Archive for the ‘humor’ Category

Why Donald Sterling Should Be Pitied

Tuesday, June 10th, 2014

The pendulum in the “Donald Sterling selling the Clippers to Steve Ballmer” deal has swung back to “not signing - suing.” The word from Sterling’s camp (which consists of Sterling and his attorney, Max Blecher) is, “I have decided that I must fight to protect my rights. While my position may not be popular, I believe that my rights to privacy and the preservation of my rights to due process should not be trampled. I love the team and have dedicated 33 years of my life to the organization. I intend to fight to keep the team.”

While my position may not being popular?” Those words should dispel any notion that the owner, former owner, still-for-a-little-while owner is suffering from any type of dementia. A promising strategy for Sterling might be the section, “I have dedicated 33 years of my life to the organization” because the Clippers are now one of the top franchises in the NBA after being, arguably, the poorest run professional organization in the world (including Eastman Kodak and the railroad). Maybe he thinks his investment is just now turning the corner.

“I intend to fight to keep the team.” Even though every one of the players, coaches, other employees and every Clippers fan desperately wants me to relinquish my role as owner and can’t wait to start the Steve Ballmer era which will undoubtedly prove to be infinitely more player-friendly, coach-friendly (Mike Dunleavy can attest to that), employee-friendly and fan-friendly. While that last statement might have been unnecessarily lengthy, so was my length of ownership. 

From the onset, I did not want to sell the Los Angeles Clippers.” Someone, maybe Blecher, might want to clue Sterling in that “want to” never had anything to do with it once the now-famous “V tapes” were released. All indications point to the sale of the team, pending approval of the other 29 owners (wonder what odds Vegas is giving on the owners not approving the deal), although a court case is certainly a possibility. If Sterling were to testify, he would probably, at some point, admit his biggest mistake was not using the same head hunting firm that gave the Nixon administration Rosemary Woods.

Commissioner Adam Silver was quoted as saying that if Sterling sued, he’d actually be suing himself. Not quite sure what the commish’s point is. A possible mistake Silver is making (unless he’s holding it as a bargaining chip) is not rescinding the $2.5M fine against Sterling (that the commissioner, allegedly, claimed was still to be collected). Not only is #2.5M pocket change for Sterling, it’s pocket change for the league, every owner and Silver himself. Don’t flip on the “lifetime ban” for goodness’ sakes, but let the poor schmuck think he beat you on some count.

Many people can’t understand why Sterling, who is worth nearly $2B and would be getting another $2B from the sale, would fight such a seemingly losing battle. The answer lies in a line I read several years ago:

“Many people are so poor because the only thing they have is money.”

Can’t a Losing Group Just Acknowledge Another’s Success?

Sunday, June 8th, 2014

Sriram Hathwar of Painted Post, NY and Ansun Sujoe of Ft. Worth, TX tied for the Scripps National Spelling Bee championship. Gokul Venkatachalam of Chesterfield, MO was third and Ashwin Veeramani of North Royalton, OH was fourth. Each of the top four are Indian-American. In fact, the past eight winners and 13 of the past 17 champions have been of Indian descent, a run that began in 1999.

What can be concluded from the above? Could it be that Indian-Americans put a greater emphasis on spelling (or, perhaps, education) than other groups? In the sporting world such a run would be hailed as a dynasty. On the Internet it means it’s time to spew venom toward to champions - because “your kind” didn’t achieve victory.

Two such examples are: “wow that blows the spelling bee ends with a tie thats so friggin un-American no wonder the kids that won it are Indian” from Chris Uhl Jr. (@the_best_uhl_c) May 30, 2014. Wow, if that’s the_best_uhl_c, Chris, we can only imagine an opinion of yours that’s a shade under your “best.” It seems as though you’re saying that a tie is un-American, implying that if the finalists were “true Americans,” they would have spelled to the death until one was champion. And: “Nothing more American than a good spelling bee.. Oh wait all the Caucasians are eliminated” from Cale Pieczynski (@CalePie) May 30, 2014. Or was that from @CowPie? Do you mean, Carol, that the “foreign” words that must make up today’s spelling bees need to be replaced by the English ones that were used during the good old spelling bees from your youth (when the Caucasians would win)? 

What’s surely to appear next is a group of protestors, picketing or starting a letter-writing campaign, stating their heritage is being disparaged. They take offense that just because their children aren’t capable of spelling “big words” that it means “their people” don’t value education as much as Indian-Americans. Those who level that charge against them have no idea the type of hardships they’d encountered, from having to fight racism (or, one that’s emerging, reverse racism) and poverty to looking different.

School administrators would be so frightened they’d call a meeting, attempting to downplay stereotyping the winners, all the while praising their own champions - even though in the majority of cases those winners also would be Indian-Americans. These (real) winners should not be confused with Native Americans who used to be called Indians until such groups (the complainers, not the Indians) protested so much no one was allowed to use that term any longer. Unless you lived in Cleveland, in which case, not only could you use the term but you were also encouraged to shell out mega-dollars to watch them play, often badly - which certainly does reflect negatively on the Indians (but not the Native Americans). It seems as though administrators and legislators are dividing the country in the name of unifying it, a testimony to politicians everywhere - each group favoring meetings ahead of accomplishing actual work.

The original article about the spelling bee co-champions stated that although they shared a single trophy onstage for the picture-taking, each would get one for himself, plus the champion’s purse of more than $33,000 in cash and prizes. This would infuriate other groups who would surely take umbrage at how insensitive this action would be to the rest of the participants. Should they not be receiving some type of award (a trophy or plaque or certificate - undoubtedly, with a word misspelled), so their self-esteem wouldn’t be irreparably damaged? No one seemed to be bothered that neither of the winners could spell “corpsbruder” or “antegropelos,” mistakes I would bet would ruminate with them a lot longer than whatever word eliminated the contestants who bowed out in the early rounds.

What is so sad is that, in this day and age, the Chris Uhls and Cale Pieczynskis of the world aren’t infinitely more disturbed that “Caucasians” perform so poorly at, in this case, spelling bees than Indian-Americans. Also disappointing is that, rather than denigrate winners (in disciplines where ethnic groups other than theirs  perform better) why they wouldn’t collaborate with them in order to raise overall skill levels.

Could it be because we desperately want, in our country, to achieve the impossible - to have no one lose? It’s accepted in sports, albeit not always so graciously, and while feelings get hurt, the participants deal with it (and usually come out better and more determined to succeed in the future).

In situations like these, one person who always made sense without ever offending another soul was Mohandas Gandhi. He said:

“Happiness is when what you think, what you say, and what you do are in harmony.”



Comparing the Two Teams in the NBA Finals

Sunday, June 1st, 2014

First, the trivial: In 2013 Miami was the #1 seed in the East (and #1 overall, meaning Game 7 was in South Beach) with San Antonio #2 in the West; this year the Spurs are #1 in West (and #1 overall, meaning a potential Game 7 would be at the Riverwalk) while the Heat is #2 in East.

Four former NBA Finals MVPs  played in the series (the Spurs’ Tim Duncan and Tony Parker and the Heat’s Dwyane Wade and LeBron James) - just like last year.

We may have the same teams as last season but there are some differences. It’s the first NBA Finals since 1984 without David Stern as commissioner (shouldn’t be a factor) and it’s the first NBA Finals since 1982 without Donald Sterling as owner of the Los Angeles Clippers (also shouldn’t be a factor). As far as rosters are concerned, each team has 10 of the 15 players listed on their roster from 2013 back this year but, as far as the main characters, all return. The format differs with last year’s 2-3-2 changing to 2-2-1-1-1. Whom that favors is in the eye of the prognosticator.

The pressure supposedly rises exponentially as championships are won: back-to-back extremely difficult. As for a three peat, well, only three franchises have ever done it: Michael Jordan’s Chicago Bulls and Shaq’s/Kobe’s LA Lakers (each not only three-peated but did it twice), while Bill Russell’s Boston Celtics eight-peated (don’t think anybody has copyrighted that phrase but pretty sure there’s no need). Since the season ended, experts have been telling us that this year’s Heat squad is the worst of the three (this year and the past two championship teams) while the same guys have been saying the old Spurs are getting older.

So do the elder statesmen of the hardwood, led by the older of the two coaches, take this year’s NBA title or can the Heat take the heat and grab this year’s David Stern Larry O’Brien trophy?

Both teams are stable, i.e. no Lance Stephenson-type shenanigans. Although he’s a true “baller,” occasionally (OK, maybe more than occasionally) he becomes a guy who can be “more problem than player” and create unnecessary distractions.

The team concept rules for both clubs, i.e. no Russell Westbrook who, while he’s fearless and comes up big, has the tendency to have too many possessions in which no one else touches the ball but him (example: in Game 4 when he went for 40 and 10 - and OKC won, there were 19 times in which he was the only Thunder player to touch the ball during the entire possession). That said, there probably will be moments in the finals in which each of the teams would love to have Westbrook.

Since each won in Game 6 of the conference finals, there’s no advantage from a “rest” factor. Erik Spoelstra has been closely monitoring D Wade’s minutes all season and hasn’t been reluctant to go deep into his bench. LeBron gets rest, maybe for show, but if (or when) push comes to shove, bet on him being on the floor, fresh and ready to make whatever play - at either end - that needs to be made, no matter how many minutes he’s logged. To find out Gregg Popovich’s philosophy on player rotation, pick up a copy of this week’s (6/2/14) Sports Illustrated. This year’s rotation plan worked more efficiently than any other - if the goal is to keep the main guys as fresh as possible for the finals run. According to a graphic flashed on the screen at the end of the TNT telecast, this is the first NBA Finals in which none of a team’s five starters have logged more than 30 min/game.

Each contest may come down to which team can guard the three-point line best. Since it’s hard for some to visualize a “line” being guarded, let’s use the term that ought to be easier to comprehend - which defenders will best be able to “run the three-point shooters” off of the three-point line.

No matter how much improvement there is in the fields of strength, conditioning and nutrition, the ball will always move faster than the player. Maybe due to aging, maybe due to philosophy drilled into Pop by his coaches and mentors but that is the basis of the Spurs’ offense. As far as the defensive end of the floor goes, athleticism is much more difficult to cover for than it is on offense.

The NBA has become a league symbolized by pick-and-roll basketball. Other fads come and go but defending the pick-and-roll/pop is what the teams that want to score employ. It’s the most difficult offense to guard, one reason being the incredibly physical toll it takes on the defender on the ball. The offense has evolved from a two-man game to one in which all five players are expected to fill certain spots. At the highest level, the problem for coaches trying to figure ways to defend it is that, on the championship level NBA teams, all five “Os” need to be guarded. Trapping, or “blitzing” the ballhandler is a gamble because, when the ball leaves the trap, it eventually finds its way to a player who can score - often with a three.  While there are a multitude of ways to guard the pick-and-roll, a well-executed offense will put points on the board - or at least get a quality shot - more often than the defense will shut it down, keeping in mind that shutting it down entails rebounding misses, or in coachspeak, “a defensive possession isn’t successful until the ball is secured.”

Creating turnovers (in Miami’s mind) or taking care of the ball (from the Spurs’ prospective) will be a major factor because the Heat are incredibly effective in the open floor. For the games in Miami, it will positively impact the heat to a point that the players can almost feel an energy surge.

Where will coaching come into this series? A lot is based on which guy blinks first - and being first is not entirely bad. If it comes down to which guy makes a move following a loss, immediately he’s behind because both of these guys have weapons and it’s usually best to bring out the big guns early. Forget all that. Between them, they have six championships - and, for those born after 1990 - the rings that the team gets for winning the championship, so there’s reason to believe each knows what’s necessary to be done.

As far as which team will win? I’ll take the view spoken so eloquently by one of the two greatest speakers of all-time (MLK being the other), Winston Churchill, who stated (a belief that most sportswriters subscribe to):

“I always avoid prophesying beforehand because it is much better to prophesy after the event has already taken place.” 

The Scrutinization of the Losing Coach

Wednesday, May 28th, 2014

Headed to SoCal for a few days with younger son, Alex. He’ll be worked out by Fresno native (Hoover HS), Mike Penberthy, who went to NAIA Master’s College, was a two-time NAIA All-America and played overseas for many seasons but will be better remembered for his stint with the LA Lakers when he teamed up with Shaq and Kobe to win the 2001 NBA championship. He was (still is) a dead eye marksman who could also take the ball to the hole and score. But it was his shooting effectiveness that most will recall as he was “cash money” for the Lakers (during the regular season and throughout the playoffs). With a monster big man and the best player in the game (at that time), Mike would spot up beyond the three-point line (sometimes way beyond it) and wait for his man to help on Shaq or Kobe. He’d get open shots and knock them down - over and over and over. Nice work if you can get it. As long as you produce. Mike did and has a ring to prove it. Now his job is player development. Among the NBA guys he tutors are Dwyane Wade, Paul George and Reggie Jackson.

This blog will return Sunday.

Frank Vogel has come under a great deal of heat (as well as all the other Heat he - and the Pacers - are under) for making the comment, “I think anytime you lose three in a row in the playoffs, it shakes your confidence some.” For the life of me, I can’t figure out what people are so upset about. Indiana won Game 1. They just lost three straight games and the distance between their performances and Miami’s is widening. If anything, the Pacers were overconfident (and maybe still are, although I believe, deep down, they suffer from exactly what Vogel said).

If you want to see a picture of Lance Stephenson, go to Webster’s and look up “loose cannon.” Really, you are under LeBron’s skin? Looks like Stephenson won’t be giving lectures on dermatology anytime soon. During Game 4 Miami led from the opening tip until the final horn. After 0-0 the game wasn’t ever tied. Yet Paul George claimed they outplayed the Heat. His comment was understandable within the context he made it, i.e. they shot 50% from the floor and had fewer turnovers than they usually do in games they win. OK, send the box score to the league office, explaining you guys have a trademark style of taking the ball to the basket, as do the Heat, yet they shot a great many more free throws than you did. It won’t change the score (or the officiating) but the response you’ll get back from the league won’t come with a bill for $25K attached. Roy Hibbert, in four of seventeen playoff games this year, has gone scoreless. In a year he was an All-Star. And it’s considered poor coaching strategy to say the team’s (Vogel never Hibbert, or any other Pacer, by name) confidence is shaken?

Who doesn’t think these guys have their confidence shaken? Maybe Stephenson, but if his confidence isn’t shaken, it’s at least stirred. After he made such an asinine statement (about a guy who doesn’t need to be fired up any more than he already is) and followed it up with the game he had, he needs a confidence boast as much as he needs a muzzle. Swagger is one thing - and in today’s game of trash talking (although, apparently, TT is nothing new to hoops) - but quiet confidence works, too.

Midway through the third quarter, Gregg Popovich, considered by more than a few people to be the best coach in today’s NBA, benched his best players. This idea isn’t exactly a novel one. as it has been used as a motivational tool by many a coach, at many a level. Its purpose is to send a message. Basically, the coach is telling his top guys that if you don’t want to play hard, smart and together (I think I saw that on a t-shirt somewhere), you can have a seat right here next to me. Great coaches, including, and especially, John Wooden and Bob Knight, have been quoted that the bench is the greatest motivator.

Then the Spurs’ subs cut the lead to 12 in the third quarter and people (Steve Kerr and Reggie Miller are two on record) thought it might be about time for the starters to reenter. But they didn’t. Not then, or the beginning the fourth, or anytime thereafter. The question many have wondered is, “Why didn’t they?”

Here’s a conjecture. As the TV guys stated, Pop knows his team best. Maybe he felt like, if he put his guys back in, and if they could cut into the lead (12 points is a rather substantial mountain to climb in one quarter), 1) could they realistically win the game, not just make it a close defeat, 2) how much would it take out of his (older) players if they did go back in and 3) how would it affect them if they not only didn’t win, but if OKC expanded the margin of victory? Questions would abound. Was the Thunder sandbagging the Spurs, i.e. letting up against the end of the bench to lure the starters back in - so they could kick their butts again?

Independent of that idea, would it be a wise move with Game 5 (usually the most pivotal game of a seven-game series) only 48 hours away? Since Pop is the master puppeteer, could the thought have crossed his mind - in each of the four games to date, the home team won. If that trend were to continue, we’re in the Finals. If we can win at home, we don’t need Game 4. My Big Three are a veteran group. Do I really want them to have to expend that much energy to try to win a game that’s not only not necessary but may not even be possible to win?

Keep this fact in mind: Gregg Popovich has won a great many more rings - as a coach - than anybody critiquing him. Spo’s not too far behind. And, right now, nobody’s saying anything bad about Scotty Brooks (although, if the Thunder lose Game 5, watch how many people bring up how many minutes he played his starters in last night’s blowout).

I used this quote several times at clinics. I’m sure other coaches have as well. In this profession, the difference between a good coaching move and a bad one can be summed up like this:

“A good coaching move is one that works.”

Was the “Serge Ibaka Difference” Really All That?

Monday, May 26th, 2014

After the second-seeded Oklahoma City Thunder defeated the third-seeded Los Angeles Clippers to advance to the Western Conference Finals, the stage was set for a 1 vs 2 match up (San Antonio having finished ahead of the Thunder in the regular season). What took some of the intrigue out of the pairing was Serge Ibaka, OKC’s starting power forward, sustained a nasty calf injury against LA in the final game of that series. Reports out of Oklahoma City were that the shot blocking, sweet shooting big man was O-U-T for the remainder of the playoffs. As it turned out, Ibaka only had suffered only one of what the Thunder docs and trainers thought was a couple of injuries and, luckily for him - and OKC - it was the less serious of the two.

The first two games were played in, as Sir Charles might call it “la Ciudad de las Mujeres Grandes” (the City of Big Women). While big women might have been in attendance, there was no big Serge sighting. There was talk of him possibly suiting up for Game 3. Hysteria rocked Chesapeake Energy Arena when Ibaka was announced as a starter.

Then, he hit his first four shots, making it an even better, although nowhere nearly as dramatic performance than . . . yeah, I’ll say it, Willis Reed. Sure, Reed’s injury was more extensive from a medical standpoint - if, for no other reason than how much less doctors knew back then. And for pure drama, face it, Reed’s venue was “the world’s most famous arena” - Madison Square Garden. However, from a production standpoint, there’s no comparison. Ibaka had 15 points, 7 rebounds, 4 blocks (maybe 10 shot “changes” to neutralize the paint) while The Captain, as Reed was known, exited (noticeably limping) after knocking down his only two shot attempts.

But wait! Should Ibaka be receiving that much credit? Without a doubt, the Thunder would have been hard pressed to win last night without him in the lineup. But there were numerous other contributing factors that went into OKC now facing a 1-2 deficit as opposed to being down 0-3. The impact of Reggie Jackson replacing Thabo Sefolosha, for example, went largely unnoticed, due to the Ibaka medical miracle, yet was a major reason in the Thunder’s victory (Jackson’s positive contribution, OK, but even more because of the elimination of the granted, improbable, yet pitiful play of Sefolosha in Games 1&2). Also, falling under the category of “the greatest indicator of future behavior is past performance,” the unexpected poor outing by Tim Duncan and, of even greater disappointment, the effort of Tony Parker.

Still another major letdown by San Antonio was its usually stellar defense (Ibaka’s stats certainly contributed to that but, even with that performance, the Spurs normally give a much better showing at the defensive end of the floor). MIA, as well, was their normal moving of the ball on offense (not all of which can be blamed on Ibaka’s presence). And while the Spurs had fewer turnovers (16, to 18 for OKC), that stat is misleading because, as the ever astute Charles Barkley pointed out at halftime when the TO topic came up, “Yeah, but we expect the Thunder to turn it over.” Seriously, Barkley’s analysis is nearly always on the money, or at least sounds like it is - and before the action occurs - not after it, a la Bill Simmons).

It seems as though many of the “experts” have been harping on Ibaka’s return as the most important factor in the game, if not the only one. Of all people, the guy who gave an interesting view on reliance of experts is someone who, coincidentally, came back from an even more serious injury than Ibaka’s to be arguably, the best player in professional football. He is none other than Peyton Manning who, in his speech to the graduating class at the University of Virginia, said:

“Remember, the Ark was built by an amateur while the Titanic was built by experts.”

So Which Event Is Better - Midnight Madness or the NBA Playoffs?

Sunday, May 25th, 2014

There are people who live for college basketball’s March Madness. On the flip side, there are those who are devoted to the NBA Playoffs. For decades that debate has raged. Occasionally, it’s turned into an intense argument (usually around closing time at the pub). As far as the ultimate hoops viewing experience (over an extended period of time), which is it - college’s mega money extravaganza or the crowning of an NBA champion?

First, the college side of the altercation. 1) The one-and-done drama. Mercer would never beat Duke in a best-of-seven series. Every team has to be totally focused every game - there are no mulligans on the road to the Final Four. The underdog has no chance in the NBA. 2) There’s more of an allegiance with the college game - fans go to class with the players or graduated from the school they’re rooting for (or have a spouse, friend or neighbor who did, making the emotional part of it seem stronger, especially after the team’s been eliminated - or wins it all)! 3) The 35 second shot clock is better - fans don’t have to be subjected to so many bad, forced shots just to avoid shot clock violations. 4) After all that “upset talk” was said and done - it still has come down to 1 vs 2 in the East & 1 vs 2 in the West. If the college game was that predictable, Warren Buffett would be a billion dollars lighter. 5) Plus, the final remark made by those who aren’t NBA aficionados. “You only have to watch the last two minutes to see who’s going to win.”

The NBA lovers, i.e. those who feel they’re the more sophisticated ball fans. 1) Who wants to see Mercer advance, anyway? Wouldn’t watching Duke be more enjoyable (unless you have some vested interest in Mercer)? In the NBA, you wind up with the best team as champion, not the hottest one. 2) The guys you’re seeing are the best players in the world. If you’re going to spend time at the game or in front of a television set (or on your computer, phone, watch or some other gadget), don’t you want to see excellence? 3) The 24 second clock is the way to go - the game can’t be slowed down with some stall offense - you score off transition or one of the first two options. After that, you’re bound to see at least a few sensational one-on-one moves that you seldom see in the college game. 4) The game is so much more pure because if you make a mistake, the pros will make you pay; in college, there are guys you don’t even have to guard. 5) While the last two minutes of an NBA contest might decide the winner, you don’t deserve to witness an NBA playoff game if you don’t think what goes on the first 46 minutes is basketball at its finest.

One thing we should all be thankful for is that the NBA Playoffs don’t start until well after a national champion has been crowned, so we can continue getting our basketball jones on for months. One thing we could do without is the interminable delay that instant replay has caused - in terms of ruining the flow of the games. Whichever side you belong to, you can be assured the bickering will be never-ending. However, right about closing time, Miss Piggy’s philosophy might just rule the night:

“Beauty is in the eye of the beholder and it may be necessary from time to time to give a stupid or misinformed beholder a black eye.”

Ruminations from the Past Two NBA Playoff Days

Tuesday, May 13th, 2014

This will the last blog until May 25. My wife, one of her sisters and I are heading to Hawaii for a vacation. A vacation from retirement. Some necessary R&R to break up a busy life of doing nothing. Actually, I keep myself busy, mainly by trying to keep in touch with former coaching colleagues, former players and, at least a weekly luncheon date with friends from here in Fresno - in addition to riding an exercise bike, doing yoga (stretches only, no vinyasa) and seemingly constant physical therapy. I also have a business ( which is doing quite well (if you’re in the market for a baby gift, it would be well worth your time to check out the website). Through coaching contacts, we’ve produced six (6) baby gifts for NBA players’ newborns (and I was told another order is imminent).

In addition, we follow younger son, Alex, and his Cal State Monterey Bay Otters (last year we missed only one game - although I made the trip to Arcata, home of Humboldt State, during Alex’s freshman year, there’s no way this creaky, old body (and the pain that accompanies it on a daily basis) can go to both the game in Arcata on Thursday and make it to the game in Pomona on Saturday (or vice versa). On another front, it has been a pleasure doing the “#JackAndCoach” segments for my main man, Rav, and his website CoachGeorgeRaveling.comI’ve also authored four articles for the site, the most recent Why College Athletes Should NOT Be Paid. The article that coaches seemed to like best was entitled The Greatest, Most Realistic, Pressure Free Throw Shooting Drill.

As if that’s not enough of a work load (it sounds more than it is - even though it doesn’t sound like much), I’m busy working on two eBooks. While I know nothing about such a project, one of the newest members of the Collegiate Basketball Hall of Fame, Glenn Wilkes, is helping me. The highly successful retired coach at Stetson for 36 years, is the one who introduced me to the concept and encouraged me with some kind words regarding my writing skills. One book will be a follow up to my first paperback , Life’s A Joke. The new one will be entitled Life’s STILL A Joke and will contain stories that happened since the publication of the first, plus a couple I overlooked the first go-around. Many of these blogs (some as far back as 2007) will be included, too. The other book will be a compilation of blogs and will probably have the title Observations of a Sharp Mind (that resides in a painful body), although that’s still in the planning stages. Enjoy the blog.

LeBron James plays a different game than other players. Basically, when he sets his mind to do something, he does it. When he struggles, it’s usually because of him, not his opponent. Paul Pierce is a perennial all-star who doesn’t lack for confidence. Prior to Game 4, in which Brooklyn was attempting to even their series with Miami, “The Truth” told coach Jason Kidd he wanted to guard LeBron. Result: The Truth was False. If it wasn’t for his missed free throw just prior to the buzzer, LBJ would have hung a 50 spot on the Nets. What did Pierce - and everyone else - learn? Simply this:

Discretion is the better part of valor. 

After hearing the Donald Sterling-Anderson Cooper interview, one thought (other than those that everyone else had) that entered my mind was, with $1.9 billion, doesn’t he have a PR person on retainer who might have mentioned to him, “Uh, Don, this might not be such a good plan.” The line that resonates in my mind after painfully (and I’m not referring to my back) watching him, was one that George Raveling used to say:

Some people don’t know - and other people don’t know that they don’t know.

Charles Barkley, for a couple years (at least) now, has been mentioning the size of the women in San Antonio (he also calls the Riverwalk a creek - and a dirty one at that). After hearing complaints from anti-obesity groups (are there any pro-obesity groups?), Chuck still has refused to apologize. Although it might be at others’ expense, his remarks, while hurtful (if they don’t want it to hurt, drop some lbs’s), are said in a joking manner. Barkley subscribes to my friend, another highly successful coach - this one in track & field - Fresno State’s Red Estes, whose signature line is:

“Don’t take life so seriously; you’ll never get out alive.”

Doug Collins has shown he can coach - and there’s never been a doubt his knowledge of the game is superior to most. At the conclusion of the remarkable Clippers-Thunder contest in which OKC stood around a lot and turned the ball over an inordinate amount of times, Collins perfectly summed up the difference between the top two seeds in the West:

“When they need a basket, the Spurs trust their system. The Thunder trust their individuals.”

Watching the Blazers rise from the grave to extend their series with the Spurs, Gregg Popovich realized it might not have been worth what it would have taken to come back to even make it a game (once it got into the fourth quarter), so he subbed. What then occurred was further testament to Collins conclusion. Terry Stotts pulled his starters as well. Sure enough, the Spurs began chipping away at the lead to cut the deficit to single digits, forcing Stotts to reinsert his starting guards - just in case. How did the Spurs’ reserves cut into the seemingly insurmountable lead? By trusting their system.

Doug Collins has always had a passion for the game of basketball. Added to that is a thorough knowledge of the inner workings of the game. When he speaks, I take advice from a guy who has even more money than Donald Sterling - Warren Buffett. I remember Mr. Buffett saying something to the effect:

“I hang around people who are better than me. Then I listen to what they have to say.”

Why College Athletes Do NOT Need to Be Paid (Short version)

Saturday, May 3rd, 2014

This is the abbreviated version of an article I did for the website I encourage you to visit George’s website, not merely for the expanded version of my article, but for the entire experience, e.g. video interviews with giants of the sporting world (David Falk, John Calipari, Hubie Brown, Harry Edwards, etc.), me interviewing George, terrific articles (this is the fourth one I’ve done for his website), inspiring books to read, restaurants to visits and, simply, life lessons.    

College football and men’s basketball teams make obscene amounts of money while student-athletes get only scholarships. It pays for room, board, books, tuition and fees but does not cover total cost of attendance. They need more.

How much more? Well, there’s a way for them to get over $6000 more each year. UConn star (and Final Four MVP) Shabazz Napier claimed there were nights he went to bed starving. If a student-athlete is that financially strapped, he would qualify for a Pell Grant, which can be up to $5645 for the school year or, if he stayed at school all 12 months, a payout of $470/month. Unless his place of choice for burgers is Ruth’s Chris, that should be enough to assuage any late night hunger. I know this pity party by players is absolute and complete BS because I worked for 30 years at 9 Division I schools (1972-2002). At each, I would help players and their, often single, parent(s) fill out the Pell Grant form. Nearly all qualified, most for the entire amount.

“Well, how about the kid who doesn’t qualify for full Pell Grant money?” you might ask. Hold on. The initial complaint – and the loudest one - was for the poor kid who couldn’t afford what his regular classmates could. The information above should sufficiently eliminate that concern.

As for the kids who don’t qualify for any Pell money, those parents can subsidize their child. My son is a scholarship basketball player at Division II Cal State Monterey Bay. He has a debit card and receives an automatic deposit from us into his account each Friday. This isn’t fun but is certainly not a hardship on us. Neither my wife nor I come from money. The maximum salary I ever made was $75K and my wife’s was in the same range as mine, so our disposable income is not unlimited. Yet, our son lives comfortably - as do we. However, just as is the case with Napier, there are some nights he might be starving. That’s not due to his not having enough money. The reason for his hunger is because he mismanages the money he gets.

I’ll go online to check his account and there are weeks when his balance is less than $5 – on Monday. He spends money like it comes from a bottomless pit. Pizza Hut, Chipotle, other eateries, even though he has the best meal plan the school offers. Basically, he’s learning about budgeting money, i.e. when he runs out, he has to wait until the next Friday to get more. I’m absolutely certain that if we gave him more, he’d still have the identical problem.

Student-athletes get their scholarship checks monthly, so they likely have longer to go without. Pell Grant money is given each semester. No wonder they have a problem! They receive a substantial amount of money and it’s burning a hole in their pockets. They have enough. It’s just that they want more. Shouldn’t college be the place where kids ought to struggle with money problems? It helps after they graduate, get a job and have to live on their own.   

There are additional revenue sources to Pell Grant. One is called the NCAA Student-Athlete Special Assistance Fund. It covers basic or emergency expenses “for which financial assistance is not otherwise available.” Student-athletes can use this money, not to exceed $500, to pay their  phone bill or buy some clothes. The NCAA has $10,868,000 in available money in this fund. Believe it or not, some schools are unaware this fun even exists. In addition, this fund also covers family emergencies, too, for which there is no monetary limit

A fund that is more loosely restricted, i.e. available to all student-athletes, regardless of financial need, whether they’ve exhausted their eligibility, or no longer compete due to medical reasons, is the NCAA Student-Athlete Opportunity Fund. This one can be used for personal and educational needs such as travel home, computers and other school supplies, clothing, medical expenses for spouses and dependents, summer school, degree-completion programs and professional development. The NCAA has $57 million available in this fund. Anyone who is on scholarship qualifies for this award.

No one should complain. But not just for monetary reasons. There are additional perks student-athletes have access to that regular students don’t - and every student-athlete desperately needs to take advantage of them. Ask yourself the question, “Why does a person go to college in the first place – as  opposed to immediately joining the work force?” It’s to get a better job!

Student-athletes are constantly in the media spotlight, be it on TV or radio, or in print – which today means newspaper, magazine, online or social media. Every player must realize that every time he opens his mouth, it’s akin to interviewing with his potential employer. Relationship building is paramount to obtaining gainful employment – and getting to know decision-makers is the best way to start. What better way for relationships to be built?    

Nearly all business owners or their significant others - or their kids - want to know college athletes, because like it or not, athletes are celebrities. Maybe it’s an autograph session the media relations department set up, maybe it’s a request for a student-athlete to show up at the party of a booster’s kid (because he’s the youngster’s favorite player), maybe it’s a charity event. Each interaction with a president, CEO, HR person, whoever, is an opportunity to sell himself – an opportunity the regular student is not afforded. If the athlete takes advantage of this, it can lead to employment, or at least an interview – the major goal of the college graduate.

This advantage alone is worth more than any stipend the NCAA could allocate.

All of this – the assisting with Pell, explaining how to get money through the various NCAA funds that give money to student-athletes, the ability to meet influential people – are tools not available to the regular student.   

Those who demand stipends for student-athletes fall into the category of:

“Some people know the cost of everything and the value of nothing.”

Multiple Stories Emerge from the Sterling Scenario

Tuesday, April 29th, 2014

Outrage is probably the number one emotion of the majority of those involved - and, even, the majority of those who aren’t involved - in the Donald Sterling case. When it comes to outrage, people get fiercely upset over what someone else said and did as opposed to any of their own words or actions. In this instance, “upset” doesn’t begin to describe how strong the feelings of those who are living during this fiasco. One of the answers that everyone is waiting for is to see what the NBA going to do - NBA meaning the commissioner and the other owners.

First of all, it will be shocking if Adam Silver, as NBA commissioner, doesn’t suspend Sterling (most likely indefinitely) as well as fine him - really, really heavily. Rumor has it that the thing Donald Sterling hates more than blacks (and, judging from some of his past problems, Hispanics - assuming he actually dislikes the race(s) and not just their attending his games) is losing money. And, make no mistake, companies are yanking their sponsorships quicker than you can say “Jackie Robinson” (as, ironically, the saying went when I was a kid).

“The remarks attributed to the Clippers owner are offensive,” State Farm, one of the companies to disassociate itself with the Clips, said in a statement. “While those involved sort out the facts, we will be taking a pause in our relationship with the organization. We are monitoring the situation and we’ll continually assess our options. We have a great relationship with Chris Paul and will continue the Born to Assist advertising campaign involving Chris and now other NBA players.”

Some of the other sponsors pulling away from the Los Angeles Clippers and their embattled owner, Donald Sterling are Kia Motors (although they’re continuing to retain Blake Griffin), CarMax, Virgin Airlines, AQUA Hydrate, Red Bull (who is sticking with Griffin too), Yokohama tires and Mercedes-Benz. Michael Gordon, principal and chief executive officer at Group Gordon, a corporate and crisis public relations firm in New York, was pretty definite about the future for the Clippers with Sterling as owner.

“For Sterling himself, it’s over. There’s no crisis management in the world that will fix this, so he has to go,” he said. “Not until he goes can both the Clippers and the NBA fix this. Of all the parties involved – Sterling, the Clippers and the NBA – the one primarily in crisis management right now is the NBA. They’re the ones that need to move quickly to get rid of Sterling and get in a more responsible, thoughtful owner. As soon as that happens, assuming it’s the right owner, everyone can begin to heal.”

That may be easier said than done. It’s my understanding that there’s nothing in the bylaws that says the NBA can force him to sell. Of course, there are a number of factors that enter into that line of thinking. According to David Leon Moore of USA TODAY Sports (the quotes above came from his story as well), until then, corporate sponsors are doing damage control. For example, “As the official beer of the NBA, we are disappointed to hear the alleged recent comments attributed to L.A. Clippers owner Donald Sterling. While Anheuser-Busch and Bud Light are not team sponsors of the L.A. Clippers, we fully support the NBA’s efforts to investigate quickly and trust that they will take appropriate action.”

This from Red Bull: “We trust and respect the NBA’s process to formally investigate the matter, and in the interim, are suspending all team-related marketing activities,” the company said in a statement supplied to USA TODAY Sports. “We will continue to support our Red Bull athlete, Blake Griffin, his teammates and coaching staff in their pursuit of an NBA title.”

Kia Motors America, which has worked with Clippers All-Star forward Blake Griffin on a series of ads, released this statement: “The comments allegedly made by Clippers owner Donald Sterling are offensive and reprehensible, and they are inconsistent with our views and values. We are suspending our advertising and sponsorship activities with the Clippers. Meanwhile, as fans of the game of basketball, our support of the players and the sport is unwavering.”

Charles Barkley said Sterling should do the right thing and sell his team. Unfortunately, when has he ever done the right thing? I know someone who is an acquaintance of Sterling’s and when it comes down to selling the team, he told me there’s no way he’ll sell for one major reason. He’s never sold anything he owns. Without the Clippers, Donald Sterling is nothing. Unfortunately, with them, he’s worse. He’s a negative.

With so much swirling around, even as an 80-year old who refused to update his thinking, it’s must be apparent to Sterling how disliked he is but even more important, how wrong he and his beliefs are. At the outset, this entire ordeal (which isn’t over yet by a long Schott shot), reminded me of the phrase:

“When you’re dead, you don’t know that you’re dead. It’s only difficult for others. It’s the same as when you’re stupid.”

It Sure Didn’t Seem Funny At the Time

Thursday, April 24th, 2014

Impromptu out of town meeting, including Cal State Monterey Bay Basketball awards dinner. This blog will return Tuesday, April 29.

In an earlier blog, I mentioned my friend and former colleague (as well as artist extraordinaire - don’t take my word for it, check out, Albert Van Troba, was living with us (due to his house selling in one day). He and his lovely wife, Michele, are building a house in Yakima, WA (they’re from Washington) and she’s overseeing the construction while he finishes teaching art at Buchanan High School. Since this past Monday, it’s been our pleasure to host Michele as well. She’s in town due to the passing of the father of a dear friend of theirs.

Last night before dinner, I got in one of my story-telling moods (that only happens when there’s at least one other person in the room). The subject, much to Jane’s chagrin, was our younger son, Alex. When he was younger. In 2001, as most any reader of this space knows, I wrote a book entitled, Life’s A Joke. Although I’ve never counted, I’d venture to say that of the +/- 250 stories in the book, the person who is mentioned more than any other - and, remember, I worked for Jerry Tarkanian for seven years - is Alex.

One choice selection from last night was the time a friend of mine gave me four tickets to a suite for a Golden State Warriors game. Jane, our older son, Andy (who was 11 at the time), and six-year-old Alex went to the game. When you drive somewhere in California, one of two situations occur, either you’re late or you’re very early. I absolutely hate being late so we arrived about an hour and a half before game time. We got to our suite and, naturally, no one was there. The Warriors’ opponent that night was the Minnesota Timberwolves. I looked down at the guys working out and said to Jane, “Hey, there’s Greg Ballard. He played for us at Oregon.” Apparently, he was an assistant coach on Minnesota’s staff. “I’m going to see GB. Be back soon.”

Greg and I had a nice conversation while he rebounded shots for one of their players. After a while, he told me he had to go back, shower and get ready for the game. I returned to our suite, feeling great about the unexpected pleasure of catching up with a former player when Jane said, her voice shaking, “Alex is gone.

“What do you mean, gone?” I asked, as I didn’t recall Alex mentioning he had any business of any kind that would cause him to be away from the suite.

Jane said, “As I was sitting her in the front row, talking to Andy, I heard the door close. I looked around and there was no Alex. I got up and ran out but couldn’t find him. When I asked the usher about him, he said he hadn’t seen him go by.”

“Well,” I told her, “the number for security is right there on the wall. Call them while I go look for him.”

I went out and talked to the ushers on the suite floor (no help) and then went back down to the main floor of the Oakland Coliseum. It was starting to fill up by then. There were probably about 12,000 people in the arena. After desperately combing the area for a while, I realized how ridiculous it was for me, standing on the main floor, moving in a slow, circular pattern, trying to locate our son - among 12,000 fans.

I had no idea what my next move was but, in order to do something, I went up to the concourse level to take a lap of the people mingling there. Once again, a wise thought came to me, “What do I think Alex is doing, getting in line to buy a hot dog and a beer?”

After taking about a lap and a quarter (I was flabbergasted and about to lose it), I spotted a small, stocky black man with a head set on, and figured (prayed) he was a member of arena security. “Excuse me, sir, are you with security?”

“Yes, I am.”

Yea! I looked at him rather sheepishly and said, “We seem to have lost our six-year-old son. He’s wearing black jeans and a black Pokemon sweatshirt (hey, Alex was stylin’ even when he was six).”

The guy looked at me and said, “Oh, you mean Alex?”

My jaw nearly hit the floor. I should have been thrilled (and, now that I reflect on it, probably was) but based on his past behavior, the thought might have crossed my mind, “Oh, no, has he been arrested?” Then again, he was only six. I felt relieved as the security agent said, “We already found him. He’s upstairs with your wife.”

While I was scouring the arena, Jane had called security and they found him, where else, but in the cheap seats. I made a mental note to teach him about priority seating.

If I heard the line about child rearing once, I’ve heard it a thousand times:

“They will test you.”