Now that there’s a Knicks leadership void—no, we’re not talking about Patrick Ewing, but erstwhile GM Ernie Grunfeld—what are the chances the team will practice affirmative action for the front-office job? Well, aside from how various sectors of New York’s sports press have all but assigned the slot to Phil Jackson or Jerry West, the trend in the NBA does not auger well. “There’s been a holding pattern for top management jobs throughout pro sports the last few years,” says Richard Lapchick, the director of Northeastern’s Center for the Study of Sport in Society. The Center’s 1997 Racial Report Card found eight black men running NBA teams—and one woman, Washington’s Susan O’Malley. That was down from nine African Americans in 1993–94, and last year the number fell to seven. Overall, the NBA earned a C in the top brass category. (To be fair, the NFL earned a C- and MLB, which just this week end announced an initiative to diversify its upper echelons, flunked; the league has no minority GMs.)
Media kibbitzers have floated the names of black roundball honchos like Isiah Thomas, Cleveland prez Wayne Embry, ex–Knicks coach Stu Jackson, even TNT commentator Doc Rivers. But, curiously, none have mentioned the Knicks’ in-house talent. Ed Tapscott, the team’s veep for player personnel, is a well-regarded African American exec who joined the Knicks in 1991 as director of administration. One league insider notes, “Tapscott’s a guy who’s had success as a college coach, and been on the other side as an agent and lawyer. And he was a favorite of Red Holzman’s.” Given the sense of crisis that’s enveloping the Garden, with the Post, for example, arguing that “A Presence” should be the primary job qualification, that background may not do much for Tapscott. But it’s worth noting that Grunfeld himself held both dues-paying posts—director of admin and veep—before ascending to his former throne. Of course, considering Ernie’s woeful reign, that may be Tapscott’s biggest problem.
In what United States coach Tony DiCicco called “a preview of World Cup intensity,” the Women’s National Team fell to China 2-1 on Sunday. The match was the mainstage performance of a soccer double-header at Giants Stadium. And like fidgety Aerosmith fans being forced to suffer through Celine Dion as an opening act, most of the 23,765 fans—who endured the yawner of a first match (a 1-0 MetroStars loss to Tampa Bay), and the hour-and-a-half lull between games—were more than ready when the women took the field. And if the final score was disappointing, the performance was not.
Fast-paced and physical, both teams went at each other like hated rivals. And at the end, there was a feeling of déjà vu—it was a seeming repeat of Thursday’s match-up between the same two top-notch teams in Hershey, PA, when Tisha Venturini came on in the 90th minute to score in stoppage time and give the U.S. a 2-1 win. Venturini put cleat to grass in the 89th Sunday, but this time her literal last-minute shot was denied by Gao Hong. The Chinese then struck fast on a counter-attack, and with 92-plus minutes on the clock, added insult to injury time with a goal from Zhang Ouying, giving them the win and breaking the U.S.’s 50-game home-turf winning streak.
Onward Christian Soldier
Perhaps Charlie Ward needs to find a new source of inspiration. His relying on the good word of Reggie White when it comes to women reporters in the locker room landed the devout Knicks point guard in a hell of a lot of hot water last week. To help explain his concerns about the fairer sex’s presence, Ward distributed White’s outrageous Wall Street Journal op-ed, which speculated that female reporters make copies of naked athlete footage and give it to their friends; that by her locker room behavior, then–Boston Herald reporter (and current Daily News scribe) Lisa Olson was virtually asking for sexual harassment at the hands of the New England Patriots in 1990; and that athletes and their spouses should be ready to go to the highest court in the land (that’s the Supreme Court, not the Bible) to stop the nefarious tendencies of reporters both male and female. With arguments like that it’s no wonder Ward spent the rest of the week clarifying his remarks. So does he stand with the very reverend White or not? With the playoffs around the corner, Jock beat can only pray Ward plays more consistently than he preaches.
The Yankee bleacher creatures have been put on the wagon! Last week, the regulars’ portion of the right-field stands was made a nonalcohol section in a brazen attempt to break up the (frat) party. The move, according to security supervisor William Boyd (known as “Rudy” for his ratlike resemblance to our mayor), came after George himself got fed up with cheap-seat chants of “Fuck-You-Al-bert!” at Baltimore slugger Albert Belle during the previous week’s homestand. The vulgarity slinging has not slowed down in right field, however, though lines in the restrooms are shorter.
contributors: Andrew Hsiao, Denise Kiernan, Joanna Cagan, Ra mona Debs
sports editor: Miles D. Seligman