Widgetized Section

Go to Admin » Appearance » Widgets » and move Gabfire Widget: Social into that MastheadOverlay zone

Fired coaches, fighting the good fight; it’s a full mailbag


A: These are troubling times, aren’t they? I understand that there has always been and always will be a segment of the population that won’t believe true journalism because it doesn’t feed into their beliefs and there are those – and I am entirely looking at the leadership south of our border – who feed into that with no regard for truth, it’s fear-mongering and pandering and outright lying and it’s dangerous. That’s why we need to keep hammering home that legitimate journalism – at every level – is vital to a well-functioning society.

Me? I’m obviously not in the fray at any huge level but we’ve got to keep fighting the good fight because it’s important. And many of us take that responsibility quite seriously, I wish more did.

You feel sad and angry as some things transpire but you cannot give up.

Q: Disappointed to hear the news of David Fizdale losing his job. Respected his knowledge and candour.    

With J. B. Bickerstaff replacing Mr. Fizdale the number of African American coaches in the NBA remains at 7 ; which is 23% of 30 teams;  while African American players in the NBA is around 74% of the membership. My intent is not to berate or slam the NBA. I think the NBA excels in diversity and inclusion and is the most progressive of the big four. I am sure this issue has been tabled by Adam Silver as one of his priorities as commissioner.

Competition for coaching jobs in the NBA is fierce. An incredible amount of  talent out there. The Raptors assistants seems to be high energy; excellent communicators; collaborative; analytical..in short ; passionate  and  devoted. Add the other 29 teams that’s a large pool of talent for limited opportunities. Now you add the G League with coaches learning hands on. Jerry Stackhouse who needs no introduction… Rolled up his sleeves and went to work… Has certainly established many bona fides. Brad Stevens and Billy Donovan have opened the door to possible Recruitment of NCAA coaches which for a period of time were spurned by the NBA Teams due to previously unsatisfactory results. A high percentage of NCAA Division One Coaches are white. You can add the list of experienced coaches who are available to work. There is a talented group of coaches currently employed.

That is a lot of talented people for 30 jobs. Is it cyclical? Does the “Big” Money of today factor in? Do African American Players get a fair opportunity to coach ?

Complex issues for sure.  Any idea the number of African American coaches is an issue with players/NBA Fraternity/NBA Management ?

Johnnyc 

A: I think the NBA could do better in that regard, with African American head coaches and assistants but I do think they get a fair opportunity to apply for jobs. And given that the league went more than a calendar year without a coaching change – Joerger out in Memphis, replacing George Karl, replaced by Fizdale and no change until Jay Triano for Earl Watson in Phoenix this season – I think the cycle is to continuity.

I haven’t heard or read any strong complaints or issues with coaches, front office execs, league execs or coach’s agents.

Q: Doug

I’m a first time writer; long time reader. Keep up the good work.

 You often hear the Raptors’ broadcast team note that the Raptors are matching the other team’s lineup (e.g. going small when the opponent goes small). I may well be wrong, but I think I’m hearing it less frequently. It came up in your blog this morning that Coach Casey likes to match big with big, so I thought I’d ask. Matching the other team’s lineup is a response, as opposed to initiating something and forcing the opponent to respond.  What is the thought process that goes into the decision of whether initiate or respond? Are the Raptors doing less matching than previously because their roster allows them to be the initiators?

Glad you enjoyed Halifax. Which bar stools did you enjoy?

Colin B.

Halifax

A: The thought process, at least where Dwane is concerned, is whether or not the Rpator being “mismatched”  is able to dominate on one end and not give up too, too much on the other. Valanciunas is the main case in point: If he’s guarding a smaller guy and holding his own while punishing at the other end – scoring, rebounding, et al – they may stay with him. That doesn’t happen too much and if you’re not getting enough on one end to make up for what you’re giving away on the other, reaction is necessary.

But what we’re seeing this year is because the full second unit is going so well, switching on defence, moving the ball and scoring on offence, Dwane’s more content to live with his status quo rather than quickly react. And, frankly, I like it better that way.

Halifax was great. First night teemed rain so I didn’t venture too far but got to the Old Triangle, had a bite at the Five Fishermen before a Canada Basketball reception at the Auction House and I stopped by there quickly after the game, too. Missed out on the Henry House, to my disappointment.

Q: Hi Doug,
Reading your comment about the Raptor`s 3rd quarter woes reminded me of an article I read way back in the day.
The Russell-led Celtics were having the same issue. One game when they absolutely could not afford a slow 3rd quarter, John Havlicek told the team at halftime “I’m going to start running. You guys try to keep up.” He did and they did and it broke the trend.
So I’m in favour of putting the opposition back on their heels and running at, and around, them.
Les

A: The Raptors would love to run a bit more at the start of third quarters but the trouble is their defence has – on a few occasion – been below average and playing a high tempo taking the ball out of the net is hard to accomplish.

And while I don’t really buy into a lot of this third quarter stuff outside of a couple of games recently, I think the trouble is as much defence as it is offence. Probably more.

Doug:

You have in the past suggested that at least 20 games is required before one can reasonably start to assess a season.  During Friday night’s game, Jack was making the case that, now that we are just over 20 games in for all teams, the new schedule with fewer back-to-backs and 3 games in 4 days, is resulting overall in a better product for the paying customer.  Obviously, it has created a requirement for extra “off day” stories for the grunts of the world, but would you agree or disagree with Jack’s assessment?

David H

A: I totally agree with Jack. There have been far fewer “dog” games involving the Raptors than usual through a quarter of the season, I believe, and my sense is that it’s that way around the league, too.

Whether that continues when the inevitable late-season “rest” nights pop up remains to be seen but, even given some quirks, this new schedule has improved the overall quality; it’s let fresh players play more often.

Q: Hey Doug,
Just read a piece about Keon Clark rebuilding his life after falling out of the NBA and into prison, due largely to alcohol addiction. I was struck by his admission in 2007 that he “never played a game sober”. Vin Baker’s excellent autobiography also details his own battle with drinking while in the NBA, and spells out how substance abuse was (still is?) quite rampant in the NBA.
I’m just wondering, being so close to the team, did you scribes ever get a whiff, maybe even literally, that Clark was inebriated during games for the Raptors? It almost defies belief that he could perform to such a high level while under the influence. Did the team suspect? In Vin Baker’s case, the rumours were that he had alcohol issues, and the Celtics very nearly didn’t consummate his trade from the Sonics due to their reservations about his sobriety. Their concerns were unfortunately proven right.
And what’s team policy for dealing with such indiscretions? In normal walks of life being drunk on the job is grounds for automatic termination. Yet in the NBA, it seems teams try to quietly offload the guys in a trade, or choose not to resign them when their contract is up. Do they have too many millions wrapped up in the players to fire them outright, mid-contract?
David, Vancouver

A: No, we never got a “whiff” of that or what I am sure where other issues with other players and I think one thing about people with an addiction is that they work extremely hard at not letting people realize they do.

I also think that in professional sports – all, not just the NBA – it’s extremely hard to “fire” an athlete. There are also some other very real factors to take into consideration with the money at stake and the consequences in such things as salary-cap management, so trying to find some other team that may think it can “fix” a problem is the way teams want to go.

In extreme cases teams will offer counselling and rehab and support, helping a human and, harshly put, trying to salvage their investment.

Q: Hey Doug

A couple of random observations and questions from across the pond.

I tend to see the Raps 3rd quarter problems as an intensity issue. It’s hard to be 100% motivated to play flat out when you’re ahead although I find it odd that it should always strike at the start of the 3rd rather than at any other time. A penny for your thoughts as to why you think it keeps happening?

Whatever the reasons I was thrilled by Dwane Casey’s reaction. It speaks volumes that the coach is incandescent at the manner in which his team only beat the Hornets by 15 points. That suggests to me that he has an eye firmly fixed on where we are in May/June and is impatient to see the level of consistency that he knows we will need to advance deep into the playoffs.

As a football fan I confess not to having spent much time following the MLS in past years. But the TFC story last year and this has been compelling and the intensity of the fan base is great to see. I don’t know about you but I absolutely want to see Seattle in the final. To be the king, you gotta kill the king, right?

Arnie, London (not Ontario)

A: That’s a very good point about Casey and this team playing the “long game” by trying to make sure any issues are dealt with head-on now. They know they’re going to be in the playoffs, they know they are going to be one of the top seeds but they also know the failings of the past and what they need to correct. It’s why nipping things in the bud now is foremost on their minds.

I am absolutely glad it’s Seattle, totally fitting and, who knows, the Sounders might actually move the ball forward and attempt a shot at goal this time around.

It is a compelling story and a rabid fan base and I find it interesting that someone from one of the world’s great cities and the football hotbed that it is would notice the intensity of fans given what you must see weekly.

My biggest issue now is that I’ve booked a flight to come back from Memphis next Saturday right at kick off! I’m trying to see if I can get a credential and change a flight to come back and carry Laura’s computer bag and run quotes or somesuch. When I booked Memphis, I didn’t realize the MLS Cup was a 4 p.m. ET kickoff, silly me.

Q: No, not the usual rant about incompetency or conspiracy, but what seems to be the increasingly thin skin on basketball and baseball officials. You’ve been following sports almost as long as I have, longer if just North American sports, do you see officials having thinner skin in response to players doubting/arguing calls in recent years, as (obviously) I do? It seems from my seat in front of the TV that officials take it out on the players when they (the officials) make egregious errors, which in turn makes the officials’ errors even more egregious. 

How/why did this come about, and what can be done about it? I feel like sending a message to a couple of commissioners asking for an officials’ schedule so I can get tickets to see the “real stars” of the game, these glory-hound officials. Or showing up early to a game to ask for autographs or a selfie from the “real stars” – just kidding, never have been into collectibles.

Thoughts? Solutions?

Thanks,

Marcus Day

A: Despite basketball having made some advances in this area, I think umpires remain exponentially worse at being provocateurs, thin-skinned men who believe they are the show.

I’m not sure there’s one thing to chalk it up to. I know the NBA has far too many young and relatively inexperience officials who don’t know how to walk away from contentious conversations. And I’ve spoken to current and retired referees about this many times and they concur and know that it just takes time to learn nuance and game management.

And I don’t know what the answer is other than time.

Baseball? It’s too far gone to help, I fear. But I detest umpires to exacerbate situations. Loathe them.

Q: Hi Doug,

So, time for a what-if question. If you had been working Sunday’s Grey Cup game, with how it went down, the late lead change, the game really in the balance up until the final seconds, what would that have been like from a job perspective? How many different re-writes would have been involved? Would not getting access for an extra hour hurt your initial story? Also, in a game that was just fun all around, rooting interest or not, what would the press box be like for reporters who are impartial? Ho-hum, or on the edge of your seat as Mitchell’s last throw is in the air?

Jeff

A: I’ve been there, it’s stressful with a lot of “holy crap” moments but it’s what we do so we just deal with it.

I would presume I would have basically had the bottom of the story written well before the final five minutes, weaving in some colour, some weather, some Shania – had to be some Shania – with maybe a 300-word “hole” at the top. I’d probably have two screens of work on the go, one for a Toronto win and one for a Calgary win, and be working almost simultaneously on them.

It wouldn’t have been the greatest of writing but it would have been story-telling as well as it could have been done.

The mood? It would not be ho-hum at all; no cheering, obviously, but I know everyone there would have realized they were seeing something special unfold.

Q: Hi Doug,

Periodically you’ve given each of the Raptors a letter grade and explanation of said grade.

Any interest in doing so for this quarter of the season?

Also, in your eyes, who has exceeded expectations and who has… underwhelmed?

As always, thank you for your great work.

Marc Zahradnik

A: I have done that periodically but find it a bit hard. Do you grade on your own expectations for each player each year and hold “C” as an average? Do you grade against their historical efforts and take into account an increase or decrease in responsibility? Do you grade against players in the league at the same position or in the same circumstances?

But I may try my hand at it around the halfway mark, it does knock off an off-day story.

I would say OG Anunoby and Siakam have exceeded what I thought they would bring and Ibaka has underwhelmed to this point.

Q: Hi Doug,

I always hear about JV not “fitting” into today’s NBA.  What I don’t hear – or maybe haven’t payed attention to – is what he / the team have done over the summers to help adapt his skill sets to be more suited to today’s NBA.  Ie – new strength/conditioning program to leaner/quicker, taking more 3-point shots to improve consistency, etc.  I have heard it is easier to fix your problem than trade it.  I believe JV is still young enough (only 25!) and assume more than willing to make the necessary changes to succeed in the NBA.  Is this realistic, or am I being too optimistic?

On a totally unrelated topic: If for whatever reason you choose to no longer pursue this blog, can you please point me to something else I can read everyday sometime between 8:30 and 9:00 AM (time zone permitting)?  I can’t help but note how you have been doing this blog consistently for what feels like forever, yet the guys covering the other sports can’t seem to string a few together before hibernating during the off season.  In short: keep up the great work.

Sal L

A: They send every player off into the summer with a specific workout regimen they’d like them to follow and they send coaches around the world to check up on them. JV’s no different; heck, one summer they sent him to work with a sprint coach in Oregon to see if they could increase his quickness. But all the other stuff is part of their off-season program. Now, Jonas does spend parts of every summer with his national team and there’s a role for him there that might not be exactly what the Raptors prescribe but he does work on what the team wants.

And I very much appreciate the words on the daily timing of the weekly fare. Believe me, there are days when the alarm goes at 6 or 6:30 a.m. and I want to throw it through the window but I’ve always felt if we’re going to do this, consistency is the key to building any kind of audience. Glad to know it works with you.

Q: Hey Doug,
After last night’s game against Charlotte you wrote that you and your fellow scribes would wait until the 3rd quarter of Friday’s game is at least half over before putting fingers to keyboard. I’m not going to wait until then.
It seems that opening games and halves has been an issue with the Raptors this year and for a few years. This year we have been fortunate to have a particularly strong bench to come in and right the ship.
My theory du jour is that this team has a middle of the pack group of starters – good as a unit but not great – while we have an exceptionally talented and deep bench. A quick look at stats for this year confirms that, showing our starting unit ranked at 16th in the league and our bench at number 2.
So, how our starters will perform when opening games and halves against other starting units is a bit of a toss up depending on who the opposition is and how much effort our guys put in. Unfortunately, replacing starters with bench players is probably not the answer as the success of our bench comes when playing against other benches. They could easily end up getting eaten alive playing against other teams starters.
Being that trades are so difficult to accomplish, I see the only resolution is to have our starters recognize the reality that they are good, not great, and the only way for them to succeed is to play all out every moment that they are on the court.
That’s one thought from an interested bystander. You are much closer to the team and know the game better than I, so I wonder what your thought is on that “analysis”.
Thanks, as always, for the good work.
Steve

A: I don’t think they have to do a thing and, to me, the “third quarter issues” is a non-story. As I type this, over the course of this season, the Raptors are a minus-30 through 21 games in cumulative third-quarter scoring. And that’s only because they were a cumulative minus-53 in the New York, Indiana and Charlotte games; take those away and even my math says they, on average, out-score opponents in the third quarter. Three bad thirds out of 21 games? Junk happens.

So change?

And the starters know they’re good and they play hard when they play. Sometimes, the other guys are, for stretches in games, better. It happens.

Q: Hi Doug,

The MLS Best Eleven tends to focus on the offensive-minded midfielders rather than DMs and is more a wow factor than actually best positional players (that will probably be done by Matt Doyle in another article on their website later). They’re only allowed 3 mids and Valeri was up for the MVP award, Almiron was a 23-year-old sensation for Atlanta, and Vasquez got the nod over Bradley from TFC. You can’t really fault the winners, they’re all really good.

 I’m just trying to snag a pair of tickets to the final for my son and I so we can visit from Ottawa but it’s not looking good. I’d cast a pox on all scalper bots if I could.

Brad Bellows,

A: Thanks for the info. Obviously I’m not up on the generally held selection criteria and can absolutely see why voters wouldn’t want to take two Toronto midfielders.

All bots, my man. All bots.

Q: Hi Doug,

I wanted to comment on your blog post from today (Nov 28th) regarding the closure of the Post Media and Metroland/Star Metro Media papers.  I agree with you that this is a very sad day as over 300 very good people are now out of work.  As a former Torstar employee (I spent 6 years at Metroland) I have seen first hand the decline of the newspaper industry.  It got to be so painful that I left Metroland in May to move over to the technology side of the media industry.

While Ontario is losing many papers, these markets are not going to lose their local coverage.  In each of the markets where Post Media and Torstar are trading papers, there are at least two competing papers.  This means that with all of the closures there will still be a local paper in each of these cities and towns.  Essentially what the two companies are doing is eliminating the competition and carving up newspaper ownership in Ontario.  

It’s sad that the newspaper industry has come to this but hopefully this move will allow Torstar and Post Media to continue on and keep supporting local news.

Keep up the good work Doug, I’m a long time fan (almost 20 years now) and I love your writing!

Chris Ramey

A: Given recent history, I have little or no faith that anything other than a bottom line will be taken into consideration. I’d hope otherwise but it would only be faint hope.

Q: Mr. Doug

I checked into this

this wont qualify as a mail question but check this out

50 beers on a camping weekend almost killed me…..

Mike

Wade Boggs Told Charlie Day He Drank 107 Beers in a Day. We Believe Him.

A: Legendary.

Q: Hi Doug,

I’ve noticed that you have recently said that MLB had no rules against PEDs in the 1990s.

Here is a link to a memo sent out by Fay Vincent, the commissioner at the time:

http://www.steroidsinbaseball.net/assets/memo.pdf

When you get to asking for questions this week, I guess my question is whether this memo changes your opinion that “For the longest time there were no rules so none could be broken”? Now,I admit that this was not in the CBA, but the memo,sent to all clubs with directions to share with all players, does lay out the consequences for illegal drug use.

I discovered this a few years ago now,and sent the link to your colleague Richard Griffin, but received no response or acknowledgement of the memo in any of his columns that I read.

Hoping you will address this, either in your next mailbag or a daily blog. If you want a basketball question, how about: why does the NBA not have a jump ball to start the 2nd, 3rd and 4th quarters?

Thanks for all your writing,I do enjoy most of it!

Marcus Day

A: No, it really doesn’t change my opinion. And since baseball’s leadership absolutely turned a blind eye to the issue for years and years and years and years, it kind of exposes them as even more hypocritical than I thought.

TORONTO STAR

None found.