published Thursday, December 15th, 2011

5-at-10: The new Kiffin, UT hoops and Christmas songs

Don't forget the Friday mailbag — there are still some open spots available. Let's get to work.

Live from the "Mama McNabb stage at the Al Davis studios," here we go:

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    Southern California head coach Lane Kiffin, right, gives instructions to wide receiver Kyle Prater during the second half of their NCAA college football game against Syracuse, Saturday, Sept. 17, 2011, in Los Angeles. USC won 38-17. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)

Graham sets new standard

All of the sketchy coaching departures are now fighting for second-worst. All of the cheesy non-denial denials that seem Shakespearean compared to the out-and-out lies coaches and administrators have spewed for various reasons during coaches searches seem forthright in comparison. All the sleazy, sneaky, hypocritical exits until this day would have been called a "Kiffin," now they could be called a "Graham," as in Todd Graham, the new Arizona State football coach who left Pittsburgh on Wednesday after one season that included a 6-6 record and a river of lies.

This guy makes Jim Tressel seem reliable and Bruce Pearl look like baby-sitting material. Who's going to be this guy's recruiting coordinator, Nevin Shapiro?

And the feedback — from the Pittsburgh side and in part from the Arizona State side — has been quick and relentless.

One of PIttsburgh's best players, receiver Devin Street, pulled no punches on social media, tweeting about being lied to and how Graham told the team he was at Pittsburgh to stay. "No class, he’s a quitter, soft, liar, hypocrite," Street tweeted.

Granted, part of this is the business of college sports. Coaches are hired to be fired, and coaches are always looking for the next opportunity. That's a simple truth.

But for Graham, who was 6-6 in his only season at Pitt, this has become a pattern. He left Rice after one season before going to Tulsa five years ago, but now he stands up at ASU — his fourth school in six years — at a news conference and says, "It was very quick and very rapid, and I had no intention of (taking) any other job. It was very, very heart-wrenching ... but this is a dream situation for us."

OK, that's possible and it's play No. 1 in the new coach handbook, "Oh the last place, we didn't expect to leave and it was great but this place is a dream, blah, blah, blah." But last weekend Graham told recruits and players he was not going anywhere, including ASU, which has been looking for a coach for several weeks. It has been reported that Graham sought out the Arizona State job, not the other way around. It also has been reported that Graham asked Pitt administrators for permission to talk to ASU, and that request was denied. Heck, Graham spoke Tuesday at the "Coaches Corner" banquet in Pittsburgh, selling the program and talking about the future. Roughly 24 hours later, that future was 2,500 miles West.

Plus, Graham had the class and dignity to inform his team with a statement through a text message that was relayed through a second party. Even Bobby Petrino, who left the Atlanta Falcons in the middle of the night with a note to the players on the locker room wall, would think that was cowardly.

You stay CLASSY, Todd.

——————

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    Tennessee forward Jordan McRae (52) is stuffed by Austin Peay forward Melvin Baker, rear, as guard Jerome Clyburn (1) defends during the second half of an NCAA college basketball game at Thompson-Boling Arena in Knoxville, Tenn., Saturday, Dec. 10, 2011.
    Photo by (AP Photo by Adam Brimer/Knoxville News Sentinel)

UT Vols fall in Charleston

Cuonzo Martin's team is under-talented. Yes, we made up that word, but it seems to fit.

The Vols are under-talented, and it's not as bad as under-achieving or nowhere near as troubling under-trying. These Vols, who lost at College of Charleston 71-65 Wednesday night, simply do not have the horses. The Vols' talent level forces Martin to take a knife to a gun fight almost on a regular basis, including Wednesday, when College of Charleston was every bit the Vols equal in talent. (That at least bodes well for the UTC Mocs, who took that same CoC team to double-OT before losing earlier this month. UTC plays at Knoxville on Jan. 2.)

If you don't believe it or refuse to believe that the Vols have talent that would make them the SoCon favorite, well, know that Skylar McBee and his Camaro-esque 'Stache were prominently involved in crunch-time minutes Wednesday.

We've been impressed with Martin's style and approach — these Vols play harder than any UT team since Bruce Pearl's second season — they just don't have the horses. Which brings us to this question for Martin and Co.: When you don't have an offensive star, why is the phrase "premature shot selection," the best way to describe your plan of attack. Hey, even Norman Dale punted the "four passes before a shot approach" when Jimmy Chitwood joined the Huskers because when you have a star you feed him the ball. These Vols do not have an offensive star — if you think Jordan McRae counts, then you need to skip to the next item, or we'd like to thank you for reading, Jordan McRae's mom — so maybe an extra pass or two could lead to an open shot. Just a thought.

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    A Atlanta Falcons fan watches the Seattle Seahawks and Atlanta Falcons second half of a NFL football game, Sunday, Oct. 2, 2011, in Seattle. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren)

HUGE game in the A-T-L

There's no way to overstate tonight's NFL tackle football game between the Atlanta Falcons and the Jacksonville Jaguars for the home-standing Falcons.

At 8-5, the Falcons and Detroit currently hold the wildcard spots — one game ahead of Chicago, Dallas and New York — with three games left. Seattle and Arizona are two game off the pace at 6-7.

For the Falcons, tonight's game against the 4-9 Jags is the easiest of the final three. Atlanta goes to New Orleans on Dec. 26 and welcomes Tampa Bay on New Year's Day. This is a "gotta-have" game for the Falcons, who have pushed their chips in for right now.

Atlanta traded next year's first-round pick for Julio Jones — a move that signified this team's desire to make a Super Bowl charge sooner rather than later. The 5-at-10 backed that move then, and we back it now, but missing the playoffs was not part of the equation.

And remember, the Packers won the Super Bowl as the No. 6 seed last year, so all these Falcons have to do is find a way into the playoffs. And that starts tonight.

—————

This and that

— Reports out of Indy say Peyton Manning is doing more throwing as part of his rehab from the neck surgeries that have cost him all of the 2011 season so far. He has been throwing a football, now he's throwing more. There has been no word as to when Manning will return to practice as a participant.

— South Carolina released its self-imposed penalties after the NCAA found major violations in the Gamecocks football program that included players getting $55,000 in benefits in hotel rooms and a shady relationship with some USC boosters that run a Delaware-based mentoring group. South Carolina has proposed a fine of $18,500 and will eliminate six football scholarships over the next three years, which may appease today's NCAA. The lesson here is two-fold: One it appears that South Carolina was truthful in its dealings with the NCAA, and we all know the importance of that; Secondly, from the timing is everything file, if this stuff with the Gamecocks had come before the NCAA three years ago — before Tressel and the Miami scandal and the evil at Penn State — there would be outcries of cover-up and corruption and conspiracy. Today, the charges against USC seem rather pedestrian, which in the grand scheme of things, they are.

— The 5-at-10 is finishing up our Winners/Losers Bowl-a-palooza. Check back around 2 p.m. for complete details.

————

Today's question

The 5-at-10 loves, Loves, LOVES Christmas. Always has and always will. You know this.

This week our questions have been/will be about Christmas and sports. Monday was passive/aggressive Christmas cards, and there were some great ones (to Nick Fairley, to Lane Kiffin, even to Al Davis — well-played indeed). Tuesday was the best sports-related Christmas gifts (kudos to chas9 and Co. for a great round of comments). Wednesday was pleas to Sports Santa (golf clubs were requested, better golf swings likely are needed).

Today, we going more sentimental than sports. Best Christmas song.

Bring it.

about Jay Greeson...

Jay was named the Sports Editor of the Times Free Press in 2003 and started with the newspaper in May 2002 as the Deputy Sports Editor. He was born and raised in Smyrna, Ga., and graduated from Auburn University before starting his newspaper career in 1997 with the Newnan (Ga.) Times Herald. Stops in Clayton and Henry counties in Georgia and two years as the Sports Editor of the Marietta (Ga.) Daily Journal preceded Jay’s ...

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Comments do not represent the opinions of the Chattanooga Times Free Press, nor does it review every comment. Profanities, slurs and libelous remarks are prohibited. For more information you can view our Terms & Conditions and/or Ethics policy.
jomo11 said...

Jay, are you saying that UTK would be the Socon favorite based on their talent ? and yet they lose to Charleston , who was NOT picked to win the Socon South ? Also, it seems interesting that the MOCS lose at Charleston last week in Overtime, yet everyone wants to know what is the matter with the MOCS ? . . . and yet Martin seems to get a pass . . .

December 15, 2011 at 10:25 a.m.
jgreeson said...

Jomo —

C'mon now, your anti-orange glasses are starting to fog.

This is year 1 for Martin, who inherited a bad situation. This is year eight of Shulman with a senior-laden team that has been building for this year for the last two-plus.

The loss at Charleston was the highlight of the Mocs season. People are not pointing to that game and wanting to know what's wrong with UTC; they are pointing to losses against Gardner-Webb and KSU and asking what's the matter with UTC.

— 5-at-10

December 15, 2011 at 10:36 a.m.
jomo11 said...

What about my question on your statement about Vols talent level would make them SoCon favorites ?

December 15, 2011 at 11:04 a.m.
memphisexile said...

Blue Christmas is easily my #1, followed by any Christmas song performed by Dean Martin or Sinatra.

Martin has a tough road ahead at UT, but it is basketball, so two good recruiting classes and they can be competitive. I agree that Shulman does not get a pass, he is an established coach at a program he has been in charge of for some time. There is no reason UTC should be this bad, Martin gets a pass because he inherited a team that is lacking talent and hampered by NCAA violations.

December 15, 2011 at 11:18 a.m.
jomo11 said...

Jay, i love the 5 at 10, fun way to debate things in sports !

December 15, 2011 at 11:21 a.m.
chas9 said...

5/10--Except for the now departed Tobias Harris, it's surprising how bereft of talent The Vols have been lately. But it's kinda funny that going into last year the pundits were saying "Tennessee doesn't rebuild, they just reload." Prognosticating's hard.

When Woolridge was an incoming freshman basketball guru Chris Dortch (he's a guru after all) in a preseason radio chat with Dr. B (he's a doctor after all) opined that The Vols were so loaded with talent that even the amazing Reynaldo wouldn't find a spot on the starting five. That was a talented 2008 team, but either Woolridge was overrated or he's been poorly developed. As a senior he still can't start for a very weak team.

And if the Cougars had hit their free throws, it wouldn't have even been close.

December 15, 2011 at 11:24 a.m.
jgreeson said...

Jomo —

Still think the Vols would be the favorite in the SoCon. They wouldn't go unbeaten in the SoCon, and a loss at CoC is hardly something to be ashamed of. Plus, CoC may not have been the preseason pick to win the SoCon, but the 5-at-10 thinks the Cougars are the team to beat.

And since we're here, even though it might be early, will the Mocs win at Thompson-Boling and would that be enough to cool the wolves at Shulman's door?

Thanks for the kind words about the format. We're always up for a good sports debate and it's you folks that make the debate. A family-oriented, Interweb-based sports column with no comments and give and take is speech; with comments and deabte, it becomes fun.

Exile —

Nice Christmas music choice; Our favorite is "Little Drummer Boy" the classical version, of course.

Martin does get a pass this year, and maybe even next. But he'll have to recruit or the honeymoon will be very short lived. If Jordan McRae is our best option, you're not going to win many SEC games. Or SoCon games for that matter.

9er —

Procrastinating is hard. Wait, what?

Anyhoo, Woolridge, can we say he was overrated AND poorly developed. But the former is no doubt — he may be the most overrated UT recruit since Chris Donald. Unless of course we're talking about rapping skills, then Swiper Boy can bring it.

You're right about the FTs, too.

And this may be a topic for another day, but when did making 65-percent of FTs become acceptable? Free throw shooting is terrible, a lost art and wasted points. (And yes, you kids with your loud music need to stay off my lawn. — Old guy rant.)

— 5-at-10

December 15, 2011 at 11:39 a.m.
jgreeson said...

Quick side note as a kid of the ATL who grew up watching the Falcons (and going to old Fulton County Stadium A LOT since Pops 5-at-10 had season-ticket connections from like 78-83):

Can we rate the dorkiness of the Falcons Fan in the picture above? If 0 is James Bond and 10 is Steve Urkel, this guy has to be a 9.5, right? Look at that clown prince. Wow. Just wow.

— 5-at-10

December 15, 2011 at 11:59 a.m.
chas9 said...

5/10--Rant on. Even KY can't hit FT's. But at least the Wildcats have a player (Wiltjer) who's bringing back the hook shot, another old-guy favorite. And being an old guy gives you the perspective to comment on this:

Yesterday ESPN broadcast their Top Ten All Time Buzzer Beaters. They claim Lorenzo Charles' put back to give Jimmy V. the title is #1, ahead of Laetner's shot to beat KY. Can that be right? Is it arguable?

Would The Mocs beating UK at Rupp help? Is there even a betting line on that one? Maybe a Friday bag question. Or predict the margin.

December 15, 2011 at 12:03 p.m.
BIspy4 said...

The cinq a dix knows well the Spy's aversion to Christmas music, which is why Dec. 26 is Spy's favorite day (why? because there's no more Christmas music! Thanks for indulging my Lewis Black-like moment). Best Christmas songs: Adeste Fideles (O Come All Ye Faithful in Latin)

Father Christmas by The Kinks. Best. Ever.

Any Christmas song by Elvis. Seriously ... like that needs explanation?

December 15, 2011 at 12:26 p.m.
Blueoval said...

Totally agree with the pic Jay.....what a DORK!

Whoever said "TN doesn't rebuild, they just reload" surly wasn't talking about basketball. That could have possibly been true in Fulmers early years of head coaching but it ended around 2000 or so.

I like the older Christmas classics as well (Martin/Sinatra)

December 15, 2011 at 12:30 p.m.
jgreeson said...

9er —

Your hoops rant will be in the mailbag. That's good stuff right there. What's your Christmas tune of choice? (And while LoCharles buzzer beater is up there, we don't have it No. 1.)

Spy —

All your Merry post was missing was a Bah Humbug. You're correct that Elvis did fine work, however.

Oval —

This team is Buzz Peterson-level limited. And here's saying that unless he had a couple of 5-star freshmen coming, even with Pearl's coaching talents on the sideline, this was going to be a struggle. (Although he might could have kept Tobias around one more season and that would have helped.)

— 5-at-10

December 15, 2011 at 12:35 p.m.
jomo11 said...

its hard to say, beating UTK is not what it once was, after UTK losing to Austin Peay and C of C a win over UTK just doesn't carry as much weight

December 15, 2011 at 1:26 p.m.
jgreeson said...

From friends of the show BG and McPell

Favorite Christmas song by far is The Carol of the Bells by the Chattanooga Girls Choir (slight bias as my favorite redheaded stepchild sings in the choir). Anything by Elvis or Sinatra ranks high. I'm ok with anything except Barking Dogs, Chipmunks, and Grandma assaulting venison songs. UT basketballers have nothing to complain about, they'll be fine if they hang on to Martin. UTC will be ok, JS is a good coach. The UTC fans will be in the seats once the bowl games are over. Both need to be Auburn basketball fans for a decade or so. That will teach patience and appreciation for any win, even if its Spalding Pre-school.

— McPell

Best Chrsitmas music? This, my good friend, is inarguable: O Holy Night, with full (but nor over the top) choral/orchestral arrangement. Your welcome.

— BG

December 15, 2011 at 1:44 p.m.
chas9 said...

McPell and BG both have good music taste. I'll add an off-beat one, "In the Bleak Midwinter," preferably a cappella.

December 15, 2011 at 1:54 p.m.
Walden said...

Silver Bells, hands down.

The picture of that Falcons fan made me laugh so hard my sides were hurting.

December 15, 2011 at 2:01 p.m.
jgreeson said...

Jomo —

Not sure we're ready to believe that. Any UTC win over UT would be special, no?

McPell —

The reindeer that trampled grandma et al. are way beyond their prime. And yes, AU hoops is less than good. Although the new arena is supposed to be pretty sweet.

BG —

Welcome to the show and feel free to drop by any time. O Holy Night is a fine, fine choice. Although we prefer the Public Enemy version. (Kidding, kidding.)

9er —

Almost all Christmas songs are better Acapulco. Or when they are done by little kids groups (whether they are choirs or a class of kids that couldn't carry a tune in a Ford F250).

Walden —

You folks are hitting some Christmas tune home runes. Silver Bells is another great one. And yes, that is not the Ray Lewis of Falcons fans up there. What's worse: That dude with his slight shoulders and chest paint? Or the fact that dude has a wedding ring on?

Discuss.

— 5-at-10

December 15, 2011 at 3:11 p.m.
fechancellor said...

Always a holiday favorite, "Santa Clause is Back in Town" as sung by The King Elvis Presley

December 15, 2011 at 4:15 p.m.
pagerone said...

Lorenzo Charles buzzer beater won the national championship, Laetner's buzzer beater only won one game in the tournament and advanced Duke to the next round...not even debatable which one was #1...of course being a N.C. State fan I might be biased...

December 15, 2011 at 7:32 p.m.
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