PACE 6 Qtiliztn Sports WEDNESDAY, DECEMBER 24, 1975 Keller; Nice guys finish last? Mavericks 9 big problem: Lack of seasoned talent By BRUCE JOHNSTON Citizen Sportswriter There are two schools of thought on who is to blame for the Tucson Mavericks' dismal season. Some people point to coach Adam Keller. Who wouldn't, if you took a look at the team's 2-22-5 record in the Central Hockey League? Most people close to the team, though, say it's simply a lack of player talent. If Keller is to blame, it isn't because he hasn't tried. He is relentless in his practices -- especially on fundamentals -- yet his players keep making mistakes in the basics of the game. He's never had a set roster, or a full roster for that matter, and that kills teamwork. Is it that Keller, in his second year of coaching, can't motivate his players or doesn't have rapport with them? Does he The Central Hockey League's newest entry, Tucson's Mavericks, has turned out to be the losingettt team in professional hockey. Tucson Daily Citizen sportswriter Bruce Johnston, who covers the Mavericks, takes an in-dcplh look at the team's problems in a two-part series. Today: Who is to blame? have the patient personality necessary to work with a "development league" club full of youngsters one or two years out of junior hockey? The phrase "super coach" is most often heard about him from his players, and that includes players who have left the organization and would have nothing to lose by knocking him. Somehow, the players have retained their spirit and almost all keep giving 100 per cent. They do everything but win. If Keller has a "fault," it's that he is one of the nicest and most honest men in the coaching profession. Because of that, he may be too lenient with his players. Would firing Keller accomplish much? No. The talent just isn't there to be competitive in such a high-powered league as the CHL. The basic weakness of the Mavericks is that the World Hockey Association, which stocks the Tucson club, simply can't supply the team with the necessary experienced players. Experienced, in the context of a development league, means perhaps two or three years as a pro. Tucson -- with five rookies now and seven much of the season -- is facing clubs with at most three rookies on their rosters, and they aren't expected to carry their club. Other teams in the league can put out at least one seasoned veteran, of many years as a pro, most likely one with National Hockey League experience. The Mavs have a total of about five years of WHA experience. Late in the game, when experience tells the most, the Mavericks often wilt under the pressure from a veteran club. The fact that the Phoenix Roadrunners Analysis (who own 10 of the Mavs) stocked half of a WHA-supplied team in the CHL last year and made it to the league playoffs (under Keller's coaching) doesn't have much bearing now. The experienced players on that team have been let go by the Runners, who are fully committed to a youth movement. The Central League is.tougher than ever; franchises have combined NHL working agreements (doubling their player base) and suddenly last year's have-nots are this year's powerhouses. The Roadrunners, who coordinate the stocking of the Tucson team, underestimated the power and balance of the CHL. Then two of the Mavs' parent clubs, Denver and San Diego, were dropped for lack of support. Some of that slack has been taken up by players brought in from two NHL organizations, St. Louis and California. Four or five more of that NHL-caliber player and the Tucsonians would be competitive. Phoenix officials didn't realize the situation until too late. Now the Mavericks are hopelessly out of playoff contention. Keller, to keep his job, is expected to attain a .500 record for the rest of the season and even that seems nearly impossible. The Roadrunners have kept the Mavericks well under the roster limits and often one player comes in just as another leaves. The man responsible is Al Rollins, Phoenix player personnel director. If the Roadrunners had kept the Mavericks with a full roster; and if they had allowed the Mavericks to have a full training camp with some exhibition games; and if they had accurately gauged the weakness of the Mavs and the strength of the CHL, then, perhaps, the Mavericks would be competitive in their league. But, what it comes down to is this: Can a World Hockey-supplied team win consistently against the five NHL-supplied teams in the CHL? As Adam Keller says: "Let's turn that around. There are three or four teams in this league that could easily hold their own in the WHA." So why should we expect a Phoenix farm team to do a job that the Roadrunners themselves would be hard pressed to do? Tomorrow: The remedy for next year More Sports Inside OH Baseball bidding war to reopen Quimby 5 p ro Bowl An ordinary day is memorable OJ. i Terry Bradshaw is pitted against Fran Tarkenton in the Pro Bowl. For the second straight year, 0. I. Simpson captures the National Football League rushing crown. Hill .5 Arizona's Bruce Hill is rated the nation's top passer in college football. Davis Cup 5 Although the United States may have the top players in the world, they lack something when it comes time to play in the Davis Cup. Cage scores 5 Pro basketball 5 Pro hockey 5 Golf notes 5 Sports capsules 5 NEW YORK (AP) -- Yesterday, Catfish Hunter. Today, Andy Messersmith and Dave McNally. Tomorrow, the world. That's right. The same status that brought millions to Hunter a year ago, that will bring riches to Messersmith and maybe, McNally, could be a gold mine for almost every major league baseball player. It's free agency, a sort of financial haven in which no one has you, yet everybody wants you. And it could happen to hundreds of ballplayers for the 1977 baseball season. Peter Seitz, the impartial arbitrator who pushed Catfish Hunter towards a $3.75 million pot of gold, waved his magic wand yesterday and ruled that pitchers Messersmith and McNally were free agents. Seitz said that both pitchers played the 1975 season without signing contracts and, accordingly, have ended their contractual commitments, Messersmith with the Los Angeles Dodgers and McNally with the Montreal Expos. Messersmith, a high-quality pitcher with two 20-victory campaigns under his belt and a 19-14 record last season, could command some sky-high bids from the major league teams. On the other hand, McNally, who left the Expos last June because his arm was wasted, may only be worth dirt. He couldn't 'be reached for comment yesterday but, when last seen at his car dealership in Billings, Mont., he was not looking to ride the comeback trail. So it appears that Messersmith will be 1976's glamour boy and most wanted man, just like Hunter was one year ago. But it also appears that there may be a lot of competition for that title in 1977. On Dec. 20, all individual contracts had to be mailed to the major league players. Paragraph 10 (a), the renewal clause, which Seitz said could be invoked by the owners only 'Steve Weston CITIZEN SPORTSWRITER On football From all we could gather via Mountain Bell last week, New Orleans surrendered to Larry Smith without a single shot being fired. "He walked in like he owned the place," a sportswriter for the Times-Picayune said. All the people we spoke to in tracking down the news that the man who had been University of Arizona head football coach Jim Young's right-hand man for three years had taken the head job at Tulane were extremely impressed with their choice. "We must have sorted through 75 to 100 names," said athletic director Rix Yard, who hasn't been on firm ground since his generous 10-year contract to Bennie Ellender was terminated after only two short (and losing) seasons. Â· "The vote on coach Smith was the first time the athletic advisory committee ever had a unanimous vote on anything." I think most everyone familiar with Smith's coaching talents will agree that he is a good choice to resurrect Green Wave football. He has a solid background of six seasons with Michigan's Bo Schembechler and three years with Young. Some people might think UA could have made a pitch to keep Smith around because speculation was that he'd eventually replace Young. But they should know that had Smith not taken the Tulane job, he was very likely gone anyway. He was a top candidate at Washington State. He was ready for a head job. On basketball Whatever's bothering UA's basketball team isn't easy to pinpoint. The simple fact is that coach Fred Snowden's Wildcats aren't performing as expected. But getting an explanation isn't so simple. Neither Snowden nor any of his players can determine precisely why the team stopped playing well when it took its first road trip and hasn't played up to par in its last two home appearances. The Cats have displayed startling failures in many phases of the game. The coaches and the players should equally share the burden of the consequences. But not as important as what has gone before is what is to come. The Western Athletic Conference race isn't that far away, and if Snowden's team doesn't have its present wrinkles ironed out by Jan. 16, it's in real trouble. Where Arizona was a solid favorite a month ago to win the WAC race, the Wildcats are at present a definite question mark. Texas-El Paso and New Mexico have shown surprising strength. Arizona State is improving. Wyoming, Colorado State, Brigham Young and Utah will all be tough to beat at home. If Snowden's team can't play any better on the road than it has so far, it can prepare itself for another bitter . disappointment. once, is in every one of those contracts. According to Marvin Miller, executive director of the major league players association who joined Seitz in voting 2-1 against owners' agent John Gaherin in yesterday's historic decision, each player's contract is an independent document -- separate from the labor contract between the players and the owners. Miller says the labor contract expires Dec. 31 but those individual contracts are a different matter. If a player does not sign his contract by Mar. 1 and is notified within 10 days of Mar. 1 by his owner that the owner is renewing the contract in accordance with 10 (a), then the player may perform the 1976 season without a contract. And, presto, he's an unsigned but not an unwanted player, and after the season, he becomes a free agent. Miller said it doesn't matter what happens in the upcoming collective bargaining between the players association and the owners on a new labor contract. "Ten (a) is part of the individual contracts," Miller said, "and Tuesday's decision immediately affects almost every player without any question." Miller said the only exceptions to this were players with multi-year contracts covering Andy Messersmith Free to deal the 1976.season, players who already have signed one-year contracts for 1976 and players' who go to salary arbitration, if there is salary arbitration, in 1976. In the past, any player going to salary arbitration had to sign a contract, with the impartial arbitrator merely filling in a final figure. Seitz agreed with Miller's interpretation of the free agent potential of the 1976 individual contracts. Lee MacPhail, president of the American League, said he didn't know what affect yesterday's decision would have on the individual contracts. You can lead a horse to water... It may look like it, but driver Kewin Newbound didn't decide he could run faster than his colt during a race near Melbourne, Australia. In one of United Press International's top sports photos of 1975, Newbound was thrown from his sulky on the home turn while piloting a two-year-old colt in his first start. Fiesta Bowl By REGIS McAULEY Citizen Sports Editor TEMPE -- Wherever Fiesta Bowl fans gather -- and there are thousands of them in the area motels and hotels -- the statement is heard over and over, "Sure hope Arizona State can play a respectable game against Nebraska." There is little or no talk about a Sun Devil victory. One Fiesta Bowl officer is betting on Nebraska and giving 13 points. But Nebraska coach Tom Osborne told reporters here yesterday that he looks for a low-scoring game. "Both teams have good defenses," he said, "so I would expect little scoring." At the same press confer- ence coach Frank Kush said of his Sun Devils, "There is no way we can run right at them. They are too big and strcing. We are not physically able to hit them head-on. We will have to run counter plays and try to keep them off balance. 1 think that the people in the Midwest who watch this game on television are going to see a different kind of football than they are accustomed to. We will do a lot of stunting to try to get through on offense and defense." As the Cornhuskers go after their seventh consecutive bowl victory, they will be relying on the "Black Shirts" defense that led every category in Big 8 statistics with a rushing defense of 137.7 yards, passing defense of 86.4 yards, total defense 224.1 yards and scoring defense, 10.9 points a game. The Cornhuskers have many individual standouts with center Rik Bonness, a two-year All Big 8 and All-American; Monster Wonder Monds, All Big 8; defensive tackle Mike Fultz, cornerback Dave Butterfield and defensive end Bcb Calendar RADIO, TV TOMORROW Basketball: NBA, Kansas City vs. Phoenix, 1:30 p.m., Channel 13 and KTUC (1400). Martin, all Big 8 stars. Their running attack is led by fullback Tony Davis, the No. 2 rusher in Nebraska's history, and Monte Anderson, running back with 723 yards gained this year on split duty with John O'Leary who gained 599 yards. Against this fine talent Kush will counter with Fast Freddie Williams, whom he calls the best runner in his sophomore year of any of the great Arizona State backs; Mike Haynes, his All-American defensive back and John . Jefferson, whom he calls as good a receiver as any the Sun Devils have ever produced. "If they play Jefferson one on one (as Osborne said they might do) they'll never stop him," Kush said. "He will beat any player in the nation in that situation." Osborne says there wasn't a team on Nebraska's schedule that he could compare to Arizona State, with the exception of Missouri. "Missouri used some quick trap and dive plays similar to Arizona State's," he said. The Cornhuskers beat Missouri, 307. And that's what has the Sun Devil fans worried. Nebraska is not the type of team that holds back once it has opponents on the ropes. To wit: Indiana, 45-0; TCU, 56-14; Colorado, 63-21, and Iowa State, 52-0. There is genuine cause for , worry in the Valley of the Sun. Ohio Stale is No.1-- maybe By Associated Press College football's national championship has been all but Â· handed to Ohio State. But what would happen if the unbeaten, untied, No. 1-ranked Buckeyes should lose to UCLA in the-Rose Bowl? That question elicited some interesting responses when put Â· to coaches Barry Switzer of third-ranked Oklahoma, Bear Bryant of fourth-ranked Alabama, Bo Schembechler of fifth- ranked Michigan, Tom Osborne of sixth-ranked Nebraska, and Â· UPI Telephoto Frank Rush of seventh-ranked Arizona State. Texas AM was ranked No. 2 in The Associated Press' final regular-season poll, but the Aggies blew their shot by losing to Arkansas in a late regular-season wind-up and then bowing to unranked Southern California in the Liberty Bowl. "When you talk about Ohio State losing you've got to remember I'm a Big Tenner," said Michigan's Schembechler whose 8-1-2 Wolverines were unbeaten until dropping a 21-14 finale to the Buckeyes, a loss that sent them to the Orange Bowl against Oklahoma instead of the Rose Bowl. Does that mean Bo will be rooting for Ohio State and his old boss, Woody Hayes? "I didn't say that," was Schembechler's reply, accompanied by what sounded like an evil chuckle. "It isn't that such a possibility hasn't crossed my mind " he continued. "I'll say this - Oklahoma is a great team and anyone who beats them certainly will have to be considered for the national championship." The coaches were queried on the assumption their teams don't stumble in bowl action like Texas AM. "If we beat Michigan in the Orange Bowl I think we'd deserve it, I really do," said Switzer, whose 10-1 Sooners are the defending national champs. "I haven't even thought about it, but we'd claim it 1 guess," said Bryant, whose 10-1 club will be out to snap Alaba ma's eight-year postseason jinx when it faces Penn State in the Sugar Bowl. "1 think we'd have a claim to it," said Osborne, whose 10-1 Cornhuskers won their first 10 games and were ranked No 2 until a 35-10 trouncing by Oklahoma detoured them from thÂ° Orange Bowl to the Fiesta Bowl against Arizona State "But Oklahoma beat us and that might give them a better claim If Ohio State and Oklahoma both lost, that would give us a verv legitimate claim." ^ Kush, whose Sun Devils could end up the nation's only 12-00 team, still doesn't see much chance of ascending to the Â·throne. "Realistically, I guess we could claim it," he said "but whether we'd get it is another story. The only way 1 could evaluate it is if I had the opportunity to look at all the other teams 1 haven'^ had that opportunity."
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