Thursday, October 27, 2016

Meet Gannon's Mystery Man

Nike's latest marketing campaign is titled "Come out of Nowhere," a nod to LeBron James' iconic blocked shot in the NBA Finals where he, that's right, came out of nowhere to spark Cleveland to its first league crown. That phrase can also describe new Knight Jair Green, who wasn't on the school's original recruiting class announcement back on Aug. 29 but is now listed on the official roster.

Green, a 6-foot-4, 185-pound junior, is intriguing to me for several reasons, most notably that he's a rare transfer up from the Division III level. Green spent his first two seasons lighting up the scoreboard at Cabrini (Pa.) College, averaging 17.2 points, 6.1 rebounds, two assists, two steals, and 1.8 blocks in 34.9 minutes per game as a sophomore. I'm trying to think of the last Gannon transfer from the DIII ranks ... and I'm coming up blank.

Green also has perhaps the most artistic highlight tape I've ever seen. Check it out here -- it starts in black-and-white and then features a multitude of plays in rapid fire fashion shot from multiple angles. What probably made John Reilly happiest was the thundering rap music the inclusion of defensive stops, the best occurring at the 1:46 mark that I've conveniently cued up for you here. If I ever got rejected like that, I'd dive under the scorer's table for the rest of the night to hide my shame.

And maybe it was the frenetic video clips that made me hallucinate, but if I didn't know better I'd think this was a highlight tape for former Gannon great Gibran Smith. Watch Green's tape then this film on Smith, and I bet you a box of Audi popcorn you'll agree they're brothers from another mother -- similar body type, similar athleticism, plus the long sleeve on the right arm.

I'm not sure whether Green will be redshirted this season or not -- heck, I just noticed he was on the roster while eating a sandwich over lunch today -- but his official Gannon bio says "Green is expected to compete for playing time at guard or forward during his first season at Gannon in 2016-17."

Here's some more Gannon Hoops news you can use:
  • The 2016-17 PSAC preseason coaches poll was announced today, and the Knights are predicted to finish fourth in the West. Also, no GU players were named to the preseason all-PSAC team. As always, Division II preseason polls are strictly for entertainment purposes; to draw conclusions from them is ridiculous.
  • Oct. 31will include the traditional trick-or-treating for the kids, but the next night is a bigger treat for all of us. The annual Maroon and Gold event is slated for Nov. 1 at 6:30 PM at the Hammermill Center. It's not a scrimmage like it used to be (it's now a completely staged event), but it's still nice to sit in the plush seats and hear the sneakers squeaking.
  • As I write this, we're barely over two weeks away from the season's official tip-off when the Knights face Livingstone (N.C.) at the Glenville State (W.Va.) Tip-Off Classic. Keep in mind, though, that the world could end Nov. 8 if the United States elects the wrong person as President.

Thursday, October 13, 2016

Erie Sports Will Never Be The Same

Erie sports lost a legend, and I lost a friend October 13th when Jim LeCorchick passed away at the age of 69. I always considered Jim to be a big-time talent in a small-town market. If he was in New York City, he'd have been Don Imus. If he had been born in Washington, D.C. instead of Erie, he'd have been Norman Chad. But Erie was his home, and it turns out the only one who could call him away from our city was God himself. I've never met anybody with a quicker wit or deeper knowledge of sports than James R. LeCorchick.

Instead of me using my own words to describe him, let me share with you a few of my favorite Jim LeCorchick stories -- there are too many to write in one sitting -- from the many angles I knew him.

Erie's Flagship Sports: Flagship Sports was a monthly newspaper created in 1991 by Jim and Tony Peckich, the General Manager of the Erie Wave World Basketball League team. At the time, I was working for the Wave as a public relations assistant and writing for the Gannon Knight student newspaper, so I lent some of my knowledge and elbow grease to the cause. To put the pre-season football issue to bed, Jimmy and I worked into the wee hours of the morning. Instead of complaining about such a long day, Jimmy got funnier as the night wore on. I recall laughing so hard at some of his comments that I was actually on the floor laughing and crying. If you thought Jimmy was funny on the air, you should have heard the guy off the air.

Erie Wave: The Wave was declining as Flagship 1530 (now Sports Radio 1330) was being launched in 1992. Jimmy hosted an afternoon sports talk radio show then, and he turned the WBL's shoddy treatment of the Erie franchise into can't-miss talk radio. League commissioner Dr. John Geletka decided to move several Erie home games to Pittsburgh which made our sports community -- especially Jimmy -- hopping mad. Geletka refused to face the public about his decisions, so Jimmy took the public to him. At some point during each show for several weeks in a row, Jimmy would call the WBL office live on the air and ask to speak to Dr. Geletka. And every time he'd be put on hold, told by the receptionist that the commissioner was occupied, and asked to leave his phone number and a message. It was such compelling radio -- Is this finally the day the commissioner comes out of the dark? -- that people driving out of the radio signal range would pull off the road until the call was complete.

SportsLook Magazine: From 1993-98, I owned and co-published SportsLook Magazine, and Jimmy was a catalyst behind the publication. He wrote a column every month (we put it on the front page the first two years to give the magazine credibility) and also invited me to appear on his radio show each month to discuss that month's issue. Jimmy was easily distracted, and often during these conversations he would give me a hand signal to keep talking and would leave the room. Not just for a second -- he would walk down the hallway for one or two minutes before popping back into the studio. Even when he stayed in his chair, he would often tackle a crossword puzzle as I talked. One spring, as I was previewing our high school baseball/softball issue, I misspoke -- and Jimmy made me pay for it. I was making the case that the local media provides less coverage of spring athletes even though they work just has hard as the football and basketball players. Referring to the winning Iroquois softball team's efforts, I said "these girls really put out." As soon the words came out, I realized what I had said, and Jimmy raised his head from his crossword puzzle and stared right at me. I spent the next 30 seconds (it seemed like 30 minutes) trying to dig my way out of my verbal pothole. Jimmy never stepped in to save me; he just smiled wryly as I backpedaled. When I finally stopped talking, Jimmy paused and said, "I've got to see these girls play!" before pointing at me and laughing.

Gannon Radio: Jimmy and I called Gannon games together during one of Jerry Slocum's seasons in Erie. We traveled to a few away games together, the most memorable being a Saturday afternoon game at Division I University of Detroit. I drove, and to keep both of us busy I brought my 1990 Continental Basketball Association media guide for Jimmy to read through and comment on. He was like a kid in a candy story, gushing over talented players from years gone by.

Gannon had a player on the team named Bobby Bossman, who was supposed to be sharpshooter from Strongsville, Oh., but Bossman struggled mightily from the field. Jimmy and I were critical but kind during the broadcasts but frustrated with Bossman's shooting ability off the air. During the Detroit game, Bossman pulled up at the right elbow and line-drived a shot off the lower right corner of the bankboard. I described it on the air just as "missed badly," and Jimmy never commented because play continued. During our drive back home, both Jimmy and I were quiet when I asked him, "How about that shot by Bossman?" He responded quickly and loudly, "Oh my God -- I was just thinking about that. Did he drop kick that thing? It wasn't even close! I mean it never even got 9 feet high let alone 10! Bobby Bossman!" I laughed while Jimmy cackled for the next few minutes. Jim didn't like it when his team lost, but he could always find the humor in defeat.

Jimmy was a one-of-a-kind who will never be replaced. Over the years, my phone would ring when he called me just to check in or confirm or deny a local sports rumor he had heard. I'm really sad I won't hear his voice anymore.

I will pay tribute to him going forward, though. In fact, I've been doing that for years. When I send emails to folks outside Erie, I often conclude with, "Thanks & have a tremendous day!" Many have responded that they love the word "tremendous" -- it just makes them smile for some reason. Well, you know who I took that word from.

My sincere condolences to the LeCorchick family, especially his children, Lindsey and Jeff. I know from several of my conversations with him how proud he was of them. His passion for sports was great, but it couldn't hold a candle to his love for his kids.