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Sunday, April 30, 2006

Don't like 'em, gotta respect his game

I can't stand Kobe Bryant. I'd rather root for Mike Tyson than pull for the soon-to-be No. 24.

But, in the first four games of the NBA playoffs, Kobe has been THE MAN.

He's not dropping 81 points in a game. Instead, he's getting his teammates involved and because of that the Lakers could eliminate the Suns in five games. Who saw that coming?

Sunday was a prime example. Twice, Kobe had the chance to take the big shot and twice he did. More importantly, he hit the shots.

Meanwhile, Steve "Soon to be the MVP" Nash twice had blunders that set Kobe up to be the hero.

Oh, by the way, how about Dirk Nowitzki for MVP? His Mavs are much better now WITHOUT Nash than they ever were with him.

Saturday, April 29, 2006

Congrats to Alston, Pittman

Two local guys will fulfill their NFL dreams and they are very deserving for the opportunity.

Stanford's Jon Alston, who played at Loyola, is heading to St. Louis while Northwestern State stud David Pittman is going to Baltimore to become their nickelback.

Alston is the epitome of the student-athlete and a tremendous kid. He has got a tough road ahead of him, but he may fit the St. Louis scheme perfectly. He'll be their weakside guy at linebacker. He may have to add a few pounds and get up around 235, but he's quick and an excellent man on the pass rush.

Pittman was the Demons' cover corner, often lining up against their opponents' best receiver. More times than not, he shut them down. He'll be the Ravens nickelback and come in on special teams, which sounds an awful lot like what Terrence McGee did for Buffalo (only McGee has worked his way into the starting lineup). Pittman was sensational at the SEnior Bowl, keeping pace with some of the country's top seniors. One scout told me that he was right there with a lot of the receivers and didn't lose a step.

Be on the look for Grambling's Bruce Eugene and LSU's Kyle Williams to go on the draft's second day. Another local kid - Fair Park and LSU standout Ronnie Prude - will likely have to go the free agent route to the NFL.

Cowboys grab Irish TE

IRVING, Texas- Cowboys fans get ready for a new look offense next season. GM and owner Jerry Jones said he wants the Cowboys to switch to a two-tight end, two-receiver, one-back offensive scheme next season, thus the team's selection of Notre Dame tight end Anthony Fasano.

Fasano gives the Cowboys some depth at the tight end position in order to implement the new system.

So expect the fullback to be phased out through next season and the Cowboys to line up with their one-back system. The reason? Defenses have tougher times anticipating what offenses will do whether on first, second or third down with the same lineup in the game.

The Cowboys have a year-old 3-4 defense, so why not start a new offense?

Addai a good fit for Colts

Former LSU star Joseph Addai will find himself in a good situation with the Indianapolis Colts, who selected him 30th overall in the draft.

Addai will try to fill the shoes of departed All-Pro running back Edgerrin James, who went to the Arizona Cardinals via free agency. Addai showed his toughness by still producing for the Tigers despite serious ankle injuries. Then in the NFL Scouting Combine he wowed everyone by running a sub-4.4 40.

He can block and is a very capable receiver -- much like James -- and has the potential to start this season for a good offensive team.

The Texans' real problem

Mario Williams could be the next Bruce Smith or the next Courtney Brown. He could even be the next Lamanzer Williams.

Who really knows at this point?

But I'll say this for my hometown Houston Texans, their fans and their critics, let's just stop with all this teeth-gnashing about passing on Reggie Bush with the top pick.

In my lifetime (27 years), the two best running backs of my life were Barry Sanders and Walter Payton.

How much influence did that dynamic duo have on the postseason fortunes of their respective franchises? Not much.

Sanders' Lions teams went 1-5 in the playoffs during his 10 seasons, and Payton's Bears went 4-4 in the postseason over 13 years, including a Super Bowl run in '84 when Buddy Ryan's 46 defense ruled Chicago.

Do you think Bush will be a better player than Payton, Sanders or LaDainian Tomlinson (one playoff appearance with San Diego in five seasons)? Anything is possible, I guess.
But remember those playoff marks when some analyst, scout or fan tells you that Reggie Bush would have been the answer to all the Texans' ills.

Blair Thomas was the cure for all of the N.Y. Jets' ills wasn't he? Ki-Jana Carter turned it all around for the Bengals, huh? How'd the Ricky Williams era in New Orleans work out for everyone?

No, the problem with the Texans isn't that they didn't take Employee No. 5. It's that Charley Casserly can't figure out they need a friggin' offensive tackle, not an undersized, lead-footed linebacker from Alabama.

Thank God for NFL Network

For the first time in probably 22 years, most of my NFL Draft watching did not include ESPN. All I can say is "Thank God for the NFL Network.''

I wasn't subjected to Chris Berman, whose act wore thin many moons ago. There was no Mel Kiper Jr. to infuriate me.

Yes, NFL Network had its own versions of Berman and Kiper. But at least they are new faces. Their acts are new.

The other good thing is the NFL Network covers the Combine in February. Their access and information is outstanding.

Besides, competition is alway great. It's what makes this country great.

So long, ESPN.

Cowboys select LB Carpenter

IRVING, Texas - The Dallas Cowboys just selected Ohio State linebacker Bobby Carpenter a few moments ago with their No. 18 pick in the 2006 NFL Draft.

Carpenter helps strengthen the Cowboys linebackers corps, but may not be the playmaker that DeMarcus Ware is. Carpenter's biggest drawback is his lack of instincts. Often times, he's too slow to react and a step behind the play.

He has the physical tools (6-foot-2, 254 pounds) to be a solid NFL linebacker, but there's some talk that he's not deserving of a first-round selection. And, he did fracture his right fibula against Michigan last season, so that will have to be checked out.

He is the prototype Bill Parcells linebacker though and Parcells can mold Carpenter into what he needs. Although, I don't think Carpenter will have the immediate impact to the Cowboys that last year's two first-round picks Ware and Marcus Spears had.

The Cowboys' bigger need was at safety. The man they had their sets on - Ohio State's Donte Whitner - was snapped up earlier in the day.

Titans make Young first QB taken in draft

The Tennessee Titans took former Texas quarterback Vince Young with the third overall pick in the NFL Draft on Saturday.

This after pundits said the Titans would take former USC star QB Matt Leinart, who was coached by Tennessee offensive coordinator Norm Chow when Chow was with the Trojans.

Many of these same experts said Young would likely be the third QB taken after Leinart and former Vanderbilt standout Jay Cutler.

Young will have a lot to prove to his critics, but he will have a good template to follow -- his mentor Steve McNair wasn't supposed to be able to play in the NFL either, or so the experts said...

Saints do the right thing

The New Orleans Saints made the right move Saturday in the NFL Draft by selecting former USC star Reggie Bush with the second overall pick.

The franchise has shown it's serious about turning itself into a contender. With a healthy Drew Brees at quarterback and the return of explosive running back Deuce McAllister from a knee injury, the addition of Bush should revive New Orleans' offense and special teams, if his return skills are utilized. Bush has said he just wants to play football and Saints officials want to avoid a potential holdout at all costs -- another good move.

Bush's selection should also have a positive effect on the fans in the Crescent City and the Gulf Coast, areas which are still struggling to get back on their feet after Hurricane Katrina.

Friday, April 28, 2006

Texans pull off pre-draft stunner

The Houston Texas, who have the No. 1 pick in Saturday's NFL Draft, signed North Carolina State defensive end Mario Williams on Friday night. This after many experts said the Texans would select USC tailback Reggie Bush with the first pick.

Now all eyes will be on the New Orleans Saints, who hold the No. 2 pick. Several mock drafts have the Saints taking Virginia offensive tackle D'Brickashaw Ferguson at that spot. They could also take a QB or trade the pick for more selections. Will they pick Bush?

The Texans' move may or may not have any influence on what the Saints do Saturday, but it's made me more eager to watch what was already going to be an interesting draft.

Too many bowl games

The NCAA approved three more bowl games on Thursday - that's 31 bowls next football season if you're scoring at home.

Nothing against the good folks in Birmingham, Ala., Albuquerque, N.M., or Toronto. It's not their fault for wanting a bowl game.

But what in the world is the NCAA thinking?

Thirty one bowl games? That means 62 teams will be playing in the postseason.

That may be fine for college basketball which has more than 300 teams playing in Division I. But with less than 120 playing college football, this is watering down the postseason experience.

Maybe the NCAA is looking for survival of the fittest. But what has happened is the postseason will be diluted with 6-6 teams playing each other for a "championship.''


Remember this name

Calvary Baptist pitcher Randy Zeigler may well be the most polished left-handed pitcher I have seen in nearly 20 years of watching high school baseball in this area.

The amazing thing about Zeigler is this: He's only a sophomore.

Now, this is not to say Zeigler will be a major league pitcher. It's not to even say he'll be a major college pitcher.

Pitchers are hard to project if for no other reason than the precarious nature of arm injuries.

But Zeigler is certainly polished and has an idea on the mound.

Granted it was against Class 1A competition, but what he did against Cedar Creek on Thursday night was masterful. He struck out 11 hitters and walked no one. NO ONE. That strikeout-to-walk ratio may have been the most impressive thing about the Cavaliers' 5-0 victory.

Only time will tell, but for now, Zeigler's name is one to keep in the back of your head.

Thursday, April 27, 2006

Coming to Terms on Bonds

He may now finally be clean, his knee and elbow aren't Hall of Fame caliber, and he has a grand jury hanging over his head ... but Barry Bonds still has the skill to take a Billy Wagner 99 m.p.h. fastball and jerk it out of the park. And this was after he spent the other eight innings of the game sitting on the bench!

Bonds' dramatic pinch hit home run moves him within three homers of tying Babe Ruth's 714 career round-trippers.

You won't find me checking the price tags on a Bonds jersey and I don't hold Bonds up as an example of anything redeeming to my two sons, but I've come to accept that the steroid controversy will have run its course once Bonds passes Ruth on the home run scoreboard.

What is the Mitchell investigation going to uncover that we don't already know? A large percentage of players, hitters and pitchers alike, were using various types of steroids during the post-strike years of baseball and Major League Baseball chose to do nothing about it.

The only lingering question will be what to do about Bonds? The answer ... nothing. Like Mark McGwire, just let the man fade into the distance, his punishment being the asterisk we will all put on his records in our minds despite them not showing up in the books. And asterisks shouldn't show up in the record books either, that should be Major League Baseball's punishment for allowing all of this to go on for as long as it did.

The only fitting tribute to Bonds tying and then passing Ruth is if it happens on the road. The boos raining down from the stands will capture the moment better than the cheers and standing ovations of the myopic Giants fans.

But understand this, it will happen. Bonds also says he can't imagine passing Aaron for the all-time career home run record, but come on, Bonds didn't come this far and expose himself to this much ridicule to finish second, he's going for it all, and baseball fans will have to accept it.

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

Watching NBA hard to do!

It is no wonder few people with any sense at all watch these games.

With the playoffs cranking up, I tried over the weekend. I honestly did.

It isn't the play on the floor that drove me away so much as the production of the game by the TV people showing the game. The person or persons controlling what should be shown must have been on the same thing as Ricky Williams.

They must have missed two or three steals and a couple baskets because they were busy showing some schmo in the stands or a close up of a nobody on the bench.

Whatever happened to keeping the camera on the action at hand. How about keeping the ball in play in the picture at all times. Is that so hard to do? You don't have to have a close up of the back court throw in but it would be nice to watch just in case someone does happen to steal the pass and lay it in or pass to someone else for a lay in.

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

LSU going Smoke-less?

It seems everyone who cares about LSU baseball wants the head of coach Smoke Laval on a platter these days.

Just a reminder, there is still a month left in the regular season.

Has Laval's team had a bad year this year? Yes, by their standards. But this fire-the-coach mentality is absurd. Put up a couple of bad (i.e. losing) seasons before running the guy. And, oh by the way, there is still time to salvage something of this season.

Of course, getting swept this weekend will just about take care of 2006 for the Tigers.

Monday, April 24, 2006

How 'bout dem Wings?

All the world (that cares) is buzzing about the Bossier-Shreveport Battle Wings' 72-3 drubbing by a medicore Tulsa Talons team on Saturday night. It was the most humiliating loss ever in Battle Wings history.

But it was not the most humiliating game ever in af2. Quad City defeated Greensboro 103-3 in 2000 and the Steamwheelers recorded the only shutout to date in af2 history in 2001 with a 41-0 victory over Peoria.

If you can believe it, the 69-point loss was just the fourth largest ever in the league. It ranks behind the Quad City/Greensboro game, the Quad City/Memphis game in 2001 (90 points) and the Arkansas Charleston game in 2000 (73 points).

Through three games, the Battle Wings are on pace to put up the fewest points in a season by a league team. Greensboro managed just 407 in 2000. At their current rate of 25 ppg, the Wings would finish the season with 384 points.

At least there's no way to go but up for the local af2 franchise.

Forget Young, Leinart

Vince Young and Matt Leinart are getting all the press, but the man who many scouts will have the brightest future in the NFL is Vanderbilt's Jay Cutler.

Cutler is projected as a first-round pick, and rightfully so, but Young and Leinart continue to get all the air time and headlines. When in fact, Cutler has better arm strength, a quicker release and is tougher than those two.

Leinart had plenty of options at USC plus he had a stellar line protecting him. Young had two reads to make and if it wasn't there he was off and running. But Cutler played at Vanderbilt and was still able to impress scouts.

Let's face it. There's no way the talent level of Vanderbilt could compete with Texas or USC. Cutler had to stay in the pocket, get hit and yet he bounced right back up time after time. He got the most out of himself and his teammates. Think Leinart and Young could do the same? I don't know.

Cutler's Senior Bowl performance only solidified what many scouts were thinking already - he will be a better pro than the other two.

Young and Leinart may go ahead of him in the draft this weekend, but be ready to hear from Cutler in the future.

Too much scrutiny

If you listen to NFL folks and draft analysts talk, then you'd think Vince Young was the second coming of Andre Ware. How many ways can Young be picked apart?

Let's start with his unorthodox throwing motion. OK, so he doesn't have a classic throwing motion. He did display unusual accuracy as a junior at Texas.

He played in a simple offense. So? If memory serves correctly, USC's Pete Carroll has an NFL background and the Trojans didn't exactly stop Young and the "simple'' Texas offense in the Rose Bowl.

He didn't throw at the Combine but threw on an ESPN skills competition. This just in, kids watch ESPN. They want to be on ESPN. Bad judgment? Nah, just a kid being a kid.

Look, Vince Young may indeed be a bust in the NFL. That's a possibility. It's also a possibility with Matt Leinart, Jay Cutler and every other quarterback out there.

But from what I saw of Vince Young in games that mattered last year -- Ohio State, Oklahoma, USC - you have to give the guy his due.

This scrutiny of top picks has almost gone over the top.

Sunday, April 23, 2006

Parity is upon us

If you read today's Times or shreveporttimes.com, you'll see Scott Ferrell's column on parity in SEC baseball.

Scott hits the nail on the head -- LSU's five titles in 10 years WILL NOT be repeated any time soon.

But parity doesn't exist in just the SEC. With a little less than half the regular season left, there are probably 10-15 teams with a legitimate chance to win the College World Series title.

Sure it's a small sample when you consider there are almost 300 teams playing, but it's a larger number than usually is evident at this time of year.

And, much like the college basketball season, there is no truly dominant team who can be crowned the favorite this far away from Omaha.

Nothing could be finer

As bad as Fair Grounds Field looks these days, let's give some kudos where it is due among the high schools.

Captain Shreve's field is a thing of beauty. The players, coaches, boosters and fans should take great pride in what that facility has become through the years. Kudos also to what Airline and Haughton have done to their baseball parks over the years.

The work on the parks is reflective of an increased commitment to the baseball programs at area high schools. That commitment should one day result in a state championship for the area.

Take a bow, guys.

Friday, April 21, 2006

Field of nightmares

Fair Grounds Field may have been a jewel in 1986 when it opened, but the playing surface there now is a cheap trinket.

The District 1-5A baseball tournament which began Thursday was played at Fair Grounds Field. Instead of playing on a lush green field, the playing surface was mostly brown with spots of green. The stadium itself looks older than its 20 years of age.

Apparently, the city of Shreveport hasn't learned the lesson of Independence Stadium, where neglect eventually led to a $30 million renovation.

Even if the actual stadium isn't pristine, there is no excuse for the field looking the way it does.

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

The end of civility

If you work at a newspaper's sports department long enough, then you'll hear about how awful the professional and college athletes are these days. You'll hear how boorish their behavior is. You'll hear how the only purity in sports can be found at the high school level.


On Tuesday night, I witnessed one of the most disrespectful acts I've seen at a high school sports event. When Captain Shreve coach Ronnie Coker came to change pitchers in the bottom of the seventh inning against Haughton, his pitcher - who shall remain nameless - flipped the ball in the air in disgust and let it fall to the ground for Coker to pick up.

So the boorish behavior isn't limited to the colleges and pros. It has seeped down into the high school ranks.

To Coker's credit, he didn't choke the pitcher.

But as someone who has been around high school baseball for nearly 30 years, let me just say there is an old coach somewhere in Jackson, Miss., who would not have handled that situation nearly as calmly as Coker did.

No Magnet basketball

If you read the other sections in the paper, you may have noticed some students want to add competitive basketball at Caddo Magnet. As a Magnet graduate, I say bad idea. In fact, the school should at least get rid of softball and perhaps more.
Sports at Magnet should be different than at other schools. The school should offer things you don't find everywhere. I'll have a column on the Caddo Preps page in the sports section on Thursday.

Mudbugs Already on the Brink

If Roy Lang III were to see this, he'd offer an opposing opinion, but let's face it, the Mudbugs are on the brink of elimination after last night's 3-2 overtime loss to the lethal Colorado Eagles.

In the simple terms, the Mudbugs either win tonight or this series is over. Going down two games to none would mean the Mudbugs would have to win four of the next five games against the defending CHL champions. The Mudbugs don't have the firepower to win four of five from the Eagles.

A few other factors working against the Mudbugs ... let's say the Bugs stretch this to beyond five games. Now the Bugs face that "dreaded 20-hour bus trip" back to Colorado to try and wrap up a series. Going down 0-2 might also force Coach Scott Muscutt's hand to put Kenny Carroll between pipes. This is the same Kenny Carroll who hasn't seen a slapshot head his way since February.

However, Muscutt could take the approach abandoned by USC football coach Pete Carroll in the Rose Bowl. You may remember with the game on the line, Carroll kept his best player (Reggie Bush) on the sidelines for that final fourth down play against Texas. Game over, Texas wins.

With the series on the line tonight ... does Muscutt boldly pull the trigger and put his best player on the ice to try and salvage at least one game of this two-game playoff road trip? Can Carroll even go if asked?

Lose tonight and the Mudbugs won't be able to keep the Eagles from flying on to the finals.

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

Former Techster steals from another

Former Lady Techesters assistant coach Kristy Curry, the newly named head coach at Texas Tech, has apparently stolen an assistant coach from Baylor coach Kim Mulkey-Robertson.

Both coaches were assistants for former Lady Techsters coach Leon Barmore.
Baylor assistant Bill Brock, who's been a mainstay for Mulkey-Robertson since she arrived in Waco six years ago, will join Kurry at Texas Tech.

Brock is credited with developing the Lady Bears' inside game into one of the nation's most dominating paint presences and also served as Baylor's recruiting coordinator. According to All-Star Girls Report the Lady Bears signed the nations' No. 1 recruiting class this season.

Since the two schools will go head-to-head in Texas recruiting battles, Brock's move could cause some tension between the former coaching cohorts.

Ty Moore is honored

Former Southwood High School center Ty Moore received some accolades at the Lady Techsters postseason banquet on Tuesday night.

The 6-foot-2 junior received the Defensive Player of the year and the Rebounding awards for the team.

Moore averaged 10.8 points, 9.2 rebounds and 1.5 blocks per game while hitting 50 percent of her field goals and 60 percent of her free throws in leading the Techsters to a 26-5 record. Moore led Tech with 11 double doubles on the season, while ranking second in the WAC in rebounding and fifth in blocked shots.

A player who's improved dramatically since her freshman season, Moore will be one of the team leaders next season.

Tech gets great plug

Terry Bradshaw continues to deliver for Louisiana Tech in a big way.

After donating his four Super Bowl rings and other assorted memorabilia to the university last week, he got his alma mater some major pub on The Tonight Show with Jay Leno on Monday. Bradshaw is becoming almost a mainstay on the late night show with his buffoonery playing well with Leno.

Leno mentioned Bradshaw's donation to Tech, along with name dropping Tech Athletic Director Jim Oakes. A brief highlight of Terry at Tech with his gifts was shown. Bradshaw didn't do a lot for Tech for a number of years, but he has more than made up for it over the past couple of years.

Some folks might say that Bradshaw acting like an idiot on the Tonight Show gives the impression that all of us in north Louisiana have a similar bent. But who cares. Bradshaw is doing what he has to do to get repeat visits.

And you can't put a price tag on the publicity that he's giving his former school.

Monday, April 17, 2006

Two wise decisions

It's hard to argue with the decisions made by LSU's Tyrus Thomas and Glen "Big Baby'' Davis on Monday.

Thomas' stock was likely never going to go higher than it is right now. While you can debate the merits of his stock as a top-five pick (remember Stromile Swift), you can't argue with his decision to leave at the peak of his value.

Davis, on the other hand, made a wise choice in returning to school. He wasn't a top-five pick. Heck, a lot of people didn't even have him high in the first round. So Davis was wise to come back, improve his conditioning and his game and raise his stock to a point where he can join his buddy, Thomas, in the NBA.

LSU coach John Brady shouldn't be complaining about losing Thomas. He helped get Brady to a Final Four and with Davis returning the Tigers should be strong again next year.

Sunday, April 16, 2006

Tech baseball makes waves

In this week's Baseball America college preview, Will Kimmey tagged Louisiana Tech as his upset special.

And he was right on the money as Tech swept three games from Fresno.

While last season's sweep of Fresno in Ruston came as a surprise, this one shouldn't. This year's version of the Diamond Dawgs are doing all the little things right and the big ones too.

Wade Simoneaux's bunch is in first place in the WAC at the halfway mark of conference play -- marking the latest in the season the Bulldogs have held down the top spot since joining the WAC in 2002.

Simoneaux knows what it takes to build a program and to see that program through to Omaha. Now, six years after going there as an assistant coach, Simoneaux has made a late June trip to Nebraska a much more realistic dream for his team and their fans.

Friday, April 14, 2006

Saints' future cloudy at best

In Sunday's Times, we'll have a story looking at how the New Orleans Saints' future in Louisiana is tied to the team's ability to market itself regionally.

This concept has been lauded by NFL commissioner Paul Tagliabue. He likes to point out the Green Bay Packers and Kansas City Chiefs as teams that market themselves as regional teams and not just confined to the city limits.

The Saints have followed Tagliabue's lead by scheduling preseason games in Shreveport and Jackson, Miss.

But here is the bigger question? Does the region have the ability to help prop up the Saints while New Orleans rebuilds?

Let's face it, Louisiana and Mississippi are not affluent states. Nor are the two states large in population. It makes for murky waters. If you don't believe it, just read Sunday's Times.

Thursday, April 13, 2006

I love XM satellite radio!

This may be the greatest invention of the 21st century.

On a recent trip to Dallas/Fort Worth, I was able to listen to virtually any major league baseball game being played and it certainly makes for an easier 3 1/2 hour drive.

San Francisco's Jon Miller is probably the best guy out there right now. He's fluid, easy, doesn't get too emotional into games or over-the-top with his calls (like the Yankees John Sterling).
Cincinnati's Marty Brennaman is also at the top of the list. His been doing it for more than 30 years, but he, like Miller, is very smooth in the booth.
One of the underrated guys out there is Milwaukee's Bob Uecker who calls one heck of a game. Very entertaining, but again, not over-the-top with his homerism.

My all-time favorite announcer is Ernie Harwell, who broadcast Detroit games for what seemed an eternity. His soft southern accent was the perfect complement to listening to a game. His mind was like an anecdotal encyclopedia. I remember as a kid him telling stories about games from the 1920s or 30s and casually talking about players through the golden age. He didn't shove statistics down your throat (like ESPN does), but kept the game interesting as if he was your grandfather. He has been sorely missed since he retired a few years back.

It's the football, stupid

LSU athletic director Skip Bertman should at least be commended for his honesty.

Just listen to what Bertman had to say to Gannett News Service's Glenn Guilbeau regarding the possibility of LSU basketball coach John Brady going to North Carolina State after N.C. State reportedly offered a $2 million deal to John Calipari earlier in the week. "If North Carolina State offers him $2 million, I think John should interview there because he's not going to get $2 million here.''

Not unless the LSU football coach is getting $3 million.

Brady did a marvelous job taking the Tigers to the Final Four this year. But facts are facts. And these are the facts: LSU is a football school. The football coach will always be paid more than the basketball coach. That may not be fair, but that's just the way it is.

Bertman knows this. He was honest and direct in his comments. LSU couldn't get in a bidding war with the Miami Dolphins for Nick Saban. At $2 million per year, the school won't get in a bidding war with N.C. State.

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

Sampson should take penalties to IU

Speaking of basketball coaches changing jobs, Kelvin Sampson of Oklahoma should have to carry his NCAA penalties to Indiana instead of just leaving them in the lap of the next OU coach. That would prevent coaches from bringing problems to a university and then leaving and having to face no consequences.

Techsters make recruiting strides

With Wednesday's signing of 6-3 post Sierra Nixon and 5-5 jitterbug point guard April Williams, the Lady Techsters are on their way to a tremendous recuiting class. Williams was the best player on one of the best JUCO teams in the country and Nixon has unlimited potential, if she can stay healthy.

The worry with Nixon is that the guard-forward had knee surgery in high school, missing a season, then had it again last year after her freshman year at Trinity Valley Community College.

The Techsters already signed the best player in Mississippi and the best in Alabama in the fall, so Wednesday's additions give them 12 players for next season, including the best player from Texas from a year ago.

Coach Chris Long said that he hopes to sign up to three more players in the next two weeks and Techsters fans are hoping there'll be a shooting guard in the mix. With Aarica Ray-Boyd finishing her eligibility, the Techsters don't have a bonafide 3-point specialist. It'll be tough to improve on their 26-5 mark of last season without one.

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

It was Phil's fault, but not his fault

All I'm hearing in various media outlets is people knocking Phil Mickelson's victory at the Masters because no one -- especially Tiger Woods -- challenged him. And that if someone did pose a threat the outcome may have been different.
Well, it's not Mickelson's fault he was that much BETTER than the field. There was no drama because he made sure there was no drama. The guy, and trust me, I'm not a Mickelson fan, played one of the best final rounds of a major you'll see.
He never got in trouble. He didn't put himself in a position to have to scramble around the back nine. He executed every shot to near perfection.
Should we think less of the Cowboys' blowout Super Bowl wins in the 90s because teams like Buffalo didn't make a game of it? The Cowboys were that much better. Give them credit.
The same goes for Sunday's final round.

Demons doing the right thing

Kudos to Northwestern State for trying to do the right thing by giving Mike McConathy a multiyear contract.

Why is it the right thing?

Let me count the ways. First, it sends a statement as to his value to the athletic program. Second, even though contracts are broken all the time in sports nothing is easier to break than a one-year deal. And third, it should ensure stability for the program.

Two trips to the NCAA Tournament in the last five years. Two wins (yes, one was a play-in game) in those two trips speaks volumes as well.

This is a program on the rise among Southland Conference schools.

Monday, April 10, 2006

Weldon is golden

One of the great things coming out of Louisiana Tech's spring football practices was the emergence of Bossier City's Weldon Brown as a potential defensive star for coach Jack Bicknell's club.

Brown is the kind of athlete that every coach loves to have. No matter where you put him on the field ... running back, wide receiver, slot, cornerback, safety, kick returns ... the kid just stands out.

Although Brown admitted on Saturday after Tech's Bone Bowl that he would rather be playing offense, he said it with a smile and with the attitude that he was willing to play wherever he had to play to help the team and to get on the field. Bicknell would like about 21 more Weldon Browns.

Brown was a lucky catch for the Bulldogs and Woodlawn senior Dennis Morris could have the same instant impact when he reports for fall drills in Ruston. With former Captain Shreve Gator Wes Day expected to see significant playing time at defensive end, along with Airline's Chad Beverage and Springhill's Brian White at linebacker, Tech's defense could have a lot of northwest Louisina flavor.

Sunday, April 09, 2006

Slamming the Door Shut

There wasn't much in the way of drama this Sunday as the world's greatest golf tournament and even the local CHL first round playoff series came to uneventful finishes.

Phil Mickelson played a game of catch me if you can and no one even came close. It's a great thrill for Phil, but this Master's Tournament will be quickly forgotten. No signature shots, no meltdowns, no great challenges on the back nine, just Phil keeping his game and brain in check.

Meanwhile, at the CTC, the Mudbugs closed out the Wichita Thunder series winning in five games and lo and behold a new Mudbugs star is born. Rookie goalie David Cacciola kept the lethal Thunder first line in check and is currently the hottest goalie in the league. Up next could be challenges from the CHL's best Colorado Eagles and the Mudbugs newest blood rival, Laredo, for the CHL title.

Could the Mudbugs actually win the title with Ken Carroll on the bench? Ah, we've finally found some drama!

Saturday, April 08, 2006

Nothing to do?

One of the great complaints we often hear around here is there is nothing to do?

So my question is this, what do you want to do?

Just consider this weekend in the area.

At the CenturyTel Center on Thursday night was a CHL playoff game. Ditto for Friday. On Saturday, there is an af2 football game. And Sunday, yes, another CHL playoff game.

If you don't like hockey or arena football, the area's largest soccer tournament is being played. Louisiana Tech played its spring football game on Saturday. And that doesn't even mention all of the recreational type of activities out there.

So there is plenty to do -- besides complaining about having nothing to do.

Wednesday, April 05, 2006

She should be ashamed

When a reporter at the NCAA Women's Final Four last weekend tried to ask Duke coach Gail Goestenkors how the problems on campus ( white lacrosse players accused of raping a black woman) were affecting her team, she was cutoff by event moderator Debbie Byrne. Byrne said that no questions along those lines would be allowed.

Hmmmm. And that would be because??????? Women cannot comment on that subject?

The same type question was posed to Duke's J.J. Reddick at the men's Final Four and he gave an honest answer. Maybe it was the NCAA women's gestapo that decided in advance that the subject couldn't be broached, but it made Byrne look very bad.

Of course, Goestenkors could have taken the initiative and said, "Hold on there, Debbie, I'd like to answer that."

Sad week for Tech

First there was Paul Millsap, then there was Ronny Walker. Louisiana Tech lost two critical components of its athletic department within a couple of days of each other, and it would be hard to say which loss affects the university more.

The men's basketball team will be hard pressed to score points and get rebounds without Millsap in the fray, judging by the way the 2005-06 season went. Keith Richard better be turning over some rocks before next week's national signing day.

The defection of Walker was a big blow to Tech's fundraising efforts at a time when funds are most critical. A tireless worker with creative ideas, Walker leaves a spot that will be as hard to fill as will Millsap's. Walker also had a devoted following of supporters and the maturity to handle a tough job in a first class manner. If the wrong person is hired to replace Walker, outside monies could be turned off.

This makes me glad that I'm not a college basketball coach or an athletic director.

Battle Wings should be improved

Every year about this time, we start thinking that the Battle Wings are going to have a breakout season. But after five years of thinking that, we're still waiting for that special season when they contend for an af2 playoff berth.

Who knows what will happen on Saturday when the Wings play host to Central Valley. With so many new players and a new coach, they could be a lot better or a lot worse (if that's possible) than last year's 3-13 club.

But it appears that Wings owner Dan Newman made a good hire in John Fourcade, due to his experience with the arena game. He certainly should know what he's doing in putting a team together. Just give the fans something to hang their hats on, coach, and don't let the team get eliminated from playoff contention by mid-season.

With three homes games in their first four, and playing at home every other game until the final two weeks of the season, the schedule is certainly favorable. We'll see, beginning on Saturday, if that translates into victories.

Tuesday, April 04, 2006

Tech's Millsap going pro

Minutes ago, Louisiana Tech center Paul Millsap announced his intention to enter the NBA Draft.

“It is my intention to put myself in a position to solidify myself as an early to mid-first-round pick,” Millsap said.

He may be in for a bit of a disappointment. The majority of mock drafts I've seen has him as a late first-round pick to an early second-round pick.

Millsap has made the right decision by declaring his eligibility for the draft. He had little room for growth at Tech and his game needs to be challenged at the next level.

But I don't think he's going to go higher than a late first-round pick.

He's also pursuing an agent which could come back to haunt him. By signing with an agent, that's it. He's a pro and leaves himself no safety nets if things don't work out like he thinks they may.

If he doesn't sign on the dotted line, he can still test the waters and make his final decision by June 18 if he wants to renounce his eligibility. Returning to Tech for his senior season would still be there if he doesn't like the news he's getting from NBA teams.

Monday, April 03, 2006

Coach Chats from home now

We have received several reports at The Times of Michael Messerly and Coach "Chats" heading west on I-20 in a convertible Mustang, two scarves blowing carefree in the wind.

In reality, Messerly is not feeling well today because Coach "Chats," as he fondly calls Pokey Chatman (the only living human to voluntarily and legally change her name to Pokey), is now at home watching the rest of the women's tournament, her annual loss in the semifinal game taken care of. Meanwhile, the men's NIT, Nebraska's basketball home in the best of times, is over for this year.

It will be a long offseason.

More than 64?

Aside from the horrible idea of having a play-in game for the 64th spot in the NCAA tournament, who is wanting to enlarge the field? I heard that disturbing news prior to Saturday's Final Four games, including the frightening prediction by Tubby Smith that it will happen almost immediately.

The death of NCAA basketball will quickly follow. There will absolutely NO interest in the regular season, conference races or conference tournaments. And the first round of the larger tournament will be UGLY, UGLY, UGLY.

God's great plan

Just as basketball season ends -- and that stuff Kobe and Shaq do is not basketball -- the boys of summer are back on the field. I'm no baseball guy, but I look forward to a lazy afternoon somewhere in a Major League park, buying overpriced snacks and relaxing in warm weather while sports plays itself out in front of me.

Amazing how these things are timed out to overlap just enough to keep us entertained throughout the year. Football-basketball-baseball. Then there are those year-long events such as racing cars, hockey and the NBA that never end and never entertain.

Sunday, April 02, 2006

Dellucci will be missed

David Dellucci was a strong clubhouse presence in his two years with the Texas Rangers and emerged as a player with surprising pop in his bat.

But perhaps his greatest asset was his heart. While most of Major League Baseball dragged its feet when Hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans in August, Dellucci, a Baton Rouge native, sprung into action forming his Catch 22 for Blue Foundation, which assisted with numerous fundraising drives to help Katrina victims.

Around Christmas, Dellucci and his foundation took toys and other goods to children of hurricane evacuees in the Metroplex. He's truly one of the game's good guys and here's hoping his low-key off-the-field personality plays well in his new home of Philadelphia.

Fooled again

Silly me, I actually thought LSU would be competitive against UCLA. The Tigers were competitive on the road against Connecticut and Ohio State earlier in the year. They actually beat West Virginia on the road.

Alas, history repeated itself again on Saturday night. In fact, it was double trouble for LSU. The Tigers have never beaten UCLA. They have never won a Final Four game.

They still haven't.

This Final Four flameout still isn't the worst of the modern era. The 1981 team which got wasted by Indiana was a better team and one that probably should have won a national championship. That was worse.

This, how do you qualify this?

It is certainly a flameout, and far less understandable than the overachievers in 1986.

This was like every bit of bad karma that could possibly come out - players arguing among themselves, players snapping at coaches, missed free throws, disinterested play.

Oh well, there's always .......hey, how 'bout that spring football.

Saturday, April 01, 2006

LSU spring game

BATON ROUGE - Head coach Les Miles was pleased with his team following their spring "game" at Tiger Stadium on Saturday. It was more a controlled scrimmage working through about 100 plays than an actual game like in previous seasons.

The town may be ready for some basketball, but more than 3,000 fans came out in the beautiful weather to watch some football. Many walked across Nicholson to catch a baseball game too.

The first-team offense started off against the second-team defense before the first-team defense took on the second-team offense. Matt Flynn worked with the starters while Ryan Perrilloux quarterbacked the back-ups. Perrilloux showed his mobility in eluding defenders when the pocket collapsed. He's got the mobility to run for yards or scramble to find open receivers downfield. Both need some work on their deep balls though. They overthrew receivers quite a few times.

Former Evangel star Jacob Hester looked good at tailback early, starting with the first team. On one run, he plowed over poor freshman linebacker Jacob Cutrera. That drew some "ooohs" from the fans.

Dwayne Bowe was very impressive snagging several touchdown passes in the scrimmage.

One player who had the interest of several members of the media was freshman running back Trindon Holliday. Holliday (5-5, 165) practically broke the ankle of a defender with a cut-back move late in the scrimmage. He also had a couple of kickoff returns where he squeezed through the slimmest of holes, then accelerated for big gains. Skyler Green's name was popping up among reporters as a comparison when they started talking about Holliday.

Defensively, Glen Dorsey is going to be the heart and soul of the defense next season. He's going to fill in nicely for Claude Wroten and Kyle Williams. Miles also threw a couple of compliments at defensive tackle Marlon Favorite and the linebacker corps.

Check The Times' LSU Web site (www.lsubeat.com) on Monday for audio of coach Miles post-scrimmage comments.