“Deck days” are back above the blue

Summer conditioning has always been a key ingredient as Boise State has built its amazing college football run. Summer conditioning has always been a key ingredient as Boise State has built its amazing college football run since 1999. Leading into the Fiesta Bowl last December, everyone was trying to figure out how the Broncos do it, and the day before the game an article by ESPN.com’s David Lombardi zeroed in. (I saved it, of course.) Ironically, the Boise State mouthpiece was offensive coordinator Mike Sanford, now at Notre Dame. But he was right on the money. “His perch (in the Albertsons Stadium press box) overlooks the blue turf that has become a signature of the Broncos’ perennially successful program,” wrote Lombardi. “It also hovers directly above the area that evokes the gritty memories of Boise State’s powerful climb, one that represents the work that has formed the backbone of all its success. The bleachers.”

That means the running of the stadium’s upper deck, a tradition established during Jeff Pitman’s first tour of duty as strength and conditioning coach. Much to Bronco players’ delight, or something like that, Pitman returned when Bryan Harsin took over as head coach. “It’s a full stride length to get up one bleacher, and then there are about 27 more of those to go,” said Sanford. “It’s 103 degrees with the sun beating down on you and the coaches yelling from the top. It’s a rite of passage for every Boise State football player.” Pitman, who earned a scholarship after walking on to the Bronco squad out of Melba in 1988, must be grinning at the thought. Especially with temperatures headed back up into the 80’s this weekend.

The question going into this week was: how long would single-game tickets to the Boise State-Washington game last once season ticket holders were able to buy all they wanted? Well, apparently through some time on Wednesday. Season ticket folks in the third priority tier received e-mails yesterday afternoon reminding them they could buy UW seats, but it wasn’t long after that the school announced the 4,500 tickets were gone. From here on out, it’s supply and demand on eBay, StubHub, Craigslist, etc. There are tickets online going for as much as $1,000. Key word is “going”—will they go at that price? Boise State says there are still about 2,000 seats left that are allotted to season ticket sales.

Man, it took awhile. But Mike Breske has officially been announced as Idaho’s new defensive coordinator. Breske is literally at home on the Palouse—he was D-coordinator at Washington State the past three years before being fired at the end of last season. He’s charged with revitalizing a Vandal defense that was 112th in the country last season in both points allowed per game (37.3) and yards allowed per game (462.7).

Idaho native Gary Stevens will take a different tack against American Pharoah Saturday in the Belmont Stakes. That means riding a different horse. Stevens will be aboard Tale of Verve, a 15-1 shot breaking out of the No. 2 gate. Tale of Verve had never run in a Stakes race before the Preakness on May 16, but he ran strong to finish second behind American Pharoah, the horse gunning for the Triple Crown Saturday. Dallas Stewart, Tale of Verve’s trainer, had two longshots of at least 30-1 finish second in the Kentucky Derby in 2013 and 2014. Stevens, who rode Firing Line to a runnerup finish in the Derby but faded to seventh in the Preakness, has three career victories in the Belmont, the last in 2001.

It’s not a major, but because of its founder and its history, it’s prestigious. Former Boise State stars Graham DeLaet and Troy Merritt are both in the field today for the Memorial Tournament, the event created 39 years ago by golf legend Jack Nicklaus in Dublin, Ohio. DeLaet is coming off his first top 25 result since an eighth-place finish at the Northern Trust Open on President’s Day weekend: a tie for 22nd last week in the AT&T Byron Nelson. Merritt, who didn’t play last week, has missed two of his last three cuts since a third-place finish at the RBC Heritage in April.

The long wait for the NBA Finals is over, with the series between the Cleveland Cavaliers and Golden State Warriors starting tonight. The draw, of course, is the battle between LeBron James and Stephen Curry, which some are calling the most attractive since Magic and Bird. The local tie is former Idaho Stampede star Justin Holiday, a reserve for the Warriors. Holiday appeared in 59 games this season and started four. His best game was a 23-point effort at Denver on March 13. Holiday has made it into four games in the NBA Playoffs—he has scored a total of three points in 10 minutes. Just two seasons ago he was the Stampede’s leading scorer, averaging 17.3 points per game.

The opportunity to follow a former Boise Hawk in Seattle was a brief one. Catcher Welington Castillo was dealt by the struggling Mariners to Arizona as part of a six-player trade yesterday. The key guy acquired from the Diamondbacks was slugger Mark Trumbo. Castillo had been with the M’s for just two weeks after being traded from the Cubs. In six games with Seattle he batted just .160 with two runs batted in.

Centennial High grad Sofia Huerta’s star keeps rising in professional soccer. The Chicago RedStars rookie has been named National Women’s Soccer League Player of the Month after scoring five goals in five games in May. Huerta earned NWSL Player of the Week honors twice last month. She was Idaho’s Gatorade Player of the Year as a junior and senior for the Patriots before going on to Santa Clara and the Mexican women’s national team.

This Day In Sports…June 4, 2010, five years ago today:

Legendary UCLA basketball coach John Wooden passes away at the age of 99. The “Wizard of Westwood” won 10 national championships in a 12-year stretch with the Bruins, the final one in 1975 putting an exclamation point on his career in his final game. Wooden coached on character and principle during the most rebellious time America has seen in its youth—on a campus that saw its share of unrest. All he did in 29 years, 27 of them at UCLA, was win 664 games, including 88 in a row during one historic stretch in the early 1970’s. Wooden died on a Friday, and the printed and televised tributes to his life lasted all weekend.

(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.)