Monthly Archives: April 2011

Let me know when the NFL is back

* The less I know about all the particulars of the NFL player lockout and all the squabbling between the players and owners, the better.

I keep up on the basics. I know the issues. But I’m not delving in too deep. I’m doing my best not to care about this nonsense and find it indefensible that people with this much wealth and popularity – the players and the owners – can’t get their heads together and figure this out.

I guess they’re banking that the NFL’s many fans will be like sheep led back to water once the lockout ends, whenever that might be. And they’re probably right? There’s nothing like the NFL in America and football fans gotta have their fix.

When the Major League Baseball players’ strike cost fans the 1994 World Series, many never returned to the sport. I still regularly cross paths with people who say their love for baseball died that season.

I’ve never been on strike, so I’m no expert. But I don’t understand why reasonable people can’t get out ahead of these issues and figure out a way to compromise. There is a fair settlement to every disagreement, but it seems like we have to drag these things out to the point where they become irritating.

Was it really necessary to have a mediator in these talks? Do we really need litigation? Aren’t there enough legitimate problems in the world without the NFL players and owners raising a ruckus over how to divide a $9 billion pie?

The NFL Draft will be held Thursday night and it’s always one of my favorite events of the sports year. I’m not as big of an NFL fan as some people. But I would probably rate myself a 7 on a 1-10 scale. I participate in a fantasy league and I watch a bunch of games. I even have a favorite team, the St. Louis Rams.

I’m into the draft and will watch the whole tonight Thursday night. I’ve read quite a bit about it and think I have a decent idea of the different needs for all the teams and who might or might not be on their draft boards.

But I think the NFL is kidding itself if it thinks the lockout won’t do irreparable damage to its fan base. We “Average Joes” out here don’t like to be taken for granted or treated as if we don’t matter. We’re the ones, after all, who make that $9 billion the players and owners are arguing about possible. We pay the ridiculous ticket prices, the insane cost of parking at an NFL stadium and the exorbitant price of a beer just so we can be a part of your incredible product.

There has to be middle ground that hasn’t been explored. It’s beyond me why the owners don’t relent on their demand for an expansion to an 18-game regular-season schedule, two more games than are played now. You can’t talk about your concerns for safety and the long-term health of players and then add two games to the schedule. It doesn’t make any sense whatsoever.

There are ways for the players to compromise, too, I’m sure.

The NFL regular season is scheduled to start on Sept. 8, a Thursday night, with a couple of games. The first Sunday of NFL action is set for Sept. 11, the 10-year anniversary of the greatest tragedy in American history.

It’s unfathomable to me that the NFL would not be in action on that day. So I hold out hope that these smart people will figure out a way to overcome their differences and play football. Everybody wants football to be played, right?

* Periodically, throughout the baseball season, I’m going to share some of my thoughts on the St. Louis Cardinals. My team.

I’m not happy that the Cardinals are just one game above .500 going into tonight’s game against Houston. I’m not happy that there have already been six blown saves.

I’m fine with right-hander Mitchell Boggs getting the ball in the ninth inning, even after his blown save against the Astros on Tuesday night.

I’m not happy with the way the Cardinals kick the ball around in the infield sometimes. Third baseman David Freese and shortstop Ryan Theriot are making too many errors on routine plays.

I do, however, like a lot of things about this team. I love the Cardinals’ offense, especially the addition of right fielder Lance Berkman. He looks fantastic and is hitting the ball hard in almost every at-bat. I think he’ll stay strong over the 162-game schedule, too.

Colby Rasmus has to be more consistent. Yadier Molina has to keep those legs strong. He’s playing fantastic at the moment. I like the starting pitching and some of those power arms in the bullpen, especially rookie right-hander Eduardo Sanchez.

The Cardinals, though, have shot themselves in the foot too many times. They should be five or six games over .500 at this point, not one game over.

Wayne Cox – one of a kind

I won’t be able to do Wayne Cox justice. He died over the weekend after a fighting pneumonia tooth and nail and you had to work at the Wichita Eagle during the old days to recognize just what a legendary figure he was there.

The one and only Wayne Cox

Wayne wasn’t an editor nor a reporter. He didn’t make the day-to-day decisions that molded the newspaper. No, he was much more valuable than that.

Wayne was a character. He was a copy boy, and newspapers stopped having copy boys 20 or more years ago. His job – honestly, I don’t really know exactly what his job was. I just know he was there every day doing it and making everybody in the newsroom feel good about the job they were doing.

Wayne never met a stranger. He was kind to everyone, even to those who weren’t always kind to him. Let’s be honest here, a copy boy is not near the top of a newsroom’s totem pole. And there were times when Wayne could work a nerve, especially when he’d ask a deadline-busting reporter how his or her day was going three minutes after his or her story was supposed to be filed.

But you couldn’t get mad at Wayne because he was so genuine and consistent, and so lovable. He must have weighed 120 pounds and he had a little hunch in his back. His voice had a soft growl to it and on the rare occasions when we could get him to laugh, we couldn’t stop laughing ourselves.

Wayne loved to give weather updates. “How ‘ya doin?,” was his trademark question. As the faces in the Eagle newsroom changed over the months and years, Wayne never did. “I’ve seen ‘em come and I’ve seen ‘em go,” he would say, unfazed by the revolving door.

We were always curious as to whether Wayne actually knew our names, because he rarely referred to us with such formality. We were all one and the same in Wayne’s eyes, fellow workers who happened to share the same space eight hours a day. Wayne’s presence made those days go a little better for all of us. It wasn’t that he was always pleasant. No, sir, Wayne could be grumpy and ornery, two traits that tend to play better in a newspaper newsroom than anywhere else. I can’t tell you how many times he walked through the newsroom muttering to himself.

He must have walked 10 miles a day in the newsroom and throughout the newspaper. He’d stop – or pause – for just a few seconds at our desks, asking his trademark question. A simple “Doin’ good” was all he needed to hear and he’d be on his way.

His connection with us was strong. We might have an unflattering thing or two to say about Wayne at a given time, but nobody else better or there would be hell to pay.

His death, at the age of 85, has elicited an e-mail campaign of current and former Eagle staffers that has brought back some of the best memories of my career. Our newsroom used to be loaded with all different types of people and personalities, and one of Wayne’s greatest gifts was his ability to cut through all of them and get to the core.

There was no pretense with Wayne. He never tried to be something he wasn’t. It was comforting to have him around and when he retired in 1991 a pall was cast over the newsroom for a while. None of us knew exactly how to go about our days without Wayne to interrupt them with his one-of-a-kind warmth and personality.

I so admire the people in the newsroom – specifically current Eagle employee Peggy Smith and former reporter Forrest Gossett – who became advocates for Wayne in his later years. They spent time with him and helped him through adversity. When he was sick, they and others were there to help. Long after Wayne left the Eagle, he remained near and dear to those of us who knew him.

The biggest reward from my nearly 37 years at The Eagle has been the people I’ve met. And Wayne was definitely one of those “characters” who made the newsroom a fun and special place to be.

There isn’t anyone who worked at The Eagle with Wayne who doesn’t have a fond memory of interacting with him. And we all interacted, whether we wanted to or not. Again, his timing wasn’t always the best and it always seemed like he’d pick the minutes right around a deadline to do some of his best interacting.

But that was Wayne. He was perfect. Thanks for the memories, old friend. We’re all doin’ good.

Of Leake, KU’s Robinson and WSU-KU basketball

Some quick hitters today:

* I see where Cincinnati Reds pitcher Mike Leake was arrested after allegedly shoplifting $59.65 worth of t-shirts from a department store. Yes, they caught him ‘red’-handed.

Cincinnati Reds right-hander Mike Leake.

Leake, by the way, makes $425,000 per year and is in his second season with the Reds. He signed a $1.2 million signing bonus after being drafted in the first round out of Arizona State in 2009. He can, by all accounts, afford a $60 department-store tab.

Perhaps Leake, who was video-taped tearing price tags off the merchandize by store cameras, is a kleptomaniac. There are probably deep-seated reasons for why he “allegedly” pilfered the t-shirts. I’ll let others worry about that. I just think it’s funny. Especially because he pitches for the Reds.

* After a week away, I’m going to go back to watching ‘American Idol’ this week. I’m finished pouting because of the ridiculous dismissal of Pia Toscano, easily one of the two or three best singers on the show, by viewers two weeks ago. I’m not as enamored with the judges – Steven Tyler, Jennifer Lopez and Randy Jackson – as I once was. I don’t think they’re critical enough and I have started to miss Simon Cowell.

But I’m going back.

* Just a day after I talked up the young pitchers in the Kansas City Royals’ bullpen, those same pitchers imploded in the 10th inning during a 7-4 loss to Cleveland on Monday night at the K.

There are going to be growing pains for the Royals. I don’t think they’re ready to take a big step this season and would be surprised if they even approach being a .500 team. But help is on the way; the Royals have tremendous prospects at the Double-A and Triple-A levels. Patience is a virtue, Royals fans.

* Kansas basketball player Thomas Robinson has to know better than to throw punches outside a bar at 2 in the morning. He just has to know better. These guys have to be smart enough to walk away from potential problems because there are so many people out there who will try to make them targets.

According to reports, Robinson was among a group of KU players outside a Lawrence nightclub, “The Cave,” at closing time on April 10. He has been charged with misdemeanor battery and order to appear in municipal court.

A police report indicated Robinson was not under the influence of alcohol. But he very well could have been under the influence of poor judgment. Robinson endured such a difficult season in 2010-11, losing his mother and grandparents during the season. He is, by all accounts, a good kid and I’m not going to draw too many conclusions from this incident. I hope he grows from it, learns from it. Robinson is only 20. Everybody who is 20 makes mistakes.

* Perhaps a war of words will lead to something on the basketball court between Kansas and Wichita State. Hey, I can hope, can’t I.

Speaking to Lawrence Rotarians on Monday, Sheahon Zenger, KU athletics director, didn’t hold back when asked whether he would consider playing Wichita State University in basketball.

He said that any scheduling decisions would be done in consultation with Coach Bill Self and his staff.

But Zenger said an email that someone had sent him — which said Wichita State coach Gregg Marshall had called KU “chickenhawks” — wasn’t helpful.“You need to think about what you say, Mr. Marshall,” Zenger told the Rotarians. “Don’t be flippant about your remarks about the flagship institution.”

Larry Rankin, media relations director at Wichita State, detailed the nature of the coach’s comments, which were made during a pep rally after the Shockers won the postseason National Invitation Tournament.

“During the rally a fan got Coach Marshall’s attention by yelling ‘chickenhawks’ during a lull in the speech and Coach Marshall acknowledged him by reading the fan’s sign which also said chickenhawks on it,” Rankin wrote in an email.

That’s about all there was to it, from the accounts I’ve heard from people who were there. But Marshall’s “chickenhawks’ comment has taken on a life of its own and now has drawn some attention from the state’s “flagship” institution. Come on, Mr. Zenger, get over yourself. You’ve been at KU a few months and you’ve deemed it Kansas’ “flagship” institution?

Anyway, Kansas and Wichita State should be playing every season in basketball. I’ve stated it over and over again, to no avail. I do think Marshall would welcome a series with Kansas, but I’m not sure Self would be as accommodating.

I would like to see the Shockers and Jayhawks reach an agreement to play one game at Wichita’s Intrust Bank Arena, one game at Kansas City’s Sprint Center and one game at Allen Fieldhouse. I think that would be a fair offer from Wichita State, but have no information that it’s been put on the table.

At least we have some vitriol between the two schools. That could be a start.

Are the Royals for real?

The most often-asked question from Kansas City Royals fans these days is: “Hey, think they can keep it up?”

The question comes from a place of doubt in the minds of most Royals fans and who can blame them. This team hasn’t been a

Alex Gordon is swinging a hot bat for the Royals. Can he keep it up?

contender in eons and tonight starts a key – if an April series can be such a thing – against the Cleveland Indians at the ‘K.’

Kansas City starts the night at 10-5, a game behind the just-as-surprising Indians. Which of these teams has the most staying power?

I think it’s Cleveland because the Indians have a slightly better offense and better starting pitching. But the Royals have been good so far, no doubt about it. We’ll find out a lot about them this week as, after its four-game home series against the Tribe, Kansas City goes on the road to Texas.

So far, so good. Alex Gordon and Billy Butler are tearing the cover off the ball in the 3-4 holes and newcomer Jeff Francouer is a hit in right field with a .328 average, two homers and 11 RBI.

Gordon, especially, looks like a new man. He finally appears comfortable in his own big-league skin and has adapted to playing left field after being a third baseman in college and through his early years as a pro. I have to admit, I thought the Royals panicked by moving Gordon to left field, but it seems to be working out.

Gordon is hitting .365 in the early going with 11 RBIs, 14 runs scored and eight doubles. True, he has only hit one home run, but his gap power is evident. He’s not hitting a soft .365 by any means.

Butler is just a hitter, plan and simple. He could roll out of bed on Christmas morning and stroke a couple of hits. He and Gordon look like the tandem that tore up the Texas League for the Wichita Wranglers a few years back.

Kansas City’s .275 batting average leads the American League. So do the Royals’ 82 runs and 33 doubles. It’s strange to look at the American League numbers because pitchers have been dominant so far. Even though the AL has the designated-hitter and the National League doesn’t, it’s the NL that is producing the better offensive statistics so far.

KC’s starting pitching rotation has been good enough so far. It’s not a dominant staff by any means with Luck Hochevar, Kyle Davies, Jeff Francis, Bruce Chen and Sean O’Sullivan. None of those guys is going to blow hitters away and closer Joakim Soria is off to a slow start despite his four saves. He also has a 7.04 ERA.

It’s been the guys in the middle of the bullpen who have pulled the Royals through so far. A bunch of young guys: Aaron Crow, Jeremy Jeffress, Kanekoa Texeira and Tim Collins. They have combined to pitch 27.2 innings and allowed only four earned runs while striking out 29. One of the key components of building a successful team is to shore up the bullpen, and it has taken the Royals a long time to get to this place. Kansas City’s bullpen has been abysmal, for the most part, during the past decade or so. This bullpen has a chance to be solid.

There are some causes for concern, though. Gordon, Butler and Francouer are going to cool off at some point and it’s plausible to wonder how much lineup depth the Royals have. Are there enough power bats? Can Kansas City manufacture runs when the offense hits a lull? Can enough guys in this lineup hit the ball out of the park? As good as Gordon, Butler and Francouer have been, they only have five homers.

And then there’s the pitching, which I don’t completely buy into yet. The Royals’ staff is allowing opposing hitters a .272 average. That’s the worst number in the American League. On the flip side, Kansas City pitchers have walked an American League-low 42 hitters. This is a staff that pitches to contact and so far the Royals’ defense has been decent, with 11 errors.

Fifteen games, though, is a small sample size and there are still enough red flags that cause me to wonder whether the Royals can be a winning team. History suggests not. And so does this roster, honestly. There’s nobody in the starting rotation that scares an opponent and KC manager Ned Yost is going to have to be careful not to over-expose the bullpen. There are a bunch of young arms out there. Young and unproven.

But it’s been a nice start, especially considering so many hot prospects are biding time in Triple-A and Double-A, awaiting their time. The Royals are giving their fans a taste of what’s to come. I’m just not sure how long it’ll last.

It’s NBA time (finally)

The NBA season starts for me Saturday. I’m a playoffs guy in that league. The regular season meanders through weeks and weeks of ups and downs and then we finally get to the point where it all matters.

How many times this season have we listened to the pundits talk about the Miami Heat or the Los Angeles Lakers or any of the other teams as if the sky was falling. Well, the Heat and the Lakers are both in the playoffs, both as No. 2 seeds, both with a real shot at winning it all.

Chicago Bulls point guard Derrick Rose has the Bulls poised to make a long playoff run.

Turns out, things weren’t so bad after all.

There are even a few interesting first-round matchups, but I don’t see many potential upsets on the table. Would the New York Knicks beating Boston be considered an upset? I suppose it would. The Celtics are limping into the playoffs, an old team without much inside presence. I personally never thought Kendrick Perkins was that good of a player, but all of the experts insists that Boston isn’t the same team without him, especially when it comes to front-court muscle. OK, guess I’ll but it.

I hope Boston wins, just so we can see the Celtics meet up with Miami in the second round. That’s the series everybody wants to see in the East, where the Chicago Bulls loom as the top seed while playing a slightly different brand of basketball than everyone else.

Chicago likes small ball. The Bulls don’t have a bunch of brutes in the middle; they beat teams with quickness and athleticism. And point guard Derrick Rose, of course, who appears to be the front-runner for Most Valuable Player.

Here are some thoughts on the first-round matchups:

Eastern Conference

8 Indiana vs. 1 Chicago – The Pacers are the only team with a losing record to get into the playoffs and at 37-45 you can make the argument they don’t belong anywhere near them. The Bulls should barely work up a sweat in dismissing of Indiana.

4 Atlanta vs. 5 Orlando – I get a little tired of the Hawks. Every season, it seems, they’re good enough to be about a No. 4 seed and every year they get bounced from the playoffs early. I think Orlando could be a darkhorse in the East. The Magic have playoff experience and Dwight Howard and a wily coach in Stan Van Gundy. A Chicago-Orlando series in the second round could be intriguing.

7 Philadelphia vs. 2 Miami – I said on radio this morning that the young and athletic 76ers, coached by Doug Collins, could at least make this series interesting. Then Miami Herald columnist Greg Cote joined us for an interview about Frank Martin and all but guaranteed a Heat sweep. Again, what do I know? But I’m at least going to give this series some attention because Philly interests me.

6 New York vs. 3 Boston – This is the most fascinating series of the first round because it’s the Knicks and the Celtics. I don’t think New York has enough pieces to beat Boston, even with Carmelo Anthony and Chauncey Billups. But it’s not out of the question. And both fan bases are sure to be wild during this series, which will make it fun to watch.

Predictions – I like Chicago, Orlando, Boston and Miami, all the favorites. I think Miami and Chicago get to the Eastern Conference finals with Miami moving on.

Western Conference

8 Memphis vs. 1 San Antonio – The West is where the depth is and the Grizzlies aren’t a bad team. They could at least win a game or two and take something out of the aging Spurs. But they’re not going to beat San Antonio, of course. But the Spurs have some concerns, including the health of guard Manu Ginobli and the endurance of center Tim Duncan.

5 Denver vs. 4 Oklahoma City – For everyone who expected Denver to disappear once the Nuggets traded Anthony and Billups to New York, the opposite has happened. Coach George Karl has put together a young and deep team thanks to the players Denver got in return and I think the Nuggets are going to be a load for OKC and anybody else they play in the playoffs. The Thunder is also a team to watch and having the home-court advantage will be huge because Denver is nearly unbeatable at home but not good on the road.

6 Portland vs. 3 Dallas – If Dallas loses this series – and it’s entirely possible – doesn’t owner Mark Cuban have to make wholesale changes. The Mavericks are a lot like Atlanta in the East with a team just good enough to get a nice seed but not good enough to inflict much playoff damage. This is probably the most even of the Western Conference first-round series.

7 New Orleans vs. 2 Los Angeles Lakers – It’ll be fun to watch Hornets point guard Chris Paul try to put his team on his back and pull a first-round upset. But there’s not enough around him and the Lakers have been waiting for the playoffs. Forget everything about the regular season with this team – the good and the bad. It’s all about this point forward and LA has too much for New Orleans.

Predictions – Gotta pick an upset, so I’ll go with Portland to beat Dallas. Although that really doesn’t qualify as much of an upset. Otherwise, I like the Spurs, Thunder and Lakers to move on, with a fascinating second-round matchup between Oklahoma City and San Antonio. Yeah, I’m gonna do it. I’m going to pick Oklahoma City to move on to the Western Conference finals against LA. In that one, anything can happen.

Josh Selby departs KU

Decisions, life is full of them. And how many have you made in your life that you wish you had back?

It’s two for me. Two thousand. Two million. Two trillion?

Josh Selby was a great high school player in Baltimore, but only a so-so freshman at Kansas. What does his future hold in the NBA?

Josh Selby made a decision Wednesday that could be the biggest he’ll ever make. He decided to leave Kansas after one season as a basketball player and less than a year as a student and cast his lot with the NBA.

It’s such a risky decision because Selby had such a shaky freshman season at KU. He started off by missing the Jayhawks’ first nine games because he had taken impermissible benefits, then suffered a foot injury in February that cost him three more games. He never got his feet under him at Kansas and despite some really good play early, he became a role/bench player during the season’s biggest games in late February and March.

What I saw from Selby didn’t look like NBA quality stuff. But I’m sure I or KU fans never saw Selby at his best or at his most relaxed. He averaged 7.9 points per game and was getting just a few minutes per game at the end of the season as KU coach Bill Self turned more to veterans Brady Morningstar and Tyrel Reed in the backcourt.

Selby has been in Las Vegas recently working out in front of NBA people. Apparently, he feels comfortable and confident that his stock is at a high level. The 6-foot-2 Selby certainly had the credentials of a top NBA pick coming out of high school in Baltimore; many scouting services rated him as the No. 1 prep prospect in America.

In a statement, Self said he supported Selby’s decision and that he hoped Kansas fans would, too.

Of course. But it still begs the question concerning one-and-done college players who really have no interest in being in school except that the rules force them to be.

Self said Selby carried a 3.0 grade-point average during the first semester and that he sure to keep caught up in his school work during the second semester, too. I’ll accept his word on that, although there’s certainly nothing that says a one-and-done player has to pay much attention to academics in the second semester of his one season.

It’s not often that KU’s fan base has looked forward to a player the way it looked forward to Selby, only to be let down. The suspension was the first blow, but it never looked as if Selby became comfortable in the Jayhawks’ system. He had a big game in his debut against Southern California, making a thrilling game-winning shot. But after that, the highlight reel was pretty sparse. Selby showed flashes of the player the Jayhawks thought they were getting, but not much more

I can’t help but think he would have gained a lot by returning to Kansas for his sophomore season, one he could have started from the beginning. There was so much for him to learn about the game.

It’s difficult for me to believe Self encouraged Selby to go to the NBA already. So while he says he supports the player’s decision, I’m doubtful that he thinks it’s a good one.

Most NBA mock drafts considered Selby, at best, a fringe first-round pick. Many think he’ll go in the top third of the second round of the June 23 draft and being picked in the second round is like being the only guy without a date at the Senior Prom. Trust me, that’s something I know about.

Selby’s decision makes me a little sad, even. I was really hoping he’d do the wise thing – at least I consider it the wise thing – and play one more season at Kansas. It would have been nice for us to see the real Josh Selby, assuming that wasn’t the case this season. Because if it was, the NBA will turn out to be nothing more than a pipe dream.

The slip in Shocker baseball

First, let me say I’ve only seen Wichita State play two baseball games this season. Two out of thirty-something. So it would be ridiculous for me to claim I know a lot about the Shockers.

Wichita State baseball coach Gene Stephenson.

What I know is what I see in the results and the statistics. I know how inconsistent this team is and how this is the third year in a row that the Shockers have probably not been good enough for at-large consideration to the NCAA Tournament.

I know there’s been a consistent drop-off in performance and that the Shockers have not been to a College World Series since 1996 after appearing in seven from 1982-96. I know WSU has played in only two Super Regionals.

What I don’t know are the reasons for this slippage. It’s partly a noticeable reduction in offense, for sure. Defense, especially this season, has been sub-par. Pitching, while still good, is more inconsistent than it usually is.

Wichita State is a good team in 2011, nothing more. Not a great one. Not one that would seem to be much of a threat to do much in the postseason, if it’s fortunate enough to get to the NCAA tournament. And as I write this, there still has been no determination on the status of senior right-hander Tim Kelley, the team’s pitching ace, who felt discomfort in his throwing arm Tuesday and is having an MRI done today. If Kelley misses a significant amount of time, the Shockers’ pitching staff will have to dig deep to make up for the loss.

Besides junior catcher Chris O’Brien, no Shocker is having much of a season offensively. Shortstop Tyler Grimes is still a pesky leadoff hitter, but he’s not batting .300 and defensively he has been pretty bad. Which is strange, because Grimes has the tools to be an outstanding shortstop. He can go to either his left or right and he has a cannon for a throwing arm. But that arm has been erratic, leading to a number of throwing errors.

Neither Preston Springer nor Johnny Coy, both of whom had outstanding offensive seasons in 2010, has been able to follow up those performances. And unless they get it going, opposing pitchers are going to feel more and more comfortable working around O’Brien. The Shockers are playing some players out of position in hopes of finding more offense, but that’s a real roll of the dice and it can backfire just as easily as it can work.

Left-handed pitchers Charlie Lowell and Brian Flynn can be outstanding and both have a chance of doing something big in professional baseball. But neither has been as consistent as WSU pitching coach Brent Kemnitz would like and that needs to happen if the Shockers are going to do enough late in the season to become a postseason threat.

Wichita State plays at Kansas State later tonight and the Wildcats are fighting their own battle with inconsistency. K-State coach Brad Hill isn’t happy with the way his team is letting late-game leads get away because of little mistakes. I’ll be curious to see how tonight’s game goes and curious to see whether Wichita State can get some momentum going into a weekend Missouri Valley Conference series against Evansville.

Frank Martin and Miami

The blog returns today after a short hiatus. Things will be a little less hectic during the spring and summer months, so I won’t be quite as regular in these spaces. But I will still be blogging somewhat regularly, three times a week or so. Golf begins to take precedence at this time of the year.

Today’s topic: Frank Martin. The Kansas State basketball coach apparently isn’t being wooed by Miami (Fla.), and I wonder why.

Frank Martin seems to have eyes for Miami. But the Hurricanes might be chasing others.

Especially since Martin seems to be doing all he can to cause the Hurricanes’ eyes shift to him.

In an interview with The Associated Press, Martin says all the right things about Kansas State, about how he’s happy there and about how his wife and family are happy there. I believe him. I think Martin loves it in Manhattan.

But he also says he would not rule out looking at another job, provided it was the right one, and says he wonders whether Miami might be hesitant to talk to him since it has been reported that his salary is $1.55 million per year. That’s not right, Martin told the AP. His salary is closer to $1.1 million, but if he stays at K-State five more years his pay will average out to $1.5 million.

I’m not sure what’s going on with the Miami job. ESPN’s Andy Katz is reporting that the Hurricanes, who are also without an athletic director, are zeroed in on Harvard coach Tommy Ammaker, a former Duke player who is highly thought of and could probably get a lot of jobs if he were interested. But Ammaker, according to Katz, is happy in Boston and loves coaching in the Ivy League, where he’s done a fantastic job with Harvard.

Martin, meanwhile, looks like the perfect Miami coach. He grew up there and recruits heavily there. Two of K-State’s incoming recruits for next season are from Miami. Martin speaks Spanish fluently and if there’s ever been a more perfect fit for a coaching vacancy, I don’t know when it happened.

Yet, according to Katz, the firm in charge of Miami’s search has not and will not pursue Martin. Makes you wonder?

Martin certainly has the qualifications, based on what he’s done in four years at Kansas State. The Wildcats have been to the NCAA Tournament three of those four years after not having been in years when he took over. He and top assistant Dalonte Hill are obviously a force to be reckoned with on the recruiting trails. Hill’s ties to AAU basketball are well known and still productive. But Hill makes at least $400,000 per year and is one of the highest-paid assistant coaches in the country. Perhaps that scares off Miami.

And then there’s the elephant in the room – Martin’s demeanor. I’ve said it before and I’ll probably say it again, I like the guy. But he could use a little brushing up on his decorum during a game. He goes after players hard. To his credit, he doesn’t single guys out. If you’re wearing a Kansas State uniform you’re fair game for a Martin tongue-lashing, the likes of which haven’t been seen outside of an Marine Corps boot camp.

I don’t know if that’s even a factor at Miami, but it’s not crazy to think it might be. How attractive of a candidate is Martin? The wins and losses would have you believe he could get his name on any coaching search in the country.

Martin had been pretty quiet about whether or not his hat had been thrown into the ring at Miami. But by saying what he did, he looks a tad bit desperate to be noticed. I was surprised to read his comments, especially those that concerned his K-State salary and his attempt to set the record straight as to how he wasn’t making as much money as everybody thought he might be making.

I know some Kansas State fans aren’t happy about what Martin said. He didn’t exactly throw dirt in their faces, but he hardly sung their praises, either. It was a strange interview for Martin to give.

It’s possible he believes the best has come and gone at Kansas State. Next year’s team doesn’t look like a particularly strong one and it appears Martin and Hill aren’t recruiting quite the quality of player they once did.

Martin is entitled to look for a job any time he wants, but to do so through the media seems odd. And there’s no other way to interpret what he said to the Associated Press, folks, other than to look at it as a “look at me” plea thrown straight at the Hurricanes.

It doesn’t sound like Hurricanes are going to return the glance. From what’s being reported, it appears their interest lies elsewhere.

I guess I’m a bit surprised Martin would have strong interest in the Miami job. I know it’s home, but the Hurricanes have never been much of a draw in South Florida. Of course, they haven’t ever been very good, either.

Martin would seem to be a guy who could open the recruiting pipelines there after his years as one of the most successful high school coaches in that city’s history.

Doesn’t look like there’s going to be a match, though. Now it’ll be interesting to see how K-Staters respond to Martin’s romantic gazes toward another school.

Marshall staying put at WSU

According to the KNSS radio website, Wichita State basketball coach Gregg Marshall will make a major announcement on his final radio show of the season tonight at A.J.’s Sports Grill.

Yes, folks, Marshall loved New York so much that he’s pursuing a career on Broadway.

OK, seriously . . . Marshall wouldn’t tell Shocker Nation he’s leaving for North Carolina State on a radio show, one that wasn’t even scheduled until he called KNSS earlier today to request time. This announcement, confirmed by The Eagle’s Paul Suellentrop, will be that he’s staying at Wichita State, much to the relief of WSU fans everywhere. (Note: The Eagle’s WSU beat writer, Paul Suellentrop, has confirmed Marshall will be staying with the Shockers).

It’s uncertain to me how vigorously Marshall was courted by North Carolina State, but I’ve got to believe Wolfpack athletic director Debbie Y0w checked him out. But Marshall can afford to be picky and I’m guessing he ultimately decided the NC State job wasn’t one in which he was interested, which is understandable.

That job has been a coach killer in recent years as several guys have tried, and failed, to get the Wolfpack on the right track.

Had Marshall taken the job,  I think he would have done well. He’s going to win wherever he coaches. But perhaps he thought butting heads every year with Duke and North Carolina was too much.

Or perhaps – and this is a strong possibility – he thinks he’s on the verge of building something lasting at Wichita State. He hasn’t yet won a Missouri Valley Conference regular season or tournament championship, but he’s been on the cusp. Winning an NIT championship, as the Shockers did last week in New York, could be a stepping stone to bigger and better things.

Marshall has a bunch of veterans returning next season, especially in the backcourt. The Shockers will need to find a few things on the front line as J.T. Durley, Gabe Blair and Aaron Ellis have been lost to graduation.

I think Wichita State will be picked to finish somewhere from second to fourth in the Valley next season, with a chance of doing better. But what happens if WSU misses another NCAA Tournament? Would Marshall, who loses a bunch of seniors after the 2011-12 season, then look for the job of his dreams? Would he have the same bargaining power then as he does now on the heels of the NIT championship?

Who knows?

What Wichita State has going for it is a strong fan base, very good facilities and a league the Shockers should be able to compete in year in and year out.

There was a time when competing in the Valley – finishing first, second or even third – was good enough to build a strong NCAA Tournament resume. Those days are gone, or at least on hiatus. The Valley has sent only one team to the NCAAs the past four years.

That’s not the kind of league Marshall thought he was coming to. But he apparently has deduced that it might not be much better at NC State, even though the ACC is always a multi-bid league that sometimes sends six, seven or even more teams to the Big Dance.

I thought Marshall might go because his son, Kellen, goes into high school next year. I’ve never thought he was a Wichita State lifer and have never considered the Shockers’ job as a destination point for most coaches. Certainly not one like Marshall, who is from the South.

And although Marshall has decided to stay for another season, it doesn’t mean he’ll be here for two more.

There is some risk here for Marshall. If the Shockers fall back some next season, his stock likewise drops. But if WSU can up the ante in the Valley and make to it to the NCAA Tournament, Marshall will again be a hot commodity.

Of perhaps he believes Wichita State is the perfect place for him and his family. Maybe he realizes he can win consistently here and enjoy a really good city and a really good base of support without the inherent pressures of a BCS school.

I hope to talk to Marshall later tonight and write about his decision for tomorrow’s newspaper.

Thanks for reading. And congratualtions to the Shockers for keeping their man.