Archive for the ‘Tony Bennett’ Category

His Failure

April 1, 2009

Greetings Cougar Nation. Hope you all are STILL hanging in there.

As you all have read by now, today Sterk came flat out and said we’ll have a coach in tow in the next couple of days. So hang tight.

In the meantime, before we get a first hand update on Spring Drills from Sedi and Longball over the next couple of days, a quick post-mordem on T-Bone.

First and foremost, please know that I feel the collective pain of the Nation. I really do.

At the same time, I think its high time that we EASE off the “Kill Tony” comments and reflect seriously on what his departure signifies.

With that in mind, I think that it is important that you all believe, as I do, that all things being equal, Tony Bennett would have liked to stay at WSU. I really believe that.

But, in the end, I think he left because he didn’t think he got the job done here, and because of that, I think this move was his way of rescuing his future as he envisions it.

And while I DO think that jettisoning his previous promises and commitments technically makes him a quitter, I doubt that many of you would shy away from a 1.7 mill a year “do over” if you were afraid you were losing your grip on your current job.

The reason for my suspicion that he left here “in failure” can be traced directly to his decision to NOT take his assistants (less Sanchez) with him. And with that, you can read between the lines: Guys that can judge talent and bring home the bacon get rewarded with the highest quality of salary left-overs. Those who can’t, get shown the door.

The reality is that, despite bringing in two All-Staters from Oregon recently, Lodwick didn’t look like he could guard a tree all year long. Meanwhile, Harthun gets caught doing his doobies impression, looks uncomfortable as a distributor, and has a J that doesn’t look right despite all of his gusto in jacking it whenever able. And Fabian Boeke-Boeke-Goose and Charlie Boy look more Brian Payne than Blue Chip to put it mildly. Last I checked, that’s four spots filled for the next 2-3 years on guys who can’t and won’t play.

In short, what we have is a TON of filled scholies without depth in the front court and without room to build depth in the backcourt at the same time that names like Few and Petino may be coming soon to a Pac-10 school near you.

And, for a guy that has sight on bright lights and the big city both for himself AND the program, that’s a recipe for potential hardship if your future goals are an NBA job or a Duke type job in three to five years.

So, in essence, what we have is a guy that ran like hell from his own failure to develop the type of depth you need to be competitive year in and year out. You see it in the broken promises and platititudes, and you also see it as he runs from his loyal assistants whom he failed to properly evaluate, monitor, support, and mentor along the way.

It’s really that simple.

Tony is a good guy, Nation, even if he is a flawed good guy (I can only say I’m flawed). He just didn’t feel that he could accomplish what he wanted to here, and I think quietly, he would blame himself (and his assistants) for that limitation.

Now, he has a tough, tough road to climb in a tough, tough league where Dad won’t be there to help him with the initial HUGE push.

As for us, the mountain is steep, but the summitt portends to be breathtaking.

So, stay on the up and up: Stay away from the negative, and lets see if we can build this thing moving forward.

And remember: Tony was leaving in three years anyway.

Now we get to see if this NEXT group of fellas can be the ones to send us on a Gonzaga like trajectory.

Go Cougs.

Longball’s View from the Cheap Seats

January 25, 2009

Hello Cougar Nation,

Longball here! Did anyone miss me? Does anyone even remember me? I can’t blame you if your answer is no and no, but I am here regardless to give you the View from the Cheap Seats on this year’s Cougar basketball team. So grab a hotdog and soda and join me in the orange seats way up in the rafters of Beasley.

What have I seen?

So far it hasn’t been pretty and from where I’m sitting I would advise you all to take whatever expectations you had for this season and… SELL, SELL, SELL! With remaining road trips to LA, the Bay and the Arizona schools still ahead there is no bailout package that is going to save this team. This week the Cougs had a golden opportunity to become major players in this years Pac-10 race and fell 4 points short. Que up the fat lady.

After suffering through the Baylor, Gonzaga and UW games this year I developed a strong conviction that this team was not even going to sniff an NIT bid. At the time it was a conviction founded in their inability to compete for 40 minutes with quality teams. Although we have shown an improved ability to compete recently, that conviction remains, and is quickly becoming a matter of simple mathematics. We need 7 more wins to even consider an NCAA bid and be comfortable with an NIT bid. If you can find those 7 wins on our remaining schedule, than you should be assigned to the DB Cooper task force, because they are nowhere to be found. So, what happened?

Obviously the departure of the greatest trio in Cougar history was going to be tough to overcome, but what we have learned is that the remaining veterans, who have been great roll players the last 2 seasons, are exactly that; great roll players. When it was time to take the team on their shoulders Rochestie, Baynes, Harmeling and Kopervica have not had what it takes. Caleb Forest has been a big exception, and Baynes has been dependable, but Rochestie has been maddeningly inconsistent while Nik and Harm have just vanished altogether. The success of the last 2 seasons has made the prospect of rebuilding hard to swallow, but that is exactly what we’re doing. Oh yeah, and as of now we are tied with Oregon State. Gulp.

Am I bumming you out? Here’s the good news. Our rebuilding effort may be progressing faster than we ever could have hoped. This Freshman class is lights out. Capers, Casto and Thompson are good now, and Lodwick is starting to get significant minutes. As it stands, our best lineup consists of 3 freshmen. Every night we see glimpses of what can happen when the Bennett system is being run by kids with the athleticism now being drawn to the Palouse. It is easy to imagine the names Capers, Casto and Thompson may one day be uttered with the same reverence on the Palouse as Weaver, Low and Cowgill.

As you may have noticed, I like to hearken back to past Cougar glory to gain perspective on the present, and I cant help but compare this era to the Kelvin Sampson teams of the early 90’s. That was a great time for Cougar hoops, culminating in a trip to the Dance and multiple NIT bids, but we are way ahead of where we ever got back then. This years team is going to take its lumps in Pac-10 play, but in a down year we are still as good as some of the better teams of those days. Remember Bennie Seltzer, Kenny Critton, Terence Lewis, Neil Derrick, and Rob Corkrum? Those guys never made it to the Big Dance and struggled to get more than 7 or 8 wins in Pac-10 play, but they were good. They gave us some memorable wins, like beating Herold Miner’s USC Trojans. (ESPN Broadcast the game and on Sports Center they timed Glen Johnson’s pronunciation of “Benieeeeeeeeeeeee Seltzer!”. Remember? It was 13 seconds, I believe.)

With continued improvement this year we may scratch out a respectable 7 or even 8 wins in Pac-10 play, but I’m not going to get too hung up on getting to the post season. Right now the next generation Cougar stars are just starting to emerge, and they are going to take us on a great ride. Harthun, Witherill and Watson are still waiting to get their chance and from all appearances guys like Thames and Motum should be exciting additions next year. Dick Bennett built the teams that took us dancing the last two years, and now Tony is building his team. So far , so good.

Overtime! A few extra observations from the cheap seats…

Uniforms- I LOVE our uniforms. Simple. Classic. Please join me in praying that Nike doesn’t come in next year and deck us out in the same ridiculous clown suits the rest of the league wears.

Fans- Beasley is always going to be hard to fill because most fans live 300 miles away, the nearest population center, Spokane, has its own very popular and successful basketball team, and everyone 6 miles to the West also has their own team, the Vandals. But still, is it too much to ask all the old fogies in the season ticket section to actually SHOW UP once in a while? Or hell, I’ll take your ticket if you NEVER intend to use it! The decision to shrink the student section this year was a bad one. They are the only dependable fans we have.

Jumbo Tron- Or heck, any kind of ‘tron will do! Right now we project replays onto a movie screen that can barely be seen. And if you sit with me in the cheap seats, forget about it! We need one of those things that hangs in the middle of the arena with scores on all sides, so us folks with obstructed views don’t have to keep score ourselves. I’ll donate the first dollar, lets do this!

Thanks for hanging out in the cheap seats with me. Until next time…

Go Cougs!

What a Day!

November 23, 2008

Brinkhater’s Season Basketball PRE View

November 15, 2008

Happy Saturday to you all, Cougar Nation.

Hard to believe, but today is GAME DAY for the 2008-09 Basketball season, so I thought I’d give you my annual PRE view of the upcoming tilt.

Like my dear friend and colleague Vincent Grippi noted last week on Sportslink, there are a lot of Blogs out there with a bunch of yahoos who have not been to practice, not watched video, and not talked to any players, coaches, or anyone who has a real idea about what is going on inside the program.

Sound like anyone to you?


Which is why I once again am going to give you all a quick glimpse into what I am looking for heading into this very important 2008-09 campaign.

But first, here’s the BIG picture:

1) This basketball season portends to be the equivalent of our 2003 Football team. I am actually expecting big things out of this group.

2) Next year will be a somewhat down year for the program, so I urge you all to really enjoy this year. I think its going to be really fun!

3) Brinkhater is predicting a 9-4 preseason.

4) Brinkhater is also predicting an 11-7 conference (t-4, Pac-10 gets five births with a low seed for us because of few quality wins).

5) Brinkhater is further predicting an 11 seed in the NCAA tournament.

6) Brinkhater sees us winning a 1st round NCAA game, winning a second game, and bowing out once again in the Sweet 16.

But for this fairy tale season to reach its fruition, let me give you what I think NEEDS to happen and then follow up with what I am assuming will happen.


1) Marcus Capers’ Floor Leadership

If you all have been reading, you know that Marcus is the 6 foot 4 point guard out of Florida that Rochestie gave his scholarship up for (initially). Of all of the accolades thrown at this kid, the biggest upside he is supposed to carry is his defense–which is a good thing! But what this team is going to need more than that is for him to become a steady floor general.

Last year, one of our main achillees heels was our lack of depth in the backcourt. Thankfully, we overcame that depth issue because both Low and Weaver were able to assume the point guard duties when a) we needed Taylor to shoot the rock and b) when the guy sat down to get a blow.

Unless I missed something, we have no Weaver, and while I love Cassius Klay Thompson (see next), he isn’t a point guard. Capers will have to play well in the conference for us to do anything. Thus, I will be looking closely at his minutes in the pre-season. Hopefully, T-Bone will throw this kid to the Wolves even if it costs us against Pitt, Baylor, and/or LSU. We need this kid to develop in a hurry.

2) Cassius Klay Thompson MUST be Efficient

Nation, there’s a lot about this team that I haven’t seen. But, Klay Thompson I have seen–in the 2008 California State Championship game. Nation, this guy is a Kyle Weaver (not as good defensively, but who is or ever will be?) and Ike Fontaine mix. He is NBA special.

That said, we all remember the type of “off” nights that freshmen stars OJ Mayo had last year don’t we?

With the make-up of our team, we simply will not be able to stand many 7-20 nights because we don’t create enough possessions to compensate for being innefficient. I look for Thompson to get a few Dick Bennett style lashings from T-Bone early on.

But then, look out. This kid WILL score over 30 in a game this year.

3) Baynes’ Feet and (Half) Courtvision MUST Improve

Last year in the NCAA tourney Baynes was the only Cougar in my book who rose to the moment on the national stage. Now, with Love and the Dummy Twins out of the League, Baynes figures to be your first team All-Conference center.

But, in order for him to ascend to such honors, there are two basic things he must do to improve his offense and defense.

First, on the defensive side, he needs to keep his feet. Last year, on two many occasions, Baynes was airborne after the first pumpfake. The result: fouls and duck-unders by Love and other savy 4’s and 5’s which would also give away the glass. This year, with the potential talents of Casto (and maybe Watson) in the mix, Baynes should realy just make people shoot over him. If he does, his rebounding totals should increase nicely. Even more importantly, he’ll be in the stinking game.

Now on offense, Baynes needs to be quicker to recognize the double team and needs to distribute much better than he’s done in the past. Last year, when we tried to establish Baynes early, he was often painfully slow and deliberate, and as a result, so were we. This year, we won’t be good enough defensively to score only 4-6 points in the first 8 minutes of games. Baynes will average 14 and 8 this year. But HOW he does that will be what matters for our fortunes.

3)Harmeling’s Jumper Must Have a Prayer

Two years ago, Harmeling was the 28 point bombshell against Gonzaga and Arizona. Last year, he fell off the map.

This year, he simply needs to shoot well from anywhere. If he can shoot well from behind the arc, then we will challenge for the second spot in the conference. But what we really, really need is for him to just shoot well in the midrange game. Remember, in games last year where Cowgill hit the 12-15 jumper off the glass, we KILLED teams. If Harmeling can stretch the defense at the 4, then Baynes has space to go off and the slashers like Nick and Thompson have room to take the ball to the rack. THAT leads to dish-offs to Baynes and the take-off of this basketball team.

Just like last year, Harmeling is your X man.


1) Nick’s Steady Play

There’s going to be a lot of pressure on Nicky boy to fill the shoes left by Kyle Weaver. But, I’m trusting that he’s been through enough to not get bogged down by that pressure. I think Nick is going to be a solid guy on the baseline. And, from what I’ve seen in past years, a capable man in the pack defense. Remember, this team will be starting FOUR GUYS that have been in the program for three years. So, he should be able to be the steady Eddy that we need him to be.

2) Casto’s Emergence as ‘The Real Deal’ by season’s end.

If you want to know why I have the audicity to think that this team is going back to the Sweet 16 it is because of this kid. After decades of watching the tourney, the recipe for advancing is simple: good guard play and shot blocking underneath. With Casto, we’re going to have the latter (and the former with Rochestie, Thompson, and bench). While I’ve heard that his timing is natural, I suspect that there will be some short performances for this kid early on (like 4 fouls in 15 minutes). But, as the season progresses, I am banking that he will develop the discipline necessary for us to emerge among the nation’s elite.

3) Improved Shooting

It may be hard to remember this, but there were several games and stretches last year where Rochestie was the only guy on the team that could hit the broad side of a barn. This year, with Rochestie taking more of a role in the offense, with a leaner and more polished Baynes, and with Thompson’s long range genius (wait til you see it!), this team will be much improved offensively. The question, of course, is how much we will drop-off defensively. With improved shot-blocking and a deeper 3-Point line, I’m guessing not much.

4) Taylor Stays Healthy

We can’t afford to lose Baynes for a long stretch at any time this year. But losing Taylor would flush the season down the toilet. I’m banking that Taylor stays healthy. And I’m also banking that there’s nothing called a “Brinkhater Curse.”

Final Thought:

I really do believe that this is a 2003 WSU Football type season. Enjoy it, enjoy it, enjoy it, because at this point, we all could use a few Cougar Victories.

And, thanks to T-Bone and company, we’re going to get about 23-24 of them this year.

(WSU 71 MSVSU 48 in the opener)

WSU Football Blog Exclusive: Kaddy Reports From the Columbia River Dinner

June 10, 2008

A HUGE hat-tip to our own Kaddy, who had the privilege of attending the Friday night Columbia River Cougar Club dinner. Among the attendees were both head coaches, Paul Wulff and rockstar-Tony Bennett. Read on for the full deal (great job Kaddy!):

The Columbia River Cougar Club dinner & auction has a history of being the single biggest annual fundraiser for WSU Athletics, and this year was no different. I had the privilege of attending this event for the third straight year, and it might have been the best one so far. Last year, the highlight of the evening came during the live auction, when honorary guest Drew Bledsoe was auctioned off to the higher bidder as a gold partner the following day. When his price tag reaced $6000, I didn’t think anything could top that this year. Well, I was wrong.

This year, someone in the crowd paid $9,000 to golf with Bennett the next day. (That someone happens to be the same person that donated the $2.4 million scoreboard to Martin Stadium, and the same someone that financed the entire construction of our indoor practice facility.)

As you might have guessed, this year’s highlight quickly turned into the Tony Bennett show, as he got the party started with a few comments to the crowd. The questions came up surrounding his decision to stay at WSU, naturally. Tony said he felt obligated to interview with LSU, since his wife was from there, but he had zero interest. He also told President Floyd that he wanted to stay at WSU, but ONLY if Jim Sterk was still there – more on that later. He even ended his time on stage with the punchline of a joke aimed squarely at Ty Willingham! This really warmed up the crowd for Paul Wulff, who spoke next. Wulff started out explaining how the APR system worked, and how the end-result is a little misleading. He pointedly stated that it was by no means a death sentence, and that he and his staff have already addressed it and moved on. You can tell how far CPW has come…he was very comfortable in front of the crowd. He brought all the coaches to the event, and lined them up on stage – Bruiser is still the shortest, but coach Todd Sturdy isn’t much taller.

As usual, I got caught up in the Cougar love fest, and went home the proud owner of some nice Cougar memorabilia, including (but not limited to) a football helmet, an autographed Bledsoe jersey, and yes, a much lighter checkbook.

A note of interest: KJR’s Ian Furness, the MC for the evening, went through a Q&A session with Jim Sterk on stage, and it quickly became apparent that Sterk is now a hot commodity amongst the Athletic Director community. Furness asked him straight up if he planned to stick around Pullman, since it was clear that he had suitors after him, and Sterk said he wasn’t going anywhere. I personally believe that we have one of the best AD’s around.

The Cougar Celebrity Classic was the next day, with somewhat crummy weather. I golfed with one of the Grad Assistants who works with the linebackers. He said that Cory Evans helps with all the other linebackers with their assignments….he’s a really sharp kid. Stripling is the first substitute, and while he doesn’t know many of the plays, he’s such a great playmaker that he always seems to find the ball.

There were a couple of updated photos of the stadium remodel – the north side in particular (I don’t believe you can see these anywhere else??):

(Editor note – let me just say, BEAUTIFUL renderings. That north side of the stadium is going to be something we can be proud of. I wish the interior shot would have included the new scoreboard rendering, but man, when this little stadium renovation is done, we are going to have a very cool, intimate, on-campus gameday experience that will be nothing but an asset to the university!)

I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the organizer of the event, Todd Thrasher, who did a wonderful job. He was hung over as hell the next day at the golf course, but managed to keep a smile on his face in between trips to the can!

Last but not least, a picture of our table guests with the most handsome coach our wives have ever seen (note the positioning of the female guests in regards to coach handsome?).

Great job Kaddy!

Tuesday Linkage

June 3, 2008

Non-Oregon related post, so, Duck fans, no need to read this….Just some Tuesday random things of interest in Coug-ville.

  • The NCAA preview mags are hitting the stands. Lindy’s hit last week, and now Athlon’s has made it. If you are scoring at home, Lindy’s has us at 10th, while Athlon’s sees us at 9th. I guess it isn’t a real surprise, given the questions of depth and losing guys like Brink, Bumpus, Collins, etc. I still like EA Sports and the Armed Forces Bowl prediction, but we’ll get into that later this summer.

  • Athlon’s and Lindy’s both slurpin’ up some Tebow. Athlon’s has him as the top Heisman contender and we’re likely to see him repeat. (I don’t know why I’m pointing that out, other than we love to see who or what is hanging around the rock star.)
  • The “mystery” kicker has been revealed! Cougfan broke the story yesterday, but finally, the JC kicker Wulff has been talking about since shortly after signing day is a known commodity. Nico Grasu, a 6-1, 190 lb kicker from the class of ’07, has enrolled at WSU and will be ready for fall camp. Wulff mentioned a few times at the Seattle football dinner that this mystery kicker has a strong leg, particularly great on kickoffs (hello!). What a welcome thought, a kicker who can actually get the ball into the endzone? Cougfan’s story is a premium one, but I found this profile of him on as site called “Chris Sailer Kicking”. Check out the link, it’s a quick read and you get the idea that he’s well-regarded for kickoffs. Maybe, just MAYBE, the days of the squib are over!?!
  • The Evergreen has a commentary about how we need “Sheriff Wulff” to clean up the football team. Nothing earth-shattering, but a good view from campus on the heavy lifting ahead for coach Wulff. We’ve already said it a thousand times since December, but this is going to be a tough climb to change this thing and get it pointed in the right direction. Hopefully we’ve seen the bottom, but it could get worse. Just be patient, that’s all.
  • AD Jim Sterk talked to Cougfan and sounded optimistic about the stadium renovations. Major fundraising is about to start for Phase III, and it could break ground in January ’09, that is if the luxury seating sales go as planned. So far, so good. Our own “Kaddy” mentioned a rumor making the rounds that there could finally be a naming rights deal coming together, but we haven’t heard anything substantial on that. Stay tuned.
  • Non-Coug related – the Sonics story is picking up steam. Less than 2 weeks now until the trial, and the P-I ran an article about how ugly things could get if it makes it to court. Save Our Sonics founder Brian Robinson hinted last week that there are rumblings that the NBA is starting to push hard for an agreeable settlement for all sides, and the bottom line sounds like the court case could result in some black eyes and bloody noses for all involved. I’ve swung both ways on this thing, part of me saying let’s drag these liars into court and make them sweat, force them to stay and make them eat at least $30 million in losses over the next two years. You know, pound of flesh, scorched earth, the whole thing. But then I see the hype surrounding Lakers-Celtics, and I remember back to how great the NBA can be when you are actually good. I think about the power players involved in this court case, and I believe that at the end of the day, somehow a settlement will be reached to guarantee the NBA in one form or another in Seattle.
  • Finally, coach Tony had a lot to say about Pullman and how it’s the place for him. Cougfan has a story about him, and he talked at length about a variety of things, including the schedule, Pullman, the incoming recruiting class, etc. Jim Moore had a big story on him last week as well. Both articles were sounding awfully good.

    I told Brinkhater that I heard a radio interview with Tony last week on KRKO-1380, and he really and truly sounded happy and content to be in Pullman. It’s not that we’ve totally doubted him, but I know I’ve at least taken a pessimistic view on how long he’ll stick around. You know, too young, too successful, too handsome, too this, too that to stay at WSU. Well, I will say this – after turning down Indiana, LSU, Marquette and who knows what other programs (Stanford? Cal?), as well as Michigan last year, I’ve crossed over to the believer side of things. Hearing him speak in his own words about the community, the direction of the program, the recruits coming in, I honestly believe now what the other optimists have been saying all along – he really IS happy. And he is going to stay for some time. So, I’m choosing to relax, not follow every ‘net rumor, and just enjoy the time he is actually here. I’m not totally naive, and I know that the day will probably come that he will leave. That will be a heart-breaking day. But I think what would be even worse would be to wake up the morning after he leaves, and ask myself why I didn’t just enjoy the time that he was here instead of wringing my hands on where he might go. I don’t want to feel like that, do you?

    Happy Tuesday!

Blackledge the Surprise of Spring?

April 11, 2008

UPDATE 10:00 AM 4/11 – Tony has told Oklahoma State to bleep off, BEFORE they went after Self!?!? WOW. Nice job Tony, a Bennett we will always love.

He’s been talked about all spring for how far he’s come, and now there is no doubt he will make his mark next year. The TNT today writes about WR Daniel Blackledge and how he’s doing his best Michael Bumpus impression right now. Blackledge had a big scrimmage a week ago, with 70 yards receiving and showing some great hands. Next to probably Gary Rogers, Blackledge is going to be this spring’s offensive breakout player (photo courtesy of Cougfan).

We’re written about Blackledge before, but the kid has a real upside and the coaches are liking what they see. Levy has some good quotes about him in the story, and if we know anything, we know Levy knows how to coach up the WR’s! It’s hard to argue with his track record. Then again, you don’t want to get too crazy about a good set of spring practices. Blackledge had a total of ONE catch last year, and that came in the 52-17 embarrassment vs. the Beavs in one of the most forgettable games in the modern era. But again, this is what spring ball is all about, and that is there are always some surprises that you just didn’t see coming when it all got started.

The Spokesman last night had a write-up about the kicking game. It sounds as though it’s a tight race, with Patrick Rooney edging ahead of Wade Penner and Matt Myers. Steve Broussard said it’s still wide open so not to read too much into it right now, but we’ll see how it shakes out after things wrap up tomorrow. The good part of this is that there is a good competition, so they are hopefully pushing each other. The other part is that they are actually doing well. All three kickers nailed 48 and 49-yarders to wind down practice yesterday. We still have the mystery JC transfer that coach Wulff talked about this year, who reportedly drills kickoffs repeatedly into the end-zone (sounds good to me!).

Moving on, the Bigger Dance – WHO YA GOT? The brackets are out and it’s an intriguing field. I’ve got Megan Fox from the Transformers movie making a darkhorse run, but with Scarlet Johansson lurking in the other pod, I don’t know if she’ll get past the sweet 16. It will be an interesting match-up! But you could also see Johansson cutting down the nets when it’s all said and done.

I know, it’s a male pig-fest or whatever you want to call it, but it’s all in good fun. And it’s all about the prizes. Have you seen what they are giving away? Imagine winning the grand prize – A trip for two, to any sporting event in the world, including airfare, hotel and tickets to the event? Just for picking the hottest female around in a bracket of 64? Why not. I actually knew a guy who won the whole thing 3 years ago, and if I remember correctly I think they went to Monoco for the grand prix or something like that. Pretty amazing.

I won’t waste time talking about the Sonics, because I know a lot of you don’t care. But wow, those e-mails. I imagine many people reading those things yesterday thought twice about e-mails they may have sent in their own working environment?? If anything it’s a good lesson that yes, anything you send can and WILL be used against you, if necessary! And right now, Clay Bennett looks like the biggest lying, idiotic, embarrassing fool on the face of the earth. The arrogance to think they could just waltz in and steal the team away is one thing. That’s fine if that is what they wanted to do all along. But to flat-out lie to the Mayor of Seattle, the Governor of Washington, the NBA owners and David Stern himself? And to be caught red-handed doing it? What a disgrace. How will it play out? The Save Our Sonics guys think things have changed. There are a lot of very angry people now, madder than ever. But I still think at the end of the day, this is just the tip of the ice-berg and the NBA, Clay Bennett included, does NOT want to go through a court case where many, many more things are going to come to the public forefront. It’s an official mess for a league that doesn’t really need any more bad press after the last few years, does it??

And, imagine this – Howard Schultz and/or Wally Walker COULD be a hero in the end of this? Seth Koellen, a blogger and a guy who occasionally writes for the P-I, writes that Schultz and the prior ownership group could possibly file a legit suit against Bennett for not engaging in a good-faith effort to keep the team here. They now have tangible proof with these e-mails that they were full of crap from day 1. And Shultzie could sure use some good pub.

Anyway, that’s it for today. Hooty will take in the open practice tomorrow. Look for a first-hand account tomorrow evening.


Sauls Out, Casto In?; Spring Game Called Off

April 10, 2008

So it got weird with Kevin Love and Darren Collison. First the LA Times says they are gone, then Ben Howland later in the day says mmmm, not so fast. They aren’t gone…yet. What will today bring? Who knows. But when you think about it, why, EXACTLY, would you bolt UCLA early if given the choice? You could probably come up with a few reasons to stick it out??

Moving on, in one of the worst-kept secrets around, Stephen Sauls got his release from the hoops program. It’s been speculated for months since he suffered his concussion and returned home to Texas. It’s too bad, because he’s reportedly a good kid and did some things that warranted playing time early on in Tony’s system. When you think about losing Low and Weaver from next year’s team, you could see how Sauls would fit in. Hopefully he gets healthy and finds something closer to home.

Which brings us to DeAngelo Casto. Rumored since the 4-A state tourney that he was a hard lean to WSU, Casto has been claiming to all who will listen that he wants to be a Coug. Well, not so fast. First of all, he hasn’t qualified yet academically with test scores below the eligibility line. Then there’s another player out there that we are interested in, and that is Paul McCoy, the highly-touted point guard from Oregon. McCoy was headed for Pepperdine, but was let out of his LOI after their coach left the program. McCoy is now back out there and the recruiting is really heating up for him. He just had a visit to Kentucky, and WSU is one of about eight schools on his list. So it might be a long shot to get him anyway, but one could argue that if we did get him, he might better fit a need for next year vs. a low-post presence in Casto?

Another fly in the Casto ointment? Georgetown. The Hoyas have started calling him, and it sounds according to Cougfan that he’s starting to get a little starry-eyed. His quote to Cougfan was “if he could do it real BIG” he could head to Georgetown. BIG? Hmm, maybe he’s not the fit we thought? That isn’t exactly music to Tony’s ears, wouldn’t you say? Casto did talk to the Spokesman yesterday, and sounded much more certain to be a Coug. We’ll see how it plays out. We will probably find out quick, with the spring signing period kicking off on April 16th.

Big day in the Pac-10 hoops scene yesterday. OJ Mayo is gone, and he’s hiring an agent so forget about him coming back. And why should he? has him as the #3 pick right now. If you are projected as a lottery pick, you probably should go (as Love is #13 right now). But a top-3 pick? BUH-BYE! Chase Budinger also declared his NBA intentions. However he hasn’t yet decided on hiring an agent or not, so the door could stay open for his return. Personally? Good riddance. He can’t leave fast enough for me.

Trent Johnson jumped to Baton Rouge. He was part of the article earlier in the week, one of many coaches that LSU spoke with at the Final Four. But he wasn’t exactly rumored to be THE guy. I heard a writer from LSU on the radio late yesterday, and the general feeling was one of shock. He thought Pernell of Clemson was the top choice. He also said that he heard Tony was in the top-3, for sure, but he basically told them in a one-sided conversation that he was very happy in Pullman so you should move on to someone else. SO why would Johnson leave? It sounds as though there was a lot going on down there, from not seeing eye-to-eye with the AD, not being happy with his contract that still wasn’t officially renewed, etc. The incident vs. Marquette probably didn’t help things with the Stanford brass either?? There is already a list of candidates for the Stanford job, and NO, Tony isn’t on the list. One name that is interesting though? Mark Few. The Seattle Times posted a story from a few years back that said Few could be a really good fit down there and that “sources close to Few speculate he could be interested in Stanford.” Interesting.

Back to WSU football (that is what we do around here?). The TNT had a strong write-up of QB Kevin Lopina and his progress this spring. We wrote about him after the last scrimmage, and even though we have heard good information about Marshall Lobbestael, the buzz has been the strongest about Lopina locking up the #2 spot in the QB rotation. If he stays healthy and things continue, he will really push Rogers for PT this fall.

You probably already know what you need to about Lopina and his back-story, but one thing that jumped out was his rushing ability at De La Salle. Did you know he logged 750 rushing yards and 10 TD’s as a senior? You can understand why he would be a fit in Wulff’s offense, which while not completely necessary, hey, an athletic QB in this shotgun, spread offense? What an asset! Lopina could be that “hold your breath” kind of guy, who you just never know if he could tuck it and run or pull it back and wing it. We haven’t seen a legit dual-threat like that in many years. Gesser could scramble, but he wasn’t a guy who scared defenses with his legs. Brink? No. Kegel was a decent athlete, but again, not like this. I guess you could go all the way back to Rosey and his running ability? I would bet that no matter how well Rogers does, we ARE going to see Lopina get a few series, especially early on, to get a better handle on where he is.

Anyone notice Jeshua Anderson’s accomplishments away from the football program right now? Yeah, he’s just been named Pac-10 track athlete of the week! You already know this, but Anderson really is big-time in the hurdles. How big? Well, his latest time of 49.68 seconds in the 400m hurdles not only leads the NCAA’s this year, it’s the second-fastest time in THE COUNTRY. It’s the 10th-best time in the world right now. Have we seen the last of Anderson in a football uniform? There’s big money in track and field, bigger than we probably realize. When you are one of the best on the face of the earth in an event, can you blame him if he does go the pro route? Too bad for the football team if he is done, but great for the young man!

Finally, the spring game has been called off. As Wulff said in the TNT article, they are just too low on healthy bodies and the alarming lack of depth is too much to overcome this spring. Now they will have an open scrimmage at 11, followed by an autograph session at 12:30. Our own Hooty McBoob will be in Pullman to take it all in, so look for a recap later on Saturday.


Jackson, Chima Secondary Swap Permanent?

April 9, 2008

Per today’s TNT, that’s the deal. Alfonso Jackson and Chima Nwachukwu switched positions early in camp, and things have gone so well according to coach Ball that it will stay this way into the ’08 season.

At first glance, this was puzzling. Chima was picked on early and often last year, but really showed improvement as the season wore on. I remember seeing him against Idaho in the first home game, and I was really impressed by things like his footwork and instincts. He looked like a natural corner and given a few seasons to get experience and put on weight, he was going to be a good player in the system. Doba was always high on Chima. Jackson, on the other hand, struggled with injuries (concussions) and he seemed to be a little lost early on. I think part of it was the overall choice made by Doba to play SUPER SOFT cover-2, with the safeties and corners so far off the ball in pure fear of getting beat over the top, that it was designed to make anyone look bad. Remember the USC game, where all Booty would do was take the snap and throw 8-yard quick hooks or outs or whatever, and the defensive backs weren’t even on the TV screen after the catch was initially made? Talk about soft. Jackson also had a really insane personal foul in the Apple Cup that COULD have blown that entire game! Ugh.

Anyway, what’s interesting is how pleased Chima sounds with this move. I didn’t know this, but he had 3 years of starting safety experience in high school before moving to corner as a senior:

“I like playing safety a lot. It’s really different from playing cornerback. You get to play in the open field,” Nwachukwu said. “My body size, I’m growing (at 5-11 and 195 pounds) and my weight has been going up. This is what spring ball is for. I can get used to the learning curve before fall camp.”

What’s also interesting is how Chima says he’s growing. If you remember last year, he was about 175 and looked skinnier than that. He really looked like a kid right out of high school. But if he’s already at 195 right now, he may end up well into the 2-bills area. Jackson doesn’t sound quite as happy with it, but has eventually come around to the idea. Hey, if he wants to start, and as he said, “they’ve put a lot of dudes out to the next level”, then sign on to the idea. He’s a senior so this is his last shot to make in impact, and better yet, an impression on what he could do if the NFL takes a look. We’ll see how it goes once things get real. Worst-case scenario is they could always switch them back!

Moving on, the Spokesman’s Nick Eason writes about how thin the running backs are right now. How thin? Well, there’s redshirt-frosh Joe Campbell……that’s it. Seriously. Tardy we know is out with the knee, Ivory is out with academics, Marcus Richmond has a sore hammy, and now Logwone Mitz has come up lame with a bad toe. At this point it’s probably not a bad thing that spring ball winds down this Saturday??

Eason goes on to write about the role the running backs will play next year, and how important it is for them to learn this new offense. OC Todd Sturdy has said repeatedly on the banquet scene that they are committed to running the football and will do everything they can to be a 50-50 run/pass ratio offense. But you can only do so much with the talent that’s available. The good news is of course Montgomery coming in, but that’s for 2009. JC transfer Chantz Staden has looked good on film, per Steve Broussard, but uh, that’s just on film. Let’s see how things go when he straps it on in August!

So Tony is staying. Yaaaawwwwnnnn. Actually I’m glad he finally put the rumors to rest. Why did it take so long? That’s a good question and a point of a lot of speculation. Personally, I think he didn’t say anything over these last two weeks because he’s just so honest and a man of his word. And I think, as much as it hurts, that it was in his best interests to listen to Indiana, and also speak with LSU at the Final Four. The last thing he was going to do was sit at a press conference immediately after the season ended and say that he was happy in Pullman and going on the record as saying he was staying, but then also turn around and talk to Indiana and/or LSU. What if word got out that he spoke to these schools after he affirmed his desire to stay? His best move was to keep quiet until he was sure he was coming back. I do believe the odds were always strong that he was coming back anyway, and like you, we heard from some “sources” that said he was staying, but still, the door was open a tad.

Now we can focus on next year and, hopefully, a few years after that as well. We have our top recruiting class, maybe ever, coming in, and possibly some more surprises after the upcoming signing period (Casto??). It will be a lot of fun to watch things grow, on and off the court. The encouraging part is that the program is going to evolve along with this incoming class. Sterk said as much today, talking about the facility improvements, charter flights or some arrangement with Horizon Air, etc.

Finally, the Sonics are another step closer to the dust bowl. The city couldn’t find the extra $75m in the couch cushions, and in an election year the governor or house speaker weren’t about to do anything that could be a lightning rod this November. The mayor pledges to keep fighting, and Slade Gorton, never to be under-estimated, is chomping at the bit to get these A-HOLES into court this June. The last hope appears to be a combination of forcing them to honor the lease in court, and also for that 1.2 BILLION dollar facility to somehow happen with private funds (don’t hold your breath). The Times has a good write-up today on the 5 stages of grief, and part 1 is Denial. I think personally I’m past denial at this point. I’m more towards the depression stage. This has been in the works for so long that denial disappeared a long time ago. It’s just the point of sadness right now. At least we’ll always have Youtube clips of super-freak Shawn Kemp and GP back in the glory days! And believe me, those were wonderful times to be a fan of basketball. That’s life though. Things change.


Wulff Lands Cal RB Montgomery; Bennett Talks to LSU After All?

April 8, 2008

Nice job coach Wulff. Heralded stud RB James Montgomery was in Pullman over the weekend on a transfer/recruiting visit, and early word was that things went really well. Guess what? It went so well he’s now headed to the Palouse! Montgomery’s high school coach gave the word to the Sac Bee last night, and now the P-I, Cougfan and Vince at have it as well.

No mention of the Pac-10 rule that used to penalize an extra year if a player went Pac-10 to Pac-10, but, Cougfan’s story stated that he will probably sit out this year, then have two years to play two, ready for action in the 2009 season.

Maybe the most impressive thing is that Montgomery chose WSU over Florida and South Carolina. You mean to tell me an all-everything RB took a look at SEC power Florida and also Steve Superior in South Carolina and decided to cast his lot with Wulff?? WOW. You never want to over-react to something like this, but it’s hard not to be excited. This is a top-shelf talent, a Parade All-American. And despite what it might look like on the surface, he doesn’t have a lot of baggage. Sometimes with transfers you just sort of roll your eyes and say “we’ll see” and then when the transfer is a 4-or-5 star talent showing up in Pullman, you wonder what gives. But Montgomery is legit and the fit just wasn’t there in Berkeley. He admits now that he originally went to Cal to be close to his ailing mother, but now she’s healthy and they believed a change was the best for everyone. By the way, hat tip to our own Brinkhater who had this story a few weeks ago from his “Cal insider” who said from day 1 that he was a huge lean to WSU.

There is no way around it, getting him is just a huge statement. We’ve said it before, and we’ll say it again – I can’t wait to see what Wulff can do with some time to build this program in his own image. There are going to be growing pains, but given the depths that we were headed, Wulff deserves all the time he needs to turn this thing into something that gets you bouncing off the walls every Saturday!

Speaking of coach Wulff, he sat down with Jim Moore of the P-I and basically stoked the UW rivalry flames a bit. Yes, he doesn’t like UW. No, he’s not backing off those remarks he made the day he took the job. And, YES, he has passion about it. As Rooster and I commented the night of the football dinner, these guys, from Wulff on down, “get it” as far as the rivalry goes. This staff is going to have that team tearing the locker room apart before the Apple Cup. Yes, it will be handled with class, but YES, the rivalry is going to turn up a few notches. You also have to like what Wulff has to say about how in-state recruiting is going. Of course he can’t get overly specific at this point, and it’s still just April. But there is no doubt, this is a new era!

Wulff was also on KJR with Mitch yesterday. A good interview and you can check it out here. Not one of Mitch’s best interviews, but I liked what I heard from Wulff. If you’ve listened to him speak much since he’s been hired, he really sounds more and more comfortable every time I hear him. I think deep down he might have been a little overwhelmed with the situation itself, I mean here he is as the head coach of his alma mater, but lately he just sounds a lot more ready to handle the extra media that comes with this job.

This seemed to be way under the radar, but the Times today says Tony DID talk to LSU. The article speculates that LSU’s primary target is Clemson coach Oliver Purnell. Interesting part of that story is that they also talked to Trent Johnson of Stanford. And before you get too worried, also realize the story states that they talked “to several coaches” over the weekend. So it’s not like they flew him in, wined and dined him and whispered sweet nothings into his ear like he is their #1 guy. Hey, Tony, how about doing your season wrap-up press conference? How about proclaiming to Cougar Nation that you are happy in Pullman and looking forward to the future? We’ve heard you are happy and staying in Pullman from everyone, to your AD to your President to several media outlets…..except you.

Quite a game last night, eh? Memphis is going to lament that game for the rest of their lives. 9-point lead with 2:12 to go, and then they brick free throws, get a little sloppy with the ball, and Chalmers hits a miracle 3. Here’s the question of the day – do YOU foul Chalmers before he gets that shot off to tie the game? There were 4 seconds left in the game when he was starting to take that shot. If you foul him with 5 seconds left, he’s forced to go to the line without a chance to tie the game. Even if he makes both, you have just a few ticks of the clock left and you are still getting the ball back up 1. It reminded me a lot of UW’s loss to U-Conn in ’06, when they were up 3 but chose not to foul Denham Brown, who cooly drained a 3 at the buzzer to force OT. Not that I wept for them that night (I didn’t), but once again we see the same scenario play out. The team chooses not to foul, and the player nails the shot. Memphis was dead after that, losing Dorsey to fouls late in regulation, but the momentum was officially gone at that point. Great job by Kansas, but make no mistake, Memphis kicked this one.

I was a little concerned hearing about Bill Self’s Okie State ready to throw the moon at him. Why would that worry WSU nation? Because that means if he bolts, Kansas opens up. It’s major connect-the-dots stuff, but would Kansas call Tony Bennett? Brinkhater thinks absolutely not, and Kansas would look to the major rock-star coaching tree, guys who have been to Final Four’s, guys who have won their conferences, guys who have been winning for several years. I wasn’t so sure, but after thinking about it a little more, I have to agree with him. Tony wouldn’t be to Kansas what he was to Indiana. IU is living off Bobby Knight at this point, and they are in a major mess right now with NCAA sanctions. While it’s still a great job, it isn’t Kansas.

That said, I heard Dickie V say today that it’s highly unlikely Self will leave. He has the most leverage you could possibly dream of right now, and he’ll get everything he wants at Kansas. So it’s probably much ado about nothing.