Quick Quacks

HERE WE GO AGAIN... <p> It is truly not that I like to pick on Mack Brown, there was a time when I felt he was one of the better figures in college football. He elevated a North Carolina team that hadn't done much of anything prior to his arrival into a competitive ACC football team, and when Brown moved on to Texas to take over after John Makovic left, it seemed to be a good fit.

But as we all recall, Brown exhibited a new side of his personality when he whined his way into the Rose Bowl and now that any shred of respect has long since been disposed of perhaps it is just easier to find additional examples of crassness about which to complain.

The latest came just after the February 2nd signing day for recruits. Throughout the fall highly touted quarterback Ryan Perrilloux indicated he would sign with the Longhorns, but at the last minute pulled a switch and committed to his home state Louisiana State Tigers. Not one to shrug such an ignominy aside, Brown spoke at some length of the disappointment and betrayal he felt by that change of heart and then begged for sympathy by underscoring how when something like this happens you "lose twice – the one quarterback you didn't get, the one you didn't recruit instead".

I'm not even going to try to feel sorry for you, Mack. If you multiply that disappointment times about 120 individuals and add an X 1.5 factor for order of magnitude you may approximate the disappointment of the California slight in the BCS your actions precipitated. As Archie Bunker used to tell Edith – "Stifle yourself".

A SOFTER SIDE...

I have used this column to dog the Fox broadcasting network more than once, I know. I mostly think they are funny in an unflattering sort of way… the comic strip programming, tabloid shriek nature of their analysis and coverage. So how can I explain this? I guess I can't… but…

Fox Sports Northwest recently presented an outstanding piece on Oregon basketball coach Ernie Kent. As part of their series highlighting Black History month a retrospective of Coach Kent's boyhood in Rockford, Illinois, his college career as a player and now as the coach at the University was broadcast. Interviews with Kent interspersed with notable historic footage combined to offer a studied look at the water that goes under a bridge not unnoticed.

If you dog ‘em when they ain't … you gotta pet ‘em when they've done well… and they did do well.

TIME PASSAGES

The spring of 1972 at the University was a pretty lively time. There was an occasional whiff of tear gas wafting in and great music spilling out of every open window around campus and for the most part - if memory serves correct - it was a spring much like this current one… drier and a bit warmer than usual, though that could well be a fanciful distortion of time. What has not distorted over the years are the recollections of what was then our political climate. In hindsight it should be no surprise I suppose – they are all nasty these days - but that spring brought a particularly bare-knuckled primary election season that pushed Senator George McGovern into the presidential race against Richard Nixon, the incumbent the following November.

So far, not a lot of relevance to the usual Quick Quacks discussion I know, but along with those great riffs of 1972 that had everybody countin' four and finding that backbeat, a unique soliloquy – an a capella rock ‘n roll equivalent of today's hip-hop language - found an audience. For the past four years that voice wrote "sports" for ESPN.com and Sunday the voice went quiet. Only two responses come to mind over that tragic silence – "damnitdamnitDAMNIT" and "maholo".

HOOPIN' AND HOPEIN'

The upcoming weekend is a big one for both the men's and the ladies' basketball teams. The men are fighting for their lives to slip into the Pac-10 tournament basement bracket to take their chances in a third rematch against either the Huskies or Arizona. Beating a team three times in a season is a difficult task; a number of extraneous elements can conspire to help the underdog turn the tables. With a young team it also true that with each game there is an opportunity for exponential growth.

As opposed to football, where most teaching and skill development takes place on the practice field, in the sport of basketball – as well as in baseball – that growth mostly takes place in the context of a game. The extra practice sessions of a bowl season for a football team are the quasi -equivalent to post-season play for a basketball team. The lack of those practice sessions this past year for the football team may or may not be a factor in the upcoming season – there is some team leadership in place that may mitigate the issue. That is not the case with the men's basketball team however. An empty post-season for such a youthful group would be a very unfortunate turn of events. Two, three or more games to grow would pay significant dividends next season.

In the case of the ladies, the situation is much different. The play of three core seniors is going to determine how much of a post-season the team will enjoy and those three core seniors are also going to preclude significant game experience for most of the bench behind them. The regular season has shown there is talent in place to step forward next season, but their progress may well be more in line with what the men are experiencing this year. Injured guard Chelsea Wagner and guard/forward Brandi Davis will bring some continuity and Kristen Forristall, Gabrielle Richards and Eleanor Haring have served the team very well coming off the bench. Kaela Chapdelaine may also fill a significant role.

The challenge will be for some combination of those individuals to take a step back and gain an understanding of the unit as a whole. To make the key basket or find a way to get a rebound when enough is simply enough on the defensive end, to create a turnover out of the defense and recognize where and in whose hands the ball represents the greatest sustained threat to the defense.

A very tall order indeed and that Corrie Mizusawa, Catherine Kraayeveld and Andrea Bills have consistently shown the way to do just that speaks directly to coach Bev Smith. If she can retool that message to communicate it as effectively next season and the returning players find a way to embrace it to their own abilities some momentum may be able to be carried over. However effective she may be, the clear reality is those are going to be three very difficult players to replace in terms of leadership and competitiveness.

It is unfortunate coach Kent's efforts aren't bearing such fruit quite yet and the post-season is all the more urgent as a consequence. Eventually, some combination of players will find the chord that resonates and they'll be on their way to big things. In the here and now the reality is that sometimes the learning process absolutely pummels you and the Ducks are getting pummeled right now. A post-season bid would be an opportunity to put that behind them without having to wait till next season.

I am certain the ladies' troika is fully cognizant of the setbacks and obstacles they endured in prior seasons and that what they learned along the way positioned has them to be on the threshold of the NCAA tournament today. The men may not find much comfort in that analogy, but I'll bet two years from now they will feel exactly the same way.


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