A long fight ahead for one of the giants of the game
I’m a little bit late to the dance with this but basketball lost one of the all-time great coaches this week when Tennessee’s Pat Summitt had to retire this week because of early onset Alzheimer’s, as I’m sure you all know.
I met her once or twice, as I recall, at some USA Basketball thingy and she is one of those people with a “presence” about her that makes her stand out in any crowd.
Now, you know me and the NCAA and they tendency our friends to the south have to lionize coaches beyond all level of normalcy. They make them out to be giants all too often, to put them on pedestals for no real reason, to make them bigger and better and more important than they actually are.
But – and this may just be one of the exceptions that proves the rule – Summitt probably deserves all the accolades that have come her way this week. She ran a clean program by all accounts, the kids in her charge graduated and went on to successful careers away from the game and her program was as successful as any in NCAA history.
I was talking to Dwane about her the other night, he’s got some history and a unique perspective on what she accomplished given his connection to Tennessee through the SEC rivalry with his beloved Kentucky Wildcats and he made the point that she survived forever in a cutthroat business by genuinely caring about the kids she was in charge of, turning them into better women.
And this clip from Doc Rivers speaks volumes, I think.
I’ve had a very small bit of first-hand experience with Alzheimer’s, it is a terrible disease, one that tears at the fabric of families and the souls of people.
It is so, so, so difficult to deal with, it changes the very personality of men and women and is one of the most difficult illnesses related to age that anyone can deal with.
So it’s not so much that Summitt is leaving the coaching ranks that’s sad about this story, it’s why she’s being forced to step aside.
It will be a long and difficult fight, for her and her family as I’m sure many of you know. A sad story for someone who is one of the giants of the game.
Well, this isn’t how the Dwight Howard saga was supposed to end, is it?
He’s going to have back surgery for a herniated disk – an operation that not only ends his NBA season but takes him out of the London Olympics as well – to bring to an end one of the most tumultuous individual seasons in the recent past.
But here’s one thing that probably should be pointed out to those who wonder if Howard had maybe taken it easy or, in the vernacular, “quit” on his team this season.
If he’s been battling back pain for as long as he says he has and it ends with having to have surgery, none of us – or any of the TV talking heads – can suggest he wasn’t giving all he had when he was trying to play through it.
Pain tolerance is such an individual thing that it’s totally unfair for anyone from the outside to suggest that someone is healthy enough to give more when they say they’re hurting.
We’re all guilty of it at some time, especially us who have the ability to sway public opinion (and I know I have been on the odd occasion) but it really is wrong.
Now, we can wish that some athletes had a higher pain threshold and could play through some bumps or bruises but if they say they can’t go, they can’t go.
The other angle to the Howard thing, of course, is if this means he’s played his last game for Stan Van Gundy and since I’ve thought that since the story first broke that Howard had told someone in Orlando management he wanted the coach fired, I have no doubt that is the case.
When we next see the big lug, we’re going to see him after coming off back surgery and playing for a new coach after he had a hand in his old one being fired and if that doesn’t put a lot of additional pressure on Howard to perform, I don’t know what does.
Good luck to him.
Mail? Please. Big office day today with paperwork and some pre-Olympic plan adjustment but there’ll be time to knock some questions off.
Well, they’re on a rather extended road trip, talked briefly via text with some folks yesterday and nothing of significance went on.
Except maybe some grumbling.
You see, with the game in Miami on Wednesday and one in Detroit on Sunday, you can be sure more than a few of them had hoped for an extended stay in South Florida once they changed the original plan of coming home and working here in between.
Sure, they stayed in Florida after the game on Wednesday, practiced there yesterday and stayed last night.
But Friday and Saturday?
They’re off to lovely Auburn Hills for a couple of days of work; instead of practicing in Florida today and tomorrow and then flying.
Guess it had as much to do with not wanting to “reward” them or something like that.
Yes, I am sure some of them were not impressed.
I’m pretty certain that going 4-5 on an extended homestand and losing two of three series is not how the TOD envisioned itself coming out of the game. And our worst fears are being realized: The rotation is not going particularly well at this point and pitching is – and may always be – an issue.
It’s certainly not the stuff of contenders, is it?
Of course, it’s early and they may get on a roll but I have a feeling if the season unravels, it’s going to be because they don’t pitch the ball well enough.