When temperatures hit 80 degrees for several days in a row, and when Tornado sirens wail on day's other than the monthly Tuesday testing day, you know that summer is not far away.
You also know that the Iowa Hawkeye athletic calendar is winding down, and for all intents and purposes, it's hot stove time.
With that in mind, here is a ‘can of worms' column to whet your appetite for a few days….
From the ‘Cat is getting out of the bag' files….
Mike Hlas of the Cedar Rapids Gazette penned a column yesterday (Sunday, May 23rd) where he said that Alford "…apparently knows who he wants to hire, and that person doesn't have Iowa roots."
He went on to name Toronto Raptors scout Craig Neal as the name that he has heard from more than a few sources.
Neal's name has been swirling in some circles for a few months now…or even longer.
The retirement of Sam Alford was going to happen, it was just a matter of when. It was bandied about a bit last year, and that is the first time that I had heard Neal's name. Then this spring, Neal's name came up again as talk about Sam's retirement grew warmer.
Since the official announcement came regarding Sam Alford's retirement on August 1st of this year, there has been widespread message board discussion and at least one newspaper article about how Iowa should look at hiring a former Hawkeye or someone with Iowa ties to fill a coaching staff position.
There has been speculation that current assistant coach Rich Walker would slide into Sam's role as Director of Basketball Operations.
There has just been a lot of speculation and there is bound to be more since Sam will be at Iowa through the next two-plus months.
First, let's tackle the popular notion that Steve Alford should hire someone that has former ties to the program, or rather, someone that played for Iowa.
The pool of qualified candidates is pretty thin. Real thin.
If past coaching experience at a D1 or D1-AA program is a prerequisite, that would eliminate Kenyon Murray.
Murray played for Iowa of course, but his coaching experience has been as an associate Head Coach at Indian Hills Community College and now as an assistant for the River Raiders of Cedar Rapids, a USBL team.
Bobby Hansen has not coached at the D1 or D1-AA level, though the man oozes basketball acumen during his radio broadcasts, and per Hlas' report, it sounds as though he would like to get into scouting for an NBA team.
Kevin Gamble coaches a start up program in Springfield that is a low division school athletically.
BJ Armstrong is an executive with the Chicago Bulls, but has never coached a day in his life.
That can be said about most former Hawkeyes. The experience is just not there, even at very low levels.
Iowa's current assistants of Rick Walker, Greg Lansing and Brian Jones had coaching experience at the D1 or D1-AA level prior to being hired by Steve Alford. Walker has been with the Iowa basketball program for a long time.
Lansing is an Iowa native who prepped at Harlan and coached at the high school level in Des Moines before being associated with the Golden State Warriors as well as serving as an assistant at Indiana State for four years. His father is in the Iowa Coaching Hall of Fame for his work at Mt. Pleasant and Harlan.
Jones was an assistant under Alford at Southwest Missouri State, and also served as an assistant at Nebraska-Omaha and Alleman High School in Rock Island.
Now, back to Neal.
He was an assistant coach with the Toronto Raptors under legendary coach Lenny Wilkins before his current scouting role with the organization. He played in the NBA, the CBA and in Europe. He has connections in Europe through his scouting duties, he played at Georgia Tech in the late 1980's and was named All-ACC. He played high school at Washington, Indiana, the same high school where Sam Alford prepped.
Not a bad resume, whether or not he is ever a part of Iowa's staff or not.
The bottom line is this: there are not many, if any, former Hawkeye players that have a strong resume to warrant super serious consideration for an assistant's position, outside of name value. Hansen would be the one name that I would even remotely feel any level of comfort with.
And most of those former Hawkeye names that people are throwing around, save Hansen and Armstrong, have little to no ‘street value' outside the state of Iowa. And many of the current Iowa High School preps might be too young to remember most of them anyway. Plus, the next high level prep that Iowa does not land and does not go to Iowa State, do you really believe that a former Hawkeye as an assistant coach would be the difference? I guess that I do not.
Can of Worms, Part Two
In a recent article in the Waterloo Cedar Falls Courier, the subject of Iowa football players turning pro before their senior year was broached, in particular, Chad Greenway. Kevin Evans wrote the piece, and Greenway told him that he and his teammates, as far as he knew, planned on staying at Iowa for all the years of their eligibility.
Here is the link to that story: CLICK HERE
Greenway and Abdul Hodge are being watched by NFL scouts, or they certainly will be watched in 2004.
If there is any one Iowa player I might be concerned about leaving early after next year, it would be Greenway.
I believe he has given the thought some consideration and if he has an All-American year, it would not surprise me if he elected to forgo his senior season and enter the NFL draft.
Now before I start to receive hate mail, I am not saying I would bet on that horse. But if it happened, I would not be surprised in the slightest.
Greenway has the physical tools to play in the NFL, and if he shows the NFL people this year that he has made strides in some areas they felt were minor weaknesses, his name is going to come up.
Let's hope that what he told Evans on a late spring day holds true next year at this time.
Also, from the same article linked above, Kirk Ferentz apparently had a bit of a slip when talking about the quarterback position for next year and mentioned Drew Tate, specifically.
In the piece, Evans accurately pointed out that Ferentz is not a man to mix words or speak in tones of shadow. When he says something, the media listens.
Last year, he specifically mentioned Matt Melloy on more than a few occasions, which caused my ears to perk up and had me talking about Melloy on various pre-season radio shows as a player to watch in 2004. Melloy didn't figure into Iowa's offense in a big way during the regular season, but he came up huge in the Outback Bowl and was also in the receiving rotation last year. Remember, Iowa's offense in 2003 was ranked in the 90's among all 117 D1 programs, so there were not a lot of pigskins to haul in. Melloy caught 10 passes for 155 yards and two touchdowns during Iowa's regular season.
Though Jason Manson flashed a bit during the Spring Game and though Ferentz spoke about it being a two-man race after the Spring Game, many media members were wondering if that was just coach speak, in a way, to keep Tate focused and motivated on taking his game to another level.
Did Ferentz slip up a bit and show the hand he is holding in his head? Tate is my bet to be the starter, but that is not a Pulitzer-qualifying reach.
Many of us have seen the schematics of the plans to remodel Kinnick. Some of you have seen some of the placards that have been showing up at various I-Club functions this spring, and they detail some artists renderings of what the luxury suite areas are going to look like.
I recently viewed such a rendering, and let me say that when the press box is completed in time for the 2006 season, Kinnick is going to be glowing in a new and technological glory.
Many of us will never have the good fortune of sitting in those posh suites or in the club level, but those who will enjoy that view will appreciate every comfort known to stadium design available today. There is going to be a fantastic atrium back of the seats, as well as lounge areas and more.
The new press box is set to run the width of the West stands.
Work on the new South End Zone section is set to start after Iowa's November 20 game against Wisconsin and will be completed in time for the start of the 2005 season.
Bring your cameras with you to Kinnick Stadium this year…because the old gal will never look the same. The proposed changes are fantastic, but you will want to have some snap shots for your own personal archives.