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Tom Jones, Times Sports Columnist

Tom Jones

Tom Jones writes columns and television/radio commentary for the Tampa Bay Times' Sports section. He has covered everything from high schools to colleges to professional sports since starting with the St. Petersburg Evening Independent in 1986. After the Independent, Tom worked at the Times (1987-91), the Tampa Tribune (1991-96), the Times again (1996-2000), the Minneapolis Star-Tribune (2000-03) and returned for his third stint at the Times in 2003. Though he has covered all sports, Tom is a hockey writer at heart. He covered the Tampa Bay Lightning from its first game in 1992 until moving to Minnesota to cover the Wild for three years. He returned to the Times again to cover the Lightning until taking over as writer and editor for Page Two in 2006. He lists Herb Brooks, Lou Piniella and Wayne Gretzky as the most interesting personalities he has covered and the 2002 Winter Olympics as the best event he has covered. Tom co-hosts a sports talk show weekday mornings from 6-9 on WDAE 620-AM, 95.3-FM. He previously hosted a weekly sports roundtable show on Bright House Sports Network.

Phone: (727) 893-8544

Email: tjones@tampabay.com

Radio talk show (620-AM, 95.3-FM): Listen live

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  1. Jones: For Buffalo Sabres, it's just lose, baby

    Lightning Strikes

    The crowd went nuts Thursday night when Sam Gagner scored in overtime to give the Arizona Coyotes a victory over the Buffalo Sabres. What was unusual about that? The game was in Buffalo.

    Sabres fans cheered the fact that the Sabres lost, meaning Buffalo's odds of winning the draft lottery improved. The Sabres are last in the NHL in points and Arizona's victory Thursday moved the Coyotes six points ahead of Buffalo. Connor McDavid, a center for Erie of the Ontario Hockey League, is expected to be the top pick....

  2. Jones: Area needs to step up Rays' support

    The Heater

    New Major League Baseball commissioner Rob Manfred visited the Rays last week and also turned up on WDAE 620-AM. While discussing the Rays future in Tampa Bay, Manfred said the usual yada-yada about the team needing support from local government, corporate sponsors and the fans.

    The area is 0-for-3. The city of St. Petersburg plods along, really coming up with no solutions so far in dealing with the Rays request to explore stadium locations in Tampa. The area seems to lack the number of rich corporate sponsors that most baseball teams need to thrive. And, as far as the fans, let's face it, not enough people go to the games....

    The Rays drew an average of 17,857 fans per games last season, worst in the majors for the third consecutive year. The 2010 season was the last time the Rays were not in the bottom five in the league in attendance. [JAMES BORCHUCK | Times (2013)]
  3. Kentucky plays perfect NCAA villain role

    College

    All the best stories have a villain. • Darth Vader. Hannibal Lecter. The Joker. • Same with sports. It's more fun — and, when you think about it, often more emotional — when you root against one team rather than root for another. • Everyone loves to root against somebody — the Yankees, the Cowboys, Notre Dame, whomever. • And that brings us to the NCAA men's basketball tournament, which resumes tonight with 16 teams left playing for the title. • Normally there is no program more loathed, more despised, more hated than Duke — that goody-two shoes program run by the most loathed, despised and hated coach in the land in Mike Krzyzewski. And if these were normal circumstances, most college hoops fans would be pulling out their voodoo dolls and whipping up their whammy curses to make sure Coach K and Duke limped back to Tobacco Road well short of a national championship. • Not this year. This year is anything but normal. This year, fans have another target, another team and another coach to detest: • Kentucky and coach John Calipari....

    Kentucky’s John Calipari might be the most polarizing figure in college basketball, primarily due to winning with so many one-and-dones at UK and his run-ins with the NCAA at two previous coaching stops.
  4. Jones: Celebrating Phil Esposito's greatness

    Lightning Strikes

    Last week the Panthers' Jaromir Jagr scored his 718th goal to move past Lightning founder Phil Esposito for fifth on the NHL's all-time list. It's too bad Esposito has fallen out of the top five, though the guess is Espo won't think it's that big of a deal. But it's moments like this when we have to remind ourselves just how much of a beast Esposito was as a player. In these parts, we think of Esposito starting the Lightning and now being a fun analyst on Lightning game broadcasts on the radio. We think of that big smile, his hilarious stories and the way he is so approachable....

    BOSTON, MA - 1970's: Phil Esposito #7 of the Boston Bruins carries the puck. (Photo by Steve Babineau/NHLI via Getty Images)
  5. Media notes and 3 things that popped into Tom Jones' head

    Lightning Strikes

    Media notes

    • For the first time, ESPN was the nation's most-watched cable network in prime time, averaging 2.3 million viewers for 2014. The USA network was the most watched for the previous nine years.

    • Most nationally televised NHL playoff games this spring will air on NBC and the NBC Sports Network, but look for a few to end up on USA.

    • Starting Monday, Highly Questionable, the show hosted by Dan Le Batard; his dad, Gonzalo, and Bomani Jones, shifts from ESPN2 to ESPN. It will air at 4:30 p.m....

  6. Jones: Who says Kentucky could beat NBA team? Oh, well, maybe

    Sports

    It always seems ridiculous to suggest that a college team could beat a pro team in any sport. You could take the very worst team in any pro sport and have them go up against the best college team ever and the pro team, I always believed, would absolutely destroy the college team.

    But last week, SMU coach Larry Brown not only suggested that this year's Kentucky basketball team could win a game against an NBA team, but win a lot of games against a lot of NBA teams....

    LOUISVILLE, KY - MARCH 19: Willie Cauley-Stein #15 of the Kentucky Wildcats goes up for a shot against Quinton Chievous #3 of the Hampton Pirates during the second round of the 2015 NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament at the KFC YUM! Center on March 19, 2015 in Louisville, Kentucky.  (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images) 527065557
  7. Jones: Orestes Destrade still is having a ball

    The Heater

    Former big-leaguer Orestes Destrade, now a Rays pre- and post-game analyst on Sun Sports, is known for holding a baseball while on camera. When he started doing this in 2012, I wrote an item in the Tampa Bay Times calling it "annoying'' and "distracting.''

    Well, Destrade told me last week that he had no plans on making it his "thing'' but changed his mind when he saw the item in the Times. Then he decided to do it all the time....

  8. Jones: Syracuse's Jim Boeheim should step down

    College

    Syracuse basketball coach Jim Boeheim, whose program is in trouble with the NCAA for various violations, says he might stay on for another three seasons. What an awful idea. Boeheim built the Syracuse program. He is Syracuse basketball, and you can understand that he wants to go out under his own terms. But if he truly cares about the program, he needs to step down. Right now.

    How in the world is he going to recruit when everyone knows there's a ticking clock on his career? Hanging on as a lame-duck coach can only send the program into a spiral....

    Syracuse university officials say coach Jim Boeheim will retire in three years and athletic director Daryl Gross has resigned following punishment from the NCAA for violations that lasted more than a decade. [AP photo]
  9. Jones: Jameis Winston needs to go to the NFL draft

    Bucs

    It's very difficult to believe that the NFL is cool with FSU quarterback Jameis Winston not going to the draft next month. Reports are that Winston might stay at home in Alabama so he can celebrate likely being the No. 1 overall pick by the Bucs on April 30 with family and friends.

    The NFL is now farming out the draft to various cities to drum up even more interest in it. This year's is in Chicago. So you have one of the league's marquee events in a new venue and the NFL doesn't mind that the featured star of opening night is not going to be on hand for the biggest moment?...

    Florida State quarterback Jameis Winston (5) smiles before the start of an NCAA college football game against Miami, in Tallahassee, Fla. Winston envisioned winning the Heisman Trophy before signing with the top-ranked Seminoles. He is one of six finalists for the award and will find out Saturday if his dream comes true. (AP Photo/Phil Sears, File) NY159
  10. Tom Jones: It's not college basketball we love; it's March Madness

    College

    An estimated 40 million people filled out an NCAA Tournament bracket this week. But there aren't 40 million people watching college basketball games every week. Heck, only 4.2 million watched a recent game between Duke and North Carolina, typically one of the great showdowns and most-viewed games of the season.

    Which leads me to this conclusion: It's not college basketball that we love. It's March Madness. We love the NCAA Tournament....

    Associated Press (1976)
  11. Three big reasons the Lightning's primed for postseason

    Lightning Strikes

    The Lightning's dominance of division rival — and potential playoff foe — Montreal continued Monday night and there were three sequences that cemented Tampa Bay's 4-2 victory.

    First period: Steven Stamkos, off the dumbest yet prettiest pass you'll ever see from Montreal's Max Pacioretty, cranked a wicked slap shot past MVP-candidate goalie Carey Price to give the Lightning a 2-0 lead....

    TAMPA, FL - MARCH 5: Steven Stamkos #91 of the Tampa Bay Lightning against of the Toronto Maple Leafs during the third period at the Amalie Arena on March 5, 2015 in Tampa, Florida.  (Photo by Scott Audette/NHLI via Getty Images)
  12. Jordan Spieth's No. 1 dream isn't crazy

    Golf

    PALM HARBOR — He graduated in 2011. High school, that is.

    So, yeah, he's really just a kid, a mere 21 years old. And most 21-year-olds have no idea what they want to be when they grow up.

    But Jordan Spieth knows. He wants to the best golfer in the world. Better than Tiger. Better than Phil. Better than Rory.

    Better than everyone.

    It's not the crazy dream of some foolish kid who doesn't realize how hard that is. When you watch Spieth do the things he did Sunday at the Valspar Championship, you start to think he's well on his way to fulfilling it....

    PALM HARBOR, FL - MARCH 15:  Jordan Spieth hits off the 18th tee during the final round of the Valspar Championship at Innisbrook Resort Copperhead Course on March 15, 2015 in Palm Harbor, Florida.  (Photo by Sam Greenwood/Getty Images) 527751469
  13. Jones: Hate Christian Laettner? ESPN explores why

    College

    Be sure to check out ESPN's newest 30 for 30 documentary, I Hate Christian Laettner. Debuting at 9 Sunday night, it is a look at one of the most hated players from one of the nation's most hated college programs, Duke. Directed by Rory Karpf, the film is a fun walk down memory lane through Laettner's time with the iconic Duke teams of the early 1990s. But it also does a nice job looking into the psychology of why fans hated Laettner and Duke....

    Orlando Antigua's trying to incorporate higher-percentage shots into a higher tempo. [JAMES BORCHUCK | Times]
  14. Jones: How Judge Judy stacks up against sports stars and media notes

    Ml

    Who is the baddest (in a scary way) person on the planet? Hands down, it's Judge Judith Sheindlin, better known as Judge Judy.

    I bring her up because she just signed a contract extension with CBS Syndicated. It's believed the deal is for $188 million, which averages out to about $47 million per year. The web site, Sports Grid, figured that makes her better paid than Dodgers pitcher Clayton Kershaw ($30.7 million per year), Nats pitcher Max Scherzer ($30 million), soccer star Wayne Rooney ($26 million) and new Cubs ace Jon Lester ($25 million)....

    Episodic coverage of Judge Judy for the CBS special. Judge Judy Sheindlin's tough but fair approach to justice will be on display in a primetime one-hour special  that will feature excerpts from the 1993 60 minutes profile that led to Judge Sheindlin being discovered by Hollywood, on JUDGE JUDY PRIMETIME, Tuesday, May 20 (8:00 PM-9:00 PM, ET/PT) on the CBS Television Network  Photo: Sonja Flemming/CBS √?¬©2014 CBS Broadcasting, Inc. All Rights Reserved
  15. Jones: Fox brings Pam Oliver back

    Bucs

    Lots of controversy last year at Fox when NFL reporter Pam Oliver was taken off the No. 1 announcing crew and put on the No. 2 announcing team. Erin Andrews was put with the top crew and there were allegations that Oliver was demoted because of her age (she is now 54) or because of looks — that Fox wanted what it might have perceived as a more attractive Andrews on the No. 1 announcing team. I thought those claims were unfair. Maybe the real issue was Oliver's work didn't warrant her being on the top announcing team....

    Sportscaster Pam Oliver stands on the sidelines during the second half of an NFL football game between the Dallas Cowboys and Tampa Bay Buccaneers in Arlington, Texas. Fox Sports said Pam Oliver was being "elevated" to senior correspondent and Erin Andrews will take her place as the sideline reporter for the network's top NFL announcing team, Monday, July 14, 2014. (AP Photo/LM Otero) NYPS312