Stew Milne/USA Today Sports

Thinking out loud: Big win for Providence hoops in Texas Friday night

John Rooke
December 22, 2018 - 9:48 am

Thinking out loud…while wondering if Brad and Billy will ever run out of gas?

  • Yo.  Shout-out to Dr. James Naismith, who invented a pretty cool sport 127 years ago this week.  Putting a leather ball in a peach basket. Who knew? 


  • The Friars closed out their non-conference schedule with a big win at Texas Friday night, largely thanks to will power.  The Longhorns are very talented, long and lean.  But Providence had an answer for every Texas run in a 71-65 decision.  The Friars never trailed on the road, and that’s a tough thing to do.


  • The rich get richer, though? Texas may soon move from the 42-year-old Frank Erwin Center on the edge of its campus into a new, $380 million facility – with only minimal financial input from boosters, donors or taxpayers. 


  • The Austin American-Statesman says a private venue-management group will build and manage a potential new arena, and then cut the Longhorns in on some of the profits after ‘holding it’ for 10 years.


  • As it turns out, A.J. Reeves’ injury has been a blessing in disguise for Maliek White.  Makai Ashton-Langford’s game has also stepped up in the interim.  Both have thrived over the past three games.  File this under unexpected “expected” developments.


  • White made the Big East Honor Roll this past week, while Langford no longer looks like he’s lost on the floor, waiting for other players to bow at his feet.  These Friars have a lot of possibilities.  And depth.


  • Jimmy Nichols is easy to rave about.  At 6-8, he also has a 7-2 wingspan.  He can rebound, block shots, hit an open three and he still looks like a young colt on the floor trying to find his legs.  His picture belongs next to the term “upside” in a dictionary.


  • The prelims are over.  Big East play opens on New Years’ Eve – and the league race is as wide open as perhaps we’ve ever seen it.  That includes the old Big East, too. 


  • The Big East is down this year?  By whose perception?  Younger, yes.  Less experienced, sure.  Not talented enough?  Hardly.  This year could be as exciting as it has ever been.


  • Marquette may be the Big East standard-bearer.  The Golden Eagles’ win over a ranked Buffalo Bulls team is a signature win for the league, as nutty as that sounds.  Markus Howard is my favorite for Player of the Year – he scored 45 against Buffalo, 40 in the second half.


  • St. John’s starts 12-0 for the first time in 36 years.  The Johnnies are deep, they are talented and they’re a solid bet to get back to The Dance.  But I get the feeling they may eventually fall victim to the “let’s all stand around and watch Shamorie Ponds play” syndrome.


  • Ed Cooley’s selection as head coach for USA Basketball’s Pan Am Games team is certainly an honor – not just for Ed, but for the school and the league.  You’ll recall the last time a Providence coach had such national and international stature as a Team USA head coach? 


  • Dave Gavitt once ran the show, as he was launching the Big East while being named to lead the 1980 US Olympic team…which never played a game in the boycotted Moscow Olympics.


  • That the Big East was chosen by USA Basketball over all other conferences – and several proposals were submitted – to provide the players for the Pan Am Games team says all you need to know about the league and how it is viewed by basketball’s governing body.


  • That makes the Pan Am Games in Peru this summer a tough gig for the US, playing against other countries’ pros.  But try to bring back that gold anyway, Ed.  USA!  USA!


  • Some Friar fans undoubtedly got a chuckle from my broadcast partner Joe Hassett this past week. Joe famously pans college basketball officiating, to the point where the refs come by our broadcast table to schmooze before just about every game. So, we know most of these guys. 


  • The trouble is, they also know Joe…as a former player, a one-time NBA champ and uber-criticizer of officials.


  • Big East ref Paul Szelc took umbrage with Joe’s disagreement over a call, and as Hassett moved his arms in the ‘traveling’ motion, Szelc caught him in the act.  He came right to our spot, next to ex-Big East commish Mike Tranghese, and told Joe to knock it off or he’d “run him from the building.”  Those were his words.


  • We were both stunned, to say the least. First of all, there is a rule in place that no hand gestures or ill comments toward the officiating can come from the scorer’s table, where we are located.  But Joe has also said MUCH worse about these guys – to these guys – over the course of 30+ years, albeit respectfully.  He calls it both ways, too, when the Friars get a call they shouldn’t have.


  • Secondly, either Hassett’s rep has finally caught up to him or this guy Szelc has ultra-thin skin.  Long time Big East ref Pat Driscoll, also on the crew for the Central Connecticut game, came over during a time out before the end and whispered, “Merry Christmas.”  And winked at us.


  • Reminded me of the time in Fayetteville, Arkansas nearly 20 years ago when the Friars were getting clocked by the Razorbacks.  Then Big East-ref Mike Kitts was on a mixed crew with officials from the SEC, and the calls were decidedly going the way of the home team.


  • Joe got so frustrated over having a Big East ref take part in the uneven officiating that after one call, he threw off his headsets, stood up and reached out for Kitts and tried to hug him as he ran by.  Most assuredly, he would have been tossed from that one, had he managed to grab a fistful of his zebra stripes.


  • Funny thing though. At the airport later that day, Kitts saw us waiting for our flight home, came over to us and said, ‘let’s have a drink.’  He was blissfully unaware of Hassett’s attempt at a midcourt meet-and-greet.  And we laughed about what almost happened.  Kitts told us, “I’m really glad you didn’t grab me.”


  • URI’s win over WVU puts the Rams squarely into the discussion of Atlantic-10 hierarchy for this season.  Dating back to 2015, our buddy Bill Koch at the Projo says URI has beaten the last three Big 12 teams they’ve played. 


  • And now, it’s off to Diamond Head in Honolulu this week.  Hope the Rams bring plenty of sunscreen…to protect themselves from the glare of increased expectations, as well.


  • Thanks to his performance in the win over the Mountaineers, Jeff Dowtin was tabbed as the A-10 Player of the Week.  18 points, five rebounds, seven dimes.  He also kept the Rams under control with just nine team turnovers against “Press Virginia.”


  • Good move by the A-10 to set up a challenge series with the Mountain West.  It will help non-league resumes, yes…but it might also put a dent in travel budgets.


  • Boston College’s game at Texas A&M was cancelled – not postponed – a couple of weekends ago due to travel issues with the Eagles’ chartered flight.  The pilot thought it would be unsafe to fly with inclement weather in Texas at the time, even though other planes were landing. 


  • When it was clear the game wouldn’t be played, A&M officials wanted BC to forfeit.  The NCAA called it a “no contest.”  This one probably gets decided in a court, and not on a court.


  • A Merry Christmas, though, for Portsmouth’s Chris Herren, Jr.  He was surprised this week by BC coach Jim Christian and awarded a full athletic scholarship.  Had a pretty good game against the Friars, too.


  • Crazy to see UConn and ex-coach Kevin Ollie now throwing racial discrimination charges around over his firing.  Even crazier to see a guy who meant so much to UConn’s history and basketball tradition continue to get trashed over the payout of his contract.


  • Money that UConn obviously does not have or does not want to spend, perhaps, thanks to football and conference affiliation.


  • Tweet of the Week I, from @Chargers: “UPDATE: LaDainian Tomlinson, Dan Fouts and Lance Alworth are all OUT for tonight. #LACvsKC”


  • Washington, DC voted to legalize sports betting this week, joining the eight states (Rhode Island included, or have you not heard those radio commercials?) who have already entered the den of debauchery.


  • Now, NFL teams are gaining casino marketing partners.  And we’re still playing with injury reports like they’re state secrets?  C’mon now.  Time to fix the injury reporting rules. 


  • It sounds grim reaper-ish, but a show of hands here?  How many of you were like me, waiting for the other shoe to drop on Josh Gordon?  Be truthful, now.


  • My first reaction?  Oh, that’s a big loss at a crucial time.  My reaction 15 seconds after that – sobriety is a lifelong battle for some. Whether he was nabbed for smoking weed again and was forced to ‘take time away’ by his suspension or not, it doesn’t matter.  What matters – is his fight to get it right.


  • It was still a good move to bring him in.  The Patriots continue to hold his rights, should he return.  Next man up = Phillip Dorsett.  It’s go time.


  • Tweet of the Week II, from @MFlowers59: “Ya’ll crazy if ya’ll think New England not gonna be ok ya’ll tripping because as I send this tweet out Chris Hogan somewhere wide open in Boston.”


  • Just because it’s Buffalo and the J-E-T-S at home, don’t bet on the Patriots getting back to normal – your version of normal – anytime soon.


  • Not for nuthin,’ but I’ve had Trent Dilfer’s infamous “They’re just not that good anymore!” rant ringing in my ears all week.


  • If you’re looking for the current culprit causing Patriot woes, look no further than the laundry littering the field every game.  It’s for one reason or another: 1) The players simply are not capable of focusing and are not mentally tough enough, or 2) the coaching staff hasn’t taught them well enough about the fundamentals, or the rule changes.


  • You pick which one.  You might be right either way.


  • Bill Belichick says he won’t second-guess Tom Brady.  Maybe he should?  Just sayin.’


  • Two Pro-Bowlers, Brady and Stephon Gilmore.  That many? 


  • A plausible playoff scenario – New England beats Buffalo, clinches (finally) the AFC East. Houston loses at Philly Sunday, and the Patriots ascend to the #2 AFC playoff slot.  Beat the Jets next week.  Bye week, then Home Game.  Book it. 


  • But they’ll need to win on the road, somewhere, to reach the ultimate goal of Atlanta. 


  • Former ProJo curmudgeon Jim Donaldson reminded me this week.  Does anyone remember the ’85 Patriots won three road games to reach their first Super Bowl?


  • Tweet of the Week III, from @patspulpit: “Jaguars beat the Patriots, lose next game. Lions beat the Patriots, lose next game. Titans beat the Patriots, lose next game. Dolphins beat the Patriots, lose next game.”


  • And the Steelers beat the Patriots.  They play at New Orleans this week.  Wanna bet on that one?


  • One more for the proper perspective – Tweet of the Week IV, from @patscap: “It is crazy that the last season that the Patriots did not win at least twelve games was in 2009. Four (Pats, Jacksonville, Philadelphia, Minnesota) teams won at least 12 games in 2017. None will repeat doing so in 2018.”


  • Worst December for the stock market in 87 years?  Ya’ know, President Trump, it would be great if you could kick this economy thing back on track, so bank accounts can recover from their beating this fall.  And make nicer with the Chinese, too, while you’re at it?  Thanks in advance.


  • So sorry to hear of Penny Marshall’s passing this week at age 75.  Yes, she was lovable Laverne of the ‘Laverne & Shirley’ ‘70’s/’80’s sitcom to millions of TV fans.  What you might not recall, or even know much about, is her career as a film director. 


  • Marshall is responsible for one of the greatest lines ever spoken in cinematic history – “There’s no crying in baseball!” was Tom Hanks’ disbelieving line in the movie “A League of Their Own” that will forever be etched in baseball (and movie) history.  And it was Marshall’s idea, as the film’s director.  Thank you, Penny, for the laughs…and the memorable moments.


  • Didn’t take him long, and I’m not at all surprised to see Tim Neverett bounce back quickly – to LA as a radio and TV voice for the Dodgers.  For the life of me, I sometimes just don’t understand the subjective nature of the announcing biz – even though I’ve been in it for 40+ years.


  • Brad Faxon and Billy Andrade.  Tied together as Rhode Islanders, golfers, friends and charitable fundraisers as the CVS Golf Charity Classic enters its 3rd decade of giving back to the community.  This week, Brad and Billy were present for another $1 million check presentation to the 80 local charities who will directly benefit from their efforts and generosity.


  • That makes more than $22 million raised through the 20 years of the CVS Charity Classic.  And the beat goes on.  Don’t ever change, fellas.  Both still play on the Champions Tour, Faxon contributes as a talking head for Fox’s USGA coverage – and I’ll be damned if both don’t seem to have aged a bit in the past two decades. 


  • Speaking of age, my buddy “Big E” sez he was with his Dad at the doctor’s office recently. The young receptionist asked him what his troubles were, and E’s Dad loudly replied, “There’s something wrong with my (euphemism for male genitalia)!” The receptionist was apparently embarrassed, because she politely asked E’s Dad to call “it” something else, since everyone in the waiting room could hear his loud, boisterous voice. 


  • “Let’s call it your ear,” she said.  So, E’s Dad agreed.  And they started over.  “Now, what seems to be your trouble, sir?” she politely asked again.  Big E’s Dad bellowed, “I can’t pee out of my ear!”


  • Jay from Newark, NY posted on Facebook this week, after listening to a ‘Patriots Playbook’ podcast: “Listened to Wednesday’s show on my way home. When you told Russell (Baxter) that you thought there would be a few more surprises this year I thought to myself ‘Nostrarookeus rides again’ considering the Josh Gordon news.”


  • Jay – Even a blind squirrel finds a nut every now-and-then.  One of my favorite sayings from Pete Gillen.  But considering the way this year has gone for the Patriots, and Gordon’s history, how can anyone be surprised at this unfortunate turn of events?  Let’s call it a calculated estimation on my part.  But I do like the ‘Nostrarookeus’ name tag, thanks.


  • Interested in having your questions on local Rhode Island sports (and yes, that includes the Patriots, Red Sox, Bruins and Celtics) answered in a somewhat timely fashion? Send ‘em to me! It’s your chance to “think out loud,” so send your questions, comments and local stories to We’ll share mailbag comments/Facebook posts/Tweets right here! Follow me on Twitter, @JRbroadcaster…and on Facebook, ...


Don’t forget to tune into Providence’s 103.7 FM, every Saturday from 7:00-9:00 am for Southern New England Sports Saturday!  Call in at 401-737-1287 or text at 37937.

Comments ()