By: John Molori
July 19, 2005

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THIS WEEK:

- ESPY experience
- Boston boss
- Rising Stars, Falling Stars: Who's hot and not in Boston sports media?

Bettencourt brings local flavor to ESPY Awards

If you thought Curt Schilling, Bill Belichick, the Red Sox and Patriots were the only New England representatives at last Sunday's 13th Annual ESPY Awards on ESPN, think again. Kevin Bettencourt of Peabody, MA also scored at the biggest sports and entertainment event of the year.

Bettencourt, a senior at Bucknell University, is a captain on the school 's basketball team. His Bison upset Kansas 64-63 in last March's NCAA Tournament earning them a nomination in the ESPY's "Best Upset" category. The win was the first-ever in the NCAA's for Bucknell and the Patriot League. Kansas had been riding a 21-game first round winning streak.

"I found out that we were nominated online," says the 22 year-old Bettencourt. "I had no clue that we would be included in such a big event." Bettencourt didn't know if he and co-captain Charles Lee would join Bucknell head coach Pat Flannery on the trip to Los Angeles for the star-studded ESPY Awards ceremony.

"The school had to check and see if it was a violation of NCAA rules for the captains to go," he explains. "When we knew we'd be going, we were very excited." Bettencourt's ESPY experience was a whirlwind. He left for Los Angeles last Tuesday, was in the audience for the show's taping on Wednesday and flew home on Thursday.

He states, "I saw Terrell Owens and Richard Seymour in the hotel lobby and I was thrilled. Donovan McNabb came over to congratulate us and we talked for about fifteen minutes. He said that he was going to get a Bucknell t-shirt. We were sitting in the balcony for the actual awards show and we saw it all. It was pretty amazing to see Curt Schilling and all the things that happened behind the scenes."

Coach Flannery and his wife Patti got the full ESPY red carpet treatment, interacting with the likes of Peyton Manning and Jessica Simpson, and attending an ESPY party at the Playboy Mansion. Bettencourt was just as thrilled to get an up close look at some local heroes.

"I was completely awestruck being that close to the Patriots," he states. "I was talking to (Vermont men's basketball) coach Tom Brennan when Richard Seymour, Rodney Harrison and Deion Branch walked by. I didn't want to be rude to coach Brennan so I didn't say anything to them, but I watched them out of the corner of my eye. It was great."

Just to be nominated for an ESPY was enough of a high for Bettencourt. Winning the award was a long shot. Bucknell was up against Vermont's NCAA Tourney win over Syracuse, Puerto Rico's 2004 Olympic basketball victory over the United States and Giacomo's Kentucky Derby win.

"We had no idea that we were going to win the award. They hand out 35 awards, but only 10 to 15 winners get to give speeches. They showed an awesome video about us. I never expected that this would happen. It was a great way to close out last season."

Bucknell's upset over Kansas won the coveted ESPY and gave Bettencourt still another reason to reflect on the memorable win. "We had played good teams like Pitt and Michigan State, so we took the approach that we had nothing to lose. After five or ten minutes, we knew that we could play with Kansas. After the game, I wasn't shocked that we won, but now, I've put the whole thing in perspective and it really is incredible."

Bettencourt is the nephew of Dave Bettencourt, a legendary baseball coach at UNH and several area high schools. Currently, the elder Bettencourt runs one of the top baseball camps in the region featuring hands-on instruction for kids at all levels of play.

"I took part in those camps from the time I was 5 until I was 12," says the younger Bettencourt, a history and education major who would like to pursue teaching and coaching as a career. "The camps really helped me develop as an athlete and a teammate in all sports."

Following Bucknell's tournament win last March, thousands of people showed up for a team pep rally and parade. The team has lost just one senior from last year's club and will be featured in two ESPN games during the upcoming 2005-06 season.

Bettencourt says he will never forget the ESPY experience. "Ever since the Kansas game, it's been unbelievable. To be included with all those great talents at such an event is more than you could ever hope for. I have been able to accomplish all my goals and then some. No matter what happens next season, we'll always have this."

Who's in charge?

An interesting debate surfaced on a recent edition of WEEI's "Mustard and Johnson" show. A caller tossed out the theory that Red Sox general manager Theo Epstein is, in truth, the "assistant general manager" to team CEO Larry Lucchino, the inference being that Lucchino has final say on personnel moves.

Larry Johnson disagreed saying that he doubts that Lucchino has the time to scout talent and check the waiver wire for available players. Meanwhile, Craig Mustard tried to clarify the caller's opinion saying, "So, you think that (Epstein) is a functional executive on a team with the second largest payroll in baseball."

Johnson stated, "If you're going to tell me Theo is not the engineer putting this together, you're crazy." Certainly, Theo Epstein has far exceeded expectations given that he was the team's third or fourth choice for the GM post, but if Epstein is truly in charge, why then did Lucchino mandate that a trade for a reliever be made a few weeks ago?

Given the recent rash of questionable roster moves, and with the July 31 trade deadline fast approaching, it is fair for callers and hosts alike to question who is truly minding the Red Sox store.

Rising Stars

John Dennis, Gerry Callahan, WEEI: Morning pair have provided intelligent, biting and fact-based criticism of Red Sox manager Terry Francona. Callahan, especially, has been utterly fascinating in his analysis.

Brad Feldman, WB56, WEEI: Revolution announcer's Saturday call of Taylor Twellman's game-winner vs. Dallas was featured as ESPN's "Call of the Day." Feldman and the Revs also made ESPN's "Top Ten Plays" and "Ultimate Highlight."

Don Orsillo, NESN: Red Sox play-by-play man was frank and critical in his assessment of the Red Sox in a WEEI fill-in role. His pointed thoughts on the demotion of Kevin Youkilis show that Orsillo is no Sox shill.

Falling Stars

Sam Ryan, ESPN: Ryan was absolutely abominable during Sunday's Red Sox-Yankees tilt. She mispronounced Bronson Arroyo's last name and added little to the broadcast in her role as field reporter. Sorely needs to upgrade content and delivery.

Whiner Line, WEEI: "Big Show" whiners have been absolutely brutal to slumping Red Sox Curt Schilling, Kei th Foulke and Mark Bellhorn. Fickle fans have every right to whine, just don't kiss butt come October.

Bronson Arroyo, Red Sox: OK, I get it. Bronson Arroyo plays guitar and sings. After a dozen feature stories on the singing starter, that is clear. Arroyo should start focusing less on strings and more on strikes. The Red Sox need the second coming of Bob Feller, not Bob Dylan.

John Molori's columns have been published in The Providence Journal, The Boston Metro, The Lawrence Eagle-Tribune, The Salem Evening News, The Newburyport Daily News, The Gloucester Times, Patriots Football Weekly, Boston Sports Review, New England Hockey Journal, TheRemyReport.com, PatsFans.com, BostonSportsReview.com, BostonSportsMedia.com, ColdHardFootballFacts.com and MethuenOnline.com. Email John at JOMOL3@aol.com.


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