In two of the oddest articles this summer, senior CBSSports.com college basketball writers Jon Rothstein and Gary Parrish throw pity parties for a player twice accused of sexual misconduct and a fired coach jobless for a mere three months.
CBSSports.com college basketball usually provides thorough analysis, covering the leagues, such as the Atlantic 10, Conference USA, and Mountain West, losing major network air time to the power six conferences. But after crafting “second chance” narratives out of Brandon Austin and Donnie Tyndall, a question remains for bewildered CBSSports.com readers: Did senior CBS college basketball writers Jon Rothstein and Gary Parrish really believe the public would sympathize with a two-strikes player and a fired coach facing the NCAA firing squad?
Austin, once an ESPN top 100 recruit, facing allegations of sexual misconduct won the Philadelphia native walking papers at both Providence College and the University of Oregon.
After his dismissal as a Duck, Hutchinson Community College in central Kansas, host to the NJCAA men’s basketball tournament, denied Austin admission one year ago. But later that summer the 6’7” combo guard enrolled in classes in Fort Walton Beach at Northwest Florida State College.
As the saying goes, you’re either running from or running to in Florida. Rothstein writes that “following high-profile sexual misconduct allegations first at Providence and then at Oregon, Austin spent last season far from the bright lights of big-time college basketball playing at Northwest Florida State College, leading the Raiders to the junior college national championship.”
But a veteran college coach that recruits at junior colleges across the U.S. sees Austin’s journey as less humbling penance than a day at the beach. “Northwest Florida is a junior college on steroids,” he tells Breitbart Sports. “You’re on the beach. It has better facilities than probably 75 percent of the schools in Division 1. And that’s the truth. It’s not like he’s at Ranger College, grinding it out in the Texas desert. He’s practicing, going to school—but he’s also hanging out on the beach. Come on.”
Austin disagrees. “It was different than other places,” he told Rothstein of this past year at Northwest Florida State. “It got me stronger. I think it humbled me. I know I’m better than that level. It’s just been really a humbling experience.”
Brandon Austin’s rebound becoming part of the conversation at major sports sites proves his fit in a category unique to players with lengthy reps. The veteran college coach explains why: “Coaches think these guys are going to help them win games, get them to their next job, make them more money, so they don’t care about their character or what their impact is on society.”
Moreover, when ESPN or mom’s-basement recruiting zines tweet a “who’s who” of prep prospects they often feed a monster that ironically decreases rather than increases personal accountability off the court.
So why did Rothstein rely on the inspiring-comeback-story template for a player twice accused of deviant behavior? Probably the same reason Gary Parrish penned a Donnie Tyndall sob story before the coach received formal punishment from the NCAA.
Earlier this month, Gary Parrish wrote a sentimental article on the ex-Volunteer coach who stands just a few months in the unemployment line. After allegations of academic improprieties surfaced regarding Donnie Tyndall’s two-year stint at Southern Miss, two staff members resigned at the start of the 2014-15 season and Tennessee fired Tyndall in March, a year after they hired him in Knoxville.
This spring the infractions committee sharpened their knives, and on Friday, their investigation found Tyndall culpable of NCAA violations, leaving Tennessee off the hook for Tyndall’s $3 million buyout clause.
“It’s been devastating,” Tyndall said. “I’m 45 and starting over. No other way to say it.”
Guys enjoy a better chance of becoming brain surgeons than they do Division 1 sideline generals. So, Tyndall made it farther than all but a few. In terms of winning, his four chances as a head coach all saw success. He reached the NCAA tourney at Morehead State twice and endured only one losing season, his first one at Morehead.
The off-Broadway guys, undersized for their position, playing at renegade JuCos or on AAU squads sans sneaker sponsorship and live-period tournament exposure, remain Tyndall’s recruiting niche. Defensively his teams play a man-principled 2-2-1 that morphs into an active tandem 2-3, mislabeled by critics as everything from a matchup zone to a 1-1-3 or a 1-3-1. Whatever one calls the defense, it’s unique and effective.
Offensively, Tyndall’s players cut hard, screen bodies, and execute high-level misdirection sets and ball-screen schemes. Inside of 94 feet, pound for pound, Donnie Tyndall remains one of the best coaches on the planet. He’s just temporarily unemployed.
Donnie Tyndall displays enough talent as a basketball mind to win without breaking rules. But the NCAA believes he did.
On one hand, man, he’s lost it all. A job he loved. A big salary. And the idea that the NCAA still hasn’t sent a notice of allegations to Southern Miss means Tyndall remains a ways away from learning what, if any, penalties he’ll be forced to endure. That leaves him very much in limbo and essentially unhirable, even as an assistant, and the Division I level.
Parrish is correct in one respect. Middle Tennessee’s Kermit Davis or other headmen emerging from the same LSU coaching tree as Tyndall probably can’t push their old pal’s mug past an athletic director. But CBS readers aren’t dumb enough to believe that Tyndall has “lost it all,” as Parrish declares.
Nobody pitied Auburn CEO Bruce Pearl while he idled in ESPN studios. Three months from now, if Tyndall can’t land on Stan Van Gundy’s scouting staff in Detroit, nobody will agonize as Tyndall labors as a major-network analyst. A cheating BCS coach’s purgatory isn’t so bad. Pearl’s face time on ESPN, if anything, reminded viewers that once the show-cause penalty expired, Pearl would be back on the bench.
The shadowy Kelvin Sampson won an NCAA firing squad in 2008, then lost himself in the NBA. Six pro calendars later, he’s the head coach at the University of Houston. Another coach averse to NCAA bylaws, Todd Bozeman, took cover in the pros only to resurface at Morgan State.
In college hoops, the rich get richer. And Parrish’s attempt to contradict this truism instead affirms it. “We were sitting at the historic Peabody Hotel on a recent morning, Donnie Tyndall and I. He was sipping water. I drank coffee. He was in town to spend time with Memphis coach Josh Pastner. The Peabody Ducks were in the fountain a few feet behind us.”
Swimming celebrity ducks and two men sitting comfortably in a four-star hotel doesn’t sound like the soup line.
Right now there’s a minor league basketball cast-off screaming for a drag screen in English while coaching eleven Korean guys in the second division Asian leagues. What he’s really hollering for is a chance. Basketball’s true underdogs never receive first chances, let alone fourth and fifth opportunities.
So why is CBS asking for the public’s sympathy for Brandon Austin and Donnie Tyndall?
Because each story was a plant.
Follow Sean Flynn on Twitter @coachsflynn