Archive for the ‘dealing with adversity’ Category

When What I Didn’t Know Mattered

Friday, August 12th, 2016

Anyone who has visited this blog space most likely knows I wrote a book of funny stories about college basketball recruiting, family and life in general (Life’s A Joke). The story behind it dates back to the NCAA change in off campus recruiting rules. When I first got into college coaching, evaluating recruits meant going to watch them play in person (except for guys who had “bird dogs,” i.e. friends whose opinions they could rely on). Recruiting consisted of going to a prospect’s games (or practices) and watching him play. This method, obviously, was quite costly because seldom did a coach get to see more than one prospect at a time. In fact, I recall as a graduate assistant at the University of Oregon (GAs were allowed to recruit off campus back then), going on a recruiting trip to the East Coast during which I saw 21 prospects play in 19 days.

Several problems existed with those rules, however. First of all, it was unfair to schools in rural areas, e.g. the Universities of Wyoming and Maine couldn’t see nearly as many as their state university counterparts UCLA or Ohio State. Secondly, it was incredibly expensive to see, in most cases, one prospect each trip. There had to be a better, more frugal, more equitable way to evaluate young players who were going to be offered a full grant-in-aid (scholarship). The NCAA decided to allow summer events, made up of all-star or select teams, most under the AAU umbrella. This allowed a multitude of prospects to be see at one time at one venue. This morphed into mega events in places like Las Vegas, in which three or four showcases (usually sponsored by the shoe companies), featuring as many as 64 teams in each, to be played all at the same time. This was infinitely more fiscally responsible.

With nearly every school represented, often with more than one staff member in attendance, it became a mini-coaches convention. After the evening games concluded, groups of coaches would get together and go out for a late night dinner and beverage(s). Naturally, the talk would turn to story telling – how stupid the players were, how stupid the coaches were, etc. Inevitably, a coach would say, “We ought to write a book.”

When I joined Jerry Tarkanian’s staff, it was as director of basketball operations. Since my recruiting duties were restricted to on campus and telephone only, I had more time on my hands than ever before. I decided to write that book. At home one evening I took out a pad and jotted down notes that would remind me of a story. That first night I could only come up with 11. Eleven stories! I knew there were many more than that.

The next day (and all that followed), I would carry an index card with me and, whenever somebody would say something that would jog my memory, I’d write down some key words. Two-and-a-half years later, I had 265 stories and a book was conceived. Tomorrow’s post will reveal a humorous, as well as tragic, story about its actual coming to fruition. For now, allow me to skip ahead to what happened after it was published.

A close college friend of mine told me he knew a vice president of Barnes & Noble. Keep in mind this was 2001 and B&N was thriving. Even if this guy could get my book in Barnes & Nobles store in Fresno only, it would drastically increase sales. I’d experienced a few book signings at local restaurants and could visualize myself sitting at a table at B&N with a long line of patrons waiting to get a personalized, autographed copy.

My buddy got me the VP’s direct line and I immediately rang him up. After his secretary put me through, we exchanged some small talk before he got to the point. I had mentioned that I self-published (another story for another blog), as opposed to going through a publishing company. He said to me, an obvious novice, “You do have an ISBN number and a bar code, right?”

“Uh, excuse me?”

The VP ended our conversation by saying, “Do you know when you buy a book and, just before you pay for it, the cashier scans it and there’s a beep? That beep is the bar code.”

Needless to say, that was the first and last conversation I had with the Barnes & Noble Vice President. If there will ever be a sequel (and it is in the works):

“You can bet there will be an ISBN number and a bar code.”

A New Type of Ballot for the Coming Presidential Election

Wednesday, August 10th, 2016

When it comes to political discussions, it seems as though every time people say which candidate they’re backing, there’s somebody in the room who will question their sanity. Are you serious?” is the question they hear. “How can you be for him/her?” is the follow up.

Since I’m much more interested in people than politics, I enjoy listening to the answers much more than I do discussing my choice. Invariably, the answer and its justification – independent of which candidate they name – begins the exact same way. The first thing out of the person’s mouth, make it the first three things (after that, it’s obvious how they truly feel), is something negative about the opponent of whomever they mention as their choice.

If people say they’re for Donald Trump, there’s always someone in the room (assuming there are a minimum of four people in the room) who is incredulous anyone could vote for a guy who seems to only opens his mouth to change feet. Should those asked say Hillary Clinton is their choice (once again, assuming there are a minimum of four people in the room), there always is a person within earshot who will launch into how she has been less than truthful with the American public (putting it mildly). The reason for this is most likely because there are at least 25% of the people in the country who a) are fearful of what a Trump presidency would do or b) whose lives have gotten worse over the past eight years or, simply, who see the general mood in the country as less positive than is healthy – and attribute it to the Democrats.

Consider this statistic: The Libertarian candidate received 8% of the vote when people were polled – and almost no one knows who he is!

Here’s my proposal: have two ballots for every voter but only one is allowed to be submitted, depending on how strongly he or she feels about why that choice was selected. One ballot has the names Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump (and whoever else is running, as well as a place to write in a candidate). The person voting is to choose which candidate is their choice to be our next president.

The other ballot has only two names on it: Hillary & Donald. Except on this one, the voter chooses which candidate they do NOT want to see elected. From what I hear – and I’ve make it a point to listen carefully and not express an opinion (mainly because I don’t really have one), there are infinitely more people who fear a Trump presidency or loathe another four (probably eight) more years of what’s been going on (no matter how good the president is telling everybody things currently are).

I’ve never seen staunch party members at such odds with their candidate. Obviously, from the absence of so many influential party members at the Republican National Convention, it’s a natural assumption that there is unrest in that party. Similarly, not counting people who are prone to have an upbeat view of life (the number of whom are rapidly dwindling), the people who usually count themselves as Democrats aren’t as vocal for the former Secretary of State as they are appalled by Trump. Their comments are less and less about the virtues of Hillary Clinton than they are vitriolic toward the Republican nominee – possibly because there’s more of the latter than the former.

Donald Trump is seen as someone who will not only be at odds with someone who disagrees with him, but will attack that person. He says things that people wish they had the nerve to say – and gets away with it! But, in sensitive negotiations with foreign dignitaries, is that the guy you want? A guy who will call someone – who might have a finger on the red button – a derogatory, maybe even vulgar name? Or mock them for their beliefs?

Hillary Clinton is a far more polished politician than Trump. But isn’t that what the public is sick of and frustrated with? Too many politicians have been branded – and rightfully so – as lazy and entitled when it comes to performing their jobs, as well as having a propensity to lie and be immoral or unscrupulous.

While nobody can be certain of how an election like this would turn out, I’m confident that the greatest number of ballots would be the “against” version. Overwhelmingly so. I’ve lived 68 years, in nine different states and based on my observations of talking and listening to people, watching television (all outlets included), reading newspapers, magazines and, even, Facebook posts of friends (which can’t be anonymous) from all over the country, the one factor that rules is, unfortunately, hatred of a candidate.

While I truly believe many, many more people would vote against someone than for him or her, my biggest problem with this idea is . . . what do we do with the results? Maybe elect whichever candidate receives the most votes “for” or maybe elect whichever one receives the fewest “againsts.” One thing for certain, though, and that is that there is little doubt that this election has come down to one overriding question:

“Which candidate would you rather not have as your president?”

Art Linkletter Would Have Loved These MJ Campers

Tuesday, August 9th, 2016

My last installment of Michael Jordan Flight School blogs – for this year.

The infusion of Chinese campers (I had more Mandarin-only speaking campers in my league as I did English-only speakers) created some communication issues but also gave us some humorous moments as well (check yesterday’s post for one). We had translators this year for each league to help us with not only Mandarin-English but Mandarin-English basketball. Last year, when a coach explained a player should “hedge” on a screen (a basketball term for a move a defender makes to help his teammate who is getting screened), the Chinese interpreters could only liken what was told to something about shrubbery.

During one of this past year’s sessions, a coach told the interpreter to explain to a player on his team that he needed to guard the kid on the opposing team (another camper from China), the youngster told him he couldn’t. “Why not?” asked the incredulous coach?”

The interpreter posed the question to the camper who simply told him, “Because he’s my friend.”

One day during the first session, we had a 14-year-old Israeli from Tel Aviv. Knowing every Israeli citizen must enter the army, I asked him how old the kids were when they had to join. He looked at me with wide eyes and said, “18 – but if I’m good enough at basketball, I can play that in the army.”

Another United States influence we passed on to our foreign friends. After watching him play, the Israeli army will only have to worry about the size boots he’ll need – no need to order sneakers. But a boy can dream …

Finally, we had a young kid from Costa Rica. He had a ton of personality and was passionate about the game, although his skills weren’t on quite the same level as his personality and passion. He always had a great amount of drama going on in his life, most of it self-induced. He truly wanted to be a player and, when Michael told the campers in one of his “lectures” to them that there was a time he awoke at 4:00 am to work on his game, this young guy decided that was what he needed to do – until the next morning when his alarm went off at 4. That he wasn’t ready to function at such an early hour really disappointed him. I tried to calm his fears of never being able to become the next Michael Jordan by explaining that kids his age need to sleep and MJ was talking about adults who wanted to improve. It worked – briefly.

Each day he would ask a ton of questions and regaled us with stories from Costa Rica. (Note: Our younger son, Alex, was invited to play in Costa Rica last summer and we paid for his older brother, Andy, to accompany him. They both raved about what a beautiful country it was, so much so that Andy is making plans for a return visit). This young guy told us of the motto Costa Ricans have: Pura Vida. Apparently, it’s a catch-all greeting, similar to Hawaii’s “aloha” or Israel’s “shalom.” It means “pure life” but can also be used as a greeting.

One game, this little guy wasn’t playing too well, couldn’t get shots to drop and his team lost. At the next roll call, he looked down in the dumps. I said to him, “pura vida.”

He shook his head and said, “No.”

Then, his coach said to him, “Are you ready to play tonight?”

He looked up at him and said, “No, coach.”

The coach was shocked and said, “Why not?”

The camper gave an answer that will go down in camp history:

“I’m mentally destroyed.”

Talk about taking camp too seriously. I’m delighted to say, however, that he bounced back and left Santa Barbara a happy camper.

 

Camper Gets His Message Across Loud and Clear

Monday, August 8th, 2016

Continuing from yesterday’s blog on amusing stories from Michael Jordan Flight School. As I mentioned in yesterday’s post, there was an abundance of foreign campers, the majority from China. In our league (Big 12) we had one young boy, Chris, who was an extremely pleasant, friendly kid. He attended an international school in China. He spoke fluent English. In fact, one day, I heard a comment behind me in line. When I turned around to see who made it, I was shocked to see it was our bilingual 14-year-old. He had no accent. In addition, he was mature beyond his years.

During the second morning of fundamental instruction, one of the exercises was an elementary defensive drill called “zig zag.” The way we wanted our coaches to teach it was for the offensive player to start at the corner of the court (without a ball at first) and take three diagonal steps to the right, pivot and take three diagonal steps to the left, pivot and take three diagonal steps to the right . . . continuing this movement until the duo reached the opposite end of the court. The defensive player was to mirror the offensive man in front of him, staying in a low defensive stance. The first time down, we had the defender keep his hands behind his back, emphasizing stance and footwork. The drill progressed to where the defender was allowed to use hands. Then we added a ball for the offensive player to dribble while zig zagging.

A brief sidebar: Many of the foreign kids who attend camp do so as part of a tour package. I was told that one such package for the Chinese youngsters was for several weeks in the U.S. (including a stop at Disneyland). The basketball camp was only part (five days) of the trip. Therefore, it wasn’t uncommon for kids to have little to no interest in basketball, yet have their parents pay for the entire package. This puts us in a difficult position as each camper is guaranteed equal playing time for the two games/day, as each team’s roster is numbered and the rotations are based on groups of five.

One Chinese camper in our league not only had never played basketball, he had no idea what it was. He got by the first day and was actually showing enthusiasm for his new athletic endeavor. As chance would have it, he was on Chris’ team. We asked Chris to match up with him and act as a personal translator as the drills progressed. When it was their turn to begin the zig zag drill, Chris began as the offensive player. Immediately, his Chinese partner got up directly in front of Chris and, as Chris started to his right, his “defender” put his arms out to either side and shadowed him, almost completely restricting Chris’ ability to move.

Chris, rather forcefully, said something to him. His coach figured he was explaining what his partner should be doing. When he inquired what instructions Chris had barked at him, he told him he said:

“Hey, what the hell was that?!?”

Good Intentions, Poor Results

Sunday, August 7th, 2016

Every year, at the two sessions of Michael Jordan Flight School, there are stories that become camp classics. This past year, the second session of which ended last Tuesday, proved to be no different. The next few posts will deal with this year’s happenings.

The camp is made up of nine leagues, divided by age and ability. Each league has a commissioner. Basically, there are nine “camps” and each commissioner runs his camp. My league (the Big 12) was the third oldest, made up of 14-year-olds. The camp is sold out year after year but, what’s changed throughout the years, is that more and more foreign youngsters attend – especially Chinese. Of the 95 campers in our league, 29 were from China – and every one of them spoke only Mandarin.

The camp is incredibly organized but, from a communication standpoint, the previous two years left much to be desired. The Chinese group that attended (around 200) brought “interpreters” with them. However, many of them barely spoke English (apparently, their buddies told them they could get a free trip to the United States so they just wanted to know where to sign up) and none of them understood basketball, meaning if a coach told them to “hedge” on a screen, they’d translate it as a hedge – like a bush – and nobody had any idea what was going on.

I called Pete Vaz, a coaching friend I met about 15 years ago at MJFS when he coached at camp. Pete worked at Mission San Jose High School in the Bay Area, a school that is rated the sixth best academic high school in California and the 76th in the nation – outstanding numbers considering it’s a public school. It has a high concentration of Chinese Americans. I begged Pete for help and he came through, finding one of his former point guards, Shou Chang (see blog from 8/14/15), who speaks fluent English and Mandarin. He saved us – and this year Shou brought four of his friends to interpret. In addition to a few summer school students from UCSB (where the camp is based) who spoke both languages, there was an interpreter for each league.

This year, not only did the Big 12 have 38 of our 91 campers who spoke Chinese as their first language, we had a group of 15 kids from Mexico – who spoke Spanish as their first language. After I would give instructions to the league, Shou would relay what I said in Mandarin, followed by one of our coaches who would speak Spanish to those ESL kids. Not surprisingly, with the attention span of 14-year-olds being what it is, a few of our youngsters didn’t end up at the location where I directed them to be.

Not to be discouraged, I went into motivational speaker mode. For several years at the end of last century and the beginning of this one, I was a member of the National Speakers Association. Companies and groups would pay me to deliver a positive, inspiring message to their employees and members. I appealed to the English-speaking kids’ empathy, asking them how they would feel if they were in a foreign country where only a smattering of people spoke English. If they were lost – and had no idea where they were – wouldn’t it be nice if someone from the host country “adopted” them, making sure they got to the proper place? “You don’t have to eat with them, hang around with them, text or “friend” them on Facebook – just latch onto them and make sure they get from where we are to where we’re going. Then, go back to your friends and they’ll go back to theirs.” I gave as rousing a speech as I could muster, certain they would take my message to heart. As a group, the American kids promised me they’d follow my instructions.

Then – at the very next roll call – we lost a Chinese kid.

During the second session, with 99% of the league composed of new campers, we made some tactical changes – and didn’t lose a single camper – which shows we learned from our mistakes. Everyone knows:

“It’s not how you start but how you finish.”

 

Great Day for the Fertig Boys

Saturday, August 6th, 2016

Readers will have to excuse me. Seldom do I enter a post that has solely to do with me or my family. The reason I’m doing so now is a coincidence that occurred one day I was working at Michael Jordan’s basketball camp.

First, our older son, Andy, an account executive with Salesforce, called to say that the deal he’d been working – since February – had finally closed. While I possess little to no skills or knowledge in the anything tech, he tried to explain what happened. It began as a big deal for his area, ESB (emerging small business). As he spoke to the company’s reps, they began to add more employees. Then, impressed with the product (for those readers who don’t know, Salesforce is a $9 billion company which Fortune 100 has ranked as high as the 7th best organization in which to work), Andy was able to upsell them on several items. Whatever, it became a six figure deal – the largest ESB deal in the west. Technically, at that point, it was an SMB (small & medium business) deal but, after some in-house negotiations (and the fact Andy had worked on it for six months), he was able to keep (most of) it. When it closed, it was reported he ran down the hall, whooping it up. One deal that accounted for 165% of his quota will do that to a guy.

A company-wide email was sent by his boss that began, “How do you take a 5 GE customer and upgrade them to 70 EE Service Cloud & 14 Knowledge? All you have to do is ask @Andrew Fertig.” It was followed by six bullet points his manager listed, none of which I fully understood. Still, it’s nice to have your boss tooting your horn to your colleagues.

Later that very same day, younger son, Alex, called to say that he was finally selected to play for a team in Australia. He flew to Brisbane days after graduating from Cal State Monterey Bay (where he left as the school’s all-time leading scorer). The season had already started (in April) for teams in the Queensland League (a highly competitive league) but there was optimism that he’d be able to catch on with one of their clubs. Immediately, bad luck hit every one of the people who were going to help, e.g. a stroke suffered by the father of his host, the death of a family member of his trainer, a heart attack that slowed the guy who was going to place him (although, with a couple stents, he survived). All of this kept him from even touching a ball for four days. Not having practiced at all, a coach picked him up for a tryout – an hour and a half away. By the time he got out of the car, the odds were heavily stacked against him.

A week or so later, it looked as though he’d found a club when a player was sent home, but the coach decided the replacement should be a big man. Another such SNAFU occurred and, with the season winding down, Alex’s Australian hoops career seemed doomed before it ever started. He did impress his trainer enough that he was allowed to train with his South East Australian Basketball League (SEABL) team. The SEABL & Queensland are the best two leagues in the country after the NBL (Australia’s version of the NBA). In addition to training with the team, he stayed in shape by doing cardio and lifting weights while scrambling to make enough money to get by. He refereed, worked out young athletes, put on clinics and, with two talented girls he had just met (the only two in the tournament), managed to finish second in a 3×3 tournament, splitting $1000 with his two teammates.

After receiving notice of selection to play for the Eagles of the Darwin League, a lesser talented division in the northern section of the country, Alex faced adversity in attempting to obtain the proper paperwork to allow him to be eligible. It wasn’t until the afternoon of his first game that he received notice he was cleared to play. That night he took out his frustrations on the opposition, leading his team to a 110-92 victory, scoring a career-high 53 points.

I called my wife later that night and when she asked me how I was doing, I quoted Larry David:

“Pretty, pretty, pretty, pretty good.”

Could the U.S. Men’s Olympic Basketball Team Leave with Less than Gold?

Saturday, July 23rd, 2016

Another year has flown by and it’s time again for Michael Jordan’s Flight School, a basketball camp for kids from 5-18 years of age, held on the campus of UC Santa Barbara. It’s the 21st year of the camp which is composed of two, four-day sessions with about 850 youngsters per session. It’s my 13th or 14th year (I’ve lost count) of working as a commissioner of one of the nine leagues. This blog will be on hiatus until Friday, August 5 and if this year is like the others, there ought to be some great stories when I return.

Unlike in past years when the United States fielded the greatest NBA players in the game, many of those players will only be watching these upcoming Olympics from the comfort of . . . somewhere other than the court in Rio. While it’s understandable that so many of the “best of the best” have declined to participate – coming off an injury, threat of injury, desperate need of rest, fear of mosquitoes, “been there, done that,” whatever, it’s somewhat alarming the sense of loyalty to one’s country didn’t override the aforementioned reasons. The list of non-participants this year is daunting – LeBron, Steph, Kawhi, CP3, Russ, Blake, AD – guys with first or nick names only. Add to that group guys who might not make the first name only bunch – yet – LaMarcus Aldridge, Damian Lillard, James Harden. Whew!

It’s possible that, because the country isn’t coming off an embarrassing bronze medal performance, that the sense of urgency just doesn’t exist. But should it? Should fans of the U.S. be worried? Any team can be beaten, but there is little to no chance of any country other than the USA heading home with the gold medal.

The reasons are, as they usually are, we still have the best players and the best coaching. The only issue would be if:

“The guys who decided not to play started their own country.”

Could Police Violence Be Thwarted?

Friday, July 22nd, 2016

As stated in yesterday’s post, most of what I comment on is limited to the sporting world. Maybe it’s my version of “staying in my lane.” However, after thinking about the police killing of minorities (mainly young black men) and, conversely, young black men killing policemen, I had an idea. After reading this, you may suggest I get back in my lane.

For my last ten years of my working life (full-time, anyway), I worked for, arguably, the greatest politically correct school district in the nation. It also is one of the only (the only?) school district without a teachers union (which, in my opinion, worked fine for us – give or take a few instances) but that’s another story. Prior to that decade of my life, I worked as director of basketball operations at Fresno State, the school that had to have set records for gender equality lawsuits. In fact, I was a member of the Gender Equity Monitoring (GEM) Committee. It was a real gem, too.

Therefore, my thinking has become guarded, whether deciding what to say, how to say it, what to do, whatever. In some ways it was a refreshing look at how to approach issues. Gone were the days of “good ol’ boy” thinking, e.g. the one that always tickled me, “What’s good for football is good for the university.” First of all, it was modeled after the saying, “What’s good for General Motors is good for the country.” That statement came from, not surprisingly, the head of GM. The football take off on it came from, duh, the football coach. Off color jokes weren’t as welcome, or tolerated, as they were in the past century.

That’s more than enough of a introduction toward what struck me a couple days ago as a potentially good idea. One problem with hiring these days is none other than political correctness. When someone applies for a job, no longer can an employer require information regarding race, religious or sexual preference, or anything of that nature.

After the brutal slayings of police officers in Dallas and Baton Rouge, which occurred as retaliation to black men who were killed by policemen, a thought crossed my mind – which I initially dismissed as being “politically” impossible. Here’s my idea – and maybe some reader out there can tell me whether it’s possible or illegal.

Aspiring police officers have to go through the police academy. How about if part of the police academy agenda was a polygraph test, in which the officer-to-be had to answer blatant questions like, “Are you a racist?” and “Are you anti-gay (or other groups)?” and “Do you feel some women are to blame in domestic violence cases?” In a “normal” job interview, any such question would attract lawyers near and far but, when hiring a police officer?

With controversial (actually, a better word would be misunderstood) movements like Black Lives Matters, tension is high around the country. Although it occurred a while ago, let’s not forget about the Ray Rice situation and the controversial, OK misunderstood, comments by Stephen A. Smith. Any “incorrect” answer would disqualify, and justifiably so, the potential candidate. Can anyone imagine, if in any of the the instances when black men were struck down by policemen, that the officer had answered Yes to such a question – independent of how passionate the officer was toward the job? Supposedly, there are ways to beat polygraphs but this idea would certainly reveal something sinister in a candidate’s character.

My first thought was, bad idea, politically incorrect and probably illegal. Then again, why not? Whether we like it or not, being a police officer is something that needs serious scrutiny. My question to everyone out there is:

“Could it be that easy?”

Why Sports Beats Politics

Thursday, July 21st, 2016

Nearly every one of the posts I put out there are about sports. After watching the Republican National Convention, it’s readily apparent why. In athletics, especially where team sports are concerned, the most important trait is teamwork. Whatever the outcome in November’s election is, what took place last night in Cleveland was . . . anything but teamwork (unless there was some type of slick psychology going on).

When coaching a team there are, basically, three types of situations: your team is the favorite, your team is the underdog or the game is relatively even. If you’re favored, your game plan is focused more on your play than anything else because your best is better than their best. John Wooden’s players have always said that the coach never mentioned their opponent (Bill Walton even claimed he had to tell a manager to get a program so he knew which team they were playing). UCLA was always favored. Focusing on the Bruins’ play was the wisest course of action because if they played up to their abilities, they’d come out on the winning end. Some may say that when Wooden first got to UCLA he might not have had the best players, yet I’ve never heard any of those guys interviewed.

If you happen to be dealing with either of the latter two events, playing to your team’s potential might not be enough to ensure victory. What also must happen is your guys need to force your foe into mistakes. i.e. you must make sure they don’t play to their potential. Scouting reports will explain the strengths and weaknesses of the adversary. Defensive game plans usually consist of forcing an opponent away from the their strengths and attacking their weakness(s). Of course, this isn’t done at the expense of trying to play as close to 100% of your effectiveness. The closer you can get to that number, the less you have to worry about your challenger. What must be avoided is spending so much time exposing the “enemy’s” deficiencies, you fail to fully employ your own skills.

Nowhere, though, in the strategical plan is there room for infighting. If a play is run for a certain member of the squad, or the leader decides to substitute one player for another, then that decision, however painful it is for one particular individual, is what the team must support. There can be discussion before and/or after the contest but the fact remains, whenever there is a case in which only one person can be selected, there must be support by everyone on the team. That’s the basic fabric of a team. No matter the situation, those on the same team who do not embrace the team’s philosophy should not be members of the team. There has always been, and there will always be, disagreement among the group’s members. It’s healthy in the proper setting. Once a course of action is determined, however, there has got to be a united effort among those “wearing the same uniform.”

The Democratic National Convention will probably learn from last night’s gaffe and it’s doubtful anything similar will be repeated. But that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t expect embarrassing moments. What’s at issue is that neither party is strong enough to win based solely on merit This is probably due to the fact that the overwhelming majority of society enjoy hearing more about people’s faults, missteps or character flaws – even if they’re not true – than they do about their triumphs. Maybe it’s because doing so makes people feel not as inferior, e.g. “maybe my life isn’t so great but at least I didn’t . . . like that schmuck did.”

Why I enjoy sports more than politics is that, in the political arena:

“We never know if either side’s best is good enough because everybody is so much more focused on others’ weaknesses.”

Competitive Balance vs. Super Teams

Wednesday, July 20th, 2016

Although great players have joined forces in the past, the signing of Kevin Durant by the Golden State Warriors has pushed the topic to the forefront and elicited more opinions than ever before. People are in different camps on this subject, with strong beliefs on both sides. As far as my feeling, I’m not really sure. Here’s the information I’ve gathered which probably is the reason I can’t make up my mind.

One reason for my indecision is that I’m starting out completely neutral, in that I have no team in particular that’s my favorite. I used to pull for players from the programs where I coached. Now, since they’re all retired, I root for coaches I know. My college coaching coaching began in 1972, ended in 2002. Many of the guys I “grew up with” in the business wound up in the NBA. I remain in touch with several of them and that’s where I get some pretty good insight into why teams make the decisions they do. Their take on the professional game, be it strategy, practices, trades or free agency enlightens me beyond my personal feelings.

My assessment of the Durant deal has many parts. A caller to one of the talk shows made the statement that when the Heat put together their super team, they didn’t exactly dominate, winning only two championships. Unless he was comparing Miami to Red Auberbach’s Celtics’ teams, I’m not sure he understands what dominance is. After all, the team played four years together and went to four NBA Finals. Would they have had to go 4-4 to be considered a super team? When one team goes to the Finals four straight years, that’s not competitive balance. As far as the current rosters of the NBA are concerned, competitive balance is nowhere to be found, unless we’re talking about the teams that come after the top 5-6. Sure, the “on any given day” theory still is true over an 82-game season but the only reason some of the bottom 2/3rds of the teams in the league will be in next year’s playoffs, is because 16 teams (out of 30) have to be.

NBA commissioner Adam Silver made the statement that he didn’t think the Durant signing was good for the league because the NBA needs competitive balance. Give credit to Silver, though, who, after an impromptu meeting with Durant’s mother and hearing what she had to say, came to the conclusion that KD’s decision was different. In fact, every situation is different, admitted the commish. The Durant-Warriors case is not at all like what LeBron, D-Wade and Bosh did forming the magnificent trio in Miami mainly because those three colluded for, supposedly, a year. KD is joining a team that has been put together through the draft. The pre-KD Dubs are a collection of first round draft picks, with the exception of Draymond Green – who obviously should have been one.

Does that now make the Warriors a “super team?” Of course it does. Silver said he hopes the new collective bargaining agreement will address competitive balance. Should OKC lose (or be forced to trade) Russell Westbrook, it will be highly unlikely a team in such a small market will ever recover. Indiana, Orlando, Milwaukee, Utah, Charlotte, Memphis and others fall into the same category. San Antonio has been the outlier.

One topic I’ve not yet heard (although I imagine it’s been discussed) is the fact that Joe Lacob, owner of the Golden State Warriors (and the rest of his front office staff), did exactly what an owner is supposed to do. The signing of Kevin Durant was certainly in the best interest of the franchise and its fan base and he (and his people) should be applauded for their presentation and ultimate victory. Independent of what any owner says, any one of them would have made the same move given the opportunity.

Now, on to something that’s bothersome. While I do believe talk radio is over the top – and is intended to be that way – the comments of the Warriors being the team everyone (other than their faithful) will hate is a bit much. The word hate should be reserved for issues like cancer. Or rape. Or the killing of innocent people. But a basketball team? Sure, they will be villains, but hate?

“Leave the word hate for the political world.”