Proviso West's 32-team tourney set

952959.png

Proviso West's 32-team tourney set

Joe Spagnolo always has been an innovator, a visionary and a wheeler-dealer. And the longtime director of the Proviso West Holiday Tournament outdid himself this year.
Spagnolo came up with a couple of new innovations for the 52nd annual event, which will be conducted on Dec. 22, 26-29 and 31 at Proviso West in Hillside. He has expanded the tournament from 16 to 32 teams, and the championship game will be played on New Year's Eve afternoon.
It is advertised as the largest high school holiday event in the nation conducted under one roof.
It isn't the first time a holiday tournament in the Chicago area has been concluded on New Year's Eve afternoon. Spagnolo recalls when the old All-Chicago tournament conducted its final game at that time and he thought it was a good idea to copy.
In the early 1970s, the all-city event was held at Illinois-Chicago's old gym on Roosevelt Road. In 1973, Leo and Tony Parker, father of NBA star Tony Parker, won the event. Crane dominated in the 1980s with Cory Blackwell, Ken Colliers Norman, Anthony Emanuel and Joe Daughrity.
The afternoon final had enormous appeal for high school basketball fans who could watch some of the city's best players and teams and then have plenty of time to attend New Year's Eve parties.
"I've been working on this project in the back of my mind since the summer of 2011," Spagnolo said. "I brought in logistical people to see if it would all work. It was one of the best-kept secrets until we announced it."
There were many questions to be answered. Can we install a college floor? Do we have enough electricity? How can we move people from gym to gym? Will fans accept a 32-team concept?
It will be the biggest event of its kind in the country...six days, 61 games, as many as 16 games in one day, 132 officials. And every game will be televised on High School Cube.
In scheduling the championship game on Monday afternoon, New Year's Eve, Spagnolo was influenced by the old All-Chicago tournament at UIC.
"I thought it was great, a day where people didn't do a lot of things. They could see the games and still celebrate," he said. "We're committed to not playing on Sunday. So I like how the calendar fell with the semifinals on Saturday and the finals on Monday. It was a no-brainer. We'll be the only game in town. All the other tournaments will end on Saturday night."
In addition, Proviso West will conduct games in two venues at the same time--the 3,000-seat gym and the adjacent field house. Proviso West will bring in new seating for about 1,200 people, a wooden floor, scoreboard and backboards to transform the field house from a track facility into a basketball-friendly arena.
"I think people will like the idea of coming and going back and forth all day to watch games," Spagnolo said. "We're just trying to perfect our 32-team plan. We will have more fan-friendly stuff, more contests, more marketing things and fan-fest activities in the field house. It will be a circus-like atmosphere."
The 32-team field is headed by 13 schools that have participated in the event for 10 or more years--Proviso East, Proviso West, St. Joseph, New Trier, Westinghouse, Homewood-Flossmoor, Morton, Benet, Fenwick, Glenbrook North, Hillcrest, Von Steuben and Morgan Park.
There also are 13 first-time entries--Urban Prep, Ellison, Crespi from Encino, California, Bogan, Lincoln Park, Maine South, Nazareth, Oswego, Rockford Auburn, St. Charles East, Stevenson, Thornton Fractional South and Wheaton Academy.
Other teams are Hinsdale Central, Foreman, Downers Grove South, Brooks, Dunbar and Glenbard East.
Tickets for the 2012 tournament currently are on sale. On-line sales will run through Dec. 14. Season ticket booklets, good for all 61 games, can be purchased for 75 on-line at www.pwhoops.com.
"We're going for greatness," said Spagnolo, who has been affiliated with the tournament since 1978 and has served as tournament director since 1981. "We've been working on it for a long time. It will give more teams an opportunity to play here. I got tired of saying 'no' to new teams that wanted to play here."
In expanding the event from 16 to 32 teams, Spagnolo said he didn't want to negatively affect other holiday tournaments.
"Our original plan was to get as many good programs as we could," he said. "We didn't take more than two teams from any existing tournament. A lot of emerging schools wanted to get into our holiday tournament. We had our eye on some of them."
For example, Proviso West had never invited an out-of-state school--until this year. But Crespi contacted Spagnolo. The Encino school had qualified for the Final Four in the California tournament in four of the last five years and boasts one of the most widely recruited point guards in the West, London Perrantes, who is committed to Virginia. Spagnolo jumped at the chance to add Crespi to the 32-team lineup.
Ellison is a small charter school in Chicago, the first charter school to be invited to participate in the tournament.
"I like the blend of teams. It gives us a little bit of everything," Spagnolo said. "Our goal wasn't to bring in the top 32 teams in the state, just 32 good programs that have interesting stories."
Spagnolo didn't get everything he wanted. He talked to Farragut but coach William "Wolf" Nelson doesn't like to play at Christmas. He talked to St. Rita but the Mustangs are going out-of-state at Christmas. He also lost one school, St. Patrick, which opted out of its contract to compete at Hinsdale South.
"Our mission has always been to promote high school basketball," Spagnolo said. "Our motto is: 'Proviso West is where basketball is best.' we want everyone to enjoy what we have, from paying customers to referees to participants. We think it is a special event and we want more people to get involved in it."
First-round pairings on Saturday, Dec. 22, will pit Oswego vs. Lincoln Park, New Trier vs. Nazareth, Westinghouse vs. Downers Grove South, Homewood-Flossmoor vs. Ellison, Benet vs. Urban Park, Morton vs. Dunbar, Proviso East vs. Thornton Fractional South and Rockford Auburn vs. Foreman.
First-round pairings on Wednesday, Dec. 26, will pit St. Joseph vs. Brooks, Crespi vs. Bogan, Morgan Park vs. Wheaton Academy, Proviso West vs. Fenwick, St. Charles East vs. Von Steuben, Stevenson vs. Hinsdale Central, Glenbard East vs. Glenbard North and Hillcrest vs. Maine South.

Photo: Thad Matta dons Ohio State basketball uniform

thad-matta-0929.png

Photo: Thad Matta dons Ohio State basketball uniform

Baseball is unique among the sports in requiring managers and coaches to suit up in the same uniforms the players wear.

Could you imagine football coaches having to wear pads and jerseys? Or basketball coaches ditching their suits for the sleeveless-and-shorts look?

Well, for better or for worse, you don't have to imagine any longer.

Before Ohio State players arrived Thursday for photos in the team's new uniforms, head coach Thad Matta decided to give the new duds a test run himself.

What resulted was one of the better pictures in recent Twitter memory.

I think Matta is starting a trend here. Time to bust out the petition to get all college hoops coaches to wear their teams' uniforms on the sideline.

Looking good, coach, though I doubt they'll let you wear that watch while you play.

Penn State AD says James Franklin is not on the hot seat

james-franklin-0929.png

Penn State AD says James Franklin is not on the hot seat

Is James Franklin on the hot seat?

Perhaps fans and observers think the Penn State head coach should be, but the Nittany Lions' athletics director certainly doesn't.

Sandy Barbour told the Altoona Mirror that Franklin is not on the hot seat and gave a complete vote of confidence in the coach, who's coming off a blowout 49-10 loss against Michigan.

"He's not on the hot seat, and he's not going to be on the hot seat in December," Barbour told the Mirror's Cory Giger.

"James is going to be our football coach. I believe in where this football program is going under James Franklin, and I think he's going to be our football coach, period."

Franklin is in his third season at the helm in Happy Valley, and while he's had his fair share of recruiting successes, he hasn't experienced much success on the field. After last weekend's loss to Michigan, Franklin is now 0-7 against ranked opponents since arriving at Penn State ahead of the 2014 season.

"When Penn State is where we ought to be, where we should be, where we're all striving to be, we absolutely should go toe to toe with anyone in the country. Clearly we're not there," Barbour said. "We're not a finished product. I don't think anybody thought we would be a finished product four games into the season.

"Was Saturday disappointing? Of course it was. But no one's more disappointed than our coaching staff and our student-athletes in our football program. So I certainly understand where our fans are coming from and the disappointment."

Back-to-back 7-6 finishes could be seen as mild successes, perhaps, considering the program is still working out from the shadow of the Jerry Sandusky scandal. But Penn State's historic status as one of college football's power programs is certainly not applicable right now, and the Lions competing for any kind of championship seems completely unrealistic in the ultra-competitive Big Ten East Division.

All that has led plenty to believe that Franklin's job might be in jeopardy, but Barbour at least verbally put those notions to rest.

"I believe that James is the right guy, and yeah, he's going to be our football coach."