Monday, March 30, 2015

Georges Niang Decides Loyalty To Iowa State's Program Is Important, and He Didn't Want To Leave After 3 Seasons and a Sub-Par NCAA Tournament Game Against UAB. So He'll Stay With the Cyclones for His Senior Year, and Not Make Himself Available for the June 25 NBA Draft


By Georges, Niang is staying.

No NBA yet for the talented Cyclone.

I gave you some of my thoughts six days ago  about Iowa State basketball player Georges Niang. 

Georges Niang
I wrote that the 6-8 forward owed it to himself to explore the wisdom of leaving collegiate basketball after his junior season, and making himself available for the June 25 National Basketball Association draft.

Niang did some thinking, and has decided to return to Iowa State for his senior season.

 "I was weighing [leaving for the NBA], but I want to be loyal to the [Iowa State] program and didn't want to go out this way," Niang told Jeff Goodman of "I didn't want to leave my mark like that."

 "Go out this way" meant Niang didn't want to  make an exit following Iowa State's unexpectedly quick loss in the NCAA tournament, and he didn't want to be known as the guy who left after having a sub-par performance in his final game of the 2014-2015 season. 

He scored 11 points [connecting on only four of 15 field goal tries] and had seven rebounds in the Cyclones' 60-59 loss in their opening game of the Big Dance.  

Niang averaged 15.3 points, 5.4 rebounds and 3.4 assists as a junior. 

Draft experts had projected Niang as a second-round choice if he declared for the NBA draft.

Goodman wrote that the Cyclones will likely be a national  top-10 preseason in 2015-2016, "with Niang, junior point guard Monte Morris, athletic big man Jameel McKay and shooter Naz Long. 

"They will also add transfers Hallice Cooke [Oregon State] and Deonte Burton [Marquette]." 

Niang told Goodman, "I think we have a really good core coming back."

Sunday, March 29, 2015

The Big Ten Stands Up for Itself


Hey, not bad for a basketball league that lots of people said wasn't up there with the big boys during the regular season.

The Big Ten, I mean. 

There was plenty of conversation making the rounds, of course, in January and February about the Big 12 and the Atlantic Coast Conference being the best collegiate conferences in America.

There's certainly nothing wrong with the ball they play in the Big 12 and the ACC.

But look who's really doing some talking now? 

The Big Ten, which has two teams in the Final Four. 

Both will be underdogs in next Saturday's semifinal round at Indianapolis, but the important thing is that Wisconsin and Michigan State are in the field--which means they have a chance, and that's much more than a ton of other teams around the U.S. can say. 

Wisconsin, clearly the power of the Big Ten, matches muscle with No. 1-ranked and unbeaten Kentucky, and suddenly that game doesn't seem like the mismatch it may have appeared to be a couple of weeks ago. 

Notre Dame, certainly not as strong as Wisconsin, gave Kentucky all it could handle before losing by a basket Saturday. 

I'm sure you won't hear any of the Badgers say they can't upset Kentucky at Indy. 

And Michigan State's players obviously feel
Przemek Karnowski
they can defeat Duke.  

[Actually, I was hoping Gonzaga would beat Duke today. I wanted to see Przemek Karnowski, the 7-1 Gonzaga player from Poland, play another game or two].

Still, it looks like an excellent Final Four to me. 

I just wish they could get the ridiculous Charles Barkley off of those pregame, halftime and postgame TV discussion groups, and I wish confused announcer Vern Lundquist would retire in the next 24 hours. 

Finally, while on the subject of TV, I guess the NCAA tournament isn't as important to national television giant CBS as you'd think.

I just can't believe that Saturday's games won't be televised by CBS.

Instead, both of the semifinal round games are on TBS, which--in my estimation--is a second-rate network.

The same thing happened when yesterday's Elite Eight games were televised by TBS, not CBS.

I couldn't believe that either.

Evidently, CBS didn't want to give up its lightweight Saturday programming schedule to make way for The Big Dance.

The championship game Monday, April 6, will be on CBS.


Saturday, April 4

Duke (33-4) vs. Michigan State (27-11), 5:09 p.m., TBS

Wisconsin (34-3) vs. Kentucky (38-0), approximately 7:49 p.m., TBS

Monday, April 6

Semifinal winners, 8 p.m., CBS

A maly, too ITEM--If Wisconsin and Michigan State should happen to win their semifinal round games, it would set up a classic all-Big Ten championship game.
Johnny Orr
It wouldn't be the first time that has happened. In 1976 at Philadelphia, Bobby Knight's Indiana team defeated Johnny Orr's Michigan squad, 86-68,  for the title. Four years later, Orr was coaching at Iowa State. I covered many NCAA basketball tournaments, including Final Four championships, for my newspaper in that wonderful time of my life, and the Knight-Orr matchup at Philly was about as classic as things could get.

Saturday, March 28, 2015

It Was a Shame Notre Dame Lost


I'm not much of a Notre Dame fan. 

Never have been. 

But I sure wanted the Fighting Irish to win that basketball game tonight against No. 1-ranked and unbeaten Kentucky in the NCAA tournament Elite Eight.  

I was rooting for the Fighting Irish the entire 40 minutes against the best collegiate team that money can buy. 

Mike Brey, a guy I always thought was a lightweight in the coaching business, and his Notre Dame players did a wonderful job in their courageous upset bid. 

It was a shame the Irish lost, 68-66.

A real shame. 

Now I'll have to hope Wisconsin sends Kentucky packing in the semifinal round of the Final Four at Indianapolis.

I've never been much of a Wisconsin fan either.

But I will be next Saturday.

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

If I'm Georges Niang, I Need To Do Plenty Of Research So I Can Find Out Where I Might Be Picked In the June 25 NBA Draft. Then I'll Have To Decide Whether I Should Come Back for My Senior Season At Iowa State


I'm pretending to be Georges Niang today.

I'm a 6-foot 8-inch Iowa State basketball player, and people say I'm one of the best collegiate forwards in the nation.

Georges Niang

I've already played three seasons for the Cyclones, and I've really enjoyed myself in Hilton Coliseum, other basketball arenas around the country, and on the Iowa State campus.

I play in the Big 12 Conference, which--at least until the NCAA tournament began--was regarded as the best collegiate league in America.

I'm a very friendly guy, and people like me. 

Reporters enjoy interviewing me, and I do the best I can to give them intelligent answers.

Like my teammates, I love playing at Hilton Coliseum, which historically has been one of the best arenas in the nation.

I enjoy the "Hilton Magic" atmosphere in our building as much as anyone. I think it helps me play better.

I've already had a very good career at Iowa State, if I say so myself.

I led our team in scoring with a 15.3-point average in my junior season, and my 184 rebounds ranked below only Jameel McKay's 190.

People expect me to play for Iowa State next season, but I know I have a decision to make--and I hope our fans know it, too.

Like most other collegiate basketball players, my goal has always been to play in the National Basketball Association.

Some talented players pass up their senior seasons, and make themselves eligible for the NBA draft.

I plan to do plenty of research on that matter.  

I owe that to myself.

I plan to check with Fred Hoiberg, my Iowa State coach, and others about where I might be drafted.

A lot of our games are televised by ESPN, and I've heard that the TV analysts give me rave reviews all the time.

I know they say I can pretty much do it all--score, rebound and play defense.

They like it that I'm just as dangerous with the jump shot as I am under the basket.

I guess that's call versatility.

People say I have a high basketball IQ, which is something that doesn't hurt any player when it comes to the NBA draft and the professional career that follows.

But I'm not perfect.

I've heard it said by a few know-it-alls, like at Draft Express, that I'm not the fastest player in America, that I don't play well above the rim, and that maybe my rebounding ability needs to improve if I want to be a success in the NBA.

I can't do much about the speed except to not put on any weight. I lost 25 pounds after the 2013-2014 season, and I thought playing at 230 this season helped.

But becoming more of a rebounding force, and playing better above the rim is something I maybe can improve.

One reason I came to Iowa State was because I knew Coach Hoiberg was a standout player here, and also did well in the NBA.

I know he'll help me make the big decisions that are facing me.

Our season ended earlier than all of us wanted it to end. We finished with a 25-9 record, but lost our opening NCAA tournament game to UAB, 60-59.

I didn't play particularly well against UAB.  I launched 15 shots, but made only four of them, and scored just 11 points. I had seven rebounds.

That shows you that I can have off-games. But that occasionally happens to all players at this level.

I feel badly that we lost so early in the tournament, and it's tough watching the Big Dance move along without us in it.

All of us thought we'd still be playing.

Anyway, I'll be doing my research to see if it would be a smart thing for me to make myself eligible for the NBA draft.

Some people think I'd be picked somewhere between high in the second round to the middle of the second round.

If that's the case, I'd probably decide to come back to Iowa State for my senior season.

Top guys at our level of competition are always gunning to be first-round selections.

That's where the money is.

Do the draft experts think I can become a first-round pick in the future? 

I plan to find out.

The draft is June 25.

Stay tuned.

Sunday, March 22, 2015

Swan Song On the Dance Floor


Spring football, anyone?

I know I'm not ready for that. And maybe you aren't either.
The Big Dance

But what choice do we have now that Northern Iowa, Iowa and Iowa State have been eliminated from the NCAA basketball tournament?

I guess we can pop some corn and look at videotape of the defeats.

Count me out of that, too.

The end came rather quickly for the three Iowa teams, especially for the Cyclones, who were embarrassed by unheralded UAB, 60-59, in Louisville on Thursday--the first day of the Big Dance.

UNI and Iowa stayed on the dance floor a little longer, but now they've said goodbye to the 2014-2015 season, too. 

Both teams won their opening games in Seattle easily, but the Sweet Sixteen dreams they had turned out to be pure fantasy.

Iowa's defense went on spring break at a very inopportune time against 34-game winner Gonzaga.  

Consequently, the Hawkeyes were demolished, 87-68, in their round-of-32 matchup.

In the last game of the opening week of the tournament, UNI was no match for Louisville's quickness in a 66-53 loss.

Louisville coach Rick Pitino called it his team's best game of 2014-2015 after ending UNI's season at 31-4.

The Cardinals' zone defense left  UNI standout Seth Tuttle little room to operate, and held him to 14 points and just seven field goal attempts.

"We got off to a good start and found some openings against Louisville's zone," Jacobson told reporters. "But they made some adjustments, and I didn't adjust soon enough to find some different ways to get Tuttle the ball."

Iowa's defense was nowhere to be found against Gonzaga, and the Hawkeyes paid a huge price for the disappearing act. 

I wrote that Iowa was capable of winning, but it needed to bring its "A" game. 

Unfortunately, that didn't happen. 

It was more like a D-minus game that the Hawkeyes brought to the building.

Gonzaga [34-2] had far too much firepower for the Hawkeyes, whose season ended with a 22-12 record. 

Gonzaga shot a blistering 61.5 percent from the field, drilling 13 of 15 uncontested shots, including 6 of 6 three-pointers.

Saturday, March 21, 2015

Obviously, Buzz Williams Has No Future In TV


Buzz Williams has been on TV a lot this week.

Indeed, he's been on the air far too much.

Kurt Warner, front left,. Photo courtesy of AP/Waterloo Courier

Williams has been appearing on those NCAA tournament pregame, halftime and postgame shows that feature broadcasters, ex-players and coaches who either have already lost their jobs, or are on their way to losing  their jobs.

Williams recently completed his first season as the coach at Virginia Tech.

It was a season he'd like to forget.

It was a nightmare.

His overall record was 11-22, and he was 2-16 in the Atlantic Coast Conference.

Williams not only didn't coach his basketball team very well in the 2014-2015 season, he also doesn't appear to be a very intelligent man.

He and TV viewers were watching yesterday when videotape of Kurt Warner, who had a standout career as a National Football League quarterback, addressing Northern Iowa's players was shown.

Warner, a former quarterback at UNI, was shown in the crowd [photo at the top of this column] and in the Panthers' locker room.

UNI advanced to Sunday night's game against Louisville by rolling past Wyoming, 71-54, in a second round game at Seattle.
Buzz Williams

"I didn't know Warner played football at Northern Iowa," Williams said. "In fact, I didn't even know Northern Iowa had a football team."

Obviously, Buzz Williams is not the sharpest guy sitting at the table.


Too bad Steve Alford and his UCLA team advanced to the NCAA's Sweet Sixteen today with a 92-75 victory over Alabama-Birmingham [aka UAB, the team that eliminated Iowa State on Thursday].
Steve Alford

That means Alford and his Bruins will be around to clutter up the tournament for one more game.

UCLA will play the winner of Sunday's Iowa-Gonzaga winner next Friday in the South Regional semifinal at Houston.

Obviously, I'm hoping it will be the Hawkeyes who knock UCLA out of the tournament, not Gonzaga.

Alford, of course, spent eight forgettable seasons [1999-2000 through 2006-2007] as the Hawkeyes' coach before being run out of town. His records at Iowa were 152–106 overall and 61-67 in the Big Ten.


TV viewers in eastern Iowa are caught in a mess with station KCRG in Cedar Rapids and DirecTV.

DirecTV hasn't been offering KCRG to viewers for a couple of months because the station has refused to pay some sort of rights fee.

Evidently, KCRG doesn't want to pay the same fee that competing stations KGAN of Cedar Rapids and KWWL of Waterloo are paying.

Plenty of people in eastern Iowa are calling KCRG a cheapskate outfit, and I don't blame them.

An Iowa resident made me aware of this situation, and forwarded this email to me that he has sent officials at KCRG:


I am informed that a member of my family with a DirecTV account in Iowa cannot receive KCRG-TV  because of a conflict between the station and DirecTV. This distresses me very much and it distresses my family very much. This has been an ongoing problem, and it is my opinion that the matter should be solved immediately. It is horrible business being conducted by KCRG-TV to deny people in your viewing area of your services. How long do you think television viewers should have to put up with this type of business? I would like to know if you unwilling to pay DirecTV the same amount being charged to KGAN and KWWL, competing stations int he viewing area. Why should you people think that you should not pay your fair share, similar to what KGAN and KWWL pay? If I lived in your viewing area, I would give strong thought to dropping your station, which has proven it is not acting in good faith. It is my hope that you come to terms with DirecTV immediately. By the way, I live in an area where DirecTV and the ABC-TV outlet get along very well. Service is not, and has not, been interrupted by the same problems that are interfering with the service in eastern Iowa. The TV viewers in this area are very happy. It is a shame the same cannot be said for the KCRG-TV viewing area.

Friday, March 20, 2015

What a Fabulous Friday It Was In the State Of Washington for the Panthers and Hawkeyes.The 2 Teams Gave Seattle Their Best Basketball Shot. It Was Called Total Domination. UNI Overpowered Wyoming, 71-54, and Iowa Steamrolled Davidson, 83-52, In the NCAA Tournament

It doesn't get much easier, or much better, than this. 
For the Panthers and Hawkeyes, I mean. 
The Big Dance
No doubt about it, the state of Iowa pretty much took over Seattle today and tonight.
At least the collegiate basketball aspect.
Both teams were at the top of their game in the NCAA tournament. 
Northern Iowa improved its record to 31-3 by overpowering Wyoming, 71-54, early in the day, and Iowa [22-11] played its best game of the season while steamrolling Davidson, 83-52, tonight.   
The 31-point difference marked the biggest victory in a No. 7 [Iowa] vs. No. 10 [Davidson] game in NCAA tournament history.  
There was certainly no case of either UNI or
Meg Ryan
Iowa being sleepless in Seattle [Hollywood's Meg Ryan and Tom Hanks, who both are longtime readers of my columns, probably knew I'd get that line in].  
UNI was playing in the Big Dance for the first time since upsetting Kansas and reaching the Sweet Sixteen in 2010, and made it a whopping team effort in a game that began at 10:40 a.m., Pacific Time. 
I mean, the players who came off the Panthers' bench outscored Wyoming by a whopping 41-2. 
That's how overpowering UNI was. 
Speaking of overpowering, Iowa was just that in its spectacular assault against Davidson. 
The Hawkeyes smothered Davidson with a defense that was significant throughout the Big Ten season, and they scored at will against an opponent that looked bewildered throughout the entire game. 
Getting back to that sleepless in Seattle stuff, I think it would be a good idea for the players from both UNI and Iowa to not overdo it when it comes to celebrating tonight and tomorrow. 
The competition Sunday for both teams figures to be considerably tougher. 
UNI is matched against tradition-rich Louisville, and Iowa plays Gonzaga, which is well-known in collegiate basketball circles.
  Gonzaga has been on the verge of becoming a national basketball power in recent years, but always seems to be one key player or two away from getting to the high level in the postseason for which it is striving.
Gonzaga is a small Catholic university in  Spokane, Wash., and the team is usually ranked very high in the national polls throughout the regular season.
It is a No. 2 seed in this tournament. The campus is about 250 miles from Seattle, which means it will have plenty of fans in the arena for the game against Iowa.
Nonetheless, it's my feeling that both UNI and Iowa can win Sunday, but both had better bring their "A" game. 
  Consequently, my advice to the Panthers and Hawkeyes is this:
Do what your mothers have always told you, boys, and get plenty of rest.
Sunday will be here before you know it. 
One good thing is that fans planning to watch the games on TV in Iowa won't have to hurry through anything Sunday to get their game faces on.
The UNI and Iowa games will be among the last to be played Sunday.
The Hawkeyes play Gonzaga at 6:10 p.m., and the UNI-Louisville matchup is at 8:40 p.m.  The Panthers' game is the entire tournament's last one of the night.
Both games will be shown on the TBS network.

Thursday, March 19, 2015

So Much for That. The Iowa State Team I Thought Was Good Enough To Make It To the NCAA Final Four Is Handed An Early Exit from the Big Dance By 15-Game Loser UAB, 60-59. The Cyclones Clearly Weren't Prepared, and Were Blindsided By An Opponent That Refused To Be Intimidated By a Big 12 Team With a Much Higher National Profile. I Find It Hard To Believe That This Could Happen To a Fred Hoiberg-Coached Squad


Well, that didn't last long.

So much for the Iowa State basketball team I thought was good enough to advance to the NCAA's Final Four.
The Big Dance

Pardon my optimism.

The Cyclones weren't even good enough to win one game in the Big Dance.

They were bounced out of the tournament almost before it began.

Their loss came in the second  game of the first day.

A third-seeded Iowa State team that was sky-high while winning the Big 12 Conference tournament last week was emotionally flat today in Louisville, and lost to 14th-seeded UAB [that's short for Alabama-Birmingham], 60-59.

Make no mistake about it, the Cyclones deserved to be beaten.

When the Big Dance starts, you'd better  have all your moves ready.

Iowa State, which ended its season with a 25-9 record, clearly wasn't prepared, and was blindsided by a UAB team that refused to be intimidated by an opponent with a much higher national profile.

 "We got lackadaisical," the Cyclones' Naz Long said. "We have no one to blame but ourselves. This one burns, man. It burns."

Hey, man, it should burn. 

The Cyclones had no business letting this one get away.

But it's certainly happened to Iowa State before.

In 1981, a No. 2-seeded Cyclone team was jolted by 15th-seeded Hampton, 58-57.

This time, Iowa State--with forwards Georges Niang and Dustin Hogue pretty much no-shows--lost to a team that has been beaten 15 times in the 2014-2015 season.

I'm a big Fred Hoiberg fan. 

Class guy.

Outstanding present Iowa State coach.

Frankly, I never thought the man known as The Mayor would ever let himself or his team play, or lose, a game like this on the national stage.

But it happens to the best of 'em, I guess.

Hoiberg called it the toughest loss he's ever had.

"I'm not going to make any excuses," he said. "You've got to come  to play 40 minutes."

That's the kind of stuff that happens when your team doesn't rebound well enough [Iowa State was beaten, 52-37, overall and 19-9, on the offensive backboards], and doesn't bring its 'A' game to the Big Dance.

You go home.

It's called one and done.

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

In 2006, I Wrote, 'Summing It Up, Basketball Has Been Good To Former Drake Coach Bob Ortegel, and He's Been Good for Basketball'

A few days ago, I wrote a column about Bob Ortegel,  the only man to coach a Drake basketball team to a national championship.
Bob Ortegel

I zeroed in on Ortegel because I'd heard that he and the players from his 1974-1975 Bulldog squad want to hold a reunion here next season.

I think the reunion is a great idea, and I hope it happens.

The 1974-1975 team was the one that seized  something called the National Commissioners Invitational Tournament championship in Louisville, Ky.

I haven't seen Ortegel, or visited with him, since his last day at Drake.

But I recalled that I wrote about him a number of years ago for one of my websites. I located the following column that was published June 16, 2006:


I haven't seen or talked to Bob Ortegel for a while, and that's too bad.

Ortegel's name came to mind the other night when I was spending my usual 3 minutes watching the Dallas Mavericks play the Miami Heat in yet another NBA playoff game.
Old Main at Drake

For overpaid basketball players to still be slam-dunking as I start giving some thought to my Fourth of July fireworks and picnics is....well, idiotic.

Whatever, watching the Mavericks on the tube took me back more than 30 years.

I was thinking of Ortegel, not Mark Cuban and his Dallas players.

I knew Ortegel was the longtime analyst on the Mavericks' telecasts, but that means nothing around here. What he does on Dallas' local telecasts isn't shown in Iowa, now or during the regular season.

It's all network stuff now.

Come to think of it, I'll bet some of you don't even know who Bob Ortegel is.

Well, he was Drake's basketball coach from 1974 through 1981, and his very first team at the school won a national championship.

You read that right.

National championship.

Not every coach can say that.

No, it wasn't the NCAA title, which Drake came so very close to winning in 1969 when Maury John was running the Bulldogs' show so masterfully.

No, it wasn't the National Invitation Tournament, which is where Drake teams played in 1964, 1981 and 1986.

Ortegel's 1974-75 Bulldogs decorated a 19-10 season by winning something called the National Commissioners Invitational Tournament in Louisville, Ky.

The NCIT was a postseason event the National Collegiate Athletic Association bosses put together in an attempt to kill the NIT, which it then had no control over.

In effect, the NCIT was a tournament for third-place finishers in their conferences.

Don't laugh. There were some good teams in it. 

Drake beat Southern California, 80-70, in its first game, beat Bowling Green, 78-65, in its second game and held off Arizona, 83-76, to win the championship.

Larry Haralson was Drake's leading scorer that season with a 20.1 average, and Terry McKissick was the top rebounder with an 8.4 average.

I've still got the wristwatch Ortegel made sure I received from the tournament, and it keeps time after all those years.

I do wonder about something, though. The thieves that broke into my home 25 or so years ago didn't bother taking the watch.

I don't know if that's indicative of what they thought of the watch or what they thought of the National Commissioners tournament.

Whatever, unlike the watch, the tournament lasted only a few seasons.

Ortegel had come to Drake as an assistant on Howard Stacey's staff, Stacey was the poor stiff who had to succeed John in the 1971-72 season after the Best Coach In Drake History took the Iowa State job.

It didn't take long for Drake officials to realize that Stacey wasn't the answer. After records of 7-19, 14-12 and 13-13, he was shown the door.

In came Ortegel, who seemed like a breath of fresh air -- especially when his 1974-75 team beat Texas, 103-98, in overtime and won at Iowa State, 65-64, in December.

Ortegel is a guy whose style is probably what Drake needs now. The recruiting rules were looser at the school then, and he was able to bring in players Drake couldn't or wouldn't waste a plane ticket on these days.

One was Lewis Lloyd, who set a record with a 30.2-point season scoring average in 1979-80,
Lewis Lloyd
then averaged 26.3 in 1980-81. His number was retired by the school in 1981, something that still rankles living members of John's 1968-69 team that went to the Final Four.

Ortegel was a likable guy who I enjoyed dealing with most of the time during his seven seasons at Drake.

He understood my needs as a newspaperman, and I tried to understand his needs as a coach.

One Saturday when I was preparing to drive to Ames to cover an Iowa State football game, he called me at home to tell me Lloyd had been injured in a pickup game. That gave me a good story for the Sunday paper.

I know one thing. Lute Olson never did anything like that when he was coaching at Iowa..

Another time, Ortegel called me at home to tell me he was suspending two or three players who had misbehaved during Drake's road trip to New Mexico State in Las Cruces, N.M.

In those days, Drake's players and traveling party had made a habit of going into Mexico whenever they played at New Mexico State [which then was in the Missouri Valley Conference].

Evidently, a few of the Bulldogs had treated themselves to something other than tacos, enchiladas and cream soda on one of their trips across the border, and Ortegel called me to say he was suspending them.

That made for a good story, too.

Not so good for the players and Drake, but good for me.

Actually, Ortegel was a guy most reporters liked. If you were covering his team on the road, he invited you to dine at the team's pregame meal on game day, and he enjoyed entertaining you with stories, food and cream soda or other liquids on road trips throughout the season.

Ol' Bob never tried to fool you with X's and O's. At one preseason press conference he told us he was planning to install a something called the "street offense," which meant there wasn't much structure to it.

"Street offense" indicated there was about as much discipline connected with it as the "street" games that were being played in the ghettos in those days.

No matter. Ortegel's teams were usually fun to watch.

Ortegel finally called it quits after his 1980-81 team went 18-11 and lost to Minnesota, 90-77, in the first round of the NIT.

My guess is that he had determined he wasn't going to be the next Maury John, even though his teams were much more respectable than those in the 19 straight non-winning seasons the school has had under Gary Garner, Tom Abatemarco, Rudy Washington, Kurt Kanaskie and Tom Davis.

When he left Drake, Ortegel went into what the Mavericks call "the corporate world."

For 14 years, he was an executive with ShowBiz Pizza Time, Inc., and Merle Harmon's FanFair.
It's probably fitting that Ortegel worked for an outfit called ShowBiz because he's always had plenty of show biz in his blood.

He even went Hollywood on us recently. Ortegel played the role of a sportscaster in the movie "Glory Road" that chronicled Don Haskins' Texas Western basketball program.

This was Ortegel's 24th year as a TV basketball analyst and his 18th with the Mavericks. He's worked with ESPN, ABC, the Southwest Conference and the Missouri Valley Conference game of the week. In addition to his TV duties with the Mavs, he headlines the team's speakers' bureau.

It's difficult for me to believe that Ortegel will turn 66 years of age in September and that his four daughters -- Kim, Kari and identical twins Mindi and Missi -- have presented him with eight grandchildren.

But time obviously marches on.

Summing it up, basketball has been good to Bob Ortegel, and he's been good for the game.

Sunday, March 15, 2015

NCAA Is Mistreating Fans from Our State

 The Big Dance


I guess I'm not as bright-eyed and bushy-tailed about this NCAA stuff as are other Iowans.

Oh, sure, I'm happy Iowa State, Northern Iowa and Iowa are headed to the Big Dance.

But, actually, the reality that they're in the tournament is no great surprise.  

We all expected that to happen most of the season, didn't we?

I know I did.

So the NCAA selection committee gets no pat on the back from me for placing teams from our three state universities in the tournament.

What I can't believe is that the idiots on that committee sent Iowa State, UNI and Iowa about as far away as they could for this week's games.

Iowa and UNI, and whatever fans can obtain  tickets and can afford to pay the travel costs, must go all the way to hell and gone--Seattle [two time zones away], that is--to watch the games.

The team from our state that got the worst screwing of all was the best one. 

Iowa State, which deserved to play in Omaha, was sent instead to Louisville, of all places.

I mean, getting from anywhere in Iowa to Kentucky isn't exactly like jumping into the car and driving to Omaha.

Kansas, a team that has lost twice to the Cyclones this season, gets to play in the Omaha tournament.

The Jayhawks' fans have a short trip--the trip Iowa State's loyal fans deserve to have gotten.

While on the subject of getting the short end of the stick from the NCAA, consider Larry Eustachy and his Colorado State team that won 27 games this season.

The NCAA didn't even pick Colorado State for its 68-team field. 

Eustachy and his players got the dreaded NIT instead.

That's horrible.

I certainly hope Eustachy doesn't fall off the wagon in the wake of that snub from the NCAA.

Saturday, March 14, 2015

America's Enchantment With Fred Hoiberg


I'm not sure there's anyone in America who's having a better weekend than Fred Hoiberg.

Fred Hoiberg
I mean, if  the Iowa State coach isn't the king of collegiate basketball right now, I don't know who is.

He's certainly my national coach of the year.

The guy also obviously has the biggest TV sports network in the world in his back pocket.

By that, I mean ESPN and its entire stable of stations.

It's a given that ESPN play-by-play announcer Brent Musburger is absolutely enchanted with Hoiberg.

It's been that way ever since Musburger made his first trip to Ames.

It's not just ESPN.  Heck, count ESPN2, ESPNU, ESPN News and maybe even the ESPN channels that carry hockey, baseball and Australian rules football  among the TV outlets that are nutty about the man Iowans refer to as The Mayor.

Mayor? Heavens to the memory of Johnny Orr, Hoiberg is such a hot item these days that he could be elected to any office in the nation in landslide fashion.

Musburger gushed about Hoiberg from Kansas City to every metropolitan area and unincorporated community in the country today as Iowa State's Comeback Kids [thanks for that, Georges Niang] won a second successive Big 12 Conference tournament championship by rallying for a 70-66 victory over Kansas.

Obviously, the nation is caught up with Hoiberg's superb coaching savvy and his ability to put a collection of recruits and transfers on the floor that looks like a team fully capable of making it to the NCAA's Final Four.

Not that he needs the help, but Hoiberg is receiving some marvelous recruiting tools from ESPN and the other networks that broadcast collegiate basketball. 

ESPN not only has been raving about his recruiting skills and his coaching ability all season, but it's also been giving Hoiberg's wonderful family plenty of air time during games throughout the season. 

That happened again during today's telecast.

Fred's family certainly has an all-America look about it, and he obviously has an all-America image.

I'm sure glad I was able to cover Hoiberg in his playing years at Iowa State.

I could see then that he was headed for some huge accomplishments, whatever it was he chose to do in his adult life.

And now we're seeing it all happen.

Keep it up, Fred.  

America loves you.

Thoughts from the Lawn Chair


Earlier this week, I wrote about Bob Modersohn, who was a colleague of mine at the paper. 

Modersohn was, and still is, an outstanding photographer. Not just a sports photographer,
Jeff Halliburton
but a thoughtful guy who could shoot the daylights out of any type of photo, sports or non-sports.

He was, and is, a pro's pro.

In the column, I included a couple of tremendous shots Modersohn had taken at Drake basketball games more than 40 years ago.

Here's what he wrote to me via Facebook after seeing the column:

"Looks great, Ron! I especially like your reference to you and I working at the paper in the 'previous century.' Makes us sound so....old. We are! The photo of you sitting in the lawn chair at the top of your maly, too site is classic and appropriate. I still remember, I think it was [former standout Drake player] Jeff Halliburton hurrying a shot against Kansas in that 1971 Regional final. I remember wondering -- why the hurry? I think Tom Bush or another Drake player was pissed at him for shooting too soon. Anyway, they are great memories. Hey, it's all we have, as far as Drake goes. 


[RON MALY'S COMMENTS: Thanks for writing, Bob. You brought up Jeff Halliburton hurrying a shot in Drake's March 20, 1971 Midwest Regional championship game loss to Kansas at Wichita. I'd heard that Tom Bush was, indeed, pissed about that shot, and made mention of it in no uncertain terms in the locker room after the emotional 73-71 loss--which turned out to be Maury John's final game as Drake's coach. I'd heard rumors that tempers flared to the point where there was a physical confrontation between a couple of Bulldog players in the locker room. But nobody was talking about it afterward, and there was never any proof provided that punches were thrown. It's too bad Drake couldn't have pulled off that victory, which would have put Maury John and his team into an unlikely second NCAA Final Four in three seasons. What a wonderful period that was in Drake basketball history. I feel so fortunate to have experienced it. By the way, Bob, the previous century was just 16 years ago. Never think of yourself as getting old.  As far as I'm concerned, neither you nor I will ever get old].

Friday, March 13, 2015

The 1974-1975 Drake Team Coached By Bob Ortegel That Had a 19-10 Record and Won the National Commissioners Invitational Tournament Is the Only One from the University Ever To Win a National Basketball Championship. Those Bulldogs Want To Hold a Reunion Next Season In Des Moines, and I Hope They're Able To Pull It Off. After All These Years, They Deserve To Be Honored Again


Bob Ortegel, the only guy ever to coach a national championship basketball team at Drake,  has told friends in Des Moines that players from his 1974-1975 title squad would like to have a reunion sometime next season.
Bob Ortegel

Many Drake fans either have forgotten that Ortegel's team won the National Commissioners Invitational Tournament championship, or aren't aware of it.

Over the years, the NCIT title has gotten lost in the shuffle at Drake and in Des Moines. 

There is always lots of mention [certainly in my columns] of Maury John's three successive teams--1968-1969 [a Final Four squad], 1969-1970 and 1970-1971--that played in NCAA tournaments, and of Keno Davis' 2007-2008 squad that went 28-5 and made it to the Big Dance.

But Ortegel's team in 1974-1975 tends to be back-page stuff.

However, I've often wondered why Drake officials didn't bring Ortegel and players from that 1974-1975 squad back to be recognized.

The National Commissioners Invitational Tournament was the idea of the NCAA, and it was meant  to get rid of the NIT. 

But that didn't happen. The NCIT lasted only two seasons, and the NIT is still hanging around after all  these years. 

The NIT is something players and coaches like to avoid. 

It's where teams wind up that aren't good enough to play in the NCAA tournament.

Most players would rather go on spring break rather than play in the NIT.

In  1974-1975, Ortegel was in his first season as Drake's coach. He  had been Howard Stacey's top assistant, and was named the Bulldogs' head coach after three forgettable [7-19, 14-12 and 13-13] seasons by Stacey, who had the unenviable job of trying to replace Maury John following Drake's three consecutive trips to the NCAA's Big Dance.

Ortegel's team went 16-10 overall and 9-5 in the Missouri Valley Conference during the 1974-1975 regular season.

But his Bulldogs won their last six games, including three in the NCIT.

The victories in the NCIT at Freedom Hall in Louisville, KY, were over Southern California [80-70], Bowling Green [78-65] and Arizona [83-76].

I covered all three games for the paper, and the victory on March 13, 1975 over a USC team that then was ranked No. 13 nationally is still regarded as one of the greatest in Drake history.

When basketball press guides were still being published by the university, this is what was written about that game:

"The Bulldogs shot a sizzling 61 percent and knocked off the National Commissioners Invitational Tournament-favorite Trojans, who enered the game ranked No. 13 in the nation.

"Larry Haralson and Andy Gsraham each scored 20 points for Drake, while Terry McKissick netted 19 and Ken Harris added 12.

"USC, with two 6-10 players in the frontline, was the tallest team Drake had played all year, but the Bulldogs even managed a 31-31 tie in rebounding.

"USC owned a 55-49 lead with 12 1/2 minutes to play. But Drake, employing the "four-corner" offense that had been so good late in the season, outscored the Trojans, 20-7, in the next 9 1/2 minutes. McKissick and Haralson slammed in successive baskets to make it 69-62.

"Drake got some ridiculously easy shots from the side while using the four-corner offense. Graham may have played his best game ever, making 10 of 13 shots. A couple of times he stormed in to climb above the USC players to tip in shots.

"'USC was seeded No. 1 and nobody talked about us,' said Graham. 'We play well when we need to.'"

I hope Ortegel, whose 7-season record at Drake was 91-103, and his players from that 1974-1975 team get cooperation from Drake officials and are able to have their reunion sometime next winter. They deserve it.

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

It Goes By Very Quickly, So Enjoy Every Minute


I don't need to tell any other grandparent this. 

You already know it. 

But I'll say it anyway. 

Attend every athletic event those high school grandkids of yours are in,  every show choir and jazz choir performance in which they're involved,  every stage play they're in, every band and orchestra event in which they participate, anything else in which they display their talents. 

Those four years go quickly. 

Very quickly. 

It's difficult to believe how soon it all ends. 

Valley High School's 2014-2015 show choir season finale was tonight in the fine arts center, and an especially emotional event it was for those of us who have a senior grandchild.

The Ignition group performed, the Choralation group performed, the parents even went up on the stage and performed. 

It was a fantastic show. 

The show choir season went much too quickly.

 I miss it already.

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Whitey & Grace

Thanks To a Couple Of Classic Photos Taken By Talented Photographer Bob Modersohn, Drake Basketball Fans Can Forget Ablout This Season's 9-22 Record, and Instead Be Reminded Of the Glory Years When Maury John Was Coaching Bulldog Teams That Played In 3 Consecutive NCAA Tournaments


I'm indebted to my friend Bob Modersohn for these two classic photos. 
Bob Modersohn

Collegiate basketball followers in 2015 may not realize it, but not all seasons played by the Drake men's team ended with a 9-22 record--like this one did. 

There was a time when the Bulldogs were actually a national power.

In the Maury John coaching era, they won Missouri Valley Conference championships, NCAA Regional titles and even [like the 1968-69 squad] played in the Final Four. 

I had the pleasure of working with Modersohn on a number of assignments when he and I were at the paper in the previous century.

Modersohn was, and still is, an outstanding photographer.  He always went the extra step, putting thought into every assignment. The photos above display his talents.

He posted the two shots on his Facebook account, and shared them with his friends.

The top photo shows students in the Drake crowd at Veterans Memorial Auditorium, where the Bulldogs then played their games.

Notice that a few of the students are giving the one-finger salute. Oh, well. Students [and adults] sometimes do such things when they're in front of a camera lens.

The students' one-figure salute must've meant they regarded the Bulldogs as being No. 1.

The second photo is an absolute classic.  Modersohn captured the shot during a game that I wrote about for the paper.

It shows Dave Wicklund, a reserve guard on  Maury John's teams, sinking a free throw against Louisville on Jan. 23, 1971 at the Auditorium.

The free throw capped a three-point play Wicklund and Jeff Halliburton teamed up for that gave Drake a dramatic 81-78 victory over Louisville.

Halliburton threw a Hail Mary pass to Wicklund, who surprised Louisville's defenders by sprinting behind them, then driving in for the basket that broke a 78-78 tie in the final seconds.

Wicklund was fouled on the play, and made the free throw. 

Notice in the photo how Modersohn seized the drama by showing Drake's fans ringing the court while Wicklund shot his free throw.

It was a key victory in a 21-8 season that was climaxed with the Bulldogs nearly making it into the NCAA Final Four for the second time in three seasons.

That was John's last season at Drake before accepting the coaching job at Iowa State. His 1970-71 team lost a heartbreaking 73-71 game in the Midwest Regional finale at Wichita, KS.

The 1968-69 team went 26-5 and finished third in the Final Four. John's 1969-70 team had a 22-7 record, and lost in the Midwest Regional tournament to New Mexico State, 87-78, at Lawrence, KS.

Because of the accomplishments of the 1968-69 team, Drake teams in the following two seasons tend to be forgotten by many people.

That's unfortunate because they were very talented, and have not received the recognition they deserve.

Thanks again to Bob Modersohn for reminding me and many others of that crazy, heart-stopping game against Louisville on Jan. 23, 1971.