Saturday, May 31, 2014

Homemade Basketball Thoughts

BY SCOTT MORGANROTH
PHOTOS BY CANDICE EBLING

1. Am I impressed or surprised that Pistons billionaire Owner Tom Gores paid Stan Van Gundy $35 million over five years to be the President of Basketball Operations and Head Coach?

I would say a combination of both.

For $7 million per-season, the Pistons are getting a man that has an NBA head coaching record of 371-208 with a .641 winning percentage. This winning percentage is the sixth highest among NBA coaches with at least 500 or more games of head coaching experience.

Van Gundy's teams have reached the playoffs seven times, including three trips to the Eastern Conference Finals, two with the Orlando Magic and once with the Miami Heat.

Stan coached Orlando for five seasons, took the Magic to the NBA Finals once and his regular season mark was 259-135 with a .692 winning percentage.

The Pistons know they're getting a bold and disciplined coach that emphasizes defense. There will be no players boycotts on road trips at practices and his teams will play hard for a full 48 minutes.

What people probably don't realize was Van Gundy had a good college coaching record. In eight seasons, he was 135-92 (.595) proving that he can coach and develop young talent.

With the Pistons coming off a 29-53 record, Van Gundy knows he has to work with the young and the veterans knowing this squad is far from the finished product.

What I like most about the hiring of Van Gundy is now the Pistons won't be able to botch Greg Monroe's upcoming free agent status. If Van Gundy wants him, he and Gores will financially find a way to keep him playing at The Palace Of Auburn Hills, providing Monroe wants to remain in Detroit.

It will be a basketball, not a financial decision.

Even though the Pistons lost their recent lottery pick to the Charlotte Hornets, if Detroit can land a good player in round two, more power to them. Once upon a time, Dennis Rodman was drafted in this round. I'm sure Michigan Wolverines Power Forward Mitch McGary (6-10) would be a popular choice.

The Pistons won't have to worry about losing next years first round pick because that situation is over with and there is a distinct possibility they could make a draft deal to get back in.

If a Monroe agreement can't get worked out, it wouldn't be the end of the world.

When Grant Hill departed for the Orlando Magic in 2000, all wasn't lost.

Joe Dumars orchestrated a sign and trade with Orlando for Ben Wallace and Chucky Atkins.

Hill didn't think he could win a title in Detroit.

His judgement was a mistake as Detroit would win its third championship in 2004.

While Hill's Detroit numbers of 21.6 points-per-game, 7.9 rebounds-per-game and 7.3 assists-per-game looked good, Atkins and Wallace entered the Pistons starting line-up. Wallace would develop into an All-Star in the coming years with his rebounding and excellent defense.

After departing the Pistons, Hill would play in 47 games in the following four seasons do to a recurring ankle injury.

His next 12 seasons as a former Piston were injury plagued as he averaged 13.1 points, 4.7 rebounds and 2.6 assists with the Magic, Phoenix Suns and LA Clippers. He had great weather, no snow or ice but also never won a championship.

2. Regardless of who Van Gundy hires as general manager, it's good to see the return of former Pistons Coach Brendan Malone as an assistant coach. They worked together in Orlando, and at 72-years old, Malone is one of the most knowledgeable basketball minds. We all know the late Chuck Daly relied on him during the Bad Boys Era which produced two championships.

One person I would like to see Van Gundy mold is Bill Laimbeer. He was the guy that was the Master Of Mind Games on the court, and winning WNBA Championships with the Detroit Shock has to count for something.

He played hard, was no-nonsense and his strong locker room presence was always respected. Just ask Mark Aquirre. I could see Laimbeer building toughness in star center Andre Drummond and forward Josh Smith. Laimbeer was a great outside shooter and Smith could learn a lot from him.

Although he was disliked by his competitors, I remember watching ESPN's Outside The Lines and Charles Barkley heavily endorsed Laimbeer as a head coaching candidate. It would be unfortunate if he doesn't get that chance down the line.

Van Gundy has mentored Hall of Fame Center Patrick Ewing into a potential head coaching candidate. There is no question he can do the same with Laimbeer.

One thing that hopefully Laimbeer has learned over the years is having a better working relationship with the media. After all, being the face of a franchise, he'll have to sell the fans and get them to come to the arena.

Once upon a time, former Tiger Kirk Gibson had a stormy relationship with the press. Now he's managing the Arizona Diamondbacks and their playing days, approaches were quite similar.

3. The I-696 route has hit the Pistons as Detroit will have an NBADL team in Grand Rapids.

Marketing the Entire State of Michigan has worked well for the Tigers and Red Wings.

As of 2012, Grand Rapids population was estimated at 190,411 which ranked 124th in the US.

The West Michigan Whitecaps and Grand Rapids Griffins are the teams in the area.

The Whitecaps are the Tigers Class A Midwest League affiliate and play at Fifth Third Ballpark (9,684).

The Griffins play at Van Andel Arena (10,834 Ice Hockey). The Red Wings relied on this 2 1/2 hour drive en-route to their 23rd consecutive post season appearance.

Grand Rapids was the home of Boxing's Floyd Sr., Jr., Jeff and Roger Mayweather and James Toney.

4. Where will Joe Dumars ultimately land again in the NBA?

My best guess and the most logical spot would be with the New Orleans Pelicans.

For him to get involved in his Home State Of Louisiana and guide a team which has never reached the NBA Finals would be a challenge he'd be anxious to tackle.

He graduated from McNeese State and played there from 1981-1985. He was born in Shreveport, LA on May 24, 1963 (51) and Pelicans/Saints Owner Tom Benson would love to win a championship in two sports.

Dumars former boss Bill Davidson pulled the trick with the Pistons and Tampa Bay Lightning.

Having a three-time NBA Champion, six-time All-Star, who was inducted into the Basketball Hall Of Fame in 2006 wouldn't be a bad resource with his championship basketball mind.

For Dumars in Detroit, there was a lot of good and some bad. But in the end, Dumars knew his time was coming to an end. His No.4 is retired and without him, the Pistons wouldn't have three championship banners hanging from the rafters at the Palace.

5. While this thought isn't related to the Pistons, it's related to the University of South Florida, My Old Stomping Grounds.

I'm glad that Steve Masiello, 36, completed his undergraduate degree at the University of Kentucky.

Manhattan showed a lot of class by putting him on unpaid leave in April because he hadn't earned his degree. When USF ran a background check, it found that Masiello misrepresented himself on his resume, thus it terminated his contract.

Manhattan admitted that Masiello used poor judgement, but didn't intentionally misrepresent himself.

Masiello, who led the Jaspers to a 25-8 record and the NCAA Tournament, and a near upset of Louisville this past season. He has a 60-39 mark with a .606 winning percentage in three seasons as coach.

What Masiello did was nearly commit Career Suicide. It's inevitable he'll leave Manhattan one day for a higher paying job.

We'll never know what he would have accomplished at USF.

But for now, he Owes Manhattan at least 2-3 years because what the Jaspers did by bringing him back and Preserving or Saving His Coaching Career was Priceless.

Scott Morganroth can be reached at www.scottsports33.com.

Thursday, May 29, 2014

NFL Viewpoints

BY SCOTT MORGANROTH

1. I was totally touched by the gesture that Jack Meredith, a 32-year old Buffalo Bills fan made when he had a tattoo placed on his right-arm of late Owner Ralph Wilson Jr.

Wilson, who died at the age of 95 in March, was an unbelievable person. I had the pleasure of meeting him during Super Bowl XLIII Week in Tampa when he was selected before the Pittsburgh Steelers defeated the Arizona Cardinals at Raymond James Stadium on February 1, 2009.

When I met Wilson, the only way that I could talk to him was by addressing him as Mr.Wilson. Rest In Peace, Mr. Wilson.

Meredith plans to add another tattoo of Bills legendary QB Jim Kelly next month. Kelly is currently fighting Cancer and recently completed his latest rounds of treatments.

While I have no tattoos nor do I ever have plan to get one, I respect a person that pays tribute to great people with this form of symbolism especially to a pair of local icons.

2. More on the Bills. As much as I know that Donald Trump's involvement led to the downfall of the USFL in the mid 1980's thinking the league could compete against the NFL in the fall, I have to admit that when the team gets sold by the Wilson family, I hope he succeeds in his quest to buy it.

Trump has deep pockets and will turn the Buffalo Bills from a Small to a Big Market team in a New York second. This billionaire will add credibility to this organization and we know that he'll spend good money to get the best players. How many coaches he fires is another story, but he'll be able to land big names.

The only player he won't get will be Herschel Walker as his running back as he did with the New Jersey Generals. But you never know, he could hire him to work in the front office.

3. The best thing that ever happened to former Texas A&M QB Johnny Manziel was that he slid to No. 22 overall to the Cleveland Browns. I heard he even sent a text message to the Browns to take him and they traded up to the No.26 spot in the first round to do this.

Have to admit after hearing his recent sound bites, Manziel was humbled that he was passed up 21 times. He said he expects to earn his job and nothing will be handed to him.

This is called Humble Pie, but I have to admit that I'm actually rooting for him to do well. The City of Cleveland isn't a place that most athletes want to go. Even home town NBA legend LeBron James bolted for Miami.

But after Manziel's selection, the Browns sold 1,500 season tickets and will sell plenty more. Manziel dropped because of his off the field baggage as teams wondered if he would be dedicated to football instead of endorsements.

If he performs well in Cleveland, The Rock N' Roll Hall Of Fame will make him an Honorary Member.

Time will tell if Manziel ever turns out to be a late first round steal like Dan Marino (Miami Dolphins) or Aaron Rogers (Green Bay Packers). But if he performs to his abilities, works at his craft, then there will be 31 teams regretting that they passed on him.

Because of the hype, defensive players will be gunning for him and he'll have a Bulls Eye on his chest.

If the Browns win the Super Bowl, I predict that there will be two Manziel Statues, one on Lake Erie and the other in front of the stadium.

If he becomes a bust, there won't be a bust at the Pro Football Hall of Fame in nearby Canton, Ohio and the Browns management will be eating "Crow."

4. Not a good time to be an aging NFL Owner.

On March 9, 2014, Lions Owner William Clay Ford died at the age of 88, just five days before his 89 birthday on March 14. During his ownership dating back to 1964, Ford's teams were 310-441-13 with one playoff win. The .441 winning percentage was the worst of a team that existed since 1964.

Aside from one trip to the NFC Championship Game, the closest Ford ever got to a Super Bowl was when Metro Detroit hosted games at the Pontiac Silverdome and Ford Field.

Say what you want about his lack of on field success, but I will say that in an era that if Owners didn't get stadiums built, they'd move their teams out of state, Ford never utilized this hostage tactic with the Lions.

Rest In Peace Mr. Ford.

Sixteen days after Ford's death, the Buffalo Bills lost their Owner Ralph Wilson on March 25, 2014. While Wilson didn't win a Super Bowl, under the direction of QB Kelly, they appeared in four straight championship games.

There is a saying that deaths can happen in threes and that indeed is the case with the passing of Tampa Bay Bucs Owner Malcolm Glazer on May 28, 2014 at the age of 85.

Prior to his ownership, Tampa Bay had won only 87 games in 19 seasons with three playoff appearances under the late Hugh Culverhouse.

That changed with Glazer as Tampa Bay amassed 131 regular season wins, seven playoff appearances and won a Super Bowl. They also built beautiful Raymond James Stadium. He bought the Buccaneers on January 16, 1995.

5. I'm still waiting to see what team will move to Los Angeles. Will it be the Oakland Raiders, San Diego Chargers or the St. Louis Rams? All of these stadium issues have expiring leases and the teams seem to be getting very little cooperation from their respective communities.

I wouldn't even begin to make a prediction, but how does the LA Rams sound? That could happen again and makes a lot of sense since their owner his Southern California ties.

6. While it will be weird not seeing an AFC team on Thanksgiving, the NFL did get it right as CBS took advantage of it's cross-flex option. The South Florida Market, Miami Dolphins, or the return of former Lions Coach Jim Schwartz of the Buffalo Bills weren't good enough story lines.

The Detroit Lions face the Chicago Bears for the first time on the holiday since 1989 at 12:30 p.m..

It will seem like old times with these rivals on CBS when the network used to own the NFC Broadcast Rights.

This brings back memories of the late Pat Summerall and John Madden tandem.

No Brent Musberger, Irv Cross, Phyllis George or Jimmy "The Greek" Snyder on the NFL Today.

The other match-ups aren't bad with the Dallas Cowboys hosting the Chip Kelly led high octane offense of the Philadelphia Eagles on Fox at 4:30 p.m.

NBC gets to show the San Francisco 49'ers new home as they face the Super Bowl Champions Seattle Seahawks at 8:30 p.m.

While all three games should be entertaining, CBS makes out like a bandit getting an old traditional NFC North Rival. They can only hope the Lions under new Coach Jim Caldwell gives them a good offensive show along with additional improvement by QB Matthew Stafford.

Scott Morganroth can be reached at www.scottsports33.com.


No Repeat Of History at Marlins Park

BY SCOTT MORGANROTH
PHOTOS BY CANDICE EBLING

The last time we came to the Orange Bowl Location, history was made.

Henderson Alverez threw the 282nd No-Hitter in MLB History and the fifth since the Marlins were formed in 1993.

This was the first no-hitter that I've ever seen in person.

Miami swept the Detroit Tigers in this three-game series from Sept 27-29 culminating with the season ending finale by Henderson Alverez, photographed celebrating.

Miami would finish the season with a 62-100 record and were 34 games behind first place Atlanta (96-66) in the National League East.

Miami's payroll for this dismal season was $36 Million which was 29th in MLB. This averaged to $1.1 Million per-player.

As I researched this statistic, it was interesting to note that the Detroit Tigers have connections to three of these no-hitters.

On June 10, 1997, the Jim Leyland piloted Florida Marlins, saw pitcher Kevin Brown throw a 9-0 gem defeating the San Francisco Giants at Candlestick Park.

To win on the road in windy San Francisco should count as two no-hitters.

Current Tiger Anibal Sanchez defeated the Arizona Diamondbacks 2-0 in the Marlins former home, Joe Robbie Stadium on September 6, 2006.

Leyland was once again a part of a no-hitter, but on the wrong end of it as Alverez defeated Detroit 1-0 on September 29, 2014 at Marlins Park in his last regular season game as Tigers skipper.

Here on May 24, 2014, another former Tiger was on the hill for Miami against the Milwaukee Brewers.

His name is Jacob Turner and he entered the game with an 0-2 mark with a 6.59 ERA.

His no hitter ended in the top of the second inning as Carlos Gomez, photographed twice, doubled to deep right field.

Turner pitched 6.1 innings, gave up eight hits, walked one and struck out two.

His ERA dropped to 5.35 with the outing, leaving the game with a 1-0 lead. Turner threw 89 pitches, 57 for strikes.

Turner would go on and get the win and improved his record to 1-2.

On Friday Night, the Marlins began their Memorial Day Weekend three-game series and with Miami deciding to leave the retractable roof open.

Giancarlo Stanton and Garrett Jones put on a power display by each hitting two homers, all were solo shots but that wasn't enough as Milwaukee pounded Miami 9-5. The paid attendance was 18,989.

Going into Saturday's game, Milwaukee battered the Marlins 20-6 in their last 26 meetings and had a five-game winning streak.

In 2013, Milwaukee was 5-1 against Miami and shutout the Marlins three straight games from July 19-21 in Wisconsin.

The Marlins game on Saturday would be a 4:10 p.m. start by no means a conflict with the Miami Heat vs Indiana Pacers just a handful of miles downtown that would begin at 8:30 p.m. at the American Airlines Arena.

There would definitely be no parking issues for this inner city double-header.

There would be No Repeat of what would happen in September. With the temperature 87 degrees on the outside, the only air was the air conditioning.

The Marlins (26-24) defeated the Milwaukee Brewers 2-1. The paid attendance was 25,819. The Brewers dropped to 29-21. Miami snapped it's five-game losing streak to Milwaukee.

Milwaukee still leads the all-time series with the Marlins 60-57, but is 29-34 in South Florida.

On Sunday, Milwaukee ripped Miami 7-1 to improve the all-time series against the Marlins 61-57, and 30-34 in South Florida.

Ryan Braun led the way in this contest by amassing four hits, scoring two runs with one RBI, in front of a paid attendance of 21,897.

The three game series drew a total paid attendance of 66,705 which Milwaukee took two of three.

The only difference between the last time these teams met in South Florida was both were struggling squads.

In 2013, Milwaukee finished 74-88 and dealt with the 65-game suspension of star player Ryan Braun which originated in Miami 7.13 miles and 15 minutes away at the Biogenesis Clinic of America.

He missed a total 86 games, 21 due to a right thumb contusion.

In 2014, Braun, photographed, has quietly put some respectable numbers on the board with a .315 average, seven homers and 23 RBI in 36 games.

In 2014, Milwaukee is currently in first place in the National League Central with a 32-22 record while Miami is close to halfway towards it's win total of 2013 with 28.

The Marlins are 28-25 and they've slightly raised their payroll to 47.5 Million which is still 29th in MLB.

Before the game, I had a chance to speak with Hall of Famer Tony Perez, photographed with me to the left, while former Tigers Pitching Coach Chuck Hernandez holds the same title for Miami.

The former Cincinnati Red legend, Perez looks fantastic at the age of 72 and is a part of the Marlins front office.

This is a young staff that has an ERA of 3.78 and is in contention in the National League East .5 games behind division leading Atlanta 29-25 at the time of this post.

It will be interesting how this young squad progresses and whether the fans fill Marlins Park.

There is still a lot of backlash aimed at Miami Owner Jeffrey Loria who has a new expensive stadium, but has yet to field a competitive team.

Scott Morganroth can be reached at www.scottsports33.com.




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