By Gregg Hoffmann Special to Published Jun 30, 2005 at 5:08 AM

{image1}The NBA has changed, but there still is no better way to build a winner than to start with a talented big man. The Bucks got that man in No. 1 draft pick Andrew Bogut. Now it's up to GM Larry Harris to build around him.

Harris has lacked consistency, and a clear vision for the direction of the Bucks. In late May, he insisted Terry Porter was his man as head coach. Then, he fired Porter six weeks later.

But, Harris made a good decision in taking Bogut, the 7-foot Croatian/Australian who played at Utah and earned ESPN and Basketball Times NCAA Player of the Year honors as a sophomore.

Of course, even the most talented rookies seldom step into the NBA and immediately become superstars. Bogut still is a babe at 20, but he has the overall offensive and defensive skills, and team-orientation, to provide a solid anchor in the not-too-distant future. It also seems like Milwaukee will suit Bogut just fine.

"I know there's a lot of beer and cheese there, and that suits me," said Bogut, who has earned a reputation for being outspoken and unpretentious. "It's exciting to get it (the draft) over with. It's been a very long process."

The next step has to be bringing in a coach who is up to the task of developing Bogut and surrounding him with role players. Flip Saunders, the former Timberwolves and La Crosse CBA coach, is reported to be a leading candidate. In fact, many believe Harris flip-flopped on Porter's status because Saunders informed the Bucks he was interested in the job.

Some reports have Saunders wanting too much money. Bucks owner Herb Kohl paid George Karl around $8 million, and doesn't want to write out big checks again unless he gets a major bang for the buck. Other reports have Saunders more interested in the Detroit Pistons' job if Larry Brown's health prevents him from remaining coach there.

Harris needs to take care of the coaching position ASAP. If he goes weeks without naming somebody, it will just further make the Bucks look like they are directionless.

The Bucks already have some role players to put around Bogut. Michael Redd is a scorer, and Harris will want to aggressively try to keep him from going elsewhere as a free agent. Desmond Mason and Joe Smith have skills.

Harris already made initial offers to Dan Gadzuric and Zaza Pachulia, two big men who could complement Bogut. T.J. Ford, who spent most of the last two seasons recovering from a spinal injury, was cleared to start workouts. The Bucks also have quite a bit of room under the salary cap. NBA teams can start to negotiate with free agents this Friday, but not sign them until July 22.

So, all eyes should be on Harris. He has a great opportunity to start the Bucks on a clear direction toward winning, and to demonstrate more consistency.

"With Andrew, we feel he is a guy who can step in and make a contribution right away," Harris said at the draft. "We have good news about T.J. Ford. Obviously, free agency is going to be very big for us. We want to make every effort to re-sign Michael Redd and see who else might be out there. With the quality and competitiveness that Andrew brings, we feel we are solid at center."

July Sports Buzz

Baseball and the other summer sports continue in July, but big golf and cycling events, and the opening of Packers' camp, add buzz.

The U.S. Bank Championship will be played at Brown Deer July 18-24. Perhaps the biggest name associated with the tournament is the Packers' Brett Favre, who will play in the July 18 Pro-Am and the July 19 Celebrity Shootout.

Tournament director Dan Croak said, "The U.S. Bank Championship has featured sports heroes from Wisconsin as part of its early week festivities many times in the past but having Brett participate in our Monday and Tuesday events presents a special opportunity for our fans and sponsors.

"Having one of the NFL's all-time greats with us during the start of tournament week should be a truly memorable experience for everyone."

It's an old story that many of the top money leaders don't play in the Milwaukee tournament, but you still can see topnotch golf. Defending champion Carlos Franco will lead this year's field.

The 36th International Cycling Classic comes to Wisconsin and Northern Illinois July 8-24, including the SuperWeek competition. Bikers from the U.S., Europe, South America and Australia compete in this 17-day event for $120,000 in prize money.

It's a tradition that the event concludes with the races on Downer Avenue and Whitefish Bay. Those races are scheduled for July 23 and 24 respectively.

Cyclist Harm Jansen, known as the Flying Dutchman, praised the SuperWeek. "The team really loves it, and you can see the crowds are getting bigger," he said. "Same with the bike riders, once they discover Superweek, I think it's one of the greatest races they have here in the U.S. by far."

The Packers start training camp this month. Rookies start practice July 26 with the veterans starting a few days later.

A Family Night will be held Aug.5. The Packers' first pre-season game is Aug. 11. After he's done playing golf, Favre will return for his 14th season, 13th with the Packers.

While the golf, cycling and NFL football add buzz to July, summer sports continue. The Packers aren't the only ones strapping it on for football. The Milwaukee Marauders and Racine Raiders will continue their schedule in the North American Football League, a good semi-pro league. The two teams meet Aug. 6 in an intra-state showdown.

The Milwaukee Momentum women's football team has concluded its schedule, but you can catch some Aussie Rules football on July 16 when the Bombers host St. Louis.

Baseball continues, with the Brewers playing 14 games at Miller Park in July. A highlight will be the first visit of the Washington Nationals, by that team name, July 14-17.

Wave United continues its soccer schedule with games at Uihlein Soccer Park on July 8, 16 and 24. WU also will play for Milwaukee bragging rights July 31 when it meets the Bavarians U23 team.

Again, you can read more about these events, and others, in the Weekly Sports Buzz columns that appear on OMC on Thursdays.

The Name Game

Bill Hall has played his way into the Brewers lineup and had another great week to earn the Sports Buzz Player of the Week honor ... Ryan Braun, the Brewers' top draft pick, worked out with the team at Miller Park last weekend and then headed to Helena for rookie ball. "I'm very excited to be a Milwaukee Brewer. I think it's a good fit," said the University of Miami product, a third baseman in an organization that is short at that position ... Angel Rivillo had three assists and a goal, and Jim Larkin played flawless goal tending, as Wave United beat Polonia S.C., 6-0, in its home opener ... Before Tuesday's draft, the Bucks traded a future second round pick to Cleveland for guard Jiri Welsch.

Beyond Milwaukee Sports

The Shake 'n Bake track team received the Badger State Games Athletes of the Year honors after excelling in competition for 15 years. The team includes founder Greg Miller, former UW-Whitewater runners Bob Zahn and Tom Rewolinski and former UW-La Crosse athlete and South Milwaukee coach Stan Druckery ... Charlie Delsman won the Wisconsin Public Links Ray Fischer tournament in Janesville with a 17-under par 271.

Hot Tix

To narrow the July events down to this coming weekend, the Brewers host the Pirates at Miller Park at 7:05 p.m. Friday, 6:05 p.m. Saturday and 1:05 p.m. Sunday.

In the NAFL, the Raiders host the Northeast Missouri Cyclones at 7 p.m. Saturday at Horlick Field. The Marauders have a bye.

Gregg Hoffmann Special to
Gregg Hoffmann is a veteran journalist, author and publisher of Midwest Diamond Report and Old School Collectibles Web sites. Hoffmann, a retired senior lecturer in journalism at UWM, writes The State Sports Buzz and Beyond Milwaukee on a monthly basis for OMC.