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Ex-Walleye coach can help new one be a genius

06/04/2014, 12:00am EDT
By DAVE HACKENBERG BLADE SPORTS COLUMNIST
Ex-Walleye coach can help new one

Warmed-over Wednesday:

■ Joe Napoli, the czar of the Walleye-Mud Hens-Hensville triad, said the Walleye coaching search included candidates from “all over the world,” including some with pro hockey experience from as high up as the NHL.

Oddly enough, in that case, the job went to Derek Lalonde, who has never coached at the pro level.

On the flip side, the Walleye have been a disappointment, so perhaps some new blood and fresh ideas can’t hurt. And Lalonde’s record at Green Bay in the USHL, an under-20 amateur league, is impressive. His experience there and at the college level should provide key contacts.

Keep in mind, though, that ex-coach Nick Vitucci is still around and holds the title of director of hockey operations. Just what that means, I’m not sure, but it sounds an awful lot like a player personnel role.

Lalonde seems to have solid ideas of how his team will approach the game, but for any of it to work, one of two things must happen — either Lalonde has considerable say in the roster makeup, or Vitucci provides the new coach with better talent than he provided himself in the recent past.

■ Let’s get this straight: Steve Ballmer, the ex-CEO of Microsoft, is paying $2 billion for the Los Angeles Clippers, and Donald Sterling is the one who has supposedly been determined to be mentally incapacitated?

Two years ago, when Guggenheim Baseball Management Group bought the Dodgers for slightly more than $2 billion, investors got an iconic franchise, Dodger Stadium, and a share of the 250 acres of land and parking lots (and their revenue) surrounding the ballpark.

Ballmer, meanwhile, gets 14 players, a couple of them very good, and a mostly dysfunctional organization that has been through the wringer over the last month or so since Sterling was laid bare as the racist he claims not to be.

There is no property, no arena involved in the sale. I’ll never fully comprehend the fascination some have with owning a pro sports franchise. It must be nice to be silly rich.

Meanwhile, Sterling, long as incompetent an owner as exists in pro sports, is punished for his transgressions by being forced to accept $2 billion for a franchise he bought 30-some years ago for $12 million. In return, he’ll be suing the NBA for another $1 billion on antitrust grounds. Yeah, he’s the one who is nuts.

■ Speaking of L.A. basketball, the Lakers have been in the NBA Finals seven times and won five championships since 2000. But they are absent from the best-of-seven title series for the fourth straight year after laying a 27-55 egg in 2013-14. Yesterday’s news?

Today’s best teams, Miami and San Antonio, will go at it for the second straight season. It’s hard to root against Tim Duncan, with whom the Spurs have won four titles and never failed to win at least 50 games in a season. And it remains hard to root for LeBron and the Heat.

We’ll take the Spurs in six and, in Lord Stanley’s Cup, the Kings over the Rangers in, hopefully, seven. There is nothing better in hockey than Game 7.

■ In a few days, we lose Ryan Autullo from our sports staff. He’s going to the Austin American-Statesman, where he will advance from covering UT (Toledo) to UT (Texas). At least he won’t have to change the monogram on his towels. Good reporter, good writer, good guy; I would be surprised if this is his last move.

Contact Blade sports columnist Dave Hackenberg at: dhack@theblade.com or 419-724-6398.

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