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Just Off-Camera

"They respect you if you write. The dumber the world gets, the more the words matter." -Dan Jenkins


Wednesday, February 11, 2004

Ayers Rocked

When I got my job at ESPN back in December, they told me it was only going to be until April. Then, a few weeks ago, they told me they'd keep me around until October. My job isn't what anyone would call secure. But I probably have more job security than, say, and NBA head coach. Did you know that in the entire Eastern Conference, the coach with the longest tenure with his current team is Terry Stotts?

Stotts took over in Atlanta midway through last season, which means that he hasn't even been around for two full seasons. And he's the benchmark of job security in the East.

The latest coach to get the axe is Randy Ayers, who was an assistant with the Sixers for the last few seasons under Larry Brown and took over this summer after Brown resigned. By the way, Brown resigned to take the job with the Pistons, which was left open after they fired Rick Carlisle, who went to take the job with the Pacers... Do you see how NBA coaching works yet?

Ayers actually wasn't even the Sixers' first choice to take the reins. He wasn't the second, third, or fourth choice, either. The Sixers probably went after eight or nine guys before they had to settle for Ayers. It's not like Ayers has had a lot to work with this year - Allen Iverson's been hurt for a lot of the season, and as usual, he doesn't have a solid big man to help him out. But Ayers still had the Sixers at 21-31, which in the awful Eastern Conference is only a game and a half out of a playoff spot. He didn't deserve to lose his job midway through his first season as an NBA head coach.

Unfortunately, the climate in the NBA is that coaches are expendable whether or not they've been given a chance to succeed. Can't win right away? See ya! New Nets coach Lawrence Frank is off to an 8-0 start since taking over for Byron Scott, and it's a good thing for him - lose one game, and suddenly you're on the hot seat.

So how did Ayers's team take the news of his firing? Ho hum.

Glenn Robinson, who in the past few days publicly aired out his issues with Ayers, said that he didn't feel responsible for Ayers's firing. Just thae fact that he would: a) be asked that question, and b) answer it seriously indicates that he at least acknowledges some link between his gripes and Ayers's newfound unemployment.

But the best reaction came from A.I., who was pissed that the Sixers didn't give him the courtesy of letting him know directly.

"To have to find out from my manager early this morning, that's the only frustrating part about the whole thing," declared the Answer. "Besides him being fired."

Oh, right. I guess that kind of sucks, too. But yeah, the really frustrating part is that your manager had to wake you up with the news.

Besides, it's not like we're talking about practice.

***

In yesterday's column about the great Phanatic Head Caper, I mentioned that there was someone auctioning off something that was described as "not HEAD OF PHILLY PHANATIC." I had a feeling eBay would pull the auction, and sure enough, they did. The guy was selling something, though. It just wasn't the Phanatic's head, which narrows down the possible list of things he was selling to everything else in the universe.

***

I get more than just sports news coming across the wire at ESPN. Most of the stuff is the standard, depressing news that you see on TV - crime, war, death, etc. But yesterday I got a clip that makes for a hilarious mental image.

40 miles north of Lubbock, Texas (home of Bobby Knight), a 50-year old nursing home patient stole an ambulance. The woman then drove the ambulance to a sheriff's office, got out, went inside, asked for directions to Amarillo, then got back in her new ride and took off. As she pulled out, the dispatcher noticed she was driving an ambulance - right as a police report of a stolen ambulance came across the radio.

As is likely to happen in Texas, this led to a police chase, which included the woman swerving off the road to avoid a sheriff's vehicle that had blocked the way. It ended with four officers approaching the ambulance with their guns drawn (remember, we're talking about a 50-year old woman who lives in a nursing home) and pulling the woman out of the ambulance.

This was all caught on camera, so set your TiVo for future Cops episodes.

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