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Izzo turns down the NBA, stays at Michigan State

Transitioning from being an outstanding college head basketball coach to an equally proficient professional coach is as difficult as it is for a player.  Coaches go from full control to partial control and instead of managing players they manage personalities.

In the most talked about issue that isn’t Lebron James, Tom Izzo turned down an offer to be the Cleveland Cavaliers.

Izzo realized this when he turned down the Cleveland Cavaliers offer to leave Michigan State and become their new head coach. This is the second time in his illustrious career that he has turned down an offer from the NBA. The first was with the Atlanta Hawks, which offered him head coach, general manager and he had control over all basketball operations as well as doubling his salary. The Cavaliers,who was also offered him twice as much to leave the college ranks.

“I’m at Michigan State for life,” Izzo said at a press conference today at East Lansing.

The move wasn’t a hard one albeit the Cavs have some of the worse problems in the NBA right now. Danny Ferry has stepped down from his General Manager position, the team is offering Mo Williams and Delonte West and their franchise player, Lebron James is  in limbo as he awaits free agency.

James uncertainty is a big reason why Izzo passed. He was not involved in the process at all and did not speak to Izzo personally. This all could be because this job is considered a seat in the NBA. You have three years tops to get the Cavs to a championship or your gone. With James uncertain if he will come back to Cleveland he did the right thing.


Lakers embarrass Celtics to force an elimination game seven

The writing was on the wall for both teams as they entered the Staples Center in Los Angeles. For the Los Angeles Lakers, win and force a game seven at home. All the Boston Celtics had to do was win and they’re the NBA champions.

Kobe Bryant came out from the start in Black Mamba mode. Attacking the Celtics defense and setting the tone for his team. Bryant ended the game with 26 points on 9-19 shooting to go with 11 rebounds and the Lakers force a game seven with a 89-67 win.

This was not the same Laker team that played in Boston. Bryant was himself, only this time he didn’t take as many shots as in the previous games and his teammates helped him out. Pau Gasol had been outplayed by Kevin Garnett since game two bounced back for a double -double (17 points, 13 rebounds). Ron Artest was getting the same looks he got in Boston. He actually made them this time around (15 points).

It was the Celtics that looked confused and lethargic. They were beaten in every aspect of this game. Even worse, the Celtics lost center Kendrick Perkins to a knee injury in the first quarter.

This hurt Boston in the paint as they were out rebounded 52-39.

“Our defense was good, our rebounding was better,” coach Phil Jackson said.

The Lakers bench outplayed their Celtics counterparts for the first time in the series.

Now with a must win game seven for both teams, strategy is thrown out the door. It’s not a matter of will and heart for both teams. Whose the tougher team you could say.

“It’s not about coaching at that point it’s about executing and who comes out with the most energy,” Jackson said.

The Celtics need their bench now more than ever with Perkins availability questionable. Rasheed Wallace will need to stay out of foul trouble and away from the three-point line if the Celtics are to win. Ray Allen has to start knocking down some threes. He hasn’t hit a three-point shot since game two. Paul Pierce and Garnett will have to play like the stars they are if Boston is going to win on Thursday.

Los Angeles is now in the driver’s seat in the finals. Jackson said after game five that there right where they want to be and they showed it in game six. If they can duplicate their performance from tonite, there isn’t a reason won’t win the world championship.

USC athletics takes a turn for the worst

While interning with the San Diego Union Tribune this year, I had the distinct pleasure of meeting Tim Sullivan. He is one of the premier sports columnist in the country. We met and talked a lot throughout my time at the U-T. He would give me books to read and the first one he gave me was Tarnished Heisman by Don Yeager.

Sullivan then proceeded to tell me how he isn’t one of Bush’s favorite people. This is due because he got he assignment to chase down Bush, the San Diego native to ask him about the rumors of him possible NCAA infractions. This was while he was at the 2006 NFL draft.

Now the NCAA passing down sanctions, everyone is looking for someone to blame. Some will start with Bush. He needs to take some credit for this. He won’t admit it but he knew what was going on. His parents lived in a 700,000 dollar home rent free his last year in college. You are fool if you think he did not know this.

Pete Carroll saw the writing on the wall. That’s why he abandoned ship to the National Football League. He spoke today on ESPN saying that he had no idea that Bush was dealing with an agent while there, but he did the best he could.

It’s not just the football team on trial here. OJ Mayo had some of the same problems while at Southern Cal. That’s why Tim Floyd left and their basketball program was hit with sanctions.

This all falls back to the athletics director, Mike Garrett. He who won the Heisman like Bush. Now he’s an administrator that oversees all the athletic programs. He had to know something was going on with his programs and didn’t do anything about it. If anything, he is at fault for this.

All of this adds up to a bad situation for the one of the most storied athletic programs in the country. Worse yet it revolves around money and like Nick Nolte said in the movie Blue Chips, “these are the best players that money can buy”.

My lunch with a “Realist”


I was supposed to meet Mike Sager noon Friday at The Café, a restaurant inside the La Jolla Museum. I had some idea of what Sager looked like; I’d seen his picture on his website. But our lives had never crossed face to face. All our conversations had been through emails or in phone calls.

Until now.

“Jarred,” Sager called out. I turned around, and there he was. He sported some black sunglasses. He was in charcoal grey shorts with a black sweatshirt and had on black shoes, and he looked European, the embodiment of cultured man: confident, erudite and well mannered.

A few minutes into my talking to Sager I discovered he was a leader, too.

“I’m real,” he told me. “That’s the only way I know how to be.”

He had agreed to meet me after I emailed him and told him how much I admired his work. His invitation, however, took me by surprise. I wasn’t about to say no. Not to him, not to a writer with Mike Sager’s reputation.

After exchanging hellos, he and I sat down for lunch. The first thing we discussed was how to transcribe interviews, a topic I didn’t understand well. He urged me to tape everything, and when I do tape, transcribe everything and not bits and pieces of what I record, he said. A transcriber can help. Use it with a digital or tape recorder, he said.

The information that comes my reporting should be used to flush out the detail of what came out of the interview. I had not heard reporting put quite the way Sager put it. What he told me made sense. The information proved useful, and I’m always looking for information that can help me improve at the craft.

Realizing my inexperience, Sager said improvement comes with experience. The more experience a journalist has the better he should become – better as a writer, reporter and an interviewer.

“Your agenda is not the agenda,” Sager said.

The best writers, he said, feel what their subjects feel. His advice complemented what he said about experience, at least in my eyes. What a writer has to go through helps can put emotion into his writing and give the prose substance. That’s why it’s important for a journalist or a nonfiction writer to have the six senses in his writing.

Once he gets past this and start reporting, he should keep his mouth shut and his eyes open. He should listen to what the subject has to say, which is what I was trying to do during my lunch with Sager. But I’ve always known is that if I listen to people and let them be themselves, I can learn a lot from them. I don’t have to say anything; just pay attention.

“Be a human first,” he said.

Also, establish a connection. When Sager is interviewing someone, he looks at them as if he is on a date. He stares them in the eyes, and he tries to connect with them. If successful with this, the writer can establish an intimacy that gives his story a flow and conversational tone that he would not be able to achieve in reporting that lacked intimacy.

During our lunch, Sager covered a lot of topics, all of it useful to me. He ended our discussion of writing by talking about using myself to wonder what other people are feeling and write to try and understand other people.

All these things can help a writer bring out the best in his writing, and I plan to take all of his advice and use it. I was thankful for his willingness to take time to counsel me on writing. I appreciated every minute he gave me. It was a generous gesture on Sager’s part.

Just as generous was his giving me an autographed copy of the book Wounded Warriors, a collection of his writing. I didn’t expect so much from Sager – not the book, not the advice and not his time.

I gambled when I emailed him, just hoping for a reply. He gave me a lot more, including a free lunch. I had nothing to lose in meeting Mike Sager. I had plenty to gain in trying to tap his wealth of knowledge. I didn’t leave our lunch disappointed.