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Revenge of the Bitches

By Bramlet Abercrombie on March 28, 2006.

That loss to the Sonics was hard to swallow, considering that the Spurs went on a 9-0 run in the last couple of minutes to take the lead, and all it would have taken to win was a timeout by Robert Horry.

I hate losing to Ray Allen. I feel like kicking him too, Bruce, just as I feel like kicking everyone who gives the Spurs trouble. But you should save it for your retirement years. That’s how you can keep yourself busy in your old age – go around kicking the asses of all the whiners who complained about you*. Anyway, for the Sonics to be complaining about dirty basketball is like Bush complaining about the U.S.’s dependence on foreign oil. Actually, their thug quotient probably isn’t quite as high as it was in last year’s playoffs, but I will always hold a grudge against the team whose fans cheered when Tim Duncan went down with an injury.

But what makes the loss especially painful is that the Sonics are now coached by Bob Hill. For those who don’t know the backstory here, he was the Spurs’ coach for a couple of seasons before Pop took over. The timing of his firing was transparently self-serving, and it brought down the wrath of the fans on Pop’s head before he earned his reputation as one of the best coaches in the league.

Bob Hill, scapegoat for Gregg Popovich, whose ineptitude has cost the Spurs six championships in nine seasons that Hill would have won.

But that doesn’t change the fact that it was the right move to make, as the three championships the team has won under Pop prove. Bob Hill led the team to a nice regular-season performance in 1995-96, followed by a humiliating playoff collapse against the Jazz. That’s common knowledge. But what many fans don’t know is that apparently key players on the team went to Pop and expressed their dissatisfaction with Hill. Granted, this is hearsay, but the people I’ve heard it from are reliable sources in my estimation.

What has earned Bob Hill the Wrath of the Bramlet is not his performance as the Spurs’ coach, nor his understandable disappointment and anger at the time of his firing. It is his behavior in the years since. He has badmouthed Pop at every opportunity – this from the guy whose ten-year contract was bought out by Fordham University after only four years, because he elevated the program from a disappointing 14 wins in his first year to a stunning 2 in his last. Recently it came out that he allegedly badmouthed Smush Parker, who played for him at Fordham, to NBA scouts. And he also commented to the media the other night on the relative hotness of the women of “Desperate Housewives,” including, obviously, TP’s woman. Now that’s class. Can you imagine Gregg Popovich ever being quoted as having said something like that to the media?

Coaching for Success: not a best-seller in the Fordham University bookstore.

Buck Harvey wrote an astonishingly frank ass-reaming of Hill a couple of months ago, when Hill was awarded the position of head coach after Bob Weiss was fired.

Popovich almost fired Hill immediately after Utah overwhelmed the Spurs in the 1996 playoffs. Popovich cared more about defense and playoff toughness than regular-season show. Hill was baffled. Wasn’t it time for a contract extension?

Popovich pulled back, hoping for change. But Hill remained a detail-oriented technician who liked to do the work himself. The cooperative workplace that Popovich has created — where he wants his people to argue and disagree — never suited Hill.

Then Robinson’s back went out, skewing everything. Hill’s philosophy ate at Popovich more than the losses did, until Popovich made the worst decision of his career. He fired Hill on the day Robinson returned from injury.

Had Popovich waited a month — letting Hill go after a four-game losing streak — no one would have said a thing. But this way Hill became a martyr. The guy mostly known in San Antonio for wearing expensive suits suddenly was beloved.

Hill played to the sentiment. In his mind he was simply too good to be fired, when Hill has taken over three times in midseason the same way. In fact, every franchise but two has replaced its coach at least once since 1996.

The two? Utah and San Antonio.

So nearly every team could have had the magnificent Hill in these nine years. He instead stayed out of the league, and Hill has an explanation.

He told Seattle reporters this month that he was so “taken aback” by being fired that he “wanted a break” from basketball.

That’s rich. When the Spurs fired Hill, he thought an assistant’s position was beneath him. He would wait for the better jobs. Why coach a loser?

When it was clear no one was calling, Hill stopped being picky. He would have taken anything, anywhere and at any price. Hill’s agent called one franchise so often in the late ’90s that he was asked to stop. “Pestering” is the word the franchise used.

Then there’s this from Shaquille O’Neal. Before the Lakers hired Phil Jackson to replace Kurt Rambis in 1999, Shaq thought Hill would be a good fit. The two were together in Orlando.

“But Jerry (West) didn’t like Bob Hill,” Shaq wrote in a book. “For some reason, nobody likes Bob Hill.”

For some reason? Fordham knows one. The school stretched to give Hill a 10-year deal in 1999, and Hill later led the school to its worst record in 100 years.

He was fired. Only when Hill went back to New York recently with the Sonics, speaking again with the authority of a big-time NBA coach, could he properly frame this.

He blamed himself for taking the job. “I don’t want to embarrass the school,” Hill said about Fordham. “But it’s never going to work there. The pace of the school is slow and you can’t run a Division I program like that.”

Exactly who should be embarrassed? Fordham has beaten Virginia and Penn this season, among others, and is competing like a Division I program.

But that’s Hill. His opinion of himself has alienated peers and employers, and another opinion will have the same effect. He thinks if he had stayed in San Antonio and gotten Tim Duncan, “I would still be there.”

He would have connected with Duncan and prompted him to re-sign with the Spurs? He would have brought the best out in a kid from France and plugged into an Argentine power? He would have won three titles?

If other teams thought that, they would have hired him long ago.

Harvey followed that up with an article that expressed sympathy for Bob Weis
s
and implicitly contrasted the way Weiss has handled his firing with the way Hill has behaved for the last ten years.

Mike Monroe, another San Antonio Express-News reporter, also recently wrote an article in which Hill claims that he built the foundation for the Spurs’ championships. (By the way, nice job of getting Hill to say something about being stung by a scorpion as a hook for your story, Mike.)

At any rate, reading this amusing parody of Hill’s attitude and ego certainly took some of the sting off Sunday night’s loss:

Hill Outclasses Popovich by Kevin O’Keefe*

SEATTLE, WA – Though the game and final score were closer than expected, Bob Hill and his Sonics dispatched the hopeless Gregg Popovich and the San Antonio Spurs 106-102.

Hill, who cut a commanding figure on the sidelines, exuding a likeness reminiscent of a young and bespectacled General George Washington, repeatedly demonstrated to all impartial onlookers that the pock-marked Popovich, whose cheap threadbare zoot suits were clearly purchased at a Men’s Warehouse factory outlet, could not match wits with one of the sideline giants of this or any era.

Indeed, it was solely though the efforts of beleaguered veterans Tim Duncan, Manu Ginobili, and Tony Parker – all of whom seem to bear the strain of playing for a short-sighted egomaniac tyrant – that the game was even a contest at all, rather than the farcical Sonic walkover expected by most.

Ray Allen, who has in common with his good friend and mentor Hill the mental toughness necessary to excel in the face of boorish thuggery (craven coward Bruce Bowen seems to be a slack-jawed mental zombie, unquestioningly playing dirty defense as ordered by his grim faced cruel superior), delivered heroically against tremendous adversity – Bowen attempted to jam his foot right through Allen’s chest cavity in the second quarter in an incident some described as “brutal maimery of the lowest kind”.

It was Allen’s magnificent, shining rainbow three late in the fourth quarter which drove the stake right through the cold, miserly heart of Popovich. The Spurs also succumbed shortly thereafter.

Hill maintains his perfect record [no doubt this mistake was intentional, but for the record, the Sonics got their asses handed to them by the Spurs, 103-78, on February 21st] over the mental midget Popovich, who was reminded yet again of the dreadful mistake he made ten years ago.

*it’s entirely probable that this is a piece of parody

I should have been the one to write something like that, damn it.

Kevin O’Keefe, for those who don’t know, was a writer for the Express-News who constantly criticized and slandered Pop and also constantly pushed his personal Christian agenda. The credibility of the Express-News as a source of facts instead of truthiness (copyright 2005 by Stephen Colbert – check’s in the mail, Stephen) skyrocketed after his firing.

To return to the original bitch in question here: I think it’s time to get over your vaginal cramp, Bob, and just shut up about what happened a decade ago.

To his credit, Hill apparently has the support of his current players, and on Sunday night they definitely looked much more like the team that gave the Spurs trouble in last year’s playoffs than they did earlier this year – a tough team that executes well. Maybe he’s learned a few things (about coaching, at least) from all of his mistakes along the way.

But that doesn’t mean that Bob Hill, his players, and their fans aren’t bitches who deserve the spanking they will get on April 11th.

* With the exception of Michael Finley, of course, whose change in uniform has magically changed my perception of him. Fortunately, I can say that without being hypocritical, as Finley has acquitted himself in a convincingly non-bitch fashion in his time as a Spur, and I have no doubt that he and Bruce are now good friends.

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Comments

  1. TheFunk March 28, 2006

    I lost $40 on that game.

    The Spurs were a lock.

    I told my father-in-law at halftime that the game was over. The Sonics had scored less than 45, and the Spurs don’t lose when they keep opponents under 90 for the game.

    The Pistons excluded, of course.

    Also, statistically, teams returning from road trips lose their first game home, and lastly, most NBA scoring occurs in the first half.

    Then the Spurs forgot to defend the perimeter or ally-oop.

    That was ridiculous. I can’t believe Horry didn’t call a timeout. There was less than a minute left. He had the ball, the Spurs had the lead, he started tipping out of bounds, and the ref was standing right there next to him.

    And the Spurs had 3 fucking time outs left!

    Losing to the bitch-ass Sonics is tough. Ray Allen cries like a bitch when he WINS.

    One real positive note – did you watch Finley play D on Ray Allen? At first I thought Bruce looked strange, then realized it was, in fact, Michael Finley playing clamp-defense on that punk.

    April 11th will be ugly. I will get my $40 back. Not sure how or why the Sonics suddenly found themselves able to beat the Nugs and Spurs back to back, but it ain’t gonna last.

    The Sonics evidently don’t realize they are costing themselves draft order, and not much else. Too bad they will get me on April 11th.

    The Spurs don’t forget losses like that, even when they have themselves to blame.

  2. Bramlet Abercrombie March 29, 2006

    I’m gonna assume you meant to say that the Sonics will “get met,” not “get me.” I highly doubt that they will get you. I know you’re a paranoid conspiracy theorist, funktiger, but the Sonics didn’t win to spite you.

    What’s killing the Spurs this season is the pick-and-roll, and the Sonics run it very well. They have both great shooters and athletic frontcourt players who can take advantage of the Spurs’ difficulties guarding the pick-and-roll to get easy points. The Spurs have two main problems from what I’ve seen: their big men don’t have the fastest feet, especially Rasho and Tim (because of his plantar fasciitis), and they rely on rotating over so much that they leave themselves vulnerable to offensive rebounds and easy putbacks. It’s difficult to execute those rotations consistently well, but everyone on the team needs to make an extra effort to box out and hit the glass as the pick-and-roll develops. This is something that has always given the Spurs some trouble, but I think they’ll clamp down as the playoffs approach. (But man, a healthy TD would make a big difference. He has been looking a little better lately, though.)

    Totally agree with your comment on Finley’s D. I had the exact same reaction. It’s strange, but he’s looking younger and younger as the season progresses.

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