Monday, August 9, 2010

Isiah Thomas – setting the Knicks idiocy aside, how can the NBA and NCAA allow this?; Quick notes on Woods, MLB umpire situation

The New York Knicks have hired Isiah Thomas as a consultant.

Sure, and Barack Obama has hired Bernie Madoff as Secretary of The Treasury.

I mean seriously, the Knicks have hired Isiah Thomas? What are they going to do next bring back Stephon Marbury as their point guard?

This just in: Dan Snyder has signed Jeff George to play quarterback.

You see, even SNYDER isn’t stupid enough to repeat absolute folly. That’s what James Dolan apparently wants to do. He is bringing back a man who brought complete shame to his franchise on and off the court; a man who has about as many friends in the world as, well, Bernie Madoff.

Isiah Thomas?

Already there’s a story in The New York Daily News that Donnie Walsh thought about quitting as team president and general manager and may yet do it. Maybe then Dolan can bring Isiah back as general manager. While he’s at it maybe he can hire Kiki Vandeweghe, who had so much success with the Nets this past season, as his coach. Or Bernie Madoff. I mean, why not?

There are so many questions that are un-answered about all this. The most obvious one is why? But there are others. For example, how in the world can either the NBA or the NCAA be okay with Thomas continuing as coach at Florida International University while being on the Knicks payroll?

Let’s look at it from the NBA side first. The league has very strict rules about contact with players who aren’t draft eligible—either by being college seniors or having declared for the draft. That means, every time Thomas talks to his team, he’s breaking NBA rules. It means every time he talks to a recruit, he’s breaking NBA rules. It means any time he talks to an opposing player—even to put his arm around him and say, ‘nice game,’—he’s breaking NBA rules.

More important though is how it can be possible that the NCAA can allow this. Remember, this is an organization that has about 426 rules that relate to ‘unfair advantages,’ in recruiting. In 1988 when I wrote, ‘A Season Inside,’ and related stories about going on recruiting visits with a number of coaches to player’s homes, the NCAA passed a rule banning any member of the media from making a home visit with a coach. Why? Because (I was told) it was considered an unfair advantage for a coach to be able to imply that he had more access to media coverage than another coach might by bringing a reporter along with him.

The NCAA also passed a rule several years ago which banned any member of the media—even one WRITING A BOOK--from being in a team’s locker room before, during or right after an NCAA Tournament game—UNLESS the locker room was opened to all members of the media. The reason: If a coach can tell a recruit that there is enough interest in his program to merit being part of a book, it is an unfair advantage.

I swear I’m not making this stuff up.

Given all that, how can the NCAA think for one second that this is NOT an advantage for a college coach to be able to say to a recruit, “you know I’m a paid consultant for an NBA team.” That implies a connection to the NBA that other coaches don’t have.

Now, you might laugh and say, ‘who the heck is Isiah Thomas going to recruit at Florida International who is even a long-shot NBA prospect?’ Are you kidding? Ninety percent of the reason he was hired by the school is because it thinks his name will attract higher-level recruits, kids who might have pro ambitions. (By the way, in high school, they ALL have pro ambitions).

Beyond that, you can’t say it’s okay for the coach at Florida International to be on an NBA payroll but not okay for the coach at Duke or North Carolina or Kansas or UCLA or Maryland—or ANYONE—to be on an NBA payroll. Coaches complain all the time that Mike Krzyzewski has an unfair advantage in recruiting because he coaches NBA players as the Olympic Coach. Imagine if The Washington Wizards hired Krzyzewski as a consultant. Do you think Gary Williams (or Roy Williams or anyone else) might have a problem with that?

Imagine if a college coach on a recruiting visit can say to a kid, “you know, the other day Pat Riley (or you pick a general manager) called me to talk about what free agents we should go after next summer.” Or if he said, “Phil Jackson was asking me who the top five college freshmen are going to be next year and I mentioned you right away.”

Okay, which is a bigger recruiting advantage: being able to drop a line like that or having some reporter sitting in the corner taking notes?

If I were an NBA owner, I’d be on the phone with every top college coach right now asking if he wanted to be my consultant. If I were a top college coach, I’d take the extra money and any recruiting advantage it might bring in a heartbeat. And just think, very few of these guys have been sued for $11.6 million for sexual harassment—and lost.

Jim Dolan is the absolute prototype of a trust fund kid who has never gotten anything right in his life and, sadly, never really needed to get anything right in his life. He’s made more stupid, arrogant moves than any owner this side of my guy Snyder. In fact, he makes Snyder look like Steve Bisciotti by comparison.

But he’s not the only one who is screwing the pooch on this one. David Stern must be on vacation. The NCAA is ALWAYS on vacation when it comes to common sense. Thomas must be somewhere laughing uncontrollably thinking, ‘you know what, you might not be able to fool ALL the people all the time, but as long as Jim Dolan is still around, I don’t need to fool anyone else.’

Amazing. Just amazing.


Two notes from the weekend: Yes, I’m as stunned as anyone by Tiger Woods’ performance at Firestone. Sometimes though you have to hit rock bottom (this is a golf reference, not a life reference) before you head in the right direction. Woods may have hit it on Sunday. He was almost CHEERFUL talking to the media—after blowing them off two straight days—following his final round 77. Don’t write him off at Whistling Straits. You never write the great ones off and, whatever else he may be, Woods is still the most gifted golfer of my lifetime. And, thanks to Phil Mickelson completely gagging on the weekend (he shot one stroke HIGHER than Woods on Sunday) he’s still number one in the world.

And finally…Just happened to be watching The Athletics and Rangers on Sunday when Mike Maddux came to the mound to make a pitching change. He was stalling to give his reliever some extra time so—naturally—the home plate umpire came out to break up the mound conference. Only he never got the chance to do it really because Joe West charged over from FIRST BASE screaming at Maddux to make his move—waving his arms, yelling, the whole deal.

Question: Has anyone ever seen the first base umpire do that—WITH the home plate ump already on the mound? Second question: When will MLB crack down on umpires who think they’re God—West being the No. 1 offender? I mean please, who died and made Joe West into Doug Harvey? (whose nickname was God). Enough already.


Tim said...

You know, I often thought of that with Coach K and USA Basketball as well, but I just figured it was an exception to any rule because there is no way the NCAA could not allow one of their best to by the Olympic Coach. Would be hard to turn down for NCAA marketing overall....

I think its interesting that FIU thinks their program can rise with having a part-timer as coach. But then again, they didn't hire Thomas for his work ethic, I'd assume.

adam_blaney said...

another of the several bonehead moves in this whole thing has to be on the shoulders of the FIU folks. How can an athletic dept. justify telling the coach of their basketball team, one which was AWFUL last year, to go ahead and spend LESS time with working with the team this year. they obviously have no intention of improving their program

Joe Blough said...

If I go to a game that West is umping, I tell who I am with that West will make himself the focus, one way or another.

He did it at Wrigley by having lights turned off as they were turned on in the middle of an inning...not that the lights had yet taken any effect...

charles pierce said...

John -- You know I'm your pal and all, but, with all due respect, I've been on campus at several SEC schools, and my casual observations have led me to believe that they can come up with better, ah, recruiting inducements than you.

Gunnar said...

The Knicks are finally on the upswing with D'Antonie (sp?) and Amare. Isiah drove that franchise into the ground. If this is true, I do hope Donnie Walsh quits, he deserves a heck of a lot better.

Tiger is not a good golfer right now, I think he misses the cut at the PGA.

In 1999 the Seattle Mariners had the best stadium in baseball...with SF Giants and Cleveland Indians very much in the argument. It is still a great stadium, with tons of revenue. It is also one of the must under utilized assets in all of sports. Today they will introduce their 7th manager in 8 years...and he is an interim manager for the next 7 weeks. Out of town, and out of Country ownership is accountability. The Mariners owner from Japan, has not been to a Mariners game since he bought the franchise in 1995. He has never been to a game of the team he owns. It sucks to be a fan of this team.

Anonymous said...

Am I dreaming this or hasn't Pat Summit been paid as a consultant to WNBA teams in previous years while coaching the Vols? Seems highly inappropriate as does the Knicks move.

Anonymous said...

Mr. Feinstein, I was hoping that you were watching and going to mention the national swimming championships this weekend. What better time to than the summer to discuss swimming? It would be a welcome change than listening to you gripe about Tiger, Steroids, the Redskins and Favre. I don't mean to sound flip. You always blog about how these topics dominate ESPN and local coverage, I just wanted to read what a fellow swimmer was thinking.