Thursday, April 30, 2015

April's Sports Scene

BY SCOTT MORGANROTH

There are some people that you root for to have good things happen to them and one of those individuals is Wisconsin Basketball Coach Bo Ryan.

The Badgers gave Bo a contract extension through 2020 which means he'll be 71 if he plays out the deal. Bo deserves to leave on his own terms especially since he's the best coach the Badgers have ever had.

All Bo has accomplished in his tenure at Wisconsin is guide his squad to Back-To-Back Final Fours, four Regular Season Big Ten Championships and three Big Ten Tournament Titles.

The guy has compiled a 357-125 mark at Wisconsin for a .741 winning percentage when he took over the job in 2001-2002.

Want some more impressive numbers, in the Big Ten he's amassed a 172-68 mark for a .717 winning percentage.

His collegiate All-Time record is 740-228 and he was a finalist for enshrinement for the 2015 Basketball Hall of Fame.

All I can say right now is the obvious, "Bo knows how to win."

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Why am I dumb enough to comment on 1976 former Olympic icon Bruce Jenner's Sex Change at 65?

Because it's trending and I'll say that he should change his name to Jennifer Jenner. This has a nice ring to it.

But the former male does know how to attract an audience because just under 17 million people tuned into an ABC News Interview when he identified himself as a woman.

The Nielsen Company said Saturday that 16.9 million viewers watched the interview on ABC's 20/20 Newscast on Friday Night.

Nielsen also estimated that there were 972,000 tweets Friday Night about the Jenner Interview.

It is weird because this was an individual who once appeared on a Wheaties Box in 1976. Once upon time he appeared on a box that's viewed as the Breakfast of Champions. Now Jenner is having a Late-Life Crisis and appears to be depressed of his previous identity.

Whatever the case, I wish Jenner well for the duration of his/her time on earth if this is what makes this person happy.

But I will honestly say that Jenner's Olympic accomplishments will have a far different meaning than before.

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If there is one baseball person that I'm totally fed up with, it's former Baseball Commissioner Fay Vincent.

There is no question that Pete Rose made some major mistakes that earned him a life-time ban from baseball by late Commissioner Bart Giamatti in1989 for gambling.

Rose is still banned from baseball and former Commissioner Bud Selig has left this ban in the hands of his successor Rob Manfred to decide.

Personally, I would like to see Rose reinstated because he has served his time.

For now, I commend Manfred for allowing Rose to participate in this summer's All-Star Festivities in Cincinnati. The commissioner is allowing Rose to be a part of FOX'S broadcast team in their studios. I'm looking forward to his insights.

It's better for baseball to see Pete involved in the game in some capacity.

I truly don't believe that Rose will ever get into the Baseball's Hall of Fame while he's alive---perhaps not even when he dies because of his association with gambling. Baseball is old school and the traditionalists won't let it happen.

It's the toughest Hall of Fame to get into. A vote of 75% is required to get in and not 74.9%. There have been years were zero players were voted into the Hall of Fame.

I do feel like it's time for baseball to move on and give him another chance.

I know Manfred isn't dodging the subject but he recently said on ESPN's Mike & Mike in The Morning that he's investigating all the facts that led to the ban in 1989. He's in touch with Roses' representatives so he'll listen to them before making a final decision to let Pete back in.

I'm sure that if Rose does get back in baseball there will be stipulations about the jobs he's allowed to take and will be micro-managed to the max. I can't see Rose at the age of 71 getting any major opportunities.

As for Vincent, who constantly remains outspoken about Rose, I'll say this and take a line from Mike & Mike In The Morning "Just Shut Up."

Vincent took over for Giamatti on September 1, 1989 and resigned in 1992 after the owners gave him a "No Confidence Vote" of 18-9. Baseball would proceed to flourish without Vincent under Bud Selig.

So once again Fay Vincent, "Just Shut Up."

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With Derek Jeter comfortably retired, the New York Yankees big star is Alex Rodriguez.

I'm rooting for Alex because the Yankees really need him.

Rodriguez served his 162-game suspension because of his steroid issues. He's served his punishment and deserves the opportunity to resurrect his career.

In 2014, Rodriguez forfeited $25 million in base salary.

But to his credit, the layoff allowed him to give his surgically repaired hips a chance to heal. This season Rodriguez is seeing time as a DH and at first base.

Currently, he's one home run away from Willie Mays mark of 660 that would earn him another $6 Million. There are other milestone bonuses that he's looking to cash in on at $6 Million a pop. But realistically, the Yankees will do everything in their power not to pay these bonuses because of his involvement with PED's.

It will be interesting to see how this plays out with the Players Association because they don't like to see one of their members lose money. But by the same token, Rodriguez during his legal troubles tried to sue his Union however, he subsequently dropped the lawsuit. It's safe to say, he didn't make any friends.

Nonetheless, he promised Manfred that he'd stay away from drama and he's kept his word thus far. There is no question he'll never make it to the Baseball Hall of Fame. The main thing left for Rodriguez is to reach the end of his contract to earn his $60 Million remaining salary and finish his career on a positive note,

Hopefully, Yankees fans will embrace his comeback with less boos so he can play loose. I hardly doubt that Rodriguez could care less about the backlash on the road. The Yankees are getting older and it will be interesting to see if there are any future stars on the horizon. Plus, he'll put people in the stands.

As of this post, Rodriguez has five home runs and 13 RBI's in 20 games. I'll be interesting to see how well he performs as the season progresses and if the Yankees return to the playoffs.

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Staying on the diamond, this is one of the most expensive divorces in baseball history as the LA Angels traded Josh Hamilton back to the Texas Rangers this week.

Due to a recent drug relapse and his under performance on the field, Angels Owner Arte Moreno wanted no part of Hamilton. Since Hamilton had a full no-trade clause in his contract, he took the best and only deal available. Hamilton wanted to return to Texas.

The Angels are paying Hamilton $68 million of the three-years remaining $80.2 million of his contract, while Texas pays under $7 Million.

Hamilton forfeited money for a reason why many of us would not want to move to California.

There is no State Income Tax in Texas while it's 13.3% in California.

Hamilton will turn 34 on May 21st and he returns to a team that he played a major role in leading to the 2010 and 2011 World Series. During his five year stint with Texas from 2008-2012, he was a five-time All-Star.

Moreno was hoping Hamilton would get suspended by MLB because of his drug issues to save money, but rather than face a legal challenge from the players union by not paying him with a team suspension, he did the next best thing and that's was his hands of a bad free agent signing.

For Arte's sake, he can only hope that Hamilton doesn't have success against the Angels or leads them to the playoffs since these are divisional rivals especially since Josh is on his payroll.

For Texas, this is a Low Risk and potentially a High Reward.

It will be interesting to see how this plays out the rest of the 2015 Season.

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Finally, we'll end this column by staying in the Dallas-Metroplex Area.

While the LA Angels are saying good riddance to Hamilton, the Dallas Mavericks are doing the same to point guard Rajon Rondo.

This week the Mavericks were eliminated in the playoffs by the Houston Rockets. Rondo didn't receive any playoff shares.

The 29-year old can be considered a Cancer on any roster. He's a temperamental head case.

If you can't get along with championship winning coaches like Doc Rivers or current Mavericks pilot Rick Carlisle, then who can you play for?

The NBA is loaded with point guards, so I'd be very curious about what team would want to sign him this off-season.

I know the Los Angeles Lakers have been mentioned, but really, do you think Kobe Bryant would tolerate Rondo's immature behavior? I doubt it. I don't see Rondo reuniting with Doc Rivers and joining the Los Angeles Clippers.

What about Rondo in a New York Knicks uniform with Carmelo Anthony? I would feel sorry for Knicks Coach Derek Fisher.

What young team would want him to be a bad influence on their development?

The best place for Rondo is China.

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

Friday, April 3, 2015

College Basketball Thoughts

BY SCOTT MORGANROTH

What is more interesting?

The Final Four or the college basketball coaching changes?

Let's talk about the tournament first.

In the majority of My Brackets, I predicted that Kentucky (38-0) would defeat Duke ( 33-4) in the Finals on Monday Night, April 6th.

I did have Wisconsin (35-3) in many of My Final Fours. The Badgers game against Kentucky figures to be a classic from two No.1 seeds with plenty of Pro Prospects and NBA Scouts in attendance.

If there is a player who deserves to win the John R. Wooden Award, it's Badgers Center Frank Kaminsky. The 7 ft 0 in, 242 pound senior center will turn 22 on Saturday when the Badgers face the Wildcats. Couldn't think of a better birthday present for Kaminsky if Wisconsin prevails.

Kaminsky, a native of Lisle, Illinois., came back for one more shot at an NCAA Title after his team fell short in last year's Final Four.

I decided to put Duke in the Finals because of ESPN's Outside the Lines Show. During the broadcast, Blue Devils Coach Mike Krzyzewski seemed to be recruiting the same way as Kentucky's John Calipari.

Coach K is adapting to the one and done philosophy and doesn't mind seeing his players stay for 1-2 years. He's an old dog learning new tricks to win. In addition to his college success, Coach K has done an excellent job with USA Basketball working with NBA Players.

I still like Calipari to win the NCAA Title and complete the perfect season, but I commend Coach K for adjusting to the times.

Michigan State (27-11) was the only blemish in My Bracket to reach the Final Four. I know the Spartans have caused lots of bracket turmoil. Last year I had MSU in The Final Four; a year too early.

But Coach Tom Izzo continues to amaze me as Mr. March. He's been to the NCAA Tournament 18-straight years, The Sweet Sixteen 13 times, Seven Final Fours and won a National Title in 2000.

His squad was 23-11 in the regular season and he was under-seeded at No.7. The road to Indiana was with wins over ACC Powers Virginia and Louisville.

Last year Connecticut won the title as a No.7 seed, so will history repeat itself? We'll see if this
materializes starting Saturday Night.

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This hasn't been a good year for NCAA Football Powers in 2014-2015.

Here is a list of teams which didn't play in this year's post-season.

1. Michigan 16-16.
2. Nebraska 13-18.
3. Penn State 18-16.
4. Florida State 17-16.
5. Georgia Tech 12-19.
6. Virginia Tech 11-22.
7. Kansas State 15-17.
8. TCU 18-15.
9. USC 12-20.
10. Florida 16-17.
11. Auburn 15-20.

There is talk that Florida Coach Billy Donovan is chomping at the bit for a chance to coach in the NBA. He previously accepted the coaching position with the Orlando Magic but changed his mind.

The Magic are looking for a new coach again. I have a feeling that Donovan will be a strong candidate with Orlando and will get plenty of offers. It's just a matter what situation will be a good match.

These schools become relevant on Saturdays and during the NFL Draft, but for this March Madness, they're watching games on TV.

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Now onto the coaching changes.

One program that appears to have made a good hire is the University of Tennessee.

After being fired by Texas last weekend with a 402-180 mark in 17 seasons with the Longhorns, Rick Barnes, 60 wasn't out of work long. He takes his overall 604-314 record, which ranks ninth among all active in Division I coaches to Knoxville also known as Rocky Top.

Barnes teams have reached the NCAA Tournament 22 years, have Six Sweet Sixteen Appearances, Three Elite Eights and made it to the Final Four in 2003.

Ironically, this is the alma-mater of his wife Candy.

At Tennessee he'll get a six-year deal worth $2.25 Million.

Tennessee has been turning over it's fair share of coaches in the past five years and third in three seasons including Barnes. He'll bring stability to the program which has been overshadowed by the success of Football and The Lady Volunteers.

The Volunteers have no problem spending money for basketball coaches.

Former Coach Bruce Pearl (now with Auburn) was earning $1.9 Million and was on his way towards a raise until a scandal earned him a pink slip.

Recently fired Donnie Tyndall's past caught up with him as he collected $1.6 Million in 2014-15 to compile a 16-16 mark in his only season.

Prior to Tyndall, The Volunteers last coach was Cuonzo Martin departed for California a year earlier.

Barnes coached his last game on Thursday March 19, as Texas lost to a second round game to Butler 56-48.

I'm sure Tennessee would like to have a powerhouse men's program but I think they'll be happy with stability on the hardwood. I do believe Tennessee found a guy with tremendous integrity and a strong background.

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Speaking of the Texas Longhorns, they wasted little time finding Barnes' replacement as they hired Madison, WI., native Shaka Smart as their new head coach. Smart will turn 38 on April 8th and there is no better birthday present then to go to a state which is as big as Texas.

The State of Texas itself could be a country of it's own and high schools spend lots of money to make sure they have first class facilities.

If Smart drove from El Paso, Texas to the Louisiana border across I-10, that's a 20-hour drive that I've taken a few times.

Smart will have Dallas and Houston as main recruiting territory so there will be no shortage of prospects.

In the past year, the Longhorns hired Charlie Strong to replace legendary Football Coach Mack Brown and now Smart is taking over for Barnes.

But it looks like Texas made a good hire since Smart took a mid-major program, The VCU Rams and in six seasons his squads posted a 163-56 record with a .744 winning percentage. In the NCAA Tournament he was 7-5. He also has one Final Four on his resume.

Not a bad weekend for the City of Madison, WI.

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Now from a Big State to The Big Apple as St. Johns recently fired Steve Lavin after five seasons.

In Lavin's five years, he finished with an 81-55 mark and the Red Storm made two NIT and two NCAA Tournament Appearances.

Like Barnes, Lavin was fired after a second round loss as the Red Storm dropped a 76-64 decision on March 19 to San Diego State, which is coached by former Michigan Wolverine, Steve Fisher.

St. Johns moved quickly to fill their vacancy by turning to legendary player Chris Mullin, who led his alma-mater to the 1985 Final Four. He's St. John's all-time leading scorer with 2,440 career points.

Mullin spent 16-seasons as a player in the NBA, is a five-time All-Star (1989-93), is a John R. Wooden Award winner in 1985. He was a member of the 1992 "Dream Team."

The Brooklyn, NY., native has served in the front offices for the Golden State Warriors and the Sacramento Kings.

Will all of his success on and off the floor enable St. Johns to return to the glory years under Hall of Fame Coach Lou Carnesecca?

Mullin received a glowing endorsement from his 90-year old coach.

Time will tell if bringing Mullin back to his alma-mater will pay dividends.

But a couple things are for certain.

First, his track record should bolster his chances in recruiting.

Second, the alumni/boosters and administration have a familiar face that know the program and area well.

Like Michigan's Jim Harbaugh, there is a lot of work to be done, but now the energy level is extremely high at St. Johns. But will it stay that way? Once again, time will tell.

I do believe that Lavin will find a new coaching job if he wants one since he's coached at UCLA and St. Johns or expect him to be returning as a color analyst in 2015-16.

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Finally, speaking of UCLA, another former Bruin Coach Ben Howland is back on the sidelines and he'll be coaching in the SEC at Mississippi State for the Bulldogs.

During his final season at UCLA in 2012-13, he was dismissed after a 25-10 mark.

Howland led UCLA to three Final Four Appearances and his record as Bruins' Coach was 233-107. He is second in All-Time Wins in UCLA History behind John Wooden who had 620.

The Bulldogs will be getting a coach who has a career mark of 399-208 with a .657 winning percentage and also had a successful tenures at the University of Pittsburgh and Northern Arizona University.

Howland has a reputation for taking struggling programs and turns them into winners. He was 89-40 (.690) in four seasons at Pittsburgh and 79-59 (.572) at Northern Arizona.

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

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