Sunday, September 23, 2007

Former NBA Coach/GM Versace Running for Congress

It had been rumored - since mid summer - that former NBA coach/broadcaster/General Manager Dick Versace was interested in running for the Congressional seat that will soon be vacated by Rep. Ray LaHood. In July, the venerable LaHood (R-IL), announced his plans to retire from his position as Representative for the 18th Congressional District (central Illinois). LaHood will serve out his current term.

Well, the rumors were true. Dick Versace has announced that he will, indeed, run for Congress, as a Democrat, in the 18th District. The flamboyant Versace was the head basketball coach at Bradley University before moving on to coach the Indiana Pacers and Detroit Pistons in the NBA. Vercace later served as the General Manager for the Vancouver/Memphis Grizzlies.

This should be fun to watch. I like Versace, but I'm not sure how he'll be viewed by the voters of the 18th District. When he was coaching at Bradley (in Peoria, IL), folks around Peoria often criticized Versace for being too "slick," and too much of a Chicago guy.

Despite his employment in downstate Peoria, Versace maintained his primary residence in Chicago. He did have a home in Peoria, but he spent most of his free time - and most of the off season - living it up in the big city. Downstate Illinois folks didn't exactly cotton to that.

Dick Versace is a fun, big city guy, with a double-sized personality. He was masterful at selling his basketball program - both in the recruitment of players and in his dealings/relations with the media. A career in politics seems like a good fit for Versace, because the guy's a natural at selling himself. However, it remains to bee seen if downstate voters will buy his act.

Friday, September 14, 2007

The Illinois Falling Illini

Just two and a half years removed from appearing in the Final Four and playing North Carolina for the National Championship, the University of Illinois' men's basketball program is in free fall. Never before have I seen a major program drop off the map so quickly (without being sanctioned by the NCAA). Mike DeCourcey writes about the Illini's falling fortunes in the Sporting News.