JOE BIDDLE: Sunday Notes: April 5, 2015

Barry Trotz

Random ruminations while wondering whatever happened to Kent Benson. . . .

TROTZ GETS 600: Former Predators coach Barry Trotz won his 600th game last week. He is one of three current active NHL coaches to reach that mark.

He was the Preds’ first coach and lasted 15 seasons with the expansion team.

Now coach of the Washington Capitals, he downplayed the milestone.

In the Washington Post, Trotz deflected his part in the number.

“To me, it’s a team game,’’ he said. “You don’t win anything by yourself.’’

He went on to credit a number of coaches and players who made it possible. At the top of his list was current Preds General Manager David Poile.

“He gave me a chance back in the day,’’ Trotz said of Poile, who hired him although Trotz didn’t have any head coaching credentials.

The Predators made the playoffs in six of seven years, but didn’t advance past the first round but twice.

TIGER’S EX: Tiger Woods is playing in this week’s Masters after being sidelined a couple of months with a back injury.

Who knows how he will play. Hopefully it won’t be as ugly as the last tournament he played in, where he withdrew without finishing.

Meanwhile the former Mrs. Woods, Elin Nordegren was busy giving the commencement address at Rollins College, where she graduated with a 3.96 GPA.

In her 12-minute speech, Tiger was mentioned, but not by name.

Nordegren took a Communications and the Media course at Rollins in Winter Park. Soon after, she was thrust into the media’s spotlight when she filed for divorce.

“I probably should have taken more notes in that class,’’ Nordegren told the graduates.

She called the messy divorce the “most challenging times’’ in her life. Rollins served as a “place of peace, in the wild storm of my personal life,’’ she said.

CUTLER SNUBBED: There doesn’t seem to be much love in Chicago for former Vanderbilt quarterback Jay Cutler. For now, he is still a Chicago Bear.

He attended a recent charity auction where he donated an autographed Bears helmet.

It was an auction held at Bloomingdale’s on Michigan Ave., to benefit an anti-cruelty to animals society. Jay’s helmet failed to draw a bid. None. Nada.

After the auction, a fan called the charity and gave $100 for Cutler’s helmet. That was the minimum bid at the auction. The man said he was going to give it to his son, who is a Bears fan.

MASTERS WEEK: This is my favorite time of the sports calendar. For most of three decades, I covered the Final Four, followed by the Masters. It just so happened they were my favorite events to write about.

I was there in 1983 when the late Jim Valvano and his N.C. State Wolfpack won the Final Four against Houston in Albuquerque, home of the University of New Mexico. They finished 17-10 in regular season before winning the ACC Tournament.

Played in The Pit, and heavy underdogs against Hakeem Olajuwon and Clyde “The Glide’’ Drexler, the finish remains one of the event’s most exciting in history. State won it when guard Dereck Whittenburg’s 30-foot jumper short with the score tied 52-52. But it landed right in the hands of Lorenzo Charles, who caught it and laid in it at the buzzer.

I was at Augusta National in 1986 as Jack Nicklaus became the oldest player to win the Masters. He was 46 years old when he caught on fire on the back nine Sunday to hold off Greg Norman and claim his sixth green jacket.

He shot 30 on the back nine, 65 for the round. In the 15th fairway, Nicklaus was four shots off the lead.

I was there in 1997 when no golfer on the planet could get close to Tiger Woods who finished 18-under for his first Masters win. The emotional hug Tiger and his father Earl shared at the 18th green was one for the ages. Now Earl has passed and Tiger’s career is at a crossroad. His last major was in 2008 at the U.S. Open. He was 32. Nicklaus won seven more majors after he turned 32.

Nicklaus has 18 major victories to his name, while Tiger has been stuck on 14. Tiger’s last Masters win came in 2005.

Now I watch both events on a flat-screen, high-def TV. My concession stand is in the kitchen and there is no waiting for the men’s room.

SNEDS ODDS: The Masters is the one tournament Nashvillian Brandt Snedeker cherishes over any. He was one of the last players to get an invitation this year, but has seen his game improve under the coaching of Butch Harmon.

Las Vegas has the former Vanderbilt All-American at 30-1 odds to win this week. That ties him with Patrick Reed.

Rory McIlroy is the favorite at 8-1, followed by Bubba Watson at 10-1. Three players (Dustin Johnson, Jason Day and Jordan Spieth) are all at 12-1.

Veteran Phil Mickelson is at 27-1 and Tiger Woods is 50-1, his longest odds ever.

LOST A GOOD MAN: Nashville lost another good man when Robert Vance Elliott passed away last Sunday. He was 90 years old.

Bob Elliott played baseball and basketball at Tennessee, his alma mater. He was President of the Nashville Old Timers Baseball Association from 1997-98.

A former insurance agent, he spent many of his years in Atlanta before forming Elliott and Associates in Nashville. He was one of the original owners of the Nashville Sounds. He played professionally for the St. Louis Browns organization and served his country in the Air Force as a B-24 pilot. His plane was shot down behind German lines, but he was able to get back across enemy lines.

A celebration of life will be held April 20. It will be in Belle Meade Methodist Church at 11 a.m.

BARNES A FIT?: Former Vanderbilt AD Todd Turner made the easiest $50,500 he ever made as a consultant to Tennessee AD Dave Hart.

Hart was looking for a basketball coach, hiring a search firm for the first time in his career.

Hart might as well have saved his money. Sometimes, hiring a coach that fits the profile is a matter of right place, right time. That’s what happened when Texas fired Rick Barnes after he refused to change his staff.

That’s a sure way to get a head coach to resign and resign Barnes did. So Turner didn’t have to break a sweat. Hart had his man and the deal was done.

Is 60-year-old Barnes the man for the job? Hopefully, he gets energized about recruiting and coaching in the SEC. Even if he stays five years and puts the program on solid ground, he will be worth it.

Don’t look for Barnes to be Bruce Pearl. He’s not. But he’s also not Donnie Tyndall (no NCAA baggage) or Cuonzo Martin (Cal lost 6 of last 8 games, no tournament). How did they turn out?

Contact Sports Columnist Joe Biddle at

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