There has been enough debate on the MVP award, including three columns on this site — all in favor of James Harden.
Which, of course, means he will finish second. Or maybe not. I do know this: It is going to be interesting to see exactly how close the vote is from a historical perspective.
And speaking of history, I have a little (OK, a lot) of my own in the NBA.
So today, I’m going to share a few personal stories and awards. Hope you enjoy.
Best inspirational halftime speech: Doug Moe, Head Coach, Denver Nuggets
We were in the middle of a tough playoff series and things weren’t going well. We were down in the series 2-1 and behind by double digits at halftime. Our coach, Doug Moe, was frustrated looking for something to do to try to shift momentum in the series.
Maybe a lineup change to shift the matchups would be the key. It’s possible that coming out with a pressing strategy would do the trick. Doug was deep in thought grinding his brain cells together looking for an answer.
“F***!” He exclaimed loudly, looking for the answer in the halftime stat sheet.
After a minute with no clear solution jumping out at him, he uttered another curse.
“Double F***!” he said with authority (Doug always had a way with words).
He paced the length of the locker room in each direction, still looking at the stat sheet.
Triple F***! He bellowed. We were waiting anxiously for his brainstorm.
We looked up to see his face contorted in thought as he tried to come up with something. We could tell that he is working hard to come up with the right answer. A long pause ensued. Still thinking he said: “Fourple F***!”
Fourple? Really? We all started looking at each other as we tried to keep from laughing. The tension in the room popped like a balloon as our concentration and anxiety disappeared instantly. Psychologists call that a “pattern interrupt”. It was so absurd yet perfectly timed. With renewed freedom and energy, we went out for the second half.
I don’t have a clue what he said after that but we were able to play loose and turn the tide. We still lost the series, but Doug’s halftime speech was a classic!
Best tantrum ever: Bob “Chopper” Travaglini, Head Trainer, Denver Nuggets
In the 1980’s, most teams flew on commercial airline flights. Travel had to be planned months in advance since the travel rules were very specific. We usually traveled with a party of about 30 people, including the players, coaches, trainers, and some of the media.
When traveling on a game day it was required for the team to take the first available flight in the morning to minimize the risk of weather problems in the winter, or mechanical problems causing a team to be late or possibly miss a game. And some places were not that easy to get to. For instance, in 1983, flying from Denver to San Antonio required a stopover in Dallas.
One time we were flying from San Diego to Oakland. We played the Clippers and had to take the first available flight at 6:15 the next morning. To get to the airport on time we had a 3:45 am wake-up call with a 4:30 am bus departure from the hotel. Breakfast for me was a package of malted milk balls out of the vending machine.
As you can imagine, we were all pretty irritable. We got to the airport and the players found out that the only airline that had a nonstop was Air Cal, a budget airline. Normally the players are required to fly in first class seats, but in this rare occurrence the rule stipulated that the players must be booked in 3 seats for every 2 players so there would be an empty seat in between.
We all boarded and the players filled up 7 rows (three seats across) on one side of the plane with the middle seats empty. As was typical at that time, Chopper was both the trainer and traveling secretary. As the plane was finalizing boarding, Chopper was in the concourse calling the hotel in Oakland confirming that the rooms are ready for us to check in since we would be there by 9 a.m.
The stewardess makes her final count and sees that there are 7 empty seats. As the flight is oversold, she runs out and gets 7 people from the wait list and marches them on the plane to sit in our middle seats. We try to explain that the team paid for these seats, and that they are supposed to be empty. She is not buying it and ignores us completely.
To get the flight to leave on time she signals Chopper. As soon as he boards the plane she slams the door shut and rushes everyone to sit down. Chopper sees that the seats aren’t empty and rushes to the stewardess to tell her that those seats aren’t available, as he had paid for them. He demands that she remove the standbys.
She blows him off to get the plane to move, and he erupts! He stars cussing her out and refuses to sit. And boy could he cuss! He called her every foul thing in the book. He was especially good at the combination curse. I had to imagine what a c—t face looked like, at 6 in the morning no less.
As you can imagine, she threatened him with arrest and he threatened to get her fired.
Chopper was one of the greatest guys in history, but he had his shady side. He would do anything for a friend and was fiercely loyal. But he was not someone to cross.
Somehow he managed to spend the entire flight in the cockpit, on the radio with high-level people from the airline. We spent the flight jammed in coach with people in the middle seats.
When the flight landed, Chopper exited the cockpit and was met by 6 airline representatives. He hightailed it to baggage claim with the airline people trying to calm him down.
Whatever happened in the cockpit, he wouldn’t say. But the head stewardess did get fired! We tried to warn her…
Best excuse for being late to practice: Rob Williams
Rob was a point guard from University of Houston. He was a good guy but was a typical rookie in some ways. He needed a good dose of discipline and got a little caught up in the NBA lifestyle. There were a few days where he had trouble getting to practice on time.
One day we were warming up at practice and there is no Rob. This was before cell phones, so if a guy didn’t answer his phone at home, the team had to sent a person all the way to his house to get him.
The team tried and tried and finally after 20 minutes of calls, he answered his home phone. By now the secretary is pretty frantic and is about to send someone from the office out to get him. This is about the fifth time he has been late.
His explanation is that he had a power outage at his townhouse. So of course his alarm clock didn’t work and his garage door wouldn’t go up. As this was his third time using the alarm clock failure excuse, he didn’t get much sympathy for that one. The garage door angle was a new one and we appreciated his creativity.
He did have a hard time explaining why he just didn’t pull the little red handle or call a cab. As you can imagine, he did have quite a bit of extra running to do once he finally showed up.
Best way to get your buddy in a jam: No names used to protect the innocent.
I had one teammate who had his girlfriend living with him full time. Even so, periodically he would step out with a different girl that he picked up in some bar. The problem was that his girlfriend paid the bills.
Naturally, he couldn’t have a hotel charge from his own city show up on his credit card bill. So he did the next best thing. He borrowed his teammate’s credit card and paid him back in cash. This arrangement worked out great for a while.
What neither of them stopped to consider was that the buddy’s wife paid their bills. One day she is going over the credit card bill and finds the charge from the local hotel and realizes that the team was home at the time.
It turns out that she had a worse temper than the first player’s girlfriend! I heard later that pots and pans went airborne and a couple of the lamps flew. He was in the major doghouse trying to explain the situation. She thought that he was lying until he brought the teammate over to confess.
So the first teammate was up the creek and had to fess up to the girlfriend to get his buddy off the hook.
Luckily, he had a comfortable couch!
Danny Schayes is a Director of Business Optimization at Intensity and a leader in the business of professional sports. Schayes frequently advises sports organizations in complex business matters that include contract negotiations, pricing strategy, marketing optimization, and executive leadership. Follow him on Twitter.
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