Baseball is about pastoral permanence: 90 feet between bases, 60 feet and 6 inches from the mound to home plate. But basketball, a more frenetic sport, seems to invite experimentation and incessant tinkering.
Shot clock. Time added or subtracted from shot clock. Three-point line. Wider lane. Trapezoidal lane. Alternate possession arrow. Block-charge arc. Bigger block-charge arc. Coach’s box. Coaches can’t call timeouts with ball in play. Quarters. Halves.
Change is inevitable. So rather than work around the margins, let’s be bold.
South Carolina Coach Frank Martin wouldn’t mind if shot clocks were removed altogether. He certainly opposes reducing the time to shoot from the current 30 seconds (down from 35 seconds last season) to the NBA’s 24 seconds.
“If you look at the NBA, pretty much all the teams have the same calls for the same plays,” he said earlier this season. “Because there’s only so many things you can do in 24 seconds. And I don’t think college basketball should be about that.”
More time on the shot clock would give still-developing college players a greater chance to learn basic skills.
“Learning how to play at the end of the clock is important,” Martin said. “But learning how to play is more important. Meaning how to pass, how to screen, how to cut. All the things you learned as a kid rather than stand around and set a ball screen.”
A longer shot clock — or no shot clock — invites a greater variety of playing styles.
Martin would also like to see a wider court in order to give players more room to operate.
I’m tired of watching our best players sit on the bench.
Television analyst Joe Dean Jr.
Television analyst and former Kentucky assistant coach Joe Dean Jr. served on the NCAA Men’s Basketball Rules Committee from 2004 to 2007. Each year he proposed that players foul out on the sixth foul rather than the fifth.
“I’m tired of watching our best players sit on the bench,” Dean said.
Each year, the Rules Committee tabled Dean’s proposal.
Undeterred, Dean now suggests an even more radical idea: Unlimited fouls. In other words, players would never foul out.
To discourage unrestrained fouling and interminable free-throw shooting, Dean said a more severe penalty could be imposed when a player commits his sixth foul and any subsequent foul. Say, the other team shoots two free throws and then retains possession.
“I don’t think we should disqualify players,” Dean said. “We are the only sport that does.”
Kentucky announced an attendance of 22,975 for last weekend’s game against Vanderbilt. However, Rupp Arena’s count of people who actually passed through the turnstiles was 16,126.
Apparently, fans can spread out and make Rupp Arena look full when it really isn’t.
Either attendance number merited attention given the winter storm that dumped 7-plus inches of snow on Lexington the day before.
Here’s another way to look at it. The 16,126 figure would be the second-highest average home attendance for any SEC team this season. Of course, Kentucky had the highest average home attendance of 23,075, as of mid-week.
The scan count of 16,126 for the Vandy game was more than double the average home attendance of five SEC teams entering last week’s games: Missouri (5,941), Mississippi State (6,082), Georgia (6,913), Ole Miss (7,564) and Texas A&M (7,862).
At mid-week, the 16,126 was in the same general range of average home attendance of such marquee college basketball programs as Syracuse (19,970), North Carolina (17,308), Indiana (16,954) and Kansas (15,028).
‘They’re still people’
On Tuesday, the New York Times reported on former Florida Coach Billy Donovan’s transition to the NBA this season. The story detailed how Donovan made a point of meeting with each Oklahoma City Thunder player last spring and summer.
The meetings were designed to help build a partnership between coach and player.
“I think a lot of times people fail to realize that, even though these guys are stars and they’ve got brands that are worldwide and they have unbelievable name recognition, they’re still people,” Donovan told the Times. “They still go through normal things that people go through.”
The story detailed how Donovan wanted to meet face to face with players rather than simply talk on the phone or via Skype.
“It was much, much more of a collaborative effort working with him (Russell Westbrook), than it was saying, ‘Hey, listen, this is what you’re doing,” Donovan said. “Because he’s clearly one of the best players in this league, and his voice to me matters in terms of how I can help him and help the team.”
Arkansas to honor Sutton
Arkansas announced last week that it will honor former Coach Eddie Sutton at its game against Missouri on Feb. 20. The school plans to hoist a banner recognizing his 11 seasons as Arkansas coach.
Sutton, 79, had a 260-75 record as Arkansas coach from 1974 to 1985. Of course, he left the school to become Kentucky coach in 1985.
“He built the foundation for this program,” former Arkansas All-American Joe Kleine told the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. “Without him being there, I don’t think a lot of things that came after that would have transpired. I think he laid the foundation for what we all enjoyed with Arkansas basketball in the 1970s, ’80s, ’90s and up to today.”
Arkansas Athletic Director Jeff Long credited Sutton with putting the school on the basketball map.
“Coach Sutton not only transformed our program, he introduced the game of college basketball to Arkansans across the state,” Long said in a news release. “When he arrived, Barnhill Arena still had dirt floors under the bleachers. By the end of his tenure at Arkansas, Barnhill Arena boasted a Final Four banner and a rabid Razorbacks fan base making it one of the toughest places to play in the nation.”
Sutton had a career record of 806-226 in 35 seasons of coaching at Creighton, Arkansas, Kentucky, Oklahoma State and San Francisco.
Arkansas honored Nolan Richardson at a banner ceremony last season. Richardson led the Hogs to the 1994 national championship, 13 NCAA Tournament appearances and three Final Fours in 17 seasons. He won a school-record 389 games.
Other banners that hang in Bud Walton Arena honor players Sidney Moncrief and Corliss Williamson from the men’s teams, and Bettye Ficus and Delmonica DeHorney-Hawkins from the women’s teams.
Former UK star Rex Chapman continues to resolve a court case in which he pleaded guilty to four felony counts of theft.
$15,128.30total restitution owed by Rex Chapman
In a hearing Jan. 22, the Maricopa County (Ariz.) Superior Court learned that Chapman had completed more than half of the 750 hours of community service that was part of his penalty. He is expected to complete the payment of restitution totaling $15,128.30 before a scheduled reappearance in court March 18.
Chapman was arrested in 2014 on suspicion of organized retail theft and trafficking in stolen property. He later entered a drug rehab program.
To honorees at last week’s Bluegrass Sports Awards dinner.
▪ Former Rupp Runt Larry Conley, for his work as an analyst for college basketball and baseball. Conley and Tom Hammond worked about 600 SEC basketball games for various television networks. They sat side by side as fans for the first time and watched Kentucky beat Missouri on Wednesday.
▪ Donna Barton Brothers, Kenny Rice and Mike Battaglia, for their coverage of horse racing.
▪ Bill Farish for sports business.
▪ The late Van Florence for volunteer work.
▪ Herald-Leader alum Mike Fields, for his coverage of youth sports.
Tubby times four
The SEC-Big 12 Challenge may have created a bit of history on Saturday when Texas Tech played at Arkansas.
Tech was the fourth team Tubby Smith had led into a game at Arkansas. Earlier in his career, he coached teams representing Tulsa, Georgia and Kentucky at Arkansas.
Has any other coach led four or more teams into regular-season games at one site?
Van Florence remembered
The passing of Van Florence last weekend sparked a lot of reminiscing. He was the Man Friday for UK basketball from the mid 1960s until 2009.
Joe Dean Jr. recalled being a UK assistant coach when his son, Robert Scott Dean, was born in 1980. Shortly thereafter, Dean was asked to attend a meeting of the Committee of 101 service group that had Florence as its president for 30 years.
At the meeting, Florence presented Dean with a $100 savings bond framed and ready to be displayed.
“We still have that,” Dean said before working Kentucky’s game against Vanderbilt for the SEC Network. “Van was the kindest, nicest gentleman I’ve been around.”
While the lords of UK Athletics don’t try to hide their displeasure with lowly media types, Florence seemed to understand everyone had a job to do.
I remember him forgetting that only once: After Kentucky lost to Louisiana-Lafayette in the finals of the 1989 UKIT. Florence tried to shoo away photographers who pointed their cameras at the dejected players on the UK bench. “We don’t need those kind of pictures,” he said.
UK basketball needed Florence, a selfless do-gooder who gave a self-important program a human touch.
While hospitalized last year, Florence shared this thought about college athletics with a visitor.
“It’s big business,” he said. “That’s what people don’t realize. It’s not Saturday’s game. It’s big, big business.”
To Tony Delk. He turned 42 on Thursday. … To Rick Robey. He turned 60 on Saturday. … To Josh Carrier. He turned 33 on Saturday. … To Andre Riddick. He turns 43 on Monday. … To Walter McCarty. He turns 42 on Monday. … To C.M. Newton. He turns 86 on Tuesday. … To Truman Claytor. He turns 59 on Tuesday. … To Stan Key. He turns 66 on Tuesday.