Monday, January 12, 2009

The Works, attention must be paid-style

Back to the future. Quick, who was Auburn University's most successful head coach in the 1980s? Pat Dye? Nope. Sonny Smith? Please. Hal Baird? Not quite.

The answer is Joe Ciampi, who won three straight SEC titles from '87 to '89 despite the fact that he shared a conference with Pat Summitt's Tennessee. From '86 to '89 he went an unbelievable 95-7. He recruited three different Olympians to Auburn. He took the Lady Tigers to three straight national championship games, coming within a basket of the title in '88. He would eventually retire after 25 seasons at the Auburn helm, having won 568 games on the Plains. You could call him the Shug Jordan of the women's basketball program, except that--with all due respect to Jordan--Ciampi was better. When he retired, the shoes he left behind were positively Shaq-sized.

But, somehow, Nell Fortner is filling them. Yesterday the Tigers took on top-20 Florida in what should have been Auburn's toughest home game thus far in their undefeated season. Instead Auburn turned it into a laugher, turning a four-point lead early in the second half into a 16-point drubbing. (Andy Bitter has a nice wrap-up here.) Auburn will go into next Sunday's date with Arkansas 17-0, No. 6 in the AP, 11th in the RPI, third in the country in FG percentage. Their backcourt consists of senior 2-guard DeWanna Bonner--reigning SEC Player of the Week and collector of 11 rebounds vs. Florida--and senior Whitney Boddie, second in the country in assists-per-game.

In short: this is the best basketball team, men's or women's, that's been seen on the Plains in quite some time and even crowds like this one aren't as big as they ought to be. I'm as guilty as anyone as not giving them their proper attention and respect, but that's stopping now. Legitimate national title contenders just don't come around that often, whatever the sport. We'd best enjoy them while we can.

Chizik at the mic. It's been so (relatively) long since I put together a Works post I haven't even linked up the Chiznick's interview from, uh, last Friday. Goldberg version here; Tate version here. Developments are these:

--Raven Gray is gone as well, for reasons no one seems too sure about or even cares to find out. The appropriate visual metaphor for Gray's Auburn career? One of those giant 4th-of-July fireworks whose fuse burns into the canister and then never goes off.

--The new staff is recruiting Texas and Kansas because they were recruiting those places already this recruiting season. In the future they'll stick closer to home. Allegedly--I understand the "we have to recruit Alabama first" rhetoric, but if Luper and Taylor have any Big 12 connections and credibility, it seems silly to not put it to use where applicable.

--Chizik hasn't talked to Ramsey. I sort of wish he would.

--Check out this ninja-level dodge from the Goldberg transcript:
Q: Is it good for former coach Pat Dye to have input?
A: Coach Dye has been great for Auburn. Coach Dye is one of the reasons Auburn is what it is. I certainly respect his opinion. When your name is in the stadium, you've done something right for a number of years. I have a high level of respect for that.
Q: Coach Chizik, do you like to eat ice cream?
A: There's a reason ice cream has a reputation for being delicious. When you see how many gallons of ice cream are bought every day in grocery stores, that says something about how much everyone has enjoyed ice cream over the years.
Q: But coach, do you eat it? Do you eat ice cream?
A: I have a lot of respect for ice cream.
Q: But ...
A: I said, I have a lot of respect for ice cream.
Q: Gotcha.

Recruitin'. This sort of thing, from Rivals, is awesome:

The Latest: After AU visit, top TE done with recruiting — 1/10/2009

Marietta (Ga.) Lassiter four-star TE Philip Lutzenkirchen took an unofficial visit to Auburn Saturday and left with a decision on which school he'll sign with Feb. 4. Is that school Auburn? Go inside to find out ...
Guys, if you've already told me that a long-time Auburn commit has just taken an visit to Auburn and afterwards has declared he's done with recruiting, you'll forgive me if I tell you "thanks but no thanks" on clicking through to find out the school the Auburn commit picked after visiting Auburn is, in fact, Auburn. Besides, the beat writers are going to steal your thunder shortly anyway.

Much more awesome than that, of course, is that Lutzenkirchen is apparently in the fold to stay. While it's fun to get excited about Auburn chasing superstuds like Randle or Tyrik Rollison, job No. 1 for Auburn's staff is herding the guys that have already committed across the finish line. Light as it may be on guys with top-end guru approval, the class Tubby put together was a good one and if Chizik and crew hold it together in the face of the avalanche of negative press and inevitable desertions, that's a huge triumph. Getting Randle to visit is pretty cool, but getting Lutzenkirchen to stay committed is a hell of a lot cooler than that in yours truly's humble opinion. (For what it's worth, Randy Kennedy seems to have my back on that.)

So, yes, having our commits tell the press their visit to Auburn was a 10 out of 10 is good news indeed. And even some of those who were taking hard looks elsewhere may come back to us: after making the googly-eyes at RichRod's Michigan spread, Travante Stallworth got back from his visit to Ann Arbor and said ... um, nice things. (Info buried in the comment thread here. Ctrl-F is your friend.) Stock arrows: still pointing up.

Hey, here's another sport to care about. Sure, seeing Alabama's 95-meet win streak over Auburn in a sport they've traditionally taken much more seriously than we have extend to 96 by the slimmest possible margin kinda sucks--but hey, if you're good enough to essentially reduce a meet against the likes of Alabama (a year-in-year-out national gym power, unfortunately, if ya don't know) to a coin flip, you're not half bad. Which is how you wind up ranked fourth in the country, in front of Alabama and Georgia. Sweet.

Aaaaaand finally ... a couple of readers (including the Wiz) made sure we here at the JCCW were aware of our namesake's second-go-round with a proposed spring football league. The Actual Joe Cribbs was the Team Alabama president in last year's defunct-before-it-started All-American Football League, but apparently he was so good at that he's been upgraded to Commissioner for the entire United National Gridiron League, a kind of independent NFL Europe slated to start play in Birmingham and a handful of other cities next month. We of course wish Mr. Cribbs the very best of luck in this latest endeavor (and not just because a minor-league football venture in the current economy will probably need a little luck).

1 comment:

JayAU'92 said...

Many have wondered what happened to Chaz Ramsey. Well, I think we now know thanks to Evan Woodberry's article today ("Chaz Ramsey And His Future").

Anyone who's played football at any level understands that football coaches are too often ignorant and/or incompassionate when it comes to the complexities of injuries, medical issues, and rehab. But when you hear a kid who's exiled for simply following his doctor's POST-SURGICAL instructions, a training staff that ignores them (aggravating a serious injury), and a coach that essentially blames the kid for the train wreck that ensues, well, then you have go be thankful for your University that coach is now pursuing his true calling: working for a trucking company, NOT coaching. Perhaps the "manly" (but clueless) athletic trainers will follow in Nall's footsteps (out the door) and Ramsey will (and is medicallyl able to) return.

Mein Gott.