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Saturday Sports: NBA, WNBA, Preakness, Ohio State


And now it's time for sports.


SIMON: Fear the deer. The NBA finals almost set a new leader for the WNBA and sad news ahead of the Preakness. NPR's Tom Goldman joins us. Good morning, Tom. How are you?

TOM GOLDMAN, BYLINE: Good morning (laughter). I feel like if you're going to keep this fear the deer stuff up, I think I have to - into June, probably...

SIMON: Oh, sure.

GOLDMAN: I think I - I've got to have some response, maybe deer sound, like bleating or grunting or something. I'll work on it.

SIMON: Yeah, yeah. I think you'd be good at deer grunting, if I'm not mistaken (laughter). I bet you would be. I'll send you some of my old scripts. They're all a bunch of deer grunts. In any event, the Bucks defeated the Toronto Raptors by 22 points last night. They take a 2-0 lead in the series, like the Warriors have over the Blazers, and they play tonight. Is it too early to ask if the deer can dethrone the team that is fleeing loyal Oakland?

GOLDMAN: Oh, yeah. No, it's not. Milwaukee looks unbeatable with the normal caveats. As you mentioned, the Bucks only up 2-0. They've won two on their home court; same with Golden State. The playoff series, as you know, Scott, can flip in a game. Of course, I'm saying that as a Portland resident where Blazer fans are sure the script will start flipping tonight. But with those caveats out of the way, the Bucks - wow - playing so well on offense, defense, all other facets of the game, and they're physically huge. Their starting lineup includes a guy 6'10", 6'11", 7 feet. The Warriors, during their run, have made small ball cool and very effective. But I don't know how Golden State would deal with Milwaukee's size if the two meet in the finals - if.

SIMON: The WNBA has a new commissioner, Cathy Engelbert. She is a business executive and a former college player. I'm very impressed by her.

GOLDMAN: Yeah. And the consensus is she's a great choice. She has been the chief executive at Deloitte accounting firm - first woman to head the company. She's also a good college basketball player, as you mentioned, at Lehigh under Muffet McGraw, now the legendary head coach at Notre Dame. Engelbert has had success in business, in sports. She understands both. She's considered the perfect leader for the WNBA right now, which starts its 23rd season next week.

SIMON: And she'll be commissioner, not president, right? That's an important change.

GOLDMAN: You know, it's significant they're using that term. Up to now, it's been president. The title has been president. But commissioner, you know, is a title with more heft, befitting a league that certainly wants to achieve more heft.

SIMON: Preakness this afternoon - terrible news from the track. Two great athletes died yesterday on racetracks - Congrats Gal at Pimlico, Commander Coil at Santa Anita, which courses had 24 deaths since December 26. I am a horse fan, if not always of horse racing. It's just hard to root right now. What are these deaths doing to the sport?

GOLDMAN: Making it hard to root, as you say. I mean, you know, there's still lots of people who show up at parks with money on their minds who explain away the deaths as, well, you know, that's just part of horse racing, which, sadly, it is. But these deaths yesterday, on top of the cluster of 23 at Santa Anita before them and then the one at Pimlico, as you mentioned - the site of today's Preakness, second leg of the Triple Crown - is just raising the criticism of the sport, increasing calls for reform. On top of that, Scott, you know, you've got the weird ending at the Kentucky Derby a couple of weeks ago where the winner was disqualified. Horse racing is a mess right now, I would say, which is what activists want it to be in order to trigger significant change.

SIMON: And let's turn to what's been happening at Ohio State. An investigation found former athletic department doctor Richard Strauss had sexually abused 177 male students. The university knew but took no real action for 15 years. Dr. Strauss took his own life in 2005. And the university says it is trying to revoke his emeritus professor status, even though, of course, he died a number of years ago. What's that going to achieve?

GOLDMAN: Not clear beyond symbolism. This report confirms a very sordid and sad couple of decades at Ohio State. It should strengthen a number of pending lawsuits because as one plaintiff's lawyer told The Columbus Dispatch, Ohio State cannot deny the abuse, and it's not. The university president called the findings shocking and painful to comprehend. So, you know, along with what's happened at Michigan State with the Larry Nassar case, just another sad, sad case of this.

SIMON: Yeah. NPR's Tom Goldman, thanks very much for being with us. Talk to you soon.

GOLDMAN: OK. Thanks, Scott. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.