Monday, March 15, 2010.
It took less than 24 hours for Boise State to do what it obviously had to do. Greg Graham’s body of work was not in itself, perhaps, enough to get him fired. But with the Broncos’ fan base dissipated, the official statement said it all Friday. "We felt that in the best interest of the program we needed to make a change." And with that, Boise State basketball is back into the public consciousness already. Bronco hoops can return to the buzz prominence it once enjoyed. It may not approach its record attendance of almost 9,000 fans a game again, because the city is a lot different now than it was 20 years ago. Since the peak years in the stands, you have the addition of the Edwards Cinemas, the Idaho Stampede and the Idaho Steelheads competing for the entertainment dollar on Boise winter nights. But BSU basketball can still command the market.
Little-known fact: Boise State has had just six men’s basketball coaches in its history as a four-year school. The next guy, whoever he is, will be the seventh. Amazingly enough, only one Bronco coach has left on his own accord. Murray Satterfield, Bus Connor, Dave Leach, Rod Jensen and Greg Graham were all fired. The only coach to resign voluntarily was Bobby Dye in 1995. Of course, the Broncos would rather a guy leave on his own accord. Especially if the reason is that he got the program going.
I’m eating some words today. I boldly proclaimed last week that the WAC would be a one-bid conference in the NCAA Tournament—even if Utah State didn’t win the WAC Tournament. Wrong, bracket breath. New Mexico State ended USU’s 17-game winning streak in the championship game in Reno Saturday night, but both sets of Aggies still made the Dance. Utah State and UTEP were the last schools selected for the 65-team field. It’s a best-case scenario for the WAC, which hasn’t had multiple teams in the NCAA Tournament since 2007. Both WAC entries are No. 12 seeds, with New Mexico State facing Michigan State and Utah State getting yet another set of Aggies, Texas A&M.
Just when it looked like the Idaho Stampede were wholly rejuvenated, they’ve slipped right back to even-steven land. The Stampede dropped home games to the L.A. D-Fenders and Erie BayHawks over the weekend and are now right at .500 with 10 games to play. No question the Stamps missed Donell Taylor, their leading scorer in the new year, who was out with an undisclosed ailment. And Taylor missed facing the BayHawks, for whom he played the first 13 games of the season. Coby Karl and Andre Barrett tried to pick up the slack—they each scored 50 points in the two defeats. The Stampede have four games in five days this week, beginning with the first of two tough ones at Sioux Falls tomorrow night.
Boise State heads into its second week of spring football. There’s a reason the Broncos are in a different realm of college football conversation going into the 2010 season. It’s the little factoids that go deeper than just the mind-boggling 20 of 22 starters back from the Fiesta Bowl. It wouldn’t matter if those starters weren’t good, but they are. Boise State had just two first-team All-WAC returnees last season, Kyle Wilson and Ryan Winterswyk. They’ll have five first-team selections back next season: Winterswyk, Kellen Moore, Austin Pettis, Nate Potter, and Titus Young. That’s quite a foundation.
It’s also the Bronco defense’s second week working with new nicklebacker coach Bob Gregory, the defensive coordinator at Cal the past eight years. Suffice to say Chris Petersen is thrilled with the early returns on Gregory. “We’ve got a coach of this caliber that’s hands-on with four or five guys (in one position) every day,” said Petersen. “Our players don’t know how lucky they are.”
A year ago, the hype machine had already started churning on the Boise State-Oregon game that was still almost six months away. Front and center was Duck quarterback Jeremiah Masoli, eager to face the Broncos again after the late hit that took him out of a 37-32 loss to Boise State the season before. Masoli won’t be facing anybody this year, having been suspended for the 2010 season Friday by coach Chip Kelly. At issue was the fact Masoli lied to Kelly about being at the frat house the night he stole a pair of laptops and a guitar. Masoli pleaded guilty Friday to second-degree burglary. "If I can't trust a player on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday, how can I trust him in front of 100,000 people at Tennessee?” said Kelly.
What can you say about the Idaho Steelheads? It was Victoria’s last chance to make a race out of the ECHL West Division campaign, and the Steelheads slammed the door with a three-game sweep of the Salmon Kings. With their fifth straight victory, the Steelies clinched the division Saturday night, one night after they became the first team to secure a spot in the Kelly Cup Playoffs next month. And here we go again. Hope you’re not Mark Derlago’ed out. You shouldn’t be, because Derlago is en fuego. The 24-year-old left wing added two Saturday goals to his hat trick last Wednesday. Derlago has scored goals in eight of the last nine games, tallying seven times in his past four outings.
While the PGA Tour’s A-list toiled at the World Golf Championships in Doral, FL, tour rookie Graham DeLaet played the PGA’s secondary event, the Puerto Rico Open. The rain plagued tournament will finish today, with DeLaet just three shots off the lead midway through the third round. He was nine-under-par for the tourney when play was suspended last night due to darkness. DeLaet’s former Boise State teammate and fellow rookie Troy Merritt took the week off.
Olympic silver medalist Jeret Peterson felt right at home at his Boise homecoming celebration Saturday morning. The weather was just like it was at the Vancouver Olympics. And Speedy thrilled the crowd by saying he’s considering a run at the 2014 Winter Games in Sochi, Russia, after all. There’s another U.S. Olympian headed to Boise for a special event next month. Speedskater J.R. Celski, who overcame the odds to capture two bronze medals in Vancouver, will appear at Idaho IceWorld April 10 to do a speedskating exhibition and speak on the value of setting and achieving your goals in a benefit for the Idaho Food Bank, ProtectKidsIdaho.com and Idaho Children’s Trust Fund. Celski suffered a deep cut in his left leg during the U.S. Olympic Trials and was rushed to the hospital—the fact that he was even entered in the 2010 Games was amazing.
This Day In Sports…March 15, 1990, 20 years ago today:
The last trip to the NCAA Tournament for the University of Idaho basketball team, five days after beating Eastern Washington in the Big Sky championship game at the Pavilion. The opponent is Louisville, who cruises past the Vandals, 78-59, in Salt Lake City. It would be the final game in the career of Big Sky Player of the Year Riley Smith, and the final game at Idaho for coach Kermit Davis (until his one-year return seven seasons later).
(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 1350 KTIK/The Ticket. He also handles color commentary on KTVB’s telecasts of Boise State football.)