A GRIP ON SPORTS
It seemed inevitable, even with all the inevitable denials. But after word surfaced earlier this week Pac-12 coordinator of officiating Ed Rush had offered a reward for a technical on Arizona's Sean Miller – joking or not – during the conference tournament, it seemed inevitable Rush would leave. He did Thursday evening. Read on.
• The email hit the inbox right at 5 p.m., so, if you know anything about media relations, you know it was bad news for someone. Good news arrives in the morning, when reporters have time to flesh it out. Bad news? It comes when the TV stations are into their news shows, when offices are closed and no one is available to comment. According to the Pac-12 release, Rush had decided to resign. Fine. Now the conference can move on from his actions during the Pac-12 tournament (if you need to catch up, Bud Withers of the Times does a nice job summarizing here; of course he should, as he was one of the reporters to break the story). But where does the conference go now? When Rush was hired, his charge was to improve the conference's officiating, a task made tougher by a few high-profile gaffes in recent years. That's happened, though slowly and at the expense of a change in attitude among conference officials. Rush, a former NBA official and supervisor, has fostered a NBA-like attitude of feistiness among the group, seemingly rewarding – maybe not the best choice of words here – those who confront coaches instead of communicating with them. I got to witness the new world order first-hand this season when Washington State coach Ken Bone was given a technical in a game I was covering. According to people who were courtside, Bone was exhorting his team to rebound when hit with the T. The thing was, the official who assessed it was someone I had not seen work a Pac-12 game before and was on the other end of the court, probably unable to clearly hear what Bone was saying. But it was the way the conference officiating has been headed recently. It was this direction Rush was reinforcing in the meeting at the Pac-12 tournament and it led to his firing. It also is a direction some of the more veteran officials, Richland's Dick Cartmell for one, don't appreciate and, in Cartmell's case, turned out to be too much. Is it the way it has to be? No. It's possible to improve the conference's officiating. It's also possible to do it in a professional manner, with respect between the coaches, the players and the officials earned and shown on-and-off the court. That's what has to be emphasized in the next few months, no matter who the conference hires to fill the coordinator position. A mutual respect between all parties. That means no more child-like tantrums from Sean Miller, or he gets a well-earned technical, no strings attached. And it means no more over-reaction to comments not directed to the officials. It means good officials are rewarded with the toughest assignments, poorer officials are helped to improve and coaches' input is appreciated if not always acted upon. And, most importantly, it means no more bounties.
• Washington State: OK, let's move on to more interesting items. Spring football on the Palouse comes to mind. The Cougars practiced yesterday and Christian Caple was in attendance. Not only did he do this story, on U-Hi's own Joe Dahl, he also had a post-practice blog post and his morning post. ... Christian also has his weekly college baseball notebook, which leads with some notes on a Cougar player. ... I know WSU fans won't be surprised by this (they are always predisposed to expect the worst from Huskies), but former UW president Mark Emmert is struggling in his media relations class. Emmert's press conference at the Final Four (pictured) was, well, kind of a debacle. ... The Pac-12 Network might be closer to another provider deal. Sorry, it doesn't look as if it is DirectTV. ... There is one Pac-12 basketball team still playing (actually, two, but the WNIT is far below our radar). It's California's women and they have a legitimate chance to win the NCAA title, now that Baylor (and Brittney Griner) is out. ... Finally, we want to appreciate the career of one of the longest-serving Cougars in the NFL, kicker Jason Hanson. I'm old enough to remember Hanson kicking for Mead High, so this day just makes me feel really old. Hanson has decided to retire after 21 seasons with the Lions.
• Chiefs: It didn't matter to Spokane what team it played in the second round of the WHL playoffs. As Chris Derrick's story relates, the Chiefs spent the break between series getting better. They'll need it against Portland, the top seed and a franchise with which Spokane has a bit of history.
• Shock: The Shock's season-beginning three-game road swing ends this evening in Iowa against the also 2-0 Barnstormers. Jim Meehan has an advance.
• Boxing: The U.S. Boxing National Championships are in town this week and John Blanchette has another column on one awesome guy (pictured). Jim Allen also adds a feature on a brother and sister who grew up fighting each other. No, not like most siblings. In a boxing ring.
• Mariners: After one four-game series, the thoughts we had on the M's rotation seem to be pretty solid. At least Geoff Baker thinks so. And he also articulates something I've felt all along. Blake Beavan is crucial to the M's success. Scary? Well, ya. But I feel good enough about Beavan to have him on my roto team. So if Eric Wedge is wrong, then I'm in trouble too. ... Mike Morse seems to be a good pickup thus far. ... Brandon Maurer had some ups and downs in his first major league start, but, to be honest, it was mostly downs in the 8-2 defeat to the A's in a game that started in some iffy weather. ... Wedge has really juggled his lineup in the first four games, getting everyone on the field. Will that include Mike Zunino sometime this spring or will it be late summer before we see him?
• Sounders: Not only are the Sounders struggling on the field, the off-the-field news isn't all that good either. There is a knee injury to Obafemi Martins and there is the deficit to Santos Laguna (which doesn't bode well). ... Mario Martinez had some things to say.
• It's hard to believe it is Friday. This week was a blur. Maybe it was because I was in a medicine-fueled haze much of the time. But I'm feeling better and the coughing has receded enough I can actually laugh again without my chest hurting. Life is good. Until later ...