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Thinking out loud: What does Dan Hurley’s extension at URI mean? 05.19.17 at 1:08 pm ET
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Rooke_JohnThinking out loud…while wondering whatever happened to “Never Nervous” Pervis Ellison?

— Dan Hurley’s contract extension was made official at URI this week, with a deal in place that can keep the coach around through the 2023-24 season. It’s a smart, necessary PR move for Rhody in an always-changing world, and his second extension in two years. Does this “lock him in” now, Rams fans? No, it doesn’t. But that’s the reality of big-business college basketball these days.

— The same is true for PC’s Ed Cooley. Coaches can say and DO all the right things, but in a business as volatile as coaching – and it very much IS a business – it’s better to “never say never.” You’ll be right more often.

— Providence’s home games in the 2K Classic have been scheduled, and include playing Houston Baptist University on November 10th – which would serve as PC’s season-opener – and Belmont on Nov. 22nd, which would come AFTER playing at Madison Square Garden on the 16th and 17th.

— But since Rhode Island Comic Con is scheduled for the Dunkin Donuts Center on Nov. 10-12, the Friars may be forced to play the Houston Baptist home game at Alumni Hall. The season opener on campus? That would certainly increase interest in a game with HB-who, wouldn’t it? But what season-ticket holders would be left out? Glad that call is above my pay-grade.

— Bryant’s basketball program has been hammered with two significant losses recently, largely unexpected. North Providence’s Marcel Pettway is leaving the program after playing his way into prominence within the NEC the past two seasons. Last year’s leading scorer Nisre Zouzoua also left the Bulldogs’ team and transferred to Nevada.

— It might not be time to panic, but when two of your better players decide it’s in their best interest to play elsewhere? It might be time for a little program introspection, at the very least. 6-6 forward Malik Smith will transfer into Bryant, coming from North Carolina-Asheville.

— URI picked up a commitment from Brooklyn native, junior college forward Ryan Preston out of Trinity Valley (Texas), and the 6-7 junior will have two years of eligibility. Smart move on his part, as the Rams will have one of the deepest and perhaps one of the most talented backcourts around next year. He should see a lot of playing time – somebody in Kingston needs to rebound.

— I’ve surmised for two years that Seton Hall’s Angel Delgado has, at the very least, one super skill that makes him pro-worthy – his ability to rebound. The same was said of former PC all-Big East forward Michael Smith two decades ago, and his career in the NBA spanned eight seasons.

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Thinking Out Loud: Trying to figure out these Red Sox 05.13.17 at 9:39 am ET
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Rooke_JohnThinking out loud while wondering whatever happened to Harvey’s Wallbangers?

– It seemed strange for the Red Sox to have been back in Milwaukee this week, for the first time in 13 years. Yes, the Brewers used to be an American League team, once-upon-a-time. Sure seems as if they still hit like one, based on the pitching performances I watched this week.

– Perhaps Craig Kimbrel, if he really has this “pitching in Boston thing” figured out, could show the rest of the bullpen how it’s supposed to work? Throw hard, get strikes, get outs. It’s a simple game, really.

– Funny that John Farrell was a pitching coach, but no one can seem to keep Red Sox starters from poor starts – they lead the league in runs allowed in the first inning.

– Starting pitching – once thought to be a strong suit for this team – has a 4.32 ERA at midweek, which is 13th out of 15 AL teams. Defense? 29th out of 30 big league teams – only Oakland is worse. And if David Price’s return (along with that of Pablo Sandoval) is your answer for improvement, football season can’t get here fast enough.

– If you’re keeping score, Brewers 1, Red Sox 0 in the “who won the Tyler Thornburg-for-Travis Shaw trade.” And they’re about to put up a crooked number in the next inning.

– Weather permitting, Price makes his first rehab start this weekend in Pawtucket, Sunday afternoon. If it goes well, the band wagon fills up again. If it doesn’t, Farrell might want to start getting his resume in order, and brush up on his job search skills.

– Don’t look now, but those are the Yankees in first place in the American League East. Since when have the Yankees ever snuck up on any alleged front-runners?

– It does appear, however, they may be sneaking up on their own fans. A mere 25,566 showed up for a May 1 home game, a 7-1 loss to Toronto. The attendance set a new, record low at the “new” Yankee Stadium.

– He may still be the Yankees’ “daddy,” but I loved this line from Pedro Martinez on the Orioles’ Manny Machado taking out Dustin Pedroia at second base a couple of weeks ago: “I would have hit him square in the ribs. And if I didn’t, I would try another one.″ In my best Bob Lobel – why can’t we get players like that?

– Erstwhile Red Sox chicken-and-beer connoisseur Josh Beckett is now a broadcaster. Yup, you heard me right. Beckett, who seemed to hate every microphone he ever saw while in Boston, works a 20-game package for the Houston Astros on Root Sports Houston. And I thought turkeys couldn’t fly.

– Loved this line from Beckett recently in the Houston Chronicle, about what he’ll try to accomplish as an analyst – “I’ll try to bring some humility to the game.” Uh, wut? Why is it that athletes always seem to become smarter after they retire? Stupid is as stupid does.

– I was saddened to see the news of longtime Red Sox scout Sam Mele passing away recently. Mele was 95, and had an unbelievable career as a player, coach, manager and talent scout. He was the Minnesota Twins’ first-ever manager in 1961 when the team moved from Washington, and later joined the Red Sox organization where he stayed on for almost another 30 years before finally retiring.

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Thinking out loud: Looking back at events of past week at Fenway Park 05.06.17 at 7:11 am ET
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Rooke_John— Damn Tom Yawkey. Honestly. His legacy, and that he left on the city of Boston and the Red Sox for being the last team to integrate in the major leagues (in 1959) continues to haunt even right-minded fans to this very day.

— What happened at Fenway Park this week with Baltimore’s Adam Jones and a select few fans choosing to hurl objects and/or racial epithets – and I hesitate to call them fans, because they’ve gone well beyond being “fanatical” – shouldn’t happen today. But it does, and the sad part is, it happens in many places. It happens in many other stadiums, ballparks, cities and towns. I’ve seen it, lived it, covered it, reported it.

— Boston gets more than its fair share of the blame here, because of the legacy Yawkey left behind, and the reputation of racism that travels with that legacy. It hurts all of us, even if some of us (most of us?) aren’t racists.

— The Red Sox responded correctly, but when you think about it, how else could they have reacted? Anything less than utter outrage would have been met with the same standard of prejudice that has been applied to Boston for decades. And even outrage was met this week around the country with “same ol’ racist Boston.” That should upset every one of you who know you don’t have a racist bone in your bodies.

— The only way something positive comes out of this latest episode is for the Red Sox to mean what they say. Kick people out of the park for such behavior. No tolerance. Rat on your neighbor in the stands if you must, if only to protect your own pride and reputation, and to know you did the right thing.

— I tend to believe the answer to most puzzling questions lies in the middle of two extremes, as in this case. I think back to well-known athletes of color and race in this area who for years never had an apparent problem with their nationality or skin color. But I’m no fool. I know some had problems with race relations. Do they still? But as in many cases from the past – and into the future – if you’re not a part of the solution, you’re merely part of the problem to begin with.

— Many fans stood and gave Jones an ovation Tuesday night at Fenway in response to the incident he reported, but there were more than just a few boos also mixed into the reaction. One thing we can’t do – is turn into the judgment police on someone’s beliefs before we let anyone into the park. Stupid is as stupid does, and the stupid have a right to their stupidity.

— I’ve come to the rather sad, inevitable conclusion – we’ve all lost our collective minds. It’s ok for people of color to use the “N” word, but white people can’t go there – because white people forced the use of the “N” word on blacks in the first place. So that makes the word ok to use in the first place, if you’re black? ESPN’s Michael Wilbon said as much this week. Yeah, that’ll fix things right up, Mike. Read above.

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Thinking out loud: Providence likes hockey more than Boston 04.28.17 at 3:50 pm ET
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Rooke_JohnThinking out loud…while wondering where to go for my May breakfast.

— When does Providence outpoll or outpace Boston in anything, perhaps except for quahogs or college basketball? Would you believe – they win in hockey?

— At least, if NBC’s numbers are accurate for the opening round of the Stanley Cup playoffs – Providence had a higher rating than Boston when it came to TV audience. Of the Top 10 rated markets around the country, Providence was 5th in audience share, Boston finished 8th. Buffalo was #1, and when is Buffalo #1 in ANYTHING?

— Maybe for Buffalo wings, perhaps. Give ‘em that.

— I would allow Bruins’ fans in Rhode Island were every bit as interested in the fate of the B’s, primarily due to several younger, familiar players getting ice time – led by former Providence coach Bruce Cassidy.

— Who became the full-time Boston coach this week, officially. It’s the right move to make, if the organization has decided to build from within. Which apparently, Don Sweeney and Cam Neely have decided to do.

— Meanwhile, down on the farm where the building began, the P-Bruins stare elimination in the face Friday night in Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania. Like father, like son – it could be a first-round setback.

— Anyone else feel like if the Celtics have dodged a first-round bullet here, it’s largely because of two things – one, no one can guard Isaiah Thomas; two, Rajon Rondo has missed four straight games?

— Thomas palms the ball? Not by the current NBA rule book he doesn’t. If he did, the refs would call it, wouldn’t they? It doesn’t matter whether you, or I, or Fred Hoiberg of the Bulls thinks he does. What matters is being consistent with the interpretation of the rule, and the refs aren’t calling it. Move on, nothing to see here.

— Rondo’s renaissance in this round, at least in the first two games, frustrates me even more over his departure from the Celtics in the first place.

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Thinking out loud: Celtics need to start playing defense 04.21.17 at 5:56 pm ET
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Rooke_JohnThinking out loud…while wondering whatever happened to home court/ice advantage?

— Defense, anyone?

— The Celtics’ lack of defensive effort was never this obvious during the regular season. But then again, this Celtics’ team relied pretty much on the play of one person (hello, Isaiah Thomas) to get them to 50 wins.

— When you have the equivalent of 82 one-game seasons, you can get away with masking your shortcomings. In a seven game (or less) series, there is no running, no hiding from your opponent, or their ability to match up and beat you up.

— Are the Celtics a top seeded team? Not on your life. They just happened to end up with the best overall record in the East. Cleveland showed us all a week or so ago who the best team is in the conference. The equivalent of basketball fools’ gold.

— The NBA Eastern Conference regular season is a complete sham, really. How else do you explain the ease with which 8th seeded Chicago whacks #1 Boston – especially on the backboards? The C’s are the first top seed to lose the first two games of a series to the bottom seed since the first-round expanded to seven games.

— Rondo’s revenge? Pretty much. I can see why he’d be ultra-motivated. And now he’s got a broken thumb? Maybe he’s getting out at the right time.

— I realize Brad Stevens isn’t much of a screamer, a non-emotional type. But maybe the guy is 2-10 in the post-season (going into Friday) for a reason? Maybe laying into someone every so often would send a different message? ‘Cuz I can think of a couple of guys who could use a good attitude adjustment right about now.

— It’s a nice achievement for this Boston team to win 50 games in the regular season, sure. The team is still a work-in-progress, and the immediate future is all positive. But now? They’re frauds. It’s better to win in the playoffs, or have we forgotten about that part?

— I’ve long thought the NBA game has steadily digressed over the past 30 years. It has. And the Celtics are a perfect example of what a lack of fundamentals will do to you. No defense, no rebounding, no answers. Chuck it up, and hope for the best.

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Thinking out loud: Division I college recruiting game is crap-shoot 04.14.17 at 6:00 pm ET
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Rooke_JohnThinking out loud…while wondering whatever happened to my favorite Centerfold?

— The Division I college recruiting game is such a crap-shoot. Sure, coaches scout and recognize talent, then try to convince a 17 or 18-year-old kid that his (or her) school is the place they should spend their formative years. And if the kid doesn’t end up meeting the coaches’ expectations?

— Nothing, really. The kid gets a free ride to school, and if the coach misses on more than they correctly guess upon, the coach is often looking for another job. 30, 40 and 50+ year old adults constantly, year after year, put their fate squarely on the shoulders of 18-year-old kids who have a hard-enough time deciding between burgers at In-N-Out and Shake Shack.

— What does this say about coaches? And for the record, I’ll take In-N-Out, animal style. But Shake Shack is coming on strong.

— At any rate, Providence received a verbal commitment from a pretty good basketball recruit this week, 6-2 point guard Makai Ashton-Langford. The “experts” say he’s one of the best in the country at his position, and that he could be the best player to pick PC since Kris Dunn (and Ricky Ledo) chose the Friars in 2012.

— Sounds great, amiright? If, of course, he lives up to the heavy burden of expectation which is presently being placed upon his shoulders. Fair or not, that’s what happens when kids hyped-up by these so-called adult experts eventually land on a campus. Not everyone winds up living happily ever after.

— But Friar fans could also end up being very happy that Ashton-Langford landed on THEIR campus, after once telling UConn he was first headed to Storrs. Time will tell, of course.

— What’s the trickle-down effect? More (and better) recruits coming your way is what a program hopes for. But unless you’ve been one of the true blue-bloods of the college game, where your brand and logo mean as much as your talent level, it’s difficult to maintain a competitive advantage when everyone has playing time to sell to elite athletes.

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Thinking out loud: Already some issues with Red Sox 04.07.17 at 2:40 pm ET
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Rooke_JohnThinking out loud…while wondering why I have to wait to be happy?

— Happy New Year! It’s Red Sox opening week, and we already have issues to address with this team. Would we want it any other way? And don’t you just love the smell of fresh cut grass and antiseptic rub in the morning?

— Chris Sale is the real deal, if his first start is any indication. We anticipated as much. But are defined roles important for the guys behind the starters in the bullpen? Why do they need to be? If a pitcher has the hot hand and has been throwing BB’s, why can’t he be plugged in where needed?

— For instance, Joe Kelly has been impressive with his pitch command and velocity, but does anyone really believe he’ll keep it up? Not a knock on Kelly, really. Just a realistic viewpoint, based on case history. His role – his job – is likely to shift as the season progresses.

— This whole idea of “roles” is overrated. Know your role? Nah. This team’s role is to produce, and to win. That’s the role everyone should get behind.

— Where did Sandy Leon come from? I mean, I know where he came from (Washington), but he wasn’t supposed to be the #1 catcher, was he? He won’t hit .625 (like he was hitting mid-week) all season, but if he can hit half of that, there’s no reason to bump him from his spot.

— Dave Dombrowski has said it before, and it bears repeating – “you win with stars.” It’s true. But it’s the role players surrounding those stars that make (or break) a championship effort. It also can’t be one or two stars and 23 bums, either.

— Keep this in mind as spring turns into summer, and as the Red Sox figure out what else they may need to get where everyone seems to think they’re already going – and that’s to the post-season. Picking up pieces to solve a season-long puzzle must make sense, as well as cents.

— Sure, so Georgetown hires Patrick Ewing to be their new head basketball coach, as expected. But did you know that Dad cost his son a job? Patrick Junior was an assistant on John Thompson III’s staff, and while Patrick Senior wanted to bring him back, he can’t. Georgetown has a nepotism rule they apparently won’t waive. Gee, thanks Dad.

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Thinking out Loud: Don’t expect Ed Cooley to leave Providence 03.31.17 at 3:01 pm ET
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Rooke_JohnThinking out loud…while wondering what kind of fools are April Fools?

— Kevin McNamara wrote about it in the Providence Journal this week – Ed Cooley’s name being thrown around like a rag doll in a play pen amongst college basketball program openings. Two words – “ain’t happening.”

— And two more. Just sayin’.

— Here’s one of the reasons why, unbeknownst to fretting Friar fans or the URI trolls who have tried to call me out on Twitter for being “biased.” Ha. Like they’re not? There’s been a long-held, unwritten rule in the Big East since the early days of the league under Dave Gavitt – coaches don’t jump ship within the conference.

— I had this conversation with Dave years ago – one of the basic tenets of the conference had to be loyalty to your school, sure. But also, loyalty to the league was important during its initial growth period.

— Gavitt wouldn’t allow coaches to entertain the thought of moving to a neighbor or a rival school, feeling a change like that could stir up too much emotion, bad blood, back-fighting and ill will. Rick Barnes had a possible chance, years ago, to pull a switch like this. Gavitt blocked it.

— Yes, I realize Gavitt isn’t around any longer to police these things. But the result of his wisdom and foresight is still in play today. It’s why you see (and feel) some of the comradery that still exists today among Big East membership – outside of the rock ‘em, sock ‘em conference games of course.

— Those are still wars, as hard-fought as any basketball seen over the past 35 years. But the programs pull for and support each other outside of league play as well as any conference possibly can. It’s one of the secret ingredients in Big East success through the years – collegiality.

— That’s a long, lost art in intercollegiate athletics. Conferences today are merely over-stuffed, media-driven conglomerates. True collegiality has long since disappeared. College athletics should try it again. Dave Gavitt proved it could actually work.

— Oh, and another reason why Ed Cooley wouldn’t appear on Georgetown’s front door step – loyalty. Not just loyalty to his family in Providence, or to his employers at PC, but also to his friends in the business. He’s fiercely loyal to his friends in the business. He considers ousted coach John Thompson III a friend; therefore, he simply wouldn’t step into a job vacated by a friend.

— And for those cynics already thinking “sure he would, if the money were too good to pass up?” You don’t know Ed Cooley. Now, he did tell the Journal this week that you never say “never,” citing family as one overriding issue, but Cooley-to-Georgetown is about as close to “never” as I am to winning the lottery, buying an island and disappearing from public view.

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Thinking out Loud: College basketball offseason can be tough time for some 03.24.17 at 7:35 pm ET
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Rooke_JohnThinking out loud…while wondering whatever happened to The Gong Show?

— The off-season for college basketball can be a tumultuous time. Player transfers. Coaching changes. It’s a good thing PC’s off-season begins with the celebration of accomplishment from the year just gone by – and Ed Cooley’s selection as the NABC District 5 Coach of the Year.

— What is this? It’s your peers (the National Association of Basketball Coaches) recognizing what you’ve done in your own backyard. And out of the six seasons Cooley has had the Friar program, reaction has been universal. It’s been his best work yet.

— Although, it isn’t (and hasn’t) been without some bumps on the road map. Sophomore Ryan Fazekas is leaving the team, aced out of playing time largely by transfer Isaiah Jackson and freshman Alpha Diallo. It is unfortunate, but Fazekas was never the same after his freshman year bout of mono took him from the team after his first month of play.

— This is also the reality of big time, high-major college sports. Those who produce, play. And even though Fazekas contributed in spots this season (most notably at Marquette) there simply wasn’t the consistency needed from his position. And his situation wasn’t going to improve.

— I recall visiting with Fazekas’ father last year at Butler as Ryan was prepared to return to the team from his illness. He told me Ryan loved Providence, loved the guys on the team, and was very anxious to make an impact. He should know his son’s attitude is what stood out, if not his ability to shoot the ball, and I wish him well.

— This means an open scholarship is now available for next season. It may very well go to a freshman-to-be scoring guard, but I’d be surprised if the Friars don’t seriously dig for a graduate transfer at the spot. Someone who can shoot, but also break down a defense and compliment Kyron Cartwright’s ability to penetrate is what next year’s team will need. Just sayin’.

— ICYMI, the Providence-USC First Four game in Dayton was the most-watched of the first round/First Four games on TV. More than 1.6 million viewers tuned in at some point. They missed a heck of a show on the radio, don’t ya’ know.

— Who else thought URI’s finish in the 2nd round against Oregon was eerily similar to what happened to PC against USC? Once the game started to slip from their grasp, you knew it would be hard to get it back.

— What’s next for Rhody? Finding a replacement for Hassan Martin’s inside game and toughness must be at the top of the list. E.C. Matthews is staying on for his 5th year. That’s as good, or better, than anything else.

— Did it dawn on you how much “fun” it was to have two schools dancing at the same time? That hadn’t happened in 20 years, and should happen a lot more often than that. I’ll wager that it will, and perhaps as soon again as next year.

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Thinking out Loud: Can’t get much better than March Madness 03.17.17 at 11:58 pm ET
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Rooke_JohnThinking out loud…while wondering what happened in that second half in Dayton?

— Madness, you say? I’m not sure there’s any other explanation for what gets witnessed at this time of year, seemingly every year. It’s four of the best sports days, consecutively, on the calendar every March. Heck, throw the First Four into the mix too, while you’re at it.

— We avoid getting any real work done. We all pretend like we’re experts in bracketology, even if we don’t know the difference between a Tiger and a Tar Heel. We exult in correct predictions and victories, and agonize over the misses and defeats. Yes, the public goes mad at this time of year. Friar fans might be madder.

— I’m not sure that’s entirely fair, however. Friar fans also know their team this season was full of relative inexperience and imperfection. They could be brilliant at times, like in the first half against USC in Dayton Wednesday night. And they could be maddeningly careless and unemotional, like in the second half against USC in Dayton Wednesday night.

— So, yes. Wednesday night was a microcosm of the entire season for Providence. Potential and failure right there for everyone to see in all its raw, emotional splendor – including a national television audience. Painful? Absolutely. Promising? Equally so. Just sayin’.

— I’ll step out on a limb right now – PC has the chance to be special next season, with everyone returning for Ed Cooley, save for walk on senior Casey Woodring. And with the addition of two freshmen big men (6-11 Dajour Dickens, 6-8 Nate Watson), the Friars have a chance to return the inside punishment that USC put on their rear ends in that second half in Dayton.

— How special? How about Sweet 16 special? How about Big East regular season title special? For anyone feeling this could be a reach, why dream if you can’t dream big? Of course, this also puts pressure on a team that didn’t handle it very well at times this year.

— Time to get better. Time to address team needs, and they are – in no particular order: Strength. Toughness. More Shooting. Rebounding. Taking better care of the ball. Free Throws. Mindset. Attitude.

— There are few particulars from Wednesday night’s First Four Flop worth holding onto, except for one – the feeling the team left the floor with to go into the locker room. If there is any heart, any soul, any competitiveness in those players, they’ll let that feeling drive them through the summer right into next fall. And they’ll be ready.

— Four straight NCAA appearances is big to build on. It’s never happened before in the storied, 90-year history of Providence College basketball. PC is also now one of 17 schools in the country that has reached four or more consecutive Dances.

— And with the hockey team anticipating an NCAA invitation of their own, Providence could be just the 4th school in history to send BOTH hoops and hockey to four straight tournaments in the same four years.

— Huzzah’s and kudos to the City of Dayton and their organizing committee. The First Four is complete class, first rate, and now a big part of March Madness overall. After doing it for 17 years, they’ve got a handle on running a successful event, and their fans turn out regardless of who’s playing.

— Not for nuthin’, but a note to the NCAA – the same could be had if you give some cities the chance to organize and host EVERY year. Like Providence and the Dunkin Donuts Center? C’mon Dan Gavitt, you could make this happen, amiright?

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