Archive for the ‘leadership’ Category

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.”


Apologies, Without a Change of Behavior, Are an Insult

Monday, July 18th, 2016

At halftime of one game during a season in which the Golden State Warriors only lost a record nine (9) times, Draymond Green and Steve Kerr had a back and forth shouting match. Who was right, who was wrong may never be known but, usually, it’s the player’s fault if for no reason than the coach is hired to coach, i.e. make decisions. Whether or not the decisions made are the right ones, the coach is paid to make them and the players are paid to execute them. Green seemed to agree with that assessment.

“You know, I made a mistake, I admitted my mistakes to my teammates, my coaching staff. I apologize to my teammates, my coaching staff, this organization. That wasn’t the right way to handle what needed to be handled. As a leader of this team, I can’t do that because it sets a bad precedent for how everything is ran (sic) around here, for how everything should be ran (sic), for how everything has been ran (sic), and how everything will be ran (probably attended the same English class at Michigan State that Magic did) going forward. It won’t happen again (italics mine).” During that profanity-laced tirade, he acknowledged his emotions “kind of got ahead of me.”

P.S. In that game the Warriors were down 11 at the half against the OKC Thunder but won the game on Steph Curry’s buzzer-beating bomb in overtime. The outburst was written off as “things that happen frequently in NBA locker rooms.”

Later in March, Green posted (and later deleted) a Snapchat video of him going 118 MPH on a freeway a few months back. When asked about it, he said, “Well obviously, poor judgment.”

Fast forward (pun intended) to the NBA Finals, as Warriors fans know all too well, the Dubs were about to go up 3-1 against the Cavs when the Draymond Green “ready, fire, aim” strategy once again went into action. Prior to the game Cleveland felt in control after easily defeating the defending champs in Game 3. The Warriors, though, kept their poise on the road, played as effectively as they normally did in clutch situations and, with a minute or so to go, were a game away from another NBA Championship. Then, LeBron James and Green got into it. James, frustrated that the game (and with it, the championship) were slipping away, showed Green what players call the ultimate disrespect by stepping over the fallen Warrior (yeah, pun again). Golden State’s (self-proclaimed) leader took offense and, instinctively, aka “ready, fire, aim,” took a swipe at James’ privates. Since he’d earlier kicked Steve Adams in his jewels, but 1) skated without ejection from the game and 2) somehow avoided being suspended for the next contest, this move forced the NBA big wigs’ hands. Green was suspended for Game 5.

P.S. His response to being questioned about the Adams’ incident had the “Green apology machine” in OT. “I didn’t intentionally kick him down there . . . I would definitely apologize, and I look forward to apologizing to him, if I see him.”

So, rather than being up 3-1 with two home games left and headed back to Oakland at full strength, Golden State found itself with a non-playmaker with the ball after their guards were blitzed in every pick and roll situation. Many people with high basketball IQs stated that, had Green played in that contest, it would have been back-to-back championships for the Bay Area bunch. When Green was interviewed, he did what he does best – even better than rebounding, passing, shooting and defending. He apologized, calling himself a “terrible teammate.” He continued, “I let my teammates down . . . I have strong belief that if I played Game 5 we win, but I didn’t because I put myself in a situation where I wasn’t able to play.”

With this history, was anyone surprised at the recent story of Draymond Green slapping a (soon-to-be-ex-)Michigan State football player? Apparently, the football player and Green bumped into each other and the footballer felt Green should have apologized. Green was a little over the legal limit and took offense. So what does a slightly inebriated person, who makes big bank, is in his hometown and with a history of acting first, apologizing later, say when confronted? “I pay for n—as like you scholarships,” a reference to the generous donation (seven figures generous) the former MSU star made to the Spartan scholarship fund. Naturally, the situation escalated, ending with Green slapping the football player (who obviously had violated the long known street code, “don’t let mouth writing a check your body can’t cash”).

What’s not at all shocking is according to the police report, Green indicated to officers after the arrest “that he was sorry for slapping the subject and wanted to speak with him to make things right.”

Had Ralph Waldo Emerson come in contact with Draymond Green, he might have said:

“Your actions speak so loudly, I cannot hear what you are saying.”

Wade Departure Gives NBA a Soap Opera Feel

Thursday, July 7th, 2016

A brief trip to Orange County to meet the Australian gentleman (who is traveling with some younger Australian teams playing in Irvine) who is kind enough to house and assist our younger son, Alex, as he pursues a career in professional basketball Down Under. The trip also gives us a chance to have dinner with older son, Andy, and his girlfriend. Barring anything unforeseen, this blog should return Monday, July 11.

NBA games are filled with drama. Well, at least a good many of them are. The current free agency period, however, trumps anything that happened during the season, maybe even including the playoffs which had more than its share of blowouts. The latest blowout came when one of the league’s most admired players decided to move his talents from South Beach.

Dwyane Wade is the most admired athlete in South Florida since Dan Marino. Neither his character nor work ethic were ever questioned. After LeBron James bolted, D-Wade came up with the idea of a Heat Lifer. The concept took off and apparel was created with the message, “Show your serious dedication to the Miami Heat and make a serious statement that you are a ‘Heat Lifer’ just like Dwyane Wade.” Sure it was a slam at James but no one at the time, including Wade, thought he would ever wear anything but a Miami Heat uniform.

This is another in an endless stream of examples of how out of whack the NBA has come. There are two sides to every story and this one is no exception. Dwyane Wade was the face of the franchise. Two players whose bodies, games and egos are bigger than life, Shaquille O’Neal and LeBron James, both admitted in their time with the organization that the Heat were Wade’s team. He is far and away the franchise’s all-time statistical leader (points, assists & steals), plus the guy who led them to three titles. Yet, D-Wade was never the highest paid player on the team.

Unfortunately, as the players themselves are constantly explaining, “The NBA is a business.” The Heat had to do what’s best for the team and, as cold-hearted as that is, it means they didn’t want to pay Wade for what he’d done in the past. Undoubtedly, had he stayed, there would have been a front office job of some kind which would have paid him handsomely. It’s just that Wade has become an entrepreneur and probably wouldn’t want, nor have time for, such ceremonial type of employment. So the Heat drew a line in the sand. It definitely wasn’t the absolute absurd amount of dough that far lesser players have been raking in, e.g. the Heat’s own Tyler Johnson, a back up player with two years of NBA experience – and a guy the Heat would have loved to have kept – who signed a contract for 5 years, $50 million with the Nets after playing a total of 68 games and averaging 7.4 points. Still, 2 years, $40 million – for a player of Wade’s age and injury history – is not chicken scratch. Keep in mind that Florida has no state tax so the 2 years, $47 million offer he accepted with the Bulls is a difference of about $5 million.

Too bad such an, up til now, beautiful marriage between a beloved player and his first NBA club, had to come to such a nasty ending. It happens when stubbornness and egos get involved. The one thing Dwyane Wade didn’t do in Miami is what most people do there:


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.”

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.”

Pray for Pat

Monday, June 27th, 2016

It was reported that Pat Summitt’s health (she was diagnosed with early onset dementia at the young age of 59) has declined so badly that she is surrounded only by her family members and closest friends. As one who has experience with family members who had Alzheimer’s (my grandmother, mother and aunt – the latter two passing within the last five years), I can only hope Pat goes quickly. Knowing her as well as I do (I worked at UT for seven years and we often collaborated on recruiting weekends and practice times, as well as discussed strategy, dealing with players and recruiting ideas throughout my time there), I know she wouldn’t want to exist as she is.  

What follows is a reprint of a blog I posted when I first heard of her diagnosis.

When I got to the University of Tennessee in 1980, Pat Summitt had already been the women’s basketball coach for six years. She’d been incredibly successful and had led the Lady Vols from AIAW to the NCAA. Immaculata and Old Dominion were the AIAW powers but they couldn’t keep it up after the switch of parent organizations. UT got better. To Pat, it was just another challenge. Although she hadn’t won a national championship, it was evident that, watching her work, she wouldn’t stop until she won it all.

The year I left, 1987, she finally did. The she won seven more. She’s the all-time winningest coach, male or female, in college basketball. No one is respected more. When I was at USC in the early ’90s, one of our other assistants asked me a question I’d been posed numerous times, “Do you think Pat Summitt could coach men?” My response was the same one I’d been giving since the ’80s. “Absolutely – and she’d probably be about as successful as she is now.”

How do you now write something on Pat without making it sound like a eulogy? You take a page out of Pat’s own book. No pity party, keep focused on the task at hand. She’s the most complete person I’ve ever known – confidant without any trace of arrogance, personable yet driven, brilliant but always looking to learn and improve, serious but willing to be the butt of a joke, hard worker but the ultimate team player.

She overcame being a “girl” in a man’s world (including a tough dad and competitive brothers who showed her no mercy), won as a coach despite having no experience, rose above everyone in her profession, won it all – and kept on winning.

When I first heard she was diagnosed with early-onset dementia, I thought it was a joke, that the punch line was the diagnosis came after she said she was considering coaching men. But it wasn’t. She’s beaten nearly everything and everyone in her way. Now she faces a foe who’s undefeated. My mom was one of its victims, losing her battle this past June 24th. Pat’s teams always played the best schedules, never ducking anyone. But this opponent is unfair. It plays by its own rules.

All we can do is wish Pat the best. She deserves nothing less.

The worst part of Alzheimer’s is:

“It’s the only disease in which you lose your loved one twice.”

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.”




Was this Baylor Recruit’s Dad Really Surprised?

Friday, June 24th, 2016

There have been intercollegiate scandals nearly as long as there have been colleges. The only thing worse than the laundry list of recent transgressions by institutions, administrators, coaches and players is the fact that, more likely than not, there were so many more in the past that were never reported. With the power of modern technology, however, illegal and immoral acts are not only more difficult to get away with, they no longer can easily be covered up. That type of progress is applauded far and wide.

When it comes to misdeeds (to use the term much too loosely), one of the worst institutions from a historical perspective is the athletics department at Baylor University. Should there be any Baylor apologists, the Bears’ athletics department needs to be reminded of this: “If one person calls you a horse, it might be an insult. If three people call you a horse, it might be a conspiracy. If ten people call you a horse, get a saddle.”

Few people have forgotten the 2003 tragedy that happened at Baylor when one basketball player shot and killed a teammate. An assistant coach recorded a staff meeting (itself an inexcusable act of disloyalty – even if it did expose the head coach as a liar and someone who had lost his moral compass, if not his mind) in which the head coach had decided the best way to handle the situation was to paint the deceased player as a drug dealer, hoping the public would dismiss the death as one less drug dealer on earth. Naturally, this strategy blew up in the faces of all concerned and the NCAA investigated that and several additional allegations, from players’ drug use to coaches making illegal payments to players. The school self-imposed punishments but the NCAA came down harder, including the elimination of one year of any non-conference contests. It was one of the harshest actions taken against a member institution, short of the death penalty.

Memories must run short in Waco. The most recent transgressions include allegations of sexual assault, domestic violence and other acts of brutality involving several Baylor football players, as far back as 2011 and as recent as this past season. It’s been reported that some coaches and administrators knew about the actions, yet the players involved were not disciplined. Worse, it’s alleged that school officials failed to adequately investigate, or did not investigate at all, the allegations of sexual violence.

In no way can any of what occurred at Baylor be discounted but in a story that could be entitled Ultimate Naivete, the father of a Baylor Bears football signee said he felt betrayed by the school. He said no one from Baylor ever informed its recruits that they were investigating sexual assault allegations. Because of the oversight, he demanded a release for his son from his national letter-of-intent.

Wait, this parent was disappointed the school never notified the prospects they were trying to recruit that there was an investigation going on regarding the mishandling and outright covering up of sexual assaults? What if they had told him and his son, he was asked.

If we would have known, we would never had considered Baylor,” was his response.

How could a school, undergoing a plethora of sexual assault and domestic violence cases, not tell a recruit and his family?

“Sir, I think you just answered your own question.”

Don’t Expect the Cavs to Repeat

Tuesday, June 21st, 2016

One takeaway from the just completed NBA Finals is that the Cleveland Cavaliers made more people happy by winning the championship than the Golden State Warriors would have. One obvious reason is that Dubs’ fans have been riding an (almost) two year high. They need a break from celebrating. The star crossed city of Cleveland, with its 52 years of misery and series of bitter endings, as well as the entire state of Ohio, couldn’t have asked for a better ending. Include all the softhearted people out there who said they were rooting for the Cavs “because they haven’t won anything in so long.” Think about it. Doesn’t that group comprise a large majority of the nation? After all, when was the last time you won anything of significance (not counting the medium fries you scored in the last Monopoly game at McDonald’s)?

Something that’s been floated is that Cavs faithful should completely soak in the glory of this championship. Rather than giddily hoping for a repeat, the people should bask in the glow of this year – and not because of “staying in the moment.” The champagne wasn’t even dry when the rumors began flying around about the potential break up of the championship team. Richard Jefferson immediately announcing his retirement removed a vital cog in this season’s championship run. It’s unclear whether Kevin Love will be returning (not too frightening a proposition for many Cleveland people). In fact, if the Timberwolves want to swap Andrew Wiggins for their once consistent 26 & 13 machine, odds are favorable Dan Gilbert could be persuaded. How about the proposition of LeBron James, having fulfilled his promise of bringing home a championship for The ‘Land, bolting to another franchise (Los Angeles)? Who in the world would believe a kid born and raised in Akron would prefer living in La La Land? You don’t have to answer that.

Post game hugs and tears aside, there were too many stories of James and Irving not wanting anything to do with each other – on or off the court – but more of the “on.” A sportswriter who covered high school hoops in Oregon claimed Kevin Love’s high school teammates didn’t particularly cotton to his overall demeanor. As far as how Love got along with the best player in the NBA (tough to dispute after the recently concluded NBA Finals), Love admitted during the season he and LeBron were not “best friends.” NBA assistant coaches (many of whom revel in gossip – hey, they have a lot of free time on their hands) will readily disclose that K-Love has another member of the franchise who’s not a big fan of his. A hint is he may have the shortest name in the NBA (and he’s the coach). Come to think of it, though, how many coworkers really are?

One thing to keep in mind is that, teammates on championship teams aren’t always the closest of buds, e.g. Kobe & Shaq, Rondo & Ray Allen (or Rondo & Doc for that matter). Anyway, if you ever want the real scoop, figure a way to corner Brian Windhorst. Although, if he were to play basketball, his position looks less like point or shooting guard than pulling guard, the guy has his finger on the the pulse of the Cavs organization. It would be interesting, if not eye-popping, if he were hooked up to a polygraph.

All in all, there are a variety of personalities on Cleveland’s squad and, in a profession that has nearly as many outsized egos as outsized players, none of this is shocking. However, should the Cavs – or any other organization inside the world of professional sports or any other business for that matter – want to continue their era greatness (or begin one), the employees would be wise to heed the advice of a man who understood what it took to galvanize a group, lead them into battle and come out victorious. It was the late Vince Lombardi who said:

“Try to be great athletes, but don’t forget to be great friends. Teammates, above all, and leaders.”