Coach's Corner

Coach's pre-season glance at the NBA: the Spurs are overrated and on their way down; Michael Jordan is overrated and already down; but the real season doesn't stat for another half-year anyway, so does anyone really care?

I used to do extensive previews of the NBA season, complete with real research -- player personnel changes, rebounding stats, and my old favorite, point differential -- then it hit me, who cares? Here in Texas, November's perfect golf weather. In Illinois, golf's a little iffy, but that's okay, it's time to get serious about the Bears and Purdue basketball. On the long California coast, golf is always good. So is a nice trip to the Wine Country. I've never known a fan who followed the NBA season from its fall start to its summer conclusion, except for a crazy man named Jack who works in my Dad's office. Marco Polo didn't know how well his oft-attributed quote, "The longest journey begins with a single step," would read a thousand years later; it's quite apt for the pro basketball season. So I'll make a few idle comments and forget about the NBA until January.

Sports Illustrated says the Spurs are the second-best team in the Western Conference. SI is a fine magazine ... but it's not noted for accurate predictions. The Spurs are going nowhere except backward. Last spring's four-game sweep by L.A. -- with San Antonio gagging on their proud regular-season record -- was no fluke. How many times do we have to be shown how meaningless the regular season is? The Spurs have a long (poor) history in team building: putting two-man teams on the court and then filling in the vital role players with nothing save bums and rejects. Last season's acquisition of Derek Anderson was a good step toward reversing this long trend, but they let him get away. The Spurs are trying to spin his replacement, Steve Smith, as a good thing. In reality it's three big steps back. And the B entry of San Antonio's two-man team, David Robinson, is only a shadow of the old Admiral. If Shaq and Kobe had to rely on Bruce Bowen, Steve Smith, Antonio Daniels, Terry Porter, Danny Ferry, and Cherokee Parks, the Lakers would not be two-time defending champs. Instead they have Rick Fox, Derek Fisher, Mitch Richmond, Lindsey Hunter, Brian Shaw, Mad Mark Madsen, and Robert Horry; they're 10-deep, with eight quality "role players." The Lakers, Kings, Mavericks, Timberwolves, and Trail Blazers are all better than the Spurs.

SI, pandering to their favorite cover boy, also selects the awful Wizards as the sixth-best team in the East. I'm sick of the media's MJ circle jerk, but so are you. Tough. The media care not what we think. Still, I'm not unhappy to see Jordan back. A young Jordan, playing heavy minutes every night, couldn't make an ugly Chicago team good. A 38-year-old Jordan won't do it in Wizardland. Jordan would kill, by the way, for the Spurs' supporting cast ...

For several years I've wondered if the seething, talk-radio-driven, media debate over college football champions, the unfairly maligned BCS, and a national playoff, is the actual movement of the Big Pup, or the Big Pup's tail moving said dog. I mean really, before the advent of sports talk radio, nobody gave a good goddamn about this shit. Oklahoma? Alabama? Penn State? A shared title? Whatever. People just didn't lose sleep over this. Maybe we were too busy building bomb shelters. I don't know. The media (the tail in case you're not paying attention) are most responsible for this playoff hysteria. It's an easy subject and kills airtime between commercials. Personally, I could live my life okay without ever really knowing who the best college team in the land is ... but apparently I'm 1 in a 1,000. To demonstrate how little "experts" and the Public really think about what they're saying, consider this. If there were a playoff system (any playoff system) the teams would still have to be seeded. In fact, seeding would become hyper-crucial. Ipso facto: any seeding system will look like today's BCS. So precisely the same circular, Hasidic debates will continue. And why in God's name does the sports world feel so damn sorry for the Miami Hurricanes? They play a one-game schedule. To them and the Virginia Techs of the world I say: The computers have it right!

end story

An obituary: Our two boxers, Roxy and Floyd, were once regular inhabitants of this space. Then the years passed and they became like Kelly and me: They didn't get out too much any more. Most of their days were spent peacefully in our boxer-proofed back yard. Floyd was a huge brindle boxer, fully twice the size of his sister. His bulk, power, and deep, booming bark disguised the most gentle, friendly soul this side of Santa Claus. In his eight short years with us I never heard him growl. Floyd lived a wonderful life and was loved by every human that ever came in contact with him. As a young dog he spent a month with me in the high country of Colorado. He got to walk mountain trails, chase fish in rushing streams, play in the snow in mid-August, and run through pristine meadows, high above the tree line. A week ago we were told he had a brain tumor. This morning we had to put him to sleep. He died in our arms. He was a proud boxer and a good dog. He was a loyal friend. A loved member of our family. Our house feels very empty without him.

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