Paul Rutherford/USA Today Sports

Thinking out loud: Welcome to March Madness

John Rooke
March 15, 2019 - 3:16 pm

Thinking out loud…while wondering if we can ever turn off life’s constant ebb-and-flow, if even for just a minute…

  • Happy “$4-billion-in-corporate-losses-due-to-unproductive-workers-during-March-Madness” Week!


  • The surprises in the Big East Tournament this week haven’t measured up – yet – to the knock-down, drag-out play we saw during the regular season.  Meaning – good teams find a way to win. Meaning – veterans > young guys, no matter how talented they are.


  • Great effort by the Friars in Wednesday’s blow out of Butler.  It was a better matchup for Providence all season long. The result Thursday against Villanova was predictable, in only that PC plays checkers, Nova plays chess.  Tough, physical chess, too.


  • What’s next?  Providence will wait for Selection Sunday to unfold, and hope the NIT finds value in a younger, but still improving team that could use a couple of extra games to work toward next year. Just what the NIT is for, anyway.


  • Conversely, Rhody is on a roll at just the right time.  Heading into the A10 quarters against VCU, the Rams have five wins in a row.  But they’ll need three more to go where they’d like to be.


  • Alpha Diallo earned second team all-Big East for PC, Cyril Langevine second team all-Atlantic 10 for Rhody.  Langevine was also named all-Defensive.  If Diallo had hit a few free throws down the stretch, he’d probably have earned 1st team honors.  No word of a lie.


  • The final TWITBE of the college hoop season features Big East Coach of the Year Jay Wright from Villanova, Big East Player of the Year Markus Howard from Marquette, and college hoop aficionado Dick ‘Hoops’ Weiss from Madison Square Garden.  103.7 Saturday morning, pregame on Westwood One and Sirius/XM before the Big East championship, anytime on iTunes, Stitcher or Google Play, or at and


  • While disappointed in the finish, it was a strong run for Brown even though the Bears fell short of reaching their first Ivy postseason tournament.  Both Obi Okolie and Tamenang Choh were selected to the 2nd team all-Ivy squad, and Okolie was named Defensive Player of the Year in the league.


  • Head coach Mike Martin, completing his 7th season, was named as the Ivy Coach of the Year in leading the Bears to a program-record tying 19 wins.  The Bears finished tied for fourth and led the Ivy in scoring defense and three-point defense.


  • But Harvard plays on as the top seed in the Ivy tournament against 4th seed Penn in Saturday afternoon’s first game of a doubleheader, at Yale.


  • The United States Basketball Writers Association – of which I am a member and voter – selected Diallo, Langevine and Brown’s Desmond Cambridge for the all-District 1 team, which includes all New England states.  Harvard’s Bryce Aiken, BC’s Ky Bowman and Northeastern’s Vasa Pusica were also named to the squad.


  • Player of the Year and Coach of the Year both came from Vermont – Anthony Lamb and John Becker.


  • Big congrats to old friend Bill Coen and the Northeastern Huskies, dancing for the first time since 2015 as the two-seed beat regular season champ Hofstra 82-74 in the Colonial title game.


  • Some staff under Al Skinner at URI and Boston College not too many years ago, huh?  Coen, Tim O’Shea and some guy named Cooley.  Neither school knew what they really had at the time.


  • Big turnaround from a year ago, when the Huskies blew a 17-point lead to College of Charleston and missed out on the NCAA Tournament.  It’s their second dance invite in 28 years.


  • And congrats to Wakefield, RI’s Tomas Murphy, too.  He hit for 11 points in the CAA title game for the Huskies against Hofstra.  Don’t be surprised if Hofstra or NEC regular season champ Saint Francis – an upset loser to Fairleigh Dickinson in the NEC Tournament – wind up as a possible NIT foe for the Friars.


  • Speaking of the NCAA’s, the Selection Show folks at CBS heard our cries from a year ago. They’re returning to a one-hour format and promise to get the brackets out as quickly as possible.  There is a hoop God.


  • In case you were wondering, Fox says 2018-19 was their most-watched college hoop season ever, and the fifth straight year of improved ratings.  FS1 was also up 19% over last year at this time.  Growth industry.


  • The Providence Friar women’s basketball team took a step forward, winning their first Big East tourney game in 18 years, then ending their regular season to eventual champ DePaul.  Jim Crowley’s Friars finished 17-15 and could receive an invitation to the WNIT, which will be announced Monday.


  • Not entirely sure what to make of the college admissions scandal making news this week, except that Aunt Becky from the once-popular Full House TV series may wind up as Lori Laughlin, inmate #62343 in the Big House federal penitentiary.


  • Tweet of the Week I, from @DanaONeilWriter: “Here's what this boils down to: parents can't tell their children no or allow them to experience real life or disappointment. Instead let's fix the system so our baby can get what she wants, and to hell with everyone else.”


  • And URI tennis coach Gordie Ernst, formerly at Georgetown, is in a heap of trouble from all appearances after being placed on leave in Kingston.  He’s accused of taking millions in bribes while at Georgetown to submit non-athlete names to the school for admission as athletes – which is an easier road for gaining entry than usually traveled by non-athletic applicants. 


  • Ernst was the “name from another time, a name that all but used to dance across the sports pages of the Providence Journal” as Bill Reynolds once called him when he dominated the high school scene in hockey and tennis. 


  • His father, the late Dick Ernst, was also a Cranston native and hockey and tennis star at PC who was inducted into the RI Heritage Hall of Fame as an athlete and coach.  He passed away in 2016.


  • Gotta ask – after he resigned abruptly a year ago from Georgetown for no apparent reason – wasn’t there a vetting process to go through at URI before he was hired?


  • Tweet of the Week II, from @jeffpearlman: “As a parent, I see the pursuit of this insanity ALL the time. People have gone nuts over getting their kids into the "right" college—a fictional thing that doesn't actually exist. College is what you make of it.”


  • It still is, Jeff.  Sadly, some parents and kids have long forgotten that.  Especially the ones with all that money used to bribe their way into school.


  • Did the world end, and someone forget to tell me about it?  With the way Twitter exploded this week over the NFL Free Agent Frenzy, you’d think Odell Beckham had been traded away from the Giants to like, Cleveland or something.  Wait, wut?


  • Not surprised at all Trey Flowers has moved onto Detroit.  Familiarity with the coach, cap space, makes sense.  And more than a few cents for him, too.  $90 million, $40 million guaranteed in the first two years.  That’s huge.  Formerly the 101st pick in the 2015 draft, he earned it.


  • So did Trent Brown.  But his departure to the Raiders came all of NINE minutes after the opening of “legal tampering” prior to the free agent period.  “Here Trent, we’ll make you the highest paid offensive lineman in the league.”  “Umm, let me think about it?”  Done.  In nine minutes.


  • And if you believe that really happened in just nine minutes, step into my lair. I have some waterfront property in Florida I’d like you to see.


  • Naturally, the Patriots were/are slow to react.  Oh, how soon we forget.  Bill Belichick is a lousy GM?  This too, shall pass.  Rookestradamus says the next parade is scheduled for February 4th, 2020.


  • The Michael Bennett trade with Philadelphia is a good step in the right direction for replacing value at a fraction of the cost (part of ‘The Patriot Way’), as long as you look past some apparent character flaws in the guy.  He says already he’ll stay in the locker room for the National Anthem.  Good start with this crowd, Mike.


  • Who else has noticed the Pats proving to be fertile ground for a few developing players?  Sign ‘em inexpensively, coach ‘em up, watch them leave the nest and fly away…after you win a Super Bowl with them first.  Pretty good formula, actually. 


  • But Josh Gordon may not be leaving, yet.  The Patriots control his rights for another season, and apparently expect him back at some point by placing a 2nd round tender on him this week – meaning that if he goes elsewhere as a restricted FA, the team receives a compensatory pick in return.  Quite unlikely that a team will give up a 2nd round pick to sign him.


  • Not for nuthin’, but something else is brewing in Foxboro, too.  Don’t know exactly what it is, but something is up.  More than just a couple of media observers agree, too.  Big move, a trade, a signing?  Could also be agita, or heartburn or indigestion.    


  • Jason McCourty is back on a new, two-year deal.  Guess Devin won’t retire now.  And John Simon and Brandon Bolden (after a year banishment to Miami) are back.  So there’s that.


  • Whatever Dante Scarnecchia is making, he deserves a raise.  And perhaps an induction into the Hall of Fame too, as each of the past two years he has had former pupils (Nate Solder, Trent Brown) each become the highest paid offensive lineman in the NFL.


  • Just once though, wouldn’t you like to see the Patriots actually keep around some of the fruits of their labor?  Just sayin’.


  • Tweet of the Week IV, from @peter_king, in the aftermath of OBJ to the Browns: “The Giants are an expansion team with a 38-year-old quarterback.”


  • Proof that fans – especially Browns’ fans – are deprived.  Or depraved.  Or both.  As of Tuesday night, only hours after Beckham was reported to be a Brown, Cleveland was the #1 bet team (according to DraftKings) to win the Super Bowl next February in tickets sold and total money wagered.


  • Really.  Hey NFL, Browns at Patriots for opening night?  Whaddaya say?


  • My buddy “Big E” sez he was driving through downtown the other day, went through a traffic signal and the camera ‘flashed’ to take his picture.  Now, he swears he wasn’t speeding or running through a light, so he turned around and went through the intersection again – and the camera flashed again.  He did it a total of six times, each time the camera flashed and each time he went through slower than the last.


  • The last time he went through it, he sent a hand ‘signal’ as a message to the city.  Two weeks later, he received six tickets in the mail – for not wearing a seat belt – with a little ‘smiley face’ attached to each.


  • 102-year-old Julia Ruth Stevens, Babe Ruth’s last surviving child, passed away this week.  She had been adopted by Ruth in the early 1930’s and had celebrated her 100th birthday by throwing out a first pitch at Fenway in July of 2016.


  • I know it means next-to-nothing – but has anyone noticed the Red Sox spring training record?  Didn’t they kick tail last year in meaningless games, and use that momentum right through to a World Series title? 


  • So let me get this straight.  Fall River, MA mayor Jasiel Correia was recalled from office, then won re-election – to replace himself.  He’s also still facing more than a dozen federal charges for fraud and has a court date coming up next month to answer to those.  Is that about it? 


  • And there's another mayoral election coming up in Fall River this fall, too.  Not sure Buddy Cianci had much of anything over this guy, when it comes to political stick-to-it-tiveness.


  • Rhode Island lawmakers approved a bill this week to allow mobile sports betting for its’ citizens.  Good ol’ Lil’ Rhody.  Making it easier for us to place our wagers.  Always looking out for the lil’ guy, with at least one hand firmly entrenched in his pockets.


  • And the Granite State has now joined the fray – with the New Hampshire House Ways and Means Committee approving a sports betting bill this week by a 17-2 margin.   


  • Had a moment hit me straight between the eyes, and in the heart this week.  Former Olympic sprinter Johnny “Lam” Jones passed away at age 60 after battling cancer for a while.  Name not familiar?  Johnny was on the 1976 gold-medal winning relay team at the Montreal games, and also starred at receiver and halfback for Texas at the time.


  • Johnny went on to play for the New York Jets for a few years thereafter, but he and I were classmates at Texas and while I didn’t know him well (other than through media interviews), we later became friendly through social media.  His “Lam” nickname was given to him by the late, great coach Darrell Royal, who actually had two Johnny Jones’ on the roster at once – so the Johnny I knew was from Lampasas, TX, the other from Hamlin, TX.  Hence, ‘Lam’ and ‘Ham.’


  • A 3rd Jones boy, Anthony Jones, joined the squad right after Ham graduated, and the Longhorns nicknamed him ‘Jam.’  Ham. Lam and Jam.  None were related, but it was a unique time to be around the program.  And I hated to get the news of Lam’s passing this week.   Life’s constant churn is always a reminder of how precious friends, relationships and memories turn out to be.  Enjoy them all while you can.


  • Holly Elizabeth from Phoenix, AZ posted on Facebook this week, on the NFL free agent frenzy passing the Patriots by: “I’m super sad about losing Flowers.”


  • Holly – I get it.  He would have been one worth holding onto, perhaps, but when you consider the kind of money he’s going to make with Detroit, $90 million and $40m of that guaranteed…whoa.  Definitely not the Patriot Way.  But good for him.  He earned it by playing well and winning in New England, and that’s the name of the game.  I remember thinking the same thing after Richard Seymour was released, too.  That turned out ok – and it is likely this will, too.  But patience will be required.


  • 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 the newly re-named Cordischi and Coit!  Call in at 401-737-1287 or text at 37937

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