What's Up Doc?
Cavalier fans spent the weekend with an immoveable smile on their faces. That's what comes with a blowout win over the despised Boston Celtics on Friday night.
With the win over the Celtics on Friday the Cavs announced to the entire league, perhaps for the first time in team history, that they are legitimate contenders for the NBA title. Nearly as important, they emphatically announced to the Celtics that there is neither fear nor trepidation on the part of the Cavs when facing Boston and their Big Three.
The 15-point victory was rewarding. But the more enjoyable aspect may have been the agonized expressions on the faces of Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett and the deer-in-the-headlights look of Boston coach Doc Rivers near the end of the game.
Make no mistake; the Celtics are reeling. The loss to the Cavs was Boston's 7th in the last 10 games (heading into their Sunday match up with Toronto) and three of those losses came to Golden State, New York and Charlotte, none of whom are playing at even a .375 clip.
Let's not forget the man charged with pulling the Celtics out of this tailspin they are currently in is Glenn ‘Doc' Rivers. This is a coach who had never won more than 45 games in a season before Danny Ainge dropped Garnett and Ray Allen in his lap last season. This is a coach whose win total had decreased each season since taking the reins in Boston in 2004-05, from 45 in that first season to only 24 in 2006-07.
In short folks, this is a coach who reminds The Wrap of Romeo Crennel but in a nicer suit.
Take away his record with three potential Hall of Fame players in his lineup and Doc is a sub .500 coach who averaged 34 wins a year in Boston prior to Ainge's deals.
Doc definitely has Cleveland in the back of his mind even as he tries to help steady the staggering Celtics. A quote that ran on ESPN's recap after the game is telling: "The day LeBron was drafted made it a tougher place to play. I'm just going to leave it there."
That's not a swipe at Cleveland fans for being a fair weather fan base. It's an acknowledgement that his team struggles mightily playing here as they're facing a very talented basketball team and 20,000 fans that are into the game from the opening tip. Doc is telling you that he hears you and that you're not making it easy to come here and leave with a win.
And he should know. Not since December 2004 have the Celtics won a game in Cleveland.
The Cavs are for real, the Celtics are reeling and a mediocre coach is acknowledging that he's feeling the heat. There's a lot of basketball to be played and Boston is talented. But you really have to like the position that the Cavs have put themselves and Boston in as they head to the second half of the season. And you really have to wonder if Doc Rivers has what it takes to help stop the Celtics season from deteriorating further.
Spare Us the ‘Moral Victories'
A loss is a loss at Ohio State.
There should be no pride in losing a close game to a quality program when you yourself are a perennial recruiting and football power.
The bottom line in Texas beating OSU 24-21 in the Tostito's Fiesta Bowl is not that Ohio State played hard and it's not that the Buckeyes may have helped restore some luster to their much-maligned program. Rather, it's that people are accepting of that being enough.
It's not and it never should be. This is a program that should contend for a BCS bowl and a national championship in most seasons.
But if the above is true then it's also true that there is no need for an overhaul in Columbus, as some have suggested. No drastic departures regarding philosophy or style and no sweeping changes in regard to approach. Despite the last three BCS bowl losses this is a rock-solid program. Despite the last three BCS bowl games Jim Tressel is among the best and brightest of NCAA football coaches. The Buckeyes, their fans and Tressel need a happy medium. Tressel recruits and lands some of the best athletes in the country. He needs to loosen their reins and let them play. He needs to trust in the system and in the kids he recruits to fully exploit the talents they bring.
3 yards and a cloud of dust is a bygone era and philosophy. There are games and situations where it applies but the game has changed. Tressel needs to adapt to those changes as well. It's not necessarily an issue of ‘speed' or ‘spread'. The Buckeyes have plenty of the former and have implemented some of the latter. Tressel has to further shift the paradigm so that the 5-star athletes he recruits are not neutered by a system that shackles them.
Hey coach, recruit them, instill in them discipline and technique and then let them go. The soft Big 10 allows you to experiment and train with live ammunition. There will be bumps and set backs and the occasional need to scale things back. But scaled back should not be the top gear these kids play in. They're capable of more. And while it's still clearly "In Tress We Trust" you and your program are capable of more.
And that should scare the hell out of the rest of the country.
People vs. Process
The Wrap is firmly behind the thought that you need a blend of terrific people and solid process to make an organization great. Let's reject immediately the thought that you can effectively eliminate one in favor of more of the other. But the Wrap also believes that if you are a slave to process you are in deep, deep water without a life jacket. Management by checklist is the quickest way to ruin an organization and drive away qualified people.
That's why the Wrap is not extremely upset that the Browns hired Eric Mangini as head coach earlier in the week prior to actually hiring a GM. If owner Randy Lerner and the organization identified Mangini as the right man to run the team then you go out and get him and lock him down.
The Browns were in the unenviable position of having to hire the two most prominent positions in the football organization at one time. They chose the coach first. That said, the SS Browns ship now has a skipper but there's still no one charting the course.
The Browns need to now take their time and exhaust all options with their GM choice. They can't afford to fail from an organizational standpoint. It's going to be up to Randy Lerner and the new GM to make sure this organization takes the shape of other effective organizations. They need to establish a clear identity. Not only on the field but off of it. This requires that all roles be clearly defined and that they have the necessary depth organizationally. Randy Lerner can not and does not want to be the face out front that the Browns desperately need. That's fine. But Lerner does have to recognize the need for such a figure and find one. That may or may not ultimately be the GM that is hired. If it is, well, great. But if the new GM doesn't have that experience then Randy needs to find a liaison to position between himself and the GM to make sure there is a clear path from the owner on down.
If Lerner wants to be insulated and out of the limelight in regard to this football team then now is the time for due diligence to make sure the organization allows for it and benefits from it.
Mulligans are expensive Mr. Lerner. They cost you cash and credibility. And you've used yours up.
Think Warm Thoughts
5 weeks until pitchers and catchers report to Goodyear, AZ for Spring Training.
That is all.