Morning News Report; April 26, 2012

Sorry I’ve been away, bloggees — real life is a bitch. Anyhoo — a pretty special MNR:

COPLES SET TO MAKE HISTORY

Former Kinston High School/UNC football star Quinton Coples will likely be selected in the first round of the NFL Draft tonight. He’ll be first player in Lenoir County to earn the honor.

My take: I couldn’t be more proud of a young man who has worked hard to get to this point in his life. I’ve watched him and covered him since he was in the eighth grade and playing recreation basketball for Larry Powell with Bo Ingram and the rest of the “Six Shooters.”

He’s been a stand-up young man who did what was best for his family and himself when he left Kinston as a senior — a decision that has helped him to where he is today: on the threshold of becoming a multi-millionaire NFL player.

A behind-the-scenes look at what we’re doing tonight at TFP: we’re hoping he is selected earlier rather than later because we’ve switched press times with one of our sister papers, giving us a little bit later deadline than our typical ridiculously early deadline. Award-winning page designer Richard Clark has a freaking fantastic front page ready, so … Carolina Panthers — TAKE QUINTON COPLES!

MONTAGUE SET TO MAKE HISTORY

When legendary North Lenoir baseball coach Jim Montague’s Hawks take the field against Kinston today, they’ll be going for the coach’s 350th career victory.

My take: One thing I’ve always liked about Coach Montague — he never takes credit for his team’s success but always takes the brunt of their losses.

Some of the best times of my journalism career was covering those championship teams in 2005-2007, with Sthil Sowers, Brandon Sutton, Andrew Manning, John Alphin and the others. In 20 years of covering prep sports, I’ve never seen a pitching combo like Sowers and Sutton, who were as confident and successful as any pair of high school pitchers EVER. Montague coached his tail off, too, and if a certain western N.C. school hadn’t put together an all-star team to take down North Lenoir, the Hawks would’ve had three straight state titles.

Congrats, Coach! Stay around for 400!

BOBCATS GO FOR HISTORY TONIGHT … OR NOT

When the Charlotte Bobcats take the court against the New York Knicks tonight — on national TV, no less — they’ll be trying to avoid their 23rd straight loss and the infamy of being the worst team in NBA history (by percentage).

My take: Yikes. I’ll be pulling for the Bobcats … but if I were a betting man, I sure as heck wouldn’t bet on them.

And check out this scatching Chicago Sun-Times column on Bobcats majority owner Michael Jordan. Yikes again.

GOP GUBERNATORIAL CANDIDATES CHALLENGE MCCRORY TO DEBATE

Contrary to popular belief, there is actually a primary for the Republican nomination for governor. While the Democrats have had several debates and forums, the GOP has had none, since everyone naturally assumes Pat McCrory (who has been campaigning for the last four years anyway) will get the nod.

One Republican, though, is challenging McCrory to a debate.

My take: If I were him, though, I wouldn’t hold my breath. McCrory has nothing to gain by debating a Republican challenger … nothing. All he’d do is lend credence to that opponent.

The iPod shuffle

Against The Wind — Bob Seger & The Silver Bullet Band

Summer of ’69 — Bryan Adams

Evverybody’s Talkin’ — Harry Nilsson

Drop It Like It’s Hot — Snoop Dogg featuring Pharrell

Hand On The Glock — Cypress Hill

Remembering J.J.

My Sunday column — one I wish I didn’t have to write 

In 20 years of covering prep sports in virtually every corner of the state of North Carolina, I’ve had the opportunity to see thousands of student-athletes take the field, court or pitch.

J.J. Thompson was one of the best I had the honor to write about. The former Greene Central High School star was the best player in our area in 2006, when The Free Press named him its overall player of the year.

Friday night, J.J. succumbed to cancer, less than a month after his 23rd birthday. The news of his untimely death spread quickly throughout Greene County and North Carolina on Saturday.

Jim Bob Bryant won the Associated Press Coach of the Year award this past season at Havelock High School. In 2006, though, Bryant was Greene Central’s head football coach.

Saturday afternoon, Bryant was driving back from a coach’s clinic in Western North Carolina; more than 12 hours after finding out about J.J.’s untimely death, the coach’s voice still cracked with emotion.

“I love all my players and they know that,” Bryant said. “But J.J. was like a son to me. If he’d have ever wanted to move in with me and my family, he could have in a heartbeat — that’s how much we thought of him.”

One of J.J.’s closest friends was his defensive coordinator at Greene Central, Andre Quinerly. “Coach Q” was the catalyst in bringing J.J. back in 2011 to the Rams’ sideline, where the recent Winston-Salem State University graduate coached Quinerly’s linebackers.

“I lost a fantastic player and coach, but more than that, I lost a good friend,” Q told me Saturday afternoon, his voice shaking. “Yes, he was young, but he was going to be a great coach because the kids really admired him.”

Bryant agreed.

“He had just received his business degree from Winston-Salem State, but I told him as soon as he got his teaching certification, he had a spot on my Havelock staff,” said Bryant, who added that J.J. would’ve been a great head coach one day.

His first three years of high school, J.J. was a defensive star at Greene Central and a blocking back on offense. His senior year, though, team issues forced him to become the Rams’ starting tailback, a position he hadn’t played since middle school.

He rose to the challenge — rushing for over 1,000 yards and 16 touchdowns, along with leading the Rams to a 9-3 record on a squad that included other great Rams players such as defensive star Brandon Sutton, quarterback Cameron Shelton and receiver/defensive back Harrison Walston.

“That’s just the way he was; he was unselfish and a total team player,” Quinerly said of J.J., who received a football scholarship to WSSU. “His commitment was to his team. He’d sacrifice his own health to do what was best for the team.”

Bryant said, “He was a team-first player. He told me, ‘If it helps the team, I’ll move anywhere you need me.’ He didn’t care about glory for himself — he just wanted his teammates to be successful.”

Quinerly said J.J.’s greatest game was a non-conference affair against Kinston in September 2006. In a game no one expected Greene Central to win, J.J. rushed for 84 yards and a touchdown on 15 carries in the Rams’ 22-21 victory in Snow Hill. More importantly, though, he finished with 13 tackles, including six for loss, on defense.

“Like he always did, he put the team on his back that night,” Quinerly recalled. “He was hyped up and he guaranteed the team, ‘We’re winning this game.’ And we did — because of his heart.”

Most Greene Central fans remember how the charismatic Brandon Sutton led those teams with his skill and talent; Sutton — now a rookie with Richmond Raiders of the Arena Football League after a spectacular career at Catawba College — said he was always pushed by J.J.

“He made sure the person beside him was always doing his job,” Sutton said. “And he always motivated me. If I got a sack, he said he was going to get two. If I had an interception, he had to get one, too. He was the ultimate teammate and a great friend since we were in fifth grade.”

The last couple of times I saw J.J. in football season and at a basketball game, he busted my chops about my need to write a story about his return to the sideline as an assistant coach for Greene Central. I tried to tell him I wasn’t the sports guy any longer with The Free Press, but that I’d put something together for the upcoming football season.

He persisted, though.

“C’mon, Mr. Hanks — you know you want to write this story!” J.J. said with a laugh in our final conversation. “It’ll be like old times!”

I wish I could’ve written that story instead of the one I’m typing now. Rest in peace, young man.

Bryan C. Hanks’ column appears in The Free Press every Sunday. You can reach him at 252-559-1074 or at bhanks@freedomenc.com. Check out his blog at bhanks.encblogs.com and follow him on Twitter at BCHanks.

Afternoon Sports Report; April 10, 2012

Wrapping up the weekend…

BUBBA IS YOUR 2012 MASTERS CHAMPION

He owns the General Lee I from the “Dukes of Hazzard,” he’s never had a golf lesson … and his name is Bubba Watson. He’s also the 2012 Masters champ.

My take: Admittedly, I’m not a huge golf fan. Also, I wasn’t particularly pulling for him when I picked up the Masters with about 10 holes to go. But if you weren’t a little misty-eyed when Bubba was hugging his caddy and then his mama, you aren’t human.

THIS is the kind of story golf needs, instead of incessantly asking Tiger when he’s going to return to normal.

What I really liked about Bubba’s story (and there were about a dozen awesome angles to it) was that he got on Twitter and tried to personally thank as many of his followers that he could who had taken the time to congratulate him after his victory. Who does that in this self-absorbed day and age? I’m a fan now.

OZZIE GUILLEN SUSPENDED FIVE GAMES FOR CASTRO COMMENTS

Miami Marlins manager Ozzie Guillen was suspended five games for his comments about Fidel Castro, in which Guillen admitted his admiration for the Cuban dictator.

My take: I really thought it might be a little longer than five games, especially when you consider all the extenuating circumstances, i.e., the Marlins new stadium is in Little Havana, etc.

When do you get to the point that “Ozzie being Ozzie” isn’t enough of an explanation?

INTERIM SAINTS COACH WON’T BE BILL PARCELLS

The New Orleans Saints — without a head coach because of Sean Payton’s one-year suspension for player bounties — will also not have former N.Y. Giants/Dallas Cowboys head coach Bill Parcells as their interim coach.

My take: Back to the drawing board for a franchise that, combined with the suspensions and loss of draft picks, could fall off considerably this season. I wouldn’t be surprised to see the Saints go 4-12 or worse this year.

The iPod shuffle

Communication Breakdown — Led Zeppelin

Heartland — U2

A Day In The Life — The Beatles

The Journey — Boston

Dirty White Boy — Foreigner

Sneak peak of my Sunday column (2012 HOF)

Here you go, dear bloggees — a peak at my Sunday column 11 hours before it hits the paper:

Get your nominations in for the Kinston/Lenoir County Sports Hall of Fame

Plans are beginning for the fourth class of the Kinston/Lenoir County Sports Hall of Fame, which will finally have a permanent home in the city later this summer.

The Hall enshrined classes of nine inductees each in 2004, 2007 and 2010. In 2004’s inaugural class, Lin Dawson, Bill Grice, Leo Hart, Bobby Hodges, Paul Jones, Cedric Maxwell, Frank Mock, Jerry Stackhouse and Ron Wooten were inducted while the Class of 2007 featured Bryant Aldridge, Grady Bethel, Eleanor Howard Cummings, Emmitt R. (Bobby) Davis, Eugene (Red) McDaniel, Amos Sexton, Oliver Smith, Donna Horton White and George Whitfield.

In 2010, the class included Marshall Happer, Alley Hart, Linwood Hartsell, Charlie Lewis, Tommy Mattocks, Vernon “Poo” Rochelle, Bill Rowe, Sam Shepherd and Jimmy Smith. For the first time, the Hall also inducted Kinston’s only state championship football teams – Adkin High School’s 1952 squad and the 1955 Grainger High School Red Devils.

The nomination process for this year’s class will begin Wednesday, when you can go by the Kinston/Lenoir County Parks and Recreation Department, 405 N. McLewean Street; or The Free Press, 2103 N. Queen Street, for an application. You can also contact me at the methods listed below for more details.

The criteria for inclusion are simple: if the nomination is for an athlete, they must’ve played and finished their prep careers in Kinston or Lenoir County at least 10 years ago; for a coach or contributor, they must’ve coached or contributed in Kinston or Lenoir County for at least 10 years (unless there are extenuating circumstances).

I am honored to have been a part of the first three steering committees and to be heading up this year’s committee, taking over the reins from Parks and Recreation Director Bill Ellis.

No date has been set for this year’s induction ceremony, which will take place at the new Kinston Woodmen of the World Community Center in the late summer or early fall. The Woodmen Center will also be the permanent home for the Kinston/Lenoir County Hall of Fame, with all the memorabilia, banners and artifacts collected being displayed within its walls.

This is the most important part of the Hall, though – it’s your Hall. Please send in nominations beginning Wednesday. If you’d like to be considered to serve on the steering committee, you may also contact me.

Stay tuned – I’ll keep you updated here in my column and on my blog on all developments.

Bryan C. Hanks’ column appears every Sunday in The Free Press. You can reach him at 252-559-1074 or at bhanks@freedomenc.com. Check out his blog at bhanks.encblogs.com and follow him on Twitter at BCHanks.

P.S. (to bloggees only): You guys get the first dibs — who would you like to see in the Class of 2012? LCC’s Bobby Dawson was one of the final cuts in 2010, so I can pretty much assure you he’s in for 2012; outside of that, it’s up in the air. I’d also like to see middle school coaches such as Skeet Davis, Coley Little and Frankie Casey be considered this year, too.

Let me know what y’all think.

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; April 4, 2012

SAMPSON ELECTED TO BASKETBALL HALL OF FAME

The greatest center in ACC history — Ralph Sampson — will be inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame Sept. 6 in Springfield, Mass.

(Courtesy Associated Press)

My take: Longtime bloggees know how I feel about this subject (yes, there’s a “Ralph Sampson is a basketball god” tab to your right). I feel he should’ve been inducted a long, long time ago and it’s a travesty it took this long. However, it’s awesome the HOF has finally come to its senses.

In the annals of college basketball, there might not be a better center outside of Sampson than UCLA’s Lew Alcindor or Bill Walton.

People have often asked why I’m such a University of Virginia sports fan … it’s because of Sampson. While everyone around me growing up in northwestern North Carolina was going crazy over UNC, N.C. State and Wake Forest in the early 1980s, I chose UVa. because of King Ralph. Even my first email address (which I still own) was wahoos50 in honor of him.

And yes … I’ll be in Springfield for the ceremony.

TRAYVON MARCH TODAY

A march for slain Florida teenager Trayvon Martin will take place in Kinston today from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m.

My take: I’ve not shared my views on this issue because I don’t know all the details. However, if Zimmerman wasn’t in danger of losing his life — and there have not been many indications that he was — why shoot at a teenager with nothing but a pack of candy and a bottle of tea?

Before you jump all over my quasi-analysis, remember this: no one knows all the details about this except for Zimmerman and Martin — and one of them is dead now.

And there is nothing wrong with a peaceful march — it’s awesome to live in a country where we can peacefully assemble without fear our government will break it up.

MAZINGO IS NEW SUPERINTENDENT/SL GETS A FOOTBALL COACH

Two big things happened at this week’s Lenoir County School board meeting — interim superintendent Steve Mazingo had “interim” taken off his title and South Lenoir had Tim Jenkins approved as its football coach.

My take: I’m not surprised by the Mazingo move — the man has done a fine job in the interim role. For all seven board members to approve him speaks volumes and it’s good they’re unified in their support of him. Now … let’s get our coaches paid a little more so they don’t stay for a year and then move on to surrounding counties because of money, OK?

Still crappy they ran off a fine gentleman in Dr. Terry Cline, though, but I guess it’s time to close the book on that subject.

As for Jenkins — he’s got a tough job ahead of him in Deep Run, but a good foundation has been laid by Kevin Wilson, his predecessor. I’ll say what I’ve said several times: no one has better football fan support in our county than South Lenoir — it’d be good to see those fans rewarded with a consistent program.

The iPod shuffle

(Love Is) Thicker Than Water — Andy Gibb

Kinda Like A Big Deal — Clipse

Straight Outta Compton — N.W.A.

Boom Boom Pow — Black Eyed Peas

I Want To Take You Higher — Ike & Tina Turner

The top popular music acts of all time

As teased last week, Jon Dawson, Justin “The Kid” Hill and I taped a podcast (which you can hear in full stereophonic glory here) in which we discussed the top pop music acts in history.

As you can hear in the podcast, there was much disagreement. I’m 43 and a hip-hop fan, so my top 10 was a bit different than 26-year-old Justin’s list — although we agreed on more than our resident musical expert’s list.

It was a fun show and the format is one we’re going to copy in upcoming podcasts — doing lists and such. Let me know what you’d like to hear us rank.

Here’s our top 10s:

Hanks

1. The Beatles

2. Elvis Presley

3. Michael Jackson

4. U2

5. The Rolling Stones

6. The Who

7. Madonna

8. Aerosmith

9. Run-DMC

10. Chuck Berry

Top honorable mentions: Beach Boys, Bob Dylan, NWA and Queen

Justin

1. The Beatles

2. Michael Jackson

3. Elvis Presley

4. Madonna

5. Elton John

6. The Who

7. Stevie Wonder

8. Queen

9. The Rolling Stones

10. Mariah Carey

Top honorable mentions: Jack White, Nirvana, Billy Joel and The Pixies

Dawson

1. Chuck Berry

2. Little Richard

3. Buddy Holly

4. James Brown

5. Otis Redding

6. The Who

7. Pink Floyd

8. Allman Brothers

9. R.E.M.

10. Beck

Top honorable mentions: Link Wray, U2, Aretha Franklin, Creedence Clearwater Revival and Elton John

My take: REALLY can’t understand how Dawson doesn’t have The Beatles, Elvis or Michael Jackson in his top 15 … but he does know more about music than I do.

The only act all three of us had in our top 10 was The Who.

Bear in mind these aren’t our favorite acts — it’s who we thought were the top pop acts of all time.

I’d love to see yours — post them below or email them to me at bhanks@freedomenc.com and I’ll post them in the comments. Also, check out the podcast to hear explanations of our top 10s.