It has been a long time since a basketball game truly generated electricity in Madison Square Garden. Obviously the Knicks’ futility has played a large role in taking a lot of the energy out of the “world’s most famous arena.”
This past Sunday afternoon the frequently moribund MSG regained its old mojo as the St. John’s Red Storm took on the Duke Blue Devils. Although St. John’s was the nominal home team at the sold-out Garden, it seemed as if the team from Durham, NC had an equal, if not greater, amount of supporters. The Duke faithful were undoubtedly charged up by the fact that longtime head coach Mike “Coach K” Krzyzewski was seeking his 1,000th career win as a college coach.
It was a back and forth game that was marked by questionable officiating throughout. Although the Johnnies played hard and reasonably contained Blue Devils center Jahlil Okafor , who will be the probable first pick in the 2015 NBA Draft, they did not have an answer for the defensive prowess of 7′ forward Marshall Plumlee in the second half. Marshall’s older brother, Mason, plays center for the Brooklyn Nets.
Although his team lost 77-68, Red Storm head coach Steve Lavin was in fairly good spirits after the game and praised his team. He admitted to me privately that he was concerned that the team might suffer a letdown after playing a marquee team at the Garden that was shown nationally on Fox. “As soon as I got back to the locker room I addressed the guys and told them that they have to forget about this game and get ready for Creighton University on Wednesday and all of the other teams in the Big East.”
Last week the Jets introduced both their new general manager, Mike Maccagnan, and their new head coach, Todd Bowles.
Maccagnan who was in charge of college scouting for the Houston Texans, grew up in Hightstown, New Jersey, which is the mythical halfway point between New York and Philadelphia, has the voice of a mellifluous radio broadcaster.
Todd Bowles knows that he has a tough job ahead replacing the personable Rex Ryan. He seemed a bit stiff in the early Q&A exchanges but loosened up considerably when he was asked about his personality. “I have so many sides to me that I am like a male Sybil,” he said with a laugh that went over well with the press.
Jets owner Woody Johnson said some interesting things that were not picked up by the dailies or electronic media. He admitted that he knew that the 2014 Jets did not have a lot of talent and that he might not have fired GM John Idzik and Rex Ryan had they been on the same page regardless of the team’s record. The fact that is was an open secret that neither man was enthralled with the other cost them both their jobs.
Brooklyn Nets forward Mirza Teletovic is lucky to be alive. He told Nets head coach Lionel Hollins that he was having trouble running up and down the court in a game against the Clippers in Los Angeles. Hollins immediately removed him from the game and he was sent to an emergency room in a nearby LA hospital. Test results found numerous blood clots in his lungs. Apparently he had been experiencing respiratory issues for a few days according to his teammate Bojan Bogdanovic, The lesson here is that if you feel any symptoms of anything unusual, don’t wait to seek medical attention. Even athletes in top physical condition are not exempt from unexpected physical maladies.
Baseball lost a great ambassador in former Cubs great Ernie Banks who died over the weekend at the age of 83. I never met Ernie but I did see him play. Mets fans will remember that he was part of that hated 1969 Cubs team managed by Leo Durocher that had little regard for the Amazin’ Mets. I remember NBC’s Tony Kubek interviewing Ernie Banks in the stands at Shea Stadium during the ‘69 World Series as the Mets were upsetting the heavily favored Baltimore Orioles. Banks said that while he wishes that he could have been playing in that World Series he admired what the Mets had accomplished and was rooting for them. That was a classy thing for him to say.
We lost a terrific sportswriter over the weekend as former Daily News and Newark Star-Ledger NFL reporter Paul Needell died at the way too young age of 57. I met Paul in the early 1990s when I started covering the Jets’ summer training camp at Hofstra University. Paul welcomed me and he never “big leagued” me the way that a number of insecure sportswriters from the daily papers did (and some still do) to writers from weekly outlets.
I don’t have much to say about the New England Patriots allegedly deflating footballs to give them a competitive advantage in their rout of the Indianapolis Colts in the AFC Championship Game except that it gave the NFL a ton of free publicity for the Super Bowl during the traditional quiet week of the two-week break between the conference championship games and the Big Game. NBC executives have to be thrilled since the scandal should ensure the highest ratings in Super Bowl history.
In a sports story that is every bit as weird as “Deflate-gate,” former New Jersey Devils Arena Entertainment president Richard Krezwick is suing New Jersey Devils president and general manager Lou Lamoriello for $2.3 million for falsely accusing him of mismanaging the Prudential Center. Krezwick claims that when he and other executives received their pink slips Lamoriello took a seat in the lobby where the employees elevator was and laughed at those who were carrying boxes of their possessions out of the arena.
I met Richard Krezwick when he was a speaker at a Sports Business Journal conference in 2012 and I have met Lou Lamoriello many times over the years. While I cannot vouch for all of the merits of the lawsuit, my gut reaction is to believe that Krezwick would not file a frivolous legal action. The sad part is that I can easily picture Lamoriello trying to humiliate people.
The annual New York Times Travel Show took place this past weekend at the Javits Center. Sports is finally getting its due as a driver of tourism as Scranton, Pennsylvania promoted that the Yankees top minor league team plays in a brand new ballpark there while down the Pennsylvania Turnpike the Lehigh Valley Convention & Visitors Bureau was promoting the just-opened PPL Arena which is home to the Allentown Phantoms, the American Hockey League affiliate of the Philadelphia Flyers. The St. Lucie County (Florida) Tourism Bureau reminded everyone who passed by that it’s the spring training home for our New York Mets. The one major surprise was that Westchester tourism officials did not promote the Knicks’ new NBA Developmental League franchise in White Plains, the Westchester Knicks.
This may get your mind off of the winter snow but Carnival Cruises announced that it is constructing its biggest ship ever, the Vista, that will sail out of New York to warmer climes beginning in November 2016.