Archive for the ‘leadership’ Category

Was the Contract for Stanton a Good Move?

Friday, November 21st, 2014

The Cal State Monterey Bay Otters won last night, improving to 2-1 on the season. Their next game is tomorrow and my next blog will be Tuesday, Nov. 25.

When Giancarlo Stanton signed his new contract for 13 years and $325 million, naturally it caused quite a buzz throughout the nation. One thing it did was created a forum for come one, come all as far as comments about the contract. One thing that needs to be understood is that the contract is back-loaded. Stanton receives $107M in the first six years, averaging $18M/year, then will average $31M/year for the last seven.

As far as I’m concerned, the contract made more people happy than any other I can recall. The city of Miami is ecstatic because the Marlins kept their best guy in town, which translates into . . . the reason they open their stores. It certainly doesn’t seem like his teammates begrudge the new contract – but the returns from TMZ aren’t in yet. Opponents’ superstars are no doubt delighted with the new standard that has been set. The Marlins fans love it because their favorite – and best – player will be playing there for the foreseeable future. Fans get upset when their team loses a great player to free agency. Their chant is, “We shoulda locked him up with a max deal when we had the chance.” (Of course, when the player is in his later years, the same fans are saying,”They – note the pronoun change – gotta dump that contract; it’s hamstringing the franchise.”)

In a piece Ken Rosenthal did for FOX Sports, he compared what the Marlins did to be along the same lines as the plan the Rangers, Angels and Tigers did before signing new local TV contracts (the position Marlins owner Jeffrey Loria finds himself in), i.e. make your product more attractive by spending big. Rosenthal pointed out that the Marlins’ win total improved by 15 (62 in 2013 to 77 in 2014) – and that’s “with Jose Fernandez making only eight starts and Stanton missing the final 18 games of this past season. Their young players, including Stanton, are only getting better and if they sign a No. 2 starter, upgrade at first base and find a better solution at second,” the club might be looking pretty good around playoff time.

His summary was compelling, “Why shouldn’t a team succeed in Miami, which in many ways is the capital of Latin America (Stanton is of Puerto Rican, African-American and Irish descent)? Why can’t Stanton become an institution in the city, one of the faces of baseball? The Marlins could have traded Stanton for the sun, moon and the stars. But no, Loria wants to win. He often has an odd way of showing it. But no one who knows him questions his competitiveness.”

Now, for the opposing side to all of this. Keith Olbermann, the man whose job is his hobby, i.e. making fun of people and showing how smart – and smug – he can be on national television (all while making considerable money himself), perfectly nailed the Stanton deal (according to no greater authority than himself – and his Kool-Aid drinking minions). He mocked Stanton for taking  only $107M the first six years (“Russell Martin money” he compared it to). He said Loria was pulling another scam, as he had done it before. Olbermann continued to denigrate Stanton (although not face-to-face, alone in a room – apparently not his style) by declaring that, although the slugger would be making $31M/year for the next seven years, if he, or anyone else, thought the top salary in seven years would be $31M, they weren’t paying attention to the trend in baseball.

Did Mr. “I-May-Not-Know-It-All-But-What-I-Don’t-Know-Is-Irrelevant” ever consider that, perhaps, Stanton likes living in Miami (although he originally hails from Southern California). With the advantage of the tax break residents of Florida get (one reason James/Wade/Bosh could afford to take less money in exchange for a couple championships), Stanton and his family ought to be able to live a comfortable life there on only $17M/year (not including endorsement money). His agent, while back-loading the deal (allegedly to give the club more money to sign other players), did include an opt-out clause in 2020 (if, in fact, this whole thing is a scam) and he didn’t want to look foolish by working for a meager $31M/year for the next 7 years.

While ridiculing the deal and excoriating Loria, Olbermann never once mentions that in the last 20 years, of the 30 major league baseball teams, just 10 have won the World Series and only half of those have won at least two (the Marlins being one of that special group of five, Jeffrey Loria being the owner during the second championship). The berating of Loria, Stanton and the Marlins organization by KO (which definitely would have been the result of a private one-on-one session between Stanton and Olbermann had the latter summed up the courage to insult him) would only have been worse had the Marlins not locked him in and lost him to free agency.

The classiest (or most gullible, depending on your outlook) guy in this whole scenario has been none other than Giancarlo Stanton himself who answered the question of whether he should feel embarrassed making this kind of money, by saying, “This is the start of new work and a new job, for this city. It’s a huge responsibility, and one I’m willing to take. . . I know I have a lot of expectations to live up to, which I need to do and am willing to do.”

The best line in his reply might just have been:

“This isn’t like a lottery ticket and ‘peace out,’ all right now?”

Comments on Various Topics

Wednesday, November 19th, 2014

Brief reminder: no blog tomorrow, next one will be Friday, Nov. 21.

Random thoughts:

*Mississippi State head coach Dan Mullen was criticized last weekend during the game by many for seemingly trying not to win, but simply to score and walk away with a “close” 25-20 loss at Tuscaloosa. He was chastised by everyone, from the top all the way to the bottom, i.e. from color analyst Gary Danielson to . . . me. And when I spoke with others later on and the MSU-AL game was brought up, sure enough, the feeling was unanimous.

I’ve seen coaches (worked for one, too) who held onto their times out like they could use them when their time came. “Oh,” they must have thought the Grim Reaper would say. “You have many TOs that you didn’t use. OK, you can stay another couple hours.” While the last minutes were ticking off, I kept wondering why Mullen wouldn’t stop the clock during the Bulldogs (what proved to be their) last drive?

Danielson, whose praises have been listed in this space on numerous occasions as one of the G.O.A.T. college football color analysts, was classy enough not to second guess – until it became evident Mullen’s goal was to see MSU score at least once more, and not “lose by too much” – and drop too far, i.e. out of the top four. When the coach’s actions were that obvious, Danielson made the comment that most of those closely watching were thinking, i.e. that a five-point loss was better than one by double digits – or worse – had the Tide scored again and expanded their lead even further.

But “style points” aren’t supposed to matter. Coaches always, with a very few exceptions, have deplored “running up the score” to impress poll voters. But that was prior to the College Football Playoff. There’s no politicking your team’s way to a national championship now.

*Florida State has been dropped from #1 to #2, and #2 to #3 – and haven’t lost this year. Or last for that matter. If they get behind yet again, but are on the winning side when time runs out, could they be dropped to #4? And if it happened in the ACC title game, could the ‘Noles actually be left out of the playoffs - and not be able to defend their national championship – even though they’d finish undefeated? For a second consecutive season? Apparently “style points” do matter.

*At the beginning of the Lakers season, Kobe Bryant, as competitive as he is, might have thought, deep down, he and his boys could “fool the world.” Even after Steve Nash was forced into retirement (you are retiring, Steve, right?), Kobe probably felt they could still be a factor because 1) most likely, he hadn’t planned on that many games from Nash at a high level because those close to the team understood how badly Nash was hurting and 2) he felt he could mold the young guys into, if not like the cold-blooded assassin he is, a formidable club who’d get after it like he did game after game.

Even when Nick Young went out for a while, Kobe felt he and the others could hold down the fort until their “Swaggy P” returned. What I saw when Julius Randle, a Bryant favorite, went down and out – for the season – was what most everybody else in the sporting world noticed, mainly because so many cameras are focused on the Black Mamba. His shoulders slumped. There was no replacing what they had in Randle, even if he was an untested rookie.

How an intense guy like Kobe Bryant is going to make it through an 82-game season, losing game after game (even when playing to about as high a level as they can perform), is a mystery. The Lakers got one yesterday but it’s almost as if there ought to be a parade every time they come out on the winning side.

*Kentucky, a nice mix of freshmen and veterans (all of them uber-talented), has drawn the question, “Can they go 45-0?” (I’m assuming they can play that many – nobody, independent of how talented, can win more than they play – although if there’s a fan base that would expect it, Lexington would be their home).

John Calipari has done even more than he thought possible. He, and his staff, recruit the best group in the country every year. What’s so attractive to the recruits is how he prepares them for the NBA and has no issue if their goals are to be one-and-dones). Yet, this year he outdid himself. Some of the one-and-dones stayed! This left him with a problem no other coach – not John Wooden, Guy Lewis, Dean Smith, no one – ever had. The sheer number of talented players.

Some coaches would say that team chemistry might be a problem. That’s true – except this year Cal’s sheer number of talented guys exceeds any kind of chemistry problem. Or biology, physics, zoology, even epigenetics. And don’t think for a minute Cal just rolls it out. The guy is an excellent coach. The biggest obstacle UK will have to overcome is the media. They will have so many requests, their guys will be hounded - maybe into submission. And let’s not forget – although we’d like to – those on social media who want nothing more than to be the one who takes down Goliath.

*There was a sports story about the Niagra women’s basketball team being stranded on their team bus in of those famous Buffalo snowstorms. Luckily, the story had a happy ending and everybody is safe.

In the mid-80s I received a lesson in hometown pride. I was recruiting in Buffalo and had to walk through the biting cold, on sidewalks that were filled with snow, except for the parts that were “cleared,” leaving slush and ice. By the time I got to the school to watch the game, my shoes were ruined. Since I didn’t know the area, I called a friend who lived there and, thankfully, he agreed to drive me to the tilt. As we left the gym, I said to him, “Irv, I don’t mean to be condescending, in fact part of me admires that you can live here – and in your case – actually enjoy it, but I gotta ask you, “how do you do it?”

He looked at me and said, as if the answer was obvious, “Jack, you just learn to deal with it.”

I gave him the only response that I could think of at the time (in my best Jerry Seinfeld whiny voice):

“But I don’t want to learn how to deal with it.”

SI’s Story on Homeless Athletes Brings Back a Memory

Thursday, October 23rd, 2014

Last week’s Sports Illustrated cover story was about homeless athletes. That subject reminded me of a story I retold in a blog from August, 2013. Due to the timing and impact of the SI story, I felt it might be a good time to re-post it.


Many of Jerry Tarkanian’s critics claimed he gave his players too much leeway, i.e. his disciplinary beliefs were entirely too soft, even non-existent. I’ve always maintained that one thing I particularly liked about working for Jerry was that he let you be yourself. Of the ten head coaches I worked for, he was definitely the best in that regard. (I worked for him at Fresno State). He felt that he hired us to do a job so why not let us do it. That’s not to say he wouldn’t take us to task if our job performance wasn’t up to par.

In the case of players, the standard line Tark would use when one of the guys would get in trouble was, “He’s a good kid.” Where his philosophy might have backfired was several of the players we had shouldn’t have been themselves. Being themselves is what got them where they were. True, many of his players took advantage of his ultra-loyal nature. Many people wondered, “How could an intelligent guy” – which when it came to understanding people, Jerry was as good as anyone – “be duped so often?” A story from his early coaching years sheds evidence on his behavior better than any psychological explanation can.

It was at the beginning of his junior college career and Tark was no different than most budding, young coaches of the time – a fiery leader who wanted to show he was in charge and was going to demand full intensity at every practice. One of his best players had a really bad practice, playing well below his potential. Making matters worse was that it was the young guy’s second subpar practice in a row. If anyone knows Jerry, practice is absolutely sacred time. It’s when teams are made into winners. Or losers. Any great coach feels exactly the same. He told the kid to see him in his office after practice.

Once the player walked in, Jerry immediately lit into him – yelling about how he was letting the team down, that the only chance they had of being a great squad was for this kid to be a leader – that his effort would dictate how practices, and then games, would turn out. He got hit with the full wrath of a young Coach Tark.

Jerry said the player had tears in his eyes and began to apologize. What he said would have as much of an impact on Jerry Tarkanian as any other incident in his long and storied career.  “Coach,” the youngster began, “I know I’ve let you and the team down the past few days. It’s just that I haven’t had anything to eat for the past three days but ketchup and water. We don’t put the water in to make it taste better, just to make it last longer.”

Tark has said he felt about an inch tall. He got a lump in his throat, as he does to this day when he recounts that story. “I never, ever, considered that was the reason the kid was having bad practices. I couldn’t believe anybody had to live like that.” The coach made sure the young man got something to eat from there on out and, sure enough, he became the player Jerry thought he would be.

There are many versions of the following quote but the most pertinent in this case – and the most telling when it comes to explaining Jerry Tarkanian’s feelings toward his players – might be:

“Try walking a mile in my shoes and see how far you get.”

Everybody Should Hear What Drew Brees Said After the Saints’ Loss

Monday, October 20th, 2014

The Percy Harvin trade, which came at such an interesting time in the season, has occupied a good deal of the sports news. Jameis Winston continues to polarize the sports world while Florida fans are calling for Will Muschamp’s head. Or, at the very least, his job.

As with any football weekend, there are an equal number of wins and losses (no, I haven’t forgotten the tie between . . . who was it again)? The fans of the winners feel good (other than the ones who never feel good), while the losers’ followers blame the coach/quarterback/kicker/whoever fumbled/offensive or defensive coordinator/referees or somebody damnit!

Well, was there any positive news this weekend (other than Peyton Manning breaking a record that, while it might be broken someday, that someday won’t be for a long, long time – unless Roger Goodell manages to expand the season to 25 games and the “competition” committee passes a rule stating DBs aren’t allowed to touch a receiver until after he catches the ball)? Note: Is that what your high school English teacher used to call a run-on sentence?

Seldom do we find a player who made a mistake (that probably cost his team the game) own up to it. For the third straight week, New Orleans QB Drew Brees threw for over 340 yards. His final stats were 28 of 45 for 342 yards and two touchdowns, but with four min to go on a third and nine play, Brees threw his only pick of the game and the Saints lost 24-23. Being the stand-up guy that he is – and always has been – Brees made the following statement that is a perfect life lesson for all, but especially young athletes who aspire, someday, to be big-time like . . . Drew Brees:

“The worst feeling in professional sports is when you feel like you let your team down.”

One Way to Hire an Athletics Director

Sunday, October 19th, 2014

During my 30-year career in intercollegiate athletics at nine Division I institutions, I worked for fifteen directors of athletics. Whether or not that makes me an expert in ADs or not is unknown but I certainly have seen my share of them.

Can a director of athletics make a significant difference? From my experiences, absolutely. Which means that the university must take the hiring of the leader of its athletics department very seriously. But what does seriously mean?

Ask any AD in what used to be referred to as Division I (now, the Power 5 conferences and the “Other 5″ conferences, for lack of a better term) and I will guarantee you close to 100% of them have a “short list” of football and basketball coaches they would contact (directly or subtly) if their coach “needed to be replaced” (left, retired, fired or died). This might even apply to other sports, especially if it’s a revenue producer. Why is that not also the case for the president of the school when a change is made in the leadership of the department of athletics?

After all, in addition to a multimillion dollar budget, this person is in charge of multiple sports and facilities, including the coaches, players, cheerleaders (possibly song girls, dance teams, etc.) and support staff (managers, equipment personnel, secretaries, custodians and student assistants). And I imagine I’ve missed some.

As the Director of Basketball Operations at Fresno State from 1995-2002 we had four different directors of athletics, although one of them was a vice president who also had the interim tag until the a full time replacement was found. Since then, there have been four additional ADs, one interim, one full time and, currently, a couple co-interims. Meaning, once again, they’re in search of a director.

Recently, there was an article in the local paper explaining how the selection process will be made. The president has done what presidents – or really any administrator, love to do: named a committee. Jim Murray, the greatest sportswriter of all-time, once remarked, “A camel is a horse made by a committee.”

This committee is composed of 15, yeah, fifteen members. Naturally, a high ranking administrator, in this case, the Provost and VP for Academic Affairs, will chair it. Of course, both co’s will be members, as well as three representatives of the community (it’s a good bet none have money problems), three faculty members, a head men’s coach and a head women’s coach, someone from the media relations department, a student and a couple non-voting members (how important must they feel)? Really, now, when was the last time 15 people agreed on anything?

As if that breakdown isn’t enough, the article went on to describe how the people actually got on the committee. The president named the chair, the co-interims and the three big-hitters. Two of the professors were selected by the school’s Academic Senate, the other one is the head of the kinesiology department with whom the athletics department shares two practice gymnasiums. The two coaches and the media relations person were chosen by their peers, while the student was picked by the Associated Students, Inc. The article didn’t mention how the non-voting members made it, possibly by a random drawing.

Some readers familiar with such hiring processes might be asking, “why didn’t Fresno State just hire a search firm?” Oh yeah, they did that, too. At a cost of $70,000 (of non-state funds). The administration’s plan is for the hire to be made by the December holidays and for the new director of athletics to come on board early in 2015. Smooth transition.

As a caveat, let it be known that, so far this century, Fresno State has paid out tens of millions of dollars in four separate Title IX related deals so, if ever, a school would try to cover all bases, it’s FSU. In fact, I’m surprised a veteran isn’t on the committee but maybe one of the 15 meets that requirement.

When it comes to hiring a director of athletics – or pretty much trying to accomplish anything - always remember the phrase:

“Nothing is so bad it can’t be made worse by a committee.”

And a search firm.

Finally! A Method for Dealing with the Prima Donna

Saturday, October 18th, 2014

In case you haven’t heard – because, maybe, you had a son playing high school football or a daughter cheering (or, good luck to you, both) last night – and you were so into the game that you didn’t check your phone for up-to-the-minute sports news, then you went to bed, woke up and the first thing you did was check my blog, the Seattle Seahawks traded one of the most talented and exciting players in the NFL, Percy Harvin, to the New York Jets for no one. At least for no one who can help them this year.

Either the Seahawks’ front office has huge, huge cojones or Percy Harvin was/is such a “malignant cancer,” he had to be dealt with as any malignant cancer would be. Cut it out. When things are said such as was reported by ESPN’s NFL insider, John Clayton (who, like him or not, has proved to be a reliable, on-the-money source for NFL news), “They had to make him happy” and “Personalities on the team clashed,” and from’s Seahawks’ insider, Terry Blount, “He was too much of a disruptive force. He became more trouble than he was worth,” what happens is the team takes a back seat to the egomaniac and, independent of how talented he is, he simply cannot remain a member of the franchise.

Usually, a prima donna plays for a losing team. The reason is because, in team sports, there’s no place for a me-first guy. Individual sports are completely different, i.e. the only way someone can help the team is to win his or her event or match (track & field, golf, wrestling, tennis). In that setting, someone whom everybody on the team loves, who runs around and cheers like crazy for all the others, but who doesn’t win, is, unfortunately, of little or no value. In order to win consistently in a team sport, it’s not only necessary, but vital, to have everyone on the same page. From the same book. Teamwork makes the dream work, as the saying goes.

If only other head coaches, GMs, presidents, owners, administrators, i.e. decision makers, acted the same way, there would be infinitely fewer divas in sports, much to the relief of every other team member and nearly all coaches – at least assistant coaches. On teams in which the head coach is weak, often he (I can only speak from personal experience, so only the male gender) will bow to the “superstar,” feeling to rid the team of such a talent would leave the club too shorthanded. So, . . . the team continues losing – and the head coach loses the rest of the squad. And, usually, his job.

It puts the assistants in such a difficult position because 1) the rest of the players are going to the assistants because they fear repercussion from the head man if they approach him, putting the assistants in the awkward situation of being truthful or disloyal 2) the head coach knows how the assistants feel because they’ve told him and 3) the star knows he holds the power over the head coach and, subtly – or not so subtly – flaunts his position over everyone else involved.

What Percy Harvin needs to understand is a positive attitude in a team setting is mandatory or else, as Danny Cox, famous speaker from Orange County used to say:

“If you’re not fired with enthusiasm, you’ll be fired – with enthusiasm.”

Jameis Winston Has No Idea of What His Enablers Are Doing to Him

Friday, October 17th, 2014

Jameis Winston is an ultra-talented athlete who has the ability to block out distractions (mostly caused by him) and lead his Florida State team to win after win, week after week and, so far, year after year. It’s almost frightening how the on-field leader of the nation’s defending champion can deal with adversity in such a cool manner. Could it be that he needs such an environment in order to perform his magic? Maybe that’s been the attitude of those who could be helping him (coaching staff, athletics administration, media relations people, counselors, family members).

It is quite a stretch to say Winston intentionally undermines the “normal” life of what is expected of a college football player – practice, position meetings, film study, a couple days of work with pads, walk-throughs (oh yeah, and classes) – with some tomfoolery, or worse, just so he can turn into his superhero self come game day. Yet, that could be said, on a lesser scale, of his college baseball season last year.

As contradictory as it sounds, there are some people who need chaos to lead an organized life. Whatever the acts or allegations, Winston remains unfazed and unflappable – just as he did when he accepted the Heisman Trophy last year (as the youngest player ever to do so). His name was called and he promptly proceeded to ignore his fellow finalists (unlike other past winners) and headed directly to his parents. Not an unreasonable act, but one that looked a bit staged. Then he pulled out a prepared speech (a wise move, I mean, who in the world would want to win football’s most prestigious award and just babble through a few minutes of unpracticed appreciative drivel)? His presentation was obviously rehearsed (once again, why not?) but, looking back, it seemed like he was saying, “If you think last year was something, just wait.”

NFL scouts and front office people are aghast. One NFL scout, in essence speaking for most all of them said, “We’re talent whores. But we’re not total whores. It’s almost impossible, at this point, to trust Winston.” When you’re investing a first round draft pick – or any in the top 3-4 rounds – trust has to be closer to the top of the list of qualities the player has to possess. And when the position is that of a quarterback, i.e. the guy who speaks in the huddle, the guy who has to make the other ten around him believe what he’s saying is in everybody’s best interest, if “trust” doesn’t trump “skill,” it can’t be too far behind.

Critics have explained his actions as entitlement. The (botched) rape allegation which isn’t over yet, the crab legs fiasco, screaming in a campus setting vile obscenities (something reserved for fraternity pledges) and now, the autograph ordeal are all actions of a young man who feels he’s above the law, social mores and, simply, how civilized people act. Yet, I don’t believe it’s entitlement.

From where I sit and observe the guy, it’s almost like Winston is making the following case to the people he views as his future employers. “Look. There’s always going to be adversity. But adversity cannot stop me – or even slow me down. There’s nothing I can’t get out of. Sure, I’m a fun-loving guy, but one who’s going to make your organization a big winner.” While that explanation might be extremely presumptuous of me, I can think of one other alternate answer.

Immaturity. As has been written on this site any number of times regarding such individuals, “Some people don’t know, and some people don’t know that they don’t know. If it’s not entitlement or an overabundance of cockiness, maybe it’s immaturity that defines “today’s” Jameis Winston. If so, the good news is that, one day – hopefully soon – Jameis will realize his actions aren’t one of a leader of men (massive and highly skilled ones at that) and he will decide his actions off the field should equate to those on it.

Or he might resemble Dennis Rodman who said when asked about his character:

“My rookie year, I was very immature.”

A News Item that Just Couldn’t Be Passed Up

Thursday, October 9th, 2014

Actually, I was going to blog on another topic but, while watching the late, local news, I saw a story that everyone needed to hear. For those readers who don’t know about my blog, it originates from Fresno, California. Since my sleep schedule is similar to that of an owl’s, blogging the first thing in the morning just isn’t something that’s ever going to happen. In fact, there are days in my life in which there is no such thing as morning. 

What I found when I picked up this blogging hobby is that, if I hit the “publish” tab after 11:00 pm, the selection posts to the following day. So, readers on the east coast who are morning people, can be exposed to my brilliance just as soon as they wake up. If there is anyone “back east” who has experienced that not to be the case, occasionally, it’s because there have been times that the words and/or ideas aren’t quite flowing as freely as I hoped and “publish” doesn’t get hit until after 4:00 am west coast time. Hey, another reason for retirement.

As I mentioned earlier, last night while my wife and I were watching the late news on one of the local networks (usually that is way past Jane’s bedtime. However, Wednesday night at 10 is reserved for Nashville (not because it happens to be her hometown but because . . . it’s full of wholesome family values). We were discussing the latest episode and commenting about how kind the characters were to each other when we both turned our heads toward what was being reported.

One of the news anchors is a friend, so we’re kind of tuned into her voice. She began to tell a story that was a true head scratcher. If you’re like me, every once in a while, you watch shows like “The 10 Dumbest Things . . .” Last night a new entry occurred in the “thief” category.

Apparently, Riley John Bigger, 19, wanted a soda and some headphones. He rode his bike to a CVS pharmacy and put the items in his backpack. Possibly because he was spooked by the surveillance cameras, he took off from the store. In his haste he forgot the bike and the backpack that had the goods he went there for in the first place. Unfortunately for him, the clerk at CVS realized it, too.

When he returned for what was rightfully his (as well as what wasn’t), he and the clerk had a debate. She wanted her property back. Bigger figured his best move was just to get out of there so he hopped on the bike and left. The video showed that, at one point he realized what he’d left but decided to just call it a night.

If the story would ended there, it wouldn’t make anybody’s top 10 list. But in this case, the clerk called the police and, of course, they checked the backpack. Sure enough, the stolen soda and headphones were in there, along with – this is where RJB separated himself from just any ol’ robber. In it was evidence connecting him to other crimes. But even that fact doesn’t put him in the elite criminal fools category. Also found in the backpack was a very detailed, professional resume – complete with name, address and phone number.

Now, we all have lied (or, at least, stretched the truth a little) on our resumes. George O’Leary at Notre Dame and Steve Masiello at South Florida are a couple coaches who lost prime, if not dream, jobs for lying on their resumes (both have rebounded quite nicely after coming clean and getting second chances). Yahoo! CEO Scott Thompson, former president of the U.S. Olympic Committee, Sandra Baldwin and Bausch & Lomb CEO Ronald Zarrellais all were caught lying on resumes and, in the first two cases, were fired. While Zarrellais managed to keep his, he did lose over a million dollars in bonus money.

What makes Bigger unique is the description of his skills: “a good customer service person, people person, family oriented and an outgoing personality, raised with good morals on a family farm.” Not one to undersell himself, Riley John Bigger also identifies himself as a problem solver, someone who can stay calm and make decisions based on common sense.

Fresno Police Chief Jerry Dyer summed the case up succinctly when he said:

“You don’t have to be smart to be a criminal, but you do have to be smart to get away with committing a criminal act.”  

Why Is It Older People Think They Can Help Others?

Sunday, October 5th, 2014

This isn’t exactly breaking news but Google is a pretty awesome invention. Or discovery. Or creation. Whatever, it’s way above my intelligence level. If ever there was something that can give you answers – quickly – it’s Google. For someone with a relatively decent level of intelligence, when it comes to technology, I’m, let’s just describe it as, well below the curve. Suffice to say, whoever (or whatever) invented Google is quite a bit above that curve. Yet, on occasion, answers can be found elsewhere.

Because I’ve lived through six-and-a-half decades, in nine different states all across the country and have had jobs of influence over the youth of America, passing on information is something that comes naturally to me. More than having the job of teacher or coach, I have always considered myself a student of life and an observer of people.

Maybe due to an early lack of confidence – which some people who know me would scoff at – I was always worried about being good enough. For those who don’t believe that, here’s an example. When I was a senior in high school, I never considered myself exceptionally bright, e.g. my overall GPA was around 2.7 or 2.8 which gave me a class ranking in the upper 25%. Not bad, but not exceptional by any means. I was smarter and a better athlete than some of the guys I hung around with – in math and a couple selected sports. But they were better than I was in other subjects or sports. 

During my sophomore year, I doubled up taking geometry and algebra 2 so I could take calculus my senior year. There were 12 of us in the class (another kid in our graduating class was so smart he’d taken calculus his junior year so he was taking his math class at Rutgers, located a couple miles across the Raritan River). At that time many colleges were requiring single subject SATs as well as the regular morning tests everyone took to gain college admission. Naturally, the kids in our calculus class (and the brainiac at Rutgers) took the single subject Level 1 math test.

When the scores came in, I got a 756 (out of 800). The only people I knew who’d taken that test were the 13 of us. When I got to class and everybody reported their scores, I found out that mine – outstanding by anyone else’s measurement (but which I had no idea) – was the 11th highest, meaning it was the next to the lowest in the entire group. Eight of the others got perfect 800s. Two of them received a perfect 800 on the Level 2 test. That test was on material we hadn’t even covered in class!

There are other stories which contributed to my inferiority complex in areas academic, athletic and social so I was always looking for ways to improve. So it wasn’t at all strange that when I returned to my alma mater, Highland Park (NJ) HS, as a math teacher, football and basketball coach (after I graduated from college in 1970) that I read one of the most influential books of my life, Psychocybernetics by Dr. Maxwell Maltz. It wasn’t until I read Dr. Stephen Covey’s The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People that a book had as much influence over me as that one I read in 1970.

For a guy who didn’t particularly enjoy reading in high school and college, once I graduated, I began to read quite a bit (probably because it wasn’t required). When I went to Washington State in 1973 and began working for George Raveling (one of the most voracious readers of all time), I was positively influenced to become a lifelong learner. George would always be giving me books – print and audio. In addition, I’d always enjoyed simply studying people. All of those traits have broadened my life.

Quick story (for real). Once, when I was Director of Basketball Operations at Fresno State, we were returning to the mainland on a red-eye after our conference game with the University of Hawaii. I happened to be sitting near the front of the plane. At that time, i.e. prior to the pain pump that’s now implanted in my abdomen, I just couldn’t sleep (sitting up) on planes. So I would read. Around 4:00 am one of our players came up and tapped me on my shoulder. When I looked up, he said, “Jack, turn around.” When I did, I saw that the only light in the entire plane that was on the one above my seat. I knew I was a good deal smarter when I got off that plane than I was prior to boarding it.

Since I was in a role of teaching young guys how to play and, I can’t stress this enough, also how to succeed in life, dispensing knowledge became an obsession. Those who know me well will tell people I’ve never had an aversion to speaking. One person, two people, 1500 people at the Fresno Convention Center (although I got paid for that one) – doesn’t matter. If you’re around me, you’re going to hear something that will make you think or smile. I can’t help it. I enjoy sharing information, stories and powerful quotes.

People I’ve taught, coached, mentored and assisted in one way or another have asked me why it is I seem so comfortable sharing my philosophies, a few of which seem a little off the wall. Believe me, I’m in no way so presumptuous to think I have all the answers. One day, however, I found the answer. It was on a card I saw at a local Hallmark store. It said:

“Just because I give you advice doesn’t mean I know more than you. It just means I’ve done more stupid shit.”

Was There a Reason for the Success the Cards Had Against Kershaw in the Seventh?

Saturday, October 4th, 2014

As a child, I was as big a Dodger fan (for a good deal of my childhood, they played in Brooklyn) as existed. Once I got on teams of my own – around high school, then college, then coaching in college – I rooted for that team. In layman’s terms, I was a bandwagon Dodgers fan, i.e. if they were playing in the post season, I was interested but I no longer lived and died with every pitch – or game.

Therefore, yesterday was one of those times I was pulling for my favorite ball club. Growing up as a Jewish teenager in New Jersey in the ’60s, no one could tell me there was (or ever will be) any pitcher better than Sandy Koufax. Read his story. It wasn’t just not pitching in Game 1 of the World Series because it fell on Yom Kippur, the holiest day for Jews. It was pitching when, following the game, his arm would be swollen twice the size and would turn black. Back then, no one knew sports medicine injuries. The trainers at that time would tell a player who sprained his ankle to put it in a hot whirlpool – probably the worst way to treat it - because science hadn’t caught up yet with athletics (will it ever)? It was also not retaliating and hitting the opponent’s best player because their pitcher had hit Tommy or Willie Davis or Maury Wills.

“How about I just embarrass him in front of everybody?” was a response his teammates might get. Then, the next time the opposing stud came up, he went down on strikes, often screwing himself into the ground trying to hit the famous Koufax curve ball that looked like it dropped off a table.

Now, the Dodgers have Clayton Kershaw, another left-handed pitcher opponents can’t hit. Naturally, with all of the television and radio stations, print media, social media, it’s similar to yesteryear in one regard: everyone has an opinion. But now, everyone can be “heard.” And what we’re hearing is that Kershaw is being favorably compared to Koufax. The guy who would know, long time play-by-play man, Vin Scully, put the kibosh on any comparison when he exclaimed, “Sandy used to pitch 27 complete games a season.” Yet, just being mentioned in the same sentence as Koufax is quite an accolade.

Last night, Kershaw was moving along as his Koufax-like Kershaw-like pace – a couple mistakes for jacks, but still cruising with a 6-2 lead, heading into the bottom of the seventh. Color analyst Harold Reynolds commented that it was the first time all game that Kershaw had to pitch from his stretch position. A single put Cards on first and second. St. Louis proceeded to hammer Kershaw – like no one has done since, maybe, they did last year.

Morgan, as nearly everyone at Dodger Stadium, grew bewildered at how easily the Cardinals were handling baseball’s best pitcher. His location was off but he was still throwing 93-94 mph fastballs. I can’t remember exactly when, but Reynolds made the comment that it was almost like they knew what Kershaw was throwing.

Was he tipping his pitches? By the time he’d been knocked out, Reynolds seemed certain the Cardinals had stolen the signs which explained a mystery for which no one else had a clue. He finally said, nearly screamed, that he couldn’t believe that, not one time, did A.J. Ellis meet with Kershaw and say something to the effect, “The hell with the signs, what do you want to throw this pitch?”

Rinse and repeat, if necessary. By the end of the inning, I was incensed that no one in the entire Dodgers’ organization thought of something so obvious. Was that really happening? Was it the X factor in the game? Unfortunately, we’ll never know. And you can bet the Cards ain’t saying.

Is it illegal for somebody in the dugout to listen to the broadcast? And not to listen to, as sensational as he is, Scully. Come to think of it, have somebody listen to the St. Louis feed, too. If it’s not kosher, have somebody in the stands listen and relay information. Something! All this newfangled help didn’t exist in Sandy’s day but, shouldn’t the question be asked:

“With the incessant use of sabermetrics and analytics in baseball, does no one pay attention to common sense anymore?”

Full disclosure: I didn’t tune into the game until the 4th inning and, to these old ears, Harold Reynolds sounded just like Joe Morgan (whom I always admired as a commentator). Once I read the game story and realized my mistake, I corrected it. For those of you who read it prior to the correction, I apologize.