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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.”


Tark’s Communication Skills Left No Doubt

Sunday, July 17th, 2016

Just returned from a semi-business trip to Las Vegas. While there, my wife and I always make our pilgrimage to Piero’s restaurant, owned by one of the most loyal and generous guys you’ll ever meet – as well as Jerry Tarkanian’s best friend – Freddie Glusman. The last time we were in Vegas (late January, 2015) Freddie told me I should visit Jerry because his health was really deteriorating. I did. Freddie was right. Two weeks later, the coach passed away. I couldn’t attend the Celebration of Life for him as our son was playing college basketball that day. Freddie told me what a wonderful event it was.

Between my book, Life’s A Joke, and this blog space, I’ve shared numerous Jerry Tarkanian stories. He was a sensational coach (finally enshrined in the Naismith Hall of Fame in 2013), loyal to a fault and quite the character. The stories are vintage Tark – for those readers who knew him – and somewhat hard to believe for those who didn’t. Rest assured that each is true. Here’s one that his son, Danny, told at the Celebration of Coach Tark’s Life last February.

One of Jerry’s strongest attributes was his ability to effectively communicate with his players. This story was during Danny’s first year at UNLV. Apparently, some of the players were complaining that the coach was showing favoritism toward a couple players, power forward Sidney Green and shooting guard Larry Anderson. The coach felt he needed to nip the problem in the bud.

After practice (he never would have addressed the issue before practice as practice time was sacred – Tark used to say, “The perfect season would be all practices, no games“), he brought the team together. According to Danny, the team’s starting point guard, his dad began the “meeting” by hitting the problem head on. “I heard some of you think I’m favoring Sid and Larry,” he started. “I want you to know, I am. Sid and Larry are carrying this team.”

By then, Tark certainly he had everyone’s attention. What came next  drove the point home, clearly stating what the message was. “If we were on a desert island and I had one canteen of water,” he continued, “”I would make sure Sid and Larry had enough to drink. If there was anything left over, I might share it with the rest of you.”

All Danny could think was:

“Even your own son, Dad?”


Mixed Reactions to Durant’s Decision

Tuesday, July 5th, 2016

Kevin Durant made the choice on where he was going to play and the sports’ world went into a frenzy. In Oklahoma City, there were sightings of fans burning KD jerseys. This scene was reminiscent of another “Decision” made by an NBA superstar years ago. Only this time, the people who burned the jerseys came under more criticism that the guy who wore the uni for each of his eight years in the league. One reason for so few examples of fan agitation is that there hasn’t been an OKC team without KD as a prominent member of it and the fans appreciate his past efforts, finding it difficult to be “haters.” Forget the fans – check the immediate reactions of the respective owners to the moves then and now.

Fans might be disappointed but it’s difficult to attack Durant’s loyalty. Or his dedication. There might have been times his game wasn’t where it needed to be, e.g. Game 6 of the Western Conference Finals, but no one ever questioned his work ethic or dedication. Why he felt the need to join up with Golden State now has elicited more questions than answers. He could have signed a two-year deal (with a player option after year one) to remain with the Thunder, a team that was up 3-1 to the Warriors and, at the time, looked like was going to be the Western Conference representative in the Finals. Not only that, but the majority of people believed at the time – with even more sharing that belief now – that, had they closed out the series, that OKC would be getting fitted for rings. So, why not stay, if only for one more year, to see if he could bring home the championship and, in the process, become about as important to the state as oil? Then, if not, leave next year?

There were a variety of opinions and reactions after the news broke. The majority of NBA players, initially at least, expressed shock – as in “Whoa,” Crazy.” Wow,” and “Really?” Interestingly enough, Paul Pierce, who owns a (singular) ring only because of a similar (although, admittedly not identical) situation, tweeted, “If u can’t beat um join umincluding the emoji (kinda doubt if that was his reaction after Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen joined him – and the Celts won it all – despite his later dislike for Allen). Perhaps the most analytical response from a competitor came from a newly minted millionaire himself, the Pistons’ Andre Drummond. “Everyone is so hyped up on the match up problems on the offensive end? They still gotta come down the other end.. Not a very big team.” And people say coaches don’t have an effect on their players. We could almost see Stan Van Gundy’s lips moving as the guy he just gave a five-year max deal to tweeted.

Talking heads, naturally, chimed in, some with much stronger opinions. Stephen A. Smith, who usually looks and speaks as though someone just “licked all the red off his candy” (as the old expression goes), acted in his predictable manner. The highly opinionated one was spewing venom – although, of course, prefacing his remarks with how much he respects such a high character guy like Durant. It was “the weakest move I’ve ever seen from a superstar, plain and simple.” Stephen A. continued his analysis by saying how close the team he’s leaving was to beating the team he’s joining. For all intents and purposes, Smith questioned Durant’s heart by saying, “he is one of the three best players in the world and he ran away from the challenge he faces in order to jump on the bandwagon of a team that’s a little bit better…”

Yet within that group, there was no consensus. Smith’s counterpart at ESPN, Chris Broussard, had a polar opposite reaction to KD’s decision. Durant played eight years, carrying a tremendous burden, that of the expectations of an entire franchise. He saw them come close but, on each occasion, for whatever reasons, he and his team fell short of what he apparently desires the most – an NBA Championship. Broussard mentioned of the conversation KD had with (new mentor) Jerry West, another superstar – and one, so many decades later – still possesses a great deal of credibility (I mean he is the logo), yet who fell short of his goal every season he played but one. Individual accolades mean a great deal but if an athlete is participating in a team sport, the ultimate is a championship. Broussard also made a couple valid points, something that should give pause to every fan in the nation. So much criticism is directed at professional athletes, e.g. that they’re in it more for the money and the ego rather than winning and championships - that KD should be praised for his choice. Also included in Broussard’s commentary was a comparison to Tim Duncan, whom many say is the best power forward ever to play the game, and how Duncan grew old gracefully by being a vital cog in multiple championship teams, as opposed to someone who had the weight of the entire organization on his shoulders.

When all the smoke clears, one of the most thought provoking questions has to be on the mind of much maligned Lakers’ boss, Jim Buss, who has got to be thinking:

“How is this deal worse than the (NBA-vetoed) Chris Paul one?”

Are the Recent NBA Free Agent Contracts Negatively Affecting the Attitude of Its Fan Base?

Sunday, July 3rd, 2016

Bob Knight once said he learned a lesson from his wife about arguing a point ad infinitum. “The horse is dead, Bob. Get off it,” was her advice. Taking that comment to heart, I promise (with fingers crossed, just in case something even more absurd than what’s taken place during the first two days of free agent signing occurs) that this post will be brief and the last one on the subject.

NBA radio, Sirius channel 86, has not had a problem filling air time, whether the talk is hosts feelings about which (usually long-term) absurd contract was offered to which not exactly “difference-making” free agent, or the callers’ reactions to them. Guys who didn’t substantially increase their former team’s number of victories (some by not getting enough minutes to do so – due to injuries or DNP-CDs) are being tendered eight-figure deals – for multiple years. That’s an obscene amount of money.

Of course, this is due to the mega television deal with the NBA which raised the salary cap. The fact is the money is split between the owners and players – and salaries are, as always, “market driven.” At least that is what people, mainly agents, are saying is the reason for what seems to be overpaying players. There has always existed a segment of society who has begrudged athletes for getting paid so much more than other hard working, yet less skilled, individuals. The current unrest among those outside the NBA has seemed to spread.

I’ve heard from both casual and passionate NBA fans that they can’t believe what’s going on (see yesterday’s post for thoughts about the owners and this current situation). The rabid fans are upset that teams are making multi-millionaires out of marginal players, guys who aren’t going to improve their favorite club’s chances of playoff success. They have a point, considering that, independent of what the cap is (and it will increase again after next season), there still will be 14 teams in next year’s lottery. Fans who watch occasionally comment on the state of the economy in our country and how out of whack these numbers are. While they don’t believe in socialism, they say something is dreadfully wrong when so many people are scraping to get by while others will be getting (not necessarily earning) more than they could possibly need.

Next year will be worse (or better). Which begs the question:

“Could the NBA be killing the golden goose?”


The Plight of an NBA Owner

Saturday, July 2nd, 2016

After the first day of NBA free agency, the one question on most people’s minds was, “WTF?” Sure, the salary cap jumped this year. That can only mean more confusion when it will massively jump next year. First things first, let’s deal with the here and now.

The fact that Timofey Mosgov will make more money next year than Steph Curry and that DeMar DeRozan’s new five year deal, approximately $145 million will be only $4 million less than LeBron James made in the first 12 years of his career might influence people to believe the owners need to be included in the league’s drug testing policy.

Humor me while I tell a personal anecdote. When our two sons were around the ages of 10 and 5, we used to give them allowances of $4 a week for the older one and $2 a week for the younger one. Not exactly the manner in which wealthy children are raised but since 1) we weren’t wealthy and 2) they had no expenses, it was a reasonable thing to do. I’d give them the money on Friday. One “payday” I asked each one how much money he had left from the previous week.

“None,” was, not surprisingly, the answer both gave. Honestly, I didn’t think kids of that age were going to be frugal so the outcomes didn’t shock me. Had one or both of them told me they actually had some change left, that would have shocked me. I did, however, see the potential for a “teachable moment” for the boys. “Andy,” I said to the older one, “this week you’re getting $4 but I’m going to give you only $2 and put the other $2 in an envelope with your name on it. “Alex, you’re getting $1 of your $2 with the other going into an envelope with your name on it.

“I know this doesn’t sound like a real good deal for you guys,” and judging from the looks on their faces, I pretty much knew I had a correct assessment of each one’s feelings. “But, what I’m going to do is give you guys 12% interest on the money in the envelope – and I’m going to compound the interest monthly – meaning at the end of each month, I will add 1% to whatever is in that envelope” (this generosity was nearly 20 years ago). “I know this doesn’t mean anything to you now but let’s just see what happens.”

Of course there was the understandable griping when the boys got only half their money. Mostly, it was gone by Saturday. Then again, prior to the new fiscal plan going into effect, their money was usually gone by Saturday anyway. My late mentor, John Savage (my wish for each of you readers is that you have someone as influential in your life as John was to mine), was fond of saying, “There are two types of people in the world – those who spend and save what’s left, and those who save and spend what’s left. Invariably, the first group always ends up working for the second.” Added to our my new strategy was that, every time each of the boys would receive money, e.g. birthday, Xmas, any monetary gift or earning, some of it (we began with a minimum 10% rule – but, believe it or not, as they grew older, even more would be “sacrificed”). As they grew older and their allowances were bumped, $10 for Andy, $5 for Alex, still it was just $2 into one envelope and $1 into the other. This was an attempt to have them understand the difference between being a fiscally responsible individual and being a miser.

Every so often I would share with each the amount of money in his envelope. After a while, they understood – and appreciated – how the combination of saving and compound interest worked in their favor. When Andy went off to college, I vaguely recall he had somewhere in the neighborhood of $1,200. Since Alex had an additional five years of savings, by the time his senior year of high school rolled around, I came to dread the last day of the month due to how much interest I’d have to put in that envelope. Alex’s haul, when he left for college was, I believe, around $3K.

An addendum to the story: the tradition began anew for both boys a few years ago – only this time it’s 6% interest, compounded quarterly (their benefactors are retired now) – and the amounts socked away are greater. Alex had to give a minimum of $5 per week from his spending money (which was pretty significant since he was on scholarship and saved us quite a bit), although when it comes to “gift” money, including last month’s graduation haul, more is saved. We were going to place a minimum $10 per pay period on Andy, who has been gainfully employed since graduating college in 2011, but his contributions have been between $25-100, depending on what his commissions are. On a rare occasion, even more. Lesson learned.

Back to the first day of NBA free agency. Although the majority of my adult life was consumed with basketball, I would want no part of owning an NBA team. Forget that I don’t have billions of dollars (or even millions). I doubt my type of fiscal responsibility would make it as an owner. I feel I’m a rational guy who, as a math major and (former math) teacher bases most of my decisions, financial and otherwise, on logic. This year’s free agency (and I’m certain, next year’s) leads me to one conclusion:

“There is no way billionaire owners used the same strategy to make all their money that they are now using when making decisions on their team’s payroll.”

Making Money and Enemies

Friday, July 1st, 2016

Roger Goodell’s salary for 2015 was disclosed and, apparently, his job performance was somewhat unsatisfactory. He took a $2.1 million pay cut – to $32 million. Several (actually more than several) NFL fans have expressed displeasure regarding many of Goodell’s decisions. As often as not, their rants have begun with different versions of the same phrase – “with all the money he makes.”

Critics abound on social media, most of them anonymous. Facebook users are easily identifiable, yet even that online social networking service is bombarded by blame throwers, possibly because those who castigate others are doing so to their “friends.” One such gent is a University of Tennessee Volunteer diehard who posts messages that brutally disparage the football coaches. After the Vols’ 2-3 start, the guillotine couldn’t drop soon enough. The overriding battle cry was, “Fire the head coach and (many of) his assistants” (apparently, an assistant or two were friends of his). At that point he said the Vols were a 6-6 team at best, could maybe wind up 4-8 (note: the Vols ended 9-4, their only loss the rest of the way to national champion Alabama, 19-14). The one constant in the plethora of criticisms is the mention of the enormous salaries the coaches make.

A quote directed at Tiger Woods that I dug up from long ago (although it doesn’t seem that long ago Tiger was dominating golf): “With all the money he makes at golf and through endorsements, it’s a shame he ruined his life by being so stupid.”

How about “For a guy who makes over $20 million a year, is it too much to ask Chris Paul to get past the second round of the (NBA) playoffs?”

I’ve seen fans upset at Alex Rodriguez, obviously now at the end of his career, complain about the amount of money he has made, especially considering he used performing enhancing drugs to become the player he was. Football quarterbacks probably get the most criticism from fans – much of it related to the huge contracts they have. Yet, if a great one comes along, the fans want the team to “pay whatever it takes.” Until the guy doesn’t produce a championship. Then, the cry of “why did we ever pay this guy so much?” emerge. Similar discussions will soon be taking place after NBA free agents sign new contracts.

The one question that crosses my mind when I hear all this is:

“Would the fans’ attitudes change if these guys were paid LESS money?”

Go Underdogs

Wednesday, June 29th, 2016

First, it was the 607th ranked golfer in the world, Billy Hurley III, winning the Quicken Loans National at Congressional for his first PGA Tour victory – his 104th PGA Tour start. In his hometown, not far the Naval Academy from which he graduated 12 years ago. For his efforts, he received $1,242,000 first-place dough and a spot in the British Open – which he plans on missing because his sister is getting married. Those Navy guys understand perspective. Makes you want to shake your head and salute him at the same time.

In an absolutely amazing display of mental toughness, Hurley III played nearly flawlessly during the final day, shooting a 2-under 69. It was a mere 10 months ago that his father, Willard Hurley Jr., died of a self-inflicted gunshot wound. Add focus to his list of admirable traits. If every serviceman shares Billy Hurley III’s demeanor, no one should ever criticize the military again.

The reaction from the event host, Tiger Woods, a military man’s son, spoke volumes (independent of whatever personal issues you might have with Woods). “To have a serviceman actually win the event, it doesn’t get any better than that. He’s actually one that did serve his country, and for him to win an event that honors the military more than any other event, it’s very apropos that he did it here.” Tiger has been having trouble getting the contact he used to have with his clubs but his assessment of the Congressional winner was squarely hit.

In his typical understated way, the winner summed up his first tour victory. “It’s been a hard year. It’s been a really hard year, so it’s nice to have something go well.”

Another Herculean performance (actually seven of them – to date) occurred on the hallowed courts of the All England Club. Marcus Willis, a 25-year-old Brit, who still lives at home with his parents, had earned a grand total of $290 as a professional tennis player in 2016. On Monday, Willis, ranked 772nd in the world, won in straight sets in the first round of Wimbledon, pulling off one of the biggest upsets in tennis history. Just to get to the first round, Willis had to win six qualifying rounds (three prequalifying and three qualifying). His latest victory guaranteed the not-so-youngster (at least in the tennis terms) a minimum of $65,000, not exactly the haul Hurley III raked in but, for someone whose career earnings were under $100K, certainly better than a sharp stick in the eye.

While his next foe is the tennis world’s #3 ranked player, Roger Federer, it’s safe to say Willis will be the crowd favorite. Federer has to prepare for one of the truest “road” tests of his storied career. The odds are stacked against Willis but he’s got to feel better about his tennis future than at anytime in his tennis past. A series of injuries, which morphed into signs of depression, had him considering retirement and becoming a teaching pro. His latest conquest has put those plans on hold for at least another day. England so needs something to cheer.

Why, you ask? Because in the world’s most popular sport (soccer, for those of you in the U.S.), Iceland (Iceland for crying out loud!) beat mighty England. Mighty? Hey, when you’re Iceland, every opponent is mighty. The defeat was so humiliating (Iceland’s entire population is 330,000) that England’s manager (coach) immediately resigned at the end of the match. Perspective has no meaning in soccer. England’s soccer history is one of “underperforming” at major tournaments but never did any Brit think a loss to Iceland in Euro 2016 was possible.

As Stephen Colbert said in his monologue last night:

“This is the worst thing to happen to England since . . . four days ago.”

The Most Awesome Sight I’ve Ever Seen – and the Lesson It Taught Me

Tuesday, June 28th, 2016

It was the summer of 1973 and I had just finished working a week of basketball camp at the University of Vermont, where I’d completed my first year in college coaching as a graduate assistant. A full-time coaching job was harder to come by than I thought but the head coach at UVM did manage to get me an upgrade as a grad assistant at Washington State. While I was anxious to get to WSU, I desperately needed the $100 I got for working the camp. So I left Burlington for my parent’s house in New Jersey. It took me a couple days to get everything I owned into my car and head out for Pullman, WA. Actually, it took me about an hour but there were some friends I wanted to see before I left on the 3,000 mile trip, having no idea when or if I’d ever be returning.

The reasons for this trip down memory lane are the going away party I attended last Friday night for a coaching friend and the story a mother at our table told about her family taking a cross country trip. She felt their family needed to be aggressive and thought they could do it in six days. Mine lasted half that time. When she heard, she nearly flipped out and asked me if I ever stopped. I gave her my itinerary. It took me 16 hours to drive from New Jersey to Milton, Wisconsin, where I stopped at a rest area and slept for about three hours. Hey, I was excited to get to my (then-)Pac 8 gig. Awakening, and still running on adrenaline, I drove to Montana and actually got a hotel room. Then, it was onto Pullman.

The only stop I made along the way which, by the way was unplanned, was to see Mount Rushmore. Remember this sojourn was made well before the GPS was invented. Instead, I had maps – one of the United States, others of the individual states I’d be traveling through. As one map after another was thrown into the backseat (doing this motivated me to keep moving on), I opened South Dakota. I noticed the route would take me right past Mount Rushmore. Although I was foolish not to slow down and see America along the way, I was wise enough to understand that Mount Rushmore was must-see. It certainly didn’t disappoint. As my car weaved up the mountain where the observatory was located (for those who think you get to be on the mountain with the sculptures, I’m sorry to burst your bubble), all of a sudden a glimpse of Thomas Jefferson would appear through the trees, then a minute or so late, a shot of Washington. I wondered why there weren’t more accidents on that winding road.

Once you finally arrive, the view is breathtaking. After looking through the telescopes to get an up close view, I stayed long enough to watch the 14-minute video about the sculptor, Gutzon Borglum – why and how he accomplished it was absolutely mind-blowing. I mean, can you imagine one day, thinking, “I’d like to carve four presidents’ heads (actually, he intended to do full busts) into a mountain.” Where do you start with such a lofty goal? And then have the courage to do it (actually, he died, at 73, a year before the completion – his son, Lincoln, finished the project).

Last night there was a program on TBS about Borglum and the making of Mount Rushmore. There were some negative comments about the man and his project. One was that he had a big ego. Duh! Wouldn’t that would be completely understandable after hearing someone proclaim what he was attempting to do. Another criticism was the Native Americans were opposed to the idea, feeling it was a desecration of holy grounds. This is also understandable. It gave me pause that, while I view it as the most awesome site I’ve ever seen, to some people it was a trespass of their homeland. Lesson learned, nothing is 100% plus or minus, and it’s good to be able to at least understand things from others’ perspectives.

As far as Borglum himself, there were other unflattering characteristics. e.g. he complained quite a bit (which could be described as passion), and he had a quite a temper. Flamboyance, unpredictability and irascibility were also mentioned as undesirable traits. However, the show pointed out his skill as a sculptor was diminished because of this massive project (“normal” sized, spectacular sculptures he produced were so overshadowed by this massive project) and his persistence was unmatched. Still, he referred to Mount Rushmore as his “crowning achievement.” He had to plead for money from Washington and, often he would show up unannounced in DC to attempt to have a meeting with a Congressman or even the President himself. Recall much of the time was during the Depression so his plight was made that much more difficult. In today’s terms, the undertaking was a bargain coming in at under a million dollars – $989,992.32 to be exact (accounting for inflation that would be about $17 million today. Google some of the things that Congress spends $17M on).

Many of the workers would come and go due to the danger of the work and exposure to the elements but Borglum had a core who kept returning for each of the 14 years the project took. They were loyal to their boss and inspired by him. How could they not when Borglum, who was asked about attempting such a daunting task, simply said, “The faces are in the mountain. All I have to do is bring them out.”

In today’s world, there are seemingly an infinite number of motivational books and about the same number of speakers. There are self-esteem experts, people who will teach you how to reach your goals and your potential. The fact that Gutzon Borglum decided, at the age of 60, on his own, to undertake such a dream, despite all odds against him, and achieved it, reaffirms what that great philosopher, Deion Sanders, once said:

“If your dream ain’t bigger than you, there is something wrong with your dream.”


What About Those Poor College Guys Who Don’t Get Drafted?

Sunday, June 26th, 2016

After the NBA draft, as happens after every draft, there is an outcry regarding the college kids who decided to leave school early but didn’t get selected. One proposal is that these youngsters be allowed to return to college. Let’s analyze that idea.

If that were the case, i.e. that if there’s no downside to putting your name out there, wouldn’t even more kids leave school early? It used to be that the recruiting process was the beginning of a relationship between the prospect and the coach or coaches who recruited him. After making the biggest decision of his (or her) life, many of today’s youngsters pack up and leave for . . . 9 months. Even those who stay for 2-3 years, is it that much of a hardship to return to college where a player has undoubtedly made close friends (other teammates for starters) and is on a campus with others close to the same age? Plus, now that the NCAA has allowed cost-of-living increases to their full scholarships, is the life of a college basketball player that unbearable?

Recently, on Facebook, I saw a post about how a couple players from one of my former stops, USC, declared for the draft but didn’t get selected in either round. Were they blindsided by this unfortunate set of circumstances? Here’s an excerpt from an LA Times article regarding their decision to put their names in the draft pool: “(Julian) Jacobs and (Nikola) Jovanovic will have until 10 days after the NBA draft combine to withdraw from consideration and return to school, a decision that may have become easier Thursday. Neither player received an invitation to the combine. An invite doesn’t preclude getting drafted. Last season, five players without an invitation were selected. But the snub is a signal that neither player is high on teams’ draft boards.” (underlining mine) Talk about a hint-and-a-half.

When you think of the thousands of kids who’d love to attend USC (many of them deserving but rejected due to the sheer number of applicants), it’s difficult to summon up sympathy for these two. Or, for that matter, any player from any school who may have overestimated his ability. The NBA doesn’t have a rule that states if someone graduates from college, they’re ineligible to play (although sometimes it seems like that’s the case).

I’m not blind to the fact that there are many reasons for players to try to enter the NBA as soon as they can. With the ridiculous money the league is paying (the minimum contract for an undrafted rookie is a little over a half a million dollars), it’s so enticing a career move. Also, many of these kids have long dreamed of playing in the NBA and, although they might not be ready, they have so many people – some who even have their best interests at heart (but a good many of whom don’t) – telling them they are. Throw in the fear of a debilitating injury and the reasons for leaving mount.

Those people who say kids who don’t get drafted ought to come be able to return to college have good intentions but are we not forgetting one reason to go to college in the first place? College is where an individual (including a basketball player who may or may not be good enough to play someday in the NBA) gets to be on his own and learns to make decisions for himself. Whether to leave school and try to make an NBA roster is one of them. Maybe he’ll make it or maybe he won’t.

With apologies to Sir Winston Churchill:

“Playing in the NBA isn’t final; not playing in it isn’t fatal. Make your decision and live with it.”


The Nerve of Some Media People

Saturday, June 25th, 2016

Yesterday afternoon I heard a talking head on one of the sports shows on Sirius-XM make the comment, “Steph Curry most definitely let us down. I’m not going to take back the things I said during the season but” . . . and the he blathered on about something or other. It was like he was saying that, while he extolled Curry’s virtues during the season, he wished he had tempered his comments because . . . now he looked bad. His callers, especially LeBron fans, were coming down hard on him – and it was basically Curry’s fault. His saying he wouldn’t take back any of his initial remarks meant he was a stand-up guy – but if only Curry had the intestinal fortitude, people wouldn’t be questioning the limitless knowledge he obtained by watching and reading about sports throughout his childhood and however much of the adult life he’s experienced. His biggest hope is the program director can get Steph to come on the show and apologize to his listeners for his (Curry’s) poor performance in the Finals (although it would be even better if Steph would ask directly for his forgiveness).

People are bringing up that this is the second straight year Curry has been regular season MVP and in neither, was he Finals MVP. This year, had he gone off in Game 7 and the Warriors won the championship, LeBron James would still have won the award – and not one negative word would have been said. James was simply that dominating (disregarding, naturally, Games 1 & 2).

Last year, Andre Iguodala was named MVP for not only his formidable stats of 16.3 points, 5.8 rebounds and 4.0 assists, but mostly for the job he did on LeBron. For the record, James’ stats in 2015 were 35.3 points, 13.8 rebounds and 8.8 assists. Curry put up 26.0 points, 5.2 rebounds and 6.3 assists. During the regular season Curry’s stats were 23.8 points, 4.3 rebounds and 7.7 assists so it wasn’t like there was such a dramatic drop-off. Had Curry received the MVP, there wouldn’t have been too much of an uproar.

As I was perusing the Internet last night, I came across an article in which Dan Le Batard was complaining about John Calipari being on ESPN nearly as much as SportsCenter. “It’s simply not right to give him the entire platform to be out recruiting by himself,” said Le Batard. He included his program which Cal was scheduled to make an appearance on later in the day, saying he should cancel it. This criticism coming from a guy who has his father as a regular on his show rings hollow. While there is certainly a segment of the viewing public who thinks his dad adds to the show, I’m not a member of that segment.

Calipari is so far ahead of every other coach when it comes to recruiting. He was the first to master the art of twitter (I assume it’s an art; I decided not tweet – for two reasons: I’m a technological dunce and, more importantly, can you imagine limiting me to 140 characters)? Unfortunately, the greater majority of coaches would rather complain about one of them gaining an edge than to create a (legal) advantage as Cal has. Isn’t it a major plus for Duke’s recruiting that Mike Krzyzewski (and, to a lesser extent, Jim Boeheim, when he assisted Coach K in 2008 & 2012) to coach the Olympic team and have access to all that publicity? Mike was selected because the decision-maker(s) felt he was the best coach to accomplish the United States’ goal of winning the gold medal. Along similar lines, ESPN is going to pick whichever coach they feel is best for ratings.

As far as Curry and Calipari hearing criticism, I recently received an article via email in which the following quote hit me as the ultimate thought process for someone who has been criticized. It was spoken by Mohandes Gandhi:

“I will not let anyone walk through my mind with their dirty feet.”