Big Day For Coop, Special K

It’s been a big last couple of days for Buckeye birthdays and today is no different as John Cooper and Clark Kellogg blow out the candles on their cakes.

John Cooper was born July 2, 1937, in Powell, Tenn., a small rural community outside Knoxville so small that, Cooper’s words, “We had to go toward town just to hunt.”

Most Ohio State fans think of Cooper only as a football coach. That is probably a fair assessment since he spent 38 years in the profession. But before he went into coaching, Coop was an excellent college football player at Iowa State.

After graduating from high school and spending two years in the U.S. Army, Cooper was a dual threat at running back and safety for the Cyclones under head coach Clay Stapleton. In his first year of varsity ball, Cooper became a member of the 1959 Iowa State team affectionately known as the “Dirty Thirty.”

The university’s football media guide calls that squad “one of the great underdog teams in college football.” The Cyclones were picked to have a losing season after injuries and attrition pared the roster down to only 30 varsity players for the season opener. But the team proceeded to have one of the best seasons in school history, posting a 7-3 record that included upset victories over Nebraska and Colorado.

The “Dirty Thirty” nickname was given to the team by trainer Warren Ariail. As the team was returning to the locker room after a season-opening 41-0 victory at Drake on a wet and muddy field, Ariail exclaimed, “Here comes the dirty thirty.”

The name stuck as the team rolled to win after win, facing a season-ending showdown at Oklahoma with the winner representing the Big Eight in the 1960 Orange Bowl. Unfortunately, the Cyclones they fell behind early and wound up on the losing end of a 35-12 decision. But Iowa State had gained nationwide recognition for its gritty, determined play.

The following year, the Cyclones got a measure of revenge on the Sooners, ending a 23-game losing streak in the series with a 10-6 victory in Ames. In 1961, with Cooper as team captain, Iowa State went to Norman and knocked off Oklahoma again, marking the first time ever the Cyclones had beaten OU in back-to-back seasons. Cooper led the team with four interceptions as a senior.

After graduation, Cooper wasted no time making the transition from player to coach. He joined Stapleton’s staff the following fall as freshman coach and began a career that spanned most of the next four decades.

Along the way, Cooper learned from some of the top coaches in college football history – Tommy Prothro at Oregon State and UCLA, Pepper Rodgers at Kansas and Fran Curci at Kentucky. In 1977, Cooper got his first head coaching job at Tulsa and turned the Golden Hurricane program into a winner. The last five years Cooper was with the program, it won Missouri Valley Conference championships each season.

Cooper left Tulsa following the 1984 season and took over the program at Arizona State, where he posted a 25-9-2 record that included the 1986 Pac-10 championship and a victory over Michigan in the Rose Bowl.

In 1988, Ohio State made him the 21st head coach in school history, succeeding Earle Bruce who had been fired with a week remaining in the previous season. Cooper, of course, struggled in his initial season in Columbus and his teams seemed to fade at the end of the season – his 2-10-1 record against Michigan and 3-8 ledger in bowl games is testament to that.

But the Buckeyes had some excellent seasons under Cooper, most notably 1996 and 1998 when the team finished No. 2 in the final national rankings. He was dismissed following the 2000 season, and his 111 wins at Ohio State ranks second only to Woody Hayes in program history.

On May 1, he was elected to the College Football Hall of Fame.

SPECIAL K’S DAY

With the Greg Oden and Mike Conley Jr. era still fresh in the minds of Ohio State basketball fans, it is difficult to remember the days of short pants and no three-point circle.

It is also difficult to imagine Clark Kellogg as anything but an analyst for CBS on its NCAA Tournament coverage. But you could make an argument for including Kellogg on a list of the top five basketball players in OSU history. He was that good.

Clark Clifton Kellogg Jr. was born July 2, 1961, in Cleveland, and quickly became a basketball star at St. Joseph’s High School. As a senior, Kellogg carried his team to the state championship game in Columbus only to suffer a 79-65 defeat to a powerful Columbus East team. But Kellogg scored 51 points in that game, still an Ohio high school state finals record.

He was considered one of the top three prep basketball prospects in the country along with Isiah Thomas and James Worthy, but while those players selected national championship contenders Indiana and North Carolina, respectively, Kellogg opted to stay closer to home and play for his instate school.

Kellogg moved into the starting lineup for the Buckeyes early in his freshman season of 1979-80 and quickly became one of the top performers in the Big Ten. As a sophomore, he posted career-highs of 17.3 points and 12.0 rebounds per game and the following year he was conference MVP in 1982 when he averaged 16.1 points and 10.5 rebounds.

The 6-8, 225-pounder was the team leader in scoring and rebounding in both 1981 and ’82, and finished his Ohio State career with 1,285 points and 872 rebounds. His lifetime average of 10.1 rebounds per game still ranks fifth in school history behind only Jerry Lucas (17.2, 1960-62); Bill Hosket (12.3, 1966-68); Luke Witte (11.2, 1971-73) and Brad Sellers (10.8, 1985-86).

After his junior season, Kellogg became the first Ohio State basketball player to forgo his final year of eligibility and declared for the NBA draft. The Indiana Pacers made him the eighth overall pick of that draft, a selection process that was led off by Los Angeles selecting Worthy.

Special K became an instant star for the Pacers, earning NBA All-Rookie honors in 1983 when he started 81 games and averaged 20.1 points and 10.6 rebounds for a team that finished 20-62 and in last place of the Central Division. The following season, Indiana improved only slightly to 26-56 while Kellogg remained steady. He started all 79 games in which he played, averaging 19.1 points and 9.1 rebounds – both team highs.

Kellogg continued to play well in his third season – leading the team again with 18.6 points and 9.4 rebounds per game – but the Pacers weren’t competitive. They finished in the Central Division cellar again with a 20-62 record.

During the 1985-86 season, disaster struck. Kellogg suffered a knee injury that required surgery and limited him to only 19 games. He would try to make a comeback the following year, he attempted a comeback but gave it up after only four games. The career that had showed so much promise was over after only 260 games.

His career average of 18.9 points per game ranks better than just stars as Connie Hawkins, Bob Cousy, Reggie Miller and Gary Payton while his lifetime rebounding average of 9.5 is higher than those posted by Charles Oakley, Bob McAdoo, Robert Parish and Alonzo Mourning.

In 1990, Kellogg began a broadcasting career with ESPN and WTTV in Indianapolis. Four years later, he joined CBS as color analyst on NCAA Tournament games, and moved into the studio for expert tournament analyst in 1997.

He still lives in the Columbus area with his wife Rosy and their two children – daughter Talisa, who plays volleyball at Georgia Tech, and son Alex, who plays basketball at Providence.

HAPPY! HAPPY!

Others celebrating today include former Philippines First Lady and shoe maven Imelda Marcos; former Mexican president Vicente Fox; laconic producer/actor Larry David (“Curb Your Enthusiasm”); E Street Band keyboardist Roy Bittan; actress/model Jerry Hall (and mother of four Mick Jagger’s seven children); former pro wrestler Bret “The Hitman” Hart; former slugger and admitted steroids user José Canseco; Boston Red Sox first baseman Sean Casey; singer Michelle Branch; actress/professional train wreck Lindsay Lohan; actress/singer Ashley Tisdale (“High School Musical”); NASCAR legend Richard Petty; and BSB’s own Adam Jardy.

Also, 46 years ago today the American retail landscape was changed forever when the first Wal-Mart opened for business in Rogers, Ark., on July 2, 1962.

AND FINALLY

** I went with my daughter last night to see “Hancock” starring Will Smith, Jason Bateman and Charlize Theron. Very good escapist fare that makes for a near-perfect summer movie. It gets a little weird at times, but all in all, real good entertainment. Two thumbs up.

** In case you missed it, former Indiana and Northwestern head coach John Pont died yesterday at his home in Oxford, Ohio. He was 80 and had been battling cancer. Pont was a star player at Miami (Ohio) and became the school’s first athlete to have his jersey number retired. In 1956, he followed Ara Parseghian as head coach at Miami and was later head coach at Yale before taking over the program at Indiana in 1965. He guided the Hoosiers for eight years, including a 9-2 record in 1967 that resulted in the school’s only Rose Bowl appearance. Pont later coached at Northwestern from 1973-77 and was that school’s athletic director from 1975-80.

** Not a very good week for college football in the Peach State. Georgia mascot Uga VI died last Friday night followed less than 72 hours later by the arrest of two Bulldog offensive linemen on misdemeanor battery charges. That same day, a third Georgia player was named by police as a suspect in a different case where a fellow student was beaten and hospitalized. Somewhere in between, Georgia Tech suspended cornerback Jerrard Tarrant after he was arrested and charged with rape.

** Complaint Department No. 1: I visited a Barnes & Noble bookstore yesterday and was appalled by the behavior of some of the so-called patrons. Since when did it become permissible to rip open the plastic on a sealed magazine, flip through the pages and then return the magazine to the rack? Also, if you’re going to treat the place like a library (plopping yourself down and reading for free), get off your damn cell phone.

** Complaint Department No. 2: Probably just like you, I have some gripes about the MSM (that’s the mainstream media). My complaints are more style-based, though. For example: the terms “sat down with” is one of my pet peeves. When a reporter can’t think of a decent lead for a story, or wants to do a simple Q&A , they write “We recently caught up with so-and-so” or “I recently sat down with blah-blah-blah.” Really? You caught up with them? Were they running away from you? And then they politely sat down to talk rather than making you do the interview standing up or while doing a handstand at the top of a tall building?

** Complaint Department No. 3: Someone needs to explain to me exactly what Kid Rock brings to the party. He had some marginal success several years ago but still seems to be everywhere you turn around. Awards shows, Super Bowls, parties at the Playboy mansion … and recently he showed up wearing bib overalls and no shirt underneath to play in the pro-am portion of the Buick Invitational. When is this guy’s five minutes gonna be over?

** Question of the day: If Ohio State is so overrated, how did two of their upcoming opponents land among the top five among toughest non-conference schedules? According to ESPN.com football writer Bruce Feldman, Troy has the second-hardest non-league slate in 2008 while USC has the fifth-toughest. In addition to a game at Ohio Stadium, Troy also has a road contest at LSU. And the Trojans aren’t slacking off with a trip to Virginia in their season opener two weeks before hosting the Buckeyes. The Cavaliers aren’t invincible at home, but they have won 24 of 30 games in Charlottesville over the past five years.

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OSU’s Other NBA First-Rounders

Personally (or IMHO, as they say on the Internets) I think Kosta Koufos would have been better served playing another year of college basketball at Ohio State.

If the 7-footer from Canton was truly recruited to play the forward position – as he claims he was – then why didn’t he return for the 2008-09 season when he could have played that position for the Buckeyes? With true center B.J. Mullens entering the program this coming fall, Koufos could have moved to his more comfortable position at the 2, shot threes to his heart’s content and potentially moved into the top five of next year’s NBA draft.

Of course, young people are often impatient. (I don’t remember being impatient as a teenager but I’m sure that I was.) Why continue to slave away with college courses and tough practices for practically nothing when you can bolt to the pro ranks where they will pay you many millions of dollars to play a game?

When the Utah Jazz called Koufos’ name with the 23rd overall selection in last night’s draft, he became the 20th Buckeye to go in the first round. Of course, being selected in the first round doesn’t guarantee success in the league.

Here is a list of the Ohio State basketball players who were first-round NBA draft picks and how they fared during their pro careers.

Jack Underman, St. Louis Bombers, 1947 – Underman was the All-Big Ten center in 1946 and Ohio State’s most valuable in 1947, and became the seventh overall selection in the Basketball Association of America draft (the precursor of the NBA) later that year. But Underman never played for the Bombers, who went 29-19 in ’47-’48 and finished first in the Western Division. They lost in the league semifinals to the Philadelphia Warriors.

Paul Huston, Chicago Stags, 1947 – The eighth overall pick of the BAA draft, Huston was a 6-3, 175-pound forward who played only one season with the Stags, a team coached by former Ohio State head coach Harold Olsen. He averaged 3.6 points in 46 games and helped Chicago to the BAA semifinals, where they lost to the Baltimore Bullets.

Dick Schnittker, Washington Capitols, 1950 – The 6-5, 200-pounder was the fourth overall pick of the draft behind Chuck Share of Bowling Green, Don Rehfeldt of Wisconsin and Bob Cousy of Holy Cross. Schnittker played only one season in Washington but logged five seasons with the Lakers when they were still in Minneapolis and helped the team to the NBA title in 1954. He finished his six-year career with averages of 8.3 points and 3.8 rebounds per game. Schnittker was also an excellent free-throw shooter, finishing among the league’s top five in that category in three of his six seasons.

Larry Siegfried, Cincinnati Royals, 1961 – The third overall pick in ’61 behind Walt Bellamy of Indiana and Tom Stith of St. Bonaventure, Siegfried was selected by the Royals to team in the backcourt with Oscar Robertson. But Siegfried didn’t want to play in Cincinnati after Ohio State’s loss to the University and Cincinnati in the NCAA Finals that year. He opted to play in the American Basketball League with the Cleveland Pipers, and the team won the league title. When the ABL went bankrupt the following year, Siegfried was close to giving up the game until former OSU teammate John Havlicek asked Boston Celtics head coach Red Auerbach to give Siegfried a tryout. Siegfried went on to play seven seasons in Boston and was a member of five NBA championship teams. He finished his career in 1971 and ’72 bouncing around with San Diego, Atlanta and Houston, and wound up with averages of 10.8 points, 3.5 assists and 2.8 rebounds per game. Siegfried was also a pure free-throw shooter, leading the league twice during his career and finishing with a lifetime percentage of 84.5 (1,662 for 1,945).

Jerry Lucas, Cincinnati Royals, 1962 – Considered one of the best college players in history, Lucas also opted out of playing in Cincinnati and signed a unique player-management contract with Cleveland Pipers owner George Steinbrenner. However, the ABL went bankrupt before Lucas got on the court and he started his pro career one year later with the Royals. Over 829 games with Cincinnati, San Francisco and New York, Lucas averaged 17.0 points and 15.6 rebounds. The rebound figure is fourth all-time in league history. During his 11-year career, he was a seven-time all-star, finished among the top 10 in field goal shooting seven times, finished among the top 10 rebounders eight times and helped the Knicks to the 1973 NBA championship. He was inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame in 1980.

John Havlicek, Boston Celtics, 1962 – While Lucas was going to Cincinnati with a territorial pick in ’62 draft, Havlicek was headed to Beantown with the seventh overall pick of the first round. Red Auerbach was never sorry. Hondo was a catalyst for eight NBA championships, playing offense and defense with equal greatness. He finished his 16-year career in Boston with averages of 20.8 points, 6.3 rebounds and 4.8 assists per game and was elected to the Basketball Hall of Fame in 1984.

Gary Bradds, Baltimore Bullets, 1964 – The 6-8 pure shooter was the third overall pick in 1964 behind Jim Barnes of Texas-El Paso and Joe Caldwell of Arizona State. Bradds played two seasons for the Bullets and finished his career with four different teams in the old ABA. He retired after the 1971 season with overall averages of 12.2 points and 5.5 rebounds per game. Bradds returned to his native Jamestown, Ohio, and became a teacher and school administrator but tragically died of cancer in 1983 at the age of 40.

Bill Hosket, New York Knicks, 1968 – The 6-8, 225-pound Hosket was the No. 10 pick in the ’68 draft. He played 86 games over two seasons for the Knicks and was a member of the 1970 NBA championship team. Hosket left the Knicks after that season and finished his brief NBA career with two years in Buffalo with the Braves. In 143 career games, he averaged 4.0 points and 2.5 points per game.

Jim Cleamons, Los Angeles Lakers, 1971 – The 13th selection in the ’71 draft, Cleamons bounced around the league throughout his nine-season career. His longest stint was a five-year stay in Cleveland between 1973-77. In addition to the Lakers and Cavaliers, Cleamons also played for the Knicks and the Bullets and finished his career with averages of 8.3 points, 3.9 assists and 3.0 rebounds per game. He later embarked on a coaching career and earned several NBA championship rings in Chicago and Los Angeles as a member of Phil Jackson’s staff.

Kelvin Ransey, Chicago Bulls, 1980 – The Bulls made Ransey the fourth overall pick and then traded him to Portland. The players taken ahead of the 6-1 guard from Toledo Macomber High School were Joe Barry Carroll of Purdue, Darrell Griffith of Louisville and Kevin McHale of Minnesota. In six seasons with the Trailblazers, Dallas Mavericks and New Jersey Nets, Ransey averaged 11.4 points and 5.2 assists per game.

Herb Williams, Indiana Pacers, 1981 – After an excellent career at Ohio State, it was somewhat surprising that Williams fell to the No. 14 spot in the ’81 draft. But that began an 18-year playing career that took him to Indiana, Dallas, New York and Toronto. Herbie wound up playing in 1,102 games – 48th all-time – and finished his career with averages of 10.8 points, 5.9 rebounds and 1.5 blocked shots per game.

Clark Kellogg, Indiana Pacers, 1982 – Kellogg was the first Buckeye basketball player to leave school with eligibility remaining when the Pacers made him the eighth pick in the ’82 draft. He spent his entire five-year, injury-plagued career in Indiana and averaged 18.9 points, 9.5 rebounds, 2.9 assists and 1.5 steals over 260 games. Knee injuries forced him into retirement at age 25.

Tony Campbell, Detroit Pistons, 1984 – The 20th selection in the ’84 draft, Campbell played for six different franchises during his 11-year career. Donning uniforms for the Pistons, Lakers, Timberwolves, Knicks, Mavericks and Cavaliers, the 6-7 swingman averaged 11.6 points and 3.1 rebounds in 690 NBA games. He was a member of the 1988 league championship team with Los Angeles, averaging 6.2 points on a roster that included Magic Johnson, James Worthy and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar.

Brad Sellers, Chicago Bulls, 1986 – The 7-footer from Warrensville Heights went with the No. 9 pick in the ’86 draft, ahead of such future stars as Mark Price and Dennis Rodman. Sellers played three seasons in Chicago, leaving just as the Michael Jordan championship era was beginning. He finished his seven-year career bouncing around to Seattle, Minnesota, Detroit and then back to Minnesota, winding up with averages of 6.3 points and 2.7 rebounds per game.

Dennis Hopson, New Jersey Nets, 1987 – Hopson went No. 3 in the ’87 draft behind David Robinson of Navy and Armon Gilliam of UNLV. He spent only three seasons in New Jersey and then retired two years later after playing only five years and 334 games in the league. For New Jersey, Chicago and Sacramento, Hopson averaged 10.9 points, 2.8 rebounds and 1.6 assists.

Jim Jackson, Dallas Mavericks, 1992 – Jackson redefined the term “journeyman.” After the Mavs took J.J. with the fourth overall pick in ’92, he played for 12 different franchises over the next 14 seasons. By the time he retired after the 2006 season, Jackson had logged time with the Mavericks, Nets, 76ers, Warriors, Trailblazers, Hawks, Cavaliers, Heat, Kings, Rockets, Suns and Lakers. And he was pretty good for all 12. His career averages: 14.3 points, 4.7 rebounds, 3.2 assists. Unfortunately, the closest Jackson got to a championship ring was 1999 with Portland and 2005 with Phoenix. Both teams lost in the Western Conference finals to San Antonio.

Greg Oden, Portland Trailblazers, 2007 – Ohio State’s first-ever No. 1 overall pick – remember Lucas was a territorial selection – sat out his rookie season after undergoing microfracture surgery on his right knee. He has been rehabbing for the past several months and is hopeful of being near 100 percent when the Trailblazers kick off their 2008-09 season in October.

Mike Conley Jr., Memphis Grizzlies, 2007 – The 6-1 point guard was taken with the No. 4 pick of last year’s draft, behind only Oden, Kevin Durant of Texas and Al Horford of Florida. In his first season in the league, Conley played in 52 of the Grizzlies’ 82 games (including 46 starts) and averaged 9.4 points and 4.2 assists for a team that finished fifth in the Southwest Division with a 22-60 record.

Daequan Cook, Philadelphia 76ers, 2007 – Cook experienced an up-and-down rookie season after being selected with the 21st overall pick last year. The Sixers shipped him to Miami on draft day, and Cook spent a three-game midseason stint with Iowa in the Developmental League. After tearing up the D-League by averaging 19.3 points and 7.0 rebounds for the Energy, he returned to South Beach and wound up playing 58 games for the Heat, including 19 starts. His season averages: 8.9 points, 3.0 rebounds and 1.3 assists.

HAPPY! HAPPY!

Happy 41st birthday today to former Ohio State linebacker John Kacherski, a big, quick player whose career was plagued by knee problems. Born June 27, 1967, in Oceanside, N.Y., John Richard Kacherski was a star defensive player at Milford (Conn.) Academy, registering 47 sacks during his final two seasons. He finally broke into the OSU starting lineup as a sophomore in 1988 and led the Big Ten in sacks with nine. He missed all of the following season following knee surgery, and returned in 1990 only to blow out the knee again in the season opener after making four first-half tackles including two sacks. Kacherski rehabbed again and returned for his senior year in 1991, elected one of the team captains for the season. He started all 12 games the Buckeyes played that years, and he later played seven games in the NFL for Denver during the 1992 season. Kacherski returned with his family to the Columbus area in 2002 and works for a transportation company.

Also celebrating birthdays today are businessman and former U.S. Presidential candidate Ross Perot; songwriter and Beach Boys member Bruce Johnston; former Boston Red Sox shortstop/third baseman Rico Petrocelli; Chicago Cubs outfielder Jim Edmonds; Washington Senators catcher Johnny Estrada; fashion designer Vera Wang; TV actress Julia Duffy (“Newhart, “Designing Women”); Minnesota Vikings head coach Brad Childress; 2004 U.S. Open women’s singles champion Svetlana Kuznetsova; country singer Lorrie Morgan; Craftsman Truck Series driver Johnny Benson; film director and producer J.J. Abrams (“Mission: Impossible III,” “Cloverfield,” the upcoming “Star Trek” prequel in 2009); and Spiderman himself, actor Tobey Maguire.

AND FINALLY

** Houston Astros pitcher Shawn Chacon was suspended and then released after he grabbed team general manager Ed Wade by the neck and threw him to the floor of the team dining room at Minute Maid Park earlier this week. The team’s official reason for the suspension and release: insubordination. You think?

** Chacon’s explanation of the incident: “I lost my cool.” You think?

** Former champion Maria Sharapova was upset yesterday by the world’s 154th-ranked player in the second round of this year’s Wimbledon. For those of you who don’t know what the hell I’m talking about, Wimbledon is a big tennis tournament they hold each year in Great Britain. Used to be a much bigger deal.

** Here’s a strange twist: Major league umpire Brian Runge has been suspended for one game because he bumped New York Mets manager Jerry Manuel during an argument on Tuesday.

** That Indiana athletic director Rick Greenspan will resign in December isn’t surprising. The fact that IU didn’t fire him immediately after the Kelvin Sampson disaster – now that’s surprising.

Happy Birthday, Eldon Miller

Many Ohio State basketball fans would rather forget the decade-long era between 1977 and 1986 when the Buckeyes seemed to struggle to win championships. But the truth is that those seasons produced a ton of memorable moments, thanks in great deal to head coach Eldon Miller, who celebrates his 69th birthday today.

Born June 19, 1939, in Gnadenhutten, Ohio, Miller was a standout guard at Wittenberg and helped lead that team to the Division III national championship in 1961. Two years later at the tender age of 23, he took over the program at his alma mater and compiled a 142-55 record over the next eight seasons.

He left Wittenberg to take over at Western Michigan, a program that had experienced seven consecutive losing seasons. In 1976, Miller coached the Broncos to the Mid-American Conference championship, the school’s first title in 24 seasons. He parlayed that success into the head coaching job at Ohio State.

Unfortunately, he had the distinction of following a legend in Fred Taylor and, as Earle Bruce can attest on the football side of things, pretty much nothing you can do is going to measure up to your predecessor.

Unlike Bruce, however, who was left a talent-rich team after Woody Hayes was fired following the 1978 season, Miller was left a basketball program in ruins. Taylor had seemingly lost interest in recruiting following the infamous 1972 incident in Minnesota during which several of his players were beaten and kicked by Gophers players. The legendary coach finally retired following the 1976 season, a year in which the Buckeyes finished 6-20 and dead last in the Big Ten with a 2-16 record.

Miller immediately began to turn the program’s fortunes around with his first major signing, shooting guard Kelvin Ransey out of Macomber High School in Toledo, the same program that would later send Jim Jackson to Ohio State. With Ransey in the lineup and Miller calling the shots from the sidelines, the Buckeyes began to improve. They finished 9-18 in 1977 and then climbed to 16-11, 19-12 and 21-8 the following three seasons.

Joining Ransey in the fold during the early portion of the Miller era were such notables as Herb Williams, Jim Smith, Carter Scott, Clark Kellogg and Larry Huggins. Later, the head coach signed the likes of Tony Campbell, Granville Waiters, Troy Taylor, Ronnie Stokes, Dennis Hopson and Brad Sellers, and the Buckeyes enjoyed three more 20-win seasons and the 1986 NIT championship in Miller’s final six years at the helm.

Miller recruited and signed six players at Ohio State – Ransey, Williams, Kellogg, Campbell, Sellers and Hopson – who became NBA first-round draft selections. During his tenure, Miller also mentored several notable assistant coaches including Jim Cleamons, Randy Ayers, Chuck Machock and Bob Huggins.

Despite his success, the perception during the Miller era was that the program couldn’t get over the hump. The Buckeyes never won a Big Ten championship during Miller’s tenure and made only four NCAA Tournament fields, never advancing past the regional semifinals. Before what would be his final season, Miller decided to discuss his options with then Ohio State athletic director Rick Bay. That meeting wound up with an agreement between the two that the 1985-86 season would be Miller’s last in Columbus.

The Buckeyes, of course, went on to win the NIT championship at the end of that season, and when Miller left Columbus at the age of 46, he landed squarely on his feet at the University of Northern Iowa. Ironically, he was joined there a couple of years later by Bruce after he was fired at Ohio State.

Miller served at UNI for a dozen years, earning Missouri Valley Conference coach of the year honors in 1997, before retiring from the game. In 37 seasons, he compiled an overall record of 568-419, which included a 176-118 mark at Ohio State. His record with the Buckeyes also included an enviable 112-35 home record in St. John Arena.

Since his retirement, Miller and his wife, Dee, spend most of their time in a small Great Lakes community in northwestern Michigan. The couple, which has been married for 43 years, also travels the world visiting their three children – Amy, who lives in the Cayman Islands with her husband and three children; Carrie, a teacher who has practiced her profession in Egypt, Saudi Arabia and Indonesia; and Ben, who was recently hired as head men’s basketball coach at the University of North Carolina at Pembroke.

HAPPY! HAPPY!

In addition to wishing Coach Miller a happy birthday, several others deserve our best wishes today. They include veteran French actor Louis Jourdan (“Gigi,” “Octopussy”); NHRA star Shirley Muldowney; Czech Republic president Václav Klaus; author Salman Rushdie; actresses Phylicia Rashad (“Cosby”), Kathleen Turner (“Body Heat,” “Romancing The Stone”); Poppy Montgomery (“Without A Trace”) and Mia Sara (“Ferris Bueller’s Day Off”); TV hostess Lara Spencer (“The Insider”); Pittsburgh Pirates infielder Doug Mientkiewicz; Dallas Mavericks forward Dirk Nowitzki; disgruntled former Illinois running back Rashard Mendenhall; Heart lead singer Ann Wilson; and former Lakers Girl, Emmy and Grammy award winner and current American Idol judge Paula Adbul.

Today also marks the 105th anniversary of the birth of the best baseball player of all time. Ludwig Heinrich Gehrig was born June 19, 1903, in New York City and became a mainstay at first base for the New York Yankees throughout the 1920s and ’30s. Gehrig set a host of major league records, including his 2,130 consecutive game streak (later broken by Cal Ripken Jr.) and 23 career grand slams (a mark that still stands). But to get an indication of just how good he was, consider that he hit behind Babe Ruth for most of his career. In the 10 full seasons they played together in New York, Gehrig totaled 1,436 RBI to 1,316 for Ruth.

AND FINALLY

** The news that Tiger Woods won the U.S. Open with ligament damage and stress fractures in his left knee left no doubt that Woods is a truly remarkable athlete. Although he will miss the remainder of this year’s PGA Tour schedule – as well as the Ryder Cup competition – the win at Torrey Pines left him only four major championships behind Jack Nicklaus. I have no doubt that he will surpass Jack’s record. But I don’t think he’s going to get 10 or 12 more majors. As he continues to age and put tremendous amounts of stress on his body, he will begin to break down. It happens to most golfers and it will happen to Tiger, too. Regardless of what he appears to be sometimes, he is still human.

** Amid all the tributes to the late Tim Russert, I discovered that in addition to all of the other things he packed into a very full life, he somehow found time to serve on the board of directors for the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum in Cooperstown, N.Y.

** The Chicago Cubs continue to have the best record in baseball, and their insufferable fans are beginning to believe that maybe this is their year. The Cubbies, of course, haven’t been in a World Series since 1945 and haven’t won one since 1908. If you know the last manager to win the world title with the Cubs was Frank Chance, then chances are pretty good you know Waveland Avenue from Sheffield Avenue.

** Forget about Notre Dame joining a conference any time soon. The university just extended their contract with NBC to show Fighting Irish football games through the 2015 season.

** The Yankees just signed journeyman pitcher Sidney Ponson. Who’s next on their radar? Eric Milton? Brandon Claussen? Jimmy Haynes?