Restoring the magic

As the Detroit Pistons get farther and farther away from the magic of 2000-2005, it’s looking more and more each game, each season, that what Joe Dumars did to assemble the players on those teams, was a fluke.

In fact his rash decision making and a penchant for firing coaches that rivals even Al Davis, is probably the sole reason why the Pistons have gone from the envy of the Eastern Conference to one of the biggest jokes in the NBA.

The team is a disgrace, with the firing of latest revolving door coach Maurice Cheeks after 50 games merely the latest embarassment to this once proud franchise.

Why should General Manager Joe Dumars get to hire another coach? He’s now hired and fired nine of them in the last 14 seasons. Why should Dumars get to orchestrate another NBA draft? His failures there are of legend, including passing up on hometown hero Trey Burke, who is now a rookie of the year candidate, in last year’s draft.

Word has it that the firing of Cheeks was facilitated by owner Tom Gores. If true, that’s fine that Gores is taking the decision making out of Dumars’ hands, but his next move has to be to replace the front office with new blood. Dumars is a franchise hero and Pistons fans will never forget what he did for this franchise, but that time is over, and it’s clear massive cleansing change is needed to restore the Pistons.

By any account the 2012-13 Michigan Wolverines men’s basketball season was a magical one, and one not many saw coming.

The National Championship Game berth put the spotlight back on a program that had long languished under the weight of NCAA sanctions and general irrelevency.

But the aftermath was a tough one to swallow for Michigan fans.

There was doubt entering this season when National Player of the Year Trey Burke and Tim Hardaway Jr. declared for the NBA draft, and even more doubt when returning All-American Mitch McGary suffered a back injury that will likely keep him out the entire season.

Some of those doubts were confirmed when Michigan got off to a rough start with four non-conference defeats. But things began turn around beginning with a two point loss to Arizona, which was ranked No. 1 at the time. The Wolverines then got out to a 8-0 start in the Big 10, widely regarded as the top basketball conference in the country this season.

The turnaround can be partly attributed to the rise of guard Nik Stauskas who has gone from strict shooter to Big 10 Player of the Year nominee over the last year. There’s freshman Derrick Walton, who has has grown quickly into the point guard position and shown the same flair for clutch play as his predecssor Burke. There’s big men Jordan Morgan and Jon Horford, who individually aren’t much of a threat, but combined nearly equal McGary’s contribution, and there’s freshman Zak Irvin who has displayed a knack for hot shooting at the right time.

Most impressively, this group of afterthoughts have accomplished things no Michigan team has in 50 years, such has three consecutive wins over top-10 teams. They’ve won at Madison, Wis., and Columbus, Ohio for the first times in over a decade. They’ve collected a rare victory at East Lansing, and most importantly, they’ve shown they can rebound after a bad effort.

Put it together, and Michigan has a team that is capable of returning to the Final Four. Considering the start of this season, that’s quite a statement.

A few days into the 2014 Winter Olympics, there hasn’t been a day that’s gone by when I haven’t said ‘wow’ in regards to the human achievements I read about and see on television.

On Wedneday morning as I was selecting stories for the paper, it was American luger Erin Hamlin, who secured USA’s first medal ever in luge singles, a sport that has existed for 50 years.

Though it was a bronze that she won, it was a remarkable achievement in a sport that is often decided by hundreths of a second. To further exemplify that point, Germany’s Natalie Geisenberger who won the gold, dominated to the point that she finished 1.139 seconds better than the silver medalist, her country-mate Tatjana Huefner. Geisenberger’s margin of victory, as slim as it may seem, was actually larger than the margin posted by the last four gold medal winners in the sport combined (0.949 seconds).

Hamlin secured the bronze by just 0.433 seconds over Canadian Alex Gough. The image of her coach rushing out onto the track to meet her, and men’s luger Chris Mazder draping her in the flag is so far, the best photos I’ve seen to sum up USA’s achivements at the games.