Archive for December, 2010

If Thrashers keep winning, they can overcome damage

Hello, Atlanta. I'm Dustin Byfuglien. Please come watch me and my team.

Hello, Atlanta. I'm Dustin Byfuglien. Please come watch me and my team. (Curtis Compton/AJC)

I look at the Atlanta Thrashers and I think, “Japan.”

Hang with me for a minute. Back in school days, I had an issue of Playboy magazine. (It was a mistake. I think it was stuck between the Time and the National Geographic at the newsstand and accidentally ended up in my possession.)

Anyway, this issue of Playboy had an interview with Akio Morita, the co-founder of Sony, who said when he first came to the United States he was astounded that the term, “Made in Japan” had such a negative connotation. So he vowed to change that. Then in 1979, Sony came out with the “Walkman” and of course we all bowed in unison. Before long, we were lampooning anything that read, “Made by GE.”

Now, when I say, “Thrashers,” what comes to mind? Is it that wonder of a team that has won eight of its last nine games, or the past horrors of a franchise that never has won a playoff game? Is it Dustin Byfuglien …

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Urban Meyer retires — and this time he means it

Urban Meyer had been contemplating retirement since the weekend.

Urban Meyer had been contemplating retirement since the weekend.

(UPDATED: 6:53 p.m.)

For the second time in as many Decembers, Urban Meyer is retiring.

The hope is that this one lasts more than 24 hours.

He says it’s not about health but rather family. He says it’s not about suddenly losing but rather spending time with his wife and trying to catch up with children, after missing too many of their birthdays and sports events.

“At the end of the day, I feel we’re judged by how you are as a husband and a father,” the outgoing Florida coach said.

Nobody would dispute that. But he had similar words a year ago, as well as a health scare, and pulled a U-turn the next day. That was a mistake.

He says now that his previous retirement was “a knee-jerk reaction” and it came because there was “a lot of emotion in the family.”

Chest pains will do that.

Last December, word leaked out that he had to be hospitalized with chest pains and severe dehydration. On the day after Christmas, he …

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Jackets fizzle again, but Radakovich in Hewitt’s corner

Georgia's Gerald Robinson drives past Tech's Daniel Miller for a layup in the second half, and the Bulldogs rallied for a 73-72 win. (AP photo)

Georgia's Gerald Robinson drives past Tech's Daniel Miller for a layup in the second half, and the Bulldogs rallied for a 73-72 win. (AP photo)

For most of the evening, it looked like early December basketball: Missed jumpers, mistimed passes and long stretches of mediocrity interrupted by the occasional highlight.

Actually, if you flipped back the calendar a couple of weeks, it was the Georgia vs. Georgia Tech football game.

In the end, the Bulldogs won this one, too, 73-72 at Alexander Memorial Coliseum. The difference: a 3-pointer by the Dogs’ Dustin Ware that broke a tie with 18 seconds remaining, followed by a Tech team that looked again as if it lacked either a plan or an ability to execute thereafter.

Why would Glen Rice drive the lane for a layup with 6.8 seconds left rather than attempt to set up a three-pointer to tie it?

Why, with the Jackets inbounding the ball with 2.8 seconds left, would Brian Oliver attempt a low-percentage pass the length of the court to center …

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LIVE BLOG: Dogs, Jackets each looking to affirm direction

Georgia (5-2) is coiming off a narrow win over UAB.

Mark Fox's Dogs can send a strong signal about program tonight. (Hyosub Shin/AJC)

Paul Hewitt's Jackets need to make a statement.

Paul Hewitt's Jackets rebounded from the loss to Kennesaw State. (Curtis Compton/AJC)

So are the Georgia and Georgia Tech basketball programs truly headed in opposite directions? There is evidence to suggest that but we’ll get a greater sense of it tonight.

The Bulldogs and Jackets meet at Alexander Memorial Coliseum. Since the series moved back on campus in 1995-96, the home team has won all but one of 15 meetings. The exception came 10 years ago, when Georgia (coached by traveling potions salesman Jim Harrick) won at Alexander 75-70 in Hewitt’s first season with Tech.

A lot has changed since then. The Dogs have changed coaches twice (from Harrick to Dennis Felton to Mark Fox) but appear to moving forward now. Fox has invigorated the fan base, winning several big games in his first season and stepping things up in recruiting.

The Jackets had a meteoric rise under Hewitt, all the way to national …

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Dudley and Ramsay working miracles with Thrashers

Craig Ramsay's team has won eight of the last nine.

Craig Ramsay's team has won eight of the last nine.

Notwithstanding that the Falcons’ Thomas Dimitroff and Mike Smith currently represent the favorite general manager-coach tag team of Atlanta pro sports franchises, let me pose this question: Is anybody doing a better job right now than the Thrashers’ tag team of Rick Dudley and Craig Ramsay?

I understand that hockey doesn’t move the meter like football in these parts. And unfortunately too many missteps on and off the ice have damaged the Thrashers’ immediate ability to lure fans back to Philips Area. But this team is doing some crazy and wonderful things.

Monday’s win 3-2 win over Nashville gives the Thrashers eight victories in the last nine games. Even wins aside, this might be the best stretch of hockey — at both ends of the ice — the team has ever played.

Rick Dudley has made all of the right moves.

Rick Dudley has made all of the right moves.

Consider the scores of the last nine games: 5-0, 2-1, 5-1, 3-0, 4-1, 3-2, 2-3 (loss), 3-1, 3-2.

The only loss came at …

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If Hewitt wants to alter perceptions, he needs to beat Georgia

Paul Hewitt can shout loud and clear but only winning will solve his problems.

Paul Hewitt can shout loud and clear but only winning will solve his problems.

We tend to not pay too much attention to college basketball around here until football is over, with two notable exceptions: 1) When Georgia Tech loses to Kennesaw State (check); 2) When Georgia Tech plays Georgia.

So is Tuesday night when the programs officially pass each in adjacent elevators?

The Jackets and Bulldogs meet at Alexander Memorial Coliseum. The perception since early in Mark Fox’s first season in Athens is that the Dogs have momentum and are moving forward while the Jackets are regressing and even imploding under Paul Hewitt. (Tech’s loss at Kennesaw State three weeks ago did nothing to change that.)

When I asked Hewitt Monday if he agreed with that perception, he bristled.

“How do you want me to answer that?’ he said.

Any way you want.

“I’ll leave that up to other people. We went to the tournament last year.”

Hewitt must realize a significant portion of the fanbase believes last …

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Falcons don’t look great but all that matters is 10-2 record

Michael Jenkins' nine-yard touchdown catch with 4:31 left gave the Falcons' another last-minute win.

Michael Jenkins' touchdown catch with 4:31 left gave the Falcons' another last-minute win.

TAMPA – The danger in using words like fate or destiny is it sets a team up for a fall.

But when three games are won by field goals in the final seconds, when a Munchkin cornerback has a team-leading four interceptions and his Lollipop Guild twin returns a kickoff 102 yards for a touchdown, when the Falcons resemble a team of exploding parts and craniums up until the point where they somehow pull out another victory . . . well, you start to wonder.

Fate? Destiny?

“I don’t know what you call it, but I’ll take it,” Tony Gonzalez said. “All I know is we have something pretty special going right now and the biggest positive I take about this is, we can get a lot better.”

The Falcons are 10-2. They scored two fourth-quarter touchdowns to rally and defeat Tampa Bay 28-24 Sunday, and then probably set a land-speed record to the airport to get out of town before a football deity thought, “Naw, …

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FALCONS LIVE: No Cam Newton here but Ryan’s not bad

This guy won't be in the game today . . .

Sorry,this guy won't be in the game today …

. . . but this guy will, and the Falcons are fine with that.

… but this guy will and Falcons are fine with that.

TAMPA — So if Cam Newton can accomplish this in one season as a starter in the SEC, how many NFL teams are going to run through walls to draft him in the spring?

Well, a lot. But safe to say the Falcons won’t be among them. The biggest reason they’re tied for the league’s best record (9-2) is the play of quarterback Matt Ryan, who was 24-for-28 last week against Green Bay and just won the NFC’s offensive player of the month award for November. And considering this is only his third season, he’s probably going to be around for a little while.

Ryan and the Falcons are in a rare position today. If they defeat Tampa Bay, they’ll hit double-digits in wins for only the sixth time in franchise history with four games still to play. But it would be the second season of double-digit wins in three tries during the regime of general manager Thomas Dimitroff, coach Mike Smith and Ryan.

As I …

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Weekend Predictions: Cam Newton and Auburn conquer all

cheese 001

Before this season’s final week of dead, solid, perfect, financial locks — give or take an Alabama meltdown and the forgotten inevitability that Steve Spurrier would make Dabo Swinney look like he had a head full of nougat (what was I thinking picking Clemson last week?) — we have this update from the world of high of finance:

Stanley Ho, a billionaire casino owner in Macau (of course), who clearly has money and nougat to burn, won an action. For a castle? No. A vintage car? No. Video of Brett Favre’s last pass completion? No.

Rather, Stanley Ho, billionaire, just paid $330,000 for two white “truffles,” which is French for, “Fungus found in dirt or sometimes under old chicken lo mein forgotten in the back of fridge and often resembling the facial expression of Nick Saban after blowing a 24-0 lead at home. Roll [Over] Tide!”

Mmmm. Delectable, delicious fungus. Does that come with fries?

Mmmm. Delectable, delicious fungus. Does that come with fries?

So Stanley Ho paid $165,000 each for two pieces of fungus. You know, …

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Richt demotes strength coach, but is that enough?

Dave Van Halanger was Georgia's strength and conditioning coach since Mark Richt's hiring in 2001.

Dave Van Halanger was Georgia's strength and conditioning coach since Mark Richt's hiring in 2001.

Mark Richt apparently agreed with most who felt Georgia needed to make a change at strength and conditioning coach. How he went about that change was a bit underwhelming, though.

Richt demoted strength coach Dave Van Halanger to “administrative assistant,” which sounds as far from the program as possible while still staying on campus. But to replace Van Halanger, he promoted assistant Joe Tereshinski rather than bring in someone new from the outside. It remains to be seen if this staff tweak works wonders or amounts to mere window dressing.

One thing is certain: If dumping Van Halanger doesn’t work out, Richt has just about run out of assistants to blame for the team’s problems.

After firing defensive coordinator Willie Martinez and two other assistants following an 8-5 record in 2009, Richt removed his longest tenured assistant in Van Halanger. They both came to Athens in 2o01. …

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