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March Madness is Nearing....
Add-on posted early Wed. a.m.
--New AP Top 25 Poll (records thru Sun.)
1. Houston (49) 27-2
2. Alabama (5) 25-4
3. Kansas (8) 24-5
4. UCLA 25-4
5. Purdue 24-5
6. Marquette 23-6…highest ranking since hitting No. 1 in 1977-78
7. Baylor 21-8
8. Arizona 24-5
9. Texas 22-7
10. Gonzaga 25-5
11. Kansas State 22-7
12. Tennessee 21-8
13. Virginia 21-6
14. UConn 22-7
15. Indiana 20-9
15. Miami 23-6
17. Saint Mary’s 25-6
18. San Diego State 23-5
19. Xavier 21-8
20. Providence 21-8
21. Maryland 21-9
22. TCU 19-10
23. Kentucky 20-9
24. Texas A&M 21-8
25. Pitt 21-8…ranked for first time since 2016
--Sunday night, Rutgers picked up a big win on the road at Penn State (17-12, 8-10), 59-56 after being down 19 points in the first half, so the Scarlet Knights are back to 18-11, 10-8, and seemingly out of danger in terms of the NCAAs. Had they lost this one, they’re screwed…it would have been five of six at the worst possible time.
--Monday, North Carolina did what it had to do to keep its NCAA hopes alive…win…at Florida State (9-21, 7-12), 77-66, the Tar Heels now 19-11, 11-8, and with Duke on Saturday in the ACC regular season finale.
--Tuesday, Iowa (19-11, 11-8) whipped 15 Indiana (20-10, 11-8) on the road, 90-68, and Boise State (23-7, 13-4) upset 18 San Diego State (23-6, 14-3), 66-60…call it a mild upset.
And freakin’ Wake Forest (18-12, 10-9) lost at home to Boston College (15-15, 9-10) 71-69, the Deacs’ NCAA hopes officially dealt a lethal blow, and for a second season to the Eagles, who upset us in the first round of last year’s ACC tournament, which knocked us out of an NCAA berth.
Last night the Deacs hit 10 of 17 free throws. Yes, we were without Damari Monsanto, but we can’t lose that game. Depressing. [It’s not Coach Steve Forbes’ fault, I hasten to add.]
--Former Virginia coach Terry Holland died Sunday at the age of 80 after a bout with Alzheimer’s.
Holland, after five seasons at Davidson, took over the Cavalier program in 1974 where he had great success through 1990, 418-216. Virginia went to two Final Fours during his tenure, including once with Ralph Sampson during a terrific, albeit in the end, disappointing three-year run, 1980-83, during which time the Cavaliers went 29-4, 30-4, and 29-5, a 1-seed each tournament, but just one Final Four and no national title.
Rather shockingly, the year after Sampson left, Virginia went to another Final Four with freshman Olden Polynice.
Holland retired early due to health issues and was an athletic director at multiple schools, including UVA.
Terry Holland was the epitome of the Virginia Gentleman.
--The Knicks did it again, beating the Celtics (44-18) a second straight time, 109-94 at the Garden on Monday, New York’s sixth win in a row, 6-0 with Josh Hart, three straight double-doubles for center Mitchell Robinson since his return from injury, and at 36-27, fifth in the Eastern Conference. All is good.
It wasn’t the most scintillating game, but the Knicks were essentially in control the entire time, Boston a horrid 9 of 42 from three.
Mike Vaccaro / New York Post
“Here’s the thing:
“They can play better than this. They can play a lot better than this. The Knicks stomped the Celtics… They took the lead for the first time when Julius Randle knocked down a 3-pointer 102 seconds in and never gave it back, the final buzzer of a 109-94 win muted by the happy roar of 19,852 patrons.
“ ‘We came out with the right energy and the right mindset,’ said Mitch Robinson, another monstrous two-way game in the books for him, 10 points and 13 rebounds and two blocks and countless moments when the Celtics wanted no part of shooting the ball anywhere near him. ‘And we got it done.’
“They got it done despite a third straight subpar game from Jalen Brunson (who, admittedly, we are beginning to grade on a steep curve), despite only 50 combined points from their Big 3 of Brunson, Randle and RJ Barrett (8 ½ below their average), despite looking sluggish on offense for large swaths of the game….
“There were a few restless moments when it looked like they might succumb to their chronic Garden hiccups – although it does feel like this group is different than the iteration that spent the season’s first few months treating home court like kryptonite.”
The Knicks were far from their best and they beat one of the best. Us fans are starting to believe. As Josh Hart said after, “We want to make a run in the playoffs.”
--So much for the Lakers chances of making the playoffs. In Sunday’s 111-108 comeback victory against Dallas, LeBron James scored 26 points, but was overheard on ABC telling the Lakers bench, “I heard a pop.”
Monday, we learned he will be out for several weeks with right foot soreness, no other details released by the team.
And last night, the Lakers lost at Memphis 121-109.
--Dallas is 1-4 with Luka Doncic and Kyrie Irving on the court together, the latest mess a 124-122 loss to Indiana (28-35), Tuesday, the Mavs now just 32-31.
--Sunday night after I posted, Damian Lillard scored 71 points in Portland’s 131-114 win over lowly Houston (13-47), Lillard’s 71 tied for eighth most points in a game in NBA history.
Lillard was 22 of 38 from the field, 13 of 22 from three (one shy of Klay Thompson’s record 14), 14 of 14 from the free throw line, plus he had six assists and six rebounds. Not a bad effort, Portland (29-31) needing to win a bunch of games down the stretch.
--Atlanta did hire Quin Snyder, after interim coach Joe Prunty went 2-0 following the firing of Nate McMillan. The Hawks made an aggressive move, with just 23 games remaining (21 now), but there was no one else but Snyder for this job.
This will be interesting down the stretch and in the playoffs, Atlanta solidly in a ‘play-in’ slot. Snyder is good, 372-264 in eight years at Utah.
But the Hawks lost Tuesday in his debut, 119-116 at home to the Wizards (29-32), Atlanta 31-31.
--Back to ‘designated’ events…and this week we have another stacked field for Bay Hill, Arnie’s club. It should be more fun and games, and the week after this, The Players Championship…and before you know it…The Masters, a tradition unlike any other, on CBS….
--Going back to last Sunday’s Honda Classic finale, for the record, Eric Cole took home $915,000 for his runner-up finish, Chris Kirk $1,512,000 for the win.
But while Cole was a great story, there was Ryan Girard, a Monday qualifier, the last to get in, and for finishing fourth he bagged $411,600, his first PGA Tour check. No more Monday qualifiers for a while. With the performance he automatically qualified for this week’s opposite-field event in Puerto Rico. I mean this guy has conditional status on the Korn Ferry Tour. His only other PGA Tour event was last year’s U.S. Open where he missed the cut.
Meanwhile, I’ve been talking about how important the non-designated events can be for those trying to get into the top 70 by the time of the FedEx Cup playoffs, and Eric Cole zoomed from 107 to 33 on the points list, while Shane Lowry’s T5 moved him from 130 to 89, an important move for him. This is why golf fanatics, such as yours truly, will still watch every tournament, regardless of its designation. They matter….
--….as opposed to the following….
Eamon Lynch / Golfweek
“While traveling to LIV Golf’s season-opening event in Mexico, Greg Norman posted to social media two photos of himself on a private jet, one as he read, the other while gazing meditatively through the window. The accompanying caption read: ‘Books are the training weights of the mind – Epictetus.’
“In keeping with the custom of his every waking hour, it was carefully staged image-building, suggesting a swashbuckling captain of industry on another successful sortie. With the time spent curating selfies, Norman could have scrolled to another quote from Epictetus – or, more accurately, from his transcribing student Arrian, since the Greek stoic himself left no writings: ‘Neither should a ship rely on one small anchor, nor should life rest on a single hope.’
“Norman’s LIV Golf has a solitary anchor that prevents it from being dashed on the rocks of commercial reality, the Public Investment Fund of Saudi Arabia. When it comes to an ability to throw good money after bad, the PIF is an enviable ally to have. But as Norman opens LIV’s second season with his trademark delusional enthusiasm masquerading as unstoppable momentum, he must worry that legal developments in California’s Northern District might prompt that affluent anchor to cash him adrift….
“On Feb. 16, the court rejected arguments by the Saudi investment fund and its governor, Yasir Al-Rumayyan, that they should not have to comply with discovery requests in LIV’s antitrust action against the PGA Tour. Producing documents or submitting to a deposition, Saudi lawyers argued, would violate sovereign immunity and endanger Al-Rumayyan, who is under no illusions about the mercurial brutality of the Crown Prince for whom he functions as bagman… But because Al-Rumayyan is involved in decision-making and the Fund owns 93% of LIV (while paying 100% of its costs), the pretense of being a mere investor was dismissed and the court compelled them to comply….
“Now a party in the litigation, the Saudi Fund and its chief can no longer rebuff the jurisdiction of the very court whose protection they sought….
“The Saudi reluctance to submit to America’s permissive discovery process hardly requires explanation. Even if the court places strict parameters on discovery, the process carries huge risk as PIF investments – known and stealth, commercial and political – are subjected to scrutiny and exposure. That might strike Al-Rumayyan as an awfully high price to continue underwriting Norman’s folly.
“This litigation exists for one reason: to make real the fantasy that Norman sold his players – the PGA Tour had no right to ban them (it does), and that they would be permitted to play LIV events and whatever Tour stops they wish to cherry pick (they won’t). Players who bought his bill of goods must by now realize that Norman’s vows dissolve quicker than those of Zsa Zsa Gabor (Google her, kids).
“The promised major broadcast rights deal became a giveaway to a little-watched network whose affiliates prefer Judge Judy reruns to tournament action. The promised stampede of blue-chip sponsors yielded one low-profile shipping outfit. The promised signings of seven star players delivered Dean Burmester and Danny Lee, who wouldn’t be considered top-drawer in a one-drawer world. Instead, the promised frenzy of off-season trading among teams with names like RangeGoats and Majesticks produced only the sobering realization that an enterprise aimed at the young is hostage to middle-aged marketing dorks….
“Deadlines now loom by which the Saudis must show a good faith effort to meet their legal obligations, but the likelihood of the Public Investment Fund or Al-Rumayyan submitting to probing by PGA Tour lawyers is about the same as Norman finally getting that green jacket. That raises the prospect of LIV’s antitrust claim being withdrawn or dismissed, which would strand players as castaways on Greg’s Gilligan’s Island and force a reckoning on the Saudi commitment to a product that can’t gain traction in the only market that can confer serious commercial viability….
“Thanks to Norman, Al-Rumayyan is learning that the U.S. judicial system doesn’t grant MBS’s agents the kind of untrammeled latitude they are accustomed to at home, or for that matter in Turkish consulates.”
So Mr. Lynch wrote this before the final rounds of last week’s season opener in Mexico, and we learned after, according to Sports Business Journal, the overnight rating for Saturday’s LIV debut on the CW Network was a .2 in 26 metered markets, which is bad…like a smaller audience than CW staples like “World’s Funniest Animals.”
As USA TODAY’s Dan Wolken wrote: “Can you really call it ‘Golf But Louder’ when you’d need a stethoscope to determine if this tour even has a pulse?”
One more…Bubba Watson couldn’t remember the name of the team he is captaining. That, friends, is the definition of pathetic.
--The Dodgers lost infielder Gavin Lux to a serious knee injury and the player who was expected to be the starting shortstop, replacing Trea Turner, is out for the season, torn ACL in his right knee, the team announced Tuesday. Lux hurt the knee running the bases in Monday’s spring training game.
--I blasted Pittsburgh Pirates owner Bob Nutting the other day and then we learned more details on the negotiations between the team and one of their better assets, outfielder Bryan Reynolds, 28, a solid pro, .281 hitter with two seasons of 20+ home runs, .361 OBP, .842 OPS.
According to USA TODAY’s Bob Nightengale, Reynolds is looking for eight years and $134 million, but the Pirates are only offering six years, $80 million. A similar outfielder, the Mets’ Brandon Nimmo, 29, recently received an 8-year, $162 million extension from Uncle Stevie.
Meanwhile, Nutting says the club is still talking to Reynolds, but Reynolds said he hasn’t received a new offer. And thus is why some of us feel free to slam Bobby Nutting.
--One of the original Los Angeles Angels, Albie Pearson, died Monday at the age of 88.
Pearson was once known as the “Littlest Angel,” standing at just five feet, five inches, and he was beloved. His size, coupled with his solid play, made him “the guy-who-never-made-it’s hero,” he once told the L.A. Times.
Pearson was the 1958 AL Rookie of the Year with Washington, and was an All-Star in 1963 with the Angels, starting in center field.
In 1961, he scored the first run in franchise history, part of a three-run first inning in an eventual 7-2 Angels win over the Orioles in Baltimore on April 11, 1961.
In 1962, Pearson led the AL in runs scored, 115, and three straight seasons he had 90+ walks. He finished his nine-year career with a .270 batting average, but .369 on-base percentage.
His career was cut short at age 31 because of back issues.
Afterwards, Pearson and his wife started a youth ministry from their home in Riverside, CA, with eventually thousands of kids being welcomed for Bible study, counseling, job tips and friendship.
In 1979, the couple founded United Ministries International, a nonprofit which helped establish schools, churches and orphanages around the U.S., Mexico, Eastern Europe and South America. Eighteen years later, Pearson purchased the land that would become the space for Father’s Heart Ranch, a home for abused, abandoned and neglected boys.
I’d say Albie Pearson is a Hall of Famer in the Game of Life.
--I have to make note of Liam McFadden-Ackman of Northern Kentucky University, who on Sunday slugged two grand slams in the first inning of a game against Western Michigan. The junior infielder accounted for eight of the 14 runs produced by the Norse in the opening frame.
McFadden-Ackman went 5 for 6 with four runs scored and 10 RBIs in the game, which his boys won 27-4.
--Baseball America Top Ten (as of 2/27)
7. Wake Forest
Coaches Poll (as of 2/26)
5. Wake Forest
9. East Carolina
--Connor McDavid did it again…score two more goals, though Boston beat Edmonton on the road Monday night, 3-2.
McDavid, though, hit the 50-goal mark for the first time in his fantastic career. It was his fourth straight game with two goals.
So he now has 115 points through 61 games and there are only five NHL players who have reached such production in that time frame…Mario Lemieux, Steve Yzerman, Bernie Nicholls, Wayne Gretzky and Phil Esposito.
--And the Rangers did it, acquire superstar and three-time Stanley Cup winner Patrick Kane from the Blackhawks for a few draft picks. Us fans are stoked.
--After I posted, Kyle Busch won the NASCAR Cup race at Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, California, breaking Richard Petty’s record for consecutive Cup Series seasons with a win (19). With the heavy snow in the mountains, it was a rather scenic affair, though trapped rainwater was seeping through the cracks and seams in the asphalt, this being the final NASCAR race for the track.
For Kyle Busch, it was his first win with Richard Childress Racing after 15 years with Joe Gibbs Racing, and career win No. 61. It also means that combined with brother Kurt Busch, who retired last year due to concussion issues, the two have 95 wins, breaking the brother record of 94 held by Bobby and Donnie Allison.
--Still nothing on the Aaron Rodgers watch.
--We note the passing of Bob Richards, the only male two-time winner of the Olympic pole vault, who in the 1950s became a hero of American Cold War competition with the Soviet Union and got himself on the cover of Wheaties. Actually, as the New York Times’ Robert D. McFadden notes, Richards was the first champion on the front of the Wheaties box*. Richards died Sunday. He was 97.
*Prior to Richards, athletes were depicted on the side or back of the box.
Richards won the gold at Helsinki in 1952, and in 1956 at Melbourne. He became one of America’s most lionized athletes, and as an ordained minister, was a motivational speaker and then Wheaties pitchman who personified wholesome values. He once even ran for president on a third-party ticket, receiving 66,000 votes out of 92.6 million in 1984 as President Ronald Reagan routed Walter Mondale.
Richards was the face of Wheaties for a long time, appearing on the box from 1958 to 1970, and he made tons of television and radio appearances, speaking to schools and community groups, presenting awards at athletic banquets, all to generate torrents of publicity.
Richards loved to say: “The family that plays and prays together stays together.”
In 1970, he bicycled 3,300 miles from Los Angeles to New York to promote fitness.
RIP, Bob Richards.
--So remember a few weeks ago when I spoke of the two killer whales off the coast of South Africa that have been killing tons of sharks, including great whites, for their livers?
There was another story the other day in the New York Daily News, with marine experts saying the two, named Port and Starboard – referring to the left and right slants of their respective dorsal fins – having slaughtered 17 broadnose sevengill sharks (which I confess to never hearing of this species before), once again for their livers. This massacre occurred “during the course of one day”! Goodness gracious. Or as my grandfather would have said, gee willikers.
Earthsky.org reported that after gobbling the liver, the orcas left the rest of the shark carcasses to wash up on the beach.
Marine biologist Alison Kock and her research team first observed the whales hunting sevengills in 2015, progressing to great whites two years later. As I noted before, the great whites have been so freaked out, they have chosen another gathering place.
--“Cocaine Bear” did $23 million domestically, another $5 million globally, its first weekend, which for a film budgeted at $35 million is a huge success.
Next Bar Chat, Sunday p.m.
[Posted early Sunday evening]
Add-on up top by noon, Wed.
Digger Phelps Quiz: Yesterday, Fordham honored former coach Digger Phelps and his 1970-71 dream team, which I’ll discuss at the bottom. But after one year at Fordham, Phelps went to Notre Dame, where he had 20 largely successful seasons (1971-91), before hitting the broadcast booth. Name his four “consensus” All-Americans at ND during his tenure. All went on to solid to very good NBA careers, all were first-round draft picks. Answer below.
--Since I last posted, Wednesday, 6 Virginia (21-5, 13-4) suffered an embarrassing 63-48 loss at Boston College (14-15, 8-10) as the Cavaliers shot 19 of 59 from the field, 32.2%, while allowing the Eagles to hit 26 of 50.
Thursday, Rutgers sucked at home, again, and lost a critical game to Michigan (16-12, 10-7) 58-45, the Scarlet Knights shooting just 38.3% from the field.
RU is suddenly just 17-11, and at 9-8 in the Big Ten, tied for eighth. Like someone tell me why, as of today, they deserve to be in the NCAA field. Time’s up. Heck, Michigan is ahead of them.
Rutgers has a game Sunday night after I post at Penn State (17-11, 8-9) that could be their season.
Friday, Seton Hall saw its NCAA hopes officially go up in flames after falling to 16 Xavier (21-8, 13-5), 82-60, the Pirates 16-13, 9-9. Not the first season Coach Shaheen Holloway was hoping for. Hit the transfer portal!
--In games of note Saturday, 6 Virginia fell again, now 21-6, 13-5, and surely falling to about No. 15, as they lost at Chapel Hill, 71-63, a huge win for the Tar Heels (18-11, 10-8) who are suddenly back in the NCAA Tournament conversation…as in they are firmly on the bubble and I’m guessing they get in.
7 Arizona (24-5, 13-5) lost on a half-court buzzer-beater to Arizona State (20-9, 11-7), 89-88, in a game that greatly helps the Sun Devils’ NCAA chances.
Villanova (15-14, 9-9), after beating Xavier earlier in the week, defeated 19 Creighton (18-11, 12-6), 79-67. The Wildcats will win the NIT…book it.
17 Indiana (20-9, 11-7) improved its seeding down the road in defeating 5 Purdue (24-5, 13-5) on the road, 79-71, the Boilermakers having lost four of six. Not the right direction for a team looking to finish up strong heading into the tourney.
In a battle of west coast heavyweights, 15 Saint Mary’s (25-6, 14-2) fell to 12 Gonzaga (25-5, 14-2) 77-68 in Spokane.
Florida State has had a poor season, 9-20, 7-11, but they pulled off a big upset at 13 Miami (23-6, 14-5), 85-84 on a buzzer-beater after being down 25 points, a record comeback.
Pitt (21-8, 14-4) should be ranked this week after a 99-82 win over Syracuse (16-13, 9-9). After all, the Panthers are in first in the ACC, a ½-game ahead of Miami.
--But the big story in college basketball this week concerns No. 2 Alabama and freshman star forward Brandon Miller, who was mentioned in testimony last Tuesday as having driven the vehicle containing the gun used in a fatal shooting, a case involving former teammate Darius Miles, who has been charged with capital murder, though he wasn’t the trigger man.
I wrote in my Add-on that I didn’t think Miller would play on Wednesday at South Carolina for obvious reasons. He’d be excoriated by the Gamecock fans.
But coach Nate Oats played Miller, the fans had a field day (chanting “lock him up” and “guilty”), and Miller, a presumed lottery pick in the upcoming NBA Draft, responded with a career-high 41 points in a 78-76 Bama win in overtime.
One of the attorneys representing Miller released a statement Wednesday saying Miller never saw Miles’ handgun and that it was “concealed under some clothing in the back seat” of Miller’s car. The attorney added that Miller never touched the gun nor was involved in its exchange to Michael Lynn Davis, the alleged shooter.
Coach Oats said “we’re using this as an opportunity to educate our players on stuff that hopefully will help them for the rest of their lives.”
Miller hasn’t been charged with any crime and probably won’t be.
Saturday, Bama held on to beat a solid Arkansas team (19-10, 8-8) 86-83, as Miller had 24, while the Razorbacks’ own freshman sensation, and likely lottery pick, Nick Smith Jr., had 24 as well.
This is one interesting story heading into the tournament. Imagine if they’re in the Final Four. Ugh.
--Colgate heads into the Patriot League tournament this week at 23-8, 17-1, following a 64-60 win at Navy (18-12, 11-7). Pete M.’s Red Raiders have to win it all to go Dancin’, where they would likely be a 14 seed and more than capable of beating a 3.
--As for my boys from Winston-Salem, Wake Forest, you can stick a fork in their NCAA hopes after a 90-74 loss at North Carolina State (22-7, 12-6) on Wednesday. Our gunslinger, Damari Monsanto was out in the second half after suffering a leg injury, and the Deacs, down 52-46 at the intermission, didn’t have the firepower to hang to the end.
And our center, Matthew Marsh, missed a shot near the end, his first miss in his last 28 attempts!
Well, we learned Monsanto is out for the rest of the season, after undergoing knee surgery. Hopefully he’s back at full strength by next winter. This is the same kid who came back far quicker than expected from a torn Achilles two years ago. But a huge loss for any hopes we had of making noise in the ACC Tournament and then maybe sneaking into the NCAAs.
Without Monsanto, the ACC’s leading 3-point shooter, the Deacs (18-11, 10-8) beat Notre Dame yesterday, 66-58, Mike Brey’s final season a disaster, the Fighting Irish 10-19, 2-16.
--Antoine Davis of Detroit Mercy scored 34 points yesterday in a losing effort against Wright State and he’s just 63 points shy of Pete Maravich’s all-time Division I points total of 3,667…Davis at 3,604.
But he only has Horizon League tournament play left and his team (13-18, 9-11) will need to win its tourney opener for Davis to have a shot at Pistol Pete.
However, should Davis hit the mark, it’s kind of hollow. He’s a damn good guard, five seasons at Detroit averaging 23.9+ each season, 28.1 this campaign.
But Maravich did it in three seasons! Oh well, good luck, Mr. Davis.
--The final stretch of the regular season commenced following the embarrassing All-Star Game last Sunday, and Thursday, the Lakers and LeBron won the first of what he called the most important 23 games of his career, 124-111 over the Warriors (29-30), despite LeBron having one of the worst shooting games of his career, 5 of 20 from the field.
But the Lakers moved to 28-32 and in the playoff hunt.
Today, they took on the Mavericks, and they pulled it out, 111-108. 29-32, 1 ½ out of the play-in. LeBron was much better…26.
--Friday, the Knicks resumed their fine recent play with a 115-109 win at Washington, Julius Randle with a career-tying 46 points, center Mitchell Robinson making his return after missing 14 games with a thumb injury and scoring 10 points with 12 rebounds, and Josh Hart with three terrific hustle plays down the stretch, New York now 4-0 since the Hart acquisition.
But they had to play Saturday night at the Garden against the Pelicans and would they be gassed?
If they were, it didn’t show, the Knicks now 5-0 since the Hart trade, 128-106 over New Orleans (30-31).
Julius Randle had 28, Mitchell Robinson, so critical to the team, 11 points, 13 rebounds in 28 minutes, and Hart 5 of 6 from the field, 15 points, 5 rebounds, and doing all the little things that don’t make the box score. He’s just a winner.
So New York is suddenly 35-27, in sixth in the East and 2 ½ ahead of 7 Miami.
Also, last night, the Knicks celebrated the golden anniversary of the 1972-73 NBA championship squad; Walt Frazier, Willis Reed, Bill Bradley, Earl Monroe, Dave DeBusschere, Henry Bibby, Jerry Lucas, Phil Jackson, Dean Meminger, John Gianelli…the last Knicks team to win a title.
Alas, DeBusschere and Meminger are no longer with us (though their sons were there), but the others were in attendance (Willis by video), save for Phil Jackson, ever the asshole.
Frazier said during the ceremony: “We had a veteran team. We understood the nuances of having ‘New York’ on our chest. We knew the high expectations, but we relished those expectations because we knew we lived in the greatest city in the world.”
We love Clyde…he’s as cool as ever.
Speaking of Earl “The Pearl”, his alma mater, Winston-Salem State, qualified for the Division II championship in winning the CIAA title this week. Back in 1967, Monroe and Coach Big House Gaines (one of the true legends in all of basketball) won the D-II title.
--As the Knicks were playing in Washington Friday, the Nets were in Chicago and it was almost an historically bad performance, the Nets losing 131-87.
Consider that Brooklyn trailed 63-29 at the half, 10 for 41 from the field, the fewest points the team has scored in a half all year.
This afternoon, the Nets traveled to Atlanta to face the Hawks and did better, but lost again, 129-127, the Nets at 34-25 tied with the Knicks at fifth.
--Speaking of the All-Star Game, Friday night the Kings and Clippers played their own version, as in zero defense, what ended up being the second-highest scoring game in NBA history, a 176-175 double overtime affair, Sacramento coming out on top.
Malik Monk had 45 for the Kings, with De’Aaron Fox going off for 42.
Kawhi Leonard had 44 for the Clippers, Paul George 34, and Russell Westbrook, in his debut, 17 points, 14 assists and 7 turnovers.
Plus, with the Clippers leading 153-150 with only 8.5 seconds left in regulation, Westbrook guarded inbounds passer Monk, turned his head to watch Fox dribble long enough to then lose Monk who sank the tying 3-point shot to send it into OT.
So, Clippers fans saw the whole Westbrook repertoire. The good, the bad and the ugly.
--Heading into the final round of The Honda Classic at PGA National, Palm Beach Gardens, Fla., it wasn’t the most scintillating leaderboard, as it’s not a ‘designated event,’ but critical nonetheless for those hoping to finish the year in the Top 70 and be part of the FedEx Cup playoffs.
Chris Kirk -13…seeking his fifth tour win but first since 2015
Eric Cole -11
Justin Suh -10
Shane Lowry -9
Ben Taylor -9
And what a fascinating final round, a duel between Kirk and Cole, both of whom have had major issues in their lives, medical, personal, you name it.
But Kirk had a one-shot lead heading into the par-5 18th and inexplicably barely put his second shot in the water. Cole, the 34-year-old rookie and son of women’s golf’s first pin-up girl, Laura Baugh, and former PGA Tour winner Bobby Cole, hit a poor third, parred, and they went into a playoff.
And Kirk won it…much more in my Add-on…it was dramatic. When the winner says right after, “I haven’t been the easiest person to be married to,” there’s a lot going on. Good for Chris Kirk.
--Sally Jenkins / Washington Post
“The airborne toxic event called LIV Golf is slowly dissipating, and soon all that will be left is the mere faint scent of its portable toilets. The failures are piling up so fast that the PGA Tour may not even need lawyers to beat LIV. It’s going to beat itself with its own sour-smelling hustle, its jinks-on-the-links-for-clinks gutter golf.
“The news value of its debut last year, championed with patent unease by Phil Mickelson, has long faded. What’s left is just the militant fruitcakery of Greg Norman, whose emanations from his empty luminescent head never quite form into actual substance.* To hear Norman tell it, LIV 2023 would begin with a ‘momentous’ TV deal and seven more top-20 player signees. As the second season opens this week in Mayakoba, Mexico, it’s got a laughably desperate TV pact with the CW Network, which also boasts ‘World’s Funniest Animals,’ and no new big names. It was just more blowharding that evaporated into a few lower-level defections such as Dean Burmeister and Danny Lee.
“ ‘Golf, but louder’ is one of LIV’s slogans, but all that apparently refers to is Ian Poulter’s pants by Pixar. Poulter is at least a likable star, more audience-friendly than laconic burnout cases such as Brooks Koepka or that again inveterate scrounger Mickelson, who apparently would take checks from the slaughter of dolphins to get whole. Starting Friday in Mexico, all of them will resume crapping around in an incoherent, noncompetitive, no-cut, drama-repellant 54-hole format with locked-in appearance fees.
“The supposed duel between LIV and the PGA Tour for the soul of the game is already over. Which entertainment product is better? Richard Bland and Pat Perez jacking around at places such as Crooked Cat in Orlando, a course that the PGA Tour used for Q School events? Or the winsome Max Homa weeping with competitive agony as he chases mighty young Jon Rahm across layouts such as grand old Riviera? The PGA Tour’s new ‘designated’ event format means that 17 tournaments this season are packed with top players on its greatest courses. Small wonder LIV chose this week for its opener: a non-designated week most of the PGA Tour’s top players are taking off to rest….
“From the outset, LIV was a home for buttercup-bellied moral cowards clutching at cash from a murderous regime, but it quickly has evolved into a refuge for guys who have lost their taste for competition. Who cares who ‘wins’ more money among such a scrabbling bunch? Only the torrent of blood-spattered Saudi coin made Norman’s follies viable in the first place, and now the best young guys are turning down the money. LIV’s incursion is failing, and eventually all that will be left is the unpleasant smell of its corruptions.”
*Speaking of Norman’s “empty luminescent head,” in an interview with Golf.com on Friday, Norman said this concerning his feud with Rory McIlroy.
“All due respect, Rory. He doesn’t know anything about LIV. He knows something about the PGA Tour, he sits on the PAC council… but Rory doesn’t know what he’s talking about with LIV because he doesn’t know the facts.”
Huh? Air Norman continues:
“There are going to be a few who are probably being asked to be vitriolic against the LIV guys for whatever reason. …Until you completely understand what you’re talking about, don’t open your mouth, because you’ll only embarrass yourself. …That’s my read on it, to be honest with you.”
So, there you have a classic example of Norman saying absolutely nothing.
--So I flipped on the LIV coverage for like a minute today, and yesterday, and Charles Howell III won it, by 4 over Peter Uihlein, 6 over Branden Grace.
As in Howell is the guy that won three PGA Tour titles in 609 starts.
As in no one in the world, except his immediate family, gives a shit that Charles Howell won a LIV event.
And in a 54-hole tournament, Bryson DeChambeau continued his godawful LIV play, finishing 16 shots behind, Phil Mickelson and Brooks Koepka 17 behind…17 shots, in 54 holes…and Dustin Johnson was 20 behind!
Why the [puck] would you watch this?!
--Meanwhile, this week the PGA of America announced its eligibility requirements for the 2023 PGA Championship and despite past signals about LIV defectors possibly jeopardizing their status for the tournament, LIV members will get to compete for the Wanamaker Trophy this year at Oak Hill in Rochester, N.Y.
PGA of America CEO Seth Waugh has gone back on past statements that the championship’s bylaws had required players to be PGA of America members in order to play in the PGA Championship.
Instead, past PGA Championship winners who have jumped to LIV (Phil Mickelson, Brooks Koepka, Martin Kaymer) will receive an invite, along with winners of other major championships the past five years and winners of the Players Championship of the past three years. Recent LIV signees Mito Pereira and Brendan Steele will likewise be in the field by finishing in the top 15 at least year’s championship.
A day earlier the R&A announced that the Open Championship will remain open to LIV Golf members. Augusta National and the USGA had previously announced their respective tournaments for 2023 will remain open to LIV members as well.
Augusta will be our first look with the loathsome Patrick Reed and Sergio Garcia among the 17 LIV members invited. It indeed will be interesting to see the dynamic on the final Sunday should one of the LIV golfers be in contention, as is likely.
--I forgot to write about Bernhard Langer’s win last weekend at the Chubb Classic (Naples, Florida), the amazing 65-year-old birdieing five of his last seven holes to tie Hale Irwin’s record of 45 PGA Tour Champions victories.
So Golf Digest editor-in-chief Jerry Tarde has reflected on the secrets to longevity and good golf and in a recent column he talked of once writing a book with Sam Snead.
“Nothing could be more indelible than watching Sam kick the top of a door jamb from a standing start to win a bet, which he could do well into his 80s. [Ed. Good lord!] ….
“When I asked him the secret to longevity and good golf, Snead gave me a stock answer; ‘If you swing it back short when you’re young, you’ll never get it back when you’re old.’ And he talked about tempo: ‘The harder you hit the nail, the slower you take the hammer back.’ Sam was also known as a teetotaler, but I personally observed him stop at the clubhouse bar during tournament play and order a ‘daiquiri – extra sweet.’ Could that have been his secret?”
“Bill Perocchi has no medical training, but the co-chairman of Pebble Beach Company gave me the best advice that I have the hardest time following: Drink 100 ounces of water and walk 10,000 steps every day. A new study published by the Journal of the American Medical Association shows that vigorous walking not only extends life but significantly reduces the risk of dementia. (Actually 6,000 to 8,000 steps might be optimal, the equivalent of about 12 holes.)….
“Dr. (Bob) Rotella [Ed. famed sports psychologist], said he once studied centenarians: ‘They’re all highly committed to something – whatever it is, it should get you up in the morning. They have an optimistic attitude. My father lived till 101, and by then all his classmates were gone, so survival was about staying positive. Keep the legs in shape – it not only helps your golf swing but maintains good balance and prevents falling.’….
“I called my friend Doc Giffin, 94, who was Arnold Palmer’s amanuensis, and asked him what Arnie would say: ‘Keep hitting golf balls as long as you’re able,’ he replied. It reminded me of Ben Hogan’s advice: ‘Every day you miss practicing takes you two days to get back to where you were.’ Hogan also said: ‘Drink ginger ale – it improves the feel in your fingertips’ (although I think he preferred gimlets). One other tip from Arnie: ‘Get the ball to the hole, no matter what.’”
[I told you last fall I met Doc Giffin at Latrobe Country Club. A neat experience. I shook the hands of history.]
--Yikes…just a week ago I was praising the New York Rangers, on a roll, seven wins in a row, us fans with dreams of a Stanley Cup dancing in our heads, and then depression set in…four straight losses! The offense disappeared and disturbingly the goaltending has been awful. You aren’t going anywhere in the playoffs without solid goaltending.
Meanwhile, the Boston Bruins are a staggering 45-8-5 (OTL)…95 points, with Carolina next at 86 in the entire NHL. They have a goal differential of 95, with New Jersey second at +51.
That, my friends, is domination.
So last night, the Bruins were up 2-1, late, in Vancouver, when the Canucks’ pulled their goalie in a last-ditch effort to tie it up, when Bruins goaltender Linus Ullmark joined an exclusive list.
Ullmark took advantage of the empty net and launched a shot that ended up in the goal…just the 13th goalie in NHL history to score in the regular season and the first Bruins goalie to accomplish the feat, which is almost hard to believe.
Very cool. When I was growing up and going to Rangers games, I dreamed of watching Eddie Giacomin do that but he never did…though he had three assists one season.
Back to Ullmark, his record this season is 30-4-1 and he leads the league in goals against average (1.86) and save percentage (.938). As in…there’s your Vezina Trophy winner, sports fans.
--Entering Sunday’s action, Edmonton superstar Connor McDavid has 11 points in his last three games, six goals, and leads the NHL in points with 113, with teammate Leon Draisaitl second, but way back at 88.
--Manny Machado played his cards right. He threatened to opt out of his contract with the Padres at the end of the season, some of us were kind of excited, knowing our Uncle Stevie would be interested, but Machado is instead inking an 11-year, $350 million extension to replace what would have been the final five years and $150 million.
So Machado’s extension will be the fourth-richest in MLB history, behind Mike Trout ($426.5M), Mookie Betts ($365M) and Aaron Judge ($360M).
--With some bitching at the spending of the Padres and Mets, there is talk of instituting a salary cap, which despite the recent Collective Bargaining Agreement would no doubt cause a wild-cat strike of sorts.
But fret not, this is an issue for well down the road. It’s just bar chat now thanks to pathetic owners like the Pirates’ Bob Nutting, who refuses to spend a dime.
Speaking of not spending a dime, Bob S. out in the Bay Area sent me a piece on the Oakland A’s we’ll get into as the season gets underway. Their payroll is going to be something like $54 million, or barely more than the Mets are paying Max Scherzer.
--Spring training games are underway and MLB is trying out its new rules. I’m not going to give a damn these first few weeks as the kinks are ironed out and the players get used to pitch clocks, and time for the batter to get in the box, etc.
A game Saturday ended in a tie after the game’s final strike was given automatically…some fans are panicking and I say, “don’t worry.” It’s all going to work out. In talking to my brother, though, who panicked after this episode, there is no doubt if a subtle change is needed, baseball will rectify it…but players have a month to learn the new rules of the road and they’ll have to.
--One of the true a-holes in the game is umpire C.B. Bucknor, who is in the news because Cardinals manager Oliver Marmol is pissed Bucknor didn’t shake his hand before an exhibition game.
“I don’t think he’s good at his job [Ed. he’s not], and it just shows a lack of class as a man,” Marmol said after the game.
Bucknor and Marmol had an exchange last season.
--There was a lot of hype about Wake Forest Baseball this winter, with some key players returning, surprisingly, instead of going to last year’s draft.
So, after a 15-1 win this afternoon over Mount St. Mary’s, the Deacs are 9-0, outscoring their opponents 122-14. Yes, 122-14.
Granted, they haven’t played anyone of note…but still.
I’ll get into it more in my Add-on after the latest rankings. [Last week the Coaches Poll had us #6 and Baseball America #8. I don’t know what poll the school is using to refer to us as #4.]
--Saturday, Arsenal stayed on top of the table with a 1-0 win at Leicester, while Man City was blasting Bournemouth 4-1. Liverpool, after its disastrous Champions League performance midweek, managed only a 0-0 draw at Crystal Palace.
--Heading into Sunday’s Tottenham-Chelsea contest, Chelsea manager Graham Potter revealed both he and his family have received death threats from Chelsea supporters frustrated at the team’s disappointing form.
The Blues have won just two of their last 14 matches across all competitions, with fans calling for Potter to be sacked.
Potter said this week: “The world is tough for everybody. We’re going through an energy crisis, a cost of living crisis. People are striking every other week.
“Things are difficult so nobody wants to hear about the poor old Premier League manager. Nevertheless if you ask me a question about ‘is it hard, is it tough, is it nice to hear,’ as much as I’ve had support, I’ve had some not particularly nice emails come through that want me to die and want my kids to die.
“So that’s obviously not pleasant to receive. But if you’re asked about it for four months, if you’re under pressure, for four months ‘I’m under pressure, I’m under pressure,’ I’m under pressure because you guys [the media] need to sell stuff, what do you expect in the end?
“And if we don’t’ get the results then obviously that’s what happens. That’s football. That’s how it is.”
To state the obvious, no one deserves death threats, but Chelsea has indeed sucked.
And Chelsea was horrid today, falling to the Spurs 2-0, Harry Kane with another goal.
Standings 23/25 of 38…Played – Points
1. Arsenal…24 – 57
2. Man City…25 – 55
3. Man U…24 – 49
4. Tottenham…25 – 45
5. Newcastle…23 – 41
17. Leeds…24 – 22
18. Everton…24 – 21
19. Bournemouth…24 – 21
20. Southampton…24 – 18
--As I go to post, there haven’t been any franchise tag announcements yet in the NFL. The window opened Feb. 21 and closes March 7, and teams typically wait until the last few days.
Giants fans are looking to see what the team does with Saquon Barkley, who wants a long-term contract but is not likely to get one. So to prevent him from becoming an unrestricted free agent, they could tag him for like $10 million.
The Giants hope they don’t have to tag Daniel Jones (which then would preclude tagging Barkley), in order to either negotiate a longer-term deal with the quarterback, having until July 15 to do so. Jones recently changed agents and reportedly wants $45 million a year (so negotiate that down to $40 million or so), but the Giants need to think long and hard about this.
The big player that could be tagged is Lamar Jackson. Seattle’s Geno Smith is another interesting case.
And no word yet on Aaron Rodgers, having emerged from his cave, as to whether he wants to stay in Green Bay (if they’ll have him), go to Vegas, or maybe the Jets.
--So it will be interesting to see how “Cocaine Bear” did at the box office this first weekend for the film that created quite a bit of buzz, the trailer watched more than 25 million times.
It’s actually based, somewhat, on a true story. On Dec. 22, 1985, the Associated Press reported the following from Blue Ridge, Georgia:
“Investigators searching for cocaine dropped by an airborne smuggler have found a ripped-up shipment of the sweet-smelling powder and the remains of a bear that apparently died of a multimillion-dollar high.”
Police found a sad scene. A 175-lb. black bear dead near a duffle bag and some $2 million worth of cocaine that had been opened and scattered over a hillside. The parachutist, a former Kentucky narcotics investigator, had fallen to his death in a backyard in Knoxville, Tennessee. His unmanned airplane crashed into a North Carolina mountain. Back in Georgia, the bear, examiners said, had overdosed.
The stranger-than-fiction tale quickly receded from the headlines and stayed buried in news media archives.
But screenwriter Jimmy Warden delivered to producers Phil Lord and Christopher Miller a script titled “Cocaine Bear” and they were on board from page one.
“When the movie’s pitched, you hear the word ‘Cocaine,’ you’re like I’m not sure what to think of this,” Lord says. “Then when you hear the word ‘Bear,’ you’re like: I’m all in.”
Heck, I want to see it.
Top 3 songs for the week 2/23/80: #1 “Crazy Little Thing Called Love” (Queen) #2 “Do That To Me One More Time” (The Captain & Tennille) #3 “Yes, I’m Ready” (Teri DeSario with K.C.)…and…#4 “Cruisin’” (Smokey Robinson) #5 “Rock With You” (Michael Jackson) #6 “Longer” (Dan Fogelberg) #7 “On The Radio” (Donna Summer) #8 “Desire” (Andy Gibb) #9 “Coward Of The County” (Kenny Rogers) #10 “Sara” (Fleetwood Mac…C week…three months to graduation…will the editor get the sheepskin or be consigned to a life of riding the rails…which I may still end up doing…)
Digger Phelps Quiz Answer: The four consensus All-Americans in Digger’s 20 years, 1971-91, were….John Paxson (1981-83, 2X 2nd team), Kelly Tripucka (1978-79, 1980-81, 2X 2nd team), Adrian Dantley (1974-76, 2X 1st team), and John Shumate (1973-74, 1st team).
So Saturday, as Fordham (23-6, 11-5 A-10) beat Rhode Island (8-20, 4-12), 74-71, yours truly watched the entire contest. A big reason for doing so is my neighbor across the hall, and former neighbor for 16 years in New Providence, Michael C., has an affiliation with the 1970-71 Rams edition under Digger that went 26-3 and finished 9th in the final AP Poll. It was truly a dream season, but a great time for New York basketball overall. As Johnny Mac and I like to reminisce, back then, the late 60s / early 70s, there were very few games on, but locally Fordham, Columbia, Manhattan, St. John’s were, and they were competitive, and you throw in games with the likes of Niagara (Calvin Murphy) and St. Bonaventure (Bob Lanier), and this is how we became hoops fans (as well as watching the Knicks and the fledgling Nets of the ABA).
So that great Fordham team was led by a 6’2” guard, Charlie Yelverton, who not only scored 23.3 points per game, but hauled in 12 rebounds. This was his senior year, and he was then drafted in the second round by Portland but played only one season. Also on the squad was sophomore Ken Charles, who would go on to a terrific career, drafted in the third round by Buffalo in 1974 and playing five seasons in the NBA.
And one P.J. Carlesimo was a senior reserve in 1970-71.
Picture that Phelps was just 29 years of age and boy did he parlay that one season into fame and riches.
Yesterday, Fordham finally retired Yelverton’s number (the celebration had been delayed two years by Covid), and there was Michael with Digger and the boys, on network TV a few times…so we’ll be having beers shortly to discuss the festivities.
I have a certain fondness for Fordham, and it’s great they had a record fifth consecutive sellout Saturday…packing historic Rose Hill Gymnasium, a classic place to watch Division I hoops.
Fordham is a great school, good kids, and the Jesuit priests there, through the New York Mission Bureau, directed me to the island of Yap, I got to go to the consistory in Rome where Avery Dulles became Cardinal Dulles, and I went to Dulles’ funeral at Fordham.
Unfortunately, as good a season as the Rams have had, they really need to win the A-10 tournament. Lucky for them, it’s a major down year for the conference, so they have a shot.
Lastly, last year’s coach, Kyle Neptune, took over at Villanova when Jay Wright retired. So there were questions whether assistant Keith Urgo could do the job as head coach. Michael told me a few weeks ago how it was the parents of the freshman recruits who begged the school to give Urgo the job. The reason? It was Urgo who recruited them all and he made such a great impression that the kids didn’t want to have to start the process all over again. And so here is Urgo guiding the Rams to their best season since 1990-91! [Helped by Khalid Moore, a transfer from Georgia Tech, I have to note.]
Add-on up top by noon, Wed.