They pout, he fumes. They're exasperated, he's frustrated.
Him: Can't they see I'm doing this for their own good?
Them: The rotations, the minutes I get and don't get, that's what I don't understand.
This coach does not creak when he walks, thanks to double-hip, single-knee replacements. His passion for basketball boils still. He has kept old age at bay. And for the first part of this hopelessly sadistic schedule everything was just peachy keen. Well, peachy anyway. Helped greatly by being served a heaping helping of inept opponents, they, and we, were seduced into ignoring their flaws and shortcomings.
Then the schedule stiffened and battle fatigue caught up with them. The early thinking was that the insane schedule would actually work in their favor, armed as they were with all those young legs to run on. But eventually attrition gnawed away and they began to lose, and with the losses came short tempers and everyone snapping at everyone else. It was, in retrospect, to be expected.
The coach, an inveterate hugger, like a jockey at the top of the stretch goes to the whip and dispenses tough love. The schedule, mercifully, is down to single numbers and they are scuffling to qualify for the playoffs. Which is a laudable ambition, but they are probably doomed to a first-round exit. It is a glum reminder that to become a legitimate contender they are still in need of an unstoppable scorer and a stud interior defensive presence.
The coach is not calcified. He can coach only what he has.
For Steve, RIP
He was, he liked to say, a repository for the mildly amusing and the unashamedly arcane and the semi-esoteric.
What that translated into was this: In a game of Trivial Pursuit, you wanted him for a partner.
And then bet the house.
For 44 years on two radio stations in Philadelphia, Steve Fredericks was a familiar and welcome voice for collegiate and professional sports. He was equally at ease working the frenetic play-by-play drumbeat of a basketball game or hosting a sports-talk radio show that was a forum for his opinions and convictions, always dearly held and passionately defended.
But sports trivia held few challenges for him. He flourished on a broader stage, where his knowledge of the useless was captivating, and usually you were left saying to yourself: "I didn't know that."
He had a love of the wry and the ironic. He was quick with quip, rapier with wit. He was a serial truth teller. Sometimes he was irreverent and sometimes he was subdued - but mostly he was irreverent. If you were lucky, you got the airplane seat next to him. We commiserated with each other in our mutual battle against the demon nicotine.
Steve died April 7 of pancreatic cancer, at 72, in Boynton Beach, Fla., where he had moved after retiring in 2004.
There are a magnolia tree and a hibiscus on his property, and it was over their roots that Steve's ashes were spread. That seemed especially appropriate.
The Galloping Ghost
It looks as if a ghost is going to be running in the Kentucky Derby next month.
The name is Hansen, and you'll have no trouble picking him out in a crowd. In the language of thoroughbred circles he is listed as being near-white. Snow white is more like it. Bed sheets flapping in the wind. The white cliffs of Dover. The Lone Ranger's mount, Silver. Chalk on a blackboard white. You look as if you just saw a ghost. (Sorry. Couldn't resist.)
I've always been partial to grays, but there's just something arresting about this animal, who, by the way, has been running holes through the wind. In the Breeders Cup Juvenile last November he defeated Union Rags, the massive colt owned by Phyllis Wyeth, of Chester County.
Hansen's camp describes the colt's running style as "uncomplicated."
Which is, in uncomplicated horse-speak: Go to the front and improve your position.
Hansen's trainer, Mike Maker, offers this uncomplicated summation: "He's got a lot of speed. He's also got a lot of fight. A bunch of good characteristics."
Amen to that.
But he's also in a sport where the participants are more fragile than bone china, and easily spooked. They look so regal, so powerful, you are lured into thinking that surely they must be indestructible, when in reality they are - well, the scenario that the two-legged participants fear goes something like this: Jump over a shadow, snap a tendon, career aborted, millions lost.
It's why we define horse sense as that sense horses have not to bet on humans.