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November 30, 2007

The end for the Coliseum and Dorrell?

--It's been a busy sports week here in Los Angeles. USC and UCLA meet tomorrow in what could be the final game for Karl Dorrell and it could be the final game for USC in the Coliseum.

The LA Times has an editorial saying "It's USC's Coliseum". It's really amazing that the dysfunctional Coliseum Commission remains in charge of both the Coliseum and the Sports Arena. They chased out the Rams, Raiders, Chargers, UCLA Football, the Lakers, Kings, Clippers, and USC Basketball. Now USC football is considering moving out. I don't think any stadium management body has ever lost more high profile sports teams and kept the keys to the building. The bottom line is that sports facilities should be run by people who understand sports business and not by politicians. The Coliseum and the Sports Arena have fallen into disrepair, and it's time to move forward.

Mayor Villaraigosa has already told the Coliseum that it's time for them to give up on the NFL. That's somewhat ironic after all of the work local politicians (including Villaraigosa) put into trying attract a team to the historic stadium. This city wasted more than a decade quashing every football stadium plan except the one that the NFL said time and again it didn't want. In the process, it drove Peter O'Malley to sell the Dodgers, killed a perfectly good AEG plan in South Park, and lost an expansion team to the Houston Texans. Ed Roski and Frank McCourt are both capable of building viable NFL stadiums, so it's time to turn the page.

--As for Karl Dorrell, Kurt Streeter writes a column today discussing race and criticism of the UCLA coach. Perhaps I'm naive, but if UCLA does fire Dorrell, then I don't think it will have anything to do with race. It will have everything to do with wins and losses. After Bob Toledo went 10-2 in both 1997 and 1998, he went 4-7, 6-6, 7-4, and 7-5, and was then fired. In his last 4 seasons at UCLA, Terry Donahue went 6-5, 8-4, 5-6, and 7-5, and UCLA boosters were calling for his job before he eventually retired. In five years at UCLA, Dorrell has gone 6-7, 6-6, 10-2, 7-6, and now they're 6-5.

Perhaps, it's not fair to judge Dorrell completely on wins and losses this year, considering all of the injuries, but the Bruins still lost to Utah (44-6) and Washington State (27-7) while they still were in reasonably good health. The fact of the matter is that it's never been a tougher time to be a college football coach. The pay is higher than ever, but the expectations are often times unrealistic. Georgia Tech just fired Chan Gailey after six consecutive winning seasons. Nebraska fired Frank Solich after he went 8-3 one season. Lloyd Carr was under fire at Michigan for years, despite always having good teams, and he finally retired this year.

Many of these firings are unfair, and they're a signal of gross impatience in our society. Coaches generally get just a few years to make a dramatic impact, or else they're cast aside. It's not the 1950s and 60s anymore, when John Wooden could coach for 15 years before winning a national title and everyone would be fine with that. Dorrell has coached at a time that crosstown rival USC has flourished. There's little to indicate that the program is appreciably better since he took over. Maybe he will be able to take it to the next level if given a few more years. But if he's fired, then it will be the norm for a coach with his results.

November 27, 2007

New Home for USC Football?

The Los Angeles Times is reporting that USC is negotiating with the Rose Bowl about possibly moving their home games to Pasadena. The move comes in the wake of USC's frustrating negotiations with the Coliseum over a long-term lease and renovations.

In listening to sports talk radio this evening, it was clear this move would not be popular with anyone. The Coliseum may be falling apart, but it's virtually on the USC campus. Personally, I love going to football tailgates on campus and then walking over to the Coliseum. It makes sense for the Trojans to play close to campus.

That being said, the Coliseum is not a great football stadium anymore, and it needs significant renovations. I have to admit that the Rose Bowl is a much better venue right now to sit and watch a game. I'm not quite sure what the hang-up is between USC and the Coliseum Commission, but it's pretty obvious that the NFL isn't coming anytime soon so they might as well go with the USC proposed upgrades. This may very well be a negotiating ploy, but I can't blame USC from doing what it can to prevent their home stadium from falling into disrepair. USC is a premier college football program that deserves to play in at least an adequate facility.

Still, the Rose Bowl has its own problems. While it's aged well, the seats are still way too close together, traffic is beyond awful in the Arroyo Seco on gamedays, and it would be awkward to ask Trojan fans to drive across town and play in UCLA's stadium. I can't imagine that the Pasadena homeowners are too thrilled about this idea either. Let's hope that USC and the Coliseum can work something out.

November 25, 2007

Sports Beat, 11-25-07

--I was at the Rose Bowl for UCLA's 16-0 shutout win over Oregon yesterday. It was easily the worst offensive game I've ever witnessed by two teams combined. Bruin fans were begging Karl Dorrell to kick a field goal any time the ball happened to be inside the 35, so as not to risk negative yardage on any play.

UCLA is technically in the Rose Bowl race, but Ben Olson is going to have to get healthy in a hurry if the Bruins want to have any shot of getting there. Unless UCLA upsets USC (something that is always possible) Bruin fans should be prepared for a trip to either the Las Vegas Bowl, the Emerald Bowl, or the Bell Helicopter Armed Forces Bowl in Fort Worth.

--In the meantime, pundits on ESPN Radio are now saying that the USC Trojans might have the best team in the country now that they're healthy. The Trojans looked great in dispatching Arizona State 44-24 in Tempe on Thanksgiving Day. It's a longshot, but USC does have a very distant chance of winning an AP National Title. How? If West Virginia and Missouri (or possibly Ohio State) play a lousy mistake-filled BCS title game, one or two other teams lose (like LSU in the SEC title game and Virginia Tech in the ACC title game), and USC throttles both UCLA and their Rose Bowl opponent (not a guarantee at all), then it is conceivable that the Trojans will win an AP title like they won in 2003. Don't bet on it though.

--The Rose Bowl is guaranteed to have a Pac-10 team, but not necessarily a Big Ten squad. ESPN's Brad Edwards predicts that the Rose Bowl will select Illinois if Ohio State goes to the BCS Title game. But I'm not so sure. If the BCS title game is Ohio State-West Virginia, then the Rose Bowl would get the first pick of at-large teams, and they could very well select Georgia. The Bulldogs are currently ranked No. 4 in the BCS, they would setup a compelling Pac-10/SEC matchup, and Georgia's only Rose Bowl appearance came in 1943 when they beat UCLA 9-0. Illinois has had a nice year, but few think they're as good as Georgia.

--Kevin Roderick points out the varying opinions on the Angels signing of Torii Hunter. This type of reaction would be expected when a player like Hunter signs. Hunter is the prototypical player who would be slammed by sabermetricians and praised by scouts. His on-base percentage is routinely below league-average, but he plays great defense. He's considered a "high-character guy", but he's never won a World Series. His power isn't Manny Ramirez-esque, but it's still above league average. And he's entering his mid-30s, meaning one of his most valuable skills, his speed, will only decline.

No matter how you slice it, $90 million is a ton of money to give any baseball player over five years. It's one of the largest annual contracts in the history of the game. However, Hunter's power and defense will make the Angels a better team, especially considering their strong need for offensive help. Is he worth the money though? Well, baseball is going through unprecedented economic prosperity, and we probably have to evaluate the market differently from how we would have even two years ago. It could very well be true that a player with Hunter's skill set is worth $18 million a year. The Twins evidently didn't think he was worth re-signing, but the Angels apparently thought he was worth bringing in. Both teams have smart front offices. At the end of the day though, it's Arte Moreno's money, and he's Angels fans' gain.

--On Saturday night, I was at the Coliseum broadcasting the USC Women's Soccer team's NCAA Tournament victory over Florida. The Women of Troy now advance to the Elite 8, where they will take on West Virginia. UCLA will play a home game on Friday night in the Elite 8 against Portland.

--For real this week, I will be on KSCR 1560 AM on Wednesday from noon to 1 PM. You can also listen on KSCR.org.

November 21, 2007

Angels Sign Torii Hunter

Less than a month into the job, Tony Reagins is turning out to be a pretty aggressive GM. After acquiring Jon Garland in a trade, the Angels signed Torii Hunter to a 5-year $80 million contract. Hunter is one of the best defensive centerfielders in baseball, but this signing seemed to come out of nowhere. Most pundits felt the Angels would look for a power bat in the infield (Miguel Cabrera and Miguel Tejada were rumored), and centerfield appeared set with Gary Matthews, Jr.

"You're a little surprised, huh?" Hunter's agent Larry Reynolds said late Wednesday night. "It all happened within the last 24 hours."

"We are very excited to have Torii joining our organization," Reagins said in a statement. "Not only is he an outstanding ballplayer but he's also an outstanding human being. He'll impact our ballclub and community in a very positive way."

Apparently, now the Angels will shift Matthews to left field while asking Garrett Anderson to be the DH more regularly. While Hunter will improve the Angels outfield defense, he does hit for above-average power, and should boost the Halos offense.

As the first major signing of the free agent period (A-Rod was a re-signing), Hunter has set the market price for other centerfield free agents like Aaron Rowand and Andruw Jones, both of whom are rumored to be Dodger targets. In the meantime, one gets the feeling that Reagins isn't done working this offseason. Reagins seems unafraid to make big roster changes, and he could very well have a few more moves up his sleeve.

November 20, 2007

Ariza Traded to Lakers

The Lakers made a trade today with the Orlando Magic, acquiring Trevor Ariza for Brian Cook and Maurice Evans. The deal marks something of a homecoming for Ariza who attended both Westchester High School and UCLA.

Ariza brings the Lakers some athleticism, and Phil Jackson thinks he can help the team defensively. The deal also gives the Lakers some salary flexibility. Some fans may bemoan the loss of Cook, but he was expendable. Cook seemed to be lost on the roster this year. He may be a great 3-point shooter, but so is Coby Karl. He may be really tall, but he seldom plays like a true power forward at the basket. In the first year of a 3-year $10 million contract, Cook was overpriced and out of place. Maurice Evans is a nice player who can do some good things on the court, but he was also somewhat expendable, and acquiring Ariza should more than make up for his absence. ESPN.com's John Hollinger says this is a good deal for the Lakers, while it remains to be seen how the Magic will benefit.

In the meantime, the Lakers had no problems playing short-handed tonight, beating the Indiana Pacers 134-114 on the road. Yes, they scored 134 points in a game on the road. And Andrew Bynum outplayed Jermaine O'Neal.

November 19, 2007

Sports Beat 11-19-07

UPDATE***-- The show on KSCR will not actually be happening this week, but you can hear me broadcasting play-by-play for USC's third round NCAA Tournament game against Florida in women's soccer on USCTrojans.com. The game starts at 7 PM at the Coliseum.***

After a week off, we return with the weekly Sports Beat...

--Many basketball analysts are wondering why Kobe Bryant reportedly wants to play for the Chicago Bulls, especially after his Lakers thrashed the Bulls last night 106-78. The Laker bench has been the most impressive part of their 6-3 start and recent 3-game winning streak. Last night, the bench scored 73 points as Jordan Farmar and Andrew Bynum each scored 14 points.

Both Farmar and Bynum seem to be playing a level above from what we've seen in the past. Farmar has become the Lakers spark plug and 4th quarter point guard, whose energy and quickness creates scoring opportunities. Bynum has gotten much more aggressive in the post, and Kobe is now regularly praising the young center's work ethic.

Still, it's way too early for Laker fans to be celebrating. The Lakers beat the Bulls without Luol Deng, the Pistons without Chauncey Billups, and the Rockets with an injured Tracy McGrady. They didn't look particularly great in a loss to the Spurs either. This is a much better start than most pundits predicted, but it's a long season.

--Two weeks ago, we said it was "Hip to be Clip." This week, the Clippers are an injury-riddled bunch. The red and blue have lost four of five, and learned today that Corey Maggette will be out for 2-3 weeks with a strained hamstring. In the meantime, Cuttino Mobley has been hampered by a groin strain and may miss some more games. Al Thornton is out with a sprained ankle. Quinton Ross has a bad knee. And of course, the Clippers are already playing this season without Elton Brand and Shaun Livingston.

--The Angels made an interesting trade today, sending Orlando Cabrera to the White Sox for Jon Garland. Cabrera is coming off one of his best seasons, but this could be an example of Tony Reagins selling high. At least, that's what Rob Neyer thinks. The Halos have significant infield depth in their organization with Erick Aybar, Brandon Wood, Maicer Izturis, and Howie Kendrick, and could afford to see what the market would offer for Cabrera.

In Jon Garland, the Angels get a dependable and consistent starting pitcher, which is tough to come by in this day and age. Garland is a SoCal native, and believe it or not, $10 million isn't a bad salary for him. Keith Law also likes the deal for the Halos, and thinks Garland's numbers will improve in a pitcher-friendly park.

Mike DiGiovanna of the LA Times reports that this deal could set up the Angels to acquire either Miguel Cabrera or Miguel Tejada in a trade.

--With Alex Rodriguez heading back to New York, the Dodgers are reportedly interested in a centerfielder with Aaron Rowand rumored to be at or near the top of their list. Rowand is an excellent player who the Dodgers would be fortunate to have, but acquiring him brings up all kinds of questions about Juan Pierre. Do the Dodgers plan to trade Pierre, or will they simply move the fast, but weak-armed outfielder with a low OBP to left field? What would that mean for Andre Ethier and Matt Kemp. Yes, the hot stove is heating up!

--Kurt Streeter says that UCLA should keep Karl Dorrell, and he brings up some important points. There aren't many coaches in the country who could win with their fourth-string QB, or without some of their top running backs. An injury-depleted Bruin team still managed to give Arizona State a run for its money. Also, firing Dorrell would jeopardize the recruiting class he's bringing in, which according to Rivals.com is currently No. 4 in the country.

Still, the Bruins were mostly healthy in their 44-6 loss to Utah, and Dan Guerrero did up the ante by claiming he'd be "very interested" to see how UCLA plays in its final four games. Since that statement, UCLA is 0-2 with Oregon and USC left on the schedule.

--UCLA fans may not like this, but a Bruin victory over Oregon would help USC's Rose Bowl chances. The Trojans have a rare Thanksgiving Day game against Arizona State. Oregon suddenly looks vulnerable after losing Dennis Dixon for the season, and if UCLA can beat the Ducks and if USC beats the Sun Devils, then the Trojans will be one win away from the Rose Bowl. Of course, USC and UCLA play on December 1 at the Coliseum, and all bets are off in that one.

While it's not a certainty, Ohio State will most likely play in the Rose Bowl after beating Michigan this past weekend. An OSU-USC Rose Bowl would be an exciting ticket, but remember that USC's 2008 home opener is against the Buckeyes. If that happened, then one wonders just how much each team would open up the playbook.

--At the time of this writing, UCLA basketball is leading Maryland by 10 at halftime in Kansas City. It's really early, but I'm not sure if any college basketball team has looked better than the Bruins so far. Still, if UCLA wants to win its first national title since 1995, then they will need to get healthy.

--After embarrassing itself at home against Mercer, USC basketball bounced back with road wins at the Citadel and at South Carolina. OJ Mayo scored 29 points in the win over the Gamecocks, but it was Daniel Hackett who got most of the attention. Coming off a broken jaw, Hackett had a triple-double as the Trojans beat an SEC team.

--The 2008 MLS Cup will be played at the Home Depot Center, it was announced today. Could the Galaxy or Chivas USA get to play on its home field for that game?

Well, the Galaxy continue to bring in some big names. After hiring legendary Dutch soccer player and former Chelsea coach Ruud Gallit as head coach, the Galaxy traded for Clint Mathis today. Mathis is the all-time leading scorer in New York Red Bulls history, and some may remember that he was on the cover of Sports Illustrated before the 2002 World Cup. Gallit and Mathis will join David Beckham and Landon Donovan.

--I was the play-by-play announcer last Saturday night the USC-Washington State women's volleyball game on USCTrojans.com. I was very impressed with the professional setting for the game, and the job of the Galen Center crew. Volleyball Hall-of-Famer Debbie Green had her jersey No. 10 retired. After sweeping the Washington schools, the Women of Troy are set for a high seed in the NCAA women's volleyball tournament.

--Finally, I will be on the national sports show this Wednesday from noon to 1 PM on KSCR 1560 AM and KSCR.org.

November 14, 2007

Changes at KSPN

Earlier this week, KSPN 710 AM announced some changes to their station lineup. Gone are John Ireland and Kevin Kiley. The new lineup gives solo shows to Steve Mason, Dave Dameshek, and Brian Long. Both Sports By Brooks and Tom Hoffarth question whether this new schedule will be an improvement.

Maybe I'm the only person, but I'm really going to miss The Big Show with Steve Mason and John Ireland. I found the chemistry between Mason and Ireland to be some of the best in all of radio. Their show started in the 1990s on XTRA 690, when Jeanne Zelasko was their traffic and sports update girl. They were reunited on KSPN a few years ago, and had enjoyable segments that included Crossfire, BSI, and pre-1981 baseball trivia with Crazy Sue Kolinsky. The pair were also famous for soliciting some hysterical listener-made songs, and they were written up in Sports Illustrated for getting Michelle Tafoya to say various phrases on Monday Night Football by donating money to charity when she did.

There were times when I'd listen to The Big Show in my car that I was laughing so hard that I almost needed to pull over. It provided some fantastic radio entertainment. Sports by Brooks reports that KSPN was disappointed with Mason & Ireland's ratings, but it's awfully hard to build a listener base when large chunks of the show are regularly pre-empted for Angels and Clippers games. At least Mason is staying on with a show, and I hope it's as enjoyable with him alone as it was with Ireland.

November 7, 2007

Hip to be Clip

No Elton Brand. No problem. After a 104-89 victory over Indiana, the Clippers are 4-0.

Many thought that the Clippers would struggle this season without Brand. I was one of those people. But Mike Dunleavy's team seems to be getting big contributions from different players each night. Tonight, it was Sam Cassell dropping in 35 points and Chris Kaman grabbing 22 rebounds and adding 15 points of his own. Last night, Cuttino Mobley scored 33 points in the team's win over Chicago. Tim Thomas scored 20 points in each of the Clippers' first two wins against Golden State and Seattle. Al Thornton is already being discussed as a Rookie-of-the-Year candidate. And I haven't even mentioned the team's best player, Corey Maggette, who has put up solid numbers in every game this season.

Obviously it's early, but the Clippers new up-tempo offense is clearly working. If they keep utilizing their depth, then the Clippers could be one of the surprise teams in the NBA this season.

November 4, 2007

Sports Beat, 11-4-07

--It's beginning to look like the Karl Dorrell era of UCLA football is coming to a close. Earlier this week, UCLA Athletic Director Dan Guerrero said he'd be "very interested" to see how the Bruins play in their last four games. Well, he can't be pleased with a 41-34 loss to Arizona, while the LA Times openly asks "Is Dorrell losing his grip?" in the headline. In fairness to Dorrell, his team has faced injuries to several top offensive players at various times this season, but the team's inconsistencies are driving Bruin fans mad.

Already, I've heard rumors about two potential replacements in Boise State head coach Chris Petersen and former Washington and Colorado head coach Rick Neuheisel (now the offensive coordinator for the Baltimore Ravens). The latter has some obvious UCLA ties, and one would expect he's learned from his past mistakes. Chances are he wouldn't have quite as liberal of an interpretation of the NCAA rulebook if he coached college football again.

--I was at the Coliseum yesterday to see USC's 24-3 victory over Oregon State. The Trojan defense was phenomenal, as Beavers QB Sean Canfield never had a chance to do anything with the football. But USC's offense continues to lack rhythm and it seems out of sync. They seemed to fall asleep in the second half. John David Booty had a few moments in his return from injury, but many of his passes lacked the precision one would expect out of a Trojan quarterback. Booty and the running game are going to need to develop consistently quickly if they want a quality showing at Cal next weekend.

--LA Times writer Mark Heisler advises everyone to take a deep breath regarding the Kobe Bryant trade rumors. This story has really spiraled out of control. But amidst all the chaos, the Lakers still found a way to crush the Phoenix Suns on Friday night.

Vladimir Radmanovic's performance 19-point performance was exactly what the Lakers needed. If he can play up to his capabilities and manage to stay within the triangle offense (Phil Jackson once called Radmanovic a "space cadet"), then the Lakers will be in much better shape than some expected.

At the time of this writing, the Lakers are trailing Utah 51-46 at halftime.

--It's obviously early, but Clipper fans have to be pleased with the team's 2-0 start. The Clippers aren't expected to do much this season, but Chris Kaman has looked better in the low post, and Corey Maggette scored 27 points in today's win over Seattle. And shockingly, Tim Thomas has scored 20 points in each Clipper win.

--Joe Torre's presence is already being felt in Los Angeles. After declaring that he had no interest in returning to the Dodgers, outfielder Luis Gonzalez suddenly changed his mind upon learning of Torre's hire.

"This is no knock against Grady," Gonzalez said, referring to former manager Grady Little, who resigned Tuesday. "But the credibility that Joe and his coaches bring is definitely intriguing."

Gonzalez said he thought that Torre would help the Dodgers on the free-agent market.

"I think it intrigues a lot of players that they hired a manager of the caliber of Joe," Gonzalez said. "I think it makes a huge difference. He's been in how many World Series? He's done it on both sides, as a player and as a manager. Players go through struggles, he's been there, done that. Everyone who's played for him respects him."

The Dodgers may be legitimately hesitant to re-sign Gonzalez, given his late-season attitude and subpar performance. But his comments are telling. Torre is one of the most respected managers in baseball, and his presence will make Dodger Stadium a more attractive free agent destination.

--Injuries to Ante Razov and Maykel Galindo were too much for Chivas USA to overcome, as the LA team was defeated by the Kansas City Wizards in the first round of the MLS Playoffs. It was a difficult end to what had been a great season for Chivas. The west's top-seeded team just suffered an injury to its star at the worst possible time.

--Staying with the MLS, it appears that the Los Angeles Galaxy will need a new coach. Frank Yallop is reportedly leaving to become the head coach of the expansion San Jose Earthquakes. Yallop had won two MLS titles as the head coach of the original San Jose Earthquakes before they moved to Houston in 2006. Reportedly, Yallop will cost the Earthquakes two draft picks.

This isn't devastating news to most Galaxy fans. Yallop presided over two of the worst seasons in Galaxy history, and he was rumored to be on the hot seat for much of the year. Now, it will be interesting to see who the Galaxy entrust to be David Beckham's MLS coach. There have been reports that AEG has approached former Chelsea head coach Jose Mourinho about taking over the team. The Galaxy have also reportedly talked to former German national coach Jurgen Klinsmann about the job.

Both Klinsmann and Mourinho are European and are two of the top coaches in the world. Mourinho won a Champions League title with FC Porto in 2004, and he had success at Chelsea. Klinsmann is a soccer legend who guided Germany to the semi-finals in the 2006 World Cup. He also lives in Southern California. Either coach would add even more excitement to Beckham's first full season (start-to-finish) with the Galaxy.

November 1, 2007

Torre Hired; Kobe Staying (for now)

--Breaking news on the LA Times web site, as Dylan Hernandez reports that Joe Torre has officially been hired as manager of the Dodgers.

"When you look at his resume and what he's done and the market he's done it in, certainly, you have to start from there," Dodgers GM Ned Colletti said.

MLB rules require that all teams interview a minority for managerial positions, but the Dodgers were reportedly granted an exemption because of their hiring record in other areas of the front office. Also, I'm sure MLB wanted to avoid a situation similar to what the Detroit Lions dealt with a few years ago when they hired Steve Mariucci. Everyone knew the Lions were going to hire Mariucci, so several minority coaches turned down interview invitations.

With Torre in place as manager, one could argue that LA now has the best active coach/manager in basketball (Phil Jackson) and baseball (Torre). At the very least, these are the two active coach/managers with the most championship rings in their respective sport. Now all we need is an NFL team and Bill Belichick.

--Bulls GM John Paxson did his best to shoot down the plethora of Kobe-to-Chicago rumors that we've been hearing over the past few weeks.

"There's not a deal done," Paxson said today. "There's not going to be a deal done. All the things that were out there were really unfair to all of us who were trying to do our jobs. The misinformation ... I think gets in the way of the process. It's just such a complicated thing and we kind of put it to rest now."

"I think today sends a message to our players that nothing's going to be done," he said.

No rumor that I heard regarding players like Ron Artest, Ben Wallace, Luol Deng, etc. seemed remotely plausible to me, but of course, I'm not on the phone either. Still, Paxson's comments underscore the gargantuan complexity of any Kobe Bryant trade.

Magic Johnson is right about both management and Kobe being responsible for the circus that we've been reading about everyday. But since a deal isn't feasible at this time, it's not worth the time and angst of discussing it right now. Kobe and the Lakers are just going to need to get along and work as well as possible with each other.