WEDNESDAY BUZZ COLUMN
Regardless of how this season ends, the University of Miami indicated this week that it wants Al Golden to remain the Hurricanes’ football coach, which isn’t a surprise but should end any speculation about the matter. Asked this week whether Golden will return as coach next season, UM athletic director Blake James made clear he will.
“Al is our coach and will continue to be our coach,” James said.
With Golden under contract through Feb. 1, 2020, the only way he does not return next season is if he decides to leave for another job, which would be surprising.
Meanwhile, James said in October that excluding cases of rules violations, he likes his coaches to have the authority to choose their assistants and Golden is "the one that needs to have the power to make all those [staffing] decisions, the specifics of it.”
James said Monday he was “disappointed” but not “discouraged” by Saturday’s loss at Virginia and likes the “progress made in the last month” before that game.
“It’s a building process; it’s not a flipping of the switch,” James said. “Anybody watching would be disappointed with the results on Saturday night. With that said, I’m committed to getting our program back to the top. Al is committed to getting the program back to the top.
“Sometimes you take a few steps forward and might take a step back. That’s the reality of life. We’re experiencing that, but I’m confident we’re going in the right direction.”
In fact, James said is “very encouraged” about the program: “We have a very bright future ahead of us. You see a quarterback like Brad Kaaya. How can you not be excited about the future of Hurricane football? [And defensively], there are tremendous improvements that unfortunately has gone a little unnoticed. Credit to everyone on that side of the ball with Al and [coordinator] Mark [D’Onofrio].”
Yes, James is aware that some fans are angry and want change.
“If people weren’t upset about a loss, you probably have a bigger concern because that means they have grown to accept it,” he said. “Nobody here accepts losses and I wouldn’t expect anything less of our fans.
“Do I get emails after losses? I do. I get emails from people that are very supportive, people pushing us to continue down the road of building this back to where it needs to be and others very passionate and upset and need to voice their frustration, and I understand that. It’s great to have such a passionate fan base. We want to continue to grow that. I hope everyone understands it’s a process.”
James said no donors have said they will stop donating because of unhappiness with the football program. “We’ve seen significant growth [with donations] even though we haven’t had the type of success we’ve had historically [on the field],” he said.
### James said if UM beats Pittsburgh to finish 7-5, bowl games in the Bronx, N.Y. (the Pinstripe Bowl) or El Paso, Tx. (the Sun Bowl) would be “more likely" for the Hurricanes than bowls in "Nashville or Charlotte. If we are able to win on Saturday, I would say New York wouldn’t be surprising. We would be a great fit for them and they feel we would be a great fit. So much depends on Saturday.”
James said playing the Gators --- something that could happen in either the Music City Bowl in Nashville or the Independence Bowl in Shreveport, Louisiana -- “is a possibility” and would be “great” as well.
### When comparing the UM and FSU programs, here is one tiny, frustrating snapshot from a Canes perspective: FSU’s five-star defensive back (sophomore Jalen Ramsey, the No. 3 corner in the 2013 class) created havoc against UM and has two picks, three sacks, a blocked extra point and has become a difference-maker recently.
Conversely, UM’s five-star defensive back (junior Tracy Howard, No. 1 corner in 2012) hasn’t started a game all season after starting 12 last year – “I would have never thought” that would happen, he said Tuesday --- and estimated he played just a dozen snaps against Virginia. He said he won’t leave school early or transfer.
Howard said he doesn’t know why he’s not playing more, but we’re told UM loves the skill sets of Artie Burns and Corn Elder and believe they have earned more time. And Howard’s average speed has been an issue at times.
### With the Jets looming this week, keep in mind that the road team has won four in a row and six of the last eight in the series. We hear that’s one reason why it was somewhat palatable for the Dolphins to move their Jets home game to London on Oct. 4 next season.
By the way, even in moving the game to London, the Dolphins have received no assurances they will host a Super Bowl (2019 or 2020 are the next ones available). But the Dolphins want Sun Life Stadium to be empty for at least a couple of weeks in a row next fall to continue with renovations, and UM is aware of that.
### Ryan Tannehill has completed at least 70 percent of his passes in four consecutive games --- something no other Dolphins quarterback has ever done. Of course, Dan Marino attempted a lot more vertical throws than Tannehill does.
### Determined to upgrade over Garrett Jones at first base, the Marlins have begun exploring trades. Colleague Clark Spencer and I confirmed that the Marlins are interested in Atlanta’s Evan Gattis and Clark was told they also have inquired about Baltimore’s Chris Davis. Both Gattis and Davis are 28.
Gattis --– who is primarily an outfielder and catcher but has played a bit at first --- hit .263 with 22 homers and 52 RBI last season and isn’t eligible for free agency until after 2018.
Davis, arbitration-eligible, hit just .196 with 26 homers and 72 RBI last season but was third in AL MVP voting in 2013 (.286, 53 homers, 138 RBI). The Marlins would need to offer quality pitching in return for either, potentially including top prospect Andrew Heaney.
There's not much left of great quality in the free-agent first base market. The Marlins have lukewarm interest in Giants free agent first baseman Mike Morse (.279, 16, 61).
### Golden State coach and former TNT analyst Steve Kerr, assessing the state of the Heat before Tuesday’s game:
“They still have great talent. What I expected is there would be a burden off their back. It’s not easy being the king of the hill and everyone trying to knock you off year after year and being in the media spotlight every day. The media throng followed [LeBron James] to Cleveland. They’re here in South Beach, great place to live, not too much pressure now and it shows in their play. They’re free and loose. What they still have is the continuity and confidence that comes from being a champ.
“You might say that should be gone with LeBron’s departure. I don’t think so. They still have two of the top 15 players in the game with Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh. They picked up Luol Deng. They have Shawne Williams knocking down threes.
“[Mario] Chalmers looks more comfortable than he has the last couple of years. [Shabazz] Napier is playing so well, they’re really similar whether Napier or [Norris] Cole plays…. And they have the continuity of playing under Erik [Spoelstra] for seven years. And it shows. They execute really, really well.”
### Kerr's Warriors, led by Steph Curry's 40, then closed the game with a 19-2 run to beat the Heat, 114-97. The Heat's 11 points in the fourth were a season low, as was the Heat's 38.8 percent shooting for the game... Still, beyond the 26 points and 9 boards from Bosh, there were good moments early on from Deng (16 points) and Chalmers (14) --- though Chalmers air-balled two shots in the fourth --- and eight points, eight rebounds, four assists and two blocks in 22 minutes from James Ennis....
Crazy plus/minuses in this game: The Heat was outscored by 28 with Chalmers in the game and was a minus-32 with Shawne Williams on the floor, but a plus-17 with Ennis (Spoelstra said he loved his energy tonight) and a plus-15 with Josh McRoberts.
Afterward, Kerr --- whose Warriors moved to 11-2 --- called this "probably the biggest challenge we've faced all year." But Bosh said of the Heat's defense against Curry: "I don't know how you lose the best shooter in the world."
### Meanwhile, 17th-ranked UM basketball continues to maximize and develop its talent, with Texas transfer Sheldon McClellan (career-high 31 points, plus 11 rebounds), Kansas State transfer Angel Rodriguez (14 points, six assists) much-improved Tonye Jekiri (13 boards) and much-improved Manu Lecomte (18 points) pushing UM to 6-0 with a 77-74 win against Charlotte minutes ago, UM's second-win against Charlotte in three days.
### Twitter: @flasportsbuzz