I have to admit that a part of me dreads the idea of the Bobcats as a victorious, highly competent basketball organization. Some of that is just a simple fear of change. I like things to stay the way they are. That’s one of the reasons The Hives remain among my favorite bands. Those oddball Swedes can continue to dress in goofy black and white costumes and make songs with titles like “Abra Cadaver” for the next 20 years and that will be fine with me. But the other reason I’m troubled by a future in which the Bobcats rack up 50 wins and don’t pay DeSagana Diop his weight in gold is this: where will I turn to for my humor?
Step 1 towards this dystopia was the announcement a few weeks ago that the Bobcats were changing their name back to the Hornets. See my previous article for more on this, but I was actually in favor of that move, because I basically detest any nicknames of animals that I feel like I could take in a fight. Still, though, there’s no denying that a reliable comedic bit of source material had just been eliminated. I imagine stand-up comedians had a similarly mixed reaction watching Michelle Bachmann’s retirement announcement.
And now the Bobcats have hired Steve Clifford as their next coach, which has only fed my fears that we’re heading down a dark path to bland competence even further. Although he comes with almost zero head coaching experience, he was apparently adopted by the Van Gundy family off the street at the age of three and raised as one of their own. Both Jeff and Stan Van Gundy went out of their way to verbally caress Clifford in the press. I’m a huge fan of the brothers Van Gundy, especially Jeff. While growing up with the Knicks, I’ve never seen a coach take defeats harder than JVG; every press conference after a loss he looked like a man who’d just seen a baby panda bear get decapitated with a chainsaw. Thus an endorsement from him has a lot of cachet with me.
And don’t get me wrong, it’s not like I wanted another clown behind the bench. Still, can’t there be anything funny about Clifford? A quick look at his Wikipedia page yields nothing, not even a whoopee cushion, except that they’re oddly unsure about when he was born (it’s listed as “1961/1962” and his age is “51/52”—was he born at midnight on New Year’s Eve or something?). This is all in sharp contrast to Mike Dunlap’s hiring last year, when I had a field day with all of the goofy schools institutions he’s been involved with (e.g., Cal Lutheran). Similarly, Clifford’s opening press conference was full of respectful, measured, not even remotely humorous comments. He did guarantee that the team would not give up transition baskets, which is an impossible claim to make in basketball; it would be like guaranteeing that your team won’t be allowing opponents to wear jockstraps. Also, the Bobcats were second-to-last in defensive fastbreak efficiency last year, so I’m guessing shortly afterward that someone gently reminded Clifford that the team still has Ben Gordon under contract. But that’s about it; otherwise, he seems like a thoughtful, straight-shooting, Tom Thibodeau-type. Dammit.
I’m not ready to give up just yet. Even someone like Thibodeau has his moments. First instance, he curses like Richard Pryor going through airport security. I’m sure that with time, Clifford will bring something to the table, too. And I need to remind myself that success and humor don’t need to be mutually exclusive, either. Nobody’s won more championships than Phil Jackson, and the zany shit he’s said and done would be enough to fill about 6 Chris Rock DVDs. So if you could bring on the funny, coach Clifford, that would be nice. I’m not asking for much here; you don’t know need to show up at your next press conference dressed like Eddie Murphy in Raw. A simple allegation that you used to refer to some of your players as “whores and alcoholics” would be sufficient, and we could go from there.
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