I have made the point before that great players do not necessarily make good coaches. Today, I will try to extend that thinking to GMs and use the NBA as my example. Vlade Divac was fired recently as the GM of the Sacramento Kings; he had been on the job since the start of the 2015/16 season. From that time until today, the Kings’ cumulative record was 129 – 189; the team was not involved in the playoffs in any of those seasons. [Aside: Those performances are not all that unusual to Sacramento fans. The last time the Kings were in the playoffs was at the end of the 2005/2006 season.]
Vlade Divac made some good moves as the GM but made several more that turned out to be lemons. The biggest rock he pulled out of a hat was selecting Marvin Bagley with the overall #2 pick in the 2018 draft and passing on Luka Doncic. Bagley is averaging 14.8 points per game and 7.6 rebounds per game playing a little over 25 minutes per game. Those are not the stats for a “draft bust” by any means – – but Luka Doncic appears to be on a trajectory to genuine stardom in the NBA.
Divac was a very good professional basketball player; he was elected to the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame in 2019. When I think of “great players” who then tried their hand as a GM in the NBA here are the ones that come to mind:
- Elgin Baylor (Clippers)
- Michael Jordan (technically, he was the Team President of the Wizards)
- Isiah Thomas (Knicks)
The teams under Divac’s leadership along with the teams under the leadership of those other three Hall of Fame players were “less than fully successful”. And before everyone dashes to their email programs to remind me, I will acknowledge here that Jerry West had an immensely successful run as the GM of the Lakers; and I consider him to be the exception that proves the rule.
And speaking of basketball, the 2020/2021 college basketball season is still up in the air. Nominally, teams would begin to practice in late October and begin the season around December 1st. The early season would see lots of teams traveling to far flung places for invitational tournaments and there would be tune-up games for some top teams that would be nothing more than monstrous mismatches. Then the season would get serious around New Year’s.
There are about 350 NCAA schools that play Division 1 men’s basketball; I do not know that all – or even a majority – of those schools will be prepared to start the next season on the “normal timeline”. Moreover, the extensive travel involved in getting to and from some of those early season tournaments could be a deterrent for such endeavors. In fact, travel to and from games will probably be a big deal for basketball teams in whatever the next season looks like. In college football, a Power 5 team rarely travels more than 5 or 6 times in a normal season. There are a lot of folks and gear to bring along, but it is not a frequent occurrence. College basketball teams often make as many as 15 trips to “away games” and invitational tournaments in a single season. In the days of COVID-19, travel is a challenge.
Prudent planning for the next college basketball season ought to include an option for a delayed start to the season – – say January 1, 2021 for example. If that were to be the way next season were to happen, there needs to be concurrent planning for when and how to deal with the tournament that might not be known next year as “March Madness”. If the idea is to get in 90% or more of the games already scheduled for the season that would normally start on December 1st, then the date and possibly the place for “March Madness” will need to be altered – – unless of course every conference agreed not to hold their end-of-season conference tournaments which would not make the folks at ESPN happy at all and ESPN is a major source of revenue for college basketball.
If the season has to start late AND if March Madness is to go on as planned, there will be a lot of interconference games that will need to be canceled and that will make the Selection Committee’s decisions even more subjective than they are in normal years. If that happens, we will not need to wait for the end of the age as explained in the Bible to experience great weeping and gnashing of teeth; the calls to the sports talk radio shows will have more than a little of that stuff contained therein.
So, here is a one-time suggestion for a tournament to be held in late March after a season with a delayed start.
- There are no guaranteed invitations to the tournament.
- There are no “play-in games”; there will be 64 teams in the field.
- The Selection Committee will do a “secret ballot” with each member seeding their Top 64 teams starting with #1 and going through to #64.
- Those ballots will ultimately be revealed but the way the field will be determined is to sum up the seedings of all members and then to count the number of members who have that team on their Seeding List. The 64 teams with the lowest total divided by the number of Seeding Lists that the team appears on.
- The public revelation of all ballots will provide accountability for the Committee members to alleviate somewhat the obvious conflicts of interest some of those members have given their full-time jobs.
Finally, here is a point to ponder from Dwight Perry of the Seattle Times:
“If drinking a glass of red wine can equate to an hour of exercise — as a study published in the Journal of Physiology suggests — will this pandemic produce a whole new generation of world-class athletes?”
But don’t get me wrong, I love sports………