Topic: Wade Neely
As the old expression goes, “All good things must come to an end.”
Last December, I caught wind that Hank Bonecutter and James Horne would be launching a new website and radio show centered on Clarksville and Clarksville-area sports.
Having worked for a radio station in my hometown for the previous 20 months, I was eager to expand my horizons and further my professional career and applied for the position.
After a series of interviews and conversations, I was fortunate enough to receive an offer from the guys and was faced with the first tough decision of my professional career.
Ultimately, I decided that a move to Clarksville was one that just felt right.
In many ways, the move to Clarksville was my first real ‘leap of faith’ – something I would go on to learn that all successful sportscasters and sportswriters eventually have to take.
After signing on in late December, I – along with the help of our amazing staff – began forging my way into the Clarksville sports scene.
Despite being an out-of-town guy, everyone that I had the chance to work with was extremely welcoming and friendly.
That goes from youth leagues and high schools all the way to the Austin Peay Athletic and Sports Information Departments.
These last eight months have been a blast.
I’ve made lifetime friends and acquaintances with co-workers, coaches, players and fans of the site and show.
Unfortunately, all good things must indeed come to an end.
As many of you know, on Wednesday I announced that I have accepted a new position as Director of Athletic Communications and Broadcasting at Martin Methodist College effective August 1.
This will be my last column at the Clarksville Sports Network and Friday (the 13th, oddly) will be my last show as co-host of ‘From the Sideline’.
The decision to leave Clarksville was not easy, but much like the decision to take the position here, the decision to join forces with Martin Methodist College just felt right.
Quickly, I wanted to thank Hank Bonecutter and James Horne for the opportunity they have given me to hone my skills as a reporter, talk show host and, most importantly, a young man.
They took a gamble on a wide-eyed kid with very limited experience on a major project.
For that, I will always be thankful and indebted.
Also, I want to thank John “Producer John” Michaels. There have been many stories told before and after shows at the 925 Martin Street Studios and I’ll always remember them.
(Plus, I kind of owe it to the guy as many times as he’s helped me rig up equipment and then ride around with me broadcasting golf in extreme heat.)
Finally, I wanted to thank our other staff members:
Cidnie, Darlene, Eddie and Jay.
Everyone was extraordinarily helpful and courteous and for that I say thank you.
Most importantly, I want to thank everyone that has helped support and grow CSN along the way during our launch. Our readers and listeners are the absolute best and I hope you’ve enjoyed our content.
Also, thanks to the power of the Internet, everyone is just a Tweet away.
With that, I raise a glass to you, Clarksville.
It’s been a fun, wild ride and I’ve enjoyed the hell out of it.
Over the last several years, a strange thing has happened in the world of major college athletics.
With sky-high budgets and television revenues, major sports at high-end universities are reaching unprecedented heights in terms of exposure and marketability.
As a result, the world of recruiting and has also reached unparalleled success.
In fact, I’d be willing to wager that if you’re reading this article, there is an extremely high probability that you have visited a recruiting website or watched a Youtube clip of a potential future college athlete.
Despite the extreme increase in information and interest regarding recruiting, however, the NCAA had continued to prop up several archaic rules regarded procedures for coaches contacting recruits.
On Friday, however, college athletics’ major governing body took a significant step in the right direction – enabling college basketball coaches to make unlimited phone calls and send unlimited text messages to recruits who have finished their sophomore year of high school.
Quite frankly, I love this rule change.
In the digital age and the age of the smartphone, forcing coaches to keep distance from recruits via phone and social media seemed silly.
And after incidents like Ohio State’s slew of secondary violations and Josh Pastner’s legendary Twitter mistake, it may have even finally become apparent to the NCAA that blocking coaches from contacting recruits directly seems a bit foolish.
Imagine if you’re the parent of a high-profile recruit.
Would you rather you and your child hear directly from the head coach via a direct phone call or social media message or from an assistant or other staff member?
And the cool thing about this rule? The competitive advantage it creates.
If a coach is pestering a kid too much, the recruit can simply ignore the phone call or delete the message.
On the other hand, a savvy coach can possibly earn the favor of a big-time athlete with a well-placed call or text.
Imagine if Mike Krzyzewski landed a star athlete because of a Facebook message. Awesome.
There is a major flaw to an otherwise solid decision from the NCAA, however.
The rule is for the 345 Division I men’s college basketball coaches only.
Why limit it to men’s basketball only? Why not include other classifications?
The NCAA has taken a step in the right direction with this rule, but it didn’t take the full jump that it needed to.
That could change down the road, but for now it’s a weird wrinkle to an otherwise great rule change.
So if you’re the parent of a young, ambitious high school basketball player and their eyes light up when the phone rings or when they receive a text, you may know why.
You can follow Wade Neely on Twitter: @WadeNeely
Believe it or not, folks, Memorial Day Weekend 2012 is finally upon us.
A weekend to remember and honor all of the fallen servicemen and servicewomen in our nation’s history, Memorial Day also serves as the unofficial kick start to summer.
And, almost on cue, the temperatures have started to heat up (record highs are expected in some parts of the Midstate this weekend).
Additionally, the celebrations have started to begin (as many as 70 roadside safety checkpoints will be set up across the state by the Tennessee Highway Patrol this weekend).
But while many of you will be out celebrating, don’t forget that this is still a huge sports weekend.
Between college baseball conference tournaments, the NBA and NHL Playoffs and Indy Car racing (or, possibly, that third or fourth Blue Moon you just polished off along the way to your second trip to the grill) it can be easy to lose track of what’s going on this weekend.
Not to fear. While I can’t guarantee you I’ll watch every game this weekend, (after all – this body isn’t going to tan itself) I’ve got you covered with the official Memorial Day Weekend viewer’s guide.
Austin Peay vs. Eastern Kentucky/Jacksonville State, OVC Baseball Tournament, Friday, 3 p.m., Watch Online: www.OVCSports.com. Always a wild affair, the OVC Tournament is no different this year. After suffering a shocking 4-3 loss to Southeast Missouri in their OVC Tournament opener, the top-seeded Govs joined No. 2 EKU and No. 3 Jacksonville State as the third top seed to suffer a first-game setback. The Govs, who won last year’s conference tournament, will look to avoid an embarrassingly early exit Friday afternoon. With a win Friday, the Govs would earn a berth in Saturday’s loser’s bracket final at Noon.
New York Rangers vs. New Jersey Devils, Game 6 Eastern Conference Finals, Friday, 7 p.m., NBC Sports Network. Lost in all of John Tortorella’s postgame press conference blowups, this has actually been a pretty entertaining series. Many hockey experts predicted the Rangers would win in six or seven games, but the series somewhat surprisingly heads back to Jersey with the Devils leading 3-2. Devils netminder Martin Brouder turned 40 on May 6 and is 5-2 between the pipes since. Look for the Devils to clinch, but a Game 7 looms Sunday if the Rangers can pull off the road win.
Vanderbilt vs. Florida-South Carolina, SEC Baseball Tournament, Saturday, 3 p.m., CSS. If you don’t keep up with college baseball, you might have missed out on one of the greatest coaching jobs in all of college sports this season. Vandy skipper Tim Corbin has guided the ‘Dores from an awful 7-15 start to victories in 15 of the squad’s last 18 games. After knocking off Georgia and South Carolina earlier in the week, the Commodores hung on for a 3-2 win over Florida to advance to Saturday’s tournament semifinal matchup and all but clinch a berth in the NCAA Tournament.
Philadelphia 76ers vs. Boston Celtics, Game 7 Eastern Conference Semifinals, Saturday, 7 p.m., ABC. Surprisingly, possibly the least entertaining series of the playoffs has given us one of the sport’s greatest moments: Game 7. On Wednesday’s edition of ‘From the Sideline’, I declared that the 76ers had no shot in Game 6, but here they are a win away from the Eastern Conference Finals. That said, there is no absolutely no way the Celtics can blow a Game 7 at home with a chance to face the Heat on the line, right? Look for Rajon Rondo and Kevin Garnett (and possibly Paul Pierce or Ray Allen) to fuel the Celtics to a win and a right to play the Heat.
96th Indianapolis 500, Sunday, 11 a.m., ABC. For whatever reason, my interest has waned over the last few years with IndyCar. Perhaps due to an inability to connect with the sport’s starts. Or, perhaps due to greater interest in NASCAR. Despite all of this, the Indy 500 is the one race where casual open-wheel fans will at least flip on the tube to watch. Not surprisingly, this year’s field figures to be highly entertaining, even despite the lack of Danica Patrick. So while enjoying a Sunday Bloody Mary, look for Helio Castroneves to put himself into contention for a fourth Indy win. Don’t forget to root for fan favorite Josef Newgarden, however. The 21-year-old Nashville native will make his debut at Indianapolis Motor Speedway Sunday.
Oklahoma City Thunder vs. San Antonio Spurs, Game 1 Western Conference Finals, Sunday, 7:30 p.m., TNT. Outside of a rooting interest in the Grizzlies, the NBA Playoffs have been a major disappointment in my eyes. Injuries and bad matchups have marred what is usually one of my favorite tournaments of the year. But not to worry, NBA fans. The Western Conference Finals betsidelineween the Spurs-Thunder will be the single-most entertaining series in the entire NBA Playoffs. Mark my words. The Spurs are playing with an extreme amount of confidence and precision, but the Thunder are rolling into their second consecutive WCF with a fair amount of momentum of their own. Game 1 will likely set the tone for the rest of the series, so grab that fifth plate of BBQ (you did remember to cook enough to last the entire weekend, right?) and enjoy.
(Normally, I’d list the variety of Major League Baseball Games that will be on tap Monday, but after three days of water, food, sports, spirits and family, I’d recommend a recovery day on Monday while reflecting on what exactly we’re celebrating this weekend.)
So there you have it, boys and girls. The 2012 Memorial Day Weekend Viewer’s Guide.
Stay safe, don’t forget to stay hydrated and don’t forget your sunblock.
See you Tuesday.
In the world of sports and sports media, it can be easy to forget a simple fact about the industry:
This is supposed to be fun.
That’s why it was extremely refreshing to read a pair of lighthearted stories from a major sports franchise earlier this week.
Smack dab in the midst of one of the most historic seasons in franchise history, the Los Angeles Kings have struggled to receive professional coverage from some of their local media.
In addition to being referred to as the NBA’s Sacramento Kings, the LA Kings have also had to deal with their fair share of mispronunciations and made-up players.
(Because, if you can’t pronounce a guy’s name properly, just make something up and hope it sticks, right?)
Heck, they even had a newscaster refer to their sport’s scoring object as a ball instead of a puck.
Pretty rough treatment for a team that clinched its second-ever trip to the Stanley Cup Finals Tuesday night.
Despite all this, the Kings have not only kept their cool, they have actually turned the poor coverage into an awesome new PR campaign.
On Monday, the club’s digital media department released a hilarious infographic that very tongue-in-cheekly cleared the air about the poor local coverage.
I’d attempt to describe the graphic, but you’d be better off looking at for yourself HERE.
And while the infographic is very well done, it might not even be the best PR move the Kings made last week.
Last Wednesday, actor Rainn Wilson (known to many as Dwight Schrute on “The Office”) tweeted the Kings and asked the club for a pair of tickets to his first-ever hockey game.
Later that evening, the Kings social media team (which is regarded as one of the best in all of pro sports), tweeted back a funny exchange with Wilson:
Not surprisingly, Wilson took the Kings up on their offer and dug his tickets out of the green jello to attend Game 4:
(For those who have been living under a rock for the last seven years: The jello comment was a reference to this legendary scene from the pilot of “The Office.”)
Within seconds, Wilson’s tweet had not only brought more outstanding positive PR to the Kings, it also brought us a pair of refreshing life lessons:
Don’t be afraid to laugh at yourself. Sports are supposed to be fun.
March 6, 2012.
A date in NFL history that will be remembered for years to come.
Late on a warm Tuesday afternoon in Tennessee, news began to break on Twitter and eventually onto major media news outlets that the unthinkable had happened.
After the two sides agreed to a new 5-year, $90 million contract last July, the Colts and franchise quarterback Peyton Manning had broken up.
And even though Manning’s release had been forecasted and expected by sources close to the situation for weeks now, the news still seemed a bit of a shock as it spread like wildfire across the Twitterverse and media landscape.
Manning wanted to end his career in a blue and white Colts uniform.
And if there was ever a player that should have been afforded that opportunity, it should have been Manning.
After all, all the slow-talking New Orleans native did was completely revitalize a city and a state that had virtually no football history prior to his arrival.
In the 14 seasons prior to Manning’s arrival in Indy, the Colts had appeared in exactly five playoff games.
And three of those came during the Colts run to the 1996 AFC Championship Game.
After Manning arrived in the Hoosier State?
The Colts made 11 playoff appearances, including a run of five straight AFC South championships.
More importantly, Manning and the Colts hoisted the first Lombardi Trophy in franchise history since the old Baltimore Colts did it following Super Bowl V.
Peyton Manning says he wants to play in 2012, but it won't be for the Colts, who are expected to release Manning Wednesday.
And while Manning’s postseason record (9-10) might not be among the best in NFL history, he is an absolute first-ballot Hall of Famer and arguably one of the greatest quarterbacks in league history.
In addition, Manning’s accomplishments in Indianapolis weren’t just limited to on-the-field successes.
Lucas Oil Stadium — the Colts swanky new downtown arena that opened in 2008 – was built off Manning’s success during his first decade in the NFL.
And, without the new stadium, Indianapolis would have never hosted a Super Bowl like they did last month.
But, unfortunately for Manning, the NFL is a league that has humbled many “franchise cornerstones” over the years.
Forget over the years – how about this offseason?
Ask Hines Ward and Cortland Finnegan what can happen when the bottom line of an NFL player’s contract doesn’t match the owner’s future plans.
And without Manning, the Colts floundered their way to the No. 1 pick in next month’s Andrew Luck Sweeptakes NFL Draft – furthering Manning’s expendability.
So what happens next for No. 18?
A joint press conference with Manning and Irsay is expected Wednesday, officially ending Manning’s tenure in Indianapolis.
Despite his health concerns, Manning has reiterated that he wants to continue his career as an NFL quarterback.
Of main concern to possible suitors, obviously, is Manning’s health.
This is where things get tricky.
After undergoing multiple surgeries, reports had leaked that Manning’s arm strength was virtually gone.
And if Manning is not healthy, I’m not sure even the most desperate of franchises should take a chance on him.
Over the last week, however, Manning has worked out with at Duke with Blue Devils head coach David Cutcliffe (Manning’s offensive coordinator during his years at Tennessee).
During the workouts, several cell phone videos of Manning throwing surfaced onto the internet, prompting many to wonder if a team will take a gamble on the Hall of Famer.
Once Manning’s release from the Colts becomes official, he is free to sign with any team.
Destinations such as Miami, Arizona, Seattle and the Jets have already been thrown about.
But, until NFL front offices and coaches can properly evaluate Manning, his future remains in doubt.
Despite the uncertainty, one thing is for sure, however.
If Manning is healthy and can return to the form of old, he would become one of the most highly sought-after free agents since fellow Tennessee alums Reggie White and Albert Haynesworth hit the market in 1993 and 2009.
If Manning laces up the cleats in 2012, we now know it won’t be for the Colts.
But, as prideful as Peyton is, it’s safe to say that if he can’t play for the Colts, his next favorite alternative would somehow involve beating the Colts next season.
Even though he left for the West Coast, Lane Kiffin continues to haunt Tennessee fans from afar.
Just when Vols fans thought they were safe from the coach that left them in the middle of the night for sunny Southern California, Kiffin has resurfaced in Knoxville once again, bringing more torment to the folks on Rocky Top.
On Wednesday, reports began to surface that Kiffin had hired Kentucky wide receivers and former Tennessee quarterback Tee Martin to join his staff at USC.
Hold on. Tee Martin?
The same quarterback that led Tennessee to its first national championship in 47 years and has a Knoxville street named after him is now partnering up with Knoxville’s Public Enemy No. 1?
Yep. Same guy.
From Tee Martin Drive to Rodeo Drive.
Now, to be fair to Martin, he had already spent two seasons in Lexington coaching directly against the Vols.
But, after becoming a popular target among coaching staffs across the SEC over the past two offseasons — including grumblings that Martin would return to Rocky Top and replace outgoing wideouts coach Charlie Baggett this offseason — it appeared as if Martin was set to return for another season at Kentucky.
Instead, Martin has now left to join Kiffin and the Trojans.
Talk about irony.
On paper, this is a terrific hire for USC.
Martin is regarded as a reasonably bright young mind in the coaching ranks (a title once shared by his new boss) and should mesh well with an already-loaded Trojans offense next year.
Kentucky fans should be the most distraught.
Losing a coach (and particularly a recruiter) like Martin this late in the offseason is never a good thing. In fact, given how badly Joker Phillips has performed, one could argue that Martin is the lone bright spot of Kentucky football right now.
And while Tennessee fans will likely be upset that Martin “sold out”, the actual football effects of Martin leaving for the West Coast should be a positive for Tennessee.
Instead of flipping possible Tennessee recruits to nearby Kentucky, Martin now has a much more considerable amount of work to do to flip a Vols target to USC.
But, with the way his evil genius has worked out thus far, don’t put anything past Lane Kiffin.
For much of his life, Marc Gasol has seemingly lived in the shadows.
Already growing up in the shadow of his older Pau, who starred for Spanish basketball powerhouse Barcelona, Marc continued to remain the forgotten Gasol when Pau was taken in the 2001 NBA Draft and shipped to the Grizzlies.
After the Gasol family made the move to Memphis to stay close to Pau, Marc continued to search for his own basketball glory.
Gasol appeared to have captured a bit of personal spotlight in 2003, leading Lausanne Collegiate School to the TSSAA D-II state title game in Murfreesboro.
In that championship game, however, Gasol would be upstaged yet again.
This time then-freshman (and current Mavericks) forward Brandan Wright, who led Brentwood Academy to a 69-48 blowout win – presumably to many ending the chubby 7-footer’s basketball relevancy in America.
After winning Mr. Basketball honors in Tennessee, Gasol returned to Spain, playing three years of professional basketball before being drafted by the Lakers with one of the final picks in the 2007 NBA Draft.
Then, after winning Spanish League MVP honors in 2008, Gasol would yet again wind up in his brother’s shadow when the then-lowly Grizzlies dealt Pau to the Lakers in one of the most controversial trades in league history.
Marc’s draft rights were included in that now-famous trade, but with much of the attention focused on Pau going to Hollywood, Marc’s rights were considered nothing more than a novelty item to the casual basketball fan.
“Nobody wanted me at first,” Marc recently reflected to The Commercial-Appeal . “The Lakers said you can show up for training camp (in 2007) and we’ll give you a practice jersey. But they never told me to come here and be part of the team. They never offered me that.”
Considered by many as a throwaway piece in the infamous Pau Gasol-Lakers trade, Marc Gasol has blossomed into one of the NBA's elite big men.
Then, along the way, a funny thing happened.
Once again lost in the shadows of his brother’s consecutive NBA championships, Marc began to quietly flourish in the Bluff City, steadily improving the Grizzlies along the way.
After averaging 11.9 points and 7.4 rebounds in his first full NBA season, Gasol nearly averaged a double-double in 2010 before missing the season’s final 13 games due to injury.
The Grizzlies were clearly not the same team without Gasol in the starting lineup and fell short of their first playoff berth since 2006.
A year ago, the Spaniard returned to the hardwood in the best shape of his life, averaging fewer points and fewer rebounds but teaming with Zach Randolph to lead the Grizzlies to the potseason and a first-round upset over the Spurs before falling to the Thunder in Game 7 of the Western Conference semifinals.
And while Gasol’s successes have already been recognized by the Grizzlies front office (Gasol signed a new four-year, $58 million dollar contract signed this offseason), his peers seem to have finally taken notice as well.
After averaging 15 points, 10 rebounds and 2.3 blocks through the first 27 games of the season, Gasol was named an All-Star reserve for the first time in his NBA career on Thursday.
And, depending on who you ask, Gasol’s performance this season has been good enough to warrant a starting spot on the roster for the February 26 exhibition.
The most notable name Gasol beat out to make the All-Star squad?
Yep. His brother Pau.
“Obviously I’m not excited that I didn’t get picked,” the elder Gasol said. “It’s an honor and a great recognition for a player to be a part of an NBA All-Star [team], but it’s been a crazy year and either way, obviously it would have been good if I was picked, but there’s not much I can do about it.”
Faced with a perfect opportunity to gloat or claim the sole spotlight for one of the few times in his career, Marc remained humble when he spoke of his selection.
“I’m excited to represent my teammates, the city of Memphis and my people back home (in Spain),” Gasol said. “It’s a great honor.”
“I’m going to enjoy it. It’s not something that happens every day.”
No it’s not, Marc. Especially not for a player with a journey like yours.
Enjoy it big fella, you’ve earned it.