Bob Hunter commentary: Rumblings ... Browns, Tressel, Blue Jackets and more
There has been speculation in some circles that new Cleveland Browns owner Jimmy Haslam might at least consider former Ohio State coach Jim Tressel for his coaching vacancy.
Tressel, 60, vice president of strategic engagement for the University of Akron, was asked by Dispatch reporter Tim May this week whether he considered himself to be back on the market for a coaching job. More to the point, he also was asked whether he would like a shot at coaching the Browns. After first chuckling, he gave a Tressel-like response.
“That’s a difficult — I don’t know what ‘on the market’ means exactly. But I have an affinity for the Cleveland Browns … I am Cleveland Browns to the core,” Tressel said. “That being said, I have a lot of confidence in the new owner. I think he’s got a lot of passion. I am a big (former owner) Randy Lerner fan because he brought ’em back. I will never think less of him.“But I also think a lot of Haslam, and he has been around a pretty good organization (as minority owner of the Pittsburgh Steelers) for a long time. So whatever he does, I’m sure it will be good.”
The Blue Jackets have long coveted a move to the Eastern Conference, so a report by the New York Post’s Larry Brooks that the NHL is considering having Columbus and Winnipeg switch places in the event of a shortened 2013 season would be welcome news.
The move wouldn’t be permanent; it would be made so travel would be easier for both clubs during a compacted schedule. But having the Blue Jackets in the Southeast Division and the Jets in the Central could be just the trial that is needed to make the move permanent. The Jets have remained in the Southeast since leaving Atlanta in 2011.By making that move, the Jets would have a chance to play some of their road games in their time zone, and the Jackets would have less travel and more road games on television during prime time.
Pittsburgh Steelers coach Mike Tomlin gave defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau a vote of confidence at his season-ending news conference, a thumbs-up that likely means that the London, Ohio, native and Ohio State graduate is welcome to return next season.
“I think everyone is aware I’m happy with the work of Dick LeBeau,” he said. “He’s a special guy.”
Tomlin noted that the Steelers’ defense started the season slow in blowing fourth-quarter leads at Oakland and Tennessee but came on strong late to finish No. 1 in the NFL in total defense and pass defense. LeBeau, 75, had earlier pledged to return next season if he were welcomed back.
Regardless of what happens in the postseason, the Bengals have scored a victory in attendance this season.The team sold out six of its eight home games after selling out only two in 2011. The Bengals averaged 61,888 at home, a 24 percent increase over 2011, when the team averaged just over 49,000 fans.
John Rinka, a former Kenyon star whose 32.8-point career scoring average still ranks as the sixth-best in NCAA history, will make appearances today and Saturday at his alma mater. A three-time All-American and 1970 graduate who averaged 41.0 points his senior year and still ranks as the school’s career scoring leader, will have a reception at the Kenyon Athletic Center from 4:30 to 7 p.m. today in Gambier, Ohio, before a women’s game against Denison, which has free admission.
Rinka, a 5-foot-9 guard who was a member of the inaugural class of the Ohio Basketball Hall of Fame in 2006, also will participate in a forum discussion about basketball in the 1960s and ’70s at 2 p.m. Saturday at the Athletic Center.
Three of the top candidates for the vacant Browns coaching job have strong ties to former Browns director of player personnel Mike Lombardi, reportedly a candidate to become general manager. The Plain Dealer reported that Oregon’s Chip Kelly, Penn State’s Bill O’Brien and Syracuse’s Doug Marrone have good relationships with Lombardi, primarily through his connection with New England Patriots coach Bill Belichick. Belichick and Lombardi worked together when Belichick was coach of the Browns in the 1990s, and they have remained close since.
The Crew’s Ethan Finlay is one of 30 Major League Soccer players participating in “Soccer Night in Newtown,” a special event that will take place Monday that is open only to Newtown, Conn., residents and members of the Newtown Youth Soccer Club following the school shooting there.
U.S. national team stars Cobi Jones, Alexi Lalas, Mia Hamm and Connecticut native Kristine Lilly also will play in small-sided games there, as will the San Jose Earthquakes’ Marcus Tracy, who grew up in Newtown.
Big Ten commissioner Jim Delany told ESPN.com’s Adam Rittenberg that he hopes to have a more diverse bowl lineup for 2014-17 and hopes to have it finished before the summer.
The Big Ten has three matchups with Southeastern Conference teams in Florida (Capital One, Outback and Gator) and at least two matchups with Big 12 teams (Buffalo Wild Wings and Meineke Car Care) and sometimes a third (Heart of Dallas, which has a secondary Conference USA tie-in). The league faces the Pac-12 champion in the Rose Bowl.
“We’re going to try and be national and try to have relationships on both coasts and maybe in areas we haven’t been before,” Delany said. “We want to play the best. I don’t think you'll see any radical changes in those areas, but you’ll probably see us having more interactions with more conferences.”
In May, Delany said that the league was interested in the Pinstripe Bowl at New York’s Yankee Stadium. The conference has since added Rutgers and Maryland as members, so a tie-in seems likely.
Texas Rangers starter Derek Holland told the Newark Advocate that he wasn’t happy with his performance during the 2012 season. The Newark native went 12-7 in 145 innings but gave up a career-high 32 home runs and had a 4.67 ERA in part because of a stomach virus that caused him to lose 40 pounds.
“I’m my own worst critic, and I’m really hard on myself,” Holland said. “I think I can do a lot better. Last year was a tough one for me because I got sick and lost a lot of weight, and I tried to bounce back quickly. I know I can do better, and every year I want to do better than I did the year before.”
How much better?
“I have a lot of personal goals,” he said. “I want to continue to make a name for myself and win the World Series, win Cy Young and be a Hall of Famer. … I have to make some big improvements. I can’t keep having years like I did this year.”
In 2011, Holland went 16-5, including four shutouts and a 3.93 ERA in a career-high 198 innings. Because of that, the Rangers signed him to a five-year, $28.5 million contract.
Cleveland Cavaliers coach Byron Scott insisted that his benching of first-round draft pick Dion Waiters in favor of C.J. Miles on Wednesday against Sacramento was not in response to something that Waiters had done wrong but was merely part of a short-term plan to “find some balance and make us a better basketball team.”
Waiters went into the game averaging 14.2 points and shooting 36 percent, the lowest of any regular player. Miles had averaged 16.2 points in his previous 11 games, shooting 47 percent overall and 51 percent from three-point range.
Scott told The Beacon-Journal that Waiters wasn’t happy but hinted that the change could be temporary. The Cavs lost to the Kings to fall to 7-26, but Waiters scored 20 points off the bench, making 8 of 19 shots. Miles shot 4 of 13 and scored 12.
“Like I told Dion, this is not permanent,” Scott said. “I still have to figure out what’s the best for the team. Not the individual, what’s best for the team. That’s the most important part.”
Bob Hunter is a sports columnist for The Dispatch.