June 12, 2009

I want to go on record as saying that my Yankees are going to take two out of three from the Mets. Mike Bianci, of the Orlando Sentinel, passed along his
opinion of my picks by saying, “When are we stupid columnists going to learn to stop trying to make rational judgments on an irreverently irrational team?
From now on, we should just sit back, have a beer and enjoy perhaps the wildest” games in MLB.”

Jonathan Feigen had a piece in the SF Chronicle about Rafer Alston of the Magic. “Rafer Alston had waited long enough, as long as the emotions and
confidence welling inside him would allow he time had come for Alston to step aside and for Skip to My Lou (the Rucker playground legend) to take charge.                                                                                
“After the first one (STML’s appearance), Dwight (Howard) … was like, ‘Do it again, do it again,’ ” Alston said. Magic coach Stan Van Gundy “wants me
to stay more Rafer Alston, and no Skip to My Lou. Dwight and Rashard (Lewis) wanted me to be Skip. I tried it again, and it worked. “Pretty much
everything worked for the Magic, going from the 29.9 percent shooting in Game 1, the second-worst ever in the Finals, to the 62.5 percent shooting
Tuesday, the best ever in the NBA Finals. Alston went from making 17.6 percent of his shots and averaging five points in the first two games of the series to going 8-for-12 and scoring 20 points in Tuesday’s 108-104 victory. “These guys kept firing me the ball, they kept texting me telling me to play my game, do the things I’m accustomed to doing,” Alston said. “It’s somewhat embarrassing that they’re just going to keep leaving you open, basically a signal that, hey,that guy can’t play, can’t shoot.”                                                                                                     
Alston went from stunned by the trade-deadline deal that sent him from the Rockets to the Magic to so determined to see the bright side that when the
teams met, he hugged Rockets owner Leslie Alexander.

The Sports Curmudgeon talked about how Memphis and John Calipari are thankful for USC and its investigations. “ 
“Tim Floyd resigned as the basketball coach at USC.  Obviously, I am not privy to the inner workings of that situation at USC, but the timing of this split
seems awkward.  The NCAA announced that it was looking into recruiting irregularities with regard to OJ Mayo several months ago.  At that point, Floyd and USC were merely set to cooperate with the investigators to see what came up.  Then, about a month ago, one of the people associated with the “handlers” of OJ Mayo accused Floyd of giving $1000 in cash to someone attached to Mayo as part of the recruitment process.  To be sure, that changed the entire dimension of any NCAA investigation; but even then, Floyd and USC were ready to soldier on.  Now there is a “resignation” based on Floyd saying that he lost his drive to coach collegiate basketball.
As I said, I do not know what actually happened here, but I will say that I am not buying that story.  First of all, I do not believe that he resigned completely on his own.  I think there had to be a gentle – or maybe even a firm – nudge from the university involved, which had a lot to do with paying off some fraction of the remaining money on his salary now as opposed to the university firing him for cause sometime later after the NCAA investigation was complete.  Secondly, the USC basketball program stood on the threshold of becoming an elite program at the end of last year.  With one more really good recruiting class and the return of the core players from last year’s team, USC had the potential to be very good next year.  Remember, they lost in the final minutes to Michigan State in the tournament this year and Michigan State played in the final game on Monday night. If it were really all about “coaching fatigue” or “loss of coaching drive”, I would have expected this resignation at or before the time when the allegations that Floyd himself handed over cash money to someone as part of the recruiting process.  Were it his desire to remove himself from the investigation for the benefit of USC, I would have expected it about two days after those allegations of his direct involvement surfaced.  But now…?
Recall that the NCAA continues to investigate recruiting “irregularities” involving USC and Reggie Bush in football and they announced that they would combine these two investigations into one grand probe by their super-sleuths.  The Whole business raises two questions in my mind:
1.  Even if there is not a single violation of NCAA rules involved in the OJ Mayo recruitment – unlikely at best – what is left of the USC basketball program?  The best players from last year are all gone; the blue chip recruits from this year have gone elsewhere – or were turned aside by USC as too dicey while the school was being investigated.  Who would want to take over that program?  Larry Eustachy?  Jim Harrick?  Kelvin Sampson?  Dave Bliss?  You would have to want a college coaching job pretty badly…
2.  With the football and the basketball program under scrutiny, may I ask what Mike Garrett – the Athletic Director at USC – does for a living?  If there are major violations in both programs – I said IF – how can he keep his job or ever hold another job in the administration of collegiate athletics?
John Milton said – – in a more poetic fashion – – that every cloud has a silver lining.  The silver lining to all of this focus on USC by the NCAA investigators is that John Calipari and the University of Memphis “SAT scandals” will get to take a back seat in terms of publicity – or at least share the stage equally with USC – until all of this is resolved.  From USC’s perspective, I am sure they would love for there to surface some huge problem associated with the Memphis football program so that more focus would shift to the east…”


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