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The Poise of a Sagehen

Bill Plaschke of the Los Angeles Times wrote an article about Gregg Popovich a couple of years ago that was reprinted in the Pomona College magazine. Great stuff about the big-time coach with the small-time roots:

To the rest of the world, Gregg Popovich is the white-haired Red, the fox in the Zenhouse, the guy who has quietly become the NBA's best coach, of its best team. To the guys at Pomona-Pitzer, he was a coach who lived in a dorm and worked out of a converted storage closet and drove the school van and directed ... intramurals?

"You watch him on TV today and you can't believe it," said Dignan, a former player. "This is Poppo, the guy who was once in charge of inner-tube water polo."

It is strange, surprising, perhaps the most unlikely story of these NBA Finals, this coach of the San Antonio Spurs having spent eight seasons on the rickety bench of the Division III Pomona-Pitzer Sagehens.

Some background on how the team came to be called the Sagehens.

And, wow, check this out. Mark Kendall tells us about the bird itself on Pomona's website:

The Sagehen is plump, prefers walking to flying and often is likened to the chicken. But our beloved mascot, known to ornithologists as the sage grouse, has still managed to garner quite a reputation for its colorful sex life.

The bird’s mating ritual unfolds in spring when the males gather at breeding grounds known as leks. The sage cocks strut, fight for position and fan their tail feathers in a scene that leaves observers straining for adjectives and analogies. The most impressive move is when male birds swish their wings and puff up the large air sacs that hang on their chests. The swelling sacs create an unusual noise that draws descriptions ranging from something akin to the sound of water dripping in a cave to “loud gurgling pops reminiscent of whales burping underwater,” as a Los Angeles Times article put it. “I can’t even begin to describe it,” says conservationist Mark Salvo. “It’s just kooky.” Kooky the ritual may be, but this elaborate performance inevitably attracts the females—and the festivities, beginning before sunrise each day, carry on for weeks.

If you're going to be a chicken, that's the kind of chicken to be.