On Manliness and the Man the Bucks Should Not Chase


This weekend the Bucks reportedly picked three candidates to bring in for a second interview: Kelvin Sampson, Larry Drew, and Steve Clifford.   Then the Bobcats lavished Clifford with their gem of a job, and the Bucks’ wish list was pared down to two.  There had been earlier chatter about Milwaukee pursuing Memphis coach Lionel Hollins, and that story reared up again last night.

The Clippers and Nets have higher-profile gigs to offer so if they want Hollins, maybe the Bucks get a pass here.  But if not, it should be pointed out that Hollins may not be the best fit. Last night provided a fair bit of evidence to that end.

First, there was Hollins berating a referee using an archaic appeal to his manhood. (The tweet is from Geoff Calkins, who writes about the Grizzlies for The Commercial Appeal.)

Then later, after a play that displeased him, Hollins gave a Jerryd Bayless a minor but noticeable shove.

Granted, the Grizzlies’ loss may have been a grandly disappointing end to a promising season, but Hollins did not demonstrate the necessary tact. If he were to take over the helm of a Bucks’ team — one which consists of at least a few players who have had shaky or limited relationships with their fathers —  his “Be a man” schtick would wear out quickly.

It wasn’t a night without precedent, either.  From a Grantland interview earlier this season, Hollins compared the players of his era (70s/80s) to the players of today.  Zach Lowe asked the questions and did well to pick out the term ‘manliness’ for the follow-up:

"So perhaps it’s fair to say you think the game then was better, but maybe not the players?The depth of athleticism now is better. The depth of basketball IQ, of competitiveness, of manliness, was better then.Manliness?Oh, there are a few men still in the league now. But guys then were playing for their living — playing for their families and their livelihoods. There are guys in the league now who don’t even care if they ever play, if they ever get off the bench."

Oh for the love of testosterone and machismo, please make it stop.

The Bucks need a strong personality to be sure, but is Hollins going to be the one to keep Ersan Ilyasova from getting psyched out after a bad game and a quick hook?  Is he going to be the one to help Larry Sanders lasso his frustrated wrath?  Can he be the one to keep Brandon Jennings actively listening and learning?  Let’s take them in order: No, no, and no.

Of course, it would be one thing if Hollins’ playing days actually mirrored the ideal in his head. There were, for sure, many manly men on Jack Ramsay’s 1970s Trailblazers teams. It just that Lionel Hollins wasn’t necessarily one of them.  From David Halberstam’s Breaks of the Game,

"For Lionel Hollins was in many ways the prototype of the best of modern professional athletes, more talented, more creative, better educated and, at the same time, more sensitive and delicate emotionally, than an older generation.  The normal wounds of professional athletic life — those incurred on the court, those caused by what the coach did or did not do, or by that which was published — lingered long with Hollins.  It had, for example, taken him longer to adjust to Portland and its fans than it did other players…The crowd rode him hard, and Hollins responded to it.  There had been one memorable night when the crowd booed him — there had been several turnovers — and Lionel had pranced gracefully in front of the bench, pirouetting the full three hundred and sixty degrees in light ballet, raising aloft his hands and his middle finger in an age-old symbol of defiance."

So, in summary, whether it’s Jerryd Bayless this year, or John Henson next, and upon making a bad basketball play, Hollins lays into him with an appeal to some traditional notion of manhood, a vocal testament of what it means to be masculine, then please sit Coach down and show him this sterling video of himself in 1977.  Mr. Hands-on-Hips is wearing jersey #14. One notion of manhood would have him trying to get involved in the fight.  Another would have him trying to restrain or console an agitated teammate in an effort to bring calm to the chaos.  Aside from one passive paw at opponent Darryl Dawkins, Hollins mostly eschews both.