The Thursday 13: Super-New Introductory Collector's Edition

Matthew NielsenContributor IJanuary 21, 2010

LOS ANGELES, CA - JANUARY 13:  New head coach of the USC Trojans Lane Kiffin shakes a hand as he makes his way to his press conference at Heritage Hall January 13, 2010 in Los Angeles, California.  (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)
Harry How/Getty Images

The Thursday 13—a rundown of the sports headlines that moved one writer's needle this week in the world of sports.

The more I think about it, the more sense it makes for USC to hire Lane Kiffin as head ball coach. After reports surfaced this week about Kiffin wrecking a leased luxury car five months ago, it is now entirely clear that he isn't going to leave the headlines any time soon.

Looking back on Kiffin's short coaching career, I'm convinced he's only in it for the attention. Oakland: Feud with crazy owner, complete with overhead projectors and crypt-keeper jokes? Check. Knoxville: Call out opposing coaches and accuse them of cheating while at the same time breaking several NCAA rules in just one season? Check. Next up, Los Angeles.

My prediction: photos surface of Kiffin stepping out of a limousine with no panties on. Or maybe with panties on. Either way he makes SportsCenter. 

Former USC hoops skipper Tim Floyd insists, today, that leaving his job last summer had nothing to do with alleged recruiting impropriety involving O.J. Mayo. Where else have we heard that lately? Oh yeah, USC.

New Seahawks coach Pete Carroll would also have us believe that his abrupt retirement from the Trojans had nothing to do with reports of recruiting violations surrounding the Carroll-era's signature athlete, Reggie Bush.

The Pac-10 juggernaut attempted to deflect NCAA attention recently, choosing to vacate hoops wins and postseason play, but with so many allegations involving both money-programs and with the recent hiring of the walking-violation, Lane "Look at Me" Kiffin, it's only a matter of time before the school is hit with some kind of punishment.

How nice for Floyd and Carroll that they'll be safe and sound somewhere else while their former employer takes the hit.

Sticking with college football, the end of the first decade of the 21st century (according to some, but let's not fight about it) has given lazy columnists easy material all over the sports landscape. Everybody has published their own list of the greatest players, teams, disgruntled fans, and strength coaches of this past decade.

In college football , the argument over the best team of the '00s has vacillated between Miami of 2001 and USC of 2004. My two lazy cents are this: The most talented team of the decade is unquestionably USC of 2005. They had all the players of 2004's dominating national champions, but a year wiser.

So, it must be that the greatest team of the decade is the one that put those titans of the gridiron in their place. The 2005 Texas Longhorns, ladies and gents.

Jets-Colts II
confuses me immensely as an impartial football fan. Part of me is rooting against the Jets because they were handed their playoff birth on a silver platter. It doesn't seem right for them to make it to the Super Bowl partially through charity.

Also, no matter how many games they win this postseason, they just continue to feel like an average team. Rookie quarterback Mark Sanchez has looked better, but he's still not a top-20 guy. Who wants to see this Sanchez in the big game? However, part of me is rooting against the Colts. I would be inconsolable if the Horseshoes' tactic of throwing games caught on, because it strikes me as a fundamental violation of the fans' trust.

If they make the Super Bowl, and especially if they take home the Lombardi Trophy, they will be vindicated. I guess I'm rooting for the NFC. Except Brett Favre...geaux Saints!

You could feel it coming after the Cowboys throttling of Philadelphia a couple of weeks ago. Wade Phillips was finally off the hook. Headlines started to pop up about possible extensions, citing Dallas's first playoff win since 1996.

Even though he was widely considered a bad gameday coach, Jerry Jones was moving ahead with Phillips as his guy. But after the Vikings ate their lunch over the weekend, perhaps the Cowboys would dump him after all.

Well, the Boys went ahead and re-upped with Phillips, not only for 2010 but for 2011, as well. I'm not one to call for somebody's job, and Phillips has proven he's a very good defensive mind, but it's always been my understanding that Jones was looking to Jason Garrett as his guy for the future, meaning he didn't think Phillips could take the Cowboys back to the promised land.

Has one playoff win changed all of that? If it hasn't, why pay Garrett more than any other assistant and then extend Phillips? If you have the guy you want, why keep stringing along the other guy? Go with the guy you believe in and let the other guy go.

In the NBA, the Portland Trail Blazers keep winning and keep getting hurt. Last night during their 98-90 win over the hapless 76ers, the last man standing on a team full of crystal palaces, well, took a seat. Brandon Roy played just 18 minutes for a squad already missing Greg Oden, Joel Przybilla, and which just got Rudy Fernandez back last week.

Roy is listed as day-to-day, but how long can one team keep getting hurt and remain a winner? Portland is still the No. 5 seed in the Western Conference at 26-17. Coach Nate McMillan has done a sublime job this season, and if their weren't so many great stories in the NBA this season, he'd be on the top of the list for Coach of the Year honors.

However, there are a number of surprising teams in the playoff hunt who's coaches have earned some praise, as well. In the sorry East, Larry Brown has the Charlotte Bobcats over .500 (21-19). This has to be the most stunning turnaround in the NBA this season. For a team that has never won more 35 games in a season, a playoff appearance would be a great story. Two very surprising teams out west are Houston and Memphis .

Houston is currently in playoff position despite a total lack of Yaos or Tracys, and Memphis has been getting it done with (gulp) Zach Randolph and Marc Gasol. I'd break that down for you, but I don't really understand it.

Less surprising, but still new, is currently playoff bound Oklahoma City . My fiancee still thinks they're the SuperSonics, but all that young talent has finally turned into a very good, and still improving, basketball team. Durant is every bit the scorer he was in college, and Westbrook is a fine complement. The point is, there has been a pleasing amount of turnover in the NBA this season.

After Glen Davis yelled obscenities at an equally inappropriate Pistons fan during the Celtics' defeat in Detroit, Wednesday, coach Doc Rivers came out against his big forward's behavior, saying "I don't think it's a huge step backwards, but it is a step backwards. Glen Davis has to grow up."

Really?! Doc Rivers is mad at Glen Davis for yelling at people? This is a coach who has made his reputation on screaming at refs and getting fined and ejected. How can he say anything to Big Baby about yelling at people. This is an organization that went out and picked up Rasheed Wallace before this season, the all-time leader in yelling crazy nonsense at people. More than any NBA team, this is a locker room full of loud whiners.

My favorite team and everybody's favorite team to play against, the Golden State Warriors , kept on doing what they do best—allowing career highs to opposing players. After putting rookie Brandon Jennings on the map earlier this season with a 55-point game, the W's gave a veteran a chance last night.

They allowed 118 points to the admittedly superior Denver Nuggets, including 37 from 13-year vet Chauncey Billups . Do you know how hard you have to work to allow a career high in points to a 13-year veteran point guard? Maddening.

Meanwhile, in college hoops, North Carolina and Connecticut are in a nightly race to prove who has fallen further. The Tar Heels are doing their part, losing three in a row and four of five. They're just 12-7, but they were somehow still in the top-25 at 12-6. Not sure how that works. UConn's also ranked at 12-6, having recently snapped a three-game skid of its own.

However, they've come up with an interesting strategy to make Carolina look like champs by comparison. Coach Calhoun has decided to step away for a while due to unknown health problems. My guess...losing just plain sucks.

Tonight marks the first meeting this season between Alexander Ovechkin's Washington Capitals and Sydney Crosby's Pittsburgh Penguins . You can feel the excitement, right? No? Fair enough.

I will say, though, that this has become one of my favorite rivalries. What makes it so great is that it's more than just Crosby-Ovechkin. Great sports rivalries need some depth, and these teams have it in spades. The Caps surround Ovechkin with great young forwards like Alexander Semin and Nicklas Backstrom, and the Penguins have the third best player in the league, Evgeni Malkin.

So, aside from a genuine dislike of each other, these two squads can really play. And that's as in depth as I'm likely to get where the NHL is concerned.

A question for the Australian Open people: Why were the two best looking women in the field playing each other in the first round? Maria Kirilenko upset Maria Sharapova (and the rest of us, as well) and eliminated half the reason to watch women's tennis. Kirilenko has moved on to the third round, but how likely is she likely to get? She's not Kournikova-bad at tennis, but she's not much better. 

Finally, I just feel bad for Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson . After playing D-line for the Miami Hurricanes in college and becoming the most charismatic performer in the history of the WWF/E, I think he genuinely thought he was going to become the next big star.

After a few duds, he's moved on to kids movies like The Game Plan, Race to Witch Mountain, and now...sickeningly...The Tooth Fairy, in which he plays a egocentric hockey thug who is recruited king of fairies or become the tooth fairy. Presumably to teach him a lesson about humility.

All I know is that this has to stop. Black ball him or give him a real job, but this is like seeing Barbaro writhing on the track.