Posts Tagged ‘Jamie Pollard’

Ex-Cyclones Stinson, Blalock want to see program rebound

March 17, 2010

Former Iowa State star would like to see his team back in Big Dance

AMES — As March Madness tips off Thursday around the country, there’s excitement and disappointment with former Cyclone Curtis Stinson.

Stinson captained Iowa State’s last NCAA Tournament team in 2005, when the Cyclones beat Minnesota and fell in the second round to eventual national champion North Carolina. ISU hasn’t come close to a postseason game since.

Meanwhile, his Iowa Energy teammates are going back and forth about their alma mater’s chances in the Big Dance.

“I want to be able to talk about my team, too, when NCAA time comes around and people are doing their brackets,” Stinson said during a late-season visit to Hilton Coliseum with former running mate Will Blalock, also an NBA D-Leaguer.

Despite how things ended for both of them at ISU – turning pro early after head coach Wayne Morgan was fired and Greg McDermott was hired away from Northern Iowa – they are eager for their school to rediscover Hilton Magic and get back to the Big Dance.

Their final season was ISU’s last one over .500.

“I want to see Iowa State be successful,” Stinson said. “This is my school. I’ll always be a Cyclone no matter what happens. I want to see them win. I’m cool with some of the guys on the team. I want them to be happy and experience what we did. We had some big wins and NCAA experience.”

Morgan’s exit and the mass exodus that followed, in large part, has led to the program’s troubles.

Blalock hadn’t been back to Ames for a game since he left. He didn’t feel Morgan deserved to be let go.

“That’s why I’m still kinda bitter about the situation,” Blalock said. “If he was here I’d probably be showing a lot more support than I am.

“Being a fan of my school I’m going to support them regardless. I know they’ll turn it around sooner or later. You can’t really put too much pressure on them. They are in a rebuilding process. Hopefully next year it’ll be a lot better.”

McDermott received a vote of confidence from athletic director Jamie Pollard last week and has five years left on his contract.

ISU’s team won’t have an easy time winning next season without starters Craig Brackins, Marquis Gilstrap, Lucca Staiger and Justin Hamilton. Stinson hopes ISU’s patience pays off.

“I never want to see nobody not make it,” he said. “I know how hard it is to get that next level… Every team is a building process.”

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Hamilton’s surprise transfer a killer for Cyclones

March 14, 2010

Craig Brackins’ exit from Iowa State’s basketball program hardly comes as a surprise.

Justin Hamilton’s does.

And it hurts. Bad.

The sophomore center was the Cyclones’ most improved player this season and an expected anchor of the team’s frontcourt next year and beyond. But after two seasons of teaching and bodyshaping – turning Hamilton into a player opposing teams have to include on their scouting report – he’s gone, looking for a school closer to his home state of Utah.

The smart money says he lands at BYU.

Hamilton’s decision came as a surprise to many. Here he was a few days earlier when asked about next season, where the uncertainly lied with Brackins and Marquis Gilstrap:

“We have to just see what happens. I’m sure everything will work out,” he said. “We’ll have a great team next year… We are going to have a lot of unknowns. We are going to have to have a lot of guys improve over the summer.”

Now, days after coach Greg McDermott and athletic director Jamie Pollard professed their excitement over next year’s team, the roster is yet again in tatters.

Here was Pollard last Monday:

“There’s a group of individuals that are coming back that have played in the toughest conference in the country hands down… and been in games,” he said. “I look at that nucleus and stay that isn’t starting over.”

Hamilton was at the center of that nucleus. Not anymore.

Four-fifths of the lineup that started ISU’s 2009-10 season opener (Brackins, Hamilton, Gilstrap and Lucca Staiger) is history.

So who’s left?

Diante Garrett will be a senior. So will reserve forward LaRon Dendy.

Charles Boozer and Jamie Vanderbeken are coming back off injury.

Chris Colvin says he’s coming back. Should we believe him?

Scott Christopherson has already left one school to come to ISU. He isn’t going anywhere.

Antwon Oliver and Bubo Palo rode out redshirts this season and don’t figure to go elsewhere before ever playing a game.

Signed for next year is Brewster (N.H.) Academy wing Melvin Ejim and Marshalltown Community College guard DeMarcus Phillips. Oregon prep center Jordan Railey has verbally committed.

That’s 10 scholarship players on the hook right now for next season – assuming no one else decides to pick up and leave.

Three spots are open.

McDermott and his staff are recruiting the junior college ranks heavily, and they need to.  Immediate help is imperative for a team that went 15-17 overall, 4-12 in the Big 12, and now has lost its top two scorers and three best rebounders.

“We’ve got to have guys who are committed to each other and are committed to the institution. If you have that, you have a chance,” McDermott said. “I like the new guys that we have coming in and hopefully we can add to that.”

Playing time will be a big selling point.

It should be an interesting couple of weeks before the start of the late signing period.

More on McDermott’s return…

March 9, 2010

Sound off on Greg McDermott and his coaching performance all you want, Cyclone Nation.

But lay off his Iowa State players please, McDermott said Monday during a news conference centering on his continued employment as the team’s head coach.

Some ISU fans have been very vocal lately in their displeasure with McDermott and the program’s direction. The Cyclones — an NCAA hopeful coming into the season — have been a major disappointment at 15-16 overall and 4-12 in Big 12 play.

Direct your anger toward McDermott, he asks.

“I’m a big boy. I can handle it,” he said. “(The players) don’t deserve that. They deserve the support of every Cyclone fan out there… It’s not my right to care what other people think of the job that I am doing. They are entitled to their opinion and I respect that.”

Athletic Director Jamie Pollard gave the fourth-year coach a public vote of confidence in an e-mail to donors and ticket holders and later to assembled reporters.

McDermott said his seat never felt hot.

He and Pollard were in constant communication, even though Pollard wasn’t responding to increasing calls for a coaching change.

“The reality is my job was never in jeopardy,” McDermott said on Monday’s teleconference with league coaches. “I don’t have time to worry about what other people think and it’s none of my business what they think. I’ve had the unwavering support of the administration.”

The Cyclones have remain competitive when they could have packed it in.

They are 2-4 in their last six games, with four of the losses by five points or less. One of the wins was the 85-82 overtime shocker at No. 5 Kansas State.

Still, the wins haven’t come as regularly as expected. McDermott is 59-67 overall and 18-46 in Big 12 play.

Pollard feels McDermott still is the right man for the job.

“It’s been frustrating,” he said. “It’s been disappointing for fans, for Coach McDermott and his staff and for players. There’s a lot of things that have happened… some of which were self-inflicting, some were out of anybody’s control. At this juncture it doesn’t matter.”

Pollard: McDermott will return as coach

March 8, 2010

AMES –We’ve been waiting for weeks to hear Iowa State Athletic Director Jamie Pollard address the status of coach Greg McDermott and the state of the men’s basketball program.

Pollard finally did so Monday morning, emailing a letter to donors that, in part, pledges his support of McDermott.

He is expected to speak with reporters later today.

McDermott is 59-67 overall and 18-46 in Big 12 games in four seasons. ISU plays Texas Wednesday night at 8:30 p.m. at the Big 12 Tournament in Kansas City, Mo.

Here is Pollard’s full letter:

Dear Cyclone fans,

Nearly four years ago, we implemented several strategic decisions to elevate our athletics program within the Big 12 Conference. Our initiatives were to grow funding, enhance facilities and improve academic and competitive performance.

I am pleased to share with you that we have made significant progress:

1. We have increased annual funding for our athletics program from $28 million to $42 million. More importantly, we have achieved that level of funding while reducing our annual reliance on State support from 12% to less than 5%.

2. We have invested more than $50 million in critical facility upgrades and new construction, including the Hixson-Lied Student Success Center, the Sukup Basketball Complex, the Jack Trice Club and a golf indoor practice facility.

3. Last fall, our student-athletes recorded the highest graduation rate (79%) in Iowa State University history. That rate led the Big 12 and was 14% higher than ISU undergraduates.

4. We are in the midst of, potentially, the best competitive season in school history. Our Directors’ Cup finish for the fall (22nd nationally) is the best in ISU history and we are currently fifth in Big 12 all-sports rankings (on the heels of finishing last in seven of the prior eight years).

Unfortunately, one of the key elements in that competitive success – men’s basketball – has not experienced the same level of on-court success as many of our other programs. The competitive performance of our men’s basketball program has been both disappointing and frustrating.

Some fans have suggested that we make a change in the leadership of our men’s basketball program. It is important to understand that many factors are considered when deciding who gets the privilege and honor to be an Iowa State head coach. Certainly, competitive success is an important measure. However, so are the personal character and integrity of our coaches and the performance of our student-athletes in the classroom and in public.

Although we have not yet won games at the level we all desire, Coach McDermott and his staff have exhibited exemplary character and integrity and our men’s basketball student-athletes have performed admirably in many areas. As a result, I remain fully committed and supportive of Coach McDermott and his staff. Our department will continue to provide the necessary resources for our men’s basketball program to be competitive in this league and nationally so that we can achieve the goals we have outlined for our department.

As investors in our athletics program – through season ticket purchases and/or donations to the Cyclone Club – we felt it was important to communicate directly to you about our men’s basketball program.

Thank you for continuing to support us. As true Cyclones, we know that we can count upon your help as we try to reach our goals.
Go Cyclones!

Sincerely,

Jamie Pollard
Director of Athletics

Is McDermott finally feeling the heat?

February 18, 2010

McDermott's post-game scene Wednesday was tough to watch

AMES — The pressure may finally be getting to Greg McDermott.

The Iowa State coach got emotional addressing reporters after his team’s 69-64 loss to Oklahoma State, the Cyclones’ fifth straight and eighth in nine tries.

ISU (13-13, 2-9 Big 12) couldn’t do much right early on and trailed 36-16  with 5 1/2 minutes before halftime.

Fans were restless. The student section was quiet, except for the snide remarks aimed at ISU’s players and their fourth-year coach. Players’ body language screamed frustration and embarassment.

“The start of the game was a joke,” McDermott said softly, searching for the right words. “That’s all there is to it. It’s my job to get these guys ready and they obviously weren’t. I didn’t feel like we practiced with quite as much focus and energy the past few days, but there’s no excuse for it.”

The Cyclones rallied to make it a game, led for a bit in the second half, but couldn’t make enough of the right plays late to win.

On the court, we saw McDermott act in a way fans — and we in the media — aren’t used to seeing from him.

After a no-call on forward Craig Brackins under ISU’s basket, McDermott reacted by ripping off his suit coat, throwing it to the ground and screaming in the face of official Kip Kissinger, who quickly whistled McDermott for a technical foul.

It didn’t stop there. He rode officials the rest of the way, barking and staring, and probably is lucky he wasn’t tossed.

A colleague of mine described McDermott as looking defeated during his post-game remarks. Could you blame the guy with how this once-promising season has gone?

It was a strange scene Wednesday night at Hilton Coliseum. It could get stranger. 

Athletic Director Jamie Pollard isn’t talking publicly about McDermott’s status. It’s getting harder to ignore with each passing game that doesn’t go ISU’s way.

Why is Pollard mum on Mac? Because he can be

February 15, 2010

Is McDermott on the hot seat? His boss isn't saying.

In response to the great number of people asking their friends, wondering, blogging, chatting and filling up Internet space in regards to Greg McDermott’s job status at Iowa State and why Athletics Director Jamie Pollard hasn’t adressed it publicly, here’s the answer:

He doesn’t have to.

Media outlets — including this one — have made multiple inquiries on the topic. Pollard believes it is most beneficial to remain quiet.  

McDermott, who after Saturday’s loss to No. 1 Kansas has records of 57-63 overall and 16-42 in Big 12 Conference play, is under contract through the 2014-15 season.

According to details of his contract, the fourth-year coach is earning $950,000 this year and next year will crack the $1 million mark.

McDermott’s base salary is $225,000 with $625,000 more in guaranteed additional compensation. He also earns an annual raise of $75,000 for the life of the contract, though agreed to  give up $25,000 of that increase for the 2010 fiscal year to help pay for raises for his assistants and “other purposes in the best interest of the program,” according to his contract.

If Pollard decided the man he hired back in March 2006 should not continue coaching the Cyclones after this season, McDermott would be paid $2 million, or $500,000  for each remaining year of his deal.

In the spring of 2008 his contract was extended through May 1, 2015.

This started as McDermott’s most anticipated yet. He finally had the kind of depth and talent that past team did not.

It’s been disappointing, for several reasons, as ISU sits at 13-12 overall and 2-8 in league play.

If the program doesn’t start winning sooner than later, Pollard won’t need make any public statements. His hand will likely be forced. 

At this point in time, Pollard doesn’t feel the need to speak out.

Rhoads proud to be coaching in Tempe

December 30, 2009

Iowa State Coach Paul Rhoads’ body language has been in sync with his words from the first day on the job.

And the way Rhoads was smiling and bouncing around Tuesday in Tempe,  Ariz., as the first-year coach’s team prepares to play Minnesota in the Insight Bowl, he really is “proud to be your coach.”  

The phrase has caught on amongst Cyclone fans and Rhoads supporters.

The coach most famously said it in the locker room following ISU’s stunning 9-7 victory at Nebraska, an emotional speech that was viewed widely on the Internet.

“If you go back to May when we started our Tailgate Tours I ended every one of those talks that way,” Rhoads said. “I don’t think it’s something I coined or always will be how I sign off.”

Rhoads said it to his players during their first team meeting back on Jan. 12, just as he promised Athletic Director Jamie Pollard he would when interviewing to be Gene Chizik’s successor.

He’ll probably say it again Wednesday night at ISU’s spirit rally.

Will he get to say it again Thursday night in the locker room after beating the Golden Gophers?

ISU’s players bought into Rhoads’ more personable, caring approach. Once they put confidence with ability, reaching the postseason was a realistic possibility this season.

“We knew that we were a lot better than we showd on game days,” said senior defensive tackle Nate Frere. “As soon as Coach Rhoads got here and set those goals for us and we started buying into the system, everything just took off.”

And made Rhoads proud to be their coach.

Insight Bowl TV, injury and ticket news

December 12, 2009

Mediacom cable customers won’t be seeing NFL Network on their channel lineup any time soon, but that doesn’t mean they are SOL for Iowa State’s Insight Bowl game against Minnesota in Tempe, Ariz.

Bowl officials will try to find a home for the game in the local markets before the Dec. 31 game. Insight representatives were in Ames Friday meeting with ISU officials.

“One of the things we’ll do over the next couple of weeks is work with the NFL Network to try and get better access in the team markets so that folks here who don’t have it can see the game,” said Insight rep Jay Fields.

NFL Network has had the rights to the game since its inception in 2006.

Mediacom does not carry that channel on any of its packages — and apparently doesn’t plan to.

“I don’t see that changing,” ISU Athletic Director Jamie Pollard said. “Whether there will be an oppoithty for the game to be seen over the air…I’m glad to hear they are working on it.”

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Pollard said half of ISU’s alotted 10,500 tickets have been sold since Sunday’s announcement.

This week’s freezing temperatures and record snowfall have probably helped spur sales. Are ISU folks hoping for another blizzard or two before the month is out?

“Personaly I hope not because I don’t want to have to eal with it,” Pollard said. “but if that’s what it takes to get people to go to tempe, then I am all for it. Let it snow, let it snow, let it snow.”

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Defensive back Ter’ran Benton is fully participating in practice activity and will play against the Golden Gophers.

Benton broke a bone in his leg during ISU’s Oct. 24 win over Nebraska. The sophomore totaled 36 tackles and two sacks this season, playing mainly as the Cyclones’ nickel back.

“He is back practicing and doing everything full speed,”  Coach Paul Rhoads said. “It’ll be exciting to see him back in uniform.”

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Iowa State’s trip down there in 2000 remains the stuff of legend in the Valley of the Sun.

The school sold 12,000 tickets to the game and at least another 8,000 — more depending on whom you talk to — were inside Bank One Ballpark.

“When people talk about the Insight Bowl and the growth it has had, the game everyone always talks about is Iowa State-Pittsburgh and how many people came from the state of Iowa to watch the Cyclones,” Fields said.

ISU and Iowa in AZ would be a “coincidence”

December 5, 2009

Iowa and Iowa State will not come to Arizona bowl games as a package deal.

This coming from Tony Alba, a spokesman for the Fiesta and Insight bowls, which have both of the state schools very much on their radar.

The rivals could bring some crossover fans, who would arrive for ISU’s Dec. 31 Insight Bowl game against a Big Ten, then stay in town to watch the Hawkeyes play in the Jan. 4 Fiesta Bowl.

Alba said this week that the selection committee extends invitations independently.

“We don’t look at it that way at all,” he said. “It could work out like that by coincidence. We look at the best decision for the Fiesta Bowl and the best decision for the Insight Bowl.”

We’ll know for sure Sunday night, when all the bowls’ selections are finalized.

ISU (6-6) also could play in the Independence or Texas bowls.

The Cyclones have played in all three of those bowls before. They were picked for the Independence Bowl in Shreveport, La., twice this decade, most recently in 2004.

“They haven’t indicated that’s an issue,” ISU Athletic Director Jamie Pollard said.

Of course, things could change depending on the results of Saturday’s games, particularly the Big 12 Championship game between Texas and Nebraska.

Adjustments to kicking game; tix update for Okie State game

October 28, 2009

In response to a question about Iowa State’s struggling kicking game, Coach Paul Rhoads said Monday night on his call-in show that holder Derec Schmidgall and kicker Grant Mahoney will set up a yard or two deeper when kicking field goals and PATs starting this week against Texas A&M.

Mahoney had one of each blocked last week at Nebraska and, as we all remember, had the game-tying PAT blocked in the final minute in a loss to Kansas State that was the start of his difficulties.

He’s made only four of his last field goals and either shanked or had blocked four PAT tries in the last four games after making the first 47 of his career.

The sophomore from Marion clearly is in a funk.

“It’s certainly a major issue with this football team and we’ll address it like anything else,” Rhoads said. “We’re always talking about adjusting because Grant’s ball doesn’t necessarily lift up as much as you would like.”

It didn’t help that Husker defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh easily shed his blocker and barged through the middle of the line to swat away Mahoney’s kick.

“There were a number of things that contributed to the blocked kicks, not just Grant,” Rhoads continued. “We’re working rapidly to make sure that we fix all of those things and don’t repeat it. What’s taken place before isn’t a repeated mistake. These were new issues that we got to deal with.”

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Also heard on this week’s call-in show, ISU had sold just 39,000 tickets as of Monday for next week’s game against No. 13 Oklahoma State at Jack Trice Stadium.

Athletic Director Jamie Pollard said the OSU game and the Cyclones’ previous home game with Baylor — which drew a crowd of 42,253 — were not sold as part of ISU’s mini-pack ticket package, which sets the attendance total back 5,000 right off the bat.

The first three home games of the season (No. Dakota State, Iowa and Army) averaged 50,484.

Pollard strongly encourages fans (I’m paraphrasing him here) to show their support and come out for the game, which will kickoff at either 11:30, 2:30 or  7 p.m. depending on what the television networks decide. That will be known Sunday.

ISU could be playing for bowl eligibility for the first time since 2005.