Thursday, February 21, 2008
Fox Sport's Jeff Goodman - Off-court problems tainting Memphis program
Off-court problems tainting Memphis program
by Jeff Goodman
Jeff Goodman is a senior college basketball writer for FOXSports.com. He can be reached at GoodmanonFOX@aol.com or check out his blog, Good 'N Plenty.
Updated: February 20, 2008, 12:33 PM
It's becoming a pattern down in Memphis.
Not the 25-game winning streak, the abysmal foul shooting or even the country's lone unblemished record. There's no statistic kept on it, but John Calipari's program has to be among the nation's leaders in legal issues.
Robert Dozier is the latest Tiger to run into trouble with the law. (Mitchell Layton / Getty Images)
Robert Dozier provided the latest blot on the program's reputation after he allegedly hit his ex-girlfriend twice after a late-night dispute earlier this month.
That pushed the count to six — meaning half of the current team has been in some sort of legal trouble since arriving on campus.
That's not even counting the post-game fracas the other night at UAB, during which Memphis reserve Pierre Niles slapped a rowdy, possibly deserving fan in the face.
Before the Dozier incident, Calipari's crew had been fairly quiet down on Beale Street. At least, relatively speaking. In fact, it had been a few months since the last Memphis player's brush with the law. That would be Shawn Taggert and Jeff Robinson's arrest outside the Plush Club on charges of inciting a riot back in September.
And while he wasn't charged in the incident, forward Joey Dorsey undoubtedly contributed to the mayhem with his decision to "make it rain" at the club (aka, tossing money in the air).
It was only a matter of time before someone from this group did something foolish.
Enter Dozier, the quiet kid from a small town in Georgia.
It looks like Dozier could be charged with assault as a result of allegations from his ex-girlfriend stemming from the Feb. 3 incident.
According to the police report, Dozier followed his ex-girlfriend out of, you guessed it, the Plush Club at 3:30 a.m. They left in separate vehicles, with Dozier apparently following her. He got out of the car at an intersection, the two argued and Dozier hit her in the face twice with an open hand.
Calipari put out a statement saying he "will deal with it in a fair and firm manner like I always have."
Dozier was suspended for one game — a rout against SMU — before he returned and played 20 minutes against Central Florida this past weekend.
That's one more game than Taggert and Robinson were held out by Calipari following their incident. Each played in the season opener against UT-Martin.
This is the latest in a long line of issues that has plagued the Memphis program. I understand that Calipari has primarily recruited players who come from rough backgrounds, but this is getting ridiculous.
Reserve guard Andre Allen was arrested in 2005 for soliciting a prostitute.
In October 2006, two female students claimed that Joey Dorsey poured a water bottle over one of their heads and that Hashim Bailey threatened the other and threw a full water bottle at her. Bailey was suspended, but the action was overturned after a university appeal.
Dorsey's name has also appeared on a police report on two separate occasions for allegedly punching someone on Beale Street and then running like hell.
The past isn't much better.
Jeremy Hunt was arrested in 2005 and accused of beating up his girlfriend. He was later kicked off the team for his role in a bar fight. However, Calipari decided to reinstate Hunt prior to last season after Shawne Williams and Darius Washington Jr. left school early for the NBA.
Kareem Cooper, who transferred to UTEP, was arrested for marijuana possession.
Former player Clyde Wade was acquitted of federal fraud and conspiracy charges. Calipari recruited troubled yet talented forward Sean Banks, who was arrested for using a lighted cigarette to burn a gang insignia into the left leg of a 15-year-old girl prior to his arrival in Memphis. The burning was allegedly part of a gang initiation rite.
Nothing has changed — and nothing appears to be changing with Calipari and the program. While he scoffs at the public perception that his team is full of uncontrollable, wild kids, sources say that he secretly enjoys it.
Memphis is the frontrunner to land Tyreke Evans, the top uncommitted senior in the country. Evans was apparently the driver of a car in a shooting back in November in which his 16-year-old cousin allegedly shot and killed a 19-year-old man.
Evans isn't expected to be charged and has cooperated with the authorities
Let's be clear. John Calipari's program isn't the only one with off-court issues. Missouri has had more than its share this season. Pittsburgh guard Levance Fields was Tasered after being charged with aggravated assault, disarming a law enforcement officer, disorderly conduct and public drunkenness before the start of the season.
However, the Memphis Tigers have an opportunity. They have a legitimate chance to win a national title this season after back-to-back Elite Eights.
Poor shooting isn't the only thing that could get in the way.
Calipari said he'll handle the Dozier situation with a firm hand, but it's too late for that. These kids know by now what they can get away with — and it's been plenty.
Take the USC game earlier this season in Madison Square Garden, for example.
The Memphis players are standing outside the locker room waiting to take the court prior to the game. The USC team comes around the corner and the next thing you know, all of the Tigers start woofing at the top of their lungs in an effort to intimidate O.J. Mayo and the Trojans.
The Memphis coaching staff could only watch and smile.
These guys are different. I've known Antonio Anderson and some of the other players for years. Anderson, Chris Douglas-Roberts, Willie Kemp and Derrick Rose have all steered clear of trouble and done it the right way.
However, it's guilt by association.
Calipari implemented a curfew following the preseason incident involving Robinson and Taggert. He lifted it six weeks later.
In the aftermath of Dozier making news, Calipari won't change anything — despite the fact that the Tigers are the odds-on favorite to win the national title. I applaud him for his ability to give kids second chances, but there's such a thing as giving them too much rope. Some of them just make poor decisions.
"If they're not responsible enough to know what we're striving for, we're not winning it, anyway," Calipari said. "I don't want to feel like a big brother, like I'm watching over them."
Maybe not, but apparently somebody needs to.