How soon will the shift in power take place away from the Cleveland Cavaliers in the Eastern Conference? And, outside of the University of Connecticut, is the concentration of the best collection of talent in women’s college basketball residing out West, similar to how it was a generation ago?
The 2017 finale of The A Lot of Sports Talk Podcast focuses on the hardwood as monumental NBA match-ups and the beginning of conference play in college hoops will soon heat up basketball arenas despite the plunging temperatures across most of the country. Well, it’s far from arctic conditions right now in southern California, which is where our first guest, UCLA women’s head basketball coach Cori Close, plies her trade as she leads the team that currently is ranked No. 11 in the latest Associated Press women’s basketball poll. In our conversation, Close, a California native, talks about her time that she was a mentee under John Wooden, as she maintained a close relationship with The Wizard of Westwood when Close first started her coaching career as an assistant coach with the Bruins. Not only did she learn from the best-ever coach in the men’s collegiate game, Close explained to ALOST how she changed some of her coaching habits after time spent with Geno Auriemma, the UConn head coach who has gone up against Close’s Bruins twice this calendar year, including in the Sweet 16 of the 2017 NCAA Tournament. Close also went into detail about how the Pac-12 has become the powerhouse that it is in women’s basketball and if, like when Ann Meyers (UCLA) and Cheryl Miller (USC) graced the floor, the strength of the women’s game currently resides on the western part of the United States.
A Lot of Sports Talk was in Boston on Christmas Day covering the NBA matchup between the Celtics and the Washington Wizards and, after the game, ALOST caught up with Jared Weiss, Celtics reporter and analyst for USA Today Celtics Wire and the CLNS Media Network, and talked about the Celtics’ season so far, one which has been stellar record-wise despite the shock it suffered just six minutes into the season when offseason acquisition Gordon Hayward went down with a nasty left leg injury in Cleveland. Jared discusses how the Celtics have moved on without Hayward, as well as some of the changes that another blockbuster offseason acquisition, Kyrie Irving, has made since coming over from the Cavaliers to allow him to take his game to another level. Even with the 28-10 start to the season, the Celtics have gone only 6-6 their last 12 contests, and Jared explains the area of the Celtics’ game that has been deficient that has caused the recent downturn in form. Also, Jared lets us in on his thoughts about how 2017 first-round pick Jayson Tatum has become a near-perfect fit just a few months after playing college basketball as a freshman at Duke, and also why 2018-19 is the season that Danny Ainge and the Celtics front office are looking at in terms of truly challenging the NBA elite in becoming a championship ball club once again.
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Interview Order: Intro (0:00 – 4:41); Cori Close (4:43 – 19:50); Jared Weiss (19:56 – 38:38); Wrap-up (38:46 – 42:06)