DB.com At The Mavs Stage - See The Video!
ITEM: As you may know, I'm pro-Barry Switzer. I enjoy and respect him personally. And professionally? After one of the most brilliant college coaching careers ever, he led ... oh, OK, he didn't LEAD ... the Dallas Cowboys to two straight NFC title games and a Super Bowl win.
You can't take away his ring ... because he is at the very least one of the thousands tiny in the human chain that made it work. Would you really risk breaking the chain?
An example of his tiny links: More than once, when Charles Haley was home and needed his medication, the errand boy who ran it over to him was ... head coach Barry Switzer.
How big was Switzer's "little thing'' to a troubled-but-instrumental member of that title team? What if Haley played better because he responded positively? (And that's not counting the even more tangible impact of the actual medicine.)
ITEM: It's all a party now ... and we've got Britton Lynn and Kevin Brolan of DB.com down in the trenches at the AAC for this party day report ...
ITEM: Oh, it's all fun and games now. (Until somebody gets an eye poked out!) But the Mavs' success isn't just a big success. It is a series of small successes, wrapped up the same Switzerish way ... small links, subtle links, often unrecognized links ... For instance:
ITEM: Director of sports psychology Don Kalkstein.
In his first life, he was a small-college baseball coach. "Coach K,'' they used to call him. In addition to helping the Boston Red Sox to the top, he became a Mavs staffer.
Don is a lovely man. Friendly and engaging. Unless you want to ask him questions about professional sports, his players, his teams. He is substantially less engaging then.
Coach K does not want your attention. (I was surprised to hear Rick Carlisle announce his name in the NBA Finals Game 6 after-partying.) It's enough that he has the attention of the players.
ITEM: Special assistant Tim Grgurich.
If you do not regularly read this space (an error on your part!) you do not know this: Grgurich, the semi-legendary lifer of an NBA assistant coach who isn't even a "full-time'' (in title) Mavs assistant, is responsible for having refined the team's defensive playbook very early this season.
Why do so few people know this? Because Grgurich prefer you not know.
Maybe he's concerned about taking any credit away from Dwane Casey, himself a big-brained coach responsible for much of the defensive plan here. (Assuming Casey gets another head-coaching shot in Toronto, the next big move is trying to keep Tim around and putting him in charge of the defense.)
But whatever Grgurich's motives, they are pure. His wish to avoid the spotlight is so true that I'm not sure he was even in the building during Thursday's celebration at the AAC.
ITEM: Assistant general manager Keith Grant.
He typifies the high quality of the individuals who provide the spine of this front office. And he is the do-all/know-all Answer Man in the organization. The creative thinking of Mark Cuban is well-recognized. Same with Donnie Nelson (at least to folks paying attention). But Grant combines creative thought with a thorough knowledge of whether the zany ideas might just work.
ITEM: Grant ... Donnie ... Cuban? None of them will step up and absorb the credit I try to give them for the "zany'' construction of Erick Dampier's contract. But know this: The DUST Chip was done on purpose ... with a "some day'' in mind.
And the acquisition of Tyson Chandler in reality ... a mental and contractual seed planted years before it sprouted.
ITEM: Donnie's Army.
I know few men who have more irons in the fire than Donnie Nelson. The centerpiece of all his thoughts and efforts is the Mavs, of course; I call him "The President of Utopia'' and so yeah, he's happy being swamped.
How does he do it? He does it with the help of a small army of men and women who hustle and scurry and drive to the airport and scout players and ... well, everything.
The members of the army who I've gotten to know have aspirations. They want to be full-time scouts, head coaches, NBA general managers. But for now, they are endlessly willing to shovel the coal that fuels the machine that is engineered by Donnie Nelson.
Carlisle is joking about asking Dirk's mentor to teach the next generation of young players his tricks. ... To heck with that. Why not teach them to next year's Mavs ... now?
ITEM: The Director of Basketball Analytics Roland Beech.
He's a first: An online stats guy (82Games) turned NBA assistant.
This is a Cuban thing (something that makes him very similar to Switzer's buddy Jerry Jones, by the way): Cuban is an information gatherer. Beech has information at his fingertips. That puts advanced stats in the palm of the Mavs' hands.
ITEM: PR bosses Sarah Melton and Scott Tomlin.
What a trick: Serve as the right hand of the coach AND be available to the rest of the suits AND work in friendly coordination with the players ... all while maintaining a certain journalistic sensibility while dealing with the sometimes adversarial media.
It's a delicate balance. Sarah and Scott and staff tightrope it gracefully.
ITEM: Casey Smith and Al Whitley.
In addition to their respective jobs as trainer and equipment manager, they fit into the culture, in part as buddies to Dirk. And on this team, if a guy is a Dirk guy, then he's everybody's guy.
Casey and Al are everybody's guys.
ITEM: Free-throw coach Gary Boren.
I still don't believe Gary can himself play a lick of basketball. But he is a scientist.
ITEM: I'm mentioning just a handful of those involved; I hope I don't offend all the unrecognized links! The scouting department ... the support staff that works under president Ussery ... the marketing people and the sales staff and the in-game staff ... look at the parade alone? Who plans something that huge in a matter of days?
ITEM: Puzzle pieces like Ian Mahinmi.
The cost on adding pieces like Brewer, Roddy B, DoJo, The Custodian, Peja, JJB, Tyson Chandler and Ian? Virtually nothing. Virtually nothing ... and we are all rewarded with a title ...
ITEM: And finally there is this: The assemblage of the sort of roster, the sort of people, who are trusting enough and wise enough to actually listen to sometimes unorthodox preachings of the likes of the aforementioned.
It's not enough that teachers are teachers. Students have to be listeners.