Friday, July 25, 2008
Candy-striped pants, Day-Glo T-shirts the new trend for coaches
By Dana O'Neil ESPN.com
LAS VEGAS -- It is courting season in college basketball. The time that coaches and high school players stare longingly at one another across the wide expanse of a court. NCAA rules prohibit the two parties from speaking to one another and with come-hither stares presumably outlawed in the rulebook somewhere as well, the two are left to find other means to make sure they're noticed.
The kids have it easy. They're on the court, running and dunking. Hard to miss.
IU assistant coach Bennie Seltzer used a wardrobe change to get the attention of recruits at a summer camp.
The coaches? They're stuck in a sea of middle-aged men on the bleachers. Savvy haberdashery is their savior.
T-shirts and golf shirts with the schools logos, get more wear and tear in the month of July from well-paid college coaches than they do from well-oiled alums during football season. There is a hierarchy. Roy Williams might wear Carolina blue, but the shirt doesn't always include the UNC insignia. Rick Pitino's shirt says Louisville, but it's in the fine print. Lots of wins, Final Fours and national titles will earn you that right.
Low-major coaches, in the meantime, use everything this side of a bedazzler to make sure their players know they're in the building.
Bennie Seltzer just upped the ante.
There wasn't a person in or around the Las Vegas high schools who didn't notice the Indiana assistant this week. Seltzer reached right into Indiana's history books to get his competitive advantage, pulling on a pair of the red and white candy striped warm-ups as he went to work.
"I laughed at myself a little bit as I got dressed," he said. "But then I sort of got into it."
Seltzer hatched this plan earlier in the recruiting season. After spending a day riding the pine to watch one of IU's prospects, he read in an online story that the kid didn't think anyone from the Indiana staff was in the gym.
He didn't want that to happen again, so he jokingly told IU head coach, Tom Crean, that he was going to wear the warm-up pants. The more Seltzer thought about it, the more he liked it and Crean, never one to ignore an offbeat hook, agreed.
Were it not for the 109-degree thermometer reading, Seltzer would have sported the warm-up jacket as well.
"Last time I wore the shirt with the little interlocking IU," Seltzer said. "I watched the same kid again this week. I'm pretty sure he noticed me."
But here's the thing. Seltzer just might have stumbled onto a great new gimmick. Coaches already have tinkered with ways to stand out. Seth Greenberg sported orange and red sneakers that perfectly matched his Virginia Tech golf shirt this week and the lettering on the Baylor's staff shirts was so large it could have doubled as a marquee on the Strip.
Hell, Bruce Pearl wears Day-Glo orange every day of the week. Good luck not noticing him.
"Someone called it brand recognition. That's perfect," Seltzer said. "When you see those pants you think Indiana basketball."
Better yet, consider the endless possibilities that Seltzer's ingenuity could spawn. Phil Martelli could flap his arms like the Saint Joe's Hawk; Johnny Dawkins could pull a Pat Forde and prance around as the Stanford Tree; Pitino could bag the understated golf shirt and whip out the all white suit again (hopefully this time with properly colored boxers) and Bob Huggins could try to pull off the mustard suit and shoe combo one more time.
Imagine if John Calipari stamped his well-heeled shoes to get a recruit's attention or if Crean paced the bleacher sidelines like he does during a game?
Suddenly the drone of summer hoops, which sometimes appears as enjoyable as a colonoscopy, would gain some fun and brevity. Coaches rendered into marching, monotone Flat Stanleys, by NCAA rules that prohibit them from having contact with the kids they might actually coach for four years, would be able to show they have a personality. Gasp! The horror!
Along with plotting what game to watch next and which player to target, coaches would have to figure out what to pack so they stood out more than the guy dressed like Colonel Sanders.
The whole thing already is a circus -- hundreds of high school "amateurs" wearing brand new warm-ups, sneakers and uniforms, living in well-appointed hotels and walking the Strip in the wee hours of the night.
Why not send in the clowns?
Dana O'Neil covers college basketball for ESPN.com and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.