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GIVE RIGAS AN ASSIST AS EMPIRE SCORES ON REBOUND WITH RAPTORS

This is what I'm thinking: A week after it was noted here that the improving Toronto Raptors had bounced off the Empire Sports Network this season, the regional network has announced a deal that should please Vince Carter fans.

Starting on Feb. 9 with a game at Detroit, the Raptors will make 10 appearances on Empire, with John Saunders doing play-by-play and Leo Rautins color.

The games will be seen on Adelphia systems in Western New York, but blacked out elsewhere because of NBA rules.

Bob Koshinski, Empire's general manager, said Adelphia owner John Rigas deserves an assist for returning the Raptors to Empire's schedule.

"He felt it was important to maintain a relationship with the Raptors," Koshinski said.

Rigas also was behind Empire's smart move last Saturday of carrying St. Bonaventure's exciting victory over Temple from Olean. The cameras focused on the Rigas family in the stands after the one-point Bona win, with son Michael looking a lot more excited than his father, who presumably was smiling inside.

Oh, my, Dick Enberg is coming back to the AFC, after signing with CBS. He'll team with Dan Dierdorf. For Buffalo fans, the deal comes a year too late. Dierdorf and his partner this season, Verne Lundquist, did so many Bills games this season that they almost felt like our hometown announcers.

Lundquist, by the way, obviously saw this coming. During last week's 62-7 Jacksonville victory over Miami, he said he didn't know if he should say "Oh, my" (Enberg's signature phrase) as the Jaguars broke to a big lead. Dierdorf looked at his partner funny, as much as saying, "You bad boy."

Enberg's first CBS assignment is at 4 p.m. today, when he is reunited with his old partner, Billy Packer, for the Ohio State-St. John's basketball game.

During his Fox Sports Net program last Sunday, Marv Levy played down his visit with New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft.

"We are friends," Levy said. "We discussed a myriad of details relative to the franchise. I didn't go back expecting a job offer, nor was there any jobs offered. I love this job (as an analyst)."

And he has had a great season.

One of Levy's memorable quotes as the Bills' coach came to mind after John Madden addressed the retirement of Miami coach Jimmy Johnson: "If Jimmy Johnson was thinking about retiring a year ago he should have retired then."

That's a paraphrase of Levy's old saying that "if you are thinking about retirement then you've already retired."

Am I the only one thinking that if referee Johnny Grier had worked the Bills-Tennessee game, Buffalo might still be playing?

Last Sunday, Grier looked at instant replay and overturned a long punt return by Indianapolis that would have helped the Colts tie their game with Tennessee.

Even Indianapolis coach Jim Mora acknowledged that the replay showed his man touched the sideline. But it wasn't 100 percent clear on the angle shown by CBS and it wouldn't have been a stretch if the punt return had stood, considering all that went on this season with instant replay.

Grier seemed to rely on his eyes and common sense and made an unpopular ruling against the hometown team that just about assured their defeat. You wonder if he might have done the same thing on the lateral-pass question in the Bills-Tennessee game.

One thing is clear: Going into Sunday's AFC title game on the strength of two instant replay rulings, Tennessee is the poster child for the expression, "Winning can be a game of inches."

Don't you just love talk radio? After the Bills' playoff loss, someone actually suggested that the Bills consider replacing coach Wade Phillips with fired New Orleans coach Mike Ditka, who has left that franchise in ruins.

Consider this comment about Ditka from CNN/SI's Peter King: "I think the players lost faith in Mike Ditka to motivate them and to be a winning coach in the NFL. And I think Ditka had lost faith in himself."

Ditka is expected to land in the refuge of failed and retired coaches -- television -- as is Johnson. But after their recent failures, their credibility won't be as strong as it was during their first go-round on TV.

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