With Christmas just around the corner, Santa is quite busy readying his reindeer, organizing his lists, and motivating his elves to work just a little harder, just a little faster. So in an effort to help the bearded one, I've taken the reindeer by the antlers, and put together a list of those who have been naughty and been nice during this past year. While not an exhaustive list, it should at least help put Santa on the right track of who's deserving of a very merry Christmas and who deserves to spend The Season in Antarctica, counting ice chips.
So readers, enjoy, and feel free to add your own thoughts on who's been naughty and who's been nice in 2010.
Nice -- Pitt head coach Jamie Dixon: Back in October, Dixon risked life and limb to help motorists who had just been in a horrific car accident. Good Samaritans are hard to come by, but one can be found in Pittsburgh. He tops the 2010 "Nice List."
Naughty -- (Some) University of Washington Huskie fans: This, for chanting "liar" whenever UK's Terrence Jones touched the ball in the UK vs. UW game in Maui. The geniuses in the Great Northwest seemed to have forgotten that at least one of their own players reneged on a verbal commitment to attend a different school. Never mind the fact that Jones was an 18-year old high school kid when he made his error in judgment. It's now, quite obvious, Mr. Jones taking his considerable talents to Lexington was the right move ... and really, was there ever any doubt?
Nice -- Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski: Coach K rode the NCAA Selection Committee's less-than-challenging tournament bracket to his fourth national title. And furthermore, he continues to do it the right way (no sanctions, no scandals). I know, 'Cat fans, that's hard to swallow, but the truth is sometimes tough to deal with.
Naughty -- Tennessee coach Bruce Pearl: Pearl hosted the now infamous barbecue for an accumulation of junior recruits, which of course ran contrary to NCCA bylaws. Making matters worse than they should be (isn't that what a cover-up always does), he lied about the event to the NCAA, and asked the recruits, and the parents of the recruits, to do likewise. And of course, there's those pesky impermissable phone calls ...
Nice -- Tennessee coach Bruce Pearl: Even with a whirlwind of sanctions awaiting him and his program (to go along with an eight-game suspension dished out by SEC commish Mike Slive), Pearl has focused his team on the matter at hand, mainly playing winning basketball. Considering the distractions, the bad press, and a challenging early season schedule, Pearl has this group of Volunteers playing defense, and making shots. Pearl has to be the early leader for National Coach of the Year.
Naughty -- Florida coach Billy Donovan: Is he worth the king's ransom the Gators are paying him? I think not ... at least not until his teams learn that defending is just as important as putting the ball through the hoop. A fact Donovan has struggled to convey to his Gator teams (save '06 & '07) since he took the job in 1996.
Naughty -- Daniel Orton: Instead of playing in the NBA's D League, Orton could be leading the 'Cats in blocked shots, rebounding, and in-the-lane baby hooks. Although we wish Orton only the best, it's hard not to think about the what-could-have-beens.
Nice -- Butler head coach Brad "I'm perpetually 25" Stevens: Stevens and his mid-major Bulldogs took Duke to the brink of extinction, before succumbing to the Blue Devils on a missed trey try in the final seconds of the national title tilt back in April. Stevens' recruiting -- he dipped into Wildcat country to nab Shelvin Mack -- and solid bench coaching have propelled Butler into the national conversation. Keeping them there will be just as difficult.
Naughty -- Kansas coach Bill Self: Self took the most talented team during the 2010 season and lost in the Second Round of the NCAA Tournament to a team (Northern Iowa) absent any player capable of starting for the Jayhawks. And it isn't the first time ...
Nice -- John Wall, DeMarcus Cousins, Eric Bledsoe, Patrick Patterson, Perry Stevenson, Daniel Orton, and Ramon Harris: These former Kentucky standouts are chiefly responsible for bringing UK basketball back to the forefront of the college basketball universe. Relevancy is everything to Kentucky fans, and these players made the most storied basketball program in the nation relevant once again.
Naughty -- Louisville head coach Rick Pitino: Really, do I need to expound?
Nice -- Louisville head coach Rick Pitino: All Pitino has done this season is take a team lacking in heralded athletes and convinced them they are actually pretty good. Sound familiar? Sitting undefeated at 8-0 (and ranked No. 20/21 in the polls), and with an impressive home win against a good UNLV team, Pitino is once again working his underdog magic. Whether said magic holds up in the rugged Big East remains to be seen (is it really that rugged, though?), but so far, so good for those unfortunate Card lovers.
Naughty -- The NCAA: Can a brother get a ruling?
Naughty -- Connecticut basketball coach Jim Calhoun: Calhoun's UConn program was cited for eight violations by the NCAA this past year -- Impermissible phone calls and text messages, giving recruits improper benefits, improperly distributing game tickets to AAU and high school coaches, and Calhoun himself was cited for failing to promote an atmosphere of compliance. Naughty, indeed.
Nice -- UConn guard Kemba Walker: Kid's got game all day long.
Nice -- ESPN's Dick Vitale and CBS Sports/Sports Illustrated's Seth Davis: For their steadfast defense of UK coach John Calipari. Even in the face of an onslaught of national media criticism of Calipari and his "tactics," Vitale and Davis had the good sense to see the "bullhockey" for what it was. An attack on a successful coach who takes chances, but operates within the boundaries of NCAA rules. Kudos to them both.
Nice -- Kentucky coach John Calipari: All Calipari has done, in roughly 20 months on the job, is re-establish UK as a basketball power, after four years in purgatory. He's recruited three No. 1 recruiting classes in a row, taken his young 'Cats to the Elite Eight (a first for UK since 2005), and positioned himself to win, and win big over the coming decade. His energy and enthusiasm for Kentucky, and for fans of the 'Cats, fits the profile of a man destined for greatness in the Bluegrass.
Extra Nice -- Kentucky coach John Calipari: This for him spearheading the Hoops for Haiti fundraiser in support of the Haitian people after a January earthquake devastated the already impoverished island nation. Calipari's efforts, along with the generous donations of UK fans around the world, raised over 1.2 million dollars for the relief effort -- A Hat Tip to A Sea of Blue member JLeverenz for reminding me of the Hoops for Haiti cause.
Happy Holidays Big Blue Nation!! And for my CoachCal.com Christmas wish list for out Boys in Blue, go here.
Thanks for reading and Go 'Cats!