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COACHES AREN'T DOING THE MATH WHEN IT COUNTS

Column as I see 'em:

- Apparently, Jim Baron didn't learn his lesson in last year's NCAA Tournament loss to Kentucky. With St. Bonaventure leading by three in the final seconds of regulation that day, Baron elected not to foul, allowing the Wildcats' Tayshaun Prince to hit an open three-pointer and force overtime.

Last Thursday at St. Joseph's, Bona led by three with the clock ticking down. Again Baron chose not to foul and negate the three-point possibility. Sure enough, Jameer Nelson hit a 30-footer at the buzzer to force OT. The Bonnies suffered a loss that could cost them an NCAA bid.

Baron isn't alone. Two weeks ago, Canisius lost in OT at Siena after Scott Knapp hit a three-pointer at the regulation buzzer. In December, Niagara lost at Iona after Earl Johnson's buzzer-beating "three" forced OT. How many games will be lost this way before coaches realize they're better off giving opponents two free throws instead of a game-tying three?

- Alexander Mogilny scored 20 goals in a recent 20-game stretch. Not coincidentally, he's in a contract year. He's making $5.2 million a year and will be looking for a healthy salary bump on the open market. Does that mean Mogilny is twice as valuable as Michael Peca, for whom he was traded? Or twice as selfish?

- What do you suppose the reaction would have been if Tiger Woods had asked to use a cart after twisting his knee at Pebble Beach? I doubt the Supreme Court's input would have been required.

- The ACLU was right to protest the use of high-tech surveillance cameras on fans and workers at the Super Bowl. Apparently, the NFL believes Ray Lewis has more rights than the average American.

- Rob Blake turned down $40 million over five years from the L.A. Kings? What has Blake ever won? If he's such a dominant player, how come the Kings haven't won a single playoff series since 1993?

- It's understandable that blacks would suspect race was involved when Marvin Lewis didn't get more head coaching interviews. But it's also odd that Gregg Williams wasn't getting interviewed, considering his credentials. I guess you don't have to be black to be victimized by the NFL's old boy coaching network.

- Providence is one of the hottest teams in the land under former Iona head man Tim Welsh. After drilling St. John's Saturday, the Friars have won five straight in the Big East, all by double digits, and 14 of 16 overall.

- Dominik Hasek isn't doing the Sabres any favors by hedging on whether he'll return next season. And what came of the urgency to retire so his children could grow up in his native Czech culture?

- Just a reminder to all the well-meaning folks in local government: Don't forget that promise to hold a summit on the state of interscholastic sports in the city schools. And you parents might want to make it an issue in the next school board elections, too.

- Don't look now, but the San Antonio Spurs have won six in a row and are making a run at Utah in the Midwest. It'll be no surprise if they wind up with the NBA's best record come playoff time.

- The Sabres played hardball with Peca so they could keep the rest of their stars in line. What stars? I didn't see any Buffalo skaters in the All-Star Game on Sunday. Who is Darcy Regier worried about breaking the bank? "Mirage" Satan? Curtis Brown?

- Duke's loss to North Carolina brought back memories of the Blue Devils' loss to Florida in last year's NCAAs. Make them play interior defense and you can beat them.

- I'll plead guilty to dismissing the XFL without even bothering to watch it. It's hard enough for a parent to screen gratuitous sex and violence on TV. Knowing this stuff is geared toward young males makes me very fearful for my daughters.

- Phil Jackson doesn't seem like such a genius right about now. I never thought I'd say this, but the Lakers really miss Glen Rice.

- Don't get me wrong. Sam Rogers had a terrific year. But when did he become a $6.34 million linebacker?

- Baseball is going back to an unbalanced schedule this year. It's about time. That means teams will play almost half their games against divisional rivals and we'll see more Yankees-Red Sox and Mets-Braves series. Pitchers and catchers report in 10 days!

- I used to think Jim Boeheim was exaggerating, but Seneca's Damone Brown is finally starting to look like an NBA prospect. He's playing a smart, aggressive style befitting a senior.

- If you grew to appreciate Bruce Smith's fractured attempts at eloquence, you'll love his quote about the Redskins' disappointing season: "I don't want to beat a dead horse into the ground."

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