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Highs and lows

By BRUCE LOWITT, ALAN RITTNER and MIKE STEPHENSON

© St. Petersburg Times, published January 14, 2001


High

CHUCK LAMAR: Last off-season, the Devil Rays binged on free agents. They won 69 games and lost their second- through fourth-round picks in the amateur draft. So give LaMar credit not just for reversing course, but for targeting the right young player. Ben Grieve is moving from a pitcher's to a hitter's park, and at 24 and with three years' experience he's a great candidate for a breakout year. Roberto Hernandez is a fine closer, but you can't build a champion around a closer. You can around a Ben Grieve.

USF BASKETBALL: After a 2-3 start, the Bulls had reeled off eight victories in their past nine games going into Saturday against Tulane. Suddenly, it's a Bull rush toward the tournament.

ABC: Allowing Jim McKay to work another Olympics with rival NBC fits the Olympic ideals even if they aren't reality.

Low

TONY DUNGY: Firing Les Steckel might well have been a good idea, but the incoherent explanation provided by the Bucs coach made Steckel sound like a savior. The cryptic "chemistry" comments did little to explain why the team is seeking its third offensive coordinator in three seasons.

JOHN CAPEL: The Olympic sprinter and former Gator football receiver submitted his name for the NFL draft, hoping teams ignore that he had 211 yards and one touchdown in his collegiate career. He might catch on somewhere, but his career isn't on the fast-track to the first round.

RICK PITINO: Last season he said he'd quit as boss of the Boston Celtics if they didn't improve this season. This is not how one motivates players (and Pitino should know; he makes thousands from his motivational speeches). How would he have felt if Paul Pierce told him last season that he'd demand to be traded if the Celtics didn't improve this season? If Pitino felt that way last season he should have quit last season. As any gambler in Las Vegas (wink, wink) knows, Pitino should have quit when he was ahead ...okay, when he was less behind.

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