The Chat House With Michael Wilbon
Washington Post Sports Columnist
Tuesday, April 8, 2004; 1:30 pm ET
It's time for a special March Madness edition of The Chat House!
Michael Wilbon joined you live to look back on the Final Four and Monday night's NCAA title game. He also looked ahead to Tuesday night's women's championship game.
The transcript follows.
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Herndon, Va.: Mr. Mike: Have you ever, in a BIG college game, seen such a lousy exhibition of foul shooting comparable to what Syracuse and KU put on? I didn't believe it -- I've seen one of two teams goof badly at the line, but both? Poor Roy Williams must feel like starting a remedial foul-shooting clinic.
Michael Wilbon: Hi everyone, I'm literally landing now after a long night and three-hour flight delay in New Orleans where storms are of biblical proportions. So I'll try to do the best I can with no sleep and no access to last night's locker room. When a game ends at 11:40 p.m. Eastern time, deadline is a first priority, not post-game analysis. As for your question, no. Neither have you and neither has anybody else because it was the worst foul shooting game in championship history, I'm told. And I'm pretty sure Final Four history. I was stunned by it. Now, I know Kansas has only been shooting about 65 percent from the foul line, but 23.5 in the second half last night? There are 9-year-olds who can walk off the street in a parka and do that. Seriously, I've never seen anything like that. And, it cost Kansas the game. It cost Kansas the championship and Syracuse tried to give it away too with missed foul shots. I wrote a column at the beginning of the month about the erosion of fundamental and college players and I had no idea how accurate the scouts and coaches I talked to were.
Michael Wilbon: Hey folks sit tight for a second. Mike is driving and was just about to pull into a garage where he'd lose his signal. So, he's going to go to a landline and get back to us. So, stand by. Thanks. --Mary
Fairfax, Va.: Hey Tony and Mike!
I don't know if you caught the post-game show of the men's championship. I did and I got really ticked off when Bonnie Bernstein asked Roy Williams if he was going to take the North Carolina job after the game was over. COME ON LADY! THE MAN JUST LOST A HEARTBREAKER FIVE MINUTES AGO! I love you guys, but I just wanted a journalist's opinion on when is it the right time to swallow the mike and let a decent man like Roy have his time alone with his team. I personally thought it was classless, and Coach Williams got so mad that he cursed on air, uncensored! Your thoughts?
Michael Wilbon: The decency of the person has nothing to do with the question being asked. If it was a tyrant or a decent man... you have to decide to ask the question based on the importance of the pending situation. I think that Roy Williams, and I said this on "PTI" yesterday, is as decent a man as I have ever met in my time covering sports. Having said that, I don't know what I would have done in a similar situation. There is no such thing as what "all" journalists would have done. We all have varying opinions on what constitutes a good question or a timely question or what has to be asked on a few occasions. I didn't see it first of all, but I certainly heard plenty about it. I know Bonnie personally. She's not just a friend, she's a close friend. And I know that she thought long and hard and consulted with producers over and over and probably also consulted with other college coaches as she decided whether or not to ask that question. Sometimes you have to ask the question simply because you don't know what the answer is going to be. Sometimes we all think we know what the answer is going to be or that the person is going to have "no comment," but the person being interviewed shocks the hell out of you with a response. I certainly would not have expected Roy Williams, win or lose last night, to announce he was going to leave Kansas or even talk about whether he was going to entertain North Carolina. But I understand CBS wanting to ask that question. I would not be a sideline reporter for ALL the money in the world. And I LOVE money. But I would not have wanted to be in her shoes last night.
Baltimore, Md.: How would you convince someone like Carmelo Anthony, who is considering entering the NBA draft, to come back to Syracuse? I would think that he could easily lead his team into the NCAA Final Four next year. It's a shame these kids are looking for the big bucks instead of an education.
Michael Wilbon: Don't give me your high-handed junk. I like to see kids, go to, remain in and graduate from college more than anybody. But the fact is this kid stands to make $12 million over the next four years if he comes out of school today. Now, for those kids who don't prove they can even make an impact in college basketball, I think it's often stupid to come out because they haven't mastered the college game and they have not made any progress in a lot of cases toward getting a college degree. But this kid has mastered the college game by virtue of leading his team to a championship. And, he has earned the right on the court to say it's time for me to take on the pros. How much money did you make when you got out of college? How much money do you make now? I think Carmelo Anthony only stands to lose money if he comes back to school now, which is a sad commentary on NBA basketball and the league's coveting of high school players.
Cape Coral, Fla.: Mike, why do the CBS announcers spend so much time talking about the NCAA coaches? I'm submitting this as I watch the game, and Billy Packer just said "Boeheim beat Kansas last time they met." Not bad--1 on 5.
Michael Wilbon: You have to understand that I don't watch these games on TV. Remember I am attending the games. But as a person who does watch a lot of college basketball before March, I would agree with you and say there is way too much analysis of the coaches but that's because players come and go, and now more frequently than ever, while the coaches stay. Boeheim has been at Syracuse 28 years so in effect he is Syracuse basketball and the announcers do that all the time. Sometimes it annoys me, but I can't speak to anything that was said last night in the broadcast.
Syracuse, N.Y.: Mike --
I'm a Syracuse season ticket holder. Has there ever been a team go from outside the top 20 in February to the title?
Michael Wilbon: Dave, yeah, I was told Louisville did it in one of its times winning a championship. I heard that on SportsCenter, but I'm not sitting in a place where I could give you a research point of reference, but I'm told Louisville did it.
Darien, Conn.: Thank you for your insightful coverage of the Final Four.
My question relates to the lessons that might be drawn from Syracuse's well-deserved victory. The fact that adding two outstanding freshmen to a solid if unheralded returning group led to a championship would only lead, it seems to me, to even more potential for cheating in the recruiting process. I decided a while ago that the more honest, up-front process would be to simply allow players to enjoy off-campus benefits from alumni, just like other students receive in terms of holding jobs, receiving plum internships, etc. Other than knowing he was breaking NCAA rules, Chris Webber didn't do anything wrong, in my opinion, and I think other college players should have the same opportunity to collect as Webber and his Fab Five counterparts (and countless others) did. Players will never be paid directly, simply because that money would have to come out of the TV dollars that are already going to coaches and other school administrators, who aren't going to take pay cuts to give players significant stipends.
So, acknowledging that Syracuse's program has been cleaned up significantly from years past, isn't there a message to all coaches that more than ever you can win now with the right freshman, and you have to do whatever it takes, within and outside of the rules, to get him enrolled? And, is that a good thing for the kid?
Thank you for your consideration, and keep up the exemplary work.
Michael Wilbon: I agree with a lot of what you have to say here. And even some of what I don't agree with it, I sympathize with. It's just too obvious to increasingly sophisticated young men today that everyone is making some money off of the game today except them. Thanks for the comments.
Washington, D.C.: Hey Wilbon,
Great article. For me the fact that he has proven himself on a high level and the great attitude of Carmelo Anthony makes him an easy pick for me over Lebron James, who seems to be surrounded by people not looking out for his best interests. If you had the first pick of the draft, who would you take?
Michael Wilbon: You said as well as I could have possibly said it. I would take Carmelo Anthony or maybe Darko Milici, the 7-foot kid from Europe. I'm with you about this baggage and it only gets worse the first couple of years and it's not even the kid's fault. But sometimes these kids have to go through hell before they shed themselves of these leeches and hanger-ons. But Anthony has a really tough mother who played college basketball at the University of South Carolina. And he's just got a great demeanor. I can't blame James for any of the garbage going on around him, but it's still there and it'll be like a rolling caravan right into the Gund Arena or MSG or wherever he gets drafted. Not only that, but what the hell could LeBron James do better than Carmelo Anthony?
Washington, D.C.: With all of the recent scandals in college basketball, do you think its about time that the NCAA started to suspend coaches? These guys create havoc, then jump ship and get to go to other programs while the kids are stuck in a program that is ineligible for the postseason.
Suspension would send a clear message and permanently stain a coach -- like they deserve.
Michael Wilbon: I don't know that you can suspend anyone. I don't know that the NCAA has that power. I don't know that that's possible and the NCAA at that level is so gutless even more gutless than Ben Howland. A friend of mine, who is a coach, suggested making the coach ineligible for a year.... I like that suggestion, but it ain't going to happen. It's just not going to happen.
Fairfax, Va.: Hi Mike. Thanks for taking the time out. First a rant: What's with burying the NCAA Final nearly below the fold (at least in the edition I saw) so that Tony could speculate about the Wizards GM prospects for NEXT YEAR?! All respect to Jordan, but the team is pathetic, it will be pathetic next year no matter who is GM. The Post could have moved on to the NBA tomorrow.
With that in mind, this transition question. You like Carmelo Anthony over LeBron James. Do you think Carmelo did enough to change the key NBA GM minds on the value of NCAA experience or will it be James, Anthony, Dwayne Wade, 1-2-3?
Michael Wilbon: I have no idea. I don't edit the paper on any day and I certainly haven't even seen the paper because they didn't have it on the newsstands in New Orleans. I can only tell you that the editors clearly must have thought that the Jordan story was a huger deal and just because something was on the top doesn't meant it dominated the top.
Ashburn, Va.: I just finished reading your article in today's paper titled "Sweet End to a Foul Night" and found one particular item troubling. The offending quote states "Heavens to Toto, what the heck else do kids in the cornfields do if they don't practice their free throws?" While I would agree that KU's free throw percentage was last night was particularly atrocious, perhaps you should have done a wee bit of research before using this quote. Why? Kansas grows mainly wheat. Dorothy and even your dear Toto were reared on a wheat farm.
Having gotten all of this out my system, do you expect Anthony Carmelo to enter the draft this year, and if so, does his entree into the system have any effect on the drafting position of LeBron James, since Carmelo has proven he can succeed under pressure?
washingtonpost.com: Sweet End to a Foul Fight (Post, April 8)
Michael Wilbon: You're kidding me right? You took this that seriously? You've got to get a life. As for Carmelo, I would think yes, he would wind up in the NBA next year. I would be shocked if he comes back. But from a basketball standpoint, it's difficult to make an argument against him coming out. The kid last night scored 20 points, grabbed 10 rebounds and dished out seven assists. So, I would think he's coming out.
Re: Inappropriate questions: A few months back, a reporter asked Yao Ming about perceived tension between him and Shaquille O'Neal. He got it just right when he said simply, "That's a personal question." I wish more athletes and coaches would do that instead of feeling like they have to give something up.
Michael Wilbon: Thanks for the comment. I have to run. Talk to you next week... on Monday.
Wiz fans: check back on washingtonpost.com shortly for an updated story by Steve Wyche on MJ. And we'll talk to you next Monday, back to the regular time and day, Monday at 1:30 for The Chat House. Have a good week. --Mary
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