Thursday, December 22, 2005

Books of the Month

So, I've got 2 good books that I've been reading the past month.
The first is Chechnya Diary by Thomas Goltz. He also wrote Azerbaijan Diary, which is quite good. If you want to know what it's like to live through a conflict as a news reporter while making friends with soldiers and civilians there at the same time, it's a great read.
Goltz speaks Azeri/Turkish and Russian, which gave him the ability to communicate with everyone he encounters. Both of his books give a personal detail of war from the viewpoint of the villager, the farmer, the taxi driver.



It took Goltz several years to write this book because he had to dredge up so many bad memories. He's deeply disturbed, but well-informed by the Caucasus.

In that same deeply disturbed frame of mind, we have Jarhead, by Anthony Swofford. I have yet to see the movie, but know that it can't possibly be like the book, or else no one would want to see it. There is very little actual war in this book, and not many shots fired. Most of it is just the random memories of an American boy and the choices he has made that brought him into Desert Shield.

This book is filled with lists: who soldiers write to from the front, and who writes to soldiers. What soldiers really want in various situations, prices of prostitutes in various countries, etc..

If you want to know what the life of a Marine is really like, day-in day-out, maybe you should check it out. It's very reminiscent of movies like Full Metal Jacket & Apocalypse Now. It was interesting listening to this in my car every day to and from work. You'll really pray for and wonder about people you know in Iraq and Afghanistan right now.

Swofford is a non-Christian soldier, who flirts with some deep thoughts and universal emotions. So, if you're turned off by: a lot of foul language, coarse joking, corpse mutilations, prostitution, or submission to authorities, you will not be turned on by this book. Buyer beware.

(Troy and Wes: If you get the book on tape, listen to Tape 1... you'll understand).

I'll have the Book of the Year post up here soon.

Hope I go somewhere that has Internet this Christmas, so I can write more posts. Until then, have a Merry Christmas!

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Not much to say

I've got 3 more days left until I'm done with my job, and then a long drive to Kentucky, Ohio, and Illinois. Then, school will start shortly thereafter and I'll be deluged and stressed for the next year or 2.

How good would UK be with Chris Lofton on our team? Why didn't we recruit this guy? Can we trade UT for him? We offer you Brandon Stockton.

I was pleased with UK's performance on Saturday. While Sparks didn't do as well as I predicted, Rondo performed right on schedule. Who needs Randolph Morris when we have some of the best scorers in the country attacking the basket?

Good job Wukash for 9 rebounds and 2 blocked shots. You actually showed that you can grab some boards and be aggressive! Shagari also had 2 blocks, but it looked more like 3 or 4 to me. He definitely altered the game for those brief minutes.

How much more fun would it be if I had cable? I could actually watch games on ESPN, and feel like I was in-the-know. I know what I'll be doing at my parent's and in-law's houses on vacation.

Nothing else that I watch on TV is still showing: The Office, The Apprentice, and such.

Okay, gotta get back to work. Have a good Tuesday.

Friday, December 16, 2005

UK Game Tommorrow

For once, I agree with Seth Davis: UK 74- Louisville 69

My reasons:
1. Taquan Dean carries UL, but it takes more than one player to do that in a rivalry game and a team as deep as UK, and with a quick Louisville-native guard like Rondo.

2. Rondo will drive to the basket early and often, getting guys like Dean into foul trouble, and setting up open looks for Sparks.

3. Sparks loves to play against UL. He'll have a big day as a senior against them.

4. Palacios' ankle is still not 100%.

5. Pitino needs his team to lose this game. Think back to '96 SEC tourny vs. Mississippi State. Losing at Rupp will humble his team, and give even more ammo to Coach P to criticize them and make them listen to him. He'd rather come into Rupp and get blown out than come in and blow out UK. Don't believe me? Read his book.

5. I'm not real impressed with Padgett. The committee of 7' should be able to marginalize him. Just foul him, for pete's sake.

I disagree with anyone who says UK could get blown out in this game. That's ridiculous. At worst, it'll be an ugly game where neither team shoots well and has to grind it out. UK wins, period.

Thursday, December 15, 2005

Apprentice Finale

(All pictures are from www.nbc.com).
Okay, so we're very excited about the finale of The Apprentice. You've got Randal, who's like a black version of Nathan Millican, and you've got Rebecca, who's a smoking hot economist/pre-law female. I think that they're both Christians. Randal is a proud member of 1st Baptist somewhere; Rebecca is very humble, and always quick to give others credit, and hesistant to bash them. A rarity for this show!

They're both the smartest 2 people I've ever seen on The Apprentice. Randal has an MBA w/a PhD., and was a Rhodes Scholar. Rebecca got her Econ degree from the famous University of Chicago. She's 23 and already pretty powerful in the world of charities and financial institutions.

She broke her ankle while ice skating with the New York Rangers in the first episode of the show, and has been on crutches the entire time. That's a handicap she's overcome.

Randal is the guy everyone wants on their team, because he always wins. In one episode, he was the only person on his team to have seen Star Wars. This made him the only credible person in my book. Trump agreed, quickly firing all of the others.

For the final episode, he's got help from Mark, from Kentucky, although he went to school at Louisville.

I can't wait to see who wins. Both candidates are WAY too worthy for the Trump Organization.

Monday, December 12, 2005

Disappointment and fear...

So, I've gotten virtually no response to the rankings of the Tapp Coaching Index, but I'm still quite proud of it.

I saw a couple of things that scared me on Saturday. The first was J.J. Redick of Duke scoring 41 points. Jacking up all kinds of 3's and making them... as usual. Blowing out the #2 team in the country by 31 certainly sends some kind of scary message.
Without Redick, Duke would sink fast. With him, they're shoving it in everyone's face.

4 assists... 4 assists?? 4 assists was all that UK had against IU. UK should go back and watch the game tape of the UNC game last week. They should watch at how well UNC passed the ball, moved it around and inside for layups, and then back outside for open jumpers. That was fundamental. Tubby, what are you teaching these guys?

I didn't get to watch the game because we had to watch Gonzaga-Oklahoma State here. This made me very angry, so I went to campus and got online and listened to it over the Net. What I heard made me furious. How can we lose by 26 to Mike Davis? By 26??? Oh yeah, 4 assists, that partly explains it. 2-24 from 3-point range or whatever. Tells me we just got desperate and started jacking them up there. Haven't we seen this before?

I agree with Cooperstown: Tubby needs to adjust, become a different personality... do something! The players don't respect the system, or the coach. We've looked really bad in 3 games on national TV.

BEAT LOUISVILLE. BEAT LOUISVILLE. BEAT LOUISVILLE!

Next Saturday is my birthday. All I want... ALL I WANT... is a victory. We can lose all we want to against Top-25 teams, but let's still be better than the Cardinals.

Friday, December 09, 2005

And the Winner Is...

I've finalized the Tapp Coaching Index.

A reminder: This index was calculated using a mathematical formula that combined overall winning percentage, NCAA tournament success, and NBA first round picks from ’97-98 to ’04-05.

In order for an NBA draft pick to count, the coach had to both recruit and develop the player. So, that ruled out many players for Tubby Smith & Roy Williams. Tayshaun Prince is the only NBA first rounder that Tubby can claim as his own. I also ruled out Steve Francis (a JUCO transfer who stayed 1 year) for Gary Williams.

I was able to get Lute Olsen’s stats and add them to the list.

FYI- Here are the overall winning percentages for those coaches.

1. Coach K 86.7%
2. Roy Williams 79.4%
3. Lute Olsen 79.2%
4. Tubby Smith 79.1%
5. Jim Calhoun 78.3%
6. Jim Boeheim 74.4%
7. Tom Izzo 74.3%
8. Gary Williams 71.3%

And here are the Tapp Coaching Index Scores:

1. Coach K 8.73
2. Roy Williams 7.34
3. Jim Calhoun 7.02
4. Tom Izzo 7.02 (exact tie here)
5. Tubby Smith 6.63
6. Lute Olsen 6.51
7. Gary Williams 5.83
8. Jim Boeheim 5.65

So, according to this model, Tubby Smith is a Top-5 coach among these coaches since ’97-98.
I’ll also remind you that Olsen’s rating would go up significantly by just adding one more year (his ’97 title). By increasing the span of years, Boeheim’s would go up significantly while Calhoun’s would go down. Gary Williams’s great tournament runs of recent years are what helped his TCI.


I also remind you that Rick Pitino is not on this list, but is definitely in the “Top-5” debate, having taken 3 different teams to the Final 4.

For those of you who say “1998 doesn’t count because Tubby won with Pitino’s players,” and factor out the ’97-98 season, Tubby’s TCI slides out of the top 5.

As I’ve said, this is an imperfect measure. But, it’s a good way to analyze 3 very important aspects of coaching success and compare coaches the coaches by those measures.

I’d like to run the analysis on what I consider mid-major coaches: Bill Self, Bob Huggins, John Calipari, and Billy Donovan.

It would also be fun to run this on legends like Dean Smith and Bob Knight.

It would probably also be fun to run this on talking heads like ESPN’s Steve Lavin.

I welcome your questions and comments.

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

Weather in Central Texas

On Saturday, the weather was 87 degrees... hot. Shorts and go-for-a-walk weather.
Today, it's a winter storm warning w/snow and freezing rain. I thought I had left all of the weird weather behind in Kentucky.

I'll post the Tapp Coaching Index tommorrow (depending on internet connection).

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

Who's the Best Coach in the NCAA?

Smitty has asked a key question: Is Tubby Smith a Top-5 Coach?
This is a subjective question, but we can use empirical data to analyze this and come up with a good idea of who the top coaches are. Let's compare statistics from the top championship-winning coaches, and see how they compare. In fairness, I'll measure from the '97-98 season, Tubby's first year.

I've created a mathematical formula to measure coaching success based on 1.)Overall winning % 2.) A point system for success in NCAA Tournament play 3.) NBA first round draft picks produced by the coaches. I'll call it the Tapp Coaching Index.

This is an imperfect measure. It ignores things like head-to-head matchups. But, I believe that the head-to-head games even out. Few coaches enjoy a statistical domination in games against an opposing coach. overall winning % is a much better indicator of success, as is tourny play.
I've included the NBA First Rounders because I believe it's an indicator of the talent a coach is recruiting & developing (this is one of the primary jobs of a coach, after all). It also helps contribute to the prestige and reputation of a school.
NOTE: 2 key coaches have been left out of my analysis. Lute Olsen (because Arizona's website is pathetic and I can't get the statistics), and Rick Pitino (he didn't coach for many of those years). Roy Williams is included, and I used his stats from Kansas and UNC because I believe the teams were very similar in talent and style of play.

Coaches on the List:
Jim Calhoun (UConn)
Coach K (Duke)
Tom Izzo (Mich St.)
Gary Williams (Maryland)
Roy Williams (Kansas/UNC)
Tubby Smith (Kentucky)
Jim Boeheim (Syracuse)

What do you think the order of this list is 1-5? I'll post the answer in a couple days. Tell your friends to check it out and join the discussion!

Saturday, December 03, 2005

My Thoughts on the UK Game

Well, I'm glad I finished reading The Carolina Way on Friday. What I saw idealized in the book I also saw on the basketball court on Saturday... on the UNC side.

Those of you actually at Rupp Arena missed Seth Davis's halftime comment that UK will be a team that is loaded with talent but won't actually go anywhere this year. Billy Packer's comments were pretty balanced and fair.

UNC did a great job:
1. Moving the ball around. Good passes, and good, quick interior passes setting up easy layups and at least one thunderous dunk.

2. Rebounding. They got a ton of second-chance points.

Tubby says:
"We really got pounded there. They had 15 offensive rebounds with about nine in the first half. We did a really poor job of boxing out and we take that pretty seriously. We work pretty hard at offensive rebounding. I thought that we really didn’t get the play out of some of our inside people as far as putting some bodies on the court. That really hurt us in the game and when we only get eight [offensive rebounds], that’s critical.”

3. Not backing down. Carolina pride was on full display. Freshmen there don't care that they're freshmen.

I agree with Tubby's statement here:
"I’m not happy with where we are coming off a loss. We really regressed in a lot of ways – boxing out and dribble penetration. I thought we had some careless turnovers and this was really a step back for us in a lot of ways.”

UK never seemed to execute well offensively for more than a few minutes a game. Only a couple times in the game did I see us use good dribble penetration to set up a good jump-shot. Too many times our good ideas turned into badly executed turnovers.

I agree with Wes Cooper's statement that Sheray Thomas is worthless. He took a good charge, and got open for one good dunk. His 26 minutes were soft.

Carter and Orbzut might have not been producing, but at least they were helping to protect the basket and playing aggressive on defense (2 fouls each in 1st half). Maybe we should have played Carter some in the 2nd half?

Overall, I think our team was unprepared to play and got out-fundamentled and out-hustled by UNC and their up-tempo, fundamentally-sound Carolina Way. We'd better be prepared to kick butt next Saturday against IU.

Thursday, December 01, 2005

Lyric of the Week

From Johnny Cash... If you've seen Walk the Line, you know the power of his songs. The most powerful of which I think is "Folsom Prison Blues." For anyone who's ever felt like they're stuck in a prison, and yet still know what's going on outside by the whistle of a train they hear...

"I bet there's rich folks eatin' in a fancy dining car,
they're prob'ly drinking coffee and smoking big cigars.
Well, I know I had it coming; I know I can't be free.
But, those people keep a movin,'
and that's what tortures me."