Welcome to the “Big Time” edition of The Strike Zone. We’re going national…the CSU Rams might want to play on any day except Saturday, and George Karl trade bait?
“Mark you made to the big time.... Good job..... What was the feedback like?”
I was not aware of an MSN.com link or a Huffington Post article that referenced a piece I’d written the day before for Mile High Sports until I got that email from a friend of mine. Every writer wants to have his work be read nationally, so in that respect, it’s certainly an honor to have the HP notice my work. I can’t say however, that it was a flattering – or truly accurate – portrayal of the opinion’s I expressed in my column. I was trying to make a point, but a lot of people don’t want to hear it. More below…
Strike One: Denver Post columnist Mark Kizla also caused a bit of a stir this week when he wrote that Denver Nuggets coach George Karl has a “cushy” job and that he’s basically mailing it in this season. Not a lot of people agreed with Kiz, for obvious reasons. It wasn’t the best case that he’d ever tried to make.
Karl is very well respected in NBA circles, for all the right reasons. What he has accomplished as head coach of the Nuggets will end up surpassing the legendary Doug Moe in terms of all time wins, division titles, etc. Will Denver win the NBA title this season? No. Do they have a shot with Karl in the not-too-distant-future? Who knows?
I’ve always thought the best way to evaluate a head coach, and whether or not he should be replaced, is to decide ahead of time whether or not a better replacement can be found. In many cases, a coach has been fired and the replacement has ended up leaving fans longing to have the old coach back. Remember when Paul Westhead replaced Moe? Didn’t work out so well.
In Karl’s situation, if Nuggets management decided to replace the head coach, who could they get that would be better? If you can’t think of anyone, you’re not alone. Look around the NBA right now: If you were to trade George Karl straight up, which NBA coach could you get in return who is just as good or better?
I’ve already read suggestions that Karl protégé Scott Brooks is a better coach than his mentor. The answer to that is simple: Give Karl Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook and then see who the better coach is. Scratch Brooks until we see him do great things without a superstar in the line-up. And it’s also too early to evaluate another Karl disciple, Mike Dunlap in Charlotte. Something tells me he’s going to be very good down the road, but not right now?
The “Thanks but no thanks” (in terms of a straight up trade for Karl) group of NBA head men would include Erik Spoelstra, Mike D’Antoni, Vinny Del Negro, Mike Woodson, Byron Scott, Kevin McHale, Doug Collins, P.J. Carlesimo and many more. None of these guys could of nor can do what Karl has done and continues to do in Denver, period.
The “You’d at least think about it” group might include Frank Vogel from Indiana, Rick Carlisle of Dallas, Mark Jackson of Golden State and Lionel Hollins of Memphis. Maybe. But the very short list of guys you could say are as good or better coach than George Karl? Probably include the Spurs Gregg Popovich, Tom Thibodeau (Bulls) and Doc Rivers (Boston)…and that’s about it. Nuggets are fortunate to have Karl.
Strike Two: Colorado State might want to petition the Mountain West to allow the Rams to play their conference basketball games on any day except Saturday next season.
After falling at Boise State on Saturday night, CSU is still a respectable 4-3 on conference Saturdays, but they’ve been an adventure. It’s become the norm for someone from the opposing team to have the best day or night of his career against the Rams on Saturday.
It began innocently enough. In a tough overtime loss at San Diego State, Chase Tapley scored 12 points in OT to aid Jamaal Franklin’s 23 point effort for the Aztecs. Okay. Not that unusual, right? Same can be said for the following Saturday, when UNLV’s Anthony Marshall snapped out of a scoring slump to pump in 21 for the Rebels at Moby. Ram’s still prevailed.
It was the following Saturday when things started getting freaky. Tyler Johnson scored 23 in a Rams win at Fresno. Unusual, but not surreal. Surreal started the following Saturday when Wyoming’s Derrious Gilmore came out of nowhere to hit six three’s and score 26 in a hard fought CSU win over the Pokes. Then came the Michael Lyons show at Air Force, where the Falcon guard scorched the Rams for 45 in a narrow CSU win. That was followed by Kendall Williams and his 10-three pointers/46 point outburst in New Mexico’s win at Moby that snapped CSU’s 27-game home win streak.
Then, Saturday night in Boise, Derrick Marks went off for 38 points, including 33 in the second half and the Broncos busted the Rams 78-65. You guessed it. It was a career high night for the Boise State sophomore.
So how do you think Sunday games would go over with Ram fans next season?
Strike Three: As I mentioned, I jumped into the debate on openly gay athletes in professional team sports this week when I opined that gay athletes who wish to play professional TEAM sports should do what’s best for the team and keep their private business private, rather than trying to use the platform to express their “individuality.” Predictably, the hate email streamed in. There was also the aforementioned story on my column in the Huffington Post.
I’m not and never have promoted any sort of discrimination against gay people. I’m pro gay marriage and equal rights, as is most of the country (and I’m a fan of the Huffington Post.) Yet I’ve now been labeled a hater by the gay rights extremists who consider any sort of contrary opinion that doesn’t fit with their agenda to be “gay bashing.”
That’s complete nonsense, of course. Yet reading some the replies to my column, it’s clear that many people who commented didn’t actually read it or didn’t really understand it. It’s simple: I don’t believe pro sports should be forced to change to accommodate the feelings of a gay athlete or the gay community. Why does the majority in this matter have to cater to the emotional needs of the minority? Again, we are not talking about actual discrimination or the denial of opportunities. That’s never acceptable. I’m not advocating denying any rights or freedoms to gay athletes. We are just talking about not having to cater to any single person's emotional state.
There is already tremendous pressure on players in team sports to meet the expectations of rabid paying an bases. Adding in something else, like having an openly gay teammate – which may or may not cause some level of locker room friction - is simply not a good idea. Successful team sports require players to conform for the good of the team.
Gay extremists want a roster full of straight athletes to sequester THEIR feelings to benefit the emotional state of one player. Is that right? Whether or not a straight athlete is comfortable with having a gay teammates is an individual decision and right. Whether or not you agree with him, his feelings are as equally valid as those of the gay athlete.
But most disturbing are the ludicrous comparisons to Jackie Robinson. Those are a huge insult to a great man who endured far more and far far FAR worse treatment than any gay athlete could ever imagine.
Robinson was a quiet man who let his playing make a statement about black baseball players and their abilities. He did all he could to fit in and be one of the guys (as have all the notable gay athletes who have played professional team sports to this point. They deserve credit for that.)
There has never been a higher level of tolerance and understanding for the rights of homosexuals in this country than exists right now, which is wonderful. Contrast that with the culture Robinson lived in. He could not stay at the same hotel, or eat at the same restaurants, or in some cases use the same restroom as his teammates no matter how much he wanted to conform. It was out of his control. That’s why the comparison is ludicrous. And the fact that gay extremists are clamoring for “Our Jackie Robinson” and don’t care what sport or what team it involves simply proves that they don’t care about what’s best any team, just that they get their notoriety.
There was a movie made about Oakland A’s General Manager Billy Beane called Moneyball. They should make a movie about one of Beane’s minor league teammates: Billy Bean. He’s the role model for how a gay professional athlete should conduct himself. Nothing but props to him.
And I still like the Huffington Post.