Coaches live in a small world. During the height of the Iran-Contra scandal, Redskins coach Joe Gibbs didn’t even know who Oliver North was.
Even smart coaches can miss the bigger picture, when they are coaching. See Steve Kerr, the Golden State Warriors, and LaVar Ball.
He’s one of the NBA coaches who, when asked now about the LaVar Ball phenomenon, feels compelled to pretend that no one saw this coming when the Los Angeles Lakers drafted Ball’s son Lonzo Ball.
Ball, in an interview reported by ESPN, ripped his son Lonzo’s coach, Luke Walton.
“You can see they’re not playing for Luke no more,” Ball said in Lithuania, where his two youngest sons, LiAngelo and LaMelo, were making their pro debuts. “Luke doesn’t have control of the team no more. They don’t want to play for him.”
“That’s a good team,” he said. “Nobody wants to play for him. I can see it. No high-fives when they come out of the game. People don’t know why they’re in the game. He’s too young. He’s too young. … He ain’t connecting with them anymore. You can look at every player, he’s not connecting with not one player.”
You see, LaVar Ball finally set off alarms among NBA coaches when he attacked on of their own. The sense of outrage surfaced when a member of the fraternity was in trouble.
And so who do they blame for this? Not the party responsible for introducing the virus into the NBA (that would be the Lakers). No, the coaches blame the media. Of course. Because it’s 2018 and that’s what we do in 2018.
“Where we’re going is where going away from covering the game, and we’re going toward just sensationalized news,” Kerr told reporters. “It’s not even news really. It’s just complete nonsense. But if you package that irrational nonsense with glitter and some ribbon, people are going to watch. So, I talked to people in the media this year. I said, ‘Why do you guys have to cover that guy?’ And they say, ‘Well, we don’t want to, but our bosses tell us we have to because of the ratings, because of the readership.’
“Somewhere, I guess in Lithuania, LaVar Ball is laughing,” Kerr said. “People are eating out of his hands for no apparent reason, other than that he’s become the Kardashian of the NBA or something. That sells, and that’s what’s true in politics, entertainment and now in sports.”
Doesn’t Steve Kerr recognize his own NBA fan base? Do you think the NBA is popular today because of the quality of the basketball, the joy of watching players endlessly hoisting up three-point shots? The LaVar Ball fans are NBA fans. Kerr’s league is tied together with glitter and ribbon.
And who fed the media LaVar Ball? Who gave him the platform for influence? The Lakers themselves, the marquee NBA franchise that chose to draft LaVar Ball’s very average son.
Magic Johnson and Co. opened the door for what everyone saw coming. No one could claim ignorance about LaVar Ball before his son was drafted — except, of course, those coaches who live in their small worlds.
Then there is Detroit Pistons coach Stan Van Gundy, who, because ESPN has been reporting on LaVar Ball in Lithuania, now refuses to meet with the ESPN announcing crew before games.
“I’m not meeting with their announcing crew before the game, I’m not doing the in-game interview,” Van Gundy wrote in an email to fellow coach Rick Carlisle, another LaVar Ball critic, the NBA Players Association and NBA commissioner Adam Silver, according to a report in the Detroit Free Press. “I’m not going to participate in the thing. They want extra stuff from us and they’re going to treat an NBA coach with that little respect? Then I’m going to choose not to give them extra access.”
Again, misguided anger. LaVar Ball is drama, and drama is what has driven the rise of the NBA. Remember, it’s all professional wresting, from ring to the White House.
Van Gundy’s issue should be with the Los Angeles Lakers. Will he refuse to let his team play the Lakers because, after all, they were the ones that gave LaVar Ball his credibility card by drafting his son knowing full well the damage that it could create?
Kerr and the other outraged NBA coaches should step out of their small world for a moment and into a slightly bigger one — the one that has brought record ratings, record salaries and record franchise sales to their league.
LaVar Ball and his fans live in that world.
• Thom Loverro hosts his weekly podcast “Cigars & Curveballs” Wednesdays available on iTunes, Google Play and the reVolver podcast network.
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