The Chicago Bulls have had a very interesting season. With lofty expectations heading into this year after taking the Boston Celtics seven games in the first round of last year’s playoffs, the Bulls really struggled. Hampered by injuries and coaching decisions rivaling Dennis Rodman’s life decisions, Chicago looked destined for the golf courses in June. However, the Bulls just clinched the eighth and final playoff spot in the East with last night’s win over the Bobcats and things are finally looking up. The Bulls gave LeBron all he could handle during the regular season, and this is a team battle-tested in a seven-game series. The team is riding a wave of momentum, and nothing can go wro –
Wait, what? The GM and the head coach just got in a shoving match?
Like true grown men running a several 100 million dollar organization, Bulls executive vice president (and former general manager) John Paxson and head coach Vinny Del Negro decided to (allegedly) resolve their differences by physically fighting. Forget the days of front office meetings to settle problems. This issue at hand was huge, one that could no longer be ignored by any means. This problem, if not settled with shoves, would be the downfall of the entire organiza –
Wait, say that again? Paxson was just pissed about Joakim Noah’s playing time? Joakim Noah?!?
It’s almost laughable how routine these stories are becoming. It seems like every week we’re dealt another “report” regarding an altercation between a manager and a coach, a coach and a coach, a coach and a player and Jerry Jones against the world. I am the first one to concede that having that competitive fire is a necessity to succeed in sports at every level. Although this tenacity is most essential on the court or field, every fan deeply desires passionate and fiery personalities leading their team, a la Mark Cuban.
But the idea that these altercations can extend past the line of vocal displeasure is dumbfounding. Front office members and coaches are often ex-players – Paxson and Del Negro are both former point guards – and continue to have trouble accepting that their careers as athletes are over. Their actions are often justified by the fact that they “still haven’t lost that fire” and that “winning means everything, no matter the cost!”
Paxson and Del Negro are a combined 92 years old. Time to grow up, boys.
The fact is that these guys are no longer players. They are overpaid business partners with a common goal – leading a team of professional basketball players to a NBA Championship. By no means am I discounting the work that they do. Although most of us think that we would be willing to give anything to switch shoes with them, their lives are incredibly stressful. But they have both been given the opportunity to remain around the game that they love in significant positions of power. This type of behavior should be absolutely intolerable.
Player behavior is now strictly monitored by leagues like the NBA and the NFL, so why shouldn’t the big dogs be held to the same standards? Celtics forward/center Rasheed Wallace has paid enough fines to cover over a decade of Stanford education, while Patriots wide receiver Randy Moss was heavily scolded for his admittance of occasional marijuana use. I’m not condoning these actions by any means and I agree with the professional leagues when they punish these players on the basis of setting a bad example for kids.
Coaches and managers are also punished, but far less frequently. Oakland Raiders coach Tom Cable – currently boasting a 9-19 career record – allegedly fractured the jaw of assistant coach Randy Hanson. No charges were filed, but witnesses saw the whole thing. Add in the fact that two ex-wives and an ex-girlfriend accused Cable of physical abuse, and it becomes increasingly more difficult to give the guy the benefit of the doubt.
So whom would you rather have your kid learn from: an athlete that smokes a little grass, or a coach that punches everything in sight? For me, it’s really not close.
I want Paxson, Del Negro and Cable to all be passionate about their jobs. Sports are so much more entertaining when it appears as if the coaches and management actually give a shit. Being “fiery” is one thing. Acting like a punch-throwing maniac is another.
Men, let’s all take a deep breath, and put the fists down. Do it for the kids.
Zach Zimmerman wants Rasheed Wallace to pay for his meal plan this summer. Learn about the Tater Tots for Technicals program at zachz “at” stanford.edu