Jan 25, 2014; Chicago, IL, USA; Josh Thomson (blue gloves) reacts after losing to Benson Henderson (red gloves) during UFC on FOX 10 at the United Center. Mandatory Credit: David Banks-USA TODAY Sports

Bay Area Buzz 1/27: Thomson Wuz Robbed; Curious Super Bowl School Ties; Oakland's Next Great Point Guard

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Thomson deserved win and a title fight

It’s an unfortunate truth about mixed martial arts: Judges get it wrong sometimes.

The wrong man won Saturday when it came to a lightweight bout between Ben Henderson and Josh Thomson.

Though Thomson wasn’t completely “robbed” in the split decision, it was at least a case of petty theft. It was an especially difficult loss for Thomson due to what was at stake (a UFC title shot) and what he overcame in it (a broken hand).

Difficult enough for Thomson (20-6) to openly contemplate retirement, saying “this might be it” within the same breath of stating he is still a top-five talent in his division.

“I felt like I won,” Thomson said. “I won with one hand. I beat the former UFC champion — a guy who was here for two years. That’s what I can’t stomach. I’m a better fighter. That’s what pissed me off.”

For the record, there is no way Thomson retires after what happened in this fight.

Not that he’s a liar or that he shouldn’t walk away if his heart isn’t in fighting people for a living anymore. I’m just saying there’s no way.

Javier Mendez, one of Thomson’s coaches who was in his corner at the United Center, seemed to agree. Mendez confirmed Thomson spoke about retirement during his latest camp but said he simply cannot see Thomson walking away while still at his peak.

“Josh is honest, so if he’s talking about [retirement] he means it,” Mendez said. “But when things calm down, I think he’ll realize how good he still is, and there is no way he should be thinking about that. No way.

“The only thing he should be thinking about is that title shot he deserves to have.”

After the first round of Saturday’s fight, which all three judges awarded to Thomson, the 35-year-old went to his corner, adjusted his glove and saw his right thumb fold backward clear to his wrist.

Mendez said his heart sank when he saw the injury and immediately wondered if he should throw in the towel to save Thomson from further injury.

It would have been an easy out for Thomson — a built-in excuse for whatever happened next. To be fair, few UFC fighters would take such an out, which Thomson made a point of saying at the postfight news conference.

Not every UFC fighter would have still found a way to win the fight, though — as Thomson, in my eyes, did.

–Brett Okamoto, ESPN.com

Pete Carroll can extend University of the Pacific’s Super Bowl legacy among coaches

There is a university in California with an uncanny knack for producing Super Bowl-winning coaches. If Pete Carroll wins next Sunday, he would be the third head coach with ties to that particular school to lead a team to an NFL championship. Add coordinators, and the number is five. In fact, those two coordinators – one on offense and one on defense – are considered visionaries for their understanding of the game.

All five of these coaches have made stops at this particular California school.

It’s not USC.

In fact, it’s a school that no longer has a football program.

Jon Gruden, Tom Flores, Pete Carroll, Buddy Ryan and Mike Martz all spent time at the University of the Pacific, which is located in Stockton (just south of Sacramento). Flores, who won two Super Bowls with the Raiders, graduated in 1958. Carroll played free safety there, got his bachelor of science in 1973, and returned as an assistant in the early ’80s. Gruden, who won a Super Bowl with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, coached wide receivers at Pacific in 1989. Martz, who called plays for the “Greatest Show on Turf” in St. Louis, was a Pacific assistant in 1980. And Buddy Ryan, father of the 46 defense (and of Rex and Rob), spent a year in Stockton in the ’60s.

Call it a coincidence if you choose. None of these coaches spent a long time at Pacific, and it’s not like the school was ever an athletics titan. Despite being the oldest chartered university in the state, Pacific has fewer than 8,000 students and the football team, when it existed, won only 46.4 percent of its games. But the list of coaching greats is too long to be lucky, especially when you add the other Pacific whistles who went on to NFL careers: Hue Jackson, Ron Turner and Jim Colletto (who has his own Super Bowl ring, as a staffer with the 2000 Ravens).

The list means even more when you add the most significant coach to set foot on the campus: Amos Alonzo Stagg.

Stagg coached Pacific beginning at age 70, after a legendary career at the University of Chicago, where he became one of the iconic figures in the sport’s history. He coached the Tigers from 1933 until 1946, and won his 300th game with the team. Stagg died in Stockton at age 102, and Pacific’s football stadium was named after him in 1988.

The Stagg magic filtered down to coach after coach, each one bringing some sort of winning wrinkle to football the way Stagg did. One report from 1949, only three years after Stagg retired, breathlessly described Pacific’s cutting-edge offense and its college football Hall of Fame-bound star:

“Led by the remarkable 5’8, 165-pound quarterback Eddie LeBaron, the Tigers averaged an astounding 502.9 yards per game to lead the country in total offense. Using the deceptive belly series, pioneered by offensive genius Larry Siemering, Pacific crushed every opponent on its schedule with the exception of the University of San Francisco in the opening game.”

Carroll is the latest in Pacific’s long legacy, with his upbeat, energetic style that showed up even during his undergraduate years as a player. One famous clip from 1983 shows “Coach Carroll,” then the team’s offensive coordinator, joining in an end zone pileup after a Hail Mary won a game for the Tigers. Carroll was pinned up against the goal post in the celebration and briefly worried he would suffocate.

–Eric Adelman, Yahoo Sports

Damian Lillard a worthy heir to Oakland’s great point guards

Damian Lillard, the Portland Trail Blazers second-year star, has the makings of the next great point guard from Oakland.

His numbers at this stage stack up with Hall of Famer Gary Payton and future inductee Jason Kidd. He has a Rookie of the Year trophy on his shelf and could end up with an All-Star selection this week. He already has a reputation as one of the most explosive and clutch guards in the NBA.

But it is too early to place him on the mantel with the Oakland legends. So says his father.

“He’s got a long way to go,” Houston Lillard said. “He’s not there yet.”

Lillard’s going to get there. Not just because he has a smooth outside shot, with range that rivals anyone in the league. Not because on top of that he is aggressive and creative at getting to the basket.

But Lillard also has the mental makeup to pair with his talent. He has the rare ability to juggle confidence and humility.

The former drives him to impose his will, gives him the fortitude to take the respect he is sure he deserves. In yesteryear, it was simply known as pride. These days, they call it swag.

The latter keeps him working on his game. Keeps him appreciative of his burgeoning stardom. After Sunday’s loss to the host Warriors, in which he needed 16 shots to get 16 points, he spent time with his usually large throng of family and friends. Lillard supporters are known for taking over an entire section when he comes home. Many of them got pictures and autographs and hugs.

They usually get a show as well, but Lillard was outshined this day by Stephen Curry. In the latest installment of what is sure to be an excellent rivalry, Curry went off for 38 points, eight assists and seven rebounds in less than 35 minutes.

Lillard struggled his last time here as well, back in November, but came alive in the third quarter with a couple of big 3-pointers as Portland took over the game and eventually won. He has yet to top his first performance at Oracle Arena as a pro, dropping 37 points on the Warriors, going on a second-half outburst to nearly steal one from Golden State.

Like Curry, Lillard is already known as one of the league’s best closers. He is sixth in the NBA in total fourth-quarter points, punctuated by two game-winners this season.

He has a knack for performing best in the clutch. He’s comfortable when the stakes are highest, a trait developed by the city whose name he has tattooed across his chest.

“He’s been that way since about the eighth grade,” Lillard’s dad recalled. “I tell him all the time to just be natural and regular. There is nothing to be scared of on the basketball court.”

Certainly, Lillard had a lot more to be afraid of growing up in Brookfield, a neighborhood close enough to the Coliseum to hear the roars. He’s witnessed and experienced some things that make basketball — even the pressure of it all — a comforting escape.

One night as a junior in high school, he was near Eastmont Mall. The Oakland High basketball star was robbed while minding his own business. They took his smartphone and the cash he had in his pocket. And he was relieved.

“That’s something to be scared of,” his father said.

In hindsight, it’s clear to see how Lillard has been groomed for this mantle as Oakland’s next. He was just close enough to the drama and danger to experience its effects but still had the family structure to get through it.

–Marcus Thompson II, San Jose Mercury News

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Tags: Damian Lillard Josh Thomson Oakland Basketball Pacific Tigers Football Ufc

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