Successfully filling those big shoes

Has anyone considered—recently, at least—what a thankless task it was to follow Chris Petersen as head coach at Boise State? It’s clear now that the Broncos’ eight-year stretch under Petersen was one of the finest in college football history, with his 92-12 record, two undefeated seasons and two Fiesta Bowl titles. When Bryan Harsin succeeded him and won a Fiesta Bowl out of the gate, you remember the whispers: “He did it with Coach Pete’s players…” Now, going into his fifth season, the Boise State roster is all Harsin’s, and the former Bronco player and Petersen assistant has held serve in the top job to the point that he has been named to the 2018 Preseason Dodd Trophy Watch List. Of the 20 coaches to make the cut, Harsin is the only one from the Group of 5.

Harsin is 42-12 over his first four seasons at Boise State, with two Mountain West championships and a 3-1 record in bowl games. The criteria for Dodd Trophy consideration includes each program’s graduation rate, commitment to service and charity in the community, projected success for the 2018 season and Academic Progress Rate (APR). Harsin was a Dodd Trophy finalist in 2014. Petersen won the award in 2010, and he’s also on this year’s watch list. So is the Broncos’ opposing coach on September 15, Mike Gundy of Oklahoma State.

One of the NCAA football headlines at yesterday: “Air Force may open season without D-coordinator.” Falcons coach Troy Calhoun hasn’t named a defensive coordinator since Steve Russ left in January, and he says he’s in no hurry to do so. Calhoun cites the experience on his staff. Among other things, he has two former FBS head coaches on the defensive side, Ron Vanderlinden (Maryland) and Brian Knorr (Ohio). Calhoun may be seen as quirky and abrupt sometimes, but his contention here makes sense. Maybe Air Force will be better off this fall without an official D-coordinator.

The NBA Las Vegas Summer League is into the tournament round, and Chandler Hutchison helped the Chicago Bulls advance in a 95-83 win over Dallas yesterday. After a lukewarm performance in the final game of pool play, Hutchison posted his first double-double in Vegas, scoring 16 points with 11 rebounds. The first-round draft pick out of Boise State added three steals and three assists, and three of his buckets were three-pointers. Don’t tell Hutchison and No. 7 overall pick Wendell Carter Jr. that winning and losing don’t matter in summer league. “It’s just something I noticed (about Hutchison) from the get-go,” Carter said in the Chicago Tribune. “Even in workouts, we’re both trying to win. That’s a teammate I want.” Former Bronco James Webb III had eight points with five rebounds in Brooklyn’s 109-102 loss to Houston.

Hutchison’s former teammates at Boise State are immersed in summer practices, relishing their new-found anonymity with their superstar now in the NBA. The Broncos relish it because it puts them in a textbook chip-on-the-shoulder position. You’ve seen the lofty expectations nationally for the Boise State football program this season—the basketball team is going to see the other end of the spectrum. “Everyone thinks he did it all, and he was a damn good player, very talented, but this team has more than just him,” senior Zach Haney told B.J. Rains of the Idaho Press. “We have other pieces and we’re going to step up and show that and prove people wrong.”

After a week off, Troy Merritt is back on the PGA Tour today at the John Deere Classic in Silvis, IL. The Meridian resident and Boise State alum has top 20 finishes in two of his last three tournaments, including a tie for 17th at the FedEx St. Jude Classic two weeks ago. Merritt has now reached the bubble area in FedExCup standings—he’s 127th. The top 125 players at the end of the season automatically earn their PGA Tour cards for 2018-19.

Boise’s Maddie Sheils is still looking for that big pro golf breakthrough. Sheils is playing this week at the Marathon Classic in Sylvania, OH. This is the Bishop Kelly grad’s eighth LPGA Tour event of the season. Sheils has made two cuts—her biggest payday came last month in the ShopRite LPGA Classic when she pulled in $9,239 after tying for 36th.

The Boise Hawks apparently wanted to do something to get everyone to notice they had returned home to Memorial Stadium. So they did this last night. The Vancouver Canadians were cruising along with a 5-2 lead going into the bottom of the ninth inning. Then the Hawks loaded the bases, and Terrin Vavra, a third-round draft pick last month out of the University of Minnesota, stepped up and hit his first professional home run, a grand slam that gave Boise a stunning 6-5 victory. The Hawks are now a season-high four games over .500 at 15-11.

The Chrono Kristin Armstrong, hosted by Boise’s three-time Olympic cycling gold medalist, makes its debut tomorrow. The event is a men’s and women’s individual time trial sanctioned by UCI, the world governing body of cycling. This is the highest-level cycling event in six years in the Treasure Valley—since 2012, when the Exergy Tour made its one and only appearance (Armstrong broke her collarbone in that event, just two months before winning her second gold at the London Olympics). The 32nd annual Twilight Criterium follows Saturday night in Downtown Boise and, as usual, brings in several of the nation’s top men’s and women’s teams, including United Health Care, Silber, Vevolo Cycling and Twenty20.

This Day In Sports…July 12, 1996:

Minnesota’s most popular player, Kirby Puckett, retires from baseball because of a permanently-damaged retina in his right eye. The 5-9, 225-pounder with an infectious love for the game led the Twins to World Series championships in 1987 and 1991. Puckett batted .318 for his career with four league-leading 200-hit seasons, a batting title in 1989, and an RBI crown in 1994. He played in ten consecutive All-Star Games preceding his retirement. Puckett was a 2000 inductee into Boise’s World Sports Humanitarian Hall of Fame. He passed away in 2006.

(Tom Scott hosts the Scott Slant segment during the football season on KTVB’s Sunday Sports Extra and anchors five sports segments each weekday on 93.1 FM KTIK. He also served as color commentator on KTVB’s telecasts of Boise State football for 14 seasons.)