|News » Spurs won despite being off their game|
|Spurs won despite being off their game|
Game Time: Spurs 95, Hawks 89For San Antonio, this was the most important game of the season.
They'd just won a grueling double-OT game the night before in Dallas, and therefore had every excuse to be flat, weary, erratic, and to fade in the clutch. They were also playing an up-and-coming Hawks team that was bristling with energy in the aftermath of losing a tough game in Houston.
McHale's practice sessions were loosey-goosey more scrimmaging and talking than actual coaching. In the long run, however, the instructional aspects and the intensity of practices largely determine a team's fate when the lights go on for real. His game plan had the same laissez-faire quality let the guys play and hope the T-Wolves wound up on the high side of the scoreboard when the final buzzer sounded. Even though some of the players will not trust McHale since he frequently went behind Randy Wittman's back to surreptitiously offer them advice and instructions, most of them will enjoy their new coach's lighter touch. During (and since) his brief tenure as a coach, McHale constantly complained about the endless traveling. Look for him to swallow those same complaints (at least publicly), but also look for the remainder of the long season to wear him down and eventually make him more testy with both his players and the refs. Especially if the losses mount.
Granted Wittman wasn't a very good coach, but there's also a certain justice to McHale's taking his place. Now K-Mac has to coach his way out of the mess that he's created.
Charley's NBA tour
During the first half of the season, FOXSports.com's Charley Rosen
will analyze each NBA team and offer a scouting report.
- Phoenix Suns
- Houston Rockets
- Philadelphia 76ers
- New Jersey Nets
- Charlotte Bobcats
- Sacramento Kings
- Oklahoma City Thunder
- Los Angeles Lakers
- Memphis Grizzlies
- Los Angeles Clippers
- Orlando Magic
- Detroit Pistons
- Denver Nuggets
- Miami Heat
- Washington Wizards
- Minnesota Timberwolves
- Portland Trail Blazers
- Boston Celtics
- Chicago Bulls
- Golden State Warriors
- Milwaukee Bucks
- San Antonio Spurs
But there's another danger lurking in the wings. Since McHale was also relieved of his management responsibilities, Jim Stack is now the primary voice whispering into Glen Taylor's rabbit ears. It should be noted that back when he was Jerry Krause's assistant during the glory days of the Chicago Bulls, Stack had a habit of privately second-guessing Phil Jackson. So there's every reason to believe that, at some time in the not-too distant future, Stack will make a move to succeed McHale.
Now that he's been removed from the relative safety of the front office, McHale should be reminded that coaches are hired to be fired.
Travels with Charley
I've always liked Mike Riordan. After graduating from Providence, he had to hone his game in the old Eastern League (predecessor of the CBA) before serving as a bit player for the Knicks (1968-1971). His primary task with New York was to commit semi-deliberate fouls in various defensive strategies that prevented other players in the Knicks' rotation from suffering a foul that might prove costly later in the game.
It was during his rookie year that I first met him. Since he played a total of only 397 minutes in 54 games that season, even on game days he would frequently participate in some high-quality pickup games at Hofstra University as a way of staying in shape.
At the time, I was pursuing a Masters Degree in medieval studies at Hofstra and also teaching a couple of undergraduate courses in the English department. I was granted both appointments more by default than any academic brilliance I had ever demonstrated. The military draft for the Vietnam War had decimated the population of available graduate students, and since I was classified 4-F because of my size 6-foot-9 my primary qualification was that I was, and would remain, a civilian.
In any case, I was happy to be invited to the scrimmages where I was impressed with Mike's grit, smarts and skills. Other noteworthy participants were Steve Nissenson (the school's lifetime leading scorer), Wandy Williams (who went on to play pro football), Dave Brownbill (a long-distance shooter and all-around great guy) and Barry White (who was the victim of the NBA's quota system, failing to make the Baltimore Bullets because the team already had its share of black players and who went on to fame and fortune playing in France).
I was more than happy when, after being traded to Baltimore as part of the Earl Monroe deal four years later, Riordan eventually became a solid, All-Star caliber player averaging a career high of 18.1 ppg in 1972-73.
The beginning of his transition from benchwarmer to double-digit scorer began at the end of a Bullets' practice session:
Mike had a broken wrist when he reported to his new team, showing up to practice in sneakers and sweats but with his left wrist still in a cast. After practice, Riordan went on to the court to run some sprints. That's when the Bullets' coach, Gene Shue, came over and asked Riordan if he was interested in playing some one-on-one.
Of course he was.
Since Mike is left-handed, he couldn't shoot anything except right-handed layups and baby hooks. Shue was in his later thirties and was still a terrific player he'd played in five All-Star games during his NBA career (1954-1964). No surprise that the competition was mostly one-sided (in several ways), nor that Riordan became increasingly frustrated. After a while, Riordan took to smacking Shue with his cast whenever his new coach made one of his patented spin moves.
Afterward, Riordan was certain that Shue would be angry about being cast-blasted. But Shue merely said, "I like the way you hit me. You're a competitor. You're going to be okay here."
And, indeed, he was.
So, if you're ever in Annapolis, Md., stop by one of Mike's restaurants (he owns two), and give him my best regards. Maybe he'll buy you a beer.
Author: Fox Sports
Author's Website: http://www.foxsports.com
Added: December 11, 2008