Keeping a Coach
The UCLA men's basketball coach is expected to be fired at the end of the season. The coach, Steve Lavin, seems to have been on the hot seat from the moment he was elevated from assistant coach to interim head coach to getting the full-time gig. With an expected firing comes the speculation as to who would replace him. The online Sports Illustrated columnist, Seth Davis, makes present Pitt head coach, Ben Howland, the favorite
Ben Howland 3:1. Howland satisfies two important criteria: He has West Coast roots (he grew up in Santa Barbara, spent 11 years as an assistant at UC-Santa Barbara, and was head coach at Northern Arizona for five years), plus he's just long enough in the tooth to make people forget that Lavin was hired at the age of 31 with no prior college head-coaching experience.
Howland, wisely, fell into coachspeak regarding the job
Howland called it "upsetting" that his name is already is being mentioned for the job at UCLA, even though Steve Lavin still has the job. "It's so tiresome to see that. It happens every year. Lavin's a friend of mine. I want them to be successful."
No actual denial as to possible interest or if he would take the job, just that he does not want to discuss it, and it upsets him.
Naturally my friends and I are not enthused over the possibility of losing the coach that has done an amazing job of turning around the Pitt basketball program. From a league doormat to a top 5 team in only 3 years is astounding. I don't know whether Pitt can keep Howland if UCLA comes hard after him. While debating the reasons with my friends, the ledger looks like this:
The Big East Conference has solid national (re: TV) exposure.
Recruiting is not a problem, even if local talent isn't much to see.
The Petersen Event Center and all the shiny new facilities.
Money - Pitt has the ability to keep up with salary demands, mainly because
of Chancellor Nordenberg, who is a huge athletics booster (my friend Pat put it this way: "I doubt there is a college President/Chancellor anywhere who will go the extra mile that Nordenberg has proven he will go to ensure the sports teams excel. He realizes that a well supported athletic department goes hand in hand with a well funded university. If he needs to, he will open up the check book."). UCLA as a state school, is bound by California law, not to pay any coach above a certain % of the highest paid professor or administrator.
Pitt is his program. He rebuilt it, and the expectations are lower at Pitt than at UCLA. The hope is that he looks at someone like Jim Calhoun, head coach at U Conn, who built the program from nothing to a perennial power and stayed there.
John Wooden and the amazing run he had in the 60s and 70s still lingers at UCLA. Programs that have that kind of sustained runs of excellence tend to create unrealistic expectations in the fans and alumni. There is a feeling of entitlement that the school should be or deserves to be a Championship or at least a Final Four team every year (see also,
North Carolina, Kentucky, Duke).
Money. UCLA may not be able to directly offer a contract that Pitt can't match, but the other contracts that the head basketball coach of UCLA can sign -- radio/TV show; sneaker contract; endorsements -- far dwarf anything comparable at Pitt.
Home state. Howland is from California, he would be closer to home. Not to mention, living in Pittsburgh or living in LA.
Richer recruiting base. The base starts in LA and just extends. The name "UCLA" is huge for helping with recruiting.
The job itself. Head coach of one of the most storied college basketball programs. The prestige is tremendous.
PAC-10 is no slouch in being a great league, and with only 10 teams, it is easier to be shown on national TV than the rotation for the Big East.
The debate eventually went to what constitutes an elite college basketball program. This is not just a program that has had a good run for even a decade (U Conn, Maryland). The talk is of a storied program that conjures up images of great players, coaches, teams, games and tradition. In all honesty, a lot of it has to do with the coach.
Factors that go into being an elite status program
Traditions of excellence. Championships won in different decades. Great players who were also great pro players.
One great coach who had such a sustained run of excellence (20 years minimum) where the program won at least 3 national championships and/or several Final Four appearances
. (Adolph Rupp -- Kentucky; John Wooden -- UCLA; Dean Smith -- North Carolina) (Pat, accurately refers to this as a cult of personality around the coach. Present examples include Bob Knight -- formerly Indiana and Mike Krzyzewski -- Duke).
Relation to the legendary coach -- the importance the school and alumni place on bloodlines. Top schools have a past tradition and it is vital to the schools and the fans that the coach somehow have the connection. North Carolina's search for a new head coach, a couple years ago was almost an extreme example of that desperate need to have the bloodline to Dean Smith and UNC.
Unrealistic expectations/sense of entitlement of fans and alumni. Schools where they almost treat it like a birthright that their school should be winning championships. There are only a few schools where the fans and alumni feel their team can be a final four team every year. Other schools may expect their team to be a Tournament team every year, but the schools where it is a disappointing season to not make it past the Sweet Sixteen are limited.
Using that basis, I find only six programs meet the standards:
Indiana and Duke lie on the fringe because their legendary coaches are much more recent and are still coaching. A legitimate argument could be made that they have not yet stood the test of time. Still, both have had incredible sustained runs of excellence (over 20 years); at least 3 National Championships (Indiana 5, Duke 3) or Final Four appearances (Duke 7 [not including the 3 championships]); and insane fans.
After that, you have the colleges that may have had past successes, but are as much a result of a particular era, coach or even a player (Cincinnati in the 50s and early 60s and Mich. St. in the 70s/early 80s). These schools are looking to reclaim past glory and have the money and means to do so. Most of these present schools have (or are in the process of being identified with the coach and you can expect some dormancy after the coach leaves/dies). Their name still has a certain cache in basketball, and ESPN wants to drool over them. Examples include:
Georgetown [post-John Thompson, it is in dormancy]
There are others, but you get the picture.
Then the jobs really start blending (in relation to the seven power conferences -- Big East, ACC, SEC, Big 10, Big 12, Pac 10, Conference USA -- and yes I'm excluding the Atlantic 10 because outside of Temple, Xavier and St. Joseph's the schools tend to have their coaches cherry-picked). You could probably make a full ranking, but I think there is much more room for debate the attractiveness of one job over another is dependent on
Reality of the team's ability to compete and recruit
School factors (academic standards, commitment/support of the school and alumni to seeing the program succeed, historic success, and ties to the school for the coach)
Interview With a Screenwriter
I had mentioned
that an old friend of mine, Howard Walper
, has a screenplay, that he co-wrote, that is a top ten finalist for Project Greenlight
. As a finalist, Howard and Steve Gottlieb are going to be flown out to Sundance
in Park City, Utah this week for the Sundance Film Festival
. Howard was kind enough to do an interview with me via e-mail this past Saturday and Sunday. The answers are all his, I did nothing but check the spelling and provide some links. Howard and I go back about 13 years, is a fellow comic book geek, longtime drinking buddy and a good friend. I am hardly an unbiased interviewer.
How were you contacted when you made the top ten, by who, and how did you react?
This is the story I like telling. Picture this: It's 9:30 at night and I have just worked a 13 hour day. I crawl into bed where I lay like a corpse. I am in that half-awake, half asleep stage where all you're horrible ideas suddenly seem like good ones.
The phone rings.
"Hi, this is Chris Moore
, Matt Damon
, and Ben Affleck
from Project Greenlight. How are you?"
Now at this point I am trying to remain cool, assuming, of course, that my writing partner Steve has somehow mustered the resources to get a bunch of people on a speaker phone to play an evil trick on me.
"Good," I say, somewhat unenthusiastically.
"Well, we wanted to tell you you made the top 10."
"Cool. Who is this."
"It's Ben, Matt and Chris."
"Fuck you Steve."
I could go on like this for a while (and did) but the gist of it is that this was really them (and some other people, though I was too stuperous to understand that). After that, I know I was talking, but have no idea what I said. I'm sure it was intelligent and pithy - riiiight! Basically I babbled like a diuretic ass. Those who know me, know I do that quite well. My left arm was numb. I think I might have had a minor coronary episode.
I closed, quite elegantly I thought, by shouting "YOU GUYS ROCK!" Damn, what an ass I am. Party on Wayne.
Then I called Steve to tell him we were going to Sundance. My wife, Erin, translated what I was trying to say through grunts, screams, and hyperventilation, into words.
Me: SSSTTEEVE!! AHHHHH!!! BEN!! MATT!!! FUCK!!! WE DID IT!!!!
Erin: Steve, Ben and Matt called to say you guys made the top 10
Me: FUCK!!! SUNDANCE AH AH AH AH (PANT PANT) FUCK, I'M GOING TO PUKE
Erin: They are sending you both to the Sundance Film Festival. Howard is really excited.
Me: NFDHFOIHDFIJDFIDJOFJ LKDFOIEJFIJEOIJFEIJFOIEF
Erin: Why don't you come over and let's celebrate.
So Steve came over, we cracked a really, really good bottle of scotch that my dad had given me (um, or that I liberated from the clutches of my father) and dreamed about the future.
In the first Project Greenlight, the final product was hardly considered very good. Entertainment Weekly in looking ahead to Project Greenlight 2
... this time yet another player will be brought in to struggle for creative control. Instead of a single writer-director, the jobs will be divided, with the winning director filming a script by the winning screenwriter as the whole event is chronicled in a multi-episode TV documentary. What a bargain: Audiences will be able to watch a screen scribe being reduced to rubble before ''Adaptation'' even makes it to video stores.
Fans stayed away in droves when Pete Jones' sapfest ''Summer'' hit theaters in 2002, but his behind-the-scenes nightmare was irresistible as it unraveled on the TV show. We can only hope the producers don't learn from their mistakes: A mediocre movie is a reasonable price to pay for addictive TV.
It suggests that people really want to see a train wreck, not the actual product. So the question is, why do it? The whole HBO documentary of it seems to be the actual goal, and not necessarily having the movie made.
As far as the last contest goes, everything is a learning process. I saw Stolen Summer, and from all the trashing, I expect something much worse. It was a sweet film, competently directed. I am a writer - I know nothing about directing. If I had to direct my own film with a limited budget, it would be a disaster. Pete did a hell of a job, for a first film.
The thing about a contest like this is that it really begs for more cutting edge content. The purpose of PGL is to open the "back door" to Hollywood and expose talent that otherwise would not have a chance. I think Stolen Summer was, to the judges, the safest bet. It was nice, inoffensive, dealt with issues of faith and innocence, and generally the type of story you'd expect a studio to churn out. If you look at this round of screenplays, the content is a little darker, the pieces a little edgier. There are some really nice, character driven pieces in there. I am really proud to be a part of this group of writers.
As to the TV show? It will probably be more compelling this year, with the director arguing with the writer, etc. Honestly, though, this is how it should be. It is probably more true to the Hollywood model, as the writer is considered the lowest rung on the celebrity ladder. I understand that the directors are having a say in which screenplay gets picked. This is how it should be. It would stink to have a director who was not as passionate about the work as the writer.
As far as being reduced to rubble, anyone who has ever presented a piece of creative work to an audience learns early on that you have to have a thick skin. A lot of this contest is about who wants it the most. I want to succeed as a screenwriter, even if it means being entertainment fodder for a few weeks on HBO.
So, it could be a train wreck, but it could be good too - we'll see. I think it would benefit Live Planet and Miramax a lot more to have a hit. There are some really good scripts in the top 10 - we'll see.
How would you describe the themes of the screenplay?
Redemption. Good and evil. All that kind of shit. Seriously, what we would like people to come away with from this is that they question themselves: what can be forgiven?
How did you and Steve develop this story?
Just kind of popped into my head on the way to a screenwriting class. I ran it by Steve - he said I was an idiot. He was not wrong, necessarily, but I think the script came out pretty well.
What kind of research did you do?
I could tell you this, but it would REALLY give away the ending - something I don't want to do.
How long did it take to write? When did you actually write it, since the entry time was quite short. Just how many screenplays do you have lying about?
Well, that's a funny story. We took this class that gave you all these exercises to help you develop your screenplay. At the end of the class (6 weeks) we had all these notes and stuff, and were expected to turn a screenplay in for review 2 weeks later. Of course, during those 2 weeks, I got slammed at work, I ended up starting the day before it was due. So, the 1st draft was written in one day. People hate when I say that, but it was true. The revision, actually only took a couple of weeks. As stories go, this one pretty much jumped out on the page. Sometimes it happens. I try not to question it. It's pretty rare and fantastic when the planets align like that.
Between Steve and I we have about 6 screenplays sitting in various drawers. This was actually written a few years ago, and revised last year. It's the screenplay everyone always said they liked, but had no idea what to do with, since it was so controversial.
Why use the Holocaust as the backdrop? Isn’t there a risk of “not another one?” Or a risk of repeating themes used in other stories or movies (as an example, the movie “Enemies: A Love Story,” based on the Isaac Singer story) dealing with Holocaust survivors? Did you consider another background like the atrocities and war crimes committed in Croatia?
Well, actually this doesn’t take place during the Holocaust, it all takes place afterwards. The reason this screenplay needed to use the context of the Holocaust however, is that it needed a reference point that everyone sort of knew about. Basically, we wanted to get some universal themes about forgiveness and redemption contrasted with the best and worst of human behavior. We could have set it, say, in Bosnia, but we'd have to do too much to explain the context, and not spend as much time with our characters. At its heart, this is not a "Holocaust Story." It's a love story, through and through.
I can't really tell you more without giving out the ending. So read the screenplay
I understood that it did not take place during the Holocaust, I said it was as a backdrop. Judging by your answer, though, I assume it is safe to say, "No, we never really considered another time or event."
Yes make that assumption.
You have always been a big fan of the slasher flicks and comedies. Yet your screenplay is a rather grim and sad tale. Why?
I like to:
a. enjoy the hell out of a movie
b. learn something
c. be spiritually moved and have my ideas and philosophies about life held up to the harsh light of contemplation
d. All of the above
Short answer - I like movies - period. Some just because they are fun, some for other, deeper reasons.
You were an English major in college, and I know you and Steve took a screenplay writing seminar a few years back. Did either actually help you in the writing of the screenplay (I mean beyond teaching you the proper screenplay format)? If so, in what way/how?
This Screenplay was actually written for the seminar. The class is called Writers Boot Camp
they have classes in NY and LA, plus a great on-line course. It's fantastic. Learn more about them if you are interested in writing scripts.
As far as college, not so much! Basically, in college I learned how to bash other people's work, something I find more useless every year.
is in Park City, Utah
. Have you looked into how late the bars are open? Are there any bars there? Do you plan on packing a couple extra bottles just in case? What is your drink of choice these days?
Hmmm. Bars? Mormons? Polygamy? Sounds like my kind of state!
Naw - these days the only bottles I pack have milk in them - not even that anymore! I am sure that if I get the urge to dive into the dark side, I will be able to find a can of sterno somewhere.
Do you get to meet Ben and Matt? Will you get to see an advance screening of Daredevil
Yes. They actually called me when we made the top 10, along with Chris Moore (producer, American Pie). Apparently, they will all be interrogating us out at Sundance. If they ask me what my ambitions are, I am going to respond "World's Sexiest Man, 2004."
No Daredevil screenings, so far as I know. It's just not Sundance's style.
Are you going to offer to buy Ben a drink?
No - I am the starving writer, remember! Ben, if you are there, mine's a Bombay Sapphire
martini, straight up, 1 olive.
[Editor note: I applaud Howard's choice in drinks. Howard, however, was apparently unaware that Ben Affleck came out of rehab in the last year, this was a joke made in poor taste by me.]
Favorite movies from Ben, Chris and Matt?
Has to be Good Will Hunting
, for all three. Though I do like the "Once at Band Camp
" girl. Also liked Matt in the Bourne Identity
Gwyneth or J-Lo? (Will J-Lo be there?)
I have answered my quota of J-Lo questions! You are number 753. Next!
Do you have any meetings planned? Do you get to meet with agents and producers?
We sent out about 250 query letters to agents. We actually got about 25 people wanting to see our script. Apparently, in this business, that's amazing. We're honored.
Given the contacts you stand to make in Sundance, might it not be better to lose so you are in position to pursue other chances without a camera crew following you around?
A wonderful option would be if they took us aside, told us that we were not going to win, but they were going to buy out script outright. I would love that! That happened in the last round - fingers crossed! Actually, either way would be fun.
What comic books are you reading these days?
Being as broke as I am, I am rereading my entire collection. I am currently indulging in the guilty pleasure of Neil Gaiman's Technophage. Seriously!
How do you feel about Xingu
now being sold in 12 oz bottles?
REALLY???? WHERE!!! (It is probably 10 points on the Weight Watchers program, but Hell, who needs dinner!)
Ownership of the Law
One of the sons of legendary maverick baseball owner (Cleveland Indians and Chicago White Sox at different times), Bill Veeck, is getting a case heard before the US Supreme Court
. The case, Southern Building Code Congress International, Inc. v. Veeck
involves Peter Veeck posting the municipal building codes for Anna and Savoy, Texas on Veeck's Website, Texoma Regional Information
. Veeck was informed by SBCCI that he could not post the building codes since they were copyrighted by them. Veeck filed an action and the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals sided with him this past June
(here is a good case summary
, rather than the entire opinion). This outcome was noted by Ernie the Attorney
. SBCCI has since appealed and the US Supreme Court will hear the case.
Essentially the court declared that model codes, once enacted into a specific law, lose copyright protection -- insofar as they are the law in the municipality.
Model Codes are tricky items. Uniform state laws are created by quasi-private organizations
. The Uniform Commercial Code is a model code that states adopt in part, completely, or with variations and amendments. As such, the UCC is posted on the Web without infringing copyright, either in the original form
, or as enacted by a particular state
. What remains copyrightable and of significant value (able to be sold
) are the "comments" to the uniform law. These comments serve to explain and provide examples of how the particular law was intended to work.
The SBCCI case, entails a claim that the entire code is protected by copyright, and even if it was enacted into law by a municipality (with changes to the labeling of the section numbers and tailoring to a particular municipality's bureaucratic system), the work does not enter the public domain. Part of the problem is simply the cost.
Lakewood Building Commissioner Charles Barrett has three copies of the city's combined building code in his office, which cost about $200 apiece.
If you're trying to renovate a building and need to know what width your doors have to be or the fire-resistance rating of the walls, you can look at his books.
But if you want a copy of the code, you're out of luck. You're going to have to go to the library and try to copy it there, or you're going to have to buy it from the organization that wrote it.
"We used to run them a copy off, charge them at that time a quarter a page," Barrett said. "Well, we found out you can't do that because it's not ours to do.
"People still come in and say, 'I want a copy of this and a copy of that,' and I have to tell them, 'I can't give you a copy.' "
Charges for copies of the combined codes are fairly uniform. Ohio's model building code was written by a nonprofit organization known as Building Officials and Code Administrators International, which charges nonmembers $83 for a copy of the 2002 state code.
The Ohio plumbing and mechanical codes are another $61 apiece. If you want to buy the building, plumbing and mechanical codes combined, the package runs $189.
This makes it harder for the average citizen to have reasonable access to information that pertains to them. If the old cliche, "ignorance of the law is no excuse," is still valid, then the citizenry must have a reasonable opportunity to access the law. In this day and age, the Internet could be considered the best and fairest method.
My bad, the US Supreme Court has not decided whether it will hear the case yet. They will decide in May. Thanks to Ernie the Attorney who posted the correction in a link to this
, and Howard Bashman
who let him know about the error.