NCAA

Stanford vs. Washington in NIT title game?

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Stanford vs. Washington in NIT title game?

Well, your Stanford Cardinal are still in it and have now guaranteed themselves of a spot in basketballs top 72. Mind you, Im not diminishing the accomplishments of the Cardinal who are probably playing their best ball of the season, its just that the NIT has lost just a tad of its luster in fact you might say its just plain rusted out.

In fact its even possible that Stanford could play fellow Pac-12 competitor Washington in the final at Madison Square Garden. That should bring em in from Jersey in hordes dont you think?

There was a time when the NIT had more prestige than the NCAA tournament for instance when USF won it back in 1949. In recent years however what it represents is an opportunity for coaches to have as many as fifteen or so more practices than they otherwise would have. And with a young team like the Cardinal, that could mean a whole lot when it comes to a hoped for improvement in 2012-13.

For the Cardinal this has been a bookend season. It began with a trip to the pre-season NIT final at Madison Square Garden in which they lost a winnable game against Syracuse. And it will end in the final four of the post season NIT final four at least. Nice. Except theyd cash it all in for a better conference season and a trip to the real tournament which is currently composed of a grand total of zero teams from the left side of the country.

Which begs the question; will it be any better next year? Certainly its a tad early to start making predictions, but the simple answer is not so much.

Stanford should be better and be in the top half of the Pac 12 next year. They need consistency, but that comes with experience and thats what playing in the Brand X tournament this year will give them.

Cal loses toughness with Harper Kamp and Jorge Gutierrez graduating. Theyve got talent coming back and could be more athletic but its going to take another yeomans coaching job by Mike Montgomery for the Bears to be in the Pac 12 pack.

Washington will lose two players to the pros in Tony Wroten and Terrence Ross and I think will actually be better. Not enough basketballs for that team this year.

Arizona has the nations No. 1 recruiting class coming in and almost everyone back. They will be in the national championship hunt next season.

UCLA kept its coach and kept its recruiting commitments. Theyll be lots better especially if Joshua Smith loses about an entire Joshua Smith.

Kevin ONeil promised me USC would be good next year. OK K.O. Better lots better I believe. Not sure Im going as far as good.

Dana Altman has proven that he can win with a bunch of guys who have never even met each other. Oregon loses some good seniors but I still think will be in the hunt.

Oregon State gets everybody back. They should have been better this year with what they have. I dont get it.

Herb Sendek at ASU will at least have a point guard next year. When hes got his kind of guys he can really coach. I may be a minority of one but I think they could be OK.

And lets not forget that Washington State is still playing and in the finals of the Whatchamacallit Tournament that makes the NIT look like the NBA Finals. Ken Bone does more with less than any coach in the conference. You try recruiting to Pullman, Washington.

I say that with sincere apologies to our own Jayme Sire who knows every great restaurant in Pullman. Which is like knowing the best Jewish deli in Beijing.

Memory of the late Bob Murphy will live on the heads of those who heard him

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STANFORD.COM

Memory of the late Bob Murphy will live on the heads of those who heard him

Bob Murphy, who was the voice of Stanford athletics when such titles truly mattered in the Bay Area, died Tuesday after a long fight with Alzheimer’s Disease. He was 86.

Murphy was viscerally connected to the university in ways that were once in vogue across the nation but are now reserved only to the Midwest and Southeast. He was a walking ambassador for the school’s athletic history, a familiar face to the army of alums who linked to his voice and presence early and ultimately grew old with him, even when coaches and players and athletic directors came and went with unsettling frequency.

And while his time as the alternate face to Hoover Tower eventually faded, he was still Murph – to be honored and respected by all generations, even the ones who never heard him or saw him. If anyone below the age of 25 asked about him, he was spoken of with the reverence reserved for architectural structures or hundred-year-old trees. He belonged to the place, and the place belonged to him.

He mattered at Stanford, because Stanford is an insular community, watching the world outside with a palpable sense of “Thank God we’re safe in here.” He attended the school, he worked as its sports information director, and he was the radio voice who fought for Stanford when only a few people were listening. He had proven his devotion decades ago, until his devotion became part of the background noise and scenery.

And he didn’t even leave after he became ill, and then absent. Only the most successful coaches and athletes get to attain that omnipresent aura in college athletics, and in truth, Murphy reached more people in the community than any coach or player the school has ever had, simply by being at the place, and of the place, longer and more happily than anyone.

Sometime soon, we suspect, he will be remembered with a statue, either near the football stadium or near Maples Pavilion. He will be bronzed, wearing a polo shirt with the S-with-the-interlocking-tree and glasses wedged against the bridge of his nose. He will be seated, with a desk before him and microphone perched atop it, and there will be a plaque with a Wikipedia-ized list of his contributions.

But without the voice, it will be incomplete. That will have to be recreated inside the heads of those who heard it most often, and cared most what words it carried. It is there where Bob Murphy’s memory will thrive – as someone who defined Stanford in ways that no marketing campaign ever could.

David Shaw is quietly the second-best coach in the Bay Area

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USATI

David Shaw is quietly the second-best coach in the Bay Area

Steve Kerr has been the standard by which all other coaches have been measured in these parts since he arrived in Oakland – rescued as it was from the nine hells of the New York Knickerbockers. He is indeed so good that he is still getting credit for the 50 wins he actually didn’t fully merit – the 39 that belong to Luke Walton and the 11 that are Mike Brown’s.

But this is not to slag Kerr’s record – which even if you eliminate the 55 games he hasn’t coached in his three years because of his back issue is still the best in NBA history – but to remind you that David Shaw still exists, he still is supervising the golden age of Stanford football, and he is just as unavailable to pro teams as he ever was.

Shaw, whose team opens its season on Saturday night in Australia against Rice, has been beneath the radar since the day he arrived, for no better reasons than (a) the Bay Area doesn’t hold much stock in college football and (b) he likes it that way. His excellence is indisputable, but he is also in the perfect place to do his job without any of the irritants that surround most college coaches – media, embittered alumni, NCAA investigators, the late night call from the cops about your outside linebacker overturning a minivan, that kind of thing.

He has worn down all attempts to question him on his next job because, while he could get one at the snap of a finger, he was not infected with the standard coach’s ambition to see and be seen. He has seen the sport’s many excesses and has decided to ward off the ones that directly touch him.

He still believes in the game’s virtues, and can probably be considered a fairly doctrinaire figure on most issues confronting the sport and its practitioners, but does not have to pretend that he is too focused on the job to be interested in mundane things like eclipses, political turmoil, social justice and all the other noxious things that happen outside the cocoon.

But be not fooled. He likes the cocoon that is Stanford, and he has the sense to understand that the chance of a better job existing is almost infinitesimal. He may someday want something more public and lucrative, but until money and fame get a long winning streak going at his house, he’ll sit quietly, the second-best coach in the Bay Area and the first-best at making you not remember that he is just that.