Friday’s Den: Random stuff with weekend here……..

13) Washington State 81, UCLA 73
— Bruins lose for third time in last four games.
— USC takes sole possession of first place in the Pac-12.
— Wazzu wins for third time in four games.

12) From 2006-08, Ben Howland got UCLA to the Final Four three years in a row; unfortunately for them, Billy Donovan’s Florida team beat them in the Final Four two years in a row, then they lost to Memphis in ‘08. Making the Final Four three years in a row is damn fine coaching, but if your fanbase is spoiled, it leaves a sour taste.

We live in a fickle society; the fanbase got tired of Howland and his defense-first approach, so Steve Alford replaced him, and that didn’t go well enough (three Sweet 16’s in six years), so after butchering the latest coaching search, they eventually hired Mick Cronin, a coach who wins a lot (11 NCAA tourneys, never in Elite 8) but also believes in defense-first.

The last eight years (8 years is a significant trend), Mick Cronin’s teams have finished outside the top 300 in tempo (they are 357 teams in the country). If they thought Howland’s teams weren’t entertaining enough, they’re going to get tired of Cronin pretty soon, once fans are let back in Pauley Pavilion.

Unless, of course, Cronin wins a national title; that would appease the fanbase, for a while.

11) I have a new hero; his name is Mark Daigneault, he coaches the Oklahoma City Thunder.

At age 35, he is an NBA head coach; he began his basketball career as a student manager at UConn, working for Jim Calhoun. He was going to stay in college and get a Master’s degree, but Calhoun and assistant coach George Blaney pushed him to apply for an assistant coaching job at Holy Cross, which he got, because Calhoun/Blaney are influential people.

From there he hooked up with Billy Donovan at Florida and then moved up to become the head coach of Oklahoma City Thunder’s G League team. Last year he became an assistant coach for the Thunder, and now he sits in the first chair, at age 35.

For those of us who were student managers in college, this guy is a hero; there are others who have followed this path— Lawrence Frank, Will Wade, Buzz Williams. I root for those guys.

10) While we’re talking about the Oklahoma City Thunder, lets talk about Kenrich Williams, a 6-6 forward. This is a guy who didn’t get a D-I scholarship offer playing high school ball in Waco, TX. Baylor missed the boat on this guy.

Williams went to New Mexico JC, then to TCU, where he helped the Horned Frogs improve into a contending team, but he wasn’t an All-American or anything.

His persistence is inspirational; for two years, he bounced between the G League and the New Orleans Pelicans. New Orleans traded him to the Thunder last November, and how he is scoring 5.6 ppg in 16.6 mpg for Oklahoma City.

Not bad for a kid with no scholarship offers coming out of high school; it shows kids that if you work your butt off on your game and don’t give up, great things can and will happen.

9) Lakers won their last six games, with last three games all going overtime. In those three games, 36-year old Lebron James played:

46:29, 42:31, 41:03

Lot of minutes for a 36-year old, even if he is one of the five best players ever. At some point, as the playoffs approach, they’re going to have to taper his off playing time a little- they’ll need his legs to be fresh for the playoffs. He is an all-time great, but he’s still a human being.

8) Valparaiso University is dropping their Crusaders nickname, mascot and logos, because they’ve been adopted and embraced by different hate groups. Animal mascots are going to be even more popular as we move forward; I think Valparaiso Armadillos would be a cool name.

Are there armadillos in Indiana?

7) Stanford’s best basketball player is Oscar deSilva; the young man speaks six languages!!!! He can get away with cursing at officials any time he wants, as long as the refs aren’t bilingual.

6) Ivy League will let current senior student-athletes play an additional year as graduate students next season, a one-time deal, since the league didn’t play this season.

Previously, the Ivy League hasn’t let athletic redshirts or graduate students to play sports, which is why lot of them transfer elsewhere to play in their fifth year of eligibility. Right now, there are 20 Ivy League men’s basketball players currently in the NCAA transfer portal.

This spring/summer will be a very active time for transfers/roster poaching in college hoop.

5) Texas State 63, Tex-Arlington 56:
— Bobcats are 14-6, 8-3 in Sun Belt with an interim coach.
— Texas State is #13 at shooting 3’s, #10 at forcing turnovers.

4) From 2004-08, Mike D’Antoni coached the Phoenix Suns; they won 62-54-61-55 games in those years, they were so much fun to watch, they won a lot, but they went 26-25 in playoff games and the new owner sent D’Antoni packing, a large mistake.

They’ve made the playoffs once in 12 years since then, they’ haven’t been fun to watch, they’ve pretty much been a dismal franchise, but hey, the owner is a really rich guy with no patience.

Sacramento Kings have the NBA’s longest playoff drought (14 years); Suns are next, at 10 years. Suns are doing well, look like they’ll make the playoffs this year. Hopefully the jackass owner will leave Monty Williams alone and let him coach a young, improving team.

3) Red Sox gave Marwin Gonzalez $3M to play this season; Gonzalez is a switch-hitter who plays a lot of different positions. He knocked in 90 runs for the world champion Astros in 2017.

2) Jacksonville Jaguars raised eyebrows this week when they hired Chris Doyle as their strength coach; he had that job with the Iowa Hawkeyes for 21 years. Supposedly a good strength coach.

Here’s the thing: in 2019, former players made accusations about institutional racism within the Iowa football program, including specific accusations against Doyle, who was given $1.1M to take a hike. Now Urban Meyer brings him to the NFL? Eyebrows raised.

1) You bring a head coach with zero NFL experience to a franchise that loses a lot; one of the first people he hires is a guy that has been accused of racist activity, at a lower level. What could possibly go wrong?

When I heard that Jacksonville hired Meyer, first thing that popped into my head was this: This won’t be a mediocre hire; it’ll either go really well, or really, really badly. They’re not off to a great start. 

Author: Armadillo Sports

I've been involved in sports my whole life, now just write about them. I like to travel, mostly to Las Vegas- they have gambling there.