Mandel’s Musings

Mandel’s Musings: Richard Pitino Beats School that Fired His Father, Rick Pitino

University of Minnesota head basketball coach, Richard Pitino, the 35-year old son of legendary coach, Rick Pitino, will never admit to getting a little more satisfaction than usual from today’s surprise win over the heavily-favored Louisville Cardinals, but you know he is dancing the two-step inside his head and his heart.

The satisfaction he is undoubtedly feeling comes from his 10th seeded underdog Gophers winning a huge opening round NCAA tournament game over the seventh-seed Cardinals, truly a landmark victory for Minnesota, never known as a basketball school, let alone a power in the sport.

But, the other reason Richard Pitino is doing his little dance is because of who he and his kids defeated this afternoon. The same school that fired young Pitino’s father two years ago after scandals in the athletic department and within the basketball program were, in part, blamed on his father’s malfeasance. To this day, senior Pitino denies any knowledge of what was transpiring around him but, school administrators had to blame somebody. Pitino, a Hall of Fame coach who has won two NCAA titles with Kentucky in 1996 and Louisville in 2013, along with head football coach, Bobby Petrino, were the scapegoats.

Younger Pitino’s Minnesota team defeated the Cardinals, 86-76, thereby busting everyone’s brackets on Day One. But the real storyline of this game remained the Pitino story, as much as the Minnesota coach tried to deflect interest in it.

And, now, Minnesota awaits the winner of the Michigan State-Bradley game, to decide which team will advance to the sweet 16. Nothing could be as sweet for the Pitino family than today’s victory over Louisville.

Richard Pitino, Minnesota head basketball coach, won’t admit extra satisfaction in beating Louisville, today

Mandel’s Musings: The Older LeBron May Not Be the Wiser LeBron

The kid from Akron, Ohio, LeBron James, is a generational talent and courageous athlete who has been an interesting guy to interview and be around. Nobody in sports has been more focused on success and championship missions than LeBron, unless your name is Michael Jordan or Bill Russell.

But, the more exposed the public persona of LeBron James becomes through his broadcasting projects, urban works, and his game time demeanor, such as his not participating in team huddles at timeouts, the less I’m appreciating him. Now 34 years old, he’s projecting a “get off my effing lawn” kind of approach around his teammates and the kids who make up the majority of the NBA, these days.

LeBron sees himself, and rightfully so, on the Mount Rushmore of the NBA, in fact, of sports history. But, as an increasing number of NBA free agent stars are publicly pronouncing no interest in playing on the same team as the ball dominant James, a little of his monument gets chipped away, in my view.

LeBron James, the athlete and civic leader, particularly in his hometown of Akron, does belong on Rushmore. It’s the other James, the aging, evolving, teammate/curmudgeon version of LBJ, that needs to become more aware of how he’s projecting to a society which looks to bring down idolatry.

Dwyane Wade Was/Is One Classy Dude and Great Player

Dwyane Wade made what was probably his final appearance as an active player at MSG on January 27th.

Back in Feb., 2005, after his Miami Heat, led by the 22-year old Wade’s 30 points, defeated the Knicks in overtime, an exhausted (and aging) Shaquille O’Neal literally walked me from his visitor’s team locker over to a kid, standing in the center of the room, and said, “This is the guy you should be interviewing, not me. This is his team.” It was Shaquille’s way of passing the torch to the youngster, Wade, a developing new star of the NBA.

Wade was a painfully shy and stiff interviewee, answering every question in a clipped, brief fashion. Tonight, at 37, at MSG, he was a much different, more relaxed man who is enjoying his final ride through the NBA. He received an ovation from the NY crowd when he entered the game. Classy fans, here in NY cheering for a classy guy, Dwyane Wade.


Will Kyrie Irving and Kevin Durant Team Up for Broadway Opening?

There’s a strongly held insider’s theory Kyrie Irving and Kevin Durant, who are good friends, intend to join up with the Knicks. After Kyrie finally publicly pledged to stay in Boston a few months ago, an NBA general manager said, with some skepticism, “We’ll see.”

Both players are mercurial, which is to say their flights of fancy often take off from the wrong airports and head to the wrong towns. For Durant, Oakland wasn’t exactly what he thought it would be. They didn’t need a savior as much as they needed another piece to fit in with Klay and Steph.

Despite Durant now fashioning not one, but two new rings as a member of the Dubs, his legacy still doesn’t make him the key player in bring a city an unexpected world championship.

Irving is in the same boat. He won in Cleveland, but, as great as he played there, particularly so during the championship series, most of the props (okay, all of the props) went to homeboy, LeBron. So, like KD, KI is searching for that legacy-building franchise.

Enter your poor, awful NY Knicks, who haven’t won a championship since 1973, only 46 years ago. The hometown is getting restless.

It’s a good setup for the two stars to join the ragtag Knicks, who will be getting one of the top five picks in the upcoming draft. Let’s face it. though, the only pick they want is Zion Williamson, of Duke. He is surely the best player in the NBA minor league, aka, the american university system. He may even be a top 10 player in the NBA, right now, his talent being so enormous at age 19.

So, hold tight. We shall see.

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Kyler Murray In The Mix For #1

Pro Football Focus, a highly respected chronicler of all things football, now has the NY Giants, with the sixth pick in the 2019 draft, choosing Kyler Murray, the Doug Flutie-sized QB from Oklahoma.

Murray just announced today he is declaring for the upcoming NFL draft instead of taking a standing $5 million offer from the Oakland Athletics baseball team to scratch his way up the minor leagues, albeit, as a rich man.

This kid is small, even for major league middle-infielder standards. He’s smaller and shorter than either Seattle’s QB, Russell Wilson, or Flutie, but is an athletic freak who also has excellent football instincts. The kid is a play maker with a strong arm and touch on his throws. But, he’s a freaking dwarf at 5’8 1/2″, 190 lbs. He’s listed at 5’11”. Yeah, right.

If PFF is correct in its assessment, the Giants, who in no particular order of importance need edge-rushers, linebackers, D-backs, and O-Linemen will set their franchise back several years if this quarterback is chosen, and he doesn’t make it. Since the NFL doesn’t have a whole lot of pint-sized QBs these days, it’s hard to project how Murray can operate behind behemoth offensive linemen or how quickly he’ll get up when he’s hit squarely in the chest by a 260 lb. human missile, aka, NFL linebacker who is just as fast as he is.

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Teams with 4-12 records must acquire game-changing, generational players in that first round, like Saquan Barkley, or Eli Manning.

I’m hoping, for the Giants’ sake, PFF is off the mark. Mistakes, particularly at the QB position, the most important position on the field, cannot be fixed in short order. Get it right the first time or, you won’t get another opportunity to go through the QB crap shoot in the draft unless you go 4-12 again. How fun that would be?

PFF also has Jacksonville, the team choosing behind the Giants with the seventh pick, going for the 6’4″, 240 lb. QB from Ohio State, Dwayne Haskins, a more traditional pocket passer with a gun for an arm.

I’m hoping the Giants take one of the safe and boring picks, if they drop down to them. Guys like the offensive lineman from the University of Alabama, Jonah Williams, or the shutdown cornerback from Georgia, Deandre Baker won’t excite the masses like a quarterback might but they will be boringly efficient or, maybe great, for the next 10 years.

This upcoming draft now has more than a little intrigue, with the teeny Oklahoma Kid now in the mix. The last short (in stature) QB to come out of Oklahoma was Baker Mayfield, who reignited Cleveland’s football heritage as a rookie this season. We will soon find out if it’s the system being coached in OK or if that school is having a run of extreme luck in producing small QBs with big talent.