Its been a busy few days, even beyond baseball starting:
13) North Carolina basketball coach Roy Williams retired, with 903 career wins, 485 for the Tar Heels, 418 at Kansas. He won’t be easily replaced; where does North Carolina turn from here?
My guess is former Tar Heel player Wes Miller, who is coach at NC-Greensboro; last five years, he’s gone 125-43 with the Spartans of the Southern Conference.
Back to Roy Williams for a minute; he seems like a genuinely nice person in addition to being a great coach. I remember reading a article where he read a book about golf— I think Rick Reilly wrote the book, but Williams really liked it, so he bought 20 copies of it and gave them to his friends. There aren’t enough nice people in today’s world: Roy Williams will be missed.
12) Kansas Jayhawks gave basketball coach Bill Self a lifetime contract this week, despite Kansas not having an AD right now. I guess the school’s chancellor stepped in and did the deal.
Pat Forde of Sports Illustrated wrote this about what the contract says about Kansas: “We like to win, we don’t care how, we don’t care what NCAA sanctions may come, we don’t care about anything but continuing to win.”
Kansas is headed towards some type of probation because of recruiting violations, but Self’s new contract says that he cannot be fired for cause due to NCAA sanctions.
11) As I starting writing this piece, Oklahoma tabbed Porter Moser as its next basketball coach, replacing the retired Lon Kruger. Moser went 178-141 in 10 years at Loyola, going 99-36 the last four years, including a run to the Final Four in 2018.
One of the interesting things about college hoop is how teams take advantage of circumstances to become relevant. Creighton left the MVC in 2013, Wichita State in 2017; they had dominated the Valley before moving on to greener pa$ture$. Loyola’s 56-16 run in MVC games the last four years coincide with Wichita State moving elsewhere.
10) Then there is Texas Tech, which got kicked in the teeth this week when Chris Beard left the Red Raiders to become the new coach at rival Texas, his alma mater. Bears was a student assistant to Tom Penders with the Longhorns in the early 90’s.
Beard went 112-55 in five years at Tech, after a 30-5 season at Little Rock. Texas has won one NCAA Tournament game in the last decade (1-6). Beard will be expected to win more than that.
9) Chris Ogden quit his job as HEAD COACH at Texas-Arlington, to become one of Beard’s ASSISTANTS at Texas. Ogden was 44-47 in three years at UTA, after they canned Scott Cross, who went 72-33 in his last three years with the Mavericks. Cross is now the coach at Troy- he knocked Ogden’s Arlington team out of the Sun Belt tournament last month.
8) Washington Wizards’ Russell Westbrook a triple-double earlier this week, the first one ever where the guy scored 35+ points and had 20+ assists in the same game. He had 35 points, 21 assists, 14 rebounds; he must’ve had the ball a lot, that’s for sure.
Most importantly, Washington beat the Pacers 132-124.
7) Utah Jazz had a scary night this week, when their flight to Memphis struck a flock of birds during takeoff, damaging the left engine of the plane. There was a loud sound like an explosion, flames coming out of the engine and visible damage. Then the plane started to tilt and slowly lose altitude.
Players were actually texting their families, saying their goodbyes; luckily, the flight turned around and made an emergency landing back in Salt Lake City. The rest of the team got on a rescheduled flight to Memphis, but star Donovan Mitchell, who apparently hates flying in the first place, stayed home and skipped that game, which the Jazz won anyway.
6) ESPN signed 81-year old Dick Vitale to a new, 2-year contract to continue working for them; they need to tell him to stop pouring that cooler of water over his head that he does in the GEICO commercial— a guy can catch pneumonia.
Not sure if everyone nows this, but Dick Vitale was a really good coach before he worked on TV; he was an assistant coach at Rutgers who recruited a lot of the players who formed the nucleus of their Final Four squad in 1976.
From there, he went 78-30 as head coach at Detroit, finishing ranked #12 in the country in his last season there. He went 34-60 in a brief stint coaching the NBA’s Detroit Pistons.
The man has amazing energy, even now; he’s helped raise over $100M to fight cancer. At times he is tough to listen to, but damn, he’s had a hell of a career.
5) DePaul hired Oregon assistant Tony Stubblefield as its new basketball coach; they haven’t made the NCAA Tournament since 2004. Since 2008, the Blue Demons are 43-206 in Big East conference games, which is, as we like to say, no bueno.
Stubblefield just turned 51; he’s never been a head coach, though he was an interim coach at New Mexico State in 2005, when Lou Henson got sick. He worked as an assistant under Mick Cronin at Cincinnati.
4) The clusterbleep of the year may be at East Tennessee State, where coach Jason Shay was told to take a hike this week- they say he “resigned” but guys don’t quit after their first year as a head coach, not a guy who waited until he was 47 to become a head coach.
East Tennessee’s players took a knee during the national anthem before a few games this year, which ticked off boosters/state politicians, who publicly said so. Shay backed the players; if you want to be a successful coach, you back your players, especially when they’re right.
Shay went 13-12 in his one year as a head coach; he had assisted Steve Forbes for the five years before that, when ETSU went 130-43, going 71-19 in SoCon games.
East Tennessee’s decision makers have some questions to answer:
— Who do they hire from here?
— Who would want this job, if you fired Shay for supporting his players?
— Do the ETSU decision makers want to win?
— If you get a reputation as a racist organization, how do you recruit basketball players?
3) NFL’s Los Angeles Chargers have some internal issues involving the Spanos family, which owns the team. Chargers have to start paying a $650M relocation fee to the NFL pretty soon; they can’t sell the team just yet— the NFL will penalize them even more money if they move the team too quickly after bolting up the freeway to LA— its called a “flip tax”.
In a November 2019 letter included with a court filing, Dean Spanos vowed to his three siblings that he would retain an investment bank at the end of the 2024 season in an effort to find a new owner- by 2024, the “flip tax” wouldn’t be relevant anymore.
But Spanos’ sister says the family’s finances are such that the team needs to be sold before that; the family has owned the Chargers since 1984. If you go broke while you own an NFL franchise, you’re a candidate for the Moron Hall of Fame.
There is a rumor that when the team is sold, they could move back to San Diego, which happens to be the 8th-biggest city in America.
2) In 1979, the Kansas City Royals drafted both John Elway and Dan Marino, which would be great, if the Royals were an NFL team. But they’re a baseball team; Elway played a year for Oneonta in the NY-Penn League, after New York drafted him in the 2nd round of the 1981 draft.
1) Amazing Fact of the Day: Tampa Bay won its season opener 1-0 at Miami Thursday; it is the first time since 1946 that a road team won 1-0 on Opening Day!!!!
Back then, Bob Feller blanked the White Sox on three hits at Comiskey Park; former major league manager Bob Lemon played CF for Cleveland that day.
Additional thing that happened Friday: this weekend’s Mets-Nationals series was cancelled, due to four Washington players testing positive for COVID.