Berry Tramel

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Tramel: Emails in on Russell Westbrook & Texas job

by Berry Tramel Modified: December 30, 2013 at 9:35 am •  Published: December 30, 2013

 The weekly emails are in. Let’s get to them, though I’m saving Sugar Bowl questions for later in the week.

THUNDER

Randy: “We watched the second half of the Thunder game Friday night on DVR. Here’s my deep thought:  HOW MUCH LONGER DO WE HAVE TO WATCH @#!$%@&@@! KENDRICK PERKINS MAKE A MOCKERY OF THE GAME OF BASKETBALL! Even though what I was watching was a thousand miles away and two hours old, I found myself screaming at my television.  I can’t take it anymore.”

As soon as the other team agrees not to attack the paint, via post or pick’n roll. The Thunder beat Charlotte because of stingy defense. Al Jefferson scored 16 points but needed 16 shots to do it and went to the foul line only once (for two shots). Then Perk neutralized Dwight Howard on Sunday night. That’s how the Thunder has to win without Westbrook. That’s one way to win WITH Westbrook.

Caleb: “There isn’t much data out there because Russell Westbrook played in most of OKC’s games. Westbrook plays incredible 1-on-1 defense and creates a ton of turnovers. But we all know that he gambles a lot at the expense of the team defense. After watching Charlotte last night, OKC might have even better field goal percentage defense (at the expense of creating turnovers). I recall getting smoked by Minnesota (without Westbrook). But Scott Brooks did play Adams the whole fourth quarter. I guess time will tell. But I think it’d be an interesting conjecture to put out there that OKC defense might be even better with Westbrook out.”

I think there is some evidence out there that the Thunder’s defense is much better with Jackson, with or without Westbrook. But again, we’ll see.

Jerry: “Isn’t it strange that Westbrook would have to have surgery for the third time on the same knee in the same area as the original surgery? He is a very high-priced item to be messing around with the wrong surgeons, if in fact that is the case. He will be back, but in the meantime they will be losing their home court advantage in the playoffs. Your take?”

I don’t think homecourt advantage is as important to the Thunder as it used to be. That said, it’s not for certain that the Thunder will lose it. I also wonder if Westbrook should have used the Thunder doctors instead of the doctors recommended by his agents.

Trent: “I read that Westbrook’s personal surgeon found his latest swelling and recommended this last surgery? Three questionable medical calls now: 1) Nixing the Tyson trade; 2) Green lighting the Perkins trade when his health/legs are actually what Chandler’s were thought to be; 3) Westbrook’s inadequate surgeries. With such a well run Thunder organization how does this keep happening?  I can only think of Portland drafting Odom with injury concerns and maxing Roy with no knee cartilage as a comparable for bad medical decisions.”

I don’t know that the Thunder made the wrong call on Chandler. He’s played well when he’s played, but he’s still been hurt a lot. The Perkins trade was fine. They’ve gotten a lot of mileage out of Perk, who has been much healthier than has Chandler. And the Thunder doctors have made no calls on Westbrook. His agent has handled all that.

Jeff: “LeBron and Durant are the undisputed two best players in the league, but fans, commentators, analysts, writers, they all seem split on who is second best. I think it might just be Westbrook. His passing has been awesome lately. His rebounding and defense I think are overlooked.”

I’d have to go with Chris Paul. But I’m going to miss Westbrook these next few games.

Gene: “Every NBA game I see probably three or four double dribbles that would be called in high school or college, but it is never called in the NBA.  I can only assume it is not a violation in the pros, or are the rules different?”

No, same rules. I have to say, I never see any double dribbles in the NBA.

TEXAS JOB

Jack: “I agree UT should probably hire Art Briles, but I think the next coach will be an extreme surprise.  To be honest, with Saban not interested, I’m not happy with any of the candidates bandied around.  I don’t see anyone truly top notch.  So, I have an extreme candidate.  I realize many people may dismiss him outright.  But I actually think Jon Gruden would be a great fit at Texas. First, the new UT coach needs to be an iconic figure.  Gruden is a bad boy who would absolutely titillate the Longhorn faithful.  They would totally love him.  He’s a true Texan in spirit, too.  He’s very smart, very strong and very, very charismatic.  I think that’s what Texas needs, wants and desires.  He would also be fun; the UT football coach needs to be a fun guy who will draw a lot of attention to the program.  Gruden would do that.  Having Saban would have been great, but then it would have been all about Saban turning around another program instead of it being about UT football.  Gruden would win, and would do it with charisma and flair and controversy, but all of that would turn the UT football program into the most noticed, colorful and highly-watched program in the country.  They can’t go with a no-name, even if he’s a great program-builder; the program needs to transcend the game, and Gruden would make that happen.  I will also go out on a limb: I think Gruden is probably a much better fit for the college game than the pros.  I think he’s a Nick Saban-in-the-making. Saban and Gruden are both ‘cute,’ with a boyish look yet with an extreme technical perfectionism.  I really think Gruden would be the right choice.  It would be a risky choice, and an unorthodox choice, but, the right choice. By the way, I’m also a psychotherapist and have done their profiles.  Saban and Gruden have the exact same persona with the exception that Saban is a little more quiet by nature.”

I disagree on virtually every count. Starting with the last one. Gruden and Saban seem nothing alike. The next coach at Texas does NOT need to be an iconic figure. If he wins, he’ll be iconic. If he doesn’t win, he’ll be out on his kiester. Sure, the Texas fans would love Gruden. As long as he beat OU (and OSU and Baylor). Gruden doesn’t seem Texas in spirit to me. He seems Californian. Texas does not need someone who will draw a lot of attention to the program. You think this is Rice? But of course, the primary reason not to hire Gruden is, no one has any idea if he can coach the college game. Can he recruit? Does he want to recruit? Can he glad-hand? Does he want to glad-hand? I think Gruden is a huge risk.

Don: “I think all you media people are missing the mark on the next Texas coach. We don’t hear much around here about Todd Graham, but if you will recall when he was at Rice (winner), Tulsa (winner), Pitt (not sure), Arizona State (bowl 2013), plus he was hired at Arizona State by guess who. I believe Texas is just keeping this man in the quiet corner of their top five list, and since he is a native Texan, he will be the pick.”

It’s my understanding that as part of the agreement to let athletic director Steve Patterson out of his ASU contract, he agreed to not hire anyone from Arizona State for a number of years. With that said, I think UT will hire someone with a better track record than Graham.

Mike the Tiger: “Read your article about Saban not being out of the Texas job. You’re right about Little Nicky. People forget that he signed a five-year extension with LSU two weeks before he bolted for the Fins. The guy is completely without honor or honesty. To my knowledge he still hasn’t signed his contract. It would be just like him to agree to it only to shut things up while he prepares for the Sugar Bowl, then bolt for the Horns the day after. The Bama meltdown would be epic and all LSU fans are praying for it! Justice would be served!”

I have soured on Saban going to Texas. He’s too smart for that. He’s the king at Alabama. At Texas, nobody even knows who’s running the ship. A weak president. Boosters involved with big decisions. It’s a mess. No way Saban signs up for that.

Gray: “I agree James Franklin is a really good coach. But I’m not sold on the theory that if you win eight or nine a losing school, you will do better at a big-name school. I remember that being said about Dennis Franchione. Their best bet is to hire a bright and hard working top assistant at a major school. They will spend less money and decrease the pressure some. But among the candidates, I like Pat Fitzgerald the best. I’m a big Northwestern fan. He is brilliant and defense-oriented. He is a class guy with a good moral compass. He is a great choice if they can make it happen.”

Texas never hires an assistant. At least the ‘Horns haven’t in 60 years. But I like Fitzgerald, too.

Bob: “I think Gundy would go to Texas if they offer him the job.  He feels  under-appreciated at OSU. The recent Bedlam loss did not help this situation of his feeling that the fan base doesn’t appreciate him. So I think he would go to UT if he gets the chance.”

I think Gundy would go, too, but I don’t know that he feels unappreciated. I think he’s occasionally frustrated with Holder and/or Boone, but it’s not an appreciation problem.

Keith: “I’ve been reading about the candidates for the Texas football head coaching job.  Is there not a candidate out there who has Texas roots?  Someone who bleeds Texas orange?  Someone who at least has Texas ties?  (Other than Will Muschamp, although some of my Gator friends would love to see him go back to Texas!)  It seems like a program is big and storied as Texas would have some former players or assistant coaches who would be on the radar.”

Jerry Gray is the only one I know of. NFL defensive coordinator, former ‘Horn DB.

Gerry: “Here’s my top three predictions for the new football coach at Texas: 1. Gary Patterson; 2. Mike Gundy; 3. Bob Stoops. What are your top three predictions?”

James Franklin, Charlie Strong, Pat Fitzgerald. No way UT hires Patterson. Not quite sophisticated enough.

COLLEGE FOOTBALL

Todd: “Hey, Berry, enjoy the Big Easy. Question: how many freshmen have won BCS bowls?  I don’t think many. Not Sammy B.  Not Johnny Football. Has any freshman QB won the big bowl?  I want to pick FSU, but worried if Jamieson can buck the trend.”

Jamelle Holieway.

Mitch: “I’m not sold on Kevin Sumlin as a great coach.  With a premier QB, he finished third and fourth in the league. They lost four games this year. Their defense is hideous. This kind of record got Slocum fired. I’m not saying he is a bad coach. But if I have a top program and need a coach, Sumlin is not on my A list.  His résumé is what? During the tumultuous summer of Johnny M., I felt Sumlin was just hoping it would go away. I did not see any great things from him. I think he will be competitive, but I see no greatness. Not yet.  I’m far more impressed with Art Briles résumé and his drawl bothers me not the least.”

I love Art Briles. But I’ll say this. The Johnny Football deal was out of Sumlin’s hands. That was a decision made higher up. A&M is a strange place. Slocum got fired for going 8-4 — with some 6-6′s thrown in there, too. So far, Sumlin hasn’t done that. Still, it will be interesting to see how he does without an elite QB. Sumlin has mostly had Case Keenum and Johnny Manziel.

Journal: “Certainly Texas A&M and Missouri have experienced good seasons in the SEC, but I think Big 12 fans need to remember two important points. Missouri made its hay this year by virtue of competing in a watered-down Eastern division with Florida and Georgia depleted by injuries. The Texas A&M team competing in the SEC is not the same team which lined up against Big 12 teams before bolting for the SEC. The SEC has faced Johnny Manziel and a high-powered Aggies offense — something Big 12 defenses rarely saw. So this is not the same A&M team Big 12 lined up against. Still, they are playing well over there, but I am afraid most sportswriters attempting to make this argument failed to realize they are comparing apples and oranges.”

I don’t agree. It’s apples to apples. Yeah, the Big 12 didn’t play against Manziel. It played against Ryan Tannehill, a first-round draft pick who has started two years in the NFL. And before that, it played against Stephen McGee, and other good A&M quarterbacks. And Missouri played its final eight Big 12 seasons in a watered-down division. The Big 12 North.

Terry: “Has either Gundy brother ever expressed a desire to coach together?  If Mike were to leave, is there a possibility he would take Cale with him?  Seems like Cale has topped out at OU.”

Doesn’t sound like it. Neither one has expressed an interest in it, so far as I know.

Bob: “I think the Big 12 will be lucky to win two out of the six bowl games. I’m guessing OU will get hammered and that the Pokes will manage to lose to MU by maybe two touchdowns.  I love Big 12 sports. But the conference is just not that strong in football. What’s your prediction.

Let’s see. The Big 12 already has KSU in the bag, and I think Baylor wins. So that means OU (likely loss), OSU (tossup), Texas (likely loss) and Tech (likely loss). So the Big 12 could win two or three with no luck. Three or four with a little luck.

OTHER STUFF

Don: Great story on the twins. So you’re a twin?”

Yep. Have been all but 30 seconds of my life. My twin is a Bible professor at Southwestern Christian University. Lives about a mile and a half from me.

Blake: “I think ESPN’s attempt at being a global leader by hiring local media in different parts of the U.S. and re-syndicating local links on their website comes across as contrived. I realize their share holders are getting wealthy beyond imagination, but starving out media competitors is worse than a potential antitrust lawsuit — long term their customers will resent their brand not having other options to follow their teams. My father-n-law has been working with nonprofits in Ukraine for over 30 years. Ukraine has a centralized government and marketplace, and America is starting to have the same tendencies in media, government, schools. Heck even our churches are getting so big we do not even know each other. Just think it makes for a less creative and compelling marketplace.”

Interesting points. Not so much about ESPN but about American culture. If you believe in the market economy, you’ve got to accept the marketplace.

Why didn’t Paul Blair ever get any recognition for being an Oklahoma product?

Oh, he’s had some recognition over the years for being born in Cushing, but the truth is, his Cushing ties are virtually non-existent. He barely was there any time at all. Our long-time sports editor, the late Bob Colon, grew up in Cushing and would have been about Blair’s age. Bob was an historian. But he said he never once heard of Blair, growing up.


by Berry Tramel
Columnist
Berry Tramel, a lifelong Oklahoman, sports fan and newspaper reader, joined The Oklahoman in 1991 and has served as beat writer, assistant sports editor, sports editor and columnist. Tramel grew up reading four daily newspapers — The...
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