Thursday, January 12, 2006

Alford Can't Afford To Be 'Chesty' After Upsetting Illinois--His Hawkeyes Have Games Against Penn State and Minnesota That They Can, And Should, Win

You might think it's strange for me to say that this is an important week for Iowa's basketball team.

But hang with me for a minute or two on this.

The Hawkeyes gave every indication that they can be a factor in the Big Ten championship race by upsetting Illinois last week. That, following a loss in their conference opener at Wisconsin, made them 1-1 in the race.

So now comes a game Saturday at Penn State. You'd think that would be a name-the-score, let-the-subs-play-the-last-half type of game.

After all, Penn State basketball is something that's related to Chuck Taylor canvas high-tops and short pants above the knees.

The last time Penn State basketball was anything more than a laughingstock, Nittany Lions football coach Joe Paterno [upper right] wasn't sticking his foot in his mouth everytime he said something.

When Paterno was still making sense, he was probably hoping Penn State football would be a year-long sport and Penn State basketball would go away.

But, as bad as the Nittany Lions basketball program is, Steve Alford [lower right] and his Iowa team had better be on the lookout Saturday. Just when you think the Hawkeyes can march into State College, Pa., and put up an automatic "W," bad things might happen.

I was reminded of that by a guy who has been around plenty of college basketball games, and has seen enough of Alford's coaching to know the dangers ahead.

"Can Alford follow the big win over Illinois by winning a couple of games he should--Penn State on the road and Minnesota at home?" the guy asks.

"He has a history of getting 'chesty' after big wins, so this will be interesting. If he can protect the home court all season, which he has never done in the Big Ten, he'll get a nice seed in the Big Dance."

We'll see.

Who knows, maybe Penn State assistant [and former Drake coach] Kurt Kanaskie [center] will put together a game plan that's got "The Way to Beat Iowa" written on it.

Well, maybe not.


Well, it was an interesting couple of weeks with Kirk Ferentz and the NFL, wasn't it?

On Jan. 2 -- even before Ferentz's Hawkeye football team lost its Outback Bowl game to Florida -- he again was being called a hot coaching prospect for a National Football League job.

His son, Brian, was about to play his final game as a Hawkeye, so everybody figured he'd be on every team's short list of candidates in the pro league.

It seemed like there were about 200 coaching jobs open at the time, or maybe it was seven. But if you'd believe the NFL insiders who work behind ESPN's microphones, Ferentz was everybody's hot candidate.

Ferentz said nothing. Much to the displeasure of Hawkeye fans, he didn't say he wanted to stay at Iowa. He didn't say he wanted to coach in the NFL. But as far as I know, he didn't interview for any pro job. Maybe no team wanted him.

Now everyone says Ferentz isn't going anywhere but back to his office in Iowa City.

I guess Iowa's fans -- who always are afraid of losing something -- won't have to worry again about losing Ferentz until this time next year. We'll see if anyone wants him then.


A friend of mine says in an e-mail:

"I see you used Al Schallau's opinion that Ferentz is not going to the NFL. I hope he's right, but as I told him, never say never. Some 35 years ago I was wrong when I said Ralph Miller would never make a lateral move to Oregon State."

Oregon State is where Miller ended his coaching career.


A knowledgeable reader noticed the comments a few days ago by central Iowa TV guru Bob Helmers about Stephen Bardo, who was the commentator on the Iowa State-Kansas State basketball telecast last week in Ames.

Here's what he wrote:

"Hi, Ron,

"It's interesting to see Stephen Bardo doing Big 12 games this year. I think he will do well for ESPN Plus, as Bob Helmers mentioned in his e-mail.

"Here is another tidbit about Bardo that we should add to his dossier. Along with his work on WBBM-TV and ESPN Plus, he was the color analyst for Illinois basketball games on radio for several years with Brian Barnhart. I was able to listen to a lot of the Illini games on radio in the past, courtesy of one of their former affiliates, WSCR in Chicago.

"Barnhart and Bardo made a great combination on radio and Stephen was very articulate in describing what took place on the floor and provided good and fair analysis on the positives and negatives of not only his alma mater, but also the rest of the Big 10 teams. He was truly a delight to listen to. I hope he continues to grow into the television role and best wishes to him!

"On another subject, upon hearing of the death of David Kruidenier [upper left], the Register did a good thing by putting the story of his death on the front page in print. It's unfortunate that they stuck the story on-line under the smaller 'more headlines' section and not as a major story, like the Condition of the State speech this morning."

[RON MALY'S COMMWENTS: Bardo, a former Illinois player, would seem to have a bright future with ESPN. As for the Register's handling of the Kruidenier story on-line, I guess it's too soon to expect miracles -- or even mini-miracles -- with the paper's computer operation. It continues to be a work in progress or a joke, depending on who you talk to].