The 10 Dumbest Things in Sports

I love sports, but that doesn’t mean they’re perfect. Here are ten things that drive me crazy on a regular basis, in order of increasing stupidity:

10. The scoring system in tennis
Love? 15? 30? 40? Deuce? Actually, I kind of like “deuce.” But why not just go to four, win by two. It’s the exact same thing and a lot easier to follow when you’ve already thrown back a couple of Bloody Marys.

9. The overkill of NASCAR
Does it really take 500 laps to figure out which car and driver are the fastest? Here’s an idea: Make every race 50 to 100 laps and limit the number of pit stops. Every decision will be magnified and second-guessed and strategy will become an even bigger part of the sport.

8. Offsides (in soccer and hockey)
Anytime that you have defenders trying to encourage offsides calls by pulling up as they run/skate back to protect their goal, it’s not a good thing. There’s no offsides in basketball and it works just fine. When Randy Moss outruns a cornerback, play doesn’t stop because he has a clear path to the endzone. Why not reward anticipation and speed, and make soccer and hockey that much more exciting by creating a flurry of one-on-one situations between the striker/forward and the goalie?

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Van Gundy says NBA age-limit is a “sham”

Five of the 10 starters in last night’s Game 4 skipped college altogether. In his pregame press conference, Stan Van Gundy says that the age-limit is a sham and blasted the NCAA.

Van Gundy was on a roll, decrying the NCAA as “the worst organization going,” and the NBA/NCAA’s one-and-done rule as “a sham,” telling the press that he doesn’t “understand how we got away with [the one-and-done] rule as a league.”

I’m not a fan of the age limit. I understand the goal — to make the NBA a more mature league and (hopefully) increase the quality of the product. But the one-and-done rule is hurting the college game, and it isn’t doing much for the NBA. High school players have a high rate of success in the NBA, so those that get drafted should be allowed to play straight out of high school. If a player doesn’t get drafted, then he should be allowed to attend college. Once he enrolls, he should have to play for a minimum of two years before making himself eligible for the draft again. Case closed.

Five things that need to change about college basketball

Despite the rather lackluster 2009 NCAA tournament, March Madness is – historically speaking – the most exciting sporting event in the country. Still, as I watched the games this year, I noticed that a few things need changing. Here are my top five gripes about college basketball:

1. No more one-and-dones.
I understand why the NBA wants an age limit, but the one-year-out-of-high-school rule is hurting the college game. Amongst the major programs, there is little continuity season to season and it has thrown blue-chip recruiting on its head. Some of the best coaches in the college ranks are reluctant to recruit the top players because they know they’re just going to have a hole to fill the following summer.

Players should be able to declare for the draft directly out of high school. But if they decide to enroll in college, they must stay a minimum of two seasons. Typically, high schoolers that are good enough to be drafted are good enough to stick in the league. If a high schooler enters the draft (but doesn’t hire an agent), he can always pull out and enroll in school if it doesn’t look like he’s going to be drafted in the first round. This is the same rule that college players have to follow. (And yes, I realize that this is the NBA’s fault, but it’s still a problem for college basketball.)

Roy, back up three feet. Your guys will be able to hear you just fine.

2. Get the coaches off the court.
One thing that drives me nuts about college basketball is the leeway that the officials give head coaches. They’re allowed to stomp around the sidelines like petulant children, throwing hissy fits anytime a call doesn’t go their way. Okay, so maybe the refs are instructed to give the coaches some slack on the proverbial leash, but that doesn’t mean that head coaches should be running onto the court to shout instructions to their teams. It seems like every game there is a near-collision between an official running downcourt and a head coach that is stepping on the sideline (or is on the court all together). I’d like to see the official call an automatic technical if he sees the coach step on the sideline – that would clean this up really quickly.

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Brandon Jennings says that all is not rosy in Europe

Remember Brandon Jennings? He’s the #1 basketball recruit of the class of 2008 that decided to forgo college (due to trouble with the admissions tests) to sign with a professional team in Rome.

We brought you some excerpts from his blog just after Christmas that stirred up some controversy but weren’t all that controversial. Now he’s on record (via email to the New York Times), and it seems like his frustration level is rising.

“I’ve gotten paid on time once this year,” Jennings said in an e-mail message. “They treat me like I’m a little kid. They don’t see me as a man. If you get on a good team, you might not play a lot. Some nights you’ll play a lot; some nights you won’t play at all. That’s just how it is.”

“I don’t see too many kids doing it,” his e-mail message said. “It’s tough man, I’ll tell you that. It can break you.”

“My role is to play D and take open shots — that’s it,” he said. “And I’ve accepted that role.”

I can’t imagine that these quotes will endear him to the coaching staff in Rome. My guess is that he’ll be running a few extra sprints after practice. And this is one of the advantages (or disadvantages, depending on how you look at it) of the internet, blogs and email. These athletes are so accessible now, even ones that are living in Italy, that journalists can get a quote without flying around the world or having to track them down via telephone. Maybe the Times caught him at a bad time or maybe this is just how it is playing for Lottomatica Virtus Roma.

But even though his minutes are inconsistent and he’s only averaging eight points a game, it doesn’t look like Jennings’ time in Rome will hurt his draft stock, at least according to one anonymous NBA assistant coach.

An N.B.A. assistant coach who has been to Europe and has watched Jennings play said his potential draft standing had not been harmed. The coach requested anonymity because he was discussing a player currently ineligible for the draft.

“I think it is good for him,” he said. “He was getting a defensive component that he needed. If I was a scout and I needed a point guard, I would be extremely impressed with what he has done over there.”

Sonny Vaccaro, who in many ways brokered the deal for Jennings to go to Europe, also commented.

But Vaccaro said there had been a change from last summer, when he worked on the deals for Jennings. Economic conditions in Europe are just as difficult as they are in the United States, and he said he underestimated the emotional strength a player needed to compete overseas.

“A less-driven kid would have come home,” Vaccaro said. “They practice twice a day, and the Europeans play everybody. It is not like one of these silly college games where the same seven guys play every minute of every game. When it’s over, the fact he was able to handle it is going to be more landmark than him just going over there.”

What is Vaccaro smoking?

“It’s not like one of these silly college games where the same seven guys play every minute of every game.”

I’ve played and watched a lot of basketball in my life and the best teams have a regular rotation of guys. Some coaches use a six- or seven-player rotation, and some can find eight or nine guys that they trust. Rarely do teams regularly play a full 12-player roster. With that many guys going in and out of the game, it is impossible for most of the bench players to find any kind of rhythm. I’m not sure why Vaccaro felt the need to use the term “silly” as it just makes him sound foolish.

At the end of the day, I don’t think Europe will be a viable option for most high school seniors. As long as the NBA age-limit stays at 19, most players will prefer to play at the college level due to its comfort and familiarity. But for players like Jennings, who have difficulty getting into college, Europe will remain an option. It just may not be as attractive of an option as it was a year ago.

Related content: Brandon Jennings

Interview with Rich Zvosec — author, former coach, ESPN analyst

Rich Zvosec, former college basketball coach (and friend of The Scores Report), has written a book, Birds, Dogs & Kangaroos: Life on the Back Roads of College Basketball. In Zvosec’s humorous way, the book outlines what life is really like at the low Division I level.

I played ball at what would be considered the high Division III level and it sounds like we had more resources, support and continuity than a few of Zvosec’s teams. Coach Z is an engaging writer and has a plethora of funny/outrageous/touching anecdotes to relate as he goes through his entire coaching career.

The Scores Report had the opportunity to talk to Zvosec about why he wrote the book, what it’s like coaching in New York City, and the hurdles he had to overcome to develop into a successful color commentator for ESPN.

The Scores Report: Hi, this is John Paulsen from The Scores Report. How are you doing?

RZ: Hey, John. How are you doing?

TSR: Pretty good. I just finished reading your book over the weekend. I enjoyed it. It brought back some memories of when I played Division III ball – sounded like some of the same crazy stories. Can you tell me a little bit about why you decided to write the book?

RZ: When I first got the job at St. Francis in New York, some of the different things happened. My mother always told me, “You should save all these stories and write a book someday.” I guess I kind of wrote it for a number of different reasons. It’s kind of a cathartic look back at 25 years of kind of chasing a dream – college coaching. And the other part of it is, I wanted to give the reader a different perspective on college basketball. So often the media only covers the highest of levels and consequently everything is portrayed as just a business transaction, so to speak. Whether it comes to recruiting or wins and losses. I wanted people to get an inside look at what a coach actually goes through. And certainly it’s a little different at a St. Francis than it is at North Carolina or Kansas.

TSR: You said in the book that you coached at ten different schools. Could you give our readers a brief rundown of where you coached?

RZ: I spent 25 years, 16 as a head coach. I was the head coach at the University of North Florida, where I started the program. I coached at St. Francis college in New York. There was Millersville, Pennsylvania. And my last stop, as a college coach was at the University of Missouri at Kansas City, where I was at for the last seven years.

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