Thinking out loud … while wondering if late night television will ever be the same again?
— If it’s May, it means Friar Basketball takes a hit with another transfer. Center Paschal Chukwu told the coaching staff he’s not happy — with anything, apparently. Therefore, like Josh Fortune last year, Providence loses a big piece — literally — to its roster for next season with the 7-foot-2, 226-pounder’s departure. It’s not his leaving, however, that I have a problem with. It’s the timing.
— As in Fortune’s case last year, Chukwu’s transfer comes at a terrible time. Potentially, other than possible fifth-year graduate transfers, there’s no one available to fill his spot or his role. Chukwu stood to get major minutes, but playing time was not his issue. I guess he’s the only one not excited about Kris Dunn’s return to the team — and isn’t this quite the irony? Apparently, he was simply unhappy on campus and he’s hoping for a better college experience. If that’s truly the case, it’s a hard point to find fault with — and I wish him well.
— A part of me, however, wonders where we’ve gone in the teaching of young people what it means to be responsible — to keep a commitment, or to keep your word or promise. There are going to be ups-and-downs; life is not going to be perfect. No, instead we teach kids these days, “Hey, change things while you can.” This philosophy may serve your purpose now, but wait until you get a bit older and reach the real world. You can’t change anything. Of course, for some of these student-athletes, they’ll never really know what the “real” world is about. This is where our system of education — at home and at school — fails them.
— Former PC assistant coach Bob Simon, who departed for Alabama, was particularly close in Chukwu’s recruitment. Maybe his leaving was a factor? Learning how to deal with disappointment, honoring prior commitments and understanding that scholarships are a privilege should be a part of the learning process. The result here is the program is left in a bind. Paschal Chukwu may be the LAST person I thought capable of what has turned out to be selfish behavior. Is there more to this story than we know? Perhaps, but good luck, big fella. You’ll probably need it in the long run. Just sayin’.
— Are transfers getting out of hand? We’ve talked about fifth-year grad transfer cases recently, but if you really want to change things — and force student athletes to actually honor their commitments — then change the rules. Force all transfer students to sit a minimum of one year, whether they have graduated or not; set a deadline date for any athlete to leave his/her current school after the season has ended, with only a small window of opportunity. This way, teams and athletic programs shouldn’t be held hostage by late, immature decisions being made in the minds of 19- and 20-year-old kids. If they truly want or need to leave, just follow the rules. Simple.
— How about some good news, Friars fans? God Shammgod is preparing to enroll in graduate school at PC, to begin working toward a master’s degree in counseling. Somehow, that’s a perfect fit for him. And it’s a perfect fit for the program, as it means he’ll remain on the coaching staff as a grad assistant for next season.
— Speaking of transfers, Marquette just got a little stronger with its latest addition, Andrew Rowsey. Rowsey was an All-Big South guard at UNC-Asheville, looking to play up. He’ll be eligible in 2016, and the Golden Eagles should really be L-O-A-D-E-D.
— Also loaded, but for next year — UConn. The Huskies added All-Big East second-team guard Sterling Gibbs from Seton Hall as a fifth-year grad transfer. Perhaps rumor of UConn’s demise was a bit hasty? The program now has two players on its roster who scored 40 points in a single game last season — Gibbs and 7-foot-0 center Amida Brimah.
— And one other transfer to make note of from the past week — former UMass guard Derrick Gordon landed at Seton Hall, ostensibly taking Gibbs’ place on the Pirates’ roster. Gordon’s choice of SHU is significant, and not just in a basketball sense. He is (so far) the only openly gay men’s college basketball player. And, he chose a school not known for its past tolerance of gay rights. Additionally, the same school recently dismissed a priest who ministered to Pirates athletic teams and said his firing came because of his support for LGBT equality. Wow. It’ll be hard NOT to pull for a kid like Gordon.
— USA U-19 National Team coach Sean Miller, who replaced Billy Donovan, made it official last week by announcing that his younger brother Archie (Dayton’s head coach) would join PC’s Ed Cooley on the coaching staff. The Friars, of course, played and lost to Archie’s Flyers in the NCAA Tournament, and may very well face Sean’s Arizona Wildcats next season. Think Easy Ed will have had enough of being the jam in that Brothers’ Miller sandwich before too long?
— Lost in the headlines dominated by Deflategate over the past few weeks was former PC hockey coach and athletic director Lou Lamoriello’s stepping down as the longest-tenured GM in the NHL. Lamoriello, at age 72, will stay on as the Lou, er, New Jersey Devils‘ president after serving in the Meadowlands since 1987 and winning three Stanley Cups.
— Stepping up is former URI hoop star Antonio Reynolds-Dean, returning to his alma mater as an assistant coach for Danny Hurley, replacing Luke Murray on the staff. He’ll be charged with tutoring the Rams’ young big men — and also tutoring the Rams on winning ways. ARD was a part of the last URI team to reach the NCAA Tournament, in 1999, and played on three NCAA squads.
— Excitement has to be building in Kingston, and it should be. URI basketball picked up 6-foot-4 Indiana transfer Stanford Robinson, who will sit out next season but then step in to (potentially) replace E.C. Matthews. And the baseball team, preseason picked for 11th out of 13 teams in the Atlantic 10, is fighting for the conference title this weekend, with head coach Raphael Cerrato named the A-10 Coach of the Year. Freshman pitcher Tyler Wilson is the first rookie in league history to win Pitcher of the Year, too.
— It was stunning, to say the least, to hear the news of Jim Skeffington’s death this week. He was a longtime advocate in Rhode Island for public projects, and his latest campaign for the new PawSox stadium somewhere in Providence undoubtedly takes a hit. It wasn’t on solid ground to begin with. For the remaining partners of the ownership group, all I’ll say at this point is, “Lead, or get out of the way. And rethink the real McCoy.”
— Having seen a few rare occurrences on the field lately, and then rubbing my eyes while checking the numbers, sacrifice bunts are up for the Red Sox. Whoa. So tell me, why won’t players bunt to the open space when an infield shift is on?
— Red Sox pitching coach Carl Willis = season saver. Or savior. Whatever you’re doing for those guys Carl, keep it up. Hitting coach Chili Davis = Nik Wallenda. Chili is walking on a tight rope across the Grand Canyon right now. Look out below.
— Forbes reported this week, somewhat surprisingly, that baseball is bouncing back in the ratings game. In 14 of 24 markets, local TV ratings for Major League Baseball on regional sports networks beat the NBA and NHL playoffs. Maybe it has something to do with early-season success in some cities, and maybe it has something to do with newer ballparks still receiving fan interest. Whatever it is, it’s good for baseball. MLB annual revenues are approaching $10 billion. That hardly classifies the sport as “dying.”
— The spring NFL meetings this week gave us a change in the PAT (now from the 15-yard line), but the rules committee didn’t go far enough when it left the two-point conversion at the 2-yard line. You really want to spice things up and encourage coaches to go for two? Move the ball to the 1. A 33-yard extra point will still be converted at better than a 90 percent rate (it’s 99 percent from the 2, which is a 20-yard kick) … and that’s the way most coaches will still go. They’ve improved the “excitement” factor of the play precisely by zero percent. Stupid is as stupid does.
— Did Robert Kraft — and the Patriots — take the high road in battling the NFL by accepting the league’s punishment without admitting guilt? Or perhaps, did Robert Kraft simply set the table for the NFL to back away from its harsh suspension of his star quarterback? Yes, and it certainly appears that way. Shrewdly played, Mr. Kraft.
— He turtled. Capitulated. Gave in. Caved. Can’t say that many Patriots fans are actually happy with New England’s un-Patriot-like decision to turn its collective cheek rather than fight, but undoubtedly it is time for all parties — everyone — to move on from the nonsense otherwise known as Deflategate. Haters will still hate, and nothing will change those minds. But I do understand the angst among Pats fans over Kraft’s acceptance of the NFL’s way-over-the-top penalties. If you’re truly innocent, why would you NOT fight for your honor, for truth over injustice? And especially, because Kraft was — at one time — one of us, as a fan and season ticket-holder.
— Here’s why: Because there are bigger battles to win than dominating in court over a punch-drunk NFL. What would you really win by suing? A million bucks? A draft pick? Some respect? You’d render the NFL senseless (it may be there already) with so many blows to its collective head. Any shred of credibility or dignity for the league is gone. It becomes more of a joke in the public eye with every public slap to the NFL’s face. These teams, these owners still have to work here, and still have to live and play here. The NFL money machine could slow to a crawl (note I said “slow,” not stop) with integrity issues over public faith and trust, and that isn’t good for business.
— You may not see it that way, but to the Krafts, they’ve already lost the PR battle to the public at large. So focus on something you can still win — like, another Super Bowl. And, like making peace with the other 31 owners, who all are watching to see what the Patriots might “get away” with. Robert Kraft has been a leader, a deal-maker, not a war-monger within league circles. You want him to be Al Davis all of a sudden? That’s not who he is, and his fellow owners know it. If the owners believe the NFL is showing any favoritism toward New England here, the Krafts could lose a lot of leverage over the long haul, maybe for as long as they own the team. That’s not good business, either.
— Not for nuthin’, but my Magic 8 Ball says the league will significantly reduce or eliminate TB 12’s suspension, because it was an overreaction to the alleged crime committed. The NFL will make it right, the Patriots will step aside, and the focus will return to the field. At least that’s the interpretation of “Outlook is Good” when I shook it the other night, after asking, “How will DeflateGate end for the Patriots?”
— If that scenario doesn’t happen for the Krafts, if Brady isn’t returned to active duty before having to actually serve a four-game suspension, then do the gloves come off in other ways? The Patriots ownership will have gambled and suffered a rare defeat. History shows it doesn’t make a habit of losing much at anything — remember that.
— With the release of cornerback Chimdi Chekwa this past week, it’s almost as if the Patriots keep peeling back layers of an onion to see what’s left in the defensive backfield. Pretty soon, all they’ll be left with is the smell. But Brandon Spikes is back at linebacker, which is reason enough to consider the phrase “Never say never” as gospel.
— Don Sweeney is the new Bruins GM? Wake me up when the puck drops, or better yet, wake me when he actually finds a sniper to score a few goals.
— Anybody watching Rhode Island’s own Jared Donaldson at the French Open? The top-ranked American teenager (he’s 18) on the pro circuit, Donaldson is through the second round of men’s singles qualifying in the second tennis Grand Slam event of the year.
— I had the honor this week of speaking to an outstanding group of athletes from Pawtucket’s Tolman and Shea High Schools, honored by their coaches and school administrators for their spirit, passion, perseverance and effort on and off of the field. Key Spirit winners were Matthew Marshall, Harrison Moran, Alben Chingo, Robert Slaney, Lindsey Microulis, Morgan Clark, Michael Rego and Charles Fontes from Tolman; Alex Rodriguez, Mason Delisle, Nair Injai, Luis Santos, Brenda Paiz, Thomas Bessette and Tyshaun Ortiz from Shea. Solid athletes, good students — but even better young people and potential leaders. It’s good to know, and to see, that some things work in our public schools.
— Johnny Carson was the King of Late Night Television. I’m too young (three words I never thought I’d ever string together again) to remember his predecessors on “The Tonight Show,” Jack Paar and Steve Allen. Carson’s ability to be funny, to talk to the stars like they were his best friends — to speak to his viewers, not at them — was remarkable. When he retired in 1992, I thought late-night TV was done. Boy, was I wrong — and we have David Letterman to thank for it. Sure, Jay Leno had his own great career as Carson’s eventual successor on NBC, but I was always a “Letterman guy” in the head-to-head matchup, preferring his dry, slightly goofy humor because I like to think I’m also dry and slightly goofy. Dave is the “everyman” that Leno — and even Carson — could never be.
— Letterman’s retirement this week is another seminal moment in TV history that many will remember, just like when Carson left 23 years ago. The final montage showing pictures of his career, as it played to the live music of the Foo Fighters’ “Everlong,” displayed the fact his diversity and wit touched many, many famous people and their own lives. It was cool to see the plaudits that came his way from the newbies who are following him — notably Jimmy Fallon and Jimmy Kimmel on competing networks. They’re better than I thought they’d be, and they can do what they do best, because guys like Letterman blazed the trail.
— In his best Letterman impression, my buddy Statbeast sez he’s figured out the difference between a bad golfer and a bad skydiver. A bad golfer goes, “WHACK! Damn.” A bad skydiver goes, “Damn. WHACK!”
— Tired of Deflategate? Not too many are, judging from the comments and notes I’ve received over the past few weeks. Here’s a good question posed by Sybil from Thompson, Connecticut: “Fifty years from now, will we still be talking about Tom Brady and the Patriots as we speak about the JFK assassination and Area 51?” Sybil, I hope not. But in all honesty, Brady and the team hold their legacy in their hands. Where they go from here is likely to be most remembered. If they can keep winning, even after Brady is through, that’s what will be remembered by the masses. Except in New York.
— Interested in having your questions on local Rhode Island sports (and yes, that includes the Patriots, Red Sox, Bruins and Celtics) answered in a somewhat timely fashion? Send ‘em to me! It’s your chance to “think out loud,” so send your questions, comments and local stories to firstname.lastname@example.org. We’ll share mailbag comments/Facebook posts/tweets right here! Follow me on Twitter, @JRbroadcaster, and on Facebook, www.facebook.com/john.rooke.
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