Thinking out loud … while wondering why ads on uniforms are such a big deal.
— Yes, yes. The NFL is king. On TV, and in the stands. In the hearts and minds of most sports fans, football has long been anointed as our true national pastime. But in the world of social media, apparently, synthetic rubber and cowhide hold an edge over pigskin. Especially when it comes to Twitter followers.
— Recent numbers compiled by Greg Auman of the Tampa Tribune bear this out, somewhat surprisingly. In Twitter’s current top 10 pro sports team accounts, the NBA beats the NFL with five teams represented, compared to four for football and one in baseball. In fact, the top three Twitter accounts in total followers all belong to basketball teams — the Lakers (4.82 million), Heat (3.35 million) and Bulls (2.6 million).
— The Patriots are No. 1 in the NFL, fourth overall, with 2.41 million Twitter followers. The Celtics are right behind at fifth overall with 1.86 million followers. The Yankees are baseball’s lone rep in the top 10, ranking ninth (1.65 million).
— Out of 122 professional sports teams in the four major leagues (NFL, NBA, MLB, NHL), there’s a bottom 10 in Twitter followers, too. Six hockey teams, four baseball teams. Dead last among the 122, the Miami Marlins with 198,000 followers, roughly the equivalent of a nice, long two-week homestand. Or, a four-game Sox-Yankees series.
— There still are games to play, but former Friar Billy Donovan has the defending NBA champ Warriors’ attention at the very least, don’t you think? The key to success, by my way of thinking, for a good college coach to transition successfully into the pros is for the coach to put aside his own ego. Or at least make his players believe he’s doing that.
— It’s something Rick Pitino, through my observations, couldn’t quite accomplish while in the NBA. Of course, you can make the argument Boston (and New England) wouldn’t let him, either.
— Donovan’s ego is so nondescript, did you even remember he was the coach in Oklahoma City before the last few weeks? The one-time student learned from the teacher in this case, and he has, so far, successfully applied those lessons to his present-day team.
— Does Brad Stevens have an ego? Sure he does, but he doesn’t let us see it. Does John Calipari have an ego? Of course, but Cal’s problem is he has a need to be a part of the show. Doesn’t make him a bad coach — he’s a great coach. So is Pitino. They are Hall of Famers, both. Great coaches often times can will their team to a win in the college game. Not so in the pros.
— There is a distinct quality successful professional coaches learn to cultivate in order to stay successful. And that is, knowing the players play the game — not the coaches.
— The form chart played out the way it was supposed to play out in this year’s NBA draft lottery. Still, it was strange to see a tweet from former Sixers center and Hall of Famer Dikembe Mutumbo congratulating Philadelphia for getting the No. 1 pick 3 1/2 hours before the lottery took place. Psychic abilities, or inside info? Just another reason why we can’t have good things around the house.
— With the third pick, I wouldn’t be the least bit surprised to see the Celtics use it as trade bait for a more established star (Paul George?), except that there is the intriguing, tantalizing ability of Oklahoma sharpshooter Buddy Hield out there in the draft. But is he worth taking at No. 3? Dragan Bender, a 7-foot-1 wing shooter from Croatia, also is being mentioned here, if Boston doesn’t trade the pick.
— Here’s my thought on that: If you need ’em, go get ’em. And the Celtics need shooters, if nothing else. Regardless of where Hield (or Bender) might be “ranked,” which is around seventh, he’s top-10 talent, period.
— Selfishly, love to see Kris Dunn in a Celtics uniform, even if point guard is not at the top of Boston’s priority list. The Sixers would love to have him, but it’s doubtful they’d take him at No. 1. Still, Dunn should prove to be the first top-10 pick from Providence since Otis Thorpe was selected ninth overall in 1984 by Kansas City/Sacramento.
— Marvin Barnes was selected No. 2 in the 1974 NBA draft, to Philadelphia, even though he played early in the ABA. The honor for highest draft slot ever by a Friar belongs to Jimmy Walker. Walker was selected No. 1 in the 1967 draft by the Detroit Pistons, the first year after the NBA ditched its territorial draft — or Walker might have been a Celtic.
— As for the Friars’ Ben Bentil, no one knows for certain, yet, where he could be selected. But after his combine performance (32 points, 17 rebounds in two games), it is certain that his stock improved in the eyes of many. Whether it improved enough for him to be a first-round pick still is very much in doubt. The latest mock drafts have him rated around 35th, which would be a No. 5 pick in Round 2.
— Is being a second-round pick good enough? Last year even a late first-round selection wasn’t good enough for Kris Dunn, and he returned to school. But if there’s guaranteed money involved for Bentil, it might be. We’ll soon know his plans, after Bentil completes a half-dozen or so individual workouts for teams. He has until May 25 — next Wednesday — to pull out of the draft and return to PC for another year, or stay in the draft for a chance at his dream.
— As much as his presence would help the Friars on the floor next season, it’s kinda tough to tell a kid he shouldn’t pursue his dream, isn’t it? Herein lies the rub: Is the dream attainable, or closer to impossible?
— At least some of the pressure is off of next year’s Providence roster, should Bentil decide to stay in the draft. The letter of intent signed this week by 6-foot-9 Canadian big man Kalif Young is significant, and Young figures into a regular mix in the middle even if Bentil returns. Maybe with someone else playing in the post, it helps Bentil further develop the stretch-four capabilities he’ll need to be an everyday NBA player? If he comes back, of course.
— Seton Hall’s Isaiah Whitehead is going back and forth on his decision like a kid on a teeter-totter. The latest (and it might have changed by the time you read this) is he’s decided to wait it out until May 24 before deciding to stay in the draft or return to the Pirates. As of May 20, he’s been rated as a mid-second-rounder, at best.
— CBSSports.com reported this week the Friars’ annual grudge match with URI will be Saturday, Dec. 3, at the Dunk, and PC will face St. Francis (N.Y.) on Nov. 21 at the Dunk as part of the Emerald Coast Classic. There will be one more team coming to Providence to play in the tourney prelims before the teams move to Destin, Florida, over Thanksgiving weekend. Providence will face Memphis and either Iowa or Virginia in Florida.
— Speaking of Florida, the Big East Conference meetings were held in Ponte Vedra Beach this week, and television was a big part of discussions. Fox is adding play-by-play properties to its stable, most notably from the Big Ten, and it will be interesting to see how the Big East is balanced and/or showcased in a media sea with a rising tide.
— One thousand transfers in Division 1 college basketball this year? What is the message here?
— Former URI coach Jim Baron is retiring from the sport after spending the past four years at Canisius. Baron won 162 games in 11 years at Rhody with four straight 20-win seasons, reaching the postseason six times — but never an NCAA tournament. His sons, ex-Rams and Hendricken Hawks alumni Jimmy and Billy both play professionally for Proximus Spirou Charleroi in Belgium. Former URI assistant Pat Clarke is taking over at Canisius.
— Danny Hurley had his contract extended, again, at URI this week. Great that the state school stepped up. In reality, if the Rams have the success most believe they can have next season, Hurley once again will find himself up for discussion as a candidate at a Football Five school — as he did this winter at Rutgers.
— There simply isn’t enough dough in Rhody’s oven to keep Hurley, or any coach, completely content. There always will be suitors, and the interest always will be mutual, because money always talks. So do established programs with prestige and tradition. Just sayin’.
— You want prestige and tradition? Bryant baseball is building both, in the Northeast and perhaps nationally as well. The Bulldogs this week found themselves ranked for first time ever among Baseball America’s Top 25 college teams, coming in at No. 24. They’re ranked a program-best 16th in the Perfect Game poll, and won their 40th game of the season (with just 10 losses) this week against UMass-Lowell.
— After a lost week against Connecticut teams this week (losses to Hartford and UConn), URI baseball has a huge series this weekend at home against LaSalle that will decide the Rams’ fate in the chase for an Atlantic-10 regular-season title.
— Both URI and VCU are tied for first at 15-6 in conference play heading into the weekend. VCU’s Rams host Davidson while URI’s Rams entertain the Explorers. The A-10 tournament starts next week in the Bronx.
— Salve Regina’s Seahawks won four straight conference tournament games to reach the NCAA Division 3 baseball tournament and the Mid-Atlantic Regional this week in Pennsylvania. The magic ran out, however, with a loss to 10th-ranked Salisbury in an elimination game.
— They had to go through CCRI to do it, but Dean College took the NJCAA Region XXI baseball title from UConn-Avery Point to claim the crown for the first time in 50 years (since 1966). The Bulldogs are in the double-elimination district tournament this weekend in Rochester, New York, with the winner advancing to the NJCAA World Series. Dean begins play as a full, four-year NCAA Division 3 program next year.
— It’s a big deal at Brown Stadium in Providence this weekend, hosting the NCAA lacrosse quarterfinals with fifth-seeded Brown facing Navy and top-seeded Maryland leading off with traditional power Syracuse at noon Saturday on ESPNU. Our friend Jim Donaldson at the ProJo believes lax might have surpassed hockey in popularity around here. It is fun to watch, sure, and more and more kids are playing the sport — but methinks Jim has been slashed by one too many lacrosse sticks.
— Think UConn isn’t committed to football? Think again. Head coach Bob Diaco received a two-year extension this week, designed to keep him in Storrs through 2020 at a price tag of $2.1 million per year. But like URI (albeit on a bit larger scale), if suitors for his services come calling — especially if they come from programs within the Football Five — there’s really very little to keep him in Connecticut.
— If I could choose another career, I might choose to be Charlie Weis’ agent. Or, Charlie himself. After his head coaching career took body blows at both Notre Dame and Kansas, Weis today is still making more money from the Fighting Irish than current head coach Brian Kelly. Whoa.
— Good story heard this week from another former Patriots coach, Bill Parcells. WFAN’s Mike Francesa told the tale of Adam Vinatieri’s first season in New England, 20 years ago in 1996, when he was almost cut by Parcells early in the year. Francesa explained that after Vinatieri missed three field goals in a Week 2 loss to Buffalo, the Patriots led the Cardinals 28-0 the next week when Vinatieri went out to try again. Parcells told him, “You better make this field goal,” implying his job was on the line with the kick.
— Vinatieri made the kick, which means, perhaps, a relatively meaningless 31-yard field goal in a 31-0 victory was the most important kick in Patriots history. Better than the Snow Bowl kick? Better than the kick to beat the Rams in Super Bowl 36? If Vinatieri had been cut after missing that field goal against Arizona, he might not have been around to even attempt the others.
— No surprise here that Kevin Faulk is this year’s inductee into the Hall of Fame at Patriot Place. After his TB12 jersey-wearing appearance in defiance of Roger Goodell at the NFL draft, it was all but certain fans would vote him in. Yes, he is very deserving. But the emotion behind the decision to vote him in is precisely why fans should not be the deciding factor in any vote.
— Not for nuthin’, but the Patriots Hall selection committee needs to include Parcells on the ballot again. He was there last year, but not this year. What happened to knock him off? Are the Patriots of today where they are now without him? Part of the reason he is an NFL HOFer is because of what he accomplished in New England. Stupid is as stupid does.
— And get over your feelings being hurt or any grudge you might have against Parcells for leaving New England to go to New York. Remember, Parcells wasn’t hired by the Krafts in the first place. But they bought the team to save it from a potential move because Parcells already was viewed as an asset. And both sides (the Krafts and Parcells) say they would handle things differently if they could do it again. So should you, starting now.
— Patriots OTAs (organized team activities) begin next week, which means we’ll soon get our first looks at newcomers. Anyone else notice that the Patriots still are considered a Super Bowl favorite, even with Tom Brady’s four-game suspension looming?
— A prediction — TB12 won’t serve a day. Or a game. At least, not this year. It was my original prediction months ago, and I’m sticking with it. But I don’t have money riding on it — only dinner.
— My lady buddy Bobbie tells me she knows why women don’t seem to gamble as much as men. While it may be true that many women don’t have as much money as men do, and many prefer to save what they have, Bobbie says a woman’s instinct to gamble is naturally satisfied by marriage. Oh.
— Excellent news that the Chicago Bears will come to Foxboro for two days of training camp (open to the public) prior to their preseason game Aug. 18. The Bears should be a sleeper, contending in the NFC. And don’t be surprised if the Patriots and Saints figure out a way to do likewise, prior to their game at Gillette on Aug. 11. Training camp opens July 27.
— The Red Sox began this week leading MLB in runs scored, hits, doubles, total bases, RBIs, batting average, slugging percentage and OPS. Their .298 team batting average is 20 points higher than the next highest average. Gives fresh meaning to the term “ripping the cover off of the ball,” doesn’t it?
— Nice nugget mined this week: Since 1900, Boston is the only team to average at least 10 runs per game in a seven-game homestand, and it has done it three times — this after the 10.4 clip posted against Oakland and Houston at Fenway last week.
— Can we please can the “Ortiz next year” conversation? I’m with Big Papi on this one — win the World Series first, then talk. Maybe. Although winning the Series would be a helluva way to go out. Why do we insist upon forcing our aging stars who have some success to consider one last rodeo? Three guesses at the best answer, and the first two don’t count. It rhymes with “honey.”
— Said this before the season started, I’ll say it now, and I’ll probably say it again in two months — the Sox don’t have enough pitching (starters and middle relief) for the long haul, despite their present penchant for assault and battery of baseballs. Look into your own crystal ball and tell me this won’t be the No. 1 need two months from now.
— Speaking of assault and battery, why do I get the impression that hockey players watched the Rangers-Blue Jays brawl last week with amusement? Best baseball fight ever? Hardly. But yes, Rougned Odor’s roundhouse right to the jaw of Jose Bautista was impressive. And so was Bautista’s chin.
— Congrats to PawSox principal and Red Sox CEO emeritus Larry Lucchino for his selection into the Red Sox Hall of Fame this week, along with Jason Varitek, Tim Wakefield and former player Ira Flagstead, who played center field for the Sox in the 1920s.
— I really don’t get the big deal over advertisements on team jerseys these days. The Philadelphia 76ers created a stink in the past week, saying they have ticket broker StubHub on board for a logo placement on their jerseys, to the tune of millions of dollars in new revenue. Soccer has done this for ages. NASCAR? Forever. Even the NFL and your favorite college teams carry logos (Nike, Under Armour, Reebok, Adidas) on just about everything, and you hardly notice them, right? The Patriots also, for instance, have had the “Gillette” logo on practice jerseys for a few years. I’m as “old school” as anyone, and prefer the less-is-more strategy here. But for pro teams, jersey space has long been an untapped potential resource. The NCAA could go this route, especially if schools need extra income to pay cost-of-attendance stipends to their athletes.
— Officially, the NBA becomes the first of the four major sports leagues in this country to allow a corporate sponsorship “patch” on game jerseys. If a few ads can keep the price of tickets reasonable, overall costs down, and our teams competitive, as a fan, what bother is a little shoulder logo? There shouldn’t be any bother — until greed arrives at the gate. And greed may already be knocking.
— Patriots fan Huggie posted this on Facebook, after Kevin Faulk was named as the winner of the fan vote for the Patriots Hall of Fame: John, I agree with you on the importance of the impact [Bill] Parcells’ influence was on the Patriots franchise. Unfortunately, it’s also important to have an everlasting impression when leaving because no matter how sweet something is, if it leaves a bitter taste, the bitterness is what you remember first and most. Huggie: You make a good point. I also realize that a younger generation won’t have any clue as to who he is, or was, or what happened 20-plus years ago. Let’s just say that by bringing out the case for Parcells’ eventual inclusion, I’m merely trying to educate another generation of fans.
— 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 email@example.com. 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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