Patriots owner Robert Kraft

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Thinking out loud: Some Robert Kraft thoughts

John Rooke
February 23, 2019 - 9:11 am
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Thinking out loud…while wondering what’s happening to our Friday Night Lights around here?

  • One of my favorite sayings – and beliefs – comes into play this week.  No matter how bad you think you have it, there’s always somebody who’s got it way, way worse.

 

  • To that end, the sudden and shocking news of Patriots’ owner Robert Kraft being charged in a South Florida prostitution investigation and sting operation is beyond any immediate, actual comprehension.  We are so often too quick to judge, especially today thanks to the presence of social media. 

 

  • The organization wasted little time in reacting to the Friday stunner: “We categorically deny that Mr. Kraft engaged in any illegal activity. Because it is a judicial matter, we will not be commenting further.”

 

  • In full disclosure, many know I have had a 26-year relationship with the team that pre-dates his ownership.  Never have I been asked to keep from reporting, or from talking about anything regarding news-worthy events.  As such, because it is a private matter for Mr. Kraft, I’m willing to let the legal process take care of itself. 

 

  • Probably a good lesson to learn from, in this instance, for everyone.  Maybe you disagree, and that’s your right.  But this is my right.

 

  • You think your team has troubles?  Providence Friar fans, take note.

 

  • The problems currently plaguing the URI Rams’ this season can be traced to three primary areas of concern, at least from this viewpoint.  1) High expectations; 2) No shooters; 3) Little quality depth.

 

  • That does not mean the Rams can’t be competitive.  What it means is the margin for error is razor-thin.  With all due respect to Ryan Preston, who was suspended from the team last week for his alleged unhappiness in not following team rules – it’s a players’ game. 

 

  • But the coach runs the show.  Don’t like that?  You have options, just not the one you chose in sharing your feelings on social media.

 

  • Higher-than-normal expectations helped this season get off to a rocky start.  Sure, the players have much to do with that.  Maybe David Cox does too.  But you don’t vote on a candidate or a referendum without a doing little research first. 

 

  • And I will mention here the bottom line in college basketball success – recruit, recruit, recruit.  Rick Barnes told me that.  Pete Gillen told me that.  Al Skinner told me that.  Ed Cooley tells me that.  David Cox knows it and needs to get after it.

 

  • Before I forget, Coach Skinner has decided to step down at Kennesaw State as head coach after this season.  Both URI and Boston College messed up at the time, big time, when they let him slip away.

 

  • As for the Friars, this season has been as wacky as any in the past 30 years.  Unpredictability, thy name is Providence.

 

  • There are three things lacking, like at URI, keeping the Friars from consistency – the ability to penetrate and pass, the ability to consistently knock down open shots, and the ability to find consistency at the foul line. 

 

  • They won’t, they can’t, and they don’t. 

 

  • We’ve talked about the lack of a true point guard being part of the problem, and while that is true, the lack of a stretch-four – a big guy that can shoot – has also been a missing ingredient on the offensive end, forcing the Friars into stalling out while they search for a good shot.

 

  • They certainly didn’t stall out much against St. John’s this week, after the disaster that was Xavier last weekend.  The Red Storm took three of four against Marquette and Villanova yet lost two to PC.  What gives?  This is crazy.

 

  • Not for nuthin,’ but a good note was shared by Kevin McNamara at the ProJo this week on 6-7 forward Alpha Diallo.  He is one of only five players in a power conference currently leading his team in scoring, rebounding and assists. 

 

  • Sometimes, the Friars ask Diallo to do a bit too much, and occasionally he makes a poor choice, but he is every bit the alpha-male he needs to be on the floor.

 

  • One of the other four players, by the way, is Boston College guard Ky Bowman. 

 

  • The Big East is the only power conference that has every team in it with a winning record.  No bottom, no dogs, no easy outs.  Stop complaining and enjoy the madness.  It’s only going to get better (or worse) from here.

 

  • The rich will be getting richer…Villanova has found a way through their township zoning laws to construct an athletic dome on campus, allowing several sports the opportunity to practice inside when the weather is frightful outside. 

 

  • Episode Seven of This Week in the Big East (or TWITBE), carried on 103.7 FM as well as Sirius/XM and via podcast on iTunes, Stitcher and Google Play, features DePaul head coach and New Bedford native Dave Leitao, former Friar and Xavier head coach Pete Gillen and Fox Sports’ recruiting guru Evan Daniels.

 

  • Catch it anytime on westwoodonesports.com and on bigeast.com, too.

 

  • Brown opens a four-game Ivy League homestand this weekend with games against Harvard and Dartmouth, sitting in 5th place in the standings at 3-5.  The Bears are two games out of fourth – and an Ivy tournament spot – with two weekends to play.  The time is now.

 

  • Need a name?  Lowell, MA sophomore Tamenang Choh leads the Ivies in rebounding, he’s 8th in field goal percentage, 9th in blocks and 6th in assists.  How’s that for a quartet of quality?

 

  • Zion Williamson, sneaker blow out or not, needs to get back on his feet and play for his Blue Devils if he can this season.  Sit out until he’s drafted?  Why?  To protect his precious professional opportunities that will still be there if he decides to March through the Madness this year?

 

  • Ridiculous.  He’s a college kid.  Let him be one, while he can be one, if that’s what he wants.  Why are we so insistent upon forcing athletes into being professionals before they’re ready, mentally or otherwise?

 

  • One other thing – and this goes for football players ditching their college teams in bowl games to get ready for the pros, too:  If I’m building a team, or if I was playing the game with you, go away.  I don’t want you on my side.  You quit.  I want ‘team’ guys, not ’me’ guys. 

 

  • It’s the very essence of building teamwork, sportsmanship and loyalty.  And we’re saying it’s ok for someone with an elite ability to just walk away because they can or should?  Bull.

 

  • Was last weekend’s sweep of UMass-Lowell big for PC’s Hockey Friars?  Of course it was.  It’s an even bigger weekend this week with 10th ranked Providence facing #2 UMass-Amherst Saturday night at Schneider Arena.

 

  • Goalie Hayden Hawkey set the program record with his 65th career win last Friday night, and earned his NCAA-leading seventh shut-out this season with a 1-0 win over the River Hawks on Saturday.

 

  • Saw this week where the University of Illinois may be adding men’s ice hockey as a sport and join the Big Ten – where of course they already reside in everything else, even if they’re not terribly good at anything.  Rutgers of the Midwest, maybe?

 

  • The State of Washington has a bill under consideration in the House to pay college athletes at Washington and Washington State.  The schools say they are against such legislation, preferring not to be collegiate guinea pigs for the rest of the country. 

 

  • The pending bill would make it illegal for the NCAA to enforce its rules of amateurism within the state.  Whoa.  That would classify as a gamechanger.

 

  • A human tragedy this week in Syracuse, with the story of Hall of Fame coach Jim Boeheim striking and killing a pedestrian with his car Wednesday night on I-690 during bad weather.  It’s the kind of thing that could happen to anybody, and it happened to one of that region’s best-known citizens.

 

  • One of the top names in the sport of basketball, too.  Boeheim doesn’t drink and wasn’t drinking while driving that night, either.  Just awful news.  

 

  • So was the news of the Boston Globe’s Nick Cafardo passing away this week at the age of 62, while covering the Red Sox in Fort Myers.  Nick has been one of the country’s premier baseball writers for some time; his list of contacts and acquaintances was extraordinary, and I’ve been one of the many who always looked forward to reading his Sunday baseball column, just like reading Peter Gammons so many years ago.

 

  • When Nick covered the Patriots in the ‘90’s, he approached me one summer day while the team was still training at Bryant.  He thought I might be interested to know the Patriots were going to launch a “first,” and begin live radio programming on their website – which was in its infancy at the time.  He thought I’d be perfect as a contributor.

 

  • I’m still contributing more than 20 years later, and not entirely certain I ever really thanked him for that tip.  Our paths didn’t cross much over the past 10 years or so because of the sports we primarily cover, except for the occasional radio interview, but words like ‘nice’ and ‘professional’ don’t do him justice. 

 

  • He was a good man, a friend to many in this business and I considered him one as well.  He’ll be missed.  Our profession suffered a big loss this week.

 

  • The early buzz on Sox pitching is that Eduardo Rodriguez has a slider that really slides?  Can he throw a gyro ball, too?

 

  • Let’s see, the Bruins traded a Harvard guy for a BU guy this week.  Is that about right? 

 

  • I don’t mind the deal at all, because it tells me the B’s want to win “now,” trading someone viewed as a prospect in Providence (Ryan Donato) for someone who can contribute (Charlie Coyle) to the big club right now.  We should never have a problem with that attitude around here. 

 

  • Did you see where NBA commissioner Adam Silver told the media at the all-star game the NFL’s system of parity was working well?  And that the Patriots were simply an exception to that standard.  Silver believes it’s about parity of opportunity – and that’s where New England has excelled.  They’ve taken advantage of opportunity better than anyone else.

 

  • No kidding.  But people hate what they don’t get.  Just sayin’.

 

  • It’s ‘tag, you’re it’ time for the Patriots, who haven’t used a Franchise or Transition Tag on a player since 2015 (Stephen Gostkowski).  Love to see them tag Trey Flowers with the hope of working out a long-term deal. 

 

  • But I’m not certain they will.  If there’s ever a year to tag someone, this might be it.  Gostkowski and Trent Brown are also tag-worthy to keep around as potential free agents-to-be.

 

  • Devin McCourty says he’s coming back for another year.  Did anyone really believe he wouldn’t?

 

  • And Antonio Brown…does anyone in their right minds believe the Steelers would deal him to Fort Foxboro, ostensibly to help the Patriots pass Pittsburgh on the way to a record 7th Super Bowl win?  What planet do you live on?

 

  • Colin Kaepernick, what planet do you live on?  You just scored a big payday (perhaps deserved) from the NFL for allegedly keeping you out, and now you want to play again?  C’mon man.  Should’ve shown a little enthusiasm for that two years ago, instead of fightin’ the power.

 

  • From our guy Brendan McGair at the Pawtucket Times and Woonsocket Call, the torch of Mount St. Charles hockey has been passed to alumnus Matthew Merten, who will succeed the legendary Bill Belisle and his 32 state titles in 44 years as coach of the Rhode Island Interscholastic League high school squad.

 

  • Merten has helped build the hockey program at Nipmuc Regional in Upton, MA, leading the team into the playoffs in just the programs’ second season.  He graduated from Mount in 1986 and started (and starred) in goal at Providence, succeeding Chris Terreri between the pipes in the late ‘80’s.

 

  • Speaking of high school sports, a little curiosity got the best of me this week.  Is high school football still popular around here?  What about high school hockey, or lacrosse – are they still growing as we suspect?

 

  • A little research into the data base of the National Federation of State High School Associations provided some interesting numbers.

 

  • High School football participation is shrinking in both Rhode Island and Massachusetts in the past decade.  You’re probably not surprised by that, and neither am I.  It’s down 5% in RI, 8% in MA since 2010-11.

 

  • How about HS hockey participation – including girls?  That’s up over the same time frame, 6% in MA, but down nearly 10% in RI.

 

  • What is up in RI?  Hoops are up.  30% from 2010-11, but – get this – down about 4% over the same time in MA.  Soccer is also up nearly 20% in RI, and up about 6% in MA over the past 10 years.

 

  • What’s up in MA?  Lacrosse, up about 10% for boys and girls in this decade. In RI, the count is up about 30%. 

 

  • Momma’s do let your babies grow up with sticks in their hands, it seems.  And soccer balls at their feet, rather than of the oblong variety.

 

  • A fellow J.R., this one from Grundy, Virginia, posted on Facebook this week about the rumor of Colin Kaepernick-to-New England: “I think most folks under appreciate Brian Hoyer and what he does to get our team ready running the scout team. No, he ain’t Brady nor (does he) have the skill set as most NFL starting QBs but he’s smart and helps in the game prep and breaking down opponents.”

 

  • J.R. – You nailed it.  Hoyer’s worth is invaluable toward getting the ‘little things’ done in preparing the Patriots for an opponent.  His knowledge of what the Rams might run prior to the Super Bowl, thanks to his having worked with Kyle Shanahan in Cleveland and San Francisco, was a very big factor in preparing the team.  Prep is something New England definitely does better than anyone else. 

 

  • 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 jrooke@weei.com. We’ll share mailbag comments/Facebook posts/Tweets right here! Follow me on Twitter, @JRbroadcaster…and on Facebook, www.facebook.com/john.rooke ...

 

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.

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