Connection Failure

Free Press Radio Show – Jan. 17, 2013

The latest show features me and Jon Dawson interviewing Brian North about a variety of subjects, including Manti Te’o, Lance Armstrong, Kinston High School basketball, Lenoir County basketball, Jamie McCuthcheon’s hair and something you guys are used to: a live iPod shuffle.

Enjoy the show by clicking here!

Morning News Report; April 6, 2012

MUDCATS TO BEGIN SEASON AFTER STEALING OUR TEAM

For the first time in 34 years (and 25 years as the Kinston Indians), there will not be an opening night at Grainger Stadium tonight. Instead, the team formerly known as the Kinston Indians — the Carolina Mudcats — will open the 2012 season tonight in Zebulon.

Here’s a most excellent column by our David Hall on the subject.

My take: I really can’t put it any better than DHall did in his well-written piece — Kinston, this is your fault; not Cam McRae’s, not the man who stole our team and took it to Zebulon (Steve Bryant, who advertised his product in TFP this morning; yay) or even Minor League Baseball. This is YOUR fault, Kinston.

You can whine, bitch, complain or do whatever you want, but unless you were one of the handful of diehards who were at most every game (and yes, there were a hundred or so of you), shut the hell up. If you ever want another pro team at Grainger or in Kinston, do like DHall said — buy a team and bring it here or go support the “filler” games there until we have another team here.

And no, we (The Free Press) are not taking the bullet for this one — we covered the Kinston Indians better in the last eight years with David Hall’s award-winning talent than the team had ever been covered in its history. We let you know, freaking step-by-step, what was happening and how this day could come. We begged you to get out to games.

Personally, I attended at least 30-35 games last year and spent my money every time on concessions or memorabilia. I wrote several columns begging you to go to games. My publisher, Patrick Holmes, wrote several editorials to that effect.

David said it best in his column: you have the blood on your hands, Kinston.

This is on you, Kinston. Congratulations.

ORANGE COUNTY REGISTER ASSIGNS 70 REPORTERS TO ONE GAME

For today’s season-opening game against Kansas City, the Orange County Register — the Freedom Communications flagship newspaper (the same company that owns TFP, the New Bern Sun Journal and the Jacksonville Daily News) — has assigned 70 of its approximately 100 (!) reporters to cover the game between the hometown Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim and the visiting Royals.

My take: Overkill, anyone? It’s one game in 162 this season — what are they going to do if/when the Angels make it to the World Series, use all 100 (!) reporters and hire some stringers to help?

I’m not naive; newspapers are taking a beating right now and we’re doing everything we can to keep our heads above water to provide you, dear reader, with the excellent coverage to which you’ve grown accustomed. We’re embracing social media with big ol’ bear hugs and using many other methods of reaching and retaining readers and subscribers.

But … it’s hard for me to understand how using 70 reporters to cover one game is doing that, especially when there aren’t 70 total reporters at all the Freedom properties in North Carolina combined (TFP, NBSJ, JDN, The Jones Post, Havelock News, Burlington Times-News, Gaston Gazette and Shelby Star).

Send me one or two of those reporters so we can cover the things that needs to be covered in Kinston, La Grange, Pink Hill, Deep Run, Greene County and Jones County instead of overstaffing ONE regular season baseball game; I think my counterparts around North Carolina feel the same because we’re all severely understaffed.

I hope this experiment works for the OCR; it’s a hell of a product and again, the flagship of Freedom Communications — a company I love. But I just can’t help but feel this is excessive.

MCADOO RETURNING TO THE HILL

UNC freshman forward James Michael McAdoo announced yesterday he will return for his sophomore season, instead of joining the NBA Draft with teammates Tyler Zeller, John Henson, Harrison Barnes and Kendall Marshall.

My take: Good news for Tar Heel Nation — and Kinston’s Reggie Bullock, who will have a pretty doggoned good talent on one of his wings.

McAdoo was projected to go as high as No. 5 in one draft projection (according to Justin “The Kid” Hill) and was an almost certain lottery pick; for him to come back to Chapel Hill speaks volumes about how he didn’t want to leave Carolina with nothing on his resume. Good for him and good for college basketball.

JONES SENIOR ASSISTANT FOOTBALL COACH ARRESTED ON SEX CHARGES

Former Jones Senior assistant football coach Vaughn Chance was arrested Wednesday for indecent liberties with three female students at the school. The 53-year-old (!) was charged with two felonies and a misdemeanor.

My take: This isn’t the first or second time this has happened at Jones Senior in my nearly decade-long tenure at TFP. If true (and this is America, you’re innocent until proven guilty), this is a pretty disgusting thing for a 53-year-old coach and alleged mentor to be doing.

And seriously … who thinks it’s cool for a 53-year-old man — and a football coach, to boot — to diddle with high school students?

High school coaches (and I know I have a lot who read this blog) — it ain’t worth it. I don’t care how cute that girl is, whether or not she’s 18 or that SHE’S the one making the “move” on you — she’s a STUDENT, for God’s sake. There are plenty of age-appropriate women out there who’d love to date a high school coach.

THAT FEW MINUTES OF PLEASURE IS NOT WORTH HAVING YOUR PICTURE SPLASHED ON EVERY NEWSPAPER FRONT AND EVERY TV STATION.

ARKANSAS FOOTBALL COACH CAUGHT FOOLIN’ AROUND?

Arkansas head football coach Bobby Petrino was in a motorcycle accident over the weekend, one that initially he said he was a lone rider.

Uh, no. The school held a late-night presser last night to reveal that instead, the 51-year-old coach had a 25-year-old school employee on his bike with him. He admitted to an inappropriate relationship in a press release and has been suspended by the university. And yes, Petrino hired her on March 28, only four days before the accident.

My take: It’s this simple — don’t cheat and this kind of thing WON’T happen. Can’t make it simpler than that. He certainly has a lot of ‘splaining to do.

The iPod shuffle

If I Ever Lose My Faith In You — Sting

Bad Meets Evil — Eminem

Eruption — Van Halen

I Can See For Miles — The Who

Fantastic Voyage — Coolio

Morning News Report; March 30, 2012

ADIOS TO BARNES, HENSON … AND MARSHALL

It was a sad day in Chapel Hill yesterday (but a pretty happy one in Durham, Raleigh and Charlottesville) when the trio of Harrison Barnes, John Henson and Kendall Marshall declared its intent to head to the NBA.

My take: That group — including graduating senior Tyler Zeller — will go down as one of the most underachieving groups in ACC history. To have THAT much talent and not even make a Final Four is pretty embarrassing.

While I wasn’t that surprised by Barnes or even Henson leaving, gotta admit I was shocked by Marshall’s defection. He’s going to make someone a pretty damned good NBA point guard — and I hope he ends up playing for my Boston Celtics or Charlotte Bobcats.

And before ABCers start dancing in the streets, remember there’s a heck of a lot of talent still on the Hill — including our own Reggie Bullock, who (IMO) becomes the focal point of the Carolina offense next season. Would anyone be surprised if he averages 15-17 points and 4-6 rebounds a game in 2012-13?

I’ll say this, though — it’s setting up nicely for N.C. State, who’s bringing in three McDonald’s All-Americans. If C.J. Leslie stays (or even if he doesn’t), the Wuffies might be the ACC favorites next year.

WELCOME HOME, JEFF STEPHENS AND ASHTON BRINSON!

Jeff Stephens and Ashton Brinson were among five Lenoir Countians and 100 area servicemen to return from an eight-month tour of duty in Afghanistan yesterday.

My take: Gotta admit — this was one of those stories that’s just fun to write. If you see Jeff, Ashton, Jason Slavin, James Simmons or Jerry Harris, give them your sincere thanks for helping keep us free. THOSE guys are heroes.

BEST BUY CLOSING 50 STORES, RETHINKING STRATEGY

Remember when Best Buy was THE store to go to for CDs, electronics and cool stuff. Eh … not so much anymore. The company announced yesterday it is closing 50 stores and laying off 800 employees in an attempt to keep from going under.

My take: Just like Circuit City before it, Best Buy is having a really hard time in this economy — and changing consumer habits.

Customer service is a big reason for its failure, too — and that’s being overlooked here. Remember when BB was the king of customer service? That’s gone by the wayside, too.

The iPod shuffle

Magic Bus — The Who

Polly — Nirvana

The Great Gig In The Sky — Pink Floyd

I Can See For Miles — The Who

Whoomp! (There It Is) — Tag Team

Want two State-ECU baseball tickets? (updated with winner)

Just realized I have two N.C. State-ECU baseball tickets in my possession. The game begins at 6 p.m., so the first person to email me at bhanks@freedomenc.com gets ‘em.

You need to be able to come by TFP office by 5:30 p.m. to collect them.

UPDATE 4:50 P.M.: Congrats to Reid Rouse for winning the tickets! Listen — I have tickets to every home game, so if I forget to throw them up here for a giveaway, remind me to start a contest!

Morning News Report; March 19, 2012

HOW’S YOUR BRACKET?

Mine’s not too shabby, as I have 10 of the Sweet 16; I still have seven of the Elite Eight and three of the Final Four (my decision to have Murray State as a surprise Final Four participant has blown up in my face).

Lots of intriguing storylines from the first two rounds (I refuse to call the First Four games the first round — yes, I’m a rebel that way), including the unfortunate breaking of Kendall Marshall’s wrist, Duke’s early exit and N.C. State’s first Sweet 16 appearance in a decade.

My takes: For all those who thought Tyler Zeller, John Henson or Harrison Barnes was UNC’s most important player and worthy of first-team All-ACC status over Marshall … now you’re going to find out. I think the Tar Heels will have enough to get past Ohio, but that Kansas game is a hell of a lot tougher without Marshall.

Like many of you, I was frankly shocked by Duke’s performance on Friday. I didn’t have any allusions of the Blue Devils going to the Final Four, but I thought they could make it past Lehigh. What this tells me is that Mike Krzyzewski did a hell of a job coaching this team. What this also tells me is that he needs to recruit a little better or Duke is truly falling behind.

And congrats, Wuffies — you’re at least one and maybe two years ahead of schedule. With one of the top recruiting classes coming in next year, it’s not inconceivable to think State could make a run at the Final Four next year.

KEVIN WILSON FOLO

As announced here last week, South Lenoir football coach Kevin Wilson formally announced his retirement from coaching last week. His decision was family-based and he’ll remain on staff as a teacher.

My take: Yes, it’s a true familial-based decision, but there might not have been a better time for Wilson — a man I truly respect and admire — to get out. There was so much infighting and bitterness in Deep Run this past season, I don’t know how anyone could’ve put up with it.

My unsolicited advice to Lisa Smith, Steve Saint Amand and the Blue Devils — make a decision and make it soon. This does not need to linger over several months. You have the best fan base and financial support in Lenoir County and that fan base expects some results.

EARLY VOTING: DON’T BE SKEERED

My Sunday column was on Lenoir County being approved for Sunday voting during the primary — and the fact that folks shouldn’t be afraid of it.

My take: I love how people in hushed tones — and looking around to see if anyone is listening to them — say things like, “You know THOSE churches encourage their people to vote a certain way.” Replace THOSE with any adjective you’d like — black, urban, country or white — and that’s what is implied.

Good grief — go vote. Anything that gets more folks into a voting booth is a good thing.

And I meant what I said in the column: if you have proof that your minister, preacher, priest or rabbi is encouraging you to vote in a certain way, please let me know.

The iPod shuffle

Just Like A Woman — Bob Dylan

Touch Me — The Doors

Crazy Train — Ozzy Osbourne

Johnny Ryall — The Beastie Boys

Let It Rock — Bon Jovi

Bo Ingram, Nootsie Hines in postseason play tonight

Two names very familiar to Lenoir County basketball fans begin their collegiate postseasons tonight.

Bo Ingram, a senior at Texas-Arlington, leads his Mavericks to the NIT first-round against Washington — the Pac-12 champ — at 10 p.m. today. The game will be televised on ESPNU.

Bo was the MVP of the 2008 3A state champion Kinston squad; he also went on to win pretty much every MVP of every all-star game and pro-am league in which he participated. He’s averaging 12.8 points and 4.2 rebounds per game while shooting 35.4 percent from the 3-point line.

Curtis “Nootsie” Hines, a sophomore at Shaw University, has helped lead the Bears to a high national ranking. His Bears will play in a regional final — today at 7 p.m. — at West Liberty in the NCAA Division II tournament.

Nootsie has taken a different route to his success after graduating from Kinston in 2007 and leading the Vikings to the 3A state championship game against Concord. You can watch his game tonight by clicking here.

Good luck to both tonight!

Morning News Report; March 13, 2012

UNC FOOTBALL PROGRAM HIT HARD

The NCAA finally came down with its punishment against the UNC football program yesterday for its multiple violations, including scholarship reductions (15 over three years), a postseason ban and forfeiture of wins.

My take: While there were some who thought this was too gentle, I thought it was pretty fair, especially considering the Tar Heels had already self-punished itself leading up to this.

VIKINGS CELEBRATE STATE CHAMPIONSHIP

The Kinston boys’ basketball team celebrated their third state title in five years by giving coach Wells Gulledge a Mohawk haircut at a pep rally yesterday.

My take: It was a fun time, that’s for certain — and you have to give Gulledge points for allowing his team to do this to him.

It’s also very possible Gulledge can schedule these type of haircuts for several more years — although the team is graduating some key parts (including Angelo Keyes, C.J. Bradshaw and Kyle Brown), some of the strongest cogs (Josh Dawson, Denzel Keyes, Andrew Lopez and Brandon Ingram) return next season.

And Alex Bass — a statewide prep basketball analyst — states that freshmen Ingram and Darnell Dunn (the son of former North Lenoir star and coach Paul Dunn III), along with sophomores Lopez, Trevon Jones and Qwarri Ham, will keep KHS fighting for 2A titles for the next two to three years.

GLEN RICE JR. KICKED OFF RAMBLIN’ WRECK

Glen Rice Jr., a HighSchoolOT.com Holiday Invitational alum and the son of the former NBA star, has been kicked off the Georgia Tech basketball team. Rice, who led the Yellow Jackets in scoring and rebounding, had been suspended three times this season.

My take: I met Rice a few times when his high school team played in the Holiday Invitational and — in the short times we talked — had no idea he would have this in his future. Here’s hoping he gets his mind right and turns this mess around (if he doesn’t end up in jail).

The iPod shuffle

Say Goodbye To Hollywood — Billy Joel

Somebody To Love — Queen

Come Back To Me — Janet Jackson

The New Style — The Beastie Boys

Will You Still Love Me? — Chicago

Morning News Report; March 8, 2012

ACC TOURNEY BEGINS TODAY

The nation’s best college basketball conference tournament begins today at noon with No. 8-seed Maryland (16-14) facing No. 9-seed Wake Forest (13-17). Other games today include fifth-seeded N.C. State (20-11) taking on 12th-seeded Boston College (9-21) at 2:30 p.m.; No. 7-seed Clemson (16-14) vs. No. 10-seed Virginia Tech (15-16) at 7 p.m. and sixth-seeded Miami (18-11) and 11th-seeded Georgia Tech (11-19) closing the day at around 9:30 p.m.

The Maryland-Wake Forest winner faces top-seeded UNC (27-4) at noon on Friday, while the N.C. State-BC winner takes on No. 4-seed Virginia (22-8) at 2:30. Tomorrow’s night games feature the Clemson-Virginia Tech victor facing No. 2-seed Duke (26-5) at 7 p.m., followed by the Miami-Georgia Tech winner taking on the No. 3-seed Florida State (21-9) at 9:30 p.m.

For a really awesome — and compact — preview of the tourney, visit ACCSports.com’s preview located here.

My take picks: Today, I’m going chalk — I have Maryland, State, Clemson and Miami winning; tomorrow, I see UNC, State, Duke and Florida State emerging victorious.

In Saturday’s semifinals, I’m picking UNC and Florida State … with the Seminoles winning their first ACC championship on Sunday over the Heels.

For a really good ACC Tournament preview, stay tuned — we have Jim Young, the editor of ACCSports.com joining Jon Dawson and I on the podcast, which we’ll post in a little bit.

MAZINGO TO HAVE INTERIM TAKEN OFF SUPERINTENDENT TITLE

Steve Mazingo, the interim Lenoir County Schools Superintendent, is in negotiations to take over the role on a permanent basis, according to our Justin Hill.

My take: Not exactly a surprise here as the “selection process” was aimed towards keeping Mazingo all along, according to many. But everything I’ve heard about Mazingo is that he’s a straight-up fellow and a pretty good choice for this job.

And kudos to Justin for this report — he’s the only reporter who has been on top of this story from the jump.

KINSTON’S RESITA COX NAMED STATE’S TOP PREP JOURNALIST

Kinston senior Resita Cox has been named North Carolina’s best high school journalist for 2012.

My take: Congrats to Resita, who has interned in our newsroom. She is also one of the smartest, most upwardly mobile young people I’ve ever met — and she has nothing but a bright future.

The iPod shuffle

Don’t Need A Gun — Billy Idol

Cradle of Love — Billy Idol

Best Of Both Worlds — Van Halen

Is There Something I Should Know — Duran Duran

Fortunate Son — U2

Morning News Report; March 7, 2012

ROMNEY WINS SIX OF 10 SUPER TUESDAY STATES

GOP presidential frontrunner Mitt Romney won six of the 10 Super Tuesday primaries yesterday — including the key state of Ohio — while challenger Rick Santorum took three and Newt Gingrich won his home state of Georgia.

My take:While the pundits want to scream that this isn’t over, I can’t understand why folks don’t realize that it is.

Romney has more delegates than Santorum, Gingrich and Ron Paul combined. He’s exponentially outspending them. Unless there’s something in his closet that hasn’t come out yet — and I sincerely doubt that’s going to happen — Romney has the GOP nod wrapped up.

I’m not trying to go all conspiracy theorist on you here, but there’s one group who sincerely hopes this gets dragged out to the Republican National Convention in Tampa — Obama supporters. And who is characterized as being most closely aligned with Obama supporters? The alleged “mainstream media.”

While I don’t think CNN, Fox News and MSNBC (OK, I do believe MSNBC wants Obama reelected) are advocating for four more years of Obama, I know this much: as long as there are competitive GOP primary races, CNN, Fox News and MSNBC get better ratings — and more advertising dollars.

If the GOP was smart, though, they’d start concentrating on Obama instead of beating the hell out of each other the way they are now. I watched more political coverage last night than I have in the past year and couldn’t believe all the shots the four took at each other.

You know who loves that? Obama … and the networks. We have a poll up at Kinston.com asking which GOP candidate has the best chance of beating Obama — and the option “no one can beat Obama” is leading at 42 percent. Romney is “winning” at 28 percent, followed by Santorum (12 percent) and Gingrich (9) and Paul (9).

PEYTON SAYS GOOD-BYE TO COLTS TODAY

Today at noon, future NFL Hall of Fame quarterback Peyton Manning will bid farewell to the Indianapolis Colts, a franchise for whom he won a Super Bowl.

Speculation is that he’ll end up signing with a new team soon; frontrunners include my beloved Washington Redskins, along with Miami, the New York Jets, Seattle, San Francisco, Kansas City and Arizona — among others.

My take: Honestly, I’d rather have Peyton than Robert Griffin III, for whom the Skins are allegedly attempting to trade up in the NFL Draft. At least with Peyton, you have a known entity (assuming he stays healthy) and all you’re spending is money, not draft picks.

With RG3, you’re spending money AND draft picks to obtain an entity you’re not entirely sure is going to be successful.

As for Peyton … it’s a bittersweet day for Indy fans. Yes, it’s sad he’s leaving your franchise, but it’s a pretty sweet prize to get Andrew Luck in the draft, a player virtually everyone has marked for stardom in the NFL.

Here’s my brother’s take on the Manning situation — and he takes a look at the possibility of the Colts being traitors for letting their quarterback go.

RYAN KELLY OUT FOR ACC TOURNEY

Duke forward Ryan Kelly will miss this weekend’s ACC Tournament in Atlanta after spraining his right foot at a Tuesday practice.

My take: I think that seriously hurts Duke’s chances of winning the tourney this weekend, too. Although he has much more talented teammates (see Rivers, Austin and Curry, Seth), Kelly is the heart of that team. I think Duke won’t make it past Florida State without him — and the Blue Devils might not make it past Miami on Friday.

But here’s the rub — I think UNC is going to have a tough time winning the tourney, too. Ol’ Roy is famous for not putting weight on the ACC Tournament and, frankly, it’ll mean more to Virginia (UNC’s likely Saturday opponent) or FSU (UNC’s likely Sunday opponent).

ACC AWARDS HANDED OUT

In what was a surprise to virtually no one, UNC’s Tyler Zeller was named the ACC player of the year, UNC’s John Henson took top defensive player of the year honors for the second year in a row and Duke’s Rivers was unanimously named the league’s best rookie.

What was a surprise — at least to me — was that FSU’s Leonard Hamilton was picked the league’s top coach … by a single vote over Duke’s Mike Krzyzewski.

My take: While I agree that Hamilton did a fine job, he would’ve been my FOURTH choice for COTY, behind Virginia’s Tony Bennett, N.C. State’s Mark Gottfried and Krzyzewski.

FSU was picked to finish third … and the Seminoles finished third. Duke was picked second and finished second and even my Hoos were picked fourth and finished … you guessed it, fourth.

Gottfried’s squad was picked to finish eighth and are in fifth place and on the threshold of the NCAA Tournament in his first season.

The iPod shuffle

Imagine — John Lennon

Fergalicious — Fergie featuring will.i.am

W.T.P. — Eminem

Don’t Do Me Like That — Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers

Lookin’ Out My Back Door — Creedence Clearwater Revival

P.S.: Democratic N.C. gubernatorial candidate Walter Dalton is coming by The Free Press tomorrow; if you have any SERIOUS questions you’d like to have asked of him, post them here or email them to me at bhanks@freedomenc.com. I’ll get to as many as I can in the short amount of time we have him in our office.