Notes on Horton, Beavers, Buchanan, Blazers, Pilots and Imhoff
Drawing inspiration from the immortal words of Rasheed Wallace, I am "coming at you with logic" on a variety of sporting subjects as we barrel toward the Fourth of July …
• Item: An announcement that George Horton has signed a contract extension as Oregon's head baseball coach should come by the end of the week.
"We're real close," says Horton, who has been the Ducks' mentor since the program was brought back in 2009. "It's in the attorneys' hands, making sure everything is OK. Part of the situation is, the university changing language in all the contracts, not just mine. But I think it's going to get done."
Comment: Horton is 322-223 in his nine seasons, and his teams have made the NCAA tournament five times. But the Ducks have failed to reach the postseason the last two years, and they were only 30-25 overall and 12-18 in Pac-12 play this past season. It was Oregon's worst conference mark since 2011.
Horton's UO teams have been characterized by excellent pitching and mediocre hitting. Oregon's small-ball approach has not been particularly popular with Duck fans, and the home attendance average last season — about 1,500 — is not what UO administrators are looking for.
Even so, Horton, 63, is expected to get a three-year extension, though at a salary much lower than the $540,000 he made in 2017. His new deal will likely call for him to make about $300,000, plus incentives.
When Horton was hired, he said he would take the Ducks to the College World Series. That hasn't happened. It appears now he'll be able to get another chance to make good on his vow.
• Item: Oregon State's Nick Madrigal and Cadyn Grenier are serving as the keystone combination for the USA collegiate baseball team that is off to a good start in its summer series.
Madrigal is hitting .308 as leadoff hitter and second baseman for the U.S. team that beat Chinese Taipei 8-6 Saturday at Durham, North Carolina, to run its record to 4-0 in the series. He went 2 for 4 in Saturday's game.
Grenier is 0 for 6 but has a .500 on-base percentage, with three runs scored, four walks and two hit-by-pitch as the starting shortstop in the four games.
Comment: It's a great opportunity for Madrigal and Grenier to play with the nation's premier college players as they prepare for their junior seasons at Oregon State.
• Item: Chad Buchanan will join some familiar faces in his new position as general manager of the Indiana Pacers.
Buchanan, 44, rejoins Kevin Pritchard, with whom he worked from 2005-10 with the Trail Blazers. Pritchard was recently promoted from GM to president in Indiana with the resignation of Larry Bird, who will now become an advisor for the Pacers.
Buchanan spent 10 seasons with Portland, the last seven as director of college scouting. He began as a scout and served the 2011-12 season as the club's interim GM after Rich Cho was fired. Buchanan spent the last two seasons as assistant GM under Cho with Charlotte.
Pritchard and Buchanan go back even further. Buchanan's first job in pro basketball was as assistant director of player personnel and assistant with the Kansas City Knights of the ABA in 2001-02. Pritchard was team's GM and head coach. They guided the Knights to the league championship.
Buchanan will also be reunited with Indiana coach Nate McMillan, who was the Blazers' coach for 6 1/2 seasons during Buchanan's time in Portland.
Comment: Buchanan was a popular and capable scout and executive during his time with the Blazers. He'll add to the synergy in the front office of the Pacers, who will move in a new direction without All-Star forward Paul George, traded last week to Oklahoma City.
"We have our work cut out for us with this rebuild," Buchanan tells the Tribune. "I'm joining the team right in the middle of the action."
• Item: The Blazers send second-year guard Tim Quarterman to Houston for cash considerations.
Comment: Through his three decades as Portland's owner, Paul Allen has often purchased draft choices and thrown in cash to make trades work. This is the first time I can remember the Blazers ever receiving money back in a deal.
This was mostly about Portland opening a spot on its roster with the addition of rookies Zach Collins and Caleb Swanigan. Even so, it leads a wiseacre sports writer to observe that, with the largest payroll in the NBA looming for next season — Portland's currently stands at more than $130 million — even a billionaire owner has to watch his dollars.
• Item: The Blazers bring in guard Nick Johnson as part of their team that will participate in the Las Vegas Summer League.
Comment: The name should ring a bell with Pac-12 fans. The 6-3 Johnson, now 24, was a standout at Arizona, serving as the Pac-12 Player of the Year as a junior with the Wildcats in 2013-14.
Johnson played sparingly as a rookie with the Houston Rockets in 2014-15, was waived by Orlando before the 2015-16 season and spent last season with Bayern Munich of the German League. The nephew of Hall-of-Famer — and one-time Blazer scout — Dennis Johnson is an excellent athlete and defender but sub-par shooter, which has been a problem at the pro level.
• Item: At least one service is not expecting much from the Blazers next season. Bovada sets odds at 150-1 that Portland will win the NBA championship in 2017-18. Only six teams — Atlanta, Charlotte, Brooklyn, Orlando, Phoenix and Sacramento — have longer odds.
Comment: What a windfall it will be for the Blazer believer who plunks down a C-note on his team and collects $15 grand when Portland shocks the world next June.
• Item: The University of Portland's incoming recruiting class is ranked 10th nationally by the website Hoop Scoop, one of only two mid-majors (Western Kentucky is fifth) among the top 10.
Comment: A big part of the Pilots' surprising ranking is about numbers. Second-year coach Terry Porter is bringing in what may be the nation's largest recruiting class of eight players — five freshmen, two junior-college players and a four-year transfer.
Much of this is out of necessity. The Pilots lose three seniors, and five other players — including starters Jazz Johnson and Gabe Taylor — have chosen to transfer. Only one of Portland's top six scorers from the past season will return.
It will be an almost entirely new team on The Bluff for Porter, who also adds his sons, Franklin and Malcolm, both redshirts in 2016-17.
• Item: Former Blazer center Darrall Imhoff died Friday of a heart attack.
Comment: Imhoff, 78, is remembered most as the player who guarded Wilt Chamberlain through most of the Big Dipper's 100-point game in 1962. That wasn't a fair assessment of the career of Imhoff, who made his home in Bend in recent years.
The 6-10 Imhoff led California to the 1959 NCAA championship and, a year later, was a member of the storied U.S. Olympic team, led by Jerry West and Oscar Robertson, that won the gold medal in Rome. Imhoff played 12 years in the NBA, finishing with a single season in Portland in 1971-72, the Blazers' second season.
Darrell was a gentleman and a credit to the Blazer organization as an ambassador and active member of the team's alumni organization for many years. He will be missed.