By David Scott
Boston Sports Media
I was drinking Jack Daniels DURING the games – worked for me. . .The ”WIPsters” at ”610 AM” in Philly were in a lather about the hiring of Charlie Manuel over that of Jim Leyland. Seems the biggest fear in Phillie Phandom is that Manuel and slugger Jim Thome are “too close.” Seemed to work for Tito and Schill, didn’t it?
Between the Lines of Pages (Internet and non-)So riddle me this: Wasn’t the Ty-Law-Out-Four-to-Six-Weeks-Confirmation/‘scoop’ by the Globe and Nick Cafardo an illustration of just how pre-mature the Michael Smithhire was by ESPN.com? Smith’s been almost ALL-Pats for the Worldwide Bleeder, but potentially the biggest news of the season was reported first by a paper that doesn’t even have a full-time Pats beat guy! ESPN.com should have been breaking that story and overplaying it through its network. Instead they suffered the humiliation of having to credit Smith’s former employer. . . How’s that for a backhanded compliment to the Globe Sports Desk?. . . Carl Poston, he of THE Postons, of course, had to show he was mightier than the Patriot Organization, thus releasing the info early. Surprised he didn’t fly Steve Burton in for another sit-down.
Scott’s Shots took a brunch-time jaunt over to the Wyndham Franklin in Philly for yesterday’s annual Atlantic 10 Media Day to check in on the status of the League Calipari Built. Let’s put it this way for Commissioner Linda Bruno’s little league that couldn’t: Temple coach (and legend) John Chaney admitted to Hampshire Gazette scribe Matt Vautour that not only couldn’t he name any expected stars in the league “I can’t even name all the coaches.” See below for some more Chaney magic. . .Before we go any further with observations from the under-attended A-10 media day, let us direct your attention to one of the nation’s most enduring pre-season college hoops packages. Those of you who read this space regularly are A) quite insane and B) quite aware of our fondness for the writings and observations of Yahoo! Sports’ Dan Wetzel. Wetzel is currently undertaking his Fifth Annual Trippin’ Tour (TT V) where he barnstorms from college outpost to college outpost in search of (in order) the game’s heartbeat, a “working tap” in every town and more than a few hilarities. In the interest of full disclosure, I was the shotgun rider for TT I back when hoopstv.com (rest its blessed soul) was burning through cash with astonishing speed. Since then, Wetzel has “upgraded” his traveling companion to the lovable, huggable, basketball teddy bear known as Bret Bearup. Aside from actually having a balance of positive numbers in his bank account, Bearup also outclasses me with his daily humor (one-liners are his specialty), his basketball knowledge and his deftness with the ladies (which I like to attribute to his positive bank balance and not to my repulsiveness). To see the duo of Wetzel and Bearup together is to re-live the WWF tag team days of Andre the Giant and Ivan Putsky (if they weren’t, they should have been). To read the account of their nine-day tour is to discover just what makes college basketball the “Official Sport of Scott’s Shots.” Check it out at http://www.sports.yahoo.com/. . . Meanwhile, back at the A-10 gathering we were happy to run into Vautour, the ever-helpful Ray Cella of the A-10 and old co-worker and roommate, Bill Doherty, one of the Philly area’s finest freelancers. Unfortunately, it was also the occasion to see Dead Coach Lapping, the University of Massachusetts coach who is 19 games under .500 in his three year Amherst tenure (34-53, 10-19 last year), Steve Lappas. Just about the time we were going to go over and chat with the fourth-year head man at his desolate table, the anti-Calipari got on his cell phone and sat at his table on that phone for a good 10 minutes. Now, folks, if Coach Chaney was wrapped up in a phone call, we’d gladly wait 10, 20, 30 even 60 minutes to chat with him. But when the reincarnation of Ron Gerlufsen is giving us the cold shoulder, we’ll gladly move on to someone who cares. So we chatted up Dayton’s engaging young gun, Tom Izzo-disciple, Brain Gregory and Xavier’s first-year (but you’d never know it) head man, Sean Miller, the former feisty Pitt guard. We even got a few moments with Rhode Island’s Jim Baron, who doesn’t necessarily wax poetic, but he doesn’t sit at his table on the cell phone either. . . UMass was chosen third in the East on the men’s side and fourth on the women’s side. Most of the talk of the day centered on the league “being down” this season, which it will be. But, as Gregory pointed out “We’re victims of our own success. We had some major, major wins last year all throughout the season and not to mention the attention (Jameer) Nelson got (at St. Joseph’s)”. . .In fact, it’s the A-10 (not the ACC, Big East or the SEC) that has the past two National Players of the Year in Nelson and David West. How do you like dem apples Basketball Bob Ryan, Teddy Sarandis, Mike Shalin and/or Mark Blaudschun?. . Some numbers plucked from the newest UMass Media Guide (which opens with a fitting memoriam to Jack Leaman): The Minutemen have not been ranked nationally since November of 1998; Percentage-wise, Lappas is averaging just under 18 losses a season, which puts him neck and neck with the aforementioned Gerlufsen, who Roget lists as a synonym for pathetic. Even he was at just under 17 L’s a year. . . Tony Barbee, calling Tony Barbee: Your head coaching position at the alma mater is beginning to open up. (Sadly, Lappas might just mess around and have a winning record with his non-conference slate featuring Birmingham Southern, Yale, Northeastern, Miami, Rider and BU. They do get Gonzaga (away), UConn (home, where it will be a Husky crowd) and BC (home), but overall it is a “job-saving” schedule meant to prolong the agony for those who care deeply about the State U’s once-proud basketball program. GIVE US BARBEE FOR THREE (or four years). .What do you bet I don’t get my Christmas card form the UMass Athletic Department this year?. . . Much love and big ups and major props to ESPN for taking the successful formula used for College Football GameDay and translating it into College Basketball GameDay starting Jan. 22 (Storrs for UConn-Pitt). Putting the combo of Rick Majerus and Jay Bilas on-site (with either Chris Fowler or Rece Davis) should make for a good take throughout the day’s games, leading up to the 9 p.m. tip of the feature game. Watch for Majerus to dominate and develop into the network’s “Next” Dick Vitale, who will work the prime time game with returning Brad Nessler and rising Erin Andrews on sideline duties. AK-47, Andy Katz will serve as the GameDay reporter, presumably adding interviews and features to lead into desk discussion with Bilas and Majerus (or, if you prefer, the Pretzel Rod and the Oreo). What ever way Vitale is worked into the mix, he will need to reel it in a little to let Majerus find his groove and prosper. Other sites on the itinerary include UMass, Holy Cross, Iona – I KID! The stops will include Lawrence, Kan., Syracuse, N.Y, College Park, Md., Lexington, Ky., Memphis, Tenn., Stillwater, Okla. And Washington, D.C. (for the ACC Tourney). . . And even more praise for NOT including Duke’s over-told Trust Fund Woodstock set-up in KVille outside Cameron.
The Wisest Owl of All
Whenever the opportunity and the timing coincide, there is no better way to spend a couple of minutes than sitting at the knee of Temple’s John Chaney. Even when he was the Devil Incarnate to Calipari’s Rising Star, Chaney was a case study in what college basketball coaches were supposed to be. If this sounds like fawning it’s only because it is. Shoot me – I revere the man. Even the 14 pages in the Temple Media Guide barely touch the surface of Chaney, who will begin his 23rd season at Temple (483-224) when Auburn visits Philly on November 19. And don’t think for a minute the 72-year-old doesn’t hear the snickers, the whispers and the Joe Paterno comparisons. “I find myself always in the mode where I want to fight back (at the critics),” said Chaney from under his steel gray Nike running cap. “Especially when the reasoning they use is bad reasoning. I’ve heard for 10 years now. ‘How long are you going to stay?’”The answer Chaney gives is “as long as I’m healthy.” And health is not a concern for the zestful mentor famous for 5 a.m. practices and brutal schedules. “I know what Joe (Paterno) is going through and he’s really hurt inside. But he’s a fighter. And he’s a gentleman. I’m not a gentleman. I’ll bit back, I’ll fight back. He’ll try to answer without profanity, but I don’t give a shit.”Classic Chaney.Later, as the hour-long Gospel According to John wound down Chaney got deep into some political talk, something his own stellar SID, Larry “Doc” Dougherty was hoping Chaney would steer away from (fat chance). “That little rascal (The Philly Daily News’s Mike Kern) got me into it,” Chaney explained as Doc took a seat between his men’s coach and the most underrated women’s coach EVER, Temple’s Dawn Staley (Chaney nearly said as much). It was too late. Chaney had already spoke of the election he found confounding and offered this on “that guy” from Georgia, Zell Miller. “You know Zell Miller’s an asshole,” Chaney surmised before returning to some talk about Salem’s Rick Brunson, an all-time Chaney fave. There was also snippets on ageism in society (and coaching), patriotism, scheduling and, of course, his current team that isn’t expected to do much. . . but probably will.But, as always, there was a bit more to listening to Chaney and actually FEELING his words. “You know, now, in recruiting, I’ve got two strikes against my ass: My age and what they tell the kids are ‘three ay em practices’.” What they can never, NEVER, use against him is his convictions and his character. . . Temple’s Paddington Al Shrier the real guy, not the famous Bobblehead, was in the house, along with the top secret documents he houses in his ever-present briefcase. . . Immortal Mel Greenberg the guru of women’s basketball was present, making it a truly wonderful mid-afternoon. . . Seriously though, the small turnout left many coaches being interviewed by fellow coaches. With no true “national story” (as Nelson was last year), the league is dependent on Chaney’s story to stir the masses. And while he did draw a big (15 media folk) crowd for a brief span, the merits of such Media Days needs to be re-examined. The preview yearbooks are long put to bed and the information gathered is nothing that couldn’t be picked up in a teleconference (much like the in-season weekly ones that are a notebook writer’s wet-dream). There’s also the issue of unnecessarily taking a ‘student-athlete’ (such as UMass’s Rashaun Freeman, last year’s A-10 Rookie of the Year) away form his classes for the day without very much redeeming value (right, Myles Brand?). Worst of all, the media gift was a cheesy A-10 totebag made of burlap or some crap. I remember when spunky little Ron Bertovich used to give away plasma TVs. And that was before there even were plasma TVs. Or Bertoviches for that matter. . . Thanks, you’ve been great. For more A-10 humor like this, be sure to pick up my book titled “The A-10: Forever on the Cusp.”. . . We kid because we used to have to do gamenotes ourselves,
Also stirring up the riveting (or more likely the revolting) hot air at WIP (sort of a poor man’s 1510 AM, The Zone in Boston as a reference point) was Terrell Owens and what has become a fairly ugly on-going war of words with Ray Lewis. Ever the loyalists, Eagles fans are sticking up for THEIR TO, even if a year ago they would have sided with Lewis. Or better yet, not even cared. Oddly, I too find myself in the corner of TO, at least on his point that the NFL (and some of its partners, it should be noted) seem to embrace Lewis despite his dubious past; at the very time the NFL tries to limit TO’s expressions of freedom. Years ago, when he was still very much Jerry Rice’s back-up, Scott’s Shots shared some hours with Owens in Jamaica during the fabulous-to-attend Superstars competition. Most of what happens in Jamaica stays in Jamaica, but Owens did completely crush me in a Sea-doo competition. He must’ve been doing 50 in the water and I was doing like 12. With the brake on. He soaked my ass, sped away and soaked my ass again. You gotta love that in a guy. . . Also unbearable during the monthly Philly jaunt was hearing the Pats’ loss through the weathered lungs of the Steelers radio network’s broadcast veteran, Myron Cope. Next time I complain about Gino Cap, remind me of the awful Cope, would you please? I’ll still abhor Cap, but Cope brings it to another level of awfulness. . . Oh, and Howard Eskin, the WIP blabbermouth and controversial figure? He has so much damn attitude and so much damn ego that you wonder why anyone would call in and be humiliated by the guy’s long pauses and one word answers. He wouldn’t last a minute in the Boston Market.
Rants and Raves
Best of luck to the immortal Jimmy Breslin who called it quits this week from his space inside New York’s Newsday. "Thanks for the use of the hall," he wrote to end his Tuesday column. Classic. Breslin is never far from my thoughts when I look at a story being completely over-covered and attempt to take a different angle. It’s Breslin who is responsible for the JOURN 101 analogy known as “The Gravedigger’s Story.” As the anecdote goes, Breslin abandoned the herd reporting mentality in the aftermath of JFK’s death and instead went and found the guy who was digging the President's grave. It wouldn’t hurt for all of us to try and remember that one on occasion. . . Rachel Nichols of ESPN is officially stalking Shaq at this point. Is she going to all 82 of his games? Which reminds me: It’s so good to have Stephen Angry back in regular rotation. I hadn’t been yelled at and demeaned for a good a three months or so.
David Scott writes from a seaside shanty on the shores of Hull and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org