Archive for the ‘customer service’ Category

Coaching Salaries Should Never Be Market Driven

Wednesday, July 30th, 2014

The following is the first entry on my new computer. A combination of my age and my lack of interest in anything technological severely hinder what I can do on a computer. I’m from a generation which values verbal and written communication more than something from a computer. Since my skills are speaking and writing, I have a tough time doing anything but. Until technology floats my boat like speaking and writing do, blogging will have to be what bridges the generation gap for me. 

What I find odd, especially in this economy, are the salaries paid to employees that are based on “market value.” As an example, let’s look at college basketball coaches. John Calipari, Mike Krzyzewski, Tom Izzo, Rick Pitino and other highly successful coaches are paid quite handsomely (that’s one way to put it). All have something in common - success at the highest levels. In addition, it’s been proven that each of those coaches accounts for more than what he’s paid. Because these guys are raking in big money for their respective universities, directors of athletics, presidents and their boards feel compelled to “put together as attractive a package” as they can to bring to their university a coach who will achieve the kind of success the highest paid coaches do. To me, it seems as though these “leaders” are putting the cart before the horse.

An AD I once knew who had a head basketball coaching position open confided in me that he intended to pay the new coach around $400,000. That was double what the previous coach (who had retired) had made. “What?!?” was my incredulous reply. “Why?” He told me coaching salaries were “market driven.”

“Look, the guys you’re talking to are assistants who, at the most, are making $125,000″ (the list had already been pared to four). “Offer them $175,000.” I tried to reason, “That’s a $50,000 raise, the opportunity to be a head coach, what nearly every assistant wants, and your job is one of the best in the conference. Ask people on the street what they’d do for a $50,000 raise.”

“Oh, if we offered that, we’d never get any of these guys,” was his retort.

So what? Not one of them has ever called a time out yet!” It was around that time I realized why athletics administration had never appealed to me. It was time to drop a bombshell on him. “If you did your homework, really got out there and thoroughly investigated - by leaning on friends and associates you trust, not taking the easy way out by paying some head hunting firm $50-60,000 - and told them you were offering $175,000, I’d be willing to guarantee you that you’d wind up with just as good a coach as you would for $400,000.

“As far as spending the money you want, you load his contract with incentives - winning, naturally, but also for paid attendance, graduation rates, conference championships and whatever else is important to the university. That is what’s fair. Pay for performance, not market value. He won’t work any less hard; in fact, he’ll probably work harder because he needs to prove himself. If you think a bigger school is going to come along and snatch him up when he wins, chances are that if the school is big enough, you won’t be able to come close to their price anyway.”

Never did I think my advice would be taken seriously (it wasn’t) but, for the life of me - maybe because of my math background - I can’t understand why college leaders are blind to an obvious statistic. At the end of the season, when conference records are posted, there will be exactly as many wins as losses. In other words, some coach’s team will finish last, another next-to-last, etc. Yet, all of them are being paid at market rate. Why? Who the hell set up such an absurd salary structure?

Pay for performance. That’s how the country began. If you were good, you made it; if you weren’t, you didn’t. Now, once your coach produces, then pay him. Of course, at the time of your search, if there’s someone out there you really want, e.g. like Louisville did with Pitino, hey, do what needs to be done. By the way, Rick had previously called times out and he had done well with that aspect of the game, as well as all others. But, for the school that posts a job and waits for applications, more legwork should be done, less salary and more incentives offered.

I recall a marketing director at one of my stops, whenever a marketing idea was proposed, the staff would hear the identical response. “That’s a good idea but it is labor intensive.” If you should ever be on the receiving end of such a reply, remember this:

“Labor intensive is just another term for . . . WORK.”

LeBron and Northeast Ohio

Sunday, July 20th, 2014

Will the love (no pun intended) affair with Northeast Ohio (NE OH) and LeBron James ever end? What if the Cavs never win an NBA championship? With all the moves the organization is making, that’s looking more and more doubtful. They’re giving their “home boy” everything he needs to bring a Larry O’Brien trophy home to Akron Cleveland. But what if, even after all the front office finagling, the King never rules the playoffs - like he did on a couple of occasions in Miami? Will the fans of NE OH turn on him then?

Never.

The return of LeBron James transcends basketball. It isn’t about a savior coming home to win multiple championships (although, for Cleveland, even one would suffice). His return is about a savior coming home to resurrect a franchise. Coming home to uplift a city. Coming home to reclaim NE OH as home.

Sure, NE OH wants to win it all - and they want to do it again and again. But just by returning, LeBron showed the people of NE OH that the best player in today’s NBA, with his choice to live basically wherever he so chooses, chose there. His return illustrated to not only the people of NE OH that he wanted to live there, it showed the world the area he selected to move his family to live their lives. Yeah, he was from there and, yeah initially, he played there. But that was because, by rule, he had to play there.

Then, as a (not-so) free agent, when he had the opportunity to stay (and get paid a lot of money) or leave (and get paid a lot of money) . . . he left. He claimed it was about championships but, heck, didn’t he and his Cavs come about as close as a team could to winning one? Why not stay and just improve a little?

LeBron left and in doing so, he jilted his homies. Left them high and dry. Turned a winning franchise into the laughingstock of the league. And why? For a better lifestyle? No! (Well, maybe a little - the “climate” at South Beach is known to be somewhat stimulating). The real reason he left was for exactly what he got - four straight trips to the NBA finals and two championships.

And now he’s back and the people of NE OH - his people, i.e. the people who did not have the opportunity to go with him (certainly not for the bread he was going to make), the people who have a pride in their hometown area that goes beyond weather and location, location, location - absolutely love this guy. The same cat they so despised when he took off out of town for . . . more. More than NE OH could offer. Why? Why do they love him so much?

Simple. Because he’s one of them. His return says, “I hope you understand why I left but if you don’t, that’s OK. I’m here now and am going to do everything I can to bring pride to this area of the country. My area. Our area.”

And they will forgive him (unless he leaves again in two years - and then . . . watch out). Until then, he’s been embraced like few in our society have ever been. And the reason is that in this country:

“Everybody deserves a second chance.”


An Unrealistic Plan to Right the Country

Saturday, July 19th, 2014

If you haven’t noticed the United States doesn’t seem to be so “united” these days, you must either be completely oblivious to your surroundings or belong to the hermit association, a group that meets every February 30th. Today, as soon as a proposal by anyone is made, we can be assured that somebody or some group, somewhere will mock it as impractical, illogical, insane and/or irrational. Even before the proposal is completed.

My wish, as I’ve stated previously (to anyone who will listen, and even some who wouldn’t), is that the Republicans win the next presidential election. I can almost hear the groans now (which further proves my above observation). So, please, let me finish. Then, my hope that the Democrats do to the Republicans exactly what the GOP has done to them while they held the office of the presidency. What would occur is that the roles would be reversed. The party that’s not in power would criticize every move their “opponents” would make. It’s become you don’t want your party to be in power because it’s easier (and more fun) to criticize than be accountable.

Here’s where it gets tricky. Somebody, even better, a lotta somebodies will come to the realization that this attitude doesn’t work. And it never will! Once elections are over - and I know this next statement defies the essence of politics - you’re no longer opponents. You’re actually active participants of the same team. Our team. The United States of America. Kinda like the World Cup. There were basically two types of Americans - those who wanted the U.S. to win and those who didn’t care. I can’t think of anyone I know - or even heard of - who wanted our guys to lose.

Make no mistake about it, it will take a person, or group of people, who will have the courage to tell politicians (especially if the bearer of this news flash happens to be a pol him or her or themselves) that their current actions are ruining the country. Independent of how much money there is to be made in the political game - and, unfortunately, it is a game - our elected officials (and their strategists) must start treating this country like a team. This means everybody working together. In order for all of us to prosper, sacrifices are going to need to be made. Not only sacrifices by others (the kinds everyone favors), but changes that will make our own lives hurt some. Maybe even more than “some.”

People with large dollars will object because the majority of them solve problems by throwing money at them. OK, charge them for that way of thinking. We sure as hell could use the extra revenue. For the rest of us, we have to change our way of thinking - and living. For my people (Baby Boomers), we’re going to have to suffer somewhat for our kids’ well-being. Truth be told, we (and our lifestyle of excess) have screwed the next generations quite a bit. Some of us more than others. Much of it not really our fault, i.e. we weren’t emphatically told much of what we were doing was bad for the nation (or earth). If we were, I wasn’t paying attention.

I once asked a teacher friend of mine if he thought the district administrators pay should be reduced. “Definitely,” he exclained.

“How about the administrators on campus?” I asked.

“Yup,” was his immediate reply.

“How about the teachers?”

“Absolutely not!!!” he screamed.

If we don’t want to tighten our collective belts, than the answer is raise more money. There are brilliant people in this country who might just come up with an idea or two which can lighten the load a little. Or a lot. A giant bake sale probably isn’t the answer, yet, a long, long time ago someone whose group was in need of money came up with the concept of the bake sale. Voila, money was raised, people enjoyed a treat or two and everyone was thrilled. So now the question becomes, “Who will come up with the 21st century version of the bake sale?”

While we wait for that revelation, a Congress that acts together, with the nation’s best interests at heart - meaning no hidden agendas (once again flying the face of what politics has become) - would work wonders for all of us. I admit I’m skeptical, mainly because the greatest indicator of future behavior is past performance but that kind of cooperation, plus sacrifice by all of us, plus some creative thinking will improve the health of our once strong nation.

Our stance must be as simple as the old saying:

“You don’t drown by falling in the water. You drown by staying there.”




Free Agent Market Dealings

Thursday, July 17th, 2014

Unlike other years, this off season’s free agent market has dominated the news. The main reason is that the game’s best (current) player happened to be one of them. The only free agent other than LeBron whose signing caused this much stir within the league was Shaq when he left Orlando to join the Lakers.

The NBA has had no shortage of big name, big impact (they hope) free agents who changed unis. Other than James, the list includes P. Gasol, Parsons, Pierce, Stephenson, Deng, I. Thomas, D. Collison, Farmar, Hawes, Ariza and others. While some high quality players moved on, it appears equally as many of the marquis names stayed loyal to their team (or new deal for more money). That list sports, among others, Anthony, Bosh, Nowitzki, Duncan, Wade, Gortat, Lowry, Diaw, Hayward, Swaggy P and Birdman. In addition, Bledsoe, Monroe and others are still on the market.

The players biggest enemy to their earning power, often, is themselves. The last collective bargaining agreement (CBA) heavily favored the owners, as one would expect. While it would be no contest if the contents of the CBA was based on the playing floor, i.e. players vs. owners, the negotiations are held in conference rooms, a definite overwhelming home court advantage for the rich(er) guys. As long as there is a salary cap - and don’t think for a minute that will be repealed - there will be a majority of players who will feel they’re underpaid. The general public has absolutely zero sympathy for those guys and that won’t change unless negative numbers are allowable on the sympathy scale.

Much of the players’ problem is an overwhelming majority of them (my opinion only, based strictly on observation, devoid of any scientific or other kind of fact) think they’re worth considerably more than their skills actually command. This is, in part, due to the fact that basketball has become, on the grass roots level, an ego game, e.g. “I’m gonna light you up” and “You can’t guard me.” Early on, players got this belief from guys like Michael Jordan and Larry Bird. The difference between then and now is that MJ and Larry backed it up - and on the rare occasion they didn’t, they retreated to the gym because they were determined that it wasn’t going to happen again. Nowadays, players get the idea due to being coddled at a very early age. If their braggadocio isn’t backed up, they retreat to their respective corner to find the sympathetic (or should it just be pathetic) ears and mouths of their “people” telling them such nonsense as “The refs screwed you” or “The coach screwed you” or “Your teammates screwed you.” Basically, anything but, “Damn, you better get your ass in the gym and do some work!”

Another issue against the players is one that has hit other segments of the work force, i.e. older, more highly paid workers being replaced by younger, less expensive ones. Free agency is about the last refuge players have. And why is it that players hold the upper hand in free agency (assuming there’s a team or teams who find they have value)? It could be because of the old adage (apparently not necessarily etched in stone in San Antonio):

“No matter how many mistakes you make or how slowly you progress, you are still way ahead of everyone who isn’t trying.”


Wrap Up Quotes from Coaching U

Tuesday, July 15th, 2014

Rather than blogging about a person, observation or story, this post will sum up the powerful quotes I heard at the Coaching U event I attended last week. In case you missed yesterday’s blog, the final quote was the belief of the Navy Seals:

“Under pressure, you don’t rise to the level of the occasion. You sink to the level of your training. That’s why we train so hard.”

The following are some others you might want to use or, at least, think about:

From George Raveling, whose topic was building a better bench, a quote from Scottie Pippen:

“Sometimes a player’s greatest challenge is coming to grips with his role on the team.”

One from Phil Jackson:

“85% of all NBA players are ‘role’ players.”

And, of course, one of George’s own:

“Don’t expect the gorilla to cooperate if you’re spanking him . . . insults don’t enhance influence!”

From Billy Donovan:

“You’re only as good as the people you surround yourself with.”

Lawrence Frank offered a Bob Knight quote (what’s a coaching clinic without a mention of Bob Knight)?

“Coaching is getting players to do what they don’t want to do so that they can become the players they want to become.”

Shaka Smart gave the crowd a favorite of his, from the New England Patriots’ locker room wall (Belichick is also a clinic favorite):

“We don’t become you. You become us.”

Shaka also had a couple of his (VCU’s) program:

“We aggressively pursue greatness” and “We fully commit to aligning ourselves with the team.”

And from the master of deep thought, Kevin Eastman (event co-host and Vice President of Basketball Operations for the Los Angeles Clippers):

“He who angers you, owns you.”

“Fill up their tanks” and “Focus their lenses.”

“There’s a difference between ‘buy in’ and ‘give in.’ “

“Players need to understand the concept of ‘every’ - every game, every quarter, every possession.”

And his favorite:

“Go through life with big ears, big eyes and a small mouth.”

When What You Do Best and What You Love Happen to Coincide

Saturday, July 12th, 2014

This past Tuesday and Wednesday I attended a basketball coaching clinic event co-hosted by a couple of basketball dinosaurs, Kevin Eastman and Brendan Suhr. The description is meant as a comment. They have coached for a combined 80 or so years on the high school, college and professional levels. While that stat is what impresses the heck out of me (I did it for 35 years and when I look back on it, I have no idea how I managed to do it), what blows others away is that, between them, they have three NBA championship rings (Kevin as an assistant with the 2007-08 Celtics, Brendan in the same role with the Bad Boy Pistons of 1988-89 & 1989-90). They call it Coaching U and have been staging such events for six years. Suffice to say they understand what it takes to put on a first class show.

Somehow these guys manage to get not only the quality speakers other promoters only wish for, they get them in bunches. The cast for Tue-Wed was, in addition to the co-hosts, George Raveling (who invited me to be his guest), Shaka Smart, Lawrence Frank, Billy Donovan and Gregg Marshall. (The speakers for the July 15-16 session are just as formidable). Stop and think: Hall of Fame, Final Fours, NCAA National Champions, NBA Champions were all represented on this program and while all were sensational, this blog will discuss one coach in particular.

During the early to mid-1980s I worked at the University of Tennessee for a coach named Don DeVoe. For that particular era, Don was always mentioned as a guy who, if he was given a group of players he’d never seen before, and seven other coaches were given other groups of equal talent, and a tournament was held, Don’s guys would have as good or better a chance of winning a tournament. In today’s game, one such coach is Florida’s Billy Donovan.

This past Wednesday, Billy took five players from Indiana Wesleyan, the 2014 NAIA Division II Men’s Basketball National Champions and, in 20 minutes taught them the Gators’ pick and roll offense. His comments were for the coaches in attendance but were directed to the players in such a manner that, incredible as it sounds, the five guys ran through the offense flawlessly. Every option, every set, every time. Some of the other speakers also worked with the players and did marvelous jobs, but none as seamlessly as Billy D.

As we watched, I made mention of this phenomena to George, who currently serves as the Director of International Basketball for Nike, and he just shook his head. “Jack, I saw him do the same thing at the U19 championships in Prague,” Rav said. “He hadn’t seen the team until they practiced (for two weeks) and won the tournament even though all the other teams were their country’s national team, composed of the best players in that age group. He’s amazing.”

Many people, including this writer, discuss how coaching salaries have reached unfathomable heights. Billy Donovan is making over $22 million for six years but, as incredible as it may seem, watching him work with those young college kids and see them respond to him so quickly and so impeccably, was infinitely more startling to me than his salary numbers.

To many, money is the ultimate reward. Make no mistake about it, I’m sure Billy (and his family) are thrilled he brings home a paycheck with all those zeroes but the fact that he is enjoying his work has to be fulfilling to him. Paraphrasing Bob Dylan:

“A man is a success if he gets up in the morning and goes to bed at night and in between does what he wants to do.”


Defining Roles Leads to Spurs’ Success

Monday, June 30th, 2014

Leaving for LA and some more sessions with shooting guru Mike Penberthy. Plus, Alex will get to play with the college and pro guys who stop by Mike’s gym.

This blog will return Saturday, July 5th - so you’ll have something to do over the holiday weekend.

Now that the San Antonio Spurs won the Larry O’Brien Trophy, and did it so convincingly, everybody wants to know what their secret is. What’s so unfortunate is that the “secret” to their success is built upon years of practice. Head coach Gregg Popovich often uses the term “good to great,” talking about what type of shots that an extra pass would lead to. “Good to Great” is also the title of the book by Jim Collins that was the rage of the business world when it came out in 2001 (and obviously one Pop has read - probably more than once). The premise of taking a good company to great is getting the right people on the “bus,” the wrong people off of it and getting the right people in the right seats.

Why the Spurs have been so successful (one 2013 rebound away from a three-peat) is due to selecting the “right” - not always the “best” - people to make up the team, getting the wrong people off of it (although I can’t give examples of any) and having the right people in the right spots. Beyond that, it’s about getting buy in from an entire organization. The way the Spurs play is the antithesis of the way the game is played by nearly every team in the United States, i.e. high school, junior college, four year college and, especially, summer basketball. Possibly, that’s why the Spurs have only three players on its roster who were born in the U.S.

The style used by most every summer coach is, for lack of a better term, the “star system.” Team basketball is eschewed so that individuals are highlighted. Or so that individuals can highlight themselves. This flies in the face of what the Spurs believe. In the 6/23/14 issue of Sports Illustrated there’s an article on the champs in which Boris Diaw, who was waived two years ago by the 7-59 Charlotte Bobcats, suggested to the coaches that they hold morning “passarounds” as opposed to the usual morning shootarounds. While San Antonio hasn’t gone that far, they do have 5 on 5 drills in which players aren’t allowed to dribble. It would take some of today’s great scholastic and collegiate players quite a while if that rule was implemented.

It’s not just having shooters that makes the Spurs’ offense so effective but players who have a variety of skills. Not all have to be able to knock down threes, some are required to score inside, others to penetrate (whether to score, kick out or pass to a post player or a cutter), and still others to screen and rebound. The key to San Antonio’s success is not only the style they use but the understanding the players have of what their particular role is. Which is not as easy as it sounds when egos are involved.

Of course, everybody loves a winner and the Spurs are the latest winner. But as another winner, Scottie Pippen (someone who would know), said:

“Sometimes a player’s greatest challenge is coming to grips with his role on the team.”


 

A Comparison of Sandy Koufax and Clayton Kershaw

Monday, June 30th, 2014

Clayton Kershaw is my favorite baseball player. He’s always been a great pitcher. In high school he posted a 13–0 record with an ERA of 0.77, and struck out 139 in 64 innings. Then, in his first assignment with the Dodgers’ club in the Gulf Coast League, he compiled a record of 2–0 with a 1.95 ERA while pitching 37 innings. He struck out 54 batters and walked only 5, with his fastball topping out at 96 mph. Fast forward to 2013 when he won the Cy Young Award, the second time he’s done so. In 2012 he was the runner up. Had he won it that year, he’d have taken home the top award for a pitcher three years in a row.

That’s only part of the reason he’s my fave. In fact I haven’t followed baseball closely since . . . well, since I began playing high school baseball. That’s the same deal with football and basketball. Once I was a member of a team, I pretty much rooted for the team I was part of. Once I stopped playing, I started coaching - and the same rule applied. Sure, I was always a Dodger fan (even after they moved to LA in 1958, a crushing blow to a young boy). The main reason Clayton Kershaw is my favorite player is because he reminds me of my favorite player of all time - when I had such a thing. Growing up as a Jewish kid in New Jersey (whose mother’s side of the family was from Brooklyn), I idolized all the guys: Jackie, Duke, Pee Wee, Campy, the Carl’s, Gil, Junior. But then came Sandy. I revered Sandy Koufax. One of our own had not only made it, he was the best.

The following is not meant to be blasphemous in any way, just the recollection of a young kid. Before I was even a teenager, we were told in Hebrew school that the major difference between Jews and non-Jews was that Jews were waiting for the Messiah to come while non-Jews were waiting for Him to return. When Sandy started dominating - and what he was doing was pure domination - I was so happy my mother’s side of the family had brainwashed me (at least according to my father who was a Yankee fan) into being a Dodger fan. Here was a guy hitters couldn’t touch, a pitcher who was so good, he never resorted to hitting opponents in retaliation. Instead, he humiliated them by making them look foolish. Then, one day in his prime, he retired. The rumor in my neighborhood was that he retired was because . . . Sandy Koufax was the Messiah. That made total sense to us. No wonder nobody could hit him. 

Of course that wasn’t the case. The real reason was, beyond the masterful skill he possessed, was that he worked at his craft, to the level of perfection. From what I’ve read about Clayton Kershaw, his situation is identical - pursuit of perfection. The two of them, Sandy Koufax and Clayton Kershaw, are high character guys who were/are the ultimate winners. No matter how much they did/do, there was/is always more. That is why the term winner is attached to their names.

I recently read a post from Ryan Holiday, entitled “A Winner Does…” If anyone out there is looking to explain exactly what a winner is/does, go to ryanholiday.net and read that post from June 25. When I did, I realized the reason I respect and admire Sandy Koufax and Clayton Kershaw, as well as a select number of people I have known and observed throughout my lifetime. While I’ve read other definitions of winning and winners, I think the quote from Aristotle that Holiday uses surpasses all of the others:

“Excellence is not an end but a habit. It is a series of standards and defaults that one must continually meet. In other words, just because you’ve won something, doesn’t mean you’re a winner. It just means you’ve won. There is still work left to be done.”

The Spurs Have Transcended the Negative

Thursday, June 12th, 2014

Headed to France for what else but a basketball tournament. Younger son, Alex, was chosen to play on a select team of (mostly) college sophomores. Alex played in a similar tourney in Slovakia when he was in the eighth grade. Possibly because he played so well in that one (he averaged 35 ppg, with a high of 44 in the consolation finals, while making the All-Tourney team), the same coach asked him to play with his team in France. Full disclosure: the games in the tournament in Slovakia used NBA time, i.e. 12 minute quarters with stop time - or, basically, a high school game and a half, so statistics were inflated. Every player on this squad plays for a Division I team, except for Alex who plays at Division II Cal State Monterey Bay. He fully realizes it will be a challenge, and feels up to it.

This blog will undoubtedly return with stories from France and the tourney but not until June 26. I hope you’ll take some time to read past blogs. I’ve been posting since 2007. Scroll down the right hand side, past Archives until you get to Categories. Choose your favorite person or topic, click on and enjoy.

The worst thing anyone has ever about the San Antonio Spurs is that they’re boring. Those of us who appreciate watching the game performed as it was intended - not meant to sound in any way, exclusionary, as we number in the millions - realize that any true fan who doesn’t like the way the Spurs play must either be someone of the “wow me” generation or someone who lost a bundle going the wrong way on gambling bets. As has been stated ad infinitum, the Spurs pass the ball to the open man, even if it means passing up an open shot (because a teammate has a better one), players are usually in motion every time down the floor, dribbling is strongly discouraged in favor of passing and they defend like everybody’s life is at risk, doubling when necessary, closing out with a vengeance (and a hand up), helping and recovering, always talking and rebounding - because if they don’t rebound the miss, everything else is wasted effort. To sum up the attitude the Spurs have, from the coaching staff to the team manager, is they trust each other and they respect the game.

Gregg Popovich gets away with acting like he does during interviews because he read what’s mandatory for a coach and does the absolute minimum. For the record, I fully agree with him when it comes to sideline interviews which are not only a waste of time (other than Craig Sager’s outfits), but an intrusion on the coach doing his job (besides, other than Pop, they all make the same trite comments, adding nothing to a viewer’s enjoyment of the game). To some, Pop might come off as a wise guy which I don’t believe for a second is a comment that would bother him. As a matter of fact, it would probably give him pleasure.

Another area the Spurs have avoided is xenophobia. With as many contrarians as there are in this country, people who would disagree with others just for the sake of being disagreeable, it’s shocking there hasn’t been more of an uproar from some horse’s ass group over the fact that, of the 12 players on the Spurs post season roster, only 3 were born in the USA. Maybe more hasn’t been made of that stat because it might show a couple of things that would embarrass Americans.

One would be that foreigners play a better brand of team basketball, the above mentioned moving, passing to an open man, covering for each other defensively - all skills that are considered unselfish, as opposed to guys who win slam dunk contests and “break guys ankles” - but not until they’ve used multiple dribbles and the majority of the shot clock. A great way to accumulate fans but not all that useful in close games when defenses tighten and look to help.

Another area that people don’t know but that they may not want to know is that, since Gregg Popovich’s title is not just “Coach” but “Coach/President” of the Spurs, their situation is unlike nearly every other NBA team (although that seems to be changing with Doc Rivers, Stan Van Gundy and Flip Saunders sharing essentially the identical titles with the Clippers, Pistons and T-Wolves, respectively). With General Manager R.C. Buford, his right hand man, Pop and R.C. have the final say on all their personnel decisions. Pop is a Renaissance man who has traveled all over the world - on several occasions. Could it be that, after having watched so many foreign teams play (and watching so many American teams play), that he feels the foreign athlete is more coachable? Or is it just a coincidence that 9 of 12 players hail from other countries (although Tim Duncan, Patty Mills, Cory Joseph and Aron Baynes did attend US colleges)? Not sure if you asked Pop if he would give you more of an answer than he does with sideline reporters.

The only criticism San Antonio has not escaped is the rants by Charles Barkley, but those are directed at the Riverwalk and the women, not the Spurs because Charles knows a great basketball team when he sees one. The Spurs are a couple games away from a fifth NBA championship. They might just be the greatest example for all people and organizations who feel unappreciated. If you or your company is in that position, use the following quote as your mantra:

“Never stop doing your best just because someone doesn’t give you credit.”

Possibly, the Worst Job in the World

Monday, May 12th, 2014

When I was a kid growing up in New Jersey, I remember a survey that listed the worst jobs in America. I can only remember two of them. One, which has since been terminated due to it being a health danger, was sitting in a tiny, closed-in booth inside the Lincoln Tunnel which runs beneath the Hudson River, connecting NJ and NY - and is constantly filled with vehicles emitting who-knows-what. The other job on that list I can recall is that of being a coal miner. I think we all have heard of the risks of that occupation.

One trade that definitely was not on that list then, but ought to be near the top of it now, is the job of an NBA referee. Maybe even #1 on the list. OK, it’s not life threatening but think about it, whenever you blow your whistle, you will upset a number of people. Should you decide you want people to cheer you, again and again, you’ll get a reputation of what they call a “homer.” Then, when your job evaluation comes through, chances are high you won’t be employed for much longer. In essence, the NBA official (referee, or ref for short) must be willing to perform the duties without prejudice, meaning that there will be times, often several per night, that you will upset a lot of people, better known as the “home crowd.”

So far, the job description isn’t sounding too tempting. Another issue you must deal with is that a large percentage, as in 100%, of the people you’re in charge of are younger, bigger, faster and stronger than you are. They are among the greatest athletes in the entire world and part of your charge is you must keep up with them. Thus, positioning is an important aspect of the position.

Judgment is another major requirement of the job and, no matter how good yours is, odds are you’ll be called names, occasionally nasty ones, so you’d better have a thick skin. This job has been known to run off a rhinoceros or two.

One item that should make you sleep better at night is that there are multiple cameras which have shown that an overwhelming percentage of the time, the refs are right. An item that might cause you to lose sleep is . . . there are multiple cameras so, when you (inevitably) miss calls, they will be replayed on the giant, overhead scoreboard which is standard equipment for every arena. Furthermore, the blown calls will be seen over and over and over (although not nearly as many times as ESPN replayed the kiss that Michael Sam and his boyfriend shared after he got drafted - the counting stopped at infinity - and neither of them cost anybody a game). As your wrong call is repeatedly shown, your name might be mentioned. Then again, it might not - but all your friends will still know you blew it.

What’s considered good officiating? Here’s how play-by-play announcer, Mike Breen, analyzed the LA-OKC game yesterday: Officials need to know what to call and what to let go. These officials have done a good job of letting them play but not it’s getting a little out of control. It sounds like his advice is to “let the players play” (a common refrain) but don’t let the game get out of control. Good luck trying to figure out when to do which.

Jeff Van Gundy, Breen’s sidekick, and the best color analyst in the business had a pointer as well: These players are liars. They’ll turn and look at you like they didn’t do anything, but when you see the replay, it’s an obvious foul. What can be gleaned from that nugget is the less fraternizing with the players, the better. They’ll be sweet to you when they see you outside of the arena and even before the games as they warm up. But they’ll turn on you as soon as you accuse them of committing an infraction. Even if they’re guilty.

Coaches are another story. According to announcers, that nefarious group is always “working you.” Some are kinder than others but if one coach, however kind, thinks his counterpart is getting favorable treatment - even (or especially) if it’s from one of your two partners, all friendship is off, and he’s on your butt, too. I once heard a Hall of Fame college coach once admit, “I don’t want the game to be refereed fairly. I want all the calls.

As for the job’s degree of difficulty, take this latest situation: During these playoffs, there has been more “fouling the player shooting a three-point shot.” Everyone who’s ever played the game knows it’s a cardinal sin to foul a three-point shooter. Yet, in this day and age, with these elite players, that’s happening at a record pace. Why? The answer is simple. It’s the shooter who is initiating the contact by sticking out his leg as he shoots. The defender is attempting to avoid him but, inevitably, brushes - or runs through - his extended leg. Replay after replay shows this. Why aren’t the refs catching on? Breen and Van Gundy asked that question to retired referee Steve Javie (25 years an NBA official). His reply was, “The referee is looking at the release to see if there’s any contact. He’s also checking if there’s any body contact.”

Breen, jokingly, said, “Can’t they keep one eye on the release and the other down low?” That pretty much sums up the referee’s thankless job. Sometime, there is no right answer. Yet you’re expected to get the call right. So beware.

Beware because of two reasons: 1) This is the players’ livelihood and, although you might not exactly be taking food off their table, in some cases, they may see you as taking a ring off their finger. Or messing with the incentives their agents put in their contracts. 2) Some of these guys are the most competitive people in the world. The top of the top of that category push everything out of their minds but the task at hand. They want no one telling them they’re too competitive, i.e. that they did something outside the rules of the game - like fouling.

Two who come to mind are actually best friends - Chris Paul & Kevin Durant. Watch CP3 and what he does with his time away from the game - how he helps others who are less fortunate. Listen to KD’s MVP acceptance speech and how he thanked, seemingly, everybody who’d ever helped him.

Now, watch the two compete head-to-head. You’d think they despised each other. Both on and off the court situations are real. It’s how they operate. And it’s the referee who has chosen to mediate the game.

In summary, you have to be in excellent physical condition, have outstanding judgment, listen to people boo you - no matter what you call (or don’t call) - and in many cases, you’ll be blamed for a team losing. And, considering the clientele you’re assigned to manage, the pay isn’t at all comparable. Still want to sign up?

If anyone is considering becoming a referee, take to heart the quote of Hall of Fame baseball umpire, Doug Harvey, who was speaking for all officials of any sport:

“When I’m right, no one remembers. When I’m wrong, no one forgets.”