Carolina Hurricanes On The Brink Of Elimination, Duke Undergoes Coaching Changes And Wingate Makes D-2 College World Series
It's Time Out For Sports, the Carolina Hurricanes are on the brink of elimination in the Stanley Cup playoff series. Big changes are in store for men's basketball at Duke University. And a local university makes its first college World Series. With "All Things Considered" host Gwendolyn Glenn to talk sports is Langston Wertz Jr, a longtime sportswriter with The Charlotte Observer.
Langston Wertz Jr.: Hey Gwen. How are you?
Glenn: All is well and happy Monday. Well, let's start with the Carolina Hurricanes and their playoff series outcome this weekend.
NHL Announcers: Look back toward the blue line. One-hand slap at it by Hedman. They'll keep it in the zone, some room for Kucherov, across to Stamkos. He scores!
Glenn: That was the game-winning goal from Game 4, where Stanley Cup champion Tampa Bay Lightning is one win away from eliminating the Hurricanes in the playoffs. Langston, where did the Hurricanes fall short on Saturday and held 3-1 series overall?
Wertz: It's real simple. Power play goals. You know, you got a chance ... the other team's down, you got a score on a power play. And they weren't able to do that. A power play is when the other team has a player in the penalty box, and now I have more players than you have on the ice. They gave up three straight power-play goals. They are usually among the best in the league and those penalty-type situations.
Glenn: And any predictions for Tuesday? Do you think they can win?
Wertz: Their backs are against the wall, they're at home where they've been among the best in the league. Asking them to win three straight games is really tough, Gwen. But, you know, good news: a Game 7 would be back in Raleigh on Saturday. I will give them a win in the next game. We'll see what happens in Game 6.
Glenn: OK, well, let's move on to college sports where legendary Duke men's basketball coach Mike Krzyzewski announced that next season will be his last as the coach of the Blue Devils.
Duke Head Coach Mike Krzyzewski: This is not about health. Whether I look healthy, I am. It's not about COVIDor saying that year was so bad. I don't want ... it's not about that. The reason we're doing this is because Mickie and I have decided the journey is going to be over in a year.
Glenn: So, Langston. Were you surprised by the timing of this announcement?
Wertz: You know, I wasn't really. I mean, you know, he's coached at Duke 41 years. He's got three daughters, 10 grandchildren. He'll be 75 in February. Any time he was to announce, there's going to be a little bit of surprise that, "Oh man, can you believe Coach K really did it?" But sooner or later, he was going to have to sit it down. And, you know, I guess now is as good a time as any. I understand he's got a great recruiting class coming in this year. So they actually have a chance to make a real run at another national title before he leaves.
Glenn: Well, now Duke's associate head coach Jon Scheyer has been named as the coach in waiting when Coach K retires. Here's what Scheyer said last week about the challenge of following Krzyzewski , who won five national championships at Duke and is Division I's winningest coach.
Jon Scheyer: I don't expect it to be easy, but I'm always going to show up and do whatever it takes to succeed at the highest level here, and with the standard that's been set at Duke.
Glenn: Now, were you surprised that officials named a replacement so quickly? And do you think Nina King, the new athletic director at Duke, had input?
Wertz: You know, I'm sure when Coach K started thinking about doing this, I'm sure he consulted with Miss King and the other athletic staff there. But ultimately, I think he had the most input and they're going to give Jon Scheyer a chance to do it.
Glenn: So staying with college sports, the Wingate Bulldogs are playing in their first Division II College World Series. Tell us a little about the series and how Wingate put a team together to make it the World Series.
Wertz: The World Series is eight teams that come together from regional championships around the country and then they have a double-elimination tournament. This year, it's in Cary, North Carolina. For Wingate under Coach Jeff Gregory, they made their fourth NCAA tournament bid in 10 years and they won three conference championships.
The cool thing about this Wingate team, Gwen, they have 18 players from the immediate Charlotte area. They're hitting almost .300 as a team, which in baseball is phenomenal. And they got a redshirt sophomore pitcher, Brody McCullough, who was named a third-team All-American.
Glenn: OK, let's move on to tennis and tennis great Naomi Osaka, pulling out of the French Open after being fined $15,000 for not doing the post-match press conference. She says it was because the pressers are overwhelming and affect her struggle with depression. Osaka's part-owner of the North Carolina Courage women's soccer team, and she's also pulled out of the upcoming Berlin tournament. And tell us about the fallout from all of this and how other athletes and officials are responding to Osaka.
Wertz: She's got a lot of support throughout the tennis world, and I think that started a lot of discussion about how we are treating athletes that are coming in. I mean, they are people, too. So it's a really tough thing to talk about because you don't want to sound insensitive. And at the same time, you know, you want to understand this lady is going through some real serious issues and she's doing the right thing, taking the time to try to address them.
Glenn: And she's had Serena Williams, Martina Navratilova, Billie Jean King and just tons of others who have come out in support of her. And that's what I'm wondering: Do you think there will be any rule changes because of what she's going through?
Wertz: I don't know what the answer is, but I do like the fact, you know, we're having this dialog, we're talking about it. And it's OK for people to admit, "Hey, I'm having a problem and I'm going to seek help for it." I think that's the most important thing — that Naomi gets the help she needs so she can come back.
NASCAR Announcer: Turn 11, the final braking zone. And Rick Hendrick's team is going to tie a record that stood since 1956, one-two finishes, four races in a row as Kyle Larson wins at Sonoma.
Glenn: Langston, that's sound from Kyle Larson, winning for Charlotte-based Hendrick Motorsports Sunday at Sonoma Raceway. How many is this for Larson?
Wertz: That man is dominating. He won a second straight race on Sunday. He won a big-time Coca-Cola 600 last week, which is one of NASCAR's biggest events. He led 58 of 92 laps, and his team, Hendrick Motorsports, has won four straight races. And now the owner, Rick Hendrick, is the winningest owner in NASCAR history. So they're on a big-time roll.
We are deeply saddened by the passing of Hornets long-time beat writer Rick Bonnell. Our Chairman and players share their thoughts and memories of the Charlotte legend. 💜— Charlotte Hornets (@hornets) June 2, 2021
Glenn: And Langston ending on a sad note: Over the past couple of weeks, the Charlotte sports media lost two long longtime veterans. The Charlotte Observer longtime photographer, David Foster, and the Observer sports writer and Hornets beat reporter Rick Bonnellboth died suddenly. Langston, tell us about them and your experience working with them.
Wertz: Rick and I started just about the same time in the late '80s. Rick is just as good a reporter as I've ever been around. Thorough, fair and I think that's why these athletes talk to him. He has Michael Jordan's cell phone number. Michael Jordan would text him back. He texted because they knew Rick was going to be fair. I mean, the story needs to be firm or it could be firm. But he's a good guy too. Loved tennis, loved taking walks on nature trails.
And David Foster, he came on to The Observer in the early '90s. Big teddy bear of a man, and he loved his cigar. David and I started doing this thing where we would meet high school kids and interview them while I was driving. We called it "Riding with Recruits" and it would take us 15, 20 minutes to do the actual shoot itself. And then we sit in the parking lot of these schools and just talk for two hours. I'm like, "David I got to go to work, man." But we would just sit out there and talk. And, you know, I'm going to miss that. I'm going to miss, I'll miss my friend. I'm gonna miss talking to him.
Glenn: Yeah. Well, my condolences to both of their families and to you as well. Langston.
Wertz: Thank you.
Langston Wertz Jr. is a long time sportswriter for The Charlotte Observer.