Three quick hits for your Wednesday…
♦ Oregon Ducks director of player personnel Don Johnson Jr. suffered a heart-related medical emergency on Monday, per a university source. Johnson was reportedly in a coaches’ meeting at UO when the incident happened and was transported to Portland on Tuesday.
He remains hospitalized.
Johnson is an influential force in the Pac-12 recruiting world and previously served as a longtime Oregon high school coach (Jefferson High, Madison High, Milwaukie High) and worked at Vancouver’s Evergreen High. He joined Mario Cristobal’s program in 2020 as “Director of High School Relations” and was a big part of the recruiting success of the program. Dan Lanning retained Johnson and promoted him to the newly formed player personnel position.
I’ve watched Johnson work over the last couple of years in Eugene. I’ll tell you what strikes me — players love him and people love him. Johnson is a strong advocate and a believer in young people. He’s a big voice in the room at Oregon.
From Lanning’s Twitter:
Asking for continued thoughts and prayers for Don Johnson and his family. Don has given so much to the University of Oregon, our Football Family, and so many others. Don is a fighter. Please continue to cover him in prayer.
— Dan Lanning (@CoachDanLanning) March 2, 2022
♦ The Trail Blazers officially launched their season-ticket renewal on Tuesday. The franchise had originally planned on a Feb. 1 start but pushed it back to March 1 because the roster was being gutted and there were too many questions swirling. Now, CJ McCollum is gone. Also, Robert Covington and Norman Powell departed. The “plan” as interim general manager Joe Cronin has indicated is to build around Damian Lillard.
Because it’s the same plan as before. Only this time Cronin has the keys. Or maybe he doesn’t. I remain perplexed as to why the NBA franchise hasn’t given him the full-time GM title. In fact, if I were a season-ticket holder, that would be my primary question: Why should I commit to buying tickets if the franchise isn’t certain about who will be building the roster this summer?
A longtime season-ticket holder and his wife forwarded me their renewal invoice on Tuesday. This fan owns two VIP courtside, center-court seats at Moda Center and was invoiced $35,500 for that pair of seats. These are literally among the best seats in the house so take that into consideration.
Price per ticket, per game: $413.
That is a 3% increase vs. last season for the same tickets. Do what you’d like with your disposable income but I’d be asking questions about Cronin’s status right now. This is a franchise that needs to find direction and commit to it. What the Blazers can’t afford is to dump the interim GM this summer, hire someone new, and start over with a new basketball operations plan that would stall the rebuild. And yes, it’s a rebuild not a reload.
♦ Meaningless NBA game? Season headed nowhere? Don’t tell that to 3-year old William Jackson and his parents. I wrote a column today on the little boy and why it’s critical that the Trail Blazers make a bunch of three-point baskets in tonight’s game vs. the Phoenix Suns. Jackson is facing a difficult genetic disorder and needs some help from the NBA team.
♦ Oregon State coach Jonathan Smith has a front-row seat for the renovation of the west side of Reser Stadium. His office window literally gives him the best vantage point of anyone on the planet. He’s watched the old stadium demolition and is now observing the crews working hard to get the foundation of the new construction installed.
On that note, anyone else think the Beavers are due for another solid step forward? I do. The North Division has been chaotic in the last five months. Washington and Oregon are starting over with new coaching staffs. Washington State’s star quarterback Jayden de Laura has transferred to Arizona. Stanford is coming off a disappointing season and Cal retained coach Justin Wilcox but lost starting quarterback Chase Garbers. I expect Smith’s team to be deeper and better than prior years, but I’m left wondering if OSU challenges for the division title this season.
That said, Smith needs to find his starting quarterback. Will it be Chance Nolan again? Or Tristan Gebbia healthy? Signee Travis Throckmorton? Jake Blair, Ben Gulbranson, Brady Huchingson? Someone else? Football is a quarterback-centric game. Smith is a former quarterback and his offense is fun to play in. If the Beavers can find someone who is more than a game manager, they could soar.
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