Thursday, April 30, 2009

Pitarresi: MacPherson deserving of Hall of Fame


Dick McPherson is going into the College Football Hall of Fame.


I’m glad to hear it.


Aside from being the guy who returned Syracuse University to football prominence, no easy thing, McPherson always has been a personality. A positive one, in my experience.


McPerhson’s record at Massachusetts and SU was 111-73-5, his most memorable victory was an upset of No. 1 Nebraska in 1984, and his landmark season was 1987, when the Orange went 11-0-1, played a famous tie with Auburn in the Sugar Bowl, and finished fourth in the nation. This just a few years after many SU fans had despaired that the team would ever be good again.


I’ve had many conversations with McPherson, and have always been entertained or informed or both. And sometimes confused! But wins aside, conversations aside, here’s what I’ll remember about him:


Dick is an old friend of former New Hartford athletic director Ed Taylor. Both grew up in Old Town, Maine and went to Springfield College. That’s probably why, shortly after Dick was named coach at SU in 1981, he came to New Hartford to speak at the dinner Klein’s All-Sports put on for coaches each year at Alfredo’s on Seneca Turnpike. I was sitting interviewing him before the dinner when one of the TV guys came up.


“Dick,” he said. “We need you on TV.”


I was used to this. The TV guys always wanted to be first, and players, coaches and whoever, if you were interviewing them, normally would jump to go on camera.


Not Dick McPherson.


“I’m talking to John,” he said.


“But I’m Jimmy Jones from WWWW,” the man said. “We need you now!”


“I’m talking to John right now,” McPherson said. “When I’m done talking to him, I’ll talk to you.”


“That’s okay, Coach,” I said. “Go ahead.”


“No,” McPherson said. “I’m talking to you. When I’m done talking to you, I’ll talk to him.”


And that’s what happened.


You might not think that was such a big deal. I did, and I still do. If Dick McPherson never won a game at Syracuse, I would have liked him anyway.”

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Pitarresi: Bills make hay with first-round picks

I’m a Buffalo Bills fan.


Which, lately, is a tough thing to be.


The Bills need a lot help. Maybe they’ll get it this season. They had four out of the first 51 picks in the first two rounds of the NFL draft today. That’s double what most teams got.


The Bills took Penn State defensive end Aaron Maybin, Louisville center Eric Wood, Oregon Jairus Byrd and Oregon State guad Andy Levitre. If those guys really around among the best 51 players available – or the best 102 – the Bills should be a better team next fall.


I don’t know all that much about any of these guys. I’ve seen Maybin and Wood play in person, and I can’t remember anything about them. Penn State crushed SU in a game that stopped being interesting in the first quarter, so Maybin was just one part of a mugging. And Wood is a center, so only his position coach and his mother know what he does.


I’m sure they’re all good players, though. I certainly hope so.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Pitarresi: SU basketball saga very strange

I don’t know what is going on with Jim Boeheim, Jonny Flynn, Eric Devendorf and Paul Harris, but it is very strange.


Flynn is gone from the Syracuse University basketball team, having signed with an agent in anticipation of the upcoming NBA draft. Devendorf and Harris are expected to do the same. Fine. It’s probably over for this brief era of Orange basketball.


What I don’t understand are the quotes attributed to Boeheim by ESPN’s Andy Katz in discussing how good next year’s team might be without those players. Katz has Boeheim saying that he’ll take transfer Wesley Johnson over Harris and Andy Rautins over Devendorf and added that recruit Brandon Triche will, in some ways, be better for the team than Flynn.


Well, you know, I can see Boeheim thinking all of those things. Really. He is a shrewd judge of talent. He might also be influenced by the fox and the grapes syndrome - if you know you’re going to lose a player, you might start to devalue him. It’s similar to the feeling you might get if you get dumped by your girlfriend – or boyfriend, as the case may be:


“Well, she wasn’t that great anyway.”


So maybe that’s what’s going on. However, while I give Boeheim credit for candidness, I don’t see any profit in that for him in this case. Why alienate these guys? Aren’t they part of the family you’ve developed over more 30 years as head coach?


Maybe Boeheim didn’t intend it this way, but he sounds bitter towards this trio. Maybe he has good reason, but it is, again, very strange.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Pitarresi: Too many home runs

I like home runs.


I’m sure you like home runs, too.


Most people like home runs.


However, I don’t like home run after home run after home run, like they have at the new Yankee Stadium. If I’m counting right, it’s 25 home runs in six games. That’s 4.25 home runs a game, which would be an astounding 344 home runs in a season if the average holds up. That’s not likely, I guess, but who knows?


The talk is that the new stadium, although it has the same dimensions as the old stadium, which, remember, is really a remoldeling of the remodeled original Yankee Stadium – got that? – has different wind currents because of its more open construction, etcetera, et al and so on.


Apparently, these wind currents only blow out. At least currently.


Or maybe it isn’t wind currents at all. Maybe, as one expert suggests, it’s just bad pitching.


I don’t know and I don’t care. I just don’t want to see 344 home runs. It’s way too much of a good thing.



Saturday, April 18, 2009

Pitarresi: Lot to prove for SU gridders

If you’re a Syracuse University football fan and you’re looking for something to latch onto after today’s spring game, well, there is Mike Williams.


Williams, the star wide receiver who was out of school all of last year because of “academic” issues, gave a good accounting of himself in the controlled scrimmage that came at the end of new head coach Doug Marrone’s first spring practice.


Williams is a star, and probably has an NFL future. So does nose tackle Arthur Jones, who did not go through the workouts as he rehabs from surgery.


Beyond those two, the Orange have few players who jump out at you. Few did Saturday. Quarterbacks Ryan Nassib and Cameron Dantley threw the ball pretty well, running backs Delone Carter and Robert Nieves had their moments, and the defense made some big plays, Zary Stewart especially with a 75-yard fumble return for a touchdown.


However, the team as a whole has a lot to prove and to improve on between now and Sept. 5, when Minnesota visits the Carrier Dome to open the season.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Pitarresi: Flynn, Devo, Harris ... and Paulus

Jonny Flynn, Eric Devendorf, Paul Harris … and Greg Paulus.


Lots of intrigue there.


Flynn’s signing with an agent this week, which means he will enter the NBA draft and cannot return to the Syracuse University basketball team, plus the possible, even likely departures of Harris and Devendorf, is huge. If all three are gone, and that’s what it looks like, the Orange go from being a Final Four contender to a pretty good team. Wes Johnson, Scoop Jardine, Brandon Triche and DaShonte Riley, added to Andy Rautins, Arinze Onuaku, Rick Jackson and Kris Joseph adds up to a lot of athletic ability, but Flynn, Devendorf and Harris are three electric guys. All of them have shortcomings, but Flynn and Devendorf especially have the ability to carry a team. They will be missed in a huge way.


Because of his size – 6 feet or less - and marginal long-distance shooting, Flynn might not be a standout NBA guard. However, he has speed, explosiveness and athletic ability, and he can get much better. If his object is to become a pro – pretty obvious – there is no point to him staying at SU if the NBA wants him now. I’d rather he play four years and get a degree, but I’d probably trade my college diploma right now for what he’s going to make the next couple of years even if he goes as high in the draft as he hopes.


Harris and Devendorf both are marginal NBA players at best, although I wouldn’t be surprised if either one hooked on. Guys with lesser college credentials are playing in the league right now. However, I don’t think either player is counting on it, and will be happy to be play overseas if it comes to that. I don’t know why Harris wants to leave now – a degree would be in his best interest – but Devendorf is close to graduating and he might just figure it’s time to go.


In any case, if all three players are gone, this will be a strangely different SU basketball team next winter.


Now, about Paulus, the Duke point guard and former highly-recruited Syracuse CBA star quarterback. He’s trying to extend his collegiate career as a football player, maybe at Michigan, maybe at Syracuse, maybe somewhere else.


Why not? I don’t know if it can be done – he hasn’t played football since 2004 – but I’ll say this, in nearly 40 years of watching high school football in Central New York, the kid was the best quarterback I’ve seen. I don’t think anyone else was close. He had a very strong arm, great feet, an incredible knack for keeping plays alive, great instincts for the game. I was disappointing when he went to Duke. I wanted to see him play football.


He needs to land in the right place, at a school that needs a QB right now, and if he does, who knows what can happen? I say, go for it.



Monday, April 13, 2009

Pitarresi: Masters a great show


How about the Masters?


Great stuff. I was pulling for Kenny Perry, but I was pulling for Chad Campbell and Angel Cabrera, too. And I was pulling for Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson, as well. I wanted to see a great dog fight, and it was pretty much that, even if Woods and Mickelson faded.


It would have been a great story if Perry had won – oldest winner of a major ever – but it was a great story that Cabrera won, especially if you remember that fellow Argentine Robert DiVincenzo lost a chance to face Bob Goalby in a playoff in 1968 when he signed an incorrect scorecard. DiVincenzo signed for a four on the 71st hole, when he actually had a three. That was one of the worst moments in golf history.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Pitarresi: Possible defections would hurt SU

I was more than a bit surprised by the announcement that Syracuse University basketball players Paul Harris and Eric Devendorf, in addition to Jonny Flynn, would apply for the NBA draft.


Everyone knew Flynn would do so. If he starts hearing that he might be picked high, then he’ll enter the draft. If not, he’ll pull out.


The other two? Their ability to play in the NBA is very questionable. However, it begins to make sense. Both have children to support, and Devendorf is very close to graduation. I don’t see him wanting to go to graduate school just so he can play another college season. Maybe.


It was very curious that the press release from SU plainly stated that Flynn hadn’t hired an agent, which would end his collegiate eligibility. The release didn’t mention whether Harris and Devendorf had hired agents. You might wonder why.


The thing is, with all those guys back and some new additions – including transfer forward Wes Johnson, who is supposed to be sensational – I think SU definitely has Final Four potential. Sports Illustrated has them as an early pick for No. 3, and today The Sporting News said they would be No. 1 next year.


If those guys don’t come back? The Orange would still be talented, but not Final Four talented, and they’d lose about half of their experience, something that can’t be poured out of a bottle.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Pitarresi: UConn victory good ... and boring

I was so surprised Tuesday when Connecticut defeated Louisville for the women’s NCAA basketball title Tuesday.


Weren’t you?


Of course you weren’t. UConn’s victory was expected with the same certainty we expect the sun to rise in the morning. I have to credit Louisville, which had been blasted by UConn twice during the regular season, for hanging in nearly till halftime. The game was as bad as North Carolina-Michigan State in the men’s championship Monday, and even more predictable.


Hey, rumbling through a 39-0 season and not ever having a close game is something to crow about, and it should be honored. But, again, unless you are a Huskies fan, what kind of fun is that.?


UConn’s roughshod run through the season reminded me of small college power Trinity College’s 31-game football winning streak that ended in 2006. I’d like to have played on a team that could do that, but as great as it might feel, you have to wonder. If you’re a starter and you play maybe a half of football or less and you know before the game even starts that you are going to win – and except for a few games that’s my impression of the Bantams during that streak  – how much fun are you having?


I’m not saying I don’t want to win every game, but if the outcome is preordained, what the heck. It’s like the fly fisherman in the old story who goes to what he thinks is heaven and catches a big, big trout on every cast … time after time after time. A hell of a thing!


So, not to get too philosophical and all credit to UConn, but that game was no fun to watch.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Pitarresi: Final Four Weekend a bore

I’m still kind of reeling in the wake of the NCAA Final Four dud of a weekend.


The NCAA Division I basketball tournament is one of the very best sporting events of the year, nearly always, but it would be difficult to pick three worse final three games of the season than we had last weekend.


Blowouts happen, but three in a row when the top four teams in the nation are playing? Michigan State-Connecticut was at least close, but I never got the feeling that the Huskies had the stuff to win that game. At no point did they look capable of it.


Villanova against North Carolina? The Wildcats never had a chance. You won’t if you’re playing a very good team and you can’t make a layup, which they couldn’t. Villanova made a good try to get back into it, got within five points midway through the second half, then skidded to a halt.


MSU against Carolina in the championship? How about another turnover? Again, you’re playing a very good team, and you’re giving them extra possession after extra possession. Fourteen of them in the first half. What, are you kidding?


This is not to say North Carolina didn’t earn its title, but both Villanova and Michigan State made it a heck of a lot easier for the Tar Heels.


And the games the entire weekend had almost no drama. If you are just a basketball fan, there wasn’t a lot to keep you interested, and if you are not a Carolina fan, it was no fun at all.

Saturday, April 4, 2009

Pitarresi: Don't win your conference tourney

I was listening to Virginia Tech basketball coach Seth Greenburg coach today on FSN’s weekend radio show with Sean Farnam.


They’re at the Final Four and had some good discussions about the teams and basketball in general.


Greenburg made a point that really struck me: None of the Final Four teams – North Carolina, Villanova, Connecticut and Michigan State – won its conference tournament.


Is that just happenstance, or does it mean something? You’ll never figure that out, but there is a theory that winning your league tournament doesn’t help you all that much in the national tournament and can hurt you.


Greenburg theorized that teams that go through three or four or even five games in conference tournaments get worn out. Teams that bow out relatively early, provided they are guaranteed a spot in the NCAA tourney, get a rest and a jump on focusing on the task ahead.


I think there is something to that. Consider Syracuse University’s experience. The Orange have won the Big East tourney five times. In 1981 they didn’t even make the NCAA tourney. In 1988 they won one game. In 1992 they won one game. In 2005 and 2006 they were knocked out in the first round. This year, after a heroic run in the Big East tournament, they lost in the final to Louisville. They won the first two games in the NCAA tourney, then were blown out by Oklahoma. Louisville, for it’s part, lost its regional final to Michigan State.


We might never know if staying too long in your conference tourney is a curse, and you can't play to lose, but it is an intriguing thought.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Pitarresi: Trout fishing blues

I’m kind of out of sorts today.


That’s because it’s the opening day of trout season and I didn’t do well.


I don’t have to catch a lot of fish opening day, and I rarely have. If I get one or two right away, that’s fine, because I usually have to go find some fisherman so I can do a story. One time I’d like to spend all day at it.


It’s funny how it works. For some reason, I went out with no confidence today. I don’t know why. When I didn’t get a hit the first hour, my confidence level dropped even further. It makes a difference, because if you are not confident, you fish with less attention and focus.


And I got kind of jealous when I spoke to other anglers who had nice fish. Really, that kind of got me going, but, I don’t know, I did all the things I usually do in what I think were the right places, and no dice.


I won’t get out again for a few days. I’m hoping I’ll do better.