Saturday, June 22, 2024
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How the Lakers’ coaching search turned embarrassing; Panthers take 2-0 series lead with a dominant Game 2 win

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🏀 Good morning to everyone, but especially to …

THE UCONN HUSKIES

The best coach in men’s college basketball isn’t going anywhere, and neither is his two-time reigning-champion program. Dan Hurley spurned a reported six-year, $70 million offer from the Lakers to stay at UConn.

Hurley emerged as the top contender for Los Angeles’ vacancy last week, and we spilled plenty of (virtual) ink on why he’d be a great fit with the Lakers thanks to his creative, modern offense. He demands excellence and gets it.

He’s going to continue getting it at UConn, making UConn an obvious “winner” in our winners and losers column. The Huskies — seeking the first three-peat since 1967-73 UCLA — have a strong group for Hurley to lead.

  • Alex Karaban returned after testing NBA Draft waters.
  • Hassan Diarra and Samson Johnson were key role players on last year’s team, and Solomon Ball and Jaylin Stewart should step up.
  • UConn added key transfers Aidan Mahaney (Saint Mary’s) and Tarris Reed (Michigan), ranked 40th and 80th, respectively, in Kyle Boone’s transfer portal rankings.
  • Liam McNeeley, Ahmad Nowell and Isaiah Abraham are incoming freshmen. All three were top-100 recruits per 247Sports, with McNeeley, a late addition, ranked 10th.

Gary Parrish says Hurley made the right decision. It’s a huge win for college basketball — superstars staying put is always good for a league, and Hurley is a superstar coach — and I can’t wait to see what Hurley and his team have in store.

👍 Honorable mentions

🏀 And not such a good morning for …

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THE LOS ANGELES LAKERS

In losing out on Hurley, the Lakers embarrassed themselves twofold.

The first failure is the numbers attached to the headline. Six years and $70 million? It’s a big offer until you realize Erik Spoelstra got eight years and $120 million from the Heat. Steve Kerr, Gregg Popovich and Ty Lue all make more per year than the Lakers offered Hurley. Heck, even the Pistonsthe Pistons! — gave Monty Williams a fatter deal.

The Lakers are worth more than double the Pistons, according to Forbes. And they’ve shelled out before. Phil Jackson was a top-paid coach. Los Angeles was willing to pay Mike Krzyzewski and, before that, Jerry Tarkanian top dollar.

Now? This low-ball offer proves what’s wrong with the league’s marquee franchise, Sam Quinn writes.

  • Quinn: “There is no world in which their version of an all-in offer for a head coach should be smaller than Detroit’s. That it was shows why Hurley was probably right to pass on this job. The Lakers either don’t understand or are willfully ignoring the league’s current coaching marketplace. If they weren’t willing to pay Hurley market-rate, would they have shelled out for top assistants? Would they have paid for the infrastructure it would have taken for him to implement his entire program?”

The second failure is with the Lakers’ search as a whole. Before the Hurley bombshell, the reported frontrunner was JJ Redick, a former player who has never coached. So what’s the path? What’s the plan? It’s clear they have neither, Bill Reiter opines.

  • Reiter: “The Lakers seem instead to be operating as if hiring an NBA head coach is like scrolling through Netflix for a movie on a Friday night. A ‘let’s just see what grabs us’ isn’t exactly a sound way to run an NBA organization. There are consequences for this kind of slipshod, public, throw-it-against-the-wall-and-see-if-it-sticks approach.”

Does Los Angeles sheepishly circle back to Redick? Pursue James Borrego, who could have plenty of suitors? Jasmyn Wimbish has the latest on a whirlwind coaching search.

👎 Not so honorable mentions

🏒 Panthers take 2-0 Stanley Cup Final lead behind unlikely hero

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The Oilers couldn’t beat Sergei Bobrovsky on any of their 32 shots on goal in Game 1, so when Mattias Ekholm scored on Edmonton’s first attempt on target in Game 2, things were looking up.

Instead, that was Edmonton’s high-water mark. For a second straight game, the Panthers stifled the Oilers’ attack and got plenty of offense, winning 4-1 to take a 2-0 series lead.

  • Niko Mikkola tied things in the second period. Moments after nearly putting the puck in his own net, Mikkola fired past Stuart Skinner on the rush for just his second goal of the playoffs.
  • Then came the Evan Rodrigues show in the third period. First, he regained possession deep in Florida’s offensive zone, and his deflected shot beat Skinner stick side to give the hosts the lead.
  • He doubled the lead nine minutes later on the power play with a terrific redirect. It snapped Edmonton’s streak of 34 consecutive power plays killed.
  • Rodrigues now has three goals in the Stanley Cup Final. He had three in the Panthers’ prior 17 postseason games.
  • Aaron Ekblad provided an empty-netter to give Florida its second straight three-goal win.

The Panthers are the 55th team to take a 2-0 Stanley Cup Final lead. Of the previous 54, 49 have lifted the Cup. Things are looking good for the Panthers ahead of their long flight to Edmonton.

⛳ U.S. Open storylines, sleepers, more

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Scottie Scheffler is the story going into the U.S. Open. He has won five of his last eight starts. He’s doing stuff that hasn’t been done in decades. He’s the overwhelming favorite.

But as Kyle Porter writes in his top storylines, don’t sleep on some of the world’s best not named Scheffler.

  • Porter: “It’s Collin Morikawa — not Scheffler, nor Xander Schauffele nor Rory McIlroy nor anyone else — who has been in the final pairing on Sunday at both the Masters and the PGA Championship so far this year. In theory, the U.S. Open should be the major he plays the best, too. …  If Morikawa has been forgotten, Brooks Koepka is barely remembered. Koepka’s finishes at the last six U.S. Opens in which he’s played look like this: Win, Win, 2nd, T4, 55th, T17.”

Patrick McDonald, meanwhile, has some deeper sleepers as well as nine golfers you should root for. One player makes both lists.

  • McDonald: Sahith Theegala — Playing in the penultimate pairing Sunday, the free-swinging right hander experienced his first taste of major contention before falling off the pace to a T12 finish. A nice result at Memorial has set the stage for Theegala’s arrival at Pinehurst where his creativity and shot making should allow him to get in the mix.”

Finally, Kyle breaks down five things to know about Pinehurst No. 2, which he says “has stood the test of time and remains one of the crown jewels in this country.”

⚽ Golazo 100: Aging stars highlight No. 40-21

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We’re nearing the top of our Golazo 100 countdown. We hit on players ranked 40th to 21st Monday, with some aging stars showing they still got it.

  • 40. Luka Modric, midfield, Real Madrid “Modric is used sparingly by Carlo Ancelotti in La Liga, but in the UCL his ability to change games can still come in handy.”
  • 36. Cristiano Ronaldo, forward, Al-Nassr “A 35-goal league season in Saudi Arabia helps and could tee him up nicely to play a more meaningful role with the Portuguese in Germany than he did at the FIFA 2022 World Cup.”
  • 22. Toni Kroos, midfield, Real Madrid“Kroos delivered one masterclass after another over the course of the 2023-24 season … He will easily go down as one of his generation’s best players, and will be missed.”

There’s plenty of young talent, too (in this somewhat biased writer’s opinion, Cole Palmer is underrated, even at 30th), and James Benge wrote on players who could crack next year’s top 100, including …

  • Benge:Warren Zaire-Emery, Paris Saint-Germain — It might seem too early for the French team to make room for an 18-year-old, but much the same was said when Zaire-Emery was breaking into the Paris Saint-Germain team, the youngster firmly establishing himself as a solution for what had been the champions great problem position for so long.

📺 What we’re watching Tuesday

Phillies at Red Sox, 7:10 p.m. on TBS
🏀 Lynx at Aces, 10 p.m. on NBA TV

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