Just last Thursday night, I was watching the NCAA tournament and watching my bracket start to burn into ashes. After I was finished crying about not winning any of my money pools, I decided to start messing around on Twitter.
I started visiting the timelines of some people I follow and somehow landed on Bomani Jones' page. If you don't know who Bomani Jones is, he appears on ESPN's First Take, Dan LeBatard show and most famously, Around the Horn. He also took a trip down to Duke with Hurricanes legend, Warren Sapp for the game against the 'Canes.
Anyway, I couldn't help but to start reading his bio, and as I finished, I noticed that there was a contact link at the end.
I clicked the link and it sent me to this automated email link, and I had to fill out an application looking thing. I mentioned the potential interview about the Hurricanes season and the NCAA tournament as a whole, but I just didn't think much of it and went to sleep.
I woke up Friday morning and I began to get ready for my 9 AM class. I grabbed my IPhone to check my email and amongst the daily emails I get from YouTube and NBA.com. I couldn't help but click immediately to the one that read "Bomani Jones". I was expecting a "I'm sorry, I can't" type email, but I was wrong. When I finally opened the email, I see that Bomani is asking me when I'm available to talk because he was actually heading down to Miami. We got in contact through text messaging and we agreed to meet up Tuesday afternoon.
On Monday night, I started getting my questions ready and I started watching his spree cast, "The Evening Jones". As I'm listening I hear him talking about how in the hotel he's staying, you must go to the 25th floor and then take another elevator to be able to go up or down to the floor you desire. I couldn't help but laugh, but when I got to the hotel, the elevator only has four options to pick from. They were lobby, 2nd, 3rd or 25th floor. Unfortunately for me, there was people in the elevator so I sort of panicked and clicked the 2nd floor, but the kind people refreshed my memory of how the elevator works. I finally made my way to his floor, but let me tell you, Bomani was not kidding. That was the weirdest thing I've ever seen in a hotel.
Anyway, I finally got to floor 16 and knocked on his door and once I was inside, I waited for him to get off the phone to start the conversation.
After we got through talking about how weird that hotel was, we started talking about sports. We talked some Miami Heat stuff, because that's the talk of the sports world. Well, besides Dunk City, Fort Myers, Florida. I began asking him about his time at SBNation and pretty much all the other gigs he's had. He gave me a pretty detailed timeline of how everything in his life has transpired and it was pretty cool. I began to tell him my plans for the future, and even talked about some smart college decisions. Heck, we even talked about how good of a baseball player I was as a kid.
After we continued our talk about other sports, I figured I should stop hogging up his time and start asking him my questions. That didn't take place for like another twenty minutes, so keep on reading.
The conversation kept going and the inner-fan in me could not help but ask about the famous championship belt he would hold up when he won a showdown on Around The Horn. He broke the news and told me he had given it away to a fan in Atlanta. I was a little saddened at the time, but I'll be fine eventually.
We finally ended our non-interview conversation, but not before we talked about the great city of Miami. The craziest thing to me was that, it was his first time here in Miami. We talked a little Ozzie Guillen, Hugo Chavez and yeah, we even touched some Frank Haith stuff. Clearly, I can't get into the details of those conversations.
The clock finally hit about 5:30 and I remembered why I was there in the first place. The interview. I know you all enjoyed the fascinating hotel story and the day I had, but we also touched some great things about the NCAA tournament and the historic season this Hurricanes hoops team is having.
Okay Bomani, let's kick this thing off:
With the first three rounds of the tournament in the books, which game(s) have caught your attention the most?
Well, it's hard to come back and watch college basketball games after you've watched a lot of NBA games, but the Butler-Marquette game was really good. I thought the Iowa State-Ohio State game was also really good. I saw that game on the plane up until we had to take off. I got to see the Aaron Craft charge, but missed the Aaron Craft three. Those two games off the top of my head, were really good, entertaining games. You know, the first round it's hard to get a good game, but in the second round you start to see the big upsets and better games, but those two were the ones that I enjoyed the most.
What was it like to be in the building for the Duke-Miami game? You know, the one you famously went with Warren Sapp.
Well, the most interesting part was, Frank Haith did a lot of recruiting in North Carolina because he's from North Carolina, but I really didn't think about it until I got to the game. Behind behind Miami's bench, meant being around a lot of the Miami players' families. There was a guy who played a mentor role for Julian Gamble next to me, and then some of his buddies were behind me. Reggie Johnson had some people there, too. It was really interesting in the sense that it was sort of like a home game for those guys, which is something that people forget. It's always good to go to a big Duke game. When that place is going, it's going and Miami really had that place going.
Going with Sapp was interesting because, hey, to people I don't get on TV unless it's with Warren Sapp. People sent me texts telling me I was on TV and I was like, man, I'm on TV 3-4 times a week, but this time I was on TV with Warren Sapp so it's different. It was really fun. It was as great of an atmosphere as any non Duke-Carolina game would get.
Well, since we're on the Warren Sapp subject. I think I speak for most 'Canes fans when I say we're huge Warren Sapp fans. What's he like to be around?
I love Warren Sapp. Every time I talk to Sapp it's a whole lot of laughing and he's one of those guys that is so much smarter than people give him credit of being. I always find out about insightful stuff from him that I didn't necessarily think of and I think to myself, this guy has a point. He's one of my guys and I don't have a single bad word to say about Warren Sapp.
Earlier we talked about Frank Haith, what do you think about the coaching job, Coach Larranaga has done these last two season?
Well, I think Larranaga is a really good coach. It'll be interesting to see who comes in when and why during the course of the program. I like when people mention just how old Miami is and that does matter, but they play together and they play unselfish. They found out what works best with Shane Larkin, although they have to adjust with the high-ball screen, because people are starting to trap and it's getting a little rough. I wonder what Haith would have done with this group, because he lets his guard play a little more freely, but Larranga is doing close to the game, but he's also done it with more structure than Haith.
It's really hard to argue what Larranaga has done this season.
It's no mystery now that Shane Larkin is considering entering the NBA draft. What do you see from Larkin as a player, and do you think entering the draft is the right move?
His poise is the thing that strikes me the most. We talk about this Miami team as being grown, but Shane Larkin is not grown, but he's become the leader of that team. There's something to be said by that. He does a great job at getting guys shots, and he does a nice job at getting to the rim.
The only question I have with him, as it relates to the NBA, is that there is so much high-ball screen action and like Jeremy Lin showed us last season, the league is full of guys that if you let them run ball screens all the time, they can be successful. But my question with Larkin is, what about the other stuff? I haven't seen much of that from Larkin. Now if a team is willing to take him in the first round, I would expect him to be in the draft. If he's not projected to be a lottery pick, there's a good chance he'll be back.
What does Miami have to do to make it to the final four and ultimately win the national championship?
The thing that worries me is, what are they going to get from the guys inside? As big as Kenny Kadji is, Kadji likes to float and Julian Gamble is not really a guy you just pump the ball into inside and watch him go to work. And now the Reggie Johnson we all know is not going to be there. So, I wonder if they'll be able to keep getting good, close shots. You don't want get caught up just shooting a bunch of jump shots, or waiting for Larkin to get into the lane and hoping he can get to the rim. You need to be able to get good shots and somebody other than Shane Larkin needs to be able to do that.
Finally, with five seniors and Shane Larkin possibly entering the draft, what does Coach Larranaga have to do to bring in some top recruits and keep the program moving in the right direction?
Well usually recruiting goes through your assistants, as they're the ones that do the heavy lifting. But look, he's a sincere guy, he clearly knows how to deal with his players which is something that can clearly push him over the top. There's no comparison between recruiting at George Mason and in Miami. It's totally different. Miami has been interesting now and I always felt there was this great untapped potential and there is something Larranaga has now in Miami, that no other coach has ever had in Miami and that's the Miami Heat. Suddenly this city relates to basketball and when you have LeBron James and Dwyane Wade coming to games, you got a pretty good chance at getting players.
Well, I personally want to thank Bomani Jones for giving me the opportunity to sit down with him and not just conduct my interview, but to spend some of his day with me talking sports and sharing advice. He kept mentioning that he's just a regular guy to me, and as time went on, I noticed that more and more. You can check out Bomani Jones on Twitter @Bomani_Jones and on his website www.bomanijones.com