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Thursday, October 04, 2007

Scott Skiles Decides to No Longer Be a Member of the Fashion Police

To paraphrase Allen Iverson, we're talking about headbands--not a missed practice, not a missed workout, certainly not a missed game or any kind of lack of effort; we're talking about headbands. For some mysterious reason, Scott Skiles--who otherwise appears to be a very good coach--sees some connection between wearing a headband and on court productivity. That led to a very celebrated showdown last season with his star center Ben Wallace, who would no sooner go into battle without his headband than the fastidious Jerry Rice would have taken the field without his uniform looking immaculate. Athletes are creatures of habit and routine and if they are productive and their habits/routines are harmless I have never understood why a coach would try to disrupt his own players' rhythm. In a recent post I mentioned that Bill Russell recalled that Red Auerbach did not believe in setting curfews for his players and in general wanted to set up as few rules as possible. Joe Lapchick had a similar philosophy and his thinking on this subject influenced Bobby Knight. Phil Jackson could care less what color Dennis Rodman's hair was as long as the Worm grabbed 15 rebounds and played good defense. That does not mean that Jackson was soft; if Rodman missed a practice, then Jackson fined him but he did not turn the matter into a confrontation or a public spectacle and the team moved forward (and won three titles with Rodman playing the third most important role behind Michael Jordan and Scottie Pippen). John Madden used to say that he had only three rules as a coach: be on time, pay attention and play like hell on Sunday.

So Bulls fans just received the best news that they could have gotten (other than trading for Kobe Bryant without giving up Luol Deng): Skiles has decided to turn in his fashion police badge and let Wallace wear a headband this season. That means less internal turmoil in the locker room and more energy and focus being directed where it should be, on beating the opposition. In a related story, new Sacramento Kings coach Reggie Theus has instituted a curfew for his team on the road and banned cellphones on the team bus. Theus, who ironically was known as "Rush Street Reggie" during his playing career, no doubt has first hand knowledge of how nocturnal activities can be a distraction for players but if he wants to have a long and successful NBA coaching career then he should heed the wisdom of Lapchick, Auerbach and Jackson and pull back the reins a bit.

posted by David Friedman @ 1:09 AM

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