A FEW THOUGHTS0-for-4.That would be my Final Four predictions. I thought I was fairly safe going all chalk with Duke, Arizona, Kansas and UCLA. Guess not. But I’ve never been very good at this prediction business.So what can I can I tell you about this upcoming Final Four that you don’t already know? It’s Roy Williams’ ninth, but you probably already knew that. The other three are all first-timers, or, as the Brits would say, debutants. It’s been a long road for Oregon’s Dana Altman, this being his 28th season. For Mark Few it’s a final vindication of a spectacular coaching career that should send him some day to Springfield where he can make a Hall of Fame acceptance speech. He is 18-for-18 in NCAA tournament appearances since succeeding Don Monson for the 1999-2000 season, but this is Gonzaga’s first time past the Elite Eight.Frank Martin? Or, should we say Francisco Jose Martin? H’s only had to wait 10 years for this great national exposure. He has a great back story of being a second-generation Cuban-American raised by a resilient single mom. plus a high school coaching career that brought him state titles and heaps of scorn over alleged recruiting improprieties. And then I find out he spent four years under my nose as an assistant at Northeastern and I never met him. My bad. I will say he has carried himself magnificently this week.By the way, Roy’s lifetime record ain’t bad, either. How does 814-216 (.790) sound?I have nothing against Carolina, Oregon or South Carolina, but I shall root unabashedly for Gonzaga. I just think that what Few has accomplished at that school is one of the great coaching achievements of all-time, and I would be really cool if that institution could get one title for a deserving school and fan base. The Few numbers really are staggering. When the Bulldogs take the floor on Saturday his coaching record will stand at 501-118, which is a gaudy .818 winning percentage. The Zags have won 20 or more every year of his tenure.For those of you keeping score at home, Gonzaga is bidding to become the eighth Catholic university to win the NCAA title. They are the 15th Catholic school to reach the stage we now know as the Final Four. And they are the seventh Jesuit school to do so. This is really apropos of nothing, except that I was hunting for something fresh to impress you with.OK, I can’t leave you hanging: the seven Catholic school champs are San Francisco (Jesuit), Villanova, Georgetown (Jesuit), Holy Cross, LaSalle, Loyola of Chicago (Jesuit) and Marquette (Jesuit). The Final Four participants are St. John’s, St. Joe’s (Jesuit), St. Bonaventure, Providence, Seton Hall, Seattle (Jesuit) and, oh yes, Notre Dame. Perhaps this info will come in handy at your next cocktail party.I’m sure it has seemed like a very long 360-some odd days for Williams and his returning players since their last trip to the Final Four. They will forever carry around the dual memories of the Marcus Paige double-clutch three that appeared to have sent them into overtime in the championship game and the answering three-pointer by Kris Jenkins that wiped the smiles off Tarheel faces everywhere and placed them on the faces of Villanova Wildcats the world over.So there’s no doubt Carolina will be supremely motivated, perhaps more than the other three schools put together. Unfinished Business is a powerful motivator.But I don’t know that for sure, and you don’t, either. Surely, Gonzaga, with its 36-1 record and the heady feeling of having been ranked number one earlier in the season, has a very strong sense of purpose. The Zags carry the weight of 21st century history with them. Oregon likewise expected big things for this season. I was a bit surprised when I hauled out my Blue Ribbon Magazine prior to the tournament and was reminded that the greatest pre-season basketball mag of all-time picked the Ducks number 2 (behind Duke). The Zags were #16. And yet I think Oregon may already feel, you know, fulfilled.Of course, with regard to South Carolina, no one would ever cop to a “We are just happy to be here” attitude at a Final Four, but if ever there was a team that has already given itself, its coach and its fans far more than they could possibly have imagined, it is this 26-10 South Carolina team some thought was undeserving of a tournament bid to begin with. Come to think about it, once upon a time a team from not too far away from Columbia, South Carolina, lurched into the tournament and then won six extraordinary games. By the way, has Jimmy V found somebody to hug yet? So goofy things can happen, especially when you have a player such as SEC Player of the Year Sindarius Thornwell on your side.I’m not officially picking a winner, but I will rank the teams in logical order of Best Chance To Win. 1. North Carolina. 2. Gonzaga. 3. Oregon. 4. South Carolina. But it’s actually 2. Gonzaga and 2A Oregon. That’s a tough call.But why should you listen to a guy who was 0-for-4?One more thing: I have to say it: Gonzaga’s mantra should be “The Few, The Proud.” C’mon. How many chances will you get for something like this?
The Iowa High School Boy’s State Basketball Tournament is upon us. Some upsets filled the headlines in the 4A field early on along with some tight games in the Substate Championship round. But one constant remains; Iowa City West is the favorite to take home the 2017 title. The Trojans dropped only one game to a team from the state of Iowa when Cedar Rapids Prairie hit 15 3s to win 80-71 back before Christmas. Upstart Newton will get the first shot at Iowa City West to kick off the 4A quarterfinals.
Wednesday, March 8th – 1:05 pm
#1 Iowa City West (20-3) vs. #8 Newton (19-5)
The Trojans from Iowa City West is heavily favored to take home the title. Senior guard Connor McCaffery leads the way, averaging 19.4 points per game along with leading the team in 3 pointers made, free throws made and is second on the team in steals and assists. Devontae Lane is the do-everything bulldog that can beat anybody off the bounce while hitting 38% of his 3s. And sophomore Patrick McCaffery has seen a jump in production in his 2nd season with the varsity squad, putting up 14.3 points per game on 60% shooting from the field.
Newton makes their way to the state tournament in one of the surprising stories of the year. Playing in the Little Hawkeye Conference, they saw mostly 3A schools throughout the season and many believed that the step in to 4A for Substate would lead to their undoing. Instead, the Cardinals beat Urbandale, Dowling Catholic and Johnston to make the state tournament, including winning the final 2 games on the road. Newton will bomb it from the outside and lead the 4A field with 194 made 3s while shooting 38% from downtown. Connor Gholson (20.4 PPG, 76 3s, 39%), Garrett Sturtz (19.8 PPG, 27 3s, 37.5%) & Trey Vanderlaan (10.3 PPG, 65 3s, 42.5%)lead the bomb squad for the Cards.
West Trojans 79 Newton Cardinals 62
Wednesday, March 8th – 2:45 pm
#4 Dubuque Hempstead (18-5) vs. #5 Cedar Rapids Kennedy (18-5)
This game features two of the better defensive teams in the 4A field. Cedar Rapids Kennedy comes in winners of their last 8 ball games. The Cougars have a balanced scoring attack with 5 players averaing between 14 & 6.9 points per game with Drake Brewster, Derrick Diggins, Jackson Foley, Malik Haynes and Matt Berst. They can all step down and knock down 3s as well, as all 5 of those players have made at least 13 3s.
Dubuque Hempstead is a balanced team as well. Lead by the Duax’s, Connor (13.3 PPG) & Lucas (13 PPG), Hempstead has a lot of length of the oustide and can make it tough defensively. As you’d expect in a 4/5 game, this appears to be a complete toss us.
Kennedy Cougars 59 Hempstead Mustangs 55
Wednesday, March 9th 6:35 pm
#3 Bettendorf (18-5) vs. #6 Sioux City East (21-2)
Bettendorf takes balanced scoring to a new level with 7 players averaging over 6 points per game. The Bulldogs are big and physical and will look to make the game into a grind fest. Sioux City East may feel that they were under-seeded, bringing a 21-2 record to Wells Fargo Arena. The Western Iowa participant is lead in scoring by Van Rees (20.7 PPG) along with sophomore Aidan Vanderloo (17.3 PPG, 43 3s) & Jailen Billings (13.3 PPG, 38 3s).
Sioux City Journal
East Black Raiders 62 Bettendorf Bulldogs 55
Wednesday, March 9th 8:15 pm
#2 West Des Moines Valley (19-4) vs. #7 Des Moines North (18-5)
The Polar Bears from Des Moines North are making their 1st appearance in 25 years at State after Chad Ryan has built this program back up. North is the highest scoring team in the 4A field, putting up 75 points per game as they have won 12 consecutive games. It is a dynamic two man game that leads the offense for North with sophomore point guard Tyreke Locure (25.9 PPG, 45 3s, 7.1 assists per game) and big 6’7 Jal Bijiek (15.5 PPG, 22 3s, 7.5 RPG).
The reigning champions in Class 4A are the Valley Tigers. They played much of the season with senior big man Quinton Curry, who tore his ACL during the summer. Curray has come back to average 9.8 points per game on 60% shooting, but has struggled with turnovers as he works to knock the rust off. Valley has a deep rotation with Austin Hinkle (10.7 PPG), 6’8 Charley Crowley (9.6 PPG) and shooters Reese Skinner, Nate Dennis & Carter Frey.
These 2 teams faced off back in January, with North winning 85-78. Expect Valley to work to control tempo and try to slow things down against the quick Polar Bears. Whoever gets the game at their pace will more than likely punch their ticket to the semifinals.
North Polar Bears 72 Valley Tigers 69
A FEW THOUGHTS
I love March. Long before you could actually watch any of the games on TV, I was infatuated with the NCAA tournament. It was an unimaginable thrill when my school went in 1967 and I was the student play-by-play broadcaster. Boston College defeated UConn and St. John’s, which got us to the Eastern Regional Finals in Cole Field House, the great home of the University of Maryland Terrapins. Our opponent was none other than North Carolina, making its first trip to what we had not yet dubbed the Final or Elite 8 under Dean Smith. I can still remember our Jim Kissane dunking a fast break follow-up to make it 12-3 and forcing Dean to call time out. Too bad we couldn’t have stopped the game right there. They had caught us by the half and they went on to win, 96-80, thereby sending Dean to his first Final Four. The guy who really killed us was Bobby Lewis. They got to the Finals, but there awaited a tall young man named Lew Alcindor, and that was that. It was the first of Alcindor’s three consecutive NCAA titles.So much for nostalgia…Take a look at the contenders for the 2017 championship and tell me what most of them have in common. Simple: Chalk rules. Of last week’s Top Ten, eight of them have won at least one NCAA championship, and that definitely includes Oregon, who won the very first one back in 1939. Surely you remember coach Howard Hobson’s “Tall Firs.”
The Ducks featured — and how much do I love this name? — 6-8 Slim Winterlute at center. Other featured players included Lauren Gale and Bobby Anet. The Ducks liked to run, and they usually controlled the backboards. OK, I’m guessing this group led by Dillon Brooks is a tad more, you know, athletic, but we know they have no Slim Winterlute; that’s for sure.You might not realize what a closed shop the NCAA tournament really is. You begin to understand how a commitment to “Getting It Done” matters when you consider that 44 of the 78 NCAA men’s basketball championships have been won by just seven schools, and six of them have a shot this year. That list consists of UCLA (11), Kentucky (8), North Carolina (5), Indiana (5) Duke (5), Kansas (3), Louisville (3) and Connecticut (3), with only the disappointing Hoosiers and Huskies left out (I am assuming they won’t shock the world and win the Big Ten or AAC Tournament respectively). I mean, we are talking college hoop aristocracy with these people.The other two in the Top Ten are Gonzaga and West Virginia, and the Mountaineers have knocked on the door, most notably in 1959, when Cal’s Darrall Imhoff tipped one in at the buzzer to give the Bears a 71-70 triumph in the championship game. They were in the Final
Four as recently as 2010, losing to Duke in the semifinal game. This means only Gonzaga among the Top Ten has never been to the Final Four. The moral of the story is it’s damn hard to do and harder to sustain if you don’t have a complete top-to-bottom commitment from administration. Either basketball really matters, or it doesn’t. The school has to decide. And if it’s a state-funded U, as most of the elite are (Duke and two-time winner Villanova being conspicuous exceptions). The legislature has to care, too. So appreciate what Gonzaga is up against. All this goes ditto for football, which is even harder. Adam Silver is talking about making changes for the 2018 NBA All-Star Game. The only change needed is the restoration of a little pride among the major participants. I’m not suggesting they should approach it as a Seventh Game, but it wasn’t that long ago that players cared abut playing hard and showing up their peers. I cannot believe anyone over 10 found that eyesore in New Orleans anything but ridiculous. Anthony Davis, whom I love as a player, had 18 unmolested dunks en route to his record 52 points. Now I’m sure Wilt Chamberlain had his share of dunks when he sent the record of 42 some 55 years ago, but I can assure you they were contested. I honestly don’t know what incentive to play hard would reach this crop of AAU-bread show-offs, but perhaps if the Commish just shows them a few examples of well-contested All-Star Games from the 80s and 90s, they might get inspired to play some real basketball next year. Otherwise, just extend the Dunk, Three-Point and Skills contests to everyone and let it go at that.
They are making a huge fuss at the NFL Combine over Washington wideout John Ross running a 4.2 40. Great. Congratulations. But I have a couple of pertinent questions. How are his hands? How well does he run routes? Can he block, even a little? Can he make adjustments on the fly? Is he tough? In short, can he P-L-A-Y? Beware of the Combine. I give you Mike Mamula (speaking of BC guys). He killed it at the combine to become the number 5 pick in the draft. Problem is, he couldn’t play NFL football very well. Remember Justin Ernest? Neither do I. But he set a bench press record of hoisting the 225 lbs. 51 times 18 years ago. But if he made it to Canton I must have been out of the country. The Combine has taken on a life of its own. It’s great TV for football mavens. It keeps NFL writers off the streets for a few days. It’s good for the Indianapolis economy. And that’s about it.
Don’t you love the Buss siblings fighting over control of the Lakers? Why don’t they do the Laker fans a favor and sell the team to someone who could run it properly? Magic Johnson as the basketball cheese will be interesting. He has made himself a phenomenal business success so I wouldn’t discount the possibility he’ll be effective. I just find it fascinating that Magic, Michael and Larry, basketball’s HolyTrinity of the 90s, are each running a team. Can’t wait for the first Larry-Magic deal.
I think the Cavaliers have done what LeBron asked. Kyle Korver, Andrew Bogut and Deron Williams make them a better team. But the sneaky great move was by Houston. They have added Lou Williams to what was already an offensive powerhouse. You know he will win them a playoff game or two.
The Substate finals are set in Class 4A after a wild Friday night where #2 Waukee was upset by Ankeny, Johnston scored 5 points in the final 4 seconds to upend Ames and Newton went on the road to upset Dowling Catholic. The winners of these games will advance to the 2017 State Tournament at Wells Fargo Arena. All games start at 7:00 Tuesday night unless noted.
Liz Martin/The Gazette
Sioux City East (20-2) vs. Council Bluffs Abraham Lincoln (18-3) @ Tyson Event Center, Sioux City
Sioux City East took the season series, beating CBAL 65-60 on January 10th in Council Bluffs and at home 61-51 at home. 6’6 junior Rees Van leads the way for East, averaging 21 points per game while the guard court is lead by 3 players averaging double digit scoring per game. Aidan Vanderloo (16.9 PPG), Jailen Billings (12.9 PPG) & Trae Robinson (10.7 PPG). Troy Houghton (12.8 PPG) and Blake Elam (12.5 PPG, 49 3s) lead the attack for the Lynx.
The Pick: Sioux City East 66 Council Bluffs Abe Lincoln 59
Des Moines North (17-5) vs. Ankeny (11-12) @ Dallas Center-Grimes
Ankeny pulled the shocker of the tournament to this point, beating Waukee Friday night 75-64. The Hawks have an elite scorer in Drew Maschoff (20.6 PPG, 46 3s) to go along with sophomore sharp shooter Dillon Carlson. Des Moines North continues to roll after beating Des Moines East 99-69 in the semifinals. North has won 11 straight games, lead to sophomore point guard Tyreke Locure. Locure is averaging 26.2 points per game along with 6.8 assists per contest. Big man Jal Bijiek (15.2 PPG, 7.2 RPG) is an athletic dynamo that can get to the rim at any moment and has developed a nice outside shot.
The Pick: Des Moines North 77 Ankeny 63
Cedar Rapids Kennedy (17-5) vs. Cedar Falls (16-7) @ US Cellular Center 8:00 pm
AJ Green looks to lead Cedar Falls back to the state tournament after a big run a year ago. Green is averaging 22.2 points per game while hitting 72 3s (44.7%) and 92.8% from the free throw line. He’s joined by Isaiah Johnson (11 PPG) & Ben Gerdes (10.9 PPG). Kennedy counters with Drake Brewster, a 6’6 senior (13.9 PPG) & Derick Diggins (13 PPG). Cedar Falls won the match up earlier this year between these 2 teams, 61-53 in CF back in January.
The Pick: Cedar Falls 70 Kennedy 64
Dubuque Senior (19-3) vs. Dubuque Hempstead (17-5) @ Epworth, Western Dubuque
Senior won both games between these 2 teams by double digits. The Rams are efficient offensively and all of the regulars have shown the ability to hit the 3. 6’5 sophomore Noah Carter leads with 18.3 points per game, 7.1 rebounds a game and is hitting 48.5% from downtown. Carter Stevens (14.5 PPG) & Louis Psihoyos (12.9 PPG) can also fill it up for Senior. Hempstead will look to pull the upset with the Daux boys, Connor (13.5 PPG) & Lucas (13.4 PPG).
The Pick: Senior 59 Hempstead 55
Iowa City West (19-3) vs. Muscatine (15-6) @ US Cellular Center 6:30 pm
It will be a battle of future Hawkeyes in the early game at US Cellular Tuesday night. Connor & Patrick McCaffery for Iowa City West against Muscatines’ Joe Wieskamp. Connor McCaffery leads the Trojans in points (19.8 PPG) and rebounds (102) and is 2nd in assists (81) and steals (40). Wieskamp leads the state in scoring, pumping in 30.5 poits per game on 56.5% shooting, including 41.9% from 3. Wieskamp also leads the Muskies in rebounds, assists, steals and blocks. He’ll have to have another dynamite game to give Muscatine the shot at the upset.
The Pick: Iowa City West 82 Muscatine 59
Bettendorf (17-5) vs. North Scott (16-6) at Davenport West
These 2 teams split in the regular season with both teams winning at home. North Scott is lead by Air Force commit Bailey Basala. The 6’3 senior averages 18 points per game along with hitting 61 3s. Bettendorf has depth and has 7 players that average over 6 points per game. They can hurt you in a number of ways.
The Pick: North Scott 64 Bettendorf 61
Newton (18-5) vs. Johnston (18-5) @ Des Moines Roosevelt
It’s the 4th seeded Cardinals from Newton against #3 seed Johnston. Both teams went on the road to pick up upset wins Friday Night. Both teams like to shoot the 3 ball, with Newton ranking 2nd in 4A with 192 made triples, while Johnston has connected on 160, good for 7th in 4A. Johnston is balanced with Camden Vander Zwaag (11.1 PPG), Jaden Kephart (10.4 PPG), Grant Kramer (10.1 PPG), Dawson Jones (9.5 PPG) & Jeran Proctor (7.7 PPG). Newton has 2 players averaging over 20 points per game with Connor Gholson & Garrett Sturtz.
The Pick: Johnston 62 Newton 56
West Des Moines Valley (18-4) vs. Des Moines Hoover (17-5) @ Ankeny Centennial
The reigning champions in Class 4A, Valley, looks to get back to state in one of the best match ups as they face Courtney Henderson’s Hoover squad. Both teams play a physical brand of basketball. This one may be first to 30 wins the game. Valley welcomed back all state center Quinton Curry towards the end of the season after an ACL tear that he sustained in June. Curry is averaging 10.9 points per game on 69% shooting since his return. 6’8 Senior Charley Crowley along with 6’7 Blake Brinkmeyer off the bench gives Valley a ton of weapons inside to go along with shooters Austin Hinkle, Reese Skinner, Nate Dennis and Carter Frey. Hoover looks first to get it inside Douglas Wilson. Many consider Wilson the best rebounder in the state, but will have to work against a host of Valley big men. Hoover won game 1 way back in the 2nd game of the season. Both teams look much different today than they did then.
The Pick: Hoover 38 Valley 33
The NBA All-star Game has come a long way.
I know most of you will have a very hard time believing this, but the first one in 1951 was part of a Boston Garden tripleheader that also included the Boston city high school championship game. It was quite conceivable that some people left when that one was finished. I covered my first one 19 years later in Philadelphia. Everyone arrived the day of the game. There was a luncheon, and that was it for any pomp and ceremony. There was a snowstorm which held up the arrival of the participants. I had gotten an early ride to the Spectrum. For some reason the West’s Dick Van Arsdale had likewise gotten early transportation, and was the only West player in the locker room before the game for quite a while, and we sat and talked. I would not expect him to remember this, but I can assure you it’s true. That was the Year of the Knicks and Willis Reed earned the first leg of his MVP trifecta, winning the MVP Award that would later be augmented by the league and Finals MVP.
Things are a bit different now. It’s All-Star Weekend and it’s an extravaganza. The game nowadays is part Dunkarama, part Bombs Away with the three. I’’m not going to indulge in an teary lament for the Good Old Days, because, truth be told, they weren’t always so good. The East beat a totally disinterested West, 104-84, in 1973, for example. Can you imagine 84 points being scored by the losing team this coming Sunday? At the half, maybe. It wasn’t much better the next couple of years, either. Things did get juiced up in Milwaukee’s 1977 game because that was the first one played after the NBA-ABA merger.There were nine former ABA players in the game and they wanted to show the world what they were all about, The West won a scintillating game, 125-124, but the MVP was the East’s Julius Erving, an ABA expatriate.
Spare me the outrage over Jim Harbaugh’s latest recruiting stunt. It’s simply big-time college sports as usual. It seems the ever-entertaining, ever-scheming Michigan football mentor has arched many an eyebrow by hiring an assistant named Michael Johnson, until now the head coach at The King’s Academy in Sunnyvale, California. Hey, I’m sure he’s a good football man. He is also the father of what is being described as “the best dual-threat quarterback in the Class of 2019,” that being Michael Johnson, Jr. I wonder where Michael Johnson, Jr. will be attending school? Of course, nothing could be more synthetic. The only thing is, this is nothing new. Many a college basketball coach has found room on his bench for the coaching father of a top prospect. Exhibit A: Ed Manning. Ed Manning was a journeyman forward of the 60s and 70s. He averaged 5.9 ppg in a career that took him from the Bullets, to the Bulls, to the Trail Blazers, to the Carolina Cougars to the Nets and, finally, to the Pacers. When he retired, he disappeared off the basketball radar screen. But Ed Manning had a tall son you made have heard of. First name: Danny. And guess whom the enterprising head coach of the Kansas Jayhawks, a guy named Larry Brown, thought was just the man to fill out his coaching staff when that young man was being recruited by Everyone? As my mother would have said, you get three guesses and the first two don’t count. Danny Manning came to Kansas and the rest was history, as they say. And a grateful Larry Brown took Ed Manning with him when he left Kansas to take the San Antonio job. Let the record show that Ed Maning never coached under anyone other than Larry Brown. I’m just sayin’.
In case you didn’t know, the Wall Street Journal has become a great — I might even go so far as to say indispensible — source of interesting sports information. Thursday’s tidbit was the revelation that if Major League Baseball goes through with its proposal to do away with there necessity of actually throwing four non-strikes to implement an intentional walk by waving the batter down to first, the documented savings would be 14 seconds a game, or, as writer Michael Salfino points out, “just a few seconds longer that it takes a batter to score from first base on a double.” Another tidbit: last year 64.4 percent of all intentional walks we’re issued in the National (or DH-less, pitcher-batting) League.
The larger sports story is that more and more sports are getting very concerned about pace and the time it takes to play. They think the millenials just don’t have the patience there elders have always had. This even extends to golf. I am going to quote from the Thursday New York Times:
“This week in Australia, the Perth World Super 6 is debuting a format never before used in professional golf. While the first three days of the tournament will be conventional, each with 18 holes of stroke play, the final day will feature a series of six-hole matches to whittle the final 24 to a champion. Matches that are level after six holes, including the final, will be decided on a specially-built 90-yard hole. Should the players still be tied after that, both players will hit a single shot; whoever hits the ball nearest the pin will progress to the next round.”
No, I’m not making this up.
Said Stephen Ayres, chief commercial officer for the PGA Tour of Australasia, “We’re trying to appeal to a wider audience, particularly a younger audience.” Discuss among yourselves.
Only in the Alice In Wonderland world of Madison Square Garden (Basketball Division), could one ridiculous off-the-court issue trump — perhaps I should pick a different verb — another.
The Carmelo Anthony-Phil Jackson whatever-it-is business is ridiculous enough. But that has fallen into second place in the ranking of utterly stupid and avoidable affairs transpiring at the building they pompously refer to as “The World’s Most Famous Arena.” Now if were any other place in sports I would say that the Charles Oakley Ejection would be filed under the category of “Hold All Calls; We Have A Winner” for the rest of 2017. But with MSG and James Dolan, you never know.
I’ve never been the biggest fan of Carmelo Anthony, or his game, I should say, but he has my full sympathy right now. He shouldn’t even be in New York to begin with. He probably should still be in Denver. It’s either that, or he should be in Chicago, a team that a couple off years ago needed him to make them a legitimate championship contender. But these are large gobs of toothpaste that aren’t ever going back into the tube. The issue right now is just how long he will remain in New York, and where could he go? Of course, he’s be somewhere else right now if Phil Jackson hadn’t given him a no-trade clause, which was just another example of Jackson’s ineptness as a basketball executive. Jackson the coach would have been furious with his GM had someone done that to him.
I’m sure you know by now that Jackson communicates by Twitter, not face-to-face dialogue. He has made it perfectly clear he currently has little respect for Anthony’s game . But he never has to explain himself to a fellow human being. No, he allows things to get out one way or another and Anthony has to stand there and respond to the latest indirect pronouncement from the team’s basketball boss. It’s pure lunacy.
The Oakley thing is a farce of a higher order. The background is that Oakley, a Knicks’ mainstay for a 10-year period in which they went to the playoffs every single year, and one of the most aggressive players in NBA history, has been a public critic of Garden pooh-bah James Dolan for some time. As a result, he is basically persona non grata at the Garden. The Knicks act as if he had never suited up for them, excluding him from various team celebrations, including a planned 70th anniversary something or other bash coming up before the end off the season. Oakley says they stopped giving him tickets years ago. But there he was at the Garden the other night for their game with the Clippers, having purchased a ticket that, it just so happens, was located in proximity to Jimmy Dolan himself. Before the first quarter had concluded, Oakley was in both a verbal and physical confrontation with a whole gang of Garden Security operatives. He was ejected and even arrested, charged with three counts of assault and criminal trespass, all misdemeanors. Yes, he was released.
So what happened? It’s a classic He Said-She Said scenario. The Knicks say Oakley was verbally abusive to Dolan. There was even an intimation that Oakley was inebriated. Oakley denies this. He says he was approached by Security for no reason other than he was there, and he was close to Dolan. Here’s my thing: there were numerous. nearby witnesses. How can there be such confusion about what Oakley said or didn’t say?
That’s Part A. Part B is that in a “normal” reaction — i.e. the reaction anywhere else but Doian’s MSG — a lone security guy approaches Oakley to inform him he had better cut it out, if indeed he was doing anything at all. There’s no need to send a small army, which is what arrived at Oakley’s seat. There was massive overreaction on both sides. Oakley is a large, physically intimidating man, even at 53, and he did get very physical. He can’t be defended on that score. But the entire incident was preposterous, and it was initiated by Doian. Of that there is no doubt.
Dolan’s Garden is a nightmare. Reporters who displease Dolan have been pursued by security in the past. The Garden is a place where, shall we say, alternative facts, have been spewed out for years. Things go on there that go on nowhere else in this hemisphere, anyway.
The Knicks are a mess, and it all starts at the top. Jimmy Dolan simply does not know what he is doing. Anyone could have told him, and, I’m sure someone probably did, that just because Phil Jackson has 11 rings as a coach is no guarantee he would make a good executive. Oh, sure, he professed his love for the Knicks and a desire to honor the memory of the sainted Red Holzman, but he was never going to roll up his sleeves and do the necessary leg work and there was great reason to think it was all a money grab. Hey, for $12 million a year, any of us would say or do anything to get the gig.
The Knicks, meanwhile, are 44 years removed from a championship and 23 years removed from their last trip to the Finals. Their clientele deserves better.
Has major league baseball lost its mind? Could Joe Torre possibly be serious when he suggests baseball is considering reacting to the issue of excessively long games by beginning each extra inning with the team at bat placing a man on second base?
Stop! This is madness. And it does not address the real issue, which is not the existence of too many lengthy extra inning games, which are part of the sport and always should be, but the indispensable length of far too many nine-inning games.
First of all, I’ll bet anything that the majority of extra inning games are already settled in the 10th. And if I’m wrong, so be it. I don’t want the sport to be trivialized, as is college football. Yes, put me down as loathing the college football OT for the very simple reason that it’s not real football.
Does baseball need to take a look at the length of games? Absolutely. Baseball’s pace must be improved if it is to remain viable for the 21st century generation of sports consumers, whose sensibilities are far different than that of their fathers, grandfathers and great-grandfathers. (Also mothers, grandmothers and great-great grandmothers). There are too many idiotic pitching changes, too many needless visits to the mound by catchers and too little general interest on the part of the participants to speed things up, because they wrongly believe the only people complaining about 4-hour nine inning games are members of the media with deadlines. That is false. That is, yes, an alternative fact if ever there was one. Fans do notice and fans do care and fans have to get up in the morning and go to work.
Changing the game into an alternative fact of a game, which is what this ludicrous proposal would do, is not the answer.
Kyle Shanahan has taken a lot of you-know-what for his play calling last Sunday night. He basically defends himself by saying he simply kept calling ‘em the way he had all year, and that was that. But this was a situation in which flexibility was necessary. A championship team prepares for any contingency, and one it had better be ready for was protecting a lead. There is no argument, none. Once Julio Jones made the grab that would have been the one play we’d have talked about from that game for the next 50 years, the only proper course of action was to run, run, run and then ask a skilled veteran named Matt Bryant to kick a simple field goal to give his team an impregnable 11-point lead that would have guaranteed a Super Bowl victory. By the way, one of the most intriguing aspects of that game is the fact that Jones’ four receptions were his only four targets, and that his average yards after catch was a half-yard. Yup, he was 4-for-4, with 2 yards after the catch, total. The Patriots really did a fantastic job on him, forcing him to make two highlight grabs out of four receptions.
On the great Terrell Owens Hall of Fame controversy, put me down as a Yes. I’d be more worried about allowing people who have broken the law than a guy who just acted like a jerk.
The Marty & Miller Radio Network will be bringing comprehensive coverage to the Iowa High School State Tournaments for wrestling, girl’s basketball and boy’s basketball to the airwaves and digitally on MartyandMiller.com.
1490 “The Jock” KXLQ along with 100.9 FM “The Cub” will be providing play by play coverage from the state tournaments starting with the state wrestling tournament at Wells Fargo Arena on Thursday, February 16th. Updates will also be provided during the “Marty & Miller” radio and television program on 1700 KBGG, 1490 “The Jock”, 100.9 “The Cub” and televised on Mediacom22.
Marty Tirrell, Trent Condon, John McDermott will provide play by play across the tournaments and basketball color commentary will come from former Iowa Hawkeye, Wade Lookingbill. You can also access the coverage online at 1490thejock.com, 1009thecub.com, martyandmiller.com along with the Marty & Miller app.
State Tournament coverage on the Marty and Miller Radio Network is presented by Grinnell Mutual Insurance along with Shottenkirk Chevrolet in Waukee and the new Shottenkirk Ford of Indianola.