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'Bloom Off the Rose' and 'Promises, Promises'
Here's the transcript from Show 141 of weekly Outside The Lines - 'Bloom Off the Rose' and 'Promises, Promises'
ANNOUNCER: December 8, 2002.
BOB LEY- It was a love affair like no other between team and city. Now a continuing series of player arrests has soured the relationship between Portland and its Trailblazers.
BILL SCHONLEY, PORTLAND TRAILBLAZERS' BROADCASTER, 1970-1998- What's going on right now to this day is an embarrassment.
RON TONKIN, PORTLAND TRAILBLAZERS SEASON TICKET HOLDER- People will come up and say, "Hey, how are your Portland Jail Blazers."
LEY- The team president who brought these players to town says they will be held responsible.
BOB WHITSITT, PRESIDENT AND GENERAL MANAGER, PORTLAND TRAILBLAZERS- If it happens repeatedly like it has in the past, then it is time for those players not to be in Portland.
LEY- Also this week, Dennis Franchione preached trust and loyalty in Alabama. Friday, an assistant coach informed his players Franchione was leaving for Texas A&M.
DENNIS FRANCHIONE, EX-FOOTBALL COACH, UNIVERSITY OF ALABAMA- Because of their belief in the Crimson Jersey and possibly in me, they stayed and I feel bad for that.
AHMAAD GALLOWAY, UNIVERSITY OF ALABAMA SENIOR RUNNING BACK- It was obviously a degree of hurt by a lot of players, especially the younger guys.
LEY- Today on OUTSIDE THE LINES, a coach's promise and the bloom is off the rose in Portland.
This morning, two stories that center around trust. The sudden, and too many, shocking departure of Dennis Franchione for Texas A&M, leaving anger and hurt in Alabama. And ahead, we will have a report from Tuscaloosa, and I will be speaking live with Jackie Sherrill, who is familiar with the emotions that are inflamed when a coach leaves for another school.
In Portland, Oregon, there is less shock than the cresting of a wave of anger and disgust, because in the Rose City, the love affair between the people and their Trailblazers has been one of the sustaining stories of the NBA back to that championship season of 1977. Portland is among that handful of American major league sports towns with just one team. The community's attention is focused and it is undiluted. That's even true when things go badly and not just on the court, but with criminal behavior alleged and proven in the personal lives of players. To some in Portland, these are the "Jail Blazers." Their team charter "Con Air." As Mark Schwartz reports, the bloom is most definitely off the rose.
ANNOUNCER- Now ladies and gentlemen, here's the solid lineup.
MARK SCHWARTZ, ESPN CORRESPONDENT- 1997, Isaiah Rider convicted of marijuana possession, suspended and fined for spitting on a fan. 1997, Gary Trent in three separate incidences allegedly assaulted people, including his pregnant girlfriend. 2001, Sean Kemp suspended by the NBA for using cocaine. This season, Rasheed Wallace and Damon Stoudamire cited for marijuana possession. And Ruben Patterson fined $100,000 by the team after being charged with assaulting his wife, even though the charges were dropped.
SCOTTIE PIPPIN, PORTLAND TRAILBLAZERS- You have to start to look at yourself in the mirror and making sure that you are making some of the right decisions when you are doing things out there that could really come back to haunt you.
DAMON STOUDAMIRE, PORTLAND TRAILBLAZERS- You know, we would like to apologize to every one out there, the fans...
RASHEED WALLACE, PORTLAND TRAILBLAZERS- I apologized to my wife and kids, my teammates, my coach and my fans.
SCHONLEY- When you pick up the newspaper and radio and television everyday, and something happens. Well, this franchise was not built that way.
SCHWARTZ- Bill Schonley was the original broadcast voice of the Blazers. A job he held for nearly three decades. But five years ago, this fan favorite was replaced by current management.
SCHONLEY- I know what the national people think of the Portland Trailblazers and it pains me a great deal.
TONKIN- People will come up and say, "How are your Portland Jail Blazers," and things like that. And I take that very personally. I am born and raised in Portland.
SCHWARTZ- Ron Tonkin owns 12 auto dealerships here. He's had front-row courtside seats since the Blazers became a franchise in 1970. He also owns this luxury box at the Rose Garden. Tonkin figures he spends about $175,000 a year on Trailblazers' basketball. But he is so furious about the Blazers' litany of misdeeds that he recently wrote a letter to the "Oregonian" newspaper expressing his disgust.
TONKIN- Somebody has got to say, "Yeah, I'm the guy -- I'm the guy. I did it. I made a mistake. I got to clean up this mess. And let me tell you something, friend, it is a mess.
ANNOUNCER- Damon Stoudamire prepares to check into the game. And there are some boo's that we are hearing here, Kelly.
SCHWARTZ- Since 1994, Bob Whitsitt has assembled the cast of characters in Portland, which is why one local columnist called him the most despised team official in Trailblazers' history.
WHITSITT- I have to take responsibility for everything. I am the president, I am in charge of the organization. Anything that happens, I am the leader. And yes, I do take responsibility.
RADIO ANNOUNCER- Until he's gone, and there is a change at the top, and they rid this lineup of about a half a dozen players, there are a lot of us that will not be Blazer fans again that have been Blazer fans for -- since this franchise started.
SCHWARTZ - When a Blazer player crosses the law, as has happened a few times this year, what is the impact of that on the team's reputation and on this community?
WHITSITT- It's devastating. It is embarrassing. As I said, we do all this great community work, we spend thousands of hours and millions of dollars giving back to the community, and we will continue to do that. And all those things you do really allows you to take one small step forward. And when there is a situation -- a negative situation with a player off the court, it is a number of giant steps backwards.
SCHWARTZ -This past week, the Blazers held their annual Christmas charity event.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE- Thank you, Rasheed.
SCHWARTZ- Not only did they donate more than a thousand trees to needy families, they fed breakfast to low-income kids.
RONNIE HERNDON, DIRECTOR ALBINI HEAD START- I can't think of any other institution that has been as helpful to organizations that work with low income children than the Blazers have.
DWIGHT JAYNES, PORTLAND COLUMNIST/ TALK SHOW HOST- You know, they were out doing this Christmas tree thing last week, and sure enough, on Friday night at the Trailblazers game, there they are on the big screen in the arena, immediately showing the highlights of their Christmas tree frivolity. I do think they do good things in the community. But at the same time, people want you to do it for the right reason. They don't want you to do it because you are going to shove it down their throats.
OK, it is a Blazer hour ...
SCHWARTZ- Dwight Jaynes, who has covered the Blazers since the early '80s says that rather than clean up its act, the organization has instead opted to cleanse what he calls its tawdry image without addressing the underlying problems. Case and point; a year ago the Blazers acquired Ruben Patterson, who was a member of the Seattle Supersonics, entered a modified guilty plea to a charge he attempted to rape a nanny who cared for his children. This season, Patterson was featured in the club's promotional campaign.
SCHWARTZ- Do you think it was questionable to put Ruben Patterson, a registered sex offender, in a commercial where he is ripping off his warm-up pants on someone's doorstep?
ERIN HUBERT, EXECUTIVE VICE PRESIDENT OF PORTLAND TRAILBLAZERS- We didn't worry about it. We'd had him for a year-and-a-half. He'd been just terrific. The fans had fallen in love with him. We'd had no problems with him whatsoever. We felt good about putting him in the ads. He is animated, he is an awful lot of fun. It is unfortunate now, in hindsight, what's happened. But no, we weren't concerned.
SCHWARTZ- Do you think it might have been a mistake?
HUBERT- Well, it is given what happened.
SCHWARTZ- Following the recent arrests, the Blazers stopped airing both the Patterson commercial and another featuring Rasheed Wallace.
JAYNES- I don't want to be a moralist here at all. And I think everybody makes mistakes. On the other hand, I don't know that we want our NBA city to turn into a halfway house for second chances. Bob Whitsitt lives in Seattle. It is a situation where he's up there and we are down here. I think he is insulated from all of this. I don't know that he is hearing what's going on right here in Portland.
SCHWARTZ- Whitsitt has run the Trailblazers while living 175 miles from Portland. At the same time, he is president of the NFL Seahawks, and responsible for operating Seahawk Stadium, the Rose Garden, and numerous other ventures.
WHITSITT- If people today think that one person does all these things, they don't understand the business. Even our general manager doesn't general manage. He has a huge staff. I am a figurehead in many, many areas.
SCHWARTZ- Paul Allen, the Blazers' billionaire owner and co-founder of Microsoft, is not talking about the team's fragile relationship with its fans. Allen, who also owns the Seahawks, was unavailable for comment and hasn't addressed the media about the state of the Blazers in years. His silence has begun to rankle many in this city.
How upset was Paul Allen with the events that happened off the court in the last couple of weeks?
WHITSITT- He was very upset, as was I. I think that we talked about it a lot. We were kicking ourselves trying to figure out what else we can do.
SCHWARTZ- What did you blame yourselves for, when you were kicking yourselves?
WHITSITT- Well, I think our conversations between the two of us will stay between the two of us.
SCHWARTZ- I mean, was there -- was it that you made the wrong decisions in bringing people in. You took too many chances?
WHITSITT- Well, again. Our conversations are ours. You know, I will just say we're both very frustrated.
LEY- Mark Schwartz in Portland.
The Trailblazers play this afternoon in Toronto. Portland with a record of 8-9. Three years ago, the Blazers came within a game of making the NBA finals. In the last two years, they were swept out of the playoffs in the first round by the champion Lakers.
We welcome, this morning, Dave Twardzik. He played on that 1977 championship Trailblazers team. His number has been retired by the club. He has held coaching and personnel positions throughout the NBA, and Dave joins us this morning from Virginia Beach.
Jerry Colangelo has been with the Phoenix Suns since they entered the NBA in 1968, first as a young general manager, later as managing partner and owner. He is also the managing partner of the Arizona Diamondbacks, and he joins us this morning from Phoenix.
Good morning gentlemen.
JERRY COLANGELO, PHOENIX SUNS- Good morning.
DAVE TWARDZIK, FORMER TRAILBLAZER- Good morning, Bob.
LEY- Dave, let me begin with you. You know this city and you know this team. How do you think your old team has managed this crisis. Not just in the last couple of weeks, but over the last year or so?
TWARDZIK- Well, first off, the city; it's a great city that -- my family enjoyed living there. It was a fabulous place for us, and the fans are fabulous too. The nice thing is, Bob Whitsitt, on the tape, has admitted, 'You know, we've made some problems.' He is being held accountable. And he is addressing the problem. I think that is the good thing. And he is putting some teeth in what they are trying to do here. The $100,000 fine against Patterson, that's a tremendous message.
LEY- But there is a lot of anger in the community. It comes through.
TWARDZIK- Well, I think so. I don't think there is any question that the fans are upset about it, and I don't think this is just a problem that is in Portland or in professional basketball. I think it is a societal problem.
LEY- Well, Jerry, you went through this back in the late 1980s when there was a series of drug indictments involving some current -- at the time -- and former players of the Suns. When you manage a team like this, especially at the time -- a one-team city -- what are the things you have to do and assess to work your way through this?
COLANGELO- Well, first of all, you know, you take a position like we have from day one that the franchise owes the community. The community does not owe the franchise a thing. And they expect to have not only a good product, a winning product, but people that they can associate with and those who would contribute to the community. And so these kinds of incidents do tremendous harm, and back when we had that particular incident, no one was really convicted of anything.
But it causes me to basically to back up the truck, and we started all over again. And it was a very sad time. There was a black cloud over us in Phoenix, but we got through that. And the point I would make, Bob, is that I think players must realize once and for all that they are accountable. It's a privilege to play professional sports, to play professional basketball. It's not an entitlement.
LEY- Both of you have been general managers in the NBA. You have got to consider it is the eternal equation between character and talent. Alright, Dave, in the year 2002, how do you make those decisions?
TWARDZIK- Well, I have always put character as a pretty high priority, but I know when I did that, I got beat up in the press a couple of times because it was perceived by the media that I am going to compromise talent for character. And what I said when you are evaluating talent is, if you have two players that are equal, or pretty close to being equal, and there is one guy that has tremendous character and the other one is a little questionable, you go with the guy with tremendous character.
LEY- The rub there, though, is if it's not close.
TWARDZIK- Well, yes, exactly. I think that there is always maintenance with players. And I think Jerry will certainly corroborate that. There is maintenance, it is just varying degrees of maintenance.
LEY- Jerry, how did you come to the decision when Jason Kidd a few years ago had the domestic disturbance involving his wife, and he held the press conference, and the Suns were involved in putting that all together. What was the decision-making process and the thought process there?
COLANGELO- Well, part of the decision was a basketball decision because we weren't going anywhere with Jason. As great a talent as he is, the people that we had with him just weren't going to get the job done. What exacerbated the issue of course, was his personal problem, his personal issues, and he didn't know it at the time, but the best thing for his future was to move on and start over again, because the bottom line is that he was tainted. There were a lot of people who were very angry. This is a very hot subject in terms of abuse, and it was time to cut the cord and move on. I have come to understand after three-and-a-half decades in this league, players come and players go, and you need to do the very best job that you can in standing for your own principles.
LEY- This past week Scotty Pippen told Mark Schwartz; he said basically, "If we start winning, this is all water under the bridge." What do you think of that, Dave?
TWARDZIK- I don't agree with that. I think what Jerry said is very true. You have to be held accountable. My philosophy always has been that when you win, small problems are nonexistent, and big problems are small. On the other hand, when you are losing, small problems become big problems, and big problems are insurmountable. But the bottom line is you do have to be held accountable for your actions on the floor and off the floor.
LEY- Does winning change it, Jerry? Should it change it?
COLANGELO- Yes, I think that it does change it and it is a sad commentary, because people tend to look elsewhere and say, you know, things aren't so bad, they're winning, but that's not right. I think the accountability factor is where it should all start and end.
LEY- How deep is this damage, Dave, in Portland, do you think?
TWARDZIK- I think that Jerry brings up a good point. To fix the problem; one you address it. Bob Whitsitt has done that. And you might have to take a few steps backwards before you can start moving forward. And the fans just have to be tolerant of that. They have to understand that sometimes you have to take a few steps behind before you start moving forward.
LEY- That is an expensive step, Jerry, with the stakes these days.
COLANGELO- It really is because of the way that we're structured financially in professional sports today. Once you commit to a contract, you basically are stuck. Because of injuries or personal issues, it could really hurt a franchise. So do your homework, try to minimize the downside risk through the selection process and don't be misled. Players usually don't change.
LEY- Dave Twardzik, Jerry Colangelo. Gentlemen, thank you very much for joining us this morning.
COLANGELO- Yes Bob.
LEY- We appreciate it.
Next up, the anger in Alabama, Dennis Franchione preaching trust and loyalty to keep his team intact. Thursday he left for Texas A&M and a 'Bama assistant coach told the players their coach was gone.
FRANCHIONE- It's not the method that I wish I could have done, but it was going at such a fast rate of speed, it was about the only method I had available to me.
LEY- Next, we will be on the ground in Tuscaloosa to examine the aftermath and I will speak with Mississippi State head coach Jackie Sherrill, and the promises coaches make.
LEY- It has all the elements of a college football soap opera, NCAA sanctions, a booster's private jet, an eight-figure contract, and one of the nation's most storied programs. All of that and a controversial departure. Dennis Franchione's move from Alabama to Texas A&M this week illustrates a continuing issue for college coaches, and as Tom Rinaldi reports, it unleashed a torrent of anger in Alabama.
TOM RINALDI, ESPN CORRESPONDENT- The website coachfran.com lists Dennis Franchione's core values boldly. Accountability, loyalty, trust. In Tuscaloosa, you don't need a website to see how the Crimson Tide fans feel about Franchione's values now.
BRODY CROYLE, UNIVERSITY OF ALABAMA FRESHMAN QUARTERBACK- Last year he told us, you know, hold the rope. I'll be here for -- he's going to be here for us and we need to be here for him and the university. You know, this is sort of ironic that he left.
BILL BYRNE, TEXAS A&M ATHLETIC DIRECTOR- It's my pleasure to introduce the head football coach at Texas A&M University, coach Fran.
RINALDI- Coaches leave jobs, but Dennis Franchione's decision to leave Alabama for Texas A&M is no ordinary exit. In February, Alabama was placed on five years probation, given a two-year bowl ban, and had 21 scholarships taken away for NCAA rules violations that occurred before Franchione arrived. The program decimated, Franchione implored his players to stay and accept the challenge. The Tide responded with a remarkable 10-win season. That's the best in the NEC West. But with the flood of still more sanctions recently uncovered violations, mistakes Franchione had nothing to do with. The coach who asked players to stay decided to accept a new challenge elsewhere.
FRANCHIONE- I would not be fair if I didn't say that, you know, all the NCAA things were certainly something that wore on me.
GALLOWAY- Any player that has paid the price, you know, as far as the commitment that we put in, there was obviously a degree of hurt by a lot of players, especially by the younger guys.
TYLER WATTS, UNIVERSITY OF ALABAMA SENIOR QUARTERBACK- I truly believe that every player felt a little emotional deep down inside, whether they showed it or not. You know, we spent a good deal of time with this man and he's no longer going to be a part of the Alabama football program.
RINALDI- Forty-five years ago Bear Bryant left College Station in Texas A&M to come here to Alabama. Now, Dennis Franchione returns the favor. Yet, Franchione did not return here in person to tell his own team that he was leaving.
WATTS- I have always been a person who likes to go and confront his problems, but if he feels like telling us over the TV is the best way for him to do it, then I guess that's the way he thinks.
RINALDI- Although Franchione was under contract at Alabama until 2007, the university allowed him to talk to Texas A&M and allowed him to leave. Now only those who want to be here for the long term will be. A loyalty to coach had breached.
WATTS- We stayed here when we got probation struck on us, and we stuck it out and we'll stick it out again and, you know, we can't help it if our coach leaves.
DR J. BARRY MASON, UNIVERSITY OF ALABAMA PRESIDENT- They gave it their all. They bonded, there was a oneness. And then when it was all over, they were left with a very hollow feeling, and to me that's very sad.
LEY- Well, we welcome Jackie Sherrill, the head coach of Mississippi State. He dealt with these issues in moving from Washington State to Pittsburgh. And then most memorably, when he left Pitt for Texas A&M 20 years ago, he is completing now his 12th season in Starkville, Mississippi. Good morning, Jackie. You remember what it was like to be the hot coach of the moment when you were at Pitt going to Texas A&M. What does a coach have to think about and what does he perhaps forget when he's in that position?
JACKIE SHERRILL, MISSISSIPPI STATE HEAD COACH- Well, I can't speak for Dennis. Dennis has to speak for himself, how he feels, and all of us in that position. Fortunately I was, at that time 21 years ago, one of the hottest coach or the hottest coach in college football. I'll say this, that players win, coaches don't. I still have an open ended letter to Danny Marino trying -- one of these days I may finish it, because Danny Marino and the other players put me in that position to be the hottest coach. Coaches don't win, players do. I think with the age, what we have, the experience that we all have, we make different decisions. But only Dennis can speak. None of us will know what the behind-the-scenes were at Alabama and what the -- what was said, what wasn't said and why he made the decision and...
LEY- Let me ask you this. What do you tell the recruiting -- I am sure kids more and more -- perhaps now because you have been there for a while lately. You have stayed in this point in your career. But when you are a hot coach and somebody says you are their home coach, you are going to be there for three or four years, what do you tell them?
SHERRILL- Well, there is no question that every coach is going to say, "I'm going to be there," and that is something that you...
LEY- And you believe it at the time, right?
SHERRILL- Well, I would say so. There is no reason that you could say that Dennis didn't feel he would be at Alabama. You know, here's an opportunity that comes up and we all sometimes have to weigh different opportunities, but, you know, I think that the one thing that I really respect of Joe Paterno is that he's had a lot of opportunities and he's never left, and whether we say it is a comfort zone or whatever, and the older that I have become, you know, this is my last rodeo regardless of anybody offering whatever.
LEY- Let me ask you this. How does what has happened this week complicate life for coach Fran at A&M?
SHERRILL- Tremendously, you know, because he hasn't been in the spot that he's in now, and the expectations, the wants, the desires, it's a little different. They played this year at Alabama without a lot of pressure because there wasn't any pressure going into the conference. They did a great job. Dennis did a tremendous job of managing those players. But, again, players win, coaches don't. For us to think that there are gurus out there, those flee very quickly. You manage -- coaches manage players and the best coach this year, it was Miami.
LEY- Well, we'll keep a close eye on what's going to be happening at College Station. Jackie, thanks so much for joining us this morning. We appreciate it.
SHERRILL- You are welcome. Thank you.
LEY- Alright, Jackie Sherrill. More ahead OUTSIDE THE LINES as we continue.