Will Kareem be Head Coach? He Has Faith — and Maybe That’s an Issue

December 10, 2009 by · Leave a Comment 

By Gregg Doyel

CBSSports.com National Columnist

kajheadshot The tragedy of Kareem Abdul-Jabbar isn’t that he’ll die some day. We’ll all die some day. The tragedy is that he’ll die without spending even an hour as a head coach in the NBA.

He’s not going to die any time soon, certainly not from the rare form of leukemia that he recently disclosed he has been fighting for nearly a year. According to the New England Journal of Medicine, almost 90 percent of the chronic myeloid leukemia (CML) patients with the best possible medicine are still alive after five years. That’s terrific.

Kareem Abdul-Jabbar has the best possible medicine, so five years from now I expect he will be 67 years old. But five years from now I’m positive he still won’t be an NBA coach. And that’s terrible.

I’m wondering if bigotry is at work here, and by “wondering,” a lot of you will say I’m “accusing.” And I’m not. I’m not accusing the almost entirely white NBA ownership — which last season employed a 77 percent black roster base, not to mention 11 black coaches and five black team presidents — of bigotry in the usual sense.

But I’m wondering — just wondering, people, just wondering — if Abdul-Jabbar’s religion has worked against him. Here we have the leading scorer in NBA history. Ever. And he’s not just an athletic savant put on this earth to play one sport better than almost anyone ever has. (Which is what I think of when I think of Joe Montana.) No, Abdul-Jabbar was one of the smartest people ever to play in the NBA, and I do mean ever. He has written books that go far beyond basketball. The guy’s a borderline genius, and if I’ve just written a word that doesn’t belong in this story, fine. Take out the word borderline.

And he wants to coach. He has wanted to coach for years. He has coached in the United States Basketball League in Oklahoma and at the Fort Apache Indian reservation in Arizona. He has served as a scout and as a low-ranking assistant in the NBA. At this moment he is a special assistant for the Lakers, working primarily with young center Andrew Bynum. But Abdul-Jabbar wants to be a head coach in the NBA.

And nobody in the NBA will hire him.

I can’t make sense of it, so I’m grasping for possible reasons. And one possible reason — a possibility, people — is that religious bigotry is at work. If an NBA owner has ever hired a Muslim as his team’s head coach, I’m not aware of it. There certainly has never been a head coach in the NBA who was so devoutly Muslim at any time in his life that he took on a Muslim name. Abdul-Jabbar doesn’t seem that devout now, by the way. He has done a commercial for Coors and has been investigated twice for marijuana possession, and the Muslim faith frowns on such hedonistic pursuits.

Maybe his faith has nothing to do with his inability to get a head coaching job. Seriously, it could be irrelevant. There is another factor here, and to ignore it would be intentionally misleading, and I won’t do that. So I’ll acknowledge that Abdul-Jabbar has been known for his prickly personality over the years. He has been reluctant to talk to the media, and dismissive at times when he has talked to the media, though he was more than accommodating the one time I approached him.

Abdul-Jabbar knows his demeanor has hurt him. In 2006, he told the Los Angeles Times, “I always saw it like [reporters] were trying to pry. I was way too suspicious, and I paid a price for it.”

He could be paying that price to this day. Owners typically don’t want to hire a surly, public-relations disaster as a head coach, though it happens. Bill Belichick rules the NFL. Isiah Thomas landed coach and GM jobs in the NBA. Former NBA coach Bill Russell was prickly. Current Bucks coach Scott Skiles is prickly. But they got their chance. Skiles in particular is on his third team.

Abdul-Jabbar? He’s still waiting for his first chance. And he’s not waiting quietly, either. When a story on ESPN.com in August ruminated on the possible heir to Lakers coach Phil Jackson, Abdul-Jabbar used his Twitter feed — which has a million followers — to lobby for the job:

• “I just read the ESPN story on who will replace Phil and I c that a lot of u think I would be a good choice. I would have to agree with my fans.”

• “If people want to find out what I am sitting on in terms of basketball knowledge maybe I’ll get a shot at a head coaching position.”

• “I have not been given an opportunity as a head coach so maybe a groundswell of support from my fans could open a door for me!”

Clearly Abdul-Jabbar wants to be a head coach, but the NBA is too busy recycling Scott Skiles and Don Nelson and proven losers like Alvin Gentry and Mike Dunleavy and Lionel Hollins and Eddie Jordan. This is a league in need of a new idea, and I have it: His name is Kareem Abdul-Jabbar.

He’s the all-time NBA scoring leader, he’s brilliant, and he’s dying to be a head coach.

What’s the problem here?

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Study: Weapons, Civilian Deaths

November 12, 2009 by · Leave a Comment 

The Weapons That Kill Civilians — Deaths of Children and Noncombatants in Iraq, 2003–2008

Researchers from King’s College London and Royal Holloway, University of London in the UK, together with members of the non-profit group Iraq Body Count, have published a new event-based analysis of the impact of different weapon-types on Iraqi civilians in the April 16, 2009 issue of the New England Journal of Medicine: The Weapons That Kill Civilians – Deaths of Children and Noncombatants in Iraq, 2003-2008

Using the extensive and detailed database of Iraq Body Count (IBC), the researchers analyzed 14,196 events in which 60,481 civilians were violently killed during the first five years of the conflict in Iraq, thereby gaining an extraordinary overview of the harm that different weapons — from low to high tech — have brought to Iraq’s civilian population. Dr Madelyn Hicks of King’s College London, lead author of the article, said, “By linking a large number of deaths to the particular weapons used in specific events, the IBC database offers a unique opportunity for detailed analysis of the public health impact of different forms of armed violence on Iraqi civilians.”

For overall combined causes of civilian death from weapons in the data-set — ranging from gunfire, to improvised explosive devices used in roadside bombs, to precision-guided missiles — the average number killed per event was 4. However, the researchers found that when air-launched bombs or combined air and ground attacks caused civilian deaths, the average number killed was 17, similar to the average number in events where civilians were killed by suicide bombers travelling on foot (16 deaths per event).

The authors relate their findings to international humanitarian law and the need for effective policies to protect civilians. Describing suicide bombers on foot as a form of precisely targetable “smart bomb,” they argue that their pattern of killing high numbers of Iraqi civilians can only result from disregard for civilian life when targeting opposition forces, or the direct targeting of civilians, which is a war crime. Regarding their finding of a high rate of civilian death from aerial bombs, they write, “It seems clear from these findings that to protect civilians from indiscriminate harm, as required by international humanitarian law (including the Geneva Conventions), military and civilian policies should prohibit aerial bombing in civilian areas unless it can be demonstrated — by monitoring of civilian casualties, for example — that civilians are being protected.”

The researchers were also able to analyze the demographic characteristics of noncombatants who fell victim to different forms of violence. Execution after abduction or capture was the single most common form of death overall, with by far most of its victims (95%) being male. Nearly a third of execution victims were described as bearing marks of torture, evidence that they had suffered “a particularly appalling form of violent death.”

For Iraqi females, and children, events involving air attacks and mortar fire were the most dangerous. In air attacks causing civilian deaths, 46% of victims of known gender were female, and 39% of victims of known age were children. Mortar attacks claimed similarly high proportions of victims in these two demographic groups (44% and 42%). By comparison, 11% of victims across all weapons types were Iraqi females, and 9% were children. The authors argue that their findings showing that air attacks (whether involving bombs or missiles) and mortars killed relatively high proportions of females and children is further evidence that these weapons should not be directed at civilian areas by parties to conflict because of their indiscriminate nature. As co-author Professor John Sloboda of Royal Holloway, University of London, who is also a co-founder of IBC, notes, “Our weapon-specific findings have implications for a wide range of conflicts, because the patterns found in this study are likely to be replicated for these weapons whenever they are used.”

The authors conclude that “Policymakers, war strategists of all persuasions, and the groups and societies that support them bear moral and legal responsibility for the effects that particular combat tactics have on civilians — including the weapons used near and among them.”

Authors:

Dr. Madelyn Hicks, King’s College London; Hamit Dardagan, Iraq Body Count; Prof. John Sloboda, Royal Holloway, University of London and Iraq Body Count; Prof. Michael Spagat, Royal Holloway, University of London.

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