The University of Pittsburgh men’s basketball team proved that they were indeed the underdog to watch as they won four games in four nights at Madison Square Garden, including beating a very much favored Georgetown team in the finals, to win the Big East Tournament and secure a berth in the NCAA Division I Basketball Championship. Pitt head coach Jamie Dixon has done a marvelous job recruiting top New York-based high school talent. (St. John’s head coach Norm Roberts wishes that he could say the same.) Dixon attributes that factor as the main reason that the Garden feels like a second home court to his team. Knicks fans probably wish that the Pitt Panthers could fill in for the beleaguered Knicks for the rest of the season given their proficiency at MSG.
Cablevision chief executive officer James Dolan knows that he is going to have to replace Knicks general manager and head coach Isiah Thomas when this disastrous season ends. There are no shortage of qualified candidates but he would be wise to give serious consideration to Woodside native Len Elmore to serve as the Knicks’ key executive.
Len Elmore certainly knows his basketball based on both his 11 year NBA career that included stints with both the Knicks and the Nets and his current gig as a college hoops analyst for both ESPN and CBS Sports. Len clearly possesses the acumen for the job as he is the president of the National Basketball Association Retired Players Association and is currently an attorney with the tony law firm of Dewey & LeBoeuf LLP. He is also a graduate of Harvard Law School. If Len Elmore were to be hired by the Knicks you can be sure that the bizarre culture that has existed in that organization for years would quickly change.
The Yankees did both a nice and smart thing by allowing comedian and famous Yankees fan Billy Crystal to get an at bat in a spring training game as a present for his 60th birthday. Crystal acquitted himself well by fouling off a pitch and working the count to 3 and 1 before being struck out by Pirates pitcher Pat Maholm who was not fooling around on the mound.
Crystal’s one game appearance helped diffuse some of the tension that Yankees first baseman Shelly Duncan caused when he tried to spike the Tampa Bays Rays’ Akinori Iwamura sliding into second base two days earlier. Duncan was idiotically trying to avenge the injury suffered by backup catcher Francisco Cervelli when Rays’ rookie infielder Elliot Johnson slid hard into him in the bottom of the ninth inning to win a game for Tampa. Whether Johnson should have played so hard in a spring training game is debatable, but then again he was merely trying to impress his manager, Joe Maddon, in order to win a spot on the Rays’ roster.
Just as Billy Crystal showed courage putting his athletic prowess on display so did Channel 55 sports anchor C.J. Papa last month as he suited up for the hapless Washington Generals as they took on their perennial tormenters, the crowd-pleasing Harlem Globetrotters, at the Nassau Coliseum. Papa played solid defense for the Generals but his three-point shot attempts bounded off the rim although he did hit some free throws. Alas, he couldn’t lead the Generals to their first victory over the Trotters since 1971.