Fox will always love Nevada

Sports fodder for a Friday morning . . . Mark Fox might be wearing Georgia red and black these days, thinking about buying a pet bulldog for his kids Olivia and Parker and sporting a huge "G" on his chest everywhere he goes in the land of plump peaches, Ty Cobb, Henry Aaron, Michael Vick and Bobby Cox, but he'll always have a soft spot in his heart for the University of Nevada. Don't believe it? Well, think again. Fox said Thursday in a phone interview that he will make sure to bring his Georgia Bulldogs to Lawlor Events Center sometime in the next few years to play the Wolf Pack. "I will bring my team to Nevada to play the Wolf Pack," Fox told me. "The community deserves that. It might not happen in the next couple years because of scheduling but it will definitely happen. I owe that to the (Northern Nevada) community." It's going to be an incredible night.


Will you boo Fox when he shows up at Lawlor? Think again. The minute he walks onto the court he should get a standing ovation that lasts longer than it takes to recite "The Law of the Jungle" a dozen times. The man won 123 games, four Western Athletic Conference titles and brought the Wolf Pack to three NCAA Tournaments in five years. He made sure the two best players in the history of Northern Nevada high school basketball (Luke Babbitt and Armon Johnson) stayed home and played for the Wolf Pack. He nursed a young and a physically overmatched team to 21 victories this year. He made sure the program somehow survived Kirk Snyder, Ramon Sessions and JaVale McGee leaving early to jump to the NBA. He represented this community and his basketball team with a fiery competitiveness and a will to win that should have made you proud to wear silver and blue. This is a guy who gave his heart and soul to the Wolf Pack when he could have made like Sessions, McGee and Snyder and bolted to greener pastures.

This is a guy who memorized all the words to "The Law of the Jungle" just so he could recite it with Pack fans while his stomach was churning minutes before tip-off at each home game? Boo him if you want to. It might be a better idea to treat him with the same class and style that he showed for nine years at Nevada.

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The good news is that the Trent Johnson-Fox-David Carter Era -- arguably the most successful era in any Wolf Pack sport at any time over an extended period of time -- is not over. Carter is a brilliant young coach. The players love him. The community will grow to love him. The Johnson-to-Fox-to-Carter pipeline is the reason why the men's basketball program has been able to succeed where the football program stumbled. Chris Ault is the football coach right now because he has yet to find a suitable replacement. Jeff Horton, Jeff Tisdel and Chris Tormey all failed to do in football what Fox did in basketball -- sustain the success and bring the program to the next level. There you go -- yet another reason to stand up and cheer for Fox and, if he ever has the guts to bring his team to Lawlor for a game, for Johnson.

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Do you think Karl Malone is kicking himself for playing that last ridiculous season (2003-04) with the Los Angeles Lakers? That last chance at a title -- the Lakers lost to the Detroit Pistons that year -- is the reason why Malone wasn't elected to the Basketball Hall of Fame along with his former Utah Jazz teammate John Stockton this week. The Hall of Fame, though, should have either made an exception for Malone (by waiving the last year of the mandatory five-year waiting period) or waiting until next year to name Stockton. Stockton and Malone should have gone to the Hall together. No question.

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Jay Cutler going to the Chicago Bears and Terrell Owens going to the Buffalo Bills is sort of like giving your 8-year-old the keys to the Corvette parked in the garage. It looks nice, he can brag to his friends, climb in the back seat and spill ice cream but, really, what's he going to do with it?

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Jeff Garcia is a definitely a nice addition to the Oakland Raiders. Maybe the Raiders are finally getting a clue after all on how to build a team. The Gilroy, Calif., native is indeed getting a bit old at age 39. The guys is just a year younger than ex-Pack coach Mark Fox. And can you believe it's going to be 16 seasons this November since Garcia and San Jose State battled Pack quarterback Chris Vargas in a memorable shootout at Mackay Stadium? Garcia, though, is the perfect backup quarterback, especially for a team with a young and inconsistent quarterback like JaMarcus Russell. Expect Garcia to start about half the Raiders games this season and save head coach Tom Cable's job for at least another year.

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North Carolina, by the way, on Monday night became the first NCAA Tournament basketball champion to play in Reno in the same season it won the national title. In case you were wondering, that has happened in baseball three times in the last 15 years -- Cal State Fullerton in 1995, Rice in 2003 and Fresno State last year. Hawaii, the 23rd-ranked team in the nation by Baseball America, is at Peccole Park to take on the Pack baseball team this weekend for four games. History could be in the making.

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Michael Vick will likely be released from prison this summer, giving NFL commissioner Roger Goodell an interesting decision to make. Will Goodell make Vick eligible to play in the 2009 season? Odds are Goodell, thanks to public opinion, will make Vick sit out another season. Goodell, though, should allow Vick to play right away. Nobody can argue that what Vick did was disgusting and cruel. My dog, by the way, is starting to snarl at me right now. But Vick will have served his punishment to society. His debt will have been paid. If he deserved further punishment, then society should have given it to him. Goodell should not be the judge of all things moral. He is a pro sports commissioner. Nothing more. And it must be noted that he has allowed many a criminal back into the league. Vick should be no different. Now, if I was running a NFL team, would I sign Vick? Absolutely not. My dog would attack me in my sleep.


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