first_img Published on November 29, 2015 at 7:31 pm Scott Shafer fought back tears as silence permeated throughout the room. Missy Shafer voiced words of encouragement from the back, helping her husband through his choked-up final words at Syracuse. The often-stern 48-year-old was the most vulnerable he’d been in three seasons as head coach, if only for a minute and 40 seconds.And just like that, as Shafer descended the steps from the podium with haste, the public got its last look at a man who was fired five days prior.“He’s an emotional person, as you know,” Floyd Little said. “I like him as a person. He did the best he could for the most part.”For the most part, it wasn’t good enough. Seven combined wins in the last two seasons. A defense that surrendered 40-plus points in each of its five road games. Two unsportsmanlike conduct penalties on him in two of the last three weeks. The recent demerits leading to Shafer’s demise will, from the outside, define a tenure that seemed to lose hope with each passing week.That’s the side of Shafer most have seen.AdvertisementThis is placeholder textHis firing before Saturday’s game against Boston College provided a glimpse into what many haven’t. Parents posted pictures of Shafer in their homes, arms extended around the shoulders of their children and a smile across his face. Players both past and current expressed their support, some saying Shafer was the one who gave them a chance in life.In some ways, Director of Athletics Mark Coyle’s decision took a backseat to the human aspect as the week progressed. Outside the results-driven business of coaching emerged a man with layers beyond a 14-23 overall record.“When we would go to his house in the offseason, he would treat us just like family,” sophomore wideout Steve Ishmael said. “He was never a greedy guy and always treated us great. I love him.”Just after 11 a.m. on Saturday, Shafer trotted onto the Carrier Dome turf for the last time before a game. He spoke with Boston College assistants, aggressively clapped when a manager caught a Riley Dixon punt and chatted with two fans for about a minute before fading into the tunnel.During Senior Day ceremonies, he posed for pictures with the families of 23 players and managers honored. He raised both fists just six seconds into his postgame press conference and the emotion began pouring out. His daughter, Elsa, pressed her head against Missy’s shoulder and his son, Wolfgang, got red in his eyes.“I want to thank the community and the communities both on campus and in Syracuse, especially in Fayetteville,” Shafer said, “and all the people that have been there for Missy and I and helping us raise our two kids for the past seven years.”There are 27 children of coaches on the Syracuse staff. Some, if not most or all, will have to relocate after their fathers were displaced from jobs. The fallout from firing a coach extends beyond the race to find a replacement. It trickles into families and that may be where the brunt of the move is felt most.When Shafer kept Eric Dungey in a blowout against Louisville and the freshman suffered another head injury, Shafer was rightfully lambasted for his reasoning. When he cost Syracuse 15 yards against No. 1 Clemson, he was exposed for not sticking to his mantra of “control the controllables.” When he drew another flag for unsportsmanlike conduct against North Carolina State, he didn’t even wait to be asked about the slip-up before explaining himself.The tension surrounding his job status built up and it was justified.But even if he’s a coach with flaws plastered on him throughout an eight-game losing streak, there’s a human side.Ishmael will remember Shafer most for his enthusiasm and positivity. Zaire Franklin for his fire and emotion. Little for his “hard-nosed” style and ability to inspire. Offensive coordinator Tim Lester for a level of care for players that can’t be found in most coaches.The final evaluations had little to do with football.And after a week, and season, littered with well-documented faults that led to Shafer’s downfall, that’s how he should go out.Matt Schneidman is an Asst. Sports Editor at The Daily Orange, where his column appears occasionally. He can be reached at mcschnei@syr.edu or @matt_schneidman. Comments Facebook Twitter Google+last_img read more


first_img Facebook Twitter Google+ From the living room of their Daytona Beach apartment, Taleah Washington locked eyes with her father. He had seen this coming, and Washington sensed it too. “Writing on the wall,” James Washington said. Seven other girls filtered in and faced James, the head coach of their DME Sports Academy prep school team. It wasn’t exactly the Washington’s living room and it wasn’t exactly home, since the rest of their family was still in District Heights, Maryland. Just a temporary spot. Washington was already a Syracuse (10-11, 4-6 Atlantic Coast Conference) commit, the only DME player with a college destination selected at the start of the year. Minutes weren’t likely with the 2018-19 Orange, so James took the prep job, and the pair moved to Florida following Washington’s high school graduation. But in that three-bedroom, two-closet and one-bathroom apartment accommodating nine people, it became clear their plan was jeopardized. Soon, Washington and her teammates wouldn’t be associated with DME anymore. It was only January, the middle of their season, but an untenable economic situation led to them shutting down the program, James said. The rooms were filled with air mattresses. “Here we go again,” he thought, “another obstacle.”Because that’s exactly what it was: Yet another obstacle. Washington’s freshman year at Syracuse has introduced her to the first stable program since she finished eighth grade. Forestville Military Academy, where she spent her freshman and sophomore years in high school, closed. Rock Creek Christian Academy, where she transferred for her final two years, had five girls on its roster to start. Then, DME folded.AdvertisementThis is placeholder text“Here, I know I don’t have to worry about that,” Washington said.Syracuse isn’t going anywhere. The minutes head coach Quentin Hillsman gave Washington at the beginning of the season might have disappeared, but they’ll re-emerge at some point. It might be next year, when Gabrielle Cooper is gone. But until then, Syracuse will provide more for her than she will for them.“She’s used to being a giant-killer, you know the David and Goliath story,” James said. “She’s used to being the underdog and coming out on top.”Taleah Washington hit a buzzer-beater before halftime in her first game at Syracuse. Elizabeth Billman | Asst. Photo EditorThere have been “magical” scenes for her this season, like in SU’s season-opener against Ohio when she faded away from the basket and hit a falling buzzer-beater before halftime. But with those have come the eye-opening ones for the freshman, like when she counted five open 3-pointers from her bench spot that the Orange surrendered to Miami’s Mykea Gray in their Jan. 12 loss — a player SU specifically addressed during pregame film.They’re so glaring because Washington looks for those same openings: The few extra inches on a wing. The closeouts a second too late. James had taught her that. He’d always been her coach, from Washington’s youth basketball days, when she’d give James the silent treatment on car rides home, to her high school years when she understood why he pushed her so much. Before coming to SU, James was the only coach Washington ever played for. She was introduced to the sport in second grade, when she’d watch James coach the Ballou (Maryland) High School boys’ team. That’s where Washington learned her first dribble move.As she got older, she featured more and more advanced moves. At Forestville, Washington was part of the first girls state championship in school history. But as her sophomore year wound down and the Knights neared a second-straight title, the school announced it was closing because of declining enrollment.Washington was devastated. This was not only her school but her mother and father’s too. During part one of the Board of Education Boundary Hearing — one of the final in the decision-making process — Washington hopped down the steps toward the podium clad in a gray Nike sweatshirt. As president of the sophomore class and captain of the basketball team, she spoke about how the closing would rip the Forestville community apart.“Forestville is very family-oriented,” Washington said during the hearing. “You always know that when you’re down on the ropes you have people to pick you up.”But she’d have to find that same quality at Rock Creek, where James took the head coaching job and Washington followed. So did some of Washington’s Forestville and Havoc City AAU teammates. The gym was outdated and had no air ventilation. On cold days in the winter, they couldn’t practice at all or had to use another gym. Players would put on layers under their practice jerseys, one of Washington’s teammates said. Washington and her team sometimes returned to Forestville for practice, using its track to shuffle and backpedal, using the gym for mountain-climbers, wind sprints and crab walks. They’d complete the “seven trees” drill that involved running up a steep hill and weaving through each tree along the way. When Rock Creek scrimmaged, they didn’t practice sets. James and other assistant coaches would play, but their offense relied on freedom. She’s used to being a giant-killer, you know the David and Goliath story. She’s used to being the underdog and coming out on top.-James Washington, father of Taleah WashingtonWith Washington averaging nearly a triple-double as a senior, Rock Creek ranked as one of the top high school teams in the country. It played on the Nike Tournament of Champions circuit, traveling to Arizona in the winter and playing in the top bracket despite not practicing for weeks. Then came the New York Rose Classic, a trip to Maryland and other national tournaments, all with Washington at the forefront.“I call it the invisible bag,” James said. “We put our money, our coins and rubbed our coins together to help accumulate all this money and scholarship.”By her senior year, Washington had decommitted from Old Dominion and signed with Syracuse. She knew Hillsman from attending his Elite Camp growing up — and James knew him from Forestville, too — but then the post-grad year came on her radar. After James revealed the fate of DME in the Daytona Beach living room, he created his own prep team — called Empowerment — that completed DME’s schedule and sprinkled in other games against Florida junior colleges. They finished runner-up in the independent national championship in Charlotte, and one-by-one the girls moved out of the school-provided housing and into James’ apartment. Washington became the team cook, assistant coach and go-to player on the court. She listed what each player wanted to eat and assembled meals like chicken alfredo and lasagna. When they traveled, the group rented vans because James’ two-door Mercedes Benz couldn’t fit everyone — even when they crammed four girls into the back row. Parents pitched in money to help along the way, but the bulk of it came from the Washingtons’ account.“It made her hungry,” Hillsman said. “That was a rocky path for her.”At SU, instead of living with seven teammates and her father, Washington has a South Campus apartment. She only has to cook for herself when she wants to, and post-practice meals at the Carmelo K. Anthony Center are always available. Washington’s the happiest she’s ever been, James said. She finally has some stability. Comments Published on February 4, 2020 at 11:15 pm Contact Andrew: arcrane@syr.edu | @CraneAndrewlast_img read more


first_imgWhich of these two statements strikes you as more important likely depends on how deeply you are involved in the Kentucky Wildcats and Kansas Jayhawks.MORE: Previewing Year 10 of Ryan Fagan’s college hoops road tripIf you are a fan of the game in general, then the meeting of two of the greatest programs in the game is likely to catch your interest even, if they weren’t both fighting to claim a spot on this season’s top tier. If you are a fan of UK or KU, then what you want most is to claim a quality win.Kentucky has won 2,280 games in its 116 years of competition, more than any other big-time program. Kansas is second at 2,264 in 121 years. Each has won more than 70 percent of its games, a figure only four major programs have achieved. So we know what’s happening in the showcase game of the Big 12/SEC Challenge is important, but there are numbers more germane to this particular occasion:1: Kansas has won three consecutive games in the series. They last played in the Champions Classic near the start of the 2017-18 season. KU invaded Rupp the year before and vexed the Wildcats with a zone defense that helped the Jayhawks grab a 79-73 victory. There is a different dynamic this time, though, with Kansas still working through its adjustment to the absence of center Udoka Azubuike, lost for the year with a hand injury, and Kentucky beginning to discover its offense in a five-game winning streak.The Jayhawks have been using a lineup with 6-9 Dedric Lawson as a nominal center, adjacent to 6-5 Marcus Garrett, 6-5 Quentin Grimes and 6-5 LaGerald Vick. Freshman Devon Dotson is the point guard. They are 4-2 with that base lineup.2. Kentucky has won five consecutive games. The Wildcats have scored at least 1.0 points per possession during that winning streak, something they failed to do in an SEC-opening loss at Alabama. Part of the consistency in that department comes from freshman wings Tyler Herro and Keldon Johnson, who contributed 20 points each in the road win at Auburn and are combining for 23.4 points and .461 shooting from the field.“Herro and Keldon Johnson are both having terrific years and are on a roll right now,” KU coach Bill Self told reporters on Thursday. “They are good. They are a team that can win a national championship. I know everybody thought that before the season, and then you have one game where the attention shifts. … They’ve grinded their way back to where they are right now, and that’s being one of the best teams in the country.”MORE: Self’s decision without Azubuike: Go small or go young?3. Post-Doke Kansas is minus-5 on the boards. Since the Jayhawks lost their massive center, they’ve been able to out-rebound smallish teams like Iowa State, largely because All-America candidate Dedric Lawson delivered 11 or more rebounds four times in six games. But bigger teams like Texas (by seven) and Baylor (by 19) punished the Jayhawks on the glass.Kentucky is eighth in the country in offensive rebound percentage and seventh in rebound margin. This is an area of concern for KU.4. Marcus Garrett averaged 17 points over the past three games. A 6-5 sophomore from Dallas, Garrett had as many double-figure scoring games against high-major opponents in that stretch as in his entire career to that point. Though he struck three times from 3-point range in beating Texas, he is doing it mostly by using the space created in KU’s halfcourt offense to get by defenders for drives to the rim. He shot .665 on 2-pointers during that surge. Garrett became a starter when Azubuike was injured and Self decided to employ a smaller lineup.“I don’t think he’s done anything different,” Self said of Garrett. “He’s coachable. He’s tough. He tries hard. He’s smart. He’s got fast hands and he loves to compete. But we knew that when we recruited him. I don’t think he’s done a lot different, except just be himself.”5. Ashton Hagans has six consecutive games with at least four assists. Now firmly established as Kentucky’s point guard, Hagans has shown he is more than just a defensive whiz by averaging 13.4 points and 5.6 assists and shooting .558 from the field during the team’s winning streak. He remains a reluctant long-distance shooter, attempting only a half-dozen and making one over those five games, but he has come to understand the importance of not passing up open shots and disrupting the Wildcats offensive flow.MORE: UK, no longer haunted by Duke defeat, making way back among elite6. KU will not play a higher-ranked opponent — in NET — before the NCAAs. That makes this a huge game for the Jayhawks. They have two scheduled games against No. 17 Texas Tech. It’s possible the Red Raiders could storm down the stretch and Kentucky could stumble, which would make Tech a higher-rated opponent. But as it stands, and as the trends have gone lately, the No. 8 Wildcats will remain an important opponent for KU. The No. 1 and No. 2 programs in Division I basketball history will play Saturday night at Rupp Arena.The No. 9 and No. 13 programs in the NCAA’s NET ranking will play Saturday night at Rupp Arena. The reverse is true for Kentucky, just not as much. The Wildcats still have two games against No. 5 Tennessee, plus a home game against No. 12 LSU. There are more opportunities for Kentucky to get big wins. But every one helps.It is odd to see the Big 12/SEC Challenge at this time of year, when all the other conferences are engaged in league play. ESPN did not have good fortune with the matchups established, with only two of the 10 games including two ranked teams. One of those is KU-UK, however.That alone makes the Challenge worth our time.last_img read more