Wanna Get Away?

If you were watching NBA action last night, the early time-slot marquee matchup was the San Antonio Spurs against the defending champions, the Miami Heat. The game was a close fought affair, with Ray Allen hitting a clutch 3-point shot down the stretch to give the Heat the 105-100 win.

However, the topic of discussion was that legendary Spurs Head Coach, Gregg Popovich sent Tim Duncan, Tony Parker, Manu Ginobili and Danny Green home the night before of the final game of a brutal six game, in nine night road trip.

The Spurs, who have won four NBA Championships during “Pops” reign as head coach, have been know to rest their veterans at times to survive the grueling 82-game regular season schedule to prepare for the playoff push. Popovich obviously is sensitive to the “marathon” which is the regular season, so his veterans can make their annual push in the “sprint” that is the NBA playoffs.

Popovich, highly regarded and a true ambassador of the game, did acknowledge, “If I was taking my 6-year-old son or daughter to the game, I would want them to see everybody, and if they weren’t there, I’d be disappointed. So I understand that perspective. Hopefully, people in that position will understand my perspective. My priority is the basketball team and what is best for it.”

As a coach, I of course, side with Popovich and will be interested to see the discipline that Commissioner David Stern has vowed to serve.

However, this for me is not the story. The real story is that the players went home the night before, from Orlando to San Antonio…on a commercial Southwest Airlines flight.

Can you imagine that?

Imagine taking this flight from Orlando to San Antonio on a random Wednesday night in late November. Hopefully you are in Group A or B. If not you have to wait until the C group boards. That’s annoying. Even more annoying than that may be that you have to ask your fellow passengers what number they are when you board your group. This seems like an apparent “icebreaker” strategy by Southwest so that its passengers meet each other before they board the plane. Maybe this is a marketing strategy to increase passenger comfort and therefore future sales. Either way it makes you feel like the first day of kindergarten.

“Mr. Duncan, I am A36. I think your ticket says you are in A37.”

“No problem Mr. Parker, I see you are A35. Go right ahead.”

So as you board the plane in between of the two future NBA Hall of Famers, the stewardess notifies the passengers that the plane is going to be at capacity. As you select your aisle seat, you realize that these are not regular passengers. They are BIG human beings. Knees and elbows are all over the place. They jam their carry-ons into the overhead compartments and scrunch your personal items.

“I hope that bottle of Key Lime BBQ sauce didn’t explode.”

Next Duncan, Parker and Ginobili sit behind you. Great. Again knees are in your back and the perennial All-Stars cannot get comfortable. They toss and jostle all flight long. If they were screaming, you would think that they were a bunch of four-year olds who were out of control.

On the other hand, Mr. Green is sitting in front of you and he reclines his seat which seems like it goes extra far back. He is in your lap basically. Now you are having a tough time doing the sudoku puzzle in the complimentary Spirit magazine.

These players are too much.

“Peanuts or pretzels, Mr. Ginobili?”

Mr. Ginobili asks for the heart-shaped goldfish crackers. The flight is full and they are out. You have to be kidding Southwest! You know how Mr. Ginobili gets when he doesn’t get his heart-shaped goldfish crackers.

Seriously?

Now, Mr. Duncan heads to the restroom in the back of the plane. You don’t even want to imagine him jamming his 260 lb, 6’11” frame into that tiny space. It’s tough for normal sized people, never mind “The Big Fundamental.”

The seatbelt sign comes on and you cannot wait for the plane to land. As you begin your descent, you have to listen to Parker talk about how he hates landing and begins to tap the back of your seat in nervous anticipation. Really?

You are not out of the woods yet though. Other passengers turn their phones on and snag a picture or text/call a family member to tell them who is on board with them. Now you have random strangers who are coming into your personal space. Asking you to snap a shot or two.

“Can you please hold the iPhone camera a second or two after you push the button or the picture comes out blurry.”

You have an iPhone, but you are not a professional photographer so you “appreciate” the tip.

As you pull up to the gate, you still have to wait for the NBA Champs to grab their items since yours are squished in the back. More waiting. You start to smell Key Lime BBQ sauce.

Great.

“Geez, it is hot in here,” declares Green.

Yeah, thanks ‘Master of the Obvious.’

Eventually you begin to deplane and you are very excited to get off this flight. Great no baggage claim, you just want to get out of here. However, Duncan is holding up the deplaning because he was to get the Southwest credit card so he can get the reward points.

“If I take a few more flights, I will be eligible for a free flight!”

“Come on, you have to be joking Tim!”

Thankfully your experience comes to an end and you head to your peaceful abode.

Or you could just ask for their autographs…

Or maybe the Spurs could upgrade them to business class…

Or maybe you should have just went to see the Spurs vs. Heat game to get away from them…

“You are now free to move about the country.”

Follow Bert DeSalvo on Twitter @CoachDeSalvo

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“Where Else Can You Buy A Dream For A Dollar?”

As I was sitting with my family the other day during the Thanksgiving holiday, my brother reminded me to “make sure you play the Powerball. The jackpot is ridiculous.” According to a recent story in the USA Today, the Powerball will reach upwards of $425 million and it seems that there will be a winner as most of the number combinations will have been played.

With that in mind, I have yet to run out and get my winning ticket. Maybe the coach in me is a pessimist or maybe I just understand the craze. I worked at a liquor store during my college days and sold these tickets at my place of employment. Therefore, I have seen the poor decision making by some who waste a whole paycheck on several hundred tickets, which really do not increase your odds of winning the jackpot.

Still, it is fun to think of what you would do if you won the big one.

For anyone, even professional athletes and big time coaches, that kind of money is life altering. With a little financial planning and the ability to say ‘no’ (distant family and friends included) one would never have to work ever again. EVER.

Still competition is in our blood and I asked myself “what would I do?” Would I still coach? Humm…We all have our daily struggles at our specific universities/colleges. As college coaches, we have to skillfully juggle our administration, boosters, summer camps, budgets and fundraising events to keep our programs flourishing and fiscally afloat. It is because of some of these things that some coaches lose their jobs or decide that the workload/hours is too overbearing and get out of the game.

After considering not coaching for a brief moment as that thought flashed in my mind, I answered the question with a resounding “yes”.

So I thought, I would coach for sure but it would be on my terms more or less. So I could buy my way into a position, but I would get resentment from most. I could coach high school or AAU for the love of the game, but I know I would want to be a the college level. Then it hit me! What if I could buy my own school? Just imagine if you could fund or partially fund a university/college where you could set up endowments and scholarship monies to help to pay for top notch facilities, professors, infrastructure and administrators. Couple that with a large payroll, even bigger budgets, rooms stocked with athletic apparel, and a top flight weight room. Needless to say, my mind was racing.

Now I know that this $425 million jackpot (don’t forget taxes) might not cover all of these expenses but let’s think outside the box and dream, o.k.?

So of course, we would need administrators, professors, buildings and majors. These would all have to be carefully selected. Remember we can mimic the thought process of Philanthropist John Hammond in Jurassic Park, “spared no expense” so I am not too worried about luring top echelon professors from the Ivy Leagues, etc. Then we need to select the location of the university. West coast vs. East coast? Should it be a liberal arts or a research institution? Decisions, decisions, decisions.

Lots of choices will have to be made, but let’s get to the fun stuff. From a basketball standpoint, just imagine designing your own athletic building! Coaches offices, state-of-the-art film room, athletic fields, training and rehabilitation facilities. New copy machines and printers (I battle daily with my 1996 HP model) and more than adequate staffing. A strength and conditioning coach too! Air-conditioning courts during the summer months, really?

Spared no expense.

Now let’s talk gear. Nike, Adidas, or Under Armour? Who cares. Use whatever distributor you want and put as many logos on it as you desire. Money is no object.

And for the founder of this new institution, a life time contract. Wow! Imagine coaching with that type of security. I can see where it could be dangerous if the founder/head coach was lazy and abused their power, which can happen, trust me. However, all things being equal though, that would be pretty amazing.

It is fun to dream. A true wish list. Some of these things may seem trivial to you and your program but to some low DI’s and many DII’s and DIII’s, they are on the tops of their lists (especially a reliable printer!).

I do have one personal request. Parquet floor reminiscent of the old Boston Garden. That would be special to work on each and everyday. The older the better. Nostalgia sometimes trumps new.

Despite all of the great things that this type of scenario entails, as the Notorious B.I.G once said “Mo’ money, Mo’ problems” and there surely would be some given this situation. One issue for coaches would be how would they continue motivate student-athletes who have the best of everything? You can’t play the underdog card when you are rocking the best gear, traveling on luxury charters and eating great meals every road trip. As a Head Coach, I would continue to reiterate that we have no history and we have won nothing yet. Games are won on the court and that old parquet floor might serve as a reminder. In addition, I would still make our student-athletes fundraise, do community service and brand our program like every program in the country does. I would treat them great, but I would also treat them normal once they committed to the program. Nevertheless, it would be a challenge at times.

And what would you call this new school of higher education? “Insert your last name” University, Powerball College? What would the mascot be? A big red ball, in the Syracuse Orangeman genre? Hardly.

Given these circumstances I think Daydream University with a cloud as the mascot would be appropriate.
Also, the university would retire the number nine at the first home game too. It would be in honor of knowing that everyday members of our campus community woke up we would all be on “Cloud Nine.”

I am running out to buy my ticket now…

Follow Bert DeSalvo on Twitter @CoachDeSalvo