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Volume 24 No. 176
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Stan Van Gundy, Steve Kerr Join List Of Coaches Critical Of ESPN Enabling LaVar Ball

Pistons coach Stan Van Gundy in advance of the team's Jan. 19 game on ESPN has "threatened non-cooperation when it comes to the extra access" given to the net after the recent story on ESPN.com about LaVar Ball criticizing Lakers coach Luke Walton, according to Vince Ellis of the DETROIT FREE PRESS. Van Gundy said, "It was a cheap shot and I thought ESPN showed total disrespect. ... I don’t have a problem with LaVar Ball. He’s a grown man. He can voice whatever opinion he wants. I got a problem with ESPN deciding that’s a story." Ellis notes the story "angered Van Gundy because of preseason meetings where it was preached cable networks are league partners and cooperation is expected of coaches." That means "granting on-air talent extra access" and agreeing to in-game interviews." Van Gundy expressed his thoughts to both Mavericks coach Rick Carlisle, who is NBA Coaches Association President and blasted the ESPN.com story on Sunday. He also reached out the NBPA and NBA Commissioner Adam Silver. Van Gundy: "I'm not meeting with their announcing crew before the game, I'm not doing the in-game interview. I’m not going to participate in the thing. ... I’m not denying them access. I’m not kicking them out of press conferences. They want extra stuff from us and they’re going to treat an NBA coach with that little respect? Then I’m going to choose not to give them extra access" (DETROIT FREE PRESS, 1/9).

Kerr noted ESPN has dedicated resources to covering Ball after sweeping layoffs last year
FOLLOWING THE RATINGS: USA TODAY's Sam Amick notes Warriors coach Steve Kerr also was "highly critical" of ESPN for its part in the Ball/Walton story. Kerr: "I’ve talked to people in the media this year, and I’ve said, ‘Why do you guys have to cover that guy?’ And they say, ‘Well, we don’t want to. Nobody wants to. But our bosses tell us we have to, because of the ratings, because of the readership'" (USA TODAY, 1/9). In N.Y., Hanna Withiam notes Kerr "pointed to ESPN dedicating resources to send a reporter to Lithuania," where Ball’s two younger sons have signed to play professionally. Kerr spoke about ESPN’s coverage in the "context of the network’s sweeping layoffs over the past year." He said, "I don’t know who cares, but people care. Or else ESPN wouldn’t be spending what they’re spending to send reporters to Lithuania, when they laid off people who were writing really substantial pieces. People like Ethan Strauss and Marc Stein are getting laid off. This is not a condemnation of ESPN. It’s not. It’s a societal issue" (N.Y. POST, 1/9).

A BALL OF FIRE: ESPN's Rachel Nichols agreed with Carlisle's argument that the net "gives too much airtime" to Ball but noted she "strongly disagrees" that ESPN should protect coaches due to being an NBA rights-holder. Nichols said, "Rick, that’s not the exchange. The exchange is that we and TNT give the NBA $24 billion -- billion with a ‘B’ -- to get that access” ("The Jump," ESPN2, 1/8). In Toronto, Doug Smith wrote Carlisle went "awry" with the "suggestion that maybe teams should look at credentials for writers" after ESPN's report. Smith: "Shame on ESPN for giving him the platform but if that’s the way they want to operate, no one should stop them." Carlisle is a "tireless supporter" of coaches and "would always leap" to their defense. However, there is "no benefit to being as petty as to withhold access for reporters who are unfairly being tarred with a very large brush" (THESTAR.com, 1/8). In Seattle, Matt Calkins writes he does not agree with Carlisle's argument that ESPN "should back the coaches" due to its being one of the league's media partners, but he does agree with the idea that publications "should stop giving space" to Ball. Calkins: "I suppose you could make the argument that this is all entertainment, and if the public wants to enjoy the train wreck, the sports media should indulge it. But I also wonder if there is a responsibility beyond getting clicks. You know there are parents out there watching what LaVar is doing and using it as a blueprint" (SEATTLE TIMES, 1/9). ESPN’s Michael Wilbon said, "I’m going to blame mass media, including our bosses, for facilitating this nonsense that every time LaVar Ball opens his mouth it’s news, when it is not” (“PTI,” ESPN, 1/8).