Brad Rock is someone I frequently quote and cite here as a sports columnist at the Deseret News in Salt Lake City. He has been a sports columnist there since 1994 and the paper announced his retirement over the weekend.
Bonne chance, good sir. Thank you for all your contributions to these rants – – and I still have a few in the inventory on my clipboard. Be well; and stay well.
A Tweet from Adam Schefter on Saturday got this reaction from me:
- Holy “Shock and Awe”, Batman!
Andrew Luck is retiring from the NFL at age 29 due to a series of injuries that have led him to stop loving to play football. I will not pretend to have ever been a football player, but it does seem to me that unless one really likes to play that game, it is not something that one would choose to do as a livelihood. The game is difficult; it is painful; and, it potentially leaves some long-lasting scars on its practitioners at the NFL level.
Luck missed an entire season with a shoulder injury and has not been able to practice much this year with what have been reported as a “calf injury” and/or a “bone injury” in the ankle area. This cannot be spun to be “good news” for Colts’ fans; the team has a solid and balanced roster that many thought could have been led deep into the playoffs. Jacoby Brisset will stand in for Luck in 2019; I do not mean to denigrate Jacoby Brisset in any way; he has shown the ability to be a solid NFL QB. Having said that, he is still – and may always be – several steps down from Andrew Luck’s stature as an elite NFL QB when healthy.
Perhaps the final shoe in this matter has not dropped yet. Perhaps this retirement announcement will have serious repercussions throughout the broad landscape of football in the US – – such as:
- Can or will the Colts consider trading for a more experienced QB than Brisset? The roster may be ready to “win now” – – but is it too late to bring in another QB to run this team in 2019?
- By the same token, this roster is probably too good – and too balanced – to effect a “tanking operation” in order to have a shot at one of the top QBs in next year’s draft. Or is it?
- What sorts of agony must be felt by all those fantasy football players whose leagues have already had their drafts and someone in the league used a high pick to take Andrew Luck?
I’ll pretend here to be a card-carrying millennial here despite having been born in the middle of WW II as opposed to being born in the walk-up to Desert Storm. In order to do that, I’ll have to shriek that this “Andrew Luck announcement” is all about me.
- I had written a first draft of my picks for the records for all 32 NFL teams – pending injuries in the final 2 Exhibition Games – and had the Colts winning the AFC South on the assumption that Andrew Luck would have been “good-to-go” once the games counted.
- Now – – poor me – – I’ll have to go back and do a major rework of the whole AFC prognostications. Let me bask in my victimhood here for just a moment …
By the way, Andrew Luck’s decision here puts him in some rather prestigious company. If you consider elite NFL players who retired while still “in their prime”, he now keeps company with the likes of :
- Jim Brown
- Calvin Johnson
- Barry Sanders
And now – – Andrew Luck
Switching gears … A couple of months ago, when the University of Michigan hired Juwann Howard as the head basketball coach, it strolled down a well-worn path. Lots of coaches in college basketball wind up in charge of the team that they played for when the coach was in college. Here are some that come to mind without even doing a Google search:
- Jim Boeheim – Syracuse – He’s been there next to forever.
- Jamie Dixon – TCU
- Patrick Ewing – Georgetown
- Penny Hardaway – Memphis
- Bob Huggins – West Virginia
- Chris Mullen – St. John’s – at least until the end of last season
- Kevin Ollie – UConn – until the commencement of a “nasty divorce”
As I had my thoughts on this theme of returning to the fold – so to speak – I also wondered what might happen in the near future when two highly successful coaches at two major schools come to an agreement with Father Time and hang up their whistles. I am referring here to Mike Krzyzewsli (age 73 in the middle of next season) and Roy Williams (age 69 as of today). I am not suggesting either man needs to retire or that either of them is in some sort of diminished coaching capacity. My thinking here merely reflects a realistic look at the calendar.
Lots of former players at Duke and UNC have found themselves in the college coaching profession after graduation. So, I started to think who might be offered the very difficult – but very tempting – task of following these highly successful coaches.
Here are some choices for the mavens at Duke – I am sure there are others:
- Tommy Amaker – currently head coach at Harvard
- Jeff Capel – currently head coach at Pitt
- Johnny Dawkins – currently head coach at UCF
- Bob Hurley – currently head coach at Arizona St.
Here are some choices for the mavens at UNC – I am sure there are others:
- Hubert Davis – currently an assistant coach at UNC
- Phil Ford – previously an assistant coach for 2 NBA teams
- Jeff Lebo – currently head coach at E. Carolina
- Jerry Stackhouse – currently head coach at Vandy
The idea of going back to one’s alma mater to coach is alluring; it is not universally successful. Indeed, Jim Boeheim has had a great run at Syracuse, but Chris Mullen’s time at St. John’s as a coach did not nearly compare to its success when he played there. Roy Williams never played varsity basketball at UNC – he was there during the days when freshmen were ineligible and he did play freshman basketball – so his coaching successes at UNC have far outweighed his athletic accomplishments there. So far, Patrick Ewing’s coaching success has not come close to his playing-days’ success at Georgetown.
Adding to that mixed-bag of success stories and not-such-a-success stories, the people who replace either Roy Williams or Mike Krzyzewski will have the added burden of being next in line after a legendarily successful coach who had been at the school for next-to-forever. Coaches who have “followed a legend” have not had anything like universal success – in college basketball or in other sports. Consider:
- Heartley Anderson succeeded Knute Rockne at Notre Dame
- Gene Bartow succeeded John Wooden at UCLA
- Phil Bengston succeeded Vince Lombardi in Green Bay
- Terry Brennan succeeded Frank Leahy at Notre Dame
- Mike Davis succeeded Bob Knight at Indiana
- Bill Guthridge succeeded Dean Smith at UNC
- Ray Perkins succeeded Paul “Bear” Bryant at Alabama
- Hank Raymonds succeeded Al McGuire at Marquette
None of these “successors” were failures as coaches – – except when measured by the yardstick of the person they replaced. The title of Thomas Wolfe’s posthumous novel provides a cautionary moment here:
- You Can’t Go Home Again
Finally, to prove that I still have some of Brad Rock’s commentary from the Deseret news in inventory, consider this comment:
“The Atlanta Hawks reportedly are keeping a spot open for 42-year-old Vince Carter if he wants it.
“They’re saying all he needs to do is prove his vertical is still higher than his age.”
But don’t get me wrong, I love sports………