Noah K. Murray/USA Today Sports

Thinking out loud: Big night for Providence basketball

November 11, 2017 - 9:11 am

Thinking out loud…while wondering how LaVar Ball maintains his license to practice fatherhood?


  • It was a Friar Friday night, for sure.  The Providence basketball season opener against Houston Baptist was the first on-campus game at Alumni Hall in more than 45 years, since March 1, 1972 (when PC beat St. John’s).


  • That’s cool and all, but make no mistake about it – the preference would have been to play in their normal home, the Dunkin Donuts Center, where the RI Comic Con was booked.  If you’ve got issues over being shut out for tickets at Alumni Hall, the Convention Center Authority is your target.


  • Never mind the fact, I’ll remind everyone here, that Providence College is largely responsible for the Convention Center Authority being an entity in the first place.  No PC hoops?  No Civic Center built, according to history.  Always nice to be considered as an afterthought in your own home, amiright?


  • It was also the first time for the men and women to share the same floor on campus for a doubleheader in at least 45 years, with the ladies taking the stage against Columbia in the afternoon.  So there was that bit of novelty as a byproduct of comic book geeks owning downtown Providence.


  • The Friars were sluggish out of the gate against Houston Baptist, but showed off their superior depth in beating the Huskies 84-55.  Amazing to think 11 of 12 players scored in the game, and none were named Emmitt Holt or Jalen Lindsey. 


  • Lindsey should play Monday against 15th ranked Minnesota. Holt is likely out for the year after abdominal surgery, and is seriously considering a redshirt option to return next season.


  • Monday night is Flashback Night, with the Gavitt Games (Big 10 vs. Big East) matchup against the Golden Gophers and Richard Pitino.  Pitino left PC 12 years ago, after graduating and serving on Tim Welsh’s staff as a graduate assistant manager.  His rise in the coaching ranks has been precipitous, not unlike his father before him. 


  • After just one year at Florida International as a head coach, following an eight-year assistant apprenticeship, Pitino is now in his 5th season as the Golden Gophers’ head man.  And he has a team that is Big 10 title-worthy.  That’s a long way from sitting next to me in the broadcast booth, asking questions about strategy during commercials. 


  • Wonder if any of that obvious knowledge and wisdom rubbed off?  Nah.  No shot.


  • Rhody rolled in its home opener at the Ryan Center, 84-60 over a good UNC Asheville program. The Ram backcourt led the way as expected, but E.C. Matthews was held to just 10 points.  Andre Berry provided 15 points on the inside.


  • Our hoop compadre Kevin McNamara at the Providence Journal is right on, as he wrote this week – it could be a banner year for hoops in Rhode Island, unlike any season we’ve seen in recent memory, with both programs touting Top 25-potential.


  • However, not wanting to be a fly in the ointment, I’ll point out the Friars have injury difficulties to overcome – and the Rams have some legal issues to disperse – before either side can get focused on the road ahead.


  • Rams’ senior guard Stanford Robinson, who scored 18 points in the win over Asheville, appeared in court last week on formal charges coming from an altercation during a recent concert at the Ryan Center. He’s due back on November 16th, just before URI faces Holy Cross.  Assistant coach Tyron Boswell pleaded no contest to disorderly conduct, trying to protect Robinson.


  • Lamar Odom made the news this week – again – for all the wrong reasons.  Odom collapsed at a Los Angeles night club, reportedly because he was dehydrated from a physical workout earlier in his day.  Other sources have reported Odom is spiraling out of control – again – after waging a very public battle with drug and alcohol addiction.


  • I can’t help but feel badly for Odom, a one-time shooting star at URI.  But when does he – when can he – take responsibility for where he has placed himself in life?  Hopefully, before we no longer have him with us, and before he hurts someone else.  He’s 38 years old.  Play-time is over, man.


  • Not for nuthin’, but injuries may also be an early factor at other places in the Big East, too.  Marquette’s all-Big East guard Markus Howard has been recently spotted on campus in a walking boot.  Is it just me, or are some athletes seemingly more fragile lately?


  • Would a final four of USC, Arizona, Louisville and Miami – or even North Carolina – be a dream scenario, or a nightmare for college basketball next March?


  • A New York grand jury returned indictments on eight men, all facing charges related to the FBI investigation uncovered in September on bribery and corruption charges in the sport.  Adidas executive James Gatto was among those indicted, as were Arizona assistant coach Book Richardson, USC coach Tony Bland, Auburn assistant Chuck Persona and Oklahoma State assistant Lamont Evans.


  • The University of Louisville was also named in the indictment.  Rick Pitino was also explicitly accused by the FBI of having direct knowledge of the Adidas payments made to recruit Brian Bowen.  Can’t imagine this will be a peaceful holiday season in the Pitino household.


  • Bowen, the freshman player identified as the potential benefactor of that $100K bribe to attend Louisville, has reportedly been cleared by the FBI and is looking to be reinstated to the team.  Anyone want to lay odds on those chances?


  • Louisville isn’t the State of Kentucky’s only problem-school right now.  The Memphis Commercial Appeal reported this week an estranged friend of former coach Josh Pastner said he sent ex-Tiger Markel Crawford sneakers and “about $300” in gift cards for groceries.  Uh oh.


  • Ok, last year they lost by 77 points.  This year, getting the defending national champ James Madison Dukes at home in Kingston, URI’s football Rams lost to JMU by only 38-3.  35 points.  Making strides?


  • In an otherwise disappointing season for Brown, the chance to play Dartmouth at Fenway Friday night had to have been a memorable moment for Phil Estes and the entire team.  Too bad the game result couldn’t have followed suit – in front of 12,297 fans, the Bears returned to Fenway for the first time in 94 years (they faced Dartmouth in 1923) and were blasted by the Big Green (Monster), 33-10.


  • Are the 8-1 Philadelphia Eagles for real?  Here’s a tidbit for you – the previous four times Philadelphia has started a season 8-1, they’ve reached the NFL title game, or Super Bowl.


  • Don’t look now, but the Patriots begin a five games-out-of-six stretch away from Gillette this Sunday night.  Can’t say the schedule-maker was terribly kind to New England now, can you?  This will be the longest stretch away from home in 50 years, since 1967, and that season the Pats played their first FIVE on the road.


  • It has been a rare moment for any kind of Patriot bronco-busting in Denver.  While NE is 2-2 in their last four played in the Mile-High City, overall the Pats are 10-21 in Denver and 0-4 in the post-season.  But this ain’t the post-season yet.


  • TB12 is a pedestrian 7-9 against the Broncos, including 3-7 in Denver.  No wonder Bronco fans think Peyton Manning is still the better quarterback.


  • When does a player who hasn’t played yet hurt his team?  With the news this week that Shea McClellin is not returning from the injured reserve list, suddenly defensive depth is a big issue.  McClellin could have helped, considerably, in the middle.  Now, it’s “play ‘em if ya’ got ‘em.”


  • New arrival Ricky Jean-Francois should fit in nicely around here, however. The ex-Green Bay Packer defensive lineman owns 30 Dunkin Donuts franchises, mainly in the south.  Locker room donuts are on him.


  • Oh, and welcome back, Martysaurus Rex.  Missed you around here.  Hope you still have a little gas left in your tank (with a reported torn rotator cuff) to help out this year.


  • It shouldn’t mean anything these days, but it does.  And the Red Sox don’t seem to be touting the fact that Alex Cora is now the first “minority” manager in team history.  Shouldn’t they?  Or might this be because of the (wrong) perception that the Red Sox were once a racist organization? 


  • Need to get the facts straight here, and Sox management is part of the problem.  Just because Boston was the last major league city to integrate with black baseball players doesn’t necessarily make the team – or any of us – racist.  But they kowtow to a politically-correct, and often factually-incorrect, public perception.  Way to take a stand, fellas.


  • Where are we on the whole Yawkey Way re-naming thing, anyway?


  • One of my favorite sayings is emblazoned on the front of the south entrance to the Main Building tower on the University of Texas campus.  It’s an adaptation of John 8:32 in the bible – “Ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.” 


  • In other words, try the truth sometime.  You’ll feel better.


  • My buddy “Big E” sez his wife was looking for him last week, and when she got him on the phone she was angry. “Where the hell are you?!?”  Big E replied, “honey, do you remember that jewelry shop where you saw that diamond necklace you fell in love with, but I couldn’t afford it and told you ‘someday, it will be yours, baby?”  She said softly, “sure, I remember that, my love.”  Then “E” told her, “Well, I’m in the pub right next door.”


  • I, for one, would love to see the Sox make a run at Giancarlo Stanton.  The buzz inside Fenway Park every time he steps to the plate would be palpable, unlike any other time in team history.  Yes, really.  More so than when David Ortiz came to bat, or Manny Ramirez, or even Yaz or Ted too, I’ll wager.


  • The man is that powerful, and it ain’t just chicks who dig the long ball.  All fans do.  But don’t trade away Mookie Betts, who just won a second straight Gold Glove this week, as part of the solution.  Nope, Mookie needs to stay put.  So does Chris Sale.  Everyone else – including Andrew Benintendi – should be fair game.


  • A double-digit win streak is nothing to sneeze at, to be sure.  But wake me up if the Celtics do it again in like, say, March?  Just sayin’.


  • Several sources are reporting Brad Friedel will be named as the new Revolution head coach, getting the nod over former US National Team coach Bruce Arena.  All together now, Revs fans.  Whew.


  • Seriously though, Friedel doesn’t have any professional coaching experience, other than his heading up the National U-19 team following his time as the USMNT #1 goalkeeper.  Could this become a player-coach thing?  What in the name of Walter Zenga is going on here?


  • Congratulations to ex-PC midfielder and all-American Julian Gressel, named this week as the Major League Soccer Rookie of the Year for Atlanta United FC.  In 32 appearances and 24 starts, Gressel scored five goals with nine assists.  Atlanta also became the first MLS expansion team to make the playoffs in its first season in the league since 2009.


  • Don’t know if you heard about this one, but a toilet-paper prank cost a Maryland high school field hockey team their slot in their state semi-final playoffs.  It had been a tradition for the girls to “wrap” the head coaches’ house after a victory, which was something the coach looked forward to.  But the kids took it a bit further, by wrapping several other houses in the coaches’ neighborhood. 


  • Their school superintendent forfeited the team’s spot in the playoffs, giving the semi-final berth to a team they had already beaten.  Lesson learned, or was that over-the-top?


  • I’ve known him for a while, and worked with him in the past, on WEEI and on the old 890 ESPN Radio in Boston.  Michael Felger is paid to be who he is.  He is a by-product of an industry that usually feeds on itself these days, where opinion often is mistaken for fact or for how someone personally feels or believes.  The more outlandish you are, the louder you yell, the more you crash and burn, the more attention you hope to point toward yourself.  It’s like 21st century Vaudeville in a lot of ways.


  • Much of what gets said is pure shtick – Steve Hyder and I did just that years ago on the old Score 790 in Providence.  It was fun and entertaining.  But only until someone gets hurt. 


  • Did Felger cross a line of decency when he said this week on 98.5 The Sports Hub that Roy Halladay “got what he deserved” by dying in a plane crash?  Did his on-air partners also become culpable when they laughed in response to such a statement?  Maybe they were laughing at him.  Maybe they were laughing at the sheer human indecency of his statement.  Maybe they were laughing at his shtick.


  • Is anyone laughing now?


  • Wonder how “The Ballers” will treat the story this week of LiAngelo Ball’s questioning by Chinese authorities on shoplifting charges in China?  Like father, like son? 


  • Honestly, it’s rare we find an alleged incident this dumb.  I mean, don’t these kids know that some countries lock thieves up and throw away the keys?  Apparently not.  In China, UCLA’s Ball is facing 3 to 10 years in prison for his part in the alleged thievery.  All three players involved will be required to stay in China until the legal process is completed, which could be months from now.


  • And while Ball (yes, the younger brother of the Lakers’ Lonzo Ball) and his accused Bruins’ teammates are sequestered in the team hotel until further notice – they will not be playing in their team’s game against Georgia Tech late Friday night in Shanghai, either – Daddy took time out to drive off to another city in China to open a shoe store. 


  • Business is business, I guess.  Can’t make this stuff up.  It must be their role models not giving them the right info, leading to such imbecility.  What else could it be?  Really stupid is as really stupid does.


  • Manuel from Ottawa, Ontario posted this week on Facebook: “Why is the onus for player safety (in the NFL) placed only on the league? The NFL has changed the rules; it's up to the players to take responsibility for their actions. Maybe the NFLPA should levy its own fines and/or suspensions - that is, if the PA really cares about their members safety?” 


  • Manuel:  I believe you raise a great point. If the athletes themselves could hold themselves accountable, some (but not all) of these issues could be addressed properly, with full input from all sides.  But you see, that’s the part of the problem with have with our culture overall these days.  The current younger generation of athletes want what they want, and they want it now.  Accountability from within is bankrupt.  And largely because we (as a whole) give them what they want. 


  • 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 [email protected]. 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.

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