UCLA Should Finally Hire Kareem

Looks like Kareem Abdul-Jabbar’s non-stop yearning to be UCLA’s basketball coach could finally be quenched.

And why not?

Abdul-Jabbar is one of the game’s all-time greats, and represents a link to legendary coach John Wooden, whom he played for from 1966-’69.

And isn’t that what every Bruins fan is yearning for? A return to the good ol’ days?

Kareem represents that, and then he brings his own postmodern twist.

Seriously, what’s a three-year contract to a guy who might be the right guy? Cause the last guy sure wasn’t the right guy, not after about Year 3 of his contract.

Abdul-Jabbar does have a spotty coaching history — personal coach to Michael Olowokandi — and a perhaps even more spotty personal history — cannabis, anyone? — but someone inside the halls at UCLA should make the right choice this time, and give its greatest living alum the job.

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Refereeing A Semifinal

If you’re a soccer referee, you love, love, love to be assigned to a semifinal game of a big tournament.

The players play their hearts out knowing that a victory can mean the difference between first or fourth place. The coaches are out of their skin, living vicariously through the players. The spectators… they’re simply insane.

The referee and assistants have to be an alert force that is simultaneously impartial and judicial.

I arrived early Sunday morning for my 8 a.m. game thinking I was going to be Assistant No. 1 for the AYSO Section 1 Area R U-14 Boys semifinal game between Corona 1 and Moreno Valley 2. Through a clerical error, I was handed the assignment after the scheduled referee was determined to be unavailable.

I had half-thought about the possibility of this happening on the drive to the game, and remembered the USSF training mantra: Be Ready For Anything. I also probably said to myself, ‘Nah. He’ll be there. He’s always there,’ cause dude’s always there. Well, he wasn’t. And I was at least half-ready.

We check in the teams on the field. It’s cold. The players are still wearing sweatshirts, gloves and beanies, and I make them remove it all. “I’m not wearing (a beanie),” I say to a coach/parent who asks, “Why not?” I do allow the goalkeepers to wear their skull caps, however. I’m not completely cruel.

The game is fast-paced from my first whistle and I don’t call for a foul until after the first goal is scored in the fifth minutes. I’m talking some really good soccer here. Lots of control, passing and build-up play from both sides.

Corona 1 starts to dominate possession after their first goal and looks to strike again behind its two tall forwards, No. 10 and No. 12.

No. 12 delivers the pass upon which the first goal is scored and applies the finishing touch to Corona 1’s next two goals before Moreno Valley 2 finally got one back.

Halftime arrives after 35 minutes and my AR tells me of a parent who is creeping near the goal line, yelling technical advice on Moreno Valley 2’s sideline. I have to act upon this information and decide to speak to Moreno Valley 2’s coach. I simply tell him that all coaches must stay within 10 yards of the halfway line and all spectators must stay between the 18s. He responds positively to that.

The second half begins and Corona 1 immediately attacks through No. 10. Trailing the play up the left wing, both No. 10 and a Moreno Valley 2 defender go down in what looks like a wreckless tackle from behind. No. 10 pops back up, however, and says that the Moreno Valley 2 defender “got all ball.” “He didn’t foul you?” I ask. “Nah. All ball,” he said. I change my call to a dropped ball, told No. 10 that I appreciated his honesty and play resumed.

Later, I initially (and very briefly) signaled for a goal before my AR raised his flag for an infraction he saw in the goal area. I raced over and was advised to disallow the goal because of goalkeeper interference; the goal scorer was just “four or five feet” from the keeper and had obstructed the GK’s line of sight directly preceding the pass that led to the goal. I had not seen that infraction, and trusted my AR. “No goal!” I bellowed, swinging my arms out in front of me in an ‘X’. Corona 1’s sideline blows its top. Stay calm and keep refereeing.

Corona 1 adds another goal on a counter-attack and the teams settle upon a 4-1 final. Moreno Valley 2 players sulk off the field. The team’s best player stays down at the top of the penalty area for several moments before I walk over and tell him how well I thought he played. I perked up enough to walk away.

After the team handshakes, all the players came to shake my hand or give me a fist bump (which I prefer) and both coaches were respectful — even the one I reprimanded for language in the first half. In between, about five or six assistant coaches and parents came to shake my hand.

I had thought I was going to assistant on a big match but it turned out I was the one in charge. I managed the game, its players and agents, and proved up to the task.

Next time, next year, I’ll be a little more than half-ready.

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Doing The Sports Writer Thing, Almost

This week is shaping into one like I’ve never had as a sport writer.

I’m writing a preview and a feature for The Press-Enterprise and HSGametime.pe.com ahead of a CIF-Southern Section championship football game which I’ll be attending and also writing about for The P-E.

In my 10-plus years of writing sports, I have never done that.

I’ve written columns about big races in Fontana and then been there on Sunday. I’ve written previews for any numbers of teams/events. But I’ve never covered a CIF championship football game. And I’ve certainly never written a whole package ahead of one.

The preview is due midday Wednesday, the feature midday Thursday, and I have until 10:15 PM Friday to file a game story from Perris Citrus Hill High School, the site of the game. The Citrus Hill Hawks (13-0 overall) host the Phelan Serrano Diamondbacks (13-0) for the CIF-SS Eastern Division title on the line.

Then, on Saturday, I’ll be at the CIF-SS Central Division title game in Moreno Valley, where Fontana Kaiser (12-1) hopes to dethrone host Rancho Verde (10-3), the reigning champions. I’ll be writing a deadline feature from that game for another media outlet.

Both games, however, pale in comparison to the CIF-SS Inland Division championship game. That one is in Murrieta on Friday, and will be a third consecutive meeting between Corona Centennial (12-1) and Vista Murrieta (13-0) in the Inland final. Centennial won in 2010. Vista took it convincingly last year. Friday night is the rubber match.

But for me it’s still two CIF title games in two days, thereby doubling my career number and making me (almost) feel like a full-time sports writer again.

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Tres Ninos, Tres Diferentes Eventos

Holding your baby in your arms for the first time; that’s something that never gets old.

We had our third baby boy on Sunday, June 17, 2012, or Father’s Day here in the United States, and the experience was very much like the previous two, which is to say that it was as different as the first two were different.

Speaking from my perspective only, the first seems like a bad dream. It was early in the morning. I was in scrubs and sitting in an operating room next to my wife’s head.

The second one also was early in the morning, but it was practically glorious. That son emerged with the sun, and I held him and watched the Corona Hills reflect yellow and orange hues as he slept oh-so-peacefully.

This  little guy was born at 9:11 p.m. PDT and was bigger than the first two by more than eight ounces. He was pink and crying and ready to meet the world. He quickly calmed down and layed quietly while he was examined by the specialists. Seriously. He just let it happen. Almost like he knew what to expect. Then he held my hand and coo-ed while I sang to him.

How is it possible that three boys that look so much alike could have been so different at birth? Then again, how can the first one be so gentle while our second wants to make a blaster out of everything?

It makes me wonder how my newest son’s personality will develop.

If he’s anything like the first two… he’ll be nothing like the first two.

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False Alarm!

Amazing how a false-positive test score can make your head spin.

With everything seemingly ready to go, and my ducks in a row, she finally texts to say that they’re going to release her in just a few minutes.

In hospital lexicon, to be released one first has to be admitted. How could that have been?

Well, she had gone for one of her now twice weekly check-ups, and ended up getting admitted into labor and delivery.

Turns out, the nurse received a positive test for the release of amniotic fluid. The moment, apparently, had arrived.

She was immediately eschewed toward L&D (as she likes to call it) and met a doctor and a midwife and all systems were go.

But then they did some more tests, a sonogram, an ultrasound, etc., and everything was status normal. Baby’s fine. Getting ready to go, but fine.

And the test? Simply a clinical error.

There weren’t any false-positive or clinical errors with either of my two older boys. They were simply ready when they were ready.

This one might have other ideas.

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About To Have This Baby

So when your wife tects you and says they (the nurse practitioners) think her water may have broken, you kinda get a chill down your spine.

But this is child No. 3 for me now, so it’s sort of old hat.

Anyway, I’ve packed her a bag, got the infant car seat ready to go, and pulled out the basonet that we purchased but had yet to assemble. All in about 15 seconds.

And then the phone rings. It’s her Dad. He wants to have dinner. What should I say? Anything? I mutter something about her having an appointment today, or something. I feel like I’m speaking jibberish.

Hang up the phone. Stand around in a daze. What else should I be doing?

We’re having a friggin’ baby!

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A Week Of Wind-esdays

When one camps in a tent, weather is a factor.

Sometimes it’s the heat. Every so often it’ll be rain. This week it was the wind.

Oh, that stupid f*cking wind.

It blew aggressively at night, gale-force gusts of upwards of 40-50 mph, and almost primarily from 10 p.m. to 4 a.m., leaving me sleepless against it relentless fury.

And it would blow desert sand into my tent through the mesh vents located directly above, covering me in a fine grit that got in my mouth and eyes and onto my pillow. Eck.

We set up the RV at Agua Caliente Campground near Borrego Springs (Ca.) starting Monday but because of tight quarters (and general preference) I pitch my tent and sleep outside. Sometimes one of the boys joins me, sometimes they don’t. I have an air mattress and comfy and warm sleeping bags which I zip together to create one BIG sleeping bag. It’s pretty sweet, really.

But this time the wind severely interrupted what would have otherwise been great sleeping conditions. The nights were cool but not chilly, and the mornings warm but not hot. I’m talking I-D-E-A-L.

Yet that ridiculous magical energy that’s created when hot and cold air collide totally effed up the night-time portion of my Spring Break.

The day time part was tons of fun, though. We went swimming and rock climbing every day, did some hiking and lots of reading, and even got in a bike ride. All without mobile or internet access or any other connection to the outside world.

That’s what I think I’ll remember most about this past week. The time I was able to spend dis-connected.

And not that godforsaken wind.

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