The NBA season is fast-approaching as teams begin training camp in the coming days. For one last hurrah, a few NBA players hit the red carpet at Greystone Manor in West Hollywood for the launch of the video game NBA2K14.
The Western Conference’s Pacific division was well-represented at the event, where Pepper On Sports spoke with Andre Iguodala (Golden State Warriors), Nick Young (L.A. Lakers) and Ryan Hollins (L.A. Clippers).
We discussed the controversy-ridden NCAA, wacky injury stories, players one would want as a coach, and how the old Celtics crew will fare in Brooklyn.
Here are some highlights.
Does the NCAA needs an overhaul that would include compensation for athletes?
"I think there will be major changes. I flew under the radar in college so I’m pretty sure I didn’t make the NCAA too much money so I’m cool with them. But as far as, especially the case with Ed O’Bannon, he’s kind of the one who pioneered the whole thing. He did make the NCAA a whole lot of money and he didn’t quite reap the benefits and then he didn’t have that exciting of an NBA career afterwards, so you know, it’s very understandable. Guys who are legends in college, and kind of taken advantage of.”
Editor’s Note: Despite his modesty, Andre was a fantastic player in college and made the NCAA plenty of dough.
"I think [players] should get a little bit [of monetary compensation], but USC, no, we’re legit. We’re strictly by the book up there."
"I’d love to see it. It’s deserved. I think you’d have a chance to eliminate a couple of kids leaving early, a couple of kids from going out and doing silly stuff to make ends meat, and just bringing real honesty to the game. I was a scholarship athlete, my parents did okay, but I was broke in college. I didn’t make enough to get by, you know? You’re put in a very very tough situation so I’d love to see them you know at least get compensated enough to where these kids don’t want for much."
"Obviously you want a little spending money but just enough to cover your bills…simple necessities, you know?"
"I don’t think nothin’ can top being hit by a stripper. Nothin’ is topping that right now. That’s one of a kind."
Jason Kidd went directly from playing to coaching. If you had to choose one current NBA player to be your coach, who would you choose?
"Probably Andre Miller, just because he passes me the ball more than anyone [lauhgs]. I’m pretty sure he could teach someone how to pass the ball to me. No, but he’s a very smart basketball player and has a very high IQ and that’s why he’s been able to play so long at a high level and he’s going to be a very good coach once he gets the opportunity."
"He’s still competing though, giving guys problems night in and night out so I think he probably has three more years left in him."
"I’d probably have to say Jason Kidd…he’s like a coach, he’s been a coach out there on the court since he’s been playing."
How will your former Celtics teammates Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce adjust to playing for Jason Kidd in Brooklyn?
"I think they’ll do great. After playing with those guys, I don’t want to say that they don’t need a coach, but if there was players that would fit in with Jason Kidd in his first year, the type of player that he is and now growing into a head coaching role, it’s a perfect cast to throw together."
On that note, I’m ready for some basketball!!!
It didn’t take long for UCLA to find a rebound after breaking up with Rick Neuheisel a few weeks ago as the school has reportedly hired Jim L. Mora (aka Jim Mora Jr.) to be its next head football coach.
Perhaps L.A. will find itself in another Pete Carroll-esque football fairytale: A failed NFL coach has a tough pill to swallow, taking a perceived demotion to keep his career alive and turns out to be a college football genius, creating one of the most dominating programs in the nation. Carroll was 49 years old when he landed the USC job, Mora is 50. USC football was down in the dumps at the time, just like UCLA is now, not having made the Rose Bowl in a school-record 13 seasons.
After finishing 6-7, UCLA will play in the Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl with offensive coordinator Mike Johnson at the helm as interim coach. Johnson served as the Falcons quarterbacks coach under Mora in Atlanta, a connection that bodes well for Johnson who may very well get to keep his job as a result. UCLA is expected to officially announce the Mora hire Saturday.
This hire is interesting to me in that UCLA’s first choice was Boise State’s Chris Petersen, who is one of the “it” coaches in college football. Everything about Petersen screams “college.” After Petersen turned down the gig, UCLA appraoched Miami’s Al Golden (who wasn’t interested) and subsequently met wth Houston’s Kevin Sumlin who was not offered the job, according to the LA Times.
It appears as though after most of the big names in college ball either already took jobs elsewhere (like Urban Meyer, Rich Rodriguez, etc.) or declined UCLA’s offer, the Bruins went to the next big name they could find, even though he lacks experience at the collegiate level.
That’s where Jim Mora comes in. Sure, we know his name, his famous father and “PLAYOFFS!?!” Sure, he has been a head coach before, but in the NFL, with the Atlanta Falcons, and most recently, Seattle Seahawks before being fired and replaced by Pete Carroll in the offseason of 2010. In fact, Mora’s only coaching at the collegiate level came in 1984 as a graduate assistant at the University of Washington, his alma mater, according to the LA Times. Mora has spent the last two seasons as a television analyst for NFL Network and co-hosts a podcast as well.
According to the LA Times, Mora was interested in the UCLA job from the get-go, meeting with university officials twice. Mora’s interest in the Bruins gig wasn’t completely out of left field as he was born in Los Angeles and his father served as an assistant coach at UCLA in 1974.
With Carroll out, Kiffin in, and still no NFL team, this would be a golden opportunity for UCLA to get its Mojo back. Mora’s name alone will help sell tickets but UCLA alumni and Los Angeles football fans will demand success on the field in order to sustain their interest in the Bruins. Mora certainly has his work cut out for him.
To read the LA Times article about UCLA’s hiring of Jim L. Mora, click here: http://www.latimes.com/sports/la-spw-ucla-jim-mora-20111210,0,3170928.story
His coaching ability might be questionable, but there is no doubt that Rick Neuheisel, UCLA’s lame-duck football coach, is a well liked and respected person.
Wednesday was Neuheisel’s last practice as the Bruins head football coach after being relieved of his duties by his alma mater on Monday, but will remain with the team through their game against Oregon for the Pac 12 conference championship on Friday.
The UCLA players gave Neuheisel a special send off after Wednesday’s practice by picking him and carrying him off the field as they sung the school’s fight song.
According to the LA Times, “Asked if he could have received a better tribute, Neuheisel said, ‘It’s tough to imagine. It’s meaningful when you work to create relationships. You want the best for them, you want them to achieve what they are capable of achieving. Despite the fact that we didn’t win enough games, I think they are achieving as people. I am extremely proud to be a part of this team and I’m looking forward to a grand finish.’”
A source close to the football program told me that while they were not aware of exact details surrounding his firing, they felt bad for Neuheisel, his children and the UCLA players. The source said the public scrutiny is just cruel in times like these. And it’s not even USC!
Clearly, the players like this guy and are sad to see him go as many have gone on record in support of Neuheisel saying they would do their best to beat the Ducks on his behalf. But the saying still rings true: Nice guys finish last.
Being a nice, affable person might help you recruit but doesn’t necessarily translate to play calling or game management on the field. A record below .500 over four seasons just doesn’t cut it, even for a program that hasn’t been successful in several years.
But hey, there is a silver lining here… Justin Combs, son of Diddy, has committed to UCLA despite the impending exit of the coach who recruited him. Will Diddy Jr. ever be a factor on the team? Who knows, but at least UCLA countered USC’s move of signing Lil Romeo - son of Master P - to the basketball team a few years back.
While it remains to be seen who will serve as the next Bruins football coach, at least we can expect to see one big name on UCLA’s sideline… or in Diddy’s case, several:
Sean, Puff, Sean John, Puff Daddy, Puffy, P. Diddy, and now, perhaps, Diddy Bruin Daddy
For more on Justin Combs, click here: http://www.nypost.com/p/sports/high_school/football/hollywood_bound_iona_prep_combs_9aPreLYgj1MJlRCeW2CLOP