John MacLeod is too nice a man to say what he probably really feels about his firing last week as coach of the Dallas Mavericks. His wife, however, said what she thought of it all.
Carol MacLeod raged against "spoiled" Maverick players and Dallas management, which she said misled MacLeod over the summer about his status. "These players make more money than God, but they never seem to be happy," said Carol MacLeod, who pointed out Dallas' 47-point loss to Seattle last week as the prime example of players quitting on her husband. "They've got a lot of things bothering them. But there are homeless people out there who can't find jobs or something to eat. . . . So, I don't feel sorry for them."
Maverick management incurred her wrath for, she said, not living up to assurances of MacLeod's job security this summer when he was mulling an offer to coach the New York Knicks. MacLeod ultimately turned down the job to remain with the potentially talented but combustible Mavericks.
Owner Donald Carter reportedly had told MacLeod his job was safe for the entire season, if not longer. When that handshake agreement was made public, Maverick executive Rick Sund expressed his displeasure to Carter, who apparently changed his mind.
"They should have told him, so he could've gone to New York," Carol MacLeod said. "They should've done that. But I think (the Mavericks) were getting bad press then and they didn't want to do that."
Sund, the Mavericks' executive who had the final say on the firing, denied misleading MacLeod.
"I said to John at the time, 'I recommended you for the Knicks' job, but I can never say that you won't be let go here," Sund said.
In any case, MacLeod obviously wishes now he had taken the Knicks' job.
"You'd say right now it was the incorrect decision," MacLeod said. "You can use hindsight right now. My decision to stay (in Dallas) was based on family and area. We liked it here. I felt last year, the job was unfinished."
Right. This season, the Mavericks finished a steady disintegration that began last season.
After taking the Lakers to seven games in the Western Conference finals in 1988 before losing, the Mavericks were distracted most of last season by Mark Aguirre's moping. They eventually traded him to the Detroit Pistons for Adrian Dantley, who moped the rest of last season and reportedly is not happy in Dallas this season.
Then, there is the ongoing Roy Tarpley saga. Tarpley missed much of last season while serving his second stint in drug rehabilitation for cocaine use. This season, Tarpley was leading the league in rebounding when he was arrested for drunken driving. He currently is on the suspended list and out indefinitely.
Maybe MacLeod, who coached the Phoenix Suns for 14 seasons before being fired after the 1986-87 season, is fortunate he did not have to endure the Mavericks' upheaval for the rest of the season.
"There comes a time when it's difficult for a coach to reach the players," Maverick center James Donaldson said. "He said all he had to say. He could rant and rave, but it just wasn't registering."
Guard Michael Jordan of the Chicago Bulls was credited with an assist recently, but it had nothing to do with basketball.
"Seattle, last road trip, I was just walking up the street and a man came up and asked me for some dough so he could eat. I guess he knew I was Michael Jordan. Maybe he didn't. Doesn't matter. I gave him $100. I didn't have a $5 bill or a $10 bill, and he had nothing.
"I don't know how it made him feel when I gave him the money. But I know how it made me feel. How can anyone experience the warm feeling you get inside when you give something to somebody and not want to do it again?"
The Portland Trail Blazers' fast start can be attributed to several improvements, including the addition of power forward Buck Williams and the pleasantly surprising play of 6-foot-11 Cliff Robinson, the club's second-round draft pick from Connecticut.
But the biggest change for Portland, 12-4 going into tonight's game against Orlando, apparently has been Clyde Drexler's attitude.
Talk was that Drexler, the prolific shooting guard, did not play hard for former Coach Mike Schuler, who was fired last spring. Drexler did not practice much during Schuler's tenure because of a variety of minor injuries.
Rick Adelman was promoted from interim to permanent head coach partly because of his ability to relate to Drexler.
"Clyde has been just super with me," Adelman said. "From Day 1, he has worked very hard in practice. He has done everything we've asked him to. He's gone out of his way to help the young guys. I can't deal with previous situations. I can only deal with my own, and I think he's been fantastic."
Drexler is playing like a happy man. During a recent seven-game winning streak, snapped Saturday in Denver, Drexler averaged nearly 24 points and shot 55% from the field.
Conversely, the Phoenix Suns' 6-7 start can be attributed to point guard Kevin Johnson's injuries. But even with Johnson back, the Suns are not playing like the team that advanced to the Western Conference finals last season.
The real problem is at power forward. The Suns let Tyrone Corbin go in the expansion draft, and they may regret it. Neither of the replacements Coach Cotton Fitzsimmons has used has been effective.
Armon Gilliam started in the first eight games, but he lost the spot because of continued sluggish play. Rookie Kenny Battle started one game and responded with two points and one rebound. Tim Perry has started the last five games, but has been productive only against the expansion Orlando Magic, scoring 17 points.
Despite being below .500, Phoenix still received this endorsement from Detroit Piston Coach Chuck Daly: "I still think they are a team that can win the conference (title). Cotton has done a good job turning them from strictly an offensive team into an all-around team. You don't always have to play your best basketball (in December)."
Salary cap update: The prosperity of the NBA has led to a 35% increase in the money teams can use for player payrolls. Some teams have had problems not in exceeding the cap limitations, but in staying above the $7.9 million minimum.
The Denver Nuggets, for example, were below the minimum before reworking Lafayette Lever's contract. That is not unusual, since teams in smaller markets do not have the same high revenues from attendance as teams in New York, Los Angeles or Chicago.
"I used to believe (the cap) helped you with fiscal responsibility," Denver executive Pete Babcock said. "I still think it does, but on the survival side, it makes things more difficult. The disparity is in a (bigger) market, where you bring in $400,000 a night, compared with a (smaller) market, $200,000. But you have to have the same payroll."
The raves keep coming in for David Robinson, the San Antonio Spur center who is the leading contender for rookie of the year.
Jerry West, the Lakers' general manager, has said that Robinson could become one of the game's all-time great centers.
And K. C. Jones, now an assistant coach with the Seattle SuperSonics, recently compared Robinson to Bill Russell.