Guest Columnist: Pro athletes should not run the show

Richie Mulhall is a junior multimedia news major. Contact him at [email protected]

Richard Mulhall

Last week, the Denver Nuggets broke a huddle with a chant that suggested they had given up on their coach, fans and abysmal season, per an ESPN report by Patrick Dorsey.

The Nuggets, who will enter tonight’s game against the New York Knicks in possession of a blemished 22-41 record, have not been on the same page this year.

Just two years removed from a 57-win season under former head coach George Karl, things have been amiss in Denver, and the team’s chant during Denver’s 104-82 home loss to another mediocre, sub-par team in the Utah Jazz last Friday night only made matters worse for a floundering franchise, and especially for coach Brian Shaw.

The chant, which was apparently audible at one point during the game, said:

“1-2-3 … six weeks”

Six weeks, of course, in reference to the team counting down the time until the season is over. Basically calling it quits before the bell is even close ringing.

And what sort of ramifications did the players have to deal with? Absolutely nothing. They all went home that night, slept soundly and received their lofty, undeserved paycheck as if it were any other night.

And you know who was punished for the chant and played the role of scapegoat for his players? Shaw.

Denver fired the first-time head coach last Tuesday after he spent just one and a half seasons with the team. At the time of his firing, the Nuggets were 20-39 and riding a six-game losing streak.

Granted, something had to give for the Nuggets. Shaw went 56-85 with a .397 winning percentage in Denver, and at the time of his firing, the Nuggets lost 10 consecutive games at home, one shy of tying the franchise record set in 1997-98.

Last year was also the first season the team failed to make the playoffs since the 2003-2004 season.

With all this evidence pointing to another imminent failed season, the old-school coach was on the hot seat, and rightfully so. However, the fact that he was fired right after the chant doesn’t sit well with me.

The players reportedly disliked Shaw so much that they broke their huddle with the 1, 2, 3 chant, which consequently ran him out of town.

As Michael Wilbon said on ESPN’s show Pardon the Interruption when he and Tony Kornheiser weighed in on all the dysfunction that is the Denver Nuggets organization right now, front offices can always justify sacking a coach whenever a team is playing poorly and has a bad record to show for it. It’s much harder to fire one man as opposed to 12, and it’s a whole lot easier to ascribe all the blame to an expendable coach than it would be to wag a finger at the vital players who put fans in the stands. I understand the politics of the complicated dilemma. I get it.

However, if the Nuggets fired Shaw in a faint attempt to satisfy these players who essentially deserted their coach with six weeks left to play, that’s ridiculous.

Firing Shaw was nothing more than a gutless attempt to appease a bunch of sore-loser athletes who will probably continue to be coddled throughout the rest of their careers because that’s the way professional sports work nowadays.

Athletes screw up, coach gets fired. Now that’s not to say that some coaches don’t deserve to be fired, as I’m sure many Cleveland Browns fans over the past 10 years can heartily attest to. It does happen.

But in the same token, why do pro athletes these days have so much external control over the inner workings and affairs of a team’s administration?

More and more we see athletes and players holding more sway than the coaching staff and even the general managers and owners above them.

I’m not necessarily clamoring for a guy like NBA Commissioner Adam Silver to rule his product with an iron fist like Roger Goodell does in the NFL. I would just like to see a little more control on the part of coaches of owners and managers in professional sports. Stick up for yourselves, but more importantly, for your coaches every once in a while.

The athletes might make the money, but you write their paychecks.