Tag Archives: Basketball Analysts

Interview With Cazzie Russell

Cazzie Russell

Interview Conducted 10/21/2008

Bentley Historical Library

Bentley Historical Library

Few athletes can lay claim to having an arena or stadium affectionately named in their honor. Cazzie Russell is one of them.

A legendary basketball prodigy from Chicago’s Southside, Russell arrived onto the city’s basketball scene when he led Carver High School’s Junior Varsity program to the Chicago city JV Title in 1960.

By his senior year, Russell paced Carver High School to the Chicago city title in 1962, averaging over 25 points a game.

As one of the most coveted senior prospects in the country, Russell received offers from over 50 college basketball programs. He narrowed his choices to UCLA, Marquette, Cincinnati, and Michigan.

Cincinnati sent Oscar Robertson, by then an NBA star with the Cincinnati Royals, to Carver High School to visit with Russell.

RUSSELL: “I had a tough decision because Oscar Robertson came to my high school. I idolized the way he played of course because we were the same size.”

Russell visited Michigan in the spring and developed a friendship with his tour guide, freshman Bill Buntin.

RUSSELL: “I was comfortable with Bill Buntin who was my host. As a young player coming out of high school, it was important to feel comfortable with [another] guy being from a predominantly black area.”

Russell ultimately chose Michigan because the basketball program was in a rebuilding stage.

RUSSELL: “It was basically a football school, so there probably wouldn’t be a lot of pressure. That was one of my major decisions.”

Russell led Michigan to three Big 10 titles, averaging 27.1 points per game in his career. He was a three-time AP All American. Continue reading

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Interview With Rich Zvosec

Rich Zvosec

Interview Conducted 10/15/2008

Photo/M. Al-Kassim

Photo/M. Al-Kassim

Rich Zvosec was called into the UMKC Athletic Director’s office on March 13, 2007. He was fired. On his birthday.

ZVOSEC: “As I look back, it was the best thing to ever happen to me. It gives me a great story.”

“I leave with the highest winning percentage in UMKC history, If he had brought me back, I probably would have screwed that up.”

“It also gave me the opportunity to really go into some areas that I probably wouldn’t have done.”

Zvosec, who compiled an 84-91 record in his six seasons at UMKC has now branched into many other fields.

His firing coincided with the creation of the Big Ten Network, where he became an analyst for games. For the 2008-09 season, he will provide color commentary for Big 12 basketball games on the ESPN family of networks.

He also works a motivational speaker, and one of his talks can be found on his official website: Coach Z: Drink, Swear, Steal and Lie Your Way to Success.

He has also gotten into the acting industry, appearing in an episode of Friday Night Lights, several independent films, and Formosa Betrayed, which is currently in post-production.

ZVOSEC: “The irony is I always play the chief of the Secret Service, or an FBI agent, or a detective. It’s always been something of an authoritative figure.”

Zvosec intends to act in more films.

ZVOSEC: “I’ve got an agent in Los Angeles who has got me some auditions and we’ll see what happens.”

Zvosec has also written a book entitled Birds, Dogs, and Kangaroos: Life on the Backstreets of College Basketball which will hit stores in late October.

The title of the first chapter? “Happy Birthday, You’re Fired.” Continue reading

Interview With Jay Bilas (Part 3 of 3)

Jay Bilas

Part 3 of 3

Interview Conducted 9/22/2008

IMG Speakers

IMG Speakers

This is the third of a three part interview:

For Part 1: Click Here

For Part 2: Click Here

The recruiting process took place through high schools, high school basketball coaches, and parents during the era when Bilas was a top recruit.

Now because of NCAA regulations prohibiting when high school basketball coaches can be contacted, the coaches have little influence in most cases over their player’s recruitment and ultimately their final college decision.

BILAS: “Right now, [college] coaches that are recruiting players are dealing with people who are not in any way, shape, or form educators, and that’s a very big difference.”

“What do you have to do to be a AAU coach? You have to be able to blow through a whistle. That’s all it takes.”

“So because of the way the recruiting rules are, those people have more influence over the process than they used to, and the process has been moved up now. It’s really rare to find a top 50 player who hasn’t committed before the start of his senior year. Everything’s very different.”

Bilas emphasized that AAU basketball tournaments, which are NCAA-certified, can be a positive form for players to improve their game.

What concerns him is that AAU basketball gets mislabeled by many as “Summer Basketball Culture.” He defined true “Summer Basketball Culture” as leagues run by people who operate without regulation and accreditation. Continue reading

Interview With Jay Bilas (Part 2 of 3)

Jay Bilas

Part 2 of 3

Interview Conducted 9/22/2008

IMG Speakers

IMG Speakers

This is the second of a three part interview:

For Part 1: Click Here

More AAU basketball tournaments feature elementary and middle school talent. Shoe companies develop elite invite camps for young players they deem “phenoms.”

Several recruiting services are now ranking or providing scouting reports for kids as young as sixth grade.

BILAS: “I don’t know many smart basketball people that are out there scouting 11 year olds really trying to stay ahead of the game. It’s just not happening. Maybe it will. Just not now.”

But there is an increasing public demand for recruiting services to list top prospects in middle school. Dallas Morning News sportswriter Barry Horn summarizes the ranking phenomenon of young basketball talent as:

A business fueled by an insatiable appetite that Americans display for sports rankings. In youth basketball, they give a semblance of order in an otherwise chaotic world. They bestow status. They attract attention.

Even though these sites are profiting from an increasing demand for middle school player rankings, lists, and brief scouting reports, Bilas feels it doesn’t make a “smart” business decision.

BILAS: “Just because it sells doesn’t mean it’s smart. You can turn on television at 2:00 a.m. and see some things that are selling that wouldn’t be called smart buys. There’s a lot of diet books out there that are selling because people want to be thin, but they are not giving good advice.”

“The question isn’t is if [these rankings] are legal or are they moral. When you look at it you go, ‘Is this what we want to be doing? Is this the right thing to do?'” Continue reading

Interview With Jay Bilas (Part 1 of 3)

Jay Bilas

Part 1 of 3

Interview Conducted 9/22/2008

IMG Speakers

IMG Speakers

This is the first of a three part interview:

Honestly, it would take ten paragraphs to compile even a concise biography for Jay Bilas.

He’s a former Duke basketball standout, turned Spanish & Italian International Basketball star, turned Duke Assistant Basketball coach, turned actor, turned lawyer, turned ESPN color commentator and analyst.

We’ll just let his IMG Speakers Bureau and ESPN official biography provide you with all the details.

In the first part of my three part interview with Bilas, we discussed how the basketball recruiting landscape has evolved in the last 30 years.

Bilas, a post player from Rolling Hills High School in Los Angeles, was himself a consensus Top 40 national player in 1981-82, his senior season.

Unlike the prospects of today, Bilas did not receive his first recruiting letter until his sophomore year in 1980.

BILAS: “I remember who I got my first recruiting letter from. It was the University of Oregon, but Oregon sent letters to every player on the West Coast who could walk and chew gum at the same time. It was just smart recruiting on their part because everybody remembered them.”

AAU basketball summer leagues, which are one of the staples for prep player development and prospect identification today, were almost non-existent during Bilas’ prep career. Select Leagues, which Bilas participated in were available in Southern California.

BILAS: “I played in summer leagues in Los Angeles. I played in the U.S. Olympic Development League which was probably the best league in Southern California at that time.”

“I played in what would now be called AAU events, but there wasn’t a lot of that. AAU wasn’t as prevalent as it was today.”

Still, summer basketball in the late 1970’s and early 1980’s was prep team-oriented.

BILAS: “Back then you played with your high school team. Every player on the basketball team took [Summer PE Courses] and we practiced every day. Then we played as a team in the Long Beach City College Summer League and one other league. We played a couple of games a week back then.”

Continue reading

Interview With Eddie Fogler

Eddie Fogler

Interview Conducted 9/11/2008

AP Photo

AP Photo

Eddie Fogler is one of the many Dean Smith disciples who went on to a successful coaching career at the NCAA level.

Fogler signed to play point guard for the UNC Tar Heels in 1966 with no intentions of going into coaching.

FOGLER: “My aspirations were to go into the NBA. I quickly found out my freshman year that I wasn’t going to be good enough.”

He had a stellar playing career in Chapel Hill, averaging 4.6 points and 3.4 assists per game in three seasons.

Immediately after graduating, Fogler took a job as an algebra teacher at DeMatha Catholic in Hyattsville, MD. He also was the Head Junior Varsity Coach and also served as an assistant to legendary coach Morgan Wootten, the only high school basketball coach ever inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame.

Fogler stayed at DeMatha for just one year. He returned to UNC to get his Master’s Degree and serve as an assistant to Dean Smith.

Continue reading