Former NFL QB Lomax takes prep coaching reins
Observations pertaining to our portion of the sporting world …
• ITEM: Former Portland State and NFL quarterback Neil Lomax has been hired as head coach at Fort Vancouver High. Ironically, the Trappers' previous coach was Steve Broussard, a former Washington State running back who played nine seasons in the NFL.
COMMENT: Lomax is the Father Flanagan of high school football coaches. He spent seven seasons assisting Christian Swain as offensive coordinator at Roosevelt High, arguably the most downtrodden of all PIL programs, helping build the Roughriders into a respectable team that got to the Class 5A quarterfinals in his fifth year. Fort Vancouver is in even worse straits. Since 2005, the Trappers have gone 14-94 and were 0-9 last season in Broussard's only year as coach.
Lomax, 59, wanted another project school — my words, not his — to help.
"I care about winning, and we're going to try to win," he says. "But I see my role at Fort Vancouver as more of a mentor, a father figure. If I can help these student-athletes get college-ready through their academics and we can use football to do that, that's in my wheelhouse. I want to increase school attendance among our players. I want to improve the kids' grade-point average.
"I want to increase participation numbers, from 30 (last season) to 50 or 60. Let's get some kids out, let's get kids staying in the program, make it so there is no reason to transfer. Let's build some pride. It's getting to know them and showing that I do care. Winning is a byproduct of all that. But I'm not going there to win the state championship our first year."
This is a great opportunity for Fort Vancouver. Lomax will bring passion and plenty of expertise, along with what I would imagine will be an accomplished staff of assistants. Losing traditions can be turned around, and I'm glad a person with the credibility of Neil is willing to take a swing at getting it done.
• ITEM: Clyde Drexler signs a contract to become commissioner of the BIG3 basketball league.
A press release says Drexler "will help lead the BIG3's basketball operations as well as executing the league's long-term strategy on all fronts."
From the release: "Clyde is a consummate professional, revered businessman and indisputably one of the greatest players every to play the game," said league co-founders and co-CEOs Jeff Kwatinetz and Ice Cube. "We were thrilled to have his early support as a coach in our inaugural season and couldn't be more pleased to welcome him to the executive team."
QUESTION: In their statement, were Kwatinetz and Cube speaking in unison?
COMMENT: The BIG3 league, if you're not aware, debuted last summer with three-on-three, half-court games featuring former NBA players on FS1 and FOX. Ex-Blazers Jermaine O'Neal, Ruben Patterson and Bonzi Wells were among the players who participated. I watched parts of a few games and chuckled as play-by-play man Gus Johnson exuded enthusiasm during the broadcasts, but mostly I chose to watch the paint dry and put away clean laundry at my home.
I'm hoping Drexler — one of my all-time favorite people in the world of sport — is well-paid for lending his name to the endeavor.
• ITEM: Odds on the Trail Blazers to win the NBA championship this season are now are 66-1, courtesy of Bovada Sports Book, placing Portland tied for seventh with Philadelphia and San Antonio.
COMMENT: If you put down a C-note on the Trail Blazers to win the title at the start of the season, your money is looking promising. Bovada had Portland as a 200-1 pick, meaning a $100 bet turns into a $20,000 payout if the local quintet takes it all the way.
Toronto was a great bet, too, at 75-1. The favorites were Golden State at 5-8 and Cleveland at 9-2.
• ITEM: VICE sports website recently ran a long piece on San Antonio's LaMarcus Aldridge, which included this segment about his relationship with former Blazers teammate Damian Lillard:
"The whispers that followed Aldridge out of (Portland) weren't the result of his choice to leave, but of the environment he helped create before he left. In a work place that requires constant connection, Aldridge and Lillard didn't always have it. Earlier this season, Lillard spoke to the media about Portland's 23-year-old center, Jusuf Nurkic. The conversation expanded into a regretful one about Aldridge. 'As a younger player, I came into the league wishing and thinking (Aldridge) was going to take me under his wing, like his lil' bro,' Lillard said."
Aldridge's response: "It's always tough for me to find that balance where I wanted to tell (Lillard) not to do this, or this is better. But I didn't want him to feel like I'm trying to hold him back from being who he wanted to be. I do regret not talking to him at times, but also I feel like he was trying to find himself. … If him and I communicated as much then as we do now, then things would have been totally different."
COMMENT: I got the feeling during their time together in Portland that both of them — though Aldridge more than Lillard — were a little uncomfortable with each other. And that Aldridge may have been a bit jealous about the attention his junior partner was receiving in what once was his town.
• ITEM: None of the three games in the Oregon State-California baseball series on the opening weekend of Pac-12 play were shown on TV.
COMMENT: I often scratch my head at the decisions made in Pac-12 Network programming, but this one had me cuffing my forehead. The No. 1-ranked Beavers against the 12-5 Bears, one of the nation's premier hitting teams, and the Pac-12 Network can't find room to get even one game on TV, if only just in Oregon and Northern California?
Would this happen with Florida, Auburn or Ole Miss on the SEC Network, for instance? Uh, no.
Oregon State and Washington, which swept three games from Arizona in its conference-opening series, will be shown twice this weekend from Corvallis on Pac-12 Networks, on Friday at 7 p.m. and on Sunday at 3 p.m. Then the Beavers won't be on again until April 6. No use overdoing a good thing, I guess.
• ITEM: Oregon and Oregon State advance to the Sweet 16 in the NCAA Women's Tournament.
COMMENT: Kudos to OSU, which made it to the Sweet 16 for the third straight season. The Beavers must now face second-ranked Baylor (32-1) Friday at Lexington, Kentucky, in a rematch of their Elite Eight game in 2016, won by Oregon State 60-57.
The Ducks, meanwhile, appear to be on a collision course with top-ranked Connecticut in the Final Four. Oregon faces Central Michigan in Saturday's Sweet Sixteen matchup at Spokane.
UConn is loaded with talent, but the Huskies have nobody better than Oregon sophomore Sabrina Ionescu, the best player I've ever seen come through the state's collegiate ranks. Were either the WNBA or Europe a viable alternative financially for college players, Ionescu would be on to a pro career after this season.
• ITEM: Oregon State basketball coach Wayne Tinkle is in Hutchinson, Kansas, this week to recruit at the National Junior College Athletic Association Tournament. Tinkle — who has three post players in his 2018 recruiting class — is looking for a point guard in the JC ranks as well as from graduate transfers.
COMMENT: One player on Tinkle's list is 6-3 Ricky Torres of Missouri State-West Plains JC. He averaged 17.2 points and 8.1 assists while shooting .499 from the field and .433 from 3-point range this season. The Grizzlies, who finished 25-9, did not make the NJCAA tourney field.
Torres is considering Virginia Tech and Mississippi along with Oregon State and other schools. Visits can't start until after the Final Four; the national letter-of-intent signing date is April 17.
• ITEM: Former Cleveland High and Oregon State athlete Roger Smith died at his Gresham home last month. He was 68.
COMMENT: Old-time sports fans will remember Smith as one of the premier athletes in the PIL with the Indians in the late 1960s. He backed up Dave Schilling at fullback on Dee Andros' OSU teams from 1969-71 and, as a senior, carried 45 times for 210 yards in a 21-14 win over Washington State. That remains third on the OSU single-game list for most rushing attempts. Smith also was an outstanding shot putter and discus thrower for Berny Wagner's track team.
• ITEM: The city of Arlington, Texas, has announced plans to build a state-of-the-art stadium, with seating capacity up to 1,000, to draw competitive gamers from throughout the world. A press release says it will be "the largest and most flexible e-sports stadium in the country."
QUESTION: Where can I buy season tickets?