The NBA is the league of diversity, opportunity and open-mindedness. Major League Baseball is the Neanderthal, forever wallowing in the past while hastening its own decline.
We accept these truths, because we're constantly reminded of them. The NBA is hip, young and exciting, a few hours at a happening nightclub, while baseball is old and tired, a night with grandpa's suede slippers.
|It doesn't get cooler than Jack Nicholson ...|
Look at baseball. Crazy old coots. Jack McKeon is the manager of the Florida Marlins. Don Zimmer still gets more face time than Vladimir Guerrero. And damn, is that game ever slow.
But wait. The three finalists for the New Orleans Hornets' coaching job were Mike Fratello, Tim Floyd and Brian Hill. Floyd got the job.
Jeff Van Gundy will be growing the bags under his eyes in Houston, as coach of the hip young Rockets.
The eyes of the league will be on Cleveland next year, where LeBron James will be coached by Paul Silas.
And Mike Dunleavy Sr. is the leading candidate to coach the Clippers.
Baseball's got quite the old boys' network, doesn't it? If it's not McKeon, it's Phil Garner or Buck Showalter. Why don't they give some of those young guys a chance?
David Stern will tell you his league is the model of diversity and opportunity. Bud Selig had to force teams to interview minorities, then fine them when they didn't.
So how can you explain Floyd and Van Gundy? How do you explain the infatuation with Fratello and the inexplicably enduring candidacy of Brian Hill? In the case of Floyd, it appears no record -- no matter how pathetic -- goes unrewarded.
|... and it doesn't get uncooler than Jeff Van Gundy.|
Never too old, never too tired, never too undistinguished.
(By the way, I can't wait to see the look on Steve Francis' face after the 45th straight time Van Gundy forces him to walk the ball upcourt and set up a play for Yao.)
Given the sensitive nature of race and coaching in the professional sports, here's a question: Did the re-hiring of Silas make the world safe for the Floyds and Van Gundys and Dunleavys and Hills? When one African-American joins the recycling club, does it make it safe for the other owners to ignore all the young candidates -- whatever the race -- in favor of the old boys' network?
Of course, the NBA has been far more advanced than any other professional sport, but the first smoke signals from the nine -- now five -- coaching openings makes you wonder if that's changing. If you've got exorbitant ticket prices in a so-so economy and a need to win now or else, are you more likely to fall back on the tried, even if they're not true?
This Week's List A handy translation guide for the NBA Finals: 1) "Grit and determination" translates into "crappy shooting and unimaginative offense;" 2) "Look at them crash the offensive boards" translates into "Look at them miss shots;" 3) "Duncan's thinking, 'I'm going to take over this game,'" translates into "Duncan's thinking, 'Hell, I better do it or it won't get done.'"
When he pulled out the "This is about my life" comment earlier this week, he should have been not only fired on the spot but denied consideration for any future job: Rick Neuheisel.
One reason to spare the tears for Neuheisel, who never met a lie he couldn't twist to his own advantage: He got it this time only because he didn't get it last time, or the time before that.
In other words: If he didn't get it this time, there would have been a next time right around the corner.
Oh, but it was just a tournament pool and everybody plays 'em so who cares: Well, because if you're a college coach, you know gambling on college sports is the last thing you can get away with.
Just for the heck of it: Felix Millan.
The only thing missing from Sammy's life now is a letter of understanding from Ken Lay: Days after being defended by Donald Trump, Sammy Sosa said he received a call from Bill Clinton, who told him to "hang in there."
Funny thing is, the ghost kept banging on the door and yelling something about , "Room service! Room service!": Scott Williamson of the Reds honestly believes the team hotel in St. Petersburg is haunted.
In Milwaukee, they'd sacrifice limbs to have those kinds of problems: One question about the decimated, destroyed and destitute New York Yankees -- has there ever been more gnashing of teeth and rending of garments over a first-place team?
All those Raiders who said they'd never line up next to Barret Robbins again?: Backpedaling faster than Willie Brown, Mike Haynes and Charles Woodson combined.
And finally, we close with an existential dilemma: Is there any chance the '03-'04 NBA regular season could start before the '02-'03 postseason ends?
Tim Keown is a senior writer for ESPN The Magazine. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.