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November 24, 2014

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Columnist Ron Kantowski: Hamrick keeps it close to his vest

Ron Kantowski is a Las Vegas Sun sports writer. Reach him at [email protected] or (702) 259-4088.

Normally, the fact that the search for John Robinson's replacement as UNLV football coach has been quieter than the flip side of Marcel Marceau's Greatest Hits would be construed as a good thing by most, a credit to Rebels athletic director Mike Hamrick and his one-man search committee (himself) for keeping the process on the q.t. and out of the newspapers.

To take the Marceau analogy a step further, Hamrick's message to the media has been to mime your own business.

Just as he did before hiring basketball coach Lon Kruger, Hamrick has turned the interview process into a road game, chatting with candidates (there apparently is more than one, unlike the Kruger scenario) on their home turf instead of wining and dining them at home within full view of a curious public.

I mean, it has been a week since Hamrick apparently met with Utah offensive coordinator Mike Sanford in Salt Lake City, and nobody in the media has been able to confirm that said meeting even took place.

So if the CIA is looking for an operative who wears a sweater vest and speaks with a drawl, Hamrick may be its man.

Rest assured UNLV will have a football coach soon enough. The biggest advantage to getting a head start on the search process is that it enables one to get his coaching ducks in a row before everybody else starts quacking at the same guys.

That's why if you're a Rebels fan, you might not mind something being leaked to the press right about now, before too many more attractive jobs come open and too many attractive job candidates start considering them. Such as the opening at Stanford which developed Monday when Buddy Teevens was fired and is sure to attract plenty of interest.

You know it's a slow day on Rebel Net when you have to scroll down two screens on the fan message board to see a name mentioned in conjunction with the UNLV job, only to find it belongs to Tyrone Willingham. So at least Monday's addition of Purdue offensive coordinator Jim Chaney and Arizona Cardinals running backs coach Kirby Wilson to a short list topped by Utah offensive coordinator Mike Sanford was a positive development.

But it could be the only thing delaying the announcement was Hamrick's decision to trot Kruger into a news conference before going through the motions of interviewing the number candidates that Regent Linda Howard would find acceptable. Howard, you may recall, was hesitant to bring out here rubber stamp to certify Kruger because she thought Hamrick's search to replace him was too narrow.

Regardless, I don't expect the lack of news to last much longer. National signing day is just two months away and the clock, as you may have heard over the deafening silence of the football coaching search, is ticking.

Having been a basketball star at Miami of Ohio, John Shoemaker possessed the best jump shot of the many men who have managed the Las Vegas 51s. Although to those who covered the team during the 2003 season, Shoemaker's dry personality went over like an airball in overtime.

Apparently, they don't mind having Wally Cox in pinstripes manning the third base coaching box in Jacksonville. Shoemaker, 48, will return to north Florida next spring for his second tour of duty with the Jacksonville Suns, the Dodgers' Double-A affiliate. He guided the franchise to an 83-56 record and a share of the Southern League championship in his first go-round as Jacksonville skipper in 2001.

"I'm looking forward to returning to Jacksonville," Shoemaker said with the blandness of a batting practice fastball. "The Los Angeles Dodgers and the Suns make a great team, and I'm happy to be a part of it for the 2005 season."

Shoemaker and his wife, Sweet Polly Purebred, reside in Vero Beach.

Word around local high school gymnasiums is that Nate Schulte, the Sun's boys' basketball player of the year as a sophomore at Palo Verde last year, is less than pleased with his playing time at Brewster Academy in New Hampshire, one of those Back East prep schools where kids Out West go to work on their jump shots.

There's some wishful thinking at Palo Verde that believes Schulte could be home for Christmas -- to stay. But the young man himself told the Sun he is content to Live Free or Sit on the Bench, or whatever they say in New Hampshire.

So it appears Schulte won't be transferring to Cheyenne anytime soon.

Just four nights after the Bells of Saint Mary's rang loud and clear during a 64-54 victory against the Rebels at the Thomas & Mack Center, the Gaels' clapper fell off at the free throw line. Making just 5-of-14 from the stripe, Saint Mary's of the upstart West Coast Conference lost 66-58 at Rutgers Saturday.

Almost immediately, Gonzaga went to work on its free-throw defense.

Beggars can't be choosers, so nobody with the Fort Worth Bowl seemed too terribly upset after inviting Cincinnati to participate in its post-season "classic" a day after the Bearcats closed a 6-5 season with a 70-7 defeat to Louisville.

Remember the old days, when teams had to close the season with a victory, or at least a 17-14 loss to a bitter rival, to receive a bowl bid?

While Cincinnati was in the act of making the Fort Worth Bowl ever more insignificant than usual, a Notre Dame team that lost three of its past four games and has a six-game losing streak in bowls accepted a bid to play in the (Lack of) Insight Bowl in Phoenix.

I liked it better when the bowls were named for fruits and flowers, when going to one meant you had had a good season, not that some power conference didn't have enough 6-5 teams to fulfill its commitment to the guys in the ill-fitting blazers with a corporate logo on the breast pocket.

Although the Mountain West apparently viewed TCU as a football godsend in giddily announcing that the Horned Frogs would become the conference's ninth member effective next year, there were some who were chastised for suggesting if the MWC was committed to expanding, it should have taken Boise State instead.

In case anybody is keeping score at MWC headquarters in Colorado Springs, that's one I'll stand by.

While TCU was losing to a school named for a Chuck Berry song (Tulane) to finish 5-6, unbeaten Boise State was freaking out the BCS and an entire nation (the state of Texas) by threatening to crash their little $14 million party by running the table in the WAC.

But I think I may have finally figured out why the MWC was so juiced about adding TCU to its membership: women's basketball. The Lady Frogs on back-to-back evenings in Hawaii this weekend beat No. 3 Georgia and No. 14 Michigan State to win the Rainbow Wahine Classic and gain the full admiration of Nancy Lieberman-Cline.

Sutter Home Family Vineyards will donate $100 to breast cancer awareness for every National Finals Rodeo cowboy who wears a pink shirt during next Tuesday's performance at the Thomas & Mack Center.

"There is a lot of gear associated with rodeo contestants and until now, a pink shirt was usually not on that list," said a statement from Sutter Home about asking guys in a manly sport to wear a not-so-manly color to raise awareness in a noble campaign. It wasn't that long ago when Sutter Home would have been considered the pink shirt on the NFR sponsor list. I mean, when was the last time you heard a cowboy proclaim after a long day of diggin' fence posts that he was headed down to the saloon for a white zinfandel?

Sometimes Mexico gets a bad rap from critics who have never set foot south of one of its northern-most border towns. You know, the ones where underage U.S. kids from San Diego and El Paso can get served a cold cerveza.

But any nation that can claim responsibility for Corona beer, Salma Hayak, Marco Antonio Barrera and Erik Morales has a lot going for it.

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