Ailene Voisin

Voisin’s Monday morning top five

Anyone else grateful for the great escape sports provided last week? It was almost impossible to turn away from news coverage of the terror attacks in Europe and heightened tensions throughout the world. But, yes, even the Kings’ ongoing woes offered a welcome distraction.

So, keeping it lighter than usual, here are a few thoughts, observations and musings while Americans celebrate the life of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

▪ Let’s start with 49ers new head coach Jim Tomsula. CEO Jed York’s decision to promote the club’s longtime defensive line coach is receiving mixed reviews partly because of Tomsula’s unconventional background, but mostly because he leapfrogged respected defensive coordinator Vic Fangio.

Tomsula either will restore the 49ers to their pre-2014 luster – and he also becomes the most popular patron in the Italian restaurants in North Beach – or he will be overwhelmed by the task and forced to see employment elsewhere in the NFL, Europe or Pop Warner.

Still, there is something endearing about someone who opens his introductory news conference by acknowledging his unique path to the job, offers no apology, and in simplistic, non-corporate speak said this: “I realize that my journey is an unusual one. My job has taken my family on three continents and nothing has been the norm. So I’m used to ‘not normal’ and I’m very comfortable in ‘not normal.’”

Then, briefly, he added, earning chuckles from his audience, “I didn’t say I was not normal.”

▪ Who says men don’t cry? That was Russell Wilson bawling Sunday after the Seattle Seahawks’ remarkable comeback victory in the NFC Championship over the Green Bay Packers, but in wees hours Monday morning, the hobbled Aaron Rodgers (calf) must have been crooning to the tune of “cry me a river.” His club was “within proximity,” he said, referring to a Super Bowl appearance, only to be duped by a fake field goal, doomed by a botched onside kick and victimized by two terrific throws by Wilson in overtime. The 49ers faithful surely hated it, but this was an easy game to appreciate.

▪ Speaking of the Seahawks, coach Pete Carroll is 63 years old – four months younger than George Karl, the ESPN analyst Kings management should have hired when it impetuously fired Michael Malone on Dec. 14.

Though the front office seriously considered pursuing Karl before deciding to promote assistant Tyrone Corbin, team officials hesitated for two ridiculous reasons: (1) the notion put forth by DeMarcus Cousins’ agent (Dan Fegan) that the center would clash with Karl, an experienced and accomplished former coach, most recently with Denver and Seattle; and (2) concerns that, at 63, and having twice overcome cancer, Karl wouldn’t have the energy and stamina to guide the franchise out of the gutter.

Well, as they say, film doesn’t lie. Neither do records. Anyone who doesn’t believe the innovative Karl wouldn’t immediately have improved the offense and late-game execution, generating points off turnovers caused by defensive pressure, hasn’t been watching very many games lately. And Cousins? He said he has never even met Karl.

▪ Watching Tommy Caldwell and Kevin Jorgeson free climb the Dawn Wall at El Capitan makes me queasy. Can’t wait to see Reese Witherspoon in “Wild,” author Cheryl Strayed’s solo trek along the Pacific Coast Trail. The book already causes shivers.

▪ Much to my surprise and delight, my neighborhood book store – Avid Reader – is prominently displaying Bob Ryan’s memoirs, “Scribe, My Life in Sports.” The Boston Globe columnist, who sort of retired last year yet still sort of writes for the newspaper and appears frequently on ESPN, is his generation’s authority on the NBA and Larry Bird in particular. Interestingly, while Ryan didn’t expect to receive much exposure on the West Coast, the owners at Avid Reader requested additional copies after receiving numerous requests.

Besides regaling readers with his encyclopedic recall of the memorable moments from the 1970s and well into the 1990s, Ryan entertains with insights and tales of Bird, Magic Johnson, Dave Cowens, Bill Walton, Red Auerbach and Chuck Daly, whom he famously dubbed “The Prince of Pessimism.” The best part of the book features his coverage of the original Dream Team’s trek to Barcelona and his almost prescient recognition of the NBA”s global reach.

Ryan was journalism’s original international scout and the most detailed chronicler of basketball’s rapidly shifting environment. He introduced the American newspaper audience to Drazen Petrovic, Vlade Divac, Sarunas Marciulionis, Alexander Gomelsky, among others, long before his peers.

Call The Bee’s Ailene Voisin, (916) 321-1208.

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