Tuesday, December 11, 2001

Looking for Opinions? You're in the Right Place

After watching basketball games involving Iowa, Iowa State and Drake in the space of about 20 hours, after seeing how Nebraska flew BCS Airlines into the Rose Bowl and after noticing that a guy named George O’Leary became Notre Dame’s football coach, here are some opinions on the things going on in sports:


I wish he’d change his mind.

I wish Tim Floyd would say adios to the Chicago Bulls and return to college basketball. That’s the game he knows so well.

Floyd is a very good coach and a very good man. In the four seasons he was at Iowa State, he had records of 23-11, 24-9, 22-9 and 12-18 before becoming coach of the Bulls.

Why he continues wanting to hang around that zoo known as the Bulls and why he wants to work for Jerry Krause, the clown who is called operations chief, is beyond me.

“Money – that’s why he’s still there,’’ people keep telling me.

Well, sure, Floyd has already made a lot of bucks and would earn about $6 million if he coached the Bulls for the three seasons that remain on his contract after this one.

But how much kicking, how much embarrassment can one man take? Floyd won’t quit and Krause says he won’t fire him. Frankly, I think the Bulls should pay him the $6 million, then let him decide his next coaching assignment because management hasn’t given him the players necessary to compete in the National Basketball Association.

I covered Floyd’s first three games as Iowa State’s coach – they were played in Hilo, Hawaii -- and I covered most of the games in his final season with the Cyclones. I know he’s a proud man and a man who is not a good loser.

I recall how he chased the officials off the floor after an overtime loss to Purdue in the championship game of the Big Island Invitational at Hilo. That was his first defeat with the Cyclones, and he didn’t like how it happened.

I also recall, before he’d talk about what went right and what went wrong in games, how he’d pace up and down the corridor outside Iowa State’s locker room—consumed by frustration--following emotional losses.

I also recall how he fought verbally with Gene Smith, who then was Iowa State’s athletic director, and other administrators at the school concerning things he felt strongly about.

No, sir, Floyd didn’t mind voicing his opinions. I was sitting in a hotel room in Manhattan, Kan., one winter night when the telephone rang. It was Floyd, calling from Ames. He wanted to talk about a number of things, but primarily he wanted to second-guess something Mark Hansen, then the Register’s sports columnist, did or didn’t write.

“Don’t you think it’s up to your columnist to write something about that?’’ Floyd asked of some issue I have since forgotten.

However, Hansen and I had a wonderful working relationship. I didn’t tell him what to write and he didn’t tell me what to write.

None of the problems at Iowa State, though, can compare with what’s happening to Floyd now.

Every day has been hell,’’ he said earlier this season when talking about his job with the Bulls.

Floyd’s record in his first three seasons with Chicago was 45-169. This year, he’s 4-15 and the team is in its familiar last place in the Central Division. One of the early losses was by a franchise-record 53 points to the Minnesota Timberwolves. Afterward, Floyd called it a “pathetic effort.’’

Marcus Fizer and Fred Hoiberg, who played for Floyd at Iowa State, are doing all they can for this hapless team. Fizer is averaging 10.9 points and 4.7 rebounds, Hoiberg is averaging 4.8 points and 2.3 rebounds.

Not only has Floyd had to endure the ridiculous Krause. He’s also had to put up with the behavior of forward Charles Oakley, who was fined $50,000 by the club for criticizing the coach and the rest of the Bulls’ management following the 53-point thrashing at Minneapolis. There’s also been heavy criticism by Chicago reporters.
This is some of what Sun-Times columnist Jay Mariotti wrote recently:

“He is the biggest fool in sports, a naïve pawn in a rich man’s shell game. I’ve warned Tim Floyd all along that he doesn’t get it, that he was set up to lose, that Jerry Krause is just incompetent enough to bring down the Bulls, that (chairman) Jerry Reinsdorf cares only about keeping payrolls low to recoup the big salaries he paid during the dynasty….

“I’m not sure of much in the world these days, but I am sure of these three dominoes: (1) Krause should dismiss Floyd immediately for being an amateur coach, a constant whiner and a sneaky adversary; (2) Reinsdorf then should dismiss Krause for chronic buffoonery...and (3) Reinsdorf then should unload his dog-breath team, his only way to save face after failing to build ‘our own dynasty’ without Michael Jordan and allowing his franchise value to slide from $310 million to $249 million—‘and falling,’ according to a published study….’’

I wish Mariotti would tell us what he really thinks.

Larry Eustachy, who succeeded Floyd as Iowa State’s coach, said he talks daily with Floyd.

“I’ve never been prouder of a guy,’’ Eustachy said. “He’s taken on challenges all of his life. There’s talk of him quitting, but he’ll never quit—I promise you. He’ll never give in to the players. He’s doing what he thinks gives his team the best chance to win.’’

I believe all of that. But take my advice, Tim. Call a meeting with Reinsdorf and Krause, get them to pay you all or most of that $6 million, blame them for the team’s problems, then walk out the door with all the dignity you can muster and wait for the offers to come in from colleges. There will be plenty.

College basketball needs you. You sure don’t need the Bulls.


Hey, this is an exciting Bulldog basketball team.

The 2001-2002 season was expected to be the best in Kurt Kanaskie’s six years as coach, and it’s starting that way.

The Bulldogs, who were preseason picks to finish eighth in the 10-team Missouri Valley Conference, were impressive in their victory over Indiana State, which was tabbed to finish third.

By the way, I quit paying much attention to preseason predictions a long time ago. Don’t forget, Northern Iowa – which was picked to finish last in the Valley – jolted a talented Iowa team last week.

I asked Indiana State Coach Royce Waltman, who is in his fifth season, to compare Drake with previous Bulldog teams he has seen.
He was impressed.

“I have a certain feeling about Drake all the time,’’ Waltman said. “Coach Kanaskie is not only one of my favorite people in the league, I think he’s one of the best coaches. It’s hard for me to compare (his teams) because they play the same all the time. They take care of the ball, they recruit shooters. They’re a rare team that has good shooters, but they don’t take wild shots.

“With the two Solas, I think they’re maybe a little more mobile, athletic and maybe more skilled than in the past.’’

One of the more interesting guys on Drake’s roster is Andry Sola, who was listed as questionable for the Indiana State game because of an ankle sprain. However, he came off the bench to score a team-high 21 points—drilling four of seven three-point field goal attempts in the process.

Sola, a 6-8 forward from Oakville, Ontario, Canada, calls himself the “Croatian Sensation.’’ He was born in Canada, but lived in Croatia for two years as a teen-ager. He isn’t related to J. J. Sola, a 6-7 Drake forward from Mission Viejo, Calif.

The Indiana State game was the start of a big week for the Bulldogs, who are at Iowa for a Wednesday night game, then play Iowa State at the Knapp Center at 7:05 p.m. Saturday.

“This is college basketball,’’ said the Croatian Sensation of the Indiana-Iowa-Iowa State games. “These are the games you want to play.’’

Sola said it was important for Drake to win its home opener in the conference.

“When you come to our court at Drake University, this is where we have to make our stand,’’ he said. “No one comes into the Knapp Center and tries to push us around. We have to stay strong and get the ‘W.’’’

The only downside to the Drake-Indiana State game was that it drew only 3,894 fans in the 7,002-seat Knapp Center. Sure, the game was televised and, sure, there were lots of NFL games on the tube that afternoon. But get a ticket to the Bulldogs’ future games. They’re worth seeing.


Just when people were wondering if Iowa’s basketball season was going down the drain because Reggie Evans and Luke Recker were supposedly thinking more of their future NBA careers than about the Hawkeyes and because—as their coach said—they were “soft,’’ along came the 78-53 thrashing they put on Iowa State.

It’s a good thing Iowa State won’t have to play many – maybe not any – players with the with the size and talent of the 6-8, 245-pound Evans the rest of the season. The young Cyclones had no one to match a guy who scored 24 points and grabbed 17 rebounds.

Then again, it’s a good thing. Evans, Recker and the rest of the Hawkeyes got their act together just days after being embarrassed in a loss at Northern Iowa.
“Iowa is the best team we’ve played since I’ve been here,’’ said Iowa State guard Jake Sullivan.

Said Iowa Coach Steve Alford: “We punished a very good rebounding team. We beat them by 23 boards in their building. That’s a little bit of what this team can do if it keeps working.’’

It’s obvious the Hawkeyes have a wealth of outstanding players. If they can show up with the same emotion in most of the rest of their games this season, they will make a strong run for the Big Ten title. At this stage, I’d label them the best team in the conference, and that certainly means better than Illinois.

This figured to be a building year at Iowa State, and that’s what it’s going to be. Eustachy has proven he’s an outstanding coach, but any coach will tell you that the secret to a good record is talented players.

Right now, the Cyclones don’t have enough of them. They’re too young to handle some of the competition they’re facing now and what they’ll face in the upcoming Big 12 race. But count on it that Eustachy’s team will be better in February than it is in December.


Who’d you expect to coach the Fighting Irish, somebody named Wolfgang Soccerschmidt?
They don’t get any more Irish than someone named O’Leary.

Actually, O’Leary, who had a 52-33 record at Georgia Tech, was probably the sixth or seventh choice on Notre Dame’s list. But once guys like Jon Gruden, Bob Stoops, Steve Mariucci and Mike Bellotti said they wanted no part of the Notre Dame job, O’Leary’s name started looking pretty good to athletic director Kevin White.

At 55, O’Leary is the oldest coach ever to be hired at Notre Dame. I’m guessing he won’t do much better than Bob Davie, the guy who preceded him. Maybe he won’t do as well. Not because he’s 55, but because the Notre Dame job isn’t what it once was and because plenty of other collegiate programs have caught up.

By the way, I received an e-mail from a reader who didn’t want to stop with Notre Dame firing Davie.

“What they really need is a new athletic director,’’ the guy wrote.

Sounds like things will continue to be interesting in South Bend.


When Alabama plays Iowa State in the Independence Bowl at Shreveport, La., on Dec. 27, it will be the school’s 51st bowl game.

Normally, a 6-5 record under first-year Coach Dennis Franchione wouldn’t get many rave reviews at a school with a strong football tradition like Alabama. But it looks pretty good when compared with the 3-8 season the Crimson Tide had in 2000 under Mike DuBose.

However, there’s trouble on the horizon at Alabama, and that may explain why Franchione was rumored to be looking into the coaching vacancy at Kansas after Terry Allen was fired last month. When the news got out that Franchione might want to jump ship after one year at Alabama, he quickly put a message on his website that he really wasn’t interested in going to Kansas.

Sure, Dennis. And the yellow-brick road was really blue, right?

The Kansas job has since been filled by Mark Mangino, who had been Bob Stoops’ offensive coordinator at Oklahoma.

The NCAA has been investigating Alabama since the spring of 2000. However, the allegations don’t involve Franchione and his staff. The university recently offered self-imposed sanctions for 11 major violations and five minor violations, including the loss of 15 scholarships over three years. The school also said it was cutting ties with three boosters.

The NCAA is expected to make its rulings on the case early in 2002.


With the Bowl Championship Series formula, anything can happen.

Anything happened this year.

So what if Colorado just happened to clobber Nebraska, 62-36, late in the season? So what if all those other goofy things happened to send the Cornhuskers to Pasadena.

Fix the system, don’t blame Nebraska.

[A MESSAGE TO READERS -- Lots of bad things happened in the world in 2001. So Ron Maly is looking for some good things. Good things in the state. Good things in Des Moines. Good things in the suburbs. Send him a list of five good things that happened. They don’t have to be serious things. They can be fun things. E-mail him at malyr@juno.com]

Vol. 1, No. 10
Dec. 11, 2001