Michael Haywood is Back!! Well, at Least in the News

Written by Paul Zeise on .

I spent Tuesday morning at the hospital laying on my back with two long needles stuck in my spine. I then spent Tuesday afternoon at home in bed with a 100-some degree temperature and a migraine headache because my body had a bad reaction to the pain killers.

I then woke up in time to get to my son's summer league game at night only to watch them slop their way through a bad loss and on my way home stopped to eat a spot where the waitress clearly did not understand the concept of customer service.....

And just when I thought my day couldn't get any worse, I returned home and decided to check my e-mail only to find a press release sent out by attorneys and a public relation's person on behalf of Michael Haywood - yeah, THAT Michael Haywood -- stating that he has asked the Pennsylvania Human Relations Commission and other state and federal agencies to look into the university's firing of him.

Here is a link to the story I wrote about it.

Haywood's main contention is that since the charges have been -- well more accurately will be -- dropped, the university should not have been allowed to fire him, at least without paying him at least the $300,000 buy-out which was written into the contract.

Now, there are obviously two things at work here:

One is Haywood wants to get paid.

Two is Haywood wants to coach again some day.

The first issue is going to be interesting but I'd be shocked if Haywood gets the full buy-out, if anything, out of Pitt - which has declined comment on the subject -- because as I wrote in the article, Chancellor Nordenberg and Jerry Cochran - both who are lawyers, by the way -along with some of Pitt's other legal people and others in the administration met on Jan. 1st in an emergency meeting on campus and they scoured over the contract and made sure their decision to terminate it met all of the legal tests and guidelines before they took any action.

In other words, they made sure they were diligent to "CTA" and made sure they were on solid legal ground before they fired Haywood.

But that I said, I do think Haywood SHOULD at least get a second opinion on this and who knows, Pitt - who just wants this whole episode to go away as quickly and quietly as possible - may just decide to come up with a settlement for him so, as Motley Crue would say, he doesn't go away mad, he just goes away.

The second part - Haywood wanting to coach again - is probably just a matter of time healing some wounds even though the event which led to his firing - a domestic dispute with the mother of his child -- is one that is hard to come back from, regardless of how it turns out in court.

I think he could probably work as an assistant in the NFL rather quickly as the anonymous nature of that job combined with the fact that he is not going to have to go into homes to recruit high school players nor will he have to take on the "role model to and maker of " young men means the standard of conduct is much lower than that of a college coach.

So I could see him surfacing next year as a running back coach or something in the NFL and it would barely be a blip on the radar as it would not be a significant news event -- well, unless, of course, he gets hired by the Steelers.

The college end of it, though, could be a little bit tricky even though he will likely have the charges dismissed next year if he does 60 hours of community service and undergoes a psychological evaluation.

That's because he, at least according to published reports, admitted at a hearing that he grabbed the woman in question during the altercation and that she was injured when she fell down trying to get away from him.

And that will be difficult to overcome, especially in the short term, because at the end of the day, how do you hire a guy to be a role model for young males with that on his record. And more importantly, how can you send him into homes to talk to mothers, some of who may have been victims of domestic violence themselves, and tell them he will mold their sons into young men and how can you put him on a college campus, which, by the law of averages is roughly going to be 52 percent young females?

Again, in my short interaction with Michael Haywood, I found him to be likable and for the most part genuine, so I can't judge his character based on one incident which may or may not have happened or been blown out of proportion.

I'm actually hoping that he does rebound from this after some time - and I can tell you based on some conversations I've had with the key players at Pitt, they are rooting for him as well.

But the reality is these issues are very sensitive as they should be and I do know that college presidents and chancellors understand that they have to be very careful about who they put in place to guide their student-athletes and there are some things which just cannot be overlooked.

I'll have more on this tomorrow once I can get some people on the phone but I'm sure I'll get a lot of "this is a personnel issue and thus private" type responses from the people up in Oakland.

**** Over the weekend Todd Graham got two new recruits - well, assuming you count transfers as recruits.

The first was an actual recruit - Alkwan Williams, from Johnstown, who is 6-foot-1, 210 pounds and plays linebacker. And in keeping up with a disturbing trend thus far, Pitt beat Kent, Temple and Toledo for his services. That is not to say he can't play or won't be a great player, it is just to say that so far this class seems to have a lot of guys who are likely one of three things -

1) They were under recruited because they are late bloomers and thus a bit under the radar (think John Malecki when he committed or Greg Romeus).

2) They were under rated because they didn't go to the right showcases or didn't perform well at them or play in a bad conference or are undersized (Scott McKillop, LaRod Stephens-Howling and Rob Petitti come to mind).

3) They aren't good enough to play in one of the six major BCS conferences and probably would be average players even in the MAC (names have been withheld to protect the innocent).

For Pitt's sake, let's hope that most of these guys fit into the first two categories and not the third.

The second "recruit" was Zach Brown who transferred from Wisconsin and will have one year - this year because he graduated from Wisconsin and enrolled in Pitt's graduate school -- of eligibility remaining. Brown is 5-10, 219 pounds and if nothing else, he gives Pitt some much-needed running back depth. In three years with the Badgers (he redshirtted last season) he rushed for 1,152 yards and 11 touchdowns. He averaged 4.8 yards per carry.

Brown is from Royal Palm Beach Florida and was a highly recruited and highly ranked player coming out of high school. He had a lot of scholarship offers - including one from Pitt - but chose Wisconsin. He is the fourth player to transfer to Pitt, fifth if you count Ejuan Price who signed with Ohio State but was granted his release and enrolled at Pitt.

Brown's arrival should help Pitt tremendously because it gives them an experienced back-up to Ray Graham. Remember, there was not one scholarship running back other than Graham on Pitt's roster in the spring so the entire depth chart behind him was going to be filled by incoming freshmen - and even if all four were not truly ready to play this year, at least one would have been forced into the major role as Pitt's second running back.

Now, at least Pitt has a guy at this position who has proven he can play at this high of a level and the coaches will have the luxury of bringing the freshmen along at whatever pace they can handle.

***** For Pitt hoops fans - I caught some of the games at the Greentree summer league the past two weeks and my impression of Khem Birch is this - he has NBA talent, he has NBA athleticism and he has an NBA frame. He clearly will be a factor on defense, he is a shot eraser and with his athleticism he will be able to block and change shots of anyone who challenges him. Offensively he is a little raw but that will come. The biggest thing to me, though, is he is very thin and needs to get into Jamie Dixon's fabulous strength and conditioning program to put some pounds on and get physically stronger. Once he does that, the sky is clearly the limit for him. I talked with an NBA scout the other day - I called before the draft to find out about the draft prospects of Pitt, Duquesne and Robert Morris -- and I casually mentioned Birch and the scout told me "he is definitely an NBA player and I don't expect him to play more than two years at Pitt". It is just something to see.

Another freshman, however - John Johnson - has become somewhat of a fan favorite and for good reason - he has put on quite a show in some games up there. Johnson is exactly what Pitt needs - a guy who can create his own offense, can score without the benefit of a pick or some play being called for him and he has some flair, a little trash talking to him and he can get to the rim against anyone I've seen try to guard him. But - and there is always a but - as exciting as he is to watch, I wonder how he will fit in with Dixon's system, which is fairly rigid and features a lot of sets and plays being called on almost every possession. There is very little freelancing going on and Dixon prefers players who fit into his system, runs his offense and I'm not sure how much he'll allow Johnson to shine in a way he seems capable of.

And my early impressions of J.J. Moore are that I was far more excited about him last year than this year and mostly because he took the summer league by storm in much the way Johnson has this year. Moore could score, seemingly at will, could shoot from 24 feet and drain them, dribble past his guy and score almost at will and dunk the ball on guys who stepped in his way. This year, his shot looks off, he isn't driving as much.

It is early, though, so I am sure he will get better as the summer moves on and will start to resemble the guy he was last year and that is an important thing to watch because I really believe this - if Pitt wants to finally get over the hump and get to a Final Four, they are going to need Moore to be that offensive force he seemingly has the talent to be. Moore has an offensive skill set that nobody else on that team has - particularly at his size -- because he isn't a one-dimensional offensive player.

Like I wrote, he can drive, he can shoot, he can create his own shot and if he gets it in gear, Pitt will again contend for the Big East title and enter the NCAA Tournament as a high seed with a chance to get to the Final Four. Obviously Dante Taylor taking the next step is also an important factor for Pitt's outlook this year, but with Birch able to step in right now and, at least, defend at a high level that is less important than Moore becoming a more assertive offensive player.

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