It has been a difficult week at the Countdown, as I let my man love for Toney Douglas get the best of me, and it resulted in picking Florida State to get to the Final Four. So now, after a monumental face plant against Wisconsin — and there is the ACC’s general tournament showing in a nutshell — I wake up in the morning and look at my bracket and the entire East Regional is curled up in the fetal position, as my wife and daughter mock me, knowing I’m all but dead in our house pool for a $10 Starbucks card (which, of course, I paid for.) If nothing else, I have something in common with Braves general manager Frank Wren. He also had the Seminoles in the Final Four in his bracket. The difference is, Wren had the Noles defeating North Carolina and going to the championship game. John Schuerholz would NEVER have done that. (Sorry. That was too easy.) You can find the picks of all four of Atlanta’s GMs in this week’s Countdown. But first, we would like to commend Damon Evans for his decision to not make a decision yet. Let me explain. Take it, Count . . .
This absolutely is not a knock on Anthony Grant, the Virginia Commonwealth coach and former Florida assistant who is on several teams’ radar. If Evans hires Grant as Georgia’s next basketball coach, he will have made a terrific choice. Grant is an up-and-coming coach from a mid-major who knows the South and should be able to recruit in Georgia and instill some life into the Bulldogs’ program. But that said, if you have the chance to talk to a head coach who already has proven himself at a major conference, why would you pass that up?
There are at least two proven coaches still in the tournament who might be open to leaving their current jobs. You know the names: Oklahoma’s Jeff Capel and Missouri’s Mike Anderson. Let’s start with Capel. Nothing against Grant. (I felt the need to repeat that.) But Capel is the one who handed Grant a winning program at VCU (50-22 in CAA conference games in four years). At Oklahoma, Capel has taken the Sooners (please note: a football school) from 6-10 to 9-7 to 13-3 in the Big 12. He is young and bright and also knows the South (born in Fayetteville, N.C., played at Duke). Now, I don’t know if getting Capel ranks as any more than a pipe dream. It’s possible he’ll choose to stay right where he is. It’s also possible he would prefer a program with a little more cache than Georgia. It’s also possible he’s just waiting for Mike Krzyzewski to retire, because logic dictates he would be a top candidate there. But I know from past conversations with Evans that he has extremely high expectations for the basketball program. It follows that he is going to aim high. This is as high as you can aim. We’ve already had one report linking Capel with Georgia. It only makes sense for Evans to gauge Capel’s interest before moving on to . . .
Missouri fans aren’t happy that their coach’s name is being floated everywhere while the team is in the Sweet 16. The problem is Anderson left the door open Monday. When asked about his possible candidacy at Georgia or Alabama, the Mizzou coach did not say, “I’m not interested.” He said, “We’re in the Sweet 16. We’re talking about the Memphis Tigers today.” Anderson makes sense for Alabama because he’s from Birmingham. But Evans should like the fact he made a dent in the SEC as far back as 2004: He was coaching UAB when the Blazers upset Kentucky — which at the time, was a big deal — and advanced to the Sweet 16. Come to think of it, maybe Kentucky wants him. There’s only 16 coaches left in the tournament. If you’re really shooting that high, why wouldn’t you talk to two of them before making a decision?
The Hawks’ Al Horford knows Grant from his days at Florida. “He’s a great coach,” he said. Some background: Grant was going to be named as Billy Donovan’s replacement when the latter said he was going to the NBA, before a U-turn. Grant stayed at VCU. When asked about Grant possibly going to Georgia, Horford said, “He’d be a great choice for them. But honestly, I don’t know if he’ll leave VCU. He has a pretty good situation where he’s at now and I know he’s real comfortable there. He might now want to go.”
(Exclamation points drive page views.) Before the start of the NCAA tournament, I asked the four general managers of the pro sports teams in town — Thomas Dimitroff (Falcons), Frank Wren (Braves), Rick Sund (Hawks) and Don Waddell (Thrashers) — to predict the Final Four teams and a champion. I considered having them do the entire NCAA bracket. But I figured Mark Bradley might sue for contest copyright
infringement. Besides, isn’t it all about the final two minutes in basketball, anyway? Well, the early returns are in, and two of the Atlanta Four — Dimitroff and Waddell — have all of their Final Four teams intact. The difference is that Dimitroff has the Tar Heels winning the championship over Louisville, but Waddell (maybe because of his Michigan roots and his adoration of Jim Slater) went with Michigan State over UNC in the title game. You can find all of their selections below their mugshots. The winner of the contest gets absolutely nothing, beyond recognition by the Countdown and all of its mildly disturbed followers.
Japan won the World Baseball Classic over Korea. They have stolen our game. Americans every where hide their faces in shame. (Pause) OK, I’m fine now. When’s the season start?
Yes, it’s that time in the Countdown for the Cheap Page View Tool of the Week. As has been out custom, we’re trying to keep the hotties loosely related to a sports issue of the week, and also provide a picture of a famous male for the women readers. Everybody should be happy this week. While the NCAA tournament generally has been devoid of upsets, Missouri has an RPI of only 117, easily the lowest of the remaining teams. But the school has a long list of famous alums, including Sheryl Crow and Brad Pitt. So here are pictures of both. Let me take this opportunity to point out that Lance Armstrong left this woman and, therefore, is the dumbest person on the face of the earth. Regarding Pitt: It turns out that when he was studying to be an actor, he worked at an El Pollo Loco restaurant, dressed up as the chicken mascot, to support himself. But ladies: check out the shoulders!
The Hawks suddenly have a three and a half game lead over Miami for the fourth spot in the Eastern Conference, which is kind of an important thing. They’ve won eight straight at Philips Arena, where they’re 28-7, compared to 14-22 on the road, where they just got shellacked by Cleveland. Now, I realize there’s still a lot of angst among fans about the road record. I know this from my emails. But the Hawks’ next three games are at home against San Antonio, Boston and Los Angeles. Those three teams have a combined record of 154-56 (.733). Philips Arena, Boston Garden, Neptune — I don’t care. A strong showing in these three games should tell you all you need to know about this team moving forward.
The Thrashers are 12-6-1 in their last 19 game, which is a credit to coach John Anderson because it’s not easy keeping players motivated when they’re out of the playoff race, particularly after the trade deadline when contenders turn it up. Here’s the issue: Owners and GMs tend to look at the big picture, not day to day (like coaches and players). This hot streak accomplishes little in terms of ticket sales and sponsorships. Big picture: While the play of some young players is a good sign, the Thrashers might be winning themselves out of the John Tavares sweepstakes. Tavares is expected to be the No. 1 pick in the draft. He broke Wayne Gretzky’s Ontario Hockey League record for goals with 72 when he was 16. The NHL has a draft lottery for all non-playoff teams. But only the five worst teams are eligible for the No. 1 pick. The Thrashers’ current standing: 27th (fourth from the bottom). They are only four points behind the last non-Tavares-eligible team, Los Angeles (25th). So maybe they should slow down just a little.
Coming next week: The six women Alex Rodriguez hasn’t slept with.
Jeff Schultz, fighting to stay relevant with peeps under 40, can be reached via email (email@example.com), Facebook, Tweeter (SchultzAJC) or carrier pigeon (exit 7a off 400).