A Call to the Hall
Last week, when P.J. Carlesimo left Seton Hall to take over as coach of the Portland Trail Blazers, the names of other successful college basketball coaches who Hopped in the pros, notably Dick Vi-tale and Jerry Tarkanian, were thrown in his bearded lace. It has been more than a decade since Vitale failed to make the transition from the University of Detroit to the Detroit Pistons—he went 30-52 with the Pistons in 1978-79 before being fired 12 games into the "79-80 season. But Tarkanian's 20-game disaster with the San Antonio Spurs in 1992-93, after he had gone 501-105 with one NCAA title in 19 years at UNLV, is still fresh in the minds of basketball observers. Why should the highly confident Carlesimo—who at his press conference said, "I'll be shocked if I can't coach at this level"—expect to fare any better?
Well, for one thing, Carlesimo may have less in common with Vitale and Tarkanian than he does with Rick Pitino, who in 1987 left Providence for a successful two-year stint with the New York Knicks before returning to the college ranks. Though his outgoing personality is vaguely Vitalean, Carlesimo, unlike Vitale and Tark—but like Pitino—is also an X's and O's guy, someone who has lived a life of clinics and blackboards. His technical expertise was the major reason that he was selected to assist Chuck Daly with the Dream Team at the 1992 Olympics.
It is hard for a coach who comes to the NBA without a big league reputation to earn one once he's there. Pitino, for instance, spent two seasons as a Knick assistant coach earlier in his career. But Carlesimo has a rep: He has his Dream Team association and, having led an overachieving Seton Hall team to the NCAA finals in 1989, a track record that should gain him the respect of the Portland players.
What's more, he's walking into a good situation. The man he replaces. Rick Adelman, is an outstanding coach, but he was unable to light a fire under the Blazers. Though Portland has a collection of athletes with personal style—e.g., Clyde Drexler, Cliff Robinson and Rod Strickland—its team personality is bland. Maybe it was time for the Blazers to try a coach who has some cheerleader in him.
Ultimately, the NBA is a players' game, and the fact that Carlesimo will not have enough good ones or young ones will be his biggest obstacle And it remains to be seen if Carlesimo's fire and brimstone will play in a league in which many top coaches (Daly, Phil Jackson and Pat Riley, to name three) have been more shrinks than shouters. Still, the Blazers needed new direction, and Carlesimo was a bold and imaginative choice.
Jim Lampley, who calls the action at Wimbledon for HBO. may want to check his history. After Kenneth Carlsen's second-round upset of Stefan Edberg last Thursday, Lampley said that the 113th-ranked Carlsen had "banished the most famous name in Swedish sports history."
What a Surprise
Former Olympic figure skater Tonya Harding appeared at a press conference last week in Portland to announce her involvement in professional wrestling. Surrounded by a troupe of grapplers that included a midget in an orange fright wig and a guy in a red, white and blue superhero outfit, Harding seemed right at home. And why not? After all, this is a woman who kept company with Jeff Gillooly and Shawn Eckardt.
"It's just exciting to be here and be part of this group of wonderful people." said Harding, whose latest career move has her serving as "celebrity manager" for wrestler Art Barr, better known by his ring name of American Love Machine.
There was no indication that Harding herself plans to climb through the ropes, but, really, how long can it be until we see her unleash her triple Axel-body slam from the top turnbuckle?
Marvin Eugene Throneberry, as you can tell by his initials, was a born Met. Marvelous Marv, who died of cancer last week at age 60, left behind a legacy that defies his career numbers: a .237 batting average with 53 homers in seven major league seasons.
Once, Throneberry, a native of Collierville. Term., was a hot New York Yankee prospect, "a lefthanded first baseman who may be the best since Lou Gehrig," reported the New York Journal-American in 1956. Casey Stengel himself said in the spring of '57, "Throneberry is ambitious and serious, in fine shape...and I regard him as a ballplayer of great promise."
That promise never materialized, and in 1959 the Yanks sent Throneberry to the Kansas City Athletics. The A's later sent him to the Baltimore Orioles, and a few days into the '62 season the Orioles traded him to the fledgling New York Mets, managed by his old mentor Stengel. Throneberry actually had his best year with the '62 Mets, hitting .244 with 16 homers for a team that lost 120 games, but his ineptitude in the field and on the base paths came to symbolize the Amazin's. In one June game he cost New York six runs in one inning. In the top half of the first he allowed a Chicago Cub runner to bump into him during a rundown, leading to a four-run Cub rally, and in the bottom half, his triple with two men aboard went for naught because he failed to touch first base. When Stengel argued the call, umpire Dusty Boggess said, "Casey, he missed second, too."
Such misplays endeared Throneberry to the Met faithful, and at the New York Baseball Writers dinner alter the season, he was given the Good Guy award for his self-deprecating demeanor. "They told me not to stand up here too long holding this plaque," said Marvelous Man. "I might drop it."
In the spring of 1963 Throneberry held out for more money. "He's confusing the Good Guy award with the Most Valuable Player trophy," said Met general manager George Weiss. Throneberry eventually signed, but New York sent him down to Buffalo and he never had another major league at bat.
But the legend lived on. In the late 1970s and early '80s, Miller Lite featured Throneberry in a series of TV commercials. He became a star again, simply by uttering variations on the line, "I still don't know why they asked me to do this commercial." Even after the spots stopped running, Throneberry continued to do promotional work for Miller. And though he may not have produced on the field, he certainly produced off it: When he died back home near Collierville, Marvelous Marv left behind five children, 10 grandchildren and lour great-grandchildren.
Television viewers in Iran who tuned in to the Germany-Bolivia World Cup match in Chicago must have wondered why, with the players wilting in the summer heat, spectators at Soldier Field were wearing hats, gloves and fur coats. That inexplicable scene, which was repeated on subsequent World Cup telecasts, was not a sign of American insanity but the result of some sleight of hand by Iranian television.
With Cup matches being broadcast in Iran for the first time since the 1979 Islamic revolution, fundamentalist authorities were concerned about Iranian viewers' seeing shots of decadent Western fans—particularly female fans—in shorts and revealing tops. To avoid that, producers in Tehran, using a several-second electronic delay, simply spliced in footage of heavily clad spectators from winter matches in all scenes in which the crowd appeared. "The correction of un-Islamic scenes is not a problem." said a spokesman for Iranian TV, who clearly hadn't checked a U.S. weather map.
It's no stretch to say that Throneberry symbolized the amazin'ly inept '62 Mets.
This Week's Sign That the Apocalypse Is Upon Us
Hall of fame pitcher Gaylord Perry, notorious in his career for doctoring baseballs, is marketing "limited collectors' edition" autographed jars of petroleum jelly.
They Said It
Owner of Red Rock, a Pro Rodeo Hall of Fame bull who died recently at age 18 in Red Bluff, Calif: "He's probably the most famous person in northern California."