NCAA report: Former Pitino assistant just talks hoops

Detroit News wire services
Kevin Keatts

Former Louisville assistant Kevin Keatts is getting ready to take on Duke in the NCAA Tournament again.

This time he’s doing it as coach of N.C. Wilmington while Rick Pitino and the Cardinals watch the action from Louisville, Ky.

Keatts is preparing his 13th-seeded Seahawks (25-7) to try and upset the fourth-seeded Blue Devils (23-10) on Thursday in the first round of the West Regional in Providence, R.I.

His former employer is sitting this one out after a self-imposed postseason ban amid an ongoing investigation into a sex scandal involving escorts.

Keatts — on Pitino’s staff from 2011-14 — was not mentioned in a book written by escort Katina Powell, who says a former member of Pitino’s staff, Andre McGee, paid her and other dancers to strip and have sex with recruits and players at Billy Minardi Hall on Louisville’s campus.

Keatts said he hasn’t had any conversations with anybody about the investigation and declined comment on the situation at Louisville because “it wouldn’t be fair.”

Keatts said after UNC Wilmington won the CAA Tournament, he received a congratulatory text message from Pitino.

“He and I, when we do talk, we talk about basketball,” Keatts said. “That’s all we really are focused on.”

Kruger still looks to add title to accomplishments

Oklahoma’s Lon Kruger has done about everything in his stellar college coaching career except win a national championship.

He has guided five programs to the NCAA Tournament, among them a Kansas State team that made it to the 1998 Elite Eight, Florida to the Final Four in 1994, UNLV to the Sweet 16 in 2007 and Oklahoma to the Sweet 16 last year.

This high-scoring Oklahoma squad gives Kruger, 63, perhaps his best shot at winning it all.

“It’s a great time of year, and we are excited about the opportunity that lies ahead,” Kruger said.

Coaching carousel works for Smart and his proteges

One year after they were linked in the offseason coaching carousel, Texas, Virginia Commonwealth and Chattanooga have something else in common: All three are in the NCAA Tournament with their new staffs.

Texas hired Shaka Smart away from Virginia Commonwealth last April. Virginia Commonwealth replaced Smart with Will Wade, a former Virginia Commonwealth assistant who had spent the last two seasons as Chattanooga’s coach. Chattanooga hired Matt McCall, a former Florida assistant.

And everyone is happy.

“I was more nervous watching them than I am when we play,” Wade said of Chattanooga. “My wife almost had to leave the room because I was yelling at the TV so much.”

Blue Devils are down to their last Plumlee

When Marshall Plumlee was a high school student at Christ School near Asheville, N.C., he would offer friends quite the trade: a ticket to a Duke basketball game in exchange for a ride to Durham, N.C.

As a Duke recruit and little brother to Blue Devils players Miles and Mason, Plumlee had no problem securing tickets. Marshall wasn’t immediately convinced he wanted to join his brothers at Duke.

“Duke is a premiere program, and we didn’t want him to be at a place that maybe was where he shouldn’t be,” said his father, Perky Plumlee. “It was all about what’s the right fit.”

After five years at Duke, there’s no question the match has benefited the Blue Devils and Marshall. This season, he’s averaged 30.6 minutes (34.9 in the Atlantic Coast Conference), averaging 8.2 points and 8.6 rebounds.

“If you list reasons for us being successful and a tournament team, you would have to put him at the top,” Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski said. “There is no replacement for him.”