Friday, March 28, 2008

The question a lot of Murray State women’s basketball fans are asking this weekend is “What about Rob Cross?”

Cross is the assistant coach for the Racers and has been for 13 years, joining the program with Eddie Fields, then Joi Felton, and finally spending a year at Jody Adams side before she left for Wichita State on Wednesday.

Should he be considered for the coaching position?

Since I’ve only covered Racer basketball for a year, I’m not going to pretend I have all the answers. I really haven’t spent enough time with Cross to judge his ability to be the head coach for the Racers.

He’s got a great knowledge of the area for recruiting. His familiarity to the program and the players is incredible. He is articulate in his speech and thought, which is a plus for the media.

Adams also credited Cross with the development of post players Angela Brown and Pam Bell. Brown, who came in for her last year of eligibility after sitting out a year, was a force by the end of the season.

I think Cross is more than ready and able to be a successful head coach, I just am not sure if he’s ready to lead the Racers. While he’s a stable force in the community, he’s had the fortune of studying under three Ohio Valley Conference coaches. To win conference championships and be more than a one-and-done program in the NCAA Tournament, I think you need a little more experience than what those three head coaches can give in 13 years.

Racer women’s basketball isn’t just an afterthought to MSU’s athletic department anymore. The program is capable now of competing for and winning championships in the future. The program is very capable of attracting well-groomed applicants for the head coaching position, i.e. Jody Adams.

Whomever the MSU athletic department brings in for a head coach, Cross will be a key asset, just like he was in Adams’ transition, and needs to be rewarded in some way for his loyalty to the program if he chooses to stay on and not as the head coach.

Thursday, March 27, 2008


Cliché as it sounds, I, too, was shocked by the departure of Murray State’s women’s basketball coach, Jody Adams.

For five months, I’ve talked to Jody at least twice a week (She had insisted her players call her Jody, thus nearly everyone did.). At the end of the season, as I worked on a story about her performance and achievements in only her first year as a head coach, I joked about how she would be a hot commodity to other schools. She just humbly blushed and said, “No.”

At the end of those five months, I’d like to say we’d established a good rapport. Jody let me tag around with the team in College Park, Md., at the NCAA Tournament to avoid boredom in a hotel. In return, I kept a professional distance and made sure not to bug anyone until it was my turn to ask questions.

In my time reporting, it turned out we knew a lot of the same people. I spent last season covering the Missouri women’s basketball team, and coach Cindy Stein is one of Jody’s best friends. Murray assistant coach Kerensa Barr also came out of Missouri.

During interviews, Jody always made sure to ask about me and seemed interested in getting to know me not only as a professional, but as a person. I appreciated that. A lot.

Jody’s brown eyes would constantly twinkle with mirth, especially when teasing reporters in a press conference. She could still stare a reporter down with the best of hard-nosed coaches, but she would straight talk. I appreciated that. A lot.

I figured she’d give Murray State at least three years. I think she did, too. Either way, I’ve said good-bye to a coach that I genuinely liked as a person, and that hurts a bit. I wish her the best of luck, and hope the reporters out in Kansas appreciate their new source just as much as I did.


On a side note, I got a chuckle out of the poster on suggesting that Calloway County girls basketball coach Scott Sivills be considered for MSU’s newest opening.

As much as I enjoy talking with Sivills and understand what he’s done for Calloway basketball, he’s no Division I head coach. Although his dark-rimmed glasses and brightly colored blazers would be great story fodder.

And while Sheri Coale at Oklahoma came straight out of high school to D-I, Oklahoma was a nod away from dismantling the women’s basketball program — it was that pitiful at the time. The Racers are at a crucial point of building a reputable program. Big difference.

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Day 3: Game Day - Racers lose

The Murray State women's basketball team lost to Duke, 78-57, in the first round of the women's NCAA Tournament. 

Check out The Paducah Sun on Monday for the full story. Tuesday should have a follow up.

Come back and check out And One, just because the tourney ended, doesn't mean I'll stop blogging.

Day 3: Game Day - 3:21 to go

Duke 68, Murray State 46. 

Chances of a comeback are slim. Ashley Hayes has 19 points.

Day 3: Game Day - 12:15 to go

The Racers were within five points of Duke after a spin move lay up by Amber Guffey. In punishment, the Blue Devils rained a barrage of baskets.

Duke 54, Murray State 34.

Day 3: Game Day - Halftime

Duke 35, Murray State 23

Day 3: Game Day - 3:07 left in 1st Half

Game is paused when Karima Christmas hit the ground hard on a rebound. She is able to walk away, but is dazed.

Murray State's Ashley Hayes found her stroke after sitting out for a few minutes with two fouls, coming back to score five points. The Racers are down 32-18.

Day 3: Game Day - 8:52 left in 1st Half

Duke's assistant coach Al Brown decided to salute The Cosby Show with a number straight out of Bill Cosby's closet.

Murray State is finding itself outmuscled in the first half, down 22-8. The Racers have had plenty of open shots on Duke's stifling defense, but few of those shots could fall.

Day 3: Game Day

Duke's mascot, the Blue Devil, wants to know, 'Who's Murray State?'

Leaving the team hotel, the air was thick with anticipation and tension. As the Murray State women's basketball team loaded the bus to head to its first appearance in the NCAA Tournament, the Racer Band and cheerleaders sent them off with music and pom-poms.

The daughter of MSU athletic director Alan Ward added some excitement when she ran shrieking back to her room in terror at the sight of MSU equine mascot, Dunker. She's afraid of all mascots, Ward said. That's why the family sits at the top of the stands at all games — to be as far from the cheering bunches of fake fur as they can.

Traveling, the bus TVs were off, no radios and riders were quiet and focused.

The Duke Blue Devils were waiting at the Comcast Center for the 6 p.m. (CDT) game, and the Racers were in game mode.


The team met a mostly empty arena, since it was cleared for the second round of Sunday's games. The team quickly headed to the floor to stretch and warm up and the bands quickly took up their posts.

As the officials let the fans in for the game, it was easy to see Duke brought the most fans. But the 30 or so Racer fans already in attendance were bolstered by a sea of red. Maryland fans, who watched their team to victory over Coppin State just an hour before, stayed to cheer on Racers. No Dookies for the Terps, who are Atlantic Coast Conference rivals.

Methinks the Terp fans could make or break the game....

Check back for updates through the game as I have time. The NCAA mandates no more than five updates a game for bloggers, just to let you know.

'A Time to Shine'

In preparing for the post season, including the Ohio Valley Conference Tournament, Murray State guard Mallory Luckett wrote 'A Time to Shine' as a way to inspire the Racer women's basketball team. This is the video the women's basketball staff created to show before the NCAA Tournament selection show.

'A Time to Shine' is performed by members of the team.

Saturday, March 22, 2008

Day 2: Practice at the Comcast Center

Click here to watch a quick video of the Murray State women's basketball team in practice at the Comcast Center.

Day 2: Sightseeing

When getting off the team bus to explore the National Historic Seaport of Baltimore, Murray State assistant coach Carlai Moore instructed players to meet the bus on Light Street to leave by 1 p.m.

The bus only had to wait for three scragglers and left to go back to the team hotel by 1:05. Not bad.

An hour and a half was all we got in Baltimore, but it was still enough to walk around and take
plenty of photos. We tried to eat at The Cheesecake Factory and ESPN Zone, but since Baltimore was experiencing plenty of March Madness traffic, the waits were too long. So I bought souvenirs at ESPN Zone and dined delectably at Panera Bread (which Paducah should get, pronto).
Northeastern crab cakes were no where to be found in fast food form.

While walking on the pier, a gull also decided to splay on me. For those not familiar with bird terminology, "to splay" means a bird released its excrement, which landed on my camera and pant leg while flying above me. 

Check back later tonight after I attend the team press conference and open practice at the Comcast Center later this afternoon.

Friday, March 21, 2008

Day 1: Travel Day

*Photo: The Racer Band and cheerleaders load the charter plane on their way to Maryland at Barkley Regional Airport in Paducah, Ky. on Friday afternoon.

The Murray State women's basketball entourage left campus at about 2 p.m. Friday to head to College Park, Md., where they will play Duke on Sunday in the first round of the women's NCAA Tournament.

I had the opportunity to travel with the entourage, and will until the journey is over.

Some musings from the day:

- Filtering a pep band, cheerleaders, support staff, media and entire basketball team through Barkley Regional Airport in Paducah, Ky., went surprisingly well.

- Well-wishers who couldn't make the trip to the East Coast waved from behind the fences at Barkley Regional at the plane taxied off.

- Takeoff in Paducah's high winds was memorable, especially for first-time flyers. The group collectively yelled as the plane seemed to "drop" when it hit a hard wind gust. 

- Box stores and strip malls are easily recognized even from hundreds of feet in the air thanks to massive amounts of neon signs (think Hardees and Big Lots).

- Sunsets look most impressive above the horizon line.

- According to a gaming magazine tucked into the seat in front of me, all gambling winnings should be declared to the IRS. No exceptions.

- Pace Airlines offers real-size bags of Pepperidge Farm Goldfish snacks, rather than a mini bag of five pretzels other commercial airlines offer.

- Maryland in the dark looks a lot like everywhere else in the dark. 

Saturday morning will entail a visit to nearby Washington D.C., for the band and cheerleaders. The Racer women's basketball team will head to more-nearby Baltimore for less sight-seeing. The afternoon holds a press conference with the teams and open practices at the Comcast Center in College Park, Md.

Check back this weekend for more updates. The more I experience, the more I will share.