Brownie Points: How about a coach who knows defense? - East Valley Tribune: Sports

Brownie Points: How about a coach who knows defense?

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Jerry Brown is a contributing columnist who appears every Sunday in the Tribune. Contact him at

Posted: Saturday, December 3, 2011 12:00 am

Thank you, Washington State. Thank you for hiring Mike Leach and taking that would-be trainwreck off Arizona State's radar. Bringing a guy with legal clouds overhead isn't a good idea. Let's not import more baggage.

So who do you want, ASU fans? Are we going glitzy with Kevin Sumlin - the latest, greatest and most expensive version of Dirk Koetter? Are we going with legacies like Mark Helfrich or Ron English? How about old school with Mike Bellotti?

I'll cast my vote, but no one is going to listen to me.

No one listened when I said hiring Dennis Erickson was a bad, bad idea, and that on-field discipline would define his tenure here. In honor of Erickson, the Pac-12 should change all their penalty flags to maroon and gold.

No one listened when I said that the marquee teams in ASU's history have all been based in defense, and instead of trying to run with Oregon and Stanford, perhaps figuring out a way to stop them would be wiser. The 1982 ASU team that throttled Oklahoma in the Fiesta Bowl? Defense. The 1986 Rose Bowl winner? Defense. The 1996 Pasadena team needed one more defensive stand to win a national championship.

So I'm going defense, and they don't play defense better than in the SEC. So I'll cast my lot with Alabama defensive coordinator Kirby Smart, who has learned at the knee of Nick Saban and will bring the kind of recruiting cache that could blend well with the talented, undisciplined mustangs currently in the program.

Roundball in a Square Hole?

Having covered the Suns during the last lockout-shortened season - also painfully known as "The Luc Longley era" - I can give you a pretty good idea of what we're going to see when the NBA finally cranks the engine over on Christmas Day.

We're talking about players who have now been off for 5-7 months, depending on playoff participation. We're talking about two weeks of training camp, with many players at this point still unsure where they are playing, much less who they are playing with. We're talking about 37-year-old Steve Nash and 38-year-old Grant Hill (currently a free agent) playing back-to-back-to-back nights, sometimes in three different cities, and 66 games shoe-horned into nearly five months.

In a nutshell, the 2011-12 season will be ragged, tired basketball and even more meaningless than usual to set the stage for what everyone was trying to save - the playoffs and NBA Finals. Most of the talk will center on what superstars will join the Knicks, Bulls and Lakers to form a super trio to battle Miami. With any luck, another team-oriented franchise like Dallas will ruin all their plans and win it.

Just So Much Winnipeg Noise

It was nice to see the fans in Winnipeg - well, about 75 percent of them - reward Coyotes captain Shane Doan with a round of applause during the first period of his regular season return to Manitoba on Thursday.

The fans booed the Coyotes every time they touched the puck otherwise, and that's fine because someone had to pay the 17-year-old bill for the city losing its franchise in 1996. Even if the target of their abuse turned out to be a bunch of players who were in grade school at the time? Hey, whatever.

Fans were mad that Doan - who has spent 16 years in Arizona and was in Winnipeg for less than 16 months in 1995-96 - had the audacity to say he'd rather stay here than move his entrenched family back near the North Pole. I mean, how dare he?

Doan is an outcast in Jet-land, but Teemu Selanne will receive a hero's welcome when he returns to Winnipeg later this year. Selanne was traded before the Jets moved so he avoided the stigma of leaving town for Phoenix. But Selanne was a free agent this summer, able to sign with any team in the league, including the Jets. He chose to re-sign with the Ducks.

Wonder why, Winnipeg? Keep this under your tuque, but Selanne likes Anaheim better. Imagine that.

Quick hitters

Cowboys 27, Cardinals 17: This is Tony Romo's time to shine - right before the games really start to matter.

As for the Big Red, let's face it: We're all just watching for the punt returns at this point. John Skelton/Red Skelton. Kevin Kolb/Lee J. Cobb. What's the difference when you're not good enough to challenge in a lousy division and a mediocre conference? Right, Eagles fans?

•Sun Devil fans should be sending the Wildcats roses - oops, sorry about that Arizona fans - for allowing ASU to avoid the indignity of being routed in the first Pac-12 Championship Game with a lame-duck coach.

Hope those UCLA players got at least a cool watch or something. Otherwise, if I was a player, I'd find a way to sneak my name on the No-Fly list.


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