Posted on December 19, 2011 by jimberrysports
Two Miami Heat events this weekend re-affirmed what I have felt for some time. When it comes to great PR, no sports team in South Florida gets it like the Heat.
Thursday, the team played an intra-squad scrimmage on the American Airlines arena floor and let season ticket holders come watch. I know fans feel a little basketball-starved because of the lockout, but I was surprised to see thousands of folks turn out. When the players were introduced, they didn’t come out of the locker room. They came down from the stands..high fiving the fans.
Saturday, the team again opened the arena to show its highlight movie “Into the Fire”, a somewhat fluffy documentary about Year one of the Big Three. The turnout was smaller, but fans were just as enthusiastic. They got revved up when Heat players Mario Chalmers, Joel Anthony, and Chris Bosh came out for a little post-movie roundtable discussion.
The Heat always seems to understand that little things mean a lot, not only to the fans..but to the players. What other organization has sent its entire staff out to a players home for a surprise birthday party, as they once did for Udonis Haslem.
I was also personally impressed when Pat Riley and the Heat PR staff trucked out a cooler of Heinkenen for a group of reporters to toast the memory of Jim Mandich shortly after he died.
It was such a thoughtful and classy move, and felt totally genuine. Pat Riley might be a cold-blooded wheeler dealer who was a taskmaster as a coach, but he’s got a human side..and he has passed it on to his organization. Go Heat.
Dolphins, Marlins, and Panthers…take note.
Filed under: Articles, Basketball | Tagged: Chris Bosh, jim berry, Miami Heat, NBA lockout, Pat Riley, The Big Three | Leave a Comment »
Posted on December 13, 2011 by jimberrysports
The Dolphins better draft a quarterback, and get some exciting players the fans care about. Not my opinion, but that of no less an authority than Don Shula. The Dolphins coaching legend is 81 years old, but still sharp as a tack.
It pains him to see the Dolphins stuck on mediocre, but he sees a quick fix. To do so, the Dolphins should do what Shula always did over the years…get quarterback depth, and players the fans could rally around.
At quarterback, Shula had quality backups like Earl Morrall and Don Strock backing up Hall-of-Famers Bob Griese and Dan Marino. Shula understood the position is too vital to risk being thin in talent. Exciting players also bring back fans, he told me. I took that to mean that he’s big on Reggie Bush..maybe less so on Brandon Marshall. (He’s talented..but not neccesarily exciting, and his mood swings wear on everybody, even his team mates. )
Shula believes the Dolphins need a seasoned NFL coach, not the flavor-of-the-month coming out of college. While he likes both Jon Gruden and Bill Cowher, he’s not sure either will give up the cushy life of a TV football commentator. Since both have been out of coaching, he wonders if they might have lost their edge. It can happen for a coach, he says, just like it does for a player.
Dolphin owner Stephen Ross likes glitz. He’d better pick Shula’s brains about the guts. The Dolphins don’t just need style. They need Shula-like substance.
Filed under: Articles, Football, Uncategorized | Tagged: Bob Griese, Dan Marino, Don Shula, Miami Dolphins, NFL football, Quarterback | Leave a Comment »
Posted on December 11, 2011 by jimberrysports
It wasn’t what he was saying. It was how he was saying it. Tony Sparano’s deflated tone in his post-game press conference carried with it an air of resignation. The conventional thinking is that Sparano HAD to run the table to have a chance to keep his job. He didn’t. Its almost as if he knew it was win or else.
That might explain some of his coaching decisions during that loss to the Eagles. He gambled that Dan Carpenter could boot a 55-yard field goal on a windy day. He didn’t. The game against Philly instantly turned around, and the Dolphins never regained the momentum they lost.
The Dolphins struggled mightily in short yardage situations. After getting stuffed on third and short, they bravely went for it three times on fourth down. They got stuffed each time. Those short yardage play calls were painfully predictable, and ineffective.
Sadly for Sparano, it was a game that highlighted why his future is dim. When facing a team with equal and superior talent, the Fins have fizzled. Only two of their wins have come against teams with winning records, and the Bills and Raiders are looking more fraudulent as the season goes on.
Whether its a combination of talent, creativity or both…the Dolphins are a notch or two below the NFL elite. Sparano will be hard pressed to prove that he’s the man to get them there.
Filed under: Football, Uncategorized | Tagged: jim berry, Miami Dolphins, NFL football, Tony Sparano | Leave a Comment »
Posted on December 7, 2011 by jimberrysports
You can’t help but look up to Shaq..physically. My neck is still craning from our one-on-one interview at his book signing. As I read more of “Shaq: Uncut…my story” , I’m also starting to look up more to him as a person.
He’s far from perfect. By his own admission, he wasn’t the best husband. However, he shows a refreshing lack of self-centeredness that can be hard to find in superstar athletes. He seems to look at things the way I would if I were in his shoes. He didn’t dig Pat Riley’s my-way-or-the-highway coaching style. I probably wouldn’t have either.
I chuckled when he described former Heat center Alonzo Mourning as a “robot.” Zo certainly had a cyborg-like physique and workmanlike approach to playing, almost the exact opposite of the fun-loving O’ Neal.
Shaq got chastized for coasting by on his considerable talent. “If only he worked at it”, critics said. Shaq, however, understood how HE needed to prepare. It was better to be beefy at the start of the season to take all those licks he knew were coming. Come playoff time, the diesel was chiseled. In his prime, he steamrolled everybody.
I respect a man for knowing his limits…good and bad. Shaq seems to get it. I didn’t like covering him when he intentionally mumbled through interviews with the Heat. But now that he’s got something to say…I’m listening. I actually think it will be worth it.
Filed under: Basketball, Uncategorized | Tagged: Alonzo Mourning, jim berry, Miami Heat, NBA, Pat Riley, Shaquille O' Neal, Shaw, Uncut | Leave a Comment »
Posted on December 1, 2011 by jimberrysports
Chris Bosh was grinning from ear to ear. Udonis Haslem was happily feeding balls. James Jones was excited to shoot them. These three Heat team mates were back on their home practice court for the first time in five months.
The league’s iminent labor deal means the icy lockout atmosphere is over. While coaches still can not interact with players until its all official, things have thawed out enough so that players are being allowed back into team buildings. The players clearly missed being there. Haslem admitted to me that no place else can match the facilities they have in the American Airlines Arena.
Chris Bosh acknowledged that it was hard to stay motivated and in shape during the on-again off-again labor negotiations which threatened to wipe out the whole season. Now that’s history, and the Heat can get back to the reality of being the team everyone outside of Miami loves to hate.
Las Vegas oddsmakers are pegging them as the early favorite to win an NBA title. Premature ? Yes. Realistic ? Absolutely…provided Pat Riley brings in the right pieces to complement Bosh, Lebron James, and Dwyane Wade. Bosh is embracing the favorite role, saying he EXPECTS no less than a championship.
Wade told me recently the Heat played too angry last year. This season, he wants to have fun. They will only if they end it with another parade down Biscayne Boulvevard.
Filed under: Articles, Basketball | Tagged: Chris Bosh, Dwyane Wade, Lebron James, Miami Heat, NBA championship, NBA lockout | Leave a Comment »