Four consecutive Final Fours. Three national-title games in four seasons. A coach can't accomplish those feats without having the ability to recruit, develop and make the right moves in close ballgames against strong competition.
John Ontjes has accomplished those feats as head coach of the Hutchinson County Community College women's basketball program. He starred as a player for two years at Hutch before starting at point guard for Billy Tubbs for a year and Kelvin Sampson for a year at Oklahoma. He averaged 10.5 points and 6.6 assists during his Sooners career. He was better than solid as a player and is a way better coach than player.
His team, noted for tenacious defense, held 14 of its final 15 opponents to fewer than 60 points. The Blue Dragons took a 36-0 record into the national title game March 21, a 54-46 loss to Chipola.
Brad Hallier of the Hutchinson news recently wrote a column endorsing Ontjes for the KU job and expressing the opinion that the coach is too good for any level but high Div. I. In it, Hallier cited an amazing statistic in the column: The Blue Dragons have built a home-court winning streak of 117 games for their ultra-competitive coach.
Six of the 13 players on this season's Hutch roster played high school ball in Kansas.
Kansas athletic director Sheahon Zenger has not shared the names of his 15 finalists on a list that started with 60 names, but he did say he has explored coaches from all levels, including junior college. Given that, it's difficult to imagine Ontjes at the very least was not on the original list and very well could be among the final 15.
As Angel Goodrich demonstrated when she took Kansas to back-to-back Sweet 16 appearances in the NCAA women’s basketball tournament, nothing is more important than a terrific point guard.
Notre Dame assistant coach Niele Ivey (first name pronounced by saying the word “knee” and the letter “L”) was one herself and during her eight seasons as an assistint has mentored others.
A native of St. Louis who graduated from ND in 2000 with a history degree, Ivey also has been Notre Dame’s recruiting coordinator since 2012. The Fighting Irish, who rank second nationally in field-goal percentage (49.8) and fifth in scoring (80.9), face South Carolina in a 5:30 CT semifinal in a game televised on ESPN. This is Notre Dame's fifth consecutive Final Four.
Ivey has received praise for her work with ND point guard Lindsay Allen and with Skylar Diggins before that. She also has had a hand in the Irish ranking in the top five nationally in each of the past three recruiting classes.
After her All-American career at Notre Dame, Ivey spent five seasons playing in the WNBA.
“Niele is really a rising star, a rock star if you will, in the coaching profession,” Notre Dame head coach Muff McGraw said in the Niele bio on the school’s website. “... She’s got to be known as one of the best recruiters in the country and certainly with our point guards, she does just a phenomenal job.”
Ivey made the 2001 Final Four all-tournament team by averaging 16.5 points and 5.5 assists in leading Notre Dame to its first national title.
Ivey keeps the public up to date on Notre Dame basketball and on her son Jaden’s budding hoops career with the Twitter handle @IrishCoachIvey.
Kansas athletic director Sheahon Zenger started his search for a new women’s basketball coach by compiling a list of 60 names. At least 59 of them were not named by Fortune Magazine as one of the “World’s Greatest Leaders.”
On a list that ranked Pope Francis fourth, LeBron James 31st and Jimmy Fallon 45th, Princeton eighth-year women’s basketball coach Courtney Banghart checked in at No. 43. The Tigers went 31-1 this past season, losing to Maryland, 85-70, in the round of 32 in the NCAA tournament.
“Banghart, who has a master’s degree in leadership development, expects more of her players than great play: They must adhere to Princeton’s tough academic standards too,” Fortune wrote of the Dartmouth graduate.
Banghart’s team plays an up-tempo style and led the nation in three-point accuracy this season, which is fitting considering that in 1999, Banhart led the nation in three-point field goals per game.
Seeded eighth in the NCAA tournament, the Tigers posted the second Ivy League victory in tourney history (Harvard 1998 was the first), defeating Wisconsin-Green Bay, 80-70, in the round of 64. Before hiring Banghart, Princeton never had been to the NCAA tourney. This was the fourth trip in five seasons for the Tigers, whose season included a 30-point victory at Michigan.
Banghart’s turn-around at the Ivy League school didn’t take long. She went 21-37 in her first two seasons, 148-30 in the next six.
Take four more looks at the most talked-about play in Wichita State’s 78-65 victory Sunday in Omaha, one that sent the veteran Shockers on to a Sweet 16 game Thursday in Cleveland vs. Notre Dame.
The first thing you probably noticed is that at one point Kansas freshman Kelly Oubre was ahead of the Shockers' Zach Brown, but was ultimately beaten to the ball and mistimed his lunge for it.
Now watch it again and this time focus on Brannen Greene. After Brown tipped the pass, Greene, watching the ball, took three walking steps and the sprinted down the court. Three steps too late.
Now watch it a third time and this time focus on Perry Ellis. He was too far behind Brown to make a play, but had Ellis sprinted down court, making an angle to the basket, he could have been there for the rebound in the event Brown missed the dunk. Instead, he jogs very slowly down the right side of the court.
Watch it a fourth and final time and this time focus on Oubre after Brown makes the steal. Instead of sprinting after him in case he lost the ball on the dribble or missed the shot at the rim, Oubre actually drifts out of bounds and very slowly jogs for a few steps.
It was no way for any of the KU players to end a play that felt as if it ended the season.
Omaha — Greg Gurley, attending Kansas University’s public practice, had just finished watching on a courtside computer UAB finish off an upset of Iowa State on Thursday in Lousiville, when he looked back on the first time he saw UAB coach Jerod Haase in a Kansas locker room.
“He was at Cal and we hated playing against him (in the 1993 NCAA tournament) because he was kind of that annoying guy,” Gurley said. “Then we beat him and he came into our uniform, full uniform on, and I remember I was with one of my teammates and I go, ‘Is that Jerod Haase?’ It was. He and coach (Roy) Williams talked and he basically told Coach Williams he wanted to transfer.”
Kansas went on to the Final Four.
“The next weekend after that he was in Lawrence on a visit,” Gurley said. “From that point on, he was attached to coach Williams, followed him to North Carolina and has done well.”
Haase, 40, played his final three seasons of college basketball for Williams at Kansas. He spent four seasons working under Williams at KU and eight at North Carolina. He is in his third season as head coach at UAB and coached in the NCAA tournament Thursday for the first time. Until that victory, the one that gained the most attention for Haase came when his Blazers upset mentor Williams' North Carolina squad Dec. 1, 2013, in Birmingham.
Haase has a 54-45 record at UAB. His Blazers advance to a Saturday game vs. UCLA.
The Big 12 went 0-3 Thursday, with Baylor (Georgia State) and Iowa State losing to No. 14 seeds and Texas losing to No. 6 seed Butler.
I came up with one more way to look at the unfairness of the NCAA tournament seeding to see if I could confirm my suspicions that the Midwest region is strangely stacked, so much more loaded than the others.
I looked at the points each school received in the final 2014-15 Associated Press college basketball poll and compared them, region-by-region. Sure enough, it confirmed the power of the Midwest regional.
Led by Kentucky’s 1,625 points, the Midwest has 6,014 AP poll points. The East finishes second with 5,527 points, the West (4,855) third and the South (4,824) fourth.
The top 25 ranking of Midwest regional teams: 1. Kentucky, 8. Notre Dame, 10. Kansas, 12. Maryland, 14. Wichita State, 20. West Virginia, 24. Butler.
Think about this for a moment: There are four regionals and the Midwest has five of the first 14 teams in the Associated Press poll. Not cool. Four East schools rank in the top 14: 2. Villanova, 6. Virginia, 11. Northern Iowa, 13. Oklahoma, three from the South regional (4. Duke, 7. Gonzaga, 9. Iowa State), just two in the West (3. Wisconsin, 5. Arizona), plus Nos. 15. North Carolina and 16. Baylor.
Oh well, the games begin in full today and tomorrow, so it’s probably time to focus on them and stop griping about the unbalanced brackets.
Sixteen teams capable of winning the national title and why in 16 words:
1 - Kentucky: Several NBA teams lack legitimate NBA center. Kentucky has three: Karl-Anthony Towns, Willie-Cauley Stein, Dakari Johnson.
2 - Duke: Overlooked key Quinn Cook, senior guard, beautifully complements freshmen Jahlil Okafor, Justise Winslow and Tyus Jones.
3 - Arizona: Experienced point guard T.J. McConnell brings out best in forwards Stanley Johnson, Brandon Ashley, Rondae Hollis-Jefferson.
4 - Wisconsin: Frank Kaminsky, 7-foot center with guard skills, one of many Badgers with Final Four experience.
5 - Gonzaga: Big Kentucky transfer Kyle Wiltjer and veteran guard Kevin Pangos just two of many three-point threats.
6 - Villanova: Think Pink: Can JayVaughn Pinkston lead ’Cats to a national title 30 years after Ed Pinckney did?
7 - Virginia: Pack-line defense: The only defender who ever extends to three-point line is the man guarding the ball.
8 - North Carolina: Marcus Paige latest Roy Williams superstar Iowan, joining Kirk Hinrich, Harrison Barnes, Raef LaFrentz, Nick Collison.
9 - Lousiville: Rick Pitino’s scoring-challenged, hard-working Cardinals led by relentless Montrezl Harrell, all muscle and hustle.
10 - Ohio State: If “next Michael Jordan” tag had not died, D’Angelo Russell would be guy wearing it now.
11 - Kansas: Only if Kelly Oubre, Hunter Mickelson disrupt defensively and Brannen Greene makes three threes a game.
12 - Iowa State: Free-minded shooters, versaitle players, a coach with professional demeanor, no deficit too big to overcome.
13 - Michigan State: You’ll never find another love like mine for first name of Spartans guard Lourawls Nairn, Jr.
14 - Ole Miss: Third in nation in free-throw shooting, experienced, play hard, take smarter shots without Marshall Henderson.
15 - Northern Iowa: Five three-point shooters get hot for six games in a row and a miracle can happen.
16 - SMU: Coach Larry Harvey Brown. Coach Larry Harvey Brown. Coach Larry Harvey Brown. Coach Larry Harvey Brown.
Kansas, which drew a No. 2 seed in the loaded Midwest region, was ranked No. 10 in the final 2014-15 Associated Press college basketball poll, one spot behind Big 12 rival Iowa State.
The top 25 teams in the AP poll, with first-place votes in parentheses, records through March 15, total points based on 25 points for a first-place vote through one point for a 25th-place vote and last week's ranking:
Record Pts Prv
- Kentucky (65) 34-0 1,625 1
- Villanova 32-2 1,522 4
- Wisconsin 31-3 1,460 6
- Duke 29-4 1,406 2
- Arizona 31-3 1,405 5
- Virginia 29-3 1,333 3
- Gonzaga 32-2 1,229 7
- Notre Dame 29-5 1,178 11
- Iowa St. 25-8 1,043 13
- Kansas 26-8 |995 9
- N. Iowa 30-3 |979 10
- Maryland 27-6 |935 8
- Oklahoma 22-10 |740 15
- Wichita St. 28-4 |737 12
- North Carolina 24-11 |703 19
- Baylor 24-9 |680 16
- Louisville 24-8 |614 14
- SMU 27-6 |485 20
- Utah 24-8 |455 17
- West Virginia 23-9 |398 18
- Arkansas 26-8 |373 21
- Georgetown 21-10 |177 23
- Michigan St. 23-11 |159 |_
- Butler 22-10 |142 22
- VCU 26-9 |109 |_
Others receiving votes: Oregon 91, Providence 62, Xavier 18, Davidson 16, Ohio St. 12, Stephen F. Austin 12, Wyoming 6, Boise St. 5, LSU 5, BYU 3, Valparaiso 3, Harvard 2, Murray St. 2, Wofford 2, Colorado St. 1, Dayton 1, Iowa 1, Purdue 1.
My top 25 ballot:
1 - Kentucky: Going undefeated made the regular season and NCAA tournament more interesting. Win or lose, it's a bigger story than if 'Cats had come into it with a loss.
2 - Virginia: Won the ACC regular-season title, has three losses, and didn't get a No. 1 seed .
3 - Wisconsin: Size, extensive tourney experience, skill shooters, coach Bo Ryan. Book a return trip to the Final Four.
4 - Villanova: Big East landed 6 of 10 members in the field and Villanova dominated the conference. Don't count the 'Cats short.
5 - Arizona: Did more to earn a No. 1 seed than Duke did.
6 - Duke: If Duke had Virginia's season and Virginia had Duke's, does anyone believe the seeds would be the same? No? Didn't think so.
7 - Gonzaga: Most talented Zags team ever has size, experience and a ton of shooters. If chalk rules in the South, regional final with Duke could be high-scoring game.
8 - Notre Dame: Unlike many of Mike Brey's past teams, this one can do more than get hot from the perimeter, but Irish can still do that.
9 - Maryland: Deserve better fate than having to face Kentucky in Sweet 16 game.
10 - Kansas: Normally, an Indiana-Kansas matchup would excite the masses, but in this case it would be a buzz-kill because it would cancel anticipated rare matchup with Wichita State. If you're scoring at home, four of my top 10 teams are in the Midwest Region. That shouldn't happen.
11 - Iowa State: You turn off the TV when Cyclones get way behind you're just not paying attention.
12 - Oklahoma: As do Cyclones, Sooners have easier path to Sweet 16 than Kansas.
13 - North Carolina: Very talented team that has shown recent signs of putting it together. Even so, with Wisconsin and Arizona in the West, projecting Heels to make Final Four is a bit of a reach.
14 - Louisville: Lousy shooters can make teams play poorly with disruptive defense. If Cards defeat UC Irvine and face Northern Iowa in Seattle on Sunday it would be fascinating matchup between great shooters and top-notch defenders.
15 - Northern Iowa: America, meet Seth Tuttle, a 6-foot-8, 240 pounds worth of pure basketball skill.
16 - Wichita State: Shockers must be so mad over getting seeded seventh they're going to play like hornets for as long as they last in the tournament.
17 - Michigan State: Guard Travis Trice averaged more than 20 points in eight games leading up to overtime loss to Wisconsin in Big Ten title game.
18 - Baylor: Not as talented as some Bears teams of recent past, but grittier.
19 - Utah: Utes have lost 4 of past 7. Looking for a first-round upset. Try Stephen F. Austin.
20 - West Virginia: Juwan Staten and Gary Browne expected back for game with Buffalo, coached by former Duke star Bobby Hurley.
21 - Oregon: Ducks not a horrible sleeper choice, but it will be tough to get past Wisconsin in second game.
22 - Georgetown: Many puzzled by No. 4 seed for Hoyas, but if Joshua Smith can stay out of foul trouble, he presents a lot of problems for the guys trying to guard him.
23 - Arkansas: If Hogs and North Carolina meet, that's a lot of talented size on the court and a must-watch game.
24 - Butler: Bulldogs love the underdog role but are seeded five spots higher than talented Texas. Still, it will feel like the Bulldogs are underdogs.
25 - Purdue: Legendary Boilermakers coach Gene Keady is coaching in the tournament as an assistant at St. John's.
Former Kansas point guard Mark Turgeon has coached Maryland to a second-place finish in the prestigious Big Ten and his Terps were ranked No. 8 in the nation, one spot ahead of his alma mater, heading into conference tournaments. Even so, he has not yet clinched coach of the year honors in the Turgeon family. That fierce competition is far from over.
Turge's older brother, Jim Turgeon, 52, brings a 30-3 record in his eighth season for Iowa Western Community College into the National Junior College Athletic Association tournament, which takes place today through Saturday at the Bicentennial Center in Salina. Iowa Western, in Council Bluffs, is located just across the river from Omaha. His Reivers play their fist tourney game Wednesday.
Turgeon searches the globe to put together his roster of 13 players. Four countries (Australia, Cyprus, Hungary, United States) and eight states (California, Colorado, Illinois, Kansas, Kentucky, Massachusetts, Michigan, South Dakota) are represented.
In coaching his international roster, Turgeon pulls from coaches with Kansas ties.
"We play aggressive man-to-man defense and we run my brother's secondary break and then we'll usually go into Bill Self's high-low offense," said Turgeon, a graduate of Washburn University." We like to score in the first 10 seconds of the shot clock or the last 10 seconds."
"We'll try to create turnovers and score when the defense isn't set," he said. "When the defense is set, we try to be patient and break down the defense."
Comparing himself to his more famous, wealthier brother, Jim said, "I'm two years older, much better looking and taught him everything he knows."
The brothers, natives of Topeka, share a down-to-earth, Kansas vibe.
"He is (down-to-earth) and he's brutally honest and sometimes that gets him into trouble," Jim said. "When we talk on the phone, first we talk about family and then we talk about our teams, share frustrations and also talk about the positive things that do work."
Jim Turgeon, 191-64 at Iowa Western, has the school record for victories. He is the second-winningest coach in Dodge City Community College, where he went 123-97. Check out these turn-around numbers: In three seasons before Turgeon took over at Dodge City, the school went 28-63. In his final five seasons before getting the heck out of dodge, his record was 105-55.
The year before going to Dodge, Turgeon was an assistant coach at a men's junior-college program near Dallas.
"I wanted to get back to Kansas," he said of the move to Dodge. "I never dreamed I'd be a woman's basketball coach, but it turned out to be my niche. My dad worked with girls most of the time (as assistant at Topeka Hayden High) and it's become my niche. I love it. I'll never go back to coaching men, unless Mark wants to pay me a half-a-million dollars a year to be his assistant. I don't see that happening. I don't know if any university could take two Turgeons at the same time."
Asked if he would be interested in becoming Kansas women's basketball head coach, Jim Turgeon said, "I guess the best way to answer that is that I grew up wanting to be the head coach at Kansas on the men's side, but now I'm on the woman's side. Of course, I'd be interested."
Turgeon isn't campaigning for the job. He merely picked up a phone call and started answering questions honestly.
"I'm in a really good situation," he said. "I have an opportunity to win every year and my family's happy here. That's coach-speak, I know, but it also happens to be true."
Dodge City's a tough place to build a winner, as proven by the program's performance before and after Turgeon. The guy knows how to recruit, coach and develop talent and he does it while maintaining an enjoyable atmosphere for his players.
My knowledge of the women’s college basketball coaching world is limited, but now that Kansas has an opening, I have started asking a lot of questions and doing some research in order to blog about potential candidates. It’s important to understand that by writing about coaches, I’m not saying KU athletic director Sheahon Zenger is planning to interview them. I’m not even saying they necessarily would leave their jobs for KU, which some, Zenger included, believe to be a sleeping giant in women's basketball. I’m just trying to call attention coaches who have winning backgrounds and could possibly be interested in the opening.
Wichita State head coach Jody Adams, the first potential candidate in this, the latest KU coaching-search blog, has done a remarkable job in building a winner and bringing positive attention to the Shockers' women's program.
Wichita State’s Missouri Valley Conference records in seven seasons before Adams took over: 8-10, 7-10, 7-11, 2-16, 8-10, 4-14, 3-15. That’s 17-55 in the four seasons leading up to Admas’ first.
Under Adams: 4-14, 8-10, 10-8, 12-6, 15-3, 14-4, 17-1. That's 46-8 in Adams' past three seasons. Phenomenal. Adams has taken the Shockers from worst in the Missouri Valley to first.
This will be the third consecutive NCAA Tournament appearance for Wichita State, which never had earned a berth pre-Adams.
Her amazing turnaround job at Wichita State should not come as a huge surprise to anyone familiar with her background. Adams was known as among the nation’s top recruiters at various assistant-coaching stops, including at MInnesota and UMKC.
Her competitive spirit was evident long before she put it to use as a recruiter. Adams’ winning ways started as a player. As a sophomore, she was starting point guard of the 1991 Tennessee national-championship team. She started her coaching career as a graduate assistant under the legendary Pat Summitt.
Adams, in her seventh season at Wichita State, takes a 26-4 record and nine-game winning streak into the Missouri Valley Conference tournament, which starts today in St. Charles, Mo.
Considering her playing background and coaching success, Adams shapes up as the Kim Mulkey of the Missouri Valley. Wichita State recognized Adams' efforts last July by signing her to a five-year contract extension through 2019. You know how that goes. In sports, contracts are made to be broken.