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Tuesday, Nov. 22, 2011: Basketball coaches hall of fame class announced

   Leading off today: Ugh. Has it really been five days since I've written anything?

   Well, it's time to fix that. We're not quite done with fall sports, but I'll kick off today with some news from a beloved winter sport.

   Induction class announced: A few of the names trickled out shortly after the vote was taken in late September, but the Basketball Coaches Association of New York has now released the full list of inductees for the 2012 class of the New York State Basketball Hall of Fame to be honored March 12 in Glens Falls.

   Those being honored by the BCANY are:

    • Les Barton -- Coached Pine Plains to 10 county championships and six sectional crowns during a 24-year career interrupted for three years by U.S. Army service during World War II.

    • Thomas F. Beauvais -- Posted 15 straight league titles, won 471 games in 31 years at Westport and served on the Section 7 basketball committee for 20 years.

    • Jim Burr -- One of the original referees hired to officiate Big East games. He has worked for every major college conference east of the Mississippi and has been selected to work 16 NCAA Final Four games on the court, as an alternate or as the table administrator.

    • John Cahill -- Another referee who has worked in multiple major conferences and been selected for 10 NCAA Final Fours and six national championship games.

    • Paul Callaghan -- Rolled up 400 wins in 39 years at Mexico, coached at Oswego State and was an early force in the Coaches vs. Cancer program.

    • John Carey -- Won 460 games in 42 years of work at All Hallows and also worked as an assistant coach at U.S. Merchant Marine Academy and Fairfield.

    • Robert Cimmino Jr. -- Has guided Mount Vernon to four of its five boys Federation championships and five NYSPHSAA crowns en route to a 364-68 record thus far. He's also a BCANY board member and was selected to coach the McDonald's All-American Game in March 2011.

    • Mike Deane -- Worked 26 years as a college head coach at Oswego, Siena, Marquette, Lamar and Wagner, taking teams to the NCAA and NIT tournaments.

    • Carlyle Gainey -- A total of 418 victories in 29 seasons with multiple regional titles and two NYSPHSAA crowns at Wyandanch.

    • Sister Maria Pares -- A force in Western New York girls and women's sports for many years, coaching at Sacred Heart High School again (with four state CHSAA titles in the last five years) after also having directed the programs at Canisius College and Marquette.

   College commitments: A couple of top Section 5 football players have firmed up college plans now that their football seasons have wound down.

   Aquinas receiver and defensive back Jahmahl Pardner gave a verbal commitment on Monday to the University of Pittsburgh, the Democrat and Chronicle reported. Pardner made an unofficial campus visit in October and will take an official visit with his parents on Dec. 10.

   The Panthers have the three-year starter pegged to play cornerback, and he could also get on the field returning punts and kickoffs. Pardner, who also got late interest from Georgia Tech after a slew of MAC schools made early offers, made 43 catches for 745 yards and scored 11 TDs as a senior.

The list of the 15 other New York seniors known to have committed to BCS programs thus far can be found on home page.

   Also, two-way lineman Joe Graen of Pittsford, a 6-foot-2, 270-pound senior on an otherwise undersized line, has picked Princeton. Graen was instrumental in Section 5 player of the year candidate Dom DeLucia rolling up more than 2,300 rushing yards in a 9-1 season.

   Calling all coaches: I've worked on a few projects with the MaxPreps people over the years, and the latest is shaping up to be amongst the most fun and interesting.

   Over the summer, added a "history" link to pages for individual sports for every high school in the country. The history section allows coaches and school staff to add year-by-year data, awards, championships, game/season/career records, coaching history, etc. to make it an even better resource for players, fans and media.

   Dave Archer, executive director of the Basketball Coaches Association of New York has been championing the new feature with members of his organization, so I prototyped a page for Mount Vernon boys basketball.

   Coaches who'd like to get moving on similar pages for their own teams can shoot me an e-mail at the address below for more information.

   Jumping ship? Jumping the gun? This one's been bothering me for two days now. I'm going to say what's on my mind and there are some people who will rip me for it, but I don't care because I'm exhausted by the way an important topic is being trivialized by knee-jerk nonsense.

   I'm sure that you're already aware of allegations made against Syracuse University assistant basketball coach Bernie Fine last week by two men. The same allegations were made several years ago, but credible media declined to publish anything because the (then) sole accuser's story could not be verified. In fact, the friends that he told The


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Post-Standard would vouch for his veracity either declined to do so or backed his credibility rather half-heartedly.

   That didn't stop ESPN from taking the story public last week when the initial accuser's stepbrother told a similar story.

   There's much to be skeptical about, and Jason Whitlock of wrote a column pointing out some flaws in the reporting as well as the allegations themselves. Whitlock has a well-known distaste for ESPN, but you can't write off his thoughts as sour grapes.

   Let me sum it up thusly: The charges against Fine were previously investigated. That doesn't mean something untoward couldn't have taken place -- only the coach and the two accusers can say for sure what did or didn't happen -- but neither the authorities nor the university saw reason to take action against Fine at that time. In that context and in the aftermath of the recent Penn State allegations that appear to be far more credible even without the damning grand jury indictment, Fine deserves the benefit of the doubt. And if you're not going to cut the man that much slack, then you at least owe him the premise of "innocent until proven guilty" upon which our legal system is built.

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   OK, now let's get to what's really bothering me: Ericka Rambert needs to shut the hell up, and she needs to do so immediately.

   Rambert is the mother of Isaiah Whitehead, a rather precocious basketball player at Abraham Lincoln in the PSAL. At 6-foot-3, Whitehead averaged 13.5 points last season and was selected 11th-team all-state by the New York State Sportswriters Association.

   Syracuse was one of the first colleges to offer a scholarship to Whitehead, hardly unusual given SU's history of plucking talented players out of arguably the best public-school league in the country.

   And now, suddenly, Rambert is telling the Orange to stay away from her son.

   "They're definitely off his list," Rambert told The New York Post over the weekend. "Isaiah's not going there. That's out of the question. Once you have something like that in the program, you don't want to be a part of it. You don't know who else is involved. You don't know who else knew about it. It's a lot to deal with."

   There's nothing wrong with being a protective parent. In fact, I encourage parents to behave like parents because there's a shortage of that sort of responsibility in this country, for sure.

   But let's not lose track of a few facts. Firstly, Whitehead is early in his sophomore year, which means Syracuse coaches can scarcely have any contact with him at this point. And certainly not enough contact for Rambert to have even a decent gut feeling -- pro or con -- about Fine, Jim Boeheim or anyone else in Syracuse other than what she sees on TV.

   Whitehead is still more than a year away from when many top-shelf recruits begin making non-binding commitments to colleges. He's almost two years away from being able to sign scholarship papers worth somewhere north of $50,000 a year.

   There's plenty of time for him to make decisions about Syracuse and about other schools, whether that encompasses the prowess of the basketball program, the academic mightiness of the institution or the character/behavior of the staff.

   So mom doesn't really need to be convicting anyone right now, especially in light of evidence that for now doesn't look like it will sustain an indictment, let alone a conviction.

   I'll tell you what, though. If Rambert wants to keep spouting off about shielding her son from unsavory elements and, as she noted "you don't know who else is involved," then I look forward to her press conference ripping into her son's high school and a certain star player who graduated a couple of years ago after a career that included his share of unflattering allegations.

   So, Ms. Rambert, what do you have to say about that?

   Yeah, I thought so.

   Surprising start The girls basketball season got off to a bit of a surprising start Monday when Banneker defeated perennial power Murry Bergtraum 51-44.

   Junior star Africa Williams, hobbled much of the summer by torn ankle ligaments, hit 16 of 18 free throws, scored 25 points and blocked seven shots against the 13-time defending PSAL champions in an 'AA' crossover. It was the Warriors' first-ever win against Bergtraum and the Blazers' first regular-season loss in 73 games.

   “It was a good win for our team,” Williams told The New York Daily News. “This gives us confidence that we think that we can win the championship."

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