John Feinstein Hates Rick Greenspan, and Wants Us to Know It

My friend in Chicago, Len Totlan, PR advisor to the stars, is no fan of former Indiana University Athletic Director Rick Greenspan, and a big fan of author, sports enthusiast, and moral barometer John Feinstein.  This results in an email to me every time Feinstein lights up Greenspan in writing or on a broadcast.

Feinstein is a big fan of the Patriot League and the U.S. Military Academy.  He wants Army to perform well athletically and attributes the steep decline of the Army athletic programs to Greenspan.  Indiana University also slipped backwards under Greenspan, who presided over the nightmarish regime of Kelvin Sampson as the head basketball coach. 

Below are some of the most memorable and angry of Feinstein’s quotes regarding the man Feinstein loathes more than all others: 

John Feinstein was writing about the Jets today and was talking about some of their assistant coaches and he threw this line in:

 “And then there’s Bob Sutton, who was the coach at Army when I wrote, “A Civil War.” There are few better men in sports than Sutton, whose firing by the worst athletic director in history (Rick Greenspan) was the start of Army’s 11 year tailspin, lowlighted by an 0-13 record a few years ago.”

Here are some other quotes from Feinstein, who equates all incompetence in sports to the standard set by Greenspan.

“Ever since Kelvin Sampson was forced to resign in disgrace as Indiana’s basketball coach a couple of week ago, people have wondered how Rick Greenspan has kept his job as IU’s athletic director. Apparently Greenspan is going to survive because Indiana has another one of those gutless presidents that litter the college basketball landscape.”

“The real culprit in this story, though, is the athletic director, just like at Indiana. Bob Scalise has a lot in common with Greenspan: He’s arrogant and self-righteous and not nearly as smart as he thinks he is.”

“The hiring of Brock gives some Academy grads flashbacks to Todd Berry’s arrival at West Point in 1999. Then-athletic director Rick Greenspan hired Berry from Illinois State without conducting an extensive search. Berry was fired in 2003 after going 5-35 in three-plus seasons.  According to author John Feinstein, who wrote a book on Army-Navy football, as well as Harry Walters, who played on Army’s last undefeated team in 1958, Navy’s Paul Johnson and Ohio State’s Jim Tressel both were interested in the position when Berry was hired. Johnson was at Georgia Southern and Tressel at Youngstown State. Walters said that alumni also were brushed off by Greenspan when they mentioned Jim Grobe, then at Ohio University, as a candidate.”

“Navy’s seven straight wins over Army by an average margin of 39-10 (think about that) are a reflection of the complete incompetence within the Army athletic program, dating back to the disastrous decision to briefly join Conference USA and the even worse decisions to hire Rick Greenspan as athletic director (he also ruined basketball at Indiana if you’re scoring at home) and Todd Berry as football coach.”

“On Tony Kornheiser’s radio show today, Jay Bilas was asked about Bruce Pearl and the Indiana job. He said, “Indiana is a little bit disfunctional right now. And, honestly Tony, I wouldn’t work for that athletic director for any amount of money. I don’t think he’s competent.” This echoes John Feinstein’s sentiments when Sampson was hired.”

“John Junior Feinstein was quoted on Tony Kornheiser’s radio show recently that Indiana AD Greenspan ‘could always be counted on to do the wrong thing.’”

“I pretty much lost it, screaming at Tim, Dick and Dean, ‘What the hell is going on here? Who hired this guy? (Rick Greenspan, the worst Athletic Director hire in history) They’ve given up! How can Army players give up!'”

“Soon after Sutton was gracelessly fired on a Philadelphia street corner by the graceless Greenspan, Dick had a bout with depression brought on by 9-11. He kept having recurring dreams about firefights he’d taken part in during Vietnam and also worried constantly that his players who were overseas fighting were going to die. During the period that he was out of work players streamed by Dick’s house to see him. Most of West Point went to see him. Neither Todd Berry nor Rick Greenspan ever contacted him. In fact, their response was to bring in Berry’s equipment manager from Illinois State and push Dick out of his job. “

John Feinstein is one of the guardians of sport.  He holds people accountable to a standard beyond wins and losses, but also to the records teams post.  He is what all sportswriters should be honest, indignant in the face of idiocy, and a zealous advocate for honest competition.

My enduring memory of Greenspan is of watching him sit on the sidelines of basketball games with reading glasses perched upon his nose scribbling furiously on a legal pad.  Just what the hell was he writing?  “Get Eric Gordon the ball more”  “Jordan Crawford looks high.”  “Deandre Thomas is a glazed doughnut away from being as big as I am.”  Was he working on a shopping list?  Who watches a game like that regardless of his position?

I have nothing against Greenspan, other than the peculiar scribbling during the basketball games, but I love it when a writer has an ax to grind – well-earned or not.  Feinstein obviously believes with all his heart that Greenspan is one of the worst people in sports, and that makes his writing a lot of fun.

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