The following articles were clipped from newspapers. Each one caught my eye primarily because they were about coaches and secondly because they spoke to me, each in their own way. The article on Ditka made me laugh because I have wanted to say things of this nature to my "employers" at times. I can also understand why Ray Handley's successor needed to be, well, you'll see. Van Boxmeer did what I would love to have done to my players at times, but I would never have heard the end of it! Coach K, ("You da man, Coach K!") found a way to chastise his players without seeming outrageous or overly punishing.
I'm sorry, but as someone who has admired Ditka since his days as one of George Halas' most fearless players, I don't rat his exit speech as one of his better moments. What should he have said? Let's give it a try:
"I have good news and I have bad news. The bad news is that I've just been fired by this weenie. The good news is that I don't have to work for this weenie anymore. You have just heard the weenie say that he wants to make a fresh start with fresh ideas. That from a Yale bookkeeper who knows as much about football as I know about ballet.
"I'll tell you why I was fired. It's very simple. He is an Ivy League stiff and I am not an Ivy League stuff. He does not drink, swear or raise his squeaky voice in anger. I drink, swear and sometimes bellow like a crazed bull. Especially when people throw dumb interceptions. So he wants to hire a coach who will stand on the sidelines like someone perusing paintings at the Art Institute. Hey, that's a war out there, not a cricket match.
"I suppose you want to know how I feel about being fired. So I'll tell you: Yeah, it hurts. But what makes it even more painful is the humiliation of being fired by this kind of cupcake. Not to brag, but let me remind you how I got to be the coach of the Bears.
"As a mere lad, I knocked opponents on their butts in high school. That earned me a scholarship to college, where I knocked more people on their butts. That made me an All-American, so I went to work for George Halas and I really knocked people on their butts while catching passes, and we won an NFL championship. Then I learned the coaching trade by working as a low-pay, long-hours assistant coach in Dallas. Fiinally, I got a shot at being a head coach. And once again, not to brag, but I put together some pretty good seasons. Check it out: There are a lot of coaches still working who haven't done half as good. And that wasn't easy, with this cheapo bookkeeper here, biting the nickels and pinching the dimes on players' salaries.
"Now, let's consider how the weenie got to be in a position to fire me. Did he build the team from nothing to one of the most valuable franchises in football? Nah. That was his grandfather, George Halas, the guy who hired me because he was a tough, mean SOB, and he liked me because I am also a tough, mean SOB. This Twinkie is in position to fire me only because the old man died and the Twinkie and his family inherited the franchise. Which is a very nice way to succeed in life. You go to an Ivy League college, become a glorified bookkeeper, then Gramps croaks and suddenly you become rich and powerful. That's neat work if you can get it. Unfortunately, most of us don't have that kind of grandfather.
"But because he is a weenie -- did you know this guy won't even let guests drink beer in his skybox? -- his feelings were hurt that some of the players and I didn't treat him with the proper reverence. That's why Jim McMahon was traded. He was the best quarterback I ever had. But Jim was kind of rude, crude and goofy. All he could do is win games. Winning games wasn't enough. Because McMahon knows a weenie when he sees one, and said so, he had to go. So then the weenie tells me that I have to win with a quarterback of his choosing, a kid whose main qualities are that he is polite and never says anything worse than 'gosh' or 'gee whiz.' So you're finally going to have a polite coach. And you'll probably have polite players. It wouldn't surprise me if the weenie's first four draft choices are from Harvard, Yale, Princeton and Vassar. If he can hire them cheap enough. Now all the nasties that his grandfather hired are gone. So he's going to rebuild this team in his image. From the Chicago Bears to the Chicago Poodles.
"Do I have any regrets? Yes, one. Instead of waiting around for him to can me, I should have gone in his office and said, 'Boo.' Then, when he woke up, I should have quit. By the way, did I mention one guy that George Halas didn't hire? His grandson, Michael B. McCaskey, the Bears president and chief executive officer. That ought to tell you something.
Mike Royko, Tribune Media Services
Young said he was in the process of making up a list of candidates and hoped to find someone as soon as possible. "I'm still looking for a guy with thick skin, who's somewhat maladjusted, somewhat of a masochist because that's the kind of job it is," he said. The comment was in allusion to the firestorm that enveloped the introspective Handley as the aging Giants collapsed to 6-10 amid heavy and sharp criticism by fans, media and players.
Van Boxmeer hasn't resorted to the no-puck practice in several years, and coach Don Lever never had one in his two seasons here. "The last one I remember was four or five years ago at Lakeshore (Rinks)," right winger Jody Gage said. "Boxie didn't even put his skates on that day. He just stood on the bench and pointed."
Yesterday, Van Boxmeer and assistant coach Terry Martin pointed and barked from various locations on the ice. First they instructed players to skate around the entire rink, going hard from blue line to blue line through the neutral zone. After about 10 minutes, the routine changed slightly. They continued in the full circle, but the hard skate was on the semi-circle from the blue line to behind the net and back out to the blue line. At the same time, the 12 water bottles were being refilled for the first time. Then around 12:20 p.m., the players were ordered to the side boards. First they skated side to side one time and repeated it. Then twice, and repeated, then three times, and repeated again and again. For 20 minutes. Fill the water bottles, please. then came end-to-end sprints, 20 minutes worth. Water. Water!
"I've never seen so many down-and-backs in my life," rookie center Todd Simon said. When the hour-long skate finally ended, Van Boxmeer addressed the team at center ice. Here's a cleaned-up-for-newspaper transcript:
"We'll do this every day if we have to -- we're not going to have any more games like last night. Last night was a disgrace. The fans are getting sick of watching you. You embarrassed yourself and you embarrassed the organization. A lot of great hockey players have played here, a lot of great hockey players. Don't bring it down."
Gage, the Amerks captain, agreed that it was deserved. "Our effort has been very poor lately," he said. "I thought he'd really give it to us after the game last night but he didn't. I figured something was up when I got here this morning." The skate-a-thon was a culmination of nearly four weeks of talk about lackluster play. "We've had all kinds of meetings, we've done everything," Gage said. "It just comes down to pride."
After observing player reactions during the skate, Van Boxmeer isn't sure the message got through. "The whole point of it was, No. 1, to show them that if you're not going to work in games, then you'll work in practice. All we want is an honest effort. And No. 2, you hope you're getting guys ticked off. So many guys are content to let it happen. They show no emotion, they play with no emotion. Even after I skated them for an hour, there were still guys that weren't mad."
by Kevin Oklobzija, Rochester (NY) Democrat &Chronicle
They have had injuries (Grant Hill's absence with a bad toe). They have left their fans aghast by losing two in a row. But March is here, and they are starting to look ready. Again. "This was the first time we've put 40 minutes together," Bobby Hurley said of the Florida State game, which featured 16 of his assists. "It felt like last year."
"I think a lot of us had been getting satisfied," forward Antonio Lang added. And the bare walls? "It's the idea of starting with nothing, and building something."
"Sometimes," Krzyzewski said, "you have to play hungry." It has been no walk in the park for Duke, trying to live up to the past. Krzyzewski sometimes has been annoyed with the demands of the outside world, and how "the only way we can be successful is to be perfect. What a sad state of affairs if that takes place." He said that weeks ago. Since then, the Blue Devils have been looking for answers. They may have found them in time to make a run at a third straight NCAA title and boldly go where no team--save UCLA--has gone before. "I don't think we're there yet," Thomas Hill said, meaning Duke's full tournament steam. "But we're headed in that direction."
This team has had to find its own identity. One step has been to handle the burden of great expectations. "It's tougher this year than it has been," Grant Hill said. "But I want to be on top. I want to be the team everyone is shooting at. That's what Duke has meant. "We're 21-5," Krzyzewski said. "We've handled it pretty well. But we're handling it better now. Achievement gives you confidence. Recognition of achievement gives you added confidence. These kids have achieved, but they haven't always been recognized for that achievement." Added Krzyzewski, "Last year's team started the season knowing everybody, having confidence in each other. This year, there was a gap between those three (Hurley and the Hills) and the rest of the team. We keep talking about closing the gap. It's closer now than it's ever been. But it takes time. It takes a tough schedule. And losing helps, too."
Closed gap or not, those three veterans of so many Final Four wars must carry the fight against a tournament field seeking revenge. "No one else has three players who have been there like they have," Kansas coach Roy Williams said. "That means a lot." So, apparently, do bare walls.
--Mike Lopresti, Gannett News Service
The Blue Devils went on to the NCAA title game where they lost to Arkansas.