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Thursday, May 31, 2007

Brady on a Rolle

DESTIN, Fla. - LSU men's basketball coach John Brady is still clearly upset about the sudden departure of sophomore power forward Magnum Rolle last week. Rolle, who struggled to replace Tyrus Thomas last season and averaged just 4 points and 4 rebounds, told Brady that unless he was given the freedom to shoot from all over the court he would transfer.

Brady said no, and Rolle is looking into a transfer. Brady has had a steady flow of transfers since he became coach at LSU in 1997.

"Everybody in our league has had players leave," Brady said at the Southeastern Conference spring meetings this week. "There was a list of 147 transfers in men's basketball this year. They don't care about the APR (Academic Progress Rate). My attitude is at the end of the day, if John Brady or any basketball coach hadn't graduated enough players, hadn't won enough games, hadn't represented the university in the way it should ... get another guy."

Brady remains amazed at Rolle's request.

"He just wanted to be all over the floor and shoot it," Brady said. "He got bad advice. He doesn't see the picture right. We've put several in the NBA at that position (Ronald Dupree, Brandon Bass, Tyrus Thomas). Not one of them walked into my office and expected me to allow them to do that. They got where they wanted because they listened. They were patient and they learned and got better. Tyrus Thomas didn't walk in my office and say, 'Coach, I expect you to get me to the NBA, and here's what you've got to let me do.' C'mon! That's not the way it is."

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Miles doesn't take Saban bait

DESTIN, Fla. - The duel in Destin drubbed on Wednesday as an undercurrent to the Southeastern Conference spring meetings.

On Tuesday, Alabama coach Nick Saban played nice toward LSU coach Les Miles by saying, "I have a tremendous amount of respect for the way he’s taken over the program at LSU and the good job he’s done with the program there and the games that he’s won.”

Miles, who became LSU's coach after the 2004 season when Saban left for the Miami Dolphins, did not reciprocate in kind as the Saban-Miles feud continued as a subtle war of words.

Miles even referred to Saban as "it" instead of "he."

Asked how he and Saban were getting along on Wednesday, Miles said only, "We're discussing the same agenda. To me it's just a guy that's representing the other school."

Asked about his relationship with Saban, Miles grew testier and terse.

"Never knew him before," Miles said. "Have no real relationship with him. Have none still."

A reporter whose school rarely plays LSU or Alabama but is suddenly interested in the story called Miles' exchange with reporters on the Saban issue as "icy."

Since Saban became Alabama's coach in January, Miles has continually spoke zestfully to rowdy fan groups about the upcoming LSU game at Alabama on Nov. 3. He also has spoken of negative recruiting by other coaches recruiting the same players LSU does. He didn't mention any names, but Saban and Miles did recruit some of the same players last recruiting season.

Asked if things have been awkward between himself and Saban the last two days at various meetings, Miles shrugged off the question.

"This is the first time anyone's asked me about it," he said, which is not true.

Other coaches have been asked about the Saban factor the last two days. Asked if he's excited to have Saban back in the league, Tennessee coach Phillip Fulmer said, "No," with a laugh. "I'd rather he stayed somewhere else. He's a great coach. He'll do a great job."

Former Florida coach Steve Spurrier, who like Saban left for the NFL but failed and returned as coach of South Carolina, acknowledged that he and Saban have that in common.

"Well, only that, though," he said with a grin. "Only that. Ha ha. No, we're pretty different individuals other than having that in common."

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Saban's in the house

DESTIN, Fla. - Acting like Paparazzi at a not-so-secret wedding, Southeastern Conference writers kept an eye on all the entrances and exits Tuesday on the first day of the annual spring meetings at the Hilton Sandestin Beach.

"Have you seen him?"

"Is he going to come through here?"

"You go get Meyer. I'll hang out here in case he comes."

The target coach was not Florida's Urban Meyer, who just won the national championship. Rather it was new Alabama coach Nick Saban, who left the Miami Dolphins amid a wave of controversy, lies, denials and intense media criticism last January and in the process put most LSU fans in a froth of anger since he left Tigertown on Christmas Day, 2004.

"I'm so glad I don't have to talk to Nick Saban," said one Florida writer.

"But you do. You just don't know it yet," he was told.

Finally, just a few minutes before the 2 p.m. coaches meeting, Saban in a loud red golf shirt and his wife Terry strolled by - both darkly tanned, refreshed and relaxed.

Saban immediately saw LSU basketball coach John Brady and said hello with a big smile.

"How are you doing?" Brady asked.

"Oh, all right, just getting my butt kicked everywhere I turn," said a still-smiling Saban, who last week was accused by prospects in Miami of contact inconsistent with NCAA recruiting rules.

"Ah, don't let them get to you," Brady said, then asked Saban if he had met a friend of his who is in the restaurant business in Birmingham, Ala., where Brady used to coach Samford. Saban said he had and that he was a great guy.

"He gave me a case of Red Man tobacco," Saban said. "Birmingham's got a lot of great people."

A reporter asked if Saban still chews.

"Every now and then," he said. "I was chewing at the lake. We just came from there."

That's Lake Burton in north Georgia, where the Sabans have vacationed since Saban was the LSU coach.

"Oh, he spits tobacco in the water," Mrs. Saban said. "It's terrible, but he says it's good for the fish."

Then it was off to the meeting, where Saban met LSU coach Les Miles in person for the first time. Saban did only a few seconds of interviews with two reporters. Most of the folks waiting for him missed him. But Alabama scheduled a 5:30 p.m. press conference.

Recruiting talk

If Les Miles is to have another top-10 recruiting class -- and to stay among college football's elite, it probably wouldn't hurt to have another -- then he is going to have to do some of his best work out of state.

Rivals.com released its Rivals100 for the Class of 2008 today. As best I can tell, Louisiana has all of two prospects in the top 100 - and neither of those is rated high.

Rayville wide receiver Chris Tolliver is the state's highest-ranked player at No. 68. The only other player listed from Louisiana is Matt Branch at No. 99.

For a program built on in-state kids, this isn't good news.

But if Miles and his staff can pick off enough players from surrounding states (Texas, Mississippi and Alabama), then a dip in talent in the coming years can be avoided.

Monday, May 28, 2007

On Marquise Hill

Coast Guard officials today say they have identified the body of Marquise Hill following a jetski accident in Lake Pontchartrain.

This is a sad day for LSU football fans.

Not only was Hill a former LSU football player, but he was one of the first New Orleans-area players to sign on with Nick Saban. He signed with LSU's 2001 class - that was the one following a Peach Bowl win over Georgia Tech.

I remember talking to Hill during the summer before his senior year in high school. At the time, Michigan was very much a factor in his recruitment. But Hill signed on with LSU and won a national championship with the Tigers.

The news of Hill's death is indeed tragic. His family should be in all of our thoughts and prayers.

Thursday, May 24, 2007

Lay off the catnip, PETA

PETA, PETA, PETA. What are you doing now? There is dog blood in Michael Vick's house - allegedly - and the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals don't want a live Mike VI at LSU.


There is dog fighting all over the United States, and you don't want another live tiger to be in the luxurious, $3 million, 15,000-square feet, realistic habitat at LSU that dwarfs dormitories and classrooms for the human tiger students. (It also dwarfs the inches of work space LSU's athletic department allows reporters, but so what we're all animals.)

PETA says a habitat should be judged by acres, not feet. Yeah, call me when you enter the real world.

PETA says that 15,000 square feet of space is a far cry from a tiger's normal "living space" of 400 square miles. Oh, OK. Well, let's just get rid of all the zoos.

So what if millions and millions of people who have visited zoos for years and years no longer gain an appreciation of animals and thus cut down on those people who aspire to one day work for PETA.

PETA is a great organization. I'm glad we have it after I watch some episodes of Animal Cops. But get your priorities in order. There are bigger fish to fry - oops sorry - than another tiger getting to live luxuriously at LSU. I'd like to hear more about PETA's practical work, such as what the Animal Cops do.

Friday, May 18, 2007

Backs to the wall

After a 4-1 loss at No. 1 Vanderbilt Thursday night, LSU likely needs to win its remaining two games at Vanderibilt to have a shot at making the SEC Tournament. The Tigers (12-15-1) currently trail Kentucky (12-15-1), Tennessee (12-14) and Alabama (14-14) for the eighth and final spot in the league tournament.

Alabama's win over Mississippi State and Tennessee's victory over Florida hurt the Tigers.

They remain tied on paper with Kentucky, but Kentucky has the tiebreaker because it took two of three games at LSU this season.

LSU does have some things going for it entering tonight's 7 p.m. game and the regular season finale at noon Saturday. The Tigers still have their best pitcher to throw in junior right-hander Jared Bradford (10-3, 4.35 ERA), who could start or relieve in tonight's game. They also have freshman right-hander T.J. Forrest (2-2, 2.97 ERA) coming off his best performance of the season on Sunday when he held Florida to no runs and two hits in four innings with four strikeouts for his first save. The scheduled starter for tonight's game is sophomore left-hander Ryan Byrd (6-1, 4.57 ERA), who got the win over Florida Sunday but allowed seven hits and four runs in five innings.

The best news for LSU is that Vanderbilt clinched the SEC overall title Thursday night with its win and Arkansas' loss to Ole Miss. Maybe Vandy coach Tim Corbin will treat his next two games as they do in the Major Leagues after clinching a division or wild card. It's an off day for key starters and front line pitchers as the manager sets up his pitching rotation for the postseason. Even if Vandy does start its scheduled lineup, the Commodores will not have a sense of urgency.

If LSU closes with two wins and Kentucky loses its next two, the Tigers are in. Even one win by LSU over the No. 1 team in the nation over the next two days could help. There is a slight chance that LSU could not make the SEC Tournament and make the NCAA Tournament. It has happened before.Mississippi State finished 35-21 and 12-17 in the SEC last season for ninth and did not make the SEC Tournament. It still made it to an NCAA Regional, though. In 2005, 34-26 and 13-17 Auburn made an NCAA Regional without making the SEC Tournament. In 2004, Mississippi State finished 35-24 and 13-17 and made an NCAA Regional without making the SEC Tournament. In 2003, 37-21-1 and 13-16-1 Florida performed the same trick.

Should LSU not qualify for the SEC Tournament and beat Vandy twice, it would finish 31-24.

Two wins over a No. 1 would likely jump LSU's RPI from 50 back into the 30s and it would have a chance for an at-large bid. One win over Vanderbilt might not do it. Should LSU not make either tournament, it can look back to losing two of three last weekend at home to Florida. LSU went into that series with a 38 RPI and dropped 12 spots.

Thursday, May 17, 2007

Can good come from a loss?

The LSU Tigers lost Thursday's baseball game to Vanderbilt. Therefore they could not make up any ground on a potential SEC Tournament berth.

Yet, some good can come of this. The Tigers have a very, very young team. You could argue the Tigers need to replace the purple or gold with another Mardi Gras-related color that reflects that lack of experience -- green.

LSU not only saw the likely No.1 pick in June's Major League Baseball First-Year Player Draft in Vandy pitcher David Price it also watched Vanderbilt wrap up the overall SEC title with its victory.

So how is this good? Even the best teams endure bad days and sometimes bad seasons. Maybe by watching a team that has clawed its way up the SEC standings little by little in past seasons, LSU can make Paul Mainieri's retooling job in Baton Rouge a little easier.

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Quite a contrast

Last year, LSU made the SEC Tournament with a team that didn't achieve. At least that was the perception.

This year, LSU is going to need either a big weekend at Vanderbilt starting tonight, or some help, just to make the SEC Tournament. Yet the perception is this team has overachieved.

Actually, Paul Mainieri has gotten just about all that could be gotten from this team. There have been some meltdowns but this isn't mid-'90s LSU baseball. Even if this weekend is the end of the season for the Tigers, Mainieri has given LSU fans hope for the future.

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

In case you missed it

Have you been reading your Sporting News lately, Tiger fans? In case you missed it, just wanted to let you know about some recent rankings of college football coaches by veteran sportswriter Tom Dienhart. He's got former LSU coach Nick Saban No. 7 nationally and No. 1 in the SEC. LSU coach Les Miles is No. 10 in the league and No. 41 out of 66 BCS coaches.

How can this be? Apparently, Dienhart's opinion of Saban as a coach has not been affected by the colors of the latest school he's working at or what he said at a press conference with the Miami Dolphins.

"A genius is at work," Dienhart says of Saban. "Sure, Saban was a dud in the NFL. Who cares? His tunnel vision and maniacal focus will make him impervious to the Crimson hanger-on-ers who poison this program. Still not convinced? Well, if Saban won it all at LSU -- which I like to call "Alabama Light" -- he can do it in T-town."

I don't know about the "Alabama Light" part, unless he's talking about NCAA probation history.

But for the most part, I couldn't have said it better myself.

Bama has more tradition than most, including LSU, but LSU has been clearly better than Alabama since Saban came to Baton Rouge in 2000 and was kind enough to leave so much, including excellent players several of whom will be around for two more seasons.

LSU fans, and unfortunatley this includes a lot of the media around here, like to say Saban will have it tough at Alabama for awhile. Truth is, Saban is inheriting a much better program at Alabama than he did at LSU. People forget that. Alabama won 16 games the last two years. LSU won seven games in the two seasons before Saban's arrival and had all sorts of other problems.

Saban will win quick at Bama.

On Miles, Dienhart says, "Miles deserves credit for keeping the Bayou Bengals at a high level. Now, here's a legit question: Can Miles reach the summit like Saban? If Miles didn't do it last year, he never may get it done. Is that a clock I hear ticking?"

Well said. Miles has done well. Finally, some clarity. This proves that most of Miles' popularity rests within the borders of Louisiana that exploded after a nice win over Notre Dame on the day Saban went to Alabama. There is a fine line between love and hate. This is why Saban is hated so much in Louisiana. Miles has benefitted from displaced love. He caught LSU on the rebound.

So much emotion. But if you look at things objectively, like Dienhart has and myself before him, Saban is one of the best coaches in the business and Miles is really just getting started.

I would not have ranked Miles 10th, though. I would have him a bit higher. Some say it is tougher to maintain a high end program than to build one. That could end up being Miles' legacy.

He is off to a very good start. The key will be for him to continue recruiting as he did this past season and to continue making quality hires such as new offensive coordinator Gary Crowton.

My rankings will be out in August. Until then, I told you so.

Monday, May 14, 2007

Missing something

Let me get this straight. LSU wins the SEC softball tournament. The Lady Tigers are ranked No. 5 or 6 in the country depending on your poll of choice. And when the NCAA pairings are released, LSU is a No. 10 seed.


I realize I am not a big college softball fan. I couldn't tell you the top 10 teams in the country if my life depended on it.

That being said, I do understand math. My understanding of math leads me to believe LSU got hammered on this deal.

Of course, we have no way of knowing what the selection committee was thinking because there was no conference call.

Still, you'd think there would be a greater reward for winning the SEC Tournament than a No. 10 seed.

Sunday, May 13, 2007

Forrest delivers when needed

Two months ago, LSU coach Paul Mainieri said T.J. Forrest could fill the closer's role if the Tigers needed.

On Sunday, the Tigers needed Forrest and the former Haughton High standout delivered. Four innings of shutout relief from Forrest on Sunday kept the Tigers in the hunt for a SEC Tournament berth in a season where rebuilding was the expectation.

Forrest has endured a yo-yo season after making a quicker-than-expected return from Tommy John surgery. And, short of winning his college debut at Fair Grounds Field, it's safe to say Sunday was his most impressive -- and important -- outing.

Forrest's pitching just gave LSU a bigger glimmer of hope as it enters its most pivotal weekend of the season -- next weekend at No. 1 Vanderbilt.

Saturday, May 12, 2007

Steltz weapon

LSU safety Craig Steltz is listed on The Sporting News' all-spring team.

Steltz was the only Tiger to make the team. And while it is an honor for Steltz, I thought Early Doucet was the guy who had the big spring for LSU?

There is also one bit of bad news for LSU fans. A familiar face is on the all-spring team -- Ole Miss' Marcus Tillman. He's the former LSU commitment who eventually signed with Ole Miss.

Friday, May 11, 2007

Tour time

The annual LSU Tiger Tour is in full swing. LSU officials have made stops in Alexandria and Lafayette. They'll be in Shreveport-Bossier City on Monday.

For Les Miles, this is a crucial time on a couple of fronts. May is an evaluation period for recruits, so it's crucial that Miles not only sees recruits, but that he is seen by the recruits he wants for next year.

And there is also the crucial time of meeting the folks who are paying his salary. History shows that a Gerry DiNardo might get a longer leash because of his PR skills than a coach who doesn't play the game.

Wednesday, May 09, 2007

Help on the way

Scanning through USA Today's prep baseball poll, it appears LSU has some help on the way.

Drew Cumberland of No. 11 Pensacola (Fla.) Pace hit a three-run homer in a quarterfinal playoff game. Cumberland is an LSU signee.

Hitting home runs in the postseason is a good sign. It shows a player coming through in clutch situations.

It's what LSU desperately needs. Maybe there is some hope on the horizon.

Tuesday, May 08, 2007

Best coaching job

If I'm voting, I'm saying Paul Mainieri has done the best coaching job on the LSU campus this school year.

I realize he doesn't have his team playing at a national level the way Les Miles and Pokey Chatman/Bob Starkey did.

But Mainieri had less material on hand to work with than football or women's basketball. And men's basketball isn't even in the discussion.

I'm curious to see what Mainieri can do after a couple of recruiting classes come to campus.

Saturday, May 05, 2007

Blast from the past

LSU women's basketball coach Van Chancellor announced his new assistant coaches today.

Usually the announcement of women's coaches includes unfamiliar names. Not so today.

One of the assistants hired is a name familiar to college basketball fans -- Travis Mays. He played at Texas during the famed BMW days.

Mays has a background in coaching women's basketball.

It's interesting to see a name you have heard of as an assistant coach for the LSU women's program.

Friday, May 04, 2007

Good start

LSU's win in the ninth inning against Arkansas tonight is a good start.

In fact, all the Tigers have to do now is split the remaining two games to win the series.

And winning the series is big when you're trying to make the SEC Tournament.

They have played well enough recently to deserve making the SEC field. And making it would be a good place to build for the Tigers.

Wednesday, May 02, 2007

McKnight to LSU

Joe McKnight is going to LSU -- at least this weekend.

McKnight will be running in the LHSAA state track meet with the John Curtis team.

It will be interesting to see what kind of response he gets since the meet will be run at Bernie Moore Stadium.

Personally, I'm hoping it is a courteous response. While it is certainly understandable for LSU fans to be upset he didn't sign with LSU, at least by going out to USC the only way LSU will ever come across him would be in a national championship game.

Tuesday, May 01, 2007

Familiar name

LSU has offered a football scholarship to a quarterback in Colorado. You might have heard of his family. Kid's name is Elway. That's right Jack Elway, the son of former Denver Broncos great John Elway.

Jack Elway is a 6-foot-4, 187-pound rising senior at Cherry Creek High School in Englewood, Colo. He has received a scholarship offer from Oregon.

Jack Elway certainly has the genes. But LSU hasn't had much luck with sons of the father. You may recall former basketball great Bill Walton's son, Adam, who lettered at LSU but didn't do much else.

It will be interesting to see what happens with Elway the younger.