Mark Madden: Low-rent Pitt should not be petty
Spring ahead, fall back. But refreshing sports notes always run to daylight. The entertainment value makes time stand still.
• Pitt athletics are so low-rent. Men’s basketball coach Kevin Stallings went 0-18 in ACC play. Firing him is understandable. His contract calls for a $9.4 million buyout, but Pitt wants to crook him down to $4.8 million because he yelled at a heckler during Pitt’s loss Jan. 2 at Louisville. That constitutes “cause,” Pitt says. But, at the time, Pitt made no fuss about the incident. Pay Stallings what his deal says he is owed. Don’t be petty.
• The Stallings case could go to court. If it’s a basketball court, neither side is likely to win, and the stands will be about two-thirds empty.
• Pitt won’t get a “name coach” to replace Stallings. Pitt won’t pay enough. Before a “Pitt guy” takes the job, he should consider how Pitt ran off football coach Dave Wannstedt in 2010. Wannstedt was the ultimate “Pitt guy.” Before anybody gets hired, he should consider the treatment of Stallings.
• I saw a video that sums up Mike Mitchell’s tenure with the Steelers: Jacksonville back Leonard Fournette gets 11 yards and a first down, punctuating the run by running over Mitchell. Mitchell gets up and inexplicably starts celebrating. Not quite worth $5 million per year. Mitchell was much ado about nothing: zero picks, one fumble recovery and two passes defended in 2017.
• Le’Veon Bell wants paid almost twice as much as any other back in the NFL. But last season, Todd Gurley of the Los Angeles Rams had more rushing yards, more receiving yards and much better per-carry and per-catch averages. If Bell wants $14.5 million per, what should Gurley want?
• At the NFL combine, a team asked LSU running back Derrius Guice if he “liked men.” That question absolutely should not be asked. But if you ran an NFL team, wouldn’t you want to know? This issue will swirl until a star player in a major sport is openly gay.
• Oklahoma quarterback Baker Mayfield asked this of a Chicago scout: “You guys just drafted Mitchell Trubisky. What do you want with me?” That’s a reasonable query. But Mayfield haters say he should have spoken with the Bears to prove his maturity and respect. That’s silly. Why waste time?
• Derick Brassard’s slow adjustment since joining the Penguins is understandable. Ottawa’s 1-3-1 trap is the NHL’s slowest system. Jumping on the Penguins’ fire wagon is quite a change, as is centering Phil Kessel. Brassard will be fine. He’s a solid player, and 55 points in 78 career playoff games speaks loudly. Brassard just needs to start reacting instead of thinking.
• Defenseman Matt Hunwick got top-four minutes with Toronto last year, was plus-8 and averaged 25 minutes, 39 seconds during six playoff games. He’s currently a healthy scratch with the Penguins. What happened?
• Defenseman Jamie Oleksiak was on the fringe of Dallas’ roster since being picked in the first round of the 2011 NHL draft. He played more minor league games than NHL games. Since being traded to the Penguins on Dec. 19, Oleksiak has been a difference-maker and plus-7 in 33 games. What happened?
• Don’t underestimate Tristan Jarry’s role in the Penguins’ surge. His 13 wins lead all rookie goalies. Besides the rare hiccup, Jarry brings a calm to the position that’s needed when Matt Murray isn’t available. Had Jarry been the backup all year, the Penguins would be solidly atop the Metro Division.
• Conor Sheary scored two goals in November, two in December and none in January. A steady diet of healthy scratches seemed likely until Zach Aston-Reese got hurt. So did Bryan Rust. Sheary jumped from the fourth line to Sidney Crosby’s line and scored twice Wednesday at Philadelphia. Hockey can be a funny game. Opportunity knocked, and Sheary answered.
• Before last night, Evgeni Malkin had 46 points in his last 26 games, an average of 1.77 per. Only Wayne Gretzky and Mario Lemieux have higher figures on their careers. Malkin has been hockey’s best player since Jan. 1.
Mark Madden hosts a radio show 3-6 p.m. weekdays on WXDX-FM (105.9).