Monday, December 31, 2007

Princeton-Monmouth, Men's Hoops

I just laughed because when I typed the headline, I wrote "Men's Hops" instead of "Men's Hoops." Unfortunately for Princeton hoops fans, the Tigers didn't show a lot of "hop" in Sunday's 59-50 loss at Monmouth, losing their tenth in a row, which ties a school record. Monmouth, in beating the Tigers, snapped a 7-game losing streak. The game really wasn't as close as the score indicated.

I'll defer to Jon Solomon's excellent "Princeton Basketball Blog" for the full recap, but I was there and have the following observations:

1. The kids at Monmouth clearly don't play for the glory of DI hoops that say the kids at Carolina do. The Monmouth gym is intimate, but my guess is that some high schools around the country put more money into their facilities than the Hawks do theirs. The plus side: the fans are really close to the action, and that was fun.

2. Why do they keep some of these gyms in the northeastern U.S. so warm, especially given that it's wintertime? Thankfully, the Monmouth fans were very hospitable, and no one looked twice at my kids' Princeton attire (a few years ago on a North Jersey beach I wore my Philadelphia Eagles' hat and was met with laser-like stares).

3. At Princeton, they give away about a dozen or so t-shirts during the game -- the cheerleaders throw them into the crowd. At Monmouth, they tossed in precisely 2.

4. Before the game, a Monmouth official approached the son of a former Princeton baseball and football standout to handle the shooting contest at halftime. Little did they know that a precious three or so years ago he helped lead his HS to the small-school state title game in Michigan (losing to Chris Webber's and Shane Battier's alma mater). In any event, the now-college junior made the layup easily, hit the foul shot on the third try, the three on his first, and then airballed a few half-court shots before (i) banking one that hit off the front of the rim and (ii) having one go in-and-out right at (or slightly after) the buzzer. Good job! The gift certificate will come in handy.

5. Okay, now for the serious stuff. First, I didn't understand Princeton's offense in the first half. Monmouth used a man-to-man defense for almost the entire first half, and I counted about four Princeton picks the entire half. The Tigers whipped the ball around the perimeter and then didn't shoot the outside shot particular well. They tried to hit an occasional cutter (usually center Zach Finley), but they didn't succeed much. Senior co-captains Kyle Koncz and Noah Savage have shown over the years they can shoot the three, but they had trouble getting open (Koncz did hit three treys in the game and had 14 points). The Tigers' best move was getting the ball inside to soph center Zach Finely, who has a fine back-to-the-basket move going to his left. He needs to work on the left hook a bit (and make it more of a "money" shot for him than it is now), but he is strong enough to get in position to take the shot. I did wonder why a sneaky quick Monmouth guard (and they had about 3 of them, and sometimes they played four guards at once) didn't drop down and try to poke the ball away when Finley did this move for what seemed to be the umpteenth time in the second half. Finley didn't show that he could go to his right, and he'll need to develop that ability, or else I fear a guard will drop down and make life tougher when he puts it on the floor. Especially in Ivy play.

6. The Tiger guards did not look particularly good, and there doesn't seem to be a consistent three-point shooter among them. They'll need that outside shooting to come from somewhere in order to free up both Finley and junior insider player Michael Strittmatter (who showed signs of having a pretty fluid game). Otherwise, opposing defenses will sag on them.

7. On the positive side, the Tigers tied the Hawks in rebounds and won the battle on the offensive glass 12-6. On the negative side, Monmouth was quicker, seemed to play with more energy and, yes, I'll say this here and risk the brickbats, the Monmouth kids seemed to want it more, or at least more enough to win the game (the battles on the glass notwithstanding, the Tigers looked more flat-footed on loose balls and the guards looked at sea at times). The final was 59-50, the Tigers got it within 6 early in the second half, but at one time Monmouth had the lead up to 17 and the Tigers really weren't in the ball game for most of the second half.

8. The Tigers don't seem to have a player who can, on a consistent basis, take over the game and make things happen. Scott Greenman was the last Tiger player who showed signs of that ability, but at that time Penn had guys named Zoller and Jaaber were much better at taking over a game for archrival Penn than Greenman was for the Tigers. Zach Finley shows signs of being able to do that from the low post, but he's not there yet. I liked what I saw of him though, despite the silly comments made by ESPN's Sean McDonough that dissed Finley during the Princeton-Duke game earlier in the year because Finley was all-state in South Dakota, prompting McDonough to remark that there are only 5 basketball players in that state. I know McDonough is well-respected, but that was a bit much (even if Princeton stunk out the joint for the first 15 minutes of the contest). Finley can play.

9. Sydney Johnson shows John Thompson-like patience on the sidelines. He doesn't yell, doesn't get into the face of his players, isn't overly annoying to the officials and seems positive and encouraging. The Tigers need plenty of patience from their coaching staff, and the Tiger faithful need to hope that Messrs. Johnson, Newsome, Earl and Greenman can recruit a squad that can summon the memories of the last Ivy team to win an NCAA basketball game -- more than ten years ago.

10. Times are tough for fans of Princeton's men's basketball team, but there not so easy in University City, either. While the Penn frosh look promising, Penn is a very young team that has had its ups and downs (and there have been many downs) this season. Two nights ago, the Quakers lost to Florida Gulf Coast, 60-30, scoring only 6 points in the first half while shooting 5.9% for the half and turning the ball over 23 times in the first half (the Quakers shot 19% for the game and had 35 turnovers). This is not Florida or Florida State we're talking about, but Florida Gulf Coast, a team that upped its record to 4-8 and is in its first year of DI play.

Yes, Ivy men's hoops fans from somewhere other than Philadelphia or Central New Jersey, there is a vacuum out there, there is a voice crying from the men's hoops trophy that's saying, "I'm available, take me, take the title, it's up for grabs." The question is, who will take the title. There's no question that the tough road to the automatic bid for the NCAA tournament runs through the two sets of back-to-back games against historic powers Penn and Princeton, but those games could prove to be more like speed bumps this year than the barricades they've proven to be over the past 35 years. Then again, it isn't as though the rest of the Ivies are tearing it up, either. Anything can happen -- and has happened, on back-to-back nights in the Ivies, and I suspect that it will be a fascinating League season this year.

All typos are mine, as always.

Have a very happy New Year!

Monday, December 24, 2007

My Votes in Chris Berman's/ESPN's Top 10 Highlights

ESPN asks us to vote for our Top 10 highlights of all time (from a list of 100 that they provide). The pool of 100 highlights contains some memorable moments, making it tough on the reader (viewer, really) to pick just 10 highlights. But select I did, and I think that 9 of my 10 will stand the test of time (with a 10th, which I will identify) being a concession to a hometown heroic of the type that has seldom been seen in the past quarter century.

Here goes (and I will do so chronologically):

1. Bobby Thomson's "Shot Heard Round the World" on October 3, 1951, giving the New York Giants a playoff win against their archrival Brooklyn Dodgers and a spot in the World Series. Russ Hodges' memorable "The Giants win the pennant! The Giants win the pennant!" are forever etched into the sports memory banks of two generations -- the one that lived through the moment, and their children, to whom the story was repeated constantly. Drama at its finest.

2. Franco Harris's "Immaculate Reception" on December 23, 1972. The running back's controversial catch gave the Steelers a playoff victory against the 800-pound gorilla Oakland Raiders and helped start the Steel Curtain on its way to Mount Olympus status as an NFL dynasty (the others: the Packers of the 60's, the 49ers of the 80's and the Patriots now. Sorry Cowboys of the early 1990's -- you were outstanding, but perhaps not in the league of those elites). The catch itself was amazing theater.

3. Carlton Fisk Wills His Long Fly Ball to be Fair and a Home Run to give the Red Sox the win in Game 6 of the 1975 World Series on October 21, 1975. This was the walk-off home run to end all walk-off home runs. Set in Fenway Park amidst one of the greatest World Series ever, what more could a fan ask for? A true benchmark of great sports moments.

4. Dr. J. goes up and under the backboard to finish a baseline move on May 11, 1980. Yes, this is my homer pick, and it wasn't as much of a statement to me as his "cradle the baby" windmill dunk over Michael Cooper in the 1983 NBA Finals, but in a certain sense (with apologies to the likes of Earl "The Pearl" Monroe"), Dr. J showed us the future of athleticism and acrobatics in the NBA, and, well, it was just one awesome move from a great player. Yes, it's an outlier here, but I actually couldn't think of a great tenth pick on my list, so I reverted to the hometown hero.

5. Dwight Clark hauls in Joe Montana's TD Pass late in the fourth quarter against Dallas to win the NFC championship game on January 10, 1982. A dynasty begins, as this was the finishing test for the coming out party of a decade-old doormat, the San Francisco 49ers, en route to becoming a dynasty and fundamentally changing the game with the West Coast Offense. The Cowboys were the institution in the NFC, a force to be reckoned with year-in and year-out, and the 49ers broke through in a harbinger of things to come. Finally, someone was standing up to the Cowboys.

6. Lorenzo Charles' dunk earns NC State NCAA men's hoops championship on April 4, 1983. I remember watching this game with great curiosity, figuring that N.C. State would have little chance against Houston's very talented Phi Slamma Jamma squad (Hakeem Olajuwon, Larry Micheaux, Clyde Drexler, Rob Williams and Michael Young -- four would be first-round NBA draft picks). So did the rest of the country, but no one told that to Jim Valvano and his N.C. State Wolfpack. Houston's Guy Lewis stopped pushing the tempo, and N.C. State had the ball with the game tied and time running out. Guard Derrick Wittenberg took a long shot (there were no 3's then) and it was an airball. Out of nowhere, Charles grabbed the ball and dunked it as time expired, giving N.C. State the victory. Not only was this a great play, but we all remember Valvano's dashing around the court afterwards looking for someone to hug. This game put Valvano on the map, and before his untimely death, he charmed the nation.

7. Doug Flutie's Hail Mary versus Miami on November 23, 1984. Why was this amazing? Because it was a high-scoring game, and few gave BC any chance as time was running out. So what did this talented QB do? He worked another miracle, threw the ball as far as he could, where it landed in the outstretched arms of his favorite receiver, Gerard Phelan, and bedlam ensured. Flutie's BC Eagles were a great team to watch, and Flutie's grit showed the country (again) that the size of the fight in the dog trumped the size of the dog in the fight. A great ending for a deserving QB.

8. Christian Laettner's shot beats Kentucky to win NCAA Eastern Regional Final on March 28, 1992. I gave up tickets to that game to go on what proved to be a key date with the woman who would become my wife, and I remember walking out of the two semifinals thinking that Duke would wax Kentucky because Duke looked much better in the semifinal game. Kentucky played a great game, and it took a court-length pass from Grant Hill to Laettner, who hit a jumper as time ran out from the top of the key to give Duke the game (Duke was trailing by 1 at the time). Many refer to this as the greatest college basketball game ever played, and it was awesome.

9. Former team manager Jason McElwain scores 20 in a high school game on February 16, 2006. McElwain, who was autistic, gets put in a game near the end of the season. The coach did it as a reward to his loyalty, to his work ethic, and all McElwain does is rain down three after three. The homemade video is a real treat, especially when his teammates carry him off the court at the end of the game. This video underscores what sports are about -- effort, selflessness, teamwork and positive attitude. It's "Rocky" and "Hoosiers" all wrapped up in one.

10. Boise State's Statue of Liberty Play beats Oklahoma on January 1, 2007. This play got my vote for several reasons. First, few gave Boise State a chance to win this game, as it was a battle of a non-BCS conference team against a big bad wolf from a very tough BCS conference. Second, the play itself was a beauty, taking "old-time" football and shoving it right into the Sooners' (and the BCS Conferences and the silliness of those who are the BCS) collective grilles in front of an entire nation. Boise State made a great statement in that game -- namely, that the games are won on the field, and that on a given day, the school no one heard of can play its best and bloody the behemoths. That game proved to be a harbinger for a wild 2008 season, when the asthmatics and nerds of Division 1 (and, relatively speaking, 1-AA), beat up on the favorites every chance they got.

Those are my top 10. What are yours?

Check out the list. It's a lot of fun.

Saturday, December 22, 2007

76ers-Lakers Last Night

The family went to see the 76ers-Lakers game last night at the Wachovia Center, and I have the following observations.

1. Mo Cheeks can coach. He doesn't have many players, but he coached some outstanding offensive sets.

2. The 76ers have 2 main problems. First, they don't have enough guys who should be starters in the league. Second, they have absolutely NO inside game on offense.

3. The 76ers' dancers should have had poles out there on the floor for some of the outfits that they wore. Talk about a mixed message on the issue of family entertainment. It was A Shot of Love with Tila Tequila meets Red Auerbach. Just horrible.

4. The Lakers' bench is bad. Luke Walton (who starts) looks overmatched out there, but there's no challenger for his spot among the reserves. The other four Lakers' starters were excellent. Lamar Odom is hard to guard, Andrew Bynum showed flashes of greatness on offense (and scored over 20 points), Kobe had a good if not great night, and Derek Fisher was very clutch in the second half.

5. The 76ers should not ink Andre Iguodala to a max contract after this season. The reason: he can't take over a game night after night the way the previous AI, warts and all, could. Andre Miller drove the offense early, taking advantage of Fisher, but Iguodala disappears for periods during a game, and your megastar shouldn't do that. Someone else might be desperate enough to give Iguodala the max, but the 76ers shouldn't be afraid if that were to happen. They'd be better off, having made mistakes with Samuel Dalembert, among others.

6. GM Ed Stefanski should trade Andre Miller to the Heat before the deadline in exchange for Jason Williams, whose contract will expire after this season. Then he should make a serious run at Gilbert Arenas, assuming that Number 0's knee is in good shape. And he should find some low-post offensive players while he's at it.

7. Great tribute to the 1982-1983 Sixers at halftime. Dr. J and Clint Richardson (the third guard and a great defender) were on hand, and Dr. J is as elegant as ever. He gave a nice speech, and was most warmly received by the crowd. Quite frankly, the place should have been cheering out of its minds, but it wasn't packed, and many of the fans there were so young that they probably hardly remember him. Still, it was a nice tribute, and there were some flashbacks to his great plays during that season (including the cradle-the-baby dunk over Michael Cooper in the finals against the Lakers) and to Dave Zinkoff's public address calls, which were legendary. Great stuff for a great team, and it was fun to see Mo Cheeks as a younger man and clutch player.

8. Whoever the public address announcer is, they should can him. He can hardly hold a candle to the legendary Zinkoff, and why should the NBA create an atmosphere that resembles a mediocre MTV reality show? Where's the maturity, the dignity?

It was a fun atmosphere and a very good game. Mo Cheeks gets as much out of the talent he has as he can, but it's a team that won't win more than 40% of its games and will be in the lottery once again. The problem will be that if they keep on playing feisty b-ball, they'll end up at the bottom of the lottery and get another Thaddeus Young or Rodney Carney, when they need a Greg Oden or Kevin Durrant. That's a fundamental problem in the NBA -- that a team can stay below average if not awful -- for a long period of time. The entertainment value only goes so far.

What the fans really want are winners.

And, as Dr. J pointed out, it's been 25 years since Philadelphia has had a championship in a major sport.

And the way the 76ers and Flyers are playing in that building now, we can say "and counting."

Weasels, Wimps and Scoundrels

Those words describe the owners of Major League Baseball teams, the alleged journalists who covered the teams during the steroids era and the ballplayers themselves, and, particularly, the leadership of the players' union (which opted to protect the malefactors at the expense of the good citizens among the players).

The owners got dumb, fat and happy during the steroids era, particuarly after the labor-relations debacle of 1994, which culminated in the cancellation of a season and a World Series. So, enter the personally inflated Sammy Sosa and Mark McGwire into the fray, capturing America's hearts with a drug-induced (and perhaps drug-addled) home run love fest. The owners loved the attention that their teams got, particularly at the gate, despite the fact that the players looked on the average significantly bigger than they had a decade and a half earlier (where most looked like relative stick figures or the average European man of today who lives in a city where, unlike the U.S., walking is not only encouraged but necessary). In scientific terms, while species evolve, they don't usually do so markedly in a period of a decade or two at most. Yet, despite the obvious evidence (i.e, visual evidence -- think East German female swimmers during the cold war) and the whispers, the owners hid beyond shouts of "hearsay" and took the tactic of accusing the few brave souls who waxed skeptical as typical cynics who were envious of someone else's success (if, even, you could have found those souls).

Great tactic, because once it wears out you simply have succeeded only in doubling the enmity that arose because of the suspicions instead of extinguishing it.

I've excoriated the national media before on posts (and am too relaxed right now to link to prior posts on the topic, but if you Google "SportsProf steroids" or "SportsProf steroids media" you'll probably find those posts). Put simply, those guys are glorified fans, not journalists, because any self-respecting journalist would have smelled a story and at least told his editors and urged his newspaper to get their investigative reporting team on the matter and draw attention to the issue. But they didn't do it. Why? Because they love being around the game, love having a special relationship with a player who might give them more access than the next guy, and they didn't want to lose that. Write what they saw? Take a stand and ask hard questions? That's what journalists are supposed to do. These guys -- and I include Gammons, Verducci, Kurkjian, Stark and Olney -- did not do that at all.

What makes matters worse is something I heard Tim Kurkjian say on ESPN radio last week, when the talk focused for a short time on Hall of Fame voting. Kurkjian said that he knew fellow voters who would not vote for anyone implicated in the steroid controversy. He didn't agree with this position, because he (and host Mike Greenberg) offered that given how widespread the scandal might ultimately prove to be, then perhaps you couldn't vote for anyone. Kurkjian, if my memory serves me correctly, then said he spoke with a writer about a few players who weren't implicated but who in the inside circles of baseball were widely suspected of using performance-enhancing drugs and wondered aloud whether that writer would vote for those players (whose names weren't mentioned in the Mitchell report). That comment irked me and should have irked any true baseball fan, who should reasonably rely on these top writers to break a story (or to have broken it years ago). Why did guys like Kurkjian sit on the sidelines and not cover those players' alleged use if the knowledge of it was "so widespread?" That's baffling, and now they're taking ludicrous positions about Hall of Fame balloting when they blew their coverage in the first place. You can say one thing about these so-called baseball journalists -- they really broke this story. Literally.

As for the players' union, well, there's a proverb out there that says "you don't always win by being right all the time." And, to a great degree, this union has won most of its arguments since its inception. But where they erred tactically is by closing ranks at all costs and harming the overall good name of players generally. If I'm a union member I have to question whether Don Fehr and Gene Orza remain fit to lead my union, especially if I believe that a majority of the players did not use performance-enhancing drugs. Because if that's the case, then why did the silent majority let a minority of players drag all players' collective reputations into the gutter? And why did Fehr and Orza lead them down such a slippery path? Then again, if there is silence and the leadership doesn't change, then perhaps the usage was much more pervasive than anyone thought? Half? Two thirds? Three quarters? It's one thing to support one another, but to contribute to a culture of damaging a great game without any regard for the welfare of all players is just wrong.

The Mitchell report is what it is. The interesting thing about it now is that certain players and former players have admitted to using either human growth hormone or steroids at various intervals in their careers. Those admissions give the overall report some credence, but the issue of Roger Clemens looms. Will he sue the Lords of Baseball to clear his name? That trial would compelling viewing, because the evidence posed about Clemens just doesn't seem to be very strong, at least at the moment. There's a catch for Clemens and others, however. Senator Mitchell had no power to compel people to come forward to testify. Should Clemens sue, both sides will have broad discovery powers to compel witnesses to testify under oath about what they know. So while Clemens can shield himself at the present time behind arguments about flaws in the Mitchell Report, what could come out under discovery in a lawsuit could be much more damning. Given the public beating Clemens has taken already, how much more does he have to lose by bringing that lawsuit?

Think O.J .trial with more sophisticated media coverage. Court TV execs should be salivating, because it might just happen.

And that trial could blow the whole roof off.

As for baseball overall, a few things need to happen. First, better urine tests for performance enhancing substances (including HGH) and, second, blood tests as well. The union should roll on this issue before Congress passes laws about this, and given how well Congress has done lately a negotiation with the owners should be much more preferable. Two, let history be the judge of what happened, don't suspend anyone for past sins, and let the Hall of Fame voters decide the fate of those with puffy numbers. And, while they're at it, they should give extra consideration to the skinny Fred McGriff, the onetime great Blue Jays' and Braves' 1B who had a great career and who at times was dissed as not being powerful enough for his position.

Probably because the only "Cream" he had in his arsenal was an occasional cream soda on a road trip. He'd get my vote.

Baseball needs to move on, but the writers themselves deserve their periodic descents into Hades during Hall of Fame balloting for their blown coverage on the entire subject. The owners will get away with it because, well, they make up the rules (unless we all vote with our feet), and the players will also, to a degree, because you can't play the game without them.

Except for one thing -- they know who did what, and they have to live with it.

And that can't be a comfortable feeling.

Monday, December 17, 2007

When Team Matters the Most

Read this and see what I mean.

Late in the Dallas-Philadelphia game, with the Eagles leading 10-6 and the Cowboys without any timeouts, Brian Westbrook broke through the Dallas line and was headed for a touchdown. Instead, he put on the brakes and went down at the one-yard line. The advice came from OT Jon Runyan, but Westbrook, a running back trained to go for the goal no matter what, was smart enough to heed it. The result was that the Eagles ran out the clock and won the game.

How many OTs would have thought about that? How many RBs would have taken the advice?

Not many.

In the age of glitz, what happened yesterday was special.

The Eagles' last 3 losses were by a total of 10 points. They've fared well in Dallas in recent years, played the best game that any opponent has against New England and beat Dallas yesterday. For those Eagles' fans who despair, they aren't that many players away from being a contender.

Yes, they have to be the right players. Game-breaking receivers, of course, are at the top of the list and have been for some time. Also, certainty is needed at the QB position.

Thankfully for Eagles fans, they have smarts at OT and great ability and brains at running back.

Sometimes you win by doing the smart thing, and the smart thing isn't always obvious.

The Eagles did just that yesterday, getting a good win on the road in an otherwise frustrating season.

Friday, December 07, 2007

SportsProf's Endorsement for President

This shouldn't come as a surprise.

This guy's got what it takes, if he only can win a local race.

The Risks of Getting a Good Quarterback in the NFL

Great stuff last night on WIP Sports Radio in Philadelphia from host Glenn Macnow, who had an intern evaluate quarterbacks taken in the top 3 rounds over the past 10 years.

I didn't have a chance to take notes, but the numbers look like this:

45 were taken in the top 3 rounds.

About 5 are bona fide stars.

About 10 are good players.

The rest are either so-so are busts.

The odds:

You have an 11% chance to get a potential Pro Bowler, a 22% chance to get an above-average to good QB, and a 2/3 chance to get a QB who at some point will be mired in a QB controversy.

Which might explain why the Philadelphia Eagles gave Donovan McNabb a vote of confidence yesterday and proclaimed that he's their QB of the future. A.J. Feeley proved last weekend with his four picks that he's only a back-up (and perhaps in a more tenuous position than he was in two weeks ago after the noble effort against the Pats, where he threw three picks), and Kevin Kolb is a second-round pick with promise but certainly no sure thing. When healthy (and, yes, McNabb has had serious injuries over the past four years), McNabb is a proven winner. Sure, he hasn't won a Super Bowl, but how many QBs who are currently playing have? Not many.

Mike and Mike were unprepared on ESPN Radio this morning, allowing for the McNabb to Chicago talk after Rex Grossman went down with a bad knee injury last night. Sure, it makes sense to some degree, McNabb going back to play in his hometown, but the guess here is that for that to happen the Bears would have to trade more very good draft picks to get McNabb than they're willing to.

Good QBs are at a premium. Some QBs are given too many chances (Joey Harrington), some get them too early (Alex Smith) or without good protection for years (David Carr), and some have to wait patiently because they went to Eastern Illinois and the football gods don't think you can play in the NFL unless you played superlatively against superior competition in college (hello, Tony Romo). Others linger until the sixth round and benefit from an injury to the top-pick franchise QB (Tom Brady), while one or two come out with great expectations (the Manning brothers, McNabb). But for every Peyton Manning there's more than one Ryan Leaf, and for every Donovan McNabb there's a Tim Couch and an Akili Smith.

The verdict: if you have a good QB, find ways to keep him healthy and don't let him go. To paraphrase Captain Reynaud in "Casablanca": "you shouldn't let quarterbacks with good records go, they might become scarce."


Radio Silence on Ivy Hoops

Some of you have e-mailed as to my whereabouts on the Ivy hoops scene.

There are a few reasons for this.

First, the blogosphere covers the Ivies well (sometimes for a fee).

Second, Penn and Princeton both are having down years. Evansville undressed the Tigers by over 20 points the other night, and Penn is playing mostly underclassmen.

The time is ripe for another Ivy to take the prize, but, to do so, they'll still have two weekends' worth of Penn and Princeton.

And that's never easy.

Michigan Spurned Again

First, Les Miles.

Second, Greg Schiano.

The first one makes sense.

The second one does not.

Why is Schiano staying in Northern New Jersey?

Only one theory comes to mind: he's waiting for Joe Paterno to retire at Penn State.

Any others?

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Name Your Headline -- Philadelphia 76ers Style

I had 3 choices for this post:

The King is Dead

Is Ed Snider Next to Go?

Eddie the Reluctant Takes Over

The news: the 76ers have fired formerly teflon-coated GM Billy King and replaced him with Penn grad (and former guard) Ed Stefanski, currently the GM of the Nets.

As for the first headline, all 76ers fans (and former ones) were waiting for this to happen. The 76ers haven't made much noise in quite a while, owing to some bad signings, bad draftings, bad drama ("Practice? We're talkin' about practice!") and inability to recognize that there is talent across the ocean that could help the team. For some reason, despite significant coaching turnover, Billy King kept his job -- for 10 years. Yes, the 76ers did challenge for the NBA title many years ago, but that was much more Larry Brown's doing. Once Brown cut the tether and left town, King was exposed. Unfortunately, he didn't pan out, although the 76ers waited too long to draw their conclusion. Attendance is bad, the team is 5-12, and they won't be very good for a while.

As for the second headline, well, the Flyers have turned the corner this year after several years of being skated around and by. The 76ers, though, have been dismal, and the Flyers haven't been preeminent. I still marvel that Comcast continues to let Ed Snider run the show. It seems like he's living in the 70's when it comes to sports, and there have to be more talented executives out there to manage over the situation. Sorry, Comcast, but it doesn't seem you're holding a Philadelphia icon as accountable as you should.

As for the third headline, Stefanski was a guard on some great Penn teams in the 1970's, but he seemingly past up open looks when he got the ball. That caused Big Five play-by-play commentator Big Al Meltzer to call him "Eddie the Reluctant." His CV since his playing days has been impressive, and he seems to be over the "reluctant" phase. You have to be if you're a GM in the NBA, although I do wonder why the Nets have let him go to a division rival mid-season. What's that all about? Rod Thorn's decision does raise questions -- although I'm not sure whether about the Nets or the 76ers.

At any rate, while you hate to see people lose jobs, you need to see improvement. Hopefully a new GM will cause the 76ers to view the pro world through a different lens and make better player personnel decision.

Broad Street Bullies, Y2K Version

The NHL has made sure that the Philadelphia Flyers got the memo this time.

The Broad Street Bullies have minored in headhunting this season, and Commish Gary Bettman and discipline honcho Colin Campbell have connected the dots, whether or not there is a team theme here or people have acted rashly and independently. The message: we're watching you, and if you continue to headhunt, we're going to force some of your boys to watch games for a very long time.

I recall the hip teacher at my high school. She was attractive, she knew it, she was popular, and she kept on getting into car accidents and getting hurt, to the tune of four accidents in two years. I remember discussing her automobile issues with my father, who offered the following sage advice: "Son, if you get into one crash, it could well be an accident. If you get into four in two years, you have a driving problem."

The NHL office has diagnosed the driving problem, and the Flyers are now in traffic school. If some continue to transgress, they'll lose their licenses or go to jail, or some combination of both.

Now that they've gotten the memo, hopefully they'll be smart enough to read it.