4/7/14

National Championship Preview: Kentucky vs UConn

Napier and Harrison 

Just a season ago, both programs in Monday night’s national championship game were at a dark low compared to where they stand heading into tonight. UConn was coming off of a season in which they were banned from the NCAA Tournament due to academic proficiency rates. John Calipari’s “one-and-done” strategy was a disaster, leaving the Wildcats out of The Big Dance.

3/29/14

UCONN Do It! Huskies Advance To Elite 8 and Win Their 60th Game in Madison Square Garden

Shabazz Napier/cbs.com
UConn has made many memories at The Garden, and Friday night brought nothing different from that. Last season, the Huskies were banned from the NCAA Tournament due to poor Academic Progress Rate scores. That didn’t keep UConn from making progress and getting to this point in their season, as they will make their 11th trip to the Elite Eight after holding off Iowa State in the East Regional Semifinals at MSG, 61-56. 

3/27/14

The Importance of Lying: A 21st Century Media Lesson

Steve Masiello/usatoday.com

A lie can travel half way around the world while the truth is putting on its shoes.”

- Mark Twain

What should've been one of the best weeks of Steve Masiello's life has turned into a nightmare. He was all set to cash in on a multi-million contract with the University of South Florida when his past caught up to him. In the wee hours of Wednesday morning, it was revealed that he never graduated from the University of Kentucky. His contract was voided and now their is doubt that his former employer, Manhattan College, will take him back. Masiello was the brightest young star in the coaching sky after his #13 seed Jaspers took Louisville to the limit in the first round of the NCAA Tournament, a coaching job his mentor Rick Pitino said, "Was the best I've seen in 39 years." 

Now Masiello is caught in flux where he's damaged goods to all other schools but possibly Manhattan. No one can question how great of a coach he is. He turned around the Jaspers program practically overnight with the culmination being a conference tournament championship and a NCAA bid this season. His players would run through walls for him. The media likes him and he's always quotable. Conventional wisdom says that the Jaspers lucked out here with keeping him, but there's one thing that complicates that. They have a brand new athletic director in Noah LeFevere. He has to be thinking about his reputation as well. Masiello wasn't hired under his watch, so any case of Manhattan not doing due diligence with a background check doesn't fall on him. Should he wish to cut ties with Masiello over this, he'll be sure to catch heat from those who know the program is in it's best hands with Masiello, and if he keeps him, he'll be acknowledging that the college was deceived by Masiello but winning overshadows that. It's an ethical problem worthy of a ten page term paper. 

This controversy follows what happened at Marquette earlier this week where a tweet by a student journalist saying VCU Coach Shaka Smart's hiring was a, "done deal", caused twitter to blow up and had all of Milwaukee's major news outlets camped out waiting for Smart to show up. He never did and the deal never happened. In fact it sounds like Smart never even considered it. While the media had egg on their face with blindly following a rumor, what happened with both Marquette and Masiello ties together. Like it or not, we live in an era where fact-checking is rather arbitrary. It seems obvious that Masiello's prior employers didn't do the due diligence in confirming that the coach they were hiring in a college program did in fact have a college degree. He essentially got away with it, and was the victim of his own success. If he would have been a mediocre coach, his value may have topped out in lower level Division 1. No one would have been the wiser. I can imagine the pit in Masiello's stomach when the search committee for USF said, "We found something wrong here with your resume." Someone finally looked hard at Masiello's resume, and one line in his otherwise sparkling resume cost him potentially millions of dollars. One little rumor on twitter could possibly cost the student journalist a career in sports. You see, people will always give your word the benefit of the doubt if you are personable, but if you make them look bad, all bets are off. 

We all lie or fib from time to time, this is hardly remarkable in the human condition. In the internet age, it's turned into a bloodsport of catching people in lies. In this dog eat dog type world, everyone is looking for some kind of edge whether personally or professionally. Twitter was invented so that rumors could go out in real time without any kind of fact-checking. Those of us who follow twitter for news can be made into rubes pretty easily. I can count of at least twenty times this year where an absolute certainty on twitter never came to fruition. The era of, "trusted journalist" is over as everyone tries to one up everyone else in rumor-mongering. It's disgusting, but it's a fact of life that sites like Deadspin.com and others have made a fortune in catering to the fan's hunger to know a story (true or not) right now. And I read deadspin every day, so I am not holier than thou. 

I guess if there's some kind of comfort to those who are caught in a lie is the news cycle will eat you up and move to the next story. I can even guarantee that another coach will be caught with a discrepancy on his resume, and another student journalist will see an tweet suddenly get picked up by the mainstream media and ran with. While the verdict is still out on Masiello, when I talked to him during a podcast earlier this season, he said about his time as a New York Knicks ball-boy, his being mentored by Rick Pitino and coaching in his hometown, "I'm fully aware that my life is somewhat of a storybook".  

As most storybooks go, they are all usually fiction. Maybe he knew that too.


by Josh Adams, Managing Editor, @NCAAHoopsDigest