Lobos McKay looks for brighter days
- Jason Vondersmith
- Portland Tribune - Sports
To say Ritchie McKay's stay at New Mexico has been tumultuous would be like saying the Trail Blazers have some issues.
McKay, who left Oregon State to be the Lobos' coach in spring 2002, has endured his share of adversity. In fact, most of the last two years have been troublesome for the coach, starting with the departures of Jimmie Haywood and Brian Jackson from the Beavers in 2002. Both would return, Jackson soon afterward, to play their final years under current coach Jay John.
Soon after the Beavers' 2001-02 season, New Mexico wooed -McKay and hired him. A short time later, a key Lobos' player, Patrick Dennehy, stormed out of a workout, and McKay kicked him off the team.
Dennehy transferred to Baylor and played, and an ex-teammate and friend at the university allegedly shot and killed him.
In the second game of last season, Senque Carey suffered a career-ending spinal cord injury. He lay paralyzed for two weeks and has spent the last year learning to walk again.
Bradley coaches accused New Mexico, and McKay assistant Duane Broussard, of breaking NCAA tampering rules in the transfer of standout forward Danny Granger. Broussard, a Bradley assistant for 13 years, admitted to the violation, and the Lobos were given minor punishment.
Granger made his debut Sunday, along with former Portland State guard Troy DeVries, who left the Vikings last season, miffed at the coaching techniques of Heath Schroyer.
Last season, the Lobos suffered their worst record in 23 years, -10-18, and did not win a road game. Home attendance dipped as fans continued to be disenchanted after years of turmoil and internal struggles under Fran Fraschilla, who was forced to resign despite three winning seasons.
Then, in late August, the most tragic event happened. Billy Feeney, another ex-PSU player, hanged himself in a public area in downtown Albuquerque. His father, Jim, told The Albuquerque Tribune that Feeney had been upset about a breakup with his girlfriend.
The team honored Feeney on Sunday before its win over Coppin State, and players have been wearing a black patch with No. 3 over their heart.
Last week, sophomore forward Mark Walters, battling personal issues, apparently overdosed on medication, his family says.
On the upside, with Granger and DeVries, a great 3-point shooter, the Lobos have added talent. The team has only two seniors, Ryan Ashcraft and Javin Tindall, and started the year 4-3.
But the Lobos are still building, says McKay, a strong Christian who seemingly has made an impression by emphasizing character and family.
'We're not going to deviate from our plan. I hope fans will be patient,' he says. 'I'm going to stick to the process we've laid out. No one wants it to turn more than I.'
When Portland State played Cal State-Northridge on Monday, a familiar face sat on the other bench. It was Joel Sobotka, a Northridge assistant, the PSU coach before Heath Schroyer. É Southern Vermont coach Ryan Marks says Jack Wolfinger, the well-traveled, 6-11 player from Portland, has been declared eligible and will play his first game for the NCAA Division III team Jan. 6. É No. 6 Kansas lost 75-61 to Nevada, the same team the Portland Pilots thrashed at the Chiles Center. Either Kansas is vulnerable, or Portland can be really good. 'We got what we deserved,' KU coach Bill Self told reporters. 'They were bigger, stronger, more athletic and more skilled. They played like a hungry team. We played like a team content and not competitive.' Aaron Miles had 11 points for Kansas; teammate Michael Lee will be sidelined for another couple weeks because of a broken collarbone. É Self, on Miles: 'He's got to be in attack mode all the time. If he's not in attack mode, then we lose a lot.'