Thinking out loud … while wondering whatever happened to the Olympic ideal.
— Junior Lomomba certainly could have been a part of PC’s backcourt mix next season. Fifth-year players can be found gold for many programs, because they often serve as “coaches on the floor.” In Junior’s case, however, the guess here is that he’ll need a chance to showcase or develop skills that might allow him to pursue pro ball — so he heads to Western Kentucky.
— Junior’s role for the Friars was to defend and rebound — worthwhile and needed, but not conducive to developing an all-around game. He’s a solid student, and a great young man. Hope he gets what he needs.
— Tyree Chambers’ departure shouldn’t come as a surprise, either. It’s simple — the younger guards coming into the program need the playing time in order to develop. They also probably give the Friars the best chance to win — now. Another good program kid who filled a need, and deserves to play somewhere.
— Don’t know if anyone noticed, but Providence was one of 12 college basketball programs with multiple players (2) attending the NBA draft combine this week. If you want to be one of the big boys, you’d best go recruit some big boys. Just sayin’.
— Thoughts on the NBA combine in Chicago? Early returns are mixed, at least where Ben Bentil is concerned. ESPN’s Chad Ford believes he could be a sleeper in the draft and potentially selected anywhere from 18 to 28 overall. Is that enough for him to stay in the draft? It shouldn’t be. On occasion, these “expert” opinions can do more harm than good, if the athletes (and those who are in their ears) pay them any attention at all.
— Hopes for next season are hanging in the balance of this week’s combine at three Big East schools — Providence (Bentil), Villanova (Josh Hart) and Seton Hall (Isaiah Whitehead). All three could return — unless they set the floor on fire this week and hire an agent. All three remain front runners for preseason Player of the Year in the Big East next season, too.
— An NBA scout told the New York Post this week, “It’s a big few days for [the three players] because it allows them to figure out who they are. It’s one thing to be the second-best guy at Providence, the best guy at Seton Hall, and a real good guy at Villanova. But that’s something totally different from being a first-round pick.”
— The Big East could be L-O-A-D-E-D once again, coming off of a national championship year, if these three players are around to lead the way.
— He’s there, he’s gone, and he’s back again. St. John’s forward Amar Alibegovic left the Red Storm program after this past season wrapped up, but this week decided to return. And coach Chris Mullin took him back. The 6-foot-9 Alibegovic averaged five points and 2.4 rebounds per game with six starts last season as a sophomore, scoring 18 points against the eventual national champs from Villanova.
— Speaking of Villanova, former athletic director Vince Nicastro was named to a newly created position of deputy commissioner and chief operating officer for the Big East this week. He’ll oversee operations; business, communications and compliance functions for the conference, as well as marketing, sales and television/digital rights.
— Brown’s Mike Martin already has named his basketball captains for next season, as Tavon Blackmon, J.R. Hobbie and Steven Spieth will lead the Bears on the floor. Blackmon led the Ivy League in assists last year (5.5 per game), Hobbie was fourth in the Ivies with 72 3-pointers made, and Spieth (brother of pro golfer Jordan Spieth) has started 87 of 88 career games played and placed in the Ivy top 10 in assists, rebounds and free throw percentage.
— He wasn’t a coach or a player, but there are many in the college hoops world who know Howard Garfinkel was one of the game’s true powerbrokers. Affectionately known as “Garf,” the founder of the famous Five-Star Basketball Camp passed away last week at the age of 86, after decades of searching, scouting, cultivating and promoting players ready to take their opportunity to the collegiate level and beyond.
— Garfinkel founded Five-Star 50 years ago, and rare was the big-time (or small-time) coach who didn’t have a relationship with him. Want names? Bobby Knight, Mike Krzyzewski, Chuck Daly, Rick Pitino, John Calipari, former Friars guard Billy Donovan and a one-time obscure New Jersey schoolteacher named Dick Vitale all were instructors and speakers at his camps.
— Garf had thousands of players each paying hundreds of dollars to attend his camps — and if a kid couldn’t afford the fee, he usually was invited to work at the camp to earn the tuition. As for his scouting talents, he was especially good at recognizing guard play. “I’ve picked out more guards than Buckingham Palace” was one of Garfinkel’s all-time best lines.
— Speaking of Billy Donovan, don’t look now, but his Oklahoma City Thunder just beat up San Antonio to take their next shot at defending champ Golden State in the NBA’s Western finals. Has a Rick Pitino disciple learned how to successfully transition from the college game to the pros? Having Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook helps, no doubt. He’s eight wins away from joining Larry Brown as the only coaches to win both an NCAA title and an NBA crown.
— Providence’s women’s team hired its new coach this week, as Jim Crowley moves from St. Bonaventure to PC. Crowley takes over from Susan Robinson-Fruchtl, who resigned to take the athletic director’s position at Saint Francis (Pa.). Suffice to say, Crowley has his work cut out for him. The Friar Ladies have not had a winning season since 2009-10 (19-15, under Phil Seymore) and only two winning years in the past 25, after dominating in the late ’80s and early ’90s. They haven’t been competitive in the Big East since well before the league reconfigured itself.
— Crowley’s official welcome won’t come until May 24. During his 16-season tenure in Olean, New York, the Bonnies had 20-plus wins in six of the past eight years and recorded two NCAA appearances (including this past season), and Crowley was the ESPN.com National Coach of the Year in 2012.
— Despite the stumble at home in the Ivy League tournament, Brown lacrosse earned the No. 5 overall seed in the NCAA Tournament, and will face off with traditional power Johns Hopkins at Stevenson-Pincince Field Saturday at 5 p.m. ESPNU will televise the match, featuring two-time Ivy Player of the Year Dylan Molloy for the Bears, against a Blue Jays team with wins over three NCAA tournament participants (Syracuse, Towson and Navy).
— Plenty of incentive for the Bears, too, with the NCAA quarterfinal round to be held at Brown Stadium in Providence next weekend. It could be a special ride for these Bears — ranked as high as No. 2 nationally this season — on the way to a potential Final Four at Lincoln Financial Field in Philadelphia Memorial Day weekend.
— Unfortunately for Bryant, a loss to Hobart in the NEC Tournament proved decisive in pushing the Statesmen into the field and keeping the Bulldogs out of the NCAAs for the first time in four years. Not so unfortunate are the baseball Bulldogs, however, who continue to climb the national rankings (school-record-high 18th this week) and close out their regular-season home schedule this weekend against Central Connecticut.
— Charging hard from the outside this spring, URI’s baseball team presently finds itself in first place in the Atlantic-10 with a 13-5 league record (22-22 overall). The Rams have UMass at Bill Beck Field this weekend, with the A-10 Championship looming on May 25. Lefty pitcher Tyler Wilson is 9-1 on the year, 6-0 in league play, and the sophomore has won conference Pitcher of the Week honors on four occasions this season.
— Wait a minute. David “the Price Hasn’t Been Right” and Clay “Bad Haircut” Buchholz both have had their troubles, and the Red Sox now are nine games over .500 for the first time since winning the World Series in 2013? Not sure how to take this, other than to shake my head and watch in relative amazement.
— Fifty-one runs in 32 innings going into Friday night. Four straight games with 10 or more runs scored, something that hasn’t been done in baseball since the 2007 Red Sox. Seven players in the lineup hitting better than .300. Nothing wrong with pounding teams to death, if you can’t outpitch them. Seems to me the pitching staff needs to pick up a few dinner tabs, don’t you think?
— Whatever David Ortiz is doing to perform like he has, keep on keepin’ on, Big Papi. Now, I’m not one to allege he’s decided to squeeze himself a little juice during his swan song through the MLB, as some radio knuckleheads are blabbering on about.
— Yes, it is true that 40-year-olds don’t usually have the bat speed, or the power, that Ortiz seems to have retained. But there is a large part of me that still believes hard work — ethical hard work — pays dividends in the end. I’m cynical by nature, but I want to believe in baseball again. Gotta start somewhere, and my trust in the sport starts with Ortiz.
— My buddy “Big E” waxed philosophical on me this week. He said, “You know, Rookie, I trust my instincts. A quiet man is a thinking man. But a quiet woman is usually mad.” That’s deep. And usually correct. Anyone else think “Big E” is in a little trouble?
— They may not be in Boston right now, but Blake Swihart, Henry Owens and Joe Kelly are coming along nicely in Pawtucket of late. While Swihart and Owens are likely to stick around at McCoy for the foreseeable future, Kelly has had two solid rehab starts, allowing just two runs and seven hits in eight innings pitched.
— Hats off to long-time friend and co-conspirator in the broadcasting business Sean McDonough, who steps into the Monday Night Football booth on ESPN next season. The No. 1 chair has been occupied by only four men in 46 years before him — Keith Jackson, Frank Gifford, Al Michaels and Mike Tirico. That’s some legacy he’ll be adding to. We’ll all be watching.
— Speaking of Tirico, whom I first met when he was a weekend sports anchor at WTVH Channel 5 in Syracuse, his move from ESPN to NBC — ostensibly to eventually take over for the aforementioned Michaels and Bob Costas — is solid. There’s simply no one better suited to take over NBC’s multitasking network role. Someone to call a game, golf tournament or interview a volleyball player? Tirico can do all of it, and do it well. Good on ya’, mate.
— Not for nuthin’, but the rest of the ESPN announcer/personality departures? Can’t say I’m surprised in the least. As I’ve said many times before, and as a former employee myself, Mickey Mouse can be a real rat when it comes to working for him.
— Did you catch Rob Gronkowski on the cover of the new GQ magazine? The June issue typically starts the summer for its readers — and Gronk starts (and stops) a few hearts with model Hailey Clauson on his shoulders. The accompanying story is all about living “Gronkishly.”
— With Patriots OTA’s coming up in another few weeks, oh boy, hope he gets the, um, summer out of his system. And hope he doesn’t believe in jinxes — he’s the “Madden ’17” cover boy, too.
— It was interesting to learn this week of the military’s arbitrary nature of its assignments to personnel who also happen to be professional athletes. There are few, but Patriots long-snapper Joe Cardona, by all estimates, handled his workload capably at Rhode Island’s Newport Naval Prep School while playing in Foxboro last season. He had been assigned to a ship in Maine that could have cost him the entire 2016 season.
— At the same time, the Navy said former QB Keenan Reynolds should be able to balance his military commitment with playing for the Baltimore Ravens this year. Look, a commitment is a commitment — especially in the military. But if the Navy, Army or Air Force allow any of their athletes to compete professionally, my thoughts are they should cut the military commitment (like the Navy did with David Robinson years ago) for the individual, or not allow them to play at all — until the commitment is completed.
— Well, well. Upon further review, U.S. Naval Secretary Ray Mabus told the Dan Patrick Show on Friday that both Cardona and Reynolds should be able to play in 2016. The PR gain for the military here is evident — they’re good enough, it showcases the Academy as well as the athlete — so let ’em go and play.
— Seems like it would have been a huge waste of time, talent and $$$ to have Cardona, Reynolds or anyone else on KP duty, doesn’t it? Maybe someone in the Navy agreed with that sentiment. Stupid is as stupid does.
— ICYMI, the Pats make money. A lot of it. Forbes.com reports the Patriots are the No. 2 pro sports team on the planet when it comes to turning a profit. The Dallas Cowboys top the list with $270 million earned (profits after costs) in 2014-15, while the Patriots are second with a $195 million profit, just ahead of English soccer juggernaut Manchester United.
— And make no mistake about this, the NFL is King of the Planet when it comes to earnings. Eleven of the top 20 profiteers are from the U.S. version of pro football — not the world’s version of futbol. This is now beyond a simple “national pastime” status in America. This is a big, global business, and it will expand. We’re closer to games being played in China and teams calling Europe “home.”
— No doubt in my mind, Peter Manfredo Jr. is, and always will be, the Pride of Providence. What he stands for outside of the ring, much more so than what he shows us in the ring, is the reason why. Just don’t ever let the ring be the cause of your undoing, champ.
— Whatever happened to the Olympic Ideal of peaceful competition without the burden of politics, racism or religion? Three words: money, money, money. This week a British newspaper alleged that Tokyo bribed the IAAF (the official world governing body for track and field) $1.5 million to help swing the 2020 Summer Games to Japan. Naturally, the International Olympic Committee says it will look into this story. Yup, sure it will.
— Another sign of the Apocalypse this week: Olympic track and field athlete Nick Symmonds sold ad space on his body — through eBay — for $21,800. T-Mobile “won” the high bid for tattooing his right shoulder with a logo of some kind. What did the company really win? First, Symmonds has to make the Olympic team. Second, he’ll have to cover up the tattoo if T-Mobile is not (and I don’t believe it is presently) an Olympic partner/sponsor. Whatever happened to competing for the love of sport?
— I’m actually surprised we haven’t seen more of this, considering the proliferation of tattoos out in the public these days. Still think tattoo removal is the next big industry for the second half of this century, if not sooner. You’re going to regret that tattoo “sleeve” when it makes you look 20 years older than you really are, when you’re about 40 and your skin starts to sag. Or when that job you’re hot after stiffs you when the bosses get a look at your neck tattoo. See, I’m thinking money, money, money. Now, get off my lawn!
— Ted in Providence tweeted this past week, following umpire Ron Kulpa’s apparent trouble with the strike zone at Yankee Stadium: Why is Questec not in every stadium? Ted: Great question. MLB has been using Questec, which is actually the name of the company that has developed virtual replay systems for baseball and tennis, in some form since 2001 to try to standardize the strike zone. If you ask me, it hasn’t worked particularly well. And since the Questec technology (you see a version of it on NESN, ESPN, Fox, etc. locating pitches) was installed in only about half of all major league stadiums, you’re looking at a system that is rife with irregularities. Top that off with the umpires union steadfastly against using the technology, and voila! You get irregular performances like the one we all saw from Kulpa a week ago. Baseball needs to be all in with the technology, or out altogether.
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