Thinking Out Loud: PC, URI set to renew rivalry

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Thinking out loud…while wondering if standing behind every angry woman is a man who has no idea what he did wrong…

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It’s not often we lead off with sad news. But in the case of Don Kaull, we’re making an exception.

He’s been a friend to so many on the Rhode Island hoop scene…and meant so much to basketball at URI and at Newport Rogers High School through the years…his passing Saturday came as shock to many as the news of his death spread on social media.

Don spent 35 years on the radio microphone for Rhody basketball, splitting the time with the late Jim Norman and of course, Steve McDonald. He always had a kind word to say, always asked how my partner (Joe Hassett) was doing and what I really thought of the Friars…with a wink.

Don was an all-stater at Rogers and graduated in 1963 as the schools’ all-time scoring leader. His jersey still hangs in the rafters today. He then played for URI from ’64-’67 for legendary coach Ernie Calverly and had a Hall of Fame career.

I never really thought of Don as being “older” (he was 77) because he was always so enthusiastic about his job covering the current players. He loved the Rams but could be critical when required.

Don had decided to hang up his headsets before this season began, as he battled some health issues. I’m only too sorry he won’t be around to see the next edition of the Ocean State rivalry, but if anyone is watching from above…well, I know he and Jim Norman will be calling it.

You’ve gotta love the renewal of a rivalry where the two teams can’t even agree on the number of times they’ve played against each other in their storied pasts. PC sez it’s 131 games, URI sez it’s 133.

There were two exhibitions (both Rhody wins, btw) when the teams first met more than 100 years ago in 1920 and 1921 – before basketball became a varsity sport at Providence. Hence, the Friars calling them “unofficial.”

Rest assured it would be the other way around if those were PC wins against a non-varsity Rhode Island State club.

The two head coaches, Ed Cooley and Archie Miller, are no strangers to rivalry. True, this is Miller’s first go-round with this one, but he knows what it means to fans and local alumni from scouting URI while he was at Dayton. And, from his relationship with Cooley when the two coached with Archie’s brother Sean for Team USA in 2015.

Cooley and Miller appeared on a webinar this week to benefit both schools’ NIL initiatives, with great stories to tell and cautionary tales on not just NIL money but also the transfer portal...two significant factors in present-day athletics that won’t be going away.

Cooley admitted he’s always tried to downplay the significance of this game, largely because he didn’t want a loss to hurt his teams later in the season.

Miller said he’ll have a hard time looking at the other end of the floor and seeing his friend down there. What kind of a rivalry is this?!?

A good one, is what it is. No hate. Only respect. One we should all hope never goes away in this present day and age of college athletics running amok for the almighty buck.

Just don’t tell Joey in South Kingstown or Angelo in Providence there’s any real love here between these two sides. Big Brother vs. Little Brother. The school on the Hill vs. the school in South County. The private, parochial campus vs. the Big State U.

The hate, however you look at it, is what helps make it great.

And yet, the Friars had a tall task ahead of them before they parachute into South County, playing at preseason Top 25 TCU Wednesday.

And the Friars certainly have issues. Let’s start with guard play. There is none.

It’s shocking that Jared Bynum and Noah Locke have struggled as much as they have. But, this is a results-oriented business we’re in these days. Time to find some pine, even if they are fifth-year seniors, if they can’t produce.

Freshman Jayden Pierre is their best guard right now. Sez a lot about the future. Sez a lot about the present, too.

The raw talent is there. I’ll stand by my original thoughts – this team has more talent, top to bottom, than last year’s. But this team hasn’t yet figured out the toughness (and defense) requisite for winning in the Big East.

Rhody has their own issues, struggling to score (much) in their loss at Boston College (53-49) last weekend.

But the energy in the Ryan Center should be full blast. Throw records and stats out of the window. If you’re feeling sorry for yourself – or your team – get ready for the “L” column.

Not surprised to see Bryant beat Syracuse in Syracuse. The Bulldogs almost pulled off that feat what, a couple of years ago?

Best part of that one may not have been the slap-fest that caused players to be ejected. It might have been the postgame, always-whiny comments from Jim Boeheim. We’ll miss those, someday.

The Bulldogs climbed up to #9 in the mid-major Top 25 after the splashy win over the Orange. Bryant and Brown are the other half of “Rivalry Week” in Rhode Island this weekend – facing each other in Smithfield Friday night. The Bears beat CCSU Tuesday to lead into the battle with the Bulldogs.

Marquette struck the first big blow for the Big East in the annual battle with the Big 12 – by blasting 6th ranked Baylor. It was Marquette’s biggest win over a Top 10 team in 51 years, Baylor’s biggest loss to ANYONE since 2007.

PC isn’t the only Big East team struggling to find itself. Georgetown is a question mark wrapped in an enigma. Butler may still be sneaky good. There is a clear Top 3 right now – UConn is 9-0, Creighton (despite lousy shooting at Texas, it shouldn’t last) and Xavier – with St. John’s knocking on the door.

Opportunity is still there for the Friars. The league appears to be top-heavy…which will make games against the above-mentioned Superior Four very, very important.

Sure, you’re worried about your own teams – unless you follow Bryant. No worries there. Other teams are losing ‘buy’ games, allegedly underperforming, losing games to teams that have no real pedigree or pizzazz.

College hoop today? The portal and NIL money have changed the game…but is it for the good?

How about a women’s hoop update, Edward in East Providence? PC’s Friars swept through the Friar Thanksgiving Classic to move to 6-2…and a date with perennial power UConn.

URI has won six straight after beating Buffalo. Brown is also on a six-game winning streak after getting past Holy Cross this week, and Bryant lost in the finals of the Providence tournament, looking to get back on track this weekend against Central Connecticut.

On the ice – Brown upset 8th ranked Providence to claim the Mayor’s Cup with a 3-2 win. Goaltender Mathieu Caron was named ECAC goaltender of the week for his performance with 35 saves, 17 in the 3rd period in the win over PC.

Here’s a somewhat sobering thought – now that Lane Kiffin has signed a contract extension as football coach at Ole Miss, there are five head coaches in the SEC that now earn MORE than $9 million annually.

Mommas, do let your babies grow up to coach football…south of the Mason-Dixon line.

And the $$$ is only going to continue to increase. ESPN and The Athletic reported this week the 12-team College Football Playoff is going to happen, in 2024. If your team advances to the title game, there’s a good chance it will be a 17th game on the schedule.

Which is exactly how many regular season games NFL teams now play. Ironic, isn’t it?

When was the last time a two-possession game involving the Patriots trailing felt like it was over? ‘Cuz that’s exactly what the game Thursday night in Foxboro felt like.

Buffalo is good, but they ain’t great. Long way to go for the Bills to even approach the sort of dominance New England had over the division for 20 years. But winning three straight in Foxboro for the first time in nearly 30 years is a start.

Not for nuthin’, but this hasn’t been one of BB’s best coaching jobs this season. Especially since he’s apparently in denial over penalty and performance issues that have directly led to losses on the field.

I mean, I know he’s forgotten more football than any of us will know…but Bill, we see what we see. The numbers do not lie. Your current team has been penalized more right now than they were for ALL of last season. ‘Splain that one.

It tells me there’s a tangible lack of discipline. Or a lack of attention to detail – which used to be a hallmark of New England teams during the dynastic days. Which is it, and why is it happening?

There is also a huge brain drain on the coaching staff. Not that the current guys are dumb – they’re not. But the learning curve in many spots is huge, and they’re just not, um, learning.

Don’t think it’s all Devin McCourty’s fault. He played in his 200th game as a Patriot this week and was presented with a pictorial memento from Robert Kraft during his media session this week.

Nah, not all Devin’s fault. He’s had a ton of help and he’s played better than most. Just sayin’.

The playoff picture (P-P-Playoffs?!?) remains a bit blurry. It’s not out of the realm of possibility, but let’s just say there is very little margin for further error.  And we’ve seen a lot of error.

The rumor mill is ramping up again. Bill O’Brien to New England to rescue the Patriots’ offense next season? Always have thought he’d want to come back to the pros, even though he may be well-suited for the college game.

Could he get enough responsibility to run HIS ship here on that side of the ball? It’s worth considering, isn’t it?

And something like O’Brien’s potential return to New England would have to be the starter for ANY conversation on TB12’s return as well. Wait, wut?

I love The Athletic’s Jeff Howe, who penned his piece this week that the Patriots might be a landing spot for Brady next season. He’s like my younger brother, who I tried to make eat worms when he was seven.

What’s the over-under on the decibel level for boos in Houston this week, when DeShaun Watson comes off of his 11-game suspension to play QB for Cleveland against his old team – the Texans?

From my buddy “The Guru” – Watson will be the 34th different starting QB for the Browns since the team reincarnated itself in 1999.

The Pittsburgh Steelers can become the first team in the NFL since the 1970 merger to hit 500 regular season wins if they beat Atlanta Sunday. They’ll have done it with just three head coaches – two of them (Chuck Noll, Bill Cowher) in the Hall of Fame.

My buddy “Big E” sez he remembered this week, while listening to some inane argument on the radio, that while silence is golden, duct tape is silver.

Jeremy Pena surely showed you can come home again. The Houston Astros’ rookie shortstop and World Series MVP visited Providence and his old Elmwood Little League last weekend, with many of his former coaches, former teammates and current little leaguers present to honor his memorable season.

Fun to see such a year rewarded by the home folks. I’ll wager it was fun for Pena, too.

Not too much fun for the Red Sox as winter meetings begin, it would appear. Nothing definitive on Xander Bogaerts yet, but it isn’t expected he’ll be back – short of a miracle. And one of the top Sox targets for the off-season, ex-White Sox slugger Jose Abreu, was apparently pried away by Houston.

Yeah, good start to the rebuild. But let’s not panic or anything. We’ll always have Sweet Caroline.

Get this – Division I volunteer college baseball coaches, of which there are more than just a few – are suing the NCAA alleging they illegally limit the number of paid coaches a team can hire…and they price-fix a volunteer coach’s salary at zero.

I’m all for guys getting paid to do a job – but doesn’t the word ‘volunteer’ mean you’ll do something and expect nothing in return?

Jayson Tatum is living up to lofty expectations. Eastern Conference Player of the Month is a good step toward an MVP run. But for the Celtics to keep piling it on, the bench will need to continue to shoot like they have lately.

Al Horford has a new contract extension? Good for him. But it wasn’t long ago he was little more than “Average Al” to many.

I’m dying to find out what the Royal Family thinks of Mahcus Smaht.

And good on ya’, Joe Mazzulla. NBA Eastern Conference Coach of the Month. Just roll the balls out there and get out of the way.

The Bruins are 13-0 at home this season – and the Providence Bruins are 7-1-1 thus far on the road. That could be a volatile combo at some point, if the timing gets right.

Hey Revs, you payin’ attention? Cristiano Ronaldo, now that he’s broken up with Manchester United, may consider marriage with a non-Euro league.

But you had better be ready to open the wallet – a Saudi team has offered him $207 million, annually, to kick it with them. Whoa.

The only other time Team USA posted multiple shutouts in a World Cup? 92 years ago. C’mon now. Who remembers that one?

The World Cup showdown between the U.S. and England attracted 15.4 million viewers — making the broadcast the most-watched men’s soccer match on American English-language TV ever. 12 million more (probably a few of the same) watched the win over Iran to put the USA in the knockout round.

And now that Iran has been eliminated, FIFA sez NOW fans can bring their rainbows and banners to stadiums in Qatar, where…last we checked…support for LGBTQ people and their issues is still illegal. As in “go directly to jail” illegal.

Really wish I could make dumb decisions like FIFA and, oh, maybe the NCAA, and get paid billions. Stupid is as stupid does.

Approximately 42 million viewers tuned in to watch the Dallas Cowboys beat the New York Giants on Thanksgiving Day. According to Fox Sports, it’s the most-watched regular-season NFL game on any network on record.

It may be an apples-to-oranges comparison but based on those numbers – futbol still has some work to do before catching football, at least on this side ‘o the pond.

And before the world's sport reaches us in 2026, it’s likely to undergo some change. More teams (48 from 32), a potential “pregame” penalty shootout (how would THAT work?), three-team groups instead of four (which increases the possibility of teams colluding against each other). All are on the table for WC 2026.

Welcome to America – the Land of Opportunity. And if you don’t like something, wait a minute. Someone will do something stupid to try and fix it.

Interested in having your questions on local Rhode Island sports (and yes, that includes the Patriots, Red Sox, Bruins and Celtics) answered in a somewhat timely fashion? It’s your chance to “think out loud,” so send your questions, comments, and local stories to jrbroadcaster@gmail.com. We’ll share mailbag comments/Facebook posts/Tweets right here!  Would appreciate the follow on Twitter, @JRbroadcaster…and join in on Facebook, www.facebook.com/john.rooke ...

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Featured Image Photo Credit: USA TODAY Sports