Once college basketball emerges from its current embarrassing scandal a couple of years from now, bright minds will figure out how to make it an even bigger, more profitable industry and by then it might be so big that polling companies will release weekly data on approval ratings of coaches with the fan bases of their schools.
When that time comes and a coach's popularity spikes upward rapidly, call it a Bruce Weber. Taking a team with modest expectations deep into March will do that for a college basketball coach.
K-State was picked eighth in the 2017-18 Big 12 preseason poll, finished fourth with a 10-8 record and made it all the way to the Elite Eight in the NCAA Tournament, knocking off Creighton, UMBC and Kentucky before losing to Loyola.
"I don't worry about it as much as you guys do, probably," Weber said of his popularity with K-State fans. "I just worry about our kids and being prepared and ready to play. There are always people who don't like you. Jud (Heathcote, former Michigan State coach) told me many times when you get a job, 90 percent of the people like you and 10 percent don't and each year it's going to go down and it's going to get tougher and tougher. As a coach, if you worry about every negative fan and every media person you're not going to be able to coach."
He spends more time studying X's and O's than expletives on message boards after tough losses.
"Everybody says, 'How do you deal with it?' Very rarely does somebody come up to me in the grocery store and say, 'God, you suck as a coach.' No one does," Weber said. "Those people are the faceless opinion guys that, you know, continually say stuff but they don't ever do it to somebody's face."
He sounded as if he didn't know he had a popularity problem.
"I've thought it's always been positive for me at Manhattan," Weber said. "We've got great fans. Obviously they're excited about our team. We've got an older group that made a nice run. It's always fun when people like you. It's human nature. But at the same time I just worry about helping the players do their best."
Kansas State was picked to finish second to Kansas in this year's preseason poll.
Gary Woodland was probably a little light in estimating that 75 to 100 spectators came from Kansas to watch him compete Thursday in the first day of the 100th PGA.
His high school golf coach and high school basketball coach were in the crowd, as were many friends from his high school and college days.
I ran into a grandmother, husband, wife and four young children who made the trip from Overland Park to watch Woodland. Former Lawrence High star and University of Kansas walk-on Stephen Vinson and his family followed Woodland, a former AAU basketball teammate of Wooldand’s.
“Gary was a shoot-first point guard, but to his credit he could shoot from his far away from the basket as anyone I ever played with,” Vinson said on a bus ride from a hotel to Bellerive Country Club before Woodland teed off Thursday. “He had great range from a young age. He would be a good three, four steps behind the NBA line and he still would shoot. That was the part of the game he enjoyed the most. He was a really good shooter.”
I bounced my theory that shooting a basketball and putting are similar skills and that I’ve always maintained that a good putter is somewhere inside Woodland just needs to be freed.
“I would agree,” Vinson said. “He was a very good baseball player too, a very good shortstop. I played against him in baseball. That wasn’t very fun either. Like a lot of kids, if you’re good at something, you’re good at everything.”
Vinson said Joey Devine, who went 8-3 with a 2.75 ERA in seven seasons in the major leagues as a reliever with the Atlanta Braves and Oakland A’s, was on the AAU team also.
Former quarterback and defensive back Jeff Long, new athletic director at Kansas, was cited by the Dayton Daily News as the fifth best football player in the history of Fairmont East High in Ohio in a story written by Marc Pendleton, dated July 18, 2017.
The school merged with Fairmont West to form Fairmont High in 1983.
Long ranks two spots behind former Michigan coach Brady Hoke, his center on the football team and catcher on the baseball team, and one spot behind Hoke’s older brother, Jon Hoke, on the list of all-time greatest Fairmont East football players.
The story points out that Long, a 1978 graduate, went a combined 13-6-1 in two seasons as starting quarterback and “more importantly,” his two touchdown passes led to a 26-22 victory over Fairmont West and came the year before East shut out West.
Long, the story reports, earned seven varsity letters in football and baseball during his collegiate career at Ohio Wesleyan.
Once candidates for an athletic director's job are told they no longer are being considered, an announcement for the choice is not far behind.
The Kansas search for a new athletic director has reached that stage and an announcement could come as soon as this week, even today.
Since I can't find anyone who has told me that former Arkansas athletic director Jeff Long has been told he isn't getting the job, he's my educated guess as to KU's replacement for fired Sheahon Zenger.
Long, 58, served as athletic director for University of Pittsburgh, where he hired Dave Wannstedt as head football coach, and at Arkansas, where he hired and fired Bobby Petrino and hired and extended Bret Bielema.
Arkansas fired Long last November.
Kansas football coach David Beaty got around to answering the question put to him about tight end James Sosinski, who walked onto the basketball team, but first Beaty chose to address another member of the athletic department.
"I would be remiss if I didn't congratulate coach (Bill) Self and the basketball team, and Devonte' Graham, and what an unbelievable career," Beaty said. "I don't know if I've seen, in the times I've been here, a kid that has literally unified an athletic department like this Devonte' Graham kid has. He might be one of the most electric personalities I've ever seen."
Beaty didn't stop there.
"I've just watched him make all of our programs better," Beaty said. "This kid is an amazing person. To get him to be able to go experience that (Final Four), I was so happy for him and the job that coach Self and those guys did."
Watching Graham so consistently throw long passes on the money and watching him dart so quickly at both ends, it was easy to picture him joining the quarterback competition at KU. To steal a quote from Dana Carvey doing an impression of President George H.W. Bush, not going to happen, wouldn't be prudent. Obviously, Graham has an impending professional basketball career for which to prepare.
Still, it's interesting to think about how many quarterback qualities he possesses: born leader, accurate passer, fast, quick, elusive, never makes excuses, performs well in the clutch.
Of all the talented players who will run up and down the CenturyLink Center basketball court tonight, Duke’s Marvin Bagley III projects to have the brightest financial future.
That much was obvious at a very young age, according to a Kansas basketball player assigned to guard him three years ago when Bagley was a freshman in high school. (Bagley graduated high school in three years). James Sosinski, a walk-on football and basketball player at Kansas, was a senior at Hamilton High in Chandler, Ariz., when he faced Bagley.
In the video below, Bagley wore No. 35 in an orange jersey for Corona del Sol High of Tempe. Sosinksi is No. 33 in the white jersey.
Blink and you’ll miss that at one point Sosinski had Bagley boxed out.
Did he know his opponent, who led his team to a lopsided victory that day, would become a great player?
“For sure, no question about it,” said Sosinski, who guarded and was guarded by Bagley. He’s big, quick, he’s a smart player, knows what he’s doing with the ball. He just kept elevating, kept growing as a player. He was a dominant player when he was a freshman in high school and he still is as a freshman in college.”
Sosinski’s most significant contribution to the KU basketball team comes in practice, when he uses his football strength to lean on Udoka Azubuike.
“Udoka’s big, real big, real strong, real good touch around the rim. They’re two different type players. Bagley has more speed, Dok has more strength to his game, bigger body. Guarding Dok’s a huge challenge every day. It’s something I enjoy doing.”
An all-state quarterback at Hamilton, Sosinksi led the Huskies to a state championship his senior year and went to UMass on a football scholarship. He suffered an injury there and didn’t play.
Sosinski transferred to South Mountain Community College in Phoenix and averaged 19.1 points and 12.6 rebounds for the basketball team.
Still uncertain whether he wanted to play football or basketball, Sosinski rejected basketball scholarship offers from Washington State and Oregon State.
He ultimately decided to enroll at Kansas as a walk-on football player and became a reserve tight end who never made his way onto the football field this past fall. The Kansas basketball roster became thin up front because of Billy Preston’s situation, so Sosinski joined the basketball team in late November.
Sosinski has totaled four points, four rebounds in eight minutes of action spread out over six games.
If Kansas makes it to the Final Four, Sosinski will miss the first spring football practice. He said he intends to join the football team as soon as basketball season ends.
He declined to answer which season he has enjoyed more at Kansas.
“They’ve both been great,” Sosinski said.
Kansas basketball coach Bill Self said that he left Udoka Azubuike in at the end of the 100-54 exhibition blowout against Pittsburg State for conditioning reasons. Not a bad idea. Azubuike looked winded at the end of his 24-minutes night.
But as the season wears on, there will be games in which Self will want to rest all of his rotation players. As transfers from four-year schools, guard Charlie Moore and forwards Dedric and K.J. Lawson are eligible to practice, but can’t play in games.
At the moment, Kansas has eight scholarship players and two walk-ons available to play in games. Once Sam Cunliffe becomes eligible second semester, his anticipated debut coming at Nebraska, Kansas will have nine scholarship players, plus two walk-ons. One more walk-on, particularly a big one, wouldn’t hurt.
Through the years, college basketball coaches have addressed roster shortages by hitting up the football coach for help.
A review of KU’s football roster reveals one former basketball player worthy of some late-game minutes once the football season ends.
James Sosinski, a 6-foot-7, 260-pound tight end from Chandler, Arizona, put up nice numbers for South Mountain Community College in Phoenix last season. He averaged 19.1 points and 12.6 rebounds for South Mountain as a freshman. He has not yet appeared in a game for the football team. He would get more playing time if he joined the basketball team.
Can you name leading scorer in University of Kansas basketball history? Hint: now head college coach in Carolina
Without cheating, name the leading scorer in Kansas basketball history. If you said Danny Manning, you are wrong.
The correct answer, of course, is Lynette Woodard, who on Monday was promoted from interim head coach to head coach of the women’s basketball team at Winthrop University in Rock Hill, S.C.
Woodard scored 3,649 points during her four seasons (1977-1981) at Kansas, making her the leading scorer in women’s college basketball history. Danny Manning is the leading scorer in Kansas men’s basketball history with 2,951 points. Manning is head coach at Wake Forest University in Winston-Salem, N.C.
Winthrop went 2-29 this season and 0-12 after Woodard took over for Kevin Cook, suspended in January for what the university described as a “personal matter.”
Woodard, inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame in Springfield, Mass., in 2004, was introduced as head coach at Tuesday morning press conference.
“They’ve been through a lot, but I know that they’re winners in their heart and we’re going to work together to get this thing turned around,” Woodard said of her players at Tuesday's press conference. “I know the progress that they made this year. We’re going to continue that from the moment we step back on campus. I have a vision for this team. I’m going to share it with them. I want them to catch the vision, as we build the vision, so that we can work the vision.”
Woodard’s speech at her Hall of Fame induction was a memorable one, particularly when she thanked her “wonderful mother.”
Woodard said her mother, “just allowed me to play when I was growing up. She didn’t burden me down with a lot of chores. She just said, ‘Go baby, you do your thing.’ ”
My thoughts on Josh Jackson and McKenzie Calvert as aired on “Between the Lines with Kevin Kietzman”
I appreciated having the chance on my weekly appearance on "Between the Lines with Kevin Kietzman" on 810 sports radio to air my thoughts on the alleged unfair treatment of Kansas women's basketball player McKenzie Calvert as compared to men's player Josh Jackson.
I normally appear with Kevin on Thursdays at 3 p.m., but game times can force us to reschedule, as was the case this week. The podcast is archived on WHB's website. On it, I explain why I don't see that KU is any trouble on the Title IX front as regards to the punishments given to Calvert and Jackson by their coaches. I also reiterate that Calvert's playing time did not diminish until 11 games after the Dec. 9 incident at the Yacht Club.
Since I'm promoting my weekly radio spots, I might as well point out that I also appear as a co-host of "The Drive," Sunday nights at 10:30 on WIBW-TV with Tim Fitzgerald of gopowercat.com.
Also, Matt Tait and I will air "KU Sports Extra" episodes after every KU tournament game.