Thinking out loud … while wondering how many national titles have actually been won by Rhode Island schools?
— Could there have been a worse trophy presentation in sports history? At TD Garden last Saturday, it seemed as if the NCAA championship ice hockey trophy had been predetermined to belong to Boston University. Either that, or the NCAA representative was just plain dumb. “I’d like to present the trophy to the Boston, excuse me, Providence College Terriers?” You had one job, dude. It’s the moment of a lifetime for the winners, and for their fans. Maybe even for you, and you blew it. Stupid is as stupid does.
— I’m not certain a national title win can be accurately quantified, at least not right away. Perhaps in sports like football and basketball, and maybe even baseball where big money is involved, there’s an almost-immediate return on investment. For Providence College to win a national title, undoubtedly the kickback will come down the line — in increased interest in the team, the athletic program, maybe even in enrollment. It also may come in interest shown to your coaches, by bigger schools looking to cash in themselves.
— PC’s Nate Leaman is the youngest head coach in 22 years to win a national hockey championship, since the late Shawn Walsh won at Maine. He did it at PC in four years, which is extraordinary enough, until you realize he was also the architect of the national title won at Union College last season as well, before moving to Providence. Former Friars star Rick Bennett guided that Union team to the finish line in 2014, after Leaman had built the foundation.
— That’s now nine championships for Hockey East schools, since the league was formed in 1984-85, in case you were wondering. And I was. Providence is the fourth school in the conference to win one (with BC, BU and Maine). For a program that has its share of history — and names like Lou Lamoriello, Brian Burke, Ron Wilson and Chris Terreri associated with it — this championship feels like it belongs. What took so long?
— And it didn’t take very long for some PC students to show they’re really no different than students at places like West Virginia — where they regularly burn couches and set fires — and join in the absent-minded mayhem following a championship win. You’d like to think there’s an ability to rise above the ridiculousness, but sadly, that’s not the case. They’re just blowing off steam? They can’t blow off steam and celebrate without violence and vandalism? The school had to apologize to Providence police for the trouble (more than 60 officers were called in to keep the peace), and the fact that an officer was hit in the head with a vodka bottle. Stay classy, PC.
— Jon Gillies did just that. On his way to Vancouver to join the Calgary Flames — who drafted him in 2012 — Gillies left a classy note of thanks behind for Friartown. Included in his letter: “I am forever a Friar, and that makes me one of the luckiest people in the world.” Jon, we’re pretty lucky to have seen you play, and develop into an outstanding person, too. On Wednesday he signed a three-year entry-level contract with the Flames.
— That THUD! you just heard was the other shoe dropping for the new Pawtucket Red Sox ownership. For only $120 million over 30 years, we can have a minor league team stay here. Oh, and they don’t have to pay any property taxes, either. On top of that, based on the artist renderings I saw of the potential new park, I-195 and India Point Park look like they have been wiped off of the map. So, adjust your travel plans accordingly.
— No one is in the mood for increased taxes. Why doesn’t this ownership group understand this? And a tax break for the new owners on top of that? New stadiums rarely — if ever — live up to proposed potential revenue forecasts, and this one in Providence would be no different. Look, this is exactly what the new owners want. They want us to say “no,” so then they can say “yes” to relocation. Get ready for that.
— In honor of this being “tax week,” my buddy Statbeast sez golf is a lot like taxes. You drive hard to get to the green, and then you eventually wind up in the hole.
— Before we relegate it to the archives, at least the Red Sox‘ six-hour, 49-minute extravaganza with the Yankees, the longest game (time-wise) in team history, was a win over the Dark Side. Better to have history chalked up on the left side of the W-L column, isn’t it? Just sayin’.
— Hi Clay Buchholz, we missed you and your maddening inconsistencies. Is it possible that he and Wade Miley have any understanding that walking leadoff hitters is the quickest way to infuriate everyone in the ballpark, watching or listening, and in their own dugout? And quite possibly, the quickest way to earn a ticket out of town?
— Why is it, after the first nine games of the year resulting in a 6-3 start with three straight series wins, it feels like the Sox are about 1-8?
— Three things the Sox need after the first two weeks of the season — pitching, pitching and pitching. Starting, middle, relief. If you sit on the first-base side at Fenway, or down the right-field line, you’re liable to suffer whiplash watching this staff, and the Sox bats, this summer.
— Honestly, I never thought both Peter Chiarelli and Claude Julien had to go, even with the Bruins’ disappointing end to the regular season. The way I look at it, Julien has proven he can win, but he could only win with the players Chiarelli brought in. You can make an argument several of those players would very much be welcomed elsewhere. This past year, here, it just wasn’t enough. Blow it all up? No. But changing the mindset, the attitude, the ideology? Yes, please. There was no identity this year, and the GM is in charge of that department. If there has to be a fall guy, he’s it.
— Did Chiarelli leave a legacy of winning behind? Certainly, he did that. The Bruins have the Stanley Cup from 2011 as proof. But to go from Cup champ to Presidents’ Trophy to out of the playoffs in four years is a precipitous fall in a bottom-line biz. Julien and his coaching staff aren’t in the clear yet, either. Cam Neely said this week their fate will be up to the new GM.
— I hope, for his sake, Masters champ Jordan Speith is as clean, nice and polite as he appears to be. A bad boy might sell, but a good guy is a breath of fresh air. Maybe it’s a new era in golf, where Tiger’s trysts and tales of woe can be forgotten, and where new personalities and stories can actually develop. Plus, it can’t hurt to play really, really well. Speith can.
— First, it was Bobby Knight. Next out the door of the alleged World Wide Leader, Lou Holtz. The former Notre Dame (and J-E-T-S) coach was pushed out at ESPN, but he says he hopes to stay in college football. Even at age 78. Sure, he’s got a lisp and he mumbles. But he’s witty, quick with a quip, and solidly opinionated. Unlike Knight, who rambles and preaches and is as interesting as a warm enema. You go, Lou.
— Not for nuthin,’ but Bryce Cotton’s alley-oop dunk this past week for Utah against Dallas was a jaw-dropper. Made all of the top-play lists I saw. Local boy making good? Local boy posterizing pros is what that was.
— Ricky Council’s LOI was expected this week, as next year’s PC hoop freshman class now numbers four — and counting. He could bring the shooting touch that was sorely missed at times this past season. But with forward Alex Owens’ status in doubt (knee injury, eligibility), and Kris Dunn’s personal D-Day nearing, Ed Cooley and staff are still on the hunt for next season. If Dunn makes the professional leap, a fifth-year transfer should be a priority.
— The building of the 2015-16 postseason resume is beginning for Rhody. Jon Rothstein of CBS Sports reported this week Nebraska will host URI on Dec. 2 as the return game of a home-and-home series. The Rams beat Nebraska at the Ryan Center this past year, and a road win over a Big Ten team would be an attention-grabber.
— Brooklyn native, former Manhattan head coach and ex-Pitt assistant Barry Rohrssen joins Chris Mullin’s staff at St. John’s, moving from John Calipari‘s staff at Kentucky. Rohrssen, better known in hoop circles by the nickname “Slice,” has the city connections to help Mullin re-establish the Red Storm as a serious player — among players.
— Was that Boston Mayor Martin Walsh on Dennis & Callahan I heard this week, sidestepping the issues surrounding potential Olympic traffic problems? At the rate I-93 repairs are going right now, there’s no way MassDOT can handle the pressure. And they have nine years to go.
— Loyal = Mike Pressler. Appearing on the CBS news magazine “60 Minutes” last Sunday, Pressler was featured in a segment aptly titled “Rush to Judgment.” His reputation forever stained by a rogue district attorney in the Duke lacrosse scandal nine years ago, the now-Bryant lax coach is still emotional about the ordeal. Who can blame him? Ex-Duke athletic director Joe Alleva, now at LSU, offered Pressler up as a sacrificial lamb, even though he did nothing wrong and his players were later exonerated. Alleva, nor anyone at Duke, has ever really been held accountable.
— In the aftermath of one of the most outlandish abuses of the legal system, and the sensationalism in the media that followed, in stepped Bryant President Ron Machtley. Machtley hired Pressler, seeing in him something the know-it-alls at Duke, sadly, never could. Bryant’s ascension into Division 1 athletics has been relatively smooth, thanks in large part to Pressler’s success with the lacrosse program quickly developing into an NCAA contender. He has returned Machtley’s prescience with the kind of loyalty — turning down larger jobs for more money — that is rarely seen these days. By anyone, anywhere.
— Bryant lax has been struggling this season, at 5-8 overall but 3-2 in the NEC. Can loyalty = patience? Let’s hope so.
— Congratulations to former Friars assistant hoop coach Steve DeMeo, who was named Spaulding’s Division 1 NJCAA Men’s Basketball Coach of the Year at Northwest Florida State. DeMeo served on Tim Welsh’s PC staff, and his team won the juco national title this past season.
— Wow. The Celtics made the playoffs?
— Please stop with the Brad Stevens for Coach of the Year and Danny Ainge for Executive of the Year talk. Did they both do their jobs? Considering the overhaul, you’d have to say both represented themselves, and their employer, very well. Reaching the postseason, largely unexpected after 25 wins a year ago, is a step in the right direction. But it’s just a step. There are many, many more to take.
— Three finalists have been announced for inclusion to the Patriots Hall of Fame: Raymond Clayborn, Leon Gray and Willie McGinest. Fans can vote for their selection at patriots.com until May 16, and the leading vote-getter will join Houston Antwine in the Class of 2015. For my money, I’ll take Clayborn as a three-time Pro Bowler, but McGinest likely will end up with the nod. Winning begets winning.
— Love to be a fly on the wall, to hear the conversation Darrelle Revis has with some of his now ex-teammates when they visit the White House next week. And what will those same guys say to Stevan Ridley (if he shows up) with that brand-new J-E-T-S tattoo he’s sporting? Stupid is as stupid does?
— I’m struck by a sense of confusion when I consider the case of Aaron Hernandez. I don’t think any of us will ever know exactly why someone with his athletic talent and ability would put his career — his life — at risk for the love/respect/street cred of gangs, hooligans and thugs. The adage “You can take the boy out of the ‘hood, but can’t take the ‘hood out of the boy” may be true. But I fear he lost his way after his father’s death, and while that is no excuse for dastardly behavior, it can explain his apparent loyalty and relationship with a crowd of questionable characters who moved in and gained prominence in his life.
— I’m simply sad no one else could fill the void. Not his family, his teammates or his coaches. Odin Lloyd lost his life, and Aaron Hernandez will pay for that with his own. But Hernandez’s life was lost well before someone pulled the trigger that took Lloyd’s almost two years ago.
— Anyone else think that his life sentence, set to start at MCI-Cedar Junction in Walpole, is a true ironic twist to the end of this sordid tale? The former Walpole State Prison is less than 2 miles from Gillette Stadium, where on game days Hernandez undoubtedly will be able to hear the crowd that once cheered his exploits.
— Congrats to Rhode Island golf legend Brad Faxon, named this past week as winner of the Francis Ouimet Award for lifelong contributions to the sport. What’s especially cool about this honor? Faxon is only the third New England recipient, after Ouimet himself and Ouimet’s caddy Eddie Lowry. Ouimet and Lowry teamed up to win the 1913 US Open, becoming the first amateur to win the tournament. “The Greatest Game Ever Played” was released in 2005 about that story, and it ranks as a pretty solid sports flick in my book.
— The Friars’ national hockey championship got me wondering about previous team title-winners from Lil’ Rhody. If you include the National Invitation Tournament titles won by Providence basketball in 1961 and ’63 — when the NIT was considered THE national championship, before the NCAA entered the spotlight — PC has five national championships to its credit. Women’s cross-country also won NCAA titles in 1995 and 2013. Both URI and Brown have sailing and rowing national titles to their credit; four sailing championships at Rhody (last in 2011) and 12 crew crowns at Brown (nine by women’s teams, last in ‘11). Major sports, minor or individual sports? They’re all still national champions, regardless.
— Mark from Attleboro started a pretty good back and forth on Facebook this week with several people on this question: “I know this is harsh, but is it truly a national championship when hardly any of the major colleges compete in hockey? When Florida, Texas and UCLA are in the finals, let me know.” Mark, to start with, Texas actually plays club hockey. Ohio State, a major college by any definition, has varsity hockey and played PC early this past season. Michigan, Wisconsin and Notre Dame all are “major colleges,” and invest quite a bit of time and money in their hockey programs. But I understand your point. Just because 59 universities choose to invest in this sport at the highest varsity level and others do not, that should not take away from any accomplishment. Many more play the sport but choose not to fund (or can’t fund) their teams for varsity status. This is the universe in which these programs exist — therefore, it is still a “national championship” in the truest sense of the term.
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