In many ways the coach of a professional sports team is the PR head of the organization.
The owner delegates, the CEO handles the business, the general manager pursues talent and the coach is responsible for, among many other things, the narrative sounding their team.
Memphis Grizzlies first year head coach David Fizdale didn’t waste any time making a name for himself in his PR endeavors.
“It was a very poorly officiated basketball game,” Fizdale said to the media Monday night, after his Grizzlies fell down 2-0 to the Spurs in their Western Conference first round match-up. “Zach Randolph, the most rugged guy in the game, had zero free throws. But somehow Kawhi Leonard had 19 free throws. First half, we shot 19 shots in the paint, and we had six free throws. They shot 11 times in the paint, and they had 23 free throws. I’m not a numbers guy, but that doesn’t seem to add up. Overall, 35 times we shot the ball in the paint. We had 15 free throws for the game. They shot 18 times in the paint and had 32 free throws. Kawhi shot more free throws than our whole team. Explain it to me.”
Words simply typed onto a page do little justice to the tone and demeanor in which Fizdale spoke.
“I know Pop’s got pedigree, and I’m a young rookie. But they’re not gonna rook us. That’s unacceptable. That was unprofessional. Our guys dug in that game and earned the right to be in that game. And they did not even give us a chance.”
Then, he slammed his fist on the table and said, “Take that for data.”
Fizdale knew as he spoke that his words were literally going to cost him money, but his ultimate goal was to prove the depths of his allegiance to his team. If the Grizzlies were going to lose, this leader was going to die on his sword.
Fizdale’s ultimate goal was to engage the NBA and its officiating crew in psychological warfare.
Officials are humans, and humans are prone to inherent biases. If they feel that Fizdale is speaking with a shred of truth, they could over-correct in subsequent games.
Fizdale’s other opponent; the San Antonio Spurs are a historically surgical franchise. They’ve missed the playoffs only five times in their entire fifty year history, and they’ve won five championships over the last two decades. One aspect of their own PR machine is they refuse to entertain any of the theatrics.
The Spurs want nothing to do with the perpetual, impetuous drama of the NBA.
Fizdale inspired confidence in his team, a team that now believes they were wronged in a game in which they cut a 26-point deficit down to four in the fourth quarter. He also planted seeds of unfairness in the minds of the NBA and its officials and perhaps most importantly he could very well have engaged the Spurs in a battle of theatrics.
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