Monthly Archives: February 2014

Friday musings

* I was able to watch a couple innings of the St. Louis Cardinals’ exhibition opener today while I was having lunch. It improved my mood.

* My mood needed improving because this was Tommy Thurber’s last day – at least for a while – working on our radio show, Sports Daily. I’ve spent two hours a day with Tommy for 10 years and for the past year it’s been just me and him in the studio. You really get to know a guy in that radio setting. And you really become friends. I’m a little surprised at how emotional I’ve been today about this. Then I remember how old I am and how sentimental I’ve become since I met my wife, Debbie.

* I know I play a hardened curmudgeon on TV, but my perception of me is as something different.

* Best of luck to Tommy, who is cutting back to just one job. And he promises to stop by radio on a semi-regular basis.

* I just did a telephone interview with Ernie Moore, a great Shocker point guard from the early 1960s. I think I interviewed him a couple of other times, but it’s been years. It’s always fascinating to talk to these guys from the old days of WSU basketball who I grew up idolizing as a grade-school kid in Derby. Moore couldn’t have been more gracious during our interview, or more complimentary about the 30-0 Shockers.

* Can Missouri State, which had the Shockers on the ropes in Springfield in January before losing in overtime, possibly finish the deed Saturday at Koch Arena? I don’t think so, although I was as shocked as anyone Thursday night when Atlantic-10 bottom feeder Duquesne won on the road at Saint Louis. Wichita State has embraced being unbeaten. It’s come to define the Shockers, really. This is an accomplishment the team is proud of, not intimidated by. I don’t sense the weight of being unbeaten with the Shockers. I expect them to hammer Missouri State and win the Valley tournament in St. Louis next week. Then it’s on, folks.

* My exchange this week with CBS Sports Radio host Doug Gottlieb is one of the most bizarre experiences of my career. I blame Twitter.

* I hope I have the resolve to stop using Twitter when I retire, whenever that day comes. I’m not saying it’s a bad thing. I sometimes enjoy Twitter and if you are a Facebook friend you know how often I post there. So I’m not one of those old guys who avoids social media like it’s a plague. I just don’t want to be checking my phone all the time when I’m finished working at the newspaper. I write this while seeing my iPhone out of the corner of my eye, by the way. So I’m as hooked as anyone.

* What I’ve been asking a bunch of former Wichita State players from the early 1960s and early 1980s, two of the great eras of Shocker basketball, is how this 2013-14 version stacks up. I think you’ll enjoy reading what they have to say in a column that will come out in our WSU basketball historical section next week. I’ve talked with not only Ernie Moore, but Lanny Van Eman and Dave Stallworth from the 1960s and Antoine Carr, Cliff Levingston and Coach Gene Smithson from the 1980s.

* As I’ve said all along, I’m going to be upset if Gravity wins the Oscar for best picture Sunday night at the Academy Awards. I just do not understand the hype surrounding that movie. It was OK. The special effects were tremendous. But the movie was just OK. Nothing special. Certainly not Oscar-worthy. I’m pulling for 12 Years a Slave and Nebraska, far superior movies.

* I’ve enjoyed professional wrestling since I was a kid. A group of us regularly attended the All-Star Wrestling events at Century II back in the day to watch the likes of Rufus R. Jones, Danny Little Bear, The Viking, Handsome Harley Race, Roger ‘Nature Boy’ Kirby, Bulldog Bob Brown and many others. It’s with that information that I inform you that today I purchased the new WWE Network for $9.99 per month. I have no shame.

* My son, Jeff, does a wrestling blog for prowrestling.net. He has no shame, either. Hey, it’s entertaining stuff. My cultured wife has even gotten the bug. And, no, we don’t think it’s real. Except my wife sometimes. I occasionally have to reel here in.

* Jake Bugg is an interesting young musician. I saw him on American Idol on Thursday night and we played one of his songs on the radio show recently. I like.

* Speaking of AI, I’m not sure I see a standout singer on the show this season. But it’s still early. There are three or four who might still have a chance.

* And don’t tell me that the singers on The Voice are better. I don’t care. My wife and I watch American Idol. Get back to me when that other show, which I have nothing against, produces a star.

* OK, it’s a little crazy how loyal I’ve become to American Idol. I need to look into this.

* Could Wichita State win college basketball’s national championship? Yes. But so could, in my estimation, 17 other teams. They are: Florida, Arizona, Syracuse, Kansas, Duke, Louisville, Villanova, Creighton, Cincinnati, Virginia, San Diego State, Wisconsin, Iowa State, Michigan, Kentucky, Michigan State and North Carolina.

* After that last item, I went and checked vegasinsider.com to check the odds for all of those teams. Here they are: Florida 5/1, Arizona 10/1, Syracuse 10/1, Kansas 7/1, Duke 10/1, Louisville 10/1, Villanova 22/1, Creighton 20/1, Cincinnati 60/1, Virginia 22/1, San Diego State 60/1, Wisconsin 25/1, Iowa State 35/1, Michigan 30/1, Kentucky 12/1, Michigan State 8/1, North Carolina 40/1. Wichita State, by the way, is listed at 12/1, same as Kentucky.

* Gregg Marshall should be national coach of the year. Is this even a debate? For Doug Gottlieb, maybe.

* Don’t forget about the quarterfinals of the Shocker Invitational coming up Sunday at Side Pockets. We’ll start at 2 p.m. and play four games, setting up the semifinals and championship on Selection Sunday, March 16. It should be fun and I hope to see a bunch of you there.

* Thanks for reading, everyone. Have a nice, cold weekend. And hopefully we can push the harshness of winter out the door soon.

 

Memories of a sports writer – Lutz is a bias biggot!!!!

Newspaper columnists take a lot of heat. We get a lot of praise, too, and I always bristle when somebody who does public work whine about how often they are disparaged. Folks, it comes with the territory.

I developed a thicker skin as I went along in the newspaper business. But when I became The Eagle’s sports columnist in 1996, the ante was upped. I’m an opinionated guy and there are a lot of opinionated readers. Which is as it should be. The vitriol can be intense at times, but it’s the life I’ve chosen. And, like I said, there is some praise associated with what I do.

Thursday morning, though, as I was reading posts on Facebook, I came across the words from the headline of this blog. It’s not important to name names, but it took me by surprise. The comment was one of many made concerning my recent give and take with CBS Sports Radio personality Doug Gottlieb, but it didn’t fit the tone of the conversation.

“Lutz is a bias biggott!!!!”

I ignore most of the negativity sent my way. I learned long ago not to read the comments to my columns on Kansas.com. I don’t look at message boards, where anonymous people sling mud.

But I am on Facebook and Twitter often. Sometimes because of my job, other times because I’m hooked just like a lot of other people.

This comment, needless to say, took me off guard.

Where did it come from? Why was it made? Four exclamation points? What could I possibly have done to elicit such hatred?

I sent a private Facebook message to the man who made the post. He responded by asking me to call him and provided his number. Then he wrote: “I’d love to talk about it and many other issues!!!

I called, but he was at work and unable to talk. He assured me, in a friendly tone, that he would get back to me later. I hope he will.

Until then, I’m left to speculate what I did to offend him. He did say, during our brief phone conversation, that he had reached out to me and not gotten a response. I told him I didn’t remember, which at my age is not a big surprise.

As far as I know, I do not know this person, who is black. Perhaps he was an athlete at one time, but I’m not sure.

I didn’t feel defensive when I read his comment, just bewildered. I don’t think I’m a biased bigot. As much as I can remember, I don’t think anyone else has ever accused me of being a bigot. I’m a pretty liberal guy who just wants everyone to get along and have an equal chance to live the American dream.

I hope this person does call me back. I want to talk to him. I want to understand what he was referring to and perhaps grow to understand myself better in the process.

It’s obviously his opinion that I’m not a good person. And as I told him when I reached out to him on Facebook, I probably won’t be able to change his mind. But I do want to understand. I do want him to explain to me how he came to such a conclusion about me. I’ll let you know.

 

Lists, lists, lists

I normally get to the lists blog on Wednesdays. Sorry for being a bit late. I blame Doug Gottlieb.

Five sports figures who give great interviews.

1. Bill Self, Kansas basketball coach. He has an answer for everything. And not just an answer, a great

Kansas basketball coach Bill Self always gives a good interview.

Kansas basketball coach Bill Self always gives a good interview.

answer. I have never seen him downgrade an interviewer’s question. First class all the way).

2. Brent Kemnitz, Wichita State pitching coach. Another guy who gives thoughtful, entertaining answers to all questions.

3. Gregg Marshall, Wichita State basketball coach. Thoughtful, entertaining, insightful. But not every question is treated equally.

4. Bill Snyder, Kansas State football coach. Not every interview with Snyder is great. Or even good. He sometimes isn’t interested in saying much. But when he is, he can be glib and disarming. Those are the interviews you wait for and more often than not they come after a loss. So there have been times when you have to wait a long time.

5. Chris Lamb, Wichita State volleyball coach. Lamb speaks in technicalities. Sometimes it’s impossible to comprehend what he’s talking about. But it’s fascinating to interview someone with such passion about a sport that isn’t as mainstream as some of the others. Interesting guy.

Top 5 quick meals

1. Hamburger Helper. Had it just last night, in fact. Cheesy Macaroni.

2. Chicken fried rice from the Great Wall. So good that I don’t even mind the onions. And normally I mind onions.

3. Peanut butter and jelly sandwich. This goes way back to my youth. It was my regular lunch. I used to go with grape jelly, but now it’s strawberry jam.

4. Turkey and cheese sandwiches. A great fallback that we fall back to many evenings.

5. A bowl of Honey Chex cereal. You pour it out of the box, add a little milk and there it is. Doesn’t get easier.

Five radio gods I see daily

1. Jack Oliver, KEYN

2. Steve McIntosh, KNSS

3. Dancin’ Don Hall, KEYN

4. Teddy Woodward, KNSS

5. Tommy Thurber, Sports Daily board operator who is leaving our show after Friday’s show. I have spent two hours every weekday morning for 10 years with Tommy and while we have had our battles, I’ve come to really like this guy. We’re very different people. Very different. But we’ve forged a relationship and it will be strange to walk in here next Monday and work without him being around. My best to Tommy, who is cutting back a bit to enjoy his life, which includes a full-time job. Remember, now, he’s left radio two times previously, only to return. So the door is never shut. But I hope Tommy enjoys the time he’ll have free now. Good guy.

Five all-time favorite Kansas City Royals

1. Hal McRae

2. Frank White

3. Dennis Leonard

4. Darrell Porter

5. Dan Quisenberry

(No George Brett? I know that must have Royals fans up in arms. Sorry, never cared for the guy.)

Top 5 Beatles songs

1. In My Life

2. She Loves You

3. I’ll Cry Instead (it’s a great karaoke tune)

4. Here Comes the Sun

5. Eleanor Rigby

Five favorite Tom Hanks movies

1. Saving Private Ryan

2. Forrest Gump

3. Cast Away

4. Sleepless in Seattle

5. Big

Thanks for reading. Always appreciated.

 

Conner Frankamp’s confidence

Conner Frankamp isn’t making shots at Kansas.

Deep into the season now, the leading scorer and best shooter in City League basketball history has not been able to consistently find his stroke as a KU freshman.In five minutes against Oklahoma on Monday night at Allen Fieldhouse, Frankamp missed both shots he took. One was a three-pointer.He also passed up a wide-open three-pointer in the first half, which didn’t make Kansas coach Bill Self happy.
Frankamp was called for three first-half fouls, which limited his playing time. He did not get on the floor in the second half of KU’s 83-75 win over the Sooners.

Because I’m inordinately curious about Frankamp’s development as a college basketball player, I asked Self about that development after Monday night’s game. I wondered whether Frankamp was battling some of the confidence issues that KU sophomore Perry Ellis battled last season as a freshman.

“It’s hard when you don’t play much,” Self said of Frankamp. “Perry was different last year because he played a lot more than Conner is playing.”

Frankamp has played in only 21 of the Jayhawks’ 28 games and is averaging just under seven minutes per game. He has made only 14 of his 41 shots, including 10 of 32 from the three-point line.

Everybody I talk to who has seen Frankamp in practice says he is making steady progress as a defender and ball handler. And that his shot is as pure as it ever was. But it’s not translating to games.

Self, though, doesn’t sound concerned.

“Conner is gonna be fine,” he said. “One thing I was a little disappointed in tonight is that I thought he turned down two looks after he missed his first shot. He’s in the game to shoot the basketball.”

Shooting the basketball is what sets Frankamp apart. He’s an incredible shooter. And since shooting is based so much in confidence, I wondered whether his coach perceived there was an issue there.

“He’s gonna be fine,” Self said of Frankamp. “The kids got a cocky way about him that I think when he’s put in that situation enough times, we’ll get some really good results.”

Conner Frankamp isn’t making shots at Kansas.
Deep into the season now, the leading scorer and best shooter in City League basketball history has not been able to consistently find his stroke as a KU freshman.

In five minutes against Oklahoma on Monday night at Allen Fieldhouse, Frankamp missed both shots he took. One was a three-pointer.

He also passed up a wide-open three-pointer in the first half, which didn’t make Kansas coach Bill Self happy.

Frankamp was called for three first-half fouls, which limited his playing time. He did not get on the floor in the second half of KU’s 83-75 win over the Sooners.

Because I’m inordinately curious about Frankamp’s development as a college basketball player, I asked Self about that development after Monday night’s game. I wondered whether Frankamp was battling some of the confidence issues that KU sophomore Perry Ellis battled last season as a freshman.

“It’s hard when you don’t play much,” Self said of Frankamp. “Perry was different last year because he played a lot more than Conner is playing.”

Frankamp has played in only 21 of the Jayhawks’ 28 games and is averaging just under seven minutes per game. He has made only 14 of his 41 shots, including 10 of 32 from the three-point line.

Everybody I talk to who has seen Frankamp in practice says he is making steady progress as a defender and ball handler. And that his shot is as pure as it ever was. But it’s not translating to games.

Self, though, doesn’t sound concerned.

“Conner is gonna be fine,” he said. “One thing I was a little disappointed in tonight is that I thought he turned down two looks after he missed his first shot. He’s in the game to shoot the basketball.”

Shooting the basketball is what sets Frankamp apart. He’s an incredible shooter. And since shooting is based so much in confidence, I wondered whether his coach perceived there was an issue there.

“He’s gonna be fine,” Self said of Frankamp. “The kids got a cocky way about him that I think when he’s put in that situation enough times, we’ll get some really good results.”

VanVleet a weakness? Far from it

My new best friend, Doug Gottlieb, said yesterday on his radio show that one of the weaknesses he perceives with Wichita State’s basketball play is the point-guard play of sophomore Fred VanVleet.

I happened to be a guest on Gottlieb’s show as we debated whether or not Wichita State deserves a strong

Wichita State sophomore point guard Fred VanVleet.

Wichita State sophomore point guard Fred VanVleet.

look as a No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament. Well, debated might be too strong of a word. We hissed at one another for 10 minutes, basically.

Anyway, the VanVleet comment almost made me drive in a ditch as I was on my way to Lawrence for the Kansas-Oklahoma game yesterday. How in the world could anyone with a basketball mind – or just a mind – believe VanVleet was a potential weakness for the Shockers?

Gottlieb went on to say that he doesn’t believe VanVleet would match up well with some of the bigger, quicker guards in the country. He believes VanVleet is a nice guard in the Missouri Valley Conference, but that the uptick in competition once the NCAA Tournament begins will show VanVleet to be average or slightly above average.

Of course, Gottlieb couldn’t be more wrong. But don’t bother telling him he’s wrong because he can’t conceive of the concept.

I went and looked at some of the top point guards in the country this season and compared VanVleet to them in several categories. I used the Bleacher Report’s list of Top 20 preseason guards, six of whom remain among the 25 players nationally on the Wooden Award list. They include Michigan State’s Keith Appling, Iowa State’s DeAndre Kane, Oklahoma State’s Marcus Smart, Ohio State’s Aaron Craft, Syracuse’s Tyler Ennis and Connecticut’s Shabazz Napier.

I disagree with Missouri Valley Conference analyst Mark Adams, who has been touting VanVleet and Ennis as the top two point guards in the country. I don’t think VanVleet ranks that high and part of that is the competition that Wichita State faces.

But to point him out as a potential weakness, along with lack of depth and rebounding, is crazy. He’s been Wichita State’s most valuable player this season, I believe, and if I had I vote it would be cast for VanVleet as the Missouri Valley Conference player of the year.

Yes, I know it’s only the MVC. But even in a down year, most of the point guards in the league are still able to stay on two feet and at least dribble the ball two or three times without losing it.

I ranked VanVleet against the other 20 point guards and he came out well. Very well, in fact.

He ranks tied for 14th in minutes played (31.9) and 14th in points per game (12.3). But he’s in the top five in every other category: fourth in rebounds (4.1); fourth in assists (5.3); third in field-goal percentage (.478); fifth in three-point percentage (.403); third in free-throw percentage (.835) and first in fewest turnovers per game (1.3).

VanVleet is a weakness? The comment is so absurd as to not warrant a reply. Except I have replied with statistical facts that cannot be refuted. Except by Gottlieb, who will surely find a way.

Here are the numbers in black and white, starting with the 20 the point guards deemed by Bleacher Report to be the best in college basketball before the 2013-14 season started and finishing with VanVleet.

MPG   PPG   RPG   APG   FG%   3PT%   FT%   TOPG

Marcus Smart, Oklahoma State (6-9, 18-10 Big 12)

31.9     17.4     5.6      4.6      .441    .293     .741     2.7

Jahii Carson, Arizona State (8-6, 19-8 Pac-12)

34.9     18.4     4.3     4.6     .428    .372     .698     3.7

Aaron Craft, Ohio State (9-6, 22-6 Big Ten)

34.5       9.5     3.4     4.6     .486     .350     .748     2.4

Shabazz Napier, Connecticut (9-5, 21-6 American)

34.5     17.8     5.9     5.4     .433     .409     .884     2.8

Andrew Harrison, Kentucky (11-3, 21-6 SEC)

31.0     11.2      3.1     3.5      .382     .364     .763     2.6

Keith Appling, Michigan State (11-4, 22-6 Big Ten)

32.0     13.6     3.4     4.8     .457     .395     .697     2.0

Semaj Christian, Xavier (Big East)

34.3     16.5     2.8     4.0     .502     .467     .660     2.3

Joe Jackson, Memphis (10-4, 21-6 American)

32.7     14.7     3.6     4.7     .454     .277     .796      2.0

Chris Jones, Louisville (122, 23-4 American)

24.8     10.2     2.1     3.0     .431     .355     .717      1.5

Kendall Williams, New Mexico (12-2, 21-5 Mountain West)

35.4     17.3     3.7     5.0     .441     .430     .795     2.0

Kevin Pangos, Gonzaga (13-3, 23-6 West Coast)

34.6     14.7     3.3     4.0     .428     .412     .896     1.6

Michael Dixon, Memphis (10-4, 21-6 American)

23.0     11.6     2.3     2.4     .475     .394     .813      1.5

DeAndre Kane, Iowa State (9-5, 21-5 Big 12)

33.5     16.3     6.6     6.0     .480     .338     .628     2.7

Andre Hollins, Minnesota (6-9, 17-11 Big Ten)

30.5     14.8     3.8     2.5     .406     .380     .831      2.0

Tyler Ennis, Syracuse (13-2, 26-2 ACC)

35.2     12.0     3.5     5.6      .414     .367     .750       1.6

Kasey Hill, Florida (14-0, 25-2 (SEC)

23.3      5.6      1.8     3.1     .376      .152     .638       1.6

Quinn Cook, Duke (15-4, 22-6 ACC)

31.4     12.0     2.2     4.7     .420     .340     .817       1.7

Scottie Wilbekin, Florida (14-0, 25-2 SEC)

34.0     13.8     2.7     3.8     .395     .390     .761       1.9

Justin Cobbs, California (9-4, 18-9 Pac-12)

34.1     15.9     2.8      6.1     .468     .299     .813       2.5

Yogi Ferrell, Indiana (5-8, 15-11 Big Ten)

33.0     17.7     2.8     3.8     .423     .418     .836      2.7

Fred VanVleet, Wichita State (16-0, 29-0)

31.9     12.3     4.1     5.3     .478     .403     .835       1.3

 

Friday musings

* I watch Olympic hockey not because I know the players. I watch for the patriotism. I’m for the guys in the red, white and blue even though I’m nowhere close to an expert on the National Hockey League and still have difficulty understanding the rules of the game.

* So it wasn’t easy to watch Friday as the U.S. simply never got anything going in a 1-0 loss to Canada in the Olympic semifinals. I was angst-ridden as I watched, frustrated that our guys could not score. And I’m not sure they would have scored if they had played a couple of more periods.

* Canada has allowed only three goals in five Olympic games. Good luck, Sweden. You’re going to need it in the gold-medal game.

* Frustrating. I love it when the U.S., where hockey is maybe the fifth or sixth most popular sport, beats Canada, where hockey reigns supreme and there isn’t a close second. But it didn’t happen this time. I suppose I’ll get over it.

* I’m still reading where Gravity, the paper-thin movie starring Sandra Bullock, could win the Oscar for best picture. I have a hard time this will happen. The movie, for me, carried no weight. Get it? Gravity and weight? Anyway, it was easy to enjoy the visuals of the movie. Well done. But the Oscar? For best picture? This cannot happen. It won’t happen, right?

* I watch as much television as the next guy. Maybe more. But there are still a bunch of shows I just can’t get to. I wrote down a partial list and I’m sure I didn’t get to them all. These are shows I wished I had seen or could catch up on, but just don’t have the time. Orange is the New Black, House of Cards, Shameless, Sons of Anarchy, The Blacklist, Persons of Interest, The Big Bang Theory, The Americans, Game of Thrones, Boardwalk Empire, Community, Scandal, Bates Motel, Broadchurch, Episodes, Blue Bloods.

* That’s a lot of television shows. And there are some new ones coming up that I’d like to watch, like Fargo, Silicon Valley, Cosmos, Those Who Kill, Turn and Resurrection.

* Boston College was 6-19 when the Eagles won at Syracuse on Wednesday night, handing the Orange their first loss of the season. Is Drake capable of a like upset Saturday night when the Bulldogs meet Wichita State at Koch Arena? No. It won’t happen. The Shockers, unlike Syracuse, haven’t been surviving a bunch of close calls. WSU is pounding almost all of its Missouri Valley Conference foes, including Drake on the road in Des Moines last month. I prefer a little intrigue with my basketball, but there isn’t much with this one.

* As outstanding as the Shockers have been, they’re not a perfect team. What is going to make this year’s NCAA Tournament so exciting is that there are no great teams in college basketball. Wait? you ask. Doesn’t 28-0 automatically make a team great? I see your point and it could be that Wichita State is a great team. But it’s yet to be proven. If the Shockers can sweep through six games in the NCAA Tournament and win a national championship with a 40-0 record, that’s a great team. No ifs, ands or buts.

* Shocker concerns? There aren’t many, but the lack of perimeter depth is one. Nick Wiggins and Evan Wessel have been uneven for most of the season, although Wessel is showing some signs of life recently. Wiggins has been more consistent than Wessel, but still struggles with his shot at times. As his defense and attention to detail have gotten better, Wiggins’ shot has sometimes escaped him.

* If I got a vote for Missouri Valley Conference player of the year – and I don’t have one – I’d pick Wichita State point guard Fred VanVleet by a hair over Shocker teammate Cleanthony Early. I like VanVleet’s total game more. He’s a pure basketball player, through and through, with no weakness. He makes up for a lack of size with a huge heart.

* VanVleet and Early are locks for the All-Valley first team. But what about Ron Baker and Tekele Cotton? Listen, I think you could put all four on the first time and strongly defend the decision. But there are voters who cover every conference school and four Shockers on the first team just isn’t going to happen. I expect Evansville’s D.J. Balentine, Indiana State’s Jake Odum and Northern Iowa’s Seth Tuttle to round out the first team with VanVleet and Baker.

* I’m excited, I think, that Styx, Foreigner and the one and only Don Felder are coming to the Intrust Bank Arena on Feb. 14. I’ve never seen Foreigner, whose lead singer is Kelly Hansen. Not Lou Gramm, who was the lead singer when all of the band’s popular songs were released. Styx, of course, is best known for lead singer Dennis DeYoung, who had three stings with the band but hasn’t been around since 1999. The lead singer for Styx now is James Young, and sometimes Tommy Shaw. And Felder, of course, parted ways acrimoniously with the Eagles years ago. In a way, I’ve always felt bad for the guy. But, as the documentary History of The Eagles, spells out, Felder brought a lot of it on himself by being greedy. He would dispute that, of course, but I’ll take the word of Don Henley and Glenn Frey.

* So will I go to that concert? I would like to. Chances are, I will. But will I be happy? Chances are, I won’t. Thirteen of the 17 songs on Felder’s setlist at one of his recent concerts were Eagles tunes. And he’s not a very good singer. He won’t play that many songs as the warmup act for Styx and Foreigner, but I’m not sure I can take Felder singing Witchy Woman or Those Shoes.

* Kansas has a couple of interesting home games against Texas (Saturday) and Oklahoma (Monday) coming up. I still don’t know completely what to make of the Jayhawks. Their play confuses me at times. And if it confuses me, I can just imagine what it’s doing to Bill Self. I have never been confident in the Jayhawks’ chemistry. There is a leadership void. Try as he might, junior guard Naadir Tharpe is still too busy trying to find his own game to focus all of his energy on complementing the games of his teammates.

* I love waking up in the morning and reading about the St. Louis Cardinals at spring training. When I retire, one of the first things I’m going to do with my wife is make the trip to Jupiter, Fla., for spring training. I’d like to go to spring training in Arizona, too. I’ve been to a few spring trainings in my life and it’s one of the most enjoyable experiences I’ve had.

 

Memories of a sports writer

I was a good basketball player back in the day, but I had an attitude. I could shoot, but I frowned on the more physically-demanding aspects of the game such as playing defense.

My theory was that if I made eight shots and the guy I was guarding made seven, I won. If he made 10 or 12, as was often the chase . . . well, I tried not to concern myself with that.

It makes me mad now that I didn’t work harder to become a complete player. I don’t know what the deal was other than my general disdain for authority. That’s something I’ve tried to work on over the years, with mixed results.

It was the same in academics. I was capable of doing so much better, except I was more interested in having a good time. I irritated teachers because of my unfulfilled potential in most areas of academics.

I have no idea what I’d be doing if I hadn’t lucked into taking a journalism class in high school. I had no real interest in math or science. I was terrible in art. I could never make anything or repair anything. I was a good athlete but far short of being good enough to ever get paid.

I wanted to be a broadcaster in the worst way and to eventually call St. Louis Cardinals games on the radio. I grew up listening to those games with my dad and it was the best experience of my youth. My dad and I didn’t have a lot of deep conversations. But we could talk baseball.

Sports was everything to me as a kid. And I’m not exaggerating. It was always on my mind. I did like music back then, especially the Beatles. But I was a sports nut from a very early age, so much so that I was much more likely to study the baseball and basketball box scores in the morning paper than study the math homework that was sent home with me by my confounded teachers.

School was a necessity. I enjoyed some of the social aspects of being a student. But the actual student part of the equation drove me crazy. I was an excellent student in elementary school. But, then, who wasn’t.

For years I took pride in my academic accomplishments as a second grader. Then I started asking around and everybody did well in the second grade. It’s the seventh, eighth and ninth grades that caused me problems.

I could not have been a lawyer or an accountant. Engineer? Not a chance. Anything that required outstanding academic achievement was off the board for me. Many of my family members were teachers, but that’s not something I was interested in after witnessing first hand what kind of student I was. In other words, I couldn’t imagine trying to teach someone like me.

My English classes were interesting to me, though. I was able to grasp the concept of sentence structure, spelling and grammar for some reason. My parents spoke in complete sentences and with proper syntax. I guess that’s something I picked up on.

My grades, even in English classes, weren’t exceptional. But they were OK and I was interested.

Writing was something I enjoyed, even though many of my friends did not. I also liked doing research for the papers I wrote. It was an early sign that journalism and newspapers might be for me.

Research is something I have always enjoyed. Just today, I’ve gone back through Shocker history to look at free-throw shooting. This year’s unbeaten Wichita State basketball team had made more free throws than its opponents have shot. That’s fascinating to me, so I’ve tried to draw some conclusions about what it all means.

I’ve always been curious, just not necessarily about the things my teachers in school wanted me to be curious about. I figured out early on, for instance, that geometry wasn’t a class that was going to benefit me much in the future. So I kind of tuned out in geometry class, doing just enough to earn a passing grade.

I knew I wasn’t a dummy. But I also knew I wasn’t as motivated academically as I probably should have been.

The same was true in athletics. I could have been a much better defensive player in basketball. But it wasn’t important enough to me.

Those are lessons I learned.

I’ve always been driven in my newspaper career, I believe. And engaged. I’ve had a long career full of ups and downs, but working hard has never been an issue. When it comes to journalism, I get after it defensively. This is where I belonged.

 

Lists, lists, lists

In back-to-back days, I received a Sports Illustrated swimsuit edition and an SI with five Wichita State basketball players on the cover. I’m no prude, but that Shocker cover was a little risque. Don’t SI Cover Shockersworry, Shocker fans. Not even the vaunted Sports Illustrated jinx is strong enough to detour this team. At least not for tonight’s game against Loyola.

Now for the lists:

Five mega-popular bands I never went bonkers for.

1. Journey

2. Boston

3. Aerosmith

4. Rush

5. Bon Jovi

Five favorite country artists (I’m starting to listen to country music more)

1. Alan Jackson

2. Johnny Cash

3. Florida Georgia Line

4. Willie Nelson

5. Keith Urban

10 favorite television shows from the 1960s (my youth)

1. Andy Griffith Show

2. Gomer Pyle USMC

3. Bewitched

4. Gunsmoke

5. Bonanza

6. Green Acres

7. The FBI

8. The Big Valley

9. I Dream of Jeannie

10. Get Smart

Five cars I have owned

1. 1974 Ford Pinto

2. 1976 Chevrolet Monte Carlo

3. 1996 Ford Taurus

4. 2000 Chrysler 300M

5. 2010 Nissan Maxima

Five streets I have lived on.

1. Baltimore Street (Derby)

2. Sheridan (Wichita, several times)

3. Bella Vista (Wichita)

4. College Street (Winfield)

5. Gow (Wichita)

Five Cardinals I’m most looking forward to watching this season.

1. Oscar Taveras

2. Peter Bourjos

3. Michael Wacha

4. Shelby Miller

5. Kolten Wong

Five favorite Three Dog Night songs.

1. Never Been to Spain

2. Joy to the World

3. Chest Fever

4. Mama Told Me (Not to Come)

5. Old Fashioned Love Song

Five best Jeff Bridges movies

1. Crazy Heart

2. The Big Lebowski

3. True Grit

4. Jagged Edge

5. The Contender

Thanks for reading, as always. Lists are fun.

 

 

Wichita State’s best coach: Gregg Marshall or Ralph Miller?

For years, it has been indisputable. Ralph Miller is the greatest basketball coach in Wichita State history.

During Miller’s 13 seasons, from 1951-64, the Shockers became a college powerhouse. He took WSU to

Ralph Miller is Wichita State's all-time winningest basketball coach.

Ralph Miller is Wichita State’s all-time winningest basketball coach.

the brink of the Final Four in 1964, then left for Iowa as the Shockers were preparing to crash their first Final Four in 1965 while being coached by Gary Thompson, previously a loyal Miller assistant who played for the legendary coach during the 1950s.

Miller, who attained Hall of Fame status after successful stints at Iowa and Oregon State, is one of six people – and the only coach – whose tenure at WSU is acknowledged with a banner that hangs from the rafters at Koch Arena. He was 220-133 with the Shockers.

Some believe current Wichita State coach Gregg Marshall has surpassed Miller as the Shockers’ greatest coach in history. And they present a solid argument.

Marshall, in his seventh season, has a 166-68 record. His winning percentage (.709) is significantly better than that of Miller (.623). Marshall has led WSU to a Final Four and followed that up with a 27-0 run into late February this season. He has a solid chance to be the national coach of the year.

But it’s not yet a consensus that Marshall has gone by Miller as Wichita State’s all-time best coach and here’s why. Schedule.

College basketball was a much different animal when Miller coached the Shockers. Wichita State played in what was then a powerful Missouri Valley Conference, one of the best two or three leagues in the country. At times, even, the best.

And unlike now, when Marshall has to fight tooth and nail to put together a representative non-conference schedule, Miller was able to play the teams he wanted to play. The Shockers’ non-conference schedule in those days was always loaded.

I went back and looked at the final Associated Press college basketball rankings during Miller’s time at Wichita State and twice the Shockers were included in the Top 10. But what really stood out was the teams that Wichita State played in those days. It was often a Who’s Who of college basketball.

During the Miller era, the Shockers played 71 games against teams that finished the regular season inside the AP Top 20. From 1961-68, the AP released only a Top 10 poll, and WSU played 14 games against teams with that distinction.

Forty-seven of those 71 games were played against teams from the Missouri Valley, most often Oklahoma State, Saint Louis, Bradley and Cincinnati.

Conversely, the Shockers have played 16 games against teams ranked in the final AP regular season poll during Marshall’s first six seasons. And four of those came last season in the NCAA Tournament against Pittsburgh, Gonzaga, Ohio State and Louisville.

Miller has to get credit for all of those games against great competition, the kind of competition Marshall would love to encounter more frequently.

The Shockers were only 16-55 against those Top 20 and Top 10 teams during Miller’s Wichita State coaching career. They are 6-10 against teams that finished the regular season in the Top 25 during Marshall’s years.

The Miller-Marshall debate is sure to become even more pronounced as the Shockers continue to enjoy success not seen around here since the early-1960s. Right now, I’d still say Miller is Wichita State’s greatest all-time coach. But it’s just a matter of time before he hands over that mantle. Perhaps even a few short weeks.

 

 

Shocker Invitational first-round games

We had a great time Sunday – all day Sunday – at Side Pockets. We played eight games in the fictional Shocker Invitational, including a buzzer-beater that had the place hopping late in the evening, and watched with many others as Wichita State defeated Evansville in real-life basketball, 84-68, to remain undefeated.

Here are the first-round results with some of guys who played well in our XBox simulated game. And kudos, again, to Derek Pruett, who worked really hard to make this all happen. And to Jamin Anderson, who didn’t work as hard but still wants to bask in the glory. Just kidding, Jamin.

Team 13, 82, Team 15, 72 Randy Burns 29 points, P.J. Couisnard 26 for the winners; Cleanthony Early 38 points, 10 rebounds in losing cause.
Team 4, 84, Team 3, 75 Dave Stallworth 41 points, Henry Carr 15 rebounds to lead Team 4; Jamie Arnold 25, Ron Washington 23 for the losing team.
Team 10, 88, Team 7, 74 Ron Harris 31 points to lead Team 10, Robert Elmore 19 points and 12 rebounds, Ron Mendell 21 points, Jamar Howard 14 points, 14 rebounds for Team 10; Carl Hall 20 points for Team 7, Warren Armstrong a disappointing 17 points, four rebounds.
Team 6, 84, Team 8, 76 Cliff Levingston 36 points, nine rebounds, Garrett Stutz 24 and 12 for the winners; Bob Wilson 31, Al Tate 17 and 12 in a losing cause.
Team 12, 97, Team 14, 78 Jamie Thompson 33 points, Aubrey Sherrod 22, Terry Benton 21 points, 13 rebounds for the winners; Joe Stevens 25 points for the losers, Calvin Bruton 14 points and 14 assists.
Team 9, 98, Team 16, 78 Antoine Carr 35 points, 13 rebounds to lead the win, Paul Guffrovich 35 points; Ray Shirley 22 points for the losing squad.
Team 5 98, Team 1 79 Xavier McDaniel with a ridiculous 44 points, 18 rebounds, 10 assists to lead the win, Bob Trogele with 20, Ron Baker with 19; Sasha Radunovich 30 points for Team 1, Cleo Littleton with 20.
Team 11 89, Team 2 88 — Kyle Wilson with 39 points, including a 40-foot three-pointer at the buzzer for the win, Maurice Evans with 19; Jason Perez 29 points, Malcolm Armstead 20 for Team 2.

First-round notes

* It was great to see the family of Darin Miller – his parents and grandmother – at the event. They watched with enthusiasm as Miller, who played for Scott Thompson and Randy Smithson during the late 1990s, contributed 13 points, nine rebounds and five assists for Team 9 in a winning cause. They will be back at Side Pockets for the quarterfinals on March 2. I covered Darrin Miller when he played at WSU and there’s never been a nicer guy. Same goes for his family. It was great to see him.

* Kyle Wilson’s in-laws showed up for his game, the last one played Sunday night. And boy, were they treated. Wilson, who played for Mark Turgeon and was a part of the 2006 Sweet 16 team, made the biggest shot of Day one to give Team 11 the win. It came just seconds after Jason Perez made a shot to put Team 2 on top. There was a great reaction to Wilson’s game-winner and hopefully he’ll be able to attend the quarterfinals. He’s currently working for Gatorade in Dallas.

* Some of the greatest Shockers in history had tremendous performances, including Xavier McDaniel, Dave Stallworth, Cliff Levingston and Antoine Carr. But I was peeved that Warren Armstrong, a great Shocker from the late-1960s, was sub-par in Team 5′s loss. I watched Armstrong play a lot of basketball at WSU and he was rarely, if ever, sub-par.

* Paul Guffrovich with 35 points? The guy couldn’t miss.

* This is going to sound corny, I realize. But it was fun watching some of these guys play again, even in animation. I loved it that Jamie Thompson, a huge part of the Shockers’ Final Four team in 1965, had a 33-point game. Remember, we’ve worked hard – Derek Pruett has worked hard – to make these players look as life-like as possible. We’ve come really close with a few, although we had a difficult time simulating the flat-top look of the 1960s, which is the hairstyle Thompson had.

* We had somewhere from 60-80 fans show up intermittently throughout the day to watch Shocker Invitational games. Everybody was curious about what was going on. We even made some program sheets so people would know which players were on which teams. We’ll do the same for the quarterfinals in a couple of weeks and hope to have some more ex-Shockers in the house.

Quarterfinal matchups, March 2, Side Pockets, 600 S. Tyler Road

2 p.m. – Team 13 (P.J. Couisnard, Cheese Johnson, Ozell Jones, Randy Burns, Joe Ragland) vs. Team 4 (Rob Kampman, Dave Stallworth, Henry Carr, Leonard Kelley, Randy Smithson).
3 – Team 10 (Ron Harris, Jamar Howard, Robert Elmore, Ron Mendell, Jimmy Bolden) vs. Team 6 (Dave Leach, Cliff Levingston, Garrett Stutz, Kelly Pete, Fridge Holman).
4 – Team 12 (Jamie Thompson, Steve Grayer, Terry Benton, Aubrey Sherrod, Paul Scheer) vs. Team 9 (Robert Gray, Antoine Carr, Darin Miller, Paul Guffrovich, Tony Martin).
5 – Team 5 (Ron Baker, Xavier McDaniel, Ev Wessel, Bob Trogele, Terry Hankton) vs. Team 11 (John Cooper, Kyle Wilson, Claudius Johnson, Maurice Evans, Clevin Hannah).