Strike One: It’s an election year. The perfect time to pick a new President.
Not that the old President is bad…it’s just that a new President would be better. And the sooner the better.
It’s time for Clint Hurdle to return to the Colorado Rockies in the roll of Team President.
The former Manager of the Rockies and the Pittsburgh Pirates would be a perfect fit for the job. He has the resume and all the requisite skills required. As a former player, coach and manager, he knows the game inside and out. He’s an outstanding communicator, with excellent people and PR skills. He’s been a spokesman for Prader-Willi Syndrome and other charitable causes. He can handle himself in front of a camera.
Let’s flashback to April, 2010: Denver was reeling from the shocking and sudden passing of popular Rockies Team President Keli McGregor, who died at age 47 from a rare viral illness that attacked his heart. As President, Keli was always the guy out in front announcing the news, good and bad. He took the bullets…even though they all seemed to bounce right off. He’d been a standout athlete at Lakewood High School and at Colorado State, and was even a former Denver Bronco. He’d been an administrator with the Rockies from the earliest days and was elevated to Team President in 2001. His loss was an enormous blow.
Days after his passing, mourners gathered in the stands behind home plate at Coors Field on a solemn afternoon for a memorial. Hardly anyone knew what to say. You could hear a pin drop in the 50,000-seat arena.
Hurdle knew what to say. Even though he’d been fired as Rockies manager in May of 2009, Hurdle and McGregor remained close friends. Clint was in Boston working as the Texas Rangers hitting coach when he got the news. He went inside the Green Monster at Fenway Park and cried.
He flew back to Denver for the memorial service and became the defacto emcee of the proceedings to honor his late friend. Hurdle took the microphone and delivered a powerful and moving message to the solemn crowd. He was magnificent.
He should have been named to be McGregor’s replacement right then and there.
Rockies owners Dick and Charlie Monfort didn’t have a long-time personal history with McGregor or Hurdle. Keli has hired by former Rockies owner Jerry McMorris, a long-time family friend. When McMorris stepped down, McGregor remained. Hurdle was hired to be the Rockies hitting coach in 1997 before being elevated to the Manager’s job in 2002.
So, when it came time to decide who – if anyone – could fill McGregor’s enormous shoes, The Monforts did what is often done in small businesses (which is their background.) They stayed within the family, with Dick assuming Keli’s title and duties. It’s been that way ever since.
It’s almost a decade later now. The team would be better served by adding a Team President. For instance, if the whole Nolan Arenado v Jeff Bridich thing has taught us anything, it’s that situations like these – and they happen more often than you think – require a different approach. It’s not the owner’s job to keep the peace between his players and his General Manager. It’s not the GM’s job to placate the media (and we need a lot of placating.) Neither of those two roles includes being “the guy who takes the bullets.”
If McGregor were still with us and still the President of the Rockies, the entire Bridich v Arenado thing would have been nipped in the bud and never gotten to where it is now.
Likewise, if Hurdle were the Rockies President right now, Monfort could devote his time to his critical role overseeing his entire operation; Bridich could function as the General Manager behind the scenes (which is what we would desperately like to be left to do) and Hurdle could be the guy out front, facing the cameras, talking to and placating the media on a regular basis and being the guy who puts out potential fires before they become national news. Just as Keli did.
In short, both Monfort and Bridich could focus on their very important jobs and not worry about the other stuff.
There doesn’t need to be a debate or a primary. Clint Hurdle would make a terrific President.
If only there was a ballot box somewhere we could stuff.
Strike Two: Back in the summer of 2010, you could hardly find a sole – fan or not – who didn’t think that having the University of Colorado ditch the Big 12 conference and move to the Pac 12 was a no-brainer, slam-dunk, gotta do it kind of move. (Okay, maybe Mark Kiszla, but he’s the exception that proved the rule.) 99.8% of us were thumbs way way up on the idea.
It made perfect sense at the time. The Big 12 was a train wreck. The Buffs only real rival, Nebraska, was leaving for the Big 10 – largely due to financial inequities caused by the launching of the Longhorn TV network (Texas went on record as saying they would not share any of the considerable revenue from the network with the other conference members) and the league’s media rights fees that were slumping. The entire conference was unstable, with rumors of other schools bolting for far greener pastures. (Those rumors proved to be true.)
So, the Buffs jumped first, landing in what promised to be a far far better place. Road trips to Palo Alto and Phoenix replacing Stillwater and Ames. New Pac 12 Commissioner Larry Scott was promising a lot more money would be flowing in as well. And money in college sports matters. A lot.
CU made the move, which included moving forward with some badly needed (and costly) facility upgrades. When Utah followed a couple weeks later, the Pac 12 was complete. Meanwhile, Missouri and Texas A&M followed Nebraska and CU out the door. The Big 12 added West Virginia and TCU but dropped their profitable conference title game…and was left with only 10 schools.
Everything pointed to Colorado’s move being the absolute right thing to do.
It’s been a decade now. Looking back, was it the right move? Could 99.8% of us have been wrong?
Certainly the road trips and the chance to connect with CU alums on the west coast has been good for the University. Competition-wise, CU basketball has improved greatly, winning the Pac 12 in 2012 and threatening to do it again this year. Football has been mostly down, but the Buffs did play in the conference title game in 2016, so there’s that.
However, the promise of that big revenue increase has not been kept. At least not relative to what the other Power Five conference schools are receiving.
It was recently reported that for the 2019 fiscal year, Pac 12 schools are each receiving roughly $33 million per school. It’s a slight increase from the year before. Doesn’t sound half bad, right?
Unless you want to compare it with what Nebraska and it’s Big 10 brethren are getting annually. Educated estimates say the Big Ten schools will each be getting $55 mil per for the same time period.
More to the point, CU’s former conference, the Big 12, having reinstated the conference title football game and having found some stability with its membership, is distributing almost $40 mil per school.
The worst news is that every signal points to these revenue gaps growing substantially over the next four years. Among the Power Five, the Pac 12 is being left behind.
Pac 12 schools like UCLA and Cal are reportedly in financial trouble, facing budget shortfalls as they try to remain competitive.
Colorado isn’t to that point yet. They’ve remained pretty financially conservative during their time in the Pac 12. Rumors (promoted in this space for obvious reasons) that CU would do things like reinstate baseball when the Pac 12 dollars began rolling in have proven to be just talk. CU still must pay for the new facility upgrades they’ve made over the past decade, but there haven’t been any new sports/expenses added. They’ve been waiting patiently (while not being very happy about it) in Boulder for Scott and his accountants to deliver on what was promised.
Recently, Buff fans were frustrated over the news that football coach Mel Tucker, on the job for just one five-win season so far, was interviewing for the vacant coaching position at Michigan State. (He is staying in Boulder…for now.) Why would be do that? they asked. Michigan State isn’t a better job than Colorado…is it?
Check the bottom line. More resources equal a better chance to succeed. Michigan State has considerably more resources than CU. While the Big Ten East is a meat grinder, with Ohio State, Michigan and Penn State on the annual slate, the chance to coach in a place with a much better recent history than CU and where resources are plentiful is almost impossible to say no to.
The Pac 12 promised Colorado (and Utah) that they would become that same kind of conference. A decade later, it remains an unkept promise.
It’s now debatable: Did CU do the right thing leaving the Big 12?
Strike Three: With the NBA All-Star game coming up, it’s a good time to look ahead to the Tokyo Summer Olympics, and what this year’s version of Team USA might look like.
Will it be another “Dream Team?” Or just another Team USA?
We don’t yet know what the final roster will look like. Will LeBron play again this time? Will Kevin Durant and Steph Curry be healthy enough to participate…if they choose to? What about Klay Thompson or Blake Griffin?
The luster seems to have worn off being part of Team USA, at least for those who’ve been there, done that. Some of us remember the original Dream Team in 1992, with Magic Johnson passing to Michael Jordan and Larry Bird, with Charles Barkley bullying the far inferior opposition, and with David Robinson and Patrick Ewing in the middle. That remains the best basketball team ever assembled…and it’s not close. What made them extra special was their passion to be part of that squad. They badly wanted to represent their country and empathically bring home the Gold Medal. They did.
Subsequent squads have been outstanding…but will never reach that level. Partly because the passion has never been quite the same. Even the LeBron-led teams with vintage Carmelo, Dwayne Wade and all. They were awesome and won the gold, but never quite dominated at the same level as the originals in ’92.
All these years later, the opposition has improved dramatically. Foreign countries have embraced basketball and continue to churn out NBA stars like Nikola Jokic and Luka Doncic. Winning the gold medal is no longer easy, or even a given. It’s must be earned now.
But the 2020 squad could be really special. Imagine if LeBron has Curry, Durant, Anthony Davis, Kawhi Leonard, James Harden, Damian Lillard, Kyrie Irving, Paul George, Donovan Mitchell, Chris Paul and Jason Tatum to run with? That’s a dirty dozen right there. That’s probably not what the final roster will look like, but it’s fun to imagine the possibilities.
San Antonio Spurs Head Coach Gregg Popovich will be tasked with molding this next group of American NBA stars into a Dream Team. If the Americans are properly motivated, you know Pop will have them properly prepared. Imagine how amazing the quality of play will be if this group buys into the constant ball movement, high energy style of play that Popovich’s best Spurs teams displayed? How much fun will that be to watch?
Greatness on the basketball court is sometimes taken for granted. There are so many uber talented players in the game today that we can lose track. Getting the chance to see the very best all playing together at the top of their games is something that shouldn’t be overlooked and never gets old.