Canzano: On Phil Knight’s legacy, Dan Lanning’s start and the spark in the Trail Blazers’ step


Some random musings for your Wednesday …

♦ I get nauseated with watching people scurry around in our region, making small plans. It’s why I loved seeing the big-time basketball brackets for the Phil Knight Invitational and Phil Knight Legacy events released this week.

The men’s teams for the invitational are Alabama, Iowa State, Michigan State, North Carolina, Oregon, Portland, UConn and Villanova. The men’s teams for the “legacy” event: Duke, Florida, Gonzaga, Oregon State, Portland State, Purdue, West Virginia and Xavier.

Each tournament will now also include a women’s bracket, where we can watch Oregon and Oregon State join Duke, Iowa, UConn, Iowa State, Michigan State and North Carolina.

It’s big time stuff and a nice opportunity to bring some healthy, positive sports focus to our region. The sports calendar might be the only thing not happy with his. The events will take place Nov. 24-27, 2022, across three Portland venues — Chiles Center, Moda Center and Memorial Coliseum. The same week Oregon and Oregon State will play a rivalry football game.

I’m glad the event honoring Knight appears to be thriving. Also, thrilled that it’s now expanding and will give the country a chance to associate “Portland” with something positive.

♦ I read Tyson Alger’s I-5 Corridor newsletter this morning, which profiled Oregon offensive coordinator Kenny Dillingham. It’s a good piece, but it didn’t help me with the looming questions I have about the lack of experience on the new Ducks’ coaching staff.

First-year head coach Dan Lanning is getting his first shot to run a program as CEO. Dillingham will call the plays on offense without anyone looking over his shoulder. Also, defensive coordinator Tosh Lupoi and Lanning will presumably call the defense at Oregon, but we don’t have a strong sample size or even a sense of how much in-game experience they really have.

I’m a little concerned about the lack of proven, successful, in-game coaching experience at Oregon. Then again, I watched Mario Cristobal slowly suffocate the Ducks’ offensive coordinators over the last few years, so maybe I just need to take a leap of faith and see how it goes.

There are some really strong recruiting resumes on this staff. Those who cover such things tell me they have no doubt Lanning and Co. will get players. I just wonder if we’re all signing on for continued frustration with what we see on game day.

♦ A Pac-12 athletic director told me to keep an eye on more fallout from the Alston vs. NCAA case. Schools are allowed to provide benefits tethered to education (supplies, equipment, etc.) up to $6,000 a year. Said the AD: “(Commissioner) George (Kliavkoff) wants us all to ‘invest more’ whereas you can’t compete with cheating or recruiting inducements when it comes to NIL with some of the other conferences … so interesting to see how this space evolves and if commish can do something nationally with others.”

The SEC implemented a $6,000 stipend in September 2021.

♦ My 7-year-old daughter just checked in as I was writing this and instructed me to, “write about cats.” I’m honoring her wishes. The Arizona men’s basketball team hosts Oregon State on Thursday and Oregon on Saturday. Big opportunity particularly for the Ducks to get a quality win against the Wildcats and prove they belong in the NCAA Tournament field. Oregon’s home loss to Cal on Saturday was disappointing and a big blow to their bubble status.

♦ Oregon State women’s basketball coach Scott Rueck joined me on Monday on the statewide radio show for a good talk about this season. The interview is worth your time. Rueck is always great. We’ll need the women’s programs in our state — Oregon, OSU, University of Portland and Portland State — to carry March Madness for our region.

♦ The Trail Blazers gutted the roster via trade, seemed poised for a tank, but then somehow played some of the most inspired basketball of the Chauncey Billups era. Portland beat the defending-champion Bucks 122-107 on Monday. It was the third straight win after the franchise dumped salary, waved a white flag and traded CJ McCollum, Robert Covington and Norman Powell. Damian Lillard remains out (abdominal surgery). But somehow Portland is now sitting in the No. 10 spot in the Western Conference.

Josh Hart and Justise Winslow are playing with great energy. Billups appears to have some players who will play on the defensive end of the court. But I also think Portland is benefiting from a well-known, but little-discussed NBA phenomenon. The trade deadline hit and I see some coasting into the All-Star break from weary teams. That the Blazers are playing hard is terrific, but I don’t think anyone expects the wins to continue. Still, I appreciate the energy and found the last week refreshing.

♦ The Oregon Legislature discussed a proposed bill that would allow gambling on college sporting events on Tuesday. Senate Bill 1503 was introduced by longtime Oregon Sen. Peter Courtney. I’ll be curious to see whether the bill makes it and in what form. Feels like a no brainer if the lawmakers want the Oregon Lottery to succeed on the highest levels. Our state currently allows wagering on professional sports events but a long-standing and archaic law passed decades ago bans wagering on college athletics events.

A lobbyist representing the Confederated Tribes of Grand Ronde spoke against the bill. Anti-gambling folks don’t like it either, but Sen. Courtney was strong in defending it. The proceeds from the changed law, if it is passed, would be used to fund educational grants for students.

“In no way does this bill take away from casinos, casino betting at all,” Courtney said.


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