Saturday, August 27, 2016

A Perfect 10 and an Absolute Zero

As published in The County Times (countytimes.somd.com)

By Ronald N. Guy Jr.

My daughter’s convinced that watching sports is a waste of time.  She lectures me about it and often uses it to rebut my suggestion that she’s neglecting her homework assignments while absorbed in her electronic devices and social life – an apparently far more noble pursuit than following competitive athletics.  In her mind, what’s good for dad is good for daughter, despite the gross imbalance of leisure time afforded by her middle-school life and my adult-with-multiple-kids life. 

But she’s 13, so there’s no winning the argument.  Frankly, I don’t need to; I just need to win the moment.  To do so, I recite a refrain my dad used on me: Do as I say, not as I do.  Once I layer on the threat of confiscating her precious electronics – the ones her parents procured and pay to keep connected to the outside world – for a frightening length of time (you know, like an hour), she reluctantly, if not silently, complies.  Deep down she knows I’m right.  I think.  I hope.

When she gets older, I’ll explain why I watch sports.  It’s still about the obvious: passionately rooting my teams to victory.  But at age 43, it’s not entirely about the results.  Sports are therapy now.  They are an old friend and a retreat to a comfortable place.  I watch seeking tangible examples of human excellence, elite performances under intense pressure, individuals overcoming adversity and teams reaching heights beyond what their collective talent would predict.  Despite being affixed to the couch with a remote, not a pick axe, in my hand, I am a desperate miner searching for golden nuggets of inspirational fuel for my journey and for moments when life fails to deal me aces and faces.      

Sports consistently fill my tank.  The Rio Games alone offered up Simone Biles, Katie Ledecky, Simone Manuel, Paul George and Kristin Armstrong (a fellow 43-year-old in slightly better shape than this writer) to rekindle the fire in our guts.  Sports are, however, nothing if not a cross section of society, so with the good comes the bad.  Watch enough sports, or even a little, and you will encounter unimaginable egos, rampant narcissism, cheaters and perpetrators of a myriad of crimes.

Oh, and don’t forget liars.

Remember when Ryan Lochte, a 13-time medal winner, was just the second most decorated male swimmer in Olympic history?  Wasn’t it great seeing the 32-year-old veteran winning gold with rival and long-time teammate Michael Phelps one last time? 

It was a storybook ending until Lochte went boorish frat boy, got hammered and destroyed property at a Rio gas station.  Then, for some reason known only to that ego-laden, self-serving space between his ears, Lochte concocted a fictitious account of the event that put his teammates at risk, dimmed the well-earned spotlight of other Olympians, embarrassed his country and laid waste to his reputation.
Lochte claimed he and three teammates had been robbed at gunpoint by a man dressed as a police officer.  In reality, he and his boys damaged property and urinated on the premises because, you know, they thought they could.  The truth, as it usually does in the information age, eventually surfaced which prompted Lochte to play the drunk/immature card and latently apologize for the “over-exaggerated” account of the night’s events. 

Lochte didn’t “over-exaggerate”.  He lied.  And this from a guy who was born on the exact day – 3 August 1984 – that Mary Lou Retton stuck her “Perfect 10” vault to win the women’s all-around gymnastics gold at the 1984 Los Angeles Games.  Who could have guessed the day that produced American perfection would produce an absolute zero 32 years later?

But I want to thank Lochte.  Seriously.  At some point I’ll be having a conversation with my kids and I’ll need evidence to illustrate the importance of respectfully diffusing a bad situation, being forthright and truthful and recognizing that a person’s reputation, while forged by countless acts, can be undone by a single error. 


Lochte will be perfect for those moments.  Maybe he’ll even help my daughter understand why I watch sports and realize it’s hardly a waste of time.

Friday, August 19, 2016

Negativity Bias and a Timely Tangent

As published in The County Times (countytimes.somd.com)

By Ronald N. Guy Jr.

Olympians from country after country, including an inspiring team of refugees, strode proudly into a cheering arena.  NBA stars, well-known Olympians and anonymous athletes from all around the globe wore the same huge, infectious and uninhibited smiles. 

The Parade of Nations during the opening ceremony of the 2016 Rio Olympics last Thursday night was spectacular.  The organic joy and global comradery was a welcomed tonic.  If the moment grabbed you, it should have.  Frankly, it should have grabbed us all.  Our minds are under constant attack by real and important media bombardments of racial division, complex political struggles and worldwide terrorism.  This necessary but brutal truth threatens our faith in our species, our common humanity and the humble desire we all share: to live in peace and to cultivate a world for our children that is a little more decent than the one we navigated.  

To keep the gale force winds of corruption, violence and evil from extinguishing our flickering hope candles, it is important to remind ourselves that the vast majority of earthlings can’t fathom belittling, disrespecting, discriminating against or terrorizing another human based on differences in gender, skin color, religion, sexual orientation, national origin or any other differentiating factor.  We want to live.  We want to love.  We just want to be. 

Most of us, that is, but not all of us.

The minority who do not, the peddlers of darkness who purposely cultivate fear and anxiety, often dominant the headlines.  The media has the responsibility to report, of course, but the human psyche and the economics of limited space and endless consumer options heavily influence the message.  Hate, horrific acts and apocalyptic declarations get eyes on papers and (more importantly now) entice clicks.  Shock and awe sells.  That’s why weather-dependent programs lust for any and every atmospheric disturbance and name storms (and embellish the impact) with anything over a 48-hour life expectancy. 

This is all evidence of what the psychology community would call the negativity bias - the human tendency to remember and to be impacted more significantly by negative than positive events.  Fighting this innate urge and maintaining a glass half full outlook while disturbing events are reported from sea to shining sea and all over the world is, quite literally, a mental wrestling match. 
Every time the compulsive negativity is restrained after processing the horror of Sandy Hook Elementary School, Aurora, Colorado, Virginia Tech, Charleston, South Carolina, the Navy Yard and Baltimore, Maryland, there are more incomprehensible insults to our optimism.

Orlando.  Paris.  Dallas.  Nice.  Baton Rouge.  Turkey…

So yeah, every now and then, we need something like the Olympics, the opening ceremony and the Parade of Nations to combat the negative bias and remind ourselves of decency and spirit that still exists in the world and its most sophisticated inhabitants.  Obviously there’s much to criticize about these Rio Games – Zika, Russian doping issues, bacteria-filled waterways and the poor infrastructure that was slapped together just-in-time (or not-quite-in-time).  There is also the environmental stain left behind at past Olympic venues and the perpetual corruption of the International Olympic Committee. 

I get it.  I’m not blind to it.  Frankly, I started this piece with the intent of criticizing the choice of fellow Marylander Michael Phelps - he of two DUI arrests, a 2014 suspension from USA Swimming and documented marijuana use – as the flag bearer for the United States Olympic team.  There were better choices – literally hundreds of them.  Phelps, in his fifth Olympics, didn’t need the additional attention and despite his 22 Olympic medals (the most ever), he didn’t deserve to be the symbol for the United States Olympic team.  His swimming talent has raised Old Glory many times; his performance out of the pool didn’t warrant him raising it ahead of the Rio Games.  


But then the overwhelming beauty of the Parade of Nations – thousands of athletes from around the world celebrating their countries, themselves and global athletic competition – overwhelmed my negativity bias of Phelps, hijacked this article sent it in a far more important direction.  I’m thankful for the tangent.  Now there’s something I never said in geometry class.

Unlikely Prudence

As published in The County Times (countytimes.somd.com)

By Ronald N. Guy Jr.

Washington QB Kirk Cousins pocketed $2.7M total during his first four years in the NFL.  This coming season alone, Cousins will earn $19.953M on a one-year franchise tag. 

Despite the unimaginable raise, the prevailing suggestion, given the lucrative quarterback marketplace, is that Cousins should be insulted by the team’s disrespect of his talent. 

His accomplishments are inarguable: In 2015, the final year of his rookie contract, Cousins led Washington to a division title, set a single-season franchise record for passing yards and provided a definitive exit from the disastrous Robert Griffin III era.  And for all this, Cousins got “rewarded” with a prove-it-again deal.  Preposterous.  Washington should have showered Cousins with a long-term contract and football riches reserved only for elite quarterbacks.  Instead, the organization slapped Cousins with the one-year franchise tag and ultimately failed to reach a multi-year contract extension by the July 15 deadline.

Washington did Captain Kirk dirty.

That’s the rhetoric being spewed by many media spin doctors.  The reality is there’s nothing to see here.  Two entities assessed a professional situation and made individual business decisions.  The world will continue to rotate.  Cousins will work hard and, barring injury, start at quarterback this fall.  Washington coaches will work intensely to ensure his and the team’s success.  Should Cousins thrive in 2016, the process will repeat itself again: Cousins will either play under the franchise tag at an increased 2017 salary of $24M or sign a long-term contract. 

While it is rare for franchised players to actually play out the one-year contract and almost unprecedented for quarterbacks to do so, this scenario makes perfect sense for both Washington and Cousins considering the root of the impasse: a volatile quarterback market.  This offseason, Andrew Luck set the bar after signing a six-year, $140M contract with Indianapolis.  Meanwhile, Brock Osweiler, an average signal-caller, inked a four-year, $72M deal with Houston that includes $37M in guarantees. 

Where does Cousins fall on the Luck-Osweiler continuum?  Well, it’s hard to say, hence the stalemate.  The dollars that Luck received provoked Cousins to bet on himself and another big season; conversely, the guaranteed money being commanded by quarterbacks and Cousins’s relatively shallow resume (he’s just 11-14 as a starter), gave Washington justifiable pause.
Nobody blinked during negotiations – so here we are.

Given Washington’s compliment of offensive weapons, its shaky running game and modest defensive talent, it is probable that Cousins will throw often and compile impressive numbers.  It is also probable that with each big statistical outing – victorious or not – Washington’s front office will be ripped for failing to lock up its quarterback. 

Fair enough.  Such debate moves the needle.  But not overpaying to reach a long-term deal was absolutely the right move.  With a salary cap of $155.3M and a 53-man roster to fill, if a team pays elite quarterback money, it must ensure it will receive elite quarterback play - and even if it does, the inequitable allocation of financial resources produces uneven results. 

Some of the best quarterbacks in the league – Drew Brees, Aaron Rodgers, Ben Roethlisberger and Russell Wilson – won Super Bowls on below-market contracts.  After slipping on their rings and scoring big deals, more Super Bowls didn’t always follow.  Baltimore Ravens QB Joe Flacco is the most obvious example of the elite quarterback financial trap: After winning the Super Bowl in 2013, Flacco signed a six-year, $121M contract.  The Ravens have managed just one winning season since.  But he’s not alone: In 2012, two years after winning the Super Bowl, New Orleans signed Brees to a five-year, $100M contract.  In the four subsequent seasons, their record is 32-32.

Considering its decades of instability at the most important position in team sports, Washington should feel fortunate to have Cousins.  And the hunch is a long-term deal gets done next summer.  But there was no reason to rush to pay a relatively unproven asset this year.  Every team – athletic or otherwise - needs its quarterback, but individual positions don’t sustain success and win championships, teams do.  Washington’s prudent handling of the Cousins negotiations was true to this formula. 


Did I just use “Washington” and “prudent” in the same sentence?   

Sunday, July 17, 2016

A Platform for Change

As published in The County Times (countytimes.somd.com)

By Ronald N. Guy Jr.

Recent sports headlines have been dominated by an all-star NBA forward from Maryland.  No, not the ‘Skins fan from Prince George’s County.  Oh he’s gotten plenty of run after snubbing the Wizards, crushing dreams in Oklahoma City and inking a deal with the Golden State Warriors, the NBA’s first non-LeBron-James Evil Empire in years.  Pause The Kevin Durant Chronicles for a moment; a former resident of Baltimore, the land of orange, purple and Natty Boh, stirred up far more important publicity last week.

I’m not a fan of New York Knicks forward Carmelo Anthony.  Yes, he’s a big-time scorer who can flat out drain the orange.  But he’s an obligatory defender, his effort is questionable and there’s no evidence that he makes his teammates better.  One dimensional.  Generally overrated.  Not my cup of tea. 

That’s Anthony the player.  But Anthony the man and unexpected political activist?  That guy has my attention.  That guy has my respect.  In an overwhelmingly sad week that saw police shoot and kill Philando Castile and Alton Sterling and Micah Johnson kill five officers in Dallas, Anthony took to social media to express his outrage.  Here are his paraphrased thoughts (the post is worth reading in its entirety):

“We need to steer our anger in the right direction…towards the system.  Shooting 11 cops and killing 5 WILL NOT work…we need to come together more than anything at this time.  We need each other.  I’m calling on my fellow athletes to step up and take charge.  There’s NO more sitting back and being afraid of tackling and addressing political issues anymore.  THE TIME IS NOW.  DEMAND CHANGE.”

When confronted with domestic or international turmoil, I often turn to Fareed Zakaria’s book “The Post-American World” for solace.  In it, Zakaria argues that, by historical comparison, we occupy a peaceful world, one whose cultural and economic interconnectivity largely mitigates dangerous political discord and ill-intended personal or national ambition.  The evidence is convincing: We’ve achieved unprecedented levels of trade and economic prosperity; cultural barriers are reduced by travel and information exchange, and; large scale war between superpowers, the kind that results in massive casualties and global instability, doesn’t exist. 

Still, with alarmingly frequent terrorist attacks and senseless killings, it is difficult to remain hopeful in humanity’s grand earthly coexistence, despite Zakaria’s logical, fact-based counterpoints.  Human nature as it is, it seems that stereotypes will corrupt the small-minded, greed will infect the ambitious and religious zealotry will distort the worship of a god into an instrument of pure evil. 

The tendency for decent, loving and well-intended individuals is to respond to social calamity by controlling what they can – personal attitudes and actions and the world view of youths they influence – and steadfastly remaining part of the solution.  The development of strategies that promote the world’s safety, progressive international relationships and the infrastructure for social fellowship and equality is deferred to a nation’s leaders, a term often synonymous with politicians.      
Given the scope of today’s challenges, that is mostly an understandable and defensible reaction.  For what happened in Minnesota, Louisiana and Texas during America’s Independence week, it isn’t enough.  The world has a common opponent who is terrorizing free, peaceful people around the globe.  Yet here we are in America, the allegedly most diverse, open and tolerant nation in the world, struggling with senseless internal violence.  We have to demand better of ourselves, resist shameful stereotypes and appreciate and promote our common humanity. 


That is part of Anthony’s point.  The added layer is that while sports is a fun, joyous reprieve from the ugliness of everyday life, there comes a time when it should be more.  Anthony’s fed up and willing to use his NBA platform to be a change agent; he’s challenging colleagues to do the same.  We should all applaud his courageous activism and stand behind him, Knicks fan or not.  Otherwise we’re just individuals left rereading books or returning to other familiar outlets to soothe the pain of the latest crisis and retain hope in our flawed species.  For me, Anthony’s crusade is well-time; I need more than Zakaria’s wisdom to maintain faith in this world.     

Work v. Playtime

As published in The County Times (countytimes.somd.com)

By Ronald N. Guy Jr.

The last week or so has been a struggle.  I’ve watched Australian Rules Football, random College World Series games and “Without Bias”, a 2009 ESPN documentary on the death of former Maryland Basketball star Len Bias, three times.  I’ve even trolled the internet like a pathetic TMZ junkie for 
Johnny Manziel chatter.  Is a 2 a.m. table tennis tournament next? 

The problem: I’m a sports addict without an adequate fix.  I need whiskey shots, but the only elixir available is Coors Light.  I’m pounding Silver Bullets but they just don’t deliver the desired effect.  Maybe I need to go “Old School”, channel my inner Frank the Tank and deploy a beer bong. 
I should have a compensatory protocol; this happens every year.  See, the moment the Fightin’ LeBron’s defeated the Golden State Warriors and exercised Cleveland’s demons, sports fans were tossed into a cold, harsh world with only one active major sport (MLB).  No frozen pucks or slap shots.  No touchdowns or daily fantasy football binges.  No more three point bombs.  This is how Aussie football ends up on one’s television.  I even caught myself reading about Great Britain’s departure from the European Union.  #Brexit!  Help…

Finding inspiration in these depressed athletic times is difficult, but a Norseman - by trade, anyway - managed to do so.  When asked during a recent ESPN interview about his remaining NFL shelf life, Minnesota Vikings running back Adrian Peterson, 31, offered an interesting reply.  “Training camp, going through the grind, OTAs and all that – that will definitely be a deciding factor.  Physically, body-wise, I’ll be good.  It’s just mentally…it’s so repetitive that it’s more suited toward the young guys…it gets kind of boring.”

For the average person who trudges into work five days a week for 40 years just to keep the utilities on and some connection to the middle class, Peterson’s comments sound like pouty, million-dollar-athlete syndrome.  Oh yeah, it’s torturous to throw some weights around daily, casually run mock football plays in shorts and spend a little time with coaches in the film room.  Poor Adrian Peterson.  How does he survive the toil?  He’s a working man’s hero. 

Pausing the sail down the river of sarcasm, a fair consideration of Peterson’s soundbite must acknowledge two points.  First, while Peterson might not be the best mentor for fathers, he is among the NFL’s hardest workers, having once rushed for 2,000 yards less than a year after reconstructive knee surgery.  He is a symbol of the year-round commitment to fitness the game requires and the death of the pot-bellied era of Sonny Jurgensen.  Second, and more significantly, football, as compared to other sports, demands arduous preparation.  Offseason programs begin in April.  Organized Team Activities (OTAs) are in May.  Training camps start in July.  Preseason games are played in August.  The regular season runs from September through December and includes obsessive strategizing between games.  And for what?  Sixteen games at three hours apiece - 48 hours of glory.  And the best of the best only play half (offense or defense).  That’s a lot of work for very little playtime and a far cry from the 162 MLB games and 82 NBA and NHL games per year.  No wonder there’s so much exuberance and passion on Sundays – it’s playtime!

In that context, Peterson’s point is understandable.  Football demands a lot of squeezing for very little juice.  Looking to real life for comps, I suppose it’s similar to the maturation of a complex weapon system, a process that takes years and climaxes with a few test events.  Or a presentation that takes weeks to develop, research and practice for a single, two-hour delivery.  Or maybe it’s even like writing, a process the great Red Smith described in these terms: “Writing is easy.  Just sit in front of a typewriter, open up a vein and bleed.” 


Heading into his tenth NFL season, I get Peterson’s boredom with the grind.  Am I sympathetic?  What with a metaphorical vein open and an early morning alarm for another 20 years?  No, not hardly.  Pro football’s still a comparatively good gig, even if gamedays are rare treats.  

Hating LeBron James

As published in The County Times (countytimes.somd.com)

By Ronald N. Guy Jr.

Four games into The NBA Finals, Player A has averaged 21.5 points, five rebounds, 4.8 assists and one steal per game.  Player B has averaged 24.8 points, 11 rebounds, 8.3 assists and 2.3 steals.  Player A is reigning MVP Stephen Curry.  Player B is LeBron James.  Since Curry’s Golden State Warriors are up 3-1, he’s so likeable and his daughter is so darn cute, his mediocrity is getting a pass.  With the Cleveland Cavaliers on the brink of elimination, James is being eviscerated, again.  See when James’s teams lose, The King gets blamed, fairness and objectivity be damned.     

In her song “32 Flavors”, Ani DiFranco sings, “Everyone harbors a secret hatred for the prettiest girl in the room.”  James personifies this lyric, in part: He’s often the prettiest player on the court, but the hatred of him is no secret.     

James is inarguably one of the greatest athletes of all time.  He’s in the company of Michael Jordan, Bo Jackson, Jim Brown and Jim Thorpe.  At 6’8”, 250lbs of chiseled granite, James is a tank on the court.  He jumps like Jordan, runs like Bo Jackson, dribbles like a point guard and has the quickness of an NFL cornerback.    

This confluence of athletic gifts anointed James “The Chosen One” before he could legally drink.  Twelve years into his NBA career, it would seem James has done little to disappoint.  His accomplishments include 12 All-Star selections, four league MVP awards, two Finals MVP awards, 10 appearances on the All-NBA First Team, five appearances on the NBA All-Defensive Team, seven trips to The Finals and two NBA championships. 

But that’s just James’s basketball resume; his personal resume is comparably impressive.  Despite arriving in the NBA as a teenager with more expectations than any basketball player ever, James has navigated the fish bowl remarkably well.  He is a gentleman on the court, respectful of the media and a willing criticism-absorber for un-King-like teammates.  And unlike so many professional athletes, James’s name isn’t associated with late-night club incidents, DUIs, assaults on women, drug use or gun-related debauchery. 

Still, the world loves to hate on LeBron James; admittedly, he has obliged critics with legitimate material to fuel the skewering.  James’s game and persona have warts.  Despite generational physical gifts, James is a reluctant bully (unlike some presidential candidates).  When the spotlight is brightest, James often chooses to defer to teammates instead of dictating play.  For many players, this would be called “unselfishness”; for James, it’s considered a chronic weakness.  James also struggles in his own head.  His talent is obvious to the viewer’s eye, but James’s confidence, on occasion, inexplicably wavers.  Further, he’s failed to submit himself to an established coach (like Jordan, Magic Johnson).  And he rarely does himself any favors on Twitter.  Ultimately, though, there is this haunting statistic: The King’s a very un-regal 2-4 in The Finals.  Down 3-1 to the Warriors, the sharks are circling again.

So he isn’t Jordan or Bill Russell.  But we knew this five years ago – at least.  The Decision – James’s ill-fated televised announcement of his signing with the Miami Heat - and disastrous pep rally that followed happened six years ago.  Shouldn’t we have gotten our pound of The King’s flesh and accepted his place in NBA history as “one of the best”, not “the best”?    

I can’t think of another athlete like James.  He’s had missteps, but I’ve never seen an athlete whose accomplishments are so disrespected and one so disliked for no meaningful reason.  Do his critics consider him a failure?  Do they believe they would have done better if blessed with his skills?  Both are laughable suggestions and disrespectful of elite competition and the great teams James has battled. 


Here’s a worse thought: The tired trolling of James is indicative of a non-specific, destructive habit.  Whether buoyed by social media, a pervasive inferiority complex or a decline in civility, fault-finders are a swelling mob.  Damn the good in anyone if an ounce of fault can be found.  Through that lens, the vitriol criticism of James says a lot more about his critics than it does about the constantly embattled player.

Saturday, June 4, 2016

Parsing Opportunity’s Knock

As published in The County Times (countytimes.somd.com)

By Ronald N. Guy Jr.

The NBA’s Western Conference finals, an epic showdown between the Golden State Warriors and Oklahoma City Thunder, was stuffed with intrigue and oozing sex appeal. 

Golden State entered seeking a second consecutive championship and, after a record-setting 73-win regular season, an impressive closing argument for their case as the best team, like, ever.  Within the context of the Warriors’ team, Stephen Curry, the unanimous MVP, looked to add to his burgeoning resume and Klay Thompson, his criminally underrated backcourt mate, was seeking his own spot on a star-studded stage.   

In the other corner, the Thunder, having suffered season-sabotaging injuries to stars Russell Westbrook, Prince George’s County native Kevin Durant and Serge Ibaka in recent years, was finally healthy - and it showed.  Westbrook, a breathtaking athlete, solidified his place among the game’s elite and Durant’s desperation for his first title was a tribute to competitive athletics.  Collectively, the Thunder, after being relegated to second-class Western Conference citizenry behind the regal San Antonio Spurs and champion Warriors, played like an insulted bunch starved for appropriate acclaim.

As of the due date for this piece, six games had been played to a 3-3 stalemate.  Every affair was a non-stop high-wire act.  Three-point shots rained from the heavens.  The pace was relentless.  Westbrook sliced to the basket with video game speed and abandon.  Warriors forward Draymond Green let his raw emotions roam – for good or ill.  The teams were two heavyweight fighters throwing haymakers in the middle of the ring.  Blood and sweat was everywhere.  There were epic collisions at the rim, kicks to the groin (literally) and bodies were all over the floor – all while the scoreboard registered with pinball machine glee.  It was just…exhilarating.

With that introduction, it would be ridiculous to suggest that the series’ most compelling storyline had nothing to do with the basketball played between the lines, but that’s exactly what I’m going to do.  Unless LeBron James, Michael Jordan or athletes of similar ilk lay eyes on this article, it’s unlikely any reader can relate to the unconscious shooting of Curry and Thompson, the silky-smooth, 6’11” Durant or dunking over seven-footers in traffic like Westbrook.  What is transferrable to the average-sized, modestly athletic mass of humanity is the journey that landed the two suits – Golden State head coach Steve Kerr and his Oklahoma City counterpart, Billy Donovan – on their respective sidelines.     

A career playbook for the ambitious would undoubtedly include the following entries: be dedicated and trustworthy; work hard; develop a diverse skill-set; exude a positive attitude; establish a strong reputation; create opportunities for advancement and seize them.  It would difficult to argue against any of these bedrocks of success; however, Kerr and Donovan’s pilgrimage to the NBA head coaching ranks adds an interesting caveat to the eager acceptance of opportunities.

See, Kerr and Donovan, neither of whom had previous NBA coaching experience, actually rejected other first-time NBA gigs before accepting their current jobs.  In May 2014, Kerr reneged on an alleged verbal commitment to coach the New York Knicks and reunite with Phil Jackson, his former head coach and current Knicks President, when Golden State offered up its head coaching position. 

Donovan took an even more methodical path to the NBA.  After winning back-to-back national championships as head coach at the University of Florida, Donovan accepted the head coaching position with the Orlando Magic in 2007.  He backed out days later and returned to Florida where he coached until accepting the Oklahoma City job last spring. 

The interesting point is neither Kerr nor Donovan blindly jumped on their first chance to ascend their profession’s summit – just to say they made it.  Instead, they critiqued all aspects of the opportunity – the timing, pay, organization, home city and roster talent – and rebuffed would-be suitors, confident that other doors would open and at peace if they didn’t. 


Their gamble paid off.  It is impossible to know what the Knicks job would have meant for Kerr’s career or the Magic job for Donovan’s, but suffice to say, both have found NBA success.  And isn’t success - more than pay, fancy titles and speed to goal achievement – the point?