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Special night is in store for Ainge

He was simply the best ever.

When they retire the jersey of Danny Ainge tonight in the Marriott Center, it will be a one-of-a-kind moment for the Cougar basketball program and No. 22.

First of all is just the ceremony, retiring the jersey, not the number.

Never happened before.

The night will be a clash between BYU and Colorado State, a regular season finale with a share of the Mountain West Conference championship at stake.

It will also be senior night with only one to honor — energetic Travis Hansen.

The guest list for the Ainge affair will include former head coach Roger Reid and his family. It will mark the first time Reid has been to a Cougar game since he was fired Dec. 17, 1996. Reid's winning percentage remains the best in BYU history. Reid was an assistant under Frank Arnold in the Ainge era, and Arnold will also be present.

Teammates who played with Ainge are expected to be present as well as Ainge's father, Don, brothers Doug and David, and sister Laurie. His wife, Michelle, will be present with offspring Ashlee, Austin, Cooper, Crew and Taylor. Second son Tanner is on a mission.

For the veteran NBA player and TV analyst, whose path has taken him from college player of the year to Major League Baseball to delivering passes to the likes of Larry Bird and Kevin McHale to coaching the Phoenix Suns, tonight may prove to be the most emotional moment for Ainge as a seasoned sports figure.

In all his travels, Ainge will likely never have this much connectivity in his life.

MWC FUN: League communications specialist Bob Burda reports the tournament in Las Vegas has never sold this many tickets. "We're a month ahead of sales. The lower bowl seats in the Thomas & Mack are sold out, and only single-game upper-bowl seats are available. For the first time ever, every school has sold its allotment of tickets." Sounds like a big success even before tipoff. Now, next year, it's a gamble as the party is moved to Denver. Argggh.

GETTING DRILLED: On St. Patrick's Day, crews will hoist a giant girder nearly a hundred feet high with an expanse of 175 feet from side to side as part of the indoor football practice facility. To temporarily support the steel rainbow, specialists will take a 3-inch diameter screw and drill it at an angle 45 feet into the ground. I couldn't find one of those in the fastener bins at Lowes.

SEAT PITCH: Remember the tear-down plan of east-side bleachers in LaVell Edwards Stadium to provide chair seats for the rich and famous? The project is supposed to bring in $1 million a year? Well, according to senior associate AD Peter Pilling, about 450 of the 1,000 new seats have been spoken for. This is $390,000 in revenue since the announcement Feb. 6. Sales are averaging 15 seats per day. At this rate, the million bucks will be deposited in 36 days, on April 19.

HIS SUN: It was more than legend that for nearly 30 years in the LaVell Edwards era, LaVell had uncanny luck at holding weather at bay for practices, especially in spring. Gary Crowton, however, had the year's two biggest snowstorms in his first three practices this month. Said Crowton: "This week we had one day at 44 degrees with sun and I figured I was gaining ground."

MIXED NUTS: Cougar Linebacker Levi Madarieta on BYUCougars.com on what teammate he wished he were more like: "Brady Poppinga. If I could be like Brady, I would have a few more loose screws. Actually, Brady is a great person. When he is on the football field, he's absolutely nuts. I want to be more like that, or at least more often."

Spanish or cashew?


E-MAIL: dharmon@desnews.com