Coach must control damage

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Sports fodder for a Friday morning . . .

David Carter has some serious damage control to worry about this spring and summer. The struggling Nevada Wolf Pack men’s basketball coach limped through his third losing season in the last four last winter then was sucker-punched after the year when his best returning player (Cole Huff) left the program. Carter and the Pack then made an ugly situation even uglier when they told Huff that he basically couldn’t transfer to any school west of Fernley. Huff, who will join Creighton for the 2015-16 season, has since been quoted saying that Carter and the Pack didn’t use him correctly, that he was more than just a pick-and-pop shooter. Meanwhile, the Wolf Pack has to figure out a way to convince an already apathetic community to support a team that will live and die with Michael Perez, Marqueze Coleman, D.J. Fenner and A.J. West.

. . .

Huff apparently couldn’t wait to get away from the Wolf Pack. How badly did he want to leave the Pack? Well, this is a Southern California kid who would rather be just another good player in Nebraska than be the star for the Wolf Pack. Huff admitted that he didn’t even know Creighton was in Omaha, that the only time he had ever heard of Omaha was when Peyton Manning was barking out signals.

Huff, who is a soft-spoken, thoughtful and intelligent young man, also has been quoted as saying that Carter and the Pack didn’t use him correctly, that he was more than just a pick-and-pop shooter and that he wanted to come off screens and reads. The 2014-15 season will be very interesting in Nevada. Then again, it just might be an ugly situation getting uglier.

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The Wolf Pack is about to announce its 2014 Doc Martie Award winner, given out to the top senior male athlete of the year. The top candidates should be football players Joel Bitonio and Brandon Wimberly and basketball player Deonte Burton.

All three would be excellent choices. The pick here would be Burton. The point guard was the best player on his team for four years and he exhausted himself trying to put a struggling program (and head coach) on his back.

He is arguably the most exciting athlete at Nevada this side of Colin Kaepernick. Burton excelled on the court and always handled himself with class off it. And, oh yeah, he didn’t abandon Carter and the Pack.

. . .

Burton is one of the top 40 players available in this year’s NBA draft. He is also one of the top six or seven point guards. There is absolutely no reason why he should be picked in the two-round draft.

Burton, who is training in Santa Barbara, Calif., said at the Chicago pre-draft camp that the Brooklyn Nets, Portland Trail Blazers, Washington Wizards and Indiana Pacers interviewed him.

Burton, who always looked like (the beard) and played like a little LeBron James, would also look awfully good backing up Irving in Cleveland.

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Don’t be surprised when Bitonio is in the Cleveland Browns’ starting lineup for his first NFL game this fall.

The former Pack offensive tackle appears on his way to a long NFL career. Bitonio, one of the most athletic offensive linemen in the draft, is working out at guard this spring and his locker is right next to quarterback Johnny Manziel. Of course, when the media talks to him, they ask him what it’s like to be so close to Manziel.

Bitonio just smiles and says he just wants to protect whichever quarterback is behind center, whether its Manziel, Brian Hoyer or Otto Graham. He said the same thing last year when the Pack had a revolving door at quarterback with Cody Fajardo, Tyler Stewart and Devin Combs. It won’t be long before the media starts asking Manziel what its like to be so close to Bitonio.

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Don’t look now but the Oakland A’s are the best team in baseball. The A’s win without any stars and they almost win without getting any hits. They beat the Tampa Bay Rays with just one hit on Wednesday. They have the best record in baseball (30-16 going into Thursday) and have yet to learn how to win consistently at home, where they are just 12-10.

Two of their best starting pitchers (A.J. Griffin and Jarrod Parker) have been hurt all year and another one (Dan Straily) is in the minors. And their closer (Jim Johnson) going into the season has been horrible. Forget Money Ball. The A’s are doing it with Mirror Ball this year. The A’s are an example of why baseball is and always will be the best sport. You can’t even compete in the NFL, NBA or even NHL without stars and an over-the-top payroll.

. . .

What are the Cleveland Cavaliers going to do with the top pick in the NBA draft? Well, last year they wasted it by taking UNLV’s Anthony Bennett.

This year, though, they really can’t go wrong as long as they pick Kansas’ Andrew Wiggins or Joel Embiid or Duke’s Jabari Parker. The Cavs could be on the verge of knocking even Johnny Manziel off the front pages of the Ohio sports pages. Imagine a team of Kyrie Irving,

Dion Waiters, Bennett (there’s still hope he won’t be a bust) and either Wiggins, Parker or Embiid. That nucleus might be enough to lure back a former Cavalier who is currently in Miami hoping to win his third consecutive NBA title.


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