From the Page 2 mailbag

The season for year-end lists isn't over yet.

OUR TOP 10
Here's how Page 2 editors ranked the best moves of 2001:

1. Mariners sign Ichiro Suzuki and free agent Bret Boone
2. Patriots coach Bill Belichick sticks with Tom Brady after Drew Bledsoe returns from injury
3. Nets acquire Jason Kidd for Stephon Marbury
4. Avalanche obtain All-Star Rob Blake
5. New York Mets remake offense
6. Lakers coach Phil Jackson sticks it to Kobe Bryant for selfish play
7. Islanders obtain Michael Peca, Alexei Yashin and Chris Osgood
8. Steelers coach Bill Cowher sticks with Kordell Stewart
9. Bears offer coach Dick Jauron a contract extension
10. TNT turns over NBA pregame, halftime and postgame shows to Charles Barkley

After checking out Page 2's list of the top 10 best moves of 2001, nearly 500 readers sent in their choices. Examine their picks below and then vote in the poll at right to crown the No. 1 best move in sports of past 12 months.

1. Texas Tech hires Bob Knight (186 votes)
From a business standpoint, it was sheer brilliance. Already, Tech merchandise and ticket sales have increased exponentially. All but a handful of Tech's games are on TV this year, which is a major change.

And from a basketball standpoint, the contrast is even more remarkable. What was a disjointed, undisciplined squad has really started to gel, despite the majority of minutes coming from first-year players playing in a brand new system. As of the end of 2001, Tech had already eclipsed the previous season's win total.
Galen Clavio
West Lafayette, Ind.

The team already is 10-1 after a nine-win season in 2000-01, Knight has actually stressed respect for the team and the opposing team, Knight has led the charge in p.r. for the city and led the campaign in donations to the university library, he's been a hospitable speaker at city functions -- and I suppose what has been most fun for me personally is just being able to watch him coach and make decisions on the court.

I don't think anyone is ignorant of Bob Knight's past. And I don't think wins would overshadow those sorts of personal mistakes here in Lubbock. I really don't. But Bob Knight appears to be comfortable, happy, competitive and driven. Hiring him certainly has to rank with the smartest sports moves of 2001.
William
Lubbock, Texas

2. Seattle Mariners sign Ichiro and Bret Boone (19 votes)

Brett Boone
Oh, yeah, and that other Mariner, Bret Boone, had a decent year, too.

Ichirooooooooo!

With all the hype surrounding home run races over recent years and the ever-increasing biceps of modern-day sluggers, wasn't it refreshing to see the M's put together a record-breaking season behind a guy who my mom outweighs? Ichiro proved that fundamental hitting and fielding are still the most important characteristics of a modern baseball player (having an eye like a hawk and a cannon for an arm doesn't hurt, either). The fact he accomplished so much while having to put up with the most intense media coverage not found at a Madonna wedding and in a strange country with a new language only cements the deal.

This time last year, nobody on this side of the Pacific had heard of Ichiro. Now, thanks to the savvy M's front office, Ichiro is a household name and MLB is forever changed for the better.

Oh, yeah. Boone had a pretty good year, too.
Justin Stanley
Vancouver, Wash.

It might not have looked like a smart move early on; most Seattle fans were cursing the Mariners front office for "giving up" Alex Rodriguez (when they weren't cursing A-Rod for taking the cash and running and then having the moxie to say that it "wasn't about the money") and writing off the 2001 season before it even started.

And then all hell broke loose in Safeco Field -- 116 regular-season wins and a whole lot less shelled out in salaries later, the Mariners look pretty damn smart, and Texas is kicking themselves for spending all that dough on one player and neglecting their pitching staff.
Devon
Provo, Utah

3. New Jersey Nets acquire ultimate team player Jason Kidd for perpetual malcontent Stephon Marbury (17 votes)
Talk about one trade turning around a franchise. I have always been a Nets fan, and they obviously have had some talent with a few of their last draft picks, but looking past injuries, there was still a gap.

I thought Marbury would have been the answer to the gap, but he's a self-centered ball hog who just made all the players around him worse. Even though it was just a swap of All-Stars, you're talking about turning perennial losers, into a group of young hopefuls who are playing hard.

Because of Kidd, they actually touch the ball, and are able to develop their talent, and score points. Not to mention they feel good about themselves, and they actually are a winning team!
Aldrich Gamboa
Plainfield, N.J.

The smartest move of 2001 is the acquisition of Jason Kidd by the Nets (and one of the dumbest by the Suns, but that's another story). The guy is the best point guard in the NBA, one of the best ever, has great vision, gets everybody in the action (even Todd MacCulloch has become an All-Star these days) and he replaces the ever unhappy-and-complaining Murbury, who, although a good player, is a lousy teammate. Congrats for the Nets. Just as a sign of the rightfulness of the move, there are no real injuries to the team this year ... That's gotta tell you something.
Felipe J Junqueira
Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

4. L.A. Clippers acquire Elton Brand from Chicago Bulls for high school project Tyson Chandler (15 votes)

Elton Brand
Getting Elton Brand has helped erase some of the Clippers' past bad moves.

Maybe it seems better than it is because of all of the crappy moves that the Clippers have made in the past, but getting Elton Brand to lead their team of youngsters in return for a four- or five- year project was the best move of the year. It is especially great when you consider the problems that their first leader Lamar Odom has had this year.

The Clippers smart? Wow that's incredible!
Sam Wade
St Louis

I have to give the Clippers front office credit. I tried to incorporate some of their trading strategies into my everyday life by offering my brother my unrefined but spotless napkin for his rack of lamb at dinner the other night. Unfortunately, negotiations broke down when he wanted me to throw in the rights to my desert and I just wasn't willing to go that far. What can I say, I'm no Elgin Baylor.
Eric Hoffman
Cleveland

5. Jesse Ventura makes MLB commissioner Bud Selig look foolish at congressional hearing (12 votes)
Memo to Bud Selig:

You've just been outed as the jackass you are in front of Congress and the world by a former professional wrestler who admitted to soliciting prostitutes and wanted to make prostitution legal.

Take the honorable way out ... admit that you're an ineffective tool and exit stage left.

If I were a Minnesota voter, I would beg Jesse to run again solely for what he did to Selig. It's about time someone, anyone came out and nailed one of these jerks in public. The league's going broke, yet you allowed a team to pay one person more than that team's worth? And you want our sympathy? Please.

I'll think about feeling sorry for you after I pawn my wife's ring and dip into my children's college funds for a couple of tickets in the nose-bleeds and some hot dogs.
Brandon W. Mudd
St. Charles, Mo.

6.Pittsburgh Steelers coach Bill Cowher sticks with Kordell Stewart (11 votes)

Kordell Stewart
Few others would have shown the patience Bill Cowher had with Kordell Stewart.

From the days of Franco Harris to The Bus, the Steelers have never gotten anywhere meaningful without a reliable quarterback, and Cowher's stubborn refusal to give up on Stewart goes down as the smartest move by a Pittsburgh coach since Chuck Noll's stubborn refusal to give up on a guy named Terry Bradshaw.
Darrell Cochran
Alexandria, Va.

7. Islanders obtain Michael Peca and Alexei Yashin and pick up goalie Chris Osgood in waiver draft (10 votes)
This was a team that had the worst record in the NHL for years ... even with all the expansion teams around. Mike Milbury was a bad offseason away from getting fired and then he acquired a great scoring threat, a proven No. 1 goalie, and a born leader and captain in one offseason.

Just go to the Coliseum and you will see what it has meant to the fans and the franchise. God bless Charles Wang and his deep pockets. Bring back the glory of the early 1980s. Let's go, Islanders.
Jim Mayer
Rockville Centre, N.Y.

8. Rams bolster defense (eight votes)

Lovie Smith
Defensive coordinator Lovie Smith, center, has worked wonders with the Rams defense.

How can you possibly leave off the retooling of the St. Louis Rams defense? The defending Super Bowl champions were done in by one of the worst defenses in NFL history last season. So the Rams front office said goodbye to former Pro Bowlers Todd Lyght, Kevin Carter, D'marco Farr and Keith Lyle, as well as Mike Jones, Ray Agnew, Todd Collins, and Devin Bush.

Through an efficient 2001 draft (Tommy Polley, Adam Archuleta and Damoine Lewis), free-agent signing (Kim Herring, Tyoka Jackson and Chidi Ahanotu), in-house promotions (Brian Young and Jeff Zgonina) and a brilliant draft-day trade (Aeneas Williams), the 2001 Rams boast a top five defense and are favorites to win the Super Bowl.
Brian Lurk
Carbondale, Ill.

9. New England Patriots coach Bill Belichick sticks with Tom Brady after Drew Bledsoe returns from his injury (seven votes)
Your "addition of one (or more) players to team X" are sucker's picks. Teams are not buoyed by one or two or even three players ... it takes an entire mentality for a team to achieve. (Look at the Vikings' offense.) A team's personality is dictated by their coach.

So, for Bill Belichick to say -- not privately at the quarterbacks' film meeting, but at his weekly press conference -- that Tom Brady would start for the rest of the season turned out to be the best move of the year. You hardly ever hear a coach put his job on the line publicly ... but Belichick did. The result: It galvanized the team and their mentality the rest of the way.

The next thing you know, Bryan Cox is limping around on a broken leg, Terry Glenn crawled out of his cave to make some catches and suddenly the Patriots are "the team nobody wants to face in the playoffs." They are this year's New York Giants.
Ryan Sullivan
Brockton, Mass.

Ralph Friedgen
Ralph Friedgen is large and in charge of Maryland's resurgence.

10. Maryland hires football coach Ralph Friedgen (six votes)
All the man did was take a team that was 5-6 in 2000 and take them to 10-1 and a BCS Bowl Game in 2001. This after losing their one bona fide player to the NFL.

For evidence of what the Fridge meant to his team, look at his old team, Georgia Tech... a preseason slick pick to beat Florida State and be national champs; instead a lackluster 8-5 season and a disgraced ex-coach.

The only bad part of the hiring in 2001 of the Fridge is that it didn't happen five years ago when Debbie Yow picked Rod Vanderlinden.
Joseph Metz
Frederick, Md.