FIRE NATE MCMILLAN!-Part 2(EKS)

EKS was brought to my attention at my internship, when the idea of “none coaching” by McMillan was compared to another Oregon icon…

Continued from Part 1:

The problem with Nate McMillan is what I refer to as EKS (Ernie Kent Syndrome). First identified in the mid 2000’s, EKS doomed the then-talented Oregon Ducks basketball program, forcing them to rely on ultra-talented players to essentially to coach themselves into the NCAA Tournament. Having gained early success, and having a nice regional pedigree (UO Alum), EKS’ founder Ernie Kent refused to call plays for any of his 13 years as head coach for the Oregon Duck basketball team. Now you may be thinking, why? Well the answer is because he didn’t need to. In 2001, just as he was being considered for termination for his lack of play calling/coaching Kent was blessed with a group of players maturing at the right time to lead their team to an Elite 8 run in the NCAA Tournament. Luke Ridnour, Freddy Jones, and Luke Jackson were “coaches on the floor,” (as told to me by UO alum and Congressional Staffer Ree Armitage) and thus just ignored Ernie’s random outbursts from the bench.

Five years later later in 2006-2007, just as Kent was once again blessed with an ultra-talented squad led by Aaron Brooks, Malik Hairston, and Bryce Taylor, to the Elite 8. At this point, people once again were happy with “Coach” Kent and allowed him to continue his reign of terror on the men’s basketball team at UO. However, there would not be another bailout from an ultra-talented group to help Kent keep his job. After years of recruiting solid players that conveniently got better on their own, Kent was forced to recruit players who already knew his reputation not actually being a coach. Thus, after three more abysmal seasons at UO, Kent was fired as people found that the EKS was too much for them to bare.

Becoming so relaxed in your job as a coach is common (see: Nelson, Don), but it does not mean you need to stop coaching! McMillan has a serious case of EKS and has had it for years now. The SuperSonics and Trail Blazers have allowed his bad coaching habits to go on for too many years and it is time that they stop this and fire the man that has deserved to be for too many years! McMillan has already established his place as a Blazer icon just by being here for the resurgence that went on a few years ago when Roy stepped onto the court. Because of this, he should recognize that he is only driving the Blazers further and further into a hole and quit his job as Head Coach. With the NBA being a place where reputation is king, if McMillan falters any further in Portland, that reputation will suffer greatly. However, if he lies and says he needs to deal with personal matters or the fit with the team is just not right anymore (absolutely true though), he would maintain a solid relationship with the NBA as well as the Portland fans.

Nate,

Portland needs a coach that will lead them, teach them, and be a real coach. You are a friend to many players, but you are not a coach. Please do yourself and the Portland Trail Blazers a favor and just resign. I promise you, if you do not do this, people will realize and understand that you are suffering from a severe case of EKS and they will fire you. Please do the honorable thing and resign! I appreciate your time.

Best wishes in Seattle or wherever someone makes the mistake of hiring you is,

Haven Kaplan-Miner,

A true Portland Trail Blazer Fan.

FIRE NATE MCMILLAN!-Part 1 (Roots)

For almost two decades Nate McMillan was the enemy; Mr. Sonic they called him in Seattle.

After a career as a third guard on perennial middle of the conference team, McMillan became an assistant and then the head coach of his beloved Seattle SuperSonics. His coaching career began early on in 2000 when he took over recently-fired Paul Westphal and lead the Sonics to a 38-29 record. With a solid squad of players he was familiar with from both playing and coaching, McMillan had to do very little actual coaching and was able to rely on talent. As a young coach, McMillan lead the Sonics to an average of about 42 wins over his 4+ years with the Sonics. However, the Sonics are in the western conference and 42 wins only lead to two seasons where they qualified for the playoffs with only one leading out of the first round.

Lucky for McMillan (this is a trend if you hadn’t noticed), his teams best season came in his contract year as a coach as his team won 52 games and made it to the second round of the playoffs. With his success and his local Northwest roots, a rebuilding Portland Trail Blazers franchise reached up the I-5 corridor and offered McMillan a much larger salary than he was being offered by the SuperSonics (who were in the process of being sold) and thus became the coach of the Trail Blazers.

Upon arrival, McMillan said all the right things. He was going to make sure the players were disciplined and made sure to put a serious emphasis on defense. McMillan had made the Second Team All-NBA Defense two times as a player and thus people bought into him having a defensive presence that the Blazers could thrive on…They were wrong.

What these people had forgotten was that McMillan’s “best” coaching year with Seattle was so successful because of offense. Seattle was a run-and-gun offensive team that only won games by a margin fewer than 3 points per game (2.3). The starting lineup of that team, Luke Ridnour, Ray Allen, Rashard Lewis, Vladmir Radmanovic, and Nick Collison were all shooters (with the exception of Collison), and thus spaced the floor so well that they were able to score at will.

This point was lost on Blazer management who have been long-known for their terrible decisions (see: Bowie, Sam). So with the new coach wrapped up, the Blazers began rebuilding. After one miserable season that saw the Blazers win only 21 times, the Blazers struck gold as then Assistant General Manager Kevin Pritchard talked the aforementioned terrible-decision-makers into picking University of Washington star, Brandon Roy. This changed things, to say the least.

With Roy at the helm, the Blazers got progressively better, and while that was happening, Kevin Pritchard was getting promoted to General Manager. Pritchard “Pritch-Slapped” the league backwards and forwards trading away cancerous and under-productive players, exchanging them for much more talented and productive young ones. With Pritchard wheeling and dealing like a Wall Street executive, McMillans job was simple, “keep them on track.”

McMillan did just that…for awhile. He made sure they were relatively productive for three quarters of play and then in the fourth quarter he made sure the Blazers gave the ball to Brandon Roy. This was an effective strategy as Roy became Mr. 4th quarter, hitting clutch shots in seemingly every game.

Things were fine, and McMillan appeared to most as a great coach. But he’s not. With Pritchard fired (for terrible reasons), and no longer dealing for players to make McMillan look good for the first three quarters, for first time in his five years with the Blazers (39 wins on average –48.2% win percentage), McMillan did not have “Brandon Roy” in the fourth quarter for an extended period of time. With Roy greatly hobbled by knee injuries, McMillans “strategy” of force feeding LaMarcus Aldridge for two quarters and then immediately forgetting about him, only allowing ultra-talented Rudy Fernandez shoot from the outside, and letting the rest of the players do whatever they want for three quarters no longer worked. No Roy meant no finisher, and no finisher means the Blazers don’t win.

McMillan is complacent about it. Making subtle changes like starting super-sub Wes Matthews over super-ineffective Nicolas Batum should have been a no-brainer, but instead McMillan thought about it for a week or two and then finally did it. Unwilling to compromise from any other potential changes that could and would improve the team, McMillan has the Blazers under .500% (losing record at 8-9) to start December. Having absolutely collapsed the past four games in the fourth quarter, McMillan has done nothing but play the same players in a slightly varied lineup to get the team out of its funk. Rather than play tremendous shooters like rookie Luke Babbitt or second year point guard Patty Mills, McMillan has instead gone with inexperienced Armon “I will make a bad decision, I am only a rookie” Johnson, Andre “Please don’t leave me open, I really cannot shoot” Miller, and Dante “I lost my jumper” Cunningham.

As much as I appreciated his efforts to let Roy isolate and takeover the fourth quarter in tonight’s game, McMillan has to accept that Roy is too injured to do such things and should instead allow Roy to play off the ball as a shooter until he gets back to full strength.

When I mentioned my frustrations with “Coach” McMillan to someone at my internship, they made an interesting comparison to EKS. What is EKS? One might ask, well EKS is…

To be continued…

Free? Yes please!

The best word a college student can hear has to be “FREE.” Whether it be on a raggedy-old couch on the sidewalk, or a friend’s old television that he said you could take; when the word free is associated, it is automatically better.

But my favorite “free” is not a couch or a television, but food. While couches and televisions are few are far between, a solid free meal hook-up is always a good thing to have!

Tonight I got a free Chimichanga from my favorite Mexican food restaurant Ole Ole. My friend Lindsay’s parents opened the restaurant quite a few years ago, it is as delicious as ever, and I highly recommend it.

Not everyone is fortunate enough to know kind and generous people who own a restaurant. Because of this, if someone wants free food, they’re going to need to find other ways to get it. One way that I did this, that was actually unintentionally was by creating a Facebook page for my favorite sandwich shop, Taste Tickler.

The page for Taste Tickler, which I only made because I missed it while in Eugene, was a revelation to the family at Taste Tickler. After only a few hours of my friends “liking” the page, the page exploded and now has over 1,500 fans. When I mentioned it to Andi at Taste Tickler, he had me sit down with his dad and talk about possibly running the site for them. After a bit of deliberation, we decided it might be best that we just leave it be and not worry about it too much. But instead of just thanking me, he gave me a huge gift card for the restaurant (I ate there at least once a week for about four months straight, 14 inch every time).

Although I do still run the site, I do it based on my love of Taste Tickler. Because of that, they appreciate it and have been giving me discounts ever since. While it may not be free, there is nothing better than heading over to Taste Tickler on my lunch break from my internship and eating a delicious Chicken Teriyaki sub with no tomatoes (known as the Haven, I am not kidding, try it yourself, they know what it is!) or the ABT (Avocado, bacon, turkey). Taste Tickler is the best sub shop in town and without a doubt is worth every penny. While free is the best word a college student can hear, after saving all that money on a free couch or television, you should head on over to Taste Tickler use some of those savings on a delicious sub!

Clear Eyes, Full Hearts, Can’t Lose!

Yes, this title is straight from the now-defunct NBC/DirecTV show, FNL (Friday Night Lights). While the statement is very important to the show, it is more important to life. To break down the statement, you get three keys to a successful future in whatever field you choose to go into. Because of this, I thought I would give some advice on how to handle any situation that may arise at your future jobs through the eyes of Coach Eric Taylor (FNL) and explain how it translates to your post-graduation life.

Note: (a) will be Coach Taylor, and (b) will be the translation.

1. Clear eyes:
a. When you step out onto that field gentlemen, you better be ready, you better know that field like the back of your hand, you better not blink, because the second you do the opponent will take advantage! Do not allow this happen; you have come too far to back down now!
b. When you approach any job interview, be sure to have done extensive research on the company you are interviewing with, the position to which you are applying, as well as the person interviewing you. If you have time, be sure to get a good nights sleep beforehand so that your eyes do not get a bit lazy from a lack of rest. You have already come far enough in the process that they are willing to consider you (thus the interview), so you should be sure you are aware of the entirety of the situation.

2. Full Hearts:
a. Gentlemen, this is your time. You have been working your whole lives to get to this point, so if you do not put everything you have into it, you are not just going to lose this game, but you will fail yourselves and your teammates. If you are ready to give up, then you should get out of the locker room now, because this right here, its everything. If you don’t love it, then you should not be here right now. Who’s ready to play some football? Lets go have some fun out there!
b. You graduated high school and college to get to this point. Each step you have taken in life, whether it be elementary school, middle school, high school, or college, you have been working toward getting ready to work in a career field of your choosing. You should love that field. You should have been narrowing down your choices all along as an emphasis was placed on specialties (concentrations in high school, majors in college) in your education. From that you should know what you like. Be sure whatever field you end up in, is something that you will be happy with, because it is not worth investing your time and effort into something that you cannot give yourself to 100%. Be sure that your heart is in the career for the right reasons and be sure that you give it your all.

3. Can’t lose:
a. You may have lost this game, but you have nothing to be ashamed of! You all left everything you had on the field and that is something to be proud of, regardless of the outcome. Tonight you may be down on yourselves but you shouldn’t be, because tonight gentlemen, you played like champions and that is not only something to be proud of, but something that if you do that every game, I promise you, we will win gentlemen, we will win and you will be proud that you played the game the right way. Clear eyes, full hearts, CAN’T LOSE!
b. You didn’t get the job…unfortunate resolution. You wanted that job, but it is nothing to hang your hat on. You did things right, you called after turning in your resume, you did research prior to the interview, you were on time (early in fact), you sent you a hand written thank you note afterward, and you were well qualified for the position; but you didn’t get it. You did things correctly, and therefore you should be proud of that. If you do that every time for a job that you love, you will eventually get a job. It is not a question of “if,” but rather a question of “when,” because the only thing that will stop you from succeeding if yourself. Make sure you are prepared, give it your all, and there is no way you won’t walk out of that final meeting with a job title that you won’t love!

I love FNL. I often watch reruns of it after I finished my internship, and while I watch, I focus on the teaching of Coach Taylor. He is one of the premier television dads and the second greatest fictionalized coach behind the infamous coach, Gordon Bombay from The Mighty Ducks. His philosophy, which is symbolized by those three parts, is a beautiful thing and something that everyone would be well advised to look at for guidance. So with that, I have one last thing to say in honor of Coach Taylor; Clear Eyes, Full Hearts, Can’t Lose!

I’m not a writer.

I love writing, and when I write, I feel good; I feel like I am accomplishing something when I write. People tell me that I’m a good writer and suggest that I write a novel or a film. But despite this, I am not a writer.

Writers write, plain and simple. I would love to sit here and tell everyone how I sat down last night and wrote twenty pages of a novel that I have been planning for a year. Heck, even five pages would be progress, but that does not happen. In the past ten years I have come up with countless ideas for stories, both novels and films, but not one of them has made it further than a one page treatment on a piece of lined paper that gets lost within a barrage of schoolwork. I would like to say that I have kept track all of those ideas, but I haven’t.

For whatever reason, I have always been good at last second assignments. The night before something is due, I become the world’s fastest typist for a few hours and crank out whatever I need to turn in. During my junior year of high school, I had a teacher tell me that a paper I had written the previous night was good, but wasn’t about anything. I didn’t fully understand at the time, but after rereading what I had wrote, I realized it had no point of view. From then on, I make sure that my point of view is evident in everything that I write.

By making sure my point of view was visible in my writing, I realized that writing was fun. Even if I rushed the writing, it would have a part of me in every line, I love that. So when I was given writing assignments after that paper, I didn’t complain and instead got excited, wondering what I could possibly think of to make the papers great. I did a little research on subjects, I cleared off my desk, and I gave myself plenty of time to write…but remember, I am not a writer.

I spent hours with an empty Word document open on my computer while sitting on the Internet. I left that same document open for days and never wrote more than a sentence (which I quickly deleted), because I am not a writer. If you give me a task to write on and give me a deadline, I will write; I will write well and with purpose. However, unfortunately for me, book deals are not given based on assignments, they are based on a writers best long-form work. I have no long-form work because I simply cannot make myself write on anything for any extended period of time.

At my internship, I am given a task to write about and I do it without fail. Multiple staffers have complimented me on my writing ability and ask me about whether or not I want to do some sort of writing as a career. I currently have no answer.

My dad was a promotional writer for OPB for over thirty years. Everything I know about writing and much of the voice I built up for my writing is because of him. But he is not a writer either. He has always wanted to write the “Great American Novel,” but he hasn’t and there is nothing wrong with that. There is something inside both of us that just does not allow us to use the talent to take that next step to become a writer.

Someday, I too hope that I write the “Great American Novel,” or a screenplay that gets green lit into something that becomes an Academy Award winning film, but until I actually sit down and write (ala being a writer), it is all just a pipe dream. As I said, I love writing, and I would love to say that even writing this blog post is progress, but this is an assignment and I am not a writer.

Greg Oden…

Today was a great day at my internship. Someone brought delicious cookies, I went to an event where I received one of the first ever Oregon quarters in circulation that features Mount Hood on the back, and the phones were relatively quiet all day…but then tonight happened.

First, let me start off by saying that I am not only a die-hard Portland Trail Blazer fan, but all-around basketball addict. So when I write about Greg Oden, I am not simply worrying about the future of the Trail Blazers, but mourning for the NBA, who has lost 3 of the first 4 years of this once phenom’s NBA career, and for basketball who may have lost a truly transcendent star.

He was going to be the next Bill Russell. It was not a question of if he would be an all-star, a hall of famer, lead our team to unbelievable success, or be a dominant presence on both offense and defense; it was all going to happen, plain and simple.

From the time Greg was in middle school, he has been known for dominating the game of basketball, and after leading his high school to three straight state championships, he graduated and went to Ohio State University (unfortunately), where he lead his team to a National Championship game in his freshman (and only) season, despite playing with only one hand most of the season.

Greg’s success was often and unprecedented for such a young athlete, but his combination of size, athleticism, instinct, and natural feel for the game of basketball, made it understandable that he could have such great success.

However, along with his incredible ability came injuries; lots of injuries. Apparently Greg fractured his hip in 6th grade…wait, really? Yeah, that happened. Then at the end of a relatively injury free for high school Greg broke his wrist to start his one season of college hoops. But that was only the tip of the iceberg, as Greg would go onto have a micro-fracture surgery on his right knee to stimulate cartilage growth (missing his rookie season), a foot injury (missing the first two weeks of his second season), and then a broken left kneecap during easily his best stretch of basketball since high school (only 20 games into his third season, missing the remainder of the season). All-in-all, Greg played 82 games…in three seasons, exactly one-third of the games allotted he actually played in, that’s all…

But you know what, Greg is a great guy. By all accounts, he is a very funny, intelligent, well-spoken young man who loves the game of basketball and appreciates everything that the city of Portland, the Trail Blazers organization, and his fans have done for him during his career. So because of that, along with his unbelievably unique talent, we did not give up hope (some of us did, but not true fans). Instead we wished bigger, hoping that when he came back he would pick up where he left off early on last season and begin dominating both ends of the floor, and eventually, leading us to where he was destined to take us, an NBA Finals appearance and win!

Unfortunately for all of us, we got ahead of ourselves. As you have all heard by now, Greg was taken from us tonight by yet another micro-fracture surgery, this time on his left knee. So that 82 games did not change this year as Greg had yet to suit up for a game, making his grand total of games played in his four (and presumably complete) years on the Trail Blazers 82/328. We already know that, that is 25%, or 17% less than the “legendary” Sam Bowie played for the Trail Blazers in his own four year career with them.

The issue here is not whether or not the Trail Blazers made the right decision on draft day in 2007; for the record, they did (To be continued/explained). But the real issue is where do they go from here, and where does Greg go? The Trail Blazers committed time and roster space in building around Oden and now do they just shift it slightly, making Marcus Camby the temporary solution? Or do they change things dramatically and look for a trade to find a new franchise center? Only time will tell what GM Rich Cho will do. But that is not actually important right now. What is truly important is Greg.

Greg truly loves the game of basketball, and while things did not work out the way they should have in Portland, he needs to understand this is not his fault. For whatever reason, the basketball gods hate Portland (Hey, MJ!), and even more hate Greg’s body (one leg is shorter than the other–of course!). But for Greg to be what he was always destined to be (next Bill Russell, NBA Champion), he needs to get past these tragic four years, he needs to realize that the past is the past and move onto doing what he loves to do; keep the passion, keep the drive, keep the determination, and keep his spirits up. While I have read reports of depression in Greg’s past having to sit out so many games with little-to-no chance to prove himself, Greg needs not get depressed this time. He did not deliver in Portland and he can be sad about that, but now it is time for him to accept it, move on, and dominate. I will be sad to see him do it in anything other than that Trail Blazer uniform, but ultimately, I will be happy to see him shine, and basketball gods willing; he will.

Best of luck Greg. I am sorry that this was your fate, but I do not blame you for any of this and I will always be your fan!

Elevator Speech

Throughout this course (J409-Practicum), we have heard all about ways to pitch ourselves to possible future employers. One of the most crucial methods that we discussed was the “Elevator Speech,” which is essentially what you would say to a potential employer if you were given only a few moments to highlight your best attributes, accomplishments, and attitude.

Many people liken the elevator speech to speed dating or awkward flirting, I would tend to agree.

While these types of conversations/meetings can lead to jobs or a helpful contact that could also lead to a potential job, they can also feel quite forced and when you are on the receiving end, very rehearsed. Although I would like to emphasize that this is a much better alternative than being unprepared!

In terms of my experience with the elevator speech, I have focused in the past on being a likable person with good communication skills…not exactly going to blow any potential employers away. With that said, that all changed in September when I got my internship.

Rather than focus on achievements or skills, I simply mention my major and then tell them that I am currently interning at United States Congressman Earl Blumenauer’s Congressional Office. The end, literally I cannot get in another word ninety percent of the time after I say where I am interning. People bombard me with questions and shower with me with admiration and praise for being an intern…it is slightly strange.

As I have said in the past, I love my internship, and while I have mixed emotions about the praise that I receive for it outside of the internship itself, I know that I am lucky to be receiving it at all.

I actually accidentally put my elevator speech to the test this week when I walked into a jewelry store to ask them to open up my iPhone with a little needle they use for watches. Within about one minute of entering the store I was asked if I was interested in purchasing anything and out of habit I replied, “No, I’m an unpaid intern, so unless you are hiring, there is no way I could afford anything in these cases.” Little did I know, they were looking for holiday help and after I used my slightly rehearsed elevator speech, highlighting my internship I was told to come back in to interview formally for a position.

While I do not have the job yet, I am very hopeful that elevator speech and “being likable with communication skills” will do the trick. The task now is to get ready for the interview, present myself as positive as possible and expand on my elevator speech to the point that this time next week I will hopefully be starting a brand new job. Wish me luck!

Oh and the reason I went into the store in the first place was to get my sim card out of my phone in order to test out a phone that I am planning to flip for Christmas money. So even if I don’t get this job, at least I always have my backup job!