Thinking out loud … while wondering whatever happened to Keith Foulke.
— For me, Kevin Durant’s flirtation with Boston was a fantasy. Pure fiction conjured up only to get the fans and media riled up and make a little news. It’s great that the Celtics brought Tom Brady into the mix for a recruiting pitch, and I’m sure KD thought it was cool. It’s also cool to see Julian Edelman, David Ortiz and other noteworthy New England sports superstars tout Boston’s attributes. But there’s only one thing that drives decisions like these, and that is money. Big money.
— Oh. And winning. It’s also about winning, and Golden State now stands to be an overwhelming favorite for next season, when you add Durant to the Warriors’ mix. Nothing different here than when LeBron James decided to take his talents to South Beach — KD simply decided against producing a (bleep) show, made-for-TV event to announce it.
— If Durant was really smart, though, he’d see that he could be setting himself up for a big-time flop. This team won a record 73 games during the season and didn’t win the title. Should we just fast-forward to June of 2017 now and get this over with? Talk about your meaningless regular seasons.
— And what does Durant’s departure for rich, Western pastures mean for former Friar Billy Donovan as Oklahoma City’s coach? Next year figured to be a transitional year without KD, of course. But with his other star Russell Westbrook also on the edge of leaving town (a year left on his deal), could Billy the Kid consider the college game again?
— Crazy rumor already being floated: Donovan to replace mentor Rick Pitino in Louisville. Hmmm. Makes sense (and cents?), doesn’t it?
— Speaking of making cents, congrats to Kris Dunn, now signed, sealed and delivered to the Minnesota Timberwolves. Dunn stands to make almost $4 million this year, just for playing basketball. He’ll make much more than that, you know, by being a solid citizen and great corporate spokesperson. We’ll say we knew him when.
— Al Horford’s addition to the Celtics is a good move. Not a great move, but a good move. Horford will bring toughness, rebounding ability and attitude — all three are good things contending teams must have. But shooting? Where is the shooter? Did I miss another memo on needing a shooter?
— Do the Red Sox seem like a team with four All-Star starters? Who else feels like MLB is about to shout “April Fools!”?
— This week will be the “Theo Epstein is a Baseball God” All-Star Game — with his acquisition of nine current All-Star players (five Cubs, four Sox) for his respective team(s). Whoa.
— Conspicuous only by his absence from the AL All-Star lineup is Boston’s alleged pitching ace David Price. His penchant for giving up early runs — and leads — is maddening, and not exactly the right stuff aces are supposed to be made of.
— The pickup of Aaron Hill from Milwaukee does provide a right-handed bat, and the Sox do seem to lean lefty a bit too much at times. But I get the feeling this is a move to set up a bigger move prior to the trade deadline, don’t you?
— A final score of 21-2? Since when do true contending teams lose games 21-2?
— Eduardo Rodriguez keeps trying to find out where his pitching prowess went, as part of the PawSox’ current road trip before the Triple-A All-Star break next week. Rodriguez’s return still figures to be at least one of the ways Boston will try to bolster its pitching staff by the trade deadline at the end of the month.
— Get one for the thumb? That definitely should be the theme for the New England Patriots of 2016. A nice, cold slap-of-reality in the face from Mark Daniels of the ProJo this week: 45 current Patriots have expiring contracts after the coming season.
— The Patriots only have three NFL Network Top 100 players, according to the outlet’s latest players’ poll, but two are in the top 10 — making New England the only team with top 10 teammates. They’re also both signed (Tom Brady and Rob Gronkowski) through 2020. So, what’s wrong with this picture?
— Not for nuthin’, but Cam Newton over Tom Brady for No. 1 is ridiculous. Allegedly, this is a poll voted on by players only, but considering what TB12 has been through over the past 16 months, you gotta wonder if someone on Park Avenue “rearranged” this. Athletically, of course, Newton is the prototype QB for the 21st century. And that’s great, if winning doesn’t count for anything. Or if whining does.
— The CVS Charity Golf Classic stands for charity, first and foremost. Brad Faxon and Billy Andrade — two of Rhode Island’s own — have done a magnificent job of giving back to the community that helped raised them and send both on their way to professional success on the golf course. But after 18 years, is it time for a format change of some kind? Something to kick-start the event and throw new life into the party? Staying ahead of the curve is always the key to long(er)-term success.
— Brown lacrosse will attempt to keep its high-scoring offense around with the hiring of Mike Daly as its new head coach, replacing Lars Tiffany. Daly comes from Division 3 Tufts, where he coached the Jumbos to three national titles (2010, 2014, 2015) and led the nation in scoring offense. The Bears will return three all-Americans next year, including the winner of the Tewaaraton Award (the lax equivalent to the Heisman Trophy), Dylan Molloy.
— Kudos to Boston College for the decision to retire the numbers of QB Matt Ryan and LB Luke Kuechly this fall. In addition to arguably being two of the greatest to play the game at BC (yes, Doug Flutie won a Heisman), more importantly Ryan and Kuechly are ties to the recent past when the Eagles actually knew what they were doing on a football field. Perhaps the marketing department is hoping some of their goodwill (or talent) will rub off on the current varsity? Just sayin’.
— Boston College became the first major college program in 40 years to go winless in conference play in both men’s major revenue sports (football and basketball) in the same school year, combining for a sterling 0-26 ACC mark for 2015-16. No one has achieved such depths since TCU managed to go winless in the old Southwest Conference for football and basketball in 1976-77. And I was there for every one of those titanic tilts as a teenager.
— On the brighter side, 2056 should be a banner year for the Eagles, if you go by the above formula. TCU is one of the current athletic bullies of the Big 12 Conference.
— You may not know his name, but Bob Harris is one of the good ones in the sports broadcasting business. Harris is set to retire at the end of the 2016-17 year as the longtime voice of the Duke Blue Devils after four decades of calling football and men’s basketball. Yes, he’s seen a lot. Yes, he’s called national championships and more than 100 North Carolina-Duke hoop matchups and hasn’t missed a game since 1976. That’s a career.
— But in terms of longevity, it’ll be tough to surpass my good friend Rich Chvotkin at Georgetown. Forty-one years and counting toward No. 42 this fall, Chvotkin is the dean of Big East broadcasters, with yours truly limping behind in second place at a mere 28 seasons of continuous service with one team and school. One-time Friars broadcaster and current Seton Hall voice Gary Cohen has split his 27 years of Big East announcing among three teams — the SHU Pirates, PC and St. John’s.
— Speaking of longevity, my buddy Bernie still has his grandpa with us, and he just turned 100 years old. Bernie sez he revealed the secret to his younger, athletic appearance at his 100th birthday party. “My wife and I were married 75 years ago,” he said. “On our wedding night, we made a solemn pledge. Whenever we had a fight, the one who was proved wrong would go outside and take a walk. Gentlemen, I have been walking in the open air day after day for some 75 years now.”
— Former Friar, one-time CCRI Knight and ex-North Providence Cougar Ken McDonald will coach an NBA D-League select team in the Las Vegas Summer League, beginning this week and running for 11 days. McDonald is the head coach of the Austin Toros, the D-League affiliate of the San Antonio Spurs.
— Former ESPN executive John Wildhack is the new athletic director at Syracuse, only a year after Mark Coyle replaced Darryl Gross and then promptly left for Minnesota. I don’t know if this speaks so much to the continued upheaval at a once-proud, one-time Eastern institution, or to the long-rumored insider relationship the ACC and ESPN once used to break up the old Big East?
— This week (July 6) began the first of three five-day periods this month (also July 13-17 and 20-24) for college basketball coaches to evaluate talent “live.” As opposed to the other option, which really doesn’t make a lot of sense. Stupid is as stupid does.
— But one can make the argument these three July periods are the most important for coaches on the yearly college hoop calendar. All of the preliminary road and contact work performed by assistants can pay off if the head coach likes what he sees in this month’s all-star tournaments and AAU games.
— But can the coach close a deal? Call it the ninth inning in a game of chase or chance for the Class of 2017.
— As much as we love our Dunkin’ Donuts in New England, Dunkin’s in the south just don’t get it. Among other stark differences, for instance, when you use the drive-through to get your order, you usually expect quick, prompt and sometimes courteous service, right? In the south — Arkansas in particular — going through the drive-through is a signal to start up a conversation with the store workers in the window. “How ya’ll doin’?” Just gimme my d*** iced coffee, thank you very much. And Woo Pig, sooiiieee.
— One of the reasons for me to be traveling in the south this week was for my nephew Josh, who graduated from Texas’ Fort Worth Police Academy. Suffice to say, the events of the week left many in my family worried — especially following the tragedy that unfolded Thursday night just 30 miles to our east in Dallas. I’m concerned for Josh, sure. But also very proud of him for standing up, being counted, trying to make this world a little better place — and a little safer place — for all of us. He’s in this game for the right reasons. So many who wear a badge are as well.
— Keith Foulke came to mind this week, not just because Boston pitching left a definitive smell surrounding Fenway Park, but also because he was spotted at the New England Revolution home match this past Wednesday. Obviously, you know Foulke was the hero for Boston in finally breaking the 86-year World Series jinx in 2004, on the mound as the pitcher recording the final out and sending Red Sox Nation into delirium. That certainly qualified as a high note in his career, however, because he was never really able to regain his pitching touch. 2005 was a disaster, with his ERA ballooning to over 5.00, battling knee injuries and eventually losing his closer role to Mike Timlin.
— Even after two knee surgeries in the offseason, Terry Francona quickly turned to Jonathan Papelbon as the closer, relegating Foulke to a middle relief role — and then finally Foulke took the free agent route out of town after 2006. He moved on to Cleveland in 2007, but opted instead for retirement due to injuries before ever throwing a pitch for the Indians. He did un-retire later, signing a one-year deal with Oakland in 2008, and then played another season in ’09 with the independent Newark Bears.
— Foulke was not particularly kind to Red Sox fans on his way out of town, nor was anyone terribly kind to him, either. But the organization always thought highly of him then, and apparently still does — signing Foulke to become a player development consultant in the organization this past spring, and to work as a roving pitching instructor in the farm system.
— It was a quiet week for the mailbag this week. In addition to the usual assortment of retweets and likes posted on social media, Joe in Westchester, New York, posted this on Facebook: Assuming you have a column this week and don’t take a Texas hiatus, I will be very interested to hear your take on Mr. Durant’s decision (and if it aligns with mine). LOL. Knowing you, I’m sure you’ll have an opinion on it. Joe: Read above. Do we agree on anything in particular, or am I out in left field with my own cynical thoughts?
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