Monday, June 29, 2009

Dick Bennett's last game

Charlie, God bless him, woke up at 5:15 this morning, about 90 minutes earlier than I hoped he would. Silver lining: the Wisconsin-Maryland game from November 2000 was on the Big Ten Network.

Watching it (intermittently) was a nice trip down memory lane. I went to that game with our old friend John Koebel, who many of you know as Chez Whitey, at the Bradley Center in Milwaukee.

After the game, I got grabbed by cop for jaywalking. When trying to explain my way out of it, I called the guy "Dude," and he explained to me that he wasn't my "dude."

Anyhoo, back to the game. When Dick Bennett stepped down as Wisconsin coach after this game, it didn't come as a huge surprise to me. I remember thinking that he looked like he was having an awful time on the bench. Trying to pass a kidney stone awful. All while his team was playing a good game against the team that went to the Final Four that year and won the national championship the next year.

Maybe that's just how he was all the time, and having been in Ohio for awhile I'd forgotten. But man, did he look unhappy.

He should have been very happy. Happy with seeing Kirk Penney show what kind of big-time player he would become. Happy with Mike Kelley's defense (oh, and with his 12 assists). Happy with Charlie Wills and Mark Vershaw picking their spots.

Not happy with Andy Kowske's hair -- frosted tips.

That season turned out to be really interesting. After making that fluky run to the Final Four in March, most of the guys returned, and the 2001 team should have been pretty damn good. Maybe it would have been had Bennett hadn't stepped down to give Brad Soderberg a shot.

As it was, when we lost in the first round to Georgia State, I was sort of happy about it, because I didn't think Soderberg was the long-term answer. (Didn't think Bo Ryan was either at first, very happy to have been wrong on that count.)

One other thing: playing these Big Ten-ACC Challenge game in NBA arenas is really stupid, glad we haven't had to do that since.

One last thing: when doing a Google Image search for Andy Kowske (looking for those frosted tips), this picture showed up on the first results page.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

B.J. Tucker sighting

Got a nice email from Brian Hermann the other day, bringing up a name from the not-so-distant Badger past. Here's the story:

I thought I'd write and tell you about a B.J. Tucker sighting…in British Columbia of all places.

Long story short, a colleague of mine in Montreal (named Benoit) is a huge football nut ... played college ball, coached at McGill University for a while and now coaches middle-school aged kids on the side. He tries to get into as many training camps as he can and he found a way to get all access at the BC Lions training camp near Vancouver.

Last week he got all access to all of the practices, film sessions, held clipboards, did some "go for" stuff and got to call out plays during practices. Anyway, B.J. Tucker is new to the team (after not catching on with Dallas and the Niners) and is fighting for a nickel back spot.

Benoit ran into him in the food line and yelled out "Hey Bucky!" and BJ turned and said something like "Aw yeah, Wisconsin all the way." So Benoit talked with him for a while and told him all about his one magical experience at Camp Randall when we beat Michigan in 2007. It sounded like he was excited to talk about UW football for a bit.

Thanks for the story, Brian!

In finding a link for this post, I discovered three things:

a. B.J.'s name Baigeh Joe.
b. He's from Sierra Leone.
c. He had a better senior season than I remembered -- five picks, including one returned for a touchdown, to go along with a fumble recovery and forced fumble.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

College Life

A few months ago I was mindlessly changing TV channels when I saw a show that seemed to be set in a UW dorm. Indeed, that was the setting for much of College Life, the recently-concluded MTV show set in Madison, without the university's blessing.

College Life was billed as "real, not reality," and was the product of a handful of UW students given cameras to record their lives. What unfolded was what appeared to be a fairly standard representation of student life in Madison.

Which was surprisingly boring.

Here were the main players:

-Kevin, a kid from Minnesota who for most of the first semester was drunk and on the verge of academic disaster. This is the kid who, upon getting busted early on by his housefellow, resumed his party moments later. By comparison, when Butch and I got busted early on freshman year by a housefellow, I was so torn up I couldn't eat for three days. (Butch suffered no such angst.)

Kevin then gets kicked out of the dorms. When he tells his mom, she says she's disappointed, because she wanted him to have supervision. "But I don't need supervision, Mom!" Uh huh.

But Kevin turns things around and gets good grades in the second semester. Good for him. Seems like a nice, goofy kid who needs to be slapped down a few times to get his head right.

-Jordan, a kid from suburban Chicago, tells us early that he doesn't want to go to Badger football games because he doesn't like the "mob mentality." Wow, this kid must really have it together. Not really -- a little while later he decides to spend two grand on a ridiculous tattoo, money he was supposed to use to pay his parents for tuition.

Later Jordan breaks up with a girl because she has a Nickelback song on her iPod. Deep, man, deep.

-Andrea goes to great lengths to tell us how Christian she is, which makes her turn as a lingerie model interesting. She also seems to, ahem, kiss a lot of dudes. One of them appears to be J.J. Watt, my choice to save our defense from total disaster this year.

-Josh is Andrea's old boyfriend from high school. Even though they're not together, they have a regular dinner night scheduled and spend lots of time together. Yet Andrea can't figure out why Josh can't move on.

Josh's pathetic actions -- bitching and moaning about girls who seem to be leading him on, sending lame text messages (in our day it was just email), then surrounding himself with random floozies in a drunken haze -- remind me of a lot of dudes I knew in college, probably myself included at times.

In the end they start dating again. They deserve each other.

-Lindsey seems okay, and dates Josh for awhile, then turns off her social life to immerse herself in her studies. Which is stressful for her. Which also doesn't make for very compelling television.

-Some other chick from Texas was on early, her big drama being getting dumped by some loser wannabe rocker. Then there's a tornado or something in her hometown so she turned her camera off for good. No big loss.

Other than the J.J. Watt semi-sighting, the only sports reference, if you can call it that, is Kevin's shirt that says something like "Water covers two-thirds of the Earth, Bucky's wang covers the other third." Classy.

College Life suggests this:

We all look back on our time in Madison with great fondness, and will cherish those memories forever. But if we'd been recording it all for posterity, chances are strangers from around the country would not have found it all that interesting. Except, maybe, for my mom.

Sunday, June 7, 2009

Swan song

You been watching Fourth and Long? You know, the show where a bunch of not-good-enough-for-the-NFL wide receivers and defensive backs try to impress the awesome presence that is Michael Irvin?

On last week's show, which I watched way too early this morning with the boys (expecting Will to ask "Daddy, why is every other word these guys say 'Bleeeep?'"), Luke Swan finally got some camera time. Unfortunately, it was because he hurt his groin.

In the first live game action of the series, Swan used some poor initial coverage by his defender to get open, then hurt himself pushing off. He didn't make the catch, but drew an interference call.

When it came time for three guys to appear before Irvin, Billy Bates, and Joe Avezanno, Swan admitted he expected to be on the chopping block. (When I explained that Luke might be getting cut, Will said "Like with a sword?") This was sort of refreshing, given that the other wannabes on the show consider themselves the second coming of Irvin and Deion Sanders.

During the grilling process, Irvin and the coaches talked to Luke about his injury history, and whether, even though he is physically recovered from the horrific hamstring injury he suffered against Illinois in 2007, he could ever mentally get past it.

Alas, Swan survived the cut, to the astonishment of the guy who didn't. He's a good bet to get cut in this week's show, as he hasn't really done much to distinguish himself yet, and you know, the groin. As Will B noted earlier, his best chance to impress would have been in game situation, when his getting open skills would be on display. Alas, that window slammed shut in a hurry.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

The digital collection

A few weeks ago an email ended up in my Junk folder, and I deleted it without giving it a second thought. Thankfully Schwalbach forwarded me a link with its contents a little while later.

The University of Wisconsin Digital Collections

"I could poke around in this for hours," he said (or That's what he said).

It's basically a bunch of old media guides, a treasure trove of historical facts and photos. As Schwib said, you could get lost in there for hours, if not days.

The first document I looked at was a media guide from 1971. A couple days ago we talked about non-conference scheduling. In 1970 we had Oklahoma, TCU, and Penn State. In 1971 we had Syracuse and LSU. How awesome would it be to play that schedule now?

Next I went to the 1995-96 hockey media guide, covering the year we had season tickets. Look who's on the cover -- Max Williams! I remember when Butch, Toohey and I would watch The Jeff Sauer Show in Sullivan Hall, one of the highlights of which was Max's Minute.

Next I sent to the 1994-95 men's basketball media guide, the team that disappointed all of us during my freshman year of college. Look at how young Michael Finley looks on the cover! Look at young, energetic Stan Van Gundy on page 2! And to think that as I write this, he's got the Magic on the verge of a 3-1 series lead in the Eastern Conference finals.

Then I got sleepy and went to bed, damn kids getting up so early.

Needless to say, though, I've found my source for summertime blog posts. Thanks for the reminder Schwib!

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Stan Van Champion?

Got this email from Chris Earl today:

Tellin’ you, Scott.

Stan Van Gundy will hold the Larry O’Brien Trophy in his hands in 10 days ...

And it will be a glorious day. A glorious day.

Here is my enduring memory of Stan Van Gundy: It's New Year's Eve 1994. My parents had gotten me tickets for the UW-Marquette game, and we're sitting at the Bradley Center watching the Badgers get their asses kicked soundly by MU, with the crowd full of former, current, and future dentists and xylophone players giving me and my fellow Badgers all sorts of hell.

And what comeback did we have? Here we had a future NBA All-Star, Michael Finley; the most highly-recruited player ever to matriculate at Madison, Rashard Griffith; experience in Andy Kilbride and Brian Kelley; and a promising point guard in Darnell Hoskins. And when it was all said and done, Stan Van Gundy had led this crew to a losing record.

How did that happen? How did he get the Magic, minus their All-Star point guard; with a center who previously couldn't shoot free throws; with two soft forwards; with J.J. Redick and Mickael Pietrus playing key minutes at shooting guard; how did he get this team to the Finals, where they have a decent shot at upsetting the Lakers?

Maybe the guy can actually coach. The huddle shots during the Eastern Conference finals showed two different coaches -- Van Gundy feverishly encouraging his team, drawing up plays in one, Mike Brown standing back while his players appeared to run things in the other. Stan drew up some awesome plays; I forget which game it was, but he drew up a halfcourt play that got Rashard Lewis open for a go-ahead 3-pointer that was a thing of beauty.

Maybe he just didn't get a fair shake in Madison. If memory serves, he was retained after Stu Jackson's departure to keep Rashard around and keep the key recruiter on Sam Okey around. But he obviously was lacking at the time in either the X's and O's department (doubtful) or the chemistry-fostering department (more likely). Also, despite the star power on the roster, there was little or no depth, and key players like Kilbride and Kelley had limited games.

It would have been interesting to see what Stan would have done had he been given the chance to lead the Wisconsin program for a few years. The program and roster obviously took a completely different direction with the arrival of Dick Bennett, one which led to more sustained success than the program has ever seen, success which continues today. But given the coaching chops Van Gundy has shown since, it's a decent bet that we would have seen similar success, just in a very different way.

We'll see about your prediction, Chris, but if Stan is holding that trophy in two weeks, I'll be most excited to see the endorsement deals he ends up with. Subway, anyone?