Loria rejects overtures from S. Florida's most successful owner; More angry Heat reaction; Dolphins, UM
SUNDAY BUZZ COLUMN
For many Marlins fans, the idea of the market’s most successful sports owner buying their baseball team would be the best news since the opening of the new ballpark.
It might happen someday. But not yet.
Going back to last year, Heat owner Micky Arison has expressed interest in buying the Marlins from Jeffrey Loria, according to a Major League Baseball official close to the situation.
But Loria isn’t interested in selling to Arison, Jeb Bush or anyone else who has inquired.
Arison has informed the Marlins of his interest on more than one occasion but did not make a formal offer because he was specifically told that Loria would not consider it.
Loria isn’t speaking to reporters, but associates said he loves owning a team and has no intention of selling unless health issues or some other unexpected circumstances arise.
Arison, who declined to comment about interest in the Marlins, is the model owner locally. He hires the right people, spends money freely (having paid a luxury tax every season of the Big Three era) and has fostered an environment that has earned praise from players. He lives year-round in South Florida (unlike Loria and Dolphins owner Stephen Ross) and doesn’t meddle on personnel.
Loria’s slashing of payroll in the second year of the new stadium has been well-documented and is difficult to forgive.
But in Loria’s defense, he’s the only owner in this market who has won a championship besides Arison, and he wisely stopped meddling in baseball decisions this past offseason, allowing executives Michael Hill and Dan Jennings to execute their plan with his full support. He has been at spring training less than past years.
At 73, Loria is nine years older than Arison. So Loria could sell at some point, but not now. If he does, let's hope it's to Arison.
### I was in New Orleans for the Heat's seventh loss in its past 11 games last night and to hear the angry reaction that followed. Please see my last post for a comprehensive look at what was said in an emotional postgame locker-room.
### From Feb. 3 through Friday, Norris Cole was shooting 32 percent, with 37 assists and 26 turnovers, and it's clear Miami cannot go into next season projecting him as the starter if it loses Mario Chalmers in free agency. Some teammates believe Chalmers will be seeking a big raise from his $4 million annual salary, which is unlikely to happen here.
But in some ways, Chalmers has more value to the Heat than to other teams, and Chalmers says he would love to stay. If the Heat makes a competitive offer, Miami has a good chance to keep him. But the Heat is uncertain how it will play out. Toronto's Kyle Lowry will be the top free agent point guard this summer.
### Before being taken out of mothballs last week, Udonis Haslem had the worst plus/minus in the league of any prominent player on a team with a winning record. (Miami was being outscored by 10 per 36 minutes with him on the court.) That all changed last week, as Haslem got meaningful minutes in all four games (including two starts) and generally played well.
"The best word I can use for [this season]? Humbling,” Haslem said. “I'm not going to sit here and say it's been easy. It's not easy at all. I still have a lot of basketball left in me. I have been patiently waiting."
### The law firm representing ousted former Dolphins trainer Kevin O'Neill said O’Neill is unlikely to pursue legal action against the team, and that O'Neill hired the firm to speak for him, because of alleged inaccuracies in the Ted Wells report. Though O'Neill (who will be paid two more years by the Dolphins) has a good reputation, a couple of Dolphins players privately voiced displeasure about how he handled their injuries last season.
Incidentally, Don Shula said he has been given no indication if Ross’ five-person committee, armed with formulating a Dolphins locker-room code of conduct, will ever meet by phone or in person. “It got so blown out of proportion,” Shula, one of those committee members, said about BullyGate.
### Travelle Wharton, 32, who allowed no sacks last season and was rated Pro Football Focus’ fifth-best guard, has interest in Miami, and the Dolphins told his agent that he possibly will be considered only after Miami considers younger options…. That Miami gave cornerback Cortland Finnegan, coming off two poor years, $11 million over two seasons shocked some agents. One asserted Miami could have gotten him for millions less by waiting a week.
### Agent Marvin Demoff said Dan Marino, 52, who has refused to speak publicly after being dropped by CBS, is still "formulating" what he wants to do with his life. A Dolphins job remains a possibility, though not a powerful one. Simply being Dan Marino is still profitable; he commands more than $100 per autograph, according to his firm.
### The UM basketball program is compiling a list of every redshirt junior on a team that has had a coaching change, hoping to lure another Donnavan Kirk-type senior transfer.
Coach Jim Larranaga loves his incoming class: "[Guard] Ja’Quan Newton just became the leading scorer in the history of the Catholic School League in Philadelphia. [Guard] James Palmer played in the best league in the country, in Washington, D.C., is a very good shooter, an outstanding passer….
“Omar Sherman [6-9] has a beautiful left-handed touch from three-point range, like Kenny Kadji….Ivan Uceda is 6-10, a junior college player, can hit a spot-up three, excellent passer. He's not a gifted athlete. We'd like to have somebody his size with a little more physical ability."
UM covets 7-1, 261-pound Miami Beach High freshman phenom Zachariah Brown, who averaged 18.1 points, 17 rebounds and 8.0 blocks and is drawing interest from Louisville, UCLA and traditional powerhouses, according to his AAU team director, Michael Lipman, who became Brown's legal guardian after the state took him away from his home.
"NBA scouts tell me he's a one-and-done in college," Lipman said. "He's so dominant.”…
UM also is strongly pursuing Norland sophomore 6-11 power forward Dewan Huell. His coach, Lawton Williams, calls him the "best power player in Dade in a while." Williams said Huell is considering UM. But many believe FSU has the inside track. Even if UM gets either player, it won't be for several years.
### Another example of how much UM coach Al Golden cares about his players: We hear that when Hunter Knighton collapsed and lost consciousness earlier this month, Golden spent two nights in the hospital with him.
### Golden, on new defensive tackle Calvin Heurtelou: “Oh my God! Calvin’s really strong!” But Herald freelancer David Furones, who was at Saturday’s practice, said coaches were getting on Heurtelou hard and that he wasn’t coming off the snap hard enough.
“You’ve been here for seven practices!” defensive coordinator Mark D’Onofrio was overheard saying, per Furones. “This is what we brought you in for.”
UM needs Heurtelou to play better than the tackles who haven’t done much here (Earl Moore, Jelani Hamilton, Corey King), unless any of those three significantly improve.
“It’s time for me to wake up and help this team,” said Hamilton, a former four-star recruit. Golden has said as much about Hamilton, without the “wake up” part. UM people expect Olsen Pierre and summer arrival Michael Wyche to be the team's top two d-tackles.
### Again, please see my 12:30 a.m. Sunday morning post for explosive comments from the Heat's locker-room last night.... Twitter: @flasportsbuzz