“Those Knicks teams — the ’69-’70 team, the ’72-73 team — when you talk to basketball purists about the greatest teams they’ve ever seen, that little era always comes up,” a radio voice intones early in Michael Rapaport’s “When The Garden Was Eden,” a “30 for 30” film debuting on ESPN Tuesday. “That’s the way you’re supposed to play basketball.”Speaking as a card-carrying basketball purist (or at least a basketball history nut), he’s right — particularly on that last point. The Knicks of that era rank highly among the all-time great NBA teams, but not at the very top. Instead, where they really stand out is in how they won.The 1969-70 New York Knicks, who won the first of the franchise’s only two championships, consistently rank among the most dominant regular-season teams in NBA history, especially relative to the spread of talent in the league at that time. After adjusting for strength of schedule, their per-game point differential was +8.4 (17th all-time); it also outpaced the second-place Milwaukee Bucks that year by 4.2 points per game, the sixth-biggest gap ever between the league leader and runner-up. That was a big part of why the Knicks’ schedule-adjusted scoring margin was 2.4 standard deviations better than the average team’s in 1969-70 — the second-best such mark ever.The 1969-70 Knicks struggled on the road in the playoffs and were taken the distance twice in the span of three series. But the team’s playoff run — which saw New York outlast the Baltimore Bullets (led by future Knick Earl Monroe), overpower a rookie Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and his Milwaukee Bucks, and survive the Los Angeles Lakers in a seven-game NBA Finals classic — also ranks among the 50 or so best ever, after taking into account whom they had to beat.And the 1972-73 Knicks did even better in the postseason after adjusting for their road to the championship. When I listed the most dominating playoff performances ever back in 2010, that team ranked 11th all-time. With the exception of the 2014 San Antonio Spurs, it’s unlikely that it has been supplanted by more recent champions. En route to the title, New York beat the Baltimore Bullets (+2.9 schedule-adjusted PPG differential) in five games, the Boston Celtics (+7.4) in seven, and the Los Angeles Lakers (an NBA-best +8.2) in five — just about the toughest path any team has ever gone through to win an NBA championship.But bottom-line results are only half the equation when aficionados rave about the Knicks of the early 1970s. Perhaps an even bigger factor is how the team achieved its success, with a reputation for playing one the most unselfish, pass-friendly styles in basketball history.This isn’t gauzy, New York-media-baked myth-making. Among historical NBA champions, the 1972-73 Knicks rank 14th in assist percentage (the ratio of made baskets that were assisted) relative to league average. And, more importantly, they had the most balanced distribution of shot attempts among their starting five players of any championship team ever. During the 1973 playoffs, their leading scorer (the incomparable Walt Frazier) took 20.8 percent of the team’s shots when on the floor, while the fifth-ranked shooter among its starters (Bill Bradley) took 18.7 percent. By comparison, the 1992 Chicago Bulls’ leader — Michael Jordan — took 37 percent of that team’s shots when on the floor, while Bill Cartwright took 11 percent. (Coincidentally, that Bulls team was coached by early-’70s Knicks forward Phil Jackson.)My research shows that most NBA champs are more like Michael and the Jordanaires than Frazier, Bradley, Earl Monroe, Dave DeBusschere and Willis Reed. Historically, teams with an uneven distribution of the offensive workload — particularly with regard to the difference between their top two scoring options and the rest of the starting five — tend to win championships at a much higher rate than teams that spread their shots around more equally.That they bucked this trend is probably the lasting legacy of the Red Holzman-coached Knicks. In a sport dominated by singular scorers like Jordan (usually with good reason), New York showed that there’s also a place for unselfish, collectivist basketball in the circle of NBA champions. And as my colleagues Ben Morris and Rafe Bartholomew have noted, the San Antonio Spurs (winners of the 2014 NBA championship) have carried the torch for this phenomenon in recent years.With the 2014-15 NBA season tipping off next week, the Knicks are unlikely to add a third championship banner to Madison Square Garden’s rafters. But Rapaport’s film will recall fond memories of a time when basketball-crazed New York City was the center of the sport’s universe.
Audio Playerhttps://fivethirtyeight.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/03/womenatsloan.mp300:0000:0000:00Use Up/Down Arrow keys to increase or decrease volume.When FiveThirtyEight offered me the opportunity to attend last week’s MIT Sloan Sports Analytics Conference, I jumped at the chance to geek out on two of my favorite subjects — sports and data.But my heart sank a little when I saw that only one of 30 speakers listed on the preliminary agenda was a woman. (The final speaker count was 22 women and 131 men.) I’ve been to other sausage fests, and they can operate like insular clubs that leave women feeling like outsiders.This year’s conference seemed promising, though. While the honorary executive board was all men, the conference chair was event co-founder Jessica Gelman, a former professional basketball player and the current vice president of customer marketing and strategy at the Kraft Sports Group, owner of the New England Patriots. The other women on the agenda were all-stars, too — like Amy Brooks, executive vice president of the NBA’s team marketing and business operations department; Heidi Pellerano, senior vice president at Wasserman Media Group; Stefanie Francis, co-founder of Navigate Research; and Elyse Guilfoyle, a senior industry analyst at Google.But there weren’t many women on stage or in the crowd. Only one of the 23 people attached to a finalist research paper was a woman, and one of her male colleagues presented the paper. Pellerano and Francis’s presentation on how Hispanic fans consume sports and Guilfoyle’s talk about ticket purchasing analytics were some of the only times that women were in the spotlight.Despite more than 3,000 people at the event, there was never a line at the women’s restroom. Gelman estimates that about 85 percent of attendees were men. That was true of the FiveThirtyEight delegation, too — I was the only woman from our team to attend, and the gender imbalance of our office is something we’ve noticed and that senior members of FiveThirtyEight are working on.When you feel like an outsider, it’s natural to seek out your own, and as I walked through the hallways, I found myself exchanging friendly head nods with the few other women I passed. It reminded me of that little wave that motorcyclists sometimes give each other out on the road, and I started asking these compatriots what they thought of the conference and what it was like to be so outnumbered by men.One of the first women I approached turned out to be Leigh Castergine, who is suing her former employer, Mets co-owner Jeff Wilpon, for gender discrimination (the lawsuit alleges that he fired her for being pregnant out of wedlock). She said she had lots to say but couldn’t talk until the lawsuit was resolved. The Mets deny the allegations.Attendee Valerie Laird, a research assistant at the University of Michigan’s business school, told me that she’d agonized over what to wear. “I want to be taken seriously, but I want to look nice,” she said. Was it better to wear a dress or pants? If she made herself look attractive, would she be taken less seriously, or would she worry that men were approaching her because they wanted her number? Laird’s friend Jessica Edwards told me that considerations about how to dress were part of the ongoing fight for respect. “Guys don’t take you seriously in sports,” she said. “It’s so frustrating because this is what I want to do with my life.”One student who requested anonymity told me that she struggled with what name to put on her conference badge and her résumé. She has always gone by a nickname that’s a diminutive of her already very feminine name. She was there to network, and she worried that hiring managers, who often make quick judgments about candidates, might too easily dismiss or stereotype her based on her nickname.Two other young women who didn’t identify themselves (I’ll call them Jane and Jill) laughed when I asked whether they would mind telling me what it was like to attend Sloan as a woman. “We’ve been talking about this a lot,” Jane said. Like me, they’d noticed that many of the women on stage were there as moderators, rather than speakers. “We would prefer to see more women who are actually talking about their experience as the expert, versus facilitating the conversation,” Jill said.This difference between being the moderator and the expert reminded me of a recent New York Times piece by Sheryl Sandberg that observed that women often do more than their fair share of the unheralded but important tasks around the office — things like organizing and preparing. Moderating is difficult to do well (you have to herd the speakers into serving the audience instead of themselves), but praise about a panel typically focuses on what the speakers said, rather than the moderator’s performance.Yet everyone I spoke to agreed that a session specifically on women’s sports wasn’t the answer. During an informal discussion about women in the industry, Gelman said the decision not to hold such a panel was deliberate.Segregating sports by gender just amplifies inequalities. “We want to integrate and show how women are actively part of the conversation and not just a side part,” Danielle Russell, one of the conference’s student leaders, told me.Jane and Jill, whom I caught coming out of the negotiating panel, had some suggestions on how to achieve that goal. “They could have talked about Brittney Griner’s salary or about deals they’ve done that are related to that,” Jill said, referring to the former Baylor star who now plays for the WNBA’s Phoenix Mercury.It’s not surprising that the conference focused primarily on the NFL, MLB and NBA, considering the amount of money they generate relative to other sports. But these are also sports with large disparities between male and female opportunities, observed Alison Mehlsak and Melissa Jenkins, graduate students at the University of Virginia’s business school. Creating some panels focused on sports that are more accessible to women could help, they told me. “Sports like tennis and golf, and events like the Olympics, offer rich opportunities to include women in the conversation,” Mehlsak said. As my FiveThirtyEight colleague Allison McCann recently pointed out, women’s sports are the next frontier in sports analytics.The lack of women at Sloan isn’t entirely the organizers’ fault. Professional sports is a male-dominated industry — one that ignores women at its own peril. Women now make up nearly half of the Super Bowl audience, and the latest Nielsen stats show that they represent at least a third of the NFL, NBA, MLB and NHL audience. The Sloan conference wields a heavy influence, and its organizers have an opportunity to make a difference by seeking out more women’s voices and inviting them into the fold.
So, it comes out, finally, that Sergio Garcia hates Tiger Woods because he’s black. That’s not what Garcia said in using fried chicken in his latest feeble attempt to disparage Woods. It’s what he inferred, and that’s usually what happens when people have problems with people. They infer.At the very least Garcia, the silliest player to not win a major golf championship, has a problem with Woods’ race. Why else would he answer a question at a dinner in London Tuesday by saying Woods “could come over every night. We will serve fried chicken.”His apologists will say Garcia made a weak and misguided attempt at a joke. For his part, he issued a statement through the European Tour that sounded like it was scripted by “Olivia Pope”:“I apologize for any offense that may have been caused by my comment on stage during the European Tour Players’ Awards dinner. I answered a question that was clearly made towards me as a joke with a silly remark, but in no way was the comment meant in a racist manner.”That does not mean it wasn’t racist, even though, for the life of me, I do not understand how fried chicken (and watermelon, for that matter) got to be this “black thing.” White people enjoy it, too; and other races. Right?Anyway, Garcia is fooling no one in saying he did not have racist intentions. He could have named pizza or steak or shrimp and grits. It apparently was too much for him to say, nothing or “He can come over every night. We will serve paella.”Instead he went with the old enigmatic, tired attempt to insult a black man. And therein lies a real problem that we just cannot escape: 16 years after Fuzzy Zoeller ruined his name with a fried chicken “joke” about Woods, here goes Garcia further diminishing his profile.At least Zoeller won a Masters. Garcia has earned millions but has not won on the largest stages. Now, he shows he’s a loser as a man, too.Here’s the sad part: Who among us is surprised Garcia—or most anyone on the non-black-except-Tiger Woods-tour —would go there? Woods’ old caddie, Steve Williams, who made millions off the talent of Woods, called him a “black a——” in 2011 at a caddie event. Imagine what was said about Woods in private places, especially when he was exposed as a philandering husband with an apparent affinity for white women.Having dealt with many PGA pros over the years, I can testify with confidence that Garcia’s and Zoeller’s comments do not reflect on all tour players. Most are seemingly good guys who understand Woods’ value to their sport, even if he has been a jerk or, at minimum, impersonal to many.In fact, all of this is a bit silly because Woods barely acknowledges his blackness. He could have buried Zoeller, but took the high road. Woods said Williams was “certainly not” a racist after he insulted him. It will be interesting to see how he handles Garcia’s gaffe because Woods made it clear he does not like the Spaniard.Whether Woods acknowledges the blackness in his mixed heritage is not the point, though; everyone else does. He’s a black man atop a white man’s sport, and that is part of his magnetism. It also makes him a polarizing figure and target of idiotic remarks by the likes of Sergio Garcia.More to come, you can be certain of that.
Related: Hot Takedown Still, there isn’t much pressure for Orlando in this situation. The Magic — better off losing at this point, for the sake of a higher draft pick — aren’t in the playoff race, so they can afford to give Ross reps regardless of whether he’s logging stellar outings. And because Ross is under contract for two more years, the team won’t have to make a decision on him anytime soon.But thinking about how long it takes for players to adjust to a new setting and cast gives me a greater appreciation for two groups: scouts and execs who can find those players who fit seamlessly and teams who take on multiple players at once. Hell, sometimes it’s hard to bring in one player and have him be on the same page as everyone else. Just ask Evan Turner.Check out our latest NBA predictions. NBA players were consumed by rumors and imagined scenarios last week, as the trade deadline approached and front offices shipped players around the league. But now comes the hard part for teams: trying to incorporate new players in the midst of a season.Lineups have to change. Guys have to learn when and where certain players prefer the ball. Getting up to speed on defense is often a process, too, since figuring out which teammates are (and aren’t) capable of guarding opponents straight-up, without needing to switch, takes time. And while practice would be a great place to acquire that knowledge, day-to-day workouts are pretty scarce in the jam-packed NBA schedule once the preseason ends in October.Which is why Orlando coach Frank Vogel sought to simplify things last week for swingman Terrence Ross, who had just joined the club from Toronto in exchange for Serge Ibaka. Vogel, shortly after coming out of a timeout in the Feb. 23 game against Portland, ran a double screen for Ross to get an open shot — and his first bucket as a member of the Magic.Video Playerhttps://fivethirtyeight.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/02/rossscreenwithorlando.mp400:0000:0000:00Use Up/Down Arrow keys to increase or decrease volume.After the three, Dante Marchitelli, a Magic sideline reporter for Fox Sports Florida, explained the genesis of the call: “During the timeout, coach Vogel told Terrence: ‘We’re gonna run this play, and it’s exactly the same play you ran in Toronto. Every time you ran it against me, you got a dunk or a three, so I expect exactly the same thing on this play.’ And lo and behold: wide open for a three there.”I confirmed the on-air anecdote by looking at past games between Ross and Vogel. But interestingly, Ross and the Raptors didn’t use this play against the Magic this season. Which means that Vogel must be thinking back to at least last season, when he still coached the Pacers.Video Playerhttps://fivethirtyeight.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/02/rossdoublescreenforthree.mp400:0000:0000:00Use Up/Down Arrow keys to increase or decrease volume.Video Playerhttps://fivethirtyeight.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/02/rossdoublescreenvsindfordunk.mp400:0000:0000:00Use Up/Down Arrow keys to increase or decrease volume.It also says something about Vogel’s memory that he remembered getting burned repeatedly by Ross whenever that play came up. Those recollections, paired with Ross’s 52 percent mark from 3-point range against the Magic this season, likely factored into the organization’s desire to acquire him.Although Vogel’s playcall for Ross worked, the rest of the game against Portland highlighted that it may take some time for the 26-year-old to get a feel for the team. He shot just 4-of-17 in his Magic debut, with several of his jumpers looking rushed and out of rhythm. (Then again, he went 10-of-15 in his next game, so Ross may just be a hot-and-cold player.) When Did Sports Become So Political?
The 2018 MLB season may not even be a month old, but it’s never too early to start overanalyzing how teams have looked so far. That’s especially true this season, when many of the clubs slated to be favorites going into the year have stumbled a bit coming out of the gate. Most of these teams will probably be fine in the end — seriously, it is still very early to know anything about how the season will play out — but just the same, it’s worth checking on which aspects of their struggles should disappear in due time and which might be cause for real anxiety.Washington Nationals (10-12)What’s gone wrong: For a team supposedly built around pitching, Washington currently ranks fifth-to-last in the National League in adjusted ERA — though it hasn’t been the fault of the Max Scherzer-led starting rotation. No, the blame rests with a bullpen that collectively boasts a 5.78 ERA and has performed even worse in clutch situations. (Witness the Nats’ epic meltdown against the Mets last Wednesday.) Some bad early-season defense isn’t helping either, and despite Bryce Harper’s raw feats of power, the offense isn’t hitting enough to make up for the 4.6 runs Washington is allowing per game.Cause for concern? Maybe. The Nats’ bullpen and defense were nothing special last season, either — they ranked 19th and 17th, respectively, in wins above replacement.1Averaging together the versions of WAR found at Baseball-Reference and FanGraphs. Closer Sean Doolittle has been fine so far, however, and setup men Ryan Madson and Brandon Kintzler are not as bad as they’ve looked in the early going. This lineup should get on track, too, when Daniel Murphy and Adam Eaton return from injury — or when Michael Taylor and Ryan Zimmerman break out of their April slumps. (We’ve seen Zimmerman hit poorly before, but he rebounded last season and has been hitting the ball hard in 2018, despite his bad results so far.)New York Yankees (11-9)What’s gone wrong: For all their immense hype going into the season, the Yankees have been pretty “meh” starting out, scoring only 13 more runs than they’ve allowed (113 vs. 100). Prized new left fielder Giancarlo Stanton is striking out constantly, particularly in front of the home fans at Yankee Stadium, while the team’s pitching has been average at best. They’re wasting a great start to the season by shortstop Didi Gregorius; he’s looked like an MVP over the past three weeks, but the Yankees barely have a .500 record to show for it.Cause for concern? Probably not. Although Stanton is pressing at the plate like some batters have been known to do in the pressure-packed New York media market, swinging at more pitches overall and whiffing on fastballs over the plate especially, he’s simply too good a hitter to not adjust eventually. (The ball he smoked at home on Friday might be a sign of things to come.) Likewise, scuffling starters Masahiro Tanaka and Sonny Gray should be better than the 7.22 ERA they’ve combined for so far, and a bullpen that ranked second in MLB in WAR last year is due for an improvement. Regression to the mean can work both ways, of course — Gregorius probably hasn’t fully made the leap to MVP level, for instance — but the Yankees should also benefit from better luck going forward: According to BaseRuns, which smooths out differences in the timing of offensive and defensive events, New York has been baseball’s fifth-best team so far, despite its record.Los Angeles Dodgers (10-10)What’s gone wrong: For one thing, Los Angeles’s offense is down this year, dropping from second in the NL last year to sixth in 2018, according to adjusted on-base plus slugging percentage. The Dodgers miss the production of third baseman Justin Turner, who fractured his wrist in spring training and has missed the entire season, and many of their other top hitters (Chris Taylor, Corey Seager, Yasiel Puig, the now-injured Logan Forsythe, etc.) are off to subpar starts. But an even bigger problem has been L.A.’s bullpen, which ranks 22nd in WAR a year after finishing fifth. Closer Kenley Jansen, usually the best reliever on the planet, sports a 6.23 ERA, and he’s already blown twice as many saves this year as he did all of last season.2Granted, Jansen only blew one save last season. But it was in 42 chances! This year, he’s blown two in five tries.Cause for concern? Sort of. The Dodgers’ hitting issues should sort themselves out eventually — they’re still projected by FanGraphs to score the fourth-most runs per game in the NL over the entire season, and they ought to be even better than that once Turner comes back in May. The bullpen question may be longer-lasting, however, given Jansen’s struggles. Although he brushed off early concerns about his performance (and he recorded a pair of scoreless innings over the weekend), there were questions about Jansen’s velocity in the spring, which have only amplified a month into the season. According to BrooksBaseball.com, Jansen’s sinker is averaging only 93.6 mph this April, compared with 95.7 mph last April and 94.9 two Aprils ago. We know that unexplained changes in velocity may indicate the kind of injury or mechanical problem that leads to cold streaks or prolonged absences, and we also know how important Jansen was to the Dodgers’ bullpen last year (he accounted for 48 percent of their relief WAR by himself). If Jansen suffers a down season, it would seriously affect L.A.’s chances of returning to the World Series.Chicago Cubs (10-9)What’s gone wrong: The Cubs are scoring plenty and they’ve already enjoyed a few memorable moments in 2018 so far, including this ridiculous eighth-inning comeback against the Braves the Saturday before last. But their starting pitching and defense — i.e., the twin cornerstones of Chicago’s 2016 World Series run — have been surprisingly mediocre thus far. Although veteran lefty Jon Lester has basically been his usual solid self, none of the other rotation members have lived up to their previous track records, from club mainstay Kyle Hendricks to newcomers Yu Darvish and Tyler Chatwood and second-year Cub Jose Quintana. And if Cub pitchers used to generate easily fieldable balls in play, that’s no longer the case: The team is below average in defensive efficiency and ordinary in various other fielding metrics. (When even Jason Heyward is showing up as a negative in the field, your defense has problems.)Cause for concern? Defensively, not really. Heyward may have lost a step in the field — which is worth keeping an eye on — but Chicago started slow on defense last season, too. They eventually managed to finish near the top of the advanced-metric leaderboards when all was said and done. But there might be real cause for concern in the subpar performance of the Cubs’ rotation, even after taking defense out of the equation. Chicago’s starters rank seventh-worst in fielding-independent pitching so far this season, continuing a three-year slide from fourth-best in 2016 to 10th-best last year, and now 24th-best in 2018. The optimist’s case is that this group is too talented to keep pitching so poorly — and walking so many batters, specifically — but the Cubs will have a hard time fending off the Cardinals and Brewers in the NL Central (much less reclaiming their superteam status) if they don’t start getting a lot more out of their rotation soon.
The Ohio State women’s golf team sits in a tie for 20th place in the 24-team field after two rounds of play at the NCAA Championships in Bryan, Texas. The Buckeyes fired a 303 in round one and a 315 in round two, combining for a 618 through the first two rounds. The scoring system takes each team’s top four individual scores per round and combines them Par for a team in a single round is 288. Leading the Buckeyes is senior captain In Hong Lim, who shot a 76 and 77, respectively, over the first two rounds. Lim’s nine-over par performance was marred by a triple bogey on her first hole of competition in the tournament on Wednesday. Sophomore co-captain Rachel Rohanna, who led the Buckeyes in scoring in the regional that advanced OSU to nationals, struggled on day one, taking nine bogeys and three double bogeys on Wednesday’s opening round to score an uncharacteristically high 86 on the par-72 course She recovered on day two, leading the team with a 77. “You can’t win on the first day, so getting off to a good start would definitely be my first priority,” coach Therese Hession said before the team left for Texas last week. The Buckeyes also struggled early in their regional tournament, but finished in sixth place. Sophomore Susana Benavides and junior Vicky Villanueva led the Buckeyes with scores of 74 on day one, but neither could replicate that performance. Benavides scored an 80 in round two, while Villanueva finished with an 82 on the second day. Sophomore Amy Meier scored an opening day 79, paired with an 82 on day two. UCLA leads the field, firing a 584, just eight strokes over par through the first half of the tournament. Purdue, which won the tournament last year, sits in second place with a score of 587.
CHICAGO – ESPN said it had “all access” during its recent run of programing focused on Ohio State football’s fall practices, but there remains at least one element of the team that few have infiltrated. OSU coach Urban Meyer has a hand-picked collective of players on the 2012 Buckeyes squad that have demonstrated leadership abilities. This “leadership committee,” as Meyer and some of the players involved refer to the operation, assembles for meetings under Meyer’s direction and discusses “confidential” subjects related to team business. Meyer appeared at Big Ten Media Days in Chicago July 27, and was accompanied by three players he confirmed to be members of the leadership committee – senior defensive lineman John Simon, redshirt senior linebacker Etienne Sabino and senior fullback Zach Boren. Meyer and the three players, who were each named co-captains of the 2012 team along with senior running back Jordan Hall and redshirt senior defensive lineman Garret Goebel, did not seem eager to divulge information regarding the existence or activities of the group. Meyer did say OSU fans can rest assured knowing the clandestine meetings do indeed benefit the football team. “Yeah, it’s not secret,” Meyer said of the leadership committee. “We are very confidential in everything we discuss. Every place I’ve (coached), I’ve had a group of players that are my leadership.” Meyer smirked quickly after finishing that thought – it was all he had to say about the leadership committee. The smile showed the playful nature with which he guards the secret society, and his players follow suit. Simon chuckled, avoided eye contact and ran his hand down his face as he conceded that the group does maintain a level of secrecy, saying “yeah, it’s kind of secret.” Simon wouldn’t confirm the number of players in the leadership committee saying only, “there’s a couple (players).” “Coach Meyer just gets us together and we’ll discuss topics on the team really,” Simon said. “We kind of just sit down and talk.” Boren was more loose-lipped in discussing the leadership committee – he confirmed that eight OSU players of varying class years comprise Meyer’s committee. He also explained how he and his fellow leadership committee members act on Meyer’s call to lead. Some of Boren’s actions as a leader will manifest themselves on the field during the upcoming season – during Big Ten Media Days, Boren said he expects to see more of the football in running situations as a fullback. Off the field, he’s a motivator to young players. “Just preach what (Meyer) preaches. If we weren’t telling guys to get out there and do stuff, we don’t know if they would. So we kinda take it upon ourselves to make sure everyone’s doing the right thing,” Boren said. “Sending out mass texts to guys telling them they have to be, you know, do certain drills here … and pulling them with us. “Instead of doing stuff on our own like maybe we did in the past, you know, now we’re pulling guys with us.” Boren said the members of the committee are quicker to vocalize their concerns too. Speaking your mind, and therefore bettering the team, is part of the deal as a member of the committee, he said. “There’s some guys on our leadership committee that weren’t very vocal in, let’s say, January or February of years past. And now that they’re on the committee they kind of have a, not a sense of pride, but they’re not scared to open up their mouths,” Boren said. “(They) become what we need.” Meyer’s leadership committee, along with the rest of the Buckeyes, will take the field for its season-opening game against Miami University (Ohio) Sept. 1 at Ohio Stadium. Kickoff is set for noon.
Braxton Miller, the sophomore quarterback of the Ohio State football team, is a finalist for the Davey O’Brien Award, which is awarded to the nation’s best quarterback. Miller might also get an invitation to travel to New York as a finalist for the Heisman Trophy, awarded to the most outstanding player in college football. His coach, however, believes he still has a long way to go. “Our quarterback fundamentally wasn’t the best fundamental quarterback in America,” coach Urban Meyer said Monday. “If he becomes fundamentally the best quarterback in America, I think he will be the best quarterback in America. He’s not there yet.” Meyer said he would grade the OSU passing offense this season as a “C to C-minus.” “That’s up a little bit from what it was a year before, but still nowhere near what we want, not even in the same hemisphere as far as what’s expected,” Meyer said. “That has to change, and change fast.” Meyer said he puts much of the responsibility of improving Miller and the passing offense on offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach Tom Herman. “Tom Herman and I are going to have a chat. Why didn’t that happen?” Meyer said. “Tom Herman did a fabulous job. But Tom Herman and Braxton Miller understand that they have to get better.” Meyer looked back on other aspects of the 2012 season as well, while looking ahead to 2013, during his season wrap-up press conference on Monday. Looking back on a 12-0 season Meyer said he will remember the 2012 Buckeyes for their “incredible character, determination and genuine love for one another.” “The memory that I’ll always have of this season … is just the complete selflessness,” Meyer said. “Arguably the best I’ve ever seen.” Meyer did not give a definitive response on whether the Buckeyes deserve to finish No. 1 in the Associated Press poll, but said he believes his team can play with “any team in the country.” Will Meyer make coaching changes? Meyer said Monday that he has no plans to make any changes to his coaching staff but realizes that some of his coaches might be pursued for other coaching opportunities at other programs. “I’m not going to make a change,” Meyer said. “One negative thing about success and hiring good coaches is that they’re hot items … I’d like to think at a place like Ohio State, you only will leave here to become a head football coach.” No word yet on Hankins, Roby In addition to losing 21 seniors from this year’s football team due to graduation, two underclassmen who could potentially leave OSU to move on to the NFL are junior defensive tackle Johnathan Hankins and redshirt sophomore cornerback Bradley Roby. Meyer said he has not yet discussed the possibility of declaring for the NFL draft with either player. Roby said on Nov. 14 that he had discussed his potential decision with OSU cornerbacks coach Kerry Coombs. Concerns for 2013 season If history is any indication, the 2013 season has championship potential for the Buckeyes. Jim Tressel, the last coach to spend two or more years leading the OSU football program, won a national championship in his second year in Columbus. Meyer also won one of two national championships at Florida, one of which was in his second year with the Gators. Meyer said that by achieving an undefeated season this year, the “standard has been set” for his second season. “My concern here is complacency,” Meyer said. “If they’re not angry and complacent, this team’s average as dirt.” Meyer said that with the exception of sophomore outside linebacker Ryan Shazier, who he called an “excellent football player,” the linebackers are the weakest position group on the team heading into 2013. “Other than (Shazier), I couldn’t tell you who can play,” Meyer said. Meyer said that his No. 1 concern for the offseason is recruiting, and second is the “fundamental development of our players.” Meyer said the team is affected, however, by losing the opportunity to develop players through practices leading up to a bowl game.
Junior guard Shannon Scott (3) fights to get a shot off during a game against Michigan March 15 at Bankers Life Fieldhouse. OSU lost, 72-69.Credit: Shelby Lum / Photo editorINDIANAPOLIS — Down by as many as 16 points early against Michigan (25-8, 17-4) in the Big Ten Tournament Semifinals, it was like nothing had changed for the Ohio State men’s basketball team.One day after completing an 18-point comeback against Nebraska in the final 13:45 of the game, OSU allowed Michigan to come out hot and seemingly shut the door on the Buckeyes early.Although OSU (25-9, 12-9) came close to pulling out another victory — even taking the lead with less than three minutes to play — the Wolverines hit their shots down the stretch and pulled out a narrow 72-69 win.So what went wrong for those first few minutes? Why do the Buckeyes continue to put themselves in deep holes?“It starts from the beginning of the game, and you don’t know why guys aren’t ready to go,” senior guard Lenzelle Smith Jr. said after the loss to Michigan. “I don’t know why that is and it’s something I’m obviously not used to. As a senior, that’s leadership — we need to try and make sure guys are ready to go when we tipoff … Those are situations where it’s tough and you come over and talk to the coaches and say ‘We don’t have it right now, we don’t have the juice,’ and coaches can’t do anything about that, and that’s on us out there.“I can’t think about the whole team and I’ve just got to fight and hope a spark will get lit.”Coach Thad Matta said against the Cornhuskers, the Buckeyes were completely to blame for allowing themselves to fall behind. But against Michigan, it was hard to stop the Wolverines from shooting so well.“I was not happy yesterday (against Nebraska),” Matta said. “I think today the way they (Michigan) came out and played that first 13 minutes was … I would venture to say they would be up by double digits on most anybody in college basketball.”Junior guard Shannon Scott, whose career-high tying 18 points was a major part of the comeback, said it’s hard to stop a team that shoots so well for long stretches.“Michigan hit some crazy shots,” Scott said. “I’ve never seen shots like that happen honestly. I feel like we have a great defense, we played our defense, they just hit some great shots. We can’t really stop that.”Junior forward LaQuinton Ross — who finished with a game-high 19 points in the loss to the Wolverines — was quick to add the hot shooting didn’t last the whole night, as OSU found its way back into the game.“But we fought back — we fought back and got in the game. That’s what we’ve been doing this whole tournament and it came down to the end, couple of plays that we didn’t make and that’s on us,” Ross said.Adversity spurs growth though, and that is something Smith Jr. said he fully expects to come out of the way the Buckeyes battled back.“Once we get these (little things) corrected, I’d be afraid of us,” Smith Jr. said. “We’re definitely going to be a better team because of it. We take that with the type of fight this team has, and the effort we’re giving to dig ourselves out of holes, I think that’ll be something good for us.”Junior forward Sam Thompson said part of allowing themselves to get down was lacking the mentality to keep fighting.“We got a little soft, we started feeling sorry for ourselves, we started pointing the finger instead of looking in the mirror and hunkering down, coming together and being a tough basketball team,” Thompson said. “That’s who we are, we’re a tough basketball team. We’re a team that’s not going to give up, that’s not going to allow one play to affect the next and that’s what we need to be the next few weeks.”OSU, a six seed in the NCAA Tournament, is scheduled to take on No. 11-seeded Dayton (23-10, 10-6) in the second round of the tournament Thursday in Buffalo, N.Y. at 12:15 p.m.“Every game this tournament, we dug ourselves into a hole, we’ve got to stop doing that. Once we get that in our heads, it will be all right,” Scott said.
2013 NBA Champion for the Miami Heat and Akron, Ohio native LeBron James stands on the sidelines at the Wisconsin football game Sept. 28 at Ohio Stadium. OSU won, 31-24.Credit: Lantern file photoI will never forget where I was four years ago, when LeBron James broke the collective hearts in Cleveland by announcing his decision to join the Miami Heat.I sat in a Florida hotel lobby as the “King” made his announcement to take his talents to South Beach, and the lobby let out a collective roar. I sank in my chair knowing that the chances of a championship happening in Cleveland were, once again, dashed.Flash forward to today — I sat in my bedroom. Not my school bedroom but my bedroom back home. The bedroom in which I grew up, and I heard the news that James was returning home.It felt surreal.I ran downstairs to make sure it wasn’t a dream. It wasn’t, and I couldn’t be happier for fellow Cleveland fans and for the King himself.Nothing beats coming home. No matter how far away you are, nothing is better. My favorite place in the world is, and always will be, Columbus, Ohio. However, nothing is better than making the two hour drive up I-71 to come home to Brunswick, Ohio, which is located just 30 minutes south of downtown Cleveland, the place where I have always called home.The same seems to stand true for James. In a letter written to “Sports Illustrated,” James said, “I always believed that I’d return to Cleveland and finish my career there.”Words can’t describe how much those words mean to Clevelanders. No one chooses us. No one seems to want to play in Cleveland. But now, the best player in the world chose us. If you are not from Cleveland, you can’t understand, and we don’t expect you to.Cleveland has endured The Drive, The Shot, The Fumble and even The Decision — but now, we have The Return. We have something to give us hope — something we haven’t had in a long time.I wrote two months ago that the month of May could prove to be the turning point for Cleveland sports, and I couldn’t have been more wrong. Today is the day.The drafting of Johnny Manziel to the Browns was great and brought some excitement, but nothing compares to this. The Cavaliers winning the draft lottery and ultimately selecting Andrew Wiggins was fun, but again, doesn’t compare.James is an Ohio guy. Manziel and Wiggins, while great players in their own right, are not from here. They don’t know our desperation for a winner. James does, and his return to a city with a 50-year title drought means more than words can describe.Let me be clear: Just because James is back in Cleveland still doesn’t guarantee us a championship, but it doesn’t have to. While we want a title, to see James likely finish his career with his hometown team means a lot.So as I, a 21-year old man, sat in the house I grew up, watching the news on James unfold, I admit tears came into my eyes because nothing has ever meant this much to a generation of Cleveland sports fans.Welcome home, LeBron. We are excited to see you back in the wine and gold.