Syracuse

Halcyon Schayes

Dolph Schayes-rip

The phrase “halcyon days” is derived from a Greek tale and describes the period of calm during the winter, when storms do not occur. It also frequently conjures images of nostalgia, when times were good. It fits Dolph Schayes, who passed away this week at 87.

Dolph was as sweet a man as he was a basketball player. And that’s saying something.

I knew the gentle giant during my many years as a broadcaster in Syracuse, where Dolph starred with the NBA’s Nationals, and where his son Danny forged his own basketball identity as a collegiate star with the Orange.

I’d bump into Dolph occasionally at a charity golf tournament or at Wegmans grocery store. He always met me in a friendly way, and personalized the greeting by including my name. I’ve had co-workers whom I see every day fall short of that standard.

On the court, this guy was a superstar–a word used far too liberally these days. He was selected as an NBA All-Star 12 times. Same number as Larry Bird, Magic Johnson, Oscar Robertson and Bill Russell. Pretty good company.

And Dolph was good company on the radio. He scored big laughs from me with this segment a few years ago, as he recalled the death of one of his contemporaries:


Dolph passed along his wit and intelligence, his gentle spirit, and a few of his basketball skills to his son Danny, who played 18 seasons in the NBA. Dan’s weekly radio segments with us were just as funny and well-informed as his dad’s clip above.

Dan also inherited his father’s class. When I lost my radio job earlier this year, Dan was one of the first guys to reach out to me and extend some kind words. The Schayes brand is forever stamped in my book.

Dave Coombs is a morning radio host on 100.7 FM WUTQ in Utica and a one-time solid 10th man on his Division 3 collegiate team.

Scott Free

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One of my favorite sports figures is a free agent. Outgoing (and outgoing) Syracuse football coach Scott Shafer has been relieved of his duties. (That makes both of us this calendar year!)

He was easy to like. I mean, how could you dislike a football guy whose last name sounds like an iconic old-school New York beer?

Unlike his immediate predecessors, he was not phony, he was not duplicitous, and he did not utilize references to children’s books in motivational speeches.

What you saw and heard from Shafer was what you got–a hard-working and honest man, who treated everyone around him with dignity and respect. He gave you his best shot and his best shot was never going to be quite good enough under the conditions in which he labored.

The prospect of succeeding as a football coach in the ACC is daunting. You’ve got your Florida States, Clemsons, and Miamis, schools with wide parameters for misbehavior and academic achievement. Then, there are your Syracuses, Wake Forests, and Dukes, where football will never be as big a priority, and where it’s harder to excel in that sport.

Part of Syracuse’s problem when it comes to football is an identity crisis. In a nutshell, do they want to be Duke or Florida State?

David Cutcliffe has a record of 46-53 as Duke’s head coach. His first winning season there occurred in YEAR SIX of his eight-year tenure! Scott Shafer could have been the Cutcliffe of the Orange, if the school had allowed it.

However, if Syracuse wants to be Florida State, they should hire a Jimbo Fisher and let him enroll anybody he wants. What kind of character do you want to project?

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I used to bump into Shafer out and about, in a grocery store, at a gas station, or at the Dome for a basketball game (above), and he would always say hello in a genuine and friendly manner. More than I can say for many similar public figures.

Shafer’s brand was infectious. The no-nonsense haircut. The way he pounded the podium at postgame press conferences. The salty language he used.


Factions at the university supposedly didn’t care for this kind of mildly profane Shafer-speak and tried to discourage it. But they wouldn’t criticize their legendary basketball coach for similar outbursts, now would they? And trying to muzzle Shafer would be depriving him of an endearing and honest quality.

Ultimately, Shafer loses his gig because of his unacceptable win-loss record. We’ll never know if he could have succeeded under different circumstances. Nor will we know the answers to other questions.

What percentage of Syracuse’s recent football failures should be attributed to him? How much are athletic directors and chancellors and others in positions of power also to blame?

We do know this: Scott Shafer made a positive mark on the people in Central New York. And he leaves without any scandals. The song (below) that I put together a couple of years ago with singer Gary Frenay for my previous radio show stands for me as a fine testament to the man and his work.

I loved this freakin’ coach. And I will always view him as a success. Like the old beer jingle, Syracuse truly was “Shafer City” for a while. If you’re having one tonight, raise a bottle or can to Scott.

Dave Coombs, once half of “Gomez & Dave,” is now the host of “The Talk of the Town” on 100.7 FM WUTQ.

The Heels Should Be Tarred and Feathered

Syracuse head coach Jim Boeheim, left, and North Carolina head coach Roy Williams, right, greet each other before for the start of an NCAA college basketball game in Syracuse, N.Y., Saturday, Jan. 11, 2014. Syracuse won 57-45. (AP Photo/Nick Lisi)

“Hey, Jimmy, you think the NCAA will cut us a break?”

The Tar Heels deserve a good spanking. At least.

The NCAA violations committed at Syracuse pale in comparison to the scandal in Chapel Hill, North Carolina. If the Orange are going to suffer the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune, then the University of North Carolina should have to endure a couple of megaton bombs for its misdeeds.

The school essentially offered fake classes and guaranteed grades over the course of 18 years, benefitting over 3,000 students, nearly half of which were athletes.

Come on, your honor. We rest our case.

You need any more reasons why UNC should pay? OK…

1. How about those hideous powder blue uniforms? No one likes those. That color belongs in a garden or a bathroom. Not on a gridiron or basketball court.

2. Michael Jordan. Best player of all time. UNC’s been getting a glow off of Jordan since the early 80s. Their good fortune has to run out some time.

3. The state has the power to elevate above this scandal. After all, it was First in Flight, it has a gorgeous climate, beautiful mountain ranges, and access to the Atlantic Ocean. I mean, it’s not like it’s South Dakota or something. So, let’s not take pity on North Carolina.

It’s interesting that Tar Heels’ head basketball coach Roy Williams does not appear to be implicated in any of the wrongdoing. And it’s convenient that the patriarch of UNC Hoops, Dean Smith, has passed away.

So, maybe the fall guy should be Jordan. Blame it on Mike. He can take it. Earlier this year, his net worth hit $1 billion. Jordan’s earning so much now, Magic Johnson tweeted him recently and asked for a loan.

Jordan certainly can afford to pay any fines the NCAA decides to levy against his alma mater. Selling a few more pairs of Air Jordans should take care of that.

Dave Coombs is a longtime morning radio host and was born in North Carolina.

Easter Leftovers

NBA: Golden State Warriors at Dallas Mavericks

(Photo credit: Kevin Jairaj – USA Today)

For those keeping score at home: Baseball was on, the guys who earn their living driving fast were off, and fake car-chasing hit a big home run. Here are your Easter weekend winners and losers!

FURIOUS 7
While the Cubs took it on the chin in the 2015 Major League Baseball opener, the NASCAR circuit took Easter off, and the gear heads from the Fast & Furious movie series took the checkered flag this past weekend; Furious 7 scored the ninth-best opening weekend in box office history. When I caught up with Furious star Vin Diesel today and asked him to explain the runaway success of his movie, he had this to say:


BIRTHDAY BATTLE

Who’s the best star celebrating a birthday today, April 6th? Actor John Ratzenberger (68), who played former mailman Cliffie on Cheers, and who’s been in every Pixar movie? Actor Paul Rudd (46), the diehard Kansas City Chiefs and Royals fan, who already has 92 credits at the age of 46? Or actor Zach Braff (40), who scored big on Scrubs but has gone a bit, how do we say, stealth of late? Make your pick.


Okay, Vin, whatever! If you chose the low-key and likable Rudd, you’re correct! In this birthday group, he’s the guy you’d most want to watch a game and have a beer with. And here’s another quick quiz on Braff. Which of the following trophies does he have on his mantel at home?

A. Oscar
B. Emmy
C. Tony
D. Grammy
E. Little League World Series

The correct answer is “D.” He won a Grammy for the soundtrack compilation from his 2004 movie Garden State.


DUMMY OF THE WEEKEND
Other than Vin Diesel (whose real name is Mark Sinclair), you have three choices.

1. Shaun Livingston, of the NBA’s Golden State Warriors, who wound up with his fist during a game and clobbered German star Dirk Nowitzki right in the fleischgewehr, which translates hilariously to “flesh rifle.” Livingston got a one-game suspension from the league; Nowitzki probably got a schnapps.

2. Syracuse University, which had its annual spring football game over the weekend and misspelled the name on star wide receiver Steve Ishmael’s jersey. This comes less than a month after the Orange screwed up the spelling on Roosevelt Bouie’s framed jersey in a celebration for the legendary Syracuse star at the Carrier Dome. Maybe the Orange need a good punch in the fleischgewehr, too.

3. Kentucky basketball star Andrew Harrison, who used the “n” word at a post-game press conference, when asked about Wisconsin’s Frank Kaminsky. Can we all please stop using this awful word–blacks, whites, rednecks, in casual conversation, in rap songs, in jokes on the golf course, in standup routines? Just. Stop.

And that leads to the NCAA Men’s College Basketball Championship tonight:

DUKE VS. WISCONSIN
There are some great reasons to root for the Badgers. Coach Bo Ryan has been at this a long time and needs to win his first championship. The school hasn’t even been IN a basketball title game since 1941. Their center Kaminsky has an entertaining Twitter feed (@FSKpart3) and he’s an affable, thoughtful guy–especially for a top collegiate athlete.

The other best reason to cheer for Wisconsin is that their opponent is Duke. Here’s a snippet of my original parody about the Blue Devils, which kinda says it all:


Go Wisconsin! Beat Duke!

Dave Coombs is a longtime morning radio host. He was accepted at Duke, but chose to attend college elsewhere!

Help Plan Our Wedding. Please!

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We’re getting frazzled. It’s crunch time. Now well into the backstretch of our wedding plans, and there are so many details yet to be finalized before Saturday’s big event. For instance: how to come across as nonchalant while dancing with Beth when I glance past her gorgeous, curly locks for an update on Syracuse-Duke basketball.

There IS going to be a big screen TV at the reception, right? After all, the wedding begins at 6:00 and the game is set for 7:00.

And, what if the ceremony runs late and infringes on the start of the game? Is there any latitude in the marriage vows, so we can receive updates while still gazing longingly into each other’s eyes?

OFFICIANT: Do you, Dave, stand by Beth’s side, and love her and comfort her, in good times and bad, even though Jim Boeheim just got a technical foul and Duke already has a double-digit lead with only five minutes gone in the first half?

Dammit! I mean, I do.

Apparel is a big deal. My son Dash may or may not wear a jacket on Saturday. The one he was planning to wear may or may not have gotten dirty, wrinkled or misplaced at some point between his last two gigs as the lead guitarist for his “Sweat Rock” band called Party Cops, whose first CD is available now online.

Knife Licker

A single from that release, Fort Teen, can be sampled here. The song will not be featured on the playlist at our wedding, but we recommend it highly to those of you planning any “Sweat Rock” nuptials later this year. In fact, I’d be willing to help you book Party Cops to play live at your wedding. But act now. Their calendar is filling up quickly. (No joke.)

In other apparel news, Beth’s 10-year-old son Jackson was fitted last night for the white tux he requested for the ceremony. He and I have a bet to see which one of us will accumulate more food stains on his clothing during the reception. I’m the overwhelming favorite in the early Vegas line.

In the footwear department, I still need to pick a pair of shoes to wear with my blue suit. To help me decide, please vote on these three options from my closet:

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Or, feel free to cast a write-in suggestion via the comment box. One lucky winner drawn at random from among all commenters will receive a signed copy of the photo below of Brian Williams and me. (No lie.)

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That brings us to the potential for snow on February 28th. Early forecasts call for a mix of sun and clouds, with a high of about 22 degrees and a low of -4. But the way we’ve been getting hammered this year, who knows? We’re bringing shovels just in case. Thanks to our friend Charlie, we already have one he gave us a couple of years ago.

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Charlie has a heart of gold. And he’s as bad at spelling as I am at remembering to put the toilet seat back down. If it doesn’t snow Saturday, Beth will grab the shovel in lieu of a bouquet and toss it over her shoulder to her bridesmaids! Yes, we have hired a photographer to capture that magic moment.

Dave Coombs has been a morning radio host for over 30 years and a wiseass forever.

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