Shaw Marion was mad that management didn't seem to like him enough. Shawn Marion welcomed leaving a (marginal) title contender to go to a lottery team in a nicer city (hoping for more money). He got a ton of media shit for that.
Mike D'Antoni was mad that management didn't seem to like him enough. Mike D'Antoni welcomed leaving a (marginal) title contender to go to a lottery team in a nicer city (getting more money). Why did he get a free pass from the media?
I found it very hard to write this post, mainly because I started it in the "anger" phase of loss, tweaked it in the "bargaining" stage, left it for dead in the "depression" stage, and now, like you, feel a certain amount of diffidence in the "acceptance" stage. Who cares, what's done is done. I'm fine with the new regime and the downward revised expectations.
The Phoenix Suns are now the coneheads of the NBA.
Still, a crime was committed and it's our duty on this blog to shed the light of day on it.
It's hard to begrudge someone for wanting to live in a nice city, get a bigger contract and be liked by their bosses. We all want that. However, what's fine for the average joe is not fine for an NBA coach. A social contract has been broken. Taxpayers buy the arenas and fans suffer never ending commercials and wear their fan hearts on their sleeves all to pay their coaches the big bucks, just as they do the players. The same social contract that subjects Marion to ridicule for preferring money and area codes to winning also applies to coaches as well. Players, coaches and management have a public duty to the city. That duty was not upheld.
The underlying premise here is that D'Antoni, despite all the difficulties, was the best available coach for this team next year. Evidence includes that the coaching selection process was a joke. Of all the interviewees, only one had the head coaching experience necessary to take on a veteran team with waning title aspirations. Porter got the job by simply having 2 years head coaching experience to none!
The circumstances of the crime are a lot like Clue the Movie. Unlike the board game where there is just a single criminal, the genius of the movie was to be so (poorly) written such that anyone could have committed the crime and in the end, they all did. Had the producers thought the American public would have gone the theater 8 times for eight different endings, they would not have stopped at 3. That they got some people to sit through that crappy movie three times was pretty genius.
So, how did D'Antoni get away so easily with murdering the Suns hopes in 2009? Let's address the easiest first.
The New York media is enamored with anyone not named Isaiah Thomas. For a team with no offense or defense, getting an experienced offensive genius is half the battle. They could care less how they got him, or if he's a champion, at least he's not Isaiah Thomas. "Slow and boring" is not a winning combination in the entertainment capital of Madison Square Garden. The Honeymoon is on, so who from the New York Media would question the coach for putting on women's knickers like Daniel Buckley and escaping the Suns titanic?
The dog that didn't bark: Suns management. Did you ever see a management team behave with such understanding? Did you ever see such a management team not the least bit upset by D'Antoni's departure? Pop quiz: your hot girlfriend asks you: "Do you want me?" you don't say, "I want what's best for you..." If you really want her to stay then you'd better say so. Time to put on a little razzle dazzle, because she's asking to be pitched.
The Suns management style on the other hand is so nice. So considerate. "Bryan, you should do what's best for you." "JJ, you should consider your market value." "Mike, wow, living in New York or Chicago, what great cities!" This management team has never fired a soul. Hey, that would cost money.
And then there's the mastermind of the crime himself, Mike Daniel Buckley D'Antoni. This next year was D'antoni's shot to fix the team in training camp and make it work. Instead, he flinched. He chickened out. He chose a lottery team over the shot to make it work one last time. Blame the pressure. Blame your mean bosses. Say it was the lure of Madison Square Garden. Say it was the contract. But frankly, I think it was because you didn't think you could win. Coward.
In all, I have never heard such a white-washing coaching change as this one. Shame on you if you bought the song and dance the media, the Suns and Coach D'Antoni were performing.
And a message to mainstream media:
Dear mainstream pro media, you oh so greater journalists than my momma's basement fanblog wankery, heap the criticism onto the coach or lay off the players. Don't promote a double-standard that vilifies players for making the same choices we all do and gives coaches a free pass for flouting the sacred public trust, with all the honor and millions that go with it, for leading a city's sports team.