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It's Kansas vs. North Carolina
Add-On posted early Wed. a.m.
March Madness’ Crazy Ending
Kansas 72…North Carolina 69
The weather in these parts has kind of sucked the last few weeks, not exactly springish, and I’ve gotten out for limited exercise. But I did on Monday, it was chilly, kind of knocked me out, and it didn’t help I went out for beers with some friends later.
So the big game rolls around, and after taking a 7-0 lead out of the gate, Kansas saw North Carolina roll 40-18 from there for a 40-25 lead at the break. Shockingly, no team had ever come back in the national title game from such a halftime deficit. I was thinking, good, when this gets to 20 points, I’m headed to bed.
Only it didn’t. And instead, the Jayhawks came out with renewed intensity to start the second….
Drat, I mused. I have to stay up!
And given that the Tar Heels actually had a 16-point lead in the first half, 38-22, the game ended up being the best comeback ever, besting Loyola’s 15-point comeback to beat Cincinnati at the buzzer, 60-58, in the 1963 title game.
“We just locked in as a family, as a team, and that’s what we do,” said Kansas big man David McCormack, who had the huge last two buckets of the game.
McCormack and Jalen Wilson led KU with 15 points each, Christian Braun had a critical 10 of his 12 in the second half, relentlessly driving to the basket, and Arizona State transfer Remy Martin put on one of the better sixth-man performances in recent memory, with 11 of his 14 over the final 20 minutes.
[Ochai Agbaji, on the heels of his terrific semifinal performance, ended up being named Most Outstanding Player of the Final Four, despite just 12 points in the finale.]
The Jayhawks outscored the Tar Heels 47-29 in the second half, Carolina a beyond putrid 11 of 40 from the field after the intermission.
What a terrific ending, for a fantastic tournament, dominated by the story lines of Saint Peter’s and Coach K., and then Bill Self getting validation with his second title, a badly needed one for his legacy.
I mean this is a guy who in eight previous trips to the Tournament as a 1-seed, had one national title (2007-08) and two other Final Fours. [They would have also been a 1-seed in 2019-20, when they were 28-3 before Covid interjected.]
But the ninth time was the charm.
Steve Serby / New York Post
“Hubert Davis Jr. had it all right there in front of him, the strand in his hand atop the ladder on top of the college basketball world, basking in the sunshine of that One Shining Moment he had dreamed about all his life, for himself and for his school.
“North Carolina had a 15-point halftime lead, which means only 20 minutes stood between him and history as the first rookie coach to win a national championship.
“Heartbreak for Hubert Davis Jr. instead.
“The Kansas Jayhawks can’t get March Madness 2020 back, when they were convinced they would have cut down the nets inside Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta.
“But on this Monday night, they made the most of their once-in-a-lifetime opportunity with a Comeback for the Ages when they stormed back, as if willed by the Ghost of Danny Manning and the Miracles, for a classic 72-69 victory that wasn’t decided until the last, desperate minute.
“Courageous Armando Bacot, playing on a bum ankle and dominating the glass anyway, slipped and lost the ball and came up hopping with 38.5 seconds left.
“David McCormack bullied Brady Manek for a chippie inside. Caleb Love, playing hero ball (5-for-24 from the field, 1-for-8 from long distance) all night, missed another 3. Then Puff Johnson missed one with six seconds left, then Manek turned it over.
“When the Jayhawks’ Dajuan Harris stepped out of bounds, Carolina had four seconds left in its season.
“Manek on a baseline screen was the first option. He stumbled. Love launched an airball.
“One dream realized, one dream shattered.”
Dan Wolken / USA TODAY
“They had it all the way. That’s how they’ll remember it in Kansas, right? No, no they won’t. Not even close.
“This was a basketball disgrace followed by the country’s best team figuring out who it was. This was a 2 ½-hour battle of nerves and nausea that didn’t end until the final shot went up. This was a program with a long track record of NCAA Tournament choke jobs – and also a few miracles – choosing the path that would make them legends.
“And in the end, this was a national championship that will taste even sweeter because of how certain it seemed to have slipped away.
“ ‘I think we are probably all a little overwhelmed and spent,’ Kansas coach Bill Self said. ‘It’s special to win regardless, but to win when your team had to fight and come back the way they did and show that much grit makes this one off the charts. I thought this would be good, and this is a heck of a lot better than I thought it would be.’
“Kansas’ 72-69 victory over North Carolina will not go down as the most artistic or intelligent title game ever played. Both teams went through stretches of losing their minds, their self-control and their feel for a game they’ve played their entire lives.
“But that happens in college basketball. Sometimes, it’s just above survival.
“Self should know. His first four years at Kansas were defined by NCAA Tournament losses to Bucknell and Bradley, to the point where he needed to make a Final Four soon – very soon – or else start looking for a new place to coach.
“In more recent years, Self’s survival has been tied to an NCAA investigation that accused Kansas of five major violations in 2019 stemming from Adidas payments to recruits. The case, which could deal Kansas a postseason ban and Self a significant suspension, remains unresolved as the school and the NCAA wrangle over procedural issues. In the meantime, Self signed a lifetime contract that won’t allow him to be fired for cause and has now joined a group of just 16 coaches with multiple national titles….
“Bad NCAA Tournament losses happen to every coach, but each one gets a little harder to live down. And for an hour Monday, this one was on the path to becoming the piece de resistance.
“For the first hour of this game, the only story was Kansas’ implosion, its Self-immolation, its utter panic against a North Carolina team that was supposed to be too injured and out of gas to make a go of it here. To call it a choke would be an insult to esophagi everywhere. It was a brain freeze so deep it could have reversed global warming. In a city renowned for public vomiting, Kansas was bent over with dry heaves. …it was one of the most shockingly poor performances a favored team has ever had in the Final Four.
“But at halftime, Self asked a simple question: Would you rather be down 15 with a half remaining or down nine with two minutes left? Self, of course, was referring to the 2008 championship when Kansas stormed back against a collapsing Memphis team and sent it to overtime on Mario Chalmers’ 3-pointer, providing an easy reference point for a team that hears about the so-called Mario Miracle from the first moment they step on campus….
“Kansas was in trouble – big, big trouble. And then, in barely a blink, the Jayhawks were controlling everything, rolling downhill, making the big shots that missed by miles earlier….
“This was an undeniably charmed run for Kansas. Their second-round opponent, Creighton, lost 7-foot-1 center and Big East defensive player of the year Ryan Kalkbrenner to a knee injury one game earlier. The Jayhawks faced Villanova in the semifinals without second-leading scorer Justin Moore, who tore his Achilles in the final seconds of the Elite Eight. And in the final, they got a No. 8 seed in North Carolina with a banged-up Bacot, who gutted it out on the ankle he sprained near the end of the semifinals and then rolled his other one on a move to the basket with 50 seconds left that could have given the Tar Heels the lead.
“ ‘I got the angle I wanted and thought it was going to be an easy basket,’ Bacot said.
“But it wasn’t, because this was Kansas’ year, and these are the things that fall in your favor when the basketball gods deem it so.
“That doesn’t discredit Kansas’ title. If anything, it shows the benefit of building a program that is in the mix every year, consistently churning out terrific teams. You’re going to suffer some agonizing postseason losses along the way, but if you get enough quality-at-bats good fortune will eventually smile on you. This year, it smiled on Self. For the fourth time in program history, it was Kansas’ turn.”
--Sunday night, South Carolina captured its second women’s national championship, a mostly dominating performance, 64-49 over No. 2 seed Connecticut.
The Lady Gamecocks (35-2) jumped out to an 11-2 lead, and UConn (30-6) had no answer for South Carolina’s size or suffocating defense. And as you know, guys, the last thing you want is to be suffocated by a Lady Gamecock.
For the game, South Carolina’s girls beat up on the Lady Huskies, helmed by Gino Auriemma, 49-24 on the boards.
The women’s player of the year, Aliyah Boston, finished with 11 points and 16 rebounds for South Carolina. She was named the Final Four’s Most Outstanding Player.
It is rather amazing that Auriemma lost his first national championship game after entering Sunday 11-0 in same. And now UConn hasn’t won since 2016.
Meanwhile, South Carolina’s coach, Dawn Staley, has her second title. She’s a very tough broad, as a friend in the know, who needs to go initial-less, told me. She also makes a lot of money.
--Speaking of money, Brandin Knight was the frontrunner to replace Shaheen Holloway at Saint Peter’s, but he got a raise to stay at Rutgers as Steve Pikiell’s top assistant. Knight will earn $600,000 in the 2022-23 season, which is probably more than he would make at Saint Peter’s.
--At his Tuesday press conference from Augusta, Tiger Woods made it official, he’s going to give it a go.
“As of right now,” Woods said, “I feel I’m going to play.”
Tiger added he felt like he could win.
“I can hit it just fine,” Woods added. “I don’t have any qualms about what I can do physically from a golf standpoint. It’s now, walking’s the hard part. This is not an easy walk to begin with. …It’s going to be a tough challenge and a challenge that I’m up for.”
Now if only the weather would cooperate (after Thursday, it looks OK), but this could be great fun, sports fans.
--Bryson DeChambeau suffered a hairline fracture of a bone in his left hand back in February when he fell over playing table tennis against Sergio Garcia during a tournament in Jeddah, a story I somehow missed. I knew he had a wrist injury but didn’t know how he got it.
So DeChambeau is at Augusta, not having played in ages, and he said on Monday that his doctors and his coaches told him he should take the next four months off to recover, but he’s playing Augusta National despite the advice. “It was a huge risk,” he said, “but I decided to do so because I wanted to give this tournament a run.” He says his game is at about 80 percent.
Bison also has a hip injury, a partial tear in the cartilage because of his extreme clubhead speed and strength training regimen.
DeChambeau added that it helps that Tiger is sucking all the energy up, gaining all the attention on the course in practice, meaning all the other players feel relaxed.
Curiously, Bryson said he tried to get in touch with Phil Mickelson after the scandal. “I’ve tried to reach out, but he’s gone dark. There’s no contact.”
No one has heard from Lefty.
--Defending champion Hideki Matsuyama is out with an injury, but he was responsible for the annual Champions Dinner and on the menu, there was sushi as an appetizer, along with Yakitori Chicken Skewers.
For the main course we had Miso Glazed Black Cod and Miyazaki Wagyu [A5 Wagyu Beef Ribeye] with mixed mushrooms & veggies, and Sansho Daikon Ponzu.
Japanese Strawberry Shortcake was the dessert for last night’s feast.
--The regular season is winding down and the Lakers are out…couldn’t even make the play-in round, after suffering their seventh straight loss last night, 121-110 to Phoenix, which picked up a franchise-record 63rd win (63-16). LeBron sat out a second game with an ankle injury.
So it’s San Antonio, after a 116-97 win at Denver.
10. Spurs 34-45…owning tiebreaker
11. Lakers 31-48
--In the Eastern Conference it was a terrific Tuesday night for Brooklyn. While they beat the Rockets 118-105 behind Kyrie Irving’s 42 points, Cleveland, Atlanta and Charlotte all lost, scrambling the play-in standings, Brooklyn going from tenth to eighth.
7. Cavs 43-37
8. Nets 41-38
9. Hawks 41-38
10. Hornets 40-39
--Former coach Gene Shue died. He was 90. Shue was a coach in the league for 22 seasons, with a 784-861 record (plus 30-47 in the playoffs). He is best known for turning franchises around and was twice named coach of the year, with Baltimore in 1969 and with Washington in 1982.
Shue took over a Bullets team in 1966, mid-season, that had won 16 games the previous season and went 57-25 two seasons later behind Earl Monroe and Wes Unseld, whom Shue selected in the two previous drafts. They won the Eastern Conference title in 1971 with a seven-game playoff over the Knicks, the defending NBA champions. But they were swept in the finals by the Milwaukee Bucks of Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Oscar Robertson.
Shue became the coach of the 76ers in 1973, when he was asked to resurrect a team that had gone 9-73. He coached them to the NBA finals in 1977 behind Julius Erving, but they lost to the Portland Trail Blazers in six games.
The next season? He was fired after a 2-4 start.
Shue had a solid NBA career as a player, a five-time All-Star with the Pistons, averaging 14.4 points for his career, finishing up with Baltimore in 1964. He played his college ball at Maryland.
I’ll be referring to Gene Shue in a future quiz.
--Play Ball! Let’s get on with it.
As Crain’s New York Business’ Aaron Elstein points out, if your team wins its opener, the magic number is 162, even though there will be only 161 games left. That’s because if another team somehow won all its games, it would end the season tied with the Mets or Yankees, or both, Elstein noting “baseball fans spend a lot of time thinking about this stuff.”
--Former Astros outfielder Carlos Beltran came clean on the 2017 Houston Astros that he was a member of, saying they “felt in our hearts that we were being more efficient and smarter than any team out there.” Beltran, in an interview with the Yankees YES Network, where he recently became an analyst, said he believed there is a stain on the World Series title.
“We all did what we did,” Beltran told Michael Kay. “Looking back, we were wrong.”
Beltran suggested that the players would have listened to Astros management if they had demanded to stop the scheme and that it would have been impractical for the players to stop themselves from cheating when they believed the scheme was working.
“A lot of people always ask me why you didn’t stop it,” Beltran said. “And my answer is, I didn’t stop it the same way no one stopped it. This is working for us. Why you gonna stop something that is working for you? So, if the organization would’ve said something to us, we would’ve stopped it for sure.”
As The Athletic first reported, Beltran helped devise the Astros’ sign-stealing scheme that linked a camera in center field to a video screen situated in the tunnel, steps from the dugout. Astros players and staff would watch the video screen and communicate what pitch was coming to their hitters in real time at Astros home games in 2017, often by banging on a garbage can with a baseball bat.
Beltran also suggested there was no communication with the Astros front office in September 2017 about a warning commissioner Rob Manfred issued to all teams that month, saying that his office would treat electronic sign-stealing more seriously moving forward.
“Well, if they (the Astros front office) got the letter, they knew, but they never shared it with us,” Beltran said. “Nobody said anything to us, you know, nobody said anything. I wish somebody would’ve said something.”
Beltran, who lost his job as Mets manager after the league’s investigation, also questioned why he was the only player named in MLB’s findings.
--We note the passing of two-time National League batting champion Tommy Davis. He was 83.
Davis was a standout athlete growing up in Brooklyn, teaming at Boys High with future NBA Hall of Famer Lenny Wilkens on the hoops team, while being a long jumper on the track squad.
But he also played a little baseball and was set to sign with the Yankees in 1956 when he received a phone call from Jackie Robinson.
Robinson was playing in what would be his final season with the Dodgers when he called Davis’ house and encouraged him to sign with Brooklyn. Scouting director Al Campanis knew Davis’ mother was a Dodgers fan.
“My mother wondered who was calling,” Davis said in 2019. “I pointed to the receiver and mouthed the words, ‘It’s Jackie Robinson!’ I couldn’t believe I was speaking to one of my heroes, although I don’t remember doing much talking.”
Davis received a $4,000 bonus for signing with the Dodgers.
Former Brooklyn batting champion Pete Reiser was managing in the minors at the time, took Davis under his wing, and that season, Davis batted .357 with 17 home runs, 104 RBIs and 68 stolen bases in 127 games.
Davis’ first full season with the Dodgers was 1960, hitting .276 and .278 his first two seasons, before he broke through in 1962, leading the National League in batting .346, with 230 hits, 27 home runs and 153 RBIs. He then followed that up with a second batting title in ’63, batting .326, and helping the Dodgers to the World Series championship.
His 230 hits and 153 ribbies are still franchise records.
Davis went on to play for nine other teams, including a solid season with the Mets in 1967 (16 homers, 73 RBIs, .302 average). He finished up in 1976 with Kansas City, hitting .294 for his career, 2,121 hits, 153 home runs and 1,052 RBIs.
The three-time All-Star had a fine career, his overall numbers hampered by injuries from time to time. Otherwise, he would have had about 2,500 hits and possibly been a Veterans Committee Hall of Famer down the road.
--The Eagles and Saints significantly reshaped the 2022 NFL Draft; 2023 also.
In a trade Monday that included eight overall picks, the Eagles are set to send the Nos. 16 and 19 picks in the first round to the Saints, who will send the No. 18 pick this year and a 2023 first-round selection to Philadelphia.
The Eagles also will receive third- and seventh-round picks this year as well as a second-round pick in 2024, while the Saints will receive a sixth-round pick in 2022.
Philadelphia had been the only team scheduled to have three first-round draft picks in 2022, thanks to its deals last year with the Colts and Dolphins. Instead, the Eagles will have two selections both this year and in 2023. Next year’s quarterback class is going to be an improvement over this year’s group, no doubt, which could be a factor for an Eagles team still evaluating incumbent starter Jalen Hurts.
So what was the Saints’ raison d’etre for moving up to No. 16 from 18 (plus receiving No. 19), while giving up a lot in the future?
They added veteran quarterback Andy Dalton to back up Jameis Watson, while new coach Dennis Allen has said he’s moving occasional starting quarterback Taysom Hill to tight end.
The thing is, Winston only returned after the Saints struck out on their pursuit of Deshaun Watson.
So will the Saints trade 16 and 19 to attempt to move into the top five for quarterbacks Malik Willis or Kenny Pickett? I wouldn’t do that. Wait until next year. Load up on the O-line, nab a wide receiver, New Orleans.
--Once again I posted before the end of a NASCAR race…sorry, NASCAR fans, of which I’m one. But Denny Hamlin won at Richmond for his first win of the season, 47th of his great career. Kevin Harvick was second, followed by William Byron.
So we’ve had seven races in the 2022 Cup season and seven different winners. The next race is a Saturday night affair, Martinsville, VA.
--From Matt Kaplan of the New York Times:
“The voracious appetite of the invasive Burmese python is causing Florida’s mammal and bird populations to plummet. With little natural competition to control the big snake’s numbers, the situation looks desperate. But new observations suggest that the bobcat, a wildcat native to Florida, might be able to help.
“A team of ecologists collected evidence recently of a bobcat devouring python eggs in the Big Cypress National Preserve in Florida, and last month reported their findings in the journal Ecology and Evolution. It’s hard to say whether this individual cat was more adventurous than the average bobcat, but it suggests one potential way the python’s proliferation could be limited – by other animals eating their unhatched young.”
An ecologist at the U.S. Geologic Survey deployed a motion sensitive camera last June near the nest of a large female Burmese python. The camera was set up to better understand the reproductive habits of these monsters. But “a few hours after installation, the snake slithered away and the camera snapped shots of a bobcat arriving and eating python eggs during the early evening.”
“We were completely floored,” Dr. Andrea Currylow said. “We had no idea that the nests of these snakes were being depredated.”
The bobcat returned for another snack three times that night. “The next morning the bobcat returned to cache uneaten eggs in the ground to consume at a later date. That evening the bobcat returned again, but, this time, the python was back on her nest. Weighing about 20 pounds, the feline was clearly aware that the 115-pound python posed a serious threat and, rather than trying to eat more eggs, it padded around the nest at a safe distance for a few minutes before leaving.”
The next morning, the bobcat launched an attack, but it wasn’t clear how it ended, so researchers, that night, found the python sitting on a badly damaged nest.
The researchers removed the snake and analyzed the nest in detail. “They found that 42 eggs had been destroyed and that 22 were damaged but potentially viable. They collected these eggs and incubated them. None hatched.
“While it is possible that this interaction was just an isolated incident, it is also possible that native species are beginning to respond to the presence of the python.”
Go Bobcat! And with this story, Bobcat surges to No. 14 on the All-Species List. [An updated list will be published by end of the month, after exploring evidence from around the world.]
--I watched all but the last half-hour of the Grammys the other day, and I found it pretty entertaining. Lil Nas X holding onto his crotch his entire performance was a bit unnecessary, however, unless he really had to go.
But I’m a huge Bruno Mars fan (now Silk Sonic) and continue to maintain that the Super Bowl should just let him do the halftime show each year. Nothing offensive, fun music….the guy has a great act.
And it was good to see Jon Batiste win five Grammys.
--Lastly, who note the passing of Bobby Rydell, 79,
Rydell rode his good looks and voice to success on the pop charts and the silver screen in the late 1950s and early 1960s.
Rydell was known to film fans as Hugo Peabody in the 1963 hit “Bye Bye Birdie,” which also starred Ann-Margret and Dick Van Dyke.
The Philadelphia native’s rise to fame began when “Kissin’ time” climbed to No. 11 on the Billboard pop chart in 1959, as the singer’s boyish good looks – highlighted by a lush head of dark hair he styled into a pompadour – made the girls swoon.
Rydell was one of “teen idols” of that era, including Paul Anka, Fabian, Frankie Avalon and James Darren. He would go on to have a bunch of top 10s, including “We Got Love,” the No. 2 “Wild One,” “Swingin’ School,” “Volare” and his last one in February 1963, “Forget Him.”
Overall Rydell had 14 reach the top 20. Pretty, pretty good.
But then the teen idols got blown away by the British Invasion.
Next Bar Chat, Sunday p.m., after The Masters…a tradition unlike any other…on CBS.
Add-On up top by noon, Wed.
NCAA Basketball Quiz: Name the seven players who played in the 1982 NCAA Championship game in New Orleans, North Carolina 63, Georgetown 62, who went on to play in the NBA. [Hint: one player is particularly tricky as he transferred after and made more of a mark at the next school.] Answer below.
--We all knew North Carolina-Duke was going to be a great game. I called it last Chat “a delicious matchup for the ages.” There was no way this game wasn’t going to be good.
It ended up being a contest with 12 ties and 18 lead changes. UNC led for 16:22 and Duke for 17:09 of game time. As Coach K commented after: “Those kids from both teams played their heart out. The crowd was standing most of the game, I think. It was a heck of a game. So I think it met up to that level.”
What a showcase for college basketball. The crowd of 70,602 didn’t relax for two hours, after it filled the arena with extraordinary energy in the minutes leading up to tipoff.
Steve Serby / New York Post
“At approximately 10:05 p.m. Central Time, Dean Smith was reportedly high-fiving everyone and anyone around him up in hoop heaven, and Michael Jorden was gleefully shutting off the last showing of Coach K’s version of ‘The Last Dance.’
“North Carolina had beaten Duke 81-77 in Tobacco Road’s Game of the Ages in the late Final Four semifinal Saturday night when Mike Krzyzewski failed to paint Carolina blue in an epic of a classic.
“He ambled over on 75-year-old legs to Hubert Davis for the last handshake of his iconic legendary career, and began a slow, empty walk off the Caesars Superdome floor, accompanied by haunting sounds that hopefully for his sake did not remind him of Chapel Hill at its most defiant and most euphoric, unaware that his successor, Jon Scheyer, had gotten into a verbal argument with Carolina official Pat Sullivan and had to be separated.
“So Coach K doesn’t get to go out the right way, doesn’t get to play Kansas on Monday night, doesn’t get to go out the way John Wooden did back in 1975 with his 10th national championship.
“No one last climb up the ladder.
“No one last smile.
“No 1,203rd win.
“No sixth national championship.
“The North Carolina Tar Heels – especially Caleb Love and Armando Bacot – proved a tad too quick, too dogged, too clutch, too tough, too good.
“Paolo Banchero had leaped high to bat an offensive rebound back out to Wendell Moore Jr., who buried a 3-pointer. Duke 74, Carolina 73, with 1:18 left.
“Amid the din, Coach K sat. Scheyer stood and barked defensive instructions.
“Last minute now.
“Bacot fouled out. Love buried a 3-pointer. Coach K stood.
“He was down by three with 10.4 seconds left in his career.
“One last timeout now. Trevor Keels shooting two. Missed the second. Now Love at the line for two.
“Coach K gave instructions for Jeremy Roach. Love made the first. Timeout.
“Now 7.8 seconds left in Coach K’s career.
“Love made the second.
“Coach K got up from the stool, his career over.
“ ‘The winner was gonna be joyous and the loser was going to be in agony,’ a red-eyed Coach K said.
“His players were crying on the court and in the locker room, and he loved them for it.
“ ‘It’s not about me,’ Coach K said, ‘especially right now.’….
“Duke-North Carolina in the Final Four amounted to the heavyweight championship of one another, not unlike the Ali-Frazier 3, Thrilla in Manila.
“They stood in the center of the ring and launched haymakers, one after the other. Duke wobbled North Carolina. North Carolina wobbled Duke right back….
“A test of will and skill; a test of grace under pressure, poise in the noise. Every Duke fan seemed to be a Cameron Crazy. Every Carolina fan seemed to sneer: how dare Coach K beat us now 40 years after M.J. won Dean his first national championship in this building?
“Two basketball schools with proud and rich traditions desperate to win this game as much as any game they have ever wanted to win in their lives….
“It was always easy for Coach K to tell his players and everyone else that it was not more important because it was North Carolina, because North Carolina is always important. But never more important than on this occasion. If you are Duke, if you are Coach K, you never want to lose to, say, Saint Peter’s in any Final Four. Left unsaid is that if you are Duke, if you are Coach K, you never want to lose to North Carolina in a Final Four, because it will haunt you forever….
“ ‘I’ve been blessed to be in the arena,’ Coach K said. ‘And when you’re in the arena, you’re either going to come out feeling great or you’re going to feel agony, but you always will feel great about being in the arena.’
“We’ll never see the likes of him again.
“ ‘I’m not thinking about my career right now,’ Coach K said.
“Greatest of all time, sixth championship or no sixth championship.”
Coach K, late in his postgame media availability, touched on his own emotions, saying he was “blessed to be in the arena.”
“I’ll be fine,” he said. “…I’m sure when I look back that I’ll miss it. I won’t be in the arena anymore. But damn, I was in the arena for a long time and these kids made my last time in the arena an amazing one.”
North Carolina ended up pinning the first, and last, losses of Coach K’s career on him. His lifetime record against the Tar Heels fell to 50-48, with Nos. 47 and 48 stinging forever, and treasured forever by fans in Chapel Hill.
[There are some articles out there saying the record is 50-50. The lazy authors are forgetting that during the 1994-95 season, Coach K sat out much of it after back surgery and the Blue Devils lost two to UNC with Pete Gaudet at the helm.]
But some things stand out. Caleb Love was the star for Carolina, with a dagger three-pointer that made it 78-74 with 28 seconds left, followed by three free throws in the closing seconds.
Love, who started 0-for-5 from the floor in the first half, came out firing in the second half by drilling back-to-back threes and scoring eight quick points to give UNC a 45-41 edge. He went on to score 22 of his game-high 28 points in the second half.
On Duke’s side, you have to point to free throws. With 44 seconds left and Duke trailing 75-74, the Blue Devils had a chance to take the lead and Mark Williams was at the line for two foul shots and missed them both. Love then drained his three.
And, of course, you can’t ignore the interior play of Carolina’s Armando Bacot, who had his second straight 20-rebound effort (21), despite turning his ankle late, costing him about a minute of play at a critical time.
--The opening semifinal was nowhere near as exciting, Kansas leading by 19 in the first half, and 40-29 at the intermission. Villanova did cut it to 64-58 with 6:10 to play, but then the Wildcats pulled away for the 81-65 win.
There was no way Nova could win without Justin Moore, out with a ruptured Achilles. Jay Wright had only five players to go with and they couldn’t handle Kansas’ terrific duo of David McCormack inside (25 points on 10 of 12 from the field) and All-American Ochai Agbaji from the outside (21 points on 6 of 7 from three).
There is no reason to believe Monday night won’t be another terrific game.
--I am posting prior to the Women’s final…UConn vs. South Carolina.
The Lady Huskies defeated defending champion Stanford, 63-58, Friday in Minneapolis. So UConn is looking for its 12th national title but first since 2016.
And they’ll be facing South Carolina, the Lady Gamecocks defeating Louisville in the other semifinal, 72-59. USC is looking for a second title after winning its first in 2017.
--Thursday, Xavier (23-13) took the NIT title at Madison Square Garden with a highly entertaining 73-72 win over Texas A&M (27-13).
The story here is the terrific job that interim head coach Jonas Hayes did with the Musketeers down the stretch of the season. Yet he’s being replaced by Sean Miller, who said Hayes can stay as Associate Head Coach, though Hayes, last I saw, and this is a fluid situation, was in line for the Georgia coaching position, Hayes having been a star there back in the day.
With attendance at less than 4,000 for the championship game, you can see why it’s time to move on from the Garden. Of course, if St. Bonaventure had made the title contest, the crowd would have been much higher.
--As expected, Saint Peter’s coach Shaheen Holloway leveraged his amazing Elite Eight run into a dream job at Seton Hall, taking over for Kevin Willard, the new head coach at Maryland, Holloway not only having been a star guard at Seton Hall, but also an assistant under Willard.
What was so cool, and so unique, was that many of Holloway’s Saint Peter’s players were in the audience at Seton Hall! You just don’t see that, and when Holloway asked them to stand up, they received a standing ovation.
This was an introductory press conference at his new school, and his old players got the standing ovation…three of them. What a great moment…pure class, in a society so clearly lacking in same these days.
As WNBC’s longtime sports broadcaster Bruce Beck put it, “So much love in this hire and in this building.”
Brandin Knight, a current assistant at Rutgers and a New Jersey native (as well as a star at Pitt), could replace Holloway at Saint Peter’s, which, by the way, has seen applications soar 56%.
The Peacocks were given a glorious parade in Jersey City on Friday
--Butler fired men’s hoops coach LaVall Jordan. Jordan took over the program in 2017 and compiled a 83-74 record in five seasons. Butler made the NCAA Tournament only one time in that span, though the Bulldogs were expected to reach the postseason in 2019-20 before it was canceled.
Jordan played at Butler (1998-2001), and was an assistant at the school, as well as at Michigan and Iowa, before becoming head coach for one season at Milwaukee, after which he was hired in Indianapolis to replace Chris Holtmann, who left for Ohio State.
Butler finished 14-19 (6-14) last season.
And this just in, Thad Matta, former head coach at Ohio State, is returning to the game after not coaching since 2017. Very interesting hire.
Matta, a Butler alum, coached at the school one year, going 24-8, before tremendous success at Xavier and Ohio State (with two Final Fours). The Buckeyes then forced him out after two down years.
He’s had health issues, though only 54, and supposedly needed a lot of convincing to return to Butler. We wish him great success. Always thought he was a good guy.
--Meanwhile, it’s all about the transfer portal…both in college basketball and football. I’ll be writing a lot about this over the coming months, but for now….
Gregg Doyel / Indianapolis Star and USA TODAY
“Now we get the game wanted by everybody and nobody, with results we can see right away and repercussions that won’t be felt for years. This one particular game, tell me: Is it good for college basketball? Is it bad? Do you honestly think we’re talking about Duke vs. North Carolina in the Final Four?
“No. This is bigger than Duke-UNC.
“This is the transfer portal.
“And it is a game, or another level to the game that is college basketball. Big part of college football, too, but this game is so huge and terrifying, let’s narrow the focus to college basketball after mentioning that more than 3,000 college football players entered the transfer portal after last season. Do the math: Eighty-five scholarships per team, 124 FBS schools. That’s about 10,000 college football players. Nearly 30% entered the transfer portal.
“It’s just too much, so let’s stick with college basketball and the chaos happening right here, right now.
“The numbers are rising as we speak. Go to the website verbalcommits.com and watch its updating tracker. It’s mesmerizing. When I began writing this story at 9:31 a.m. [Ed. Wed., March 30], there were 958 names in the portal. At 10:24 a.m., there were 962 names.
“Without a final number to work with yet, let’s go back one year, to 2020-21: More than 1,700 Division I college basketball players entered the transfer portal. More math: Thirteen scholarships per team, 353 Division I schools. That’s 4,600 college basketball players.
“Nearly 37% entered the transfer portal.
“It’s just too much.
Doyel goes on about the Independent Accountability Resolution Process, “the NCAA’s way of allowing independent oversight on its most complicated enforcement cases. A game-changer, we were told. It was done because the NCAA is scared of coming down too hard on its biggest schools – Arizona, Auburn, Southern California, etc – and leading the so-called Power Five conferences to break away someday from the mean ol’ NCAA and keep all that TV money for itself.
“Which would put many of those people in the NCAA offices out of work.
“The IARP was supposed to streamline the process, and the FBI has even done the heavy lifting, identifying cheating within some of the NCAA’s biggest programs – Arizona, Auburn, Southern California – that rose to the level of criminal charges. Coaches at those schools were literally arrested. That was September 2017. Nearly five years ago.
“What has the NCAA done? Almost nothing. Arizona finally fired Sean Miller last April and LSU finally fired Will Wade two weeks ago, because oh my God how do you not fire Sean Miller and Will Wade?
“Miller was out of work 11 months. He was hired (last) Saturday at Xavier. The NCAA has ruled on just one FBI-related case, tapping North Carolina State lightly on its naughty little hand.
“It’s been five years.
“So anyway, the transfer portal. Forever, the NCAA took the hardline stance that players cannot transfer without having to sit out a year, oftentimes sacrificing a year of eligibility if they redshirted for any other reason; the five-year clock waits for nobody. That transfer policy, especially with weasel coaches like Brian Kelly leaving one school for another literally before its season has ended – and getting an enormous raise in the process! – was brutally unfair.
“The public outcry got to be so large, and the NCAA so scared, that it threw up its hands – the hell with it – and gave every player in America the freedom to transfer one time, free of charge. The NCAA created the transfer portal.
“Coaches screwed it up, immediately. The media helped.
“Kids entering the transfer portal? That’s their business. Some of them won’t end up transferring, and unless they announce it themselves, they don’t need the public – fans, media – knowing their business.
“Well, coaches got around that by giving their log-in information – literally, their access to the transfer portal, usernames and passwords, all of it – to a handful of reporters who logged in daily and outed the kids….
“The NCAA now tracks IP addresses to catch coaches for that particular breach of ethics….
“Maybe the transfer portal, as it stands, is obviously fair. And it probably is, to be honest. Speaking as a dad, as a human being with a beating heart, the transfer portal feels like the right thing.
“So why does the whole thing feel wrong? And why, at 11:30 a.m., is the number in the transfer portal up to 969?”
In a pre-Final Four press conference, Coach K went on a rant about the NCAA, saying in part, “The structure we have now does not work… It’s a time to look at the whole thing. I think we’re all frustrated….
“It’s time to come up with an organization that has not been able to adapt. And so this time is to catch up on all the things we didn’t adapt to but to form an organization that can anticipate change, can forward look and say these things might happen.”
Look at the NIL (name, image, and likeness) process. Coaches and other university employees are technically still not allowed to orchestrate this flow of money, but legions of deep-pocketed boosters – who are effectively the bosses of coaches and athletic directors at many large programs – can pay the best players to choose their schools with few restrictions.
Arch Manning is the subject of a bidding war between Alabama, Georgia, and Texas – at least – which will probably culminate in him making over $10 million guaranteed before he takes his first snap, according to numerous reports.
--There are three stories as we head down the stretch, at least to moi….the Eastern Conference race, the Nets, and the Lakers.
Miami has pulled ahead in the East…after the four teams were within half-a-game of each other a week ago.
Boston 49-28…1.5…after a 144-102 win over the Wizards today
Milwaukee 48-30…2…two losses, including 118-112 to the Mavs this afternoon, after a stirring 120-119 win in OT in Brooklyn, Thurs.
Brooklyn is tied for the last play-in spot with Charlotte at 40-38. The Nets blew a 55-point effort Saturday by Kevin Durant, falling to the Hawks 122-115, Atlanta (41-37) winning 5 straight.
Brooklyn needs to see if Ben Simmons is a playoff piece, but he’s still out with a back issue.
And then there’s the Lakers, who are playing the Nuggets as I go to post, a game behind the Spurs for the last play-in spot in the West.
L.A. lost Friday night to the Pelicans, 114-111, despite LeBron’s 38, and Anthony Davis’ 23 in his big return from his latest injury.
10. San Antonio 32-45
11. Los Angeles 31-46…1
And now L.A. is 31-47 after a 129-118 loss to Denver, Nikola Jokic, 38 and 18, while LeBron didn’t play.
--Manu Ginobili and Tim Hardaway Sr. were elected to the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame Saturday, along with NBA coaches George Karl and Del Harris, NCAA coach Bob Huggins (good for him), and a few others.
I can see Ginobili, but Tim Hardaway? Really? This is like Harold Baines getting into Baseball’s Hall of Fame.
Kids, this is one induction ceremony you can safely skip…not exactly 2020 and Kobe, Tim Duncan and Kevin Garnett.
--The season is starting next week, April 7 and 8. And Mets fans are already depressed, as our superstar pitcher, Jacob deGrom, is back on the shelf, for at least two months, and Max Scherzer has hamstring issues that may preclude him from making the Opening Day start in place of deGrom.
DeGrom was diagnosed with a stress reaction on his right scapula. Because there was no “structural damage” and since it’s a bone issue, he supposedly just needs to rest but he won’t be available until mid-June at the earliest.
The Mets, in need of lefty relief help, then made a rare trade with the Yankees today, just the third since 2005 between them, dealing righty reliever Miguel Castro, who is solid, for lefty Joely Rodriguez. Should be good for both teams.
--The NL East is going to be a bear, all the more reason why Mets fans are fearing a poor start out of the gate, and the World Series champion Braves beefed up its bullpen by signing former Dodgers closer and free agent Kenley Jansen last week, leaving the Dodgers with a major void in its bullpen.
So then L.A. took a big step to fill it, trading outfielder A.J. Pollock to the White Sox for reliever Craig Kimbrel.
Last season, Kimbrel showed signs of returning to his prior All-Star form with the Cubs, notching 23 saves in 39 appearances and making the All-Star team, before he was sent to the South Side and the White Sox at the end of July as part of the Cubs’ fire sale, whereupon he struggled mightily with the ChiSox. He also sucked in the ALDS against the Astros. So the Dodgers are hoping this was all an anomaly.
--San Diego acquired solid lefty starter Sean Manaea from the A’s for some prospects, as the Padres further load up on their rotation, while the A’s continue another classic Oakland rebuild.
Manaea, 30, went 11-10 with a 3.91 ERA in 32 starts last year for Oakland.
--Bruce Arians, in a rather surprising announcement, to say the least, said he’s retiring from coaching and moving to a front office position with the Buccaneers. In his farewell press conference Thursday, many questioned the timing of his decision – just two weeks after Tom Brady, with whom he won a Super Bowl, decided to unretire and return to Tampa Bay.
While Brady was retired – all of 40 days – reports had emerged of a rift between the two down the stretch of last season that contributed to Brady’s retirement. Arians dismissed the reports at the time as “bullshit.”
Now that Brady is back, and Arians is subsequently gone, skepticism over the nature of that relationship has re-emerged.
According to Arians, Brady, and the sometimes combative relationship they shared, was no different than any of his other Buccaneer teammates.
“We have a great relationship,” Arians said Thursday, when asked to describe the nature of his relationship with Brady. “I mean, all of the players – there are a few of them here – every one of them’s gotten cussed out, including him. So that’s just part of me, you know? That’s nothing new, but we have a great relationship.
“As soon as he retired, I think we texted every week.”
After Arians announced his decision, Brady shared the same sentiment.
“Smart, tough, and loyal are a few of the words to describe your style,” Brady captioned an Instagram post thanking Arians on Wednesday. “I will always remember the conversations we had when you recruited me two years ago and all of the things we discussed came true. We all benefited from your leadership and guidance and I’m so proud of everything we accomplished. You were a huge part of the decision to join the Bucs and I’m forever grateful.”
Ex-jets head coach Todd Bowles, who served as defensive assistant under Arians, is taking over as the Bucs’ head coach.
Since Bowles took over the defense in 2019, Tampa Bay ranks:
1st in rushing defense
3rd in takeaways
T-3rd in sacks
5th in yards per play allowed.
Arians said in a statement released by the team: “I wanted to ensure when I walked away that Todd Bowles would have the best opportunity to succeed. So many head coaches come into situations where they are set up for failure, and I didn’t want that for Todd.”
Ben Volin / Boston Globe
“Bruce Arians was a no-show Tuesday morning at the NFC coaches breakfast at the NFL owners meeting. The explanation given was ‘personal reasons,’ but now we know what happened:
“He was stabbed in the back.
“Chalk up another win for Tom Brady, who in recent years has become more assertive about controlling his career after years of subservience to the Patriots.
“First, Brady famously came out on top when the Patriots traded Jimmy Garoppolo. Then he negotiated for his freedom from the Patriots, making sure that the team granted him free agency and couldn’t use the franchise tag.
“Now it appears that Brady made Arians walk the plank after two seasons – and one Super Bowl victory – together….
“(The) events of recent weeks paint a far less rosy picture (than Arians and Brady putting on a happy face) – one of Brady winning a power struggle and forcing his head coach into a retirement he wasn’t quite ready for.
“On March 12, a still-retired Brady was in the United Kingdom, taking in the Manchester United soccer match with the Glazers, who own both Man U and the Bucs.
“On March 13, Brady came out of retirement after just 40 days.
“On March 30, the Bucs announced that Arians was out. Everyone else on staff stays.
“It seems pretty clear to me that Brady either explicitly told the Glazers that he couldn’t play for Arians anymore, or the Glazers took the hint. Either way, Brady won.
“It’s not as if Arians and the Bucs gave any indication that he was on the way out the door. …This past week at the owners meetings in Palm Beach, Fla., Arians was a boisterous presence around the hotel Sunday and Monday, regaling his friends and wearing his gaudy Super Bowl ring.
“Tuesday morning, he vanished. By Wednesday night, the move was official.”
Not only does Bowles become head coach, and he’s well-regarded in NFL circles despite his miserable tenure with the Jets (24-40), but offensive coordinator Byron Leftwich, who works well with Brady, no longer has to deal with Arians’ shadow and should get his own head coaching gig soon, like next offseason.
--Four-time All-Pro linebacker Bobby Wagner signed with the Chargers after a terrific career in Seattle. He had been cut after 10 years with the team, as the Seahawks made it clear they were in rebuilding mode . The deal is reportedly for $50 million, five years, and could be worth up to $65 million.
He’s just the latest big-name player to join a star-studded Rams defense that already includes Aaron Donald (five All-Pro selections) and cornerback Jalen Ramsey (three).
--Caesars Sports Book announced its win totals for all 32 teams, with the Bills (11.5), Buccaneers (11.5), and Packers (11.5), tops, and the Chiefs, Cowboys and Rams next at 10.5.
The Giants are at 7 (take the under) and Jets 5.5 (take the over).
2022 World Cup
--We had the draw for the World Cup this fall in Qatar and the United States* is in Group B, with England, Iran and the winner of a playoff between Wales, Scotland and Ukraine.
*The U.S., as anticipated, qualified Wednesday despite a 2-0 loss to Costa Rica, taking the berth on goal differential. Canada clinched its first World Cup trip since 1986. Mexico also qualified.
Costa Rica was fourth in the standings and will meet New Zealand in a one-game playoff in June for a berth in the 32-nation field.
You have eight groups of four, the top two in each group advancing to the Round of 16, and we’ll really get into things in like October, play taking place Nov. 21-Dec. 18.
But Friday’s draw is obviously a big deal, and now players and coaches will be breaking down how they can emerge first or second out of their group.
For now, you’d expect these powers to emerge out of each group.
Group A: Netherlands
Group B: England
Group C: Argentina
Group D: France
Group E: Spain and Germany
Group F: Belgium
Group G: Brazil
Group H: Portugal
--Caesars Sportsbook opened Brazil as the favorite at 5-1. France is next at 11-2, followed by England 6-1 and Spain 15-2.
Germany 10-1, Argentina 11-1, Belgium and Portugal 12-1.
The United States is an 80-1 shot. Mexico 100-1. Canada 250-1?! Might be worth a shekel or a quid. Or more aptly a loonie.
[DraftKings has the U.S. at 100-1.]
Assistant director of trading for Caesars, Adam Pullen, told ESPN’s David Purdum, that Caesars’ liability on the USMNT winning has reached seven figures and will only grow.
“Usually, the U.S. and Mexico are the teams that if they ever do win, we’re going to be in big trouble,” Pullen said. “The liability’s going to be there, and as bookmakers we’re not going to want them to win, but as patriotic Americans, it would be great to see them advance far. I don’t know how much patriotism it will take for me to overlook a huge amount of liability.”
The season is rapidly winding down and Manchester City maintains just a one-point advantage over Liverpool, after beating Burnley Saturday, 2-0, while Liverpool defeated Watford by the same score.
Chelsea lost to Brentwood, 4-1, and Manchester United tied Leicester 1-1.
Then today, Tottenham, off to a poor start at home, erupted for five consecutive scores, 5-1 over Newcastle, while West Ham stayed in touch in the race for the fourth spot with a 2-1 win over Everton.
Standings….Played (out of 38) – Points
1. Man City…30 – 73
2. Liverpool…30 – 72 …play City next Sunday, April 10…a tension convention
3. Chelsea…29 – 59
4. Tottenham…30 – 54 …leads Arsenal on goal differential, but the Gunners with 2 games in hand
5. Arsenal…28 – 54
6. West Ham…31 – 51
7. Man u…30 – 51
Everton is 17th, 3 points clear of relegation…one of the more interesting stories down the stretch, unless you are an Everton fan, whereupon you are drinking rather heavily.
--Tiger Woods made a semi-announcement this afternoon, tweeting, “I will be heading up to Augusta today to continue my preparation and practice. It will be a game-time decision on whether I compete.”
He also congratulated Anna Davis*, the teenager who won the Augusta National Women’s Amateur on Saturday.
*Davis, just 16, won this elite event as a high school sophomore who doesn’t even have a driver’s license. Rachel Kuehn of Wake Forest was seventh.
Technically, Woods can wait until his Thursday tee time to decide if he can handle Augusta for four days.
I told you last time that weather was going to play a huge role in whether or not Tiger could make a go of it, and it’s slated to be miserable in Augusta Tuesday and Wednesday, and then chilly after…not what Tiger needs for the back, as much as the difficult walk that Augusta presents.
--Speaking of Augusta, Jason Day failed to qualify for The Masters for the first time since 2010 after missing the cut at this week’s Valero Texas Open, in San Antonio. In 11 career starts at Augusta, he has a runner-up in 2011 and a third in 2013.
And Rickie Fowler won’t be teeing it up next week. It’s the second straight year he will have to watch the action from home, which kind of sums up the godawful stretch the guy has been going through. Since a promising T-3 at the CJ Cup last fall, he has nothing better than a T-40 in nine starts since and failed to qualify for the Players Championship. Fowler owns three career top-10s at the Masters with a solo second in 2018.
The defending champion, Hideki Matsuyama, had to withdraw from the Valero on Friday with a neck injury.
--As for the tournament itself, I watched a lot of it Saturday, before the Final Four, and we had the following leaderboard heading into today’s final round….
Brandt Snedeker -10
Beau Hossler -10
Dylan Fritelli -10
J.J. Spaun -10
Scott Stallings -9
Matt Kuchar -8
And a whopping nine tied at -7
Snedeker and Kuchar were among those needing a win to get into the Masters. Actually, every player above needed it.
I have to admit I had this on today most of the time but was distracted, until the final holes.
[Truth be told, at my age, it’s difficult doing a column like this, plugging in bits and pieces as the action takes place in multiple sports, with the sound on!]
And in the end, we have a terrific first-time win for J.J. Spaun, now Augusta bound. It’s a super story, and I’ll have more to say about it in my Add-On.
Kuchar and Matt Jones finished T-2, two back. Spaun did everything right and his putting was superb.
--There was a potentially devastating story for a few high-profile individuals in the Los Angeles Times on Thursday evening that has kind of flown under the radar, thus far. To wit….
Michael Finnegan, Bill Shaikin
“Five men have agreed to plead guilty to federal crimes for their roles in an illegal Southern California sports betting operation that took wagers from professional athletes, authorities said Thursday.
“The ring was led by Wayne Nix, 45, a former pitcher for the Oakland Athletics minor league baseball team who lives in Newport Beach.
“Around 2001, Nix started using his professional sports contacts to build a gambling business, developing a client list that included unnamed professional athletes, the former ball player admitted in court papers.
“It eventually expanded into a major enterprise that employed three former Major League Baseball players as agents who recruited bettors. Password-protected accounts were set up for clients to place bets on a website run by Sand Island Sports, a company based in Costa Rica. Betting on the outcome of sporting events is legal in some states, but not California.
“Nix acknowledged receiving $245,000 from a professional football player and $4,000 from a Major League Baseball coach, in both cases to cover gambling losses in 2016. Both were unnamed in the court records.
“Another client placed a $5-million bet on the 2019 Super Bowl in Atlanta, where the New England Patriots defeated the Los Angeles Rams. A few weeks later, Nix agreed in a text exchange to reactivate the account of a sports broadcaster who told him he was refinancing his home mortgage so he could repay his gambling debts.
“Nix said he also let the business manager of a professional basketball player bet up to $25,000 per NBA game.
“The investigation was triggered in 2017 by two informants who provided information to the Homeland Security Investigations agency, according to an HSI application for a search warrant. One informant acknowledged that the goal of cooperating with law enforcement was to avoid paying off a $6-million gambling debt.
“A federal judge gave investigators permission to tap the phones of Nix and several other suspects, the warrant application says. The surveillance yielded multiple recordings of bets being placed. ‘Put $3,000 on Djokovic to win Wimbledon,’ Nix told someone on a phone call in June 2019….
“Court records did not specify whether any professional athletes used Nix’s business to bet on their own teams’ games. A spokesman for the U.S. attorney’s office in Los Angeles declined to comment on the matter and said the investigation was continuing.”
--Trainer Bob Baffert, out of options, will begin serving a 90-day suspension Monday in connection with last year’s disqualified Kentucky Derby winner, Medina Spirit.
Baffert learned Friday that his last appeal for a stay of his suspension was denied by the Kentucky Court of Appeals. According to California Horse Racing Board rules, even though he is suspended by another state, he will be denied access to his barn at Santa Anita. He already has taken down all signage, per CHRB rules. It is expected that most of Baffert’s horses (on top of the Derby hopefuls I previously told you about) and employees will go the barn of Tim Yakteen, Baffert’s former assistant.
The CHRB rule is in effect for any suspension of more than 60 days.
Baffert could appeal to the Kentucky Supreme Court, but they wouldn’t be required to hear the case and wouldn’t do so in a timely manner if it did.
--Estelle Harris, who portrayed George Costanza’s short-fused mother on “Seinfeld” and voiced Mrs. Potato Head in the “Toy Story” franchise, died Saturday. She was 93.
As middle-class matron Estelle Costanza, Harris put a memorable stamp on her recurring role with her high-pitched voice and humorously overbearing attitude.
Trading insults and absurdities with her on-screen husband, played by Jerry Stiller, Harris helped create a parental pair that would leave even a psychiatrist helpless to do anything but hope they’d move to Florida – as their son, played by Jason Alexander, fruitlessly encouraged them to do so.
Harris often said of her character, “She is the mother that everybody loves, even though she’s a pain in the neck,” she once told the Pittsburgh-Post-Gazette.
Harris was born in New York City and grew up there and later in the Pittsburgh suburb of Tarentum, where her father owned a candy store. She started tapping her comedic talents in high school productions where she realized she “could make the audience get hysterical,” as she told People magazine in 1995.
After the nine-season run of “Seinfeld” ended in 1998, Harris continued to appear on stage and screen. She voiced Mrs. Potato Head in the 1999 animated blockbuster “Toy Story 2” and played the recurring character Muriel in the popular Disney Channel sitcom “The Suite Life of Zack & Cody,” among other roles.
--Since my last post, Will Smith resigned from the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences on Friday.
“My actions at the 94th Academy Awards presentation were shocking, painful and inexcusable,” Smith said in a statement.
The Academy will still initiate disciplinary proceedings against Smith, but is unlikely to take away his Oscar.
--There are now more Mexican gray wolves roaming the southwestern U.S. than at any time since the federal government started to reintroduce the endangered species, wildlife managers said Wednesday.
The results of the latest annual survey of the wolves show there are at least 196 in the wild in New Mexico and Arizona – the sixth-straight year that the wolf population has increased.
But, sadly, fewer than 40% of pups survived through the end of the year, though more breeding pairs were recorded in 2021.
--While some of us will be watching the national championship game on Monday night, Ken Burns is debuting a new documentary on PBS, a two-parter on Benjamin Franklin, the man on the ever-popular $100 bill. So stream it later.
--Bill Fries, the country singer who used the stage name C.W. McCall and was behind the No. 1 hit “Convoy,” died Friday. He was 93.
Though he was originally a marketer, Fries turned a commercial character into a country star and gave himself a No. 1 hit.
“Convoy,” released in 1976, was a rollicking tale about a group of truckers dodging the law and having a good time on the way. Decades later, he was asked about the jam.
“There are some things in life that cannot be improved,” he said. “ ‘Convoy’ is one of them.”
Because “Convoy” relied on truckers’ lingo, it launched certain phrases into the American lexicon, including “10-4” for “understood.”
Top 3 songs for the week 4/1/72: #1 “A Horse With No Name” (America) #2 “Heart Of Gold” (Neil Young…I always confused who sang #1 and #2 back in those days…they do sound kind of alike…) #3 “Puppy Love” (Donny Osmond)…and…#4 “Mother And Child Reunion” (Paul Simon) #5 “The Lion Sleeps Tonight” (Robert John) #6 “I Gotcha” (Joe Tex) #7 “Without You” (Nilsson) #8 “Jungle Fever” (The Chakachas…if you don’t remember this one…you weren’t alone…I looked it up…) #9 “Rockin’ Robin” (Michael Jackson…not his best…) #10 “The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face”* (Roberta Flack…awesome tune…ditto Donna Mills in “Play Misty For Me”…B- week…)
*Clint Eastwood, who directed and starred in “Play Misty For Me,” just a super film, paid only $2,000 for the rights to use Roberta Flack’s song.
NCAA Basketball Quiz Answer: The seven who went on to play in the NBA after UNC beat Georgetown in 1982: James Worthy, Michael Jordan and Sam Perkins from UNC. Patrick Ewing, Sleepy Floyd, Bill Martin and Anthony Jones from Georgetown. Jones transferred to UNLV and had two solid years there after a middling start to his college career.
So longtime readers know I was at this game. Four of us took a People Express Airlines flight to Jacksonville for like $29 per, rented a car and very late at night, drove halfway to New Orleans, found a fleabag motel where we tried to get a little sleep, and ended up in N’Orlins the next afternoon. It was the beginning of a week-long adventure, that included the semifinals and finals, and nothing but partying in between. After the championship game, we went to Biloxi, Miss., for some golf and found multiple ways to get in more trouble. It’s the source of lots of talk amongst us to this day.
As for the game, our seats were literally the next to last row, up top! We could make out freshman Patrick Ewing block the first two Tar Heel shots of the game (at least that was my memory…the box score says he had two for the game, along with 23 points and 11 rebounds), and we made out M.J.’s winning side jumper, but when Fred Brown threw the ball to James Worthy, accidentally, it was tough for us to decipher what the ants were doing down below.
Worthy was a beast, MOP, with 28 points. Jordan finished with 16 points and 9 rebounds.
Add-On up top by noon, Wed. Needless to say we have something Monday night that many will be talking about later.