by Lang Whitaker

So Mike D’Antoni and Avery Johnson are both reportedly dunzo after first-round Playoff knockouts.

The Avery Johnson release doesn’t surprise me so much. Mark Cuban is famously a man with a quick trigger, and after the Mavs went ahead during the 2005 NBA Finals and choked, it’s been all downhill ever since. While everything seemed well, Dallasbasketball.com has numerous compelling examples of some of the behind the scenes shenanigans from Dallas, with the last straw appearing to be a Joint Howard birthday party that led to Avery canceling practice and the Mavs canceling their season.

I’m no huckleberry, but even from watching the Mavs on TV, it was obvious that Avery was something of a micromanager who called almost every play from the sideline. That’s a great approach for a high school team, but not so much for a bunch of grown millionaires. The Mavs players, apparently, tired of it, as did Mark Cuban. (And is anyone surprised Jason Kidd allegedly had beef with his head coach? Has he ever gotten along with a coach? Meanwhile, Stephon Marbury is the malcontent.)

And in Phoenix, Mike D’Antoni appears to have pulled the plug on things, leaking the news to his main man Jack McCallum that he was ready to get out of town. Meanwhile, Steve Kerr says D’Antoni is still the coach and the SI story is wrong. Odd that there would be a disconnect, although perhaps this explains why D’Antoni would want to leave. Also, I love the part about a shouting match between Kerr and D’Antoni that ends with D’Antoni yelling, “Don’t tell me how to coach offense!” Kerr should have asked D’Antoni if he could look at all his championship rings.

So there’s two big-time teams out West who need a coach, and there’s two big-time coaches who need a job. D’Antoni getting hired in Dallas would be one way or Mark Cuban getting back at Steve Nash for leaving town, but I don’t think Dallas has a roster of players conducive to the way D’Antoni likes to play. What teams could use a coach? Well, there’s New York, Chicago, and I’m sure people will try to re-connect D’Antoni and Bryan Colangelo in Toronto.

And then there’s the Atlanta Hawks, who will see Mike Woodson’s contract come to an end on June 30. Can you imagine D’Antoni salivating over the Hawks roster of young, fast, fleet players? Wow. Just saying…

• While watching the games last night, I flipped over to HBO. Thank goodness for Bob Costas, because on his show “Costas Now” he provided what the world has been crying out for: an investigation of the relationship between sports and the media. I happened to tune in during a segment on blogs and sports, and I saw Deadspin’s Will Leitch on-screen with the unhinged writer Buzz Bissinger and some guy from the Cleveland Browns who was apparently mute. Bissinger started ranting and raving and became unhinged, and it was so uncomfortable that I had to change the channel. (Will wrote all about it this morning. Video of it is here.)

I particularly liked Bissinger’s point that W.C. Heinz is “one the greatest writers living, until he recently died.” Salient, nuanced, insightful. That’s why we should turn to people like Bissinger for our information instead of blogs. Just watch the clip and look at all the people involved. Who would you prefer to spend your free time reading? Me too.

When he finally breaks his silence, Braylon Edwards (who carried my fantasy team this season, btw) argues that athletes today behave exactly like athletes did in the ’60s, but the coverage is totally different and basically, they can’t get their party on. Good point, except for one thing: Athletes today are paid about million times more than athletes were paid in the ’60s, and as a result, fans (rightly or wrongly) hold athletes to a higher standard. I’ve written this here about a million times, but if you want to pay me $10 million a year for six or seven years, I will gladly take the cash and sit at home and do nothing in my free time. When my contract ends and nobody cares about me, I might go buck wild, but if you’re going to take the big cash, you have to accept the expectations that come along with the dough.

The segment turned into a platform for the bashing of blogs and ranting about the debasing of sports coverage. And it was hosted by a man who appeared in the film BASEketball.

Later, I turned back over to HBO and the show was still on, as Bob Costas spoke to Jason Whitlock, Mike Wilbon and Cris Carter about race and sports. (Costas didn’t specify, but judging by the panel, he wasn’t interested in any races other than African-Americans.) When I flipped over, Whitlock was saying something about getting run off ESPN for talking about Barry Bonds, but Costas cut him off and said that while this was a very important discussion, they were out of time. And then, swear to God, a show called “Cathouse” about a brothel in Nevada came on.

The media loves to talk about the media, so the Costas show will certainly get a lot of attention and interest. But is it going to affect any change? Other than me changing the channel, I doubt it.

• I changed the channel to start playing Grand Theft Auto 4, and I didn’t get too far into it, so before I totally weigh in let me say that the game has already begun to affect my life in a negative way. Also, it is the greatest video game of all time.

• Last thing before I start my ritualistic preparations for tonight’s Hawks/Celts Game 5: In the last issue of SLAM we published a crossword puzzle. We did it because we thought it would be fun, until I realized it was no fun at all making all those words connect. Still, we did it. I hadn’t looked at it since we published it, and then today I tried to fill it out and, as you’ll see from my completed puzzle below, it wasn’t easy. Anyway, here’s your answers…