Friday, January 30, 2009

Felton out...

Well, as expected, the Dennis Felton era came to an end in January 2009. He extended his reign over the UGA hoops program for an extra 10 months by winning the SEC Tournament Title last season on Tech's court. However, a dismal 2008-2009 season was enough for AD Damon Evans and Felton was relieved of his duties on Thursday morning. Felton stepped in to a tough situation, but had plenty of time to turn around the program and it did not look to be headed in the right direction. He is a good man and a good coach, but the time to move on was now for UGA...

Now that we have the firing behind us, lets take a look at who may be next in line. Evans said in his press conference that he wanted to make a "big splash" and "money is not an issue." If this is the case, Evans should be able to attract a pretty big name to Athens with the talent base in Georgia. As discussed a few weeks ago here, the lack of keeping the big-time local talent in-state was one of the big downfalls for Coach Felton. Just take a look at the team UGA could have had this season if Felton had only recruited 2 high schools in GA, Wheeler and Norcross.

PG - Sharaud Curry (Providence - 10.7, 4.5, 2.0) / JT Tiller (Missouri - 7.5, 3.1, 3.1)
SG - Jodie Meeks (Kentucky - 25.8, 3.7, 1.7) / Tony Neysmith (Auburn - RS)
SF - Jordan DeMercy (Florida St - 3.8, 3.4, 2.1) / DeQuan Jones (Miami - 3.4, 3.1, 2.1)
PF - Al-Farouq Aminu (Wake Forest - 12.8, 8.7, 2.0) / Dan Emerson (Mercer - 13.8, 10.6, 2.2)
C - Gani Lawal (GT - 15.6, 10.4) / BeJay Corley (Mercer - 2.5, 2.3)

This team would not only be a NCAA tournament team, but a national title contender. I know it was not possible to recruit all these guys to UGA, but it shows the level of talent around the metro Atlanta area. The next coach needs to have a strong recruiting background and a knowledge of Metro Atlanta AAU and HS hoops.

Word is the dream candidate is Jeff Capel at Oklahoma. This would be a fine choice, but I can't see Capel leaving/Oklahoma letting him leave. OU would match whatever UGA was willing to offer to keep him in Norman and the job is a lateral move at best. Lon Kruger and Tubby Smith have been mentioned, but I don't think either is a good fit.

Here is a list of the top 5 guys I would contact, in order of least to most desireable...

5) Sean Miller - Xaver - Miller may not be interested in moving to a rebuilding job but is an excellent coach with a resume that includes deep runs in the NCAA tournament.

4) Anthony Grant - VCU - Grant coached in the SEC for 12 years under Billy Donovan and has successfully recruited Georgia for even longer. Has had some success at VCU, but I am not sure how much of that is solely because of Eric Maynor.

3) Scott Drew- Baylor - Drew has proven he can build a program and is the son of another good coach in Homer Drew. May be looking for another challenge now that he has successfully rebuilt the Bears. Lutheran

2) Mike Anderson - Missouri - A guy that came up in the SEC (Arkansas) and plays the style of ball that would require the type of athlete that GA produces. Has recruited the state before and may be intrigued at the opportunity to come back to the SEC and get paid. Would require a huge salary, but would bring energy and excitement back to the program (a la Bruce Pearl).

1) Mike Davis - UAB - Davis had success at Indiana, going to the National Championship game in 2002. However, no one was going to be happy with the successor to the legendary Bob Knight. Having been at UAB for a few years now, he is familiar with GA and is an excellent recruiter. Plus, he provides the best option to "win now." That's because super-recruit DeMarcus Cousins has said that he wants to play for Davis, but not at UAB. Alabama has a coaching vacancy as well and may try and hire Davis, but if they don't, I say go for it. Cousins and Thompkins inside next season make UGA an instant threat in the SEC. Instant success will cause more local players to jump on board. While Davis is not the best X's and O's guy, if you have players like the local ones listed above, almost any competent coach can compete for titles.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Atlanta Sports Talk Radio...

By request, today's blog will break down the different local sports talk radio shows and what I think can be improved at each of the local stations (680 & 790). There has been a pretty big shake-up the past 6 months, so now that everyone has begun to settle into their new roles, lets take a look at what we have. This will only be the local guys, so Cowherd and Patrick were not considered...

5) Brandon and Woolvey - 790, 11-1 - These 2 guys do a pretty good job overall. Sometimes, the topic is pushed on the listener too much and we end up with half the show becoming a debate over whether Michigan or Tennessee is a better football "program" while arguing about what aspects of the "program" should have the most weight. These shows are unlistenable and happen every now and then. They do know their stuff and can weigh in most topics intelligently, but they lack the on-air personality to make this one of the top shows on local radio.

4) Buck and Kincade - Pretty good show when they are interviewing someone like Herbstreit or Mortenson. Give decent interviews and seem to get good guests that are entertaining. Biggest problem with this show is the format of "I will take this side, you take the other" where some pretty outrageous arguments are taken to induce callers. When Kincade is on his own doing his ESPN show, he is great. I love that show. But, for some reason (helps ratings?), his show with Buck brings out an annoying side that can be quite bothersome. Buck is OK and gives some good football insight, but he plays the sarcasm card too much.

3) Pollack and Bell - Made it this high on the list solely because of Mike Bell. He does great radio and when he was on Mayhem it was the best show on the radio. Bell is just a solid sports radio personality and personally carries this show. Pollack is new to the business and it shows sometimes, but he may have some potential - too early to tell.

2) Mayhem in the AM - Cellini and Dimino used to have the best show in Atlanta sports talk radio when they hosted the Bottom Line. There is still some of that good chemistry, but Steak is involved way too much these days. Those 2 need to be left alone and when Steak and his ego get on the air, it messes up the show. The idea that this show is for "guys" and the talk about late night clubs, hangovers, etc went out the window when Mike Bell left. Still a good show with solid guests and decent banter. May take a hit this summer with Leo Mazzone signing on with 680.

1) Chuck & Chernoff - Was one of the best shows when they were on 790, and they continue to be good on 680. They have a great combination of humor and sports knowledge and feed well off of each other. This is the only show I have ever called. They always seem to have interesting topics and they know their stuff as well as anyone. I wish they could have brought Win Chuck's Lunch with them down the dial.

There was a time 3-4 years ago that I never listened to any of the 680 local guys. Jamie Dukes, Perry, and Rude in the morning was horrendous and Buck and Kincade went up against Dimino and Cellini. Even when Cowherd was on, who I like, he was up against 790's duo of Chuck and Chernoff. The tide has certainly changed in 680's favor and even Mazzone has be a little intrigued to check out the 680 morning show. Hopefully, 790 will get their act together and step up their game soon...

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Super Saturday...

What a slate of college basketball games today. You can start off early with the best conference in the country and watch Syracuse vs Notre Dame, then tune in for Georgetown and Duke's non-conference battle and unbeaten Wake vs unbeaten Clemson - and watch all before dinner. Tonight, UNC faces a pretty good Miami squad at 9 and Louisville faces the other unbeaten team in Pitt.

Not much good action locally, though, with struggling UGA and GT playing meaningless conference games. Georgia State has never got it going this year and Kennesaw State was blown out at home last night by Stetson. Why is it that the local teams never seem to be able to get it going? It is known around the country that Georgia is a premier state for basketball prospects. According to, there are 12 players in the top 150 in the country who play high school ball in Georgia. While GT has done a good job getting a group of these players, most of them are leaving the state.

#38 Noel Johnson - USC
#43 Lorenzo Brown - NC St
#51 Richard Howell - NC St
#53 Ari Stewart - Wake
#61 Kenny Hall - Tennessee
#74 Andre Malone - Auburn
#96 Shawn Kemp - Alabama
#125 Terrance Shannon - FSU

While Paul Hewitt has snagged some of the top players in the state over the years (Lawal, Clinch, Aminu, Crittenton), he has also successfully recruited top out of state players Thaddeous Young and Chris Bosh. Top-tier NBA calibur talent has produced enough wins in Hewitt's career to keep his job somewhat safe. Dennis Felton, however, has seen his time run out.

The Felton tenure did produce some good things, like an emphasis on discipline and "cleaning up" of Jim Harrick's mess as well as the SEC Tourney championship on Tech's court. However, he has had plenty of time to turn UGA into what UGA people believe is the right direction. The lack of recruiting top in-state players can not be overlooked. Trey Thompkins was a great pick-up, but he needs more help. Bringing in second tier players like Demario Mayfield and Daniel Miller next year is not acceptable. Did Felton put all of his eggs in the Derrick Favors basket? Maybe, but by not getting him, his gamble will probably cost him his job.

I know some players, like Noel Johnson, are only interested in going to programs with up-tempo styles and a history of sending players to the NBA after a year or two. However, losing Andre Malone to Auburn and Terrance Shannon to Florida State is not acceptable. That is the calibur player UGA has to attract.

The top player in the class of 2010 is Trae Golden of McEachern, a former Ohio State commitment. UGA is in the hunt to land Golden, but Damon Evans will not be able to risk Felton striking out again on a top player. The Felton tenure will be remembered for the SEC title and the lack of landing enough premier players to compete in the rigors of an SEC schedule.

Don't get me wrong - I LOVE Zac Swansey, Travis Leslie, Albert Jackson, Jeremy Price, and the rest of the team. I can't wait for Demario Mayfield and Daniel Miller to show up on campus and show their stuff. I support the kids who are committed to the program and the university and want only the best for them, however; their leader for next season needs to change.

Who better to call for a replacement than former coach Tubby Smith? Would Tubby have any interest in coming back to the south and coach in the SEC again? He would have to be candidate #1. The new coach needs to be a veteran coach with a strong resume (Final 4 appearance) and not an up-and-comer. If Tubby is happy in Minnesota, I would call Lon Kruger at UNLV. He knows the state and the SEC and may be interested in coming back to this area of the country.

One thing is certain, the UGA hoops program needs a change at the top. This program should be in no fewer than 7 NCAA tournaments every 10 years with the in-state talent that is available. Maybe with a solid new coach, I can enjoy my college basketball Saturday's a little more because one of the top match-ups of the day will include a ranked Dawgs squad.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Hot Stove talk...

Lots of Braves fans are upset this week for several reasons. First, long-time Brave stud John Smoltz has left Atlanta for a larger contract in Boston. Should the Braves have made a stronger offer? Maybe, but we weren't getting into a bidding war to keep him. We certainly wanted him back at a fair price with incentives, but matching what the New York's and Boston's can offer was not an option. Smoltz was only going to stay if he gave the Braves a discount, and he apparantly did not want to do that.

Now, on to the '09 rotation. It is way too early to mail in the season already. While the Phils and Mets have already addressed roster issues, there is still time for Frank Wren to tweak the ATL roster. Right now, only Jair Jurrjens and Javy Vazquez are set in the rotation. Wren needs two more #2-#3 starters to make this rotation effective. According to Mark Bowman, several major league sources tell him that a deal for Ken Kawakami is already in place and he could take a physical as soon as Monday. For those of you who haven't seen Kawakami pitch, here is a clip...

Also, according to Dave O'Brien of the AJC, an offer for Derek Lowe will be on the table early next week. It will probably take at least 4 years to land Lowe, but the Braves need to make a splash soon to ensure their opening day rotation doesn't have names like Reyes, Morton, and Campillo in it.

If they end up spending the type of money it will take to land Kawakami and Lowe, a free agent outfielder like Adam Dunn would now be out of our price range. A trade would be more likely, and the Yankees are actively shopping Xavier Nady. While it may take a good bit to get Nady for a 1 year rental (Boras guy), he may give us the best chance to compete in '09. I would imagine one of our CF prospects (Hernandez) and a young pitcher or 2 (Locke, Morton) may be enough.

How many games would this team win in '09? Over/Under is set at 85

SP - Lowe
SP - Jurrjens
SP - Vazquez
SP - Kawakami
SP - Hanson/Campillo

RP - Gonzo
RP - Soriano
RP - Boyer
RP - Logan
RP - Moylan
RP - Bennett/Carlyle



UI - Infante
UI - Prado
UO - J. Anderson
UO - B. Jones
BC - Ross

Saturday, January 3, 2009

Best Draft Picks in ATL Sports History...

A perfect compliment to yesterday's blog, the draft picks that treated us ATL sports fans the best.

10. 2008, Falcons, #3, Matt Ryan - Will most likely be higher on this list in a few years, but right now he is still deserving of a spot in the top 10. Dare I say in 5 years this pick is #1? All it would take is a Super Bowl MVP...

9. 2004, Hawks, #17, Josh Smith - This pick makes the top 10 mostly because he was a high-risk local product that was very raw. Knight took a chance on him and he has blossomed into a consistent rebounder, solid scorer, and world-class shot blocker. Ended up being the 4th or 5th best player in the entire draft (Howard, D. Harris, Jefferson, Biedrens, Iggy).

8. 2002, Braves, #64, Brian McCann - The less heralded of the metro Atlanta HS studs that came out in 02 (Francoeur, Hermida), McCann already sets the standard offensively for catchers in all of baseball. A .297 career hitter, McCann came on the scene early, hitting a post-season home run off of Roger Clemens at only 21 years old.

7. 1974, Braves, #5, Dale Murphy - Murph had a great career for the Braves, twice winning the MVP and becoming the face of Atlanta sports in the 80's. His career came up just short of Hall of Fame calibur but the pick here is a top 10'er nonetheless.

6. 1975, Falcons, #1, Steve Bartkowski - Bartkowski had a solid career, leading the Falcons to the playoffs in 1982 with a 12-4 record. He led the league in passing TD's in 1980 and in passer rating in 1983. Bartkowski was also a 2-time Pro Bowler and the heart of the success of the early 80's Falcon teams.

5. 1984, Hawks, #11, Kevin Willis - The only other Hawk on the list (Nique was drafted by Utah and Lou Hudson by the STL Hawks), Willis was a intregal part of the late 80's run the Hawks made. Five times in his 9+ seasons in ATL Willis averaged a double-double including an 18.3-15.5 season in 91-92. His value also led to acquiring Steve Smith, who was the go-to guy on the mid-90's teams that were as good as anyone that didn't have Michael Jordan on the roster.

4. 1985, Braves, #94, David Justice - A steal in the 4th round, Justice makes the top 5 because his homer in '95 led to the only World Championship in Atlanta sports history. Won rookie of the year in 1990 and was in the middle of the order for the best run in Atlanta sports history (91-96).

3. 1989, Falcons, #5, Deion Sanders - Deion was the only reason the Falcons were significant at all in the early 90's and his attitude and star-power gave the Birds some much-needed national recognition. The whole city jumped on board with the MC Hammer, high-stepping, prime-time Falcons with Deion. Deion was also by far the best player on the 1991 team that beat hated rival New Orleans in the playoffs. The six wins ATL got the next year were almost all due to Deion's brilliance. While Chris Miller was hurt and the running game was non-existant, Deion topped 1000 return years and made his 2nd of 8 Pro Bowls.

2. 1984, Braves, #47, Tom Glavine - A future 300 game winner without overpowering stuff or great size is drafted out of a small high school in Massachusetts. Give the Braves scouts some credit with this pick. While most teams search for 6'5 guys with "pop" in their fastball, Atlanta took a shot on Glavine with their 2nd round pick in '84. The 2-time Cy Young award winner and World Series MVP is a Hall of Famer without a doubt. Interestingly enough, his future teammate, 300 gamer winner, and Cy Young award winner Greg Maddux is also taken in the 2nd round of the '84 draft.

1. 1990, Braves, #1, Chipper Jones - The Baseball draft is one of the biggest crap-shoots in drafts when it comes to HS players, and picking a future Hall of Famer with the #1 overall pick is as big a home run as you can hit. Chipper, along with Griffey Jr and A-Rod, are the only #1 overall picks to have HOF careers. He has been the cornerstone of the franchise since he made it to the bigs in '95 and will go down as one of the best 3rd basemen of all-time. Chip is a 6-time all-star, league MVP, and most recently, league batting champion.

Friday, January 2, 2009

Worst Draft picks in ATL Sports history...

A topic that can be written about for days...bad draft picks by Atlanta franchises. How do you narrow down the worst? By looking not only at what disasters some of these picks became and where they were chosen, but also looking at the what-could-have-been choices that were bypassed. My top 10 starting with the "least worst."

10. Falcons, 1988, #1, Aundray Bruce - Not so much because of who they should have drafted, because the studs at the top of this draft were all WR's, which are always risky (Sharpe, T.Brown, Irvin). This pick has to make the list because it was the #1 overall selection and Bruce turned out to be an average D-lineman. He did play in 151 games in his career and record 32 sacks, so #10 on the list seems right for this pick.

9. Braves, 1979, #4, Brad Komminsk - The Braves were desperate for a good young center fielder they could bring into their system with their 1st rounder in '79. Komminsk was a huge disaster, ending with a .218 career average with only 215 career hits. Two picks later at #6, the Cardinals selected Andy Van Slyke, a 3 time all-star who finished in the top 5 in MVP voting twice.

8. Hawks, 2005, #2, Marvin Williams - This selection would be a lot higher on this list if Marvin hadn't improved so much the last 2 seasons. This selection does need to be on this list because of the players we passed on in 2005. The Hawks needed a point guard in the worst way. Not surprisingly, Chris Paul and Deron Williams are taken immediately after the Williams pick and are now arguably the top 2 point guards in the NBA.

7. Thrashers, 1999, #1, Patrik Stefan - Stefan was the 1st draft pick in franchise history, and like most of GM Don Waddell's moves the 10 years he has had control, was underwhelming at best. As an expansion franchise, you need an impact player when given the 1st pick in the draft. Stefan never scored more than 14 goals in his injury plagued career until the Thrashers finally cut ties in 2006. A better pick here? How about #2 pick Daniel Sedin? He has scored 20+ goals 4 times including a team leading 36 in 2007. Actually, anyone with 1st line potential would have been fine with the #1 overall pick.

6. Falcons, 1991/1997, #3, #12, U of Nebraska CB's, Bruce Pickens & Michael Booker - These 2 get linked together because of their obvious ties. Pickens was the #3 pick as a DB, a position the Falcons definitely needed to address. Problem was, they chose the wrong player. Future Pro Bowl DB Todd Lyght went 2 picks later and went on to a 10 year career with 37 career INT's. Pickens just played in 48 career games with 2 INT's. Booker was brought in to fix the still horrific defensive backfield in '97, and while he played some on the Super Bowl team, was far from being worthy of a 1st round pick.

5. Braves, 1995, #27, Chad Hutchinson - Hutchinson was the Stanford quarterback that was never going to sign with a big league club. The one unforgivable mistake a baseball GM can make is to use a 1st round pick on a player that is going to college. No compensation is given if the player is not signed and if there is not already a known monetary agreement before the pick is made, take someone else. The future big leaguers that went shortly after the Hutchinson pick? Michael Barrett, Carlos Beltran, Sean Casey, and Jarrod Washburn.

4. Hawks, 1999, #17, #20, #27, Cal Bowdler, Dion Glover, Jumaine Jones - With an unheard of 4 1st round picks, the Hawks wound up picking this dynamic trio. With future solid NBA players all over the draft board at the end of the 1st round, the Hawks took these guys. Who could the Hawks have drafted here? How about James Posey, Jeff Foster, Devean George, Kenny Thomas, or Andrei Kirilenko.

3. Hawks, 1985, #5, Jon Koncak - You gotta love taking a back-up center with the 5th overall pick. The end of the Dominique era could have been so much better, maybe even NBA title better with the right pick here. A Karl Malone pick here probably lands the Hawks a title or two. Even a pick of Chris Mullin or Charles Oakley probably gets them to at least an Eastern Conference Final. But a white-stiff center from SMU? Please.

2. Hawks, 2006, #5, Sheldon Williams - I was at Philips Arena the night the Sheldon pick was announced. I was also among the hundreds of people that immediately booed the pick. How bad is your GM if this pick is #2 on this list and all the fans already knew it was bad right when it was made? There was one player who all the experts said was the most "NBA Ready" - and a team coming off a 26 win season needs "NBA Ready" players - Brandon Roy, who is now a superstar. Still needing a PG and more shooters, Randy Foye would also have made sense - actually, anybody besides Sheldon would have made sense.

1. Falcons, 1998, #74, Jammi German - While not the most talked about draft miss, this draft selection is the worst in my view. Looking for a WR in the 3rd round, the Falcons turn to an oft-injured, soft, WR from Miami and for some reason pass on future Super Bowl MVP Hines Ward. Ward grew up 15 miles from the GA Dome and went to the Univesity of Georgia for crying out loud. ATL's WR struggles over the years (Dwight, Jefferson, D. White, etc) could have been avoided if the right player is chosen here.

Note: You could easily do an entire list of just Hawks picks, but I narrowed down their picks to the worst 4 in my view. Just missing the cut were picks like #1 overall in 1975 David Thompson (who never played in a game for the Hawks), #4 pick in 1981 Al Wood (played 19 games as a Hawk), and 1978 #10 pick Butch Lee (96 career games played). The Hawks offered Thompson more money than the Nuggets of the ABA and I don't fault them taking by far the best player in that draft. Wood and Lee were decent players in less than average draft classes.