The Coaches Preseason Predictions – Sam Perkins responds.

Today was Media Day in the America East. Coaches and athletic personnel from every team converged on SEFCU Arena in Albany for the league luncheon, meet-and-greet, and lots and lots of press conferences to kick off the 2012-2013 season.

It was on Albany’s home court – the site of the 2013 America East Tournament – that the official Preseason Coaches’ Poll was unveiled, revealing the predicted standings of the nine America East schools as voted on by the league coaches, as well as the preseason All-Conference selections.

There is always some gamesmanship that goes into the picks (acknowledging upperclassmen, nods of respect coaches – both accomplished and on the hot seat – and even some general ribbing), so they should be taken with a grain of salt (just take a look at the number of years in a row that BU was tabbed first).

Without revealing OBW’s own preseason predictions, which will be published in the near future, here is Sam Perkins’ breakdown of the nine America East teams in ascending order of how the coaches’ selected them. Continue reading “The Coaches Preseason Predictions – Sam Perkins responds.”

Hawks Take Flight: Sam Perkins shares his impressions and snapshots from Hartford’s practice.

Hartford head coach John Gallagher was in the thick of things all practice long (Photo by Sam Perkins)

Last Monday I hopped in my beat-up Grand Prix, and hit the America East back roads for the first time this season, bombing down I-84 to catch up with Hartford head coach John Gallagher and take in a Hawks practice.
To use a tired cliche and say that the Hawks enjoyed a roller-coaster season last year would be a huge understatement: The incredibly young and inexperienced Hawks began the season 0-13. Instead of packing it in and giving up – as most teams would have done – Hartford came together their fiery and energetic head coach, going 7-9 in conference while finishing in sixth place. The Hawks peaked at the right time, knocking off Boston University in the quarterfinals of the America East Tournament before falling to eventual champion Vermont in the semis, capitulating only after a double-overtime thriller that will go down as one of the greatest America East Tournament games ever.

The Hawks can no longer catch AE foes by surprise, and are looking to make the leap from loveable upstart to conference contender. They have the talent, and more importantly the tenacity and work ethic: the America East is a good-enough-on-guts league, and in a year seemingly devoid of star talent and a head-and-shoulders-above-the-competition favorite, on most nights, the team that plays the hardest will likely walk away the winner.

Not to give away our preseason picks before they are unveiled, but we think the Hawks will take a step up this season.

I brought along a new camera, and in addition to jotting down my thoughts on the night, I snapped a lot of photographs – which will hopefully become a regular occurrence throughout the season. A link to the complete album can be found at the end of this post.

Thoughts, sights and sounds: Continue reading “Hawks Take Flight: Sam Perkins shares his impressions and snapshots from Hartford’s practice.”

Out of the Darkness: Former Maine Black Bear Mark Flavin walks in remembrance of his best friend.

There are some things that Mark Flavin will always remember. Like the cold winter’s eve on January 21, 2004, in tiny Case Gymnasium, when he played the half of his life.

Taking the floor in front of a home-state crowd that included his former coach from his playing days at Weymouth High, the current Weymouth Wildcats basketball team, a host of friends and family, and most importantly, his life-long best friend Dave Donnellan – a constant presence in the stands throughout his career – Flavin went beast-mode.

Against a BU squad that would close out the regular season winning 22 of its last 23 games and rank in the top 30 in the AP Polls, and a roster of All-Conference caliber players – including five forwards who would earn All-Conference honors during their careers – it was Flavin, a red-shirt junior who spent most of his first three seasons in college watching from the sidelines, who was the best player on the court that day.

Surrounded, swarmed and hacked every time he touched the ball, he was unstoppable. By the time the half-time buzzer sounded, Flavin, a 6’11’” 250 pound center, had bulldozed and bludgeoned his way to 20 points on 7-10 shooting in the first half, while single-handedly landing virtually the entire Terriers front-court in foul trouble.

“[Boston University forward] Rashad Bell leaned over to me when I was shooting free-throws and said ‘you’re going for 50 tonight, aren’t you?’” said Flavin with a chuckle. “I thought I was.”

Almost nine years later, standing under a cold blue sky in Artesani Park, Brighton, looking out over the Charles River, he remembered the game vividly.

“At half-time I was exhausted – just dying in the locker room. I was pounding Gatorades.”

Then there are the things Flavin will never be able to forget. Like the phone call he received on December 16th, 2004 – almost a year after his heroics – telling him that Donnellan, who had stood by Flavin through thick and thin – picking him up when his life was at its darkest – had taken his own life.

“I’ll remember that moment for the rest of my life – the feeling; I couldn’t breath. ‘Devastated,’ ‘heart-broken,’ ‘lost’ – doesn’t begin to describe it,” he said, staring across the dark, choppy water, towards the far bank. Continue reading “Out of the Darkness: Former Maine Black Bear Mark Flavin walks in remembrance of his best friend.”

Unceremonious End. UMBC head coach Randy Monroe, who led the Retrievers to the schools only America East Championship and NCAA berth in 2008, resigns two days before the start of practice.

(Catonsville, MD) – The only head coach to ever take the University of Maryland-Baltimore County dancing is out.

Just two days before mid-night madness — and the start of team practices — UMBC head coach Randy Monroe, who in 2008 led the Retrievers to the only NCAA Tournament appearance in school history, has resigned.

Aki Thomas, an assistant at UMBC since 2007, has been named the interim head coach in wake of Monroe’s departure.

“We appreciate all that Coach Monroe did for our basketball program and our community during his long tenure at UMBC,” said UMBC athletic director Charles Brown in an official statement on the Retrievers athletic website. “We wish him nothing but success in his future endeavors.”

“Aki brings an excellent playing and coaching background to the position,” said Brown.

“He has strong communication skills and will fit into our program in a very positive way. I am confident that he will be able to support our student-athletes during this time of transition. I am excited about this year’s men’s basketball team and feel that we can compete for the America East Conference title.”

According to an article published this afternoon on the website for the Baltimore Sun, Brown was aware of Monroe’s impending departure before the official announcement.

“Well, we talked about it, he gave us his resignation,” said Brown. “Today is the official date of his resignation.”

Sources close to the situation have confirmed that the remaining Retrievers coaching staff was given advanced notice of Monroe’s resignation.

A staple on the Retrievers sidelines for nearly two decades, and a visible figure on campus, the always animated and combustible Monroe — known for ripping his tie and suit-jacket off in disgust minutes into games — was the longest tenured member of any America East staff. Monroe spent the previous 18 years on the staff at UMBC, the final eight as head coach. Continue reading “Unceremonious End. UMBC head coach Randy Monroe, who led the Retrievers to the schools only America East Championship and NCAA berth in 2008, resigns two days before the start of practice.”

Should I Stay or Should I Go?

The America East’s offseason has been marked by notable departures – players, coaches, and an entire program. Sam Perkins reflects on a summer of soul-searching regarding the future of One-Bid Wonders and his own future with the America East.

To quote a favorite author of mine, the reports of my death are greatly exaggerated. Continue reading “Should I Stay or Should I Go?”