Mark Knudson’s 3 Strikes: Kroenke’s dollars vs sense, open letter to high school admins, Colorado should host a golf major

Feb 16, 2022; Los Angeles, CA, USA; Los Angeles Rams owner Stan Kroenke holds the Vince Lombardi trophy during Super Bowl LVI championship parade. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Strike One: If you’re a follower of the Denver Nuggets, you’re probably scratching your head about now, wondering who is making the decisions down at Kroenke Sports Enterprises and why they’re making those decision.

The news has gotten out that Nuggets president of basketball operations Tim Connelly is being courted by the division rival Minnesota Timberwolves. If you follow hoops closely, you understand what a great job Connelly has done building the Nuggets into a legitimate contender in the rugged NBA Western Conference.

The T-Wolves are offering Connelly a boatload of cash to move to the Land of 10,000 Lakes. The ownership of the Nuggets appear to be sitting quietly on the shoreline, waiting to see if they’re going to need to hire a replacement. Maybe they are, but they don’t appear ready to pay Connelly even close to what Minnesota is reportedly offering.

Again, why?

There’s a history of “why?” when you look at these kinds of decisions made by KSE. Why did they fire Hall of Fame coach George Karl after he led Denver to a franchise record 57 wins and was named NBA Coach of the Year in 2013? (Hint, Karl asked for a contract extension and more money.) Why did they let league Executive of the Year Masai Ujiri leave to go to Toronto after that same season and watch the Raptors become a powerhouse that won the NBA title in 2019? (Again, follow the money.)

After that pair left, the Nuggets entered a five-year period of irrelevance before Connelly’s rebuild took root. He had drafted a future Hall of Famer/two-time MVP in the second round as the key part of that process, building it back better. He has proven to be damn good at his job.

Sure, Connelly has made a couple of miscues along the way (giving a max deal of oft-injured Michael Porter Jr. isn’t looking so great right now) but you can’t question the results, or the promise for the immediate future. The past four seasons Denver’s been a playoff fixture, overcoming key injuries along the way. That’s due largely to Connelly’s constant work.

Why would they even consider letting him walk?

It’s not like KSE doesn’t give out new contracts. Colorado Avalanche coach Jared Bednar, who’s incredibly talented squad has been ousted in the second round of the NHL playoffs three years in a row (and are back in that same second round right now) was given a nice contract extension before the season, even after the same kind of playoff failures that doomed Karl.

Why?

Then again, why can’t most fans watch the Nuggets and Avalanche on local cable TV?

Stan Kroenke is one of the richest men in the world. He’s the owner of the current Super Bowl champions and man behind the construction of the greatest football stadium on the planet. Yet it sure appears that when it comes to judging the value of some key employees, Kroenke has more dollars than sense.

Strike Two: Dear Colorado High School Administrators,

The purpose of this open letter is simple: It’s to alert you to an ongoing problem and to ask you to fix it.

At many high schools, those in charge are still scheduling graduation ceremonies for mid-May Saturday mornings or afternoons, which directly conflict with CHSAA spring sports state championship events in track and field, baseball and soccer.

Your seniors can’t be in two places at once.

You already know that of course, but you’re evidently not all that concerned. Just have them choose to be at one or the other, right? No big deal?

Sorry, but it is a big deal. Especially because it doesn’t have to be.

Forcing children – who have worked their tails off in their chosen sport for the past four years – to choose which once-in-a-lifetime event they will attend? Really? That’s a quality part of the educational process?

Actually, it’s a terrible spot to put ANY student-athlete in. And it’s only the spring sport athletes that get treated like this.

We understand how difficult the past three school years have been. We understand that the work you do is under-appreciated and when that finish line appears, you strive to reach it with as little struggle as possible. We get that.

But what you have to understand is that athletics are a key part of the high school learning experience, and that your work is not truly complete until their full experience is. Work in the classroom and on the athletic fields are supposed to go hand in hand. You can’t suddenly decide it’s okay for student-athletes – who’ve been striving to reach the pinnacle of their sport and striving to earn their diplomas at the same time – to simply miss out on their final and most important athletic competition solely because you couldn’t schedule the graduation ceremony for the evening?

It’s mind-boggling, really. The solution is so simple, yet so hard to get done. Why?

Graduation is a once-in-a-lifetime forever moment that should never ever be missed for any reason. But unlike the state track meet, it’s movable. It can be held in a number of different venues (including on campus at little or no cost) at a number of different times. Graduation – and the gatherings that are attached to it – can easily be scheduled for days and times that don’t conflict with the CHSAA championship calendar.

This is an issue that impacts hundreds of student-athletes. And yet it should not be an issue at all.

So please, Administrators. Do the right thing. When it comes to scheduling graduation ceremonies for 2023 and beyond, please check with CHSAA first. There are plenty of days, times and hours available to be able to schedule in everything that matters.

Strike Three: Golf’s second major – the PGA Championship – produced another thrilling finish for the television audience and the huge gallery in attendance at Southern Hills Country Club in Tulsa, Oklahoma.

Tulsa. Oklahoma.

No offense to our friends from the Sooner state, but it begs the question: In terms of hosting a Major golf tournament, what does Tulsa have that Denver doesn’t? I mean, come on, man.

In all modesty, we’ve got a lot more going for us here as a major sports town than Tulsa does.

There’s not enough space here to list all the area golf courses that could be fitted to host the PGA or the US Open and give the best players in the world all they can handle. We’ve had them here before.

Long time golf fans know the Cherry Hills Country Club has hosted the PGA Championship twice (1941 and 1985) and US Open three times. Okay, today’s pros have pretty much outgrown Denver’s golf’s crown jewel with their length off the tee, we get that. The last major played there was the 2005 Women’s US Open.

But we have other, less historic but probably more challenging courses that could be considered and one in particular that’s more than ready.

It was recently announced that the PGA Tour is coming back to Castle Pines in 2024. The home of the International for more than two decades, the scenic Country Club – which last hosted a tour event in 2006 – will host the second leg of the FedEx Cup playoff, the BMW Championship, in mid-August that year. (Cherry Hills hosted this event in 2014.)

After the 1986 International, Colorado’s regular tour stop could no longer find a sponsor, so it folded and relinquished its place on the tour. It’s like the Golf Gods have held a grudge ever since.

Even so, we’ve paid our penance. We deserve more than a once-every-decade tour stop. Local golf fans deserve a major. And Castle Pines (among others) is ready.

Course designer Jack Nicklaus (a fairly decent player in his day) has overseen some adjustments to Castle Pines, and certainly more could be made to make it even more challenging. The infamous US Open rough would fit in nicely with the myriad of forests and other challenges. Then there’s the altitude – it’s about 6,700 feet where they tee it up – which would add another layer of difficulty for the players that have to walk 18 holes four days in a row.

Perhaps the 2024 BMW event can serve as an audition? Perhaps some other area courses could make a case to host?

Perhaps the Golf Gods will require some sort of sacrifice?

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