DALLAS -- Listen up: NBA coaches aren't too pleased about
wearing microphones during nationally televised games.
Dallas' Avery Johnson and Denver's George Karl became the first
to clip on the little wires when their teams met in a game shown on
TNT on Thursday night. Both made it clear they're only doing it
because they have to, reflecting an attitude shared by colleagues
throughout the league.
"I wouldn't say [I'm] ready. But with the company I work for,
it's mandatory," Johnson said before tip-off. "We just have to
The microphones are only part of some new rules aimed at taking
fans a step closer to the action whenever TNT, ESPN or ABC cameras
arrive. Other changes:
• Remote-controlled cameras in the locker room can capture
pregame, halftime and postgame discussions.
• Coaches will be subject to interviews during the game, the
visiting coach talking between the first and second quarters, the
home coach between the third and fourth.
"You just don't know where it's going to go. You just don't
really know," Johnson said. "Let's go to another subject. I've
already been fined. Let's just make it work."
Johnson was fined $25,000 recently for failing to leave the court
in a timely manner and for verbal abuse of a game official.
Swearing, however, is not something Johnson does too often. He
pointed out Thursday, "I don't say anything that needs to be
Karl, meanwhile, laughed and said, "People know I swear
The bigger issue is whether any trade secrets might be revealed.
That's the crux of what the coaches don't like. Lakers coach Phil
Jackson compared it to Big Brother watching, Pat Riley called it an
invasion of privacy and Pistons coach Flip Saunders wondered how
strategy can be avoided in anything that comes from a locker room.
"What's public, what's private on TV?" Karl said.
A former television commentator himself, he acknowledged that "it's a big part of our business." But, still, that doesn't mean he likes it.
"It's the sanctuary that coaches have to give up," Karl said.
Guess who supports the league on this one? Mavs owner Mark
Cuban, who doesn't expect any problems from this. He noted that
referees have been wearing microphones for years. Microphones also
have been allowed into team huddles for several years.
"I love it, as a marketer and as a fan," Cuban said. "I think
anything that gives more real information means we put up with less
ridiculous comments from commentators. That's always a big plus. It
helps the fans understand the game more and it draws them in more.
It'll give them insight to things they've never heard before and
opportunities to understand more about the game."
Much of the hubbub is unfounded, according to Rick Carlisle, the
former Pacers and Pistons coach who is president of the National
Basketball Coaches Association. He also works for ESPN.
Carlisle said coaches can turn off the microphones and the
locker-room cameras whenever they want. Also, "all recorded sound
will be reviewed by an on-site NBA official who will determine what
is appropriate to air," he said.
"The Coaches Association has worked extensively with the NBA to
come up with a system of in-game access that will help improve the
television viewing experience without compromising the ability of
coaches and players to interact and perform their jobs," Carlisle
said. "While these changes are a noticeable departure from past
access policies, the NBA has assured the coaches that the sanctity
of the game will continue to be preserved."
While the utterances broadcast Thursday night were somewhat
historic because they were firsts, they weren't very revealing.
(Let the record show that Denver won 122-109.)
In a 30-second interview between quarters, with his team leading
39-32, Karl said, "We always want to rush and push the early tempo
.... When we pass the ball, we usually play well. ... I hope we can
keep it up for four quarters. I really think the key to our team is
passing the ball."
Soon after, TNT showed a montage of audio collected from the
"Let's go, enjoy this thing," Karl said at the start of the
"Good hustle men, keep it up," Johnson said during a timeout.
"Let's go. Let's go, let's go," Stackhouse said, clapping his
hands on the court.
"Way to go, Stack," Johnson was later shown saying following a
basket by his microphone-wearing swingman.
During one huddle, Karl switched from talking of passing to a
defensive theme: "Everyone get back to playing defense more
seriously. ... Let's try to win the game with stops and not try to
win the game with shots."
The Mavs only trailed by four points going into the final
quarter and Johnson remained optimistic: "We've got to stay with
the same intensity. I thought our transition defense was a little
bit better. I thought we took care of the ball a little bit. But we
had a couple of guys fighting foul trouble. We need to get into the
bonus first this quarter and give ourselves a chance to win."
They didn't. But, the league office hopes, viewers did.