Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Musings on Dana Altman to Oregon

Did Oregon hold off as long as they did to gut their roster?

That's the question that came to mind when I saw Oregon went with the safe, bargain hire of Dana Altman.

The Oregon Hoops cupboard is full of sophomore bodies and short on talent. The recent departures of Drew Wiley, Matt Humphrey, and Josh Crittle (all sophomores) may scare the fan base, but the reality is it makes Altman's job easier.

So, I ask, was this a calculated effort? Did the search committee, after striking out on the big, sexy names, knowingly and silently settle on Altman long ago then wait, wait, wait, naturally gutting the talentless roster?

It would make sense and it makes a rebuilding process much easier for a coach to start from scratch rather than having to atrition-out the talent (or lack thereof). And the search had become such a national joke, what's another couple weeks?

Altman himself has had success but this is a true rebuilding gig. There's certainly no blueprint for how to build a program other than give it time. Will the Nike brass be patient? They certainly were in the hiring process.

Let's see how the winning process plays out.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

The Monday Roast: Volcanoes

1. What are you, Tantric?  How often do you erupt?  Boom, roasted.

2. Not content just being a mountain?  Boom, roasted.

3. You're like a pimple on steroids with no Proactiv.  Boom, roasted.

4. One hit wonder.  Boom, roasted.

5.  You blow.  Boom, roasted.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Coachella 2010: People Watching is Best Done in Dense Crowds

Whether you did drugs or not – and the guy who screamed “I’M ON DRUGS” at four in the morning clearly did – the 2010 Coachella Music and Arts Festival was amazing.

The impressively eclectic grouping of musicians - ranging from Jay-Z to Them Crooked Vultures to countless techno/rave/electro groups I have never heard of, and likely never will, drew some 75,000 people for each of the experiences’ three days. It was crowded to say the least, and deservedly so. The limitless people watching in itself was worth the price of admission, but the headliners and everyone else filled in quite nicely amongst the drunks, druggies, and fedoras.

Of course Jay-Z killed. You take for granted how many hits the guy has put out but when he can play a twelve-year old song and have the crowd believing they too have lived a “Hard Knock Life” you’re a superstar. And when you can roll out your spouse to duet with you and her name is Beyonce, well, you’re a megastar.
 I was blown away by the sheer rock power of Muse. The London-based group conducted an uber-show on the Coachella main stage Saturday night in front of what seemed to be one of the larger crowds of the weekend. The band’s front man, Matthew Bellamy, went absolutely rock star on the guitar, drifting into Hendrix’s National Anthem and a Rage tribute, sky-rocketing my Muse fandom.

A band I was very excited to see was Vampire Weekend and the quartet did not let me down. They played a high energy, move-your-hips-and-bob-your-head set that left a smile on everyone’s face and made me regret not yet purchasing their newest album, Contra.

Conversely, bands like MGMT and Phoenix were disappointing despite their popularity. MGMT showed little interest in playing and seemed to hammer through their set with a clock in, clock out, blah-like enthusiasm. Phoenix put on a fair show but left much to the imagination. They might as well have popped their CD in and danced on stage.

We skipped the final headliner, The Gorrilaz, to hustle out of the campgrounds but Thom Yorke was arguably headliner enough for day three. I didn’t know who Thom Yorke was one week before Coachella but I wont soon forget him now. The Radiohead front man, playing on his own, put on quite the festival closing show. He and his super group played yet another high energy show that, despite not knowing a single song, had me moving and impressed. His bassist, Flea of the Red Hot Chili Peppers, was a gyrating riot. Incredible.

But while I’d heard of most of the headliners and bigger bands to play, the meat and potatoes of such an experience lies in the umpteen other bands that piece the days together. These bands play between noon and 5:30 under the beating sun and draw smaller crowds of hyper-loyal followers. Often, these are some of the most exciting and memorable shows. Also, at $7 an onsite beer, people tend to be drunker, earlier courtesy of their off-site pre-gaming, adding to the excitement of the smaller groups.

Of the non-headliners I was impressed by Hockey, Edward Sharpe, As Tall as Lions, The Avett Brothers, Matt & Kim, De La Soul, and Die Antwoord. Some of these bands I’d been previously exposed to (The Avett Brothers, Matt & Kim) and I may be biased. I will say that Matt & Kim played the most energetic show – so much that they prompted a streaker – I saw and I was absolutely thrilled to see them fill far beyond the parameters of the Mojave tent.
The Avett Brothers performing "I and Love and You" (brief)

Die Antwoord played a twenty-minute set at 11:34 pm on Saturday night that I absorbed slack jawed. I have no words to describe what this South African Rap/DJ group is or performs and there are no groups like them. Their front man goes by the name Ninja. Perhaps his name can shed some light on the absurdity that is this group. Coachella was their US debut after gaining viral popularity via a self-produced video. Be prepared for strange if you click here.

On the people-watching front, my two favorites occurred Saturday night. First, it was amazing to watch any person’s face having a transcendent moment courtesy of the meandering Transcenders. The Transcenders is the name I’ve given to the guys who walk through the venue with colorful LED lights on their fingertips and perform a lights show for willing observers. As the fingertip lights go zipping around, the seated observer becomes fascinated by the visual facade of streaking lights and god-knows what else. The look on their face becomes one of absolute entrancement and joy. Needless to say, there was no shortage of observers. I must admit that even as a third party observer, those were some crazy lights.

The second best people watching occurred during the Muse concert just a few feet from us. As the band destroyed it, the couple to our left was quite a site. He was a shirtless, five-foot-five, Latino in skinny jeans and barefoot. She was a five-foot-ten redhead in pretty standard garb. What made them the people-watching experience of the trip was that he stood behind her, groping any and every part of her he could get his hands on, while he moved, danced, and humped away at her back half. While he did his thing, she not only towered above him, but paid him absolutely no mind. It was like watching a puppy hump Shaquille O’Neal’s leg. Proof of her utter disregard culminated when she calmly sent a series of text messages as he continued to go at her behind.

So while music, drugs, and liquor maybe don’t bring out the best in people, it certainly brings out the fun in them. Coachella 2010 was a cleanly run event that provided fun for all and an astonishingly safe atmosphere for 75,000 people to unapologetically engage in otherwise inappropriate behavior. Kudos to the staff and event producers for a job well done.

When you leave Coachella, you leave dirty, dehydrated, malnourished, exhausted and ready to do it all over again. It’s by no means a concert. It’s by all means an experience. And if indeed we are to experience life, try Coachella. The experience only further whet my appetite for live music, shared adventures, and the hopefully seldom but always fun pre-noon Jack Daniel’s.

If You Go:

Camping is undoubtedly the way to take in the three-day experience. Arrive early and provide your own shade. Outside of pills, shade is perhaps the most sought after commodity at Coachella. Our group was lucky that I had a 12’x12’ sunburn saving, pop-up cover. Tents are good to have too but don’t expect to sleep much regardless. Bring plenty of whatever you want to consume because on site anything is expensive. Be warned that campground parties become ubiquitous as the night progresses and don't wear a fedora unless you want to look like everyone else. Other than that, tune on, tune in, drop out, and enjoy!

Monday, April 19, 2010

The Monday Roast: Fedoras

1.  You can't hide your trust fund under your fedora.  Boom, roasted.

2.  Your fedora tells me you want to hate Corporate America but your Urban Outfitters receipt says you don't. Boom, roasted.

3.  Would you normally take fashion advice from Britney Spears?  Boom, roasted.

4.  If a douche bag were to put a fedora on it's head it would still be a douche bag.  Boom, roasted.

5.  Dick Tracey never wore a v-neck and skinny jeans with his fedora.  Boom, roasted.     

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

A Major Cluster-Duck

University of Oregon: Get. It. Together.

On this very site, BH and I have written extensively of your successes and sang your praises. Chip Kelly did a fantastic job following the season opening disaster last year. Finally, as tardy as it was, you let Ernie Kent go. You created a baseball program. You had a top-five football team heading into next season. Oregon, you’ve been doing well...

...and then Spring 2010 arrived. FYL (that’s short for F your life):
  • The series of football arrests and subsequent suspension/dismissal of Jermiah Masoli
  • The leaking of the Ernie Kent firing
  • The departure/firing/buyout/whatever of Mike Belotti after one year
  • The coaching search
These poorly orchestrated events are not good. It doesn’t look good, it doesn’t smell good, it doesn’t taste good. In fact, it’s bad.

The arrests, while they reflect poorly, are what they are. Sometimes kids make very unfortunate decisions, but I sincerely do not believe it is due to a lack of institutional control on Kelly’s part. He created a Rose Bowl birth after the meltdown that was Boise State last September and the dude can flat out coach. By no means am I condoning the behavior of his football team, they screwed up; but this seems to happen in lots of places and is not exclusive to Oregon. As hard as it was, Kelly is instituting discipline and the offenders are paying the consequences. It looks bad, but next issue.

Leaking the Ernie Kent firing was not that big of a deal, but it was certainly not classy; especially because the eventual firing was glaringly obvious, and Kent had been a loyal Duck. Kent served as head basketball coach of his alma mater for 13 years--he deserved better than what he got. I’ve never been a huge Kent fan but I do believe he got shown the door in a less than professional manner and Belotti – or someone in his office – dropped the ball on that one.

Speaking of Belotti: what the hell happened there? My conclusion on that awkward separation is that he clearly was a figurehead, a puppet, for the long, strong arm of Phil.  Phil Knight that is.  Phil Knight of Nike that is. I know the University of Nike thing gets a bit played out, but seriously, Phil’s hand is in that Athletic Department and when Athletic Director’s are leaving with subsequent Attorney General investigations, something’s not quite right. Where there’s smoke, there’s fire.

So without an AD, what now of the vacant – STILL vacant – Men’s Basketball coaching position? We could also look at the question like this: who will uber-boosters Pat Kilkenny and Knight find or pay? Right now, no one. And it’s getting ugly. Numerous deadlines have come and gone and there’s seemingly been very little interest in the position. Are we looking at a Steinbrenner-esque situation imposed by Knight/Kilkenny where no one wants to be micromanaged by the hand of God? Is the Head Basketball Coach at the University of Oregon a toxic seat?

And then there’s the factor that this is a huge hire that Oregon should not screw up. The changing face of college hoops says that you can win anywhere. Just ask Brad Stevens. Yeah, yeah, the dude just got paid, but he fell in love with Butler first and, more importantly, won there. While Butler is in basketball crazy Indiana, it sure ain’t Chapel Hill or Westwood. But you know what? Butler won. UNC and UCLA didn’t.

That’s not to say that these schools will never win again; by all accounts they’ll be very good, very soon. The point I’m trying to make is that you can win anywhere and with any resources. Coaching matters. Lord Phil’s money will never make Tajuan Porter a better decision maker (he was awful) or anyone play better team defense. The longer the school waits to make this hire the more it’s going to end up settling and letting down a fan base ready to usher in a new era in a new arena that makes the Taj Mahal look like a cheap condo.

To settle would not be okay and would embarrass a University already dragging itself through an inferno of embarrassment. The right coach will do a good job and can certainly put together a perennial competitor in Eugene. It’s a good job.

On the heels of the worst Pac-10 basketball season ever, West Coast basketball can’t afford to have one if its major Universities screw this up either. The Pac-10 has not had a team in the Top 25 since December and the only positive headline it's had since November was Washington's run to the Sweet 16--as an 11 seed.

The Oregon coaching search is doing nothing to smooth the currently rocky face of West Coast hoops.
If Oregon indeed wants to compete with the likes of UCLA, Arizona, Gonzaga, or even Saint Mary’s – and it can – they need to get this right. The longer they wait, the wronger they get. The silver lining is that a troubled athletic department can come out of this smelling like roses if it makes a good hire.

It’s been 4+ weeks since the inevitable Kent firing and there’s still no one there to usher in recruits for 2010-11. The only thing keeping this “search” from becoming the laughing stock of college basketball is that no one cares about basketball on the West Coast right now; deservedly so.

Hence, Oregon needs to get the right man in there and get him soon. The Western basketball community is depending on it.

Monday, April 12, 2010

The Monday Roast: Screen Names

1. Would you introduce yourself as LordbigDik1986 on a first date? Boom, roasted.

2. You're not thirteen. Boom, roasted.

3. Does your grandmother know your screen name? Mother? Boom, roasted.

4. It's creepy. Boom, roasted.

5. Try saying something on the message boards and attach your real name to it. Boom, roasted.

Monday, April 5, 2010

The Monday Roast: iPad

1. Why not just tape four iPhones together, make them harder to use, and harder to carry.  Boom, roasted.

2. Hey Steve, instead of telling me it's revolutionary, try to tell me what it is first.  Boom, roasted.

3. Can I borrow your laptop?  Sure, but it doesn't have a keyboard.  Boom, roasted.

4. For the cost to upgrade your iPad to a laptop you can buy two laptops.  Boom, roasted.

5. Got to work but realized you forgot your tampons?  Grab an iPad.  Boom, roasted.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Toodles Tucson

The Homers were both born and raised in Tucson, Arizona. I followed that with a lovely four-year stint in San Diego and returned. While it wasn’t really my idea or plan to return, I’ve never regretted it. BH spent a shivery four years in Ithaca and a green three in Eugene. Next for BH, as you’ve read, is Portland. However you slice it, we Homers have spent the vast majority of our time on earth as Tucsonans and now I’m leaving; BH has been gone for a while. It’s been great and as the Homers leave Tucson for a yet-to-be-determined amount of time, some nostalgia has bubbled to the surface. A tribute ensues.

AB’s thoughts are in Red. BH’s thoughts are in Blue. In case you were wondering these are indeed UofA colors.

Tucson: The Mountains

I never appreciated their beauty until I left. While San Diego is absurdly beautiful, the stoic Catalinas never look the same twice. Although the sun setting over the ocean is timelessly captivating, the colors of an Tucson sunset are unparalleled. My favorite mountain view is the backside of the Catalinas, on the way to Oro Valley. Here I can see every nook and cranny of the mountains, highlighting the depth, size, colors, and magnificence of the range.
And Sabino Canyon, another place I didn’t learn to appreciate until I’d returned. I discovered the solitary beauty of this subtle canyon while training for a marathon. I’d run to the top of the Canyon – a grueling 3.7 uphill miles – early in the summer mornings. The shade of the eastern ridge was life saving. The monsoon run off over flowed the bridges and would soak my shoes, a mild concern compared to my burning lungs and quads.

My favorite Sabino memory is BH and my hungover hike to Hutch’s Pool. We started far too late, after far too late of a night, after far too much drinking. But we were determined to find water and swim in it. We asked the gate attendant if there was water and he said doubtful. We asked the information center and they said maybe. We took our chances and headed up. The hike was a moderate three miles and we were lucky to have cloud cover. Not knowing where we were headed, things looked grim as we saw only leaky traces of water heading towards our unknown destination. We turned a corner and there it was: a glorious, sparkling (in most parts), cool body of water. An oasis. We jumped in and swam and jumped in again. It was an incredible escape from many things in a special summer. Thanks BH.

I grew up hiking in the mountains behind our home in the foothills. I fondly recall hikes in Pima Canyon with my family on weekend mornings. Often the hike was a quest for the rarest of things in Tucson: water. Going for a hike through a craggy canyon and a forest of cactus and then finding yourself playing in a river of water is magical for a boy growing up in the desert. I didn't realize at the time, but my parents were instilling in me a passion for hiking that would survive to this day. Thanks mom and dad.

Despite my early start I didn't truly appreciate the mountains until I left for college in the east. Out east you find rolling hills and winding roads shrouded by trees. A horizon line of any expanse is a rare sight in the east, unless you find yourself perched on a high peak or sitting on the Atlantic Coast. Rolling hills and an obfuscated horizon line are far different than the endless skylines and wide open expanses of Tucson. In Tucson mountains rise out of the earth and meet the sky in every direction. When the sun sets in the evening the mountains in the west turn a deep shade of purple and cut sharply through the bright red and orange sky. Some people take the sun setting over the ocean, but sunsets in Tucson are beyond comparison.

My favorite hike is the Finger Rock Trail. The hike is difficult, so don't skimp on water, but the views are well worth it. You start at the top of Alvernon Way and shimmy your way up the right side of a small canyon. A little more than half way up you can stop at Linda Vista Saddle and look out over the entire city--from La Paloma to Davis-Monthan. Several miles further you finally summit Kimball Peak. You are now above Finger Rock but you're looking down Romero Canyon on the backside of the Catalina Mountains. You can see Picacho Peak far away in the distance and off to your right you can see Mt. Lemmon looming higher than the rest of the Catalinas. I've been on this hike with friends from home, friends from college, family and girlfriends. I know almost every turn, every rock, and every place to stop. I love it, and love the mountains it takes me through.

Tucson: Growing Up

Manzanita was a great elementary school and I made some good friends in Kindergarten that lasted all the way to today. Pretty cool how that works. I made many other friends along the way, including BH in fourth grade. I even invited him to my birthday party that year for flag football. Evidently my dad yelled at him.
We finished school at Catalina Foothills but I think it might be safe to say we finished at the Foothills Baseball Academy; or at least got diplomas from there, too. It’d be an understatement to say we played a lot of baseball in High School. But ya know what? We were good and it was fun being good. I’ll never forget losing the 2001 State Championship or the overthrow stopped by Jason Pridie’s toe that – had the ball just hopped over his cleat – would have gone into the dugout handing us the State Championship. I’ll also never forget the game winning home run (orwas it game losing for us?) Pridie hit that is still in orbit.

One perk to growing up in Tucson (and you later learn is a downside when you grow up and have to explain that you’re not a cowboy) is Rodeo Break. What is Rodeo Break you’ll ask? Well, Rodeo Break is two or three days off of school for the Rodeo, duh. We take it in place of President’s day. Basically, it’s a chance for Zonies to go skiing or go to Disneyland. I suggest addressing it with your local school board and adopting it.

Now I was once told that it would be impossible for me to have a good childhood because of the lack of grass in Tucson. Not true. Have you ever built a fort in a wash? Played sports year ‘round? Lay poolside in February? How about November for that matter? Tucson is a beautiful, homey, simple place to be raised and a fun place to grow up.

I went to preschool at Tucson Community School (TCS). Both my sisters went there and my mom later became the director of the school. Incidentally, my three-year-old class teacher, Mrs. Lazaroff, was still teaching the threes when my mom worked there two decades later. TCS is where I met my best friend Koren, and as a result our families have become close friends over the years. Our families have vacationed together, shared holidays and countless dinners together, laughter, tears, funerals and musicals. My name is still in the cement foundation of a play structure at TCS--right next to Koren's. It's a unique place that was instrumental in my childhood.

I remember Saturday mornings at Mehl Park. On any Spring morning at Mehl Park you would find little leaguers from tee-ball to Juniors competing for the right to get a soda after the game--win or lose. Sure things got competitive. Dads got thrown out from time to time, kids--myself included--were moved to tears by failure. However, that was where baseball all started for me, and where I met most of the guys I'd be playing baseball with almost every day for the next ten years of my life. Thanks Mike, Charlie, & Jay.

As iterated above by AB and reiterated now by me, high school was defined less by folks in the classrooms than it was by Jason Hisey (see left). We played baseball or prepared for baseball year round. It all began as a little freshman in the fall of 1999 walking wide eyed out to "Iron Con:" the infamous Hisey conditioning program. For several hours we would sprint, jump, jog, run, push up, sit up, stand up and throw up. Iron Con only set the tone for summers, springs, and falls engulfed by baseball. If there's one thing Tucson weather allows for it is year round outdoor sports--we took advantage. I'll never forget the morning after losing to Pueblo (whom we had never lost to before). We woke up well before 5 am and drove to the baseball field. We were there so early the lights had to be turned on. On the way into school I passed my senior classmates getting onto a bus for a senior trip to Disney Land--I was on my way to run my ass off for the next four hours. Thanks Hise.

I grew up playing in the desert: making forts out of saguaro ribs; climbing mesquite tress; taking our dog for walks in the wash; riding bikes around Via Entrada; and playing in the water after a monsoon. It was a good childhood, made possible by my family, my friends, my dog, and by Tucson.