It was 10 years ago tomorrow that the Idaho Stampede announced a move from the CBA to the D-League. You’ll find tomorrow’s “This Day In Sports” item in this column ironic, because this morning’s lead story paints an entirely different picture for the Idaho Stampede. It was 10 years ago tomorrow that the Stampede announced a move from the CBA to the D-League. Yesterday, the Utah Jazz announced a move of the Stampede from Boise to Salt Lake City. They’ll be known as the Salt Lake City Stars, a nod to the old Utah Stars’ run in the ABA from 1970-76, and to the Utah Starzz, who played in the WNBA from 1997-2002. This was a calculated move by the Jazz—otherwise they wouldn’t have been ready to unveil the Salt Lake Stars’ new uniforms and even new corporate partners simultaneously yesterday.
The Stampede always put forth the highest level of athlete of any minor league pro franchise in Boise. Players were literally one call away from the NBA. But it was always difficult putting bodies in the seats. The club was founded as a CBA franchise in 1997 by a group headed by managing investor Bill Ilett. The Stampede played in the Idaho Center during their first three seasons, then switched to what is now CenturyLink Arena downtown in 2000-01, until Isiah Thomas’ mismanagement of the CBA forced the league to fold. Ilett and his partners took the next season off before returning the Stamps to the floor in 2002-03 when the CBA appeared to be healthy again.
“It’s a sad day for a lot of folks,” said Ilett yesterday on Idaho SportsTalk. He feels the Jazz could have worked out a new lease with CenturyLink Arena, and vice versa. Ilett says he urged the arena to reach out to the Jazz a year ago when his group sold the Stampede franchise. “From my viewpoint and (that of) the Jazz, that never came to fruition.” But truthfully, all NBA teams want is instant access to their D-League affiliates. They don’t care about building fan bases, otherwise the Bakersfield Jam and L.A. D-Fenders wouldn’t be playing in practice facilities. The former Stampede will play their home games in a 5,000-seat arena at Salt Lake Community College. Ilett points out that fans will deal with bleachers—and go without beer. “It’s going to be high school basketball on steroids,” he said.
A few highlights from 18 seasons over a 19-year period in Boise: the first coach of the Stampede was Bobby Dye, who resurfaced a little over two years after ending his successful 12-season run at Boise State. In the first couple of years fans saw the likes of the quirky Lloyd Daniels and the diminutive Spud Webb. Later, there were local favorites such as Roberto Bergersen, Coby Karl and Cory Violette. The Stampede didn’t record a winning season (outside the suspended 2000-01 campaign) until Larry Krystkowiak made his head coaching debut in 2003-04. Four years later, the Stamps won their only D-League championship under coach Bryan Gates.
The season is over—and an era is, too—but the transactions are not. Tibor Pleiss, the 7-3 German center who was assigned to Idaho five times this season by Utah, was called up again Sunday by the Jazz. Pleiss appeared in 28 games (all starts) for the Stampede, averaging 12.3 points and 10.5 rebounds and recording 13 double-doubles. He has played 12 games for the Jazz, averaging 2.0 points and 1.3 boards.
Now that the the 2015-16 college hoops season is in the books with Villanova’s 77-74 win over North Carolina last night (one of the best title games ever, by the way), let’s put Anthony Drmic in perspective in Boise State basketball history. Despite finishing two points short of Tanoka Beard’s Bronco career scoring record, I don’t know that I’d include Drmic on Boise State’s Mount Rushmore of the four best players in school history, but I wouldn’t trade watching him for the past five seasons for anything. His grit and confidence defined Boise State hoops the past five winters. Who is on my Mount Rushmore? Chris Childs (1985-89), Beard (1989-93), Roberto Bergersen (1997-99), and—yes—Derrick Marks, Drmic’s running mate for four of his five seasons.
Holden Huff is gone, Jake Roh did not suit up, and Chase Blakley is still rehabbing. But that didn’t keep some local Boise State tight ends from making an impact in the Broncos’ scrimmage on Saturday. Jake Knight, the multi-sport transfer from Auburn, had the only touchdown catch of the evening when he hauled in a 53-yarder from Tommy Stuart. Knight flashed some Derek Schouman-type moves while eluding two defenders on his way to the end zone. We call Knight a multi-sport transfer because he was originally a football commit to Oregon State before becoming a track and field athlete at Auburn. He placed 13th in the shot put at the 2015 SEC Indoor Championships, but his heart was in football. And now he’s looking the part.
Fruitland’s Alec Dhaenens also showed some vertical ability out of the tight end position in the scrimmage. During the “game-winning drive” drill that ended the session, Dhaenens corralled a 25-yard strike from Brett Rypien. Until an 18-yard grab in the Poinsettia Bowl rout of Northern Illinois last November, the longest catch of Dhaenens’ career was four yards. As a redshirt freshman in 2014, he had two catches for four yards—and two touchdowns.
ESPN.com’s Mark Schlabach took his Way Too Early Top 25 last Friday and zeroed in on “The guy on each team you don’t want to see on April 1.” He had to reach a bit for No. 25 Boise State, but he found somebody. Wrote Schlabach: “Kicker Tyler Rausa has been an effective force for the Broncos on the field—he converted 83 percent of his field goal attempts last year—and he’s also done some solid work off of it. Rausa is one of the Boise State players that runs the @Specialists_BSU Twitter account, a humorous documentation of the struggles that kickers and punters face in everyday life.” Well, it’s not April Fool’s prank-type stuff, but Rausa has put out zingers like this: “Shoutout Thomas Sperbeck! Go show him some love, even though he’s only a #ThirdStringHolder.”
It wasn’t exactly a pressure situation, but Josh Osich got the thrill of pitching a perfect bottom-of-the-ninth on Opening Day yesterday. The Bishop Kelly grad finished what Madison Bumgarner started in the San Francisco Giants’ 12-3 rout of the Milwaukee Brewers at Miller Park by retiring the side in order and striking out one. A year ago Osich was beginning the season at Double-A Richmond, but the 6-2, 230-pounder is bound to be a force out of the Giants bullpen this year.
This Day In Sports…April 5, 1984:
Kareem Abdul-Jabbar of the Los Angeles Lakers breaks Wilt Chamberlain’s NBA career scoring record with his 31,420th point in a 129-1115 win over the Utah Jazz. Kareem got the record by sinking—what else—a skyhook. He would end up with 38,387 points in his 20-year pro career with Milwaukee and L.A. Three other players have since passed Chamberlain but haven’t caught Kareem: Karl Malone, Kobe Bryant and Michael Jordan.
(Tom Scott hosts the Scott Slant segment Sunday nights at 10:30PM on KTVB’s Sunday Sports Extra and anchors five sports segments each weekday on 93.1 The Ticket. He also served as color commentator on KTVB’s telecasts of Boise State football for 14 seasons.)