Thoughts of the Day: April 20, 2020

A SILENT NFL DRAFT AWAITS THURSDAY

The NFL will hold the oddest draft in probably 60 years this week when it’s done by teleconference. Instead of cheering crowds in Las Vegas there to roar every time their new home team Raiders make a selection; instead of the obligatory boos every time Roger Goodell shows his face; instead of the green room drama as potential first rounders wait to hear their names called, it will be done in silence. There will still be some drama because someone projected to go early in the draft is going to fall, perhaps out of the first round completely, and someone off the radar is going to move up quickly.


The Gators will be well represented. C.J. Henderson will go in the first round. A lot of scouts think he may very well be the most NFL-ready corners in the draft, but it’s a sure bet Ohio State’s Jeffrey Okudah will be the first corner to go. I don’t mean to sound like a homer, but if I had the choice between a stud corner who locked down receivers in the SEC and one who did it in the Big Ten, I’d take the SEC guy every time.


Kevin Hanson of Sports Illustrated rated prospects from 1-255 over the weekend. Here is where he had five Gators ranked:

13. C.J. Henderson, CB 69. Jonathan Greenard, EDGE

86. Jabari Zuniga, EDGE 98. Van Jefferson, WR 145. Lamican Perine, RB


Unranked but with a chance to be drafted is wide receiver Tyrie Cleveland. With a shot but unlikely is wide receiver Freddie Swain. Punter Tommy Townsend, linebacker David Reese II and wide receiver Joshua Hammond will almost certainly be offered free agent contracts.


Some other interesting rankings from Hanson’t top 100:

2. Joe Burrow, QB, LSU 5. Tua Tagovailoa, QB, Alabama 6. Jedrick Wills, OT, Alabama 7. Derrick Brown, DT, Auburn 8. Jerry Jeudy, WR, Alabama 10. Javon Kinlaw, DT, South Carolina 12. Henry Ruggs, WR, Alabama 14. Andrew Thomas, OT, Georgia 16. Justin Jefferson, WR, LSU 17. K’Lavon Chaisson, EDGE, LSU

18. Patrick Queen, LB, LSU

19. Kristian Fulton, CB, LSU 22. Trevon Diggs, CB, Alabama

23. D’Andre Swift, RB, Georgia

25. Grant Delpit, S, LSU

26. Xavier McKinney, S, Alabama

44. Clyde Edwards-Helaire, RB, LSU 45. Terrell Lewis, EDGE, Alabama

48. Marlon Davidson, DT, Auburn 55. Noah Igbinoghene, CB, Auburn 58. Justin Madubuike, DT, Texas A&M 60. Jordan Elliott, DT, Missouri 65. Lloyd Cushenberry III, C/G, LSU

80. Willie Gay Jr., LB, Mississippi State

81. Prince Tega Wanogho, OT, Auburn 85. Jake Fromm, QB, Georgia 89. Bryan Edwards, WR, South Carolina 94. Raekwon Davis, DT, Alabama 96. Darrell Taylor, EDGE, Tennessee 97. Damien Lewis, OG, LSU


SOME SEC HOOPS NEWS While the Gators await a decision by point guard Andrew Nembhard whether to return to UF or go pro (perhaps today or Tuesday), the SEC was very busy over the weekend:


Alabama: Signed Darius Miles (6-5, 190), Joshua Primo (6-4, 170) and juco Keon Ellis (6-6, 165. Arkansas: Signed Moses Moody (6-6, 185) LSU: Signed Eric Gaines (6-2, 160), Mwani Wilkinson (6-6, 190), Josh LeBlanc (6-7, 215) and UCLA transfer Shareef O’Neal (6-9, 215). Josh Gray (7-0, 220) committed to LSU. Mississippi State: Devin Butts (6-5, 180) is transferring to Louisiana-Lafayette. South Carolina: Jair Bolden (6-3, 215) is transferring to Butler.


WATCHING “THE LAST DANCE” …

It was at the Atlantic Coast Conference Basketball Tournament in 1975 that I met Jerry Krause, then scouting – if I recall correctly – with the Phoenix Suns. He was overweight, badly dressed and had an ego that could have applied for its own zip code. At the time, I was the sports editor of the Rocky Mount Telegram. Rocky Mount was the hometown of North Carolina’s freshman sensation Phil Ford, who that afternoon led the Tar Heels to an upset win over Clemson and its 7-2 freshman Tree Rollins and 6-4 freshman guard Skipper Wise. Krause had previously scouted for the Baltimore Bullets and knew Wise from his high school days at Baltimore Dunbar. He swore up and down that Skipper Wise was so much better than Phil Ford and would have a better collegiate and pro career just to prove it.


He also spent a lot of time telling me about scouting Earl “The Pearl” Monroe, who played his college basketball about 20 minutes or so west of the Greensboro Coliseum for legendary coach Clarence “Big House” Gaines at Winston-Salem State. Skipper Wise, he told me, was going to be as good or better than Earl Monroe.


I don’t remember how the topic came up but during the game something triggered me to mention that A.J. Carr of the Raleigh News and Observer had quoted him [Krause] as praising Thomas Blue, a 6-7, 240-pound freshman who played at Elizabeth City State in the CIAA. I saw Thomas Blue play a lot of high school basketball at Wilson Fike, which was about 30 miles south of Rocky Mount. I thought he was really good but I wondered if he had a position in the NBA since he was short, didn’t have a jump shot and couldn’t use his right hand.


Before I could get around to mentioning what I had seen of Blue, Krause turned beet red, raised his voice and called A.J. “a f#$%ing liar.” That came as a surprise to me. A.J. Carr to this day remains one of the most honest people I ever met. He was a meticulous writer with such an incredible vocabulary that you felt you needed a dictionary because at some point in any story he wrote there would be a word you’d never seen before in print. I also knew A.J. as someone who would double and triple check his sources before he ever putting it in print.


I was totally caught by surprise by Krause’s outburst and how sour he became the rest of the game. I have to admit that I was pleasantly amused when Phil scored the winning points in overtime and finished the game with a far better performance than Skipper Wise. Clemson was eliminated that afternoon. North Carolina went on to win the ACC championship and Phil Ford was the MVP. Skipper Wise left school a few weeks later, ended up signing with the Baltimore Claws of the ABA and had a rather large hand in Clemson going into the NCAA jailhouse for recruiting violations. The Claws lasted three exhibition games. Wise signed with the Golden State Warriors and was cut when his coach caught him using heroin in the locker room before a game. He played two games later that season with the San Antonio Spurs, the full extent of his pro basketball career.


As for Phil Ford, he went on to make All-America three times and was the national player of the year twice, then was the NBA rookie-of-the-year with the Kansas City Kings. His career was cut short by injuries but he lasted seven seasons.


I mention Jerry Krause because I watched parts one and two of “The Last Dance” on ESPN Sunday night, chronicling the final season for Michael Jordan and the Chicago Bulls dynasty. Krause was the Bulls’ general manager for the six NBA championships won with Michael Jordan and Scottie Pippen forming maybe the greatest dynamic duo in the history of the NBA. Watching the clips of Krause and then reliving how Krause broke up the Bulls’ dynasty, I thought back to that day in Greensboro and how his personality went from bombastic to caustic in a matter of seconds. It made me once again realize that while Krause did some great things assembling the Bulls and bringing in the supporting cast for Jordan and Pippen, it was only a matter of time before he would self-destruct. People talked about the great Michael Jordan. They talked about how Scottie Pippen was the second best player in the game. They talked about Phil Jackson and what a great coach he was. Nobody talked about Jerry Krause and Krause resented it.


Krause wouldn’t renew Jackson’s contract for 1999. MJ retired. Scottie was traded to the Houston Rockets for someone named Roy Rogers, whose NBA high point was averaging 6.6 points per game for the Vancouver Grizzlies in 1997, and a second round draft pick. That was the infamous Jake Voskuhl whose sterling NBA career was 4.0 points per game.


The Bulls haven’t won a championship since. Krause, his ego and the personality that made Jordan, Pippen and Jackson despise him retired after 2003.


“The Last Dance” also reminded me of when Jerry Jones sent Jimmy Johnson packing after the 1993 season because he thought he didn’t get enough credit for assembling the Dallas Cowboys team that JJ coached to two Super Bowls. Jerry Jones wanted to prove that he could hire anyone to coach the Cowboys and as long as he was putting the team together the dynasty would continue. The Cowboys won a Super Bowl with Barry Switzer in 1995 but they haven’t come close to another Super Bowl since.


The moral of the story: Great players plus great coaches win championships. They get help from general managers lots of teams have won championships without great GMs. Not too many have won without great players and coaches.

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