Clap on, clap off, the clapper
By Tim Keown
Page 2 columnist

You can't teach someone to be a clapping coach. Just can't be done. You're either born with the talent or you're not.

Every top college basketball team needs a clapping coach. You've seen him -- he's the first guy off the bench during timeouts, the first guy to fire a fist in the air during an epic comeback, the first guy to clap three times and pat someone on the back after he fouls out.

Stan Heath
Stan Heath & staff are born clappers.
The clapping coach doesn't coach clapping. He claps as a vocation.

The clapping coach always appears to be a lower-level assistant, a guy who grew up clapping at the end of the bench and at some point recognized the earning potential in becoming a full-time clapping coach. Every big-time, Zegna-suited coach - Pitino, Williams, K - needs a good clapper to offset his own "Okay, listen … listen … okay, look here" tendencies.

Besides, the clapping coach makes the world safe for the phlegm-spewing assistant, the guy who knows he'll never make the big-time and has decided there are worse legacies than having a few former players stand up at his funeral, shake their heads in appreciation, then utter the words "Man, was he ever a hard ass."

The clapping coach has an ever-widening sphere of influence. The clapping coach is the king of body language, managing to coerce the disinterested bench guys to clap while never, ever stopping himself. Nothing stops the clapping coach. He could clap through a hurricane, and get pissed at the wind for not clapping along with him.

How many people do you know who can slap a clipboard under his arm and clap in no time flat?

It's only a matter of time before the rest of the world catches on to the rising stature of the clapping coach. His job has become infinitely more important to the most demanding coaches, because the clapping coach is the guy who believes it's always all right, that no deficit is too big, that no player is ever unworthy of some vigorous staccato clapping and a brotherly pat on the arm. With the NBA and Fresno State always an option, the clapping coach can be the glue that holds a program together.

This Week's List

  • If the current look -- the wild eyes, the rictus grin, the tattoo -- doesn't drive the point home, nothing ever will: Mike Tyson isn't funny anymore.
  • It wasn't a hotel balcony, but still: Tyson held his 9-month-old son up to the microphone during last Thursday's press conference and said, "I want him to be a fighter so I want him to get accustomed to what's going on."
  • Evidence that spring training just ain't what it used to be: Even Sammy Sosa is on time.
  • Since the only people who like quiet springs are managers and trainers, we bring you a nostalgic look back at some of the best spring training moments of the past few years: 1) Operation Shutdown; 2) Al Martin and his wives; 3) Jeff Kent and the Car-Wash Incident.
  • So, when we rate this season's top stories, we come to a logical conclusion: Ken Griffey Jr. discussing trade possibilities doesn't count, and neither does Miguel Tejada staying home to minister to his sick daughter in the Dominican.
  • But, now that I mention it: What does Tejada do if his daughter gets sick between April and October?
  • Allen Iverson
    Kobe shoots 40 times a game -- he's a king. I pull up wide open and I'm selfish?! ... Philly cops.

  • Another reason to fear the Philadelphia police: Why is it that Kobe Bryant gets feted and honored when he shoots 40 times a game, while Allen Iverson does the same thing and gets ripped for being selfish?
  • Just for the heck of it: Gary Thomasson.
  • He's always looked harried, sweaty and overwhelmed -- even in the best times -- but Steve Lavin finally seems to have found a task he can perform smoothly: The graceful exit.
  • With Martha Burk as her caddie…: Annika Sorenstam.
  • Go ahead and laugh, but we're watching people eat cockroaches on one channel while Joe Millionaire tries to string two syllables together on another: Hideki Matsui's batting practice sessions are televised back to Japan.
  • What should have happened last week in every major-league clubhouse: Trainers going from player to player, demanding the damned supplements.
  • Times like these call for: The calming influence of Charles Grodin.
  • And finally, Steinbrenner v. Jeter, brought to you in the form of a question: You pay a guy almost $20 million a year and then criticize him for enjoying it?



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