Santoro: Pack’s 10-3 start saves a mostly bad 2022
Wolf Pack point guard Kenan Blackshear, featured against Loyola Marymount, has helped Nevada to a 10-3 record in the Mountain West season.
Coach Steve Alford’s men’s basketball team has saved 2022 from being one of the worst calendar years ever for the Nevada Wolf Pack’s two most high-profile sports. The basketball team, 10-of-13 since November, has mercifully softened the blow of a thoroughly demoralizing year for the Pack football and (2021-22) men’s basketball teams. The two Wolf Pack teams that feed the all-important athletic budget and shape the psyche of Northern Nevada’s sports community were an ugly 9-23 combined in 2022 before Alford’s team came to life in November. Alford’s Pack was 7-13 from Jan. 1 to March 10 (and then lost three key players to the transfer portal in the spring) and Ken Wilson’s football team was 2-10 this fall. The two combined for nine wins through October, less than one a month. The suffering for Pack fans seemed endless. But Alford’s Pack has since gone 10-3 (with two games left in 2022 this week) to give the men’s football and basketball teams a combined record of 19-26 this year. Thanks to Alford’s new team in the last two months, there is real hope for 2023.
Should the two richest coaches in school history (Alford, Wilson) ever finish below a combined .500 in a calendar year? Of course not. Both coaches, after all, get to choose their non-conference schedules and then only have to deal with the Mountain West the rest of the way. After all, the Wolves would finish under .500 in football and men’s basketball in a given calendar year for well under two million dollars for just two coaches. In 1967, Dick Trachok’s football team, for example, and Jack Spencer’s basketball team went a combined 10-22-1 from January 1st to December 31st. All of their combined budgets fell short of a million dollars. Spencer’s basketball team and Jerry Scattini’s football team went a combined 9-27-1 in 1970 and 9-27 in 1971. Since the invention of the Internet, the basketball team of Pat Foster and Trent Johnson and the football team of Jeff Tisdel was a combined 9-28 in 1999. In 2013, David Carter’s basketball team and Brian Polian’s football team were a combined 12-30. So, hey, 2022, it wasn’t so bad after all.
How good is this Wolf Pack basketball team? We’ll find out for sure in the next couple of months as some reinforcements (namely KJ Hymes and Daniel Foster) return and get back into basketball game shape. Alford went out and found some quality newcomers last spring and summer (namely Jarod Lucas and Darrion Williams) and has squeezed even more potential and production out of returnees Kenan Blackshear, Tre Coleman and Will Baker. Make no mistake, this is a fragile, young, thin, inexperienced and, at times, one-dimensional team, so Alford is clearly earning his millions this year. The overall success of this team will depend on Alford’s ability to continue to develop this group and keep his head above water when it looks like he’s going to drown.
It was feared that the loss of Grant Sherfield, Desmond Cambridge and Warren Washington after last year would devastate the Wolf Pack basketball program, at least for a year or two. And the Pack’s 10-3 start has certainly masked those fears so far. But Sherfield is averaging 18 points, 3.8 assists and 2.8 rebounds and is draining 56 percent (35 of 62) of his threes for the 9-3 Oklahoma Sooners. Cambridge (11.5 points, 1.7 steals, 3.4 rebounds) and Washington (8.0 points, 2.0 blocks, 7.1 rebounds) are performing well for the 11-2 Arizona State Sun Devils. Alem Huseinovic, another former Pack player off last year’s roster, is averaging 7.4 points and 1.8 rebounds off the bench for the 9-3 Rice Owls.
Romeo Doubs is enjoying the best NFL rookie season of any former Nevada Wolf Pack player in history. The 6-foot-2, 200-pound Doubs has caught 39 passes for 405 yards and three touchdowns this season for the Green Bay Packers in 11 games. His rookie year in the NFL narrowly surpasses that of former Pack receiver Nate Burleson, who caught 29 passes for 455 yards and two touchdowns in his first year with the Minnesota Vikings in 2003. Former Pack receiver Alex Van Dyke, caught 17 passes for 118 yards and a touchdown in his rookie year for the 1996 New York Jets. Rishard Matthews caught 11 passes for 151 yards and no scores in his rookie year for the 2012 Miami Dolphins.
Doubs is receiving passes from quarterback Aaron Rogers, while Van Dyke received passes from Frank Reich, Neil O’Donnell and Glenn Foley. Matthews caught passes primarily from Ryan Tannehill, while Burleson caught passes from Daunte Culpepper and Gus Frerotte.
It turns out the San Francisco Giants may have known what they were doing after all when they put the brakes on their Carlos Correa deal due to Correa’s past injury issues. The New York Mets now seem to have the same concerns. The Giants have since gone out and signed former Met outfielder Michael Conforto, who has struggled with his injuries and hasn’t even pitched since 2021. The Giants’ other offseason signing is former outfielder of the Reno Aces, Mitch Haniger. who has also struggled with injury problems.
The difference, however, between Haniger and Conforto and Correa is vast. Conforto and Haniger will only cost the Giants $79 million over five years, while Correa’s price tag was $350 million over 13 years. Signing Correa would have changed the course of the Giants outfield for at least the next decade. Signing Correa is like buying a winter home on 200 acres in France. It had better be perfect. Signing Haniger and Conforto is like trading in your 2012 Toyota for a 2019. It’s okay if there are a few scratches.
What exactly was former Giants manager Bruce Bochy thinking when he accepted the job as manager of the Texas Rangers? Bochy will be 68 this coming season and hasn’t managed since 2019. He hasn’t won a World Series since 2014. He’s taking over an underachieving Rangers team that went 68-94 last year. past, scoring 34-47 both home and away. Yes, the Rangers signed Jacob DeGrom and fellow pitchers Nathan Eovaldi, Andrew Heaney and Jake Odorizzi this offseason. So, okay, they could go 78-84 this year after DeGrom, Eovaldi, Heaney and Odorizzi spend half the year on the injured list. Bochy, who is already on his way to the Hall of Fame, should have been retired in Nashville, listening to country music.