Archive for the ‘leadership’ Category

Chris Webber Is Officially a Member of the Media

Tuesday, August 25th, 2015

Recently I saw where Chris Webber compared the situation NCAA college athletes are in to slavery. First of all, when Webber was in college, he was bankrolled by Michigan booster Ed Martin so, at the very least, he should exclude himself from the conversation. It’s highly doubtful his college experience was anything at all like a “normal” slave would have encountered. In fact, it was nothing like a “normal” scholarship student-athlete would have encountered. The fact that some of his own teammates consider him a pariah puts him in a different ctaegory from the normal student=athlete. Or slave for that matter, but, then, I’m only guessing on that part.

Webber now has a platform because he’s on TV and probably thinks it’s his duty to inform the public of the awful conditions NCAA athletes have to endure. Yet, for years he lied again and again (including to the grand jury) about his own cushy, illegal life he was basking in while attending UM – so he would only know by theorizing.

I have said for . . . ever that student-athletes have little to complain about – if they take advantage of all that’s afforded them. Full scholarships (room, board, books tuition and fees) can be supplemented by Pell Grant (for those who qualify), as well as “needy student fund” money. Making use of that would solve everyone’s, even the most destitute kid’s, problem (some are too lazy to fill out the Pell Grant form and many coaches feel “they don’t have the time to “hand-hold” the parents through the process). Now, in addition to that financial assistance, “cost-of-attendance” money, which is over and above what the scholarship covers, will be available beginning the 2015-16 academic year. (For a full assessment of my view of whether players should be paid, go to and read my guest column Why College Athletes Do NOT Need to Be Paid).

Sure, the universities are hauling in money hand over fist but, with the exception of a few, they’re not exactly rolling in dough. Funding all the non-revenue sports (meaning every one but football and men’s basketball – and, don’t forget, that although those two create revenue, it doesn’t mean they don’t spend more than they make) and keeping up with the Joneses in terms of facilities eat up any excess money that’s made. And now they’re faced with finding extra stipends for athletes. According to recently retired Virginia congressman Jim Moran, of the 1,083 college sports programs in the nation only 20 are profitable. (see “Jim Moran says only 20 colleges make a profit from sports” by Nancy Madsen of and the, 12/22/14).

Where sympathy dries up for the universities, however, is in the salaries they’re paying their football and men’s basketball coaches. For example, the coach of whichever SEC West football team that finishes last will make at least $4 million. Hey, anybody can finish last. With the coaches being so handsomely compensated, the athletes feel (and are told) more money ought to be lining their pockets. Maybe this phenomenon should serve as a lesson for their future employment, i.e. when you work for a highly successful firm, the workers don’t often get to participate in profit sharing. Which is why, some will say, that’s why the Northwestern guys wanted to unionize. And, independent which side of that argument you were on, you can’t disagree what a mess it was, still is, and, undoubtedly, will be until those players are long gone.

At the risk of mixing a folk tale and a fable, what’s currently going on in intercollegiate athletics is what Henny Penny, aka Chicken Little was warning, i.e. “that the sky is falling” because the power brokers, aka the Power 5 conferences (and Notre Dame) are “killing the goose that lays the golden eggs.”

Oprah Winfrey is someone who knows a little bit about the human spirit. Here’s her philosophy:

“If you look at what you have in life, you’ll always have more. If you look at what you don’t have in life, you’ll never have enough.”

Every Sport Has Different Levels at Which It’s Played

Tuesday, August 18th, 2015

When I was an assistant basketball coach at Tennessee, one of my closest friends – and mentor – was UT’s tennis coach Mike DePalmer (a member of the Tennis Hall of Fame). Mike, as good a friend and giving a person as there is, and I played many tennis matches at 7:00 am – for seven years! One morning, I showed up to play and he had already given a lesson to a local youngster at 6. We began to warm up when his manager came out, telling him he had a recruiting call from South America. “Jack, I gotta take this call. I’m already warmed up from the lesson, why don’t you warm up with Paul?”

“Paul” was Paul Annacone, his #1 singles player at the time. For those of you who aren’t tennis fans, in 1984 (the year he and I “warmed up”), Paul proceeded to go 51-3 in singles and was the Intercollegiate Tennis Association Player of the Year (I steadfastly refuse to take any credit for helping him achieve that award). Following a successful professional tennis career (in which his highest ranking was #12 in the world), he turned to coaching. Among his pupils were Pete Sampras and Roger Federer.

One interesting aspect of working at a major university is the number of world class athletes you encounter, not only the players you coach, but those in other sports. In my time at UT the coaches and players ate together in the dining hall of the athletic dorm, so I got to know some kids with amazing skills. That day, Paul walked to the opposite side of the court and we began to rally. After he and I hit the ball about 4-5 times a piece, I stopped and walked toward the net.

“How do you get the ball to jump off your racket?” I asked him. He was leisurely hitting shots and they were exploding back to me. Being a wise guy New Yorker (which he knew I could relate to), he deadpanned, “It’s called a hitting off the sweet spot. Your racket has one, too.”

Another close friend of mine is Mike Watney, the former golf coach at Fresno State (and a member of the Golf Hall of Fame). Note: My career in intercollegiate athletics was more known for longevity (30 years) and number of Division I schools that employed me (9) than for any personal accomplishments. However, as the reader can see, I was wise enough to form connections with the giants in their respective games (someday I might list all the coaches I worked with, if for no other reason than to show the “coaching education” I was exposed to during my time in the business). In fact, my last two bosses in college hoops are in the Naismith Hall of Fame – or will be soon. Jerry Tarkanian was inducted a couple years ago and George Raveling (I was his graduate assistant at Washington State from 1973-75 and associate head coach at USC from 1991-95)  will be enshrined on September 9.

In an earlier post, I told the story of winning a free golf lesson at the Fresno State Xmas luncheon and how Mike convinced me – someone who’d never really played the game – to take him up on it. I quickly became hooked and while my back surgeries have shelved my golf game (I’m hoping not permanently), our two sons (26 and 21) have been bitten by the bug and play whenever they can.

Mike called me about an opportunity he’d been given and wanted to bounce some ideas off me. When we were catching up with what was going on with our kids, I mentioned how into golf each of our guys were. Being the gracious guy he is (you’ll be hard pressed to find a more genuine, down-to-earth person – anywhere), he offered to give a lesson to the boys when they were in town. Unfortunately for Andy, who lives and works in Newport Beach, he couldn’t take advantage, but his younger brother, Alex, was home for another couple weeks before heading to Cal State Monterey Bay for his senior year – and he jumped at the chance.

My back is such that my pain level will never really get “better” but I do yoga, ride an exercise bike and work with a personal trainer so it doesn’t get worse. I’ve been working out with former Fresno State strength and conditioning coach, Steve Sabonya, since the beginning of July. Although I take the workouts seriously, I still manage to “chat it up” with Steve while he’s putting me through exercises to improve my flexibility and strengthen my core. Since he’s worked with elite athletes throughout his career (present company not in that category), we’ll talk about how good somebody has to be to make it professionally in a chosen sport.

Last week Steve asked me what I thought a 10 handicap golfer would shoot if he were to play in a PGA tournament. I told him how Mike had worked with Alex and, after their session, mentioned that he thought Alex had promise as a golfer – and if he wanted to get really good Mike would give him another lesson. Alex didn’t need to be asked twice. That second lesson was the day after my workout with Steve. When we showed up, I mentioned Steve’s question to Mike.

“With the way they make the course so difficult for PGA events, from growing out the rough to making the greens so fast,” I asked him, “what would a 10 handicap golfer score?” Mike didn’t take long to respond. His answer was a 10 handicap would be fortunate to break 100.

All of this came to mind when I saw an article in which John Wall commented on his chances to make our Olympic team. “I’ll be out of the picture,” said Wall through a laugh and without any noticeable trace of resentment. “I’m just being honest. Chris Paul has already won one (Olympic gold medal). Steph Curry had an amazing last year and just won the World Cup. Kyrie (Irving) just won the World Cup. Russell (Westbrook) will probably be on the team. They’ll use him as a two-guard. So, I probably won’t make it.” Keep in mind that this admission was coming from a basketball player who is universally worshiped by the 21-and-under crowd.

It’s like Mike DePalmer told me after I informed him about Annacone explaining the sweet spot theory:

“The game of tennis” (and really ALL sports) “is played at different levels. There are beginners, you and I play at a better level, then there are additional levels, including college, professional and – the best of the best.”

Donald Trump Could Play a Vital Role for Our Country

Sunday, August 16th, 2015

When it comes to “fixing” the United States (if you don’t think the country needs fixing, you’re either a Pollyanna or you must live somewhere unknown to most of us), Donald Trump could be an unbelievable asset. In the business world, Trump rules. Certainly he excels. Common sense would dictate that it would behoove the nation to include him when the time comes around (like, immediately) to solve our economic problems. To Trump (as it is to so many citizens), it’s unfathomable that the country is in the financial situation it’s in (massive debt, trade deficits, inability to create new jobs, etc.). He, however, has productive ideas to implement that people without his expertise might not have.

Unfortunately, his answer to solving the mess we’ve gotten ourselves into – and make no mistake about it, the collective we is the operative term here – is to run for president. Talk about overkill. If only he could reverse the major economic flaws the country faces (which would make him eligible for a colossal statue – at a site of his choosing), the overwhelming majority of America would experience the prosperity we all crave. Now someone (whoever managed to do it would also be up for a statue) needs to convince Trump that helping the nation is of greater importance than massaging his ego.

President! The qualifications for that office not only exceed his expertise, but highlight his negatives. Trump’s world is filled with battles and disputes. He not only handles these encounters – but enjoys the confrontations. On occasion he might even provoke them. And when people don’t agree with him, he tries to “educate” them. If his reasoning isn’t enough to turn their beliefs around to his way of thinking, he has no problem resorting to vicious, personal attacks. Imagine if he actually was the president. The major reason this approach would fall flat – if not turn into international embarrassment – is that reality TV and reality are actually quite different.

Should it look like someone else will win the Republican nomination, Trump has threatened to enter the race as a third party candidate – and The Donald seldom makes empty threats. Such a move would basically turn the presidential race into a mockery. Character assassinations would surpass any real issues before, during and after debates. He would initiate so much mud slinging, there would be no land left. And, realistically, what percent of the female population will he get? What percent of the black population will he get? What percent of the Hispanic population will he get? The election would leave the country even further divided.

The people who speak out in favor of his candidacy all seem to make the same opening theme. “Well, he’s definitely better than fill in the blank.” As if “better than ________” is what we should be striving for. Especially when the other candidates, independent of party affiliation, all too often employ the identical strategy. Then, we end up “settling” for somebody to lead our country whose major virtue is “not being worse than the others.”

Is Donald Trump really the person to be the face of our country, the person who needs to deal with sensitive international encounters with other heads of state? In such a situation, he just might be the antithesis of the type of person needed to deal with such sensitivity. Bullying someone should never be viewed as a strength, certainly not on a global level.

Put in the proper position, Donald Trump could – and probably would – be an American hero. Any loyal reader of this blogspace is well aware of how evident it is that my knowledge of sports is infinitely greater than my knowledge of politics, so to put this in coaching terms, a team’s goal is always to:

“Play to your strengths and away from your weaknesses.”

Hate Is Such a Strong Word

Tuesday, July 28th, 2015

This just in: Bill Belichick is the most hated coach in the NFL and the New England Patriots are the most hated NFL team. What, exactly, does that mean?

From a 2014 article by Bill Bender of The Sporting News (“25 Most hated sports teams of all-time”), we were informed that the most hated team in the U.S. was the 2007 New England Patriots. That season, the Pats actually lost the Super Bowl but had entered the big game undefeated at 16-0. Last night’s ESPN and CBSSports story about today’s most hated team being the Pats claimed it was so because of its head coach, Bill Belichick. Spygate and Deflategate were also mentioned. However, upon further examination, there might have been a bit of jealousy involved. Research shows that since 2002 the Pats have been in six Super Bowls and won four.

While reviewing the teams mentioned in TSN‘s article, they either won championships (14 of them from the NFL, NBA, NHL, MLB, college basketball, race car drivers) or lost in the championship contest (seven of them representing the NFL, NBA, college football, college basketball and, even, the 1980 Soviet Union hockey team – who was hated for a completely different set of reasons). 2014 Florida State football finished undefeated but lost in the semi-finals and the previous year the U of Alabama football squad lost in the Iron Bowl, eliminating a chance to play in the BCS final. The ’85-’86 Indiana basketball team (knocked out in the first round of the NCAA Tournament) and the 2012 New Orleans Saints (Bountygate) were the only outliers. Therefore, we can conclude that the list seems to have one common denominator: hated teams are big winners.

Googling the most hated NBA teams (a 2012 article by Sam Cooper of bleacher report), we find that the top three are #1 the 1988-89 Detroit Pistons, #2 the 1993-94 New York Knicks and #3 the 2001-02 Los Angeles Lakers. Once again, those Pistons and Lakers won the NBA Championship while the Knicks lost in the Finals in seven games to the Hakeem Olajuwon-led Houston Rockets. The Dream was impossible to hate and New York was . . . New York.

A year earlier, Ralph Warner wrote Haters Gonna Hate: The 10 Most Hated Teams in NBA History. Of the ten teams, eight of them played in the NBA Finals during their “season of their hatred.”

Some people will stand tall and say it wasn’t the winning that they despised but the manner in which they did it, the lack of class those winners (certainly, according to their records) displayed. These sanctimonious folks tend to be more forgiving when poor choices are made or infractions are committed by their favorite team. Americans tend to hold anyone in the “bright lights” – be they athletes, entertainers or politicians – to a much higher standard than they do themselves. This is especially true for people we don’t know and we can become extremely judgmental – until we find ourselves or our friends/loved ones in such a predicament.

What would be wiser is to follow the advice of Norman Cousins:

“Life is an adventure in forgiveness.”




A Rather Harrowing Introduction for All Concerned

Sunday, July 26th, 2015

After I wrote my book, Life’s A Joke, I’ve had several people ask me when I was planning on coming out with another. The plans for a sequel, Life’s A Joke 2.0, has been in the works for a while and, since I am retired, there should be no excuse to not get it done. The piece that follows will be one of the hundreds of stories in it.

Following my emergency thoracic back surgery (T 10-11 for those readers who are unfamiliar with my past), I began my high school teaching and coaching career (making it full circle since high school math teacher and coach was my first job after graduating college). This time, however, my entrance was a little more dramatic – by walking into new teacher orientation meetings with the help of a cane. The shock the people saw was nothing to what I was about to experience.

At the first orientation meeting for new teachers, we were instructed to document everything, that ours (the Clovis Unified School District) was a litigious group of parents. Make sure there’s a paper trail – just in case. This mantra was repeated at all three sessions. I looked around at the others, all but one who were 20-30 years younger than I was, and saw all of them diligently taking notes.

In addition to my job of director of basketball operations at Fresno State (which had ended with the retirement of Jerry Tarkanian), I had gained membership in the National Speakers Association (NSA). One of the main topics I would speak about was team building – about how every relationship is built on trust. Companies hired me, at a considerable rate, and my message was that trust is the most vital, unifying factor in any workplace. Without it, well, just listen to what Stephen Covey (one of the most respected speakers and authors at that time) had to say. “When you have a no-trust culture, you live in memo haven.” While I would custom-make each one of my speeches, I used that line in every one of them. Now, I was working for an organization whose philosophy was diametrically opposed to this belief. Not exactly a banner start.

After hearing this same message for the third time, I felt compelled to, at least, present a different view. I raised my hand and said (probably not endearing myself to my new employer), “I’m a Clovis Unified parent and I haven’t ever thought of suing anybody. Do you mean that there is an extremely small group of litigious parents – and that we should be frightened by them because they might sue?”

Then, I concluded my remarks with this strategic plan:

“Wouldn’t a wiser strategy be to hire better lawyers?”

Hypnosis Helping to Determine Right from Wrong

Friday, July 24th, 2015

A close associate of mine recently underwent hypnosis for an addiction problem. I have been fascinated with hypnosis since the spring of 1972 when I witnessed – up close – a hypnotist at an assembly at Highland Park (NJ) High School, my employer at the time, as well as my alma mater. My friend told me about his visit which differed from what I’d seen occur on our stage.

In the assembly the hypnotist asked for volunteers from the audience (student body). With the innocence and curiosity that accompanies youth, i.e. before they learn from adults to obey authority and do what they’re told, several youngsters began waving their hands. One of the students selected was a freshman football player, who everyone called “Chippy,” a chubby little guy with a very engaging personality.

The part of the performance our footballer was involved in had the hypnotist hold up a shiny object which our young guy was instructed to stare at while the hypnotist spoke in a low, soothing voice about how sleepy the rookie was getting. Sure enough, soon his eyes were drooping until his head dropped and he was in “sleep mode.” Standing up. While our boy was in this condition, the hypnotist began explaining to the audience – and to Chippy – that his (the hypnotist’s) right index finger was a red hot poker and under no circumstance should anyone come near him because, if they were to be touched by that finger, they’d surely be burned. At that point, he turned to Chippy and “brought him back,” saying he’d awaken in “3, 2, 1, and . . . ” Snap.

Chippy’s eyes opened, he saw where he was and when the hypnotist began speaking – and gesturing with his hand, index finger waving back and forth, everyone could see how Chippy would jump away anytime the finger came in his general vicinity. Finally, the hypnotist thanked is volunteer and said he could leave. Just before Chippy left the stage, he was asked to stick out his hand. Being a trustworthy sort of fellow (as most 15 year-olds are – they haven’t yet been duped by society), Chippy held out his hand. As he did, the hypnotist poked him on top of it. Chippy squealed, began blowing on his hand and licking the wound. Rather than cross in front of the hypnotist, i.e. the same way he’d entered the stage, Chippy exited stage left, holding his “burned” hand.

Later that day, I saw the young star and told him what a wonderful – and brave – gesture he made. He held out his hand and, I can remember this as though it happened yesterday (and, believe me, those moments are dwindling) – there was a blister where the hypnotist poked him! I recalled having read that the mind can’t separate a vividly imagined event from a real one, which is why when you dream about, for example, falling off a cliff, when you awaken, your heart is pounding and you’re sweating. The blister on Chippy’s finger told me all I needed to know about hypnosis.

Back to my associate and his experience. He said that, at no time, was he not completely aware of his surroundings – and that he was told that would be the case before they started the session. The hypnotist did speak in a soft, soothing voice, telling him to imagine himself descending in a glass elevator, all the while seeing a beautiful blue sky interspersed with fluffy clouds that looked like they were made out of cotton, putting him in a relaxed, happy frame of mind. Then, when the elevator doors opened there would be an escalator, heading down further, into complete tranquility with gorgeous scenery all around. Yet, he never lost consciousness.

My experience with hypnosis (30-35 years ago, unsuccessfully) was similar to his. I was completely awake during my session. However, the difference between our two incidents was that his hypnotist told him that our mind is composed of two parts: one side has a complete understanding of right and wrong, a fully mature outlook on life. The other side is like a spoiled 5 year-old, the kind of kid who begs and whines until he or she (since I have no reason to believe this phenomena is limited to males only) gets his or her way. That thought resonated throughout my entire mind and soul – like a eureka! moment. This explained why people make bad decisions. Not so fast, my friend. My guy told me that the hypnotist said that was not the point of hypnosis, that it was about the calm, peaceful feeling of the descent and that, as his body felt completely relaxed, that he should touch his thumb and index finger together. Then, whenever his craving came along, just put the fingers together and that peaceful feeling will keep him from giving into his addiction.

Bummer! What I took out of it, however, works as well. My belief is that when I am about to make a decision, e.g. ordering dessert on a day the scale said, “Too much.” What occurs, because I love most desserts, is my 5 year-old mind saying, “Who cares? I want that dessert. I want it, I want it, I want it!” Then comes along the rationalizing why I deserve it, all the great things I had done that day, how just one dessert wouldn’t be so detrimental, and even how “you promised!” So many parents, guardians, nannies, babysitters just feel, “It’s not worth the battle. You’ve worn me down. Go ahead and get it.” In the case of the individual, it does give immediate satisfaction, so what’s so bad? What’s so bad is what follows – consequences.

This philosophy can be expanded to, pretty much, any bad, wrong, illegal or immoral decision we make. I’m not referring to life-long criminals because, the ones who understand right from wrong, choose wrong for different reasons, e.g. they get off on the thrill of trying to get away with something. For a moment, reflect on some negative act you committed. Deep down, you knew you shouldn’t have done it, but you talked yourself into it anyway – maybe it wasn’t that terrible a choice (like dessert for many people). The 5 year-old won.

Consider the three Arkansas football players who recently got caught using counterfeit money. Certainly they knew it was wrong but chances are their 5 year-old mind was telling them how athletes don’t get enough money, how the school and the coaches make so much money and how they were getting screwed by the system. Or the athletes who are “juicing.” I mean, “everybody else is doing it.” That was supposedly the pushed, allegedly, Barry Bonds to use steroids. He was the best baseball player in the world but the media – and women (“Chicks dig the long ball” commercials) – were going gaga over Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa. Or the rash of domestic violence in the news. The “provocation defense” just won’t hold up. Besides, does anybody, especially high profile people, think hitting their spouse is the “right” thing to do?

We could claim the immature (although somewhat older than 5) mind even made its way into the Oval Office. Don’t think for a second Bill Clinton didn’t know what Monica Lewinsky was up to, rather down to, was a bad idea. That the thought, “You’re the President of the United States, for crying out loud! Do you really think this is appropriate?” didn’t enter his head. You can almost hear what the immature side of the mind was saying. Unless he just enjoyed the risk, the danger of getting caught was monumental. The average guy, maybe. But Clinton is brilliant and, whatever the reason was at the time, I’d make a substantial wager he regrets now what took place.

In any case, I’m using that argument to keep me from “losing.” It doesn’t mean I’ll never have dessert again. If the scale had a “pleasant message” or I had a great workout, I might indulge myself. It’s worked thus far. I can actually say I can hear that little, whiny, obnoxious kid anytime I’m not doing what I ought to be doing, like instead of watching TV, I should be getting on the exercise bike – and watching TV. Maybe it’s an unpleasant call I’ve been putting off but realize the situation won’t get resolved until I do. It’s called your conscience – and the more often you let it decide your course of action, the more fulfilling a life you’ll lead.

As Gandhi preached:

“There is a higher court than courts of justice and that is the court of conscience. It supercedes all other courts.”

Must See TV on HBO Tuesday Night

Sunday, July 19th, 2015

On my way to Stanford as it’s time for a pain pump refill. 10 years have gone by since my maiden voyage to Stanford Pain Management. The building has been not only upgraded but moved off-campus (to Redwood City) since my initial trip. If only its title was Pain “Elimination,” rather than Pain “Management,” . . . hey, I can still dream, can’t I?  Even still, life is much better now than it was after my 2002 thoracic disk surgery, so I’ve got to be thankful.

This blog will return on Thursday, July 23.

On Tuesday night from 10-11 pm, HBO will air a show about a philosophy that has pervaded the United States for 20 years. Or is it 25 years? However long this theory has been in existence, it desperately needs to be crushed. What I’m referring to is the attitude that “everyone’s a winner.” At the risk of sounding like one of those “back in the day” old-timers, allow me to present my case for the abolition of the “let’s build our children’s self-esteem” (at whatever cost) ideology.

During the 1950s, ’60s and ’70s, i.e. “back in the day,” kids who played sports got trophies – when they won. If there was an all-star team, the kids who were selected got jerseys (which they might have been allowed to keep) and, maybe, trophies. Some leagues would give awards, e.g. most valuable player, most improved, coaches’ award, etc. Those who didn’t win moved on – to the next sport or activity – as did those who won. The winners were congratulated and those who didn’t win . . . didn’t win. Did they suffer from an inferiority complex? If they did, well, back then (“in the day”), they were told to “get over it.” If they complained, their parents told them either to work harder or, if that answer didn’t appeal to them, to find something else to occupy their time during that particular season.

Parents were different then, just as the parents of those parents were different. Each generation is unique but here is something to consider. Many of the parents of today’s Generation Y children, aka the “Millennials” (the ones we’re discussing) were the children described above. Could it be they resented the way they were raised? Why did there have to be only one winner (individual or team)? Isn’t every one of God’s creatures as precious as each of the others? Maybe there were a greater number of inferiority complexes than we could ever imagine.

The result? Helicopter parents, those who hover over every move their child makes, who call the school when their little one doesn’t pass a test (or, in the most severe cases, when the parent-diagnosed little geniuses earn less than an A). And these parents don’t call the teacher. Nooooo, they go right to the administration and demand the grade be changed, their child be moved to another class and the teacher be disciplined. What could make them feel that way? One has already been discussed. They didn’t achieve to their potential (according to their own calculations) and their parents were to blame – for not “supporting” them. Another is they have been encouraged – by the administration – to go the administration, who commiserate with them and pass along the complaint to the teachers, putting them in an untenable position. Doesn’t matter, the administration did their job, i.e. placated the parents.

Somewhere along the way, people who subscribed to this feel good platform won over enough followers with their rhetoric. It wasn’t too difficult, given the Great American Dream, defined as “something for nothing.” (If you don’t believe it, have you ever wondered why the lottery payouts are so high? Something for [nearly] nothing). The “feel gooder’s” message is that our children’s self-esteem would dramatically rise if we only would recognize everybody as a winner! The fundamental flaw in this thinking is that, of course, everybody can’t be a winner. The word win contradicts that notion. If everybody wins, then nobody wins. Unless the goal is striving for mediocrity, there has to be a way to distinguish not-so-good from good, and from good from great.

After observing the results, i.e. the lack of work ethic and competitive spirit from much, although thankfully, not all this generation’s youth, the overwhelming majority of the people (at least the ones I know) agree with Michigan State’s Tom Izzo. The coach is quoted on the show, explaining the problems with the current “everyone’s a winner” philosophy:

“It is a little harder to motivate kids I guess because they’ve been pampered so much. We’re in the trophy generation, give ’em a trophy for 23rd place, make ’em feel good. Make mom and dad feel good.”



Who Was in Charge at St. Andrew’s – and Why Did No One Help Him?

Saturday, July 18th, 2015

Regarding yesterday’s blog: watching The Open, as the British Open golf tournament is referred to, I had to re-think how much fun the game of golf is. After Day 1, Tiger Woods (you remember him, right) made the statement that, due to his poor first round, he had to hope for nasty conditions on Day 2, forcing his competitors into subpar scores, then play some terrific golf himself.

Can you imagine hoping for bad weather? I can understand the Buffalo Bills wanting miserable conditions in upstate New York when they play the Miami Dolphins or San Diego Chargers but football is a bit of a rougher game than golf. Like a shark is a bit more dangerous than a goldfish. I made my feelings known about golf yesterday when I said one reason golf was fun was because you got to play in wonderful weather (if not, just don’t play – there will be nicer days, especially when you’re retired – and live in California).

Well, the R&A outdid itself on Saturday in Scotland (even though it didn’t quite seem like Saturday yet out here). It didn’t take a meteorologist to figure the weather was brutal. I mean, golfers are extremely talented athletes (I do consider them athletes, certainly in terms of hand-eye coordination, strength and conditioning – for most in today’s game, anyway – and, certainly, mental toughness). But in no way does anyone consider them gladiators, as fans do, say, football players.

So, leader Dustin Johnson had to play three holes – while other golfers didn’t swing even once. At that time the powers-that-be decided that no sane person should be out in that kind of weather – and the only thing that was keeping them out there were . . . the decision-makers for The Open. The major problem with what took place at St. Andrews (pronounced sin-TANDREWS) was that it was just that – a major. Why should golfers have to play one of their four most important events in inclement weather when the rest of the game is so pure?

Don’t agree? Try sneezing or coughing (or even just taking a picture if it means there will be an audible “click”) during a golfer’s backswing. The Seattle Seahawks have their decibel meter. It gets so loud that opposing offenses can’t hear play calls and, often, teams are forced into penalties. The Golden State Warriors gave credit to their fans for making so much noise during their run to last season’s NBA Championship. Imagine having to play golf with the kind of distractions quarterbacks, place kickers and free throw shooters do? Because of that, golfers should never be forced to putt into 40 mph winds. Nobody practices putting into 40 mph winds, nor should they. That’s not skill and, if nothing else, golf is a game of incredible skill. Someone shouldn’t become a champion because he got to play in sunshine – after rain was coming down sideways for the guys playing earlier.

Talk about leveling the playing field. OK, so everything can’t be exactly equal. But to do what was done yesterday at St. Andrews definitely skewed the results, independent of who wins. Let’s face it, although power has entered the game more than it ever has, golf is still a finesse game, a great deal of it built on touch. What the answer is I don’t know but late Friday night (on the west coast) wasn’t even fun to watch. As fans, we’d like to think the games we witness are fair (WWE excluded). I’d imagine the players feel the same way.

“When stubbornness tops common sense, someone needs to step up and give the group a literal slap in the face – for everyone’s sake.”

Keeping Adversity in Perspective

Sunday, July 12th, 2015

Will be tied up with some family business for a few days. This blog will return on Friday, July 17.

Ronnie Carr made the first three-pointer in the history of the NCAA on November 29, 1980. I was a member of the Western Carolina University staff who, a couple years prior, recruited Ronnie to the Southern Conference school. By the time he made the shot, I’d moved on to the University of Tennessee. Unfortunately for Ronnie, a potential NBA first round pick, he was in a career-ending, life-threatening car accident during the summer between his junior and senior years. The wreck left him with a broken collarbone, two broken arms, broken ribs, punctured lungs, two broken legs, a fractured ankle and a fractured wrist. The impact of the wreck also forced him to undergo open-heart surgery to replace a damaged mitral valve.

The fault of the accident was that of a rogue cop who was in a high-speed chase (with no siren blaring) and ran a stop sign, broadsiding the car Ronnie was driving. He was laid up in the hospital for 6 1/2 weeks and was advised to sue. He did so but in a “back room deal” between his lawyer and the state of North Carolina, a deal was brokered that wound up giving nothing to Ronnie. In the early ’80s a young, black kid (even if he had made NCAA basketball history) had no chance winning a court case against a white cop.

Despite this tragedy and miscarriage of justice, Ronnie not only finished his undergraduate degree but his title now is Dr. Ronnie Carr, following completion of his master’s and PhD. He’s an ordained minister, runs a successful business, working with and positively influencing young people, and is about to publish a book. He has honored me by requesting me to write the forward for that book.

It is with that background information that I inform you of my weekend. I had planned to get my car serviced (75,000 mile check) on Friday but I was running behind, so I called my mechanic and set up an appointment for the next morning. Friday evening, I went grocery shopping (which I had also been putting off) and when I got home, I had just enough time to unload the groceries before leaving for my appointment with an acupuncturist. I had strained a muscle in my neck going through an exercise routine (in which I, apparently, did something I shouldn’t have done) – a month ago. I was hoping to see if acupuncture would give me some relief. After putting up the groceries, I got into my car – and it wouldn’t start.

Because I was in such a rush, I took my wife’s car, calling AAA on the way. They informed me that, unless I had somewhere to tow it to that night, it would probably be better to call Saturday morning. I did so and AAA came to our house, checked out my car, only to find the battery dead. He charged it and I let it run for a few minutes before heading to my mechanic. There, they put in a new battery, serviced the car and I was on my way.

When I got home, I checked my emails. I had five (5) consecutive emails from PayPal – all of them fraudulent charges. They ranged from a one-time $1.88 charge to $120 monthly transaction. As I’ve mentioned times in this blogspace, I’m not exactly “from today.” The main reason I have a PayPal account is as a convenience for customers who want to order and pay online for baby gifts from our company ( I only use PayPal to transfer money from the that account to my business checking account.

I tried to contact PayPal but they were closed. I did see where, if a customer thought there was a fraudulent charge, they could forward the email to PayPal, they would look it over and send an email response. I forwarded the first one. While I was in the process of forwarding the second, I noticed I’d received an email – from PayPal. It began, “Dear, Thank you for being a proactive contributor by reporting suspicious-looking emails to PayPal’s Abuse Department. Our security team is working to identify if the email you forwarded to us is a malicious email.” It then went on to list what PayPal will always do, and what PayPal will never do. There was one “Always” followed by a whole lotta “Nevers.” Since it was after their business hours, I will be contacting them in a few hours.

While this was going on, I received an email from American Express with the subject line “Fraud Protection Alert.” Nice. It alerted me of a charge on my card and asked the question: “Do you recognize this attempt?” Below it, there were two boxes, one in bright green with a check mark and “Yes” inside, the other a fire engine red with an exclamation point and a “No.” Since I was becoming an expert on how to be a fraud victim, I clicked on the red box. A message came on, saying I’d be getting a call from Amex within five minutes but my phone rang as I was finishing reading the message. The representative on the other end couldn’t have been more helpful.

We discussed the charge, I explained that it was not made by me (which they’d expected, hence the email) and we took a walk down memory lane – going over each of my charges for the past few days. I was of assistance, being able to tell him when the last two occasions were that I’d use the card. He noted those – and several others made subsequently, none of which were purchases made by me. He deleted the fraudulent charges, told me he was cancelling that card (to make sure I didn’t use it), that he would be sending me a new one with a new number and would send me an email of all the companies that had automatic withdrawals on my card. What, he wasn’t going to contact them, too? While the news wasn’t great, the service was exceedingly so.

A wrap up of my weekend: one dead battery, a painful neck – the acupuncture gave me fleeting relief, as did the six lydocaine shots from the doctor a few weeks ago and the massage therapy from a couple of different (both professional) people, five fraudulent charges on my PayPal account and several others on my American Express card.

As I began putting pen to paper for the forward of Ronnie Carr’s book which details his ordeal, I thought:

“Y’know, this wasn’t such a bad weekend after all.”


DeAndre Jordan Decided What?

Thursday, July 9th, 2015

One thing I’ve tried to stay away from is self-aggrandizement. However, anyone who’s read my post from three days ago (7/6/15) on the DeAndre Jordan situation, has to admit that I nailed it squarely on the noggin. For those who haven’t yet read it, I implore you to do so.

The talking heads were all wondering if there has been precedence. Hedo Turkoglu’s name was bandied about, the position taken by Antonio McDyess way back in 1999, a coaching flip-flop from Billy Donovan all surfaced (you can bet many interns must have earned some overtime) – all were brought up. The real comparison, however, would be to college recruiting and young kids giving verbal commitments.

Does what happened in the DeAndre Jordan scenario, described as continued recruiting after a prospect gives a verbal commitment, occur in college recruiting? In a word, yes. Maybe not all that often but, yes. Discounting the fact that the schools that lose out have spent a great deal of time and money recruiting the prospect, there’s the feeling that you know the kid made a mistake and that, deep down, he knows it, too. Maybe it was a case of listening to the wrong people, getting bad advice. So, you make that last ditch effort. Most of the time, you move on but, in a very special case, you’ve just put in too much effort to go down without exploring every option.

Who was it who gave him the erroneous advice in the first place? Or, in some cases, who made the decision for him? You believe, that if you could talk with him one more time, after whatever it was that turned his head. The first move is to get him away from those influences who, quite possibly, convinced him to do something that wasn’t necessarily in his best interests. (Guess whose best interests the person had in mind?)

Here’s an example of a story that made the rounds back in the late ’70s. I was coaching at Western Carolina at the time and, since it was an instance of shady recruiting, the law of averages would say that it took place in the south. Since I was not directly involved, I’ll leave out the names but suffice to say, if you’re someone who enjoys following recruiting (and are old enough to remember), you’ll probably be able to figure out the principal figures.

I recall speaking with a fellow assistant who made the following comment to me when we were talking about the subject of recruiting. “We love it when a kid verbally commits. Then, we only have one team to beat.” In this particular situation, that line of thinking got them one of the best high school players in the nation. If you need a hint, he went on to have a spectacular professional career as well.

One school had finally got this superstar’s verbal commitment. Another school (yeah, the one referred to above, who was pleased with it) “kidnapped” this kid. Actually, lured would be a better word, convincing the prospect he ought to take a ride to campus (of the “other” school). Hey, desperate times call for desperate measures. Once there, the second college’s staff convinced his that he would be much better served (read into that as you will) if he switched allegiances and matriculated right where he was at that time. He signed on campus, infuriating the kid’s original school.

A verbal commitment is not binding; a signed one is. Just as the NBA has a moratorium on when a player can sign a contract, the NCAA has a designated signing period. The NBA, apparently, needs the week to look over each deal to make sure it passes several criteria, salary cap among them. Nothing prior to that date is set in stone, similar to a prospect committing to a school.

As for retaliation by the Mavericks, maybe accusing that illegal tactics were used to “change DJ’s mind,” consider the post script to the story of our “kidnappers.” The coach of the school who “had” him but, then, lost him at the eleventh hour, called the player’s “new” coach and threatened to turn in the school to the NCAA for rules violations – of which they were oh so guilty. After hearing his rival’s rant, the coach said, “When you call the NCAA to turn us in, make sure you mention where he got this nice, new van he’s driving.”

What, no honor among thieves?

Good advice for DJ would be to show remorse and admit he made a mistake (which does not mean he has to throw anybody under the bus). Ours is a most forgiving country. “I made a mistake” is a powerful statement and draws empathy from most people for the simplest of reasons. Who among us hasn’t made a decision we regretted?

Take Bill Parcells’ advice:

“When you make a mistake:

1) admit it,

2) correct it,

3) learn from it,

4) don’t dwell on it,

5) don’t repeat it.