Thursday, March 25, 2004

Eustachy Had Hit 'Rock Bottom'

Larry Eustachy called himself a recovering alcoholic who had "hit rock bottom" after being introduced today as the new head basketball coach at Southern Mississippi.

Eustachy said he was thankful for another chance after an embarrassing exit from Iowa State 10 months ago, the Associated Press reported. He was the AP coach of the year in 2000.

I'm happy for Eustachy, and everyone else should be happy for him.

"Sometimes until you totally bottom out, you don't really see what's going on in your life," Eustachy said at a press conference this afternoon on the Southern Mississippi campus in Hattiesburg.

"I hit rock bottom with nobody to blame but myself. You can go one way or another....I am a recovering alcoholic and it's constant maintenance. It's constant work. But where I find myself now, I've never felt better."

Southern Mississippi athletic director Richard Giannini said there was no question the coaching job came at "the right time in the life of Larry Eustachy. It's the right time to have him as our coach."

Eustachy coached Iowa State to Big 12 Conference titles in 2000 and 2001. His 2000 team reached the round of eight in the NCAA tournament.

The AP said Tim Floyd helped Eustachy get the job. Eustachy replaced Floyd as Iowa State's coach.

Floyd, now coach of the New Orleans Hornets of the NBA, said, "It was very easy to say good things" about Eustachy.

Floyd said Southern Miss has picked a winner as its coach.

"You don't win like he does unless you do it all," Floyd said.

Eustachy replaces James Green, a former assistant to Floyd at Iowa State, as Southern Mississippi's coach. Green's team finished 13-15 this past season and lost five of its last six games in his eighth season.

Alford Loses Another Player

Iowa basketball coach Steve Alford, who has a habit of seeing players leave his program, has lost another one.

Ben Rand, a 6-6 freshman guard, said today he will leave Iowa at the end of the spring semester. Rand, a native of Rochelle, Ill., has not decided where he will enroll.

"I have truly enjoyed my year at the University of Iowa and loved being a part of Hawkeye basketball," Rand said. "But the roster has changed since the time I made my commitment to Coach Alford and the Iowa program. I will seek to find a program where I can be a major contributor following a redshirt season.

"From my perspective as a high school senior, it appeared Pierre Pierce would be a senior next season. And Adam Haluska, with three years of eligibility, was not in the picture. With Pierre, Adam and Jeff (Horner), the guard depth in this program for the next few years is outstanding. I wish nothing but success for the coaching staff and my Iowa teammates."

Haluska sat out the 2003-2004 season after transferring from Iowa State.

Rand played in 19 games as a freshman. He scored a career-high five points in a victory over North Carolina-Asheville and had four rebounds and three assists in a home victory over Penn State.

"We hate to see Ben leave," Alford said. "He's a great student and he was a valuable member of our squad this past season. I respect his decision. Ben understands he would have to be very patient for playing time. I appreciate his work ethic throughout the year. I have told Ben we will do all we can to assist in finding the best situation for him to continue his college career."

Is Keady Leaving Purdue?

Has Gene Keady had enough at Purdue?

Or has Purdue had enough of Keady?

Maybe some of both.

At 67, the guy with the strange hair and the ever-present scowl, has interviewed for the coaching job at the University of San Francisco. reported today that Keady interviewed with San Francisco athletic director Bill Hogan on Tuesday.

Keady is Purdue's all-time winningest coach with a 505-249 record in 24 seasons. However, things have not gone well lately. The Boilermakers have failed to make the NCAA tournament in three of the last four seasons. They were 17-14 overall and 7-9 in the Big Ten this season.

Vol. 4, No. 227
March 25, 2004

34 A.J. Johnson 6-0 234 So. Bolingbrook, IL (HS)
3 * Ma’Quan Dawkins 5-9 164 So. Bridgeton, NJ (HS)
8 James Townsend 6-1 183 So. Delran, NJ (Holy Cross)


Wednesday, March 24, 2004

Larry, We'll Miss You at Lunch

Larry, we'll miss you.

At the Wednesday lunches, I mean.

I just noticed that Andy Katz of says you're going to be named the head basketball coach at Southern Mississippi tomorrow.

I'm happy for you, but also a bit disappointed that you won't be around to join Buck, Raff, Dave, me and the rest of the guys at our lunch group in West Des Moines.

Some folks might say we're going to miss you because you always picked up the tab for the whole table when you were still collecting your paychecks at Iowa State but, heck, we offered to buy your Chinese lunch the next time you showed up. At least that's what I told your attorney.

Katz said Eustachy, who was fired as the Cyclones' coach 10 months ago, will be named the head coach at Southern Mississippi to replace James Green, who resigned March 5. Green is a former Iowa State assistant coach.

Southern Mississippi athletic director Richard Giannini called other candidates today to tell them Eustachy was getting the job. A news conference is planned for 3 p.m. tomorrow.

Eustachy said he was an alcoholic when he left Iowa State, and has been dealing with the problem since leaving as the Cyclones' coach.

No Way the Cyclones Can Lose, Right?

Hey, New York, are you ready for the Cyclones?

I doubt there's any way Wayne Morgan and his Iowa State team can screw this one up now.

The Cyclones play Marquette at 8:30 p.m. tomorrow in the NIT at sold-out Hilton Coliseum, and I'm betting they'll win and then be on their way to Madison Square Garden in New York for the rest of the tournament.

If the Clones can win at Florida State, they can beat Marquette at Ames.

This is one of the biggest moments in Iowa State basketball history, and I don't expect Jake Sullivan and the gang to miss out on the opportunity.

Parker and Campbell

My eastern Iowa sources tell me that John Campbell of KCRG-TV in Cedar Rapids did a wonderful job with a feature about Jeff Parker, 33, who died the other day in Iowa City.

Parker was the son of Norm Parker, the defensive coordinator on Iowa's football team.

"In John Campbell's piece, he showed Jeff with his dad at Kinnick Stadium and showed him in the locker room leading the football players in the Iowa Fight Song.," a reader tells me.

"He had Kirk Ferentz saying some nice things about him. Greg Morris, the equipment manager, talked about what a great help he was and how happy he always was. It was a nice tribute to Jeff."

Jeff, who had Down's Syndrome, had suffered a number of strokes recently and died Saturday as a result of the strokes.

He counted Michigan football coach Lloyd Carr, former Michigan State football coach George Perles, Michigan State basketball coach Tom Izzo, former Spartans and Los Angeles Lakers standout Magic Johnson and former major league baseball manager Sparky Anderson as his friends.

"We're all deeply saddened by the loss of Jeff," Ferentz said. "Jeff was truly a part of our football family, and there wasn't a person connected with Iowa football that he hasn't touched."

Ferentz attended the visitation Tuesday and the funeral services today in Chelsea, Mich.

Vol. 4, No. 226
March 24, 2004

Wednesday, March 17, 2004

The Clock Was Ticking

The clock was down to its last few ticks today at the Bradley Center in Milwaukee.

A decision had to be made.

What would Northern Iowa – trailing Georgia Tech, 63-60, in a heart-stopping first round NCAA game – choose to do?

Go to Ben Jacobson, who had left his “A” game somewhere outside the arena, for the game-tying three-point field goal?

Or go to, say, senior David Gruber, who was pouring his guts out and again playing with a broken left wrist in what turned out to be the final game of his collegiate career?

Maybe Gruber, an undersized 6-6 center, could drill a two-pointer, get fouled, make the free throw and tie the game at 63-63 that way.

The decision, naturally, would be made by Coach Greg McDermott, architect of UNI’s dream season.

And, for McDermott, it was a no-brainer.

“We decided to go for the ‘three’ and tried to tie it,” McDermott said on his postgame radio show. “Had we had a timeout left, we probably would have taken a quick ‘two’ and then jumped into our press.

“We thought we had a play that would work, but then our timing was a little bit off and we didn’t get as clean a look as we wanted.”

McDermott said there was no question Jacobson, even though he had a terrible offensive day, would be the designated shooter.

“Even though Ben was struggling shooting the basketball, he was the guy we were going to go to,” McDermott explained. “He thrives on those situations and he had some shots go in and out today. But we wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t for Ben Jacobson.”

Jacobson, a 6-3 sophomore guard, came into the game with a 14.1-point scoring average. But he made only two baskets in 14 attempts and scored nine points today.

On his final shot, he had to make an off-balance attempt. Some off-balance shots work for guys in pressure situations. Some don’t.

Jacobson’s didn’t.

So it was not to be for the Panthers, who lost, 65-60, and closed their season with a 21-10 record. As the 14th seed, they turned in a courageous performance against a Georgia Tech team from the Atlantic Coast Conference that is seeded No. 3 and now has a 24-9 record.

It didn’t take long for UNI to become the darling of the announced crowd of 18,866. The Panthers took an early 7-2 lead, later fell behind by 17 points, but outscored Georgia Tech, 15-2, at the start of the second half to take a 42-41 lead.

“It was a great effort by our guys of executing a plan,” McDermott said. “Our guys showed, collectively, what a team effort can do.”

McDermott said he told his players afterward, “If I have to lose, I’m glad it’s with you guys. It’s been an unbelievable ride, and I’ve enjoyed every minute of it.

“Coaching David Gruber and Matt Schneiderman has been an honor. They’ve certainly been the cornerstones of this program.”

Gruber and Schneiderman are both seniors. Gruber, who was averaging 11.9 points and 6.9 rebounds while battling centers who are much bigger, has been playing with a broken bone in his left wrist in recent weeks.

But nothing could keep him from playing in the final stages of the Missouri Valley Conference season and the postseason tournament, which UNI won in St. Louis.

Gruber led both teams in scoring today with 16 points while playing 36 of the game’s 40 minutes. He also had five rebounds. Schneiderman scored 15 points for a UNI team that shot only 38.9 percent to 45.5 percent for Georgia Tech.

All in all, it was a tremendous performance for the Panthers. They don’t settle for moral victories any more than any other team, but there was no reason for any of them to feel badly.

It’s obvious McDermott has something going in Cedar Falls. I hope he sticks around to coach UNI to many more NCAA tournament appearances.

Bush League TV Decision by UNI

Although McDermott’s UNI team turned in a class performance in the NCAA tournament, the same can’t be said for the school’s sports information office.

That was clearly demonstrated when UNI denied media credentials to Des Moines TV stations WHO and KCCI for the tournament in Milwaukee.

“It’s true,” said Keith Murphy, sports director at WHO-TV. “When UNI denied us media credentials, we made other plans immediately.

“I think UNI was taking an NCAA rule literally. It says you must cover 90 percent of a team’s home games. But as you know, there’s no way Des Moines stations can send a person to that many UNI games that are played two hours away when Iowa State, Iowa and Drake often play on the same nights at the same time.

“However, we cover all games with scores and highlights. Heck, we don’t send someone to 90 percent of Iowa’s games either because we can pull highlights off satellite. But we’ve never been denied credentials for the NCAA tourney or a football bowl game.”

Those familiar with the situation say it’s totally up to each university on which stations receive credentials.

So, in my estimation, this was a bush league decision by UNI.

It Looks Like NIT Is Saying Adios to ISU

Anybody else got the feeling that the NIT really doesn’t want Iowa State to win any more games?

Iowa State sold more than 12,000 tickets for Wednesday night’s victory over Georgia. So what did it get the Cyclones?

A trip to Tallahassee, Fla.

If the NIT were interested in the Cyclones, why would it have sent them there for a 6 p.m. game next Tuesday against Florida State?


Wednesday, March 10, 2004

The 90-Hour-a-Week Man Mike Rickord

Mike Rickord was hurrying through his soup-and-salad lunch at Murphy’s Law on 100th.

But that didn’t surprise me.

Mike Rickord is always hurrying.

"I’d estimate I work 90 hours a week," he said.

Something tells me he wasn’t counting the hours accurately. I’m betting his work week goes into triple digits.

Rickord, 47, has been publishing the monthly Local Sports Connection tabloid since 1999. He not only oversees the writing in the newspaper, but he sells the advertising, too.

Rickord also does a lot of radio work and publishes other tabloids such as The Iowa Sportsman, which caters to those who like to fish, hunt and spend time in boats, and The Assembly, which features high school entertainment, athletics and academics.

I’ve been writing a column in each issue of The Local Sports Connection since 1999, but I’m not here today to talk at length about Rickord’s tabloids. I’m here to tell you about his second Sports Carnival, which will be held Saturday and Sunday at the Knapp Center at 27th and Forest in Des Moines.

"The purpose of the carnival is to provide an opportunity for sports fans and their families to rub elbows with the peewees to the preps to the pros," Rickord said. "We’ve hand-picked some National Football League players who went to high school in Iowa."

Among the NFL players scheduled to appear are Eddie Berlin, Jared DeVries, Billy Cundiff, Justin Hartwig, Mar Tay Jenkins, Sage Rosenfels and J. J. Moses.

"It’s not an autograph session," Rickord said. "It’s an opportunity for kids to see that, hey, if you work your tail off you might be another Eddie Berlin from Urbandale, who went to UNI and now is with the Tennessee Titans.

"You might be Justin Hartwig from Valley High School, who Iowa and Iowa State didn’t even look at. But he played at Kansas and now he’s with the Titans."

The hours for the Sports Carnival are 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Saturday and noon to 5 p.m. on Sunday.


Thank goodness Jim Harrick Sr. and Jim Harrick Jr. are long-gone from the men’s basketball coaching staff at the University of Georgia.

But, unfortunately, some memories still linger.

Like the final exam Harrick Jr. gave to students in his Coaching Principles and Strategies of Basketball course in the fall of 2001 at Georgia.

The AP sent the questions Harrick Jr. had on the exam, and my friend George Wine forwarded them to me. The Harricks were dismissed from Georgia after last season.

Here’s a copy of the test put together by Harrick Jr.:

How many goals are on a basketball court?

How many players are allowed to play at one time on any one team in a regulation game?

In what league do the Georgia Bulldogs compete?
Big Ten
Pac 10

What is the name of the coliseum where the Georgia Bulldogs play?
Cameron Indoor Arena
Stegeman Coliseum
Carrier Dome
Pauley Pavilion

How many halves are in a college basketball game?

How many quarters are in a high school basketball game?

How many points does one field goal account for in a basketball game?

How many points does a 3-point field goal account for in a basketball game?

How many officials referee a college basketball game?

How many teams are in the NCAA men’s basketball national championship tournament?

What is the name of the exam which all high school seniors in the state of Georgia must pass?
Eye Exam
How Do the Grits Taste Exam
Bag Control Exam
Georgia Exit Exam

What basic color are the uniforms the Georgia Bulldogs wear in home games?

What basic color are the uniforms the Georgia Bulldogs wear in away games?

How many minutes are played in a college basketball contest?

How many minutes are played in a high school basketball game?

Diagram the 3-point line

Diagram the half-court line

How many fouls is a player allowed to have in one basketball game before fouling out in the game?

If you go on to become a huge coaching success, to whom will you attribute the credit?
Mike Krzyzewski
Bobby Knight
John Wooden
Jim Harrick Jr.

In your opinion, who is the best Division I assistant coach in the country?
Ron Jursa
John Pelphrey
Jim Harrick Jr.
Steve Wojciechowski

*Source: University of Georgia


David P. Mumm, senior pastor at Mount Olive Lutheran Church in Des Moines and a frequent contributor to this column, sent this e-mail:

Hi, Ron,

I just read your column which included the wonderful story about the priest and Bubba. It reminded me of another story involving ol’ Bubba.

Seems Bubba and his buddies were dipping into the shine a little too much one night. As they walked home, they stumbled into a cemetery. They sauntered along for a little while and one of the group said, "Look, there’s ol’ Billy Bob’s grave. Says he was 85 years old, God rest his soul." They paused and paid their respects.

A little while later, they came to another grave and one of them said, "There’s ol’ Buddy’s grave. Says he was 95 years old. God rest his soul." Again, they paused and paid respects.

A little while later, the third member of this illustrious group, not to be outdone by the others, said, "Look, here’s the grave of someone and it says he was 145."

The others responded, "That’s incredible. Whose grave is it?"

They lit a match and looked at the writing. It said, "Miles from Atlanta."

Vol. 4, No. 14
March 10, 2004

Monday, March 08, 2004

Wrong Season for Website

I hate to say it, but the guys running the website picked the wrong season to do it.

It ain’t going to happen for a while.

The firing I mean.

Not after Iowa’s basketball team finished with a 9-7 record in the Big Ten – the best in Alford’s five seasons in the conference. Not after he had a 16-11 regular-season record despite playing most of it with only seven scholarship players.

The way I look at it, Alford is doing his best coaching job this season. However, I think he’s going to need not just one, but at least two victories in the upcoming Big Ten postseason tournament to get the Hawkeyes a spot in the NCAA tournament.

If it’s one-and-done at Indianapolis, figure Iowa will again go to the NIT, where it will eventually be matched up against Iowa State.


Speaking of, it’s sad to see my friend Randy Peterson getting raked over the coals on that website.

Peterson, a veteran reporter who has written about everything from high schools to bowling to collegiate sports, made an attempt at explaining the Alford situation in a recent story in the local paper.

But the site ripped him with something called The Crawford Column. The piece was headlined "Dissecting the Fluff."

It said:

"Many of you by now have read the Des Moines Register article on Coach Alford with the caption, ‘He’ll be back.’ And I’m sure like me most of you are astonished that the pro-Alford article was written by Randy Peterson….yes, that’s sarcasm. The article is almost laughable and portrays Alford as a victim of poor luck. I couldn’t let this absolute cover-up of the facts go unnoticed and let the athletic department and Bob Bowlsby try and pull the wool over your eyes…."

The column goes on to poke holes in what was said and written about Alford in the local paper.


Back to Iowa State’s basketball team for a minute.

After a promising start, it turned out to be a disappointing first season with the Cyclones for Coach Wayne Morgan.

Iowa State got off to a 7-0 start and won 11 of its first 13 games, but then caved in during the Big 12 season. Overall, the Cyclones take a 16-11 record into their conference postseason game Thursday in Dallas against Kansas State.

The thing that made the season such a travesty was that Iowa State went 0-8 on the road in the Big 12, and now has lost its last 25 conference games away from home. The Cyclones should have done much better with such veterans as seniors Jackson Vroman and Jake Sullivan and freshmen Curtis Stinson and Will Blalock.


For years, I’ve been wondering about the wisdom of Iowa, Iowa State and other major colleges using female students loosely referred to as "recruiters" to help football prospects make up their minds on where they’ll continue their education.

Now, after this mess in Iowa City involving a high school quarterback from Kansas whom Iowa didn’t even get and a University of Iowa female student he says he had sex with, I’m really starting to wonder about the sense of it all.

I don’t know if the woman was one of Iowa’s designated "recruiters" or not, but even if she wasn’t, why are any major colleges involved with having coeds available to help prospects decide where they want to play football?

The women are pictured in game-day programs that are sold to fans on some college campuses.

I’d like to know what’s expected of the women when they are assigned to "recruit" high school and junior college players. And I’d like to know all of their responsibilities with the football program.


This e-mail is from former Iowan Al Schallau, who now lives in California:


When will college basketball referees realize that a regulation game is 40 minutes long? A game is NOT 39 minutes and 50 seconds long.

Everyone with the gift of sight has observed that college basketball referees just "swallow the whistle" for the last 10 seconds of every game. A player can be dismembered in the act of shooting and no fouls will be called.

The "no call" at the end of Sunday’s game between Ohio State and Illinois was one of the worst officiating "non-decisions" that I have ever seen. The Buckeyes’ player was hammered as he went up for a last-second shot in the paint. It doesn’t bother me that Ohio State lost, but I would really like to see the referees work the entire game.

[COMMENT: I wasn’t able to watch the game because I went to see the movie "Miracle." I guess some Illinois fans might be calling it a miracle that the Fighting Illinois survived the no-call. Right or wrong, it’s an unwritten rule that the officials forget to blow their whistles in those final few seconds. And Illinois coach Bruce Weber says, "Thank you." By the way, retired Iowa sports information director George Wine agreed with Schallau’s comment on the no-call. "You are right about the no-call at Columbus," Wine said in an e-mail to Schallau. "If you watched Iowa’s win at Purdue Saturday, you saw some awful calls in the first 39 minutes. It was getting very close to another Jim Bain fiasco."]


The following is a column I originally wrote for the February edition of the Local Sports Connection. After you read it, check out the e-mail that follows.

You’ve heard all the names.

Willie McCarter and Willie Wise. Dolph Pulliam and Al Williams. Don Draper and Rick Wanamaker.

And, oh, yes.

Dave Wicklund.

Dave Who?

You’re right, Dave Wicklund wasn’t exactly a household name in the golden age of Drake basketball.

This was little Dave, the kid with the floppy hair who looked like a choir boy.

Little Dave, who could be mistaken for the team manager.

He wasn’t pulling a Rick Wanamaker and blocking Lew Alcindor’s shot in the NCAA tournament.

He wasn’t pulling a Willie McCarter and scoring 25 points in a key Missouri Valley Conference game.

He wasn’t pulling a Dolph Pulliam and making a sensational defensive stop or taking a theatrical flop and drawing a foul.

But Dave Wicklund did make a very big basket on a sensational and surprising play in a very big Valley game one Saturday afternoon in 1971 against Louisville.

I was there for the game. I remember it vividly.

I remember Wicklund’s excitement. I remember fans wondering if maybe….just maybe…..Drake had another team of destiny in what turned out to be Maury John’s last season as the Bulldogs’ coach.

I remember the big banner headline over my story in the Sunday Register the next day that said: DRAKE HERO: SUB WICKLUND!

Whether I remembered it or not, it was fun having Wicklund describe it when he was talking about a time when Drake basketball and big-time success were synonymous.

This was the scene on Jan. 23, 1971 at Veterans Memorial Auditorium, where Drake then played its home games. Two seconds remained in the game against Louisville. Face it, that really wasn’t enough time for the Bulldogs to set up a play under their own basket that might win the game.

But Maury John had a plan. He always did.

"Coach called us over," the 6-foot Wicklund explained. "We had practiced this play forever.

"Coach said, ‘OK, Wicklund, you’re going to shoot the ball.’

"And generally the play called for Jeff Halliburton to throw the ball to about the other team’s free throw line so I could shoot it from there if I had the time.

"But this time I had to catch up to the ball. And I went in for the layup that won the game."

Wicklund admitted he didn’t even know if the shot was successful because he was knocked to the floor.

"I was worrying about making the free throws," he admitted.

Wicklund was fouled on the play, but didn’t shoot the free throw that gave Drake an 81-78 victory until several minutes after the team had transferred its celebration from the court to the locker room. Someone had to finally tell him to go back onto the court.

The field goal was Wicklund’s only one of the game. Just as important, of course, was the football-style pass Halliburton fired to him nearly the full length of the court.

"Louisville wasn’t expecting it," Wicklund said. "And Jeff played a fabulous game."

I also recall what Wicklund told me when I asked him about the play 33 years ago.

"I’ve been dreaming about it for 21 years," he said.

Dreams weren’t fulfilled often in those days for 6-footers who spent most of their time on the bench.

Wicklund was one of a rare breed in 1971.

He was one of only three Drake players to be members of all three of John’s NCAA teams—the 1968-69 squad that went 26-5, almost beat UCLA in the Final Four and finished third nationally; the 1969-70 squad that went 22-7 and finished second in the Midwest Regional at Lawrence, Kan., and the 1970-71 squad that went 21-8 and finished second in the Midwest Regional at Wichita, Kan.

"The other two players who were in all three NCAAs were Jim Nordrum and Al Sakys," said Wicklund, who played his high school basketball at Abraham Lincoln of Council Bluffs.

"I remember my role on the 1968-69 team. Coach told me, ‘You’ve got to keep these guys working hard. So I tried to help out."

Help out he did. In a big-time way.

[Here’s the e-mail I received from a Central Iowa man after this column appeared in the Local Sports Connection: "Nice story in the Sports Connection. As a season ticketholder in those days, I will never forget the moment. I am sure you know, but it would have been fun to tell today’s readers the importance of the free throw after the melee. Drake was favored by two in the game. When Dave made the ‘meaningless free throw,’ those who bet on Louisville lost their shirt."]


And finally, I received an e-mail from a reader who was making fun of the local paper for calling syndicated movie columnist Roger Ebert, who writes for the Chicago Sun-Times, a "Register Staff Writer" recently.

Hey, does it surprise you? It’s no wonder the copy editors refer to Ebert as a staffer. He’s in the paper more often than a lot of the people who work there.

The same e-mail had something about My Very Good Friend and My Very Good Friend’s Wife in it, too. The e-mailer wasn’t kind to either person.

Vol. 4, No. 13
March 8, 2004