Intrigue among the LSU assistants

Even before Fonzie landed in Tuscaloosa this week, there was a lot of speculation that a bunch of LSU assistant coaches might be on the move this off-season.

The Advocate (the Baton Rouge daily, not the national gay newspaper) has a roundup of the latest stayings and goings around campus, and there are some compelling developments today.

A big rumor has been that offensive coordinator Jimbo Fisher would jump ship to join Saban at Alabama. He”d also been talking to Florida State about their vacant OC job, but apparently that potential move has been halted. But the real interesting thing is the potential domino effect of Saban”s move that could land Fisher a big-time head coaching gig.

Apparently the Dolphins are considering Georgia Tech head coach Chan Gailey to fill Saban”s spot, and if that happens the Wreck – and their Athletics Director Dan Radakovich, who used to be an assistant AD at LSU – may tap Fisher for their head coaching job. That would beat the hell out of that UAB job, wouldn”t it Jimbo?

I would have understood Fisher”s move to FSU. Bobby Bowden could retire sometime soon, so getting a coordinator position and having a little patience could pay off. Moving to Alabama to coach for Saban? Other than maybe having more control over the offense that wouldn”t seem like a wise move for Fisher. He”s at worst a couple of years away from a decent head coaching job, and LSU will remain a better place to put up good offensive numbers. If Fisher ends up at Alabama, I think that says something not-great about Leslie.

Defensive coordinator Bo Pelini seems determined to move right to a decent head coaching gig, and apparently he”s under consideration for the Minnesota job. Having gotten serious consideration from Michigan State, it would seem a program like the Gophers would be ready to bring Pelini in.

In the case of Fisher and Pelini, those guys are clearly looking for a head-coach slot or career-building moves that will help them land significant head coaching gigs. And you can”t blame them for that.

One move that troubles me, though, is offensive line coach Stacy Searels” defection to Georgia to become their offensive line coach. A lateral move for a guy without ties to the new school (Searels is from northwest Georgia but played at Auburn) always raises concerns. Sure, maybe the guy always loved UGA – just not enough to go there – but his quote in the Advocate is curious:

“I’m tremendously excited about coming to Georgia and working for coach (Mark) Richt and the rest of the staff,” Searels said according to a Georgia news release. “I’m looking forward to being part of the Georgia football program that has such great tradition and one that I know has a great future.”

What does he mean by “one that I know has a great future”? That seems to say he doesn”t believe his current program has a great future. Maybe he butted heads with Leslie and just threw in that parting jab. But it seems he was not a happy camper for whatever reason.

Feeling better about LSU is strength and conditioning coach Tommy Moffitt, who turned Saban down flat. I don”t know what the training facilities are like at Alabama (I imagine they ain”t bad), but I would bet the money LSU has put into their facilities over the past five years is an appeal to a strength coach. And it”s nice to win at least one small battle with Fonzie.

I think it”s pretty clear that Fisher and Pelini will be gone very soon. Along with the slow bleed of Saban”s recruits to graduation and the NFL, rebuilding the coaching staff (always the price of success) will be one of Leslie”s biggest challenges in the years to come.

Least popular PIN numbers

I was pretty amused by this PIN pad I saw at a retailer today:

So I guess that means 4, 5 and 9 are used less often in PIN numbers? Mine has one of those digits, so who knows?

Sugar is sweet; welcome back, Nick

Obviously, the Sugar Bowl went well for LSU. A lot of credit goes to Bo Pellini for the second-half defensive adjustments that put an end to Notre Dame”s frustrating ability to run the ball (they never had the pass) in the first half. And early and late, LSU showed off JaMarcus” arm and our receivers” speed. I think we could have had 50-yard pass plays any time we wanted, but I guess there”s something to be said for establishing a balanced offense, and Notre Dame pretty much gave us the 8-yard out route all night, so you can”t turn that down.

It was all as expected – Notre Dame is not a very good team. But LSU didn”t take a win for granted; didn”t fall into the Oklahoma trap and played their game. Credit should go to Notre Dame for figuring out how to have an offense in the first half, but clearly all they had was a decent gameplan going in. Their talent couldn”t compete or evolve to meet LSU”s adjustments.

Leslie deserves a lot of credit for benching Jessie Daniels and Trindon Holliday for whatever trouble they got themselves into in the French Quarter. That”s strong leadership, so well done.

And now that the season is over, the questions are where will JaMarcus and Jimbo be next year.

I can”t imagine any NFL GM not taking JaMarcus ahead of Brady Quinn, and JaMarcus would look great in Raider silver and black. The NFL is his for the taking. Will he go? Hard to say at this point. Is he driven by a Heisman campaign? Does he worry about not having Bowe and Davis to throw to next year? How much does the chance to beat Nick Saban (who recruited him and left after his redshirt freshman year) mean to him? How much does LSU mean to him? He won”t likely be playing for draft position next year, so the question is more about what he wants to accomplish at LSU than his chances in the NFL.

LSU will be fine if JaMarcus bolts. If he comes back, that”ll be great, but the fallback is Matt Flynn and Ryan Perrilloux, and that ain”t bad. Perrilloux needs to be developed for his starting gig in 2008, so Matt may have a lonely year on the bench next year if JaMarcus is back. That would be a shame for Flynn, who”s a really talented quarterback.

As for Jimbo, there”s speculation now that he might be tapped as offensive coordinator for Fonzie”s staff at Alabama. I think the chances of Jimbo bolting LSU for someplace new are pretty high this offseason, but would he leave a strong LSU program just to work for Saban at a reeling Alabama? Fisher isn”t far from getting a head-coaching shot, so it seems his next move would either be as a head coach or at a program where he has future potential to take over the big job. And Alabama ain”t that place. Florida State might be, though. If he was offered that job, he”d have a fighting chance to take over when Bobby Bowden is finally put out to pasture. I”d see that or a smaller-college head job being more likely than just jumping over to Saban”s ship.

To wrap up the LSU season, pretty strong – all things considered. Losses to a team in the BCS title game and 11-2 Auburn; wins over two 10-win teams, a 9-win team and an 8-win team. LSU”s strong season was somewhat inflated by a weak SEC West, but the end result was really strong and sets LSU up for a high pre-season ranking in 2007. And next season will be ripe for success with Florida, Auburn, Arkansas and South Carolina at home, plus a quality non-conference opportunity in Virginia Tech (at home). We have to rebuild our secondary and have some holes to fill here and there, but we”re set up for success and the expectation will be for us to win the West. Short of that will be a bad year.

So back to Fonzie. I guess there are a lot of people who are pissed off because Saban didn”t figure out how great a bigtime college job is until after he left LSU. I”m not bothered by that; I don”t think Nick was an LSU lifer; he”s an opportunist. Alabama is one of the really big jobs in college football (or was – and Nick figures it will be again), and he would have left for there or Michigan or Penn State or Notre Dame at some point anyway.

Saban at Alabama is good for the SEC. The story of the carpetbagger choosing a powerhouse SEC program over the NFL is a good one. And with his former defensive coordinator Will Muschamp at Auburn and the team he won the national championship with a yearly opponent, it makes Spurrier coaching South Carolina look normal. Alabama should be a football powerhouse; that”s just the way the world should work. And LSU should have to be good to beat them. I don”t wish for 11 weak teams in the SEC so LSU will seem good. I want LSU to be better than nine other strong SEC teams. If we”re good but not as good as a great Alabama some years, I”m fine with that.

The SEC now has four schools with undeniably great coaches – Alabama, Florida, South Carolina, Georgia – and another four coaches that have to be considered strong at least – LSU, Auburn, Tennessee, Arkansas. Ole Miss and Mississippi State have guys who are supposed to be good but haven”t shown it yet. And then there”s Vandy and Kentucky.

That adds up to an incredibly strong conference, and that”s good for the SEC and for LSU. I welcome the challenge of a Fonzie-led Tide.

Garry Betty

I was extremely saddened to learn that EarthLink CEO Garry Betty has died. Many of you know I work at EarthLink, and Garry was the embodiment of the company.

If you didn”t know much about Garry, he was a unique guy and had a special dynamic as a tech CEO. Personable, sincere and smart, Garry was the driving force in EarthLink”s growth, the merger with MindSpring and our bold new focus on growing beyond the traditional ISP business. My journalist buddies had a genuine affection for Garry, which says a lot about him.

EarthLink founder Sky Dayton put together a very nice tribute site where a lot of great comments about Garry are flowing in. If you”d like to learn a little bit about what made Garry Garry, you should check it out. I particularly like Sky”s early EarthLink photos and recollections, especially the shot of Garry with his state-of-the-art laptop.

And per company policy, I should note that I”m an employee of EarthLink but am not speaking for the company here.

Wisdom style

For those of you not reading this on RSS, I had a bit of a snafu playing around with the Wisdom”s style (my old template doesn”t work in the latest version of Serendipity, apparently.

I”m planning a full style update once football season is over, but I certainly didn”t mean to rid the Wisdom of LSU flavor before Thursday morning. So I”ve put in a temporary fix that”s plain Jane … but has my LSU stadium header image.

Bricks & Mortar – how to fail

Yesterday I installed my Sirius Starmate Reply in the TL, and it was relatively quick and easy. I just had to pop off some panels, drill one hole in the bottom center console tray and route the antenna wire up under the dash (the antenna sits inside the car on the dash, which works quite nicely).

But while the convenience of the Starmate”s built-in FM transmitter is nice, I decided (after putting the car back together) that I”d rather go with the Sirius FM Direct Adapter to reduce static and generally improve the experience. And with a long weekend at hand, I wanted to go ahead and git er done. So, then, I made a rare trip to a physical electronics store. Best Buy at Edgewood in this case, since I have heard they carry the FM thingy. They didn”t have any in stock, though, and the sales girl said something that was very quaint for the last day of 2006:

“We”re sold out right now, but we should get more in soon. Check back in about a week or so.”

Check back? Yeah, I don”t think so. The only reason I went to Best Buy for this thing was so I could get my hands on it immediately. That”s the only advantage a physical electronics retailer has today – instant gratification.

I don”t expect that somebody working at Best Buy would necessarily realize this, but “check back” is simply not a viable business model anymore. She didn”t do a good job of trying to keep my business. It wouldn”t have worked, but she could have offered to check the inventory of other Best Buys in Atlanta or even help me find it on bestbuy.com and buy in online through them. A place like Best Buy needs to understand that pretty much everything they sell can be found online – and probably at a lower price. Their one advantage – immediacy – has to be the cornerstone of the shopping experience.

I did end up swinging by a different Best Buy (they also do not carry iSkins, so I hit the Apple Store for one of those to go with the wife”s new 30GB Video), which also did not have the FM thing in stock. Funny thing is – that guy did look up inventories and the system said the Edgewood store had 8 in stock. He did the smart thing and called Edgewood to get them to check their stock. Of course, he got put on terminal hold the first time and couldn”t get anybody to help him out the second time, so I thanked him for the effort, told him not to worry about it, came home and ordered the thing from sirius.com (for $10 less than Best Buy sells them for).

Inman Park Properties update

As we put a cap on 2006, a quick update on progress Inman Park Properties is making on their holdings in East Atlanta. Jeff Notrica has farmed out clean-up and maintenance to Jason Howard, who bought East Atlanta Ace Hardware earlier this year (Notrica owns the Ace property and apparently also owns part of the Ace business). To Jason”s credit, he”s done considerable work in cleaning up the area behind Notrica”s Glenwood Avenue properties. This was the most obvious example of Inman Park Properties” neglect of their East Atlanta properties and a real blight on the neighborhood.

Inman Park has also closed the B&W convenience store across from Crave on Glenwood. Kudos for that – word on the street is that they bought out the lease, but that”s difficult to confirm. But other than closing the place down to create yet another vacant building in their portfolio, there”s been no obvious action to demolish that building or the East Atlanta Lock & Key space. That needs to happen.

The Tucker Automotive space on Flat Shoals is apparently leased to a guy who plans to open a restaurant there, and last week there was some work – maybe just clean-out – being done at the space there. But nothing I”ve noticed since.

On the Glenwood strip (between Graveyard Tavern and the Good News Cafe space) some action seems to be happening on the two restaurants that are supposed to be opening there. No big, obvious build-outs, but small signs.

But one of Inman Park”s biggest problems in East Atlanta – the boarded up house on Flat Shoals north of the antiques place – remains a graffiti-covered homeless hostel and dumping ground. Notrica is supposed to be demolishing the building – a months-old promise – but so far no permit has been issued and no apparent progress has been made. That”s inexcusable.

And there”s no point in even mentioning the John B. Gordon School. 2007 will mark the ninth year (I believe) that Inman Park Properties has done nothing with the building except let it rot.

So what we”re seeing is Notrica addressing some obvious but basic maintenance issues, and there could be some action on getting businesses open in some of Inman Park”s spaces. But Notrica and his companies have yet to demonstrate that they are serious about addressing the significant issues with their vacant and neglected properties in East Atlanta.

Love New Orleans? Visit New Orleans

I”m not going to say much about the ambulance-chasing talking hairdo exploiting New Orleans today for his own political gain – except this: you want a photo op of you “helping” New Orleans? There are bigger things to tackle than spreading dirt for a patio, shithead. Put on some coveralls and a mask and get inside one of the hundreds (thousands?) of houses still sitting ruined and molding 16 months after Katrina. But that would be hard to get pictures of, wouldn”t it? No, I”m ticked this morning about something Sen. Hairdo”s online adviser (or whatever he”s doing) wrote upon arriving in New Orleans last night.

Robert Scoble was – not surprisingly – shocked at what he saw when he got to town last night. He”s right – something is indeed very different in New Orleans.

But here”s the line that really disturbed me:

this is our favorite city

Your favorite city? And apparently you haven”t been back since Katrina? But still you say it”s your favorite city? Interesting.

I don”t want to pick on Scoble. It could very well be that he”s been to the city several times since Katrina (but just doesn”t write about it), has donated considerable money to relief efforts and orders a case of Hubig”s Pies every Monday morning to get a little cash flowing in the city.

I”d just like that quote and apparent disconnect between feelings toward New Orleans and actions to help the city survive to serve as a reminder. If you love New Orleans; if New Orleans is your “favorite city”; if you give a damn about New Orleans surviving, then take some action. Visit the city and help your favorite restaurant stay in business.

No sales tax = smart

I was cruising around this morning checking out some potential after-Christmas deals on digital cameras and ended up over at wolfcamera.com (more on why below). And on the product page”s rundown of the cost they included a big “No Sales Tax” reference.

Of course, I prefer to not pay sales tax directly on my online purchases, but rather report such purchases on my state income tax forms and pay the applicable use tax all at once. So it struck me as interesting that a real-world retailer – which must collect sales tax for purchases by people in states (such as Georgia for Wolf) where they have a physical presence – would promise No Sales Tax Checking out their sales tax policy, this is what they say:

You never pay sales tax! We are not required to collect sales and use tax on deliveries throughout the US, except where we have business locations and in those states we pay ALL sales taxes (California, Georgia, Kansas and Maryland). For customers in these states, our price includes all applicable taxes. To satisfy Maryland consumer reporting rules, we will show sales tax and an amount equal to the sales tax will be discounted from our regular low price. The order total will be the same as our regular low prices without tax.

Smart. Rather than dealing with “do you have to pay sales tax?” screens and downplaying (ala Dell.com) the fact that you may, indeed, have to pay sales tax, Wolf just absorbs the tax when applicable and gets to promote the whole No Sales Tax thing prominently.

Of course, their price was $50 higher for the same camera I was looking at on Amazon, which never collects sales tax. So thanks, but no thanks.

I ended up at Wolf, though, because of a new shopping habit I have. For a long time I”ve taken the model number of an item I”m looking at and run it through Froogle to get a price comparison. But now I go right to the “Google Checkout Stores” link to narrow my search. The promise of an extra $10 off (right now) is a strong draw to Checkout, which of course is part of Google”s strategy for taking payment share from PayPal, VeriSign and everybody else in the payment space. They”re also giving the service away to merchants for now, which may do wonders for their market share over the next year.

The last time I bought something through PayPal? Couldn”t tell you. They do fabulous things like not allowing two people (such as the wife and myself) to use the same credit card number. Sites that feature PayPal come off as amateurish and I avoid them. I don”t get that feeling with Checkout. It”s a breeze to use and feels like a regular shopping cart service. I don”t have to set up accounts at a bunch of different merchants (or give them my credit card number), and Google is better at getting receipts out and tracking purchase and delivery than a lot of online stores.

So keep an eye on Checkout. Google needs another revenue winner (I remember a time when Wall Street really didn”t like companies that relied on one source for 98% of their revenue), and payment processing is a big space. PayPal is a billion-dollar product and is a key part of eBay”s model now. Done right, Checkout could be a strong No. 2 product for Google.

Life with the Acura TL

Since Smoove asked …

I”ve had my TL for a month and a day now and have put about 2,500 miles on it (road trips), so some initial impressions: – Interior feel: Excellent. Acura does a great job of making the TL feel a lot more expensive than it is. Great leather seats, great fit and finish, overall just really nice. The cockpit feel is pretty much perfect for me (6″4″). It feels roomy but not big. As I mentioned before, the TL had an advantage for me over the Infiniti G35 because the G cockpit is just slightly tighter; feeling more like a BMW 3 Series, while the TL feels more like a 5.

- On the road: Fantastic. Quiet and calm on the highway, a quick slap of the manual shift pulls out the fury. It”s not the 286 horses of the 2007 Type-S, but 258 does just fine. Makes my little game of losing cars that want to draft on my speed much, much more fun.

- Navigation system: A topic of constant thought and discussion for me. The POI data, as I mentioned, is not great. And I”ve come to realize that the route calculations are pretty slow in comparison to the TomTom / Bluetooth system I have for my Treo. I”m not sure how that happens (it could be because the Treo system only has sections of the US loaded in at any one time), but it”s only slightly annoying. The experience of always having a large map sitting in front of you is a real plus, though. I”d only pull out the Treo system when I specifically needed a route, but having always-on navigation comes in real handy. If I”m stuck in a line of unusual traffic, for example, I can do a quick “what if I turned right here” check on the map instantly. Despite some flaws and room for improvement, the benefit of always-there navigation is huge and makes built-in navigation a big win.

- Audio system: I haven”t really tested it out much, but it seems quite capable. For me, sound quality ranks second to source availability, so I”m just waiting for some free time to install my Sirius kit. There”s no deep iPod integration (deep would be having iPod data show on the radio display and being able to control the iPod through standard audio controls), and the 2006 lacks the auxiliary input jack that comes with the 2007, but that”s not a big deal in my mind. I”ll probably start off the Sirius with its built-in FM transmitter and maybe move it to a hard-wired modulator. And I really don”t care too much about iPod in the car (when I get my Sirius in, that is. Right now I”d kill for some decent music – which XM doesn”t give me). A Griffin FM transmitter will do me just fine there.

- XM: Still sucks. On our trip to Louisiana last weekend, we tried to listen to their music stations, and they simply suck. The “Fred” channel (deeper classic alternative, I think) is about the best we found. But there”s no viable alternative when The Cure comes on there. XM”s “decades” channels blow big-time – especially the 80s channel. The only saving grace there is that they play Casey Kasem”s American Top 40s from the 80s on the weekend. That was amusing. Then there”s the issue of the artist/song display. I”m starting to get the sense that XM actually limits the characters (16, I think) that it broadcasts. The XM display on the navigation screen has room for probably 10 more characters, but there”s nothing there. And in what may be one of XM”s worst offenses against music, they tend to remove “The” from the name of bands in order to cut off fewer band names with their short display. Displaying “Beatles” or “Cure” or “Replacements” as a band name is downright wrong. And what happens when “The The” comes on (props to the wife for that one)? So not only is the programming much worse than Sirius, but the user experience on a built-in, large-screen display is far inferior to what I get on my Sirius aftermarket device. XM blows.

- Nice touches: I love having the ability to define behavior of some of the car systems. I have the TL set to lock the doors when I hit 10 mph, unlock them when the car goes into park, unlock all doors on the first press of the fob, chirp when I lock from the fob, etc. There”s about 10 or so settings I”m able to define that are tied to my Driver 1 fob. The wife has her own settings (ladies might not want doors to unlock automatically and such) tied to her Driver 2 fob. Along with Driver 1 and 2 memory settings for seats, mirrors, etc., that”s great functionality. Gets rid of having to adjust to the behaviors the car manufacturer decided to build in. Interior storage is also well thought-out, with two separate trays under the navigation display and separated shallow and deep compartments in the center console – with a DC outlet in the center console for chargers. The storage bins in the door hinge out for easy access to things (like sunglasses in the built-in glasses sleeve there – nice).

- Issues: I have no idea why Acura included totally superfluous door-lock sticks in the driver and passenger doors. Maybe it”s for visual confirmation that doors are locked/unlocked? If so, there are much better ways to do that. And as a guy who rides with the seat way back, I kept hitting my elbow on it … so the driver”s stick is now gone. And along those lines, the arm rest in the door sits way too low for me (OK for average-height people?), so the top of the door is my armrest. That would be fine except Acura didn”t build the padding there for that, so I”m already creating a dimple in the pad up there. An adjustable armrest in the door would be nice. Otherwise, there are really tiny things I”ve noticed like no audible notification when you”re low on gas (seems obvious – freaking beep or something), but overall I dig the ride quite a bit.

Next up in my TL”s evolution is getting my Sirius unit in there. I want a clean install, which will require some disassembly of interior parts and the like. More on that later.

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