Archive for January, 2009

Doug Gottlieb Bites Cookie
Friday, January 30, 2009

During Wednesday night’s telecast of the Nebraska-Kansas game on ESPN2, commentator Doug Gottlieb said that Husker point guard Cookie Miller was “acting like a punk.”

He made the comment during a scrum for a loose ball. Miller and Kansas guard Mario Little were both holding onto the ball on the floor, and Miller tried vehemently to rip it away.

I had the opportunity to interview Gottlieb on “Unsportsmanlike Conduct” on 1620 The Zone on Thursday. I asked him if he called Cookie Miller a punk. “I said he was acting like a punk. There’s a difference,” he said. “He absolutely was acting like a punk. Go back and watch the tape if you guys want. He was acting like a punk.”

“If you look at the replay, there are ten guys on the floor. Nine of them are just standing up, dusting themselves off getting ready for the next play, and Cookie Miller is trying to rip the basketball out of Mario Little’s hands. He wasn’t throwing any punches and he didn’t deserve to be thrown out of the game. But he was acting like a little punk.”

“I stand by what I said,” said Gottlieb.

Do you think he stepped over the line?

Doc Sadler thinks so. The Husker coach told reporters (OWH, LJS) that Gottlieb’s remark was “classless and unprofessional.” The World-Herald contacted Gottlieb after our radio show, whereupon Gottlieb said he had already spoken to Sadler about the comments. While Gottlieb appreciated Sadler sticking up for his player, he still stood by his comments.

Doug Gottlieb is an interesting cat. After the interview at the radio station, we received many emails that included something to the effect of: “How can Gottlieb say that someone was acting like a punk when he stole his roommates credit cards and was convicted of misdemeanor fraud at Notre Dame?” That’s an easy shot to take. A predictable one at that. But if you’re saying that someone can’t criticize another human being because he also made a mistake, then no one could ever throw any stones at anybody and sports talk radio would be pretty bland.

You shouldn’t be surprised at Gottlieb’s comments. He has been saying what’s on his mind ever since he got into this business. I’ve followed him from his days as a Jim Rome “clone” at Oklahoma State up until now, and the guy hasn’t changed much. He doesn’t have an agenda and he isn’t out to get anybody. He simply won’t sugarcoat his opinions or water-down his observations. And I won’t fault him for that. Not in this day and age of former athletes who think that just because they are former athletes that people will value whatever they say.

Gottlieb speaks with conviction and passion. Did he cross the line?  Maybe.  But while some viewers may get ticked at him along the way, that can only mean one thing:

He’s doing his job.

Close But No Cigar
Thursday, January 29, 2009

The Huskers have put up some valiant fights over the last three games, but have come up cigarless.

Oklahoma, Oklahoma State and Kansas. Three losses by a combined 19 points. The last two by a combined eight points. Nebraska had a chance in all three games, within striking distance or in the lead with less than five minutes to go before meeting defeat.

This Nebraska team plays hard. There is no disputing that. And fans like to see teams work hard, even in defeat. But I wonder how many fans will continue to show up if this team continues to lose, even valiantly. There were roughly 3,000 empty seats at Devaney Center. That’s inexcusable for a Kansas game. It was a balmy Wednesday night in Lincoln with nothing else going on. Are fans already packing it in?

I brought up this point while filling in on “Unsportsmanlike Conduct” on 1620 The Zone on Thursday: How fragile are these Huskers now? How much more can this team take? They have obviously bought into Doc Sadler’s ideology. But with a lack of depth and size while playing baseline to baseline for forty minutes, can this team survive the rest of the season? I’m not even talking about winning basketball games. I’m talking about staying in these types of games down the stretch.

Doc has his guys fighting hard.

Let’s hope they have some fight left in them.

Super Pick
Wednesday, January 28, 2009

After winning the NFC Championship, Kurt Warner said that you never hear “Arizona Cardinals” and “Super Bowl” in the same sentence. Actually, that’s not true. Many times I’ve uttered the sentence: “The Arizona Cardinals will never play in the Super Bowl.”

I’ll be honest. Since the Cards won the conference title I’ve had my eyes on the clouds every day. When the triumphal return happens, I want to see it. If Arizona actually wins the Super Bowl, it may be high time to repent.

Pittsburgh, on the other hand, is supposed to be here. Its success is a sign that the world is right. The sun rises, the seasons change and the Steelers are in the Super Bowl.

Pittsburgh, Dallas and San Francisco share the record for most Super Bowl titles with five. Something tells me the three-way tie will remain intact after Sunday.

There may be no more exciting offensive player in the NFL than Larry Fitzgerald. There may be no more exciting defensive player than Troy Polamalu. Kurt Warner and Ben Roethlisberger have each won Super Bowls as starting quarterbacks. Hines Ward and Anquan Boldin are two of the toughest receivers in all of football. Ken Whisenhunt and Mike Tomlin are two of the brightest young minds on offense and defense, respectively. The storylines are easy to find. So shall a good game be.

Arizona 27

Pittsburgh 23

The game comes down the last four minutes, when the Cardinal defense (of all things) makes a big stop.
“Prepare the way…”

Who’s in your Five?
Monday, January 26, 2009

Creighton and Nebraska both had a rough weekend on the men’s side of the hardwood.

The Huskers held a seven-point lead with five and a half minutes to go and couldn’t hold on against Oklahoma State.  Drake outscored Creighton by 18 points in the second half while the Bluejays missed 31 of their 40 shots after halftime.

Doc Sadler could use some size in his lineup.  Dana Altman could use some toughness.

Here is your mission:   Combine both rosters and submit your best starting five.

Here’s mine:

G Ade Dagunduro – Toughest guy on the floor.

G Cookie Miller – Pure point guard who can score.

G P’Allen Stinnett – Playmaker.

G Steve Harley – Could go with Booker Woodfox, but like his slashing ability.

C Kenny Lawson, Jr.  – Provides much-needed size.

Bench:

1)  Booker Woodfox

2) Sek Henry

3) Cavel Witter

4) Ryan Anderson

5) Antoine Young

6) Paul Velander

Condolences to Kiera
Monday, January 26, 2009

It was a tragic weekend for former Husker basketball player Kiera Hardy.   Kiera’s sister jumped off of a bridge in Kansas City holding her 17-month-old baby in an apparent murder-suicide.  Both were found in the icy waters of the Blue River by a homeless man.

Weekend Primer
Friday, January 23, 2009

The Kansas City Chiefs fired head coach Herm Edwards on Friday. He was 15-33 in three seasons with the Chiefs.  Unlike corporate America, you don’t get rewarded for failure in sports.  Even if you are a nice guy.  Edwards should know better than anyone:  You play to win the game.

Reportedly, the Chiefs are near a deal to land Mike Shanahan as the new head coach.  That should go over well in Denver.   If it happens, that would leave San Diego as the only AFC West Shanahan hasn’t coached.

Matt Cassel says he is content with being the backup quarterback in New England.  The Patriots could place the franchise tag on Cassel, which would guarantee him around $14 million. If someone paid me $14 million to prepare for a job that I only had to perform on my superior’s sick days, I’d take it.  Plus, Schuetz is rarely sick.

The NHL All-Star Game is this weekend.   Please, calm down.

If a game is played on Versus, does it really happen? 

So, which team do you think wins the game:  North America or the World?  Either way, you’re wrong.  The format is Eastern Conference vs Western Conference.  But you knew that.

On a side note that has nothing to do with anything, I reffed four basketball games in a competitive league Wednesday night.  My team had a bye week, so my services were requested.  A few thoughts:  1)  Reffing is an easy job when you’re playing.  2) Inadvertent whistles draw attention.  3) Vertical stripes are a ref’s best friend.

Diaz and Confused
Monday, January 19, 2009

Okay, the title doesn’t necessarily fit… but it was a play on words that was too clever to avoid.   Even if it makes no sense.

Jorge Brian Diaz took part in his first Husker practice on Monday.  Despite needing a little extra instruction on his first day, Diaz seemed fairly sure of himself on the court.  The guy is every bit of 6’11”, but could use a few more lbs on that 235 pound frame.  That being said, he looked fairly fluid.

I asked Doc Sadler when he hopes to make a decision about whether or not Diaz will play this season.  “When I think he can help us,” he said.  “It’s not fair to him or more importantly fair to these guys to put somebody out there right away. These guys have busted their tails everyday and they’ve been pretty successful. If we think he can help us… we’ll play him. Until that day comes he’ll be like the rest of them.”

From listening to Doc, it seems like he wants to play him this season.  I understand that you can’t just throw a guy into the fire, but the Big 12 season is only three games old.  You learn more from playing than watching, and the guy has international experience.  It’s not like he’s coming straight out of high school.  Diaz played on the Puerto Rican junior national team, competing in the 2007 Global Games.  You may think it would be a wasted season to play him now.  Why?  How is getting this guy at least a dozen games of experience a wasted season?  You need to know what you have, and what better way to know than to play him?

Sadler said it would be “unfair” to the rest of the team to put a guy out there right away.  Ade Dagunduro doesn’t think so.  “Not at all,” he said.  “We wanna win. I’m a senior, Velander and Harley are seniors, we wanna win… Any addition will be key for us.”

Sadler said on Monday that when he was first recruiting Diaz, he heard that Diaz was planning on playing professionally instead of collegiately.  But an ankle injury altered some of those plans.  Who’s to say Diaz would want to stay five years anyway?

Put the guy on the court and see what you have.  Who knows?  Maybe Nebraska just nabbed some lightning in a bottle.

At the very least, they’ll get a much-needed young post player some experience for the future.

El Se Llama “Brian”
Sunday, January 18, 2009

Doc Sadler got some great news Saturday night. And I’m not talking about the win over Kansas State. Sure, the 73-51 declawing of the cats was surprising if not remarkable, but the better news will have a far greater impact on the team.

Diaz

Diaz

Jorge Brian Diaz (who prefers to be called “Brian”, although Puerto Rican websites spell it “Bryan”) has finally been admitted to Nebraska and enrolled in classes. This ends a ridiculous months-long process that delayed his eligibility at UN-L. Diaz was okayed through the NCAA clearinghouse, but had an issue with an English proficiency test at Nebraska and was thus not admitted. Now, someway, somehow, he’s in.

Doc Sadler and Brian Diaz have a decision to make. With 13 games left in the regular season, does Brian play and lose a season, or sit out the remainder of the campaign and come back for the 2009-10 season?

The 6-foot-11-inch 235-pound Diaz begins practicing with the team on Monday. My guess is that Diaz will play this season, and soon. After fighting through the admissions fiasco, why would he be content with simply riding the pine? The Husker offense isn’t too complicated and Nebraska needs a big man. Perhaps even this Wednesday, when the Huskers visit Oklahoma and 6-foot-10-inch 250-pound Blake Griffin. The sooner the Huskers start working with him, the better off they will be. Diaz needs to get a feel for the college game.  Also, Diaz had dreams of playing professionally instead of going to college, but an injured ankle changed those plans.  Who knows how long he wants to stay in college?

Plus — with the way things have happened with Nebraska admissions, you’d better play him while you’ve got him.

Heisman Three-peat?
Wednesday, January 14, 2009

On Wednesday, quarterback Sam Bradford announced that he will return to Oklahoma for his junior season. He obviously wants to make sure that he does not play for the Detroit Lions. You could argue he will be playing for a better team in Norman.

For the second consecutive season, the Heisman winner will return to his respective campus. Tim Tebow won it as a sophomore in 2007 and came back in 2008 and won a national championship. Bradford won it this season as a sophomore and will look to win it all as a junior.

Here’s the interesting thing: Sam Bradford, Tim Tebow and Colt McCoy will return to school. These were the three Heisman finalists in 2007. And they all could easily be Heisman finalists again. We’ve seen Heisman finalists return to New York City the following year. Peyton Manning and Tim Tebow come to mind. But this is the first time that we will see the three top vote-getters return to campus the next season.  How about this:  we could have two Heisman winners sitting in the front row of the Downtown Athletic Club in December.

Having Bradford back is not good news for the rest of the Big 12. But it could make the Heisman race even more compelling than 2008.

** Trivia Question: Sam Bradford will come to Lincoln November 7th. Who was the last player to play in Memorial Stadium as a Heisman Trophy winner?**

Trivia Answer:  It has never happened before.  Sam will be the first.  Jason White won the Heisman in 2003, then played against the Huskers in 2004 in Norman.

Suh Smart
Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Ndamukong Suh staying for his senior season is obviously a big boost for the team, but also for the program as a whole.  I spoke with defensive coordinator (and defensive line coach) Carl Pelini Monday morning.  He made an interesting comment.  “We want to get out of the mentality that we’re a breeding ground for the NFL.   We want guys who want to be here for four years and win championships.” 

There is no question that some players were lured to Nebraska and Bill Callahan with the goal of playing in the NFL.  You saw where that got the program.  Now, it’s not about getting kids to the next level.  It’s about lifting up Nebraska to an elite level.  And if those players happen to be NFL-caliber, so be it.  Suh’s decision was another statement that the program is heading in the right direction.

That being said, I’m always impressed when a guy is willing to turn down millions to stay for another year, even with the potential of sustaining an injury.  When I was a junior in college, there was no option to leave early for hundreds of thousands of dollars, though I don’t doubt the University of Colorado would’ve offered it just to get me off of the campus.  But assuming the offer would’ve been for a job in my career of choice, I can’t imagine hanging on for another year with the risk of slipping on ice and ruining my cheek bones.  Ndamukong Suh is a smart man.