Thinking out loud … while wondering whatever happened to Allen Craig?
— Great to hear Providence received a verbal commitment from one of its top point guard targets for 2016 — Maliek White from Richmond, Virginia — early this week. Undoubtedly, the lure of getting the ball in his hands right away as Kris Dunn departs for the pros played a big factor. But now the focus and attention has to be on looking good getting off of the airplane — and add a little size.
— Some of that size just walked out the door toward Lexington, Kentucky. Manchester, New Hampshire’s Wenyen Gabriel, a highly ranked and sought-after big-man target for Ed Cooley and the Friars since he was “knee high to a pup,” opted for UK this week over PC and Duke as per his Twitter page. Can anyone really say they’re surprised by this? Great to be in the mix with big boys, but eventually you have to beat the big boys every once in a while in order to be one.
— Might be time to hang ‘em up, coach. Or, at least return to the pros. SMU basketball coach Larry Brown saw his program hammered by NCAA sanctions this week, including a postseason ban, the loss of nine scholarships over the next three years and Brown himself suspended for nine games this year. Every stop he’s made on the college trail, Brown (and his programs at UCLA and Kansas previously) has been hit with some kind of penalty.
— And still, even in its self-righteous glory, the NCAA still got this thing wrong — punishing players who had absolutely nothing to do with the alleged violation(s).
— As for Brown, he is still the only coach who has won NCAA and NBA titles. And he still has his job.
— Perhaps the question should be asked in Dallas: Is it worth it? You’ll recall SMU was the site of the NCAA‘s first (and so far only) death penalty, given to the football program in the mid-1980s. That’s some legacy for a religion-based institution of “higher” learning, don’t you think? Stupid is as stupid does.
— I will now ask the next obvious questions. When does the NCAA lower the boom on North Carolina? Or on John Calipari? Inquiring minds (and opponents, and recruits) want to know.
— Back to the Friars for a sec, as the PC athletic department announced this week the launch of a microsite featuring photos, information and videos on National Player of the Year candidate Kris Dunn. It’s a smart move getting out in front of the hype for any national honor, but with the hype now comes the burden of producing. Catch it at www.friars.com/getitdunn.
— Not for nuthin’, but was that Smithfield, Rhode Island’s Bryant University that took FCS No. 1-ranked Coastal Carolina to the limit last week, tied with the Chanticleers at halftime before falling 31-17? Middletown, Rhode Island’s Ricardo McCray rushed for 107 yards, caught five passes for 34 yards and returned a couple of kicks for nearly 50 yards more.
— It’s an historic occasion this Saturday at Brown Stadium, as the Bears and URI Rams meet for the 100th time on the gridiron in the annual Governor’s Cup football game. I’m told someone will win, but that’s not the historical part. I know, cheap shot. Hey, you were thinking it, too.
— The Bears lead the series between the schools 71-26-2, dating back to 1909. Yes, the series has been dominated that much by Brown, with the Bears also having won the last four meetings. In fact, the Bears won 16 of the first 23 matchups with Rhody by shutout. URI’s last win came in 2010. Seems like that game was the team’s last win, period.
— It took a while, but the Rose Bowl Hall of Fame is honoring Brown’s Fritz Pollard as part of its Class of 2015. Pollard, who played for the Bears in the 1916 Rose Bowl against Washington (a 14-0 Brown loss), was the first African-American to play in the Rose Bowl game and later became the first black coach and quarterback in the early, formative days of the NFL. Pollard graduated from Brown in 1919, was chosen posthumously in 2005 for the Pro Football Hall of Fame and joins former Washington QB Mark Brunell, former Michigan running back Tyrone Wheatley and former Rose Bowl media director Jim Muldoon in the Rose Bowl Class of ’15.
— This year’s game also marks the 100th anniversary of Brown’s appearance in the postseason classic known as the “Granddaddy of Them All.”
— The Dunk is simply the place to be, it seems. Not only will the Dunkin’ Donuts Center in Providence host the NCAA first- and second-round men’s basketball regionals next March, but Brown has received word it will be the host for the 2017 NCAA men’s hockey regionals. Good crowds, strong interest, solid downtown rooming and dining options. Maybe most of all, good people run the show(s) with a building that is the perfect size for these events.
— Following the local teams? URI basketball will have nine games streamed in high-def this season by CoxHub, and the defending national champ Providence hockey Friars will have all 17 of their home games at Schneider Arena televised and streamed on CoxHub/Ocean State Network or the American Sports Network.
— Speaking of those banner-raising Friars, they’re preseason ranked seventh nationally by USCHO.com and picked third in Hockey East. Four Hockey East schools earned spots in the top 20, including Boston College — the preseason No. 1 choice. Providence opens its season Oct. 9 at 11th-ranked Miami (Ohio) in a two-game set. Nine seniors return for the Friars, who will face 11 preseason top 20 opponents during the season.
— How much influence did former PC athletic director and Toronto Maple Leafs GM Lou Lamoriello have in the decision this week to ban team broadcasters from charter flights, and force them to call road games from a monitor in a Toronto studio? How much back-pedaling did he do when the call was made just a short time later to reverse that idiotic decision? The answer to the last question is — none. The Leafs’ ban still is in place, but the stations that broadcast the games have said their announcers will travel.
— One of the notable items to come from the Bruins’ media day this week was owner and NHL Board of Governors chairman Jeremy Jacobs (we’ll mention him again later in this column) saying he’s not sure there’s an appetite for expansion, even though the process is moving ahead. Quebec and Las Vegas are the candidates for new teams, but Jacobs is right. Is there a national hunger for more hockey?
— Jacobs did express some surprise that only Quebec — which used to have the Nordiques — and Vegas were the only two applicants. Major league ice hockey in the Nevada desert? That may be made more difficult to realize with the always-looming issue of being located side-by-side with the gambling industry in Sin City.
— How about those kids, huh? The Red Sox youngsters continue to play hard to the bitter end, and the very real possibility exists that the Sox won’t end up in last place in the American League East. What the organization needs to ask itself is: How can we get these guys to do it for an entire year?
— The answer? Don’t be afraid to send underperforming veterans packing. Or at least to the bench.
— Speaking of underperforming, my buddy “Big E” has a job as a supervisor at his new firm, and he seems to be gaining a reputation for his, um, bluntness. He gave an evaluation this week for a potential managerial hire: “This employee should go far. And the sooner he starts the better.”
— Tweet of the Week I, from @alexspeier: Since Hanley Ramirez last played in the field, the Red Sox are 19-11 while allowing 2nd fewest Runs/Gm in MLB. They’re now 22-12, as of Friday.
— One of those kids, left-handed pitcher Eduardo Rodriguez, became the first Sox rookie lefty to win at least 10 games (he won 11) since John Curtis won 11 in 1972. Better yet, E-Rod is the first rookie lefty to beat the Yankees three times in a single season since — wait for it — Babe Ruth. Whoa.
— In effect, Washington’s Jonathan Papelbon was suspended for remainder of the season following his dugout fracas this week with Bryce Harper. It was very public, in the dugout, and not the best way to handle things. But I don’t have a problem with Papelbon calling out the more-than-likely National League MVP for what the pitcher perceived as his “dogging it.” He just went about it the wrong way.
— If you want to consider bringing Papelbon back to Boston next season, considering the current options? Might be worth exploring. A little veteran fire should keep things interesting, at least.
— Anyone else think that pro football bye weeks blow?
— Can’t do anything about when the mandatory off-week occurs, but it seems the NFL could do a better job of waiting until later in the year before anyone takes a breather. And cut down the number of weeks overall that teams don’t play. How about adding just two more teams per week, which would make six teams taking the week off (up from four at the present time)? You could start two weeks later (Week 6) and be done by Week 12, which leaves plenty of time for the playoff stretch.
— Makes too much sense. So you know this present-day NFL has no intention of doing it. Just sayin’.
— Tweet of the Week II, from @footballfacts: The @Patriots 3 victims this year are 5-1 against other opponents.
— Good info piece this week from WEEI.com’s Chris Price on great three-game stretches by 38-year-old NFL quarterbacks. Tom Brady‘s three-game start to 2015 certainly ranks up there with the best — ever. One other seems comparable, coming from then-38-year-old Kurt Warner in 2009. Warner had a stretch from Weeks 8-10 that gave him a QB rating of 135.2. Brady’s rating? 119.6, but his passing numbers exceed Warner’s by 308 yards.
— Who thinks Patriots receivers knew in advance that the bounty on TB12’s 400th TD pass would be substantial? Why else would a seemingly clueless Danny Amendola just give it away to someone in the stands, when guys rarely do that? I love a good conspiracy.
— Perhaps we’re jaded with success, but the Patriots’ 3-0 start is just the ninth time they’ve managed such a beginning to a season, and the fifth time under Bill Belichick. The 119 points through three games also is a franchise-best offensive start. And 35 first downs against Jacksonville? Tied the team record for most in a single game.
— Eighty-eight first downs all told in the first three games for New England represents the most ever — in NFL history — for any team. Buffalo had 86 first downs in the first three games of its 1991 season. Want another fun fact? Not having to punt against the Jags was the fourth time in Patriots history they didn’t need to do it, with the last occasion coming way back in 1978.
— One more — Stephen Gostkowski now holds the NFL record for consecutive PATs converted, with 425 and counting. That actually might be a tough mark to surpass, considering that the kick has been moved back to the 15-yard line. Now, can we play football again, please?
— A man clearly comfortable in his own skin — Republican presidential candidate Dr. Ben Carson, who is black — told NASCAR fans this week through The Associated Press that it was OK to fly the Confederate flag. “If it’s a majority of people in that area who want it to fly, I certainly wouldn’t take it down.”
— A super blood moon? The discovery of what looks like water on Mars? So when do the locusts hit? When do the aliens invade?
— The pre-release hype of the movie “Black Mass,” starring Johnny Depp as the infamous South Boston mobster James “Whitey” Bulger, didn’t do Depp’s performance justice. Overall, the movie was OK — not great, but OK. There were some liberties taken in telling the story, which you notice fairly quickly if you know anything about Bulger through news reports or some of the books written about him. But Depp’s performance is absolutely Oscar-worthy, right down to the Southie accent.
— Forbes released its annual ranking of the 400 richest Americans this week, and there certainly is no surprise that sports owners dot the landscape. But they don’t dominate, somewhat surprisingly. Among the locals, Patriots owner Robert Kraft is a mere 108th overall (and fourth in the NFL), worth an estimated $4.8 billion. The Bruins’ Jeremy Jacobs comes in at No. 138 (but No. 2 among American hockey owners), worth $4 billion; John Henry is ranked No. 307 at $2.2 billion (third in MLB). Wyc Grousbeck, leading the Celtics‘ partnership group, ranks outside the top 400. You need to earn at least $1.7 billion to join this club.
— Allen Craig? Has he been in witness protection? It was strange to see a then-last-place team call up a former All-Star outfielder in September, but that’s what the Red Sox did last month in recalling Craig to Boston when rosters expanded. He actually was added back onto the 40-man roster when called up, following his early-season demotion. Craig hit .274 over the summer for Pawtucket, but has struggled in limited play since getting back to Fenway, with five starts. Could Craig be an option at first base next season? Highly doubtful, especially with the emergence of Travis Shaw. Hanley Ramirez? Fugghedaboutit. But don’t feel too sorry for the Red Sox’ forgotten man. Someone will pay him at least $21 million over the next two years, regardless of where he may wind up.
— Reacting to former New York Jets linebacker Bart Scott, who had some choice words about Tom Brady and his “toughness” this week on CBS Sports Radio, @TXPatsSteveR tweeted this week: John, greatness inspires contempt in the mediocre. Steve: I could not have said it any better. Scott is one of the present-day TV “analysts” who carries an apparent grudge — for whatever reason — against the Patriots, like former St. Louis Rams running back Marshall Faulk of the NFL Network. Scott told CBS Sports Radio that Brady wasn’t tough “like Ben Roethlisberger,” which may be true. But Brady also doesn’t have a history of abuse toward women, if that’s part of defining “toughness” as Scott may have implied. Some guys like Bart Scott, perhaps, need to let go of their past before the present does it for them. Let me give you this one from Sir Arthur Conan Doyle: “Mediocrity knows nothing higher than itself, but talent instantly recognizes genius.”
— 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.
— Don’t forget to join Scott Cordischi and me on Providence’s 103.7 FM every Saturday from 7-9 a.m. for Southern New England Sports Saturday! Call in at 401-737-1287 or text us at 37937.