An Honest
Day’s Word

By Joe Edwards

Wednesday, January 20, 1999

Fire Wallace?
You’ve gotta
be crazy!

THE first basketball game was played 106 years ago today in Springfield, Mass. So it figures this would be a busy day.

I don't know which group of nutcakes is crazier -- those who say they'll miss Dennis Rodman now that he's retired from the NBA, or those who call radio talk shows asking for the head of Rainbow men's coach Riley Wallace.

Check me if I'm wrong, but isn't this the same Riley Wallace who was the toast of the town the last two seasons?

The guy's team loses a few games and now the goofballs are calling talk radio. "Fire the coach," they moan.

Fire the coach? Get real.

I don't always agree with Wallace, but I'll say this: he's done a fine job with this program, about as well as can be hoped for given its limitations.

The parents of blue-chip freshmen do not send their Jason Capels 2,500 miles from the nearest dry land to play basketball.

And so Wallace must recruit junior college players and second- and third-tier prepsters. That Wallace has kept the program on a fairly even keel is a credit to his understanding of his market.

In short, this ain't Carolina.

Maybe crushing Indiana and stunning Kansas last year was the worst thing that could have happened. Now there's a town full of basketball coaches who are smarter than the guy on their home team's bench.

It's a joke, and I'm glad Wallace spoke out Monday night on his post-game show. He basically told his nay-sayers, if you don't like the job I'm doing, and enough of you go postal on me, I'll make my living doing something else.

"If you let them do that, they'll continue to do that," Wallace said yesterday.

He knows that if enough idiots yell loud enough, otherwise thoughtful people can be influenced wrongly.

"I've always fought back. You can't please everyone," he said.

"Talk shows are brutal these days. I used to like to listen on my way to work, (but) I've switched to music now."

As well he should.

Wallace knows this version of the Rainbows would have a tough time throwing the ball in the ocean from the beach.

They are near the top of the Western Athletic Conference in scoring defense and held a good Utah team to 60 points. They just can't score.

On top of it all, they don't seem to have anyone who is the recognized go-to guy. Mike Robinson is a nice offensive player, but is inconsistent and jacks up 20-foot jumpers when what the team really needs is a three-footer from the paint for a sure two points.

Marquette Alexander is "a keeper," but seems to defer to the senior Robinson.

The rest of the upper classmen are role players at best. And the freshmen are freshmen. As former Marquette coach Al McGuire used to say, "the best thing about a freshman, is he becomes a sophomore."

Yes, the staff might have made some recruiting mistakes. Surely, not everyone eligible to come back next year will.

But, hang on, help is on its way. It'll be here as fast as it can. Bernard McIntosh is a big post player who should complement Alexander. Predrag Savovic can flat-out shoot the ball and has a scorer's mentality. Neither can play until next season, so patience will be a virtue.

That would serve some of the radio knotheads well.


Has Jerry Krause lost his mind? The Bulls trade Scottie Pippen, the best player on the planet not named Michael, to the Houston Rockets for Roy Rodgers.

All of which leaves Toni Kukoc as the trigger man on a suddenly gutted team.

They'll have plenty of salary cap money to spend on free agents, but I wouldn't want to be Tim Floyd this season.

Da Bulls are going down da tubes. Isn't it fun?

Joe Edwards is sports editor of the Star-Bulletin.

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