Joe Santoro: It could be Eric the Great — somewhere else
Sports fodder for a Friday morning …
Will Eric Musselman coach the Nevada Wolf Pack men’s basketball team in the 2017-18 season? The California Golden Bears are looking for a new coach. Indiana, Illinois, North Carolina State, Louisiana State and Washington need a new coach, too. All of those programs would be perfect for Musselman to take his career to the next level. It’s not that he doesn’t like Nevada. Just ask him. He loves Nevada. But all of the above programs can pay him three times what he’s making at Nevada ($400,000 base salary) and allow him to compete for a national championship every year. Musselman also loves the national spotlight. He seemingly does one national television or radio interview a day. He would become a national figure coaching in the Pac 12, Big 10, SEC or ACC. Yes, he’s only been in Nevada two years. But he’s a hot commodity now.
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The jobs that appear to be the most intriguing for Musselman are Cal, LSU and Indiana. He interviewed at Cal in 2014 but Cuonzo Martin got the job. So the Bears know him and like him. And that was before Musselman had worked his miracles in Nevada. LSU is where Musselman left to come to Nevada. So the Tigers know him and like him, too. The only time LSU has made the NCAA tournament in the last seven years? Musselman was a LSU assistant (in 2015). Indiana is, well, it’s basketball heaven. Musselman’s father Bill competed in high school in Ohio against future Indiana coach Bob Knight. Bill Musselman and Knight, two of the most fiery, passionate and controversial coaches in college basketball history, were coaching rivals in the Big Ten and became great friends. For Bill Musselman’s son to return Indiana Hoosiers basketball to the greatness it once had under Knight, well, Hollywood couldn’t write a better story.
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Nobody in Nevada should hold any grudges against Musselman if he does leave soon. The man was born and bred to be a basketball coach at the highest level. He did a great job with the undermanned Sacramento Kings and Golden State Warriors teams in the NBA a decade or so ago but after that his career hit a wall. He then bounced around from one D-League team to one international team after another. He reinvented himself as a college coach in 2013 as an assistant with Arizona State and it has revitalized his career. At 52-years-old he’s now, once again, one of the hottest coaches in the nation. He proved he can recruit. He proved he could coach kids right out of high school. He proved he could sell a program to a community who was stuck in a basketball coma. He proved he could win. Every program with an opening right now would be silly not to give him a call.
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The Nevada Wolf Pack baseball team has sent 19 players to the major leagues. No. 20 might arrive shortly. Brock Stassi is making a serious bid to make the Philadelphia Phillies roster this spring after six seasons in the minor leagues. The 27-year-old Stassi hit five home runs and drove in 15 runs on a .382 average through Wednesday’s spring training games. A 33rd-round pick of the Phillies in 2011, Stassi was one of the greatest two-way players in Pack history.
He was 19-13 in his pitching career and was the Western Athletic Conference’s Pitcher of the Year in 2010.
He also hit .340 with 15 homers and 94 RBI as a designated hitter/first baseman. A lack of power for a first baseman has kept him in the minor leagues (his most homers in a season is 15 two years ago in Double-A) and he hit just two his senior year at Nevada.
But that hasn’t been a problem this spring so far. Stassi would be the 19th player to get to the big leagues who was coached by Gary Powers at Nevada.
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The Oakland Raiders need a running back. Latavius Murray is headed to the Minnesota Vikings, leaving the Raiders with a pair of 5-foot-8 change of pace backs in Jalen Richard and DeAndre Washington. You can’t get to the Super Bowl with Jalen Richard and DeAndre Washington. The good news is the Raiders have plenty of options. They could sign free agents Adrian Peterson, LeGarrette Blount or Jamaal Charles. Charles has a bad knee. Peterson might be washed up. Blount, who just won a Super Bowl with the New England Patriots, would be the best choice from that group. LSU’s Leonard Fournette, Florida State’s Dalvin Cook and Stanford’s Christian McCaffrey are possibilities in the draft. Just get one, baby.
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The San Francisco 49ers are, well, different than they were just a few weeks ago. We’ll find out in the fall whether they’re better or not. The 49ers let quarterback Colin Kaepernick leave town and they have replaced him with Brian Hoyer and Matt Barkley, a couple of castoffs from the 3-13 Chicago Bears. Hoyer and Barkley threw for 3,056 yards and 14 touchdowns last year in 416 attempts combined. Kaepernick passed for 2,241 yards and 16 scores in 331 attempts. So the 49ers are just playing musical chairs with mediocre quarterbacks now. This was an organization who once went from Hall of Famer (Joe Montana) to Hall of Famer (Steve Young). Hoyer and Barkley, though, are just stopgaps. The 49ers could pick their future quarterback with the No. 2 pick in late April.
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I don’t want to see Conor McGregor step into a boxing ring with Floyd Mayweather. It would be like an aging Roger Clemens pitching to Wayne Gretzky or Charles Barkley posting up against Tom Brady. The days of great athletes tarnishing their reputations and their sports for a paycheck should be over. Joe Louis had to wrestle because he needed the money. Mayweather and McGregor don’t need money. But the money Mayweather and McGregor are talking about — roughly $100 million — is obscene. It’s just too good to pass up. So this is where were at right now. Boxing is almost a dead sport. Mixed martial arts, though it has a large following, has sort of a freeway accident appeal to it. Maybe they can toss a grizzly bear into the ring with McGregor and Mayweather and up the purse to $200 million.