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Ironed-out Mike

The Saints have a new coach this month. It’s Mike Ditka, the legendary maniac. He replaces Mike Ditka, the mellowed-out warm fuzzy.

“Mike Ditka is through trying to act like Norman Vincent Peale … coddling, nurturing,” said Saints team psychologist Dave Michiels. “The players don’t want that. They want him to be Mike Ditka, the coach they’ve heard about all these years. The guy who takes names and kicks butt.”

And the one who has managed to recover his distrust of the media after his stint in the TV studio.

He told the press after a recent game that “I would assume you think I think you’re my friends, and I know better, you’re not. The media is never a coach’s friend. You people are all vultures, in my opinion. I only say that in a complimentary way. But you will pluck the flesh the first chance you get.”

Hot temper apparently the rage

Just as the Saints have a new coach, the Cincinnati Bengals have a new, fiery quarterback. It’s Jeff Blake, hot-tempered ball of fury. He replaces Jeff Blake, quiet leader by example.

As the Bengals skidded to their fourth straight loss two weeks ago, against Jacksonville, Blake made a point of coming unglued. He had an angry exchange with coach Bruce Coslet on the sideline. He flung his helmet in frustration. He ended the game in a heated argument with receiver Carl Pickens.

“I’ll do whatever it takes to win,” Blake said. “Do you want me to scream and holler and rave and rampage? I’ll do it.”

Well, after another loss, this one to the Tennessee Oilers, what will he do for an encore?

Drawing the line

After three seasons at 22 feet, the NBA’s 3-point arc moves back to its original distance of 23 feet, 9 inches.

An increase in 3-point attempts, a dip in field-goal percentage and a decrease in scoring prompted the league to make the switch.

New Magic coach Chuck Daly, who has Penny Hardaway and Nick Anderson in his arsenal, doesn’t even want his team thinking about 3-pointers and had the 3-point line at the Magic’s training camp erased.

Phoenix guard Kevin Johnson, who shot a career-best 44.1 percent from 3-point range last season, isn’t sure what to make of the rule change.

“I’m in denial; I can’t lie,” he said. “I’m going to pull up and shoot one from the old distance and put my arms in the air. I’m hoping I’ll get a grandfather clause and they’ll give me 3 for it.”

The last word …

“Knowing he’s two years younger than I am, I hate to see the kid resign. It means I’ve outlasted everyone else.”

- Mount St. Mary’s men’s basketball coach Jim Phelan, who at age 68 becomes the winningest active coach in college basketball with the retirement of Dean Smith.

, DataTimes

Tags: column