Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Rival Coaches To Meet At MSG, This Time With Punctured Images

It's the blood feud renewed. The Recruiting Railsplitters' Battle Royale.

This year, however, the faceoff between the two titanic tigers migh as well be the battle of the cheetahs. The supreme battle between the rule book-bending college basketball bullies.

Jim Calhoun and John Calipari, two blood rivals who scour the land for the same top-notch recruits year in and year out, have each been under immense scrutiny by the NCAA the past 9-10 months.

Calipari has been forced to surrender some hardware and Calhoun has been under investigation by the NCAA.

For his role in the illegal recruitment of Nate Miles, a highly-regarded prospect with a dicey past, Calhoun and former assistant coach Tom Moore (Calhoun's right hand recruiting man for 13 years) are involved in an ongoing investigation by the NCAA.

Calipari, whose strong ties to basketball power broker World Wide Wes (for more information, google him and sift through the countless results it yields) is well documented, was forced to vacate his record 38-win campaign with Memphis two seasons ago.

That season culminated with a Final Four trip and a berth in the national championship game.

There were a plethora of infractions which led to Calipari having to vacate his asterisk-laden, record 38-win season with the Tigers.

Calipari's stockpile of NCAA violations has sullied his image, which was never sterling in the straight arrow's standards. Last season, of course, was NOT the first instance in which Calipari was played above the NCAA law.

Yet, Calipari continues to groom a torrent of talent, selling highly sought after recruits at a frenetic pace.

When the two programs meet tomorrow at Madison Square Garden, let's hope they don't leave the Mecca of basketball dirty. Let's be honest though, no major D-I program is squeaky-clean. These guys, on the other hand, run programs which are about as clean as the actors/actresses in Vivid Video films.

So, how did Calipari defy the skeptics that surfaced after he was hit with the long arm of the NCAA law?

He took over at Kentucky, in hopes of reviving an underachieving program.

Calipari brought in one of the best recruiting classes of all time.

He got wunderkind and projected No.1 pick in the 2010 NBA draft John Wall to pen with the Wildcats. He inked DeMarcus Cousins, a behemoth forward who's also projected to be a one-and-done this season.

"Cousins is an NBA player in a Kentucky uniform," opined one professional scout.

Calhoun was hit for his handling of Miles, whose career at UConn ended before it started. Miles, who was kicked out of the Patterson School in North Carolina before signing with the Huskies, was expelled from UCONN one month into the school year. Miles' violation of a female student's restraining order quickly led to his expulsion.

UConn athletic director Jeff Hathaway did not want a baggage-bringing recruit of Miles' type at UConn, but Calhoun bent over backwards to net the 6-foot-7 scoring cyborg with considerable NBA talent.

At the end of last season, allegations that Calhoun and Moore put Miles in the hands of agent and former UConn manager Josh Nochimson emerged. It's said that Nochimson, the same man once sued by Richard Hamilton, provided Miles with
lodging, transportation, restaurant meals and worst of all--representation. Reports that Nochimson dropped around $8-10K for Miles' surgery also made waves last season.

Later, allegations surfaced that Nochimson was involved with high-profile 6-foot-11 recruit Ater Majok (now a 23-year-old freshman on the Huskies squad, Majok is ineligible until later this month.

An ESPN report stated that Nochimson personally got Majok into a high school all-star game, the Kentucky Derby Festival in Louisville, Ky., two years ago.

He provided Majok with transportation and freed up a spot for him with his influence, the report indicates.

Ironic that both players UConn bent the rules to reel in did not register a second in a UConn game last season. UConn still managed to make the Final Four. Miles and Majok still managed to make an impact.

Tomorrow night at the Garden, two cats who don't exactly play by the rule book, will renew their rivalry. Intriguing subplot.