My dad is very much a straight shooter, and depending on where you stand with him, you'll like or dislike his company accordingly. He and I are fans of each other, and I'll be calling him in Wyoming on Sunday to give him a ration of s*&%, because that's how we show affection in my family. He's more than my dad, he's my hero, and he teases me unmercifully for it. The bastard. Happy early Father's Day, Pop.
But, as mentioned, when you're on his list, he can be crystal clear to the point of pointed. For instance:
One Sunday lunch on College Avenue in Fort Collins, we'd stopped by a usual spot for a quick bite. It was a usual spot because the service was as good as the food, and the prices were right, as well. You've just dialed up my family's restaurant trifecta.
On this day, however, the service was terrible. I don't know if our server just had a bad day, our timing was off, Mercury was in retrograde, you name it. I'm very forgiving, and was amazed at how bad he was, with the attitude to match. He had a comically horrid afternoon with us, and you could see he could tell, but somehow never brought himself to say a word about it. By the time we left, my dad was visibly pissed, and left our server his tip. A single copper tip, in the form of a penny. Just so the server would know he'd not forgotten.
About halfway across the parking lot, said waiter runs out hollering, and goes so far as to put his hand on my Dad's shoulder. Oh... silly, silly man...
Here's the conversation I witnessed:
Dad: Probably ought not grab me like that.
Dumb Waiter (see what I did there?): Sir, you left me a penny!
Dad: That is correct. Very observant.
Dumb Waiter: Sir, I make my living on tips!
Dad: (leans in) Then you'd better get better at what you do.
Oof. I've been on the receiving end of a few of those conversations as well, and well know how being the receiver of said candor can sting. So, what does that have to do with Michael Malone? Let's back up a bit, in Mr. Malone's history.
Michael Malone is the son of Brendan Malone, currently an assistant coach with the Detroit Pistons, and a former head coach, the first one in Toronto Raptors history. Michael came by his speech patterns naturally, having been born in Astoria, Queens, and graduating high school in Worcester, Massachusetts. Malone played basketball in high school at Worcester Academy, and played all four years of college for Loyola (Maryland) as a heady point guard. Mike's dad is known as the guy who came up with the best defensive schemes to slow down Michael Jordan with the Bad Boys Pistons, and the affinity passed from father to son. Malone started 39 of his 107 collegiate games, and was always a solid defender and distributor, a student of the game even when playing.
Coming out of college, Malone saw his opportunities on the coaches' end of the bench, and quickly landed an assistant's gig at an NCAA II college in Michigan, Oakland University. Michael was torn early on from a career perspective, and started to pursue training with the Michigan State Police before getting a call from Pete Gillen at Providence College in 1995. Fast forward 20 years later, Malone is still sitting on that end of the bench, just a few seats up.
In 2001, Malone jumped to the NBA as an assistant for the New York Knicks. Further stops in the same role followed for the Cavaliers, Hornets, and Warriors, with favorable reviews all along the way - all the way up to the head coaching role with the Sacramento Kings in 2013. But now we're getting to the parts we all know about Coach Malone as he joins our Denver Nuggets as their new head coach. What we don't know... well, we still don't know a lot. Michael said it very well in his introductory press conference at the Pepsi Center on Tuesday:
"I have coached 106 games as a head coach," Malone said. "Don't paint me, and don't put me in a hole by saying ‘this is who you are.' "
Even Malone tells you the sample size for what you know is small. Will he forge a high-paced offense? He says yes, if efficiency is there as well, and that's heartening. But we don't know until we hit the floor, and see if his plans can merge with the team on the floor.
Will his dad join the coaching staff? We don't know. Unlikely, but...
Will he retain any of the current coaches? We don't know, but it appears Melvin Hunt will be on the move.
<blockquote class="twitter-tweet" lang="en"><p lang="en" dir="ltr">Hearing New Orleans Pelicans covet freshly deposed Nuggets coach Melvin Hunt as an assistant for new coach Alvin Gentry's staff</p>— Marc Stein (@ESPNSteinLine) <a href="https://twitter.com/ESPNSteinLine/status/611384720098619392">June 18, 2015</a></blockquote>
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Will he have the current roster to coach? Will he have the locker room as invested here as in Sacramento? Does he like boxers or briefs? WE JUST DON'T KNOW...
However, a couple of things seem very clear. Maybe things we do know.
Defensive technique seems to follow Malone (and his father) wherever they go. Pop (and Mom) passed a few things along, and Mike graciously said as much to open his press conference the other day. Nice to owe something to your dad. Happy early Father's Day, Malones. And...
Michael is acknowledged by all who know him to be a candid man and very straight shooter. It was evident in his press conference with the Denver media, including Denver Stiffs' own Nate Timmons and Jeff Morton, that Malone speaks very well for himself, and won't be pulling any punches with himself, or the team.
I, for one, look forward to the outcome of that in both extremes. It's sure to engender some honest dialogue, and hopefully growth amongst players and coaches alike. I liked that Malone talked about players running for 48 minutes, as he established something, contextually - Sure we can play fast. As long as you keep running backwards (defense) as much as you do forwards (offense) - That's why he's asking for 48 minutes. With that marker, it ought to be apparent who's willing to run both ways, and who is not. Sing it.
He's established that same sort of tough-but-fair context on several other points as well. Here's hoping everyone sees a lot of growth and praise, and very little terminology like, "You'd better get better at what you do." My gut tells me a few of those chats may occur, as well. Ah well. Call me cruel, but I'm kind of hoping they do.
Welcome, Coach Malone. I liked your first foray, and hope it portends great things. You may have your work cut out for you a little bit, but that won't be a first. In pure selfishness, I say... Good luck. Keep shooting straight.