Sunday, September 14, 2003

Preseason meeting will stress coaches' conduct

College basketball insider

By Bill Koch
The Cincinnati Enquirer

The same coaches who are supposed to be role models for the athletes left in their charge have been summoned to a meeting during which they will discuss improving their own behavior.

The National Association of Basketball Coaches has called for a mandatory meeting of all Division I men's head coaches on Oct. 15 in Chicago. Those who don't attend risk losing their Final Four ticket privileges.

The meeting was called in response to the spate of negative headlines that have befallen the sport in recent months, from Dave Bliss at Baylor to Jim Harrick at Georgia, as the coaches attempt to restore their public image.

"I think it's a good idea that we communicate," said UC coach Bob Huggins. "We've had some bad things happen. People are aware of it. I think it's more important that we figure out where to go from here."

Miami coach Charlie Coles said the timing of the meeting, coming three days before the start of practice, is unfortunate. But he doesn't dispute the need for it.

"Things aren't going the way we want them to go in terms of the public perception," Coles said. "Maybe we need to meet and talk about it.

"There have been some bad articles written that haven't been favorable towards college coaches and probably deservedly so. ... It's hard to tell if it's going to do any good until you hear the quality of the meeting."

Coles, who has coached for 38 years, said he has seen a change in the profession in recent years.

"The stakes have been raised so high," he said. "That's where the danger lies. There's extreme pressure and most people don't react well to pressure. Along with pressure comes high visibility. It's changed a lot. But I still think the number of good people in coaching far outnumbers the bad people."

STAYING IN TUNE: With the college sports landscape unsettled and schools jockeying for position as conferences respond to Big East's loss of Miami (Fla.) and Virginia Tech, four Conference USA schools have hired a consultant to protect their interests.

Saint Louis, Marquette, DePaul and Charlotte have retained former NCAA executive director Cedric Dempsey to provide other conferences with information about the schools in the event that a move from C-USA becomes necessary.

That could happen if Cincinnati and Louisville bolt for the Big East, a move that is widely anticipated in the coming months.

Marquette and DePaul have also been mentioned as possible candidates for Big East expansion.

But while other schools have sought outside help, Xavier athletic director Mike Bobinski says that XU is comfortable letting its profile speak for itself.

"If we felt a need for it, if we felt there would be real value in doing something like that, we would consider that," Bobinski said. "At this point, I don't know how productive it would be for us.

"Quite honestly, we have as good an understanding as you can have of what's going on. People are aware of who we are and what we would bring to the table. I don't know that we could affect things in a positive way by having someone representing us and doing research for us."

Until a definite decision is made, Xavier will stay the course it has followed as a member of the Atlantic 10.

"We're not going to change who Xavier is or what our assets or strengths are by anything we can do at this point," Bobinski said. "We just have to stay in tune with the environment."

TOP 25: UC and Xavier both have high hopes for this season, but those hopes aren't reflected in one of the first preseason Top 25 polls to be released.

Slam Magazine did not include either local school in its Top 25. UConn is ranked No. 1, followed by Michigan State, Duke, Syracuse and Kansas. Kentucky is No. 13, Louisville No. 20. Defending Conference USA champion and Final Four participant Marquette is No. 23.

MIDNIGHT MADNESS: UC will restore its Midnight Madness tradition this year, with festivities beginning late on Friday night, Oct. 17 at Shoemaker Center. The Bearcats' first workout begins at 12:01 a.m. on the 18th.



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