Archive for the ‘customer service’ Category

UK Fans Have Been Known to Be a Little Much, But This Guy Tops Them All

Thursday, February 9th, 2017

In news that will surprise absolutely no one, Kentucky Wildcat fans are upset. After all, following an embarrassing blowout in Gainesville, their beloved hoops team had lost three of their previous four games (they bounced back with a convincing win over LSU). Let’s review UK’s inexcusable three losses during that time.

The last one was at Florida, against a team that had one of those days where they couldn’t miss. Of course, the arena was packed, loud and somewhat intimidating, i.e. a normal road game for UK. The second L was delivered by Kansas, at the time the #2 ranked team in the country. Second? So what? Wildcat fans don’t care who’s second because they’re supposed to be #1. Always. The game that was unpardonable was the first one of that “streak” – at Tennessee. Granted, the ‘Cats were heavy favorites. Could they have been looking ahead to the KU tilt? Well, let me tell you a little about the UK-UT rivalry.

I was an assistant at Tennessee for seven years (1980-87). During that time we beat them six out of seven times (in Knoxville). The game we lost was by two. After a time out, with seconds to go, we inbounded the ball and had a man-to-man play all set for our leading scorer (who happened to be the leading scorer in the SEC). Our point guard crossed half court, saw UK in a zone defense and we turned it over. For the record it was the only possession of man-to-man defense Eddie Sutton, Kentucky’s head coach, played all year!

Oh yeah, we were 0-7 against them in Lexington. One year we beat them by 17 – which was their biggest loss of the season. A month later they shellacked us by 25 – the biggest loss of ours. And there have been other cases of undermanned Vol teams beating the ‘Cats (in Knoxville) throughout the years.

Excuse me for the walk down memory lane – although I know Kentucky fans won’t. They are the most passionate and loyal, but far and away, the most entitled, group of supporters in the country. For exhibit A, I give you UK fan Patrick Stidham who, the day after the Florida beat down, posted this comment:

I love my Wildcats (fan since 1978), BUT, we might just have another “Tubby Smith” on our hands (“one and done”). Calipari is a “good” Coach and a great Recruiter, but, that’s about it. He seems to value players getting to the NBA over winning Championships. Sorry to tell him this, but, that is NOT what we want at Kentucky!!!

Let’s examine this fool’s post. Next to UCLA, the college with the most titles is Kentucky with eight. The coach for the first four of those was Adolph Rupp. During his first two championship runs (1948, 1949), the entire NCAA field was composed of eight teams, meaning the champion had to win only three games. In order to capture their next two trophies (1951, 1958), the ‘Cats had to win four games, the tourney expanding to 16, then to 24 entrants (they received a first round bye in ’58).

Notice from his post, super (critical) fan, Patrick, has been a fan since 1978 – the year UK won its fifth national championship which (a 48-team field, UK getting a bye once again). Their coach was Joe B. Hall who worked for the Wildcats for 13 years. 1978 was his, in Patrick’s words, “one and done” season.

Another Kentucky “one and done” national championship coach was Rick Pitino (although he’s also won one leading UK’s rival, Louisville to the title). Pitino spent eight years as the ‘Cats leader and managed to get the to the Final Four on three occasions – but only won it in 1996, Kentucky’s sixth title.

During UK’s seventh national championship the head man was none other than Patrick’s object of scorn Tubby Smith – a man considered by everybody who truly knows him (I’m proud to be in that group) as one of the classiest coaches ever to walk a sideline. In his 10 seasons in Lexington he was named National Coach of the Year.

Which brings us to our ” ‘good’ Coach and a great Recruiter, but, that’s about it” current head Wildcat coach, John Calipari. While Cal did manage to win a national championship for Patrick and the UK faithful, it was for heaven’s sake. Meanwhile, “he seems to value players getting to the NBA over winning Championships.” For the record Calipari, in his seven years prior to the current one, has led his team to the Final Four on four occasions.

This blog is plenty long enough but, if you’d like further proof of Patrick Stidham’s lunacy, compare Calipari’s overall record, e.g. total wins, winning percentage, league championships, etc. against any coach Kentucky has ever had.

It seems like the only two solutions to this issue is to:

“Either allow Patrick Stidham to select UK’s next coach or have ol’ Patrick coach the squad himself.”

If It Weren’t for His Enablers, DeMarcus Cousins Would Be His Own Worst Enemy

Tuesday, February 7th, 2017

The center position in the NBA has morphed into an entirely different animal. Gone are the days when two dinosaurs would slug it out on the block. Today’s best big guys still play with their backs to the basket (some) but need to be able to step out, stretch a defense, set screens (pick & roll is the new style of basketball – pretty much at every level of the game) and either roll or, and this is a skill fans never got to see Wilt, Russell, Kareem or Walton do, pop out for a jump shot. Sometimes a three-pointer. That strategy is so prevalent some teams are eschewing the traditional center and playing with a combination of two guards and three forwards or three guards and two forwards. And since those offensive skills are necessary, it’s also mandatory for “centers” to be able to defend that type of player.

The guy who best fills out the above description is the Sacramento Kings’ DeMarcus Cousins. He has the strength of the best pivot men of the 20th century, the low post game of Hall of Famers, yet can play away from the basket, shoot from beyond the three-point line, put the ball on the floor – and has the ability to guard inside and out as well.

That’s the reason there are constantly rumors of a trade. An all-star center whose team is struggling is going to peak interest in other clubs who dream about what a player like that could do for their franchise. Yet there hasn’t been a trade. General Manager Vlade Divac, who was one of the hybrid centers back in his playing days for has been quoted on numerous occasions, most recently yesterday, saying, “We’re not trading DeMarcus. We hope he’s here for a long time. We are going in that direction.”

Without dancing around the subject, the real reason no trade has gone down is because the seven-year NBA veteran Cousins is basically a 26-year-old superstar with the talent to lead a ball club to a championship, maybe multiple championships, but one who possesses the maturity of an eight-year-old. In 51 games, Cousins is averaging 27.9 points, 10.7 rebounds and 4.7 assists. If the Kings could receive anything resembling fair market value for their big guy/problem child, they’d be throwing a “re-branding” party before the ink on the deal was dry.

At the 2015 Hall of Fame induction show John Calipari was the final person recognized. He had every one of his former players in attendance and asked all of them to join him onstage. With scores of players behind him, he asked them, as he looked out over the audience, “Raise your hand if you think I held your game back?”

I happened to be at the show (my former Washington State and USC boss, George Raveling was also in the HOF class) but can’t remember how many former Calipari players had their hands up. It was because Cousins was making a spectacle of himself, smiling and frantically waving his. At that moment, Cal dropped the punchline. “I don’t know how many hands are up but I can guarantee you DeMarcus Cousins is raising both of his.” It made for a good laugh for everyone but spoke volumes about what is must have been like to coach an 18-year-old DeMarcus. Had the one-and-done rule not been in effect, Cal would have started petition for one.

Last night against the Bulls, the Kings were down by as many as 27 but came back and made the game a nail-biter. Down two, with about 12 seconds left, Sacramento ran a side out of bounds play in which the ball was to be inbounded to Cousins. Replays showed that Dwyane Wade did, in fact, grab Cousins’ jersey as he stepped in front of him, stole the pass, dribbled down and dunked to secure the victory. With seven seconds left, the Kings’ big man shot a three-pointer, attempting to draw a foul. The shot went awry, no foul was called, the Bulls controlled the ball and the Kings fouled. 1.1 seconds remained.

Cousins was so upset about the no call on the side out play that he turned and displayed so much disdain toward the referee, no one in the building, including DeMarcus himself, was shocked another tech, his second of the game, meaning automatic ejection. What does that matter, you say – there was only 1.1 seconds left and the game was essentially over anyway.

Because it was also his 16th technical foul of the season. Forget the fine – he makes 17 mil a year. According to NBA rules, that magic number means his irresponsible behavior he’ll be suspended for Wednesday night’s game against Boston. At least season ticket holders will get to see Isaiah Thomas play.

While the Kings’ announcers were critical of Cousins’ behavior, “It’s the inability of him to control his temper” and, after viewing the replay, “you can’t do this” in reference his reaction toward the official with one tick left. In between those admonishments, most likely because they know who signs their paychecks, was the phrase, “He thought there should have been a foul, that Dwyane Wade held his jersey and I agree, DeMarcus is 100% correct, but …” DeMarcus needs more of what follows the “but” and less of how “right” he is.

When Cousins was asked about his techs? “It’s kind of unfortunate that it happened. I really don’t know what to say about it. If I say something I’ll get punished, and if I don’t say something I’ll get punished. I really don’t know what the answer is anymore. I’m highly disappointed in what just happened.”

It’s highly doubtful anyone who knows him is surprised at his response. He’s a guy who’s been enabled for so long, he believes he’s … right. All the time.

He’d possibly considered an all-time great if he’d take to heart some great advice that, apparently, no one as of yet has told him:

“Grow up.”

 

What Can Be Done About the Snubbing of Russell Westbrook?

Saturday, January 21st, 2017

People are incensed that Russell Westbrook is not starting in the upcoming NBA All-Star Game. I mean, the guy is, and has been, averaging a double-double for the season. How can that not translate into a starting spot? Are there really two better guards than Russ? Well, the guys voted ahead of him are James Harden and Steph Curry. Selecting only two of them forces people to trash one of the three when attempting to passionately defend their choice.

Could Obama have pardoned it? If it’s too late, can Trump step in? He needs to ingratiate himself to NBA players and this would be a nice start. But does this oversight really need a presidential decree?

The main reason, really the only reason, Westbrook isn’t a starter is that players were separated into two categories – guards and big guys. The starting five is composed of two guards and three bigs. Long ago, a basketball team was made up of two guards, two forwards and a center. It became more specialized when the position designations changed into a point guard (1), shooting guard (2), small forward (3), power forward (4) and center (5). Although coaches are considered copycats, there is always an innovator who changes things up and revolutionizes an aspect of the game – if his teams win.

What followed were the designations: a point, two wings and two posts. Then, Don Nelson, an innovator if there ever was one, blew everybody’s mind when he created the “point forward.” Bringing thoughts of Nellie back, a couple nights ago, Kenny Smith argued with Charles Barkley when Chuck said James Harden was a point guard. The Jet claimed that Harden was not a traditional point, but a “point two.” Or did he mean .2, introducing decimals as a hoops position? Or “point to” as in a player who gives direction?

The point, er, aim of this post is that the game has gone through so many “position changes” that, to avoid embarrassing issues such as not starting a guy who is one of the two leading candidates for MVP, why not have the top five vote getters (however the votes are weighted – fan, media, player) be the starters?

After all, why is it necessary to have designated groups for the voting when 1) it’s not mandatory the all-star coaches make certain there are two guards and three bigs on the floor the entire game and 2)

“The NBA All-Star Game is a joke anyway.”

Who Says Traveling Isn’t Called in the NBA?

Friday, January 20th, 2017

As many folks were, especially those of us on the west coast, I was watching the Warriors-Thunder game a couple nights ago. The NBA, as I’ve stated on numerous occasions, is composed of the best athletes in the world. In order to play in the league, everyone must be able to run, jump, dribble, pass, catch, rebound, defend and shoot. With people that skilled, it’s arguably the most difficult sport to officiate.

There was an incident during the game in which the ball was inbounded to Russell Westbrook and, facing no pressure from any defender, he turned and brought the ball up the floor. Only he forgot to dribble. The rule regarding traveling is that the player who receives the pass is allowed to take one step and, then, can lift his other foot but must either pass, shoot or dribble before that foot touches the floor (that explanation probably butchers the actual rule but you get the idea).

After Westbrook caught the ball and turned upcourt, he didn’t begin his dribble until his sixth step. It should have been an easy call if, for no other reason, than traveling is also referred to as “walking.” Anyone who’s seen the video – which has to have been viewed over a million times – can see that walking is exactly what the Thunder point guard was doing.

What’s funny is his action brought basketball full circle. When kids begin playing (4, 5, 6 years old), most of them, when they get the ball, start running around. During camp sessions it’s impossible to call every traveling violation, so usually, “referees” (mostly coaches and older players) won’t call it – or else nothing would ever get accomplished.

The thought that crossed my mind, after seeing the replays of it over and over was:

“Exactly how many steps was that NBA referee going to allow Westbrook to make before blowing his whistle?”

Apparently, the answer was six.

Two Different Ways to Give the Same Message

Thursday, January 19th, 2017

As the clock wound toward zero at the end of the Indiana-Rutgers basketball game in Bloomington – with IU comfortably ahead, one of the Hoosiers attempted to throw down a dunk at the buzzer. He missed, the horn sounded and, prior to joining the “handshake line,” Indiana’s coach Tom Crean, walked directly to his player and absolutely lambasted him.

The tongue lashing didn’t last long, most likely because Crean didn’t want to ignore the Rutgers’ coaches and players – since his message to the youngster was that the move was disrespectful to their opponent – and blowing off the post game handshake line would have been just as impolite. Although his reaction to the play was understandable, his delivery should definitely have been altered (I heard one talking head equate it to bullying).

Allow me to reflect to a game played around 20 years ago. I was director of basketball operations at Fresno State and we were beating our opponent by a significant margin when one of our players had a breakaway late in the game (although not at the buzzer) and, rather than simply dunking the ball, he made a more crowd pleasing move, also resulting in a successful dunk, a broad smile from him and cheers from our sellout crowd. Shortly after, the game ended, the participants shook hands and headed toward their respective locker rooms.

Many, maybe even most, people who know Jerry Tarkanian will say a negative quality of his was that he never berated any kid who ever played for him. One thing is for sure. If that’s your belief, ask anyone who was in the post game locker room that night and you’ll hear differently. Jerry wasn’t two steps beyond the door before he exploded on the “dunker” – whose smile quickly disappeared. Suffice to say no one else made a sound for the next minute or two – which to us seemed more like 30 minutes. To that kid it must have felt like a week.

“Don’t you EVER disrespect the game – or an opponent – like that EVER again! It’s an HONOR to play basketball and there is no place for that type of horse(bleep)! You’re a helluva player, _____, but if I EVER see you pull another stunt like that, you’ll never put on a Fresno State uniform again!”

That moment is so vivid in my mind that, if someone could produce an audio of it, it wouldn’t surprise me in the slightest if I nailed it absolutely verbatim. It also wouldn’t surprise me if someone else who was present that night were asked about it and told the identical story.

In a blog I posted close to a decade ago, I reminisced  about a conversation I had with Jim Haney, the executive director of the National Association of Basketball Coaches (NABC) and an assistant coach on the Oregon basketball staff when I was a graduate assistant, I remarked to Jim that a big problem in the college game was that coaches were making too much money, i.e. forget “they’re paid what the market will bear” there are innumerable coaches who would take head coaching jobs for much, much less – because they loved coaching. And they would do just as well, if not better, than whichever coach was eventually selected. What had prompted our discussion had to do with some mind boggling, illegal and immoral decision-making by one of the NABC members (a story that won’t be regurgitated here but was national news).

It was my belief that salaries had escalated to such a point (and this was over a decade ago when coaches’ were a mere fraction of what they are now) that some of the choices coaches were making were being negatively affected by how much money they were making because if he were to lose his job, he would find it nearly impossible to land another that would reward him so handsomely.

However, with such exorbitant salaries comes equal (or greater) expectations – and what follows that is more and more pressure – until the ultimate – a national championship is won. And even that will only appease the “faithful” supporters for a few years. Anyone who is a fan of college hoops, and especially Indiana’s program, will attest to the excessive admiration Hoosier fans showered on Tom when he patiently resurrected the proud, but probation-riddled IU program he inherited. When the team’s success didn’t continue its upward ascent (remember, this is a school with a long tradition, as in five national championships between 1940-1987), fans became disgruntled (shocking, isn’t it?) and turned up the heat on coach Crean.

Maybe because I consider Tom Crean a friend (even though it’s been years since we’ve been in contact), I truly believe his behavior that night in Bloomington had to do with pressure - and it caused him to forget a major tenet of leadership – the same one Tark displayed that night and throughout his storied career:

“Praise in public; criticize in private.”

It’s the Fans’ Favorite Time of the Year

Thursday, January 5th, 2017

College football is down to its championship game, the NFL’s playoff season is beginning and college basketball and the NBA are deep enough into their respective seasons that drama is front and center (Grayson Allen, Rajon Rondo, DeMarcus Cousins). Fans are beside themselves. The activity they all agree on is in full swing: criticizing, and ultimately, firing coaches. One invention that has made talking about firing coaches so much more enjoyable – as well as make the fan sound like an expert – is analytics.

Black Monday has come and gone and with it, several NFL coaches. Others are treading on thin ice. Or on they on the hot seat? Coaches get it from both ends of the thermometer. This year, as with every other, many, many college coaches received pink slips (although not nearly enough to satisfy the fans). Close games that were lost were proof that the coach choked, while close victories were either due to luck or should have been blowouts.

This NBA season might set the record as far as disappointing its followers, as there are some pundits currently claiming that this year will see no – as in zero – NBA head coaches dismissed. Seems as though the new coaches will be given at least another year to try to turn around the mess they inherited. Chip Kelly must be wishing he’d gone into hoops.

Wait, won’t there still be 14 teams not make the playoffs? So shouldn’t at least two-thirds of those teams change head men? Plus at least a quarter of those who made the playoffs? Every true fan can name 3-4 teams that would have done better with different guys leading those teams (even if those 3-4 teams change depending upon which fans you ask).

College is a little different. People aren’t nearly as close to pro coaches, so it’s easier to criticize someone who’s making a ton of money and not winning (or getting his team to cover for those of you who watch games for more than just the purity of the sport). College coaches are different. Fans may actually know the coach, or at least have met him at a function (alumni, service organization) where the school forced requested him to speak. Having shaken a person’s hand, looked him in the eye and either told him you thought he was doing a good job or wished him luck, makes the coach human – and (nearly) everybody has some empathy. I mean, one-and-dones have drastically changed coaching strategies – and expectations. This makes speaking about firing him all the more difficult – until you get to a place where the majority of the people are calling for his head. Then, joining in becomes much easier – and, even, fun.

Jim Murray, the greatest sportswriter of all-time, once wrote, Nothing is ever so bad it can’t be made worse by firing the coach.”

How about we update Jim’s quote (since some might dismiss by saying it’s become outdated)? Here’s one I heard while listening to a podcast with Doc Rivers. Doc is a guy with a ton of security because he has so much credibility – a coach with an NBA championship on his resume and one of the most highly respected guys in the business (plus he’s got such a gimormous contract). When the question was posed to him about winning a championship. His answer was simplistic, but telling:

“People don’t appreciate how hard it is to win.”

Terry Bradshaw Suffering from Terminal Hard On

Thursday, December 29th, 2016

If you haven’t heard the latest gossip from the world of professional football, pull up a chair and get a load of this. Terry Bradshaw, an icon in Pittsburgh – a city in which they take their icons very seriously – criticized the Steelers’ head coach, Mike Tomlin, calling him “a great cheerleader guy.” Why would Bradshaw go public on the leader of his “alma mater” so soon after they clinched a playoff spot? Keep in mind that Tomlin has a Super Bowl championship on his Steelers resume.

That doesn’t seem to matter to Bradshaw. Turn back the clock a decade or so ago and you’ll recall the same guy throwing less than kind words about another Steelers championship coach – the one and only Chuck Noll. The two of them were the greatest coach-quarterback combination of the Super Bowl era – the mere fact that they won four Super Bowls seems to both begin and end that argument. In fact, I spent one of those glory years (1976-77) living in Pittsburgh where people must be really confused because of the nine states I’ve lived inhabited, nowhere are folks more proud of “their own” than in the ‘Burgh.

Bradshaw’s complaint was Noll was too tough on his young quarterback from Louisiana, that young Terry was the type of guy who needed a hug every now and then. Recently, Bradshaw was a no-show at his former boss’ funeral. One would have thought Bradshaw would make have made an appearance if, for no other reason, than to have made sure.

Possibly, Bradshaw is “anti” Super Bowl-winners because he also has taken aim at Ben Roethlisberger who, like Terry, is a multiple Steelers Super Bowl-winning quarterback. Bradshaw most definitely is an equal opportunity critic as he made the statement below, taking to task another Pittsburgh Super Bowl-winning QB who has won several.

No one can say Bradshaw plays favorites. His tenure with the Steelers and his head coach, Noll, certainly had to have been a rocky one. When asked for a statement following the funeral of the revered coach, he took a swipe at still another championship signal caller - himself. Here’s what he had to say about the winningest coach-QB combination (certainly as far as winning the most brass rings is concerned):

“I’m proud to have played for (Noll). It was a great honor. My relationship wasn’t good, as you well know, but he made me understand my job responsibilities, because I had to grow up.”

Why Does the NBA Feel a Need to Undermine Its Officials?

Wednesday, December 28th, 2016

As if it’s not bad enough that referees make bad calls, the NBA, for some unknown reason (transparency, perhaps?), lets the viewing public – and even those who didn’t see them – in on the mistakes its officials made in games already played. Other than the league office patting itself on the back for being “transparent,” there is absolutely no reason for such a magnanimous gesture.

Doing so relives a bad time from a game that’s already been decided, so admitting to errors only compounds the problem. The team that “got screwed” – and who felt they were cheated out of a victory (even though the correct calls might not have assured them one) – is even more upset. The winning team feels as though their efforts are being diminished. And, worst of all, the refs – who have a thankless and, in the case of officiating in the NBA, an impossible job to perform – feel like the people who ought to be backing them are throwing them under the proverbial bus.

The prime example was the recent contest between Cleveland and Golden State. If ever there was a regular season game which had all the earmarks of an NBA Finals rematch, it was the Xmas Day match up between the past two years’ finalists. The Warriors were in control of the game, up 14 in the fourth quarter when some sloppy play by them, combined with some clutch buckets by the Cavs turned the contest into a tight ballgame.

LeBron James dunked with 1:43 left and the score tied at 103. He proceeded to hang on the rim, swinging back and forth in a move that would have made another King – Tarzan – proud. Possibly because the play was so eye-opening, and the crowd noise erupted to such a dangerous decibel level, the referees ignored Bron’s over-exuberant gesture. Then, on the Warriors’ final possession, Richard Jefferson switched onto Kevin Durant who had come off of a screen. KD slipped (according to his postgame remarks, “not on my own”), and fell to the floor as the game clock expired. No call by any of the three officials.

In the report from the NBA office the day after the game, the league admitted James actually should have been assessed a technical foul for deliberately hanging on the rim and that Jefferson should have, in fact, been called for a foul on Durant. If the NBA office’s intention was to create more “sports bar” arguments, they certainly have accomplished their goals. What, in reality, they did was to lessen a classic NBA regular season game – and, perhaps, set a precedent for future games – both of which could have been avoided. To admit mistakes is admirable but as long as nothing can be done to affect the outcome, it’s unnecessary.

This NBA admitting officiating errors reminded me of a humorous incident from several years ago. During the 1986 Sweet Sixteen game between #4 ranked Michigan State and top-seeded Kansas, a clock malfunction occurred with 2:20 to go in the game and the Spartans ahead by four. Following a made free throw by MSU, the Jayhawks inbounded the ball. For at least 15 seconds, the clock didn’t move. Michigan State coach Jud Heathcote argued, to no avail, as the game was going on. A couple weeks later, at the National Association of Basketball Coaches (NABC) Convention (which coincides with the Final Four), the spokesman from the NCAA Rules Committee referenced that game. He told the hundreds of coaches in attendance that one of the changes being made was that such an error would be correctable in the future.

Heathcote was one of the best coaches in the nation. He was also one of the funniest. He raised his hand and, even before he was recognized by the speaker, bellowed:

“Is that rule retroactive?”

Coach As Father Figure

Friday, December 23rd, 2016

Coaching in today’s world is more difficult than in any other era. It’s mostly because of social media and how “public” the coach’s job is. Then again, that could be true about any employment position. Coaching is just more visible and people care more about it, i.e. its results.

Mike Krzyzewski is catching heat for the actions of Grayson Allen, one of his players. Last season, Allen had a couple incidents in which he tripped opponents. Video replay, another invention which makes jobs harder than they used to be, makes any excuse indefensible. Up until  a couple days ago, most fans forgot about Allen’s, ahem, missteps, possibly because it’s a new year, possibly because Duke has been without some key freshmen and Allen has been carrying the Blue Devils, possibly because of some other reason.

Fast forward to their last game and an all too familiar scene of Allen tripping an opposing player. Only this time his reactions following the transgression magnified his problem. He was seen yelling on the court and exhibiting disturbing behavior on the bench. Something, obviously, needed to be done. Duke’s coach, Mike Krzyzewski, who’s dealt with nearly every situation a head coach could during his illustrious career, had no lack of assistance in this case. Commentators, writers, studio hosts – both radio and television – even fans, had no reservations about “helping” Coach K deal with such a volatile situation.

As he has done so many times before when facing criticism, Krzyzewski listened and then, basically, said he was perfectly capable of dealing with it, without help from anyone else. He claimed to know Allen better than anyone, certainly better than anyone who was chiming in with an opinion about what needed to be done. He is as protective of his players as any coach in college.

As this story was making front page news, another well-respected coach got in the news for acting in a different manner toward a few of the players he coached. George Karl, whose last coaching gig was with the Sacramento Kings, is coming out with a book and must have gotten advice from his publisher that revealing some juicy tidbits would pump up sales.

He made some inflammatory remarks about players, most notably Carmelo Anthony, a superstar he coached when both were part of the Denver Nuggets organization. Why, other than to help sales, he felt the need to make such remarks about guys he coached so long ago is unknown at this time. While there were critical remarks about Anthony’s game, the most hurtful comment was about Anthony and fellow teammate Kenyon Martin. “Kenyon and Carmelo carried two big burdens: all that money and no father to show them how to act like a man.”

One writer came out and said the line was taken out of context but let’s put aside that part of the story. Karl speaks often about his college coach, Dean Smith, as being a (second) father figure to him. It’s been said a college coach is a father figure to is players, especially for the many players who grew up without one. Mike Krzyzewski is praised by his players as, if not a father figure, a guiding light in their lives. Of course the major difference between a college coach (high school coach too) and a professional coach is just that. Pros shouldn’t need father figures; they’re getting paid and are on their own, earning boatloads of money.

Yet, in this one instance, let’s put some pieces together. George Karl was an adult, coaching Carmelo Anthony who, when he began his professional career with the Denver Nuggets, was 19 years old. Karl had not only a father but, when he was the same age as his superstar, Dean Smith in his life. Didn’t Karl have any sympathy for a 19-year-old who grew up without a father? Didn’t he feel any responsibility in helping this young kid with issues beyond offense and defense? Was he, with his background so diametrically opposed from his rookie’s, so callous to feel he was only supposed to provide Xs and Os help to him? Did it never occur to him that if he were to show even a smidgen of the concern and subsequent advice he received from his mentor, it might make the team better, i.e. if not to improve the kid’s life, make the team more formidable? Whatever else, Karl missed a chance to make an impact on the life of a youngster (independent of whether he was a “professional” athlete or not).

With all the opinions on what Mike Krzyzewski should do and what George Karl didn’t, there is one item I have yet to hear from all these people who have answers after the fact. It’s a topic I brought up with a few coaching friends of mine a couple weeks ago, regarding a subject – a teaching point – that had taken place earlier this football season – the actions of Colin Kaepernick. My opinion was well-received by my colleagues, yet something I haven’t heard discussed to date. How do you feel about it?

“Any coach who hasn’t had a discussion with his (or her) players about the Kaepernick situation should be fired.”

 

How in the World Can Anyone Deny that Football Might Not Cause Head Injuries?

Friday, December 2nd, 2016

It took me a long time but last weekend I finally got around to watching the movie Concussion. One of my nine Division I basketball stops (my first full-time gig) was at Robert Morris College in Pittsburgh. It was during the 1976-77 season – right during the heart of the Steelers’ dynasty. I didn’t know Mike Webster but, like everybody in the ‘Burgh, we all felt we knew all the guys who played for the World Champs. So, when Webster’s tragic story became public, to all of us who were fans of the Steelers, it was like one of our family members was suffering.

While an argument could be made for “Iron Mike” as the best NFL center, his legacy has become that of the poster child for Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy (CTE). One poignant moment from the movie was when the audience was told approximately how many violent hits to the head Webster had endured throughout his football career. As more and more former players were discovered as having contracted CTE, it became all too apparent that, although football is such great entertainment for so many of us, playing it certainly takes a toll on the players’ bodies -and especially to their heads.

Recently, a survey was taken regarding football and one of the questions was “Are head injuries a serious problem in football?” 5.7% of the respondents answered no. My first thought wasn’t that such an overwhelming percentage realized how serious the issue was. It was incredulity that 5.7% actually believed it wasn’t true.

Then I saw the following quote on a story in the November 17 issue of Yardbarker. It was from Jerry Jones, owner of the Dallas Cowboys. “I recently I had a CAT scan done . . . under an assumed name,” the Cowboy’s top man said. “Afterward, the radiologist said, ‘I noticed your age. The reason I came down – and here he called me by my assumed name; he didn’t know who I was – was that you have the brain of a 40-year-old.’ My other doctors were in the room; so was my wife. I’ve got some witnesses. The point is, I was a fullback and a pulling guard. I used my head all the time, and I played football a long time. And that had no impact.”

And that alone is proof enough for Jones that there is no link between football and brain injury. So much for research.

All I could think of was:

“Lord, help us all.”