Smile Politely

A season on the drink


Last weekend at Northwestern, Illinois lost after shooting great and allowing an opponent to shoot purty good too. Late Thursday night in Minneapolis, Illinois shot crap, and forced Minnesota to shoot crappier.

Blake Hoffarber hit 3 of 10 from deep. Trevor Mbakwe and Ralph Sampson watched their lay-ins crawl out. Like rutting gophers of Minnesota, these Gophers went spastic when they got close enough to smell the hole.

An Illini trio came through in the clutch. DJ Richardson buried a three at 4:29, extending a tenuous Illini lead to six points. Mike Davis made the biggest shot of his career, a 20-footer at 1:53, to keep the six point spread.

Brandon Paul finished the Gophers, coolly dropping four free throws in the final minute.


Brandon Paul was lousy and excellent again. His 8 of 8 from free won the game. His 2 of 8 from the floor nearly lost it. His errant, off-balance fade aways from 20 feet (i.e. just inside the arc) shaved a few years from the lifespan of cardiac Illini fans.

Bill Cole, Meyers Leonard, Jereme Richmond and DJ Richardson were also perfect from the line.


Demetri McCamey came off the bench, as did Mike Tisdale. It’s Bruce Weber’s latest nod to a Bobby Knight brand of basketball coaching.

I guess it worked.

McCamey dived and scrambled for a career high 9 Heldmans. The team scored 44 on the Matto, about twice what they’ve achieved in recent games.

McCamey drove himself so hard it cramped him.


Mike Davis missed a double-double by one rebound. He seemed to hit a big shot whenever Illinois needed one.

Some of them were graceful and long. Some were nasty, brutish and short.


Richardson not only hit a crucial shot at crunch time, he also handled the ball well against Minnesota’s full-court press. His man had a bad night.

Take that, naysayers.


I attended the Indiana game in 1985. I remember feeling disappointed that Bobby Knight started Steve Eyl rather than Steve Alford. At the time, it didn’t occur to me that I might be watching an historic moment, one that would be captured in book form.

Maybe someday I’ll think back to this game at The Barn, as the night that turned it all around for Bruce Weber.

There’s a job opening in the NBA. Back in Urbana, the next time I open Chrome on my basement desktop, the Jazz contact page will open again, along with the Gmail tab and three Illini-centric basketball message boards.

For the last two weeks, I’ve kept these pages open while I delayed writing about their content.

The message boards are the next big story, but I need to get some statements before I can predict what will happen to the online voice of Illini fandom.

I’ve also procrastinated in calling the Jazz. I wanted to ask them whether Jerry Sloan had any retirement timetable. I knew he spent most of his adult life drinking and smoking. Nearing 70, it would make sense that he hung it up.

My curiosity coincided with Bruce Weber’s job-approval abyss. The locals have lost their love for Weber, and that’s quite reasonable considering the ongoing disappointments of five years.

But Weber’s college problems don’t mean he can’t coach. I think Weber should be a candidate for the Jazz job.

Unlike Lon Kruger, Weber’s coaching style is perfectly suited to the NBA. Weber can be successful with teams of experienced players, especially when those players have a few years to learn each other’s tendencies.

The person who could get Weber hired is the same guy who got Jerry Sloan retired. As of Thursday night, Weber had not spoken with Deron Williams about developments.


A few hundred nerds again trekked to the frozen to take off their clothes in front of bemused, elderly Norwegians.

They earned the appreciation of their beloved.

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