The voice recorder app on PC threw us a curveball during Coach Jamie Brooks’ interview but cleared up in time for Coach Ander Galfsky; bear with us!
Jamie Brooks, Head Coach of Andrew College in Cuthbert, GA, opens the episode discussing what it’s like to build a Junior College program from scratch as the Fightin’ Tigers head into Year 1 after over a decade long hiatus of Men’s Basketball. Campbell University Director of Basketball Operations Ander Galfsky stops by at the 25:54 mark to talk about his coaching path and what it means to be a DBO at the Division I level.
Last year it was in the Class AAAAAA state championship with Wheeler down one with 0.5 seconds left. This time it’s in the first round of the NCAA Tournament with leading scoring Tyrone Wallace sidelined. The spotlight has always found a way to shine brightest on Jaylen Brown, the consensus No. 2 ranked player coming out of high school last year and a presumed lotto pick in the upcoming NBA Draft if/when he decides to go pro.
So can Brown come up big one more time? He buried two free throws to break Pebblebrook’s heart 59-58 and posted 22 points, nine rebounds and was a perfect 12-of-12 from the line. Now he has a chance to carry Cal deep into the postseason. Brown averaged 15 points and 5.5 rebounds per game during the regular season and is the team’s leading scorer now that Wallace, a senior, broke his hand.
With the catalyst of the Golden Bears offense down, expect the offense to run through Brown even more. The NBA-bodied swingman is best in transition, slashing to the rack in the open floor. Hawaii will need to limit fast breaks to keep Brown in check. In the half court game, Brown will be tested with his jump shot. Top shooters Jordan Mathews and Jabari Bird remain available on the perimeter but with their top assist man out, threes might not be as easy to come by.
It will be on Brown’s shoulders to create more when the ball is in his hands and become a playmaker to open up looks for his snipers. The Rainbow Warriors would be wise to force Brown into becoming a jump shooter. The one area of the NBA bound forward’s game that needs the most work is his outside shot. He shot 30 percent from beyond the arc but struggled even more so down the stretch.
Through his final four games of the regular season, Brown averaged just 8.75 points and shot only 9-of-42 from the field, good for 21 percent. But Brown always finds a way to produce when put on the big stage. Against the toughest defense the Golden Bears have faced all year, Brown shot 5-of-11 and went 8-of-9 from the line for 18 points and six rebounds in a 63-62 loss at Virginia. He is a 65 percent foul shooter but seems to make them when they matter most.
So will Brown leave a lasting legacy at Cal and help his Bears to a deep March Madness run as a four seed? Or for the first time of his career, will the moment be too much for the five-star prospect? Either way history will be made and Jaylen Brown will be in the middle of it…again.
Well the simple answer to what to expect from Kennesaw State basketball this year is: I don’t know.
The men and women’s programs have made waves since the end of last season and mostly for the wrong reasons, but that is a can of worms that has been opened and hopefully shut by now. The bright side of things has to lie with the men’s team landing former National Coach of the Year, Al Skinner, to lead to downtrodden program.
Kennesaw State’s roster – coaching staff as well — has been a revolving door since Tony Ingle left the school. This year will be no different with a new staff in place and five newcomers joining just six players from last year’s team. Official practice began last Friday and back is senior point guard Yonel Brown who exploded onto the scene after two pedestrian years. Brown finished third in the A-Sun and led the Owls in scoring with 15.2 points per game. Six-foot-seven forward Nigel Pruitt also blossomed into a reliable player and returns for his senior year as well after scoring 12.2 points a night, good for second-best on the team.
Metro Atlanta hasn’t exactly been pounded for recruiting yet, but Skinner did land a potential gem in Tracy Hector. The 6-foot-4, 212-pound swingman won back-to-back state championships at Jonesboro High School. As a senior, Hector averaged over 12 points and six rebounds a game, but he made a name for himself with his tenacious defense.
He is a strong athlete that can lock down ball handlers with his ‘in-your-face’ defense while offensively; he attacks the bucket and goes after every loose ball.
Kyle Clarke is another new addition to the backcourt, standing 6-foot-5 as a combo guard. Clarke hails from Florida and has shown a knack for getting into the lane on offense.
Skinner went overseas to land Josh Burnett, another guard that can play forward, from Hawaii. Kosta Jankovic and Aubrey Williams round out the new faces on the roster while Quinnipiac transfer Kendrick Ray is finally eligible to play after having to sit out a season.
Better Times On The Horizon?
So with a new coaching staff and turned over roster, can we expect KSU to take the next step in becoming a respectable program and not just another cupcake on everyone’s schedule? We will know right away. After a home tilt with Middle Georgia, Kennesaw hits the road to play Alabama, LSU and Arizona State. West Virginia, Louisville and Indiana all loom on the schedule as well. The Owls will definitely take some lumps, but coach Skinner needs to see what kind of mettle his team has when facing adversity to be able to find out if his group improves from game to game or if they take beatings and not learn anything from them like they haven’t in the past.
The one positive for KSU is that the A-Sun continues to get weaker and weaker each season with the top programs getting plucked by bigger conferences seemingly every year. This time it is Northern Kentucky, who has only been a D-1 program for three seasons going on four now, that was added to the Horizon League. Meanwhile, Kennesaw State has sat and stewed in the A-Sun since 2005-06 and has yet to make it out of the annual cellar.
NJIT joins the conference, coming off its best record in school history since joining D-1 the same year as KSU, winning 21 games in 2014.
Under coach Skinner, Kennesaw should at least be a competitive team. Losses to conference foes by 36 points should be a thing of the past by now. When watching the Owls play these power conference teams early in the season, losses to annual juggernauts Indiana and Louisville are acceptable. But if KSU lays an egg against an average power conference team like Alabama like they did against Syracuse (89-42), Cal (93-59) and Illinois (93-45) last year, then there is reason to be concerned.
Is there reason to be optimistic this year? Yes there is, but if the team can’t stay competitive with the big schools early on (L by < 30), don’t expect much come conference play.
The long awaited decision on who will be Kennesaw State’s new basketball coach was finally set in stone this Sunday. Vaughn Williams and company pulled a rabbit out of their collective hats with the hiring of Al Skinner. The 62-year-old Skinner is the perfect hire on paper for a program that has been one of the worst in the nation since 2010. The Owls needed a proven winner with experience leading young adults. For once in my life I can finally say, I think Kennesaw State got this one right.
Skinner is definitely no spring chicken, but what he does bring to the program is credibility. You can tell it by his look: A toothy smile, nearly bald, Skinner has been through some battles as both a player and coach and expects nothing but excellence. He was a standout at UMass as a player in the early 70s and was subsequently drafted by the Boston Celtics of the NBA, but instead decided to play in the ABA with the New York Nets and Hall of Famer Julius Erving. No knock on Jimmy Lallathin, but he wasn’t able to tell his players he went shoulder-to-shoulder with some of the best players the game has ever seen. Skinner even has a shiny championship ring he won during his second professional season to get players’ attentions.
As a coach, Skinner started out as an assistant at Marist and Rhode Island before eventually taking over the head coaching job with the Rams in 1988. There he enjoyed a successful run in the A-10, amassing a respectable record of 138-126 in nine seasons. Skinner landed the Boston College job for the 1997-98 season and began a wildly successful run considering the juggernauts which resided in the Big East and eventually the ACC. In 13 seasons he ran up a record of 247-165 while collecting three Big East regular season championships and one tournament championship.
Kennesaw State, lowly little Kennesaw State, who has suffered through a 30-125 record over the past five seasons really just landed a one-time A-10 Coach of the Year, two-time Big East Coach of the Year and the 2001 National Coach of the Year?! Yes, you aren’t dreaming, that just happened. The Owls have won just 85 games during their 10 years as a Division One program; take a four-year stretch from 2003-04 to 2006-07 and Skinner won 98 games alone.
If players won’t buy in now that Skinner is at the helm, they will never buy in. He has sent the likes of Craig Smith, Sean Williams and Jared Dudley to the pros from Boston College. Not all-stars, but all serviceable NBA players that have played a handful of seasons in the association.
A Second Chance
Skinner was fired from Boston College on March 30, 2010. He has been working as an associate head coach at Bryant University, who much like Kennesaw State was years ago, is in its infancy as a Division One program transitioning full-time in 2012.
So what’s the knock on Skinner? I’m sure you could take a few guesses, but one major one is that he is old and won’t recruit the area like he should. It’s a decent argument, but I doubt that the former National Coach of the Year is leaving from the comforts of the Rhode Island area to come to Kennesaw just to collect a check and cash it in. Sometimes there is a thing called pride that can push old veterans to the peak of their game. Surely Skinner won’t want to end his career with a flop.
The Boston Globe’s Bob Ryan highlighted a lazy Al Skinner back when he was fired from Boston College, stating he was too casual. However, in a Boston Globe article early last year, Providence Head Coach Ed Cooley said the fire is back. “You could tell he missed it,” Cooley said. “He’s dying to coach again.” Cooley also added, “For Al Skinner not to be a head coach is a travesty to college basketball. It is crazy how he’s not a head coach somewhere.”
Time will tell if this hire was correct or not. If it is a homerun, Kennesaw can finally host a basketball program they are proud of; if not, the program will continue to remain in shambles.
Please, can someone really tell us what is going on at Kennesaw State University? One of the largest schools in the state of Georgia’s athletic program has been swept under the rug, but that rug is getting mighty bulky and some dust bunnies are starting to spill out. When Athletic Director Vaughn Williams came on campus in May of 2011 after a successful run at UConn, alumni, students and fans were all stoked about the prospects of bringing in a big name from a big school, but what has transpired since Williams’ arrival has not been all diamonds and gold.
From a student’s perspective it’s looked like Williams has had a one-track mind which has been focused solely on building the football program while turning a blind eye to other big sports that the school must improve. Most notably the basketball program has suffered dearly and now both the men’s and women’s team have controversy swirling around them. Lewis Preston was Vaughn Williams’ first basketball hire for the men’s program and it was a disaster. Preston brought an infectious bad attitude that rubbed off on the players. He did not bring an energy that made players want to play for him and instead created a rift with his negative demeanor. Preston was woefully bad for a program that needed a leader after the dismissal of long-time coach Tony Ingle. Preston limped his way through a 9-67 record in two-plus seasons before taking a leave of absence and not returning.
Once Preston was let go in 2014, Williams had the opportunity to make a splash and try and get a big name coach to come to Kennesaw. All it would take is one coach that he could convince that KSU was a school on the verge of exploding. He needed to sell the program and a vision. Instead, Kennesaw took the cheap way out and went with the in-house hire of Jimmy Lallathin. Lallathin did a respectable job winning three games as the interim coach of the team and then finished this season 10-22, better then Lewis Preston ever did. There were some bumps along the road including an early season suspension of Lallathin for NCAA violations.
So the team showed some progress with double digit wins for the first time since 2009-10, so what happens? Lallathin is fired. Why? Who knows. Now KSU is yet again at a crossroads. Do they do the right thing and try to lure a former coach who has been announcing? Seth Greenberg? Someone of that ilk? Heck, College of Charleston had Bobby Cremins so it can be done. Another way they could go is look elsewhere to a successful program and try to pluck a young assistant. Hopefully the rumors are not true and David Rivers will not slide over a seat so the school can save money and continue to neglect developing a basketball program.
Ok so the men’s program is in disarray, how about the women’s? The Lady Owls improved from 6-24 a year ago to 17-13 this year, great right? Not so fast. Something very wrong may be going on with this team as well. A parent of a player on the team has gone to games wearing a shirt that reads: “Abusers depend on ‘silence’ DON’T BE ‘SILENT’” and on the back it says: “BE ‘CIVIL’ BREAK THE SILENCE OF ABUSE”. I’m not sure what it means, but it definitely can’t be good. Nitra Perry is the head coach of the women’s team and might be someone who has some answers.
Things are not good right now at Kennesaw State. The football team had its first spring game but the media was pulled from its coverage and brought into a room where Vaughn Williams gave “nothing but terse, repetitive answers” about the firing of Lallathin according to The Sentinel’s Chris Raimondi. In his three-plus years Vaughn Williams has loved to be in the forefront for the strides the football program has made, but has remained mum on more serious issues. To quote Marcellus from Hamlet, “Something is rotten in the state of Denmark”. Sadly, the same can be said about KSU athletics. There are some serious warts that might finally see the light of day in the upcoming months.