A sluggish Hawks starting lineup walked off the court and to the bench following a first quarter timeout.
They were losing by nearly double digits.
The Knicks, coached by Indiana Pacers scout and long time coach George Felton, had surged to an early lead behind the inspired play of the second stringers in Friday afternoon action at the ABCD Camp in Teaneck, NJ. It's customary for the second team to begin action in the first quarter at the yearly camp, as all 10 players on the roster play two quarters each.
"Let's pick up the intensity," shouted the Hawks' coach to his players with a stern New England accent.
A fan sitting in the third row of the stands nearby unfolded a half-crumpled roster.
He looked up at the coach.
"Hey," the fan realized, "that's Paul Biancardi."
Indeed it was.
The Boston native, a former 13-year assistant of ex-Ohio State head coach Jim O'Brien, returned to the hardwood after parting ways with Wright State in mid-March.
Biancardi had just finished his third season with the Raiders before a decision by the NCAA ruled he could not recruit until October 2007. The conclusion came after many months of agonizing over whether or not he would be punished as part of the NCAA's case against O'Brien and Ohio State for violations in the men's basketball program between 1999 and 2002.
Wright State and Biancardi severed ties. Biancardi was left without a job but surfaced this week back in the gymnasium.
In Teaneck, the shadows of New York City, Biancardi was home again.
It might not have been his Boston home. It might not have been his Ohio home – where he coached at Ohio State and Wright State for nine seasons.
It didn't matter that New York was nearly 500 miles away – he may as well have been coaching in the Buckeye state. On his roster were Cincinnati North College Hill sensations O.J. Mayo and Bill Walker, Ohio State 6-9 commitment Dallas Lauderdale, 6-8 Aaron Pogue and 6-5 William Buford of Toledo Libbey.
The old cliché any press is good press doesn't apply to Biancardi, whose name has finally fallen off the hot seat.
Biancardi saw his fair share of bad press, and he wants nothing to do with any more of it. He's in New Jersey to coach basketball at the twenty-third annual ABCD Camp, not grab the headlines.
"I don't like to talk about that stuff," he explains, as if an explanation is necessary. "I am just glad to be here at this great event coaching basketball."
Instead, it was he doing the coaching and Mayo and Walker grabbing the headlines.
Through 3 days, the two had combined on nearly 30 points a game while each playing just two quarters – a total of 32 minutes if you add it all up.
"First O.J. is very skilled, he shoots the ball very well with range, he's very competitive, he puts the ball on the floor – I think he's a scoring guard who can score with the ball in his hands and can also do things without it – he's just a very good guard," Biancardi said. "Billy is an incredible athlete. He's a warrior, very competitive and I think his shooting has really improved. People around him say he's worked on it and I think it shows.
"Both of them possess the will to win," he added, "and I think that's what separates them from their peers."
Although coaching Mayo or Walker for less than a week may admittedly be less of a challenge than Biancardi is accustomed to facing in the profession, he wouldn't trade the opportunity for the world.
You don't really know what you've got until it's gone.
That's why he's soaking up every last minute of his time in New Jersey with another chance to coach basketball.
"This has been a wonderful week being around old friends," Biancardi said. "I'm enjoying being here at the camp doing what I love to do the most – that's coach."
The instinct to teach and to win basketball games has remained with Biancardi, as it does with most others in the coaching profession.
However, the chance to tutor future collegiate basketball players crossed paths this week with his former institution.
Biancardi is a former assistant at Ohio State. One of his players this past week was Lauderdale, ranked No. 80 in the country by ScoutHoops.com, a verbal commitment to Ohio State.
"It's the first time I've seen Dallas play," he noted. "He's a big, strong young man who's very good around the basket."
He knew it was his last chance to tutor Lauderdale, but thought highly of his future.
"I'm sure when the Ohio State coaches get a chance to coach him more, the skill level will increase," Biancardi added. "Dallas is very coachable. He's a great young man."
The opportunities to coach Lauderdale, Mayo, Walker and others were few – a handful of practices, a couple of scrimmages and a half dozen basketball games. But the experiences were plentiful.
For Biancardi, this was the start of a second chance – a new lease on life.
Perhaps he didn't really need it, or deserve to lose the first chance. Only history and his critics can argue that point.
But sometimes saying very little speaks louder than saying a lot. Whether he says it or not, when Biancardi wakes up every morning, he has to wonder how he and O'Brien can be praised for so many years for doing things the right way, then criticized so harshly for making mistakes after the fact.
That's why when he woke up every morning at the camp hotel in Hackensack, there was no wondering what could have been. There were no regrets and no sorrows.
He was coaching basketball – the way Biancardi wants it.
The ABCD Camp wasn't an audition. It wasn't a temporary hiatus – it is a way of life.
It's bound to get him back into coaching.
"There's no question about it," he says, "I will be back in coaching – some day soon."
Until that day comes, Biancardi doesn't want to read a newspaper, especially about him, unless the headline reads he is back in coaching.
Even the notion he may be watching games on television for the upcoming season may be premature.
"I don't know where I'm going to be," he concludes. "It's still summer – but don't count me out."
It's not going to be the last time he barks out instructions.