketball in your home country, and how is the national team looking these days? It is not that big, as soccer is the most popular sport, but basketball is getting there. Our national team made the European Championships a couple of years ago so we are pretty good, and I think we will remain solid after I return to join the team in the years ahead.

Your father Geert was a 1st round pick by Orlando in the 1993 NBA Draft (2 spots behind Sam Cassell): is he prouder of his time in the NBA or his role as a member of the Indiana Hoosiers in the movie “Blue Chips”?! That movie was awesome…but I think he is prouder of making the NBA. I was pretty young at the time he was drafted but I have been told that I attended a couple of his games. He told me about playing with Shaquille O’Neal and how dominant he was. I remember watching my dad play an All-Star game in Germany once: he had a nice shooting touch.

You previously played at a basketball academy in Spain’s Canary Islands: what is the biggest difference between basketball in the US vs. basketball overseas? The speed/athleticism is the biggest difference. Basketball has become pretty big in Europe so the quality of the game is pretty similar to America, but in the US the players fly down the court and can jump out of the gym.

You began your career at your dad’s alma mater of LSU before transferring to Valparaiso: why did you decide to switch, and what made you choose the Crusaders? It was not a great fit for me and I wanted to go somewhere that I could play more minutes. I talked to Coach Bryce Drew and I liked what he told me about my game, which is why I decided to come here.

In the 2016 NIT title game you scored 9 PTS in a loss to GW: what was it like to play in Madison Square Garden, and how close did you come to winning the title? It was amazing to play on the same court that guys like Carmelo Anthony do. We did not play well as a team and GW was the better team that day.

Last February you scored a career-high 25 PTS/9-15 FG in a 10-PT win at Wright State: was it just 1 of those situations where every shot you put up seemed to go in because you were “in the zone”? Kind of, but I was just playing well and fed off of my teammates so it all worked out. It was our 1st game without our best player (Alec Peters) so we did what we had to do as a team to get the win.

After shooting only 50 FT% during 2 years at LSU, you were #6 in the Horizon League last year with 80.8 FT%: how were you able to improve so much over the past 2 years? Just getting into the gym, working hard, and improving my confidence. I never shot FTs that well growing up and would just pray that I made them, but now when I step to the line I am much more confident.

You have also added a 3-PT shot to your arsenal after only making 5 during your time in Baton Rouge: what is your secret for making shots from behind the arc? There is no secret: just like with FTs you have to work on your shot and improve your confidence. I started something like 1-20 last year from 3-PT range but then everything eventually started falling for me. I knew that I could shoot so I just kept going to the gym and my teammates kept telling me that my shots would start going in at some point.

What part of your skill set makes you different from other guards in this year’s draft, and what would you be able to bring to an NBA team? I am pretty tall for a guard at 6’7”. I can shoot as well as drive to create shots for other people. I will do whatever a coach asks me to. I always dreamed of going to the NBA as a kid but it never became a real possibility until this season.

Do you have a favorite NBA team/current player, and which NBA player is your game most similar to? My favorite player is LeBron James. I do not have a favorite team but I think that Golden State is the best team due to all of their great shooters. I see myself as a taller version of Manu Ginobili: I love his Eurostep.

Quite a Jok: HoopsHD interviews draft prospect Peter Jok

Peter Jok finished his Iowa career as 1 of the best shooters in school history: his 216 3PM is #4 in Hawkeye history and his 88.1 FT% is #1 all-time.  As a result the awards started rolling in: 1st-team All-Big Ten, AP Honorable Mention All-American, and 1 of 5 finalists for Jerry West Shooting Guard of the Year.  Now he is preparing for the next stage of his long journey: the 2017 NBA Draft on June 22nd.  HoopsHD’s Jon Teitel recently got to chat with Peter about being the best scorer in the Big 10 and what it would mean to him to get drafted next month. 

You were born in Sudan where your father was a general for the People’s Liberation Army: how did you 1st get into basketball, and how difficult was your transition after moving to the US? I first got into basketball because of my friends back in 5th grade: I only joined the metro team for our elementary school to hang out with my friends. My current guardian had wanted me to play for his AAU team along with his son and a bunch of his friends: they were called the Riders. At first I only played for him because he would take us out to McDonald’s after practices, but then I started falling in love with the game. The transition was difficult at first because of the weather, but I have adapted as the years went by. The community we were living in also made it a lot easier for me to adapt to my new life.

Last November you scored a career-high 42 PTS/8-11 3PM for Iowa in an 8-PT loss to Memphis: was it just 1 of those scenarios where every shot you put up seemed to go in because you were “in the zone”? Yes and no. The night before that game I had a bad game as we got manhandled by Virginia so I stayed up all night watching film of that game as well as of Memphis. My mindset going into the Memphis game was to go for 50 PTS. I got hot pretty early and my teammates kept finding me so it did not hurt that I was making everything.

In the 2017 NIT you scored 22 PTS/5-10 3PM in a 2-PT OT loss to TCU in the final game of your career: how close did you come to beating the eventual champs? We came very close. They played great in that game and I knew afterwards that they were going to win it all. We had a few possessions that did not go our way…but that is the game of basketball.

As a senior you led the Big 10 with 19.9 PPG: what is the key to being a great scorer? The key is knowing your strengths/weaknesses on offense and always taking what the defense gives you. Make the game simple and do not try to do too much. You also need to have the right mindset: never let a missed shot get to you. Shooters shoot and scorers score.

You also led the conference with 91.1 FT%: what is the secret to making FTs? To be honest I do not think there is really any secret: it is all about your mindset and not overthinking it when you are on the line. When you are shooting by yourself you do not think about everything around you, so when you are on that line just shoot it. I also try to take less dribbles than some other players and keep it simple.

You were named 1st-team All-Conference and honorable mention All-American: what did it mean to you to win such outstanding honors? It was a blessing to earn all of those honors but I did not reach all of the goals I had set for the season.

1 of your biggest strengths is outside shooting (career 37.8 3P%): what did it mean to you to win the 2017 College 3-PT Contest on your 23rd birthday? I was not picked to win it by any of the announcers so that gave me extra motivation to win.  I have been an underdog my whole life so it always feels good when you can achieve something that people do not think you can.

Your brother Jo Jo played college football, your brother Dau played basketball at Penn, your uncle was Manute Bol, and Luol Deng is 1 of your mother’s cousins: who is the best athlete in the family? That is a tough one. I would have to say either Jo Jo (who has 2 football state championships) or Luol (who is one of the elite lock-down defenders in the NBA).

Do you have a favorite NBA team/current player, and how amazing would it be to end up joining them? I used to be a big Lakers fan because Kobe Bryant is my all-time favorite player, but now I like to watch the Clippers (because of Jamal Crawford) and the Wariors (because of Klay Thompson). It would be amazing to play with either of those 2 teams, especially Golden State because I have a similar game to Klay and would learn so much from him.

What would it mean to you to get drafted: a validation of your college career, the realization of a lifelong dream of reaching the NBA, or other? I would call my college career a process. From the first day that I stepped onto campus until now everything has been a process. I got better every year both on and off the court. I went from being a lost freshmen who thought basketball was all about scoring to becoming the leader/captain of the team. It was a great 4 years and I would not go back and change anything. Being drafted would mean everything just because of the journey I have been through, and to be able to beat all the odds would mean a lot. Additionally, it would be a blessing to be able to take care of my family and help people back home in South Sudan.