George Karl, who was aging well beyond his 33 years this season until the Cavaliers suddenly began to win a few games, knows a tough situation when he sees one. Karl sees one when he looks at Don Chaney's with the Clippers.
"It's going to be very difficult for Don," said Karl, the first-year coach at Cleveland. "If the Clippers falter, they're playing for Don's job. That's a lot of pressure for a coach to be under. He's just got to forget about it and coach. Forget about the future."
Chaney is the Clipper coach for the rest of the season, but he has no guarantee that he will be back next season as Jim Lynam's full-time successor.
Karl, the youngest head coach in the league, said he thinks there is a trend toward hiring ex-players as coaches, so that could work in Chaney's favor.
"The other options are the basketball junkies who keep getting jobs, plus assistant coaches in the NBA and college coaches," Karl said. "I look at (Indiana's) George Irvine, myself and Chaney as former players who became head coaches this season.
"Don's communication with the players will expedite the respect he gets from them," said Karl. "It used to be said that being an ex-player hurt, but the line I use a lot is 'Don't con me, I've been there.' Don can use the same line."
Karl's first season as a head coach began with a 2-19 start, which taught him a lot about dealing with adversity. That is also something that Chaney is learning.
"If there's one thing I can tell him, it's to do it his own way," said Karl. "Hope you have a strong owner and general manager, but stay with your decisions and don't listen to any second-guessing."
Add Clippers: In case Chaney doesn't return, the list of coaching candidates is growing.
The first wave of names included Kansas Cityassistant Frank Hamblen, former Cavalier Coach Tom Nissalke and Laker assistant Dave Wohl.
In the expanded list, there are San Antonio assistant Scotty Robertson, Kansas Coach Larry Brown, ex-USC Coach Bob Boyd now at Mississippi State, UNLV Coach Jerry Tarkanian and a surprise entry--Portland Coach Jack Ramsay.
Ramsay, however, still has two years left with the Trail Blazers, who have an option for two more, so Ramsay is a long shot. Tarkanian is rumored to be ahead at this time.
There are also the long-shot tandems of Georgetown's John Thompson and Patrick Ewing, or Creighton's Willis Reed and Benoit Benjamin, if the Clippers are in aposition to draft either Ewing or Benjamin.
In a report related to the coaching issue, Denver Coach Doug Moe supposedly played off the Clippers to get his three-year contract with the Nuggets, who without Moe were supposed to have brought in Nissalke.
There are a lot of playoff teams that will spend the rest of the regular season trying to get people well again, but the poorest health appears to be in the East.
The worst-hit team is the New Jersey Nets, who have lost guard Otis Birdsong for probably all of the playoffs. Birdsong broke two bones in his right hand when he hit the floor in a game with Philadelphia.
If he passes his physical, the Nets will sign guard Ron Brewer, a free agent.
Two other injured Nets are forward Albert King, who has a rotator cuff injury, and forward Mike O'Koren, who has a broken arm. The Nets are hoping both will be back for the playoffs.
Washington center Jeff Ruland has played one game since Feb. 1 after straining the rotator cuff in his right shoulder, and guard Frank Johnson has a broken bone in his left foot. The Bullets aren't sure when either will return.
The East's top four teams--Boston, Philadelphia, Milwaukee and Detroit--all have some injuries.
Celtic forward Cedric Maxwell, who had arthroscopic knee surgery, said he expects to play again in a week. Backup center Clemon Johnson of the 76ers, who has a sciatic nerve injury, is on the injured list but should be ready later. Milwaukee is going without point guard Mike Dunleavy, who has a ruptured disk.
Philadelphia signed center Steve Hayes to a 10-day contract to replace Johnson.
Meanwhile, Detroit Coach Chuck Daly has forward Kent Benson hurt with strained left knee ligaments, but Dan Roundfield and Kelly Tripucka are both in the starting lineup again after coming back from injuries.
In the West, Portland has the worst health among the playoff teams. The Trail Blazers lost guard Jim Paxson for up to 10 weeks when he dislocated the ring finger of his right hand last Monday.
The Phoenix Suns, who will play the Lakers tonight, still have center Rick Robey and forward Mike Sanders on the injured list, with a heel and knee injury, respectively, but guard Walter Davis has been back for a while.
The Bill Fitch-John Lucas feud that began when the Rocket coach adopted a hard-line stance to Lucas' return from a drug relapse, has ended.
Lucas watches video tapes of each game with Fitch in Fitch's room when the Rockets play on the road.