Friday Fodder: Wolf Pack past foreshadows future
Special to the Tribune
Sports fodder for a Friday morning . . .
The Nevada Wolf Pack men’s basketball team has suffered through three losing seasons in the last four years and has not gotten to the NCAA tournament for seven consecutive seasons. That’s the good news. The bad news is that the immediate future of the program looks awfully similar to the immediate past. Deonte Burton is gone. The team next year, basically, will be comprised of a couple solid players (Cole Huff, Michael Perez), a couple wild cards (Marqueze Coleman, A.J. West) and a few role players (D.J. Fenner, Ronnie Stevens, Lucas Stivrins). That nucleus has 15-win season written all over it. The recruits so far (namely Eric Cooper, a 6-foot-4 point guard) are intriguing and might be able to lift the program back into 18-victory territory. But the program, which has more excuses than victories lately, is treading water with no real sense of direction.
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David Carter is the first Wolf Pack coach to put together three losing seasons out of four since Jim Padgett, who had four losing seasons in a row from 1972-73 through 1975-76. Carter has lost 37 of his last 64 games, has never gotten to the NCAA tournament and has never won as many as two conference tournament games in any one season. Carter is a great role model for his players, a better recruiter than most Pack fans will admit and, from all indications, a competent coach. But competent only gets you on your couch come NCAA tournament time. There have been 13 men who have coached Wolf Pack basketball for four or more seasons. Carter, Padgett and Jack Spencer are the only ones who haven’t put together two winning seasons in a row. A winning season in 2014-15 should be a requirement for Carter to coach at Nevada in 2015-16.
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Carter’s biggest failure in his five seasons as Pack coach was his inability to get as much success as possible out of the Deonte Burton era. No NCAA tournament appearances. A 2-4 conference tournament record. Burton finished as the program’s second leading career scorer (2,102 points) and is in the top five in free throws, field goals, steals, assists and 3-pointers. But his Pack teams had three losing seasons out of four. Only one member of the Wolf Pack’s 24-member 1,000-point club lost more games than Burton’s 62 (Terrance Green at 65). Just two others (Alex Boyd and Pete Padgett) had three or more losing seasons. Burton’s .523 winning percentage ranks him 20th out of 24 in the 1,000-point club. All of the losing was not Burton’s fault.
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Give UNLV and Boise State a ton of credit for not accepting an invitation from either the CollegeInsider.com or College Basketball Invitational tournaments. It’s time both of those silly tournaments disappear. Both UNLV (20-13) and Boise State (21-13), who were ignored by the NCAA and NIT selection committees, decided they would rather turn the lights off on their seasons than play in the CBI or CIT. Good for them. Programs need to set standards. Both UNLV and Boise State had high expectations this year and when they didn’t meet them, well, no meaningless tournament was going to ease their pain. That’s when we’ll know the Wolf Pack has truly arrived, when they turn down the CBI and CIT.
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How awful was Mountain West men’s basketball this year that two of its 20-win teams couldn’t even get an invite from the NIT? Talk about getting no respect. We knew the league was bad when the Wolf Pack, a team that couldn’t get out of its own way all season, almost literally backed into a third seed. But the UNLV and Boise snubs by the NIT showed exactly how little regard the rest of the country has for the Mountain West. How did the Wolf Pack lose five league games in a row? How did the Pack not win a tournament game?
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UNLV basketball, though, might be more of a mess than the Wolf Pack’s floundering program right now. Bryce Dejean-Jones was kicked off the team after the Rebels’ loss in the Mountain West tournament (he was also suspended for the Pack game on March 8) and, according to media reports, three or four other Rebel players are thinking of abandoning the UNLV ship this spring. That is probably why coach Dave Rice decided that the CBI or CIT really wasn’t worth the effort. He probably didn’t want to look at his team one more day. But don’t feel sorry for Rice and UNLV. There is always a steady stream of talent being pumped into that program. But if Rice doesn’t right his ship the state of Nevada might have two Division I basketball head coach openings a year from now.
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Jameis Winston, who won a national title as Florida State’s quarterback in January, is having a wonderful season for the Seminoles baseball team. Winston has a 0.84 earned run average with 13 strikeouts and just one walk over seven games and 10.2 innings. Winston’s performance brings to mind former Wolf Pack quarterback Colin Kaepernick. Kaepernick, whose fastball was clocked at 95 miles an hour in high school, never played for the Pack baseball team. And that, unfortunately, was yet another huge missed opportunity by the University of Nevada. If a Heisman Trophy winner who has a national title to his credit can pitch an inning or two a week why couldn’t Kaepernick?
. . .
It is time the Irsay family gets out of the National Football League. Indianapolis Colts owner Jim Irsay was arrested last week on suspicion of intoxicated driving and also on four felony counts of possession of a controlled substance. His father Robert, a former Colts owner, also had alcohol battles during his life and was a constant embarrassment to the NFL. He was the owner, don’t forget, who loaded up moving vans in the middle of the night and took one of the NFL’s storied franchises out of Baltimore. If the Irsays were players they would have been kicked out of the league long ago. Jim Irsay was also the idiot who fired Colts general manager Bill Polian (Pack coach Brian Polian’s father) and also told Peyton Manning that he was no longer wanted in Indianapolis. Polian and Manning are likely future Hall of Famers. Irsay is the guy who goes to the Hall of Fame and draws moustaches on the busts.
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