A GRIP ON SPORTS • You don’t need me this morning. My talent at finding links, maybe. But not my words of, ahem, wisdom. Not with all that is going on from Tokyo to Boise to Renton to Tampa and everywhere in between. Including that major metropolis of Pullman. Yep, we have so many good stories to point you toward, why should I pontificate on this smoky Thursday?
• Why? Because that’s what you came here for, right? Hello? Anyone out there? Well, darn it, we’re going to share our thoughts. Quickly. Starting with a big loss.
Not on the court. Off of it. Former Washington State (and UW and Boise State) women’s basketball coach June Daugherty died Monday. She was 64.
This one hits home a bit and not just because June was my age and played college hoops at Ohio State while my wife was playing at UC Irvine, which gave us something to talk about.
No, it’s because June was one of those college coaches that can be classified in the good-person category (and believe me, that category might not be as large as one would hope).
While at WSU, I didn’t cover women’s basketball. The way the S-R assigned coverage, I was in Pullman to cover football and men’s basketball. Keeping our readers updated on those two sports was a (more than) full-time gig. Someone else took care of women’s college basketball throughout the region.
But there I was, wandering the halls every day. A convenient target for anyone who wanted to fire a few verbal shots about the S-R’s seeming lack of interest in the WSU women’s program.
None were ever squeezed off, at least not from June. She may not have agreed with the policy (or the amount of coverage) but after one conversation she understood it. And didn’t hold it against me. She was always open, outgoing and willing to chat when we crossed paths, even though I wasn’t in the position to help her program (again, believe me, college coaches who do that are a smaller group than you might think as well).
She was proud of her team. She was proud of her career, her family, her life. She deserved to be. She loved sharing with others. She was smart, open and driven. And yet she didn’t win as often as she wanted in Pullman. Not from lack of trying. Or of coaching ability. It just wasn’t an easy place to be successful. Still isn’t.
But it is easier because she walked the Bohler Gym halls for all those years. And those of us who ran into her while she did had a better day because of it.
• Staying in the Palouse, today is the final day before Cougar football starts. The first practice for 2021 is tomorrow morning.
Just looking at the practice schedule, it’s obvious the Mike Leach era in Pullman is over. Most of Nick Rolovich’s practices will be held in the morning, before the August heat hits its zenith. Leach, a notorious night owl, sometimes wouldn’t head for home until the wee hours of the morning, so practice occurred in the afternoon.
And there won’t be a lengthy stay in Lewiston, as was the tradition under Leach. The Cougars are set to practice in Pullman, and only Pullman, until their opener against Utah State on Sept. 4.
• We’re working on a little less sleep than normal. We stayed up until all hours of the evening – OK, 11, but that’s late for me – watching the U.S. sleepwalk against Australia in the Olympic basketball semifinal. Yes, Kevin Durant and company awoke late in the first half, but boy it didn’t look good for a while.
The Australian team was playing solid defense, challenging every shot and forcing the U.S. to settle for contested mid-range jumpers. Offensively, the Boomers’ motion caught the United States in some bad switches or forced miscommunication that led to open looks – which they didn’t miss.
All that changed, though, as the Australians tired and the U.S. depth began to exert itself. Now the Americans will face France for the gold medal in a rematch of the pool play game that began the competition. And, yes, the U.S. will be looking for a little revenge, having lost that game, 83-76. Friday’s matchup will also be a rematch from the 2000 final in Sydney, won by the U.S.
• When a celebrity golf tournament comes to the area, it’s pretty easy to get lost in the hype surrounding the participants. But when it ends, the thing to focus upon is the money the tournament raised for a good cause. That’s why we’re pretty jacked to see The Showcase, held last weekend at the Coeur d’Alene Resort, raised more than $5 million for the Community Cancer Fund. (Jim Meehan has more in this story.)
That’s a much more important number than the 134 former major league pitcher Mark Mulder shot over two rounds to win – though that is impressive as well.
Olympics: Besides the U.S. men in action in basketball, the women’s soccer team also played a key match against Australia. They outscored the Aussies 4-3 to take home the bronze medal. … What is it with the U.S. track team and relays? A messy pass led to an early exit. Carl Lewis was ticked. … Ryan Crouser puts the shot farther than any man ever. He’s especially good at the Olympics, winning his second consecutive gold with a dominating performance. … The U.S. baseball team will meet host Japan with the gold medal on the line. A 7-2 win over Korea got the United States into the winner-take-gold game. … The U.S. women’s water polo team will play for gold. … FYI, as the games wind down, the U.S. leads the overall medal count by 17 but trails China by five in gold.
WSU: As one would expect, Theo has a story on Daugherty’s passing as well as the Cougars’ preseason football practice schedule. … Kirk Schulz isn’t afraid to speak his mind about athletics. He did it again this week, talking with Jon Wilner about realignment, expansion and the Pac-12. … Speaking of those subjects, this Athletic story is really fun. … The NCAA has released COVID-19 guidelines for the upcoming season. … Elsewhere in the Pac-12 and college sports, we start at Washington, where our friend Christian Caple does a best-case/worst-case look at the Huskies’ season. I laughed. A lot. … Oregon is usually pretty solid up front defensively. … Oregon State has a big offensive lineman who got bigger. … Colorado is ready to open camp. … Utah has already, looking to decide on a quarterback and challenge for a South title. … USC needs some players to break from the pack. … UCLA’s starting quarterback missed the first day of pads. … There is a cloud over the Arizona State football program. … There is a quarterback competition at Arizona.
Gonzaga: The West Coast Conference released schedules for the conference season and we have you covered. Jim Meehan looks at the men’s and Jim Allen examines the women’s. … Larry Weir’s latest Press Box podcast includes a conversation with Steven Karr. … Around the WCC, we also can pass along a look at the schedule from a BYU perspective.
EWU and Idaho: After a pretty much lost spring season – some schools played no games, others played from one to six – the 2021 Big Sky football season is a big one for the conference’s athletes. Dan Thompson delves into the particulars in this story. … Elsewhere in the Big Sky, John Canzano looks at the recent defections from Portland State and what they mean to the school. … There are things to watch as Montana State opens camp. … Weber State has opened camp. … So has Northern Arizona.
Preps: Former Ferris High standout Mike Ervin earned his conference’s top scholar-athlete award while competing for Concordia University. That’s part of a weekly local briefs column.
Indians: Spokane won a pitching duel with league-leading Everett, 5-2. Dave Nichols was at Avista Stadium and has this game story.
Mariners: Seattle’s one-run magic failed to materialize in a 4-3, series-ending loss at Tampa Bay. … Cal Raleigh is my type of catcher. And this story explains why. … The M’s are playing meaningful baseball in August. September? We’ll have to wait.
Seahawks: Robert Nkemdiche has always had potential. He hasn’t realized all of it in the NFL. The Hawks hope to change that. … Poona Ford has unlocked much of his. … Shane Waldron has a tough job. He feels he’s up to bringing the Seahawks’ offense into the 21st Century, but we will see. … Some rookies are making impressions. … Wow, the Hawks’ defense, which finished the regular season on a roll, isn’t well respected in this ranking. … There are injuries. … Alex Collins likes to dance. … Steve Hutchinson liked to move people.
Kraken: Yanni Gourde hopes to be at least a 20-goal scorer.
Sounders: A late goal cost Seattle two points against FC Dallas. It didn’t help the 1-1 draw also featured an awful ignored penalty.
• Is it possible to suffer a major injury due to a cat jumping on your abdomen? That’s how I woke up this morning – I should change her name to Alarm Clock – and the left side of my belly is still tender. Maybe she broke something inside. In an unrelated note, anyone want to adopt a 12-year-old, one-eyed cat? Until later …
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