January 20, 2004
If you didn't already, you should check out Bill Simmons' rambling Friday column . . . it defies summary (ice boogers! lunch with porn stars!), but this was my favorite part:
[W]e might as well call it "Martzitis" because he's the most famous case. Certain coaches have a pathological need to win on their terms -- they call ridiculous naked bootlegs and wide receiver screens in big moments, instead of just keeping things simple and putting their best players in position to make plays. Martz does this more than anyone. How many times did we see things like "Marc Bulger rolling out on a naked bootleg on third down, then getting creamed" in big situations?
Take the Rams-Pats Super Bowl. From everything Belichick said in the weeks and months following that game, he planned his defensive strategy based on Martz's ego: Even though Faulk was Martz's meal ticket, Belichick banked on Martz overthinking things, dipping into his bag of crazy plays and trying to do too much to win the game. So Belichick dropped extra people in coverage, used various blitzes and dared the Rams to run the ball. He knew Martz wouldn't bite. It was too easy -- Martz couldn't win that way. And it wasn't until the Rams fell behind that they simplified things and made a late charge.
Well, the same thing happened against the Panthers. They spent three quarters running crazy plays and screwing around, and it wasn't until the fourth quarter -- down by 11, eight minutes to play -- that they started moving the ball with Faulk (mostly screens and straightforward runs, which set up the longer passes downfield). Needless to say, they ended up tying the game. And when they needed that two-point conversion, suddenly they weren't running naked bootlegs with Bulger anymore.
Here's my point: Good coaches don't care how they win. They don't care about scripting the first 20 plays or incorporating those four trick plays they whispered to Simms and Gumbel on Friday. Guys like Fisher, Reid, Belichick and Gruden keep sticking around in January because they don't mess around.
This, of course, is a common affliction outside of football as well; Tony LaRussa is perhaps baseball's most notorious example, although I can think of examples of managers like Bobby Valentine, Bobby Cox and Roger Craig managing themselves out of some games by insisting on doing it their way and imposing their own personal touches on what ought to be the players' game.
I think Bill James once talked about this in reference to someone (Gene Mauch?) being "a genius caught in the throes of creativity."
And you left out this thought from the Sports Guy:
D.) Watching Isiah slowly ruin the Knicks -- in the same week that Clemens boned over all the Yankee fans -- has been one of the greatest ...
(Actually, I don't want to jinx anything. I'll shut up.)
All I'll say is that as a Nets fan, I've been thoroughly enjoying the Thomas Era so far
I actually can't really disagree with anything Isiah's done so far, much as I dislike the guy. The only really bad move is bringing in Penny Hardaway, and they had to do that to get Marbury. But I can understand why Nets fans are down on Marbury.
I think you can certainly argue that Isiah has locked the Knicks into a future where they are good, but can never be good enough, given that Marbury and Penny's contracts doom them in terms of the cap. But the alternative, which would be a real rebuilding, was presumably ruled out by Isiah's bosses. So given that he had a mandate to win now, I think his moves have been sound. He did a dreadful job handling the dismissal of Don Cheney, but his lack of class there does not have lasting on-court implications, and he stumbled into hiring the winningest coach in NBA history, so it turned out for the best.
I'm still suspicious on Isiah, but so far I think he's done okay.