What basketball fan wouldn't want to be inside an NBA huddle during a big game? Such, I suppose, is the logic behind the "Wired" feature of network basketball broadcasts on ABC, ESPN, and TNT.
But I cannot help thinking the idea was the brainchild of someone who doesn't understand the game or the people who play and coach it, someone looking to reach a wider audience by pretending to pull back the curtain on a highly competitive sport.
Don't get me wrong -- I appreciate any opportunity to watch great coaching in action. But if these guys and their staffs know we are listening then exactly what are we hearing?
Certainly nothing the coaching staff wouldn't want the other team to know about - especially now that an assistant coach with a smart phone can watch the network feed from the opposing bench.
Nor are we likely to ever hear things get very personal in those huddles or locker rooms while we're eavesdropping through a microphone the coach has agreed to wear. It would have been interesting to have had the Detroit Pistons bench wired on the night this past season when all those players refused to go into the game. But no such audio is likely to go live on the air (not like the old days when Tommy Lasorda wore a wire -- in the 1977 World Series -- and either forgot he had it on or decided to spice things up for the fans listening on the radio).
So what that leaves for us now on these live behind-the-scenes feeds are, I'm afraid, a shameless recitations of platitudes.
Strategic genius such as, "Hit the boards," "Play with energy," and "Let's take good shots."
That cannot be the extent of the NBA head coach's inspirational vocabulary. They are the very obvious courtside commands of a first year high school coach to high school players who don't all fully understand the importance of rebounding and hustle and shot selection. Hard to believe that professionals, however young, haven't had all that entrained into them long ago.
Game announcers are always admiring, especially during the NBA playoffs, how the great coaches make adjustments -- from game to game but sometimes also within a game. Obviously, no coach is going to announce any of that on mic, but then why are we pretending that we are hearing anything authentic in those broadcast huddles?
And why in the world are head coaches being interviewed between quarters of nationally televised games?
Isn't the coach supposed to be on the bench with his players? Or on the floor working the referees? Something -- anything -- related to winning the game...?
I don't care how many assistant coaches there are. Let one of them give all the obvious, guarded answers to all the tired questions. The head coach should be with his players.
If ESPN and NBA TV want to go behind the scenes with teams off the court or bring camera crews into training camp, that's great. I really enjoyed watching Mike D'antoni and Phil Jackson last fall in their casual clothes running drills with their players in the gym. I cannot think of a better way for a basketball junkie to waste a beautiful autumn afternoon.
But as for the games themselves, I wouldn't mind if the league and the networks showed a little respect for the intelligence of basketball fans and cut the gimmicks.