It is going to seem more than a little strange come Final Four time next season.
When the nation gathers around its televisions to watch CBS’ telecasts of the national semifinals and final, it will be the first time since 1974 that Billy Packer won’t be providing color commentary for the games. That was so long ago that Norm Sloan-coached North Carolina State, led by high-flying David Thompson, gigantic Tom Burleson and tiny Monte Towe, were interrupting UCLA’s streak of 10 titles in 12 years by beating Marquette in the national championship game.
Packer has decided to walk away as the lead analyst at CBS after being with the network since it gained the rights to the NCAA Tournament for the 1981-82 season. Before that, Packer was a color man on seven consecutive Final Fours on NBC, teaming with Dick Enberg, then eventually working with Al McGuire as a second color man in the booth.
Packer said he decided before last season that he would call it a career at the end of 2007-08. He had been working on a series of one-year contracts, at his request, for a number of years.
“This decision was made over a year ago,” Packer said in a conference call with reporters. “I’ve been working on a project that is something that announcing games would have precluded me from doing. I’ve had a great run doing games and I’m looking forward to a new challenge.”
Packer plans to join a Dallas company that is devising a system to challenge Nielsen Media Research in the area of measuring television audiences. He will be replaced by Clark Kellogg, who has been with CBS since 1993 and worked primarily as a studio analyst. Kellogg, a former Ohio State star, is a popular broadcaster noted for making up basketball terms such as “spurtability.”
“Billy’s legacy is one of enduring excellence and keeping the focus on the game,” Kellogg said. “This is the foundation I aspire to build on.”
The often outspoken Packer called 34 national championship games and 102 Final Four games, capped by last season’s victory by Kansas in overtime over Memphis.
“When that game went into overtime my first thought was ‘Thank heaven. I’ve got five more minutes with Billy,” Nantz said. “He called 34 championships and I had 18 alongside him, and I feel so fortunate. Talk about a run in sports television. You really can’t compare it to anything. It’s a remarkable career.”
Packer, an assistant coach at Wake Forest, his alma mater, before getting into broadcasting, was always a staunch defender of college basketball trying to redefine its role as it continued to lose more inexperienced players to the NBA in recent years. He also drew his share of scorn from critics who felt he was too much of a traditionalist and out of touch with today’s college game.
“I am not a professional broadcaster and it was never my goal to be a professional broadcaster,” Packer said. “I love the game and it all kind of fell into place in terms of being in the right place at the right time. It was great to be involved with it and to around the game in that regard but I don’t look back.”
Another Hoosier Transfers
The remnants of Indiana’s 2007-08 roster keep scattering to the wind as guard Armon Bassett has transferred to UAB. The Hoosiers have just two players remaining from last season’s team following Kelvin Sampson’s forced resignation as coach after Sampson was found to have violated NCAA rules concerning telephone calls to recruits.
Bassett was actually thrown off the team by interim coach Dan Dakich in April for missing an appointment and refusing to run laps as punishment. Tom Crean then upheld the dismissal after being hired as the full-time coach.
Bassett has two seasons of eligibility remaining and averaged 11.5 points, 3.3 assists and 31.1 minutes a game last season. His offensive rating of 119.8 was 86th in the nation.
“It was tough to leave Indiana but going through that makes you stronger,” Bassett told the Birmingham News. “Things happen for a reason. When God closes one door, He opens another.”
Bassett also considered transferring to Arkansas, Cincinnati, Texas A&M and West Virginia.
UAB also lost a player when center Zisis Sarikopoulos transferred to Ohio State after averaging 1.8 points, 1.1 rebounds and 6.8 minutes a game last season as a freshman.
Meanwhile, guard Derrick Jasper has decided to transfer from UNLV after leaving Kentucky. Last season, as a sophomore, he averaged 4.2 points, 5.5 rebounds and 2.4 assists in 29.4 minutes.
“He will be an outstanding ambassador for Runnin’ Rebels basketball,” UNLV coach Lon Kruger said.
Return of the Mack
Doneal Mack has made a U-turn and headed back to Memphis after briefly enrolling for summer classes at New Orleans, where he planned to play for the Privateers after sitting out next season as a transfer. Because Mack was in class at New Orleans for less than 14 days, he is eligible to return to the Tigers next season without having to miss any playing time.
Mack averaged 6.9 points in 12.4 minutes a game last season as a sophomore in helping Memphis reach the national championship game. However, he looked to transfer because he wanted more playing time.
Tigers coach John Calipari told the Memphis Commerical-Appeal that he hopes Mack appreciates what he has after his dalliance with New Orleans.
“We have a program where every building’s sold out, you think about how you live, how you’re treated, how you travel, playing in nationally televised games and then you go somewhere else.... This stuff is good,” Calipari said. “But if you think you’re in a situation where there’s not competition, you’re not being fair.”
Ironically, Mack could face a bigger struggle for playing time next season as Calipari recruited junior college shooting guard Roburt Sallie immediately after Mack decided to leave.
More Coaching Deals
The extensions keep coming for coaches this summer as Oregon’s Ernie Kent and Temple’s Fran Dunphy each recently had two years added to their contracts. Kent is now under contract through 2012-13 and Dunphy’s pact lasts through 2013-14.
Kent has compiled a 211-134 record in 11 years at his alma mater. The Ducks were 18-14 last season and lost to Mississippi State in the first round of the NCAA Tournament.
“It is a place I truly remain passionate about but our work here has just started,” Kent said. “I want to build on the momentum and excitement that has been generated from our recent success and has translated into a great new incoming recruiting class as well as a new arena on the horizon and take this program to the next level.
Dunphy led Temple to a 21-13 record and its first appearance in the NCAAs since 2001 last season, his second with the Owls. Temple lost to Michigan State in the first round.
“We could not have a better person nor better coach at the helm,” Temple athletic director Bill Bradshaw said. “We knew when we hired Fran Dunphy that he was the right man to lead Temple basketball.”
Atlantic 10 Schedule Announced
The Atlantic 10 will again play a 16-game conference schedule in 2008-09 with each team playing each other once and three schools twice.
Here is a list of the home-and-home matchups for next season: Charlotte vs. George Washington, Charlotte vs. Richmond, Charlotte vs. Xavier, Dayton vs. Duquesne, Dayton vs. Saint Louis, Dayton vs. Xavier, Duquesne vs. St. Bonaventure, Duquesne vs. Saint Louis, Fordham vs. Rhode Island, Fordham vs. St. Bonaventure, Fordham vs. Xavier, George Washington vs. La Salle, George Washington vs. Richmond, La Salle vs. Massachusetts, La Salle vs. Temple, Massachusetts vs. Rhode Island, Rhode Island vs. Saint Joseph’s, Richmond vs. Saint Louis, St. Bonaventure vs. Saint Joseph’s and Saint Joseph’s vs. Temple.
John Perrotto is an author of Basketball Prospectus.
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