You know what’s frustrating? The “Coach of the Year” award has no qualifying adjective before it. It’s not “Best Coach of the Year” or “Most Valuable Coach,” just “Coach of the Year.” This is frustrating because it’s hard to parody when you want to nominate your pick for worst coach of the year. I’ve tossed around a couple of ideas, but none really stick: “Roach of the Year,” “Woe-ch of the Year,” “Douche of the Year,” “Faux-ch of the Year.” The “Most Valuable Player” award makes it easy, because if you want to nominate whoever you think is the opposite of MVP, well, then it’s (everybody say it with me): “Least Valuable Player” (followed quickly with “it's a three-way toss-up between Ben Wallace, Stephon Marbury, and Steve Francis”).
Additionally, people always complain that choosing an MVP is problematic because it’s undefined. But at least with MVP we get the words “Most Valuable” to work with; “Coach of the Year” is completely amorphous. Is it “Coach With the Best Team”? “Coach Whose Team Had the Biggest Turnaround”? For sure, they ought to have a “Purple Heart Coach of the Year,” which would go to the guy whose team isn’t any good, but given the circumstances, it’s just a miracle nobody’s dead. The obvious winner this year would be Indiana’s Jim O’Brien (the O’Neal injuries, the Tinsley injuries/shoot-outs, the Murphy/Dunleavy contracts, the Harrison bong-hits, the Donnie Walsh bailouts, the forced reliance on guys like Kareem Rush, the awful yellow alternative jerseys that make the team look like the “Indiana Cliffs Notes”, etc. etc.).
Anyway, you can probably see where I’m going with this. For lack of a better term, the “Anti-Coach of the Year” award should go to our own Sam Vincent. Where to begin? Actually, I know where NOT to begin, which seems to be where Michael Jordan and Bob Johnson ARE beginning: Vincent’s controversial decision to bus, rather than fly, to Milwaukee back in January. So far, this is upper management’s only public complaint, because it apparently almost cost $5 million in fines and Vincent didn’t consult with them first. Whatever. That’s like when the government gets all hot-and-righteous over earmarks, even though they only account for 4% of the deficit. Vincent's method of transportation to one game is a drop in the bucket of his underachievements.
How about playing a shooting guard who can’t shoot, a 2 at the 3, a 3 at the 4, and a legally-declared-comatose man at the 1 virtually all year? How about 8 minutes-a-game given to Jared Dudley in January, when his impact upon entry was almost always instantaneous and significant? What about all the Derek Anderson DNP’s? DA was a great glue guy last year and inexplicably marginalized this year. How about regressing in wins despite fewer injuries and the acquisition of a premier scorer (J-Rich)?
And to top it all off, Vincent began the year with guarantees of the playoffs. Yet now that we’re a smoldering grease-fire, Vincent’s actually indignant about talk of his dismissal. "Give me a break. Was I really supposed to come in in the first year and have 50 wins?" Vincent asked rhetorically of ESPN.com. No, Sam, but you were supposed to match last year’s 33.
I have this recurring fantasy in which Michael Jordan comes into a meeting one morning, sees Vincent sitting there, and spontaneously bursts into that refrain from the White Stripes’ song, “There’s No Home For You Here”: “Waking up for breakfast, burning matches, talking quickly, breaking baubles, throwing garbage, drinking soda, looking happy, taking pictures…So completely stupid, just go away!!” Instead, MJ’s just given the media the usual Donnie Walsh-isms about “evaluating everything at the end of the year.” This always strikes me as an extremely lazy, ridiculous thing to say when there are only 2 weeks left and all of the remaining games are meaningless. What’s going to change between now and then? Why don’t they just start evaluating right now?
Owner Bob Johnson’s no help either. He thinks Vincent’s done all right, but this is the same man who can’t sell the naming rights to the arena or get a cable deal worked out, plus spends most of his free time riding on the backs huge animals who’d just as soon trample him to death than jump on command over a silly, flower-covered obstacle. Never trust the opinion of someone who chooses to ride a horse voluntarily. “Did Sam do something that was just obviously so blatant that you said, ‘This guy could never get you there?’” Johnson said in a recent interview with the Charlotte Observer. “I don't see that at all.” Nor will Johnson see that hoof coming full speed at his face one day.
Wait, what am I talking about? How could I forget about Zeke Thomas? For every horrible decision Vincent’s made, Thomas has made it three-fold, plus he was the GM, so he can’t even hide behind the “hey, I’m just playing the guys they hand me” card. Plus Thomas apparently hasn’t been showing up for work lately. Oh yeah, and he started the year off getting slammed with sexual harassment lawsuit. Ha-ha, yeah, picking Vincent for worst coach this year would be like backing Dominique Wilkins over Michael Jordan for MVP in the 1990-91 season. But still, as they with the MVP talk, Vincent’s “definitely in the discussion.” In fact, the only thing really separating us from the Knicks is that we’re too poor to screw up that badly.