|Ronnie Arrow gets second chance at South Alabama, 12 years after being pushed out|
|Written by Admin|
|Thursday, 20 March 2008 14:12|
The first-year South Alabama coach got a second chance at the program where he was ushered out 12 years earlier, just four games into the season.
``There's been a lot of coaches to leave universities and go on to better jobs, and then come back,'' said Arrow, whose Jaguars face Butler on Friday in Birmingham, Ala., in the first round of the NCAA tournament. ``I might be the first one that was ever asked to leave and then asked to come back by the same athletic director.''
When longtime South Alabama AD Joe Gottfried asked Arrow about replacing Arkansas-bound John Pelphrey, the coach's reaction was understandable.
``I thought he was kidding,'' Arrow said.
He led the Jaguars to a pair of NCAA tournament appearances from 1988-94, but that wasn't enough to overcome a stretch when they allowed 100-plus points in four consecutive games and started 1-3. Then-university president Fred Whiddon decided a change needed to be made.
``I resigned. It might have been under duress, but I resigned,'' Arrow said.
M-Corpus Christi program in 1999, leading the Islanders to the NCAA tournament last season. Gottfried, who had initially offered the job to Charlotte's Bobby Lutz, said he asked Arrow about his interest when the coach called to recommend someone else for the job.
``I always tell people George Steinbrenner brought Billy Martin back five times, so there's nothing unusual about it,'' Gottfried said.
THE GRAVES BOYS: A series of Butler coaches owe Rick and Melonie Graves a great debt.
The couple has sent three sons to play for the Indianapolis school and the Bulldogs have gone 222-102 during their tenures. The latest Graves boy, A.J., leads 11th-ranked Butler into the first round of the NCAA tournament against South Alabama on Friday in Birmingham, Ala.
The trio of Andy, Matthew and A.J. won seven regular-season and Horizon League tournament titles, and made five NCAA tournament appearances.
The run will end when the Bulldogs complete their season.
``Hopefully, Rick and Melonie will buy season tickets next year even though there won't be a Graves playing on the court,'' Butler coach Brad Stevens said.
While A.J. deflected questions about who the best brother is, Rick Graves didn't hesitate when asked to evaluate the sons he's watched play basketball the last three decades.
``I think that A.J. probably has the most talent and is the quickest, the fastest of the three,'' the plumbing contractor said. ``I think Matthew is probably the most basketball smart of the three. And Andy was probably the most confident of the three. Andy thinks he can beat anybody.''
A.J., who averaged 13.3 points per game this season, has scored 48 points in three NCAA tournament games, Matthew scored 22 in two games and Andy finished with 21 in three games.
Matthew Graves believes A.J. took a little bit of each older brother's game for himself while watching them play as he grew up in Switz City, Ind., which Rick Graves described as nothing but corn fields and a flashing light.
Eleven years younger than Matthew, A.J. spent a lot of time watching basketball growing up.
``His basketball IQ is really off the charts,'' Matthew Graves said.
YAY FOR TAY: Miami guard Jack McClinton plays his first NCAA tournament game Friday afternoon, when the Hurricanes face Saint Mary's in North Little Rock, Ark.
On Friday night, he'll have vested interest in another game that doesn't even involve Miami's region.
McClinton and Siena guard Tay Fisher are close friends and former teammates; McClinton played his freshman season with the Saints before transferring to Miami. Like McClinton, Fisher - who hit six 3-pointers in the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference final - is playing in the NCAA tournament for the first time. His Saints face Vanderbilt on Friday night.
``Tay's a good friend of mine,'' McClinton said. ``When I was at Siena, he didn't play as much because there were players in front of him. He played, but to see him in the spotlight now, it's great.''
McClinton didn't watch the entire MAAC final, but saw all of Fisher's shooting exploits on TV afterward.
``I saw the highlights,'' McClinton said. ``They were all him.''
MARIO'S TEST: Mario Chalmers was his team's litmus test Thursday. When the Kansas guard was on, so were the Jayhawks. When he got sloppy during a meaningless second half, his team did, too.
Chalmers knows he must be on in the later rounds for Kansas, which won its opener 85-61 over Portland State on Thursday in Omaha, Neb.
The last time he stumbled in the tournament, the Jayhawks were eliminated.
Chalmers, who had 16 points, four assists and three steals Thursday, said he's trying to do more for a No. 1 seed that would be disappointed with any finish short of a national championship.
Chalmers floundered in his last two games of the tournament a year ago. He made two field goals against South Illinois in the round of 16, then was held to two points in 33 minutes in a loss to UCLA that cost the Jayhawks a trip to the Final Four.
``It was tough, but last year is over and done with and it's a new year,'' Chalmers said.