“"You can say it really kills you to lose, but until it really kills you? For me, for 3-4 weeks, I've been on a steady diet of Subway, which is 20 minutes from my condo, and I bring it back up to my apartment. Because like I said, you don't feel good about yourself. As a team, that's how it has to be. It has to really hurt a lot.["]”
There was a time, not so long ago (2011-12), when Andray Blatche, Javale McGee, Nick Young and Jordan Crawford were on a team with a young John Wall. This team was not good. In retrospect, you can understand the Washington Wizards’ front office thought process: hey, Arenas was a weirdo and that worked out pretty well! There is a market inefficiency here! YOu take a guy who has some talent but maybe he slips because teams might think he has focus problems or something! It’s an upside goldmine! But then Arenas with the guns and the injuries and the shoepoo.
The coach of this team was Flip Saunders. Flip was a veteran NBA coach, hired to bring the Arenas-Led Wizards to the next level. When it all washed out, he was left with a young team full of young weirdos (This is your captain, Andray Blatche!) that started the season 2-14 and ran roughshod over Flip’s reputation. His excerpted quote about Subway paints a bleak picture of the man’s life; go to work, labor like Sisyphus in search of solutions, get beat because you can’t do anything with these insane co-workers, suck down a Subway and head home to your empty condo, already long torn apart after nights of frustration, sit in your bed and try to sleep, counting cracks in the ceiling, try to draw up a play, work your craft, but every time you visualize how it might happen in real life, it’s just nothing. Scribbles on a page.
Then, on January 23st, 2012, he broke. Don’t let your children watch this footage:
A look that contains multitudes! The theatre can’t give you this kind of intensity! Is the panic the fear that he will lose his job, or that he won’t? He has spent so long away from his wife and family, will the Wizards continue to pay him just to avoid paying someone else at the same time? Or is Flip such a perfectionist, a person who is at the top of his profession, remember, that he can’t stand the strain of failure. The brief shoulder shift, trying in vain to release the tension that has gripped his shoulders. Is Flip holding back tears? How long since felt the warm, salty stream on his cheek? He wonders if he should just do it, it would feel good, damn the cameras and the fans. They will embrace a broken man, won’t they? He stabilizes. Just watch the game Flip. Find a solution. You’ve been in basketball since you were three years old. Surely, there’s something you can find to fix everything! Or just let the numbness sink in. It can’t hurt you if you don’t let it, old boy!
The next day, Flip was fired. I like to imagine he bought a whole cake from Washington’s finest bakery and ate it with his bare hands on top of a small mountain, dressed in an old Timberwolves track suit.