It’s hard to do a Zoom meeting with the media and not sound crazy. There is something about sitting in a room with people looking you in the eye that keeps a person honest.
That’s all I have as a defense for Pacers president Kevin Pritchard’s post mortem media hour. Sitting in front of a computer, a person can say some weird things, and Kevin did.
There were two repeated themes from Pritchard I found odd. The first was how he claimed culpability for his team’s woes in its four game sweep at the hands of the Miami Heat. Many times today Pritchard said, “I take full responsibility.” This was offered as a gracious statement to counter recently fired coach Nate McMillan, who generously claimed responsibility after he was canned.
Had we been in the Fuson Media Room at Bankers Life Fieldhouse, my brow would have furrowed, and I might have asked, “Hey, if you are responsible, why is Nate out of work, and you are sitting here claiming responsibility?” Of course, the answer is self-evident. Many executives are publicly polite, but very few resign whether or not they are responsible for the poor performance of his/her entity or department.
Pritchard also spent a disproportionate amount of time during his 60 minutes of unchecked opining thanking Victor Oladipo for making “a huge sacrifice” by playing in the Orlando bubble. He said, “You have to give Victor a ton of credit.” Oladipo’s contract pays him roughly a quarter million dollars each game. I must have missed the lecture on business ethics where fulfilling the terms of a contract qualifies as “sacrifice.”
If by “sacrifice,” Pritchard was referring to Oladipo exposing his physical condition as incapable of competing at a high level, I agree with him, but it seemed his mental errors were at least as big a part of his lackluster performance as his surgically repaired quad tendon.
Then Pritchard delved into the psyche of the current player, and how a new coach would be hired in part due of his ability to communicate effectively. Nothing wrong with hiring a gifted communicator, but Pritchard’s assessment of modern NBA players struck me as bizarre. “We have to figure out how to communicate on their terms,” he said. “They’re living a different life and it seems like it’s based around the phone, but, again, they’re into fashion and they’re changing and they’re becoming more self-observant.”
Four things occurred to me as Pritchard shared this thoughts about today’s players. One – Pritchard made my dad sound old with his these darned kids appraisal of players. Two – he never saw the clothes horse stylings of Clyde Frazier when he played for the Knicks, (Frazier makes current NBA stars look like corporate attorneys). And three, if Pritchard really values communication, he might want to stop talking about those with whom he is going to communicate like they are pod people whose evolution requires massive re-programming of a basketball operation. Four – he basically said McMillan is incapable of relating to current NBA players.
The final strange interlude we’ll discuss was an admission that he called Colts general manager Chris Ballard to pick his brain about his process for hiring a coach. The rivalry between Indy’s two major league franchises used to be intense enough that such a conversation was unthinkable. That a talk between Ballard and Pritchard took place, I applaud. The part that’s unusual is that Pritchard – an executive with a 141-96 (.595) record after taking over the Pacers presidency from Larry Bird – called a guy for advice whose three Colts teams are 21-27 (.438).
Ballard may go down in NFL history as a great general manager, but his record as of today tells a different story. Pritchard may also be remembered as an all-time great, but the next time he talks to the media, he needs to be in the same room. It helps him – and it helps us.