Reader Emry DowningHall e-mails:
When asked about his hard foul on Denver’s JR Smith Saturday night, Alan Hahn reports that Knicks rookie Mardy Collins explained, "That's just the way I was brought up, with Coach Chaney, we don't just give guys layups. It's anybody in basketball, it's not like I'm trying to intentionally hurt a guy. That's just something I did growing up. In Philadelphia, that's how we play."
Collins is clearly being a good company man in his explanation of the flagrant foul that ignited Saturday’s melee at MSG, keeping the burden squarely on his seldom-used shoulders.
But fans unfamiliar with the Knicks 29th pick in this year’s draft would be foolish to anoint a new bad boy of basketball.
Although Collins was on the floor for the notorious “Goon Gate” incident that occurred when Temple coach John Chaney sent in a “goon” to send a message to the St. Joseph Hawks for setting what he perceived to be illegal he was no more involved in the incident than the other eight players on the floor.
The “goon” incident, which was widely misreported in the media, left two individuals at fault--seldom-used Temple forward Nehemiah Ingram, who entered the game under orders from Coach Chaney to commit hard fouls on St. Joes players, and Temple’s Hall of Fame coach John Chaney, who sought vigilante justice after verbal warnings and appeals to the referees weren’t heeded. Unfortunately, one of the fouls committed resulted in a broken arm for St. Joe’s sixth man John Bryant.
Without question the incident was a black eye for Temple Basketball, and tarnished Chaney’s legacy. But, to somehow connect Mardy Collins to what took place that evening at the Liacorous Center would be foolish and inaccurate.
Growing up in North Philadelphia, Collins attended Simon Gratz high school (alumni include Aaron Mckie and Rasheed Wallace). He enrolled at Temple University without a guaranteed scholarship, but immediately became a favorite of Chaney’s for his slowed-down style of play, defense, and his knack for limiting turnovers.
A two time co-captain, Collins served as a mentor for the younger, more volatile players on the team. During his four years at Temple, Collins was only once whistled for a technical foul, and never missed a game due to suspension.
In the NBA, Collins has become known as the reserve who set off the Knicks-Nuggets brawl. At Temple, Mardy is remembered for his calm demeanor and a knack for having huge games against the country’s toughest opponents. Whether that means hanging 25 points, 4 rebounds, and 5 assists on Chris Paul and the Demon Deacons or battling through an ankle injury to drop 26 points, 9 rebounds, 4 assists and 2 steals on Duke.
Collins was also selected to represent USA Basketball in the U21 World Championship Team Trials.
As the media barrage of Saturday night’s brawl begins to die down, and Collins continues to serve the remaining games in his six-game suspension, it’s important to remember there is much more to New York’s #25 than a flagrant foul. And, as egregious as the foul was, Collins was careful to make contact before Smith got into the air. Not to defend his actions, but the cause didn’t warrant the effect.
Unfortunately, this is the type of incident that can stick to a player and warp public perception. No doubt, Collins would prefer his next set of headlines to come as they used to at Temple University, as a result of his outstanding play. Again, Hahn reports Collins' words: "I hope that's not the way I'm perceived. Hopefully when I get back I can start getting some playing time and show people I can actually play basketball. Hopefully I can get past this and it will be the last thing I have to worry about."