Bob Whitsitt's reign of terror in Paul Allen's pro sports empire ended last week. Those of us who dealt with the Blazers' former president and general manager could almost feel a little sympathy for him, but not quite.
'Shocking' isn't strong enough to describe the decision by Allen, who has blindly allowed Whitsitt to wreak havoc on his sports franchises for a decade, to fire Whitsitt as the Seattle Seahawk president of football operations.
Finally, Allen came to his senses, opting to let Whitsitt go after eight seasons in which his arrogance and abrasive style alienated just about every high-ranking employee in the Seahawks' football operations department.
It was a similar scene 18 months earlier in Portland, where Whitsitt was allowed to resign. In nine seasons under his watch, acquisitions such as J.R. Rider, Rasheed Wallace and Bonzi Wells helped turned an organization beloved in the community into a local afterthought and a national laughingstock.
The Blazers' image hasn't recovered; neither has Whitsitt's. And he was nearly as unpopular in Seattle as in Portland. Dennis Erickson will always believe that without Whitsitt's interference in personnel issues he would have gotten it done as coach of the Seahawks. Current coach Mike Holmgren grew increasingly disenchanted with Whitsitt, who was quoted as saying last week about his relationship with the coach, 'he has always been my guy.'
Nothing could be further from the truth, of course. As Holmgren told The Seattle Times, 'I was told some things when I got here, and that hasn't been the way it was. I view myself as an honest person, and there has just been too much dishonesty Ñ just out and out lying. That's absurd, and I just don't get it.'
Somehow, Whitsitt always survived atop the food chain in Allen's world, until now. And let's be honest Ñ Allen has always held final authority with his teams.
Whitsitt may yet resurface in the NBA. Unconfirmed rumors have it that he helped put together an ownership group led by Microsoft Chief Executive Officer Steve Ballmer that recently inquired about purchasing the Seattle SuperSonics. Alas, the surging Sonics aren't for sale. For now, Trader Bob has run out of cat lives.
• Damon Stoudamire's 54-point outburst in the Blazers' loss at New Orleans was a franchise record, but it also was significant in another way. Only two other players shorter than 6 feet tall have scored as many points in an NBA game as Stoudamire, who is listed at 5-10 but is really closer to 5-9.
Houston's Calvin Murphy (5-9) scored 57 in 1978 and Denver's Michael Adams (5-11) scored 54 in 1991.
Only 43 players have scored 54 or more points in a game in NBA history. The complete list: Wilt Chamberlain, Michael Jordan, Glen Rice, Elgin Baylor, Allen Iverson, Pete Maravich, Karl Malone, Adrian Dantley, David Robinson, George Gervin, Jack Twyman, Oscar Robertson, Nate Archibald, Tom Chambers, Jermaine O'Neal, Tracy McGrady, Fred Brown, Dominique Wilkins, Bob Pettitt, Lou Hudson, Larry Bird, Kevin McHale, Bernard King, Richie Guerin, Chet Walker, David Thompson, Alex English, Jerry Stackhouse, Kelly Tripucka, Dave Bing, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Rick Barry, Joe Fulks, Purvis Short, Elvin Hayes, Reggie Miller, Jerry West, Shaquille O'Neal, George Mikan, Kobe Bryant, Murphy, Adams and Stoudamire.
Stoudamire's resurgence over the last month is startling. Through his first 21 games this season, Mighty Mouse was mighty quiet, shooting .319 from the field, .272 from 3-point range and averaging 10.2 points. Coach Maurice Cheeks even removed him from the starting lineup.
But in the 15 games since then, he is .495 from the field and .492 on 3-pointers and averaging 17 points. Stoudamire, a career .408 shooter (.355 from 3-point range), has scored in double figures in 11 of the games despite averaging fewer than 24 minutes. Over the last four games, he is averaging 29.3 points.
The 10-year veteran says altering his pre-game warmup routine has been the biggest help.
'I have been a notoriously slow starter throughout my career,' he says. 'I wasn't going to shoot like that all year. The other part of it is, I was fatigued at the beginning of the season. I put in a lot of work during the summer, and in training camp and through the preseason, we didn't have a lot of guards, I was getting heavy work in practice, and I was tired.
'Right about the time Cheeks took me out of the starting lineup (on Dec. 17), I figured something out. I continued to work hard in practice, but before games, I cut back. Now, I go out and take 20 or 30 shots, get comfortable, shoot some rhythm free throws and save my legs for the game. That, along with going into a game with a more aggressive mentality, has made the difference for me.'
• James Allen's future with the New Orleans Saints appears bright, if his contribution to the team's 4-0 finish (after a 4-8 start) means anything.
The third-year linebacker from Jefferson High and Oregon State was one of the keys on an improved defense that nearly got the Saints into the playoffs for the first time since 2000 and probably saved coach Jim Haslett's job.
The 6-2, 245-pound Allen started the first five games and the last five games, registering a career-high 49 tackles, forcing two fumbles and recovering two fumbles.
'James is playing with power, and he is being disciplined,' Haslett told reporters. 'He is starting to understand the scheme and what we are trying to do. He has a good nose for the football. He is more instinctive than we thought. He has been a pleasant surprise.'
'It was an up-and-down season for me, but the last five or six games I played good,' says Allen, 25, who switched to strongside linebacker from the weak-side role he played his first two years in New Orleans. 'It was a learning experience playing a new position, but I'm comfortable there now. I finished on a high note, just like the team.'
• Another former Jeff standout, Chaz Moore, has signed a free-agent contract with the Kansas City Chiefs. Moore, 27, is a 6-2, 200-pound safety who played at Cal State-Northridge. He will be allocated to an NFL Europe team this spring.
nEx-Portland State quarterback Juston Wood will play for the Arena II League Central Valley Coyotes in Fresno, Calif. Wood played three games with the Coyotes last season after spending most of the year with the Arena League's L.A. Avengers.