Want better games? Change prep rules
After watching the Class 6A and 5A state basketball tournaments at McArthur Court last week, it's more obvious than ever that three rule changes much be implemented:
1. A shot clock. Sheldon coach Ron Lampe did all he could within the rules to give his team a chance in its 28-25 loss to Lake Oswego in the 6A boys semifinals; nobody can blame him for that. But that wasn't basketball, and it wasn't entertainment. A shot clock - I suggest 30 seconds - is long overdue. Seven states, including California and Washington, use one now. Oregon should be the eighth.
Legendary former coach Nick Robertson tells me he took an informal poll of coaches last year, and only 20 percent to 25 percent were in favor of a shot clock. They all want the option to stall if necessary, I suppose. But there's no way that's good for the game.
2. Ten-minute quarters instead of eight. The games go too quickly. Forty minutes of play would provide more opportunities for more athletes to get playing time, too. National Federation of High School Athletic Associations rules stipulate eight-minute quarters, but Minnesota uses 18-minute halves, and states are free to set up their own system. Oregon could be a pioneer on this issue.
3. Three referees. Three-man crews are now employed by 27 states at state tournament time. With athletes getting bigger and quicker, it's becoming increasingly difficult for two officials to cover the court and make the right calls. The college and professional games have three refs; it's time for high school to follow suit in Oregon.
• Kudos to Roosevelt High coach Robert Key, who called timeout with his team trailing 38-28 and 22 seconds left in the 5A boys title game to allow five reserves to enter the game. Those kids can say they played in a state championship game. The importance of that would have passed a lot of coaches by.
• It would be swell if coaches would discontinue the meaningless gesture of sending the players during pre-game introductions to tap the hand of the opposing coach - and sometimes the referees. What's the point?
• Look for big changes in TV sports programming in the state. The Trail Blazers' contract with Fox Sports Net is up after this season, and the local NBA club is expected to move to Comcast. On his way out the door, ex-President Steve Patterson mentioned a $130 million deal (presumably for 10 years).
The way I hear it, Comcast would create a state sports network with the Blazers as its centerpiece. It's the same idea Paul Allen had five years ago with his now-defunct Action Sports Cable Network.
Something like this already has happened in Sacramento, which used to be an FSN market but has been taken over by Comcast, with the NBA Kings, Oakland Raiders and San Francisco 49ers as the primary programming for Comcast Sportsnet West.
• So glad to hear, incidentally, that the Pac-10 and FSN have signed a contract extension through 2012 to hold the conference basketball tournament at the Staples Center in Los Angeles. There's no reason to move the event around to Portland and Seattle and Phoenix and the Bay Area, except that it would increase exposure to Pac-10 basketball in other areas and allow fans of other teams to experience it at a site within driving distance. That wouldn't make any sense at all.
• Keith Robertson, the former all-state defensive end from Lake Oswego who signed with Oregon State in 2003, has told Beaver coaches he will enroll at OSU and walk on during spring practice.
• Experts cut Oregon State no slack after winning the national baseball championship a year ago. The loss of such stars as Dallas Buck, Jonah Nickerson, Kevin Gunderson and Cole Gillespie left the Beavers unranked in some preseason polls this year.
That's been rectified. The Beavers, 17-3 going into this weekend's home series with San Francisco, are ranked fourth this week by Rivals.com, and fifth by USA Today/ESPN, Collegiate Baseball, Baseball America and the National College Baseball Writers Association. It's a tribute to coach Pat Casey, who may be doing the finest job of his 13-year career in Corvallis.
• Big write-up in last Sunday's Boston Globe on ex-Beaver star Jacoby Ellsbury called him 'perhaps the most exciting player the (Red) Sox have had in their system since Nomar Garciaparra broke in as a rookie 10 years ago.'
Baseball America rates the Madras native, who is expected to start the season in Double-A Portland, Maine, the best hitter for average, fastest base runner, best athlete and best defensive outfielder in the Boston farm system.
'The things he's working on now are the things that will define whether he'll be a major-leaguer or a very good major-leaguer,' Rex Sox vice president of player personnel Ben Cherington tells The Globe.
• So OSU Athletic Director Bob De Carolis tells one scribe that followers of his school's men's basketball team aren't asking for a coaching change. 'It just hasn't happened, for whatever reason,' De Carolis is quoted as saying.
De Carolis is either sticking his head in the sand or being disingenuous. Not one Beaver booster I've talked to (or received e-mails from) supports Jay John returning for another season.
John has next season to prove everybody wrong.
• Trail Blazer forward Ime Udoka has made plans to sponsor an AAU summer high school team that will be coached by Kumbeno Memory, a former teammate at Jefferson High and a close friend.
'I have the opportunity to do that through my contract with Nike,' Udoka says. 'It's a chance to help some kids out. I was one of those kids who was overlooked and didn't get to play (on a summer AAU team) at that age.'
Udoka already has lined up a couple of plums: Larry Richards, the sophomore point guard who led Roosevelt to the state 5A title game, and junior guard Cameron Jackson, the PIL 5A player of the year.
• With Freddy Jones filling the lanes and dunking off feeds from Sergio Rodriguez in a recent game, it seemed a little bit like times of old during Jones' University of Oregon years.
'Sergio kind of reminds me of Luke Ridnour out there,' Jones says. 'He has that little flair to look for the spectacular, and he knows how to play. I like playing with him. He looks up the floor. He sees everything as it's developing. He's the type of player who knows what's going to develop before it develops.'
• Portland's rookie trio of Rodriguez, Brandon Roy and LaMarcus Aldridge made an impression on San Antonio coach Gregg Popovich.
'Roy is a hell of a rookie of the year candidate,' says Popovich, who has coached the Spurs to three NBA championships since 1999. 'He plays with a lot of poise and confidence. All three of them have figured out what (coach) Nate McMillan wants out of them. They're settled into their roles, they know what they can do, they're aggressive, they don't have any fear, they're physical. What a great portent for the future.'
• Sacramento coach Eric Musselman says if he had a vote for rookie of the year, he'd cast his lot with Roy.
'Brandon's had such a good year,' Musselman says. 'The thing that's impressed me from the first time I saw him play this year is his composure. He has a great on-court demeanor, and he keeps coming at you. There's an air about himself that he belongs, that he's one of the better players on the floor. That's a neat thing to see from such a young player.'
• The recent Forbes.com list of the world's richest men puts Blazer owner Paul Allen at No. 19 with a fortune valued at $18 billion. That's down from $22 billion in 2006, $28.2 billion in 2001 and as much as $40 billion in 1999. Maybe we should start a fund or something.