Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Bo knows football

- The Nebraska football coach search continues. Here's the short list.

Bo Pelini - D-Coordinator at LSU The people's choice, my choice, and apparently the person Tom Osborne has targeted as his choice.

Pros -
- Great teacher of fundamentals.
- Inspires players.
- Intense, and it's not fake.
- Has players running through walls for him.
- Can relate to 18 year old kids.
- Will not be intimidated by anyone and will not have a team that will lay down.
- Has been at Nebraska and knows the culture and expectations, and will not back down from the ultra-high expectations.
- Regarded as one of the best defensive minds in the country.
- Is young and is ready for the big time.
- Has learned from everyone due to his many stops. From San Francisco to Green Bay to Oklahoma to Nebraska to LSU, this guy has coached with everyone. He said his SF days molded him to what he is today due to his time with the Bill Walsh coaching tree of Assistants.
- Is rumored to really covet the job due to his childhood friendship with Bob Stoops. Is ultra-competitive with the Stoops brothers and wants the chance to battle them year in, year out.

Cons -
- Lets emotions get best of him at times.
- Questionable recruiter, comes off as crude and rough around the edges to some recruit's parents.
- Never been a head coach, could be what he is, a great coordinator, but not head coach.
- Very confident and brash, which turns people off of him and could be the reason he doesn't have a head coaching job yet.

Turner Gill - HC at Buffalo

Pros -

- Is a Nebraska legend, and will know exactly what it takes to be a Nebraska coach.
- Can implement a diverse, power running based offense.
- Has turned around a bottom 5 program in D-1.
- Osborne is comfortable with him.
- Embraces the culture, and knows the expectations more than Pelini does. Can return the Nebraska football family environment to the program.

Cons -
- Him and Osborne could be stuck in the past too much.
- Only head coaching job in Buffalo, and only for a few years.
- Not considered a good recruiter.
- Could be overrated due to his Nebraska roots.

Jim Grobe - HC at Wake Forest
Pros -

- Runs the spread offense Osbornes wants.
- Has built programs in less than desirable places. Imagine what he could do with better facilities and more money.
- Fits in good with Osborne. A laid back, easy going guy.

Cons -
- Would cost a lot to get him out of his current contract ($2 mil).
- Is notorious for staff continuity (like Osborne), which limits the chance of bringing in Nebraska-tied assistants.
- Is he ready for the big stage?

Brian Kelly - HC at Cincinnati
Pros -

- Another guy who runs the offense that Osborne covets. A no huddle version of Mizzou's spread offense.
- Has built programs everywhere. Was dominant at D-2 Grand Valley State. Built Central Michigan into a MAC power. And has made Cincinnati relevant for the first time maybe ever.
- Is young and could really be here a while. 46 years old.

Cons -
- Is going to cost a lot. Michigan also after him.
- May be a little too brash for Osborne's liking.
- Doesn't worry much at all about defense. And Nebraska needs this badly right now. (Hence the reason Pelini is the frontrunner.)

- Yahoo looks at the maniacal Nebraska fan. It is ridiculous.

Nebraska coach search becomes state obsession, with media working overtime and fans engrossed
By ERIC OLSON, AP Sports Writer
November 27, 2007

LINCOLN, Neb. (AP) -- Nebraska's search for a new football coach has fans obsessed and the media tracking airplanes.

The rumor mill is churning full speed and reporters are working overtime, staking out airports and using software to monitor the comings and goings of interim athletic director Tom Osborne.

"It's absolutely crazy right now with people tracking airplanes and everybody having a source telling them exactly what's happening," Omaha radio show host Kevin Kugler said. "But unless you're the 70-year-old former football coach who's conducting this search, you really don't know."

After leaving a Tuesday afternoon meeting with the team, Osborne said he had not offered the job to anyone. Asked when he would name a coach, he said, "Hopefully sooner than later."

He declined to say how many candidates he's interviewed.

Osborne said he didn't address the specifics of the coaching search with the players.

"I told them to go to class," he said.

All that's known for sure is Buffalo coach Turner Gill is a candidate. His athletic director, Warde Manuel, has said so.

LSU defensive coordinator Bo Pelini has been interviewed, according to media reports that all cite unidentified sources.

Then there's Wake Forest coach Jim Grobe. According to The Sporting News and its unidentified source, Grobe spoke informally with Osborne.

Gill, Pelini and Grobe have not returned phone messages from The Associated Press.

Another potential candidate, Navy's Paul Johnson, didn't say yes or no Tuesday when asked whether he's been contacted by Nebraska. He said no comment, adding he wouldn't be answering questions about anything other than Saturday's showdown with Army.

In the three days since Osborne fired Bill Callahan, speculation about the next coach has been rampant.

Radio talk shows and Internet message boards have, ad nauseam, addressed the merits of Gill and Pelini. Fans have taken particular interest in those two because of their ties to the school.

The media, using information available on the Web, have had their eyes on the skies. Using Federal Aviation Administration owner registration records and flight tracking software, outlets were able to report that a booster's plane flew Osborne and Chancellor Harvey Perlman to Baton Rouge, La., apparently to interview Pelini.

They also were able to report the same plane then flew to Atlanta, where more work on the search apparently was done.

And when that plane flew back to Lincoln on Monday, a horde was on hand to capture video of Osborne and Perlman deplaning.

Osborne jokingly thanked the group of 15 reporters for coming out and greeting him.

"I know you had nothing better to do," he said.

- The Stars and Mavericks are both on streaks right now. I'm not sure I quite agree with Cowlishaw on the Stars side of his column.

With the goaltending rotation keeping each guy fresh and effective, and with the power play continuing to stay in the top 5, I think this team even with injuries will be a top 3 or 4 seed come playoff time. Now, if either one of these factors starts to fail, Dallas returns to what they are, an average team.

The Mavericks I will not start to worry about until February or March, if they're losing games like they are at that point. Avery is doing nothing more than tinkering with rotations, saving minutes on key guys, and figuring out how certain guys react to certain situations. I see this first half of the season as nothing more than Avery being a mad scientist.

He has been burned before by his faux depth, and I think he's now using the regular season as a gauge to how good his depth really is, so he doesn't get burned in May by guys on his bench he thought he could count on.

Keep tinkering, get certain unknown guys minutes in key situations, save some starter's legs by limiting their minutes, and by March he'll have his rotation set, he'll know what guys are good in what situations, and then crank it up for that stretch drive.

Streaks by Dallas Mavericks, Dallas Stars are deceiving

Clubs will eventually end up going in opposite directions

They say seeing is believing, and by "they" I mean Terence Newman on a radio ad I heard Tuesday morning.

But, sorry, T-New, I am not believing what I am seeing, and it has nothing to do with the Cowboys.

The Stars the hottest team in the NHL? Six straight wins? Is everything A-OK now that Doug Armstrong has been tossed overboard?

I don't think so.

The Mavericks, losers of three straight to (gulp) Eastern Conference teams? Not even competitive with Washington on their home floor Monday? Panic time already?

Again, I don't think so. It's early although in the Mavericks' case it's never too early to start worrying about San Antonio pulling away.

Let's start with the Mavs. A loss in Indiana? That's going to happen sometimes. Followed up with a loss to Milwaukee?

Well, the Bucks have drafted No. 1 long enough that it's paying off with a division lead.

But Monday's loss to the Wizards featured more layups and easy drives to the hoop by the visitors than we have seen around here since the Sacramento series three years ago. That wasn't supposed to happen on Avery's watch.

The Mavericks are no better than 19th in field goal percentage defense. That number has to improve, and they have played only 14 games so it probably will improve. But we're not seeing a lot of defense on the perimeter, and we're not seeing much other than old age from Eddie Jones and Juwan Howard.

Now this is a team that has a mental problem because everyone is telling them that the regular season means nothing, based on last year's Golden State disaster. And that's a very hard thing to keep hearing when you've got to endure an 82-game season.

I think Avery Johnson can eventually get through to them that lackadaisical play isn't going to cut it. There is a theory that he has reduced their minutes in order to have them more rested for the playoffs, but that's not really true.

Don Nelson played Dirk Nowitzki 38 to 39 minutes a game for five years here, but Johnson cut his minutes back to 36 last season, and it got him an MVP. He's still playing 36.

Josh Howard is averaging 34, one minute down from his career high. Jason Terry has seen his minutes drop from 35 to 30, but his scoring average is up. He's still getting his 13 shots a night, he's just firing them up at a faster rate.

I don't see this streak as anything more than the 0-4 start a year ago which proved completely inconsequential when the team won 67 games.

But Johnson does have to get through to his team that waiting until April to play your best doesn't cut it.

The Stars' tale is of the opposite sort.

They were trudging along at 7-7-3 and had just suffered a terrible loss in Los Angeles when owner Tom Hicks fired Armstrong. It was an unusual move to ignite a team, replacing a general manager instead of a coach.

The team picked up a point in an overtime loss to San Jose, then reeled off six straight wins. Suddenly, this team is scoring.

Suddenly, Mike Modano is unburdened by the pursuit of a scoring mark and is playing more like he is 27 than 37.

And, suddenly, the Stars own the third most points in the NHL, right behind Detroit and Ottawa.

Is another Pacific Division title just around the corner with long overdue playoff success to follow?

I still don't see it.

Much of the Stars' success is attributable to increased scoring, the product of a power play clicking along at 24 percent. We know that doesn't last.

And the fact that Mike Smith has outplayed Marty Turco remains a disturbing sign.

We know Turco is the goalie come playoff time. He has earned that through the years and put a stamp on it with three shutouts of Vancouver in last year's playoff.

But his 2.59 goals against average is the highest of his career. Like the power play, we know that shouldn't last, either.

I think whatever energy the club has derived from the management change will wear out along the way. It's hard to see this roster outplaying Anaheim or San Jose over 82 games though the Ducks lost a lot when Scott Niedermayer didn't come back (at least he hasn't yet) and the Sharks have been inexplicably awful at home.

But in hockey, you take a good run whenver you can get it. The opportunities to pile up points and build up a lead on your division rivals doesn't come often enough.

I still think that if one of these teams is playing deep into May or June it's going to be the Mavericks.

But if either of these stretches of success or failure continue, I do reserve the right at some point to start believing what I'm seeing.

- The team not panicking either.

No panic yet for faltering Dallas Mavericks

Losing streak has team looking for answers on offense, defense

Growing pains are not the private domain of young teams on the rise who have to pay dues and learn from mistakes.

The Dallas Mavericks are neither young nor on the rise at the moment.

But they are paying some dues in the form of a three-game losing streak and a disjointed look on offense.

And that's the good part of their game. Their defense has been deplorable.

But hold off on the gloom and doom, coach Avery Johnson said Tuesday. The season isn't even past November yet, so it's a little early to overreact to the Mavericks' problems.

"When there are some growing pains, sometimes there's a tendency to want to panic," Johnson said. "And I don't think we're anywhere close to anything like that. We haven't been able to accomplish hardly any of the goals overall that we set out to. That's OK. But it's not a panic. We're going to keep working on it."

There's no shortage of things that need attention.

If it's not an offense that doesn't move the ball enough, settles for too many jump shots and doesn't have enough players on their game, it's a defense that has failed to stop penetration and lacks communication, the coach said.

But the growing pains might pay dividends down the line. Last season, the Mavericks were 0-4 after a week, and all they did was go 67-11 the rest of the way. That didn't translate into playoff success, but it shows the value of not getting too disgusted or disappointed with current affairs.

"We see that we're not good enough to coast," Dirk Nowitzki said. "That's what we can learn from this. We need to play hard on both ends for 48 minutes. If we don't, we can lose to anybody, road or home. It doesn't matter who you play."

A home loss to Washington sans Gilbert Arenas showed that Monday.

"A three-game losing streak is never fun," Nowitzki said. "You never want to go through it. We've just got to find a way to stop the bleeding. We're not very good on both ends of the floor right now. We're not getting the stops down the stretch."

The Mavericks are having to deal with something else, too – the Golden State rules.

Those are the defensive and offensive standards established by Don Nelson and the Warriors in their playoff upset of the Mavericks last season. The rules were used by all the Mavericks' opponents during this losing streak, even Milwaukee, which doesn't have the sort of quick, athletic team to make the scheme work.

"I've seen them double-team me to get the ball out of my hands some," Nowitzki said. "That's something we've seen before. We've just got to make them pay and find guys on the weak side and make some shots. Shooting 39 percent at home, that's not going to cut it."

Changes on the way? When a team loses three in a row, changes can't be far behind. So don't be surprised to see a few new wrinkles tonight against Minnesota.

The Mavericks have gotten little out of DeSagana Diop the last few games and could give Erick Dampier or Brandon Bass a look as the starting center.

In addition, the revolving door at shooting guard might be ready to spin again.

"The main thing is, we are in the lab right now," Johnson said. "We know what we can do when we play the right way. But we haven't played the right way consistently."

Not good enough: The Mavericks fielded a lot of questions Tuesday about perhaps playing down to the level of their competition. They have played well against Houston and San Antonio, but were woeful against Indiana, Milwaukee and Washington, whose victories dropped the Mavericks' record against the Eastern Conference to 3-4.

"I don't think we're that good to play down," Johnson said. "The Spurs are on a certain level. And we feel that ... we're not light years behind."

They're just not playing like it right now.

"There are a lot less big games than there are other games," Nowitzki said, "so you've got to find a way to get motivated to win those other games, too. The great teams establish themselves every night. They can't just show up every two weeks and win a big game."

Inching closer: Devean George went through his first full practice of the season and could be in uniform before the end of the week.

Johnson said George had a good practice, though his work was cut short. George will practice again Thursday, then he'll be evaluated. He could play Saturday at New Orleans.

"My focus, when I come back, is to bring some energy," George said. "It looks like we're lacking in that area, really on the defensive end. We're not really trusting each other. And our rotations are a split-second slower."

Eddie Jones, meanwhile, continued running and may practice this week.

Briefly: Nowitzki on Johnson's more relaxed attitude this season: "Avery's goal is to get more players' leadership out of it. He can't be on our case all season long, that kind of wears on you." ... Johnson on the Mavericks gaining something during this funk: "The positives are being gobbled up by quite a few negatives and miscues. But we've seen those sort of miscues before. It's just a matter of how long we want to continue to miscue and misfire. We'd better start doing it here pretty soon."

- Always funny bit of live mascots attacking opponents.

- Rhyner stalking his leader Chris Berman

- Talladega Nights

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