A Grip on Sports: Another college basketball treasure will be gone around this time next year
INFLUENZA IN SPORT • What did the clergyman say in “The Princess Bride?” “Mawage. Mawage brings us together today. Mawage, that blessed blessing, that fading dream. And wuv, tru wuv, will send you foweva. So tweet your wuv. That’s all we could think of on Wednesday when we heard the news from Mike Krzyzewski.
• Krzyzewski’s time at Duke I cried – sorry, it occurred to me – like a wedding. A perfect marriage. And like many weddings, he had to survive a few rough years before sailing began. Lately, however, rocky shoals have appeared – Krzyzewski has spoken out against many changes in varsity athletics, while adapting his program to make the most of it – and the 74-year-old coach is will resign.
But not before he take a victory lap.
(By the way, you want to know another reason why John Wooden is the greatest role model of all time among coaches? When Wooden decided he was done, he just announced it one night after a half game. -NCAA final. He was 64 and told the world after the championship game he was leaving for sunset from LA. No world tour, no rocking chairs, nothing. One more win and he was gone.)
This victory round will include a game on November 26 against Gonzaga in Las Vegas. Now that will be a ticket to cherish, won’t it? Especially since GU’s Mark Few is one of the handful of college coaches ready to take on Krzyzewski’s role as the sport’s vocal leader.
That’s what Krzyzewski is. The leader of amateur basketball. Heck, given that he’s won a trio of Olympic gold medals with NBA players, he would rightfully be considered the leader of all basketball and practice divisions. Like all leaders, he is not infallible. He recently did some extravagant things – the way he treated a student journalist last season among the examples – and said some things others have found controversial – including one about playing in a pandemic – But it is okay. Reaction-ism is often a symptom of aging, and Krzyzewski has every right to be a little reactionary. And make his voice heard.
It will start to fade after the next college basketball season. After the distinctions and celebrations. After the crowd leaves, Krzyzewski will no longer be Duke’s K coach, but just Mike Krzyzewski. Still a leader, sure, but without the platform to be heard consistently. Even more than training, this is perhaps what Krzyzewski misses the most.
• College baseball has been a part of my life since before I knew the difference between a slider and a cutter. Long before. Heck, one of my sisters dated a UCLA catcher while I was in elementary school and the other married another a decade later. So, yeah, varsity baseball is important to me.
No more, however, than at this time of year.
One of the reasons I kept walking at UC Irvine – a small, small reason to be honest – was the Anteaters’ success in the playoffs. They had just won back-to-back Division II national titles, with Gary Adams’ 48-8 1974 team arguably the best team in the country across the board, having shared two games with the Division I champion USC in March.
Even then the college baseball playoffs seemed like an achievable goal. Unfortunately, in four years in Irvine, we have never done a regional. Maybe it was because the bench talent was a bit thin.
But that didn’t dent my love of college baseball playoffs. I arrived in Omaha in 1982, covering Cal State Fullerton for the Orange County Register. (I even attended batting practice for the Titans, so I could get a glimpse of a story.) Fullerton tied a College World Series record that season: The Titans lost both games and went on. was excluded in both, losing by a total of 13-0. (Wonder if it was because of the idiot grabbing BP and talking to the players?)
When UC Irvine first competed in the Division I World Series in 2007, I jumped on a plane and flew to Omaha. My college roommate and I entrenched the Anteaters as they finished 2-2, losing to the future Oregon State champion in the semifinals.
Which brings us to this weekend. Gonzaga wears the Inland Northwest banner in the regionals, a No.2 seed in the Eugène four-team tournament. The Zags have every chance of qualifying for the Super Regionals, as long as their pitch holds up (as John Blanchette explores in this morning’s column). It would be quite an achievement. Or just another step on the Zags’ road to success under the guidance of longtime coach Mark Machtolf.
No matter what happens this weekend, Gonzaga players will experience the best of college baseball. Playoff play is different – or at least I’ve been told. Each height is more important. Each swing does as well. When that ends, no matter what the outcome, they will have gone through the proverbial wringer. And emerged on the other side with memories so deep they will never forget. And that’s the point, right?
WSU: The bet line for the Cougars’ total wins over / under for the fall has been set at six. Sounds high to me, given the uncertainty of the roster and the difficult Pac-12 schedule. Jon wilner feel the same. … Elsewhere in Pac-12 and varsity sports, the College Football Hall of Fame nominees were announced yesterday. The conference has several on the list. … Oregon Linebacker Corps includes two exceptional players. … Utah picked up a transfer from USC. … Arizona will have full booths this fall. … In the basketball news, Oregon took another transfer. … Adia Barnes from Arizona will earn over a million dollars next season.
Gonzaga: As we mentioned above, John chronicles the baseball team’s regional hopes. … The Zags have won numerous West Coast Conference honors, including pitcher of the year (North Central High graduate Alek Jacob), coach of the year (Machtolf) and defensive player of the ‘year (Brett Harris.).
UEF: Cooper Kupp suffered a mysterious injury last season. He explained it recently.
Preparations: Dave Nichols spent time today explaining how difficult it is to compile high school reports in these times of COVID-19. … He also has a summary of Wednesday’s action.
Indians: Spokane exploded early and clinched a 9-1 home win over Tri-City. Dave has the history of the Avista Stadium game.
Chiefs: The No. 1 pick in the Dec.9 Bantam Draft belongs to the Chiefs after the ping-pong balls dropped yesterday. Kevin Dudley has all the information in this story.
Sailors: Sean manaea was almost untouchable and the A’s won the series rubber match 6-0. … Justin Dunn is the last starting pitcher to be injured. He landed on the injured list. … June could be fine for M.
Seahawks: Maybe swap for Julio Jones would be a good thing.
Kraken: Seattle will take second place in their first NHL draft.
Sirens: Lumen Field’s lower bowl will now be available without restriction to the vaccinated.
Golf: Want a top-notch course experience without having to travel to a top-notch course? There is a new place in Spokane where you can get there. Ryan Collingwood has all the details in this story.
• The reason for marriage was in the foreground in my mind when Krzyzewski’s impending retirement arrived? He was hired at Duke seven months after Kim and I got married. And it seems to me, at least, that Kim and I have been married forever. It’s hard to imagine life without marriage or remember my life before it happened. I guess Krzyzewski feels the same way about his relationship with Duke. Until later …