Blazers' Wheeler thankful for support
Notes, quotes and observations about the sporting world …
• Brian Wheeler was in a great mood, if for no other reason than his beloved Los Angeles Dodgers are in the World Series for the first time since 1988.
"Before the NLCS, (Cubs manager) Joe Maddon was quoted as saying, 'I love the way we match up with the Dodgers,'" Wheeler says. "Careful what you wish for."
Wheeler, in his 20th season as the radio voice of the Trail Blazers, is on a leave of absence with the same malady — scrotal lymphedema — that caused him to miss four games in November 2013.
On Thursday, Wheeler began a 1,600-calorie-a-day diet in order to lose weight, which he hopes will help him recover quickly.
Beginning with their home opener next Tuesday against New Orleans, the Blazers have a string of 11 games in which 10 will be played at Moda Center running through mid-November.
"I just need to get 50 percent better," Wheeler says. "Just as long as I can sit comfortably for three hours, I can work. I would hope sometime in that home stretch I'll be back."
Many people throughout the country — and especially in the Portland area — have reached out to Wheeler since it was announced Scott Lynn would take the microphone for the Blazers' first three regular-season games, all on the road.
"I've been touched by how many people from the NBA, other teams and fans locally have reached out to say something," says Wheeler, 55. "It's been heartwarming to see the response. It has made it easier to go through whatever steps I need to get back to health and to the job I love."
• The Blazers have floundered to start the past two seasons, so they've honed in on getting out quickly this season. The schedule couldn't have broken more favorably.
Ten of the first 14 games are at home. After that are back-to-back games against Western Conference patsy Sacramento.
Only one of the four road opponents — Milwaukee — is projected as a playoff team. Of foes in the first 16 games overall, five are against teams expected to make the postseason.
I expect Portland to head into November with a 6-1 record and to stand about 12-4 through 16 contests. That will be a good springboard toward a regular season in the high 40's in the win column.
Sure, injuries will play a part in all of that. But the Blazers were without three players in their 124-76 season-opening romp at Phoenix — suspended guard CJ McCollum, power forward Noah Vonleh (shoulder) and rookie big man Zach Collins (illness). All will return to action soon. The Blazers have one of the deepest rosters in the league — deepest in Terry Stotts' six-year run as coach.
I wouldn't make too much of the blowout of the Suns, possibly the weakest team in the NBA. The best sign was improved defensive effort by the Blazers, who will need more of that to be a contender for one of the top four seeds — and first-round homecourt advantage — in the playoffs.
• I was really glad to see NBA commissioner Adam Silver's recent comment about the possibility of reformatting the playoff structure to seed teams one through 16 regardless of conference affiliation.
"We would need to play a balanced schedule to make it fair for everyone," Silver said.
Exactly — and that seemed lost on most of the proponents of a change.
The Western Conference remains much stronger than the Eastern Conference. Teams play only two games against conference opponents but three or four against in-conference foes each season. A team finishing 48-34 in the East is likely not as good as one going 44-38 in the West.
I doubt that a balanced schedule is on the agenda. So it makes sense to stay with the current format.
• What will Gary Andersen, 53, do for his next football coaching job?
A person close to the former Oregon State coach offers some insight.
"I wouldn't be surprised if he's not a head coach again," the confidante says.
Might he surface as a defensive coordinator at a Power Five program?
"Or maybe just coach the D-line," he says. "Gary's first love is coaching, and working with the kids. He doesn't need the big money. He doesn't need the fame. He doesn't need the power. He might just want to get back to the part of coaching he enjoys the most."
• Oregon State has had great luck in hiring coaches out of George Fox. Baseball's Pat Casey and women's basketball's Scott Rueck haven't done badly in Corvallis after coaching the Bruins.
So let's throw out the name of Chris Casey — Pat's older brother — as a potential candidate for the vacant OSU head football position.
Before Casey arrived at Aloha High in 2004, the perennial Metro League-doormat Warriors had won 17 games in the previous 14 seasons. It took him six years to coach them to the 2010 Class 6A championship.
Casey built the George Fox program out of scratch when the NCAA Division III school reinstituted football after a 45-year hiatus. George Fox went from 0-9 to 4-5 to 5-4 in his first three seasons. Now the 19th-ranked Bruins (5-1) are headed for a Northwest Conference showdown with No. 7 Linfield (4-1) Saturday at McMinnville.
The Beavers could do much worse than hiring Chris Casey to run their football operation.
• The question has been asked a lot: What does Nebraska's hire of Bill Moos as athletic director do to the future of Mike Riley as football coach?
The short answer: I don't know.
But Moos said shortly after taking the job that he doesn't believe in midseason coaching decisions and will wait until after the season to make any change.
I don't think Moos' prior relationship with Riley — when Moos was AD at Oregon and Riley football coach at Oregon State — will have much, if any, bearing. And there is plenty of pressure from Nebraska fans and boosters to get rid of Riley. There's no denying that.
The Cornhuskers (3-4 overall, 2-2 in Big Ten play) have five games remaining, including a Nov. 18 date at second-ranked Penn State. That's almost certainly a loss.
The other four games — against Purdue (3-3), Northwestern (3-3), Iowa (4-2) and Minnesota (3-3) — are tough but winnable contests. If the Huskers can run the table in those four games and get to a decent bowl game, it gives Riley a chance.
Riley has 11 verbal commitments lined up, including six four-star recruits, and several other five- and four-star players seriously interested. It has the makings of the best recruiting class of his classes at Nebraska. Will that factor into Moos' decision? We'll see.
• Great to see that Scott Brosius has been elevated to third-base coach of the Seattle Mariners for next season.
The former Linfield player and head coach — he took the Wildcats to the 2013 NCAA Division III championship — was a bench coach for Scott Servais in his first year with the M's in 2017. I think one day we'll see Brosius, 51, as a manager in the big leagues.