Earlier this week, here is what I said I wanted from the NBA Finals:
“I would like a game to be tied with 2 minutes left to play. Then I want either team to win the game – I really do not care which one – without the benefit of some outlandish call by an official.
“I am only asking for one game like that. After enduring the tedium of this NBA regular season and its playoffs, I don’t think that is so much to ask for.”
Well, I got my wish last night; it was a 5-point game with 3 minutes to go and a 1-point game with 1 minute to go and there were no outlandish calls in the final 3 minutes of the game. The Warriors scored the final 11 points in the game to take a 3-0 lead in the Finals. Here is some history:
- Prior to this year, 12 teams have taken a 3-0 lead in the NBA Finals.
- All 12 of them have become NBA Champions.
If you are to believe the narrative of many of the sports yikkers on TV, this series and this season represents LeBron James’ quest to be recognized as “The GOAT” in basketball. I have no idea if that is really in James’ mind – nor do I care because those sorts of arguments get very old very quickly. However, I would note that leading/carrying the first team ever to come back from a 3-0 deficit in the Finals would be a solid résumé entry.
I have not seen any reports on the TV ratings from last night’s game but the ratings for Games 1 and 2 were up about 8% from last year when these same two teams met in the Finals. My interpretation of that is that plenty of basketball fans knew in their hearts that this was going to be the pairing in the Finals and had been waiting all year to see it. Regular season ratings had been down but now the fans were going to get what they really wanted to see. Games 1 & 2 were hardly exciting; last night’s game was as entertaining as anyone could have wanted.
Also earlier this week, I said that there was a surprise eruption of news from the college basketball world when Ohio State fired Thad Matta as its head coach. Early June is normally a quiescent time in college basketball – just as it is in college football. And then, yesterday, news broke in the world of college football that was even more shocking than Ohio state’s announcement. Bob Stoops announced his retirement as the head coach of the Oklahoma Sooners football team.
At the news conference called to make this announcement, Stoops said specifically that “health” was not a factor in his decision. He made that point emphatically more than once. That is good to hear because I know of no reason to wish ill-health on Bob Stoops. Moreover, here is a bit of Stoops’ family history:
- Bob Stoops’ father, Ron Stoops Sr., was a successful high school coach in Ohio. In 1988 at the age of 54, Ron Stoops Sr. was coaching in a game against an opponent coached by his son, Ron Jr.
- In the second half of that game, Ron Stoops, Sr. collapsed on the sidelines and died of a heart attack soon after the game ended.
- Bob Stoops is now 56 years old…
I am not insinuating in any way that Bob Stoops has a health problem; that would be an outrageous assertion. I do think, however, that his father’s sideline incident and Bob Stoops’ current age has to be something in the back of his mind. Bob Stoops has made plenty of money in his career at Oklahoma; he is leaving on his own terms; he could – if he wanted to – slip easily into a TV commentator role. He has earned his retirement years and has decided to start to “cash in on them” a bit earlier than most highly successful coaches do.
Here is what I mean by a “highly successful coach” as it applies to Bob Stoops’ career:
- His record at OU is 190-48; the Sooners under Stoops were 101-9 in Norman, OK.
- In 18 years, Stoops’ teams won 10 conference championships and 1 National Championship.
- In 14 of his 18 seasons at Oklahoma, the team won 10 games or more.
Oklahoma named its offensive coordinator, Lincoln Riley, as the man to take over from Stoops; Riley is all of 33 years old. Following a legend in a job is not an easy task. Let me use Oklahoma football to demonstrate what I mean:
- Bud Wilkinson coached the Sooners in the 50s and early 60s; his teams dominated the 50s and won national championships. When he retired, the next two coaches spent a total of 3 years on the sidelines and the total record over those 3 seasons was 15-15-1.
- Barry Switzer coached the Sooners in the 70s and 80s also winning national championships and amassing a winning percentage of .844. From the time Switzer left and Bob Stoops took over, three coaches amassed a cumulative record of 61-50-2 – – not nearly a winning percentage of .844.
Bonne chance, Lincoln Riley …
It is almost obligatory at this point to pose the rhetorical question:
- Will Bob Stoops ever return to coaching?
Here is my answer:
- He left coaching on his own terms and so he could change his mind someday – also on his own terms – and return to the sidelines somewhere. Here is a major question he will need to resolve in his own mind.
- Absent a financial necessity to go back and earn the kind of money a highly successful college football coach can command, would he want to spend a significant portion of every year cajoling 17-year old prima donnas to come to his school to play football as opposed to going to some other school to do the same thing. Or has he “been there … done that”?
Finally, with so much of today’s rant focused on matters in college football, this commentary from Brad Dickson seems an appropriate way to close things out:
“Next year’s College Football Playoff national championship game will have a ‘Super Bowl-style halftime show.’ Step one: Hire a musician whose last hit song was in 1968.
“ESPN and the College Football Playoff committee are going to work on the halftime show together. What could possibly go wrong here?”
But don’t get me wrong, I love sports ………