Archive for the ‘leadership’ Category

One Man’s View on Tanking

Saturday, April 15th, 2017

Words and terms enter the basketball jargon as the years move on – words such as “analytics,” “off the bounce” and “score the ball” (as if anything else can be scored). Another of today’s catch words is “tanking.”

Theories abound regarding how to build a championship franchise. One is by judiciously trading, another is through free agency and still another is building a team through the draft. The current power squad in the NBA is the Golden State Warriors whose core group is made up of draft picks. That bunch captured a Larry O’Brien trophy and, arguably, would have a couple if Draymond Green had only kept his hands (and feet) to himself. Sure, they have since added a valuable piece to their fold through free agency but their initial strategy was to draft wisely.

The draft order used to be done worst team first, second worst next, etc. Then the league to decided to use ping pong balls, the worst team getting the most balls and so on. The problem with that was, although the team with the worst record had the greatest chance of landing the first pick, overall the odds were stacked heavily against it since the majority of chances for them not to get it far exceeded their “ball” popping up. Throughout he years, the system has been doctored in an attempt to give the team with the worst record a more reasonable opportunity to get the number one overall draft pick. As of now, the team with the worst record can draft no lower than fourth regardless of how the balls bounce.

Independent of how great a chance the worst teams have of selecting 1, 2 or 3, it’s difficult to believe teams would intentionally lose. Here’s a laundry list of reasons why:

1) Athletes are competitive and to intentionally try to lose is tantamount to point shaving. But put all that aside. How about the simple fact that, if losing increases the team’s chances of getting a better player, are the players that stupid they don’t realize the guy the team selects might knock them out of a job? No one I’ve ever met in basketball is so magnanimous that he would choose to play poorly so his team could get better players – if it meant the better player(s) would be taking his job! Even if a guy is secure (whether due to his talent or contract), will he worsen his stats and lose bargaining power just so the team can add a (usually 19-year-old) talented player? Doubtful.

2) OK, forget the players intentionally tanking, how about the coach? In this day and age, coach’s jobs are tenuous. Lose, get the number 1 pick and you’d better win immediately. While there have been a number of extremely talented guys enter the league as a top 1, 2 or 3 pick, not since 2003 when the Cavs selected LeBron James first overall was there a true franchise changing player from a win-loss point of view. And, as far as making his team an immediate contender, San Antonio picking Tim Duncan number one would be the best earliest example – 20 years ago! Therefore, don’t expect a coach to intentionally dump games.

3) Let’s go to the front office, e.g. general manager or president. The way the NBA is currently run, even those positions, with the exception of the Chicago Bulls for some unknown reason, are replaced more quickly than ever in the history of the league.

4) So it comes down to the owner – and, really, if ever an owner directly mandated his players or coaches to intentionally lose, in this day of the “anonymous source,” does anybody believe for a second that conversation wouldn’t be leaked? Would any owner risk his legacy by blatantly disrespecting the game?

So it basically comes down to the fans and sportswriters who are talking up tanking and, as of yet, fortunately:

“Neither of those groups have that kind of juice.”

 

 

A List I’ve Yet to See Published

Wednesday, April 12th, 2017

Congrats to Sergio Garcia on winning the Master’s. As soon as he did, fans read the inevitable comment: who’s the best golfer never to have won a major?

The early leader is Rickie Fowler. How can a guy with all that talent not win a major? After all, he’s already 28 years old! As if winning a major – against an entire field of professionals – ought to be something that should be accomplished. At any age. It’s not as if players aren’t trying. Or guys who haven’t won majors but have a boatload of tour event championships can’t handle the pressure.

In the past fans have seen – and now that social media has become a part of our culture – have posted, their own version, independent of how uneducated, of the best to have never won a …

Charles Barkley, John Stockton and Karl Malone are always mentioned when discussing “rings” and uber-talented players who never earned one. The facts that 1) only one team per season can do so and 2) those guys played during an era when Michael Jordan and the Bulls had a stranglehold on NBA titles is often mentioned – as an afterthought – still doesn’t seem to let them off the hook.

Similarly for Dan Marino. Winning a championship in a team sport, when there are so so many teammates involved who have a large say in the success of the team, is simply something that even some of the most talented athletes are able to do. Just like winning one in an individual sport – when the competitor is going up against the whole field – is a cakewalk.

Women aren’t exempt from the list. During a recent tennis broadcast, I heard a commentator refer to Pam Shriver as the best female tennis player never to have won a Grand Slam event. Anyone who knows even a little tennis history understands that Shriver played in an era of a couple of competitors (Chris Evert and Martina Navratilova) who showed no mercy against their opponents.

Nor are coaches excluded from such scrutiny. Now that Mark Few was in the Final Four, Sean Miller has been anointed “best coach never to have led a team to the Final Four.” If you know anything about playing or coaching such mention ought to be a badge of honor more than an albatross.

Not surprisingly, the one list that has escaped the fans’ eyes is:

“The greatest sportswriter to never have won a Pulitzer.”

The Two Sides of Lavar Ball

Thursday, March 30th, 2017

One theory is that Lavar Ball is one of the most polarizing people on earth. That can’t be true because in order to be polarizing, there needs to be folks on both sides of the issue and it appears one side so heavily outweighs the other, that annoying is a better description that polarizing.

During the past 20 or so years of my life, I have taken pride in trying to see both sides of an argument or a person. Nobody can be all good (with the exceptions of Gandhi and Mother Teresa) and nobody can be all evil (Adolph Hitler and Charles Mason made/is still making a good run at proving that assumption invalid). Most people have both decency and discourtesy somewhere in their DNA. Lavar Ball, for all his LOUD brashness and inappropriateness, should be congratulated on several accounts.

As a Caucasian, I need to step gently when discussing the shortcomings of my black brethren but, it’s my firm belief – and I imagine others of all races will agree – that the biggest problem in the black community that they have in their power to correct is the absentee father. They can’t solve poverty, crime, lack of opportunities or certainly, racial profiling without assistance from other groups, most notably whites. But the high rate of fathers not being in their children’s lives is well within their capability to correct.

And on that subject, Lavar Ball should be applauded. As opposed to being absent, he has been a dominating presence in the lives of his three boys. In a world in which there seems to be a story on domestic violence (within all races) on a daily basis, his and his wife’s marriage seems to be one of mutual love and respect. In addition, he has provided a beautiful home and life for his family, as well as being a powerful factor in all their lives. Some may say a little too powerful but the fact remains his is as tight knit a group as any family.

Not only has Ball been a strong influence in his kids’ upbringing, he has truly had quite an impact in making them the talented young men they are. Beginning with his “choice” of spouse – many times he’s (jokingly, we think) referred to his selecting his wife because of her genes – to the fact that he didn’t want to cease control of their basketball fortunes to someone else. Independent of one’s beliefs regarding summer basketball – and there are altogether too many horror stories – he decided the best person to train and coach his boys was him. He didn’t complain about the coach(es); rather he formed his own team. Many parents complain, few take the drastic, costly and time consuming task of putting together a squad. Some might criticize his charging other youngsters to be a part of his team but, judging from his three, he has produced a trio of good players (one of which might be the overall #1 pick in the upcoming NBA draft).

Now, he’s never going to be compared to Ozzie Nelson but that was never his goal. Unquestionably brash, with an ego as big as all the outdoors, people say he is putting too much pressure on his sons yet that remains to be seen. Judging from the eldest son, Lonzo, he doesn’t seem to be adversely affected at all. His less than stellar play in UCLA’s loss to Kentucky was more due to injury or just a bad game than to someone wilting under the pressure of a brazen dad.

Of course, Lavar Ball is by no means a saint. His pomposity has been chronicled ad infinitum – which he appears to relish. He is either living vicariously through his children or is a master marketer. He has been called obnoxious (with good cause) but, in his defense, he says that people who’ve known him realize he hasn’t changed his manner; it’s just that he now has a podium. He maintains he has always been true to himself – which ought to be considered an admirable trait.

No one can contest his making some of the most asinine statements (no need to list them here as they’ve received as much coverage as any topic in March Madness). In the end, he needs to live with all his braggadocio. Whether his act actually sells merchandise (other than him, I have yet to see anyone wearing his apparel) or his brand takes off, is yet to be determined. The negative pub he’s brought upon himself is well-deserved. One example is when Stephen A. Smith asked him why a company needed to give him a billion dollars up front, that every player who has a brand performed to a level to deserve it first, so why not show a reason someone should fork over that kind of cash, his reply was to shout over Smith, yelling, “Up front, that’s right – up front!”  He never answered the question and the only reason he stopped was because the show’s host moved on.

Rating individuals’ qualities from 0-10, 10 high, most people are 3’s and 4’s (bad qualities) or 7’s and 8’s (good ones). Lavar Ball’s qualities are 0’s and 10’s. In all:

“Lavar Ball is outspoken – by no one.”

 

Takeaways from the NCAA Tourney’s First Weekend

Thursday, March 23rd, 2017

If nothing else, year after year, the NCAA Tournament always gives us talking points, things that befuddle, dazzle and perplex us. The water cooler talks is like no other time (except for this past presidential election).

1) Although it’s said every year – by seemingly everybody – there still has never been a 16 seed beat a 1 seed.

2) Just because somebody plays for one of those “brain” schools, doesn’t mean he can’t make a bonehead play. If you didn’t feel empathetic towards the Vanderbilt kid who foul a player from Northwestern – on purpose – with his team up a point and the game clock under 20 seconds, you don’t need a cardiologist because you have no heart. Naturally, the camera had to zoom in on him to capture his feelings during what was, arguably, the worst moment of his life. The nation got to see mouth one of the great two word comments of all time. If you read his lips, he said, “I’m trippin’.”

3) Another incredible scene was from Northwestern’s next contest when, somehow, a coach saw an infraction committed that the three referees didn’t catch. Think about it. When was the last time a press conference began with an admission of guilt by the NCAA officials association? While that non-call might not have determined the game’s outcome, the coach’s reaction to it, for all intents and purposes, did.

4) Non-power conference schools can still hang in there with the big boys and “going chalk” in your brackets gets you a lot of right answers but won’t win you the office pool.

5) The person who is least affected by the outrageous, bombastic comments of Lavar Ball is … Lonzo Ball. Note: For those Fresno readers, if you can find any of the memorabilia from my three-year tenure as the coach at Buchanan High School, check the logo I invented – three interlocking B’s – very similar to the Ball’s. No copyright infringement as I never did did anything to legally make it ours.

6) The only reason there was controversy over the foul committed at the end of the Seton Hall-Arkansas game was due to semantics. The college game used to have an “intentional” foul call which resulted in two shots and the ball. The game’s rules committee did away with the intentional foul and went with the NBA’s “flagrant one” and “flagrant two” type of fouls. The former is called when a player commits a foul while not making a play on the ball. The latter goes a step further. It’s called when the is intent to injure. What muddled the discussion is the Razorback fouled on the play tripped, making the foul appear worse than it was. Independent of whether or not the kid tripped, the call made was the right one. In past seasons it would have been called an intentional foul – which no one was in disagreement.

7) Because it’s nearly impossible to do, when a school has the perfect basketball coach, the athletics director will do most anything to lock him up. Apparently, that’s not the case at Oklahoma State. Good luck to the Cowboys trying to replace Brad Underwood. Whether or not the people at OSU are upset, you can bet Big 12 coaches breathed a collective sigh of relief.

8) Second guessing the selection committee is one of the easiest things to do at this time of year but there can be little doubt that Wichita State, Xavier and Middle Tennessee definitely got Rodney Dangerfield-ed.

9) I was an assistant coach at nine schools, all Division I, over a 30-year period. I’ve been a college fan for over 50 years. It still amazes me that people are so thrilled to see a team lose – like Duke this year. To hate a team that stands for what’s good in sports – sure they have their warts, especially this year, but don’t we all – defies all logic. Are people’s lives that sad that they derive so much enjoyment when a team comes up short? Root like hell for your team but if someone else’s misfortune causes you that much joy, it’s time to reexamine your own life.

“While filling out brackets is frustrating as all get-out, March Madness never disappoints.”

Do Sports’ Critics Ever Look Inward?

Saturday, March 18th, 2017

If you happen to be a frequenter of this blog, you undoubtedly have read of my dislike of those talking heads and columnists who feel compelled to criticize players or coaches who fail to live up to their self-proclaimed standards. If Jim Rome has a legacy, it’s that he created such an industry. He knew, well before others, that a large section of the American public can be made to feel better about themselves when others, whose lives seem infinitely more successful, are ridiculed for something they’ve done or haven’t done. Although the latter group’s accomplishments in their chosen fields far surpass what most of society can lay claim to, still it is comforting to point out the “superior” groups’ shortcomings.

While we’re not dinner companions, I count Bill Self as a friend of mine. We became acquainted when he was the coach at Tulsa and I was on the staff at Fresno State. One year, his Tulsa team lost four regular season games and three of them were to us – by one at Tulsa, by two at Fresno and by three in the WAC tournament (the one year it was held in Fresno). I coached for 35 years so I feel I can comment intelligently on what makes a good, even a great, coach and what doesn’t. This year, Bill Self led Kansas to a Big 12 regular season championship – for the 13th consecutive season! As far as defining coaching greatness, that definitely qualifies.

Yet I came across a piece, written a year ago following the Jayhawks’ first weekend loss to Wichita State, in which Bill was blasted for his underachieving NCAA tournament record. Certainly, losing during the first weekend of March Madness – which his KU clubs have done three times – is no one’s idea of a successful conclusion to a season. But to dismiss his 2008 national championship (KU’s first in 20 years and, by the way, the only Final Four to feature all four #1 seeds) as the only national championship he’s won, is downplaying an overwhelmingly successful career.

The author of the article compared seven coaches’ post season records: Mike Krzyzewski, John Calipari, Rick Pitino, Roy Williams, Tom Izzo, Billy Donovan and Bill. Self’s record was the weakest of the seven, having reached the Sweet Sixteen 10 times, the Elite Eight seven times and the Final Four twice. My answer to that is that somebody had to be seventh out of that list – and it’s not like the group is a bunch of shlubs. In fact, if Kansas were to win it all this year, he’d still rank seventh of that septet. Was the point that Bill Self is just an outstanding regular season coach but, when it comes to the postseason, he forgets how to coach – or, worse, he chokes? If so, what is the explanation for the 2008 season? Or his appearance in the title game in 2012? Luck?

Earlier in the week, I caught the end of a rant by Bomani Jones regarding Self’s poor NCAA tournament coaching record. Jones has strong opinions and expresses them eloquently. He’s obviously incredibly bright guy. But to hear him refer to the NCAA tournament as the “Bill Self-gag tourney” (or a some such term – the exact terminology escapes me now), makes listeners think there’s a hidden agenda of some kind here. As for the list of awards Jones has to his credit, in January 2014, he won three consecutive Around the Horn episodes and, as of October 30, 2014 (sorry, my search to find the updated Around the Horn stats proved more difficult than finding NCAA champions), has 104 wins in 373 appearances on the show. When it comes to winning actual awards, his greatest claim to fame is his sister is an award-winning novelist.

Wonder how he’d feel if someone went on the air with a, “Yeah but …” rant regarding her writing career? As in, “sure she won the Hurston/Wright Legacy Award for Debut Fiction and the Lillian C. Smith Award for New Voices but where is her name when Pulitzers are handed out?”

Although I fully understand that a large segment of sports fans enjoy listening to shortcomings of those more successful than we are, I still have to think:

“Isn’t it a sad commentary on America?”

The United States Has Become a Culture of Hate

Saturday, March 11th, 2017

Independent of how you feel about the past presidential election, there can be no debate that our country is now more divided than ever. Half (give or take) of the nation’s people are now gloating – yet they continue to hate former President Obama and most, if not all, of the programs he passed or was in favor of. The other half are shocked and embarrassed, upset beyond belief – and are protesting and complaining about President Trump and … everything he says, does or does not do. The latter group, who consider themselves logical, reasonable human beings has been driven to hate as well.

The stories have been told and the lines have been drawn. Nearly everybody has decided which side they’re on – although some more passionate than others. As the saying goes, “it is what it is.” Anyone who knows me will tell you I have always highly opinionated. Maturity – and some will say, sensibility – has come to me later in life than to most. Since I retired in 2012 I’ve become Switzerland. I try to take an evenhanded approach to all issues.

Rather than try to attempt to bring parties together, pick a side or incite one group against another, I’ve chosen to sit back and observe. The main reason is I’m not sure who’s right and who’s wrong. Plus, I realize how limited an effect I’d have. To me, there’s good and bad in everybody and every organization. I read something a few days ago, written by Steve Keating (someone I do not know), which describes what’s happening in this country:

“Sorry folks but no one but you can make you hate. No one but you can get you to stop hating. Until everyone, EVERYONE, accepts responsibility for their own emotions the hate will not only continue, it will grow. Hating a hater is still hate.”


Magic’s New Position Turns Him into a Mini-Trump

Sunday, February 26th, 2017

When the Lakers named Magic Johnson their president of basketball operations, the basketball community was split. As Donald Trump has divided the country into those who favor him and those who, let’s just say, don’t, Magic has had a similar effect in the world of hoops.

Dan Le Batard fired the first shot, claiming Magic “cut the line” because he’s famous and charming. Le Batard, who some claim ought to have an “s” strategically placed in his surname so it would sound like what it actually means in French (look it up), continued. “Magic Johnson was given a late night television show, because he’s famous and charming. Failed in 11 shows. Magic Johnson was given a head coaching job of the Lakers, because he’s famous and charming, failed in 16 games. Magic Johnson, not interesting as a broadcaster, given broadcasting opportunity after broadcasting opportunity, because he’s famous and charming. And now, he gets to run the entire Lakers organization because he’s famous and charming. That’s amazing. That’s amazing. He’s a very kind man, to be in his presence is to be awash in all the things people like about celebrity, he will make you feel special, but he wasn’t good at any of those jobs I just mentioned, and he got all of those jobs, bypassing a whole lot of people who are more qualified, because he’s famous and charming.”

Well, I can’t see anybody taking issue with the last part – nor should it be considered a negative. Heck, who doesn’t wish people would describe them as famous and charming?  Yet, I would seriously disagree that Magic was hired for his current job because of those two qualities. At least he didn’t land the job because he’s only famous and charming, even though those two traits will go a long way when it comes to luring free agents to the Lakers. Consider, many of the current free agents, and in the next few years, admittedly grew up idolizing Magic. As a free agent, being wined and dined by your idol – adding to the other “ancillary” benefits of living in Los Angeles, e.g. endorsements and business opportunities, weather and tradition, to name just a few – can be very persuasive to a young, impressionable (and highly talented) player.

Le Batard also made the statement, “His Twitter account should disqualify him from the job.” A legit shot, especially after reading some of the banal tweets Johnson has put out for public consumption – two in particular regarding his overall assessment of the Warriors: “With Steph Curry on the floor the Golden State Warriors are a championship team! Without him they are still a very good team!” and “When Steph & Klay are playing great together the Warriors are a hard team to beat.” His criticism of tweeting congrats to the Knicks for hiring Phil Jackson, however, is a low blow as Magic was far from alone in expressing that sentiment after Jackson’s hiring. His current duties, though, certainly won’t include being in charge of the Lakers’ social media account since that’s not what L.A. hired him to do.

Probably due to the fact that Johnson is famous and charming, Le Batard’s comments received immediate push back. Stephen A. Smith, who worships at the altar of Magic, prefaced his remarks saying he was a friend of Le Batard. He then vehemently took his friend, Dan, to task (as he is known to do to folks on a daily basis). Stephen A. applauded the move by the Lakers organization, calling Magic (another of his friends) “a basketball savant.”

Michael Wilbon’s response was based more on facts than emotion. Wilbon’s retort was, “So Le Batard bases Magic’s worthiness on a failed talk show and failed coaching career but not the 25 years since of success in business?” Point, Wilbon. Add to not only his mega success in business but his Hall of Fame career. Sure, that didn’t help him host a late night talk show nor be great on television – even when what he’s discussing deals with his own sport (think Oscar Robertson and Pete Rose). As far as the charge he failed as a coach, it’s almost a fact that superstar players don’t make good coaches.

But his success in running (numerous) overwhelmingly successful businesses? That takes leadership skills, hiring good employees, delegating and a multitude of other talents. If you want to say his role was just that of a front man, then he must have been a helluva front man. I choose to believe his companies thrived because he was more than “just a pretty face” or as Le Batard would have us believe, a “famous and charming” one. Too many successful enterprises.

Of course, another issue just had to be brought up. Keyshawn Johnson took his support of Magic a step further by “reading between the lines” and claiming LeBatard’s criticism was racially motivated. Jorge Sedano, Keyshawn’s broadcast partner on the show, jumped in and said, “No, I know Dan, that’s not true.”

Johnson’s reply? “I don’t know him, but that’s the way I look at it.” To that reasoning, we say, “C’mon, man!”

Isn’t it a shame, with all the struggles we face in America, that anytime someone who isn’t black (Le Batard is the son of Cuban immigrants) criticizes a person who is black, somebody will scream racism? Make no mistake, racism is a major problem in this country. Strides to correct it have been made but, in this case – and, full disclosure, I don’t know any of the people mentioned above - it’s unfathomable that Dan Le Batard could have risen to where he is in his profession (sportswriter for the Miami Herald and radio personality on ESPN) by making statements like he did about Magic Johnson with racial intent. And I don’t like Dan Le Batard! He’s a pompous know-it-all (a quality so many ESPN, and other TV, radio and print people possess in today’s media world) who is popular because of the controversial topics he (delightfully) talks about.

When it comes right down to it, rhetoric is just that. Whoever is right in this instance – and to people like Le Batard, Wilbon and Smith, being right is what really matters – will soon enough be evident because Magic has a job unlike that of media people. See, in Magic’s new endeavor:

“they keep score.”

One Thing to Consider When Discussing NBA Trades

Saturday, February 25th, 2017

It just so happened that I had a couple of long distance trips the day before the NBA trade deadline and the day of it. Because of the timing, I decided to listen to sports talk radio. Hours and hours of it. One thing that never ceases to amaze me is the reactions of both talking heads and fans whenever trades go down. Or are simply rumored to go down.

When a big trade doesn’t happen, it’s almost as if those guys are offended – as if the owners/decision makers of the franchises involved were mandated to shake up their rosters. One caller was indignant. “Danny Ainge better get up off his ass and do something with those draft picks he has!” Does this person really think Danny Ainge is sitting on his ass at this time of the year? If he is, the rest of him is engaged in a phone conversation trying to make the Celtics better. The caller wasn’t privy to any of the intel Ainge had nor what he was doing. Does anyone in the universe believe this jackass on the phone has more of a vested interest in the Celtics welfare than Ainge does? No one does - except, of course, Bill Simmons.

Having minimal knowledge on the inner workings of trades, especially when salary caps are involved, I don’t comment on trade rumors when they hit the airways, or make their way onto different versions of social media. There is so much that must be considered before pulling the trigger, it’s best to observe. Then, if fans want to speak from their hearts, hey, head to the nearest mountaintop. Just remember your comments are made with limited knowledge. Even the “anonymous sources” tend to be mistaken. Probably why they want to be anonymous.

Naturally, it’s intriguing to hear the various possibilities. After speaking with my friends who are actually in the business, I realize so many rumors are unfounded (I hope I didn’t shock anybody with that disclosure) or, even, impossible. I find it more prudent to wait until they’re actually reported before getting worked up.

To hear statements made following a trade, you’d think the people talking about them, independent of which side of the microphone they’re on, i.e. caller or host, are the ones who should have been in the negotiations. Recently, the biggest trade was made between the Sacramento Kings and the New Orleans Pelicans.

As difficult as it is to acknowledge, one thing is vital to any conversation regarding NBA trades. The people who made the trade, or decided not to make it, know a helluva lot more than any of the people offering their expertise. I listened to talk show hosts say the Pelicans got the best center in the game for a bag of donuts, got “garbage” for Cousins and that the Kings were victims of a heist. The Kings are not immune to criticism, however, as it’s been one of the poorest run franchises in recent years.

After excoriating the Kings for trading such an “asset,” the self-proclaimed experts do admit that Sir Boogie is, be kind, somewhat of a handful – to coach/play with/deal with – during games/practices/in the locker room/off the court. It’s easy to look at all the positives Cousins brings to the table – and there is a laundry list of skills he possesses that few, if any, other players his size are capable of – but, remember that he just as easily will knock over and destroy that table. Especially if you don’t have to deal with him on a daily basis.

In one report in which the Kings were mocked for making the deal, another item was mentioned, almost as an afterthought. “There is some risk, aside from his volatile personality, that the Pelicans won’t be able to re-sign Cousins after next year.” Oh yeah, how will it look if Boogie boogies out of The Big Easy when it’s time to re-sign him. Will these same critics be as cynical about what Sacramento did.

As with most situations in life, there are pluses and minuses. In most instances, the pluses and minuses range between 3-7. In the case of DeMarcus Cousins, they’re more like 0s and 10s. As previously mentioned, his skills are a 10: not only his ability to score on the block (which might be better than anyone in the game today) but a terrific passer out of the post; add to that the fact that he can take his defender beyond the three-point line and be effective separates him from other big men.

The negatives are in the 10 category too (unless a higher number is allowed): the inability to display any type of self-discipline, (allegedly) the eggshells everyone in the organization has to walk on, the technical fouls, which lead to disqualifications, meaning game multiple game plans must be prepared, a (richly deserved) reputation of being uncoachable and, finally that, had he stayed, a down-the-road decision to pay him $209 million for five years. If he acts the way he does now, does anyone think his behavior will improve after signing that kind of deal?

When I’m asked about any trade, I give the same, boring, yet wise, answer:

“Check back in a couple years.”

Sometimes Wrong Is Just Wrong

Saturday, February 18th, 2017

As a parent, we always have to be on the lookout for “teaching moments.” The sports world usually offers many such opportunities. The most recent example is the case of Charles Oakley – what he did, how he was treated and how he reacted.

If you don’t know the back story of Oakley, you’ve probably tripped up and landed on this blog by mistake but, to sum it up, Oakley was a very good NBA player for, among others, the New York Knicks. Not a superstar, a la Patrick Ewing, Larry Johnson or Bernard King, but a guy who brought it every game and earned his money, something that fans appreciate.

James Dolan, Knicks owner, has seemed to have done all in his power to destroy this proud franchise, making one awful move after another. Although I’m not sure which is which, the relationship between Oakley and Dolan is like that of oil and water. The facts are a little muddled but at a recent Knicks’ contest, Oakley may or may not have been drinking, may or may not have been spewing nasty comments to his former boss but, what is known is that he was asked to leave the Garden. He did not, however, leave peacefully, rather he confronted security and got into shoving matches with those attempting to do their jobs.

Fans have been overwhelming pro-Oakley in this situation, some because they love their Oak, some because they despise Dolan, many because of both. Whichever side you belong to, one thing is necessary for this discussion. Regardless of Dolan’s ineptness or fan reaction, Oakley’s actions that night were wrong.

About a week earlier, DeMarcus Cousins got a technical foul with 1.1 seconds to go. It was his 16th of the season, meaning he was suspended for the next one (and pay a fine of $4K but that means little for a guy making so much that the suspension will cost him $154,000, or 1/82nd of his salary). The game was lost. He couldn’t control his emotions one more second? So the people who shelled out dough for the next game are deprived of catching him in action because of a hissy fit.

Fans of Cousins, e.g. those who like unstoppable low post players who can play beyond the three-point line and also protect the rim at the other end, claim referees are against the big fella. After watching Cousins pick up his 17th T, they might have a point as replays showed it was nothing more than a flop. When asked about it postgame, Cousins’ reaction was, “It’s obvious I can’t be myself. Me playing how I play is what makes me the player that I am. Obviously it’s not acceptable, so I’m trying to find a way to, you know, do what these guys are asking me to do. It’s not easy, but I’m trying to find a way.”

True to a point but the “Me playing how I play is what makes me the player that I am” comment shows the lack of maturity his critics have leveled at him since his career began. The axis of “right” goes through the top of Boogie’s head and out the other end. His world revolves around him, not unlike many folks. Whatever his beliefs, though, they don’t give him the right to be a boor.

In another basketball related incident, broadcaster Dan Dakich, known for – and proud of – his controversial commentary, stepped over the line while working the Michigan State-Ohio State game, calling the Spartans’ fans whiners and making the comment that one kid attends MSU because he couldn’t get into Michigan.

Funny line. I used to hear similar comments. When I worked at USC there would be signs at our home games against UCLA which said, “My maid went to UCLA.” Ha. Freedom of speech, right? So what’s the difference between that sign and what Dakich said? First and foremost, the signs are made by fans while he’s a professional, paid broadcaster who is on the air.

Next, Dakich’s son is a member of the Michigan basketball team (as a redshirt), making his tweet that much more inappropriate. Making the twitter war look worse for Dakich was the fact he deleted the tweet but, naturally, not until after somebody took a screen shot of it – so it lives forever. Dakich, enjoying his new career as enfant terrible, has been milking the situation, refusing any type of apology. He’s using what he created to his advantage, becoming somewhat of a role model for those who look up to him, similar to the way Jim Rome spawned a band of “shock jocks” in the sports world. It’s a way to be someone, for the first time as Rome and his minions are, or reinvent himself as Dakich, whose playing and coaching careers are over, is doing.

Not so great for parents who might have had higher hopes for their children. “Fame” is something people (not all let’s be clear) want desperately to acquire. Yet rude or barbaric behavior shouldn’t be acceptable, whether the person believes it’s necessary or that the end justifies the means.

What much of this reminds me of is the line that’s become part of our culture – and upsets me to no end:

“He was speaking on the condition of anonymity because he wasn’t authorized to comment.”

Monday, February 13th, 2017

During my stay at one of the (nine) universities I worked for, in addition to being on the school’s basketball staff, I was a member of the athletics director’s executive counsel (a group of around a dozen administrators from the department). We’d meet every Tuesday morning from 8:30-10:30 am. As I’ve stated many times previously – on this blogspace and in many conversations – my idea of a meeting clashed somewhat with that of the typical (or at least these) administrators.

During one meeting, I mentioned that I realized there was a difference between coaches and administrators. It was a meeting in which an idea was brought up and the discussion turned to trying to think of every negative impact it might have (mostly from a political correctness standpoint). It got so that minutiae was being talked about for at least an hour. I finally said if we thought it was a good idea and it would help solve a problem, sooner or later it was time to act. I was shouted down.

In a future meeting I recalled how my criticism toward their “lack of action” was received, so I decided to muffle my opinion this time. The looks I received in previous meetings were of a sympathetic ilk, their message conveying, “that’s the difference between coaches and the higher level of administration, i.e. the important decision-makers.” It was quite apparent that they believed that, “coaches were way too impatient, too quick to pull the trigger and, consequently, that’s why so many mistakes were made.” I could understand their feelings. Anybody who’s ever watched (and second-guessed) a coach could see that.

At the end of this particular seesion, surprise! we hadn’t finished. The athletics director asked each of us to see when we had a half hour available to wrap it up. One associate AD looked at his calendar and (proudly) said, “I have 26 meetings this week,” to which I responded simply:

Wow, when do you ever do anything?”