It has been a pretty eventful week if you are a fan of college basketball, and particularly a fan of UMass college basketball.
The week started well for most people, when the school announced that it would be erecting four statues at the entrance to the Mullins Center. The statues would be of former Minutemen players Julius Erving and Marcus Camby, along with coaches Jack Leamon and John Calipari.
This can only be a good thing.
Doctor J would be on a Mount Rushmore of UMass athletic legends, along with women’s soccer goalkeeper Brianna Scurry. For those of you who don’t remember Scurry, she was in goal when the United States won the 1999 Women’s World Cup. Scurry also has a pair of Olympic gold medals.
Leaman might be on that Mount Rushmore too. Even if not, he deserves the statue in front of the Mullins Center.
Leaman recruited Doctor J to UMass, was a successful coach before Calipari, and for a long time was the radio analyst for UMass basketball. He was also the conscience of the program for years after he stepped away from the bench.
Having the Doctor and Coach Leaman, one of the best people I ever knew, included was a no-brainer.
I might have thought having Calipari and Camby there might have also been a no-brainer. It was universally praised on social media, but the dissenting voice came from Boston Globe sports columnist Dan Shaughnessy.
Shaughnessy ripped the school for including Calipari and Camby in the statuary in front of the Mullins Center. He called it a “bad idea,” and went on to say “Our State U plans to dedicate statues to Camby and Calipari, two hoop talents who won big, then brought disgrace to UMass when the Minutemen’s 1996 Final Four appearance was vacated because of NCAA violations.”
What Camby did was take money from an agent who was seeking to represent him in the coming NBA Draft. Considering how the NCAA is working to permit student-athletes to make money off of their likenesses, this seems like something that wouldn’t even ripple the water today.
I believed then, and I still do, that the punishment did not fit the crime. And in the light of hindsight, fits it even less.
The NCAA can take names out of record books, but it cannot erase anyone’s memory of that Final Four run. The banners are still hanging in the Mullins Center. Camby has actually repaid to the university all the money it had to forfeit when the punishment was brought.
I’m looking forward to the unveiling ceremonies.
On Wednesday, former UMass basketball star Tre Mitchell came out of the Transfer Portal and announced he was going to the University of Texas.
“What’s that thing y’all say??? Hook em Austin you ready?” Mitchell tweeted out.
He’ll be playing for new coach Chris Beard and is one of a number of transfers who landed in Austin.
It will be interesting to see if Mitchell, who doesn’t land as the obvious No. 1 option for the Longhorns, can either establish himself as the No. 1 option, or becomes much more effective as a second option.
Texas is a very good program. The Big 12 is a far, far better league than the Atlantic 10, so he’ll be tested night in and night out.
We’ll be watching from a distance.