MIKE KEENAN TO THE RESCUE—AGAIN

Mike Keenan has long been pro hockey’s Mr. Quick Fix.

The man who coached the Rochester Americans to the 1983 Calder Cup is the new coach of the Chinese club KunLun Red Star in the Russia-based Kontinental Hockey League.

Keenan, now 67, has been coach and/or general manager of eight NHL teams. He coached the New York Rangers to the 1994 Stanley Cup, ending that team’s 54-year wait.

Keenan’s NHL career coaching record is 672-531-147-36 (.551). He was frequently fired or quit because he didn’t always get along with players, management and.or ownership.

“Iron Mike” coached Metallurg Magnitogorsk to the HHL’s Gagarin Cup in 2015. He was fired less than two years later.

Keenan’s assignment with Beijing-based KunLun Red Star is to make sure the Chinese players on the team get plenty of ice time to develop them for the 2012 Winter Olympics. It is a big deal because China never has had an Olympic hockey team and Beijing will be the first city ever to host both the Summer and Winter Olympics.

There is a strong possibility that Keenan will coach China in the 2022 Olympics – if he sticks around that long.

IN APPRECIATION OF ANDREW WHITE II AND JOHN GILLON

Two big reasons why I’m rooting for Syracuse to win the NIT: Andrew White III and John Gillon.

How would SU have fared this season without the two graduate-student transfers?

The Orange probably wouldn’t have been invited to the NIT after Jim Boeheim suffered the first losing season in a 41-year career as head coach at his alma mater.

Here are their updated performance lines this season:

White – 18.5 points per game; .443 field-goal percentage (195-for-440, and that’s with very few lay-up shots); .405 three-point percentage (109-for-269); .828 free-throw percentage (111-for-134); 4.7 rebounds per game; 37.2 minutes per game.

Gillon – 10.7 points per game; .411 field-goal percentage (104-for-253); .422 three-point percentage (54-for-128); .868 free-throw percentage (92-for-106); 5.3 assists per game; 30.0 minutes per game.

White was Third Team All-ACC this season and that alone should guarantee that he’ll be selected in the 2017 NBA draft. He isn’t a great rebounder and who knows if he can play defense? But he can flat out shoot the basketball – quickly and accurately.

Gillon probably won’t be drafted. He has been a very good Division I college point guard but he lacks the super quickness and driving skills that 5-foot-9-type guards need to stick in the NBA. He’ll make a lot of money playing somewhere and the fans will love him.

FAVORITES FARED WELL IN NCAA MEN’S THURSDAY GAMES

There were 16 games Thursday in the first round of the NCAA men’s basketball tournament. Favorites did very well straight-up and were .500 against the Las Vegas point spread (ATS).

In the afternoon, the Las Vegas favorites were 7-1 outright and 3-5 ATS.

In the night games, the favorites were 7-1 outright and 5-3 ATS.

The only underdogs that won outright were Northwestern (won 68-66 over 2-point favored Vanderbilt) and Xavier (won 76-75 over 2-point favored Maryland).

THREE LOCAL STARS PLAYED WELL IN DEFEAT

Four Section V products participated in the men’s college basketball postseason.

Emmitt Holt (Webster Schroeder) led Providence in points (18) and rebounds (11) in a 75-71 loss to Southern Cal in a “First Four” NCAA game.

Thomas Bryant (Bishop Kearney) had 13 points, 7 rebounds and 3 assists in Indiana’s 75-63 loss to Georgia Tech in the first round of the NIT.

Anthony Lamb (Greece Athena) had 20 points, 9 rebounds, 3 assists, 3 steals and 1 steal in Vermo0nt’s 80-70 loss to Purdue in the first round of the NCAA tournament.

Deyshonee Much (Gates-Chili) and his Iona teammates play Oregon Friday afternoon in the first round of the NCAA tournament.

SABRES DULL AGAIN IN 2-0 LOSS TO KINGS

There was excitement in Buffalo Sabres nation when the team won three straight games February 14-16-18 to boost its record to 26-23-10. There was genuine hope for a late-run at a playoff berth for the first time in six NHL seasons.

Ooops. Not so fast. The Sabres didn’t turn the corner. They had a head-on crash with the rest of the league.

In the 12 games since, the Sabres are 2-8-2. They earned 6 of 24 possible points in the standings during that slump(outscored 46-32) and are playing out the string. The saddest thing is that they’re not tanking this time. They just haven’t been good enough when the games counted the most.

Buffalo lost 2-0 at the Los Angeles Kings Thursday night. The Sabres play at Anaheim Friday night.

SHORT SHOTS

Syracuse U. sophomore forward Tyler Lydon is projected as the No. 25 pick in his updated BA 2017 Mock Draft. Of the 24 players rated ahead of him, 18 are freshmen. The NBA draft is June 22. The deadline for underclassmen to withdraw from the draft is June 12. If Lydon returns to SU for his junior season and continues to improve, he could be lottery pick in the 2018 NBA draft.

HAPPY BIRTHDAY TO…

Friday , March 17 … Katie Ledecky (20)…Terry Rozier (23)…Jean Segura (27)…Juan Lagares (28)…Emmanuel Sanders (30)…Chris Davis (31)…Kyle Korver (36)…Samoa Joe (38)…Mia Hamm (45)…Bill Mueller (46)…Danny Ainge (58)…Robin Cousins (60)…Chuck Muncie (64)…Cito Gaston (73). Rob Lowe (53), Gary Sinise (61) and Kurt Russell (66) are invited to the birthday party.

Saturday, March 18 – Kris Dunn (23)…Fernando Rodney (40)…Zdeno Chara (40)…Brian Griese (42)…Rob Johnson (44)…Bonnie Blair (53)…Curt Warner (56)…Guy Charbonneau (57)…Gilles Hamel (57)…Ingemar Stenmark (61)…Guy Lapointe (69) and Bob Nevin (79). Queen Latifah (47) and Vanessa Williams (54) are invited to the birthday party.

Sunday, March 19 – Clayton Kershaw (29)…AJ Lee (30)…David Ross (40)…Andre Miller (41)…Rick Mirer (47)…Ivan Calderon (55)…Earlie Fires (70)…Joe Kapp (78). Bruce Willis (62) and Ursula Andress (81) are invited to the birthday party.