Once upon a time, last March, some Husker fans wanted John Groce to consider the Nebraska job. Now, I don't think they would give back Tim Miles.
Miles and Groce, a pair of Big Ten rookies, go head-to-head tonight at the Devaney Center. The league's future looks like it's in good, no-nonsense hands. The Illini are in the middle of a funk, including a home loss to Northwestern. But, as Groce told the Chicago Sun-Times, sympathy is not part of the program: “To be honest, I'm tired of that deal. If they (players) think they're not going to get hit in the mouth in life, we're teaching them the wrong things at the University of Illinois. Stuff happens. Deal with it.”
Meanwhile, Miles called timeout near the end of last Wednesday's home loss to Purdue so he could point out to his players that the fans were leaving early. He wanted his players to feel his embarrassment. I've never heard of a Nebraska coach doing that, though there has been ample opportunity. I loved it.
When I asked Miles about it last week, he shrugged and said it was necessary. However, he said he did explain the timeout to Purdue coach Matt Painter during the postgame handshake. Miles said Painter wasn't upset; he laughed and thought it was “cool.”
Urgency is a good thing. There will be plenty for both coaches tonight.
>> There's no reason to overreact to Creighton's loss at Wichita State. The Jays are not soft. The Shockers are just that tough. They make you look soft. Gregg Marshall teaches toughness and recruits pupils who buy in. The Shox remind me of the Southern Illinois teams from a decade ago that gave the Jays fits with their hard-nosed athleticism. The Jays hardly ever won at SIU. In fact, they once lost eight straight to the Salukis. The Jays didn't play great and still had a shot to win. And yes, you give Ethan Wragge that shot every time. Greg McDermott called a terrific play, catching WSU off-guard by using Doug McDermott as a screener, and got a wide-open shot from his 3-point ace. Wragge arrived early to shoot before practice on Monday. He didn't miss.
>> It's still nearly three weeks away, but AccuWeather.com shows the forecast for Feb. 9 — the outdoor hockey doubleheader at TD Ameritrade Park — as sunny and 42 degrees. Around here, that's baseball weather.
>> The flagrant foul on Grant Gibbs at Wichita looked bogus, but let's be honest: Sometimes Gibbs' reputation as a “crafty” player can come back to haunt him. Not to worry. When asked on Monday whether the rule allowed defenders carte blanche to do what they needed to do to get a flagrant, Gibbs' hoops IQ was working overtime.
“Maybe I'll try to incorporate that,” Gibbs said, with a grin.
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>> Scott Frost's coaching résumé is loaded, he grew up in a coaching house (both parents) and now he's an offensive coordinator for the most innovative, highly-regarded offense in college football. He's a natural to be a head coach and he looks like he's on his way. Frost was interested in coming back to Nebraska a few years ago when Bo Pelini elevated Tim Beck. Bo knew Beck. He didn't know Frost. But that might not have been a bad thing for Frost, who is seen as a hero in Nebraska. Very few offensive coordinators are heroes. Mostly, they get picked apart and criticized. It's easy to see Frost in a position to come back to NU as head coach one day. Whenever that day might be.
>> I need more Stan Musial and Earl Weaver and less Manti T'eo and Lance Armstrong.
>> I have mixed feelings about how the T'eo story will impact sports writing. It will force the media to be more vigilant about back-checking things, rather than “Godding up” athletes. But it will make the job a lot less fun, too, if we become so distrusting of every little thing. I'm not sure readers want to be that way, either. How many readers or viewers questioned the validity of T'eo's comments at the time he said them? How many readers or viewers thought it could be a “catfish” ploy? I believe T'eo when he says he was a victim. At least, I think I believe him.
>> Any ad agency that can get Jim and John Harbaugh together in a commercial between now and Feb. 3 — that's your top Super Bowl commercial.
>> Colin Kaepernick and Joe Flacco have been terrific, but maybe nobody has had a better postseason than Joe Montana. Tom Brady and Peyton Manning were both poised to nudge over Super Joe in a “greatest ever” conversation, and both lost at home to Flacco. A second Super win, along with all of his records, would have given Manning a case. And Brady could have tied his hero Joe with a fourth Super Bowl win in six tries. Now, it's almost like Brady has had two careers, with no Super wins in eight years. Montana's most impressive accomplishment might be not losing a Super Bowl.
>> A moment of silence, literally, for the high school football studs of the future. The NCAA Board of Directors passed a number of proposals on Saturday, including a relatively insane proposal that would allow college coaches unlimited visits and access to recruits during “open” recruiting periods. Beginning with the class of 2014, coaches can call, text or communicate privately in other methods with high school players without restriction. If a coach wants to text or call a kid 20 times a day, he can do it. I don't understand who benefits from this. The kids? No. The parents? No. The coaches? Now they have to work harder and longer hours and become more desperate because they know if they don't, the other guy will.
>> So my daughter the football fan said she was rooting for the New England Patriots on Sunday. Crush on Tom Brady? No. Fan of Bill Belichick's postgame interviews? No. Because the boys in her class like the Patriots. Somebody help me.
>> One more and I'm outta here: When the news of Stan “The Man” Musial passing broke on Saturday night, I thought about the interview I did with Warren Buffett last June. Buffett grew up a big Stan Musial fan. Later in life, he met his hero at a Bob Gibson golf tourney in Omaha. After golf, Buffett gave Musial a ride to Gibson's house in Bellevue for a gathering. They got lost on the way and stopped to ask for directions. They came across a guy mowing his front yard. As Buffett tells it, Musial got out first, walked up to the guy mowing his yard, stuck out his hand and said, “Hi, I'm Stan The Man.”
There will never be another man like him.
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