Monday, March 28, 2011

Rich's Blog: Meet the John McKissick of HS Hoops and how to take SC high school sports to the next level

South Carolina is the home of the most accomplished high school football coach in Summerville's John McKissick who has accomplished numbers that are absolutely mind boggling. The dean of high school basketball comes from Jersey City, NJ. People in the Carolinas know the name Hurley. Bobby Hurley, Junior was one of the great Duke point guards of all time. His father, Bobby Hurley, Sr. is the legendary coach at St. Anthony's in Jersey City. The Friars finished a perfect 33-0 season by winning the New Jersey Tournament of Champions and for the 4th time in the Hurley era will finish #1 in the USA Today Top 25. Here are some numbers which make this feat even more impressive:

What is St. Anthony's home record: 0-0
St. Anthony's does not have a gym. Every single game is a road game.

What is Bob Hurley's salary: $9,500
That's his stipend this year. He has turned down numerous college offers, but elects to stay at St. Anthony's.

Beyond the sports story is the fact that this school in a pretty rough neigborhood survives because of its basketball prowess. 60 Minutes profiled Hurley and the school following the Elite 8. There's always a fear of promoting "another network", but this is worth watching:

Adrian Wojnarowski, who's on the NBA beat for Yahoo Sports today, followed St. Anthony's during the 2003-2004 season in the Miracle at St. Anthony's. It's a great read that shows the balance of the old school coach and his mission of making lives better for young people.

The Miracle of St. Anthony's book excerpt

St. Antony's won New Jersey's Tournament of Champions. What New Jersey does, which I think is brilliant, is take every state champion and have them play each other to determine one school that is the best in the state.

Imagine, if you will, if South Carolina let the state champions play each other in a tournament format. This wouldn't work for football as the season would go too long and I don't think you would want to see Byrnes play Scott's Branch in a first round Tournament of Champions game.

I'm thinking of this because of an article I saw in about the SCHSL expanding the football playoffs yet again:

GoUpstate: Class 2A to split into two divisions

So now, if this passes this summer, you are going to have seven state champions in high school football. Only Class 3A will have one state champion. If I was in charge of the SCHSL, here's what I would do:

First, I would lose the Divsion I and Division II monikers. I would rename the classes to Class 1A, 2A, 3A, 4A, 5A, and 6A. Doesn't it sound better to say that you won a Class 5A state title instead of a Class 4A Division II title???

The next thing I would do is institute the Tournament of Champions format in every sport except football. 5A and 6A get first round byes with 4A playing 1A in one round, and 3A playing 4A in the other matchup. If you want to expand to seven divisions like football, fine: Let's invite the SCISA champion and have eight state champs playing for the overall title.

Think of the excitement it would bring. You have the Hoosiers element where the little 1A school that won a state title tries to pull off the improbable. Would Raymond Felton's Latta teams had the moxy to win a T of C? How much fun would it have been to see if Khadijah Sessions and Myrtle Beach were good enough to be the overall state champ. If Saint James wins the 3A baseball title this spring, how much excitement would there be if they went all the way and claimed a true state champ.

There's enough support and passion among all sports is South Carolina to make this a no-brainer. The Tournament of Champions format would take high school sports in this state to another level.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Rich's Blog: The best cinderella story of March

While the brackets played themselves out and Cinderellas like Richmond and VCU emerged in the NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament, there was another bracket going on that provided a truly inspirational story.
At the NCAA Wrestling Championships in Philadelphia, Anthony Robles of Arizona State won the individual national title at 125 pounds. Robles was born without a right leg. Watch the video from our ABC affiliate in Phoenix: it might be my favorite entrance into the ring.

Robles will not pursue the Olympics and instead become a motivational speaker:

USA Today: Anthony Robles retires

March Madness is great. The first four days of the tournament are among the most enjoyable days for a sports fan. Now that I've been covering sports for nearly 20 years (old guy alert!), I can say that going to "The Dance" is at the top of the list of things I haven't experienced in my TV career. Three times I came close with Coastal, but I have not yet been to the Tourney.

Things I'd like to cover

1. NCAA Tournament - what will come first, CCU in the Dance or my alma mater Saint Bonaventure? I was supposed to go to Cleveland in 2000 when the Bonnies lost in 2OT to Kentucky, but it was my first Darlington race weekend.

2. The Masters - I've been trying for 11 years to get credentials to Augusta and I'm hopeful that I'm getting closer to accomplishing that. Dustin!

3. Olympics - It's tough to cover the Olympics if you are not an NBC affiliate. Perhaps I can talk the bosses into a trip to London to cover Amber Campbell

Things I've covered
1. Super Bowl - went to Houston for the Panthers loss to New England and had a one on one interview with Adam Vinatieri after kicking the game winning field goal (a real thrill). I also attended Super Bowl XXI (The Giants first Super Bowl win against Denver) as a fan (thanks Dad)

2. World Series - I was covering the Red Sox in Bangor, Maine and in a glitch by MLB was given World Series credentials in 1999 when the Yankees won it all. I went live on the field from game four before Roger Clemens won and got all the celebration afterwards.

3. NBA Finals - 1995 working in New York....what I'll always remember about this was not the Rockets and Knicks, but being at MSG when the OJ van chase began.

4. Stanley Cup - another thrill - the Rangers won the Stanley Cup and I was there for game seven and all the hoopla. I did an interview with Mark Messier that was used on the CBS Evening News the following day.

5. NCAA Hockey Tournament - The Maine Black Bears won it all in 1999. I went to Worcester, Mass and Anaheim for an amazing season. Maine won the Frozen Four and Championship game in overtime. The game ended at 11:07 pm on a Saturday night and we were able to do a live interview in the locker room in the midst of the championship. Kurt Russell (pre Herb Brooks in Miracle) was there and I closed the show holding the national championship trophy.

6. NBA Draft - Raymond Felton getting selected by the Charlotte Bobcats. I remember the room upstairs at MSG and the ABC people not promising that I would be able to get Raymond for an interview. He saw me and walked right over and sat down with me and gave me his first interview after being drafted. I'll never forget that.

7. 1999 MLB All-Star Game at Fenway - Ted Williams meeting all the players at the pitchers mound, Mark McGwire before steroids tainted his legacy and going live with Mike Mussina when he was with the Orioles (why?, because he was on with the ABC in Washington DC before my shot - he was great)

There was plenty of other cool stuff (US Open at Pinehurst, two NIT's, two NCAA Women's Tournaments, all the Gamecock and Clemson bowl games). The best part of the job is watching our local kids at the highest level of their sport. I enjoy catching up with Raymond Felton and Ramon Sessions at NBA games and look forward to seeing Everett Golson at Notre Dame and Jordan Lyles with the Houston Astros. Thanks to the great talent in this area, I'm excited to be adding to this list.