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Adam Zagoria covers basketball at all levels. He is the author of two books and an award-winning journalist whose articles have appeared in ESPN The Magazine, SLAM, Sheridan Hoops, Sports Illustrated, Basketball Times and in newspapers nationwide.
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Thursday / May 24.
  • Mike Francesa: College Basketball ‘Expert’

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    I think we all understand that college basketball is not Mike Francesa’s primary area of expertise.

    The Yankees, the National Football League and the ponies? Yes.

    College hoops and college hoops recruiting? Not so much.

    Still, what happened on WFAN Wednesday was just embarrassing.

    Francesa interviewed four local college coaches — Fordham’s Tom Pecora, Rutgers’ Mike Rice, St. John’s Steve Lavin and UConn’s Jim Calhoun — and could not have been more out of it. (All the audio can be found here.)

    It was the first day of the NCAA early signing period, yet Francesa appeared to have no earthly idea of this fact.

    To open his interview with Rice, who has secured a Top 10 recruiting class of seven players, Francesa referred to “our college basketball little swing-around.”

    “Little swing-around”?

    It was Signing Day, Mike.

    All it would’ve taken was for one producer to whisper into Francesa’s ear, “Hey, Mike. It’s the first day of the basketball signing period and you’ll be speaking with Mike Rice and Steve Lavin, both of whom have highly ranked recruiting classes.”

    Instead, Rice himself had to bring it up early in the interview.

    “Today is signing day for us, Mike, and we already have four out of the seven commitments in,” Rice told Francesa. “And a lot of the recruiting experts in the country have us a Top 10 team in the country.”

    “Wow,” Francesa said, obviously hearing it for the first time.

    Francesa did seem to know that Fred Hill preceded Rice as the Rutgers coach and that Hill came in as a highly regarded recruiter. When Francesa asked Rice how he would be different, Rice gave a sharp answer.

    “Experience,” he said, underscoring the fact that Hill had no head coaching experience when he took over. “I’ve had three years of making feel uncomfortable.”

    Rice coached at Robert Morris for three years before coming to Rutgers, twice going to the Big Dance.

    When Lavin came on, Francesa appeared to understand that the St. John’s coach had  secured an elite recruiting class — although he didn’t explicitly make the Signing Day connection.

    “I’m not one to worry too much about recruits, but it sounds like, according to these reports, that you had a Top 5 recruiting class,” Francesa said.

    As the interview progressed, Lavin twice had to explain that former Purdue coach Gene Keady is a special assistant/adviser and not an assistant who will teach on the floor.

    “He sits in and observes,” Lavin said of Keady. “He can’t instruct or teach on the floor.”

    “Oh, he can’t go on the floor?” Francesa asked incredulously.

    “No, he’s an adviser.”

    “Oh, I thought he was going to be a full-time employee. He’s not  full-time coach then, right?”

    “He’s a full-time employee. He’s a special assistant to me. He’d be the equivalent of a Tex Winter for Phil Jackson.”

    OK, then.

    Never once did Francesa mention a single player, or recruit, for either program. You think he could’ve thrown out, ‘Hey, I hear D.J. Kennedy is your top player, Coach Lavin. What can you tell us about him?”

    So just keep all this in your back pocket when March Madness rolls around.

    Because you know Francesa is going to bust out a bracket and start pontificating on the state of college basketball come March.

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    Adam Zagoria is a Basketball Insider who covers basketball at all levels. A contributor to The New York Times and SportsNet New York (SNY), he is also the author of two books and is an award-winning journalist and filmmaker. His articles have appeared in ESPN The Magazine, SLAM, Sheridan Hoops, Basketball Times and in newspapers nationwide. He also won an Emmy award for his work on the SNY mini-documentary on Syracuse guard Tyus Battle. A veteran Ultimate Frisbee player, he has competed in numerous National and World Championships and, perhaps more importantly, his teams won the Westchester Summer League (WSL) championships in 2011 and 2013. He lives in Manhattan with his wife and children.