Greg Eno

Posts Tagged ‘Oakland University’

Never short on candor, OU’s Kampe again has team set up for some March Madness

In College Basketball on March 4, 2016 at 7:50 pm

If coaches’ words were food, most of them would be processed chicken nuggets—filled with preservatives and churned out of a machine in the same size and shape. Each nugget looks and tastes like its predecessor, and will look and taste like the next one.

If Greg Kampe’s words were food, they’d be Thai stir-fry: spicy, eclectic and bursting with flavor. And all natural ingredients.

If you like your interviews to be antiseptic and predictable—where you can pretty much fill in the answer even before you ask the question—then don’t bother talking to Greg Kampe.

Kampe, Oakland University’s brutally honest men’s basketball coach, speaks without a filter. His words don’t come pre-processed. He takes being candid to the next level. With Kampe, the bare minimum you’ll get is candor. Often, you’ll get a little more.

Kampe is like the lyric from that song, “Oh Well.”

“Don’t ask me what I think of you; I might not give the answer that you want me to.”

I long knew about Kampe’s reputation for telling it like it is, but I experienced it firsthand last summer, when Kampe appeared as a guest on “The Knee Jerks” podcast with Al Beaton and me.

Al and I found out how Kampe ended up at the OU campus thanks to Notre Dame coach Digger Phelps’ white lie; that Kampe once turned down an NBA assistant’s opportunity; his second thoughts on upgrading the Golden Grizzlies program from Division II to Division I; and his thoughts on Oakland’s bitter rivalry with Detroit Mercy.

Ah, that last one.

For years, Oakland played in the Summit League. So despite the University of Detroit-Mercy being a mere 40-minute drive down I-75 from the OU campus, Kampe could never get the Titans to play his kids in a non-conference tilt. UDM played in the Horizon League—and still does.

But a few years ago, OU left the Summit League and entered the Horizon League, and now UDM can’t avoid Oakland anymore.

I asked Kampe last summer, “Do you think that [UDM] was avoiding you?”

He chuckled and said, incredulously, “Do I THINK?”

Of course!

But the Titans can’t avoid the Golden Grizzlies any longer, no matter how much the good fathers at UDM would like to do so.

Last Friday, Kampe’s kids blasted the Titans, 108-97, notching their sixth victory over UDM in the last seven meetings.

The win was more than just for rivalry purposes; it vaulted OU into a double-bye in the Horizon League Tournament, which gets underway tomorrow.

This means that OU can sit back and watch eight other teams duke it out this weekend for two rounds, before returning to action on Monday, automatically in the tournament’s semi-final.

But about that rivalry with UDM: Kampe makes no bones about it—he loves beating the tar out of the Titans. And who can blame him? He has a lot of catching up to do, after all those years when UDM would refuse to put Oakland on its schedule.

Speaking on the radio in the week leading up to last Friday’s game against Detroit, Kampe freely admitted that he makes a big deal out of the UDM game with his players.

He said that even though Oakland has dominated the series lately, he wants his kids to remember that one game that OU lost.

“I don’t want them to forget what that felt like,” Kampe said.

And what would he be like if OU lost last Friday?

“I’m already not a very nice guy, but I’d be even less nice,” Kampe said.

Well, not to worry, because Oakland again dispatched of UDM, thus paving a much easier path to the league tournament championship.

This year’s Golden Grizzlies squad is led by guard Kay Felder, who was named Horizon League Player of the Year. Felder scored 26 points in Oakland’s latest win over UDM.

felder-kampe

Kampe unabashedly calls Felder the best player he’s coached at OU.

Last summer, Kampe told us on the podcast that, what the hell—he’ll say it: Kay Felder is the best player he’s ever coached.

And Kampe has been prowling the sidelines in Rochester for 31 years.

Oakland, which has made several appearances in the NCAA’s “big dance” in March in years past, hasn’t slowed down one iota since the 2013 switch from the Summit League to the Horizon League—whose teams have had their share of March Madness success in the past.

This year’s OU team finished the regular season 21-10 (13-5 conference) and you’d be a fool to bet against them in the tournament, even though they’re the no. 2 seed, behind Valparaiso, which did indeed beat OU twice this season.

Two years ago, Kampe had Travis Bader, who broke the all-time NCAA record for career three-pointers made, a record formerly held by Duke star—and current NBA player—J.J. Redick.

But Felder, a 5’9″ dynamo from, ironically, Detroit, blows Bader and every other player that Kampe has coached, out of the water.

Felder averaged nearly a double-double this season—24.4 points and 9.4 assists per game. He also chipped in with 2.0 steals per game, all while limiting his turnovers to just 3.4 per game, in about 36 minutes of action every night.

Felder’s FG percentage has risen steadily, as well—from 40.2 to 42.2 to 44.5 over the past three seasons.

And he’s a junior. The odds are he’ll stay at OU for his senior year, but several NBA observers look at Felder as a second round pick, at least, should he declare.

As for Kampe, he’ll be at Joe Louis Arena this weekend, watching the lower seeds battle, taking inventory as to what awaits his team on Monday night.

And if you see the coach there, don’t ask him anything if you can’t handle the truth.

Shooting the Three-Ball Might Still Preserve Bader’s NBA Dream

In Basketball on June 29, 2014 at 4:22 am

The question, I suppose, was fitting, because Travis Bader seems to like to do things in threes.

“They asked me what three celebrities I’d like to have dinner with,” Bader told Al Beaton, Adam Biggers and me on the latest episode of “The Knee Jerks” podcast last Sunday.

The “they” were a consortium of NBA scouts and coaches. The reason for such a question was the NBA’s version of the NFL combine, particularly the portion where the draft hopefuls are taken away from the court, away from the workouts, and interviewed one-on-one.

So how did Bader answer the celebrity dinner trio question?

“I can’t remember all three,” Bader said. “But I know Bill Gates was one, so I could appear smart.”

Three is Bader’s favorite number. He wore it on his jersey at Oakland University, and he made a college career out of 3, including setting a new all-time NCAA record for triples, breaking the mark set by Duke’s J.J. Redick.

Everyone knows Bader can drain a trey, so there was more to explore about the shooting guard when he had his 11 workouts for 13 NBA teams over the past several weeks.

Hence the oddball questions.

“They also asked me, ‘What does two plus two mean to you?’,” Bader told us on the podcast.

And?

“I said four.”

Fair enough.

When we cornered Bader on the phone, the NBA Draft had yet to occur. It was four days away, and at the time there was hope that somehow, some way, Bader would be selected in the two-round, 60-player process.

He wasn’t, but that’s OK.

That’s not the end of his NBA dream.

That he has gotten this far is a testament of sorts.

Bader’s dad was closely tied to the Michigan State University basketball program, and because of that connection, an adolescent Bader got to hang around the Spartans and coach Tom Izzo.

“Coach Izzo was great. He’d let me hang out at practice, shooting for hours,” Bader recalled. “I traveled with the team. I went to Sweet Sixteens and Final Fours.”

But despite Bader’s up close-and-personal relationship with the Spartans program, there was no real interest by Izzo from a recruitment standpoint. And Bader doesn’t blame the coach one iota.

“Whenever people suggest that Coach Izzo let me ‘get away,’ I always laugh,” Bader said. “I wasn’t very impressive coming out of high school. I was six-foot-two, 165 pounds.”

But one coach did see something in Bader.

Greg Kampe has won over 500 games, all at Oakland. He has built a program that flies under the radar but which has been very competitive over the past decade especially. And Kampe went after Bader, the skinny shooting guard from Okemos.

“Coach Kampe has been amazing to me,” Bader said. “He was the only one to offer me a Divison-I scholarship. He saw something in me that nobody else did. He’s very honest. When he says something, he means it.”

After Kampe recruited him, Bader grew a tad (he’s six-foot-five now), filled out some, and became perhaps the best player in Golden Grizzlies history, though Keith Benson, who has played in the NBA, is also in the conversation.

As Bader grinded his way through college, the three-pointers started raining down.

They kept coming to the tune of 504 in 1,246 attempts, which is not only an NCAA career mark for triples made, but Bader did so by making them at a 40 percent clip, which is another impressive stat.

The obvious question we had for Bader on “The Knee Jerks” was, “Was there any team that impressed you the most during the workout process?”

His answer was diplomatic but understandable.

“You know what? Not really. Every team treats you well. They put you up in nice hotels, give you a food stipend. I just want to be drafted.

“I’ll be a practice player, if that’s what teams want,” he added.

OK, so the guy can shoot, but what else does he bring to the table? I wanted to know why an NBA team should take a flyer on Travis Bader, according to Travis Bader.

“Well I’m a team player. I believe in the team. It’s not about me. My work ethic. But the idea is to put the ball in the hole. And that’s my real strength.”

The NBA game today is played so close to the three-point line, and so often. The most prolific three-point shooters aren’t just little guys. Big men are stepping behind the line with dizzying frequency. Whether you choose to call it The Dirk Nowitzki Effect or not, the fact is that being proficient as a long-range shooter is a very important weapon to have, no matter if you’re six-foot-two or nearly seven-feet tall.

But Bader knows that he can’t make the NBA on outside shooting alone.

“I’ve been working hard on my defense,” he told us on Sunday. “I want to show teams that I can defend multiple players and positions.”

But let’s face it. Bader’s real appeal is that three-point gun he carries in his holster.

So the NBA dream lives on, despite Bader going undrafted on Thursday night.

Just today, it was announced that Bader will play for Philadelphia and Golden State in two separate summer leagues next month.

“Travis thought it was the best-case scenario for each league,” coach Kampe told the Oakland Press. “He felt like each team was the best fit for each camp.”

After the draft, Bader texted me and said that six NBA teams were showing high interest in him and had already reached out to his agent.

Is one of them the Pistons, who are in dire need of outside shooting?

Not sure, but Bader listed the Pistons as one of his best workouts.

“To be honest, I’ve been thinking about the NBA since my sophomore year (at Oakland),” Bader told us.

Bader, who literally wore 3 on his chest at Oakland, could still find his way onto an NBA roster.

“The NBA is full of great, great players and specialists. He’s a specialist. Everybody needs a shooter,” Kampe said.

Kampe’s “Stay at Home” Approach at OU Has Worked for 30 Years—and Counting

In College Basketball on December 28, 2013 at 9:44 pm

The third-longest currently tenured college basketball coach in Division I runs his program off exit 79 on I-75, about 40 minutes north of Detroit. It’s not the tony campus of upstate New York, or the basketball beltway that is Durham, but only Jimmy Boeheim at Syracuse and Mike Krzyzewski at Duke, respectively, have presided over their basketball teams longer than Greg Kampe has at Oakland University.

Kampe is in year 30 coaching his kids in Rochester Hills, and in a business where the coach is always looking, it seems, for his next ticket to be punched, to be at one institution of higher learning for as long as Kampe has been, is nothing short of remarkable.

Especially when the coach could have flown the coop years ago, and many times over since.

Kampe doesn’t project the typical image of a basketball coach. First, he is shaped more like a basketball itself—kind of like a Rick Majerus or Frank Layden type, when most of Kampe’s brethren are lean, mean and tall. Kampe is none of those—especially the mean part.

Last winter, Kampe scored his 500th career win at OU. It came, fittingly, at home. Kampe himself said so.

“The thing I’m most proud of,” Kampe said, fighting back tears during a post-game, on-court interview by Fox Sports Detroit, “is that all 500 came (at OU). That means a lot to me.”

Indeed.

Coaches who begin to achieve milestones in victories at the college level usually do so in piecemeal fashion—75 at this school here, 125 at that school over there, another 100 on yet another campus.

But Kampe chose to keep true to his roots at OU.

The administrators at Oakland have done well to keep Kampe as their coach, because all he seems to do there is win.

In 20 of the 29 seasons prior to this one, Kampe’s OU teams have finished with winning records. On 10 occasions, the win total was 20 or better. In 2005, Kampe led the Golden Grizzlies to their first and only—to date—win in the NCAA Tournament.

It all adds up to a career winning percentage of .580, and it’s not like Kampe has blue chip players pulling up to his campus in Rolls Royces.

Not that OU is a dog when it comes to the college experience. I ought to know; my daughter is a sophomore there.

The campus itself is sprawling enough to remind you that you’re in college, but homey enough to not be intimidating. The O-Rena, where the Golden Grizzlies play hoops, is a relatively new facility that can be used as a recruiting tool shamelessly, and with great pride.

Still, it wouldn’t be a knock on OU to say that Kampe isn’t exactly getting the pick of the litter when he recruits. Kampe has to work and scrap for every kid he gets, especially considering the competition he’s up against are all a day’s drive, or less, from his campus—and which carry names like U-M, MSU and all the “directional” state schools (EMU, CMU, WMU).

Then there’s the University of Detroit Mercy.

The Titans can’t duck Kampe’s teams anymore.

UDM is a short bus ride away from OU. The kids can’t even get through more than a few songs on their iPod before it’s time to get off and unload.

Yet the Titans have hardly made it a priority to schedule OU over the years.

“They won’t play us,” Kampe muttered several years ago about the Titans program.

Well, UDM can’t duck the Golden Grizzlies any longer, because this season, OU moved to the Horizon League after playing in the Summit League for 15 years.

The Horizon League is the same conference that UDM has played in for over three decades.

Finally, we will be treated to annual Golden Grizzlies-Titans match-ups—whether the good fathers at UDM want them or not.

Kampe wins, and has been winning, by coaching up kids that the so-called “bigger” schools didn’t want—to the tune of 506 career victories, and counting.

He calls Waterford Township home, and that doesn’t look like it’s going to change anytime soon. Kampe is 21st among active D-I coaches in victories, and the fact that he takes so much pride in that all 506—so far—have come at one place, shows you where his heart lies.

Part of the impetus for OU shifting to the Horizon League, where such basketball-rich schools as Butler, Marquette, and Loyola once played for many years, was that there was, frankly, nothing left to prove in the Summit League.

Kampe’s kids have owned the Summit. He was the conference’s Coach of the Year four times. From 2009-2011, the Golden Grizzlies went 34-2 in conference play—easily the best in the nation during that three-year period.

In Oakland’s last 88 games in the Summit League, the Golden Grizzlies won 70 of them, including a winning streak of 20 games.

Now it’s on to another challenge, playing in the Horizon.

While all that winning has garnered little in terms of national recognition, Kampe has tried to put OU on the map by being fearless in his scheduling.

Every year, Oakland shows up on the schedules of some of the best basketball schools in the country. Goliath always wins, but sometimes David gives them a scare. And no one thinks of a game against Oakland as a joke.

Just ask Tom Izzo, a good friend of Kampe’s. A couple weeks ago, Izzo’s MSU Spartans escaped Oakland by a few points at the Palace.

Coming up a tad shy to the Spartans (67-63), though, was little consolation to Coach Kampe.

“There are no moral victories here at Oakland,” Kampe told the Associated Press after the MSU loss. “We passed that point of being close long ago. We were close again and just couldn’t beat them.”

Still, the faring against MSU was impressive, considering that OU had gotten off to a rotten—and very un-Oakland-like—1-8 start this season.

Greg Kampe was won over 500 games at Oakland and, at 58 years old, there are possibly a couple hundred more wins in the tank—and likely all will be in Rochester Hills.

“We have a quality program that turns out talented student-athletes,” Kampe says on OU’s website for basketball. “We try to do things the right way with good people who receive a good education and then go out into the world and have success after basketball.

“That’s what our mission is.”

Mission accomplished, and will continue to be so, as long as Kampe sticks around. If he hasn’t left by now, he likely never will—until Father Time says otherwise.

UDM, Once Fearless, Ducks Even Oakland U. Nowadays

In College Basketball on March 11, 2009 at 7:59 pm

“UDM sits right smack in the very city that produces some of the finest high school players in the entire Midwest, yet they wallow. Have been, with few interludes of success, since the mid-1980s.”

 

There was a time when the University of Detroit (before they added the Mercy part to their name) wasn’t a-scared of anybody, when it came to basketball opponents.

Powerhouse DePaul? Bring it on! Marquette, on the road? When does the bus leave? Michigan? Just name the time and the place!

That was a long, long time ago.

U-D is now UDM. They added an “M”, but lost their nerve.

Why, UDM won’t even play Oakland University, some 30 miles or so north.

It’s not the travel, of course — it’s the quality of the Golden Grizzlies.

UDM is ducking OU. Has been for years.

Oakland coach Greg Kampe was chatting with some Internet fans the other day, and portions of the chat were printed by the Free Press.

Who, Kampe was asked, is Oakland’s biggest rival?

“It should be the University of Detroit-Mercy,” Kampe said. “But they won’t play us. So it’s Oral Roberts.”

Oral Roberts plays in Oakland’s league, in case you were wondering. Which is more than you can say about UDM.

UDM doesn’t play in many people’s league anymore. They’re officially a member of the Horizon League, with schools like Cleveland State (who just won the league tournament) and Butler and Wisconsins of Green Bay and Milwaukee. It’s not a bad little league, actually; Cleveland State and Butler have caused other teams fits in basketball over the years.

So did U-D/UDM, once upon a time.

U-D had Dave DeBusschere and Spencer Haywood in the 1960s, and Terry Tyler and John Long and Terry Duerod in the 1970s. And it was no picnic playing the Titans — especially in that glorified high school gymnasium called Calihan Hall.

The Titans still play in old, decrepit Calihan, and their team hasn’t caused any trouble for too long. The 2008-09 season that the Titans just completed was another cautionary tale of a campaign: 7-23 overall; 2-17 in league play.

No wonder they’re ducking Oakland U.

Dickie Vitale and Dave “Smokey” Gaines and even Don Sicko must be horrified at the notion that UDM won’t play Oakland — not because OU is small potatoes, but because the Titans might very likely get their tails handed to them if they dared play Greg Kampe’s kids.

Kampe has Oakland on a great upward path. They win a lot up there, and for a school of its size, OU puts a very competitive team on the floor, year after year.

UDM sits right smack in the very city that produces some of the finest high school players in the entire Midwest, yet they wallow. Have been, with few interludes of success, since the mid-1980s.

Now they won’t even hop on a bus for 45 minutes to play Oakland, nor will they host them, thus robbing OU of its biggest rival, according to Coach Kampe.

I remember watching the ’76-’77 Titans march into the old Mecca in Milwaukee and take on Marquette — who would be eventual NCAA champions in coach Al McGuire’s farewell season. Both teams were independents at the time, and the game had been scheduled at the behest of Vitale, who wanted his team to play as many top-notch programs as possible.

U-D won, in a game televised back home to Detroit, and Dickie V. did a jig at center court as he was being interviewed after the game. No joke — he danced, he was so happy.

That was back when U-D/UDM feared no team in no arena.

Now Greg Kampe can’t get the Titans on the court, nowhere, no how.

Times sure have changed — even for a team whose home gym hasn’t since the 1960s.

UDM, ducking Oakland University? The shame of it all.