Seen & Heard 2/24

WITH SPRING DRILLS on the Palouse still a couple of weeks away, I'm working hard to stay focused. So I've taken to playing word association with myself. For instance, I'll toss out a name -- say, <b>Bill Moos</b> -- and then blurt out whatever comes to mind. In Bill's case, that would be numbskull.

Here are a few others:

Will Derting -- Butkus Award.
Devard Darling -- Thanks and best wishes.
Dick Bennett -- Awesome.
Gary Barnett -- Loser with a capital L.
Rueben Mayes -- His old boss at WSU ought to take a long look in the mirror for letting him get away.
Sports Illustrated -- Have they switched to the annual "skinny dipping" issue?
Yabba -- Doba Doo!
New hoops uniforms -- Nothing but State!
Football season tickets -- Best bargain in the state.
Kyle Basler -- All-World.
Keith Gilbertson -- Bigger belly than me.

And rolling right along ...

I LOVED THOSE TV commercials for Cougar hoops that were playing back in December. They showed old clips of stars from the glory days like Craig Ehlo and Ike Fontaine. But where the heck were Steve Puidokas, Harold Rhodes, James Donaldson, Terry Kelly and Don Collins? Those guys truly put us on the hardwood map.

Puidokas was the subject of a story by the Seattle Times' Bud Withers last week that ought to have created some serious embarrassment for Ol' Wazzu. Big No. 55's number has been retired since '79 or '80, but the school doesn't acknowledge it --- no banner in the gym, no mention in the media guide. Worse, backup senior forward Justin Bellegarde is actually WEARING the number. Puidokas, a four-year starter for George Raveling, is WSU's all-time leading scorer. He died of a heart attack several years ago in Italy, where he played professionally for many years.

While on the subject of hoops, our esteemed executive editor took in the Cougar-Husky women's game at HecEd a couple of weeks back with his adorable seven-year-old daughter Alex. The CouGals lost, but they played tough for much of the game. He was so impressed with freshmen Kate Benz and Nikki Stratton that he guaranteed an NCAA tourney bid before their eligibility is up.

On the men's side of the court, you really have to marvel at what Dick Bennett has accomplished with essentially the same talent that Paul Graham had a year ago. I see another long-term renaissance coming like we did when George Raveling and Kelvin Sampson worked their magic on the Palouse.

George, by the way, was inducted into the WSU Athletic Hall of Fame last week. A richly deserved honor for a remarkable guy. He called his 11 seasons in Pullman the best of his career --- even though his starting salary was but $22,500 a year. That's no typo, folks.

WITH MIKE PRICE at UTEP, I now have three favorite teams. Actually, one favorite team (the Cougs) and two others who I like a lot: the Miners, and whichever club happens to be playing the Dawgs. Look at Mike's coaching staff and it's old home week with the Cougars: Eric and Aaron Price, Jeff Banks, Jim Clark, and Lawrence Livingston.

He's also got a couple of former Dawgs in the mix with Tim Hundley serving as defensive coordinator and Don James' son-in-law Jeff Woodruff, late of Eastern Michigan, handling linebackers.

I'VE HEARD IT SAID that the state of Washington ought to change to having full-time Legislators, because the part-time approach tends to attract lesser lights who can't hold down real jobs. There's no more powerful testament to that claim than House Bill 2296, recently introduced by a handful of reps with clearly too much time on their hands (not to mention a whole lotta air between their ears).

Said bill proposed making the Siberian Husky the state dog of Washington. Can you imagine? Talk about nauseating. Thankfully, it seems there is at least some intellectual firepower lurking in Olympia --- the bill didn't make it to the House floor.

Mind you, Olympia hasn't always been the land of dunderheads. Once upon a time it was chock full of people who wouldn't have surrendered their power to a joker like Tim Eymans. I'm talking about people like Pat Patterson, a native Pullmanite who spent 20 years in the state House and Senate, and a lifetime promoting his alma mater, WSU. We're sad to report that Pat died a week ago. He was 84. Ol' Wazzu never knew a better friend. After earning a Bronze Star in World War II, he returned to Pullman to finish his degree and later served for 26 years as the school's director of alumni relations.

His devotion to Pullman and Whitman County went with him to Olympia, where he worked tirelessly for the programs and policies that would earn him the moniker "the Godfather of WSU." Rest in peace, Pat. You're one of a kind who will be sorely missed.

SPEAKING OF POLITICS, I can't tell you how relieved I am that the Iowa caucuses and New Hampshire primary are over with. Why? Because I'm tired of turning on the news and seeing candidates flipping pancakes. That retail politics thing gets old, but fast. I can't even look at a Denny's or a bottle of maple syrup without flashes of Howard Dean dancing in my head. And while I'm in fighting trim, memo to Joe Lieberman: Homely, nasely, stridently Bush-esque on the prudence of going to war in the absence of WMD --- that ain't no way to win the Democratic nomination, fella.

NOTABLE NOTES:

Mark your calendars. First, there's the annual Bill Doba dinner, which is set for Friday, March 5 at Emerald Downs in Auburn. The cost is $50 per person. Contact Leslie at WSU-West, 206/448-1330 or kooy@wsuwest.edu, to reserve your spot. Tell her CF.C sent ya.

The other date to circle is September 11, when the Cougars will launch their home football season in Seattle at Seahawks Stadium against Colorado. This will be the third straight year the Cougs have opened the home slate in Seattle. And athletic director Jim Sterk is intimating it'll become a steadfast tradition because it generates so much buzz in the single-largest market for WSU alums. That excitement translates into two things: a big payday at the gate, and some of those same fans getting the bug and traveling to Pullman for games later in the year. Look for a noonish kickoff time, because the Mariners are in town that evening.

The Cougars will open the 2004 season in Albuquerque against New Mexico. The game will be played Sept. 3 -- a Friday night -- so it can be aired live on ESPN.

Former Fab Five receiver Kevin McKenzie has been named the Arena Football League's Ironman of the Week . In a win Saturday he scored three TDs -- one via pass, one via ground and another on a 44-yard interception return. In WSU's march to the 1998 Rose Bowl, McKenzie hauled in 50 receptions for 833 yards and 10 touchdowns.

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