Monthly Archives: December 2011

The best years of my life

I would give 2011 an A-minus. It’s been a fantastic year, but I don’t think there’s anything such as a perfect year. Is there? This is my first full year as a married man to my fantastic wife, Debbie. My son, Jeff, has had a good year, which always makes my year better. I’ve done some pretty good work and maintained some great friendships throughout the year.

So, yes, this has been one of those really good years.

The only really bad year I can remember is 1986. My father, Ray, died that year. I got a divorce that year. My job sucked – I was covering the crime beat for The Wichita Eagle. You talk about a fish out of water. Let’s put it this way: It was a better year for criminals than it was for me covering the crime beat.

I like to rank years. I wish I was like Marilu Henner and could recall, with precision, every moment of my past life. I’m not anywhere close to Henner. Remembering yesterday is a challenge.

But I know some years have been better than others.

Let’s focus on 1955, the year I was born. That had to be a good year, right? It was a much simpler time. I was born in Winfield and lived on College Street, near Southwestern University, for the first two years of my life. Then my father decided he wanted to be closer to his work at Beechcraft, in Wichita, and we – my father, mother, half sister and myself – moved to Derby.

There are pictures of me playing on the sidewalk near our house in Winfield, but I have no recollection of living there. I still drive to Winfield occasionally just to see that house. I look at it and I say to myself: “Wow, I used to live there.” Then I move along before people start to ask questions.

That was nearly 57  years ago. I looked up some interesting facts about the year 1955 and because I’m a swell guy (“swell” was a popular term of approval in 1955) I’m going to share some of them with you here.

How Much things cost in 1955

Yearly Inflation Rate USA 0.28%
Average Cost of new house $10.950.00
Average Monthly Rent $87.00
Average Yearly Wages $4.130.00
Minimum Hourly Rate $1.00
Average Cost of a new car $1,900.00
Cost of a gallon of Gas 23 cents
Ladies Swim Suits $12.95
Black and White TV $99.95

I told you they were interesting.

Now, here’s some of what was going on at home and around the world in 1955:

- U.S. military intervention in Iran.

- Hurricane Diane hits the northeast United States, killing 200 and causing over $ 1 billion in damage.

- Disneyland opens in California on July 17.

- ‘In God We Trust’ is added to all U.S. paper currency.

- United Airlines Flight 629 is blown up shortly after takeoff over Longmont, Colo.

- Ruth Ellis, the last woman in England to be executed, is hung at Holloway Prison.

- 77 die in a disaster at the 24-Hour of Le Mans Race in France.

- Rosa Parks’ arrest in Montgomery, Ala., sets the American Civil Rights Movement in motion.

- Emmett Till, a black 14-year-old teenager, is murdered for not showing respect to a white woman in Money, Miss.

- West Germany joins NATO

- The first pocket transistor radios are available.

- Fish fingers are marketed by Bird’s Eye.

- The first atomically generated power is used in the U.S.

- Ray Kroc starts the McDonald’s fast-food restaurant chain.

- The first riot at an Elvis Presley concert takes place in Jacksonville, Fla.

-”The $64,000 Question” the popular US television game show starts.

- James Dean starts in the movie “East of Eden.”

- Dean is killed in a car accident near Cholame, Calif.

- The first “Guinness Book of World Records” is published.

- “The Mickey Mouse Club” debuts on ABC.

That’s a look back at 1955, the year in which Steve Jobs and Bill Gates also were born. Of all the millions of people born in 1955, those two share 86.6 percent of the wealth. I just made that number up, but it wouldn’t surprise me.

What is ahead for 2012? If only we knew, right? Or perhaps it’s better that we don’t.

I know this, at my age you stop taking years for granted. I’m just thrilled to get to 2012 and hope to get to many more. One of the highlights of my 2011 was the St. Louis Cardinals and their World Series win. But more than that, it was the Cardinals’ late-season run through the final month of the regular season and the playoffs. The Cardinals, as so many of you know, are the one sports team that I am still passionate about. So this was a good year for them and for me.

Thanks for reading. I’ll check back before the New Year with a few predictions. I appreciate all of you who take the time to read the things I write and listen to the radio show I’m on. It’s very kind of you to do so and I won’t forget you in my will. But don’t hold your breath – I don’t have Jobs or Gates money.

 

Who’s your QB?

Football fans love to debate quarterbacks and 2011 has given us a doozy of an argument.

Which of these quarterbacks is better? Drew Brees of the Saints? Tom Brady of the Patriots? Aaron Rodgers of the Packers.

Green Bay quarterback Aaron Rodgers is the No. 1 quarterback in the NFL this season. But it's close.

Take the gloves off and get after it on this one because I’m not sure there is a right – or wrong – answer. But for the sake of our little game today, we have to pick one. And we have to defend the quarterback we pick.

Combined, the three quarterbacks have thrown for 122 touchdowns. They have passed for 14,627 yards. They have completed 1,131 of 1,700 pass attempts (66.5 percent).

Until a couple of weeks ago, Rodgers was almost everybody’s answer to this question. That was before the Green Bay Packers inexplicably lost at Kansas City on a day when Rodgers looked human.

Since then, Brees has become the darling of the media, especially after his record-breaking performance on “Monday Night Football” this week against the Atlanta Falcons. Now the single-season passing leader among all-time NFL quarterbacks with 5,087 yards, Brees and the others have one week left in the regular season to pad their statistics.

Brady is a lock to also pass Dan Marino’s previous single-season record for passing yards should he play enough in New England’s final regular-season game Sunday against the Buffalo Bills.

Brady has been doing it for longer than either Brees or Rodgers, but this is a 2011 season question. Brady has the lowest QB rating (105.1) of the three and also the lowest completion percentage. He has thrown for 36 touchdowns, but that’s five fewer than Brees and nine fewer than Rodgers.

Reluctantly, I’m eliminating Brady from today’s discussion, but he gets some marvelous door prizes. And please, Tom, say hello to Gisele for all of us.

Tom doesn’t look too happy leaving the room, but we’re down to two now – Rodgers and Brees. One of them is going to be the league’s MVP this season. They’re a solid bet to match up in the NFC championship game in a few weeks. In fact, is there another match-up in NFL history we’ve wanted to see more?

Rodgers and Brees both had to bide their time and wait for an opportunity. Neither came out of college with that “Next Big Thing” tag that greets so many new quarterbacks in the NFL. They’ve two of the most likable guys in the league, by all accounts.

OK, we’ve put off making this decision long enough.

Who is it?

Brees has thrown 622 passes in 15 games, an astronomical amount. That’s 120 more than Rodgers. They both have a lot of weapons and Brees’ passing numbers are even more impressive when you consider New Orleans has one of the best rushing attacks in the NFL, though that hasn’t stopped him from wearing out his right arm.

Rodgers and Brees both have Super Bowl titles. Both have passed the 40-touchdown mark this season and average more than 300 passing yards per game.

I’m procrastinating again because this is a tough choice.

But since I have to make it – because I said I have to make it – I’m going with Rodgers. No, I have to go with Brees. No, no, it has to be Rodgers. That is my final answer.

Rodgers is the reigning Super Bowl MVP and has led the Packers to a 14-1 record. When Green Bay and New Orleans met in Week 1, in Green Bay, the Packers jumped ahead early and held on for a 42-34 win. In that game, Brees completed 32 of 49 passes for 414 yards and three touchdowns. Rodgers, protecting a lead for most of the game, was 27 of 35 for 312 yards and three touchdowns.

It’ll probably be that way should these two quarterbacks meet again. And imagine if the winner gets to face Brady in the Super Bowl. That’s a little bone for Tom. Be sure and tell Gisele hello, OK?

 

NBA thoughts

Here are my Top 10 thoughts from the first night of the NBA season:

1) I can’t believe how much I watched. On Christmas. Our family get-together got postponed because some people were sick (at least that’s what they told us??). So I watched all or a good part of five games, starting with Boston and New York. I’m sure I have never watched that much NBA in a single day in my life. Remember, I’m one who pretty much discounts the regular season and waits for the playoffs. It has always served me well.

I think Hubie Brown is the finest NBA analyst going.

2) Two good games (Celtics-Knicks, Lakers-Bulls), one dud (Heat-Mavericks) and two so-so games (Thunder-Magic, Warriors-Clippers). By far the most impressive team of the day was the Heat, which looked in mid-season form and overwhelmed Dallas with defense. Could it be that the Mavs, a season after winning the championship, just aren’t very good? I think Dallas lost too much in J.J. Barea, Deshawn Stevenson, Tyson Chandler and others).

3) I could listen to Hubie Brown analyze basketball all day long. He’s the best and he works so well with Mike Tirico. Meanwhile, I was forced to listen to Jeff Van Gundy all day long, literally. He not only did the Heat-Mavericks game in the afternoon, but then he and play-by-play guy Mike Breen flew to Oakland to call the Warriors-Clippers game at night, apparently so they could spend some time with former broadcast partner Mark Jackson, now Golden State’s coach. Van Gundy is too cutesie for me. His schtick wears thin. Give me three games with Brown next time and none with Van Gundy.

4) The Clippers are better. Much better with point guard Chris Paul on board. But I’m not ready to anoint them as challengers to the upper-tier teams in the West yet. Paul and Billups are nice and there is some depth on this team in the backcourt. But there’s not a lot of depth up front and while I like Blake Griffin and DeAndre Jordan, I wonder who comes after that.

Rajon Rondo was the best point guard I saw during the five NBA games played on Christmas Day.

5) Rajon Rondo is the best point guard in the NBA. Is that rash? Do you think I’m crazy? I watched him play and then I watched some of the other best point guards play and there was no contest. Not even among Rondo and Paul. Rondo is the reason – the only reason – Boston was even close in its game against the Knicks. OK, Derrick Rose is the returning MVP of the league and he was outstanding for the Bulls on Sunday against the Lakers. But if you pick among Rose, Paul and Rondo, who do you pick? I think I pick Rondo.

6) We’re looking at a 66-game NBA season. How many games does Miami win? I’ll go with 52. Too high? I don’t know, the Heat looked awfully good Sunday. Miami has pretty much the same team back, so it’s fair to question depth. But rookie point guard Norris Cole, out of Cleveland State, was a big help against Dallas. And veteran forward Shane Battier is a nice piece. I think Miami has a chance to make a shambles of the league.

7) I know Boston is trying to make one last run with Kevin Garnett, Ray Allen and Paul Pierce. But that’s a team that looks well past its prime, even though the Celtics had New York on the ropes Sunday in Madison Square Garden. Again, Rondo is Boston’s saving grace. Pierce missed the opener with an injury and you wonder how many games the Boston veterans will have to sit out during a condensed NBA schedule.

8) Kobe Bryant is still a terrific player, but if Sunday is any indication he feels the pressure to try and do too much by himself. He did not play well down the stretch of the Lakers’ game against Chicago. His late turnover was a huge mistake and instead of looking for help, he went hunting for the final shot of the game despite being guarded by at least three Chicago players. His shot at the buzzer was blocked. It will be interesting to see what the Lakers do in terms of trying to bring in other players (Dwight Howard?) The Clippers have, at least for the moment, stolen the spotlight.

9) Speaking of Howard, didn’t it look like he was going through the motions for Orlando during its loss to Oklahoma City? Howard didn’t do much in that game and there are varying reports of his level of interesting in being with the Magic. If I were Orlando, I’d look to get rid of him.

10) Oklahoma City has something special. I picked the Thunder to beat Dallas in the West finals last year, but OKC wasn’t quite ready. Now there is no question that the Thunder is ready to make that next move. I think Oklahoma City will get to the Finals this season because there are no holes on that team.

 

My son the 29-year-old

My son was born 29 years ago today. It wasn’t the easiest birth. The doctor – Dr. Stanley Mosier – had to use forceps to get him out. Do they still use those things? It seems barbaric, doesn’t it?

Anyway, Jeff’s little head was pretty bruised and the doctor kept him overnight for observation. Well, the doctor didn’t keep him overnight. The hospital did, on the doctor’s orders. Just to clear that up.

Jeffrey Douglas Lutz

I was pretty shook up, but was assured that he would be OK. And sure enough, he was. We took him home the next day, I believe, in the evening, just in time for Christmas.

At the time, I thought I would be the father of at least one more child. It didn’t happen. Jeff is my one and only and helping raise him as a single parent was the biggest challenge and the biggest reward of my life. He made it through middle school, the toughest times. He graduated from high school. He went to college and, after a few extra semesters, received a degree. He’s making ends meet and I believe wants to become a teacher and continue to be a journalist.

Jeff reminds me a lot of my father, one of the kindest people I ever knew. And there’s some of my mother in him, too. She wasn’t the kindest person I ever knew, but had other attributes that Jeff seems to have inherited. I’m sure he reminds his mother of her parents, in some ways. But beyond all of that, Jeff is definitely his own person.

He has never been a follower. And while that is mostly a ringing endorsement, there were times I wanted him to follow my instructions. Yes, it’s OK to follow that kind of stuff.

He has never been much of a drinker. Never smoked. He’s not a straight arrow, I don’t believe, but he doesn’t get all wild and crazy the way I sometimes do (did?). No, I still do once in a great while. But age has curtailed most of the wacky stuff.

Jeff was a pretty good athlete, although once he hit about 5-foot-8 he stopped growing. I tried stretching him between a couple of tree limbs with an elastic cord, but it didn’t work. (There are a few of you who believed that, aren’t there?)

His lack of size curtailed his basketball career. But he was a fine center fielder in baseball and I thought he could have been a decent football player, although his lack of height would have been an issue in that sport, too.

What Jeff lacked in stature, though, he made up with in satire. The kid has a sense of humor, which is probably where my mother comes into play. That woman had a biting and quick wit.

Jeff endured my many relationships following my divorce from his mother, and did so without being judgmental or negative. I appreciate that because I didn’t always use the best judgment when dating. It wasn’t until I met my wife, Debbie, three years ago that I got it right. And it was as obvious to Jeff as it was to me.

The toast he read at my wedding reception is and will always be one of the highlights of my life. I’ve been reading it over and over lately and it is evidence that the father-son bond is as strong as you think it is. Jeff and I have had our ups and downs over the years, but there was never any doubt in either of our minds about how much we loved one another.

He has been the biggest influence on my life. I am so thankful I have had the opportunity to be his dad and to bask in all of the experiences. Good and bad. But overwhelmingly good because he’s just a good guy. And I’m proud of him.

 

Where does KU go from here?

To answer the question posed in the blog headline is: To the west coast. For a Thursday night game against Southern California in Los Angeles.

A penny for KU coach Bill Self's thoughts during Monday night's loss to Davidson at Kansas City's Sprint Center.

The Jayhawks need to get away after Monday night’s loss to Davidson at the Sprint Center in Kansas City. That was a bad performance by a good team but one that faces its share of challenges.

There is a glaring lack of depth. So for all of you who believe Tyshawn Taylor should have his minutes reduced, mind giving me an alternative? And don’t go with Naadir Tharpe. Please.

Besides, Taylor isn’t close to being KU’s biggest problem. Yes, he has turnover issues. That’s not going to change. But he plays solid defense and is the No. 2 scoring option behind Thomas Robinson. Kansas fans need to get over their issues with Taylor and accept him as the Jayhawks’ point guard for the rest of the season. He’ll be gone after that and you Taylor-haters can go on to other things.

Outside of Robinson, who had 21 points and 18 rebounds in the loss to Davidson, the Jayhawks lack players who scare the opposition. And that’s a big deal. Coaches who are game-planning against Kansas will devote more and more resources to slowing down Robinson if other Jayhawks players don’t step up.

Guard Elijah Johnson has a world of talent, but doesn’t shoot consistently. Center Jeff Withey has come a million miles since last season, but there are a million miles left to go. Travis Releford is a nice player who can do a variety of things, but he’s not going to scare anyone. And the best teams scare opposing coaches.

The Kansas bench players produced six points Monday night, all from senior Conner Teahan. But he made only 2-of-8 three-pointers before fouling out. Teahan is such an important part of the Jayhawks but he has to make shots. Has to.

Justin Young, who seemed to have a break-out game against Ohio State on Dec. 10, broke back in to wherever he had been before against Davidson, failing to score in 10 minutes of highly forgettable action.

Right now, Missouri and Baylor look like teams that can beat Kansas in Big 12 play. Texas A&M might be a better team than the Jayhawks, too. And dare I say Kansas State has an edge on the Jayhawks?

Robinson is one of the best players in the country. Taylor, whether you agree or not, is a plus. Johnson has the ability to be a dangerous scorer. Releford and Withey are fine.

But there’s no quality depth here, especially if Young’s performance against the Buckeyes was a mirage. And on the nights when shots aren’t falling for Teahan, he becomes suspect.

Recruiting failures and NCAA eligibility polices have damaged Kansas, at least in the short term. It’s killing the Jayhawks to not have all of the players in their arsenal that they expected to have.

That’s not going to change, though. KU coach Bill Self has what he has to work with. And as KU teams go, it’s not that much.

 

My Kansas Sportsman of the Year

Last week I asked readers of my blog to throw out some names for the 2011 Kansas Sportsman of the Year, as chosen by, well, me.

This is going to be an annual thing on the blog, I hope. “Sports Illustrated” has for decades honored a Sportsman of the Year and this year the honor is shared by Duke men’s basketball coach Mike Krzyzewski and Tennessee women’s coach Pat Summitt.

Kansas State quarterback Collin Klein is my choice for Kansas Sportsman of the Year for 2011.

The candidates here in Kansas are interesting: Some of you suggested Wichita State basketball coach Gregg Marshall, or Kansas State guard Jacob Pullen. Others went with Pittsburg State football coach Tim Beck, whose Gorillas won the NCAA Division II championship by beating Wayne (Mich.) State on Saturday in Florence, Ala. There were other worthy names mentioned, too.

For me, though, it boiled down to two: Kansas State football coach Bill Snyder, who once again worked the magic that has made him an iconic figure in college athletics, and K-State junior quarterback Collin Klein, the Tim Tebow of the college game.

I’m going with Klein, who dedication and performance on the field is matched by his devotion to faith and leadership off the field.

Klein didn’t exactly come out of nowhere to have one of the finest offensive seasons in Kansas State football history. But there couldn’t have been anyone who would have predicted the success he has had: 293 carries for 1,099 yards and – get this – 26 touchdowns. In all of the highest level of college football only Wisconsin running back Montee Ball scored more touchdowns on the ground (32).

Imagine 293 carries for a quarterback. Imagine the pounding that Klein’s 6-foot-6, 230-pound body took over the course of 12 games. And there were times when he showed himself to be a solid passer by throwing for 145.4 yards per game and 12 touchdowns.

Kansas State lost what was to be its biggest offensive weapon – running back Bryce Brown – early on. But Brown was easily replaced by John Hubert and the running ability of Klein, a big man with quick feet who doesn’t just plow for yardage but has the innate ability to dodge tacklers with fancy footwork.

Klein was a must-see player in college football this season. His 1,099 rushing yards were more than the previous K-State record for a quarterback set by Ell Roberson (227 carries for 975 yards) in 2003.

Klein rushed for 100 or more yards in five of 12 games. During a five-game Big 12 stretch against Texas Tech, Kansas, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State and Texas A&M, Klein rushed for 110, 92, 92, 144 and 103 yards. His 29-carry, 144-yard effort against Oklahoma State in Stillwater might have been the most impressive performance ever by a Kansas State offensive player in an individual game, considering OSU was ranked No. 2 at the time.

And yes, I know K-State has had many dynamic offensive players over the years, including Roberson, Michael Bishop and Darren Sproles.

Klein ranks as the nation’s 41st leading rusher, an incredible accomplishment in this day of spread offenses. He’s a run-first QB, a dying breed. It’s a credit to Snyder for recognizing what he has in Klein and by avoiding what must be a strong temptation to stop putting his quarterback in harm’s way. That Klein went through the season without serious injury is a credit to his toughness and to the K-State offensive line.

Klein, though, was sacked 36 times, resulting in 278 lost yards. Take those out and Klein has 1,377 rushing yards.

Klein is the biggest reason that you don’t count Kansas State out of any game, including its upcoming Cotton Bowl clash with Arkansas. I was astounded that Texas was able to hold down Klein in a late-season game, limiting him to only four yards rushing on 26 carries. That might be the defensive effort of the season, considering how lethal Klein has been against most teams. But even in the game against Texas, Klein rushed for one touchdown and threw for another.

He finds a way to make noise every time he’s on the football field. Yet he remains humble and devoted to his faith without being overbearing.

There is so much to respect about Klein, a true role model. Kansas State fans are fortunate to have him. He’s made a believer out of me, a hard skeptic, this season. The list of non-believers, I presume, is short.

Friday musings

* One of my very good friend’s daughter was killed in a car accident late last week. Her funeral was today and it was difficult to see my friend in distress. She is a friend who goes back to my high school days and I’m fortunate to have so many relationships from that time in my life. I never wanted to move away from the Wichita area (I went to high school in Derby). The journalism business is one of the most transient out there – people are constantly leaving to take bigger jobs in bigger cities. I never did and today I was reminded once again of why. My heart goes out to Diana Praeger and her family and friends, many of whom are friends of mine. There were a lot of people from the Derby Class of 1973 at the funeral today and while it was a terribly sad event it is always good when those of us who have known one another so long can be together.

* Speaking of Diana, we were together at an NBC World Series game in 1987, I believe it was. It was really late on a Friday night and we were sitting in the box seats down the third-base line. We were talking when I saw something coming toward us out of the corner of my eye. It turned out to be a baseball, whistling at warp speed. I had no time to react, but was able to get out of the way of the ball. Then it stuck Diana just below her nose, causing terrible damage. An ambulance was called and she was taken to the hospital. She fully recovered and soon looked as good as ever, but I felt terrible about that night 24 years ago. And I don’t feel that good about it today.

* I met Diana in junior high school. We had several classes together and just hit it off. It was that way with most of the girls in school. Don’t I wish? I have always thought so much of her and even though a large group of us Derby grads have remained friends through the years, we don’t get to see one another nearly as often as we would like. Diana and a bunch of our other girl friends came to my wedding nearly a year ago. I was so glad they did.

* I’m writing a lot about Diana because I can’t stop thinking about her and the unimaginably difficult times she is going through. Her ex-husband, Joey Praeger, was also a great friend when we were growing up. He’s a year older and became a veterinarian. He lives in Amarillo now. I hadn’t seen him in close to 30 years, I’m thinking, before today.

* OK, on to some other things. I want the Jerry Sandusky case to go away. I want him to go away. And I don’t really care how he goes away, I just want it to happen.

* I really enjoyed interviewing Kansas basketball player Conner Teahan this week for a column that appeared in Thursday’s Wichita Eagle. Nice guy and I really like stories like his. Imagine all that time he spent on the KU bench, watching his teammates. Now he finally gets his chance and so far, at least, is making the most out of it.

* Finally watched “The Help” the other night with my wife. What a fantastic movie. Not surprised at how many SAG and Golden Globe nominations it received. Was a little surprised that Emma Stone wasn’t nominated, though. But Viola Davis deserves every award she wins for her contribution to that film. I’m predicting she takes home an Oscar.

* I’m looking forward to watching Pittsburg State play Wayne (Mich.) State tomorrow in the Division II championship game from Florence, Ala. Although a 10 a.m. start? That’s the price you pay, I guess, when you’re Division II and you’re trying to get on ESPN2. I went to Florence in 2004 to cover Pittsburg State when the Gorillas lost to Valdosta State, 36-31, in the Division II championship game. I drove to Florence and ate breakfast at the Waffle House in Muscle Shoals on the morning of the game. It was a neat trip, although Florence is not easy to get to and the stadium there is nothing special. Congratulations to Pitt State for a fifth appearance in the championship game. Nice story.

* Thanks to everyone for reading. I got a little deep today in some personal thoughts. Diana is a long-time friend who is really hurting and she is very much in my thoughts. Have a great weekend.

Who is Kansas’ “Sportsman of the Year?”

Every year, “Sports Illustrated” chooses its “Sportsman of the Year.” This year, Duke men’s basketball coach Mike Krzyzewski and Tennessee women’s basketball coach Pat Summitt share the honor.

I got to thinking about a Kansas “Sportsman of the Year” for 2011 and who it might be. I’d love your feedback on this one and we’ll make an official announcement here on the blog before the end of the year.

Who are some candidates?

Kansas State junior quarterback Collin Klein has had one of the best individual seasons in KSU history. Is he the Kansas "Sportsman of the Year?"

Certainly, Kansas State football coach Bill Snyder has to be considered, as does K-State junior quarterback Collin Klein. I don’t know who I would pick between those two.

How about the Wichita Heights boys basketball team, which won its third consecutive Class 6A championship in March? If that’s too wide of a scope, maybe we could go with a player from that team, 6-foot-8 Perry Ellis.

Would the Morris twins – Marcus and Markieff – get any run? They helped Kansas to within a game of the Final Four in 2011 and were first-round draft picks in the NBA.

Perhaps Wichita State basketball coach Gregg Marshall, whose Shockers won the NIT championship, would get your vote.

Personally, I think I would go with Kansas State’s Klein, who has had a tremendous and somewhat unexpected season as the Wildcats’ quarterback. I mean, who saw this coming? He is the player most responsible for K-State’s 10-2 record and upcoming Cotton Bowl appearance against Arkansas on Jan. 6.

But I’m sure I’m leaving out some obvious candidates and that’s where you come into play. I’d love to hear your thoughts on this.

Robert Elmore denied again

There are people who wonder about my motives when it comes to Robert Elmore and the Shocker Sports Hall of Fame.

Why, they ask, am I so adamant that he be inducted? Why, they wonder, am I so distraught when he isn’t?

These are valid questions and I’m not at all sure I have valid answers. I don’t know when I became so emotionally involved when it comes to Robert Elmore, who played basketball at WSU from 1973-77, the years when I was a student. I don’t know why I get angry every year when Elmore is denied induction as is again the case this year. Wichita State announced three worthy SSHOF inductees Tuesday – Desiraye Osburn (cross country) and former baseball standouts Carl Hall and Mike Pelfrey.

No Elmore. Again.

In September, I publicly nominated Elmore for the Shocker Sports Hall of Fame, something I had not done in the past. Elmore, 6-foot-11, died of a heroin overdose in Rome, where he was playing basketball professionally, in 1977. He had recently been cut by the NBA’s New Jersey Nets.

I presume it is the heroin overdose that has kept Elmore out of the Shocker Sports Hall of Fame, although none of the committee members – who include Linwood Sexton, John Dreifort, Cleo Littleton and Mike Kennedy – has ever told me that.

Elmore still ranks second in WSU history in rebounds (1,039) and block shots (132). He averaged 12.4 rebounds for his career and also scored 1,186 points and was a 51.1 percent field-goal shooter and three-time all-Missouri Valley Conference first team player. He was, I believe, the greatest true center in Shocker basketball history.

I do not believe the circumstances of Elmore’s death should impact his SSHOF status. I am unsure of the vetting process done by the committee, but doubt it includes vigorous background checks. Not that a background check would have been necessary to determine Elmore’s cause of death; it was public knowledge.

I did not know Elmore. But I have talked to some of his former teammates and they say he was a wonderful person and outstanding player who got mixed up in some of the wrong things after he left the United States to play basketball in France.

“A great guy on and off the court,” former Shocker and SSHOF inductee Cheese Johnson said. “He was always happy and the things that happened shouldn’t be held against him. One thing doesn’t have to do with another.”

Elmore was from Queens, N.Y., near where Johnson grew up in Manhattan. They didn’t know one another as kids, but being native New Yorkers helped them bond when they were together for two seasons (1975-76, 1976-77) at WSU. Elmore and Johnson were key parts of the Shockers’ NCAA Tournament team in 1976.

“He was like an older brother to me,” Johnson said. “And he was a real popular guy. He was one of my best enforcers on that front line.”

Another former Elmore teammate, Chicago native Steve Kalocinski, said he spent much of trip to WSU in Elmore’s presence.

“He basically convinced me Wichita State was the right school for me because of his demeanor,” Kalocinski said. “Mo was such an imposing figure but his demeanor didn’t match up to that big physique. He was so down to earth and so easy going.”

Kalocinski knew Elmore was starting to dabble in drugs after he left Wichita State, but was surprised to hear that his former teammate had overdosed on heroin.

“It was such a tragedy because he was naive in that way,” Kalocinski said. “Now I see Mo’s brother, Len, on TV and I see Mo in those eyes. It’s a real sad deal. But should that take away from his accomplishments as a basketball player? I don’t think so.”

Neither do I, which is why I keep pushing for Elmore’s induction. His exclusion reflects poorly on the Shocker Sports Hall of Fame, in my opinion, but in being so public about my beliefs I fear that I have stunted the likelihood of his chances for induction.

In the next day or two, I hope, a member of the Shocker Sports Hall of Fame committee will talk to me and explain Elmore’s exclusion. I think it’s important that someone on the committee do so, especially since I went through the process of publicly nominating Elmore this year. I will write about the committee’s reasoning here on my blog. But then I will let this issue go and allow it, along with Robert Elmore, to rest in peace.

Haley’s replacement

I have yet to hear from a Chiefs fan who feels like Todd Haley was unfairly fired today. And that’s saying something, considering all of the injuries that have contributed, at least partly, to Kansas City’s rough season.

Could Jeff Fisher be the next coach of the Kansas City Chiefs. It might be a pipe dream, but he's a better candidate than Josh McDaniels or Kirk Ferentz.

Haley never won over the fan base. He was always seen as too rough around the edges and too much of a maverick. I don’t think Chiefs fans appreciated the way Haley thought he had all the answers, even though Kansas City was his first head coaching job. Haley seemed especially arrogant with the offense, firing and not getting along with coordinators.

Haley is gone now and will soon be forgotten. But the Chiefs will trudge forward with a new coach. And from the reports I’m reading, it appears many of the experts believe Kansas City general manager Scott Pioli could turn to either Josh McDaniels or Kirk Ferentz as the next Chiefs coach.

Wow.

McDaniels? He failed during his tenure as Denver’s coach, although he was the man who convinced the Broncos braintrust to pick Tim Tebow with the team’s first-round draft choice in 2009. Now McDaniels is struggling as offensive coordinator in St. Louis, where he has failed to take Sam Bradford to another level. In fact, Bradford has taken a step back this season under McDaniels’ tutelage and the Rams have the NFL’s worst offense.

Farentz has had success at Iowa, but this season wasn’t particularly good for the Hawkeyes. And he’s always mentioned for these NFL job openings, yet he has remained in Iowa City. Something doesn’t seem quite right there.

I hope, for the Chiefs’ sake, that the pool of coaching candidates goes deeper than McDaniels and Ferentz because neither one of those guys seems like a great alternative.

Of course, the tried and trues like Bill Cowher and Jon Gruden will be mentioned for the Chiefs’ opening. But they’ve had numerous chances to return to the sideline and have chosen to remain in the television studio or booth. I’m not sure the Chiefs job is special enough to entice either one to return to the grind.

Jeff Fisher, on the other hand, might be ready to come back after taking a year off. Fisher, formerly the coach of the Tennessee Titans, is a proven winner. If I were a Chiefs fan, I would much rather see him take over than either McDaniels or Ferentz. And by a long shot.