The Chat House

Michael Wilbon
Washington Post Sports Columnist
Monday, March 26, 2007; 1:15 PM

Welcome to another edition of The Chat House where Post columnist Michael Wilbon was online Monday, March 26, at 1:15 p.m. ET to take your questions and comments about the latest sports news and his recent columns.

The transcript follows.

____________________ Michael Wilbon will begin posting answers shortly.


Mount Airy, Md..: I love Ron Jaworski, but I'm going to miss Joe Theisman on "Monday Night Football." Think one of the other networks will pick him up? Or will ESPN use him in some other capacity?

Michael Wilbon: For those who don't know the news of the day -- and for obvious reasons I'm not going to comment on this extensively -- Joe Theisman has been replaced in the Monday Night Football booth by Ron Jaworski. And I'm terribly conflicted about this primarily for this reason: Joe Theisman was the first professional athlete I ever got to really know. I was 21 when I moved to D.C. and Theisman was the quarterback of the Washington Redskins. I was nobody, an intern, then a cub reporter and Joe was great to me. Never said, "Who's this punk?" He sat me down, talked to me, shared football philosophies, put up with my stupid 21-year-old questions. He was great and I love him for that to this day...So there are fewer people out there who are bigger Joe Theisman fans than I am and will be. He's a pro's pro, and whatever people think of him and how much they think he talks or whatever, Joe works as hard at analyzing football games as he did playing them. So, I am unabashed fan of Joe Theisman...Now, I've become close with Jaws over the last 10 years, specifically the last 5 as he's become a big part of our success on PTI. There's nobody, over these last five years, I've come to respect as much when it comes to analyzing football and human nature as much as Jaws. I enjoy listening to Jaws as much as anybody associated with football, and I've been lucky enough to pick his brain dozens of times every football season after he comes out of the vault and shares whatever he's learned with people who work in the sports-media industry...Talk about a completely unselfish, totally inclusive person...I'm happy for Jaws, but I feel for Joe at the same time...I didn't know about this until I landed at Dulles airport this morning, drove home, took the newspaper out of the bag on the driveway and looked at USA Today's photo on the front page of sports and the headline. I work with Tony, but I don't work with MNF, so it was a total surprise to me, and I presume for obvious reasons that a man with Joe Theisman's resume will be analyzing football, whether college or pro, for somebody, whether ESPN/ABC or whomever...I don't think Joe will be waiting by the phone.


D.C. Bruin Fan: Outside of partisans, I have heard few analysts give UCLA much of a chance against Florida, let alone win it all. This UCLA team is better than last year's NCAA runner up, and I am not so sure that Florida is better. Your thoughts on what it will take for UCLA to win two more games?

Michael Wilbon: I don't particularly think this UCLA team is better than last year's. Jordan Farmer, the point guard from last year, went to the NBA. And two more starters departed...Anyway, I'm far less concerned with UCLA than, for local reasons, Georgetown advancing to the Final Four for the first time since 1985. Big ups to Coach John Thompson III and his players and everybody at Georgetown. Beating North Carolina yesterday, especially the way the Hoyas did it, was incredible. I KNEW Wallace was going to hit that shot when he caught the pass...And what an OT...Can you have two more dramatic tournament wins in succession than Vanderbilt and UNC? And in the interest of full disclosure, I picked Georgetown to win in all my pools, and if the Hoyas win I win the PTI pool...Don't know where I rank in The Washington Post sports department pool, but I can't be in really bad shape. My Final Four was Georgetown, Florida, Texas A&M (which should have won the regional semi) and Southern Illinois (which had Kansas ready to fall)...


Boston: How do you feel the selection committee did this year? There is always a lot of talk about snubs and bad seeding and so on, half the fun really, but it seems like they really knew who the top teams in the country were this time around.

Michael Wilbon: The committee seeded the top-half fabulously...I don't know about the bottom half. And luck is involved...Suppose the refs call traveling on Jeff Green and Vanderbilt advances and then beats UNC? (By the way, I'm told by two NBA officials Green, by rule, did not travel, which I'm sure we'll get back into later in this chat...)


Baltimore: In total contrast to the Hoyas' reputation during their earlier dominant years as the team many loved to hate, doesn't it seem that they are now kind of the sentimental favorite of these four remaining teams? It's refreshing to see, as this is a very likable group, from players on up to the coach.

Michael Wilbon: Well, the way this Georgetown team plays is very different from the Georgetown teams of Big John, no matter what we hear to the contrary. Big John revolutionized defense in college basketball. He's the father of modern college defense, the way those Hoyas in the 1980s pressured and got up in you. And those teams had immense appeal, particularly to urban kids everywhere. People who didn't even know where Georgetown was wore Georgetown sweats and jerseys...And there was a contentiousness about Big John that was, in my view, necessary at the time. I covered those teams and got to know a great many of the players, some of them well, and some of whom I'm in contact with over the years...There's no shortage of likeable characters from those days. But this team is different. There's no sense of confrontation, no sense of "us-against-the-world." Then again, the times are different. Our reaction to a black coach and a mostly black team are different. (I was stunned to see that Kansas has one white player who gets any minutes and I'm pretty sure he's European, Russian to be specific)...So, we're as different, the culture and the times are as different as the Georgetown teams, which to me are very, very different.


Washington, D.C.: Mike, love your work. Where do you side on the "who's better, MJ or Kobe" debate?

Michael Wilbon: Michael Jordan...No question, not close. If he had been asked to score 60 points a night in the 1980s he could have done it...MJ wasn't putting up 60 on Memphis or the T-Wolves or New Orleans. MJ scored 63 in the playoffs at Boston Garden against a Celtics team whose members won 3 NBA titles. MJ scored in the 50s in the playoffs, at Madison Square Garden, at Cleveland when the Cavaliers were really, really the Finals against the Suns with Barkley/Chambers/KJ/Ainge/Majerle...Kobe's great...But it's not close.


Warrenton, Va.: Did you read Mike Wise's piece on Fred Brown? Any thoughts?

Michael Wilbon: Yes, I read it...I talked to Wise after he talked to Brown and Wise was shocked...SHOCKED at Brown's comments. I don't begrudge Fred's right to rip his coach if he really feels that way. But I know a ton of Georgetown players who did not play in the NBA who feel otherwise, who do maintain relationships with Big John...


Anonymous: Who will play more minutes, Oden or Hibbert?

It seems both of these big guys are always in foul trouble.

Michael Wilbon: That's your anticipation for this game: you don't have any sense of wanting to see these big men play against each other...something you don't see every day?


Bethesda, Md.: You are a fabulous prognosticator!! I thought you were a bit over the top with your choice of Georgetown to go all the way this year. May you continue to be correct. On that score, how do you see the Ohio State-Georgetown game playing out and, joy of joys, the possible Florida-Georgetown matchup? HOYA SAXA!!!

Michael Wilbon: Look, I could have been just as wrong, given how close Georgetown was to losing to both Vandy and Carolina...BUT, that happens in the tournament...I should have A&M AND Southern Illinois, but didn't and don't...I just think Georgetown has experience that will come into play against Ohio State...And I don't think Florida will beat UCLA and Georgetown in two rematches. Nope...not going to happen. Florida can beat UCLA and Ohio State, but not UCLA and Georgetown.


Harrisburg, Pa: I know, I know, the Final Four and The Masters will be the dominant themes for you next chat, but could you show a little love for baseball and take a hardball question next week?

Michael Wilbon: Next week? The day before the championship game which may include a local school? Ha!


Arlington, Va.: Which team surprised you the most so far by how good they are, even if they're not still playing?

Michael Wilbon: I was surprised at how incredibly talented Kansas is...They've got four kids -- Brandon Rush and Julian Wright to start with...Wow. Those kids are studly.


Washington, D.C.: Your thoughts on Roy Williams's job of coaching the last 10 minutes/OT? Is this another indictment of his reputation (being a better recruiter than coach) or was there just nothing that could be done?


Michael Wilbon: Stop with the obsession over coaching. One team made its shots and the other didn't. Coaching? I'm not one of those people who analyzes every basket to death in a college game...Or any game. Players play and make plays or don't make plays. There are some times when coaching errors or contributions are glaring. Yesterday's game was not, to my mind, one of them....


Mark (D.C.): Wilbon -- will your schedule in the next few weeks include a potentially epic Final Four including four POWERHOUSE programs, the Suns-Mavs game with two great teams and the two leading contenders for MVP and THEN the Masters with Tiger going for some more history? If so, can I please take this opportunity to congratulate you as the luckiest man in America.

Michael Wilbon: I may be the luckiest man in America who isn't a billionaire anyway...BUT, in terms of scheduling, I'm going to Arizona Saturday for the Sunday Mavs vs. Suns game so I'll miss the national semifinals, except to see them on TV like everybody else. It will be only the third time since 1982 that I've not attended Final Four Saturday...Sunday, I'll watch Suns-Mavs, and then fly to Atlanta for the NCAA Championship game, only if Georgetown reaches the title game...And no, I won't do The Masters. Someday, but not this year...Still, it's one great stretch of sports and if the Hoyas come through again, I'll see two of the three live and in person.


Washington, D.C.: What was it like having the Stanley Cup on PTI?

Michael Wilbon: Very, very cool. Though I no longer follow professional hockey other than Olympic hockey, I grew up following it closely...close enough to listen to Blackhawks games on the radio when I was in high school. So, to look back at all the names of the teams in the 1960s and 1970s was really getting in the way-back machine for me...And there's probably nothing quite like the Cup in team sports...That it travels around and you can just hug it or kiss it or read it or drink from it...very, very cool.


Maryland: After Gilbert Arenas laid his jersey down in Seattle, do you think he's going too far?

Michael Wilbon: Yes...then again, I have no real sense of theater of the absurd...or theater of the overboard. There was something strangely funny about it though. Gil's consistent and I like his sense of humor, even if it isn't mine...


I'll bet ya $10 bucks....: that Gilbert wasn't the first person to do something like that. Have you ever come across any stories about stuff like that going on in your experiences over the years?

Michael Wilbon: Are you kidding. Guys used to bet Larry Bird he couldn't hit a shot from a certain spot on the floor...and guys used to have to hand money to Bird...practice, games, any time, all the time. This is nothing new...


Washington, D.C.: Speculations on the open Kentucky job? I know this question is premature considering UF is in the Final Four, but do you see Billy Donovan leaving UF?

Michael Wilbon: We plan to ask him on PTI today, since Donovan is our scheduled guest. I don't see why he would go. He's in position to win a second national championship at Florida. So what is there he can get at Kentucky, other than an insane amount of pressure, that he doesn't already have at Florida? Why go? Bill isn't a Kentucky alum. He went to school at Providence. I think he'd be crazy to go. Florida will pay him whatever he wants to stay and he's a hero there already...


Dulles:"Next week? The day before the championship game which may include a local school? Ha!"

Well, it's the day OF the champ game ... but it's also Opening Day for the Nats too. I'll do doing a doubleheader -- Opening Day live and the championship game with beer and buffalo wings. Isn't Opening Day still a big deal??

Michael Wilbon: I'm sure it's a huge deal to millions of Americans...tens of millions...but not to be anymore. It's symbolic, sure. But I care about the things that are being contested in the moment. And Opening Day has nothing to do with the chase for a pennant or World Series title. It's about ribbon cutting. And yes, it's the day of the NCAA championship game, which goes even more to my point.


Sports Machine USA: Did you watch the last episode last night? Got to give some props to George Michael for all those years of that show. Pretty amazing. George was a pioneer with that show and that's what I used to watch before cable to get all the highlights and scores. It's a shame Universal is cutting Michael.

Michael Wilbon: It's a total shame and I couldn't see it because I was flying from San Francisco to Dulles overnight and saw nothing but about 30 pages of "The Big Bam" Leigh Montville's biography of Babe Ruth, then my iPod, then the inside of my eyelids...I don't understand TV, and while I'm in the industry now, I certainly don't trust it or the decisions executives make...George Michael should be at that WRC-TV desk as long as he wants...


Washington, D.C.: When I grow up, I want to be Jim Nantz. He has, without a doubt, the best job in all of the world (see Norm Chad's column in The Post this morning). Calls the Super Bowl, then travels around the country to call the best college basketball game once a week, then gets sent to the best venues for the NCAA tourny, calls the Final Four, and, as a finale, goes to call the Masters. Can it get any better than that?

Michael Wilbon: For sports people, no, it's fabulous. Nantz is great at what he does. Great...


Washington, D.C.: There was something rather Shakespearean about the whole Georgetown saga - with the sons avenging the defeat of their fathers.

Michael Wilbon: I love that analogy..


Chicago: Mike,

Which pro coaches, if any, do you think might be viable candidates for the Kentucky job?

Everyone says Pat Riley because of his ties to the school, but Lexington is a long way from Miami, New York, and LA, where Riley has spent the past 28 years as a coach.

I've heard Mike D'Antoni as a possible candidate.

Are you hearing any buzz about other pro coaches who could bring the "been there, done that" credentials that would satisfy the Kentucky fans and future recruits?

Michael Wilbon: I'll say this in closing today's chat house. If I was running the Kentucky program, I'd hire a NBA coach...Those guys are a lot less subject to pressure. I wouldn't hire some guy who's green as a leaf just because he went to Kentucky...I'd go after some NBA coach who knows how to coach up-temp, who knows how to take kids who aren't necessarily all-Americans in high school but turn them into run-and-shoot studs. And there are plenty out there. Mike D'Antoni ain't leaving Phoenix anytime soon. But there are guys, maybe out of work, who would leave.

Okay, gotta run to prepare for the PTI. Have a great week and we'll chat Monday about mostly the NCAA, The Masters, and a teeny tiny bit of baseball. Don't expect a Nats breakdown...I can't even tell you two starting pitchers...But we'll about the season in general terms.


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