On court coaching carousel goes ’round

first_imgSometimes, recruiting can get ugly in collegiate athletics.Such was the case this past fall when highly touted prep star Eric Gordon decided to attend Indiana University after originally committing to Illinois.The move left some puzzled, while others accused Hoosiers head coach Kelvin Sampson of stealing Gordon from the Illini. And Sampson’s hands were tied to making an excuse as he had just left the University of Oklahoma amid recruiting violations.While Sampson says tempers haven’t flared between him and Illinois head coach Bruce Weber, Tuesday night was the first time the two have publicly met when the Hoosiers played the Illini.”There will be party hats and balloons and I think there will be a great welcome for me, don’t you?” Sampson snickered in the Big Ten Teleconference Monday.Weber, on the other hand, declined to comment on anything regarding Sampson, Gordon and the whole situation.No rules were broken when Gordon, a senior at North Central High School in Indianapolis, went against his verbal commitment and signed on with the Hoosiers; but looking back, Sampson said, he wishes he had handled things differently.”The first thing I would do is call the coach and let him know that contact has been made with us,” Sampson said. “No excuses. That’s something that I should’ve done, but I know that the [Gordon] family was making contact on both ends, but no excuses. I should’ve picked the phone up and called Bruce.”But now that the so-called fiasco is months behind them, Sampson is simply concerned about his team’s play on the court and believes Weber feels the same way.”Bruce is just like me — we’re more interested in coaching our teams at this point,” Sampson said.Teacher versus petWhile Weber now has his coaching match-up against Sampson out of the way, he will have another much-hyped game when the Illini travel to West Lafayette, Ind., to face Matt Painter’s Boilermakers.The two head coaches’ relationship goes way back, as it was Painter who spent five years under Weber as an assistant at Southern Illinois. Also, Weber helped Painter land his first head-coaching job with the Salukis.Both Gene Keady protégées, Saturday’s game is one Painter said he would just rather not play.”I’d prefer not to play the game, to be honest with you,” Painter said. “[Weber’s] been great to me. He gave me an opportunity as an assistant coach when I was 28 years old and gave me a lot of responsibility as an assistant coach.”Nevertheless, the game will go on, and Painter knows it will be a very important one for both squads hoping to kick-start their respective disappointing Big Ten starts.”As far as the match-up, both of us are struggling a little bit right now,” Painter said. “I think in the next couple games you’re going to see whether Purdue or Illinois is going north or south, and it’s very important that both of us get this win on Saturday.”The second comingPenn State sophomore forward Jamelle Cornley has quietly become the Nittany Lions’ sidekick to preseason Big Ten selection Geary Claxton this season, posting 14.3 points and 7.3 rebounds per game.The 2006 Big Ten Freshman of the Year has been playing so well that he has been drawing comparisons to his father.”I remember Jamelle Cornley’s dad (Hank) playing at Illinois State,” Minnesota interim head coach Jim Molinari said. “Basically, they play the same way. Hank was a tremendous competitor and so is Jamelle.”Hank Cornley recorded 1,350 career points for the Redbirds and was an NBA Draft selection by the New Jersey Nets.In just his second year in Happy Valley, Jamelle Cornley is shaping up to be just as good as his father was back in the day.”Jamelle’s played solid,” Penn State head coach Ed DeChellis said. “He’s a competitive guy, and we hope he can continue to do that for the rest of the Big Ten season.”last_img read more