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Oregon is ripe for return to regular life

Mon, 10/12/2020 - 2:11pm
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After watching a bunch of college and pro football this weekend, it’s not hard for a sports fan, and average citizen for that matter, to wonder when is Oregon going to get back to living again.

Plenty of other parts of the county are getting back to the lifestyle that’s been driving America for decades. What about Oregon?

Especially as the college football season is upcoming here in the Beaver state. Or Duck state depending on your color scheme.

If you’re on Facebook and attached at all to the Portland Timbers fan groups, owner Merritt Paulson is a constant voice for getting fans back into Providence Park. It’s interesting to see the responses.

On Facebook, Paulson gets plenty of pushback. People are still focused on the numbers that get promoted through media relating to the coronavirus, aka COVID-19. But, on TV there were plenty of games with fans in the stands across the South and Central states, where COVID-19 is as prevalent as it is in Oregon. In fact, it’s far more prevalent there than in Oregon, but the leaders of the state are set on eliminating it before sending the all-clear for residents to return to living as usual.

It’s time for a hearty review of Oregon’s settings by governor Kate Brown.

Brown has been the leader of the state’s efforts to keep the pandemic at bay, and whether you agree with her plan or not, the state has tallied just 599 deaths according to its published records through Monday. That’s an incredibly low number considering Brown promoted, in March, the state would have 75,000 cases by May, and immediately secured a wharehouse in Salem with 250 beds to handle the expected onslaught of cases. It never happened.

A significant factor in avoiding cases and deaths was the decision to direct residents to stay at home, and then wear masks when they went into public spaces like stores and restaurants.

But, places like theaters and gyms and stadiums remain off-limits. This weekend bowling alleys across the state pushed back with public displays aimed at the Governor to undue the directives that keep people from gathering in places like ... bowling alleys and gyms and stadiums.

Professional sports have been played without fans since June when the NWSL opened a tournament in Orlando where players were restricted to a “bubble,” where all of the players and coaches would stay and not leave as a best-case for avoiding the virus. It worked for the NWSL and has worked for the NBA and NHL. Major League baseball has played at its home fields since July and done well with the virus considering how many players and coaches and staff are involved with every game. Only a couple dozen games were postponed or cancelled. The NFL, with similar challenges - even greater considering there are double the players and staff for each team - is performing well, too. It’s colleges where things get very interesting for Oregon, because plenty of other colleges and universities, with ever larger teams than the NFL, are comfortable with playing their seasons, and even inviting fans back into the stands - something NFL teams are slowly allowing.

Brown has yet to say whether Oregon and Oregon State should be allowed to have fans at their games, beginning Nov. 7 when both play at home.

 

Herbert gets taste of NFL struggle

Mon, 09/21/2020 - 7:27am
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Former Oregon football great Justin Herbert had a near-fantastic introduction to the NFL Sunday, nearly leading the Los Angeles Chargers past the defending Super Bowl champion Kansas City Chiefs in a surprise start, including leading his team to a touchdown on his opening drive in the league.

Trouble is, the outcome was a loss in overtime, and it showcased why the Chargers are likely to help him to a shorten career, one marked by continued disappointment often regardless of his progress and skill.

The Chargers are just not a good team, and the franchise hasn't been much of a marquee franchise since former Oregon great Dan Fouts played there from 1973 to 1984 - twice reaching the AFC championship game. The team has played in the Super Bowl just once, losing to San Francisco in 1994.

Herbert and his team performed well enough to win - they made it to overtime. But almost is still a loss, and for reasons easy to point to starting with Herbert. In one of the key plays of the game, with his team leading in the third quarter and nearing a first down after scrambling from the pocket, Herbert chose to throw a long pass against his body into a bull market of KC defenders. It turned into an interception at the 5-yard line, which the Chiefs and quarterback Pat Mahomes turned into a 95-yard touchdown drive in just six plays to tie the game at 17.

The Chargers then had a spectacular 17-play drive that lasted more than 10 minutes. But, with first down at the KC 4, the Chargers ran twice up the middle for no yards and Herbert got sacked leading to a 23-yard field goal. KC then drove for a field goal that tied the game at the end of regulation.

LA's play calling coddled Herbert to an amazing degree, even though he finished by completing 22 of 33 passes for 311 yards and one 14-yard touchdown pass that gave the Chargers a 14-6 halftime lead. Almost all of the passes Herbert completed were shorter than 10 yards with extra yards produced by the receiver. That's play-calling for an untested rookie, which is a good thing on the Chargers' part.

The Chargers produced 482 yards of offense - an amazing total for any team in any game. But, they scored only 20 points - a head-scratcher of an outcome.

LA's defense even performed admirably. Despite giving up 414 yards of offense, it stymied Mahomes time and again. But, the Chargers were called for offsides numerous times, which benefitted the Chiefs time and again, including wiping out an interception in the fourth quarter.

The biggest play-call of the game for LA might easily have been fourth-and-1 at the Chargers' 34 on the first drive of overtime. With CBS color commentator urging LA coach Anthony Lynn to throw caution to the wind and go for the first down, which I was basically screaming for at my home office, Lynn chose to punt and the Chiefs drove for a winning field goal. Granted the field goal was a 58-yard attempt, but that's the difference in the two franchises these days. The Chiefs do what's needed to win, while the Chargers do what's needed to almost win.

And, this is inspite of the Chargers winning in their season opener on the road in Cincinatti 16-13, against first-time starter Joe Burrow. The win was with veteran Tyrod Taylor at quarterback and featured the team racking up 362 yards. Again, though, the team scored just 16 points.

LA is headed for a one frustrating season, and without Taylor getting hurt what fans saw Sunday is likely to be the biggest highlight of Herbert's rookie season, which featured short-pass completion after short-pass completion. At least, though, receivers caught the passes, something that dogged former Oregon great Joey Harrington in his career with the Detroit Lions.

Good luck Justin. Hopefully, Sunday's game is the start of a great career with a franchise that desperately needs the results of a quarterback having a great career - turning almost wins into actual wins.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

It's movie list time - best sports films

Sat, 09/19/2020 - 9:15am
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When I rank movies, regardless of the type of list, I use the same system to get the result - can or will I watch this movie again. This means picking up the movie at virtually any point and following it to the end. It’s a movie that even though I know what’a going to happen and can in most cases recite the dialogue as it happens, I’ve got an attachment because of the script and casting.

These are the movies that do that best in the sports category - none of which I saw in a theater, but on network television of as a VHS rental.

 

FIELD OF DREAMS, 1989

 

I didn’t see this film until reading the owners of one of the two fields used for production of the film had decided to grow corn again. The other field, of course, is a national landmark and might be the site of a regular season game this summer if the Majors are allowed to play. The performances of Kevin Costner, James Earl Jones, Burt Lancaster, Amy Madigan and Ray Liotta showed off some fabulous casting. The story they weave through is wonderful fiction, the kind that might make you ... well, dream about the greatness of the game of baseball and how it can provide a hand in making personal amends in ones history with family.

 

ROCKY, 1976

 

Two pieces of greatness of this film are that Sylvester Stallone wrote it for himself to star in, and it’s the movie that gave the world the steadicam, created by one its production crew. Stallone’s script is more about the personal development of the characters than it is with boxing, which helped the film win the Academy Award for Best Movie. Stallone, Burgess Meredith, Talia Shire, even Burt Young  grow from being nobodies to characters who an audience has an emotional attachment with that survives Rocky actually losing the big fight at the end. And, all those sequels - Rocky III almost made this list.

 

BULL DURHAM, 1988

 

One big question about this film is when do you share it with your son? Kids nowadays don’t seem to be able to laugh at the basic obsenity that makes this movie so memorable. Again (even though it was released a year before “Field of Dreams”), Costner is fabulous casting as “Crash” Davis, and Tim Robbins is memorable as the over-talented Ebby Calvin “Nuke” Laloosh, both walking us through the highway of life at the lowest level of pro baseball. Maybe it’s more vibrant than the majors. Susan Sarandon’s Annie Savoy puts the film onto this list.  

 

THE HUSTLER, 1962

 

Like Rocky, it’s a drama you get into because of the acting, primarily Paul Newman. Jackie Gleason, George C. Scott and Piper Laurie are great casting that carries you through more than two hours. The lengthy billiards scenes are so much different than the chase or fight scenes of modern action films in that they have dialogue that adds to the drama of the story. You wouldn’t think about getting up and buying a beer in a theater because the story keeps developing. And, it led to one of the great sequels for any movie - “The Color of Money,” three decades later. 

 

CADDYSHACK, 1980

 

I can laugh all the way through this movie because of how stupid it is, which pretty much makes the best comedies. There’s so many wonderfully dry comedic performances. Bill Murray, Chevy Chase, Rodney Dangerfield, Ted Knight and whoever played Danny (a very young Michael O’Keefe) move the story along one laugh at a time. In watching a very funny dockumentary on the film, you learn producers realized late in filming that Murray and Chase hadn’t appeared in the same scene, which led to Chase hitting a ball into Murray’s disheveled bungalow where he displays his development of varieties of marijuana that could become the “grass” of future golf courses. Kenny Loggins’ soundtrack got me to buy the album. 

The Pac-12 should hold off and own spring football

Sat, 09/19/2020 - 8:35am
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In the coming week, the presidents of the 12 colleges that make up the Pac-12 conference (they're now often being referred to as CEOs), will meet to discuss restarting the football season before October ends, like the CEOs of the Pac-12s brother/sister the Big-10 have done.

When they meet, hopefully they'll move off that topic and to a better one - owning spring football.

The Pac-12 should skip fall football and own spring football as it would be the lone major conference playing at that time.

Who really cares about the national championship anyway? It's the confernence title that matters most.

The Pac-12 should skip fall football for 2020, and own spring football, getting back to the 2021 season in fall.

 

Women's sports are on the verge of something big

Thu, 07/02/2020 - 6:45am
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I've been a fan of women's sports for a long time. Of women's college sports and girls high school competition.

My interest probably goes back to following the UO women's basketball team in the mid-80s, and when I really think about it is somewhat attached to McArthur Court - just going there was such a pleasure and all I needed was a reason to go. The school had a men's and women's team, and my voice had a little more impact in those games with fewer fans, so ... heck, it was a team to follow.

High school sports comes from covering Mt. Hood Conference volleyball matches for The Oregonian in the late '90s when Gresham, Barlow and Central Catholic could attract crowds of 800 fans at least for their rivalry matches, and maket a gym come alive. Covering the University of Portland women's soccer team in 2001 and onward was crowds of 3,000 and more for most matches, especially during the Pilots first title season, 2002.

I've covered the high school cheerleading finals at Memorial Coliseum for most of the last decade. Want to see some energy at an event - that's it.

So, it's good to see women's pro soccer get something of momentum going this season after the U.S. National team's win in the World Cup last summer. Portland sports fans have done more than their part in getting the National Women's Soccer League onto the map by averaging more than 20,000 fans per game last year - more than 15 of the 24 Major League Soccer teams in 2019.

The first match in the NWSL Challenge Cup Saturday attracted the largest audience for a women's pro soccer in television history due to it being televised by CBS and not a cable network. HAving the league's two most successful teams - the Thorns and North Carolina Courage might of had something to do with that.

And yet, the NWSL, and women's sports with it, is still being treated as a second or even third-class option for sports coverage, and CBS is doing its part to show that off. The network has done a great job of bumping up the level of respect for the NWSL, but if it really wanted to get some more results out of its investment in the league, it could easily do more. Just put more matches on its main channel and pay more attention on its online site. 

And, the NWSL would do well to make this happen as well as respond to what it's actually doing for the future. The league got a significant bump in exposure when Kansas City moved to Salt Lake City last year, and that team finished second in attendance at more than 10,000 fans per match. And it has an expansion team set for Louisville next year. It's got a bunch of new marketing partners and a bunch of players who've almost defied public scrutiny by playing in the current tournament, even after one of the nine teams bailed in the week of the first match.

The nation is looking at the MLS and NBA, which are set to restart this month, and wondering if the men's teams have the strength to start, and yet the women's league is going full steam ahead.

The NWSL and CBS should be just thrashing the public sports community with these stories, and yet it doesn't - almost like it's playing into the role it has established as being lucky to still be around after eight years.

 

 

 

 

Thorns, NWSL set to boldly go where no league has gone before - this summer ... sort of

Mon, 06/22/2020 - 1:02pm
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It’s almost “go” time for the return of pro team sports in America with the National Women’s Soccer League set to kick off Saturday in Salt Lake City.

Fittingly, the Portland Thorns will be involved in the opening match, putting the league’s most successful franchise up against the North Carolina Courage - the league’s second-most successful franchise. And, it will be televised on CBS - the actual network and not a streaming service. It’s the only match of the month-long tournament scheduled for CBS until the final, July 26. All other matches will be streamed on CBS All-Access ($5.99/month) as well as Twitch - for fans outside the U.S. and Canada.

The NWSL is the first league to begin play, albeit in a tournament form, since all leagues stopped the evening of March 11 due to fears from the COVID-19 outbreak.

The NBA and MLS are scheduled to return to some form of play in July, but the NWSL is the first to return to actual physical contact just as European soccer leagues have done in the past month. 

The return comes at a unique time as the number of COVID-19 cases are increasing in many states, including Utah. All the matches will be played at the 5,000-seat Zions Bank Stadium, located in suburban Salt Lake City, with the semifinals and final at Rio Tinto Stadium.

The tournament hit an unexpected snag when Orlando removed itself after more than a dozen players and staff members tested positive. The league, released a modified schedule for the remaining eight teams Tuesday.

The tournament has a number of unique elements such as there’s no extra time in any match and no draws. Each match will have a winner, decided on penalty kicks if it ends in a tie after 90 minutes

Significant testing, social distancing and no on-site fans are part of the plan for the tournament. I guess.

What’s puzzling about the upcoming tournament is the information available about it from the NWSL - there basically isn’t any other than what’s been published three weeks ago about it happening and the schedule and a tiny bit on social media. There’s more information available on regular media and social media about Major League Baseball not playing because they’re fighting about money than there is about the NWSL kicking off in five days.

There’s a lot of stress from other leagues - MLS and NBA - about what the reality of actual games is going to be with all the testing involved. And, with positive tests being reported regularly, the thought that the leagues might not actually get into gear is still out there. But not with the NWSL.

Women’s soccer is on the rise following the U.S. World Cup win last summer. The NWSL has a number of new sponsors, including Budweiser and CBS. There’s a new owner in Seattle (French club Olympique took on that role and renamed the team OL Reign), and a new club in Louisville, Ky., is set to join the league next year.

You have to dig across the Internet to get this info, though. For something of a trending league, this should be front and center to sports fans. 

Even the Thorns, the league’s standout franchise, have not presented any information about the team’s preparation for Saturday’s opener on its own website. How are the players preparing, as well as their thoughts on the dangers that might be involved? One player on one of the nine teams tested positive last week, but the league released no information other than that - no name or team, just that it happened. Did that change any thoughts among the other players on playing? These stories just aren’t anywhere to be read.

It’s almost as if the league were hedging its commitment to the tournament being played, especially with the coronavirus making a surge in the last two weeks.

This is a key moment for the league, its players and women’s soccer. The NWSL is a league of entertainers, as sports is entertainment. And, if it isn’t playing, it’s not entertaining, so the players aren’t working.  And with women’s soccer already starting in the hole of people just not caring other than hardcore soccer fans (it’s barely recogmnized by ESPN), the players are pretty much tied into making the league tournament happen regardless of whatever fear they might have from participating. 

The NWSL has to play this tournament sort of like folks working at Fred Meyer have to stock shelves - frontline workers for sports entertainment.

So. 9:30 a.m. Saturday. Hopefully, the league will make a big deal about it in the next few days, because it really is a big deal for team sports in America.

 

 

 

 

Sports media is ready for the next step

Mon, 04/13/2020 - 10:12am
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Greetings fellow Oregonians and sports fans far and wide, and viewers interested in the future of sports media coverage.

These are challenging times for everyone, individuals, families, communities, businesses both small and large. It’s been especially harsh on the sports media world, as without events to cover, and with advertising revenue basically coming to a halt, a significant portion of writers and editors have been laid off, leaving some big questions about what might be coming in the future when the world gets back to some kind of normalcy. The stories that have been told through sports coverage generation after generation, are simply not going to be produced like they have been for the athletes and fans involved with those stories. That doesn’t mean there’s not going to be any coverage, it’s just going to less and for some time because that’s how capitalism works.

But, that’s the traditional business model based on newspapers, and I’m here to promote the shift in sports media that’s ready to happen. And, it’s going to be through the website oregonsports.com. We have a number of significant advantages over traditional media starting with the very key one - low overhead. As revenue does improve, we’ll be able to direct that to staff, which will make the company stronger and more valuable to the Oregon sports community. And, we also don’t have key limitations of newspapers - paper and the space
available - and TV stations and the time they have available. Through the internet we have all the space in the world to cover stories, and all the time avail to showcase those stories through video. We just need the writers, photographers, editors, etc., to produce those stories. And that’s the true shift in sports media - it’s going to involve the public to a significant degree.

Our main coverage is going to be the pro teams and major college programs in the state because that’s where the most interest is. But, we’ve got the ability to cover every level, every sport, every activity to a degree that has not been available in the past, it’s just going to involve your content, mostly volunteer and primarily through blogs. And they can be very specific blogs such as 6A volleyball or 3A wrestling or 2A baseball or softball. Or badminton, or ... if you can dream it up, and provide a few paragraphs on a regular basis, we can make it happen.

And, we’re going to have a lot of fun with this, too. That’s our motto, We have fun with Oregon.

As advertising revenue returns, we’ll be able to provide more traditional coverage. In the meantime there’s several things you can do as viewers that will help this shift take place - and that’s simply viewing. Check back with us on a daily basis Monday through Friday for now, and see if there’s anything interesting.
If there is something interesting, please feel free to leave a comment. And visit our social media pages and subscribe or follow those, especially YouTube. Video is a key element to our gameplan and having subscribers will allow for generating revenue through YouTube.

Another element is local ownership, something that's been cast aside for many, many years.

So, thanks for viewing and think about how you might become involved with this because that’s the future - we just put a brand on it: oregonsports.com.


Tony Broudous is excitement central for Pilots hoop

Fri, 04/03/2020 - 11:11am
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In following sports, it’s the job of media to do just that - follow sports from when it happens. Very rarely does that involve actually lobbying for an outcome, especially in regards to coaching.

But, there’s an opportunity to do just that within the college coaching community in Oregon, and we’re going to take that on. I’m going to take that on with regards to the University of Portland and men’s basketball coach Terry Porter and Portland Community College coach Tony Broadous. It involves the challenge of Porter taking a look at Broadous as an incoming assistant coach and possible successor to his role as head coach. That would be one of the most unique and exciting stories in college basketball in the upcoming year for a program that currently has one of the most unexciting outlooks.

So, coach Porter and the UP athletic department, please take a look at this, and meet with this guy because this is truly exciting and you desperately need that - excitement. And so does sports media.

This stems from a story last week about Porter being supported by the athletic department to finish out the fifth and final year of his contract from 2016. That’s after four years of losing records and only seven combined wins in West Coast Conference play - finishing this season with 15 consecutive losses. Were the social conditions different it’s not hard to think UP and Porter would have gracefully parted ways, and the Pilots would be scouring the land for a new coach. But, that didn’t happen and in the upcoming year it’s also not hard to see the program as everyone being on a one-year contract, other than a few scholarship players. The team might have three returning starters, but none of them averaged more than 12 points per game, and most of the team will have some junior college background or be coming directly from a junior college. The team is likely to have only one player viewed as a three-star recruit coming out of high school from a five-star scale.

Of the 350 NCAA Div. I programs, the Pilots will probably be No. 350 in expectations for the coming season, and you cannot recruit high school standouts at No. 350. Men’s basketball is the most fluid sport in the NCAA so a new coach next year will be able to put together a decent team in a summer, but that coach is also very likely to be a couple good seasons away from jumping to a better situation with more money involved.

Enter Tony Broadous, a lifelong Portlander with community connections who got very good reviews - excited reviews - from the story I wrote after UP announced its commitment to Terry Porter. For a little insight on why the UP program has gotten to where it is, Terry Porter does not know Tony Broadous, even though he’s only two miles away from the UP campus. You would think that when Porter got here in 2016, he would have gone directly to Broadous on Day One and bought him lunch at the Chapel Pub or at least a mocha at Dutch Bros., and asked what the lay of the land is, especially because he had no college coaching experience. That didn’t happen, and still hasn’t happened even though junior college players are such a key part of the UP roster.

Broadous, who had just finished year four in 2016, took the Portland program from a winless season to a conference title in just two years, so he’s got skills in recruiting and coaching. That’s with a program that had never even been to the conference playoffs before he got there. And, it’s the excitement involved that makes this plan at least worthy of a look on Porter’s behalf.

If Broadous can sell Porter on himself and a vision for where the program might go if he’s involved, well that takes the team from No. 350 to at least 300 in terms of “hey, pay some attention to UP this season.” If he’s brought in as an assistant for recruiting, and is able to land, say at least two three-star recruits, well then a year of grooming within the Div. I environment might very well lead to an opportunity to get to No. 250 in his rookie season as head coach. That’s probably where Porter was in his rookie season in terms of national interest. In terms of local interest, that would happen immediately, and that’s something that leads to a crowd and more recruiting juice.

If Mark Few can sell Spokane, Wash., across the world, Tony Broadous should be able to sell Portland, If he can’t in a season, he’s not the guy. But, if he can, then Disney+ will be paying attention, because it loves an underdog and that's what going from a former NBA coach to community college coach in a year involves. Maybe Porter could move into an administrative role within the athletic department? He’s a classy guy, and represents the school well. It just hasn’t happened on the court.

So, where we started is sports media longing to cover stories that have drama and intrigue in them, and this is one that at least deserves a burger or a mocha from Porter. Will he take on that challenge? That would be two classy guys talking about what might be, and that’s what college athletics is about.

 

Oregon should stay in the Pac-12

Mon, 03/30/2020 - 11:59am
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There’s a lot of online discussions these days about the University of Oregon leaving the Pac-12 Conference for better exposure and bigger financial numbers in the Big 12 or even Big Ten, and it’s all wrong for the state.

It’s probably a good decision to the bottom line for Oregon’s athletic department, and especially its football program, but the school needs to remember it’s a public institution and there should be a lot more commitment to that than a few dollars and better positioning for the College Football Playoffs.

Yes, USC is apparently looking hard at that same move, which has social media abuzz with which other schools would bail from the Pac-12, and Oregon is either next, or right behind UCLA with Washington in there, too.

That would leave the Pac-12 with eight schools, including Oregon State, and a huge drop in revenue for each so that it would then need to add members or merge with another conference such as the Mountain West.

And, it’s all basically related to football and its four-team national championship playoffs.

The Pac-12 does just fine competitively in every sport, right up to the four-team CFP, which is an annual battle to play into ahead of a second team from the SEC. This past season, Oregon won the Pac-12 and was in the discussion for a spot until a late-season loss at Arizona State knocked it out. Even though the Ducks won the conference title game with a dominating performance, being a conference champion of one of the five Power Conferences - along with the ACC and All-American Conference - doesn’t mean anything to the CFP voting committee, which probably still would have put one-loss Alabama ahead of one-loss Oregon into the Final Four.

Is that one thing enough to leave behind the Pac-12 and sister school Oregon State?

Here’s a "no" vote on that.

A key thing to figure in is the athletes that make the school what it is. Sure, each school wants to give its athletes the best experience possible, and that revolves around money to a significant degree. But, is football the complete measure of an athletic department’s capabilities?

If the conference champion can’t compete for a spot in the CFP equally with the second-place team from the SEC or Big Ten without being unbeaten, should the entire world of college sports on the West Coast change?

College football is already crazy with how much money is delivered to head coaches - many of whom are more known in each state than, say, the governor (at least until recently).

The Athletic’s Andy Staples recently wrote this four-team move should happen into the Big 12, which would become the Big 16 (even though the Big 12 only has 10 schools and would thus become the Big 14) - what a crappy name to be part of.

The Pac-12 has tons of history that doesn’t seem to be much of a factor in these rumors, only money does. Plenty of athletes - student/athletes - love being part of the history of the conference. Winning a conference title has that flair attached to it. It’s not just a conference title, it’s a Pac-12 title with a list of former champions that goes back to 1916 for some sports - football and baseball. That would all be gone with a conference title needing wins over schools such as Texas, Oklahoma and Kansas State.

And, again, Oregon State gets absolutely lost in that, as would Washington State for that state.

Oregon State scrimps along to compete in the Pac-12, as does Washington State, but those schools compete relatively equally in many other sports - remember the national title the Beavers’ baseball team won in 2018? And 2006, and 2007?

Rumors are great for social media, especially these days where there’s no actual contests to bounce around. But, Oregon athletic director Rob Mullens would do the state a great favor by talking over this subject with media and putting the Ducks squarely in the conference it’s been a part of for more than 100 years.

 

Canzano misses boat on Pilots hoop - like everyone else

Wed, 03/25/2020 - 8:37am
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To get a handle on the University of Portland men's basketball program these days, you only had to follow the website coachesdatabase.com in February and look for head coach Terry Porter's name. The site has a section called the Hot Seat Report. From the hottest to just warm, the editors give you a good idea of who needs to perform the most, and the fastest, including Danny Manning at Wake Forest, Donyell Marshall at Central Connecticut and, for a time, Patrick Ewing at Georgetown.

But, Porter's name wasn't on that list.

At the tail end of a 15-game losing streak that closed the program's fourth straight season of finishing last or ninth in the 10-team West Coast Conference, Porter didn't make the even mildly hot list until Feb. 26. What's that say? Nobody's paying attention. And when nobody's paying attention to your basketball program, it probably shouldn't be your basketball program anymore.

In these challenging times, though, Portland announced Tuesday that Porter would return for the fifth and final year of the 2016 contract he signed that directed his focus from the NBA, where he was head coach for both the Milwaukee Bucks and Phoenix Suns, to the college game, where he has gotten to coach his two sons. The excitement Porter initially brought due to his long, memorable playing career with the Trail Blazers helped the school attract boosters, but it never transferred to the court. In four seasons, the Pilots won just seven conference games combined, including just one the past two seasons.

John Canzano, The Oregonian's sports columnist, wrote the school probably should work its way out of Porter's final year back in February. After Tuesday's announcement, he wrote again the school should have worked its way into another coach. "They punted," Canzano wrote. I'd agree with that except for the state of the world today, and making a coaching move of a popular and well-respected guy in charge truly unnecessary regardless of wins. The need to win at UP just isn't that great these days, and Porter already has a contract.

Anything short of a Disney+ "Miracle on the Bluff" season, though, and UP will be looking for another coach in 12 months.

In compiling a short list of candidates, Canzano showcased just how little attention the Pilots generate even to experienced journalists, and he missed the perfect candidate who's just two miles away from the Chiles Center. It's Tony Broadous, head coach of the Portland Community College program for the past eight seasons (and Grant High for a decade before that).

There is not a better choice for the Portland Pilots than Broadous, and he needs to be on the radar for the school because when I've talked with sports folks in the area about him at the University of Portland the main response has been "now that would be exciting."

Broadous moved from Grant, which won the state title in 2008 under his guidance, to PCC in 2012 with the idea that might lead to a four-year school in the future. The Panthers had just come off a winless season in which they lost games by an average of 37 points. The program had never been to the Northwest Athletic Association of Community Colleges playoffs in spite of the fact half the eight teams in their division qualified each year by finishing fourth or higher. In spite of sitting directly across the street from Jefferson High, the program had basically no pulse. That changed quickly.

In year one under Broadous, Portland missed the playoffs by just one win, and in year two ... it won the NWAACC title. Two years removed from a winless season, PCC had a league title (2014) in its first-ever trip to the playoffs.

In the past six seasons, in spite of being the only full-time coach and having no budget for anything but Facetime chats, Portland has been to the playoffs again four times, and reached the NWAACC tournament semifinals in 2018. They were headed to the tournament again this season before it was cancelled.

Moving from a former NBA coach and local basketball legend to a community college coach would be quite a gamble for UP, but that's exactly the kind of thing Disney+ was made for - and the Pilots desperately need that kind of attention. Broadous, 51, is worthy of that opportunity starting with his connections in Portland. People know him. And, his connections around the region - coaches know him. And, his work on the court - PCC is a regular winner and has all-league players each season.

Given the opportunity to recruit to a four-year program, with numerous full-time assistants, it's exciting to think what might happen in the Chiles Center starting in 2021.

Broadous isn't going to be an expensive hire - maybe the program could use some of that savings on an additional recruiting coordinator - and he's probably going to be extremely loyal if some success brings other schools calling.

Canzano's short list of successors had a few names tossed in to look impressive starting with Portlander and former Blazer Damon Stoudamire, the head coach of WCC rival Pacific. After three losing seasons, Stoudamire was on the Hot Seat for much of this season, but the Tigers won 23 games, and he was recently named the nation's minority coach of the year. One more solid season and big name programs will come calling. Portland's calls next season - even this past season - would be going to voicemail.

Former UC Santa Barbara coach Bob Williams made the list, but he's, well, who is he again to Portland fans?

Greg Clink has guided Chico State to regular success at Div. II, but he's been there for 12 secure seasons and, again, who's he to Portland fans?

Barret Peery is the head coach at Portland State, and has averaged 18 wins per season in his first three years there. Moving across town wouldn't be a stretch, but would involve rebuilding another program and he's got a lot more of a shot at winning a conference title in the program he's already building.

And, finally, former UNLV head coach Dave Rice, who led his alma mater to NCAA trips twice in five (full) seasons, more than a dozen wins over higher ranked teams, and claimed the top pick in the NBA Draft (2013 - Anthony Bennett) as program highlights. But, the school abruptly fired him during his sixth season - that doesn't speak well about making boosters happy. Since 2017, he's been an assistant at Washington, which finished last in the Pac-12 this season.

Gonzaga coach Mark Few has been vocal about WCC members needing to spend more on their programs so as to get more teams to the NCAA Tournament - and the riches that conference members share in. But, money doesn't always buy success in any sport, and neither do big names as the school has found out. Coaches sell dreams that need to turn into reality, and Broadous has enough of that on his resume to be able to recruit on Day One, in spite of that resume just being at the high school and community college level. And he's going to need to jump right in on Day One because of not having any ability to recruit during the season.

UP is still feeling the glow of its women's basketball team performing a Disney+ miracle by playing its way into the NCAA Tournament under a first-year coach and having been picked for last by conference head coaches. That coach, Michael Meek, was a former high school coach at Southridge in Beaverton, who moved to NCAA Div. III's George Fox in 2011.

So, the Pilots are secure for another season under Porter, but the coaching search for his replacement has likely already begun. When the names start to go on the big chalkboard, hopefully the school's athletic director, Scott Leykam, and his associates will take more than a few minutes to dream about what the Chiles Center might look like with maybe the nation's biggest underdog on the sideline at one of the nation's biggest underdogs as a program. That's a story made for the Magic Kingdom.

CORRECTION: A previous version of this story misidentified Barret Peery as the former head coach at Portland State and assistant on the UP staff. We regret that error.

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