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Dejan Kovacevic's Blog

Pittsburgh sports talk with the Trib columnist

Wakeup Call: Could Pitt possibly dance?


MUNCIE, Ind. – Brief and to the Point …

>> I’m getting way ahead of things, but listening to Pitt beat West Virginia last night on the long drive here — thanks to the miracle of XM Radio — I can’t help but at least pose the question: What it would take for the Panthers to get into the NCAA tournament?

Yeah, I know there’s an obvious answer: Win the Big East at the Garden. But I’m talking at-large.

Pitt is 14-9 overall, 3-7 in conference. The latter still looks terrible, but the committee absolutely considers teams that get better as the season goes. Think UConn last year and its resultant seeding. Take a look at Pitt’s upcoming schedule. South Florida is the conference’s surprise team, but Villanova and Seton Hall have losing records. And a rematch with West Virginia follows, only at the Pete.

Again, I know this is getting way ahead, but taking all four games — not unthinkable — not only gives Pitt a .500 conference record but an impressive overall record and, most important, the appearance that the eight-game losing streak was merely a fluke caused by the absence of Tray Woodall.

>> Woodall is the Peyton Manning of college basketball. Look at the Panthers with and without him.

>> Sidney Crosby skated yesterday, and you’d think the Internet was going to burst with this news.

To recap for the many who clearly weren’t paying attention:

1. Crosby was cleared to skate Jan. 13 in Sunrise, Fla., and he has been doing so regularly ever since.

2. Crosby did not sustain a BROKEN NECK over the weekend. That’s just when we all learned that it might have happened 13 months ago.

Now, back to your regularly programmed hysteria.

>> I have strong feelings about the Penguins’ opponent tonight. Scroll down the Twitter timeline a bit.

>> Nyjer Morgan, formerly a single personality who played for the Pirates, once was a junior hockey player in Canada’s WHL. He’ll get to live out a dream by practicing with the Sharks tomorrow.

My Twitter challenge to Mr. Plush: “Hey, Nyj, go up to the biggest dude on the ice and call him “Alberta.” He’ll think you’re talking about his native province!”

I’ve yet to hear back.

>> If Keith Butler does, in fact, return to be the Steelers’ linebackers coach next season, he’d better have at least received a firm handshake promising him he’ll be defensive coordinator once Dick LeBeau, now 75, retires. Actually, I’d be stunned if that didn’t already happen. Totally implausible to think Butler would have turned down a coordinator opportunity otherwise.

On a related note, 2012 almost surely will be LeBeau’s final year.

>> Tony Sanchez completes a hat trick of broken jaws. I can tell you that the Pirates had better see something highly promising out of this young man soon.

>> I’m here covering the Super Bowl all week and seriously looking forward to it.


  1. Leah Backus says:

    **boggle** Do people not read?? Also, did you hear what Brooks Orpik said in his interview today? That “maybe it was a mental hurdle” keeping Sid off the ice. (At least that’s how it sounded to me.)

    And thank you for inspiring me to look up the record of my alma mater, Maryland, even though I haven’t watched NCAA basketball in more years than I’m willing to mention. I might actually have to pay attention to the tournament this year. It’s hard to get excited about sports when all there is in this town is Division III college teams. Oh, and single-A baseball.


  2. Drew71 says:

    “Woodall is the Peyton Manning of college basketball.”


    And I’m the Kovacevic of blogging from my mom’s basement.

  3. 429Meyran says:

    Love Pitt, but can not agree with this team going dancing unless they do not lose another game,and make a long run at the BE tourney. Too many bad losses, AT HOME!! Good wins, WVU, um. Bad Losses, line em up, all at home. Name helps and will get them into consideration, but I personally do not think they have earned it YET.

  4. Drew71 says:

    and while we’re at it…

    Muncie, Indiana? Really? An hour and twelve minutes, without Super Bowl traffic, from Indianapolis?

    What, they couldn’t find you a Super 8 any closer?

    DK: Was wondering if anyone would notice that. Should have known it would be you.

    Yeah, it’s going to be a fun commute. Lucky for me, I have the new Gary Numan CD, and it’s awesome.

  5. rjcaliendo says:

    It sure won’t be easy, or even likely, but Pitt dancing could happen. Besides the belief that Pitt could make a run, due to the last decade of high achievement, the NCAA Committee will give them every benefit of the doubt (I think) and certainly take into account the Travon Woodall injury. Stranger things have happened. Regardless, hopefully it’ll be fun watching them try.

  6. Drew71 says:

    “Should have known it would be you.”

    I would analyze that a bit more but I hear things like that in my own house so much, it’s just too depressingly familiar.

  7. BladedWedge says:

    If Pitt finishes 9-9 and makes it to the semis in NY, they are a lock. The Woodall Factor and history play a factor. Villanova lost 5 in a row to close last year and lost to a poor USF team in Big East tourney. Still got in. The NCAA committee loves to take injuries to key players into account. Pitt would be around 21-5 with Woodall in the lineup if my scenario plays out.

  8. Deb says:

    I think there are still issues with the Pen’s locker room.

    The Pen’s really TRY to say the right things, but somehow they always add a ‘jab’ that makes the platitudes ring hollow. Take the quotes from today. Brooks Orpik, who most fans are convinced was behind the Captain coup attempt DK reported, today while saying how great it was Sid was skating threw in maybe Sid was overcoming a “mental hurdle” implying nothing has really been wrong with Sid all along. Time for Brooks to be traded.

    I’m sure these ‘mental hurdles’ were really impairing Sid’s balance.

  9. BladedWedge says:

    Brooks Orpik speaks his mind and you want to trade him? Yikes. A mental hurdle as in getting back on the ice in full gear.

    The conspiracy theories of Pittsburgh sports fans is sometimes astounding.

    DK: I agree on the latter statement, Tim. But there’s lots of smoke here.

  10. Deb says:

    A sour locker room will kill a Cup race faster than any opponent. Weeding out the “smokermakers” to use Dejan’s analogy might just prove to be Shero’s best trade deadline move ever.

    “Jabs” at a team mate, especially the Captain, is not ‘speaking your mind’ it is detrimental to the team. To win a Cup requires a tight locker room.

  11. Curt says:

    Nice to hear about Tony Sanchez. On a side note, I am selling an autographed Tony Sanchez baseball on ebay:

    My buddy is a clubhouse attendant and got it for me.

    Someone needs to cue that Brad Paisley “Alcohol” song after reading that story.

  12. MBS says:

    I recall times when Orpik was praised for speaking truthfully and not just delivering the “party line”. Now people are taking offense to it? What would be so surprising about an athlete having a mental hurdle following a significant injury? I don’t see how this implies he thinks nothing was wrong with Sid all along.

  13. JAL says:

    7 Pittsburgh Pirates 2012 Spring Training Tracker


    8—Pirates Prospects

    When Is The Best Time To Grade A Draft?

    Winter League Playoffs 1/30 — Escogido Wins Dominican Championship

  14. JAL says:

    12 CNBC

    How Small-Market Teams Survive Baseball Economics

    13 Washington Post

    New Red Sox manager Bobby Valentine talks baseball, but father-in-law Branca steals show

    14 USA Today

    Rally Squirrel pinch-hits on Skip Schumaker’s baseball card

    15 Sports Illustrated

    From Wagner to Pujols, these men have been King of Baseball


    16 Fangraphs

    Reliever Usage Redux: A Follow-Up
    17 Bleacher Report

    Pittsburgh Pirates: 10 Players Who Could Have Been Pirate Starters

  15. JAL says:

    Steelers Blogs

    18 Behind the Steel Curtain

    Behind the Steel Curtain 2012 NFL Mock Draft — Post Senior Bowl Edition (Five Rounds)

    Is Colorado Quarterbacks Coach Rip Scherer a Candidate For Steelers Offensive Coordinator Position?

    Steelers QB Ben Roethlisberger Throws Two Touchdowns, WR Antonio Brown Allows One As AFC Rolls in 2012 Pro Bowl

    19 Steelers Depot

    Keisel Talks About How He Thinks Harrison is Targeted by the League

    20 Steelers Gab

    Butler to Talk to Colts About Their Defensive Coordinator Spot

  16. JAL says:

    Pitt Blogs

    21 Pitt Blather

    Open Thread: Final Trip to Morgantown for a While?

    22 Cardiac Hill

    Beating West Virginia in Morgantown: Woodall Explodes, Huggins’ Bar Tab Goes Over $100

  17. JAL says:

    WVU Blogs

    23 Metro News

    WVU Loses Third Straight

    24 WV Illustrated

    Men’s Basketball: WVU vs. Pitt Game Recap

    Huggins Technical Lost in Translation


    25 Pensburgh

    The first ever (and hopefully only) NHL Royal Rumble (Part 1)

  18. Catfish293 says:

    It takes a .500 Big East record, which is 6-2 down the stretch. Simple.

  19. Jandy says:

    @ Deb & BladedWedge ~ while there may be some smoke, I fing it hard to believe Brooksie would stoop to sabotaging the team/captain. I just can’t grasp that. I feel it’s more like he’s saying Sid has come a long way…again…and he just needs to take that last leap to get back to action again. I don’t know, maybe I’m being naive. I just cannot accept the fadt that Brooksie, who is the locker room conscience for everyone, would stoop to potshots like that.

  20. Jandy says:

    @MBS, just saw your post. That’s more like it! as I said above, I can’t see Brooksie stooping that low.

  21. dcpinpgh says:

    Over/Under that Dick LeBeau thinks he will die if he retires…

  22. John Lease says:

    Oh boy, Tony Sanchez is flaming out before he even cracks AAA. Good thing we have no catching depth with Jaramillo, Doumit AND Snyder all escaping Alcatraz.

  23. Sarcastic Sword says:

    Can someone find out when this broken neck occurred?

    In past 12 months?

    In junior hockey?

    After juniors but prior to Jan 1 2011?

    Could these press releases be anyore cryptic? They provide more questions than answers for petes sake!

  24. SouthSideBucsFan says:


    “Weeding out the ‘smokermakers’ to use Dejan’s analogy might just prove to be Shero’s best trade deadline move ever.”

    But sabotaging a team by trading one of its top two defensemen for saying something that has a strong chance of being true would be one of the dumbest trade deadline moves ever.

    Not to mention Brooks is popular in the locker room … meaning that trade could have a negative impact both on and off the ice.

    I think fans have gotten way too paranoid about the Penguins’ chemistry. Their chemistry’s looked just fine to me recently. Wonder why that is?

  25. scapper says:

    These guys have been out there getting banged around and giving it up nightly for the past ten months while Sid has played 9 games. It would be human nature to get tired of having to answer questions about him, so I can understand if some of these answers contain a bit of snideness or possible loaded meaning to them. I’m guessing there is no real animus toward Sid and what he’s gone through, but it’s the questions themselves that might bring out these less-than-perfectly-scripted responses.

    Of course, this comment is NOTHING against Crosby. I’m just saying that people might be reading a little too much into Orpik’s comment.

  26. Leefoo says:

    Dejan……….if Sanchez had truly broken his jaw, would it had healed that quickly? Would the brass had even let him on the field? I find that story highly suspect.

    He may have gotten into a fight, but doubtful that he broke his jaw. Those things just don’t heal in 2 months. Plus, he would’ve lost weight again.



  27. JohninOshkosh says:

    Well God bless for looking forward to covering the Super Bowl. I, for one, lost interest in the pre Super Bowl circus years ago. Always held sportswriters in high regard. But there it will be-all my sports writing heroes trying to ask football related questions while Maria Menounos grills Gronkowski about his porn star girlfriend, Ross the Intern asks Brady about whether it’s OK to wear white after Labor Day and Inis Sainz tries to pretend she doesn’t want to get noticed in her apple bottom jeans. Meanwhile Neal Cavuto will be there to report how Belichick feels about Go Daddy’s million dollar ad.

    Best thing about the Super Bowl, if your team isn’t playing in it, is that, once it’s done, there is only two weeks to spring training.

    Oh, and don’t forget to say hey to Baba Booey.

  28. Milo Hamilton says:

    If Keith Butler returns ? Gerry Dulac doesn’t get this stuff wrong.

  29. January 31

    18 days until Pirate Spring Training

    Jaw-dropping actions will certainly push Pirates to 1st Place in 2012

    Or, in Tony Sanchez’ case, jaw-breaking actions——isn’t this the season some were projecting him starting for the Buccos?

  30. Milo Hamilton says:

    I understand Ted Carrick hung Tony Sanchez upside down from his ankles, and his jaw healed in three days. True story.

  31. Janet says:

    If you read Orpik’s quote (, the “mental hurdle” he is referring to is Crosby not knowing what was causing his symptoms. I don’t take that as him implying that Crosby’s problems where in his head in any way, shape or form. But I guess it makes a much better story to continue to hint that certain players are still trying to undermine their captain.

  32. @suckmeter says:

    Milo: It sucks for Dulac that Arians left. Where do you think he get’s all his scoop from? Don’t think that that didn’t sit well with the Rooney’s.

  33. Bad news, Milo! Dr. Bray just called.

    Tony Sanchez did NOT have a broken jaw——it was a BROKEN NECK!

    And, I hear Tony Sanchez is looking to sublet Dejan’s room in Muncie, since it is so convenient to Indy for the AAA season. Like just next door!

  34. Milo Hamilton says:


    I get the feeling he’s getting his stuff from higher up the food chain than that. But I don’t know.

  35. SeanAY says:

    NFL Network’s Jason La Canfora reporting that he’s heard Mike Tomlin is “gathering info” on Todd Haley, making calls to that effect.

    Leaving no stone unturned, or legitimate possibility?

  36. BladedWedge says:

    We have no idea what goes on behind closed doors of a professional locker room. I would like to believe there is a harmonious relationship between Orpik and Crosby since they have been teammates for 5+ years. This won’t be popular but I understand if there is frustration in the locker room. Concussions are an invisible injury to the outside world. Players might look completely capable of playing because there is no limp, they can use both hands and they are breathing. On the inside, the concussed player is on an internal roller coaster: clear and capable one minute, nauseous, dizzy and unable to get out of bed the next. The players in the locker room don’t see that side. All they see is them busting their ass, playing with bumps, bruises and breaks while the best player in the world is riding a bike and eating PB&J.

    You can’t trade Orpik. He is a top 2 defenseman for 95% of the teams in the NHL and who knows if Crosby will ever return to the team. In life and concussions, there are no guarantees.

  37. Arriba Wilver says:

    Nyjer was Tony Plush when he was a Pirate, too. He wasn’t as crazy, but he was talking about hisTony Plush “personality.” It was dumb then, even dumber now that he has taken it to a new level.

  38. JohninOshkosh says:

    Could not agree with you more AW. Although, he does manage to get himself and his doppelganger in the news a lot. Which, of course, is his objective. Just today he made Paul White’s article in USA Today.

    “Everything is going to be OK,” he told the crowd at Brewers Fan Fest. “There’s no panic.” Sounded a bit like Kevin Bacon’s character during the chaotic parade scene in “Animal House.”

  39. CWalton_67 says:

    Don’t see anything ominous, underhanded or snide in the Orpik comment. He has a history of saying exactly what is on his mind. Too many conspiracy theorists. That said, I think he’s wrong. Sid’s symptoms are very real to him and not a mental hurdle.

  40. Leefoo says:

    Would be nice to have that Sanchez story definitely confirmed.

  41. LuckyNKentucky says:

    Now, Foo, didn’t you read the quote from Neal. “Tony has dealt with some adversity in his life”. Doesn’t that confirm it for you?

  42. Arriba Wilver says:

    Also this quote from Kyle Stark is pretty odd if nothing happened:

    “Consistent with our approach in off-field matters, we view these as private situations for the player and not our place to comment.”

  43. Dejan Kovacevic says:

    It happened, guys. You’re not going to get the Pirates to go on the record about something like that. It happened.

  44. LuckyNKentucky says:

    I met Sanchez at a low-A game here in Bowling Green, KY a couple years ago, right after he was drafted. Seemed like a nice kid. Was almost flattered to talk to a Pirate fan. Guess that $2 million changed him a little. Or 3 broken jaws maybe.

  45. JAL says:

    Morton is throwing at 175 feet, says he feels good and wants to be ready by opening day.

  46. scapper says:

    Hilarious comments about Dr. Carrick curing Sanchez’s jaw and then Dr. Bray finding the broken neck! Great stuff!

  47. Jandy says:

    scapper, between the humor provided by the posters, and all the information Dk gives us, this is my favorite site to go to. Can’t stay away =)

  48. Milo Hamilton says:

    Everyone remember John Smiley slamming his hand in a cab door in Atlanta ? The Pirates still haven’t come clean on that one, 20 years later. It was really a bar fight.

  49. LuckyNKentucky says:

    Right, Milo, and Richie Hebner was really a preacher not a grave digger.

  50. Milo Hamilton says:

    Bill O’Brien says that Penn State is not distracting him. Just what Nittany Lions fans want to hear with signing day tomorrow.

  51. Jandy says:

    Janet ~ well said!

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