Stern reiterates coaches should be careful when criticizing league, refs

The Associated Press ~ staff The News
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A day later, NBA commissioner David Stern wasn't backing down: Coaches, he said, need to "comply with the rules."

This part was unspoken: Or else.

Stern, speaking before Friday night's Game 3 of the Eastern Conference first-round series between Boston and Miami, reiterated what he said Thursday in Oklahoma City, that coaches criticizing league policies or referees sends "very bad messaging" to the league's fans and needs to come to a quick halt.

Miami -

A day later, NBA commissioner David Stern wasn't backing down: Coaches, he said, need to "comply with the rules."

This part was unspoken: Or else.

Stern, speaking before Friday night's Game 3 of the Eastern Conference first-round series between Boston and Miami, reiterated what he said Thursday in Oklahoma City, that coaches criticizing league policies or referees sends "very bad messaging" to the league's fans and needs to come to a quick halt.

Not even US$35,000 fines seem to be doing the trick.

"Coaches are under a lot of pressure and I grew up trying to respect that pressure," Stern said. "I used to just say, 'It's the playoffs."'

Now, there's no excuse. At least, none that he'll tolerate.

In a one-week window ending Thursday, Celtics forward Rasheed Wallace, Magic forward Matt Barnes, Orlando coach Stan Van Gundy and Los Angeles Lakers coach Phil Jackson all were fined for comments, mostly about foul calls. Van Gundy even likened the gaps in the schedule of first-round games to what high school or college teams typically would experience.

"When you start throwing one- and two-game suspensions in the threats, I think that means a lot to both ballclubs and to coaches," Jackson said before Friday's practice in Oklahoma City. "It seems awful heavy-handed to me, but David is one, he isn't shy about being heavy-handed. ... There's a certain gamesmanship that goes on that obviously he feels cheapens the game."

Rivers joked with reporters that he couldn't talk about Stern's stance.

After that, he had plenty to say.

"Sometimes we really are defending our guys," Rivers said Friday. "I think everybody's on the league side at the end of the day. Listen, I've been a league guy for 20-whatever years, I love this league and I want this league to do well. I don't think any coach doesn't want the league to do well. Having said that, the coach's job is to do what he can to help the team win. Correct?"

Stern's response: "It's a coach's job to comply with the rules."

He had particularly pointed comments Friday for Van Gundy's stance on the schedule.

"My response is that he's speaking like he's in high school," Stern said. "He should grow up. We've got a business here that feeds a lot of people who make a fair living at it, engages America and I'm really very tired of hearing coaches who think that because they have a post-game platform that anything that comes into their minds is a good thing to say."

For his part, Van Gundy can find the humour in his penchant for getting fined.

"You'd think you'd learn. Like the kid who sticks his hand on the stove and gets burnt, usually he doesn't do it again," Van Gundy said Friday before the Magic left for Charlotte, where they'll play Game 3 - with Stern in attendance - on Saturday. "I guess I'm not as sharp as most three-year-olds."

Organizations: Stern's, Los Angeles Lakers

Geographic location: Miami, Oklahoma City, Boston Orlando America Charlotte

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