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John Rooke - Thinking Out Loud

Saturday, May 10, 2014

 

p> Thinking out loud…and wondering what it is, exactly, that happened to Johnny Football?

 

• A long overdue move on up to the Eastside for former PC assistant and RIC head coach Bob Walsh, hired this week as head coach at Maine. Walsh was considered by many to be the “hidden” gem of Tim Welsh’s staff at Providence when the Friars had success in the early 2000’s, and it’s pretty tough to top eight straight NCAA tournament appearances at RIC – no matter the level of play. D1 or D3, if you can coach, you can coach. But he’ll be the first to tell you – UMaine won’t be an easy gig. Ever tried to recruit to Orono? And you don’t play hockey? Whoa

• But if Walsh can have success there, he can have it just about anywhere. Right now, there’s nowhere to go but up…coming off of a 6-23 season with three players transferring out of the program to boot…

• I thought it went by almost unnoticed around here…but did anyone else stop for a minute this week to consider the road traveled by Michael Carter-Williams…from St. Andrew’s in Barrington to Syracuse to 1st round NBA Draft pick to Rookie of the Year? And our reaction was “ho-hum…”

• I know he’s technically not from Rhode Island (Williams’ hometown is Hamilton, MA)…but he IS the first (and second overall) former RI high school player in 40 years to be named NBA Rookie of the Year. And if I have to tell you who the other one was, please turn in your Rhode Island passport at the nearest wiener joint…

• The Gavitt Games announcement this week is a nice coup for the rebuilding, rebranding Big East. Anytime you can hook up with one of the so-called “Power Five” (in this case, the Big 10, er, 14), it will get you attention and notoriety. Maybe even legitimacy, if you manage to win more than your fair share of games. Too bad it doesn’t start for next season, however. Was hoping to get the chance to have Friar senior-to-be LaDontae Henton play back home in either Lansing, MI (Michigan State) or Ann Arbor (Michigan)…

Not for nuthin’…put your money on (at least) one more high major road game for Providence next season. Right now, you’ve got home games with URI and UMass…neutral games with Florida State and Notre Dame (at Mohegan Sun)…and a road game at Kentucky. It’s shaping up to be a dynamite slate…PC will need to find a way to win a couple of the tough ones, however, in order to impress…

• The re-tooling for Creighton in the aftermath of Doug McDermott’s graduation continues via the transfer route. First, former BU guard Maurice Watson heads for Omaha, and this week the Blue Jays picked up former Nevada forward Cole Huff. Both players were significant contributors to their former programs, but both will sit out next season before becoming eligible…

• Where’s he been? 23-year-old Matt Fraser responded in a way that so many dream about, but few actually get the chance to do…after his call-up from Providence to skate for the Bruins in Montreal Thursday night. And to score the only goal – the game winner – in overtime? C’mon. Fairy tale stuff. When meeting the media after the game, his voice was shaky, and his hands were shaking. He told ESPNBoston.com “I don't even want to begin to try to explain it because that's something I wish every kid could feel." I think we’re all feeling it just a little bit, Matt. That’s special right there…

• This is only Fraser’s 3rd full season as a pro, and he began his so far (very) brief NHL career in Dallas in 2011. He led the AHL in goals in 2011-12 in Texas, and in 44 games with the PBruins this year Fraser had 20 goals, tied for 3rd on the team. Providence has just begun the 2nd round of the AHL Calder Cup playoffs with Wilkes-Barre/Scranton, after dispatching Springfield in the 1st round…

• This could qualify as blasphemy around here, but Tuukka Rask has proven to be merely human of late. Not only is he not as sharp between the pipes as we’ve seen him previously, but he also became a father last weekend, a fact unknown to many fans and media as well. That the Bruins apparently had a back-up plan in place if he needed to miss a game for the birth of his child should tell you all you need to know about where his attention lies at the present time. I don’t blame him one bit. But then again, I do blame him for poor planning about nine months ago…

• It’s simple, really. The Bruins need to stop climbing into 3-1 3rd period holes. Those will come back to bite you, and they have. Twice…

• Boston also appears to have lost a bit of the “Big Bad Bruin” edge they’re famous for displaying. Montreal has taken it straight to the strength of the B’s, and made the defense look mortal…although they were much better Thursday night. And, the offense is painfully inconsistent – giving Carey Price too much breathing room in front of the crease…

• The Patriots have another potential veteran reclamation project in house with this week’s pick up of former New Orleans Saints DE Will Smith. Smith missed last season with an ACL injury, and is now 33 years old. Adding insult to that injury is the pay cut he just took after getting the boot from NO – from $11.5 million to a base salary of less than $1 million with New England. And that’s IF he makes the final cut. Guess this Will Smith will be “gettin’ jiggy wit’ it” early and often if he wants to earn a paycheck…

• Very little risk here for the Patriots and the chance for a very large return if he can actually compliment Chandler Jones and/or Rob Ninkovich. The Pats have a need at the spot, Smith has a need for a job. Seems like a win-win to me…

• Not sure how I feel about the Patriots’ 1st round draft pick of Dominique Easley out of Florida. He would be that complimentary player to Jones, Ninkovich or Smith, and his quickness could be like a lightning bolt lined up next to a (relatively) healthy Vince Wilfork. I suppose it all depends on how his surgically repaired knees check out, once he reports to Gillette Stadium. I mean, the guy has had TWO ACL repairs in just less than two years. For BB to select him an entire round higher than he was expected to go, clearly he sees something in him that indicates he’s a player…this year. High risk? Yes. High reward? TBD…

Tweet of the Week I – from @brendansuhr: “Great line by Coach Herm Edwards today re NFL Draft. If the BEST player in Draft doesn’t fit your scheme, you have a BAD scheme!!”

• The Patriots have Revis Island, yes. But Richard Sherman has a big, fat, rich contract. Sherman this week signed a new 4-year, $57 million contract extension with Seattle that makes him the highest-paid cornerback in the NFL. Sherman tweeted that $40 million is guaranteed. Motivation is a great thing…something for Darrelle Revis to shoot for, huh?

• Throwback Thursday on a Saturday: Thought this was an interesting snapshot from Darren Rovell, ESPN’s business reporter and an absolute maniac on Twitter. Admittedly, when the NFL Draft decided to enter the digital world in 1995, many soon followed. The Patriots, for instance, were the first team to launch their team site, patriots.com, soon thereafter…

• I fear, however, that the days of watching Jets fans scream in agony from the balcony, or of “draftniks” looking confused over team selections going the way of the dinosaur. The NFL Draft is all about the spectacle – the show – these days, and this year the show was complete with the draftees selecting their own “walk up” music…just like Major League Baseball players now have in many home parks. Great. The ruination of another perfectly good sports-geek day, all in the name of entertainment…

Tweet of the Week II – from @bruceallen: “So I understand – celebrating in the end zone = BAD. Walk-up songs for draftees = GOOD.”

• Admittedly, I am not a big fan of baseball’s interleague play. Admittedly, some of the matchups have been good for baseball, in spite of dwindling popularity numbers overall, and one of those for me has been the rare occasion to face the Cincinnati Reds. It’s a shame that the Red Sox have played Philadelphia (53 games) and Atlanta (54 games) so much in interleague play, while before this week, the Reds last played at Fenway in 2008, and only twice since 1997 (nine games overall against Cincinnati). Some of my greatest baseball remembrances come from the ’75 World Series, and a number of fans and historians consider that Series still to be one of the greatest ever played. You’d think MLB would want to capitalize on that, wouldn’t you?

• Did you see this week where ex-Yankees’ Hall-of-Famer-to-be pitcher Mariano Rivera said Dustin Pedroia – and not former teammate Robinson Cano – would be his ultimate choice as a 2nd baseman to play behind him? Excerpts of Rivera’s new book, “The Closer,” were released this week and included the compliment for Pedroia…which is also a swipe at Cano. Mo says he doesn’t think Cano “burns to be the best.” Maybe, but he’s certainly burning money in Seattle…

• The ultimate compliment: "If I have to win one game, I'd have a hard time taking anybody over Dustin Pedroia as my second baseman." That’s from Rivera. And Pedroia should consider using it as his baseball epitaph someday. But that day is not today…

• Saw something this week that I wasn’t sure I would see much of this season from the Red Sox…if the first month of the year is any indication. Base hits with RISP (runners in scoring position). At the beginning of the week, only the Houston Astros were worse than the Sox in getting hits and moving runners along…yet the Sox were also second in the AL behind Oakland in combined total hits and walks. If the hits keep coming, and the pitching keeps pitching…when do the wins show up? Just sayin’

• Saw something else this week that I wasn’t sure I would EVER see this season, or any other – a dinosaur threw out the first pitch at a San Diego Padres game to a guy that looked like the old Providence Friar mascot…

• A week after an Oklahoma newspaper called him unreliable, the Oklahoma City Thunder’s Kevin Durant won the NBA’s Most Valuable Player award…the first player since Allen Iverson (2000-01) to win MVP and the league scoring title in the same season. Unreliable? Yeah, that’ll go over well when it comes to free agency in a couple of years…

• This month’s gaffe from the State University of New Jersey, aka Rutgers – an offer to former RU defensive tackle Eric LeGrand, paralyzed in a 2010 football game, to speak at graduation commencement was apparently rescinded by the school in a political power play after former Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice turned down an offer to speak to graduates. Then, he was re-invited to speak once LeGrand expressed his disappointment via Twitter, and he’ll share the stage with former NJ Governor Tom Kean

• Really Rutgers? The guy basically gave his life for you on a football field. His comeback story has been the one bright, shining light for an athletic department mired in a morass of senseless judgments by coaches and administrators over the past couple of years – Fred Hill, Mike Rice, Tim Pernetti and Julie Hermann all with egregious errors in decision-making as the Scarlet Knights exited the Big East for the austere Big 10. Here’s an idea. How about treating him with the dignity and respect he has earned?

• RU = Ridiculous University. That is all

Tweet of the Week III – from @richarddeitsch: “Very simple rule of thumb for successful public relations: Always do the opposite of what Rutgers University does…”

• Another NCAA team in the fold at Bryant, as the nationally-16th ranked men’s lacrosse team won the Northeast Conference, then won a 1st round NCAA tournament game at home against Siena. Now, it gets big-time…facing 2nd ranked Syracuse in the Carrier Dome Saturday night…

Niklas Hjalmarsson (photofile.com)

• This takes the phrase “taking one for the team” to a new level: Chicago Blackhawks defenseman Niklas Hjalmarsson was hit in the throat by a puck in Game 3 of a playoff series with Minnesota, was not medically cleared to speak because of the injury, but laced up the skates and played anyway last Tuesday night. Hjalmarsson led all NHL players in the playoffs with 30 blocked shots as of mid-week. Tough guy…

• The Golden State Warriors had not made the NBA playoffs in consecutive years since 1990-91 before turning the trick the past two seasons…and still, they fired their coach. Before Mark Jackson took over three years ago, the Warriors had made ONE playoff appearance in the previous 17 seasons. And Jackson had NEVER been a head coach before Golden State hired him. What is it, exactly, they’re looking for in Oakland? It’s certainly not wins…

• Get used to the peacock network as the home of the Olympic Games. As a kid and as a young, impressionable reporter, ABC was the home of the Olympic Games of my youth from 1964 through 1984, with NBC taking over in 1988. Who can forget the late Jim McKay in 1972 from Munich, Germany in the aftermath of the terrorist attacks on Israeli athletes? The Olympic fanfare – still popular and an icon in recognizing the Olympics today – began on ABC. This week, NBC locked up Olympic coverage through 2032…

• McKay, by the way, shared the television coverage for ABC from Munich with the late Chris Schenkel…who used to call horse races at the old Narragansett Park track on the Pawtucket/East Providence line. Schenkel worked in Rhode Island radio in the late 1940’s until 1952, when he moved to New York for the old DuMont Television Network, calling Giants’ football broadcasts. Schenkel passed away in 2005…

• Congrats are in order to some old friends and new friends alike, as the Rhode Island Radio Hall of Fame inducted Saucy Sylvia (WADK Newport), Tony Rizzini (WLKW), Pappy Philbrook (WHJJ/WHJY), Paul Perry (WWBB, WSNE), Dave Fallon (RI NPR), Rick Everett (WSNE, WCTK) and Tom Cuddy (WPRO) this week as the Class of 2014. Additionally, Janice Skelly (WSNE) was named as the Shepard Award winner for service to the radio industry, and 92 PRO-FM was named as the Broadcaster of the Year. That Skelly has survived radio sales for 36 years, and counting, through six station ownership changes and changing industry trends is pretty remarkable…

• A gift that keeps on giving…Toronto mayor Rob Ford, who is in rehab after another video surfaced with the mayor allegedly smoking crack, told the Toronto Sun that “rehab is amazing. It reminds me of football camp, kind of like the Washington Redskins camp I went to as a kid.” Pass that pipe, mayor…

• And here’s another gift from that sport we love to bash, Major League Baseball. Or rather, the organization we love to bash. Now, MLB is telling iTunes to shut down several of their team-related podcasts from their service. Why? Do they hate free publicity? Do they not want fans talking about their teams? Is this really an infringement of their rights, whatever those might be? The kicker here is that MLB is apparently not shutting ALL of them down, but rather, they’re being selective about the process. Several podcasts with TEAM NAMES in the title of the show are still around – wouldn’t that be a trademark violation? Stupid is as stupid does

Bonus Tweet of the Week – from @SatchelPrice: “Wait, so what did MLB do this morning exactly? Shut down podcasts that essentially act as free marketing? Is that a joke?”

Ken Ryan

• Youth baseball in the area is taking a body blow, as former Red Sox pitcher and Seekonk’s Ken Ryan is closing up his KR Baseball Academy after nine years in Pawtucket, located in the old mill complex on Central Avenue. It seems he couldn’t come to an agreement on a lease with new building owners, so the school, batting cages and indoor field facility are closing at the end of this month. Having known Ken for some years now – and admittedly I’m a little biased, since I once called his Pawsox games while working for NESN, and spent a few years as a coach and parent in his AAU organization – he is as thorough with young players as a coach could be. His emphasis has always been on developing a player first, rather than winning games. His teams did win – with a 15U team finishing 3rd in the AAU National Championships a couple of years ago. But Ken cared more about the kids and their experience with the game than most coaches I’ve been around. I hope, for all of us…and especially for another generation of local players…that he’s able to find another spot to locate his KR Baseball Academy…

• You want a jaw dropper? We don’t get to talk about or showcase college baseball that much (Bryant has another strong team this year, contending for an NCAA spot in the NEC)…but it was hard to pick up my jaw from the floor after seeing this play made in an LSU-Texas A&M game a week ago. The reaction from Aggie players is priceless…

• Something to aspire to…saw a poll on answers.com this week that listed the country’s Top 10 college sports towns. There was one from the northeast – State College, PA, home of the Penn State Nittany Lions. Predictably, the majority of the cities were in the south, and four of them from the SEC, specifically Knoxville, TN – Tennessee; Gainesville, FL – Florida; Tuscaloosa, AL – Alabama and Columbia, MO – Missouri. Austin, TX also made an appearance on behalf of my alma mater, which doesn’t surprise me in the least. What did surprise me was the #1 town on the list, located outside of the Sun Belt – Madison, WI – home of the Wisconsin Badgers. And Los Angeles made the list, with USC and UCLA. Really? True passion for sports exists on the left coast? I would argue there may be passion, but not like you’ll find in the south, say, at an Auburn-Alabama or Texas-Oklahoma game…

• I think my buddy “Big E” aspires to living life on the edge. He told his wife “what’s the difference between a wife and girlfriend? 45 pounds.” She replied “what’s the difference between a husband and a boyfriend? 45 minutes.” That may qualify as comeback of the year…

Johnny Manziel (mymindonsports.com)

• I know what happened to Johnny Manziel this week in the NFL draft, aka Johnny Football. Teams got scared, and he slipped from early talk about being one of the top two or three picks down to #22, where Cleveland took him after trading back UP in the draft to get him. The first-ever freshman Heisman winner had two spectacular years at Texas A&M, but questions about his size, his durability, his ability to use the pocket and stay disciplined within an offensive system will stay with him until he somehow proves otherwise. I will say this – camp should be very interesting for the Browns, with former Patriots’ back-up Brian Hoyer the incumbent, coming off of knee surgery – along with Manziel and star-crossed Vince Young. Young was signed after a try out about a month ago. And you want Mr. Irrelevant? Quick, who was the Browns’ 1st selection in the draft? It wasn’t Johnny Football…

• It's been seven years since I've had the chance to wish her Happy Mothers' Day in person or by phone, as my Mom, Judy Rooke, left us all too soon.  Enjoy the day with your Mom, spend some time with her if you can...do something special for her.  After all, chances are...she did many special things for you along the way.  I hope you were as lucky as I was.  Happy Mothers' Day!

• From the mailbag this week – Bobby from Warwick via Facebook writes, concerning college basketball transfers: “My question about (PC recruit Larry Austin), is he playing basketball to represent his school or is he just playing for a coach. That to me already represents a RED FLAG about (Austin). Change happens all the time in college basketball where every year it seems 40-50 coaches turnover. Shouldn't a kid know this before he signs his NLI? HE SHOULD!!! No coach should ever look a kid in the eye while recruiting him and guarantee him he will be the coach for the next four years.” Bobby: You’re right, of course. But it’s naïve in this day and age to think a recruit selects his college team based on anything OTHER than the coach. And when the coach leaves before you have the chance to step foot on campus – as is the case with Austin and Tennessee – well, put yourself in the kid’s shoes. Why should he be bound to a contract if the coach isn’t? Sure, we may like the buildings, the academics, even the girls on campus. But those things aren’t at the top of most lists. It’s the relationship with the guy who recruits you, and when many recruits don’t have strong parental influences at home, the coach becomes a de facto parent. Naturally, when the coach leaves, the kid may want to follow…

• Interested in having your questions on local RI sports (including 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 and comments to [email protected]. 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 us for GoLocal Sports on 103.7 FM, every Saturday from 7:00-9:00 am! Call in (401) 737-1287, or text us at 37937…and send email to the show - [email protected] .

 

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Comments:

Hurley at one time, like Walsh, was considered by many to be a “hidden” gem but turned out to be zircon or as the British would say "jar." Maybe Mr. Walsh can get Mr.Hurley's team on the schedule? But I wouldn't hold my breath on that one.

Comment #1 by joe adamowicz on 2014 05 10

It will be interesting to see how Walsh does in terms of win in his first year at Maine compared to the 8 wins Hurley had in his first. I am willing to bet that Mr. Walsh will have double digits and make some noise for at least an NIT bid in his second. It's pretty easy to rack up wins at the high school level with a hand-picked team compared to 8 straight, yes count them, 8, Walsh had at RIC. This guy can flat out coach and he can do it with help of top flight assistants. Maine is going to be one tough out.

Comment #2 by joe adamowicz on 2014 05 11

8 straight NCAA appearance, that is.

Comment #3 by joe adamowicz on 2014 05 11




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