Andy Toole discusses the 2013-14 season, RMU's future

Written by Craig Meyer on .

andytoole original

As a way to informally wrap things up for the 2013-14 season, I sat down this week with Robert Morris coach Andy Toole to have a conversation about last season and a little bit about the program's immediate future.

It's something of an exit interview, with one eye on the past and one looking forward.

Below is a full transcript of our talk.

When you all went down to eight guys in January, did you honestly envision the team doing as well as it did? "I hope we would have. I thought that along the way there might be a few more losses just because situationally, with eight guys, whether it's foul trouble or whatever it might be in the course of a game, I just thought those things would happen on a couple other occasions. And they didn't. In some of the situations where we did find ourselves down, we were able to make great comebacks and win. I think it's a testament to the guys that were in the locker room and the way that they stepped up and played together."

From that experience, was there anything you learned about those guys, about that team or even about the game itself, just being able to do that well with so few players? "You're constantly learning as a coach. I think one of the things you learn is making sure you have the right guys in the locker room, making sure you have the right guys that are buying in and the power of team a little bit. Some of our guys -- and we talked about it during the course of the year -- maybe weren't playing consistent minutes prior to going down to eight guys really stepped up and played their roles like we needed them to, and how important it is making sure everyone's doing what's necessary for the team versus maybe what's best for them.

"I think you saw some guys who started to be much more effective as players once they started to buy in to the role that the program envisions for them and maybe not the role they envision for themselves. That way, they had more individual success as well as team success."

Were there any guys in particular who stood out to you, ones that grew a whole lot as players due to that situation? "Everybody stood out to me, but Stephan Hawkins, David Appolon -- those were two guys that statistically made significant jumps, had a lot of big plays and contributed a lot. Aaron Tate was a guy who really solidified a lot of what we did and maybe his stuff didn't show up as much statistically, but the ability to rely on him during that stretch of the season was really important to our success. Those are three guys who I think really made great jumps.

"Chuck, all year long, had made some shots and been involved. Kavon, all year long, you had seen his talent. But I think those three guys really went from not sure what we would get or how much they'd contribute previously in their careers to being really important pieces of the team that helped us win a lot of games."

Do you feel like the whole storyline and narrative built around the Crazy Eight ever got overblown? "That was the guys' thing. I don't think it got overplayed. From an outside perspective some people might say 'You only need five guys on the court and you've got eight, so what's the big deal?' But when you're on the inside from a program perspective, when you've coached teams before and you...number one, have that kind of turmoil during a season that can be extremely disruptive and number two, just the daily management of your program is completely different than it was previously, in terms of practice, conserving energy and everything that you do. To continue to remain effective and have success even after you're not getting the reps you need in practice every day, figuring out different and more creative ways to utilize your time versus being on the court and running people down.

"You can't overstate the fact of what these individuals did to remain focused and to put themselves in a position to continually win. That's something that I take in terms of how good those guys were to work with and how flexible they were in the different situations we found ourselves in. And that's outside of games. Whether it's getting an extra scouting report in or being more creative in a walk-through in a hotel versus going and having's easy when you have 12 guys and everyone gets to rest in practice and everyone gets plenty of reps and when they need to take rest, they do that. When you're down to eight guys and you're trying to go as hard as you can playing against an assistant coach, knowing you don't have a sub during the course of practice, knowing you can't take a practice off because there aren't enough dudes to get by, those are some of the things people don't understand on the outside which make it so difficult to have the success when you have limited numbers. They all did great, great jobs with all of it."

With having the success you all have had the last two seasons and not being able to make the NCAA tournament, does that get frustrating at all or is that something you feel gets overplayed? "It gets completely frustrating, there's no doubt. It gets frustrating for the guys who are on your team, who put in all that effort, time and work. You want them to be rewarded by going to the NCAA tournament, you want to help them achieve a goal of theirs. It's part of your job as a coach. It is frustrating, it is difficult when you consistently are in a position to do that or you put yourself in a good position to do that, but it doesn't happen for you or happen for the program.

"It is frustrating, but everyone gets judged on their success in March and the tournament and all that kind of stuff. If you ask coaches around the country, there are a lot of other things they evaluate themselves on, but it's also what it is in our industry that being a part of the NCAA tournament and having success there, if that's what your expectations are, that's what you get evaluated on. It's the way of the world, I guess."

It's obviously not Kentucky, but by going on the road and being able to beat a top seed in the NIT for the second year in a row, is that another positive step for the program? "I think any time you have sustained success, that's a positive for your program. Obviously, after last year's win against Kentucky, that was huge, as we've talked about many times. But then to be able to go on the road and win a game in the fashion that we did, it also really speaks to what kind of program we have and what kind of kids we have in the locker room. They faced probably their biggest adversity or disappointment of the season by losing in the championship game and were still able to get themselves back together to go on the road and beat a St. John's team convincingly. With nine minutes to go in the game, we were up 26 points. It didn't obviously get as much play as the Kentucky stuff, I think because of the game being at our place and the name Kentucky, but it was in many ways, a better performance than the Kentucky game with the way the guys played together, some of the plays we made, the way we shot the ball, the way we executed.

"I think from a coaching standpoint, the fact you can go back and replicate some of that success is what you want to see in your program. You want guys who are constantly trying to push forward and raise the bar a little bit. I'm really proud of the way they were able to bounce back and compete in that game."

As far as Karvel and his professional future, have you talked to him much about it and how do you project it to possibly be? "We've talked about it a bunch since and we've had some meetings and we've met with some people that are interested in representing him. I think it's something he can make a career out of. It's a situation where I think he'll have the opportunity to be on a team and be paid next year. I don't know if that will be here domestically. I think his opportunities might be more overseas, but depending on how he plays and continues to improve his game, I would never put it past him for doing it for a number of years or maybe even coming back here [to the United States] and finding a niche, finding a spot where he can find success here in the states.

"We've talked about that and I think he's in agreement where he would obviously love to be an NBA player -- I think every college player would love to be an NBA player -- but he also understands that he wants to play the game as long as someone will let him play. If he can make some money doing it, that's great. But I do think he has a bright future as a professional, wherever that might be."

When you have a guy like Karvel who can do something like 3-point shooting that well, that's something that can allow someone to have a long pro career, right? "His ability to shoot and score and be a shot-maker is something that is rare. If you look around the country, there are very few guys that made more 3s than him or made a higher percentage. He's top 10 in the country in both. His ability to shoot off the dribble -- one-dribble pull-ups, different things like that -- and his ability to make guarded shots is something that's extremely valuable. At the end of the day, it's how well you can put the ball in the basket and his ability to do it at such an efficient rate is something that makes him unique. If you look at professional basketball, they're always looking for players like that.

"The feedback we've gotten from people we've talked to at the professional level have all said the same thing -- his ability to shoot and score is something that's going to be a commodity. That sets him up, as long as he goes and does the right things and continues to work, to have the opportunity to have a really good career."

I don't want to use the term 'rebuilding,' but for next season with just six guys coming back, is it going to be something of a bridge year with a lot of new guys trying to find their roles? "We brought six guys back into this year's class and we were able to win 22 games and a regular season championship. I think the expectations will be the same, that those six guys who come back will be expected to continue to play the way they have, if not make a bigger jump, and then the pieces we bring in are going to be expected to help us continue to have success. That's the plan and that's what we'll start working toward as soon as we have spring workouts going, weights going and then when guys get here for summer school. That will be the expectation that we demand. That'll be how we work to prepare for next year.

"There are more significant returners in terms of playing time over the last 18 games of this year than there were the previous year when we lost Velton, Russell and Coron Williams and we eventually lost Mike McFadden. Those were four starters we basically didn't have for all of conference play. Obviously Karvel was our leading scorer, but he was off the bench. Lucky was a starter and had a very, very good year and continued to have a good year. But Dave didn't play as a sophomore, Hawk was a role guy and really that was pretty much it. Part of this job is to figure out how to work with what you have and figure out how to make them successful. I think our staff did a good job of doing that during the course of this year. As we recruit kids, we want to be able to identify kids that are going to be able to come in and contribute to us winning. Obviously it happens a lot, but when most kids look at a school, they don't anticipate on coming into a rebuilding situation. They want to be part of a winning situation. That's how we'll coach them, that's how we'll prepare them and that's how we'll challenge them getting ready for next year."

When it comes to filling out those open scholarships for next season, are you planning more on targeting junior college guys, freshmen? Is there a particular kind of focus here for you in the offseason? "Everything. Best players we can find, whether they're junior college guys, high school guys, fifth-year transfers, four-year transfers, who knows? I think you'd be foolish not to explore every option and possibility. You'd like to create balance on your roster if you can, but I'd rather have good players instead of balance. We're trying to identify the best players and make them part of the program.

Do you expect to have Jeremiah Worthem and Britton Lee back for next season? "I'm not sure yet."

Is that something you'd get to in January when the suspension runs out? "Some of that stuff's outside my control anyway. You'd have to go meet with other people on campus to have that conversation."

[NOTE: Toole said Worthem and Lee's scholarships do not count toward the team's limit for next season.]

Is there anyone for next season who you're maybe looking to take a big step and play that much greater of a role for this team? "Obviously, Kavon is one of those guys. He's a guy who's going to have a lot more on his plate next year. He showed glimpses of being able to handle that and there were times when he looked like a freshman. I think Kavon's somebody that can be more consistent next year for us to be successful. He's going to have a lot on his shoulders and a lot of responsibility. The way he handles that responsibility is going to really dictate how good of a team we can become."


Craig Meyer: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.  and Twitter @CraigMeyerPG

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About the Red Wings - 04-09-14

Written by Seth Rorabaugh on .

A preview of the Red Wings.

When and where: 8 p.m. EDT. Consol Energy Center.

TV: NBC Sports, TSN.

Record: 38-27-14, 90 points. The Red Wings are in fourth place in the Atlantic Division.

Leading Scorer: Daniel Alfredsson (right), 48 points (18 goals, 30 assists).

Last Game: 4-2 road win against the Sabres, last night. Jimmy Howard made 25 saves for the Red Wings.

Last Game against the Penguins: 5-4 overtime home win, March 20. Alfredsson had two goals and an assist for the Red Wings.

Red Wings Player We Would Bet Money On Scoring: Alfredsson. He has 68 points in 66 career games against the Penguins.

Ex-Penguins on the Red Wings: Mikael Samuelsson, RW; Tyler Wright, director of amateur scouting.

Ex-Red Wings on the Penguins: Chris Conner, LW; Don Waddell, professional scout; Warren Young, amateur scout.

Useless Red Wings Trivia Vaguely Related to the Penguins: Red Wings left winger Todd Bertuzzi is one of three players selected in the 1993 draft who are still active on an NHL roster. The others are Ducks center Saku Koivu as well as Flyers defenseman and former Penguin Hall Gill.

(Note: A fourth player, Flyers defenseman Chris Pronger, is still officially active but is all but retired. )

Best Red Wings Video We Could Find: The Red Wings' Luc Robitaille scoring his 610th career goal and tying the Blackhawks' Bobby Hull for the most goals in NHL history by a left winger:

Probable goaltenders: Marc-Andre Fleury (38-18-4, 2.34 GAA, .917 SV%) for the Penguins. Jonas Gustavsson (16-5-3, 2.63 GAA, .909SV%) for the Red Wings.

Injuries: For the Penguins, centers Marcel Goc (left foot/ankle), Evgeni Malkin (foot) and Joe Vitale ("upper body") are out. Right wingers Chris Conner (foot), Pascal Dupuis (knee) and goaltender Tomas Vokoun (blood clots) are on injured reserve. For the Red Wings, right winger Dan Cleary (knee) and defenseman Jonathan Ericsson (finger) are out. Right winger Mikael Samuelsson (shoulder), center Stephen Weiss (hernia) and left winger Henrik Zetterberg (back) are on injured reserve.

Potential lines and defensive pairings: The Penguins lines and defensive pairings at today's morning skate were:

14 Chris Kunitz - 87 Sidney Crosby - 19 Beau Bennett
49 Brian Gibbons - 36 Jussi Jokinen - 18 James Neal
15 Tanner Glass - 16 Brandon Sutter - 22 Lee Stempniak
17 Taylor Pyatt - 27 Craig Adams - 45 Adam Payerl

44 Brook Orpik - 7 Paul Martin
2 Matt Niskanen - 3 Olli Maatta
58 Kris Letang - 4 Rob Scuderi

-The Red Wings did not hold a full morning skate. Their primary lines and defensive pairigns against the Sabres last night were:

93 Johan Franzen - 13 Pavel Datsyuk - 8 Justin Abdelkader
21 Tomas Tatar - 15 Riley Sheahan - 14 Gustav Nyquist
43 Darren Helm - 17 David Legwand - 11 Daniel Alfredsson
20 Drew Miller - 41 Luke Glendening - 26 Tomas Jurco

2 Brendan Smith - 55 Niklas Kronwall
27 Kyle Quincey - 65 Danny DeKeyser
23 Brian Lashoff - 4 Jakub Kindl


-The last time the Penguins played the Red Wings, this happened:

-Kris Letang will return to the lineup tonight for the first time since suffering a stroke, Jan. 29.

-The Penguins have won 99 regular season games at Consol Energy Center.

-Adams has 99 career assists.

-The Red Wings' magic number to clinch a playoff berth is one point.

-Our live blog begins at approximately 7 p.m. Please tune in.

(Photo: Photobucket)

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Pay Off

Written by Rob Rogers on .

Women's pay is definitely "off" when compared to the earnings of men doing the same job. Sadder still, African American and Latino women make even less. 

041014 Pay Off

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Few can walk 5 minutes for fresh food

Written by Diana Nelson Jones on .


market produce
The small neighborhood market has been much on my mind of late, specifically the one I am supporting but more generally because of how important an asset it is in a neighborhood, and how uncommon it is.
Giant Eagle, Foodland, Trader Joe’s, Whole Foods, IGA and all the larger retailers are necessary, and the plethora of options in the Strip make that a regular must-do. But if everyone had the option of a short walk to get some essential groceries, then every neighborhood would have a little store with enough variety to be more than the emergency milk and bread stop. 
Sarah Goodyear writes in The Atlantic Cities about a recent analysis of cities that looked at walking distance to fresh food sources. In her article, “In the U.S., a Quick Walk to the Store is a Rare Thing Indeed,” she sets up a scenario familiar to many of us: We are into a recipe when we realize we need a crucial ingredient.
The last time that happened to me, I thought I had an egg or two left in the carton. Lucky for me, my neighbor raises hens so I popped next door and got an egg.
In the article, Ms. Goodyear poses the question: How long would it take you to walk to get a fresh ingredient? An analysis by Walk Score of 50 of the largest American cities shows a yawning gap between the nine cities that have five-minute access for more than 40 percent of its population and those that don't even serve 30 percent.
Pittsburgh's snapshot is reproduced below. The green blobs represent where people have a fresh food source within a five-minute walk:
The five-minute standard set by Walk Score is based on a goal that Washington, D.C. has set in its 20-year master plan.
I am very lucky to have neighbors who can supply any number of emergency items, but the whole neighborhood is lucky that the Allegheny City Market is about a five minute walk. In the former Doug’s Market, owner Rob Collins has upgraded the inventory enough that his market is my first-option grocery, providing 75 percent of the items on my list.
There are too few markets like this in Pittsburgh and throughout the cities studied.
The article states:
“For 72 percent of New Yorkers, the answer is less than five minutes. But in Indianapolis – or Oklahoma City or Wichita – only 5 percent of residents have a store selling fresh produce within that distance.
“Using data from its extensive database, Walk Score ranked the 50 largest U.S. cities to see how they did on access to decent food, using stores that sell fresh produce as a benchmark.
“The numbers paint a picture of a dramatically divided nation.”
The article reports that Washington, D.C.'s goal is to have 75 percent of its population living within a quarter mile of a healthy food source within 20 years. 
Washington is one of the nine cities with top access now but barely cracks 40 percent. New York is #1, of course, with 72 percent of people who have five-minute pedestrian access to fresh food. San Francisco and Philadelphia are the only others in which more than 50 percent of people can walk to buy that crucial egg, or lime or endive, in five minutes.
A city's planning goal for greater access comes down to land use and requirements for development, topics that present choppy waters for politicians. It would be interesting to see how Pittsburgh might decide to address this issue, given the sweeping amount of land vacancy in its most food-challenged neighborhoods.
Top photo taken at the Allegheny City Market


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#SEENMoneyWellSpent: Pittsburgh Opera

Written by Natalie Bencivenga on .

Walking into the PittPittsburgh Opera sign 25th eveningsburgh Opera’s home in the Strip District is like being transported back in time. Built in 1869, the space was originally utilized as George Westinghouse’s original air brake factory. Hanging on one of the walls is a quote from Westinghouse himself:

“If someday they say of me that I have benefited my fellow man, then I shall be satisfied.”

At 45,000 square feet, the industrial space (with cool, modern touches like exposed brick walls and wood beams throughout) has plenty of  room to house Opera rehearsals, a space for Attack Theater to practice their productions, and even a place for wigs, make-up, and costume production. (The space can be rented out for weddings and other events on its off-hours). opera-6948 conf room Elena Dee

I met with the Pittsburgh Opera’s general director
Christopher Hahn, a native of South Africa, (who has the most amazing accent), and took a tour through the facility. Many people have a misperception of opera and its audience as being old fashioned -- an image that Mr. Hahn wants to change:

“People think [the opera] is so serious; but it is fun and uplifting. It touches on so many areas of our knowledge, and may be the most complex and invigorating art form available to us.”

Not only does the Pittsburgh Opera showcase a wide array of performances (from the classics to more contemporary pieces) but they also travel to schools to teach children and teenagers about this amazing art form through their art trunk program.

Opera Trunk Madama Butterfly Elena DeeDuring the tour I was reminded of my first exposure to opera, in high school, when my chorus class sang songs from Puccini’s “Madame Butterfly.”  This memory still resonates with me today as I fell in love with so many of the melodies.

Later on the tour, Michele Fabrizi, board chair, met us as we meandered through the costume and wig department. She echoed Mr. Hahn’s thoughts about the mission of the Pittsburgh Opera.


“It’s important for people to try new things,” she said. “We need to get out of our comfort zones, have new experiences, expand our minds, enrich our lives. That’s what the arts can do for us.” Michelle and Christopher OPERA

It’s hard not to get excited about opera when seeing this beautiful building and hearing from two of its staunchest supporters. I became even more enthusiastic when I heard about their monthly Brown Bag Lunch program. This is FREE (yes you read that correctly!) to the public and usually happens on the second Saturday of each month (October through April). Bring your lunch and enjoy a free cool is that?

Opera is accessible, it is uplifting, and it can even be transformative!

I am looking forward to their upcoming fundraising event, Maecenas XXX (voted one of the best parties of the year by the Post Gazette).

Pictured above in the costume department: Michele Fabrizi & Christopher Hahn

For more information on this gala, CLICK HERE. Clearly, it will be #MoneyWellSpent.

Follow the Pittsburgh Opera on Twitter: @PittsburghOpera



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