Archive for the ‘humor’ Category

With So Many Good Candidates, How Can an NBA Team Fail to Land a Quality Coach?

Wednesday, April 20th, 2016

Turnover is a word often heard in bakeries and coaching. During my formative years, the former was discussed a whole lot more than the latter. During my three decades as a college coach, while bakeries still held a place in my heart, the coaching version vaulted to the top of the list. (Once I retired, the order switched). My “turnover” interest was of the college variety. This post, however, will discuss the NBA picture. Although the NBA is the highest level of basketball, it has always been the anti-role model for hiring coaches.

Businesses improve in nearly every area as time moves along. There are more studies performed and successful models to emulate. You’d think someone would have discovered a method for the hiring process. In fact, someone actually might just have the key (San Antonio would be a place to start) but, in such a business, nobody is sharing secrets with the competition. Out of bounds plays and defensive coverages maybe, but selecting the right leader (or leadership team) is definitely off-limits. Not only has the process of hiring not improved, it has regressed to epic lows.

Currently, the Nets, Knicks, Rockets, Wizards, Timberwolves and Kings either have openings or an interim in place who most likely will not be hired permanently. Throw in the Suns, who fired their coach in mid-season and that makes seven openings in a league which only has 30 such jobs.

Hot names as far as potentially new hires are former NBA head coaches: Scott Brooks, Jeff Van Gundy, Tom Thibodeau, Mark Jackson, Sam Mitchell, George Karl, Mike D’Antoni, Vinny Del Negro, Jeff Hornacek, Kevin McHale, Lionel Hollins and Mike Brown – each of whom has been fired at least once from a previous head coaching stint.

If teams are interested in dipping into the college ranks, these current college coaches’ names are always bandied about: John Calipari, Rick Pitino, Sean Miller, Tom Izzo, Mike Krzyzewski, Bill Self, Chris Mullin and Kevin Ollie.

Occasionally, an NBA assistant is tabbed to move over a spot. If a team is planning to take that route, the following have been mentioned: Sam Cassell, Luke Walton, Nate McMillan, Mike Woodson, Ettore Messina, Adrian Griffin, Juwan Howard and David Fizdale.

For the ball club looking to make history – and hire the first ever female head coach, Nancy Lieberman and Becky Hammon, current NBA assistants, are viable options.

That’s an awful lot of excellent candidates – and there’s a better than average chance, someone who is not on the above list will fill at least one of the openings. In reality, it probably isn’t that difficult to find someone who could please ownership. The problem is hiring one who will please the fans and the players (which also means the players’ agents).

23% of the NBA coaching jobs will change from last year to this one. The Lakers are rumored to release Byron Scott shortly. If they do, the number changes to nearly 27%. When you think about it, that’s a remarkable statistic – yet next year’s number will undoubtedly be in the same neighborhood. Why? Why can’t bright, highly successful millionaire and billionaire owners ever get this right? In truth, the NBA franchise is not the actual business of the owner. It’s more his “toy.” So, often, he leaves the hiring decision of who is going to coach to others “more qualified.” More than anything, though, it’s a numbers game.

You see, there are 1230 NBA regular season games each year (30 teams, two play at a time, 82 games per club). This season, between the Spurs and the Warriors, their combined record was 140-24, yet:

“Every year the overall NBA record is 615-615.”

How Did Teams Ever Win Before Analytics?

Tuesday, April 19th, 2016

Charles Barkley is known for blunt, honest analysis when making comments for TNT on their NBA studio show. He pulled no punches with his feelings on how to build an NBA team using analytics. Chuck is usually a black and white guy on hot button topics. He loves something or he hates it.

Analytics has entered the world of professional sports, first in baseball with the publishing of the book, Moneyball. An idea is only as good as its success rate. The Oakland A’s won without spending the money other MLB teams did (because they didn’t have it and they weren’t allowed to take a sabbatical), mainly by using a different evaluation tool, one that had never been used in baseball.

Baseball, more than any other professional sport, leans on – and clings to – tradition. The “eye test” was baseball’s best method of evaluation and the teams that drafted best usually were the ones who had the most talented scouts. In most cases, these were old timers, lifers, who’d been around the game for decades, could look at a prospect and compare him to some major leaguer from the present or past. The A’s modernized the way teams scouted, eschewing the old model, while upsetting “true baseball people” in the process. A different set of stats were employed.

Success is an interesting dynamic. Most often, people and companies that achieve it have done so by, to use the term that’s become so popular it’s now a cliche – thinking outside the box. Once that person or company carves a niche in the market, most folks study, i.e. try to copy, what the successful newcomer is doing. Yet, didn’t that group rise to the top by not copying what others were doing but attempting something different that, for whatever reason, they felt should work?

Obviously, there’s a balance between trying to duplicate someone else’s ideas (remember the movie, Multiplicity?) and incorporating some of what they do with the elements of your organization that you like. Arguably, the most successful NBA franchise over the past 20 years has been the San Antonio Spurs. The Spurs got good when David Robinson, not exactly chosen due to analytics, was selected with the #1 overall pick in the NBA draft. They got real good when another #1 selection, Tim Duncan, joined the squad.

Other players on the Spurs teams throughout the years will tell anyone who will listen (and many of those who will not) that those two guys – with their skills, demeanor, unselfishness and work ethic – combined with the coaching prowess of Gregg Popovich and his staff, are the reasons behind the Spurs’ lasting success. An organization like the Spurs is one that will take advantage of anything that will increase its chances of winning. They bought into analytics – without changing any of their core values – and incorporated ideas such as the corner three-point shot is the game’s most efficient and keeping players, especially aging ones, rested.

What many people, certainly including Barkley, have a difficult time grasping is, are those two concepts about analytics or, simply, common sense? Because the three-point line is so much father back than in high school or college, it needed to be tapered or else it would intersect with the sideline. Therefore, the line becomes parallel with the sideline 14′ from the baseline, making the corner three a shorter shot, yet still worth three points.

As far as resting older players, an NBA year is 82 games long (not including exhibitions), with back-to-back contests on several occasions throughout the regular season. It is played by the best athletes in the world and takes a physical toll on a player’s body, whether it’s fighting through screens, getting hits on drives to the basket, having masses of humanity in a confined area near the basket, fighting for the same rebound or just the pounding from running up and down the court. Wouldn’t it stand to reason, since the most important thing is winning in the playoffs (which come after the regular season), that the best players be rested rather than bruised and beaten down? Maybe if home court advantage is at stake (or if the team is trying to break the all-time records for regular season wins – and its core is made up of young guys), an exception can be made but, keep in mind, if an owner feels the chances of winning in the playoffs is compromised, coaches and front office people had better keep their resumes updated.

In addition, a couple of measurements analytics can’t give are emotion and chemistry - which, combined with talent, comprise a winning team. Ironically, in a survey done regarding analytics in professional sports, the lowest rated NBA organization was the New York Knicks, while the top rated one was the Philadelphia 76ers. It appears that can be used to prove analytics works – or it doesn’t.

While it certainly is useful in many instances:

“Just remember, you can’t spell analytics without A-N-A-L.”

Similarities & Differences Between March Madness and the NBA Playoffs

Monday, April 18th, 2016

Which is better – the NCAA tournament or the NBA playoffs? Before anyone votes, let’s keep in mind that, other than the goals of putting the ball through the hoop at one end and trying to prevent your opponent from doing the same on theirs, the post seasons of each are vastly different.

Nearly half of the college game’s tourney is made up of automatic qualifiers (32 of 68). To gain entry into the NBA playoffs, the teams must be in the top eight of the west or the east meaning that, although the ninth (or tenth) club on one side might be better than the (seventh or) eighth on the other, usually the 16 best teams get in.

In Division I college play, never has a #16 seed beaten a #1, yet on eight occasions a #15 seed has beaten a #2. In the NBA playoffs, there have been five times a #8 seed has toppled a #1. The reason #16 has never beaten #1 is because of sheer numbers, i.e. #16 seeds are the 65th, 66th, 67th and 68th best teams in the tournament. Not in the nation – just the tournament because, invariably, there was a bad team in a bad conference that caught fire (or a break or two, e.g. better teams get upset, injury to an opponent’s top player), won its post season tournament, and with it, the automatic bid – and plays one of the top four teams in the country. There are no automatic bids into the NBA playoffs. Tanking does not apply to teams that can make the playoffs, only those vying for the 28th, 29th or 30th slot.

It is true that there are many more upsets, i.e. lower seeds beating higher ones, in the NCAA tourney than there are upsets in the NBA but that is due to three words: best of seven. When the major upsets happen in college (not the #9 over #8 or even the #7 over #10), it’s because either the guys on the lower-rated team caught lightning in a bottle, played the game of their lives or the guys on the favorite stunk it up. Or all of the above. For one night.

Five of this weekend’s eight NBA playoff games (if you like competitive basketball) were absolute torture to watch. And there’s more to come (as many as three more such games in each match up). The drama is greater in college because it’s win or go home. In the NBA it’s win or lose, play again. And again. And again. . . So for drama, the college game trumps the NBA. But as far as sheer talent, seeing players do things you marvel at (but cannot be duplicated in the backyard), there’s nothing like the NBA and the best athletes in the world.

Luckily, we don’t have to choose one or the other to watch. We couldn’t handle such drama/excellence all at once. Maybe that’s why the basketball gods put them months apart. Or maybe it was so each could make more money.

So instead of comparing, why not make a choice that none of the candidates running for president have mentioned:

“Be thankful.”

If Only this Talking Head Would Stay in His Lane

Saturday, April 16th, 2016

So much has been made in today’s world of the animosity between (some) members of the media and professional athletes (college and professional coaches too, but that discussion is for another time). For those readers who were born before 1985 (give or take), the relationship wasn’t always so negative.The proliferation of talk radio has given a voice to some entertaining personalities but, as is the case in all walks of life, there exist outliers in every field.

As the years go on, it seems as though the educated, informed presenter is the one who’s now the outlier. Maybe this is because professional athletes make gobs of money when it doesn’t seem so long ago that guys who worked harder or took their craft more seriously performed similar jobs for a great deal less. In reality, salaries are market driven and how much people make in a lifetime coincides more with the date of their birth than anything else.

Whatever the case, one style in vogue is the critic, many of whom have no actual experience at playing but love the sport(s), have a great deal of knowledge about it/them and, more than anything, have an opinion. A strong opinion. For some the underlying cause is a jealousy toward athletically gifted athletes who haul in boatloads of green and receive adulation not afforded to those who might be a lot smarter and work harder. There’s nothing wrong with spirited debate, as long as people debating are speaking credibly.

The day after the NBA’s regular season ended, there was a conversation about the game between the Miami Heat and the Boston Celtics between Brian Geltzeiler and Justin Termine on NBA radio (Sirius XM). The Heat had a big lead and it certainly looked like the game was theirs. Somehow, the Celts, with many of their former greats in the crowd, staged a comeback and won it. Geltzeiler made the comment that Miami was in a back-to-back situation, got a big lead, coasted, but when the lead began to shrink, tried to regain what got them ahead – but had no legs.

Termine, who is on record that lack of rest for an NBA player shouldn’t (or “shunt” as he pronounces it) be used as a reason for poor play, countered his co-host’s remarks by saying, “I don’t care if you played ten games in a row and that was the tenth. That’s no excuse. I think that’s overblown.”

Termine’s statement is surprising because he has been around the NBA for years and, I’m certain, has had seats on or very near the floor. To witness an NBA contest up close, watching the best athletes in the world – with the brutal amount of physical play, leaves an observer with a greater respect for players than ever. One would think that because this particular game was the 82nd one of the year (more, if exhibitions are included), someone like Termine would have more sympathy.

Termine does have his own crafted style. He never played the game. I recall an article which revealed that, as a high school student in Ohio, he would either broadcast, or make believe he was broadcasting, his high school’s games (there was no mention of basketball involvement prior to high school so he may have seen action at an early age). A true student of the game and all its statistics, he enjoys insulting people, mainly his co-hosts – most of whom had distinguished careers in basketball, e.g. Eddie Johnson, Mike Dunleavy, Nancy Lieberman. His retort to never having actually participated is that he constantly works on his skills (reading articles and memorizing NBA trivia), while the players-turned-talking heads are simply resting on their laurels.

It seems as though his braggadocio might be covering up an insecurity. I took several psychology courses in college but whether or not that’s true is something someone actually qualified in the psychological field should answer. Nevertheless, he apparently has a loyal following, if for no other reason than there are a great many others like him (sans the vast historical knowledge) who resent today’s NBA player’s life style.

As a close friend of mine told me when I told him what my post was going to be:

“Hey, if you can’t play, that’s a great way to make if living.”

 

A Reasonable Ranking of the Best Ever NBA Guards

Friday, April 15th, 2016

On the last day of the 2015-16 NBA regular season, a day in which the Golden State Warriors were going for a record 73 wins – a record that, since the Bulls won 72, no one ever thought would be equaled, much less broken – could any one player in the NBA upstage them? Turns out the answer was yes. If fans were given that question, the percentage of them responding “Kobe Bryant” would most likely be close to 100%.

Think about it. To take the shine off the Warriors, it would have to be a performance of the ages. Unless it was something extraordinary – like a quintuple double – it would have to be Kobe for one main reason. It was the last game of a sensational 20-year career. So the bar was lowered . . . somewhat. Still, it would take an incredibly memorable performance. Scoring 60 points would qualify.

Sure, he took 50 shots. Yes, his teammates constantly fed him the entire game. And, OK, when he hit the final go-ahead bucket, Julius Randle looked more like an offensive lineman than a screener (check the video – while he displayed excellent O-line footwork, he might have been flagged for illegal use of hands to the face). However, while the Jazz might not have been playing at playoff intensity, by no means were they giving a Washington Generals’ performance either. In answer to the questions above, how many players in the NBA could score 60 if they took 50 shots? I have no idea but as for guessing how many players could get their teammates to continually set them up for 48 minutes, I’d venture to say that number is considerably less. As for that absurdly missed illegal screen call? Over the course of this past NBA season, it might rank between 20-30 in terms of worst calls of the year.

The tribute to Bryant has to be about his work ethic. The one that kept him in peak physical condition, the one that allowed him the opportunity to come back from three potentially career-ending injuries. Friend/foe Shaquille O’Neal had told his “little buddy” that he needed him to “put up 50″ in his last fray. At first, the “youngster” laughed but when Shaq told him prior to the game to “Remember our bet,” Kobe, ever the competitor, said he’d go for it.

In order to accomplish something as monumental as a 60-point game, at 37 years of age, with less than a 100% healthy body, the Mamba had to reach deep and constantly remind himself, “I only have to do this one more time” because there really is no more tomorrow. One more ice bath. Lay it all out there. So many of your former teammates are in the crowd. The legacy is on the line.

He’s been roasted all year – and for several years – about being a selfish player. The final season of an otherwise illustrious career had him being compared to the likes of Willie Mays, Brett Favre, Muhammad Ali and, his idol, Michael Jordan. So what did he do? Willed his body to perform one more time, his mind to focus one more time. It was also necessary for the Lakers to win, no small feat this year. He managed to do it all – and now?

Listening to talk shows today, rather than hearing all that talk of overstaying his welcome and having to have his hard core fans defend his “total body of work,” there was talk of the G.O.A.T. Who, in their right mind would criticize a player, with all he’s done – the awards, championships, all-star appearances, etc. – after leading that sorry bunch to a few-and-far-between victory, while pouring in 60 points?

The topic of the Mt. Rushmore of NBA guards was discussed and a list comprising Oscar Robertson, Jerry West, Magic Johnson and Michael Jordan was suggested. So, the question becomes, who do we take off that list?

Before we do, let’s consider this thought. Both Robertson and West retired in 1974. For all intents and purposes, Magic retired in 1994, MJ in ’98, i.e. their brief returns did little-to-nothing to make anyone change their minds – who didn’t already think they were all-time greats). Which means for around 15 years (because it didn’t Magic and MJ all the way to retirement for people to start putting them in the “best ever” discussion) there were only two guards on the list? Maybe because there was no information superhighway and 24-hour sports talk that the only debates were held in sports bars and at water coolers but don’t you wonder how two grew to four?

If Kobe Bryant can’t crack that list (and I am in no way claiming he should), then the list should be expanded to five – because if Kobe Bryant isn’t good enough to be in that company (forget that “just a notch below” it nonsense), then it means that those four were, are and will be the best four guards to have ever played in the NBA. Really, how much better a career would someone have to have to knock one of those guys out? Granted, there doesn’t seem to be anyone on the horizon to require a fifth president to be added to Mt. Rushmore but when it comes to ranking NBA guards, here’s an idea:

“Make it five.”

 

 

 

The More We Learn About Jackie Robinson, the More We Admire Him

Tuesday, April 12th, 2016

My back pain has reached a level I haven’t experienced in quite a while. Because of that, I didn’t leave the house – and wasn’t sure I’d be able to post something today. Then I watched the first part of Ken Burns’ four-hour documentary on Jackie Robinson. What came to mind was a blog I’d done nearly eight years ago. It is being reprinted here with some alterations – with (my) permission. However, a trip to the doctor in a few hours will most likely shut me down for a couple of days, so expect the next post on Friday, April 15 (a day that does not evoke such wonderful memories for many).

If you were a kid growing up in New Jersey in the early ’50s, you rooted for one of three teams – the New York Yankees, the New York Giants or, my favorite, the Brooklyn Dodgers. Although my father was a die-hard Yankees fan, he was a good enough sport (and good enough dad) to take me to Ebbets Field, home of my beloved Bums (my father always claimed I was brain washed by my mother’s side of the family, all of whom hailed from Brooklyn).

The first time we ever went to Ebbets Field, I was four years old. My father was a toll collector for the New Jersey Turnpike and my mother was a secretary, so disposable income at our house wasn’t exactly plentiful. Yet, somehow, my father scraped the money together for a couple of train tickets (by far the most economical means to get to the city) and two game tickets. We were watching the game from the nosebleed section (which was totally fine with me – hey, I was at a Dodger game!) To be perfectly honest, Ebbets Field was such a bandbox, any seat was a good one – unless you got stuck behind a pole.

I can remember many of the fans in our section being black and one guy, when he saw me, asked, “Hey, lil’ fella, who ya rootin’ fuh?” Now, one thing you’re going to get from a four-year-old kid is an honest answer (lying doesn’t become part of a youngster’s makeup until a few years later). I looked up, wide-eyed, and said, “The Dodgers!” This was shortly after Jackie Robinson had broken the color barrier and the country was still divided on the race issue (we’ve made progress since but it’s hard to believe that at this time in America . . . well, that’s another subject for another time). “Hey, get this kid a Coke – and a hot dog. Get his old man a beer.” We were subjected to the royal treatment.

I didn’t know why, but I figured out I must have given the right answer. We might have gotten chauffered back to Jersey if they would have asked who my favorite player was because Jackie Robinson was my childhood idol. All I saw was a guy who could hit, field, run bases, was strong and handled himself with so much class and dignity. I’m pretty sure I had no idea what class and dignity were at that point in my life, but I knew I wanted to be just like Jackie.

Don’t get me wrong: Erskine, Newk, Labine, Black, Spooner, Campy, Hodges, Gilliam, PeeWee, Cox, Amoros, the Duke, Furillo, all had their baseball cards on my bedroom wall, but it was Jackie’s that was front and center. Naturally, being a Jewish kid, Sandy Koufax soon jumped to the head of the class but not until years later. These Dodgers were the guys who won the first ever World Championship for the Dodgers in ’55 (a few years after this game). I can still remember the ground ball to PeeWee Reese who threw to Gil Hodges for the final out in Johnny Podres’ 2-0 shutout of the hated Yankees in Game 7 that begat a roar from my house (the neighborhood boys on either side of our house as well as the twins across the street were all Yankee fans. I’d finally gotten my chance to gloat.

The following year (my birthday is in June), my aunt, a good athlete and pretty big fan in her own right, mailed a birthday card with a self-addressed, stamped envelope to the club requesting all the guys sign it for her eight-year-old nephew who “lived and died” with the Dodgers. They did. I can say in all honesty that opening that card and seeing all those signatures was, without a doubt, the major highlight in my life to that point. It remains ensconced in the top 10 to this very day – which says how much it meant to me and how I’ve lived less than wildly memorable existence. Somehow in the 20+ relocations I’ve made through the years, that card vanished – which easily places it in my top 10 regrets of all-time.

At that time, as I mentioned, I completely idolized Jackie Robinson – for his superior talent, the way he carried himself and because he was the best player on my favorite team. As I read about his life, I found out about how remarkable an athlete (football, basketball, tennis and track, in addition to baseball) he was, how intelligent he was and how courageous he was. He’d attended UCLA and starred in numerous sports there. Further research into his life explained his ultra-competitive and resolute nature. What had impressed me most was that Branch Rickey, the president and general manager of the Dodgers recruited him to be the first player to break the color barrier, not merely because of any of those traits listed above, but more so because he knew Jackie had the mental makeup to withstand all that was about to be leveled at him and, rather than physically fight back, retaliate by thoroughly defeating his opponents in the best way he could to make a point for all of mankind and especially, for his people. The documentary reveals how difficult that was, independent of his demeanor.

When I became a teenager and Jackie’s career was on the downhill side, his exit was the classiest move of all. The Dodgers traded him to the Giants, and rather than play for the bitter rivals, he retired. He walked away and never looked back. In my mind, he remains to this day without a peer.

If ever a line was appropriate for one person, Maxwell Anderson’s quote defines the legacy of Jackie Robinson:

“There are some men who lift the age they inhabit, till all men walk on higher ground in that lifetime.” 

Is Jordan Spieth Now at a Crossroads?

Monday, April 11th, 2016

Jordan Spieth was a household name in every household that includes someone with even a minimal interest in golf. Maybe others, too, especially if they like Under Armour apparel. After yesterday, he made Danny Willett famous.

Entering the day, Spieth had a precarious, but comfortable, lead in The Masters, mostly because he handled the elements, i.e. wind, better than his fellow competitors. Or at least didn’t let it affect his game as much as it did the others. With the weather returning to more favorable conditions, it seemed that the number one golfer in the world was about to become only the fourth player in history to win back-to-back Masters championships.

The front nine went as planned for Spieth who looked like he was cruising to victory. Then, bad things happened. A couple of bogies, followed by, what the commentators referred to as an “epic collapse” turned gold into tie for silver. At one point on the Sunday’s back nine, Spieth had a five-shot lead on Willett, yet wound up three strokes back. When asked to explain what happened, everyone associated with the sport, amateur to professional, gave some version the following response: “That’s golf.”

The hero in the story (heroine before we became such a PC country) has to be Willett’s wife whose due date was Sunday, April 10 – as in yesterday, the Sunday of The Masters. She agreed to a C-section on March 30 so her husband – and new dad – could play in the tourney across the pond without having to worry if and when the blessed event was to take place. Has there ever been a nicer present given to someone than what Jordan Spieth gift-wrapped for the Willett’s?

Following what Spieth did yesterday, his career can go one of two ways: the collapse can break him mentally, causing him to become another good, but vulnerable, golfer, e.g. Dustin Johnson, David Duval or does he take an unthinkable, avoidable loss and return to the same greatness he displayed prior to Sunday at the Masters? I don’t know Jordan Spieth nor have I ever met him but here’s my two cents worth:

“Bet on the latter.”

(Lack of) Excitement Ruled Yesterday’s Sports on TV

Sunday, April 10th, 2016

Yesterday’s date was 4/9/16. Don’t worry about committing it to memory as, although a few thrilling events took place, there was nothing to get excited about quite yet.

The Masters, arguably the nation’s favorite golf tournament, is going on right now. During yesterday’s third round, the winds were so nasty that the tourney’s final pairing, consisting of two of the top four players on the PGA Tour (maybe two of the top two players) put up scores of 73 (Jordan Spieth) and 77 (Rory McIlroy). The former dropped three strokes on his final two holes, yet still remained atop the leader board at -3. The latter dropped as well. Out of contention. Only four golfers are in the red numbers.

What is so enjoyable about golf for television viewers is that the scenery is absolutely beautiful, the environment is close to sterile and, while many of the participants are young guys in terrific physical condition (like Spieth and McIlroy), an average guy, e.g. somebody who’s a few (or more) pounds overweight, not in such great cardio shape and, even older than we’re accustomed seeing in professional sports (like over 40!) can not only compete but, actually, win it.

Yesterday’s winds were so blustery, it was like they narrowed the clown’s mouth and sped up the windmill at your kids’ local favorite course. What makes golf less fair than other sports is that conditions aren’t the same for everyone. In golf the course itself doesn’t make for a level playing field. Fans want to see great players play great – or maybe even face severe adversity. But not because of the wind. Watching yesterday’s round left golf enthusiasts unfulfilled. I mean, who roots for the wind?

Switch over to baseball and one of sports’ greatest rivalries ever – Dodgers vs. Giants – were wrapping up a three-game series. They used to play in ballparks much closer to each other (those of you born before 1950 understand exactly what I’m saying). The Giants won the first two games of the series but the Dodgers rallied and won yesterday, 3-2 in 10 innings. That leaves both teams at identical 4-2 marks – with only 156 games to go. It might be an incredibly intense rivalry but try to hold some energy in reserve when the pennant race starts to get tight. Like six months from now.

Lastly, we have a sport – and a building – that’s coming to a close, we turn our attention to basketball. The Sacramento Kings (who will not be participating in the NBA Playoffs) and the Oklahoma City Thunder (who most definitely are) squared off against each other in what was the final game in Sleep Train Arena in Sacramento (the new Golden 1 Center will be the crown jewel of the west coast).

Naturally, the home crowd wanted the last game in the old gymnasium to be a victory, although sitting at home watching, the crowd didn’t sound exactly deafening. The lottery-bound Kings did what they could to give away the game, up seven with 26 seconds to go. A Thunder three-pointer cut it to four, one of two free throws after OKC was forced to foul put the home team up five, but they gave up another open three within five seconds. Another foul, another 1-2 at the line made it a three-point game with 11 seconds remaining.

Among basketball coaches, the debate rages on about whether, and when, to foul if a team is up three. The Kings decided to do so but Russell Westbrook, realizing what Sac’s strategy was, heaved a wild three-pointer as (or, possibly, just after) he was fouled. The NBA continuous action rule being what it is, the referees awarded Westbrook three free throws with seven seconds left in the game. Of course, he made them all and it looked as though the Kings’ fans were going to get some bonus Sleep Train Arena hoops. However, Rudy Gay drove, got fouled with but one tick on the clock, knocked down the FTs (it was he who’d shot the previous four, making half) and everybody went home happy. At least as happy as fans can be whose team isn’t invited to play in the post season.

For those who remember the old Honeymooners television show, i.e. people who used to root for the Brooklyn Dodgers and New York Giants, the Cramdens lived in a one-bedroom apartment that was, to put it kindly, sparsely furnished. Ralph (played by Jackie Gleason) was a dreamer and always had a get-rich-quick idea brewing. With the Kings’ situation as it currently exists, if significant changes aren’t made in the off-season, moving into a brand new, “most connected” arena in the world (it will boast internet connections 17,000 times faster than average home) will be akin to what Ralph would say when waiting for his ship to come in:

“Wait until you see what this furniture looks like in a Park Avenue apartment.”

 

 

Jazz Fans Should Feel Shortchanged – for a Couple Reasons

Saturday, April 9th, 2016

As the (entirely too) long NBA regular season comes to an end, fans who attend games now get to witness what others, who only made it to contests at the beginning of the season, were deprived of. The early season fans shouldn’t feel too cheated, though, as the slight they are denied is watching reserves – sometimes for both teams – many of whom play in garbage time only early on, get the significant minutes they so yearn for.

For season ticket holders who attend every game (what is that, a dozen people?), this doesn’t apply because those folks obviously have quite a bit of money – and even more time. For those you who will only go to a game if you can score comp ducats, you have no complaint – because if you’re a freeloader, you take what you can get, when you can get it.

However, for all other fans (Warriors supporters excepted), is it fair to charge full price when second (or lower) teamers play most of the game? If the Utah Jazz is your favorite team, you might have two complaints. With only three or four games to go, not only are most of the playoff spots are taken but some of the first round match ups are known. The overwhelming odds are Utah is in the playoffs but, since they will play either the Warriors or the Spurs, the same odds apply to a first round elimination.

In last night’s game against the Clippers, they started their regulars starters so nobody in the Vivint Smart Home Arena could complain the home club was resting their main men. On the flip side, the Clippers took a different route, deciding to not only give the night off to their starters (and then some), but to allow them to stay home with their families (although Austin Rivers didn’t get to spend time with his dad who chose to go to work instead). In addition to young Rivers, there was no CP3, Blake, DJ, JJ (you know how good guys are when people know which guys you’re referring to without even using their full names). Occasional starter Wes Johnson put the number of Clips unavailable at six for the game in Salt Lake City.

How upset would you be if you paid to see how close to 100% Griffin is after his basketball injury, self-afflicted injury and suspension? Or if you wanted to see CP-DJ pick and roll lobs? Or if you’re a lover of pure jump shots – or a Duke hater? Well, for those of you who were upset at last night’s game and the skeleton crew the Clippers had the nerve to put on the floor, how do you feel about your hometown guys losing to such a depleted outfit? And making you stay an extra five minutes to not get the job done?

This just goes to show the old saying is still the case:

“Don’t complain about how bad things are; they can always get worse.”

 

 

Tyler Summitt’s Story Is Tragic

Friday, April 8th, 2016

For the period 1980-87 I was an assistant men’s basketball coach at the University of Tennessee. Back then it was the only school where it was necessary to mention be which hoops program you were part of. Since then UConn might be also fall under that category, although their men’s squad has several championships to their name so the difference in success between the two isn’t as vast a gap.

Pat Summitt was in her heyday, actually just at the beginning of the peak of her career (1987 was her first championship team), but few coaches I’ve worked with were as cooperative as Pat. Our staffs were quite close. It wouldn’t be unusual for me to get a call mid-week from Pat, alerting me to the fact it was a big recruiting weekend for them and wondering if our two groups could tailgate together? I’d  respond that since the weekend was just as important for us, a joint tailgate would be a terrific idea. A UT football weekend is a major selling point – an event - to a prospect – in any sport.

As far as practice times, it was simple. From October 15 (the first official day of practice), the Lady Vols had the 12:30-3:00 slot. Our time was 3:30-6:30. Occasionally, they’d be having a bad practice, the kind a head coach feels the need to continue. Never once in the seven years I worked there was Pat’s team on the floor one second after 3:30. In such a situation, she might summon a manager and tell her to find another gym for the ladies to continue but she respected the parameters set up prior to the season. On the other hand, none of our guys would ever consider wandering down at 3:20 or so to shoot on a side basket, lest they be stricken with the infamous “Pat stare.” It was a mutual respect.

I recall once we’d lost a very winnable game on the road and our head coach, Don DeVoe, was incensed. Following the game, he called for a practice the next day, Sunday, usually an off day for the team. As we were walking up the hallway to the main court, we could hear balls bouncing. “Damn,” Don said. “I forgot to check with Pat; I bet they have the gym.” Sure enough, when we got to the floor (in the old Stokely Athletics Center – the new state-of-the-art Thompson-Boling Arena was still a couple years away from being built) and there are Pat and her troops.

The first thing Pat said was, “Tough one yesterday, Don.”

Don responded. “Yeah, Pat, I totally forgot to check the schedule when I called for practice today.”

Pat simply said, “I completely understand. We’ve all had those games.” She called over one of her managers and told her to find another gym on campus – or close by – then instructed her team they’d be practicing there. The move was totally unnecessary but was done to save face for the men’s program.

Pat Summitt was the ultimate team player. Most, if not all, of the readers of this blogspace are aware of the fact that Pat was diagnosed with early onset Alzheimer’s disease. Friends have told me that, although, she “has her days,” the disease is definitely progressing. If ever a negative could become a positive, it would be if Pat’s condition makes it unable for her to understand the gravity of the situation her only child, Tyler, faces.

Pat is closer to Tyler than anyone in the world. He was a fixture in the Lady Vols’ program from the time he was an infant. It wasn’t surprising he became a coach (having been a walk-on with Bruce Pearl’s men’s team before deciding to coach on the distaff side). After a couple years as an assistant at Marquette, Tyler was selected to coach the one-time powerhouse Louisiana Tech Lady Techsters, a program that had since fallen on hard times. He was all of 24 – two years older than his mother was when she was named the head coach at Tennessee (after the head coach abruptly quit).

His mom’s top assistant, Micki DeMoss, came out of retirement to give Tyler needed coaching and recruiting wisdom. While Tyler, who had married his high school sweetheart, learned so much from his mother, apparently he picked up a trait from his father as well. The Summitts divorced after 27 years of marriage. Those who knew the story attributed it to Pat’s husband’s wandering eye.

The latest news flash is that Tyler Summitt, having just completed his second season as head coach at La Tech, has resigned because of an affair with one of his players. The young girl is reportedly pregnant. Independent of the effort parents try to make on their children, temptations abound. Far be it from me to pass judgment on anyone, however, in this case, Tyler Summitt seems to have fallen prey to the late Robin Williams’ philosophy:

“God gave man two heads but only enough blood for one to work at a time.”

If this situation weren’t so sad, it might be funny.