Friday, July 9, 2010

Phil And LeBron

TigerBlog was all set to write about Phil Spiniello today. And he will, though he has to add a few things at the end that he didn't want to get into.

Spiniello, for those who don't know, spent the last four years as an assistant women's swimming and diving coach at Princeton. He left earlier this week to become the head coach at Rutgers.

While Spiniello was at Princeton working with head coach Susan Teeter, the Tigers won three Ivy League championships, were consistently ranked in the national Top 25 and put together a 30-meet winning streak that will carry over into next year.

Princeton finished 18th at the NCAA championships the last two years.

TB wasn't sure what kind of program Rutgers had, so he looked it up: The Scarlet Knights finished fifth in the Big East a year ago.

Princeton is filled with assistant coaches like Phil Spiniello. He's not yet 30 years old, and he's been a coach at Arizona State and Princeton.

He's also a graduate of Franklin & Marshall.

He fits the profile of any number of assistant coaches who are working at Princeton. Their coaching lives include all aspects of working with a Division I program, and they also recruit, recruit, recruit.

For some, it becomes apparent that this isn't the life they want and they move on to other things. For most, it has the opposite effect, turning them into lifers who use their time at Princeton to move to head coaching positions or assistant jobs at other levels.

They do all this far from the spotlight. TB is always fascinated when he sees the head coach (in whatever sport) go talk to the media, even if it's just the kids from the Prince or the OAC contact with a flip cam, while the assistant coaches pack up the video stuff or make sure the tailgate is set up.

As for Spiniello himself, TB's first dealing with him came when Spiniello did something TB didn't like and then came and apologized, something that TB has always respected.

The new RU coach is a tremendous person, one of a group of people who always stops by the OAC to say hi, even when nothing's up. TB wishes him nothing but the best at Rutgers.

Now, as for the other subject, has there ever been anything more embarrassing that what happened with the whole LeBron James thing last night?

TB didn't watch it, because who could care enough about anything other than what team he picked, and TB figured he'd find that out soon enough.

TB has always thought that James was remarkably poised and composed for someone who has been the subject of adulation his whole life. And, much like he always rooted for Michael Jordan even though it was at the expense of his favorite team (the Knicks, who by the way, probably didn't expect the summer of 2010 to end up like this), he did the same with James.

In the end, TB feels like James cheapened himself by 1) leaving Cleveland rather than bringing a championship there, even if he had to do it alone and 2) the whole overkill of the announcement.

If nothing else, it's a reflection of the Kardashian-ing of society. If TV cameras follow you around and hang on your every word, regardless of how banal it is, you can't help but start to think that you're fascinating.

Tomorrow afternoon, Spain and the Netherlands (TB's June 11 World Cup entry wishing Bob Bradley luck picked a Spain-Netherlands final, sort of) will play for the World Cup championship. Every player on both teams is a professional, and they will play all-out as hard as they ever have to win the first title for their country.

Win or lose, they will go back to their million dollar lives of being elite players in Europe.

There will be something extraordinarily special about the World Cup final, though. TB guesses that they'd all give back a year's salary each to win that one game.

When you're playing for something bigger than just yourself, like your country or even your school, that love of the game is still there, and it can inspire those who watch it. When you're all about yourself, as LeBron was last night, it turns people off.

TB will have a hard time rooting for the Heat, and he feels badly for the people in Ohio. As for the Knicks, he's used to it.

And to Phil Spiniello, good luck in the new assignment. TB will rooting for you.

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