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Chuck Pagano feels right at home in Boise

Chuck Pagano feels right at home in Boise

by Tom Scott

Bio | Follow: @thescottslant


Posted on June 19, 2013 at 7:34 AM

Wednesday, June 19, 2013.

When I saw that Indianapolis Colts coach Chuck Pagano was honored with the George Halas Award Monday, I figured it was time to call his brother-in-law, former Boise State wide receiver Terry Heffner, and get a family update.  Pagano, of course, was diagnosed with leukemia last September—just three games into his head coaching career—and became the inspiration for one of the most unlikely turnarounds in the NFL.  Offensive coordinator Bruce Arians filled in while Pagano was going through treatment, and the Colts rebounded from a 2-14 record to a stunning 11-5 and made the playoffs.  It turns out Pagano and his wife Tina are in Boise right now, just like they are most every summer, spending time with the Heffner family and old friends from his two years as a Boise State assistant in 1987-88.

Pagano loves Boise and McCall, Heffner says, because he can blend in and fly under the radar.  He taped a public service announcement this week at Mountain States Tumor Institute for an Indianapolis cancer treatment program.  He’s been playing a lot of golf at Hillcrest Country Club as he returns to full strength and prepares for a full season with the Colts.  The Paganos maintain a home in Boise, and one of their daughters lives here with her husband and Chuck’s and Tina’s three grandchildren.  Pagano calls this home in a lot of respects.  He turned down an appearance at the ESPYs next month because it would have meant departing Boise before he was ready to.

Terry Heffner says he’ll never forget when Pagano met his sister.  It was after a 31-10 win at Idaho State in 1988, and Chuck and Tina were introduced on one of those big concrete ramps at Holt Arena.  Yes, it was love at first sight.  “I got a bad time the rest of the season because Coach Pagano was dating my sister,” said Heffner.  But it was for real—Chuck and Tina were engaged two months later and were married the following summer after Pagano had taken a job at East Carolina.  Through all the coaching stops over the past 24 years, they’ve become quite a team, evidenced by the trials of the past year and Tina’s role in getting Chuck into the doctor to get checked last fall.  Now, Heffner says, Pagano wants to be known not as the guy who battled cancer, but the guy who gets the Colts back to the Super Bowl and hoists the Lombardi Trophy. 

San Diego outfielder Will Venable provided us a roundabout local tie when his brother Winston played linebacker for Boise State in 2009-10.  Big brother has had as much pub the last 24 hours as anytime in his major league career.  Venable made an incredible diving catch in centerfield running away from home plate to save the Padres from a loss in the bottom of the 12th inning late Monday night in San Francisco.  Google it.  San Diego then won it in the 13th when former Boise Hawk Andrew Cashner, slated to start on the mound the following night, was called upon as a pinch-hitter and laid down a squeeze bunt to bring in the go-ahead run in a 5-3 victory. 

"I've never had a game-winning RBI,” said Cashner.  “But if Will Venable doesn't have that catch—it’s one of the best catches I've ever seen."  With the ball in his hand last night, Cashner was locked in a 2-2 duel with Giants star Matt Cain into the seventh inning at AT&T Park but left after allowing a go-ahead run.  The game see-sawed from there until the Giants won, 5-4, to snap the Padres’ seven-game winning streak.  By the way, Winston Venable is in camp right now with Dan Hawkins’ Montreal Alouettes.  The Als lost their exhibition opener last Thursday to the Hamilton Tiger-Cats, 33-26.

Well, that’s a heckuva way to drop below .500 for the first time this season.  The Boise Hawks, whose pitchers allowed only three runs last weekend in the season-opening series at Eugene, uncorked seven wild pitches last night, the most by a Northwest League staff in five years.  Six of them came from Boise starter Trey Lang, as Salem-Keizer rolled to a 9-2 victory and remained undefeated at 5-0.  About the only positive was the Hawks’ second home run of the season, a solo shot from David Bote.  Maybe the Hawks’ fortunes will change tonight as they start the second go-through of their rotation.  James Pugliese, the starting and winning pitcher on Opening Night, will take the mound in the series finale against the Volcanoes. 

Boise State’s Emma Bates is headed for the U.S. Outdoor Track and Field Championships in Des Moines, but she doesn’t have a lane assignment yet.  The sophomore All-American will make the trip in hopes of earning a last-minute spot in either the 5000-meter or 10,000-meter run.  She currently sits just outside the top 22 declared athletes in either race.  Bates will only get a spot if athletes ahead of her in either event withdraw.  On the other hand, the Broncos’ Jordin Andrade goes to the U.S. championships knowing he’s in—he’s one of seven collegiate athletes in a field of 19 in the men’s 400-meter hurdles.

The Boise State men’s basketball team is now within its scholarship limit, as Darrious Hamilton has left the Bronco squad according to the Statesman’s Dave Southorn.  It’s not an unexpected development.  Hamilton, a freshman forward, got most of his playing time last season during the non-conference schedule, scoring a season-high six points against Corban.  He appeared in only one game beyond the end of January. 

We now call him former Boise State standout T.K. Kim, and he’s headed to the U.S. Amateur Public Links Championships in Virginia next month after winning a 36-hole qualifier at BanBury yesterday.  Kim, who made it to sectional qualifying for the U.S. Open earlier this month and finished 20th at NCAA Regionals last month, won by four strokes after posting rounds of 71 and 68.

This Day In Sports…June 19, 1966:

Arnold Palmer blows a seven-shot lead with nine holes to play in the US Open.  Arnie then lost to Billy Casper in an 18-hole playoff for the title at the Olympic Golf Club in San Francisco.  That left—and still leaves—the 1960 Open as the only one in which Palmer was victorious.

(Tom Scott hosts the Scott Slant segment Sunday nights at 10:30PM on KTVB’s Sunday Sports Extra and anchors five sports segments each weekday on 93.1 The Ticket.  He also served as color commentator on KTVB’s telecasts of Boise State football for 14 seasons.)