OBSERVATIONS: Up close and personal at Wright State

By Hal McCoy

UNSOLICITED OBSERVATIONS from The Man Cave after watching Ohio State beat Illinois despite playing the final three minutes in total panic. Ain’t college basketball grand?

—In all my decade of covering sports, whenever I covered a basketball game I always sat high above the floor or at a press table near center court. . .until Thursday night at Wright State University.

WSU athletic director Bob Grant, whom I’ve known since he was knee-high to coffee table while running around my house with my son, Brian, provided me with a new view.

As a gracious host,, he provided me and my great friend, Ray Snedegar, with tickets and a folding chair seat right under the basket.

As legendary broadcaster Keith Jackson would say, “Whoa, Nellie.” If somebody had thrown me a pass, I could have missed a layup.

I heard moans, groans and grunts. I heard flesh slapping flesh. I was sprinkled with perspiration. And I think a Youngstown State player forgot his anti-depressant.

I watched, and heard Grant Basille, WSU’s 6-foot-9, 225-pound bulldozer, fight off bodies draped all over him, watched him constantly moving to get to the rim, his personal real estate, to score 29 points. He looks as if he just escaped from a walk-in freezer and plays with enough brass to fill an orchestra.

I watched 6-foot-5 Tanner Holden, as smooth as expensive bourbon and as quick as a jaguar, pour in 27 points. Chasing him is a trivial pursuit.

Wright State grabbed an important Horizon League game, 84-71, over Youngstown State. And I witnessed it all close enough to count the freckles on Basille’s shoulders.

—A morning meal with Hall of Fame pitcher Goose Gossage isn’t exactly Breakfast at Tiffany’s.

USA Today sports writer Bob Nightengale discovered that recently when he sat down and listened to Gossage turn baseball subjects into burnt toast and runny eggs.

He blames commissioner Rob Manfred for the lockout and baseball’s sweeping rules changes and said, “I hate that mother ——————. It break my heart to see what has happened to this game. They tore my heart out and cut it up. They ruined the game. I can’t even watch a baseball game.” He said he wants to punch Manfred in the nose. That line stretches beyond the horizon.

In addition, some of Gossage’s unpolished gems included: He may not go to the Hall of Fame induction this year in protest of David Ortiz going in, he believes since baseball has embraced gambling, Pete Rose should be put in the Hall of Fame, he called managers puppets and coaches baby-sitters because of analytics, he trashed MLB for considering the use of robo-umpires and he ridiculed today’s player for their lack of fundamentals and their refusal to beat the shift.

“They are giving you a free base (with the shift), and you’re not going to take it?” he said. “We shifted on Boog Powell one series and he bunted like five time straight for hits. We stopped shifting.”

And his take on the new Yankee Stadium is classic.

“I swear to God, on my dad’s grave, I couldn’t care less if I ever see Yankee Stadium again,” he said. “They were playing in the greatest cathedral of them all and they tore it down. It was a shrine. It ain’t the same field. It ain’t where the boys played.

“I used to walk into that stadium and the hair on my neck would stand up. You could feel the spirits in there. Now it’s just a place for all of those corporate mother ———————.”

—Everybody knows Kevin Costner loves baseball, hence his stardom in the movies ‘Field of Dreams,’ ‘Bull Durham and ‘For the Love of the Game.’

He also portrayed baseball characters in some movies that few people saw, including me. Those would include ‘The Upside of Anger,’ ‘Dead Pull,’ ‘Shagging Flies’ and (honest, this is a movie) ‘Bull Tijuana.’

There is no baseball theme in Costner’s current hit TV series ‘Yellowstone.’ Maybe somewhere down the road, they’ll build a baseball stadium on his vast ranch instead of a casino.

—Hey, Aaron Rodgers. Will you please scoot on out to your garage and rummage through a drawer to find a roll of green duct tape. Snip off a strip and place it firmly over your mouth. We’ve heard enough of the drama queen stuff.

And while you’re at it, rip off two extra large strips for Phil Mickelson and LeBron James.

—Some people are calling Iona as the possible Cinderella team come NCAA tournament time.

If that’s so, I wonder if coach Rick Pitino’s glass slippers will have a Nike or Adidas logo on them. It was Pitino who left Louiville in a cesspool it is still wallowing in after Pitino and the school were subjected to an FBI probe involving corruption in college basketball.

Pitino has the Gaels at 22-5 and the Cinderella label comes from a win way back in November, Iona’s 72-68 win over then No. 10 Alabama. It was the first-ever win by a Metro Atlantic (MAAC) school over an AP Top Ten team after 119 straight losses.

OK. . .but. That win over Alabama came in the ESPN Events Invitational, the tournament won by Dayton. After beating Alabama, Iona lost to
Belmont and Kansas, two teams the Flyers beat. The Gaels also lost to Saint Louis, a team UD beat (and lost) in two games.

In my mostly unread book, that glass slipper better fits the feet of UD coach Anthony Grant.

—It is probably fortunate the University of Dayton played Kansas on a neutral site in Orlando, Fla. for its stupefying upset this season.

If it had been in Phog Allen Fieldhouse. . .well, the Chalk Talk Jayhawks lose in that basketball cathedral about as often as the appearaces of 17-year cicadas.

Ask Oklahoma. The Sooners haven’t won there in 29 years, and they play there every season. Kansas State has lost 15 straight, no wins since 2005, including this week’s 102-83 emasculation. Kansas once won 63 straight in Allen Fieldhouse

Why is it well nigh impossible to win there? Listen to former Kansas State player Justin Edwards.

“It’s difficult to play at KU because the fans are crazy, the music is extremely loud, and the arena is so compact and close together it feel like the fans are on the court with us. At the beginning of games, it is insane because the floor is literally shaking.”

There is an outlier. Kentucky walloped the Jayhawks in Allen this year, 80-62. That one was as rare as my Uncle Pug picking up a check (once in a lifetime.)

For any real basketball fan, your hoop life is not complete without witnessing a game in Allen Fieldhouse.

—QUOTE: From Phog Allen, one of basketball’s first coaching icons when he heard that the game’s inventor, Dr. James Naismith, said that basketball can’t be coached: “Well, you can certainly teach free-throwing. And you can teach the boys to pass at angles and run in curves.” (Words that ring true to this day, although some players approach free throw shooting like the death penalty.)

—If you’d like to get gas for $1.50, make your purchase at Taco Bell.

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