The Marino Chronicles...

Journalists often refer to the phrase "cutting their teeth," in talking about the media outlet where they did some of their early writing. For me, that was the Sarasota Herald-Tribune in Sarasota, Florida, the town next to my hometown of Bradenton. Only, not only did I "cut my teeth" at the H-T, I liked working there so much, I stuck around for almost nine years. These are just a few of my favorite pieces...

To find more of my stories, visit the Herald-Tribune Web site, www.newscoast.com.

Sarasota Herald-Tribune (FL)

SCHOOL'S OUT FOR VISITING NBA PLAYER LAKERS' KOBE BRYANT TRASHES COMPETITION AT MANATEE COMMUNITY COLLEGE.

June 21, 1997

Section: SPORTS

Page: 1C

By Rob Marino

CORRESPONDENT

Jermaine Phillips stood his ground, but his opponent proved to be too tough an assignment.

One crossover dribble and a fadeaway jumper later, the opponent proudly yelled to no one in particular: ``It's barbershop game! Next!''

Carlos Hawkins is next in line and actually gives the opponent a game for a while, then starts to get a little too confident.

``You might be in trouble,'' says Hawkins to the opponent.

``You crazy?'' is the answer. A reverse layup and a couple of sweet post moves later and Hawkins is the one in trouble.

The opponent has won again. ``You can write that down,'' the opponent says to a courtside visitor he notices with a pen and paper.

``Any questions? School's out!''

Phillips and Hawkins, both upcoming sophomores for Manatee Community College's men's basketball team, didn't win a game but it's also a fairly safe bet that neither will soon face the type of competition they did Friday afternoon at MCC's Hal Chasey Gym.

The trash-talking opponent was Kobe Bryant, the star rookie for the Los Angeles Lakers who could claim one disadvantage to Phillips and Hawkins: He was a year younger than each. The two MCC sophomores-to-be are 19.

Bryant, 18, was drafted out of high school last year by the Charlotte Hornets, then traded to the Lakers. He has been in the area for the past week, working out and playing in daily pickup games at MCC with several current Lancers. He leaves Sunday to head back to L.A.

``This is an area I can come in, relax and lay low. My phone's not ringing off the hook,'' said Bryant, who had Sarasota-Bradenton suggested to him by an Adidas official.

Adidas also sponsors several of the sports academies at the nearby Bollettieri Academy, where Bryant also worked out this week.

``He's just a player, I wasn't all excited about it,'' said Phillips, who also went out several times at night with Bryant, in addition to the daily scrimmages. ``He's a cool cat, real nice and just laid back.''

``A man among boys,'' is how MCC coach Chip Sines described the workouts. ``You can see why (Bryant) is at the next level. But, I think my guys have learned a lot working with him.''

Imagine not even being old enough to drink and already having Shaquille O'Neal as a teammate. Guarding Michael Jordan. Doing a commercial with Kareem Abdul-Jabbar.

One year out of high school, Bryant has lived his fantasy.

``It was beautiful,'' he said. ``I look forward to going through it again next year: eighty-two games of ultimate competitiveness and going against guys you see on television. You can't beat that. Even the negative times were fun.''

Bryant, a 6-foot-6 swingman, played three different positions for the Lakers and played important minutes in the playoffs.

He was selected 13th overall in last year's NBA draft and was the first of two players chosen out of high school.

Bryant has already offered advice to Tracy McGrady, a North Carolina high school star, as well as Villanova freshman Tim Thomas, who are each expected to be among the first 10 choices on Wednesday.

``It's an individual choice if you feel you're ready to make that jump,'' said Bryant. ``You have to have a high level of confidence and a hard work ethic.

``Money was never an object with me. I had money. I was fortunate to have a father (Ralph) who played professional basketball. (But) in some cases, you have to support your family, you might not have the financial background (Bryant did).''

Bryant's views on other NBA-related topics:

On Michael Jordan:

``I'm just as competitive as any other player in the league. When I went against Michael, all that `Airness' and stuff went out the window. Once you go out and think about that, he has you. You learn as much as you can, whether it's Michael, (Charles) Barkley, (Gary) Payton.''

On Shaq:

``Shaq is Shaq; that's my older brother. I was able to learn from him how he deals with a lot of the pressures and the media. Trying to go out there and rise to a level people set so high for him. Shaq is just a human being who enjoys what he's doing and loves his family.

``If he wants to rap, go ahead and rap. If he wants to make movies, go ahead and make movies. He's young. You can't knock him for doing something he wants to do. If somebody wants to follow their dreams, go ahead and do it.''

On the rift between Lakers guard Nick Van Exel and coach Del Harris:

``We as a team used that as an excuse maybe because we didn't play hard. We just have to forget about that and get ready for next year.''

On the future of the Lakers:

``From a team standpoint, that's where I'm looking to improve the most: How many rings can I get on my fingers?''

Sarasota Herald-Tribune (FL)

HOME ISN'T SO SWEET FOR MIAMI

September 14, 1997

Section: SPORTS

Page: 1C

By Rob Marino

CORRESPONDENT

MIAMI -- So, now we know Bruce Snyder's secret. A year ago, the Arizona State coach had yellow T-shirts designed with the words `One At A Time' across the front.

It was a simple message, but proved to be a powerful motivator for the Sun Devils, who finished the regular season unbeaten, including a win over then-No. 1 Nebraska, before losing a chance at their first national championship with a loss to Ohio State in the Rose Bowl. Snyder had a hunch those shirts might come in handy this year, especially after losing 12 starters, including gutty quarterback Jake Plummer, so he had another batch made up this season.

One at a time, indeed.

On Miami's 400th game in the Orange Bowl Saturday afternoon, the Sun Devils silenced a small crowd of 42,219 for most of the day before knocking off the 12th-ranked Hurricanes 23-12.

Running backs J.R. Redmond and Mike Martin each rushed for more than 100 yards, including Redmond's game-clinching touchdown for the 23-12 lead with under four minutes remaining, as the Sun Devils totaled 471 yards of offense.

``It's really just one game, but boy is it a big one,'' said Snyder. ``We had an unknown team. We weren't sure how we were going to respond in a hostile environment. It doesn't get any worse than it is here, in terms of the mystique of the Orange Bowl.''

Lately, that mystique has taken a beating. While the Hurricanes lost their home opener for the first time since 1985, they've now lost six games in the Orange Bowl since Washington snapped Miami's NCAA-record 58-game home winning streak in 1994.

On top of that, UM has won only one of its last four home games, and in all four of those defeats, the 'Canes haven't come within two touchdowns of their opponent.

``To beat a good team, you have to capitalize on opportunities, and we didn't do that,'' said Miami coach Butch Davis, now 9-4 at home since taking over in 1995.

ASU's Vince Amey and Randy Leaphart were even brazen enough afterwards to trash-talk with Miami fans in the end zone following a brief sideline celebration with the small contingent of ASU fans in the Orange Bowl.

``I think it was in the back of (Arizona State's) minds,'' said Miami tailback Dyral McMillan, a Southeast High graduate, who rushed for a team-high 54 yards but reinjured a shoulder he had separated. ``When they see other teams beat us here, it gives them a boost of confidence.''

``I'm not going to say they lost their mystique,'' said ASU quarterback Ryan Kealy. ``This is a great place to play in, and we were fortunate to come out with a victory.''

``To come in here and be as courageous . . . I think that's the single adjective I can think of for my team,'' said Snyder. ``We weren't particularly smart. We set a world record for penalties, we turned the ball over, but we really showed a lot of courage when things didn't look good.''

ASU was penalized 14 times for 95 yards and committed a fourth-quarter fumble that resulted in Miami's only touchdown. But the Sun Devils were able to continually run the ball - totaling 232 yards on the ground - and then Kealy pulled out one play after another.

In only his second start, Kealy completed 18 of 26 passes for 239 yards with one touchdown and one interception.

``Ryan is a cool customer,'' said Snyder. ``In his interviews, he's that cool, then he gets back in the pocket and he acts the same way. I thought he was composed the whole time. He was like a lot of guys on our team; he grew up (Saturday).''

The Hurricanes never led, but made things interesting in the fourth quarter, just when it appeared they were about to be buried.

Already ahead 16-6, Arizona State reached Miami's 15-yard line when Martin fumbled, and UM cornerback Nick Ward scooped up the loose ball and returned it 85 yards for a touchdown with 8:23 left. The extra point, however, was blocked by ASU's Quincy Yancy, which left the Hurricanes down 16-12.

Any hopes for a UM comeback disappeared on the second play following the fumble return when Kealy found wide receiver Kenny Mitchell for a 40-yard gain on a slant across the middle down to the UM 35. Seven runs and an incomplete pass later, Redmond scored on a 1-yard dive up the middle for a 23-12 lead.