Friday, Mar 26 at 8:42 AM
Friday, March 26, 2010.
Boise State football has a cousin in basketball. It’s called Gonzaga, coached by a guy who’s built a dynasty the last 11 years and whose right-hand man has been with him since day one. That Mark Few assistant, Leon Rice, is now a Bronco. Word leaked out last night that Rice has accepted Boise State’s head coaching job, ending a two-week search for a replacement for the fired Greg Graham. The Broncos wouldn’t say this outwardly, but they surely hope they’ve found a man in the mold of Chris Petersen. And maybe they have. Rice just is a couple years older than Petersen. He’s stayed at one place a long, long time—not wanting to be a head coach until the right fit came along. And Rice is renowned as a great recruiter. It will now be his assignment to reconnect the program with the fans, a challenge Petersen has never faced.
Track record is not a problem for Rice. The Zags have made the NCAA Tournament every year he’s been at Gonzaga, including four Sweet Sixteen appearances, and have won 10 straight West Coast Conference regular season championships. The Bulldogs have also finished in the AP regular season Top 10 four times. Gonzaga has gone 264-66 during Rice’s tenure in Spokane. Twice the Zags have posted 29-4 records.
The request by Boise State basketball recruit Ben Mills to be released from his National Letter of Intent is reasonable, considering the staff he committed to no longer coaches the Broncos. He’s setting aside four or five years of his life for this, so he wanted to know who he’s going to be playing for. But BSU athletic director Gene Bleymaier’s denial of that request is also reasonable—until Rice has a chance to meet with the 7-footer from Wisconsin. Mills signed with Boise State, so he should meet with the new coach to get a feel for his future before he’s turned loose. If Mills is absolutely convinced after conferring with Rice that it’s not for him, then grant him his release. Mills has time; there would still be plenty of quality programs across the country that would make room for him on their rosters.
With Jeremy Avery and Doug Martin getting just one courtesy carry apiece in Wednesday’s first scrimmage of the year, Raphael Lambert was presented the biggest opportunity of his young Boise State career. And the compact sophomore from Portland cashed in with 51 yards on eight carries. It was another kind of opportunity for Lambert as well, as he was one of three Broncos suspended for the Fiesta Bowl and did not accompany the team to Glendale. So is there a place in the cupboard for Lambert? Avery, Martin, D.J. Harper, Matt Kaiserman, Jarvis Hodge, Malcomb Johnson…I don’t know. Ironically, Johnson was another one of the players with a Fiesta Bowl suspension—he did not appear in Wednesday’s scrimmage.
Today’s the day for Richie Brockel. It’s all about Boise State’s Pro Day at the Caven-Williams indoor facility. Brockel, who injured his foot against Idaho last November and missed the remainder of his senior year, knows what the deal is. “The major thing I’m going to have to prove is that I’m healthy,” Brockel said earlier this month on Idaho SportsTalk. Brockel says he’ll be ready for anything they throw at him on Pro Day. He thinks he’ll benefit by getting in front of the increased number of scouts who will turn out to evaluate Kyle Wilson, with Wilson having been unable to run in the NFL Combine’s footwork drills. Brockel has no preconceived notions about being drafted next month. A lot of people assure him he will be, but Brockel knows some folks are just telling him what he wants to hear.
The Idaho Steelheads have been summarily raided by the AHL as they go into their final two regular season home games. Abbotsford has snagged forward Tyler Spurgeon, Hershey has taken forward Ashton Rome, and Bridgeport has called up defenseman Dustin Friesen. The question is: when will they be back? Time is on the Steelheads’ side, though. After the two games against Victoria this weekend, they go to Alaska and Bakersfield next week—then they have almost two weeks off with their first-round bye in the Kelly Cup Playoffs. The Steelies lose scoring punch without Spurgeon, who has 64 points in just 48 games this season. They lose some grit without Rome, who’s second on the team with 107 penalty minutes.
The Idaho Stampede’s make-or-break series at Utah wraps up tonight and tomorrow night, and Coby Karl’s mindset will be interesting. The D-League has a new working relationship with AOL’s FanHouse, and this was blogger Matt Moore’s account of a sequence in Wednesday night’s 123-115 Stampede loss to the Flash: “In a bizarre twist, Idaho's Coby Karl, son of Nuggets coach George Karl, was ejected for a flagrant and a tech, which was kind of like Mr. Rogers being part of a terrorist cell.” Apparently Mr. Moore hasn’t watched much of the younger Karl. Besides, Coby has a lot on his mind right now with his dad probably forced to miss the rest of the NBA regular season due to intense radiation and chemotherapy treatments.
The Boise State men’s tennis team is still finding its identity this season, while Idaho has come a long, long way. The days of those 7-0 Bronco shutouts are gone, as BSU had to rally past the Vandals yesterday, 4-3, at the Boas Bubbles. In the second match of the day, the Broncos breezed past coach Greg Patton’s one-time team, UC Irvine, 6-1. Now it’s on to the Springhill Suites Spring Break Classic tomorrow and Sunday. The Broncos open tomorrow morning versus Portland, with Purdue and Cal Poly also in town for the tournament. The Boise State gymnastics team, meanwhile, guns for its third straight WAC championship at the conference meet tomorrow night at Cal State Fullerton.
Did I say a day ago the College of Idaho couldn’t catch a break against Lewis-Clark State? Well, the Coyotes lost another heartbreaker to the Warriors yesterday, 5-4, at Wolfe Field. After tying the game 3-3 in the bottom of the eighth, the Yotes were victimized by two passed balls in the ninth—and an RBI single by Josh Ashenbrenner. The 16-time NAIA national champions have now won 10 straight against the C of I and 20 of the last 21 meetings. Former Timberline High standout Colby Hawk started on the mound for L-C State, going seven strong innings and allowing just one run, but getting a no-decision.
This Day In Sports…March 26, 1979:
The night that is generally considered to be responsible for making the NCAA Tournament what it is today. It was sophomore Magic Johnson against senior Larry Bird, as the fast-breaking Michigan State Spartans snapped Indiana State’s 33-game winning streak to claim the national title with a 75-64 victory. Magic outscored Bird, 24-19, and would come out early for the NBA Draft. The rivalry continued the next season with Johnson playing for the Lakers and Bird for the Celtics.
(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’s also handled color commentary on KTVB’s telecasts of Boise State football the last five seasons.)