It’s High Time To Appreciate The Heat’s Four Straight NBA Finals Trips

All right, so the Miami Heat didn’t make the NBA playoffs. So they won only two NBA titles with the Big Three of LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh. Can we back up just a minute now that it’s all over to savor what they did achieve?

Try this one for size. Miami played in four consecutive NBA Finals from 2011-14.

In the history of major professional sports on this continent, there have been only seven instances of a team reeling off a longer string of appearances in the league championship round.

In the NBA, the Boston Celtics made the Finals an astonishing 10 times in a row with Bill Russell, Bob Cousy, John Havlicek and other stars between 1957-66. No other run has ever topped Miami’s four NBA Finals in a row, though at different times the Lakers and the Celtics have matched the Heat.

Dwyane Wade and LeBron James  (Allen Eyestone/The Palm Beach Post)
Dwyane Wade and LeBron James (Allen Eyestone/The Palm Beach Post)

In hockey, there have been three long strings of appearances in the Stanley Cup finals. The Montreal Canadiens got there 10 times in a row from 1951-60 and five times in a row from 1965-69. Also, the New York Islanders, an organization run by Bill Torrey of West Palm Beach, had a five-year run of Stanley Cup trips in the 1980s.

Baseball has two examples of a franchise topping Miami’s four-year run of championship appearances. The New York Yankees did it each time, going to five consecutive World Series from 1949-53 and showing up again five years in a row from 1960-64.

The Cleveland Browns made six consecutive trips to the NFL Championship game between 1950 and 1955, which is better than the Heat’s recent run of NBA Finals, but the Super Bowl has been a much tougher return gig.

No has ever topped Buffalo’s four consecutive appearances in the Super Bowl. The Miami Dolphins come next with three from 1971-73. Seattle could stretch it to three consecutive appearances if they get there again this year.

The Heat aren’t the greatest team in sports history and they won’t be any time soon but they sure had it going for a while there. We shouldn’t be too spoiled to see that.

_____________________________________________

And now a limerick to lighten the mood for South Florida fans missing that postseason buzz.

 

Ndamukong is quite a name, sure

Buy one vowel or two at your pleasure

With Suh on the roster

Ndamukong Suh doesn't wear this Detroit Lions uniform anymore. He's a Dolphin and couldn't be prouder. (Getty images)
Ndamukong Suh  (Getty images)

The Dolphins will prosper

And spelling bees aren’t what we’re here for

 

Jupiter’s Billy Gabor Gets NBA Championship Ring He Earned 60 Years Ago

Here’s a wonderfully entertaining entry from the better-late-than-never file and it involves feisty former NBA player Billy Gabor of Jupiter, whose 93rd birthday is Wednesday.

Bill Gabor, age 91, played in the NBA in the 1950s. He was photographed at his home in Jupiter on Wednesday, January 29, 2014, holding an engraved ice bucket. "When we won in 1955, we didn't get anything from the NBA," he said. "The stockholders gave us this engraved ice bucket." The engraving reads "Presented to Billy Gabor World Champions Syracuse Nationals 1954-1955 by the Stockholders." (Bruce R. Bennett/The Palm Beach Post)
Bill Gabor, age 91, played in the NBA in the 1950s. He was photographed at his home in Jupiter on Wednesday, January 29, 2014, holding an engraved ice bucket. “When we won in 1955, we didn’t get anything from the NBA,” he said. “The stockholders gave us this engraved ice bucket.” The engraving reads “Presented to Billy Gabor World Champions Syracuse Nationals 1954-1955 by the Stockholders.” (Bruce R. Bennett/The Palm Beach Post)

“Billy the Bullet” was his nickname when Gabor played for the Syracuse Nationals of the longago NBA. He was part of a league championship team in 1955 with Hall of Famer Dolph Schayes as a teammate but they never got a championship ring.

RELATED: For more on Billy’s NBA career in the George Mikan era, here’s a feature I wrote last year.

Pro basketball was not a big-money sport back then so the Nationals’ ownership group couldn’t spring for rings. Gabor displays in his home the engraved ice bucket that the team awarded its players instead.

After all this time, however, the rings are finally in.

Howard Dolgon, owner of the American Hockey League’s Syracuse Crunch, had diamond-studded 1955 NBA championship rings made for the four Nationals players still living. Gabor wasn’t feeling well  enough to make the trip to Syracuse, where a ceremony recently took place at the old War Memorial Auditorium there. That’s where the hockey team plays now and where the Nationals played then.

On Wednesday night at an Outback restaurant in Jupiter, Gabor and friends will gather to celebrate the arrival of the ring, and to admire its shiny brilliance.

That ice bucket soon will have to share space with a new artifact of Gabor’s youth on the mantel of his seaside Jupiter condo.

 

So glad that Herb Score’s story hit the spot for many of you

I’ve gotten all sorts of nice feedback from readers who enjoyed my article on Herb Score, the Lake Worth legend whose astonishing major-league debut as a strikeout king in 1955 made him a Hall of Fame candidate — until his career was cut short by a line drive that struck him in the face.

The May 8, 1957 edition of The Palm Beach Post describes Score's injuries.
The May 8, 1957, edition of The Palm Beach Post describes Score’s injuries.

So glad that readers got a chance to hear about one of the greatest athletes in local history, even if it is 60 years late, and so appreciative that people are taking the time to tell me.

Score is one of those names in the Palm Beach County Sports Hall of Fame that slips through the cracks, but there still are people who went to school with him Lake Worth High and remember what a terrific and humble guy he was.

If you didn’t see the story in Sunday’s Palm Beach Post, here’s a link to the digital version, which looks so much better thanks to the presentation skills of Post illustrator Mark Buzek.

As lengthy as the story was, there always are a few tidbits that get left out.

Herb Score 1952 Lake Worth High School yearbook (Contributed by Dennis and Doris Dorsey)
Herb Score
1952 Lake Worth High School yearbook
(Contributed by Dennis and Doris Dorsey)

When Score was in the hospital in 1957, for instance, recovering from injuries sustained by the line drive that struck him in the right eye, the citizens of Lake Worth got together to send him a get-well telegram. There were so many names affixed that the telegram wound up being 125 feet long.

Also, there was a spring-training game in Miami when Score was still trying to make the Cleveland Indians roster. He was scheduled to pitch against Willie Mays and the New York Giants. A few local civic groups attended the game to show support and even managed to get a few representatives on the field prior to the game to declare it “Herb Score Night.”

This kind of thing would never happen today, but it’s kind of sweet to think about.

The service groups, Civitan and Rotary and such, even presented Score with gifts that night before he went out to pitch — a silver plate and a set of steak knives.

It’s been a long time since Gators had simultaneous restart in football and hoops

Not since 1990 have the Florida Gators simultaneously started over with new coaches in football (Jim McElwain) and basketball (Michael White). Spooky stuff, but it really did work out pretty good that other time.

 Michael White (yahoo.com)
Michael White
(yahoo.com)

All Steve Spurrier did was give Florida its first SEC title. Then he won five more of those and the 1999 national championship, too — another Gator first.

Meanwhile, Lon Kruger — who also came on in 1990 — was making something of Florida basketball, too. He took the Gators to their first Final Four in 1994, the highest achievement for the program until Billy Donovan came along.

White’s turn at the wheel begins Monday with his introductory press conference in Gainesville.

White seems painfully young at 38, but he’s eight years older than Donovan was when he took the Florida job in 1996.

White is a coach’s son, but his father moved on from small-college track and field to become an athletic director. Today Kevin White is the athletic director at Duke. They seem to know a little about basketball up there, so that’s a good sign.

Florida AD Jeremy Foley had more than just White’s coaching record at Louisiana Tech (101-40) as a job recommendation. In his college days, White played basketball for Ole Miss, starting at point guard from his freshman year on. That sounds like leadership. What’s more, White is tied for seventh on the Rebels’ career assists list. That computes as leadership, too, and is an example of the kind of team-first concept that Donovan made work at Florida.

And how did White do as a player in games against Florida? Well, it’s pretty tough digging up box scores from 1998 and 1999 on the fly, but the overall results suggest he had a pretty good handle on the Ole Miss offense.

Jim McElwain (Getty Images)
Jim McElwain (Getty Images)

The Rebels beat Florida 90-79 at Oxford during White’s junior year. As a senior, he was part of a 79-68 win over the Gators at the O’Connell Center. That Gators team went 22-9 and made it to the Sweet 16 for the first time under Donovan. Matter of fact, that Ole Miss game was the only one Florida lost at home that season.

White is getting $2 million a year to coach the Gators. Not bad, considering Billy D signed for $400,000 per year on his original contract at Florida.

Not much pressure, then, on McElwain and White. Like I said, this double dose of change hasn’t happened at Florida since 1990. Prior to that, you have to go back to 1960, when Ray Graves became the football coach and slippery old Norm Sloan began his first of two runs in charge of Florida hoops.

Draft Demonstrates How Little Muschamp, Golden Achieved With Pro Prospects

Miami Hurricanes head coach Al Golden shakes hands with Florida State Seminoles head coach Jimbo Fisher after a game at Sun Life Stadium on October 20, 2012 in Miami Gardens, Florida.  (Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images)
Florida State’s Jimbo Fisher and Miami’s Al Golden have some ground to make up on other big-time coaches like Urban Meyer and Mark Helfrich. (Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images)

The first College Football Playoff showed us that Urban Meyer is the best coach in college football today, consistently getting the most from his talent. But the recent NFL Draft showed us that he’s going to be even more of a pain in the long term.

For all the attention given to Jimbo Fisher’s 39-3 record at FSU over the last three years, and it is well deserved, Meyer is 38-3 in his three seasons at Ohio State and likely would have gotten even more done if his opening 12-0 team in 2012 wasn’t on NCAA probation and ineligible for the postseason.

Wait, it gets worse with data from the draft.

Jimbo, a spectacular recruiter, led the nation with 11 players selected in the 2015 NFL draft. Included in that was the No. 1 overall pick, quarterback Jameis Winston.

Urban, on the other hand, got shut out altogether in the first round and had only five players drafted from his Buckeyes team. He was down to his third quarterback by the end of the season and won the national championship anyway.

Conclusion: Meyer already has piled up enormous depth and will continue to develop young players at a rate far beyond most coaches. This is cumulative Nick Saban stuff, but not even Alabama could do anything with Ohio State when they met in the national semifinals on New Year’s Day. No reason to think that Jim Harbaugh will be able to catch up to Urban in the Big Ten anytime soon either.

If any of this makes you cringe, better not read on. The NFL draft has some ugly stuff to say about Florida and Miami.


Here is a chart showing the total number of overall draft picks selected from some prominent schools over the last two years.


In the opinion of NFL personnel pros, Florida’s Will Muschamp had more potential professional-quality talent among his upperclassmen than Meyer did, yet still managed to go 11-13 in his last two seasons with the Gators. If anything, Jeremy Foley should have pulled the rug out from under Muschamp sooner.

Also, Miami is in a class with Ohio State and Oregon when it comes to potential pros on its roster. Problem is, those other two teams played in January’s National Championship Game.

Miami’s Al Golden, meanwhile, is losing steam with two minor bowl losses and a 6-7 record last year. Looks like Al is getting the minimum from his guys. Anything less than an ACC title game appearance in 2015 and he should be gone, too.

Meanwhile, if you’re looking for an overachiever, it’s Mark Helfrich, who got an in-house promotion when Chip Kelly left Oregon for the NFL. Hasn’t done much wrong since, going 24-4 and doing it without the advantage of an abundant Florida recruiting harvest in his own backyard.

Would Florida have done better hiring Helfrich instead of Jim McElwain? Could be, but it’s a moot point. The Gators program has dipped to a point where a guy like Helfrich, supported by Phil Knight’s Nike money, is out of reach.

For NFL Talent, You Still Can Do Worse Than Florida Rivalry Games

By Dave George, Palm Beach Post Sports Columnist

 

Here’s a heartwarming tidbit from the NFL Draft.

When it comes to total accumulation of talent on one field, you can still do a lot worse than buying a ticket for an FSU-Florida or FSU-Miami game.

When the Seminoles beat Florida 24-19 last November, there were a total of 19 eventual 2015 draft picks in the game. Four of those – Jameis Winston and Cameron Erving for FSU, Dante Fowler, Jr., and D.J. Humphries for the Gators – were first-rounders.

AP photo
AP photo

In FSU’s 30-26 win over Miami, 18 players in that game were bound for the 2015 draft. Again, four of them were first-rounders, with Miami’s Ereck Flowers and Phillip Dorsett adding to the FSU pair.

Comparatively, the Texas-Oklahoma game featured 11 players who would be drafted in 2015.

Auburn-Alabama had 12, Ohio State-Michigan had eight and Notre Dame-USC had seven.

FSU plays the Hurricanes Oct. 10 in Tallahassee. The Seminoles travel to Gainesville to play the Gators Nov. 28.

_______________________________________________

In the mood for a limerick?

Too bad. I got the music in me and I just can’t keep it in

 

There is a young star named Giancarlo

Who brings baseball fans in by the carload.

Three twenty-five million,

Or was it gazillion?

For him Fish will beg, steal or borrow

We’re A Little Too Tough On Ryan Tannehill

Saw the other day where the Washington Redskins picked up their fifth-year option on Robert Griffin III for the 2016 season. They’re trying to sound happy about it.

At times like these, I recognize how tough we all are on Ryan Tannehill.

The guy played wide receiver for half his career at Texas A&M. He didn’t win the Heisman Trophy, like Griffin did. Tannehill’s most attractive features coming out of college were size (6-feet-4) and arm strength plus experience playing under Mike Sherman, the Aggies coach turned Dolphins playcaller.

Well, Sherman is gone and one day Joe Philbin will be, too, but the Dolphins will continue to build on Tannehill, who was drafted No. 8 overall in 2012 and is at least holding his own with a 23-25 career record.

Compare that to Griffin. The Redskins traded first-round picks two years into the future to move up and get him at No. 2 overall that same draft, right behind Andrew Luck.

RGIII won a division title in his first pro season but he hasn’t played every game, like Tannehill has. Miami’s guy is more durable.

Tannehill has won more games, too. RGIII’s career record with the Redskins is 14-21 in the regular season and 0-1 in the playoffs. Overall, Tannehill has 63 touchdown passes in 48 starts. Griffin has 40 touchdown passes in 35 starts.

Allen Eyestone/Palm Beach Post
Allen Eyestone/Palm Beach Post

Now we could go on and on with the comparisons, measuring Tannehill, for instance, against Luck, but once more that would lead to being overly tough on the Dolphins’ leader.

The way I see it, Tannehill’s doing about as good as can be expected given that he wasn’t fully formed as a quarterback coming out of college and he’s been sacked 139 times behind a Miami offensive line that’s constantly in flux.


Doing research on another story I came across an old box score that showed No. 1 seed UCLA losing to Memphis by 15 points in the 2008 national semifinals. The Bruins had Russell Westbrook and Kevin Love and didn’t win a championship, which helps explain why former UCLA coach Ben Howland is at Mississippi State today.

rushthecourt.net
rushthecourt.net

Oh, that Memphis team, featuring Derrick Rose, was coached by John Calipari. He’s the king of Kentucky now, which doesn’t sound so good for Howland’s SEC debut either.


From time to time we’ll want to class up the blog with a little culture. That would be very little, as in a limerick.

“Jim McElwain’s the new Bull Gator

He’ll be winning sooner or later

The best he’s got going

Is everyone knowing

He’s exiting Will Muschamp’s crater.”

Dave’s Digital Domain: Welcome to my new blog

It’s odd, all the fuss about being a digital journalist. Seems like I’ve never been anything else. From typewriters to computer keyboards, every last column over the course of nearly 37 years has been produced with the participation and cooperation of all 10 digits.

Times and terms change, though. Plenty of you are reading this right now on a phone, which is odd in itself, but apparently necessary. Perhaps one day taking a college course on an electric toothbrush will be necessary, too. Meanwhile, I’ll try to connect with you, and vice versa, by everything this side of telepathy.

Today’s launch of my blog on the Palm Beach Post is a major part of that. You’re welcome into Dave’s Digital Domain any Monday through Friday to sample the dust that swirls around inside Dave’s simple brain.

Thanks for giving this a try. We’ll keep it up as long as you can stand it.


Dan Marino is special advisor to the Miami Dolphins’ CEO and president, Tom Garfinkel. That’s nice, but wouldn’t it be nicer if he were special advisor to the men actually making the team’s draft selections Thursday night?

Marino knows a little bit about what makes a successful NFL player, and about quarterbacks and wide receivers in particular. He shared that information with the world as an analyst for CBS and HBO. It seems a waste not to have his official input through player interviews or general discussions as the Dolphins search for draftees that could help pull them out of the doldrums.

Photo by Allen Eyestone, Palm Beach Post
Photo by Allen Eyestone, Palm Beach Post

Back in 2004 he gave front-office life a brief whirl, taking on the title of Dolphins’ Senior Vice President of Football Operations. If that had continued, Marino might eventually have assumed the same kind of power role that John Elway has in Denver. After three weeks on the job, however, Marino bowed out, saying it wasn’t a good fit for his family.

Now we see him doing community-service photo ops, taking golf trips to the Bahamas with big-money Dolphins fans, stuff like that. It’s easy to do and it’s good for the franchise’s business side. The business in which Marino excelled, however, is football, and a little bit of help from him in that area a few times a year, something in the personnel evaluation field, would go a long way.

Going into tonight’s draft we know that Mike Tannenbaum likes to play it really flashy. Dennis Hickey likes to play it really safe. With Marino’s voice in the process, even as an advisor, I would feel better about the Dolphins drafting really smart.


“The Fight of the Century” between Floyd Mayweather, Jr., and Manny Pacquiao on Saturday is breaking every record for monetary excess.

It’ll be six figures to buy ringside seats after-market. Based on that, my educated guess is that a cup of coffee will run you about $39.95 at the MGM Grand that night. Pay-per-brew.

Sure hope this fight is better than one I covered in Las Vegas in 1995. Mike Tyson was making his comeback after three years in prison for a rape conviction and the opponent was Peter McNeeley, supposedly the WBA’s seventh-ranked heavyweight. Not sure who was ranked No. 8 at the time but it couldn’t have been much of an honor.

Iron Mike needed 10 seconds to knock McNeeley down and another 79 to do it again. Before you knew it, the challenger’s manager was jumping into the ring to stop the fight, which appealed to Tyson’s gentler side.

“Eventually he was going to get hurt,” Tyson said. “You know me. I’m a blood man. I like to finish it.”

Associated Press photo
Associated Press photo

McNeeley’s part in the post-fight news conference was to field a few softballs from reporters planted by his team and then to shout at legitimate media members who sat there stone-faced, impatient for Tyson’s arrival.

“Let’s hear some more,” McNeeley howled. “How ‘bout some questions?”

The only one I could think of was “Why didn’t you go into a saner profession, like bull-riding? You’ve only got to last eight seconds to be a winner there.”

Didn’t ask it, though. McNeeley had already played his part, and we were all on deadline.

Oh, and I’m picking Mayweather Saturday.