Monday, April 16, 2018

TV Time

TigerBlog remembers Johnny Newman, the former basketball player.

Just not Johnny Neumann, the former basketball player.

Johnny Newman played for, among others, the New York Knicks, back when the Knicks were a watchable team. Before he was in the NBA, he played at Richmond, and TigerBlog remembers when he scored somewhere around 30 against Rider in the 1984 NCAA tournament first round. Richmond then beat Auburn and Charles Barkley in the next round.

That game against Rider, by the way, was part of an NCAA doubleheader at the Palestra. Princeton defeated San Diego 65-56 in the other game, backed by 38 points from Moon Mullin. It remains the most points a Princeton player other than Bill Bradley has scored in an NCAA game.

That was that Johnny Newman.

The other one, with the different spelling, was a Memphis high school legend who went to Ole Miss, where he led Division I in scoring as a sophomore in 1971. Then he left for the ABA, where he started out with a $2 million contract that was unheard of back then. He never really became a star, though he bounced around for awhile in the ABA and then into the NBA after the merger.

He was a very selfish, very immature player in college, and he didn't have many friends. It took him a long time - and five marriages - to mature a bit, to the point where he went back to Ole Miss and eventually graduated nearly 45 years later.

TigerBlog didn't know any of that until yesterday, when he saw a documentary about Neumann on ESPNU. It was a pretty good story.

It also taught TB something else he never knew.

During the course of the documentary, a still picture appeared on the screen of Neumann's coach when he was with Memphis of the ABA. It was a really familiar face to TB - Butch van Breda Kolff.

TigerBlog did not know that van Breda Kolff coached in the ABA.

He did know that van Breda Kolff was Bradley's coach at Princeton and that he led the Tigers to the 1965 NCAA Final Four. He also knew that he coached the Lakers and the Jazz in the NBA before coaching Lafayette and Hofstra.

He didn't realize that he'd also coached in the ABA. And there he was, somewhat running Neumann out of Memphis.

The documentary on Neumann came on immediately after the Princeton women's water polo team defeated Harvard on the same network.

Princeton has had a relationship with ESPN that goes back a long way. It has given Princeton a minimum of seven events each academic year on one of the networks, almost always on ESPNU.

Somewhere along the way, ESPN began to love doing water polo, and so each of the last five or more years, TB supposes, there has been a men's game in the fall and a women' game in the spring on ESPNU from DeNunzio Pool.

The difference between the game yesterday and the games in previous years was that Becca Dorst was the interim head coach for this one, as she has taken over for Luis Nicolao, who left Princeton to become the men's coach at Navy.

After Princeton's 13-9 win over Harvard yesterday, Dorst was interviewed on TV. She came across not as an interim coach but as someone who has been doing television for years. In fact, TB thought she'd probably make a great color commentator for water polo.

She didn't stumble over her answers. She didn't speak in cliches. She complimented Harvard's effort without coming across as disingenuous. She talked about what the season is building to and how she is challenging her team.

Her best comment was about how practice is hard and games are fun, the opportunity to compete and do so in front of family and friends. That was really good.

As for her team, Princeton's win over Harvard was followed by a 12-5 win over Bucknell later in the day that gave the Tigers the top seed in the upcoming CWPA tournament.

For the day yesterday, Chelsea Johnson and Haley Wan had five goals each. Linsdey Kelleher had four, all against Bucknell, whom Princeton would shut out for the second half.

Princeton, who recently ended Michigan's 20-game winning streak, came in ranked 11th in the country.  It's been a very good spring for the Tigers.

And all of that was showcased yesterday on the ESPNU game.

Princeton - its pool, its team and its interim head coach - couldn't have come across much better.

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