Jeff Eisenberg

  • Dean Smith left $200 to all his ex-players for 'a dinner out'

    Jeff Eisenberg at The Dagger 52 mins ago

    When former North Carolina basketball player Dante Calabria checked his mailbox earlier this week, he discovered a surprising letter inside.

    It included a $200 check with the note "enjoy a dinner out compliments of Coach Dean Smith."

    Every player Dean Smith coached during 36 years at North Carolina will receive the same gift, according to a picture of the letter Calabria tweeted Thursday. Smith died Feb. 7 at age 83.

    The gesture from Smith adds to his reputation as the ultimate player's coach. He was beloved among his former players for always making time to give them fatherly advice or encouragement no matter how many years removed from their playing days they were.

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    Jeff Eisenberg is the editor of The Dagger on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at daggerblog@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter!

  • Archie Miller and Dayton agree to a contract extension

    Jeff Eisenberg at The Dagger 2 hrs ago

    Before any power conference programs with job openings could swoop in and lure Archie Miller away this spring, Dayton has signed its coach to a contract extension.

    The Flyers announced the agreement Thursday morning. It runs through the 2021-22 season, though all the extension really means is that Miller is likely off the market this year.

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    Only once in recent years has a coach agreed to an extension only to take another job days later. UCLA was able to woo Steve Alford away from New Mexico two years ago even though the Lobos coach had agreed to a new contract less than two weeks earlier. 

    Miller is a coveted name among athletic directors with coaching vacancies because of what he has done at Dayton the past two years.

    Last season, he led a deep Flyers team to the Elite Eight, knocking off Ohio State, Syracuse and Stanford in the process. This year, Dayton went 27-9 and won two more NCAA tournament games even though the Flyers had only six scholarship players and nobody taller than 6-foot-6 for the final three months of the season.

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  • Laughter has been the soundtrack to Wisconsin's March success

    Jeff Eisenberg at The Dagger 8 hrs ago

    LOS ANGELES — As he scrolled through Instagram on Wednesday morning, Wisconsin forward Sam Dekker discovered a message that made him chuckle.

    A well-meaning fan had written on one of his photos expressing sympathy for how anxious the Badgers must be in advance of two season-defining games that will determine whether or not they make it back to the Final Four.

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    "She said, 'I bet you guys are nervous and stressed out, but just know that we believe in you,'" Dekker said. "We're not though. By no means are we stressed out or worried because that just makes us play worse. We really stay loose and be ourselves."

    In the Lakers Locker Room for practice..... Just pee'd in the urinal my idol @kobebryant goes in!!!! #Blessed

    Whatever Wisconsin is doing, the Badgers should stick with it.

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  • The Crying Game: Looking back at the UCLA-Gonzaga Sweet 16 classic

    Jeff Eisenberg at The Dagger 18 hrs ago

    Gonzaga had just finished shredding Iowa to secure a spot in the Sweet 16 on Sunday night when former Zags big man David Pendergraft took out his phone and tapped out a text message to one of Mark Few's assistant coaches.

    "Congrats," he wrote. "Now please go get some revenge."

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    Watching Gonzaga eliminate UCLA on Friday would be cathartic for Pendergraft because the Bruins are responsible for by far the most agonizing loss he has ever endured. On March 24, 2006, UCLA scored the final 11 points of its Sweet 16 showdown with the Zags to emerge with a 73-71 victory in a game it trailed by 17 in the first half and never led until the final 8.6 seconds.

    The 2006 regional semifinal between Gonzaga and UCLA is one of the most memorable NCAA tournament games in recent memory. What follows is an oral history of that game featuring many key participants or witnesses, each of whom are listed by their 2006 title.

    • • • • •

    One of the consequences of Gonzaga's blown lead against UCLA is we tend to overlook how good the 2006 Zags really were.

  • Traevon Jackson says he's '100 percent playing' against North Carolina

    Jeff Eisenberg at The Dagger 20 hrs ago

    LOS ANGELES — Even though doctors cleared Traevon Jackson before the start of the NCAA tournament, the senior point guard chose not to play in the opening two rounds.

    He wasn't willing to play on his broken right foot before he felt confident in it even if it meant risking his team's season ending without him. 

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    Jackson's gamble paid off because Wisconsin thumped 16th-seeded Coastal Carolina and thwarted eighth-seeded Oregon's spirited upset bid. Now Jackson says he's "100 percent playing" when the top-seeded Badgers meet fourth-seeded North Carolina on Thursday in a West Regional semifinal.

    "Just to be able to play aggressive and play free, that's what I'm looking forward to," Jackson said. "I'm here to help. I'm here to be an addition to the team. That's all I can do. I think I can help out a lot."

    Jackson averaged 9.4 points and 2.6 assists prior to his injury. His ability to create off the dribble and play strong on-ball defense can be an asset to the Badgers.

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  • Mick Cronin thanks Ashley Judd, slyly lets her know he's single

    Jeff Eisenberg at The Dagger 1 day ago

    In addition to thanking Kentucky superfan Ashley Judd for her support of junior forward Octavius Ellis, Cincinnati coach Mick Cronin couldn't resist taking his shot with the actress while he had her attention Tuesday afternoon. 

    Cronin slyly let Judd know he's single in case they ever meet in person someday.

    Thank U to @ashleyjudd for her kind words for Octavius. Te' is a "Great"young man to those of us that actually know him.

    My advice to Ms Judd..Ignore ignorance...And I'm divorced as well (just sayin)

    Cronin's tweets came one day after Judd took to Facebook to apologize to Ellis for comments made about him on social media by other Kentucky fans. Ellis drew the ire of Big Blue Nation for his physical play against the Wildcats just two days after he was ejected from Cincinnati's opening-round win against Purdue for an elbow to the throat of Boilermakers center A.J. Hammons.

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  • Herb Sendek could never sustain momentum at Arizona State

    Jeff Eisenberg at The Dagger 2 days ago

    The nature of sports is such that most coaches are labeled an unequivocal success or an indisputable failure as soon as their tenure at one job is over.

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    Herb Sendek is the rare exception.

    Arizona State's decision to fire Sendek on Tuesday after nine years at the school will probably evoke mixed feelings among most Sun Devils fans. Sendek elevated the program from where it was when he took over in 2006 by taking Arizona State to two NCAA tournaments and four NITs, but he never achieved the sustained success school administrators craved.

    The pinnacle of Sendek's time at Arizona State was the James Harden-Jeff Pendergraph era when the Sun Devils narrowly missed the NCAA tournament in a historically strong Pac-10 in 2008 and reached the round of 32 in 2009. Arizona State achieved relevance again with star point guard Jahii Carson, making the 2013 NIT and nearly upsetting Texas last March in the opening round of the NCAA tournament.  

    Whoever the new coach is, he'll inherit a program in better shape than the one Sendek took over. 

  • Roy Williams doubtful Kennedy Meeks plays against Wisconsin

    Jeff Eisenberg at The Dagger 2 days ago

    Roy Williams doesn't sound optimistic his best low-post scorer will be available Thursday night.

    The North Carolina coach said on his weekly radio show on Monday night that the Tar Heels are preparing as though they won't have Kennedy Meeks when they face top-seeded Wisconsin in the West Regional semifinals.

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    Meeks suffered what North Carolina has called a sprained left knee Saturday night when Arkansas defender Anthlon Bell took a charge and fell into the big man's left knee. Meeks did not practice with the Tar Heels on Monday, but the 6-foot-9 sophomore is expected to travel with the team to Los Angeles.

    "It's not good," Williams said on his radio show. "They're not completely ruling him out, and they're not saying that he can play. Let me say it that way — I don't think we'll have him, but we'll just have to wait and see."

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  • Ranking the Sweet 16 in order of most to least likely to win a title

    Jeff Eisenberg at The Dagger 2 days ago

    1. Kentucky How it got here: Defeated Hampton (16), Cincinnati (8) Up next: West Virginia (5) Outlook: Even though Kentucky is even money in Las Vegas to win the national title and an even heavier favorite to reach the Final Four, the Wildcats' Sweet 16 matchup with West Virginia is compelling if only because the Mountaineers will throw them a different look. Kentucky will have to avoid turning the ball over against the most physical full-court press it's seen all season. The Wildcats will also have to keep the Mountaineers off the offensive glass.

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    Jeff Eisenberg is the editor of The Dagger on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at daggerblog@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter!

    Follow @JeffEisenberg

  • Why Ben Howland is an ideal hire for rebuilding Mississippi State

    Jeff Eisenberg at The Dagger 3 days ago

    Three things bring Ben Howland the most joy in life: Family, fly fishing and coaching basketball. 

    His passion for the final item on that list is so great that he eagerly traded a relaxing lifestyle and daily walks on the beach in his hometown of Santa Barbara for a high-stress rebuilding job in Starkville, Miss.

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    Howland has reached an agreement to become Mississippi State's next coach, ESPN.com first reported on Monday. The hire comes only two days after Mississippi State abruptly fired coach Rick Ray after a third straight losing season, suggesting that the Bulldogs already had a very good idea that Howland would take the job if it became available.

    The hire of Howland is a major upgrade based on his track record of rebuilding successfully in very different ways at Northern Arizona, Pittsburgh and UCLA.

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