Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Johnny Orr, Who Brought Magic To Hilton, Dies At 86


Sad news today, gang.

Johnny Orr, the basketball coach who built Hilton Magic at Iowa State, is dead at 86.

Orr's teams won a school-record 218 games at Iowa State from 1980-1994, and I was present for many of them.

Indeed, I was on hand as a sportswriter at Hilton Coliseum for his very first victory for the Cyclones, on Dec. 4, 1980 over Drake.

I wrote many, many stories about the emotional, fist-pumping Orr and his teams, and enjoyed every minute of being around him.

He was always a straight shooter with me. 

We respected one another. I knew he had a job to do and he knew I had a job to do.

No sportswriter and no coach at a major-college can expect any more.

I covered Orr and his Cyclone teams in wholesale numbers of regular-season games, conference postseason games and NCAA tournament games.

Actually, I covered a number of games coached by Orr before he came to Iowa State.

When he was at Michigan, I covered him when his teams played Iowa, and I wrote the game story in 1976 when his Wolverines lost to Bobby Knight's Indiana team in the NCAA tournament title game.

Knight was a huge fan of Orr, and called me when Johnny decided to quit at Michigan and take the Iowa State job.

"I'd like to write a guest column for you about Johnny," Knight told me on the phone. 

Knight kept his promise. He wrote the column and it was published.

In a day or two, I'll reprint Knight's guest column on this website.

Afer arriving in Ames, Orr brought magic  to Hilton Coliseum, a place that as in need of someone like Johnny after the likes of previous coaches such as Lynn Nance and Ken Trickey.

Fans adored the entertaining Orr, and flocked to the arena to watch his teams. 

He'd walk onto the floor at Hilton, and the band would play, "He-e-e-e-r-e-'s Johnny!" to the sound of the Johnny Carson TV theme song.

Orr loved it.  The crowd loved it.

And I sure loved it.

It was less than a month ago that I was discussing Orr while aboard a giant cruiseship headed to the Hawaiian Islands from Los Angeles.

We were seated at a dinner table on the fifth floor of the Star Princess. The man next to me asked where I was from.

"West Des Moines, Iowa," I said. 

"I know someone from your part of the country," the man said.

"Who?" I asked.

"Johnny Orr," he answered. "I played on the outstanding basketball teams Beloit College had many years ago," the man said.  "Johnny was our leader."

Little did I know then that I would be writing about Orr's death a few weeks later.

So sad a thing to have happen on New Year's Eve.

I'll miss Johnny Orr a lot.

Among Orr's survivors are wife Romie and daughters Jenniefer, Leslie and Rebecca.


Photo courtesy of USATSI

Being Neighborly On New Year's Eve


I hadn't seen much of My Neighbor Al, the Health Nut since before Christmas, but he surfaced in a bigtime way early today.

Al rang my doorbell at 7:30 a.m., asking if I had enough Italian Dark Roast in my pot to get him through the morning.

"That's kind of a personal question, Al," I said. "But being the great neighbor that I am, I've made sure I have enough Italian Dark Roast on hand for New Year's Eve and New Year's Day. I've got a couple of new mugs, so I'll fill one of 'em up for you and one for me."

"As you know, I was out of town with the missus over Christmas," Al said,  "We visited a couple of the kids in Topeka, so I haven't been able to check on whether Santa was good to you."

"The big fella was outstandingly good to me, Al,"  I said. "One of these days, I'll devote a whole a whole morning talking to you about all the stuff I got. As I mentioned earlier, all 14 members of my family were here, and, as usual, we devoted an entire week to Christmas.  I was opening gifts for seven days. All in all, this was maybe the best Christmas ever with the whole gang.

"The best thing was that everyone got here safely and got home safely. And they all talked about having a wonderful time. What more can a guy ask for?"

"I'm happy for you," Al said. "If you're  like me, you need to build another room on the house so you can store all the gifts you keep getting from your wife, kids and grandkids."

"I know what you're talking about, Al," I said. "I'm the original guy who has everything, but I keep getting more. I'm glad the kids carried the gifts into the house again this year. If they'd had to depend on Santa to do it, he'd have gotten a hernia before he got to your house.

"By the way, have you been up to Hy-Vee yet this morning to read the paper."

"Just got back," Al said. "Nothing in the paper. "I did notice that Daniel P. Finney and Roland H. Thompson, his stablemate, combined to write another story I don't believe. Once I saw the byline, I didn't read the story because I knew it was a joke.

"While I'm on that subject, I should say that the assignment editor in the newsroom should be fired for not putting Finney and Thompson  on the story a few days ago that talked about the Waukee city councilman who used a fictiitiious Facebook account with a made-up name.

"Finney and Roland H. Thompson know all about fictitious names and general  newsroom phoniness. They've been phonies for years, and evidently always will be phonies."

"Switch to another subject Al," I said. "I know Finney and Thompson are jokes and clowns, but I don't want to finish 2013 talking about those nutcases. Let's talk some football. I imagine you noticed that Pat Harty of the Iowa City Press-Citizen didn't get assigned to cover the Outback Bowl for his paper or the Gannett Co. paper here."

"Why do you say that?" Al said.

"Because Harty had a byline in today's paper from Iowa City," I explained. "He's evidently covering the Iowa-Nebraska basketball game tonight at Carver-Hawkeye Arena. I guess the Gannett beancounters couldn't come up with enough money to send him to Tampa for the football game.

"Harty knows more about Hawkeye football than anyone, so he's covering the Big Ten basketball opener because the company couldn't afford to fly him to Tampa. In fact, he wrote most of the entire inside of today's paper. He had a long recruiting story, too."

"Sounds like a company that's in trouble," Al said. "I'll bet Harty is pissed that he had to stay in Iowa City when the Iowa football team was getting ready for a bowl game in Florida."

"Trouble is the newspaper business's middle name," I said. "And I'm sure you're right that Harty is pissed that he's covering a basketball game instead of the Outback Bowl."

"Pour me another cup of Dark Roast," Al said. "Let's talk about New Year's Eve and some other good news."


Illustration courtey of Google

Monday, December 23, 2013

These Tigers Have Plenty Of Bite


A holiday shout-out from me to coach Joe Sigrist, his assistants and the players, student managers and trainers on the unbeaten and very impressive Valley High School girls' basketball team in West Des Moines.

Sigrist's Tigers have a 7-0 record and are either No. 2 or No. 3 in the state's class 5-A rankings, depending on whose ratings you believe. 

In my case, I'll buy the No. 2 ranking because I've seen Valley play a number of times this season, both in and away from Bill Coldiron Fieldhouse in West Des Moines, and I think the Tigers are doing the things necessary to be big winners.

What I like about Sigrist's coaching is that he's teaching fundamentals, he's got his players going hard to the backboards and he's got them playing defense. 

Indeed, Valley's girls are playing much better than the school's inconsistent boys' team. 

On the same night Valley's girls turned in a tremendous display of both strong offense and defense while rolling past West Des Moines rival Dowling, Valley's boys were getting their slam-dunk shots  blocked by Dowling in an easy victory by the Maroons. 

If you haven't learned until now about how good Valliey's girls are, it's not surprising. 

The team is being largely ignored by the paper, as usual.  

Indeed, the paper's present bosses are doing all they can to ruin any hope of improved circulation numbers in the future.

Today's high school kids are the would-be newspaper readers of the future. But when there's little or nothing in today's papers about their accomplishments or their friends' accomplishments, they certainly won't be buying any papers in the future that could perhaps help keep the journalism business alive.

Most of the time, the one- and two-paragraph game stories of high school games are buried  next to the "house ads." 

The paper makes no money off the house ads, of course. 

I'd have written buried back by the tire ads, as former Drake football coach Chuck Shelton used to say about the paper's lousy coverage of the Bulldogs, but there are no tire ads anymore. 

While on the subject of the paper, I've noticed that the bean-counters in the newsroom have been hard at work lately. 

They wouldn't [or couldn't because of budget problems] send a sportswriter to the NAIA championship football game Grand View won Saturday in Rome, Ga. 

The Associated Press wrote the game story for the Sunday paper. 

That kind of stuff was unheard-of in the old days.

Also, the paper has no sportswriter in Hawaii this week to cover Iowa State's outstanding basketball team, and Drake's women's basketball team is being short-changed again, too. 

The paper is depending on Drake's sports information staff to cover most of its women's games--even those at the Knapp Center, which is just a few miles from the paper's newsroom. 

Even when the paper acted like it had no reporter available to cover Drake's women in past seasons, the bosses would send Chuck Schoffner, the long-time and now-retired Associated Press writer from Des Moines, to handle  the writing on a freelance basis. 

However, I haven't seen Schoffner's byline in the paper for months. 

And whatever happened to Jim Ecker's coverage of Northern Iowa? 

Ecker, a freelancer from Cedar Rapids, was costing 'em too much, I guess. 

Now the paper gets coverage of the Panthers free from Jim Sullivan of the Waterloo/Cedar Falls Courier.

It'll interesting to see how many reporters the paper can afford to send to Florida for Iowa's bowl game. 

And I'm wondering if Pat Harty of the Iowa City Press-Citizen, another Gannett Co., paper, will make the trip.

Harty did outstanding work, as usual, on the Iowa football beat during the regular season, and some of his stories were carried by the paper here.

But I don't think he was sent to all of the Hawkeyes' road games. So it's anybody's guess if he'll show up in Florida.

One of the reasons the Register's sports budget is hurting now is because far too often two, sometimes three, sportswriters were sent to meaningless collegiate games on the road during the regular season.

Now the paper is paying the price for that. 

Sad stuff.

Sunday, December 22, 2013



As I predicted, both of the Child of Bethlehem, 2013 musical performances late yesterday afternoon and last night at Mount Olive Lutheran Church in Des Moines were absolutely breathtaking.

Also very well attended on a day and night when weather forecasts could have scared people away.

Despite snow warnings and snow watches, there were 271 people at the 4:30 p.m. all-congregational gathering, and 157 at the 6:30 p.m. performance. 

Fortunately, the 5 inches of snow that hit the metropolitan area overnight didn't hamper the driving to and from the holiday music.

There were 95 adults and children from 13 congregations who sang and/or played musical instruments at the two services.

And what glorious music they produced under the direction of Julie DenHerder from Mount Olive.

Among the selections: Rhythm Of Rejoicing With Joy To the World, See the Newborn Baby, Light Of the Stable, Hope Was Born, My Soul Magnifies the Lord, What Child Is This?, We Believe, Gloria! Jubilate Deo!, Bethlehem Child, A Carol Fantasia and God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen.

The congregation was invited to participate in the singing of some of the selections. 

This was the third year in a row Mount Olive has hosted this type of Christmas performance and, in my estimation, Saturday's were the best yet.

Rev. Kendall Meyer, senior pastor at the church, agreed.

"The commitment of the 95 people to come every Saturday to practice for six weeks, along with what they did to prepare at other times, is humbling," Kendall told me after the second performance.

"The skills of Julie DenHerder are tremendous, and I am thankful she has chosen to use them at Mount Olive Lutheran Church and School.

"Our church and music program are better because of her and what she brings to the staff. I am very proud of them and proud of being the senior pastor at Mount Olive Lutheran Church and School."

Well said, Kendall.

Indeed, Saturday's performances were awesome.

[Illustration courtesy of Google]

Saturday, December 21, 2013


It's going to be a huge day at church. 

This is the day of the two all-congregational Christmas music  pageants at Mt. Olive Lutheran in Des Moines, and what an extravaganza both will be.

No one does it better with these kinds of things than Julie Den Herder, the church's music director. 

The services will be at 4:30 and 6:30 p.m.

Judging from past experiences, both services are going to be so wonderful that we may go to both of 'em. 

Anyone who can sing, anyone who can play a musical instrument will be there to perform, just in time to beat the snow that's predicted to fall around here later tonight. 

Those who can't sing or play a musical instrument, like me, will sit there and listen.

After all, I know my limitations. 

Everyone is invited. 

We'll find room for you. 

I'll see you there.


I received an email this morning from Fusayo Hattori, our friend from Japan. 

Our Christmas gifts to her arrived, thanks to the postal system, and she wanted to let us know and thank us. 

Fusayo also said that, as long as we cruised to Hawaii recently, we might as well have taken the Star Princess to Japan, too. 

Sounds like a great idea, Fusayo. 

Next time we'll do it.  

Thanks for the invitation, and a very Merry Christmas to you. 

All of your friends in West Des Moines miss you.

-- Ron Maly

Friday, December 20, 2013



Lots of icy roads out there today, I guess. 

I haven't been out yet, but I'm going to try it soon.

I've got some more Christmas shopping to do, plus my 2-mile indoor walk.

The ice was starting to get me into a bad mood. Then things got worse. 

I was sitting in front of the fireplace a few minutes ago, watching a black-and-white film from 1937 on Turner Classic Movies.  

I like that kind of stuff. 

Then I came into the kitchen to get a glass of water, and noticed on another TV that Obama was, as usual, defending himself during a press conference that was being carried by one of the networks. 

I kept hearing the reporters calling him "sir" when they'd ask him a question. 

It kind of made me sick. 

Then a guy named Chuck [at least that's what Obama called him] gave Obama a "Merry Christmas, sir" greeting before asking him a question. 

That even made me sicker. 

It kind of reminded of me of the day a sportswriter told me another writer he knows sends Christmas cards and birthday cards to the basketball and football coaches he covers. 

Enough of this kind of negative thinking. 

It's time for my walk. 

After I finish watching the 1937 movie, that is.

UPDATE--I made it. 

Out of the driveway, I mean. 

That was the toughest part of my trek through icy West Des Moines late this afternoon. 

Like I said, my driveway was the toughest concrete to negotiate. 

Hey, I'm glad there wasn't another car going down or coming up the hill. 

Without wanting to, I slid all the way into the street in my 1989 Toyota Camry [the official car of this column].  

Good thing all of the neighbors were either at work or had their cars in their garages. 

I did my 2-mile walk at the mall and accomplished the Christmas shopping I wanted to do. 

Actually, I thought I was finished with the shopping a couple of days ago, but our college sophomore granddaughter finally got her Christmas list emailed to me, so I took care of her gifts. 

All 14 of us are going to have a wonderful Christmas celebration throughout all of next week in our home.

As the song says, let it snow, let it snow. 

[As you can tell, my mood has improved considerably since I looked outdoors at the ice on the streets earlier in the day]. 

By the way, I guess Obama is on his way to Hawaii.

Take it from me. After being on the islands for 15 days before and after Thanksgiving, I know he'll love it there. 

Maybe his mood will improve, too.

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Bulldogs Know How To Get Their Bellies Full


Earlier in the week, I was told that Drake's men's and women's coaches and some of the players would be appearing at the second monthly basketball lunch today in West Des Moines. 

They've never held a basketball lunch that I didn't like, so I made it my plan to attend. 

I should mention that I missed the first lunch last month because it took place the day before we left on a 15-day cruise to Hawaii. 

I was too busy making sure I had enough sun-block in my suitcase to be thinking about basketball that day. 

This morning,  I called Paul Morrison, Drake's 96-year-old historian and do-everything gentleman, to make sure he was going to be at the lunch.

After all, it's not an official lunch if Paul Morrison isn't there.

"If there's a basketball lunch, I'll be there," Morrison promised me. 

When I arrived at the Sheraton Hotel, which is in its first year of hosting the lunches, I expected to see Morrison at the table outside the banquet room, collecting money from Bulldog Club members for the tickets. 

Like I said, Paul Morrison is a do-everything kind of guy. 

I think the only job he hasn't had at Drake was that of university president, and I'm not betting he won't wind up doing that one of these days. 

Anyway, Paul was already sitting at one of the lunch tables when I spotted him. 

"You wanted to make sure you got a good seat and that they didn't run out of food until you got yours, right, Paul?" I said. 

"You bet," Morrison said. 

Anyway, there were about 90 Drake fans, coaches, players, administrative people and hangers-on at the lunch. 

One guy showed up wearing a Santa Claus hat, and I wasn't sure if it was the Register's  publisher or someone taking time out from his responsibilities of tending to a Salvation Army collection bucket. 

Whatever, the Santa hat made it an official pre-Christmas lunch. 

Most of the people paid $15 for their meal, and they got a good deal.   

The majority was served beef sandwiches. A few other people, non-meat eaters like me, got a darn good pasta-and-vegetables meal. 

And the apple pie for dessert really hit the spot. 

I've been hanging around the Drake sports scene for so long that I think I've been to at least six or seven restaurants where the basketball lunches have been held. 

The first one I attended was at the Kirkwood Hotel in downtown Des Moines. Maury John was the coach then, and when I said he was the coach, I mean he was the coach

That was probably in about 1960 or 1961, and there was no women's basketball program at Drake in those days. 

Just a men's program, and an excellent program it was. 

All of us old-timers know that. 

"Do you have any idea how many places these lunches have been held over the years?" I asked Morrison. 

"I've been meaning to research that," said Morrison, who still shows up to work in his cubbyhole of an office in the Drake athletic department.  "I'm guessing at least nine or 10 places." 

Unlike other years, Drake's lunches this winter are combined men's and women's lunches. 

Women's coach Jennie Baranczyk and men's coach Ray Giacoletti took turns talking about their teams today. 

Also present were three women's players and three men's players, plus assistant coaches. All of them took turns at the microphone. 

The themes of the day were, Drake is a wonderful place to attend school and to play and coach basketball; it's great that both the men's [7-3] and women's [5-4] teams are over .500, and the men's team has a chance to accomplish something special this season after being picked to finish in last place in the Missouri Valley Conference  in preseason voting.  

Everyone left the lunch room happy and with their bellies full. You couldn't beat that on an otherwise dark day in December.

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Nebraska's Marching Band Lights Up Lincoln

Nebraska marching band's season highlights concert


The music of the season continues. 

And how wonderful it is. 

A couple of days ago, I wrote about the sensational sounds of the West Des Moines Valley Southwoods Freshman High School concert band. 

Today, permit me to tell you about the rousing music produced last night in Lincoln, Neb., by the University of Nebraska marching band at its season highlights concert. 

The band, numbering 297 members--one of whom is my
Cole & Danielle

grandson, Cole, a second-year percussionist--was in full uniform for the performance at the Hixson-Lied College of Fine & Performing Arts venue. 

The band replayed its halftime performances from the university's eight home football games, plus some bonus stuff. 

The Cornhuskers' football team won only five of those eight games, and finished the regular season with a disappointing [to Nebraska fans] 8-4 record. 

In other words, the Bo Pelini-coached Huskers seemed to do all they could to put a damper on a star-spangled season by the Nebraska band. 

But Dr. Carolyn Barber, the director of bands, Prof. Anthony M. Falcone, director of the marching band, and other band officials would let nothing rain on their parade. 

The band was awesome throughout the regular season, it was awesome last night, and count on it that it will be awesome Jan. 1 when it appears at the Gator Bowl in Jacksonville, Fla. Pelini and his football players are also scheduled to be there that day for a game against Georgia. 

Whether they make an appearance, or whether they are no-shows like they were in a 38-17 regular-season loss in Lincoln to Iowa, remains to be seen. 

Whether Pelini can keep his job if his team loses to Georgia also remains to be seen.  

Frankly, I thought the foul-mouthed Pelini should have been fired 5 minutes after his press conference following the loss to Iowa. 

On the drive home late last night and early this morning, one of my granddaughters, who knows more than a little about music herself, asked me what I liked best about the show.

 "The finale, when the band did its wonderful Deck the Halls performance," I said. "I liked it because it was holiday music and it was played at halftime of Nebraska's game against Iowa on the day after Thanksgiving."  

We were in Hilo or on Maui or Kauai or in Honolulu [it makes no difference] on a 15-day cruise to Hawaii on the day when the Husker band did its Deck the Halls show at Memorial Stadium, so I missed the music that day. 

I'm glad I didn't miss it last night.  

The band played Joy To the World, Deck the Halls, God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen, Good King Wenceslaus, Hark, the Herald Angels Sing, Silent Night, Jingle Bells and O Come All Ye Faithful, sending the huge crowd attending the concert into a very high-spirited mood while leaving the building. 

Somehow the Lincoln-to-West Des Moines drive handled by Mark and Polly through the crisp night and early-morning air of December didn't seem so long in preparation for the 1 a.m. arrival.

It's time for refreshments and fun after the music

Monday, December 16, 2013

Music Of the Season


As you likely know by now, I've got a tremendous amount of confidence in young people. 

By that, I mean young people who are in college, young people who are in high school, young people who are in junior high school,
young people who are in elementary school. 
The Singer & Her Family, Minus One

They are the future of our nation, and I have every reason to believe they will handle that future exceedingly well. 

I guess I'm especially pumped tonight because I saw and heard the Valley Southwoods Freshman High School concert band perform an hour or so ago in a holiday performance that was sensational. 

I'm proud that I had a granddaughter in the talented group. 

I've been listening to her play the clarinet since her years in the band and orchestra at Mt. Olive Lutheran School and Church in Des Moines prior to graduating to the West Des Moines school system. 

The West Des Moines schools have become famous for turning out wonderful musicians, and I fully expect a large number of the young people who performed tonight at Southwoods to go on to bigger and better things musically and otherwise in the future. 

It was an outstanding, heart-warming show on a cold December night in front of an audience made up of parents, grandparents, other relatives and friends, and now I'm really in the mood for Christmas. 

Nice going, gang. 

Great stuff.

Friday, December 13, 2013

23rd-Ranked Hawkeyes Fold At the Finish: They Fail To Make Free Throws At Crunch Time, So That Enables Hilton Magic To Prevail Again As No. 17 Iowa State Remains Unbeaten With An 85-82 Victory In Its Rocking Arena


Friday, December 13, 2013


I've got plenty of things on my plate today and tonight. More Christmas shopping, a trip to Hy-Vee and Fareway to see which one will dig the deepest into my pockets, a 2-mile walk, some time on the stationary bike, the Valley-Dowling boys-girls' doubleheader.  

And wouldn't you know it--my neighbor Al, the health nut, was ringing my doorbell at 7:30 a.m., asking if I had a cup of Dark Italian Roast.

"I've been looking for you," Al said. "You've been home for a week or so from Hawaii and I've been trying to touch base with you so I can hear about your latest cruise."

"Great trip, Al," I said. "We've been on three cruises in the last 18 months--first on a trans-Atlantic trip to and from Italy, Madeira Island off Portugal and Monte Carlo, then in June to Alaska, and now this one to Hawaii. This one was the best yet."
Hello from Hilo

"I'm surprised you'd say that," Al commented. 

"You missed Iowa's big football wins over Michigan and Nebraska, and you missed Thanksgiving in Iowa."

Al must've been kidding with that comment.

"No problem, Al," I answered. "I was living like a king and eating like Floyd of Rosedale in Hawaii and on the Pacific Ocean. 

"The TV in our balcony room had all of the sports and news
Star Princess
channels I needed, so I saw the entire Iowa-Nebraska and Michigan-Ohio State games on the Star Princess, our ship, and I got updates on the Iowa-Michigan game.

"I was happy to see the Hawkeyes finish the regular season so well because I figure that'll make sales of my third Iowa football book even better."
Oriental lunch, including fresh pineapple, on the Star Princes 

"Did you have turkey on the ship or on the Big Island on Thanksgiving day?" Al asked.            
"I said before we left that I'd have turkey only unless there was something better on the menu," I answered. "I didn't have turkey, so that'll give you an idea about how good the
Plenty of fish, vegetables and seeds
food was. The closest thing I had to turkey and any other Thanksgiving food was lobster and prawns.

"I followed your advice because you're the health nut. I ate plenty of seafood--always for dinner, sometimes at the other meals throughout the day. 

"We had lobster for two dinners, and at one of the meals the waiter asked if each of us wanted a second lobster. Now, that's service.

"Despite it being the Thanksgiving season, I
Baked Alaska
didn't bother with any pumpkin pie [one of the desserts at the final dinner on the ship was Baked Alaska]. 

"The closest I came to pumpkin was pumpkin seeds. I've become a big seeds eater, so I sprinkled lots of pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds and whatever other kinds of seeds I could find on my salads at the lunch buffet."

"I suppose the weather was great, huh?" Al said.

"Fantastic, Al," I answered. "It was 80 degrees or warmer on all four of the islands we visited--Oahu, Kauai, Maui and Hilo on the Big Island. I was thinking of you while drinking coffee in
Some of Hawaii's beauty
the morning on the balcony of the ship."

"Sure, I'll bet you were," Al said. "Those were probably the days I was freezing my ass off when I was going to Hy-Vee to see if there was anything in the paper worth reading."

"Was there?" I asked.

"Was there what?" Al said.

"Anything worth reading," I said.

"Very little," Al said. "I read the obituaries, and I was through with the paper in 90 seconds. One of the obits I noticed was the one about Drake Mabry, one of your old cronies at 8th & Locust. Didn't you tell me once that Mabry was the news boss at the Tribune, and when the managing editor job at the Register was vacant, the asshole Gartner made Mabry and some other guys apply for the job? Then they didn't get it."

"I don't know, Al.  I've forgotten about all of that crap," I said.

"Let's get to the important stuff. If I were Nebraska's first-year athletic director or the school president, I would've fired football coach Bo Pelini 5 minutes after his team was clobbered by Iowa, 38-17.  

"I saw his postgame press conference on TV, and when he called the unsportsmanlike conduct call against him "chickenshit," then dared Nebraska to fire him, I'd have done just that. I'd have canned the jackoff.

"The fact that Nebraska didn't fire him tells me he's got the place by the balls because of his $7 million-or-so buyout. I think he's a bum."

"Getting back to Hawaii, what was your favorite island?" Al asked.

"This might surprise you, but I'm going to say Kauai," I said. "All of Hawaii is absolutely beautiful, and I know rave about Maui,  but I thought Kauai was wonderful. 

"They told us there were fewer than 70,000 people on the entire island, and the rest of the place is totally beautiful nature.

At Waimea Canyon

"We visited the Waimea Canyon there, and it was like Heaven on earth. I could've stayed there for a week, just enjoying the scenery and breathing the air."
Beach on Oahu

I told Al we visited the beach on Oahu where part of the movie From Here To Eternity was filmed in 1953. 

That the movie in which Burt Lancaster and Deborah Kerr turned in what was probably the sexiest beach scene in movie history. 

"Because the destination of the cruise was the Hawaiian Islands, the movie was shown on the in-room TVs throughout the trip," I told Al.  "I
Beach Scene in From Here To Eternity
saw Frank Sinatra, Ernest Borgnine and Montgomery Clift get killed plenty of times."

"I know you always meet a lot of interesting people on those cruises," Al said. "Was it that way this time, too?"

"Absolutely," I said. "We saw different people from all parts of the world at every meal. One night we were joined by Joan and Allan Cooper of Milton, Scotland, who told us they live in a house that was built in 1746. I can't imagine anything like that. That means the house was built long before the Revolutionary War in America.

"There are plenty of other houses of that vintage in Milton, a community of fewer than
Allan and Joan Cooper of Milton, Scotland
1,000 people. Allan Cooper told us his son lives in a house that's 20 years newer than his, and that there are four other 18th-century houses on the market in Milton now."

"Do you plan to buy one?" Al asked.

"If I can get over to Scotland sometime soon, I might," I said.

By the way, I meant that as a joke. I'm not sure ESPN is available in Milton. I wouldn't want to miss the telecast of the press conference when Bo Pelini is finally canned at Nebraska. Besides, Allan Cooper told us Milton gets as much, or more, snow than Iowa.

Another night on the ship, I sat next to a guy from Arizona. When I told him I was from central Iowa, he said, "I know someone from your area very well."

"Who?" I asked.

"Johnny Orr," the man said. "I was a teammate of Johnny on the Beloit College teams in Wisconsin. He was quite a collegiate basketball player."

Orr was a standout on the Beloit teams coached by Dolph Stanley [who later was the athletic director at Drake for a short time]. Stanley's Beloit teams won six straight Midwest Conference titles in his 12 seasons as coach, and one of his teams crushed Cornell College of Mt. Vernon, IA, 141-53.

"The next time I see Johnny I'll tell him I talked with you," I told the man. "I'll tell him I finally saw the best player ever to perform for Beloit. I'll say something like, 'Johnny, you've been telling me for years that you were the best player at Beloit. Now I've finally found the guy who was better.'"

Just joking again, of course.

"'Johnny will get a kick out of that," the man said.

"Sounds like you had a great time," Al said. "Pour me another cup of Dark Roast."

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Chris Creighton Leaves Drake for Football Coaching Job At Eastern Michigan; Assistant Rick Fox Replaces Him

Rick Fox has been named Drake's head football coach, replacing Chris Creighton, who accepted the job Wednesday at Eastern Michigan. 

Creighton was at Drake for six seasons, and won two Pioneer Football League championships there. 

“On behalf of Drake University, I am thrilled to welcome Rick Fox as our new head football coach,” athletic director Sandy Hatfield Clubb said. “He and Chris Creighton have worked together to build a culture of integrity and excellence in our football program and he is the perfect person to lead the Bulldogs into a new era at Drake University. Rick brings experience, knowledge and a deep sense of caring to his work. I am excited for the future of our program under his leadership.”

Fox, a veteran coach with 27 years of experience, was a member of Creighton’s staff for the past six seasons as the assistant head coach while also coaching the Bulldogs’ offensive line and special teams units. He has guided an offensive line that has generated 4,000 or more total yards in each of the last three seasons. In 2010 he was named the Football Championship Subdivision Assistant Coach of the Year by the American Football Coaches Association.

“It’s an incredible privilege to be the next head coach at Drake University,” Fox said. “The history of Drake, both academically and athletically, makes this a great honor. Additionally, having the opportunity to build on the foundation and tradition that’s been laid by the former players and coaches, especially Coach Creighton who I’ve been friends with for 20 years, is a special privilege. I’m extremely excited to work together with our team and build upon that foundation.”

As the Bulldogs’ special teams coordinator, Drake ranked fifth in the nation in FCS in 2010 in both punt and kickoff coverage, allowing opponents an average of just 3.4 and 16.1 yards per return, respectively. Drake's punt-return average of 13.5 led the PFL and ranked 15th nationally. This past season, Fox’s kickoff coverage unit led the PFL with a net average kickoff of 41.2 yards.

Fox joined Creighton’s first staff at  Drake with an extensive coaching background after serving as offensive coordinator at Centre (Ky.) College from 1999-2007. He was promoted to associate head coach at Centre in 2006. During his eight seasons at Centre, Fox coached 16 first-team all-league performers and 50 total offensive all-conference players.

Fox was offensive line coach and special teams coordinator at Wheaton (Ill.) College from 1992-99 and offensive line coach at Aurora (Ill.) University from 1987-92. He began his coaching career as a graduate assistant at Wheaton in 1986.

He was captain of the Wheaton football team in 1985 and graduated in 1986 with a bachelor of arts degree in history and secondary education. He also earned a master's degree in Biblical studies from Wheaton.

He was recipient of the Presidential Award for Distinguished Service to Centre College in 2005. Fox and his wife Julie have three children, Rebecca (18), Hannah (16) and Caleb (14).

Creighton won two conference titles and amassed a 44-22 record at Drake.

“No words can describe my gratitude for Chris Creighton and the leadership that he brought to the Drake football program, the athletics department and to the university,” Hatfield Clubb said. “All those that he has touched are better people as a result, including me. I am excited for Chris and his family as they embark on a new journey at Eastern Michigan University and wish him the very best.”

Creighton’s 44 victories were the sixth-most in program history and his .667 winning percentage was the highest in the Bulldogs’ 120-year history, and the back-to-back league titles were the first for the program in 81 seasons.

“These past six years at Drake and in Des Moines have been phenomenal,” Creighton said. “Our kids’ earliest memories will be from here and we have built friendships that will last a lifetime. I am so proud to have been able to lead the Drake Football program. Leaving Drake is incredibly difficult, but I cannot wait to see the great things that this program is going to do in the near future. My family and I want to thank everyone who has been so good to us throughout these years and we look forward to  continuing those relationships.”

--Ty Patton, Drake sports information

Tough Break for Bulldogs: Guard Ricks Lost for Rest Of the Season

Senior guard Gary Ricks, Jr., of Los Angeles will miss the remainder of the 2013-14 season due to a fractured bone in his left foot, Drake basketball coach Ray Giacoletti said today. In eight games this season, Ricks was the Bulldogs’ second-leading scorer with a 12.3 average and a team-high 3.6 assists per game while shooting 45 percent from the three-point arc. He scored a career-high 25 points to lead the Bulldogs over Fresno State in the first of three straight wins to claim the Fresno State Classic title, for which he earned all-tournament honors.

--Ty Patton, Drake sports information

Monday, December 9, 2013

Scherff Staying At Iowa for His Senior Season

Junior left offensive tackle Brandon Scherff said today he will stay at Iowa for his senior
football season in 2014.  Scherff, who was projected as a first-round choice in the next NFL draft,  is a native of Denison,and has started all 12 games this season.  He was recently named first team all-Big Ten by a vote of league coaches.“I am excited to say that I will be staying at the University of Iowa for my senior season in 2014," Scherff said in a statement emailed to me by Iowa sports information director Steve Roe.  "I am looking forward to the 2014 Outback Bowl and playing an outstanding opponent in LSU, and then working as hard as possible with my teammates to prepare for my senior year as a Hawkeye."

RON MALY'S COMMENTS--The young man has a luxury few of us get. He can wait another year until becoming a very rich guy. All I know is, I'd like to be his agent in 12 months. I just hope he doesn't break any bones in the meantime. And if he does, I hope he's a quick healer.

O'Grady Resurfaces

It was good to see Denny O'Grady back in the paper again. His writing showed up in the e-mails and letters section on page 2 of the
Sunday sports section. O'Grady's thoughts were posted under a headline that said Class 4-A finalists were good sports. O'Grady's first couple of paragraphs read, "What a class act with six minutes left in the Class 4-A championship football game at the UNI-Dome. Dowling head coach Tom Wilson inserted the second-team defense into the game with the Maroons up 44-10. Xavier head coach Duane Schulte called a timeout and inserted his second-team offense."  With all of the firings and layoffs at the paper in recent years, I'm not sure who edits the stuff that appears on page 2 of the sports section, so I'm uncertain as to whether he or she knows that O'Grady is a longtime Dowling fan/cheerleader who is the public address announcer at the Maroons' games. It was no wonder he was giddy about Dowling's easy victory over Xavier in the 4-A high school championship game. Dowling's 44-13 victory in the title game verified what a lot of people figured would happen--that the winner of the Valley-Dowling game in the semifinal round would win the championship. Dowling won that game, 17-3. Actually, [again, perhaps because of the heavy turnover in sports department people, including editors and columnists, in recent years] maybe some people at the paper don't recall that O'Grady was a parttime sportswriter at the Register in his younger years. He later was the sports editor at the Carroll, Ia., newspaper. The guy obviously knows his way around Maroon athletics, and sports in general in the state of Iowa. Indeed, O'Grady is such a stout Dowling fan that he almost was ejected from a Dowling-Valley baseball game a few years ago at Valley. He was sitting in the grandstand, second-guessing the umpires' balls-and-strikes calls. Suddenly, the home plate umpire wheeled around and shouted, "O'Grady, one more word out of you and you're gone!"  I'm pretty sure O'Grady kept his opinions to himself the rest of the game. The last time I saw O'Grady was when I was having a sweatshirt made at the Van Ginkel sporting goods company on Ingersoll in Des Moines a few years ago. O'Grady was working at the store, and may still be employed there. I had a nice talk with him then, and I hope I see him again Friday night when Dowling visits the Bill Coldiron Fieldhouse in West Des Moines for Dowling's boys' and girls' basketball games against Valley. Speaking of high school basketball, I see the paper is back to keeping the stories about metro games down to one paragraph again. The high school teams seemed to be making some progress in the paper's coverage during the football season. At least the results of most of the games were in the paper, and occasionally the game stories were of more than one or two paragraphs. But the basketball teams continue to get short-changed. Too often, someone has the box score of the game on his or her computer in the newsroom, writes one paragraph about the leading scorer and rebounder, and that's the extent of the coverage. Shameful.


Photo of a football and basketball courtesy of Google

Saturday, December 7, 2013

Nice going, Michigan State! The last thing collegiate football needed was another victory by Urban Meyer and his Ohio State team.

'One game isn’t going to make or break anything,' coach Ray Giacoletti says after Drake's 83-66 loss to Iowa.. 'We are trying to build a program here, teach fundamentals, and it’s going to take time. We are going to do the best we can this year, and take it one day at a time and get better'

Spurred by a late run in the first half, No. 23-ranked Iowa charged past Drake's basketball team, 83-66, Saturday night in the Big Four Classic at Wells Fargo Arena.

After closing the first half on a 10-0 scoring run, the Hawkeyes (9-1) seized control of the game early in the second half, taking a 16-point lead with just over 15 minutes remaining. Drake (6-2) momentarily pulled within nine-points at the 12 minute mark, but could not get any closer as its shooting cooled in the second half.

“They have four different guys that can push it in transition,” Drake coach Ray Giacoletti said of Iowa. “Their transition offense is as good as I’ve seen in a long time.”

Although he set a career-high with 21 points, junior Chris Caird’s (Daventry, England) efforts were not enough to spark the Bulldogs past Iowa. Senior Richard Carter (Detroit, Mich.) was the other Bulldog to score in double-figures, tallying 18 points along with four assists. Seniors Gary Ricks, Jr. (Los Angeles, Calif.) and Aaron Hawley (Rogers, Ark.) added nine and seven points, respectively. 

The Hawkeyes dominated the boards, using their size advantage to lead the category, 47-28, and they scored 29 second-chance points compared to just five for Drake. Iowa finished with 42 points in the paint, while Drake was limited to just 12.

“It all came down to rebounding,” Carter said. “We had good first shot defense, but we couldn’t get rebounds and second-chance points really hurt us tonight”.

Iowa had four of its players finish in double-figures as Melsahn Basabe led the attack with 15 points. Roy Devyn Marble and Peter Jok each added 14 points, while Jarrod Uthoff nearly recorded a double-double with 13 points and nine boards. Basabe and Jok grabbed eight and seven rebounds, respectively.

Iowa was the first team to find an advantage in the first half, closing the half on a 10-0 run and holding Drake without a field goal for the final 3:17, to lead 49-40 at the break. The Bulldogs shot particularly well from the perimeter, sinking 14-of-29, and held the scoring advantage for the majority of the half before the Hawkeyes went on their run. Caird led all scorers at the break with 14 points behind four three-pointers. He finished with a career-best five three-pointers.

For most of the first half, the teams remained neck-and-neck, with the 11 score ties and seven lead changes. The big difference in the half was on the glass as Iowa outrebounded Drake, 23-13, and scored 19 second-chance points.

Both teams shot well in the first half as Drake sank eight three-pointers, which set a season-high for a single half. Overall, Drake was 48.3 percent from the floor and 50.0 percent from the perimeter. Iowa was 50.0 percent from the field, but just 12.5 percent from beyond the arc.

Iowa started to distance itself and take control of the game at the beginning of the second half. Taking a double-digit lead at the first official timeout and then extended its lead to 16 points with 15:02 on the clock, putting the pressure on Drake.

Carter engineered a 7-0 run to lead Drake back into the game, scoring five quick points for the Bulldogs, to pull within nine, 62-53, at the under-12 media timeout in the second half. Drake would not get any closer as the Hawkeyes regrouped and charged back to take a double-digit lead, forcing Drake to call a timeout with 7:29 left in the game facing a deficit of 76-56.

“One game isn’t going to make or break anything,” Giacoletti said. “We are trying to build a program here, teach fundamentals, and it’s going to take time. We are going to do the best we can this year, and take it one day at a time and get better.”

Drake takes a week off for final exams before returning to action next Saturday, Dec. 14. as the Bulldogs host New Mexico State. Tipoff is scheduled for 7:05 p.m. at the Knapp Center.

--This story was written for Ron Maly by Ty Patton, Drake's assistant athletic director for communications.

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Drake's Bid To Upset Saint Mary's Falls Short, 67-63. But Bulldog Fans Have Reason To Be Optimistic: It's early, I realize, but so far I like what I'm seeing from coach Ray Giacoletti and his Drake players. Giacoletti doesn't have the most talented team in the world, in the Missouri Valley Conference. the state or even central Iowa. But his Bulldogs are playing hard, and if he can continue to get those results from them, this 2013-2014 team--of which very little is expected--is going to win some games it has no business winning. No opponent will be able to take these Bulldogs lightly.

MORAGA, Calif.  – Facing an 18-point deficit just minutes into the second half,  Drake's basketball rallied to pull within a point before falling short in a 67-63 loss Saturday night at Saint Mary's. 
Ray Giacoletti

The Bulldogs' attempt to become just the 10th team to win on Saint Mary's home court in the last six years was led by 18 points and five assists from Richard Carter  and 11 points and six rebounds from Daddy Ugbede.

Saint Mary's (4-0) had four players in double figures with Beau Levesque's 16 points leading the way. Forward Brad Waldow added 16 points and 13 boards. Drake’s (2-1)offense struggled to get shots to fall, converting on just 35.7 percent of its attempts, but took care of the ball with just 10 turnovers and only one in the second half to nearly escape McKeon Pavilion with a victory.

“I’m proud of the way we fought and competed for 40 minutes,” Drake coach Ray Giacoletti said. “We had a shot, but the first half got us in a rut and then the second half got off to bad start. You can’t go on the road and have those kind of spurts.”

Those spurts were exacerbated by one of the toughest home courts in college basketball as the Gaels improved to 95-9 in McKeon Pavilion over the last six seasons.

With an 10-point deficit to start the second half, Drake quickly found itself down 18 points, 41-23, just three minutes into the half, forcing Giacoletti to take a timeout. Coming out of the timeout, the adjustments took hold with the Bulldogs going on a 9-0 run courtesy of five points from Carter. 

The Gaels managed to keep their lead at nine or more points for the next six minutes until California native Gary Ricks, Jr. went on a tear to pull Drake within two points, 53-51, with 6:42 left in the contest. Ricks began the spurt with a three-pointer, followed by a pair of free throws and a steal that evolved into a fastbreak layup to change the complexion of the game.

Two minutes later, a pair of Carter free throws trimmed Saint Mary’s lead to one point, 56-55, but five straight points from the Gaels reestablished their advantage. The Bulldogs fired one last salvo across the Gaels’ bow courtesy of a Carter three-pointer with 30 seconds left to make it a 3-point, 63-60, game. However, Saint Mary’s hit all four of its free throws down the stretch to preserve the home win. Carter tacked on another three-pointer as time expired to account for the 67-63 final.

Drake’s 10-point half time deficit was a result of both squads struggling offensively to open the game with just three combined points scored in the first four minutes of the game. Saint Mary’s eventually found its stroke to put together an 8-0 run to take a 16-6 lead with 11:45 left in the half. Drake’s offense was unable to do the same, finishing the half shooting just 37.5 percent to trail 33-23 at halftime thanks to an 8-2 Drake run to close the half..

Ugbede provided the team with a spark off the bench, coming in to score back-to-back buckets and finishing the half with nine points in nine minutes.

“Daddy came in and gave us great energy and played very physically,” Giacoletti said.

He and his frontcourt mates Seth VanDeest and Jacob Enevold Jensen combined to hold Saint Mary’s forward Waldow and Matt Hodgson to seven combined first half points.

The Bulldogs' next game is Saturday against Nebraska-Omaha at 1:05 p.m. in the Knapp Center. The game will be part of a special day for Drake basketball as the Bulldogs are scheduled to begin construction on their new practice facility with a ceremonial groundbreaking at 11 a.m.

-- Game story by Ty Patton, Drake sports information  Opinion at the top and bottom of the page by Ron Maly. Photo of Ray Giacoletti courtesy of

RON MALY'S COMMENTS--It's early, I realize, but so far I like what I'm seeing from coach Ray Giacoletti and his Drake players. Giacoletti doesn't have the most talented team in the world, in the Missouri Valley Conference, the state or even central Iowa. But his Bulldogs are playing hard, and if Giacoletti can continue to get those results from them, this 2013-2014 team--of which very little is expected--is going to win some games it has no business winning. No opponent will be able to take these Bulldogs lightly.]