Have a heart, Warriors, and leave Kevin Durant to somebody else

Remember how much fun it was to watch the Golden State Warriors motor through a 73-9 regular season, flashy and efficient all at once?

Steph Curry was a genuine spectacle with his ballhandling and uncanny long-range accuracy, and on some nights Klay Thompson actually had the hotter hand. Then there was Draymond Green with his WWE moves, plus all those perfectly-suited role players.

OAKLAND, CA - MAY 30: Stephen Curry #30 of the Golden State Warriors speaks with Kevin Durant #35 of the Oklahoma City Thunder after their 96-88 win in Game Seven of the Western Conference Finals during the 2016 NBA Playoffs at ORACLE Arena on May 30, 2016 in Oakland, California. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)
OAKLAND, CA – Stephen Curry (left) of the Golden State Warriors speaks with Kevin Durant  of the Oklahoma City Thunder after their 96-88 win in Game Seven of the Western Conference Finals at ORACLE Arena on May 30, 2016. (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)

Yeah, that was one great team, all ready to stack a second NBA title onto what surely would become a regular pile of them.

Then LeBron and the Cavs bumped Golden State off the pedestal. Then the Warriors, all neon and magic, started flickering a bit, like there suddenly was a short circuit or something.

Just like that, Golden State is feeling needy again, and a little greedy, too. Would the story be as cute if they suddenly snapped up Kevin Durant in free agency? It’s a far more likely scenario than KD coming to Miami. Makes so much more sense for him. Puts him so much closer to his first NBA title, and after nine years in the league that matters more and more.

Cute? No, that would be cruel, with Durant’s addition making a monster of the Warriors. A bully band on the order of Miami’s Big Three era. You remember how well that played outside of South Florida, right? The Heat were hated, and the Warriors will get there, too, if they snap up all the best available talent.

Oh, Golden State had its eyes on Hassan Whiteside, too, until he announced early Friday morning he’s sticking with the Heat. They need somebody to make LeBron and Kyrie Irving think twice about plowing down the lane and all the way to the rim and Hassan couldn’t have gone wrong there, with or without Durant as a teammate. It’s that kind of operation, one that has gotten used to winning and will not go back without a fight.

Seems to me that the best and most realistic option for Miami fans is for Durant to re-sign with Oklahoma City for another season. Let Pat Riley’s free-agency plans percolate until 2017. Let the Heat bulk up the roster for an all-out negotiating blitz, either with Chris Bosh back on board or his contract moved out of the way.

[Buddy Ryan always loved a good fight, even with a legend like Shula]

[Dick Sanford provided the soundtrack for baseball in PB County and beyond]

[Rate the Adam Gase offseason buzz against other Dolphins debuts]

Billy Donovan would be an ally in that circumstance. He did fine as a rookie NBA head coach and seemed to gain the confidence of Durant and Russell Westbrook. It should be enough to keep them all together in Oklahoma City, unless Golden State simply gets its way.

The Warriors aren’t a bad bunch. In fact, they put on a super show. What we don’t need is to see them bolted together as some kind of superteam. Keep them a little needy, like everyone else.

Keep them from turning downright nasty.

 

 

 

Pat Summitt was one of Steve Spurrier’s best friends and inspirations

Way back in 2001 I did a long interview with Steve Spurrier for a personality profile on the colorful coach, who at the time was still pestering everyone in the SEC as boss of the Florida Gators.

FILE-- Pat Summitt, coach of the University of Tennessee Lady Vols, talks with player Shannon Bobbitt during the last minutes of their game against the University of North Carolina during the semifinal round of the NCAA women's Final Four tournament at the Quicken Loans Arena in Cleveland, Ohio, April 1, 2007. Summitt, who was at the forefront of a broad ascendance of women’s sports, winning eight national basketball championships at Tennessee and more games than any other Division I college coach, male or female, died on June 28, 2016. She was 64. (Suzy Allman/The New York Times)
Pat Summitt, coach of the University of Tennessee Lady Vols, talks with player Shannon Bobbitt during the last minutes of their game against the University of North Carolina during the semifinal round of the 2007 NCAA women’s Final Four. Summitt, who was at the forefront of a broad ascendance of women’s sports, winning eight national basketball championships at Tennessee and more games than any other Division I college coach, male or female, died on June 28, 2016. She was 64. (Suzy Allman/The New York Times)

We started talking about how he used to hang out with basketball coaches at the conference’s annual meetings as much or more than he spent time with his football peers. The way that basketball coaches really dig in on the sidelines to personally and passionately motivate, direct and correct their players really made an impression on Spurrier.

One of the first names he mentioned was Pat Summitt, who Spurrier called a personal friend. Consider it just one more example of the way that Summitt, who died on Tuesday, connected with and inspired the leaders of every sport. Men and women. Celebrities and small-town strivers.

Spurrier’s other major hero from the world of basketball? John Wooden.

This week Spurrier talked with The State newspaper in South Carolina about Summitt, who in 38 seasons at Tennessee won eight national titles and a Div. I record 1,098 games. The two first met at the SEC spring meetings when Spurrier became Florida’s coach in 1990. Summitt also invited Spurrier and his wife Jerri to visit her beach house in Florida’s panhandle, which they often did.

“She (Summitt) sort of always liked me for some reason, and I always liked her,” Spurrier said. “There’s a fact of life that people who win a lot, they admire and respect other people who win a lot. Winners admire and respect other winners. We were both doing pretty well at that time, so we got along very well.”

Summitt was tough-minded, too, or she wouldn’t have been able to stand or appreciate Spurrier’s jabs, many of which were aimed at her fellow Tennessee staffer, Vols football coach Phil Fulmer.

Summitt, whose last name was the perfect tagline, would have been a winner in any walk of life, and more specifically she would have been successful as coach of any men’s basketball team, too.

[Buddy Ryan always loved a good fight, even with a giant like Shula]

[If Warriors climbed out of 3-1 hole, why can’t Cavs do it now?]

[My strange day spent with Macho Camacho at his Clewiston camp]

This is a big loss for American sports, and twice as cruel because Alzheimer’s was involved.

Think of it. A women’s basketball program drawing major attention in the heart of SEC football country. That’s the kind of innovation that not even an improvisational wizard like Spurrier could ever hope to match.

Buddy Ryan always loved a good fight, even if it was with legends like Shula and Dikta

Buddy Ryan, one of the toughest cusses ever to barrel through the NFL landscape, died Tuesday at 82.

All you need to know about this guy’s personality is that he wasn’t intimidated by Don Shula. It doesn’t get much bolder, or different, than that.

FILE - In this Oct. 7, 2011, file photo, President Barack Obama, right, smiles at former defensive coordinator Buddy Ryan, speaking left, as he stands with the 1985 Super Bowl XX Champions Chicago Bears football team during a ceremony on the South Lawn of the White House in Washington. Buddy Ryan, who coached two defenses that won Super Bowl titles and whose twin sons Rex and Rob have been successful NFL coaches, died Tuesday, June 28, 2016. He was 82. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais, File)
In this Oct. 7, 2011, file photo, President Barack Obama smiles at former defensive coordinator Buddy Ryan as he stands with the 1985 Super Bowl XX Champions Chicago Bears football team during a ceremony on the South Lawn of the White House in Washington. Ryan, who coached two defenses that won Super Bowl titles and whose twin sons Rex and Rob have been successful NFL coaches, died Tuesday. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais, File)

In 1986 Ryan got his first NFL head-coaching opportunity with the Philadelphia Eagles and brought to it the same boisterous, challenging approach that marked his long career as an innovative defensive assistant. In August of that year, before the regular-season intensity had even kicked in, Buddy blasted Shula for what he perceived as cheating in an exhibition game.

“The rule of the National Football League are that you can only huddle 11 guys,” Ryan said after a 20-15 loss to the Dolphins at Philadelphia’s Veterans Stadium. “Everybody except Shula. He can huddle 15. That’s ridiculous, what they let him get away with. It’s because he’s on the rules committee.

“Our guys played hard enough to win, made a couple of dumb mistakes, but I hope that we get to play them again. I hope to hell we get to play them again.”

Shula’s reaction was a classic dismissal, neither diving into the pit with Buddy nor flinching at allegations that the Dolphins were running groups of players on and off the field in an illegal manner.

“It seems like Buddy Ryan has got something to say about everything,” Shula said. “Anything he would say would not surprise me too much. He’s said bad things about the guy he worked for in Chicago (Mike Ditka) and some of his draft picks. That tells you a little bit about Buddy Ryan.”

The Eagles and Dolphins did play twice more with Ryan as Philadelphia’s head coach. Miami won each time, at the end of the strike-marred 1987 season and in 1990. Publicly challenging a legend like Shula, however, was emblematic of the attacking style that won the loyalty of his players, particularly on the defensive side.

When the Eagles fired Ryan following a 43-35-1 run as head coach plus an 0-3 record in playoff games, Jerome Brown said “It’s going to be hard. We’re going to have problems. I’m not saying anything against any future head coach, but we’d do things for Buddy that we wouldn’t do for another coach. I’d sell my body for Buddy.”

There were a few more interesting matchups between Ryan and Shula’s teams.

Super Bowl III, the astonishing 16-7 upset of Shula’s Baltimore Colts by the AFL champion New York Jets, is forever remembered as the victory that Joe Namath guaranteed. The MVP award did go to Namath, who passed for 206 yards and no touchdowns, but New York’s defenders did the most damage, forcing five Baltimore turnovers and limiting the Colts to one score, and Ryan was the coach of the Jets’ linebackers and defensive linemen.

Later Ryan gained fame as the inventor of the “46” defense, a scheme that Chicago used to devastating effect in the course of a 15-1 Super Bowl championship season in 1985. That one loss, however, came on a December Monday night game in Miami’s Orange Bowl.

With Chicago trailing 31-10 at halftime, Ditka and Ryan, his defensive coordinator, almost got into a locker-room fight. Several Bears players had to separate the two.

Ryan also cooked up his own feud with the Dallas Cowboys. He was accused by Jimmy Johnson, then the Cowboys’ rookie head coach, of offering a bounty to his players for injuring Troy Aikman.

“I have absolutely no respect for the way they played the game,” Jimmy said after the Eagles’ 27-0 victory at Texas Stadium. “I would have said something to Buddy, but he wouldn’t stand on the field long enough. He put his big, fat rear end into the dressing room.”

Buddy made a joke of that last bit, saying he had been on a diet and actually thought he looked fairly trim.

There are way too many stories about Buddy to fit into one edition of any publication so we’ll stop there. Anytime you see his sons in action, however, or hear them roar, a little bit of the cantankerous old coach will remain on display for the entertainment of NFL fans.

Rex Ryan is head coach of the Buffalo Bills. Rob Ryan, Rex’s fraternal twin, is Buffalo’s assistant head coach, the one with the flowing locks.

 

 

 

 

If Warriors climbed out of 3-1 in last round, why can’t Cavs do it now?

 

Man, it still looks bad for the Cleveland Cavaliers in the NBA Finals. When’s the last time a team came all the way back from a 3-1 hole in the playoffs?

Oh, yeah. It happened a couple of weeks ago when Golden State did it to Oklahoma City in the Western Conference finals.

Cleveland Cavaliers forward LeBron James smiles at a news conference after Game 5 of basketball's NBA Finals between the Golden State Warriors and the Cavaliers in Oakland, Calif., Monday, June 13, 2016. The Cavaliers won 112-97. (AP Photo/Eric Risberg)
OAKLAND, Calif. – Cleveland Cavaliers forward LeBron James smiles at a news conference after Game 5 of basketball’s NBA Finals between the Golden State Warriors and the Cavaliers in Oakland, Calif., Monday, June 13, 2016. The Cavaliers won 112-97. (AP Photo/Eric Risberg)

What it really comes down to now is did you ever really think the Cavs had a chance to beat the Warriors. Did LeBron James and company have enough to overcome a historic 73-9 team led by two-time league MVP Steph Curry? Was it even worth discussing?

I believed it was and said so, writing in a pre-series blog that Cleveland would win the championship in six games. That looked pretty moronic a couple of games into this thing and it still falls well short of reality now with the Cavs trailing 3-2.

Look at where the Warriors just were, however, in the previous round.

It was much worse than just being down 3-1 to the Thunder. Golden State had just lost consecutive games for the first time all season and was stunned by the sensation. What’s more, OKC was looking more like the defending league champion than the Warriors did. The Thunder scored 72 first-half points on consecutive nights, for crying out loud, something that hadn’t been done in the playoffs since Magic and Kareem’s 1987 NBA champion Los Angeles Lakers.

“The idea now is to go home and get one win,” coach Steve Kerr said after the Warriors were crushed by 28 points in Game 3 and 24 points in Game 4. “Do that, and we put some pressure on them and we’ll see what happens.”

[My very strange day with Hector “Macho” Camacho]

[Rating the Adam Gase offseason buzz compared to other Dolphin debuts]

[All right, let’s get this NBA Finals prediction on the record]

Kerr also took questions that night on whether Curry was playing injured. Kerr said no, that all players have bad nights, but Curry was coming off a 6-of-20 shooting performance that included six turnovers. No, it didn’t look good for the Warriors at all, especially with the Thunder’s Russell Westbrook dominating Game 4 with his first triple-double of the postseason.

Nate Silver’s FiveThirtyEight site crunched whatever numbers they crunch over there and determined that Oklahoma City had a 56 percent chance of winning the NBA title at that point. Cleveland was at 25 percent and the Warriors at 12 percent.

Looking at that same site today, the Cavs are given a 20 percent chance of coming all the way back to win the NBA Finals. That’s the new math, anyway, and it will keep changing until somebody gets their hands on the trophy.

The Warriors understand what the Cavs can still do because they have done it themselves. Monday’s Game 5 road win for Cleveland, with LeBron and Kyrie Irving scoring 41 points each, was made easier by Draymond Green’s suspension, but that doesn’t mean it was easy. The Cavs pushed through their first elimination scare and now they’re going home for Game 6.

I’m thinking there will be a Game 7, too. Probably the Warriors win, but not certainly.

Both teams have looked pretty lousy at times in this series. There can be no certainty when that’s the case. There can only be surprise, game after goofy game.

 

 

Dick Sanford’s voice provided the soundtrack for baseball in Palm Beach County and beyond

The last time I saw Dick Sanford was in a press box and really, where else would it have been?

It was the final day of spring training in Jupiter a little more than two months ago and Dick Sanford was shutting off the microphone at the end of a Marlins-Cardinals spring training game, eager to talk about the Gators or the Dolphins or the Heat or any sports topic in the world, as long as the conversation didn’t circle back to the weight he had lost and the treatments he was undergoing and the tough road he faced.

031408 spt dick sanford-0050460A--photo by Allen Eyestone/The Palm Beach Post.. WELLINGTON, FL.. Dick Sanford, PA announcer for Palm Beach Central baseball games.
WELLINGTON – Dick Sanford working a Palm Beach Central High School baseball game in 2008 (Photo by Allen Eyestone/The Palm Beach Post)

Dick kept coming to work as long as he was able, kept chirping over the stadium speakers about some special promotional day “at the ol’ ballyard.” Always wondered where he got that particularly folksy phrase. Undoubtedly it was borrowed from some play-by-play voice Dick listened to as a boy growing up in West Palm Beach, back when falling asleep to some distant major league broadcast on the transistor radio was as good as summertime got.

Word came Tuesday that Sanford is gone at 66 and at the same time a bit of that old familiar summertime zest left, too.

Those of us who grew up here have been listening to Dick do the lineups and announcements between innings and everything else that fills in the quiet spaces on a ballgame for 40 years or more. Playing hooky from work or school to see a spring training game at West Palm Beach Municipal Stadium or Roger Dean? Sanford’s welcoming tones said it was all right. Catching a Florida State League game years ago or a Marlins game in Miami from 2000-14? Dick beat you to the park by several hours in order to do his job well, and that includes when the Marlins were in the World Series.

He also hustled to provide a professional atmosphere for high school games at Wellington and Palm Beach Central and American Legion games all over. Real long-timers will remember Dick as sports director at WPTV Channel 5 and on WJNO-1230 radio. He had a nightly sports radio call-in show called “Time Out” which was kind of funny because he never took time off. Even worked as general manager of the West Palm Beach Expos for a couple of years, and did play-by-play on the team’s radio broadcasts at the same time. Rattled out quick and clean high school football stories for the Palm Beach Post on many Friday nights as well.

Dick once told me about his first radio gig way back when. If memory serves, it was something about getting behind the mike in Sicily while on military duty and predicting the scores for NFL games. The guys on the base would have eaten that up, but it was Sanford who couldn’t get enough of talking about sports with as many people as he could reach.

I ran across a newspaper ad from 1980 touting appearances by Dolphins hero Larry Csonka and Louisville basketball coach Denny Crum at a West Palm Beach Auditorium fishing and hunting and RV expo. Of course, those were mighty big names, but the tallest type in the ad was reserved for the announcement that Dick Sanford would be the event’s MC.

Like other area sports announcers who went before him, Jim Gallagher and Buck Kinnaird, Dick was a local celebrity and a friend all at once. That’s how he wound up with them in the Palm Beach County Sports Hall of Fame.

That’s why the press box is going to seem a little lonely at Roger Dean next spring, even on those afternoons when the ol’ ballyard is sold out.

[My strange day with Hall of Fame boxer Hector “Macho” Camacho]

[Yes, it’s true, the Miami Hurricanes are playing at Appalachian State]

[There’s really no such thing as a simple summer for Dwyane Wade]

My strangest day in the business, in the company of Boxing Hall of Fame inductee Macho Camacho

Hector “Macho” Camacho (1962-2012) was posthumously inducted to the International Boxing Hall of Fame on Sunday, which took me back to the strangest day in my 38 years as a sportswriter.

LIVE FOR SPORTS FOR DTI 8C 1X1.5INCHES 8/12/WED Hector "Macho" Camacho, 1994
Hector “Macho” Camacho, 1994

Macho, a world-title holder in three divisions, lived and trained on a piece of property in rural Hendry County for a time, out from Clewiston, out of sight. There I made an unannounced visit on him in 1988 and for my troubles was treated to something too crazy for a comedy skit and too spooky for real life.

I tried to get most of it in a column for the next morning’s Post, including him wondering if the nearby farm land could be rezoned for use as a “Macho World” amusement park he wanted to open. A lot of the other stuff just got left out because there was too much going on in his mind to fit in one edition of the daily newspaper.

In 2012, when Camacho was shot dead while sitting in a parked car in Puerto Rico, I wrote the column you see below recalling my encounter with the boxer. Even now it reads like a scene from a Quentin Tarantino movie.

 

By Dave George

Palm Beach Post Staff Writer

Nov. 27, 2012

My one encounter with the late Hector “Macho” Camacho started with the cautious push of a security gate button. Out bounded the attack dogs. Up rose the heart rate.
Maybe, the thought arose, it would have been wise to tell family and friends where this particular work assignment had taken me, driving some 20 miles past Clewiston and down a two-lane county road to the backyard training camp of a famously unhinged boxer who had just that week been arrested for aggravated assault and possession of cocaine.
This was 1988, close to Macho’s prime as a lightning-fisted champion and a flamboyant self-promoter, and it was the period during his career that most fight fans thought of Saturday upon hearing the news of Camacho’s death in Puerto Rico from a gunshot wound.
He was a showman, all right, and a great draw in matches with Roberto Duran, Sugar Ray Leonard, Oscar De La Hoya, Felix Trinidad and Julio Cesar Chavez.
On that long-ago day, however, the mission was to get Macho’s version of an incident that was holding up a deal for a fight with Ray “Boom Boom” Mancini.
A Clewiston High School student had reported an argument with Camacho on school grounds, with the worst of the accusation being that the boxer had waved a gun at him and threatened to kill him.
Now, unannounced and uninvited, a young reporter was on the property of Camacho’s home in the modest subdivision of Montura Ranch Estates. Someone shouted from a second-story window to come in and wait because Macho was in Miami picking up a friend at the airport and wouldn’t be back for a while.
Turns out he was sleeping in a back bedroom all along because, soon enough, the Macho Man appeared. Silent and sullen, he pushed aside a curtain of bright beads that was hanging in the doorway. He wore a skimpy pair of leopard-pattern briefs and nothing more.
Conversation, naturally, was out of the question at that point, but after some time Camacho lapsed into a rambling monologue as he paced rapidly about the room, sometimes plopping into a chair for a second or two but always talking, always spinning the story of his innocence, always professing his love for the people of Clewiston.
“This is the best place in the world for me to train and focus on what I want to do,” said Macho, a kid from Spanish Harlem who trained in an outdoor ring with a sand floor during his Clewiston days.
“This town doesn’t have any big buildings or anything. There are too many people without jobs. I want to buy all of this Montura Ranch area and build a shopping center, a fire department, everything. I want to build houses all up and down here and let people have them with an option to buy.
“I’ll make this Macho World, International.”
There was more rambling, much more, and all of it framed within what Camacho explained to me as his overarching philosophy of life — “I like to be mysterious, unpredictable, exciting, sexy. I’m like a light, going in and out of space.”
Many manic hours later, Camacho steered his guest into a side room, where several sparring partners were awakened from their naps so that a videotape could be popped into the television.
Suddenly everyone was treated to a recorded episode of Macho dancing and singing on a Puerto Rican television show, and everyone was strongly encouraged to dance and sing along. Eventually, faking an illness or something, I escaped.
Whatever happened to the gun and drug charges from 1988 is buried somewhere in the archives of the Hendry County clerk’s records and not immediately retrievable by workers there by the end of business Monday. File it under “mysterious,” along with all the other arrests and probations that kept Camacho in the headlines between fights.
He lived in Clewiston for only a handful of years, but that one afternoon in the Macho Man’s house played out like a decade at least.
[Rating the Adam Gase offseason buzz against other Dolphin coaching debuts]

[It’s not a misprint; Hurricanes are playing at Appalachian State]

[One last look back at all those great moments on Doral’s Blue Monster]

 

 

 

Rate the Adam Gase offseason buzz against other Dolphins coaching debuts

It’s pretty exciting having a new coach with the Miami Dolphins. Fresh ideas. Great expectations. And then there’s that undefeated 0-0 record.

Where, though, do you rate the buzz level on Adam Gase compared to other coaches who have come this way since the departure of Don Shula?

Miami Dolphins head coach Adam Gase, right foreground, watches the players perform drills during practice at the team's NFL football training facility, Monday, June 6, 2016, in Davie, Fla. (AP Photo/Alan Diaz)
DAVIE – Miami Dolphins head coach Adam Gase, right foreground, watches the players perform drills during practice at the team’s training facility on Monday. (AP Photo/Alan Diaz)

I’m talking about how many people you meet who are talking about the Dolphins with less than 100 days before the season opener, and how many times you have checked in to see what Gase is saying or doing at OTA’s, just in case he’s right about a lot of stuff and Miami is about to make some noise.

Here’s my list in order, from (A)South Florida is crazy-go-nuts over the Dolphins’ new direction to (Z) South Florida is stuck somewhere between ambivalent over what’s coming up and fast asleep in the midst of the offseason lull.

 

  1. Jimmy Johnson – 1996 – He had Super Bowl-winning credentials plus a high Miami profile as former coach of the national champion Hurricanes. Also there was the mystery of what the Dolphins would feel and look like without Shula leading them onto the field for the first time in 26 years.
  2. Nick Saban – 2005 – He was a championship coach at LSU, not to mention previous NFL experience as Bill Belichick’s defensive coordinator with the Cleveland Browns. A proven winner who had been given full control of the Dolphins operation and was ready to make the move up from college ball.
  3. Adam Gase – 2016 – Hey, an aggressive head coach who calls his own plays rather than standing around with one hand on the red challenge flag and hoping his staff is on point with the game plan. If Ryan Tannehill ever is going to take off, this should be the year.
  4. Dave Wannstedt – 2000 – Raw deal being the one who had to tell Dan Marino his time was up, but on the other hand he was Jimmy’s hand-picked successor and a trusted partner during great years with the Hurricanes and the Cowboys. Handed a playoff team in Miami, he figured to do fine.
  5. Cam Cameron – 2007 – Sure, this seems completely out of whack now, but that summer Cameron was viewed as the offensive wizard behind San Diego’s high-scoring teams and one of the top coordinators available around the league. If you’re drawing comparisons to Gase, just stop.
  6. Tony Sparano – 2008 – Nobody knew a thing about this guy but Bill Parcells was newly in charge of the Dolphins and he wanted Sparano after working together in Dallas so that was good enough. Most of all, whoever served as head coach immediately after Cameron was going to shine.
  7. Joe Philbin – 2012 – This one was puzzling from the start, and Philbin certainly wasn’t helped by everybody knowing the Dolphins really wanted Jeff Fisher. Joe was helped by coming from Green Bay but hurt by the fact he was a coordinator who didn’t call plays. No outward intensity either.

[One last quick look at all those great Doral moments]

[There’s really no such thing as a simple summer for Dwyane Wade]

[A modest proposal for spicing up Dolphins OTA workouts]

Mix and match these names as you wish. The big thing is it’s good to get a fresh look at the Dolphins. Sooner or later, if only by accident, this franchise needs to start winning again.

Hey, if you can’t get tickets for the Notre Dame game, Miami’s also traveling to Appalachian State

 

I keep looking at the Miami Hurricanes football schedule and it keeps looking like a misprint.

Miami vs. Appalachian State, Sept. 17, at Boone, N.C.

Not exactly the road trip everyone has been fixated on in Mark Richt’s first season as Hurricanes coach.

Miami vs. Notre Dame on Oct. 29 at South Bend has been getting slightly more play.

kiddbrewerApp State is a solid program. Three national championships in a row from 2005-07, all at the FCS level. Beat Michigan at Ann Arbor in 2007. Oh, and the Mountaineers went 11-2 last year with a win over Ohio in the Raycom Media Camellia Bowl.

Still, getting a home game with the five-time national champion Hurricanes, all at the big boy level, is a completely new deal. You can tell it by the excited comments of the folks in Boone when the contract was announced last fall.

“You call around and see who needs a game,” App State athletic director Doug Gillin told the Watauga Democrat newspaper in Boone. “It’s an art, not a science. We called a lot of teams. If you can name a team, we probably called them. Some were interested in playing in Boone and some weren’t. Miami had an opening and it was just a great opportunity for us and it just worked out.”

The amazing thing is that Miami athletic director Blake James called back. With temporary stands dragged in, App State’s on-campus stadium was built for 23,650 spectators, and the record attendance there, with temporary seats dragged in, is 31,531. That, by the way, was for a big rivalry game against Elon.

Not the kind of habit Miami wants to get into but the Hurricanes also played last year at FAU to an announced crowd of 30,321 that really didn’t look that crowded, especially when the lightning meter stopped play and sent people headed for the exits.

This reminds me of Miami’s trip to Shreveport to play Louisiana Tech in 2003. The Hurricanes were No. 3 in the nation at the time but quarterback Brock Berlin was from Shreveport and it was a chance to some recruiting out there. Besides, the game was at Independence Stadium, which took in 43,279 for the game with plenty of empty seats to spare.

Richt and the new Hurricanes get absolutely nothing out of playing at App State, expect for the chance to be embarrassed. Hey, it happens. On the same November afternoon in 2013 that Richt’s old Georgia Bulldogs team was pulverizing Kentucky, the Florida Gators were losing in the Swamp to Georgia Southern, not yet graduated from FCS to the Sun Belt.

[One last look back at all those great moments in Doral history]

[A modest proposal for spicing up competition at Dolphins OTA workouts]

[So far, LeBron and Cavs less competitive in this Final than they were in 2007]

As it stands, Richt figures to get off to a good start at Miami with home games against FAMU and FAU. Then comes the trip to Boone, one of the most beautiful vacation sports you could hope to find, tucked high in North Carolina ski country. Miami fans really should consider going, but they won’t in any large number, which will come as another surprise to the Mountaineer crowd.

“Miami coming here is a big deal,” Gillin said. “When they called us, they asked, ‘Where do we stay? Where do we eat?’ They might stay in Hickory. They might stay in Banner Elk. And they’re going to bring however many thousands of fans. Miami travels pretty well.”

Well, maybe, but my guess is that App State will bring more to Miami in 2021 when the teams complete this rare home-and-home deal. Boone, though lovely as mentioned above, is probably not on the football road-trip bucket list for most Hurricanes fans.

Back in February Blake James, who scored a major coup in landing Richt, talked to our Matt Porter about the less glamorous side of his job as Miami’s athletic director’s job.

“Scheduling’s a complicated thing,” he said. “It wasn’t our first choice. You have to fill out your schedule. We’re excited to go to App State and finish out our schedule.

“There are a lot of moving parts any time you schedule a game. Like I said, it wasn’t where we had targeted, but it was what was best for us when it came time to finish the schedule.”

All the same, it looks like a misprint, and when Richt starts trying to mentally prepare his team for a trip to Sun Belt country, it’s going to feel like a royal pain. If his program takes off like it’s supposed to, awkward arrangements like this will vanish right quick.

Looking at future schedules, the only other power-five conference team planning to play at App State any time soon is Wake Forest in 2017. Probably wasn’t what they had targeted, either.

 

 

LeBron and Cavs actually less competitive in Finals than they were in 2007

 

Would LeBron James actually leave Cleveland again for a team with better NBA title chances? Only now am I beginning to wonder, and for a couple of reasons.

For openers, the Cavs are actually less competitive in the NBA Finals right now than they were when LeBron initally dragged them to the championship round at the age of 22.

Cleveland Cavaliers' Kyrie Irving, from left, LeBron James, Dahntay Jones and J.R. Smith sit on the bench during the second half of Game 2 of basketball's NBA Finals against the Golden State Warriors in Oakland, Calif., Sunday, June 5, 2016. (AP Photo/Ben Margot)
OAKLAND – Cleveland Cavaliers’ Kyrie Irving, from left, LeBron James, Dahntay Jones and J.R. Smith sit on the bench during the second half of Game 2 of basketball’s NBA Finals against the Golden State Warriors. (AP Photo/Ben Margot)

Yes, I know, that’s really saying something since San Antonio swept Cleveland in 2007. What’s more, LeBron had only two teammates who scored in double figures on average in that series, and the best of them was Drew Gooden at 12.8.

Looking back, however, the Spurs really had to scrap to win the last two games, 75-72 and 83-82. Overall, San Antonio’s average winning margin was six points per game.

The 2016 NBA Finals are off to a much more lopsided start with Golden State winning by an average of 24 points per game. That’s a record for the first two games and it breaks a mark that stood for 55 years.

Of course, the Warriors are to blame for most of this. They play at such a high efficiency level that Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson haven’t even needed to score much yet and the games are still blowouts.

LeBron has, however, everything he wanted in Cleveland, right down to the head coach of his choice, Tyronn Lue. Never mind that Lue finished the regular season 27-14 after taking over for David Blatt, fired at 30-11. LeBron is the boss and Cleveland fans trust him to make good on his pledge to throw them a championship parade. The best he has done so far is an 0-2 record in the NBA Finals and a big hole to climb out of in another.

Kyrie Irving is no Dwyane Wade. Kevin Love is no Hall of Famer, either, plus he’s uncertain for Wednesday’s essential Game 3 in Cleveland because of concussion protocols. The cavalry, in other words, isn’t coming. LeBron, nearly averaging a triple-double in the Finals at 21 points, 10 rebounds and nine assists, is more isolated than ever.

If he hasn’t started thinking about other options by now, in other places, with other stars as teammates, it would be a surprise. Winning it all in Cleveland may just not be possible, no matter how much LeBron wants it, and playing out the rest of his career with that notion in mind would be torture for so competitive a man.

[No such thing as a simple summer for Dwyane Wade]

[A last look back at all those great Doral moments]

[A modest proposal for spicing up Dolphins OTA workouts]

Here’s the second bit of historical context when it comes to the potential for another LeBron free-agency blockbuster this summer.

The last time LeBron leaped from Miami to Cleveland, it was coming off a demoralizing NBA Finals loss. San Antonio beat the Heat in five games and the last three victories were routs, with the Spurs winning those by an average of 19 points.

Either because he thought the run in Miami was over, or because he was compelled to make things right in Cleveland, or more likely a combination of both, LeBron said goodbye, burning bridges with Pat Riley on his way out the door. That was after a playoff blitz that included just three Heat losses on the way to the Finals.

What we’re looking at now is a Cavs team that lost two playoff games on an easy ride to the Finals but seems all set up for another quick knockout by a tougher team from the Western Conference.

If that’s not bad enough, this could make two straight losses in the Finals. That never happened to LeBron in Miami.

Put it all together and Wednesday’s Game 3 may come down to a referendum on how much more of playing in Cleveland can LeBron stand, and how much longer will Cavs fans believe they have Superman on their side.

If he blows town once more, no heartfelt letter to Sports Illustrated will make a difference. It will be an admission that nobody is ever going to strike gold in that market, and that would hurt more than all previous disappointments combined.

Oh, and in the interest of full disclosure, I picked the Cavs to beat the Warriors in six games. So you’re saying there’s still a chance, right?

 

A modest proposal for spicing up the Dolphins OTA workouts

Suppose you were a member of the Miami Dolphins and it was getting a little hot out on the practice field and getting a little loud with coaches climbing all over everybody for missing assignments.

New England Patriots wide receiver Shawn Jefferson, center, beats Miami Dolphins safety Brian Walker, left, as wide receiver Terry Glenn signals the game-winnning touchdown in the final minutes of their Monday Night Football game at Foxboro Stadium in Foxboro, Mass., Monday Nov. 23, 1998.  The Patriots beat the Dolphins 26-23. (AP Photo/Jim Rogash)
FOXBORO, Mass. – Former New England Patriots wide receiver Shawn Jefferson, now a Miami assistant coach, beats Dolphins safety Brian Walker for the game-winning touchdown in the final minute of a game at Foxboro Stadium on Nov. 23, 1998. (AP Photo/Jim Rogash)

Well, one thing you know is that head coach Adam Gase and his assistants like to trash talk during workouts in order to ramp up the competition and the fun. So an idea pops into your helmet. Why not pair a couple of those staffers against each other and see how they hold up under the heat and the pressure.

My suggestion in this scenario is wide receivers coach Shawn Jefferson vs. defensive coordinator Vance Joseph. Both played in the NFL and both were pesky enough to contribute to wins over the Dolphins.

Jefferson, 47, had the longer career, playing in a couple of Super Bowls with the Chargers and the Patriots and catching 29 passes overall. Not bad for a guy who was drafted in the ninth round out of Central Florida and had to scrap for everything he could get.

Don’t hold it against him, but in 1998 Jefferson caught the winning 25-yard touchdown pass in a 26-23 New England victory over the Dolphins.

How long ago was that? Well, Drew Bledsoe was the Patriots quarterback and Pete Carroll was their coach. Also, the game was played at 60,000-seat Foxboro Stadium, clunky predecessor to Gillette. The old place was rocking that Monday night, however, when Jefferson crossed the goal line with 29 seconds to play.

And what about Joseph, 43, who played 17 games as an NFL cornerback, including six starts with the Jets in 1995?

One of his career highlights was a 39-yard interception return to help hold off Miami late in a 17-16 Jets win at the Meadowlands. Again, this would sound like ancient history to the Dolphins he is coaching now. The Miami quarterback he intercepted that day was Bernie Kosar, and the opposing head coaches were Don Shula, in his final season, and Rich Kotite.

[After 54 golden years, Doral deserves better than to be discarded]

[There’s really no such thing as a simple summer for Dwyane Wade]

[Missing out on LaMarcus Aldridge really didn’t hurt Heat that much]

Anyway, Jefferson and Joseph surely are competitive enough to line up one more time against each other for the entertainment and the motivation of their particular units. It sounds like the kind of thing that used to have the Dolphins hooting and hollering inside the practice bubble during those crazy days when Dan Campbell was running the team.

Sounds like the kind of alpha dogfight that Gase enjoys, offseason or on.