By Ryan Jones
The Knicks need to hire Rudy.
This is so obvious to me that I can’t imagine someone hasn’t already written about it, and maybe someone has, but I haven’t seen it, so I’ll run with it.
Rudy Giuliani’s entire justification for his presidential bid can be boiled down to two claims: He took over a crime-ridden, nose-diving city and turned it into a clean, safe place that people wanted to come see again, and he rallied New Yorkers after Sept. 11. The idea of Rudy running the country scares the sh*t out of me, but his proven ability to deal firmly and effectively with thugs, scumbags and sexual deviants would seem to make him a perfect replacement for Isiah Thomas. And lord knows Knicks fans need rallying.
I’ll be more specific to help the metaphor along. The most visible public symbol of NYC’s health is Times Square, and Madison Square Garden in 2007 is what Times Square was 20 years ago: Dirty, unseemly and unsafe. Full of petty criminals and sex shows. Ground Zero for bad judgment and sad lives. And den of iniquity, populated with life’s losers.
I trust you see the similarities.
Giuliani became mayor in ’94, following a black mayor (David Dinkins) who had inspired optimism among many New Yorkers when he took office, pledging to turn around the city’s finances and ease racial tensions. Isiah Thomas inspired optimism among New Yorkers when he was hired as Knicks President of Basketball Operations in 2003, promising to turn around the Knicks’ fortunes and ease the amount of crap basketball they played. Neither had much success, but both have shown a gift for saying crazy sh*t.
After being accused of not paying income taxes, Dinkins reportedly said, “I haven’t committed a crime. What I did was fail to comply with the law.” Ha! Good one!
Around the time he was sexualy harassing her, Thomas reportedly told Anucha Browne-Sanders, “B*tch, I don’t give a f*ck about these white people.” Ah… not that funny, actually.
Rudy, meanwhile, took over for Dinkins and, depending on who you ask, either A) made New York great again, or B) beat down minorities and poor people and made it illegal to enjoy yourself. He made New York the safest big city in the world, but he also turned the heart of the city into a giant, soulless strip mall.
Whatever works. Regardless, Rudy got results, and if there’s anything the Knicks haven’t been getting lately, it’s results. All the fans who still inexplicably keep showing up at the Garden love to chant “Fire I-say-yah!” but no one seems to be offering a replacement. You’re welcome, Knicks fans.
And now, since I’ve already started with this dubious theme, I might as well see it through.
So, inspired by Jake’s dense-but-undeniably-awesome extended Ghost/Doom/Kidd metaphor from last week, and by the monthly Hype feature Which NBA Player Are You? (which Sam has taken and run with better than I ever could have, but which actually was my idea), here is Which NBA Coach Are You? 2008 Presidential Campaign Edition, a Workmanlike Farmer Jones Production™. For the sake of pseudo-journalistic objectivity, candidates are listed in alphabetical order.
Hillary Clinton is… Avery Johnson
Both learned the ins and outs of the game alongside a master of the craft. Avery played for Gregg Popovich, where he was a coach on the floor and learned the secrets behind Pop’s motivational ploys and defensive consistency. Then he went to Dallas, where he served as a player-coach under Don Nelson. Hillary learned the politcal game from Bill Clinton. Both have have faced the tricky task of separating themselves somewhat from their mentors, Avery splitting with Nellie after Don’s acrimonious departure but still respecting what Don taught him, Hillary distancing herself from Bill but still trying to capitalize on his popularity. Avery relies heavily on tall, funny-looking blonde Dirk Nowitzki for points and rebounds. Hillary relies heavily on daughter Chelsea to work the phones for her campaign. Avery had the NBA’s best team in 2006 and they seemed a shoe-in for the title, but fell apart against charismatic Illinois native Dwyane Wade and the Heat. Hillary seemed a shoe-in for the 2008 Democractic nomination but looked on the verge of falling apart against charismatic Illinois rep Barack Obama. Avery still has the tools to bring a championship to Dallas. After her New Hampshire bounceback, Hillary still has a shot at the White House in November.
BUT, Hillary being the polarizing figure she is, I couldn’t settle on just one comparison. So let’s try this one, too.
Hillary Clinton is… Phil Jackson (current)
Both rose to power in the 1990s as part of seemingly unstoppable teams. Phil overcame the distractions caused by fat, annoying GM Jerry Krause. Hillary overcame the distractions caused by fat, annoying intern Monica Lewinsky. Phil can’t seem to stay out of the spotlight, stepping down from the Bulls job only to take the Lakers job a year later — a job he left and then took again in 2005. Hillary stepped down from her gig as First Lady in 2001, but not before she was already a candidate for Senate. Her White House candidacy has been a foregone conclusion ever since. Phil has recommended dozens of books to players in hopes of motivating them to play better. Hillary has been the subject of dozen of books written in hopes of motivating conservatives to hate better. After a tumultuous offseason, Phil’s Lakers seem to have gotten their act together and look like they might be able to contend for a title. After a tumultuous Iowa caucus, Hillary’s campaign seems to have gotten its act together looks like it might still be able to win the election.
John Edwards is… Scott Skiles
Edwards was born in small town South Carolina, unapologetically takes on big business and talks about looking out for the little guy. Skiles was born in small town Indiana, fearlessly battled bigger players during his career and liked to start two little guys in the Bulls’ backcourt. Both seem genuine but have a fatal flaw — Edwards’ hair and Skiles’ personality both tend to turn people off. Skiles was recently fired. Edwards should be dropping out of the race shortly. BONUS FUTURE PREDICTION: Edwards has already been on a ticket as a VP, and could end up being Obama’s running mate if Barack wins the nomination. Maybe Skiles is better off as an assistant somewhere, too.
Rudy Guiliani is… Pat Riley
Too easy, I know. Both men were born in New York near the end of World War II. Giuliani’s lineage is Italian. Riley was born in a town called Rome. Rudy made his name as a prosecutor in the mid-’80s, famously battling the Mafia as he indicted the heads of the “Five Families” in 1985 and ’86. Riles led the Showtime Lakers to four of their five titles in the 1980s, including back-to-back wins in ’87 and ’88. Both took charge in New York in the ’90s and enjoyed further success, Rudy winning the first of two mayorial elections in 1993, Riley leading the Knicks to the NBA Finals in 1994. Both enjoyed a late-career burst of post-millenium popularity. Rudy capitalized on the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks and the outpouring of sympathy following his bout with prostate cancer to position himself for a presidential run. Riley capitalized on Dwyane Wade’s talent and the outpouring of sympathy from the refs in the ’06 Finals to win another title. After initial high hopes for his presidential campaign, Rudy’s trying to justify staying in the race. After initial high hopes for the Heat’s 2007-08 season, Riley’s trying to justify staying on as coach.
Mike Huckabee is… Mike Brown
Both men are trying to follow the blueprint laid by a more successful predecessor. Huckabee is trying to follow Bill Clinton as a formerly portly Arkansas governor who charms his way into the White House (although he doesn’t have the same way with the ladies). Former Spurs assistant Brown is trying to follow Gregg Popovich’s lead as a coach who uses defense to win an NBA championship (although he doesn’t have Tim Duncan in the post). Huckabee seems to be banking his chances on his faith in Jesus Christ. Brown is banking his chances on his faith in LeBron James.
Dennis Kucinich is… Lawrence Frank
Both are tiny men who seem to be way out of their depth at this level and appear to have no chance of winning anything. Both seem likeable in their own way, but neither is taken as seriously by the outside world as they seem to take themselves. That’s all I got.
John McCain is… Doc Rivers
As young men, both proudly represented their country in losing efforts. McCain was a decorated war hero in Vietnam. Doc was named MVP of the 1982 FIBA Americas tournament, in which the U.S. took silver. McCain survived five years in a Vietnamese POW camp. Doc survived a year with the Clippers. McCain entered the national stage with a 2000 presidential run and had early and unexpected success, winning the New Hampshire primary. Doc made his coaching debut with the 1999-2000 Orlando Magic and had early and unexpected success, winning Coach of the Year after leading the Magic to the playoffs. But that early success didn’t last for either man. McCain was undone by dirty politics and ended up losing the Republican nomination to George Bush. Doc was undone by Tracy McGrady’s inability to back up his words and never got out the first round. Both were written off as recently as last year. McCain had to fire most of his campaign team last year and looked likely to drop out of the 2008 race, beause people thought he couldn’t win. Doc wished he could fire most of his team after the Celtics lost 107 games the last two years, and people thought he couldn’t coach. Both have found redemption in New England. McCain just won the ’08 New Hampshire primary. Doc has the new-look Celtics off to the best start in the Legue.
Ron Paul is… Don Nelson
Both are crazy old bastards who appear to have a lot of good ideas, but neither is mainstream enough in their style to win the ultimate prize. Still, we should be thankfully for mavericks like this. They keep the establishment on its toes, and you never know when they might pull a first-round upset.
Barack Obama is… Phil Jackson (circa 1989-91)
Both come from unique backgrounds. Obama was born in Hawaii to a Kenyan father and a white American mother. Phil was born in Montana, where both of his parents were ministers. Both capitalized on low-level success in a bid to make it big on the national scene. Obama was an Illinois state senator before running for Congress. Phil won a CBA title with the Albany Patroons before being hired as a Bulls assistant. Obama got his chance at the big time after a rousing speech at the 2004 Democratic Convention. Phil got his chance in the L when Doug Collins couldn’t get the Bulls past the Pistons. Phil smartly teamed with Tex Winter to better utilize the talent around Michael Jordan. Obama teamed with Oprah to try and better utilize the votes of middle-aged white women who do whatever Oprah tells them to. Both were decent ballplayers when they were younger. Both have written books in which they openly discuss using drugs when they were younger. Both look like they might be on the verge of greatness at similar points in their careers. Phil guided the Bulls to six title in eight years. Obama hopes his next eight years are similarly successful.
Mitt Romney is… Mike D’Antoni
Both men seem to have “found” themselves in Western Europe. Mitt spent his Mormon mission in France. Mike became a star playing in Italy. Both were recognized for their early excellence. Romney was valedictorian of his graduating class at BYU in 1971. D’Antoni was named to the NBA All-Rookie second team in 1974. Both men have interesting nicknames: Romney’s first name is actually Willard, while Mike earned the nickname Arsene Lupin in Europe, apparently because he stole the ball a lot. Both made their names nationally by turning around a struggling franchise. Romney took over the 2002 Salt Lake City Olympic bid when it was hemorraging money and facing organizational chaos, and the Games ended up making a profit. D’Antoni took over the Suns when they were struggling, put in his up-tempo system and helped bring Steve Nash to Phoenix, and the Suns were in the conference finals the following year. Both men are accused of style over substance. Romney is an attractive man who often seems not to stand for anything other than getting elected. Under D’Antoni, the Suns play an attractive style but often seem incapable of anything other than being fun to watch. Both seem like good candidates but neither appears able to win when it counts. Romney appears to spend a lot of time on his hair. D’Antoni’s mustache doesn’t stay that neat by itself.
Tune in next time when I compare all the potential First Spouses to NBA cheerleaders. Goodnight.
UPDATE: This just in. Clearly, Jimmy Carter is… Jerry Sloan.