Wednesday, October 17, 2018


The NBA season began last night with two games.

TigerBlog works with two of the world's biggest Philadelphia 76ers fans, his Office of Athletics colleagues Craig Sachson and Warren Croxton. You can actually make that three huge Sixers fans, since Princeton's head football coach, Bob Surace, is also one.

Interestingly, Croxton is the only one of three who roots for the Phillies. Craig is a Twins fan, and Surace loves his Yankees.

During NBA season, they all hang on every Sixers game. It was rough for a few years there, though all that has changed as "The Process" that everyone trusted has started to pay off.

Now, instead of worrying how, say, the New Orleans game will impact Philadelphia's chances in the lottery, now there can be legitimate talk of not only making the playoffs but also making a deep playoff run.

The Sixers are an easy team to like. Their players are young and good, and they also come across as, well, not jerks. They're also led by a player, Joel Embiid, who 1) is the kind of player you can build championships around (as long as he's healthy) and 2) looks like he's having more fun playing than any player TB can remember since possibly Magic Johnson.

TigerBlog has always been a fan of the New York Knicks.

It's been a rough go for the Knicks for awhile, though like the Sixers the Knicks finally appear to have a plan (a process, if you will) that they're willing to stick to and a chance to be really good soon. The 2018-19 season starts for New York tonight, when they host the Atlanta Hawks.

The Knicks have won a single division title in 20 years and have not made the NBA playoffs since the 2012-13 season. They also have had a series of players of late whom TB will describe as "unrootable," though that should really be "unrootable for," which doesn't sound quite right.

TB grew up a Knicks fan, and among his earliest sports memories - along with the Miracle Mets of 1969 - are the Knicks' two NBA titles in 1970 and 1973. He knew all about Red Holtzman and those great Knicks teams, led by Willis Reed, Walt Frazier, Dave DeBusschere, Earl Monroe and of course, a certain 6-5 forward whose college exploits TB would come to know a lot about.

You know. Bill Bradley.

TigerBlog has seen a picture of the Knicks during an exhibition game in Jadwin Gym, and it dawns on him that if that was the only time the team played an exhibition game there, then it was also the only time Bradley every played in the building. Princeton played its home games in Dillon Gym when Bradley was here.
Bradley's presence on those teams gave Princeton a connection to the glory days of the Knicks. Now there's another Princeton connection as these Knicks try to recapture that magic.

Steve Mills, Princeton Class of 1981, is the team president. He and the rest of the team's front office - which includes Craig Robinson, the two-time Ivy League Player of the Year and 1983 Princeton grad, not to mention the father of last year's first-team All-Ivy League women's player Leslie Robinson - and coaching staff seem to have gotten away from the "let's find the biggest stars we can find and not worry about whether they can defend anyone" philosophy that has plagued the franchise lately and now are going down an actual rebuilding path.

TB has heard for years that the Knicks couldn't really rebuild because fans wouldn't want to come to see a team that didn't have some star power to it, and TB has always believed quite the opposite. Knicks' fans, like TB, want a few things.

First, they want a team that will play hard. Second, they want a team that is a semblance of an actual team, one that is well-coached, one that plays together, one that isn't all about who scores the most points.

This team probably isn't a playoff team just yet, but there a few young pieces and a head coach - David Fizdale - who seems to have the makings of someone who can bring out the best in a team. Also, the team will have a lot of salary cap space this year and possibly next, and while it looks like Lebron James will never be a Knick, who knows who might be. Bring in the right free agent and get a good lottery pick, and you'll have something.

As for Mills, TigerBlog can tell you that he's a down-to-earth, friendly guy who always greets you with a smile and a handshake. He's incredibly proud of his Princeton roots and the time he spent playing for Pete Carril here, and he has been a very loyal supporter of the program.

TigerBlog listened yesterday to a podcast done in conjunction with the Association of Black Princeton Alumni that featured Steve Mills. You can listen to it HERE.

In it, Mills talks about his experiences as a basketball player here, what Carril said to him as he recruited him, how he came to work in professional basketball and of course his current role with the Knicks.

The interviewer, by the way, is former Princeton football, basketball and track letterwinner Isaac Serwanga.

Listen to the podcast. And go Knicks.

Steve Mills alone makes them Rootable.

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