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Jane Austen Critiques: The NBA Coaches Edition

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From the sweet soul of jollyrogerwilco and the twisted, yet brilliant, mind of CapHill:

Some of my favorite moments in nationally televised NBA games are the sideline interviews, especially those with Pop. His facial expressions and terse answers are priceless, requiring transcripts in the Pounding the Rock game threads for those unable to watch. Pop's responses to the usual questions about the Spurs system always me make me think of this Jane Austen quote, "One man's ways may be as good as another's, but we all like our own best." Earlier this summer, while perusing PtR, my mind went into tangent land and started contemplating which character from Pride and Prejudice Pop is most like.

And then came the brainstorm - why not use the wonderful characterizations of Jane Austen to further explore the qualities of all NBA coaches? Are not all NBA teams microcosms of society, with the associated multi-layered relationships? And who better to help us understand this society than Jane Austen, with her mastery of the ironic and her biting commentary? Seriously, any person who writes the following in a letter to her sister deserves a place in the hearts of all PtRers:

I do not want people to be agreeable, as it saves me the trouble of liking them.

So enter the world of a beloved novelist after the jump.


Jane, wondering what the heck CapHill is thinking.

To add to the already tangential nature of this post, jrw (my fellow Austen admirer and co-conspirator) and I decided to focus on only a few aspects or qualities of the character when trying to find a match for each coach. So, sit back, relax, and get edjumacated on the relative merits of the head honchos of the National Basketball Association, and perhaps this will inspire you to pick up a good book (like this guy).

For many of you, this will be very appropriate music for reading the following ramblings. Plus, they're British.

Led Zeppelin -- Dazed and Confused

JRW suggests the melodious vocal stylings of Julie London for those seeking a more mellow musical selection.

Julie London - Cry Me a River

Mary Musgrove (Persuasion)

Mary Musgrove has a pretty damn good life. She's married to a nice man, has two lovely little boys, and lives close to (but not with) the relatives. However, when Mary feels she is not getting enough attention or feels slighted, she becomes "ill" and whines persistently. She's an early 1800's version of the modern day hypochondriac, who also happens to be useless. Which brings to mind Mike Woodson. Woodson had a career 37% winning percentage before the Hawks won a playoff series last season, yet he's upset because he and his staff haven't been given extensions? Mike, you might want to spend your time and energy convincing Josh Smith not to shoot 3-pointers instead.

Henry Crawford (Mansfield Park)

Henry Crawford is a player. He flirts back and forth with both Maria and Julia Bertram, even though Maria is already engaged to a Mr. Rushworth. After Maria marries, he turns his attention to Fanny Price, the poor dependant cousin who lives with the Bertram family. When Fanny rejects Henry because he is a cad (not to mention the torch she's carrying for her cousin Edmund) Henry renews his flirtation with Maria Bertram, resulting in an affair and scandalous divorce. What coach has skipped from team to team, never content, until he finds the perfect situation that ends with an acrimonious split? Larry Brown, of course, who is now stuck with the Bobcats and MJ as his GM.

Mr. William Collins (Pride and Prejudice)

Mr. Collins, a long estranged cousin, comes to the Bennet house solely to find a wife from among the five sisters. He is mocked incessantly throughout the book as naïve, stupid and supercilious. He is prone to making prolonged, inappropriate speeches in the middle of parties, while pandering constantly to his societal superiors. I bring you Doc Rivers. This is a man who has never met a microphone he doesn't like, who never has anything critical to say about the Celtics organization, and who follows the Tao of Cliché while taking incomprehensible coach-speak to previously unrecorded levels.

John Dashwood (Sense and Sensibility)

John Dashwood is the only son of Henry Dashwood; therefore, he inherits everything. On his deathbed, Henry makes John promise to provide for his half-sisters and stepmother. John agrees, but is slowly persuaded by his domineering and money-grubbing wife that nothing whatsoever can be spared, thereby forcing the Dashwood sisters to move out of their childhood home and live in near-poverty. Mike Brown has had his own experiences with a force-of-nature type personality, in LeBron. Adding Shaq to the mix isn't going to make it easier for the Cavs' Coach of the Year, who might need to dodge the the moving vans that will be circling his neighborhood if he can't finally exert some authority over his team.

Sir Thomas Bertram (Mansfield Park)

Stern and patriarchal, Sir Thomas Bertram breaks the father figure mold in Austen books. His daily heavy handedness is so immense, that when Sir Thomas leaves on a year-long business trip, three of the four Bertram siblings use the opportunity to rebel and act out (literally) by staging a homemade version of a slightly scandalous play. This is the vibe I get from Scott Skiles. He seems to be a decent coach, but I wonder if maybe the youngsters on the Bucks might perform a little better if he would just loosen up a tad?

Sir Walter Elliot (Persuasion)

Sir Walter Elliot never met a mirror he didn't like. He regards flash over substance, ignoring his daughter Anne's sensible advice when he isn't overlooking her altogether. And Sir Walter is so concerned with societal perceptions, that he spends his way into bankruptcy, having to rent out his home to get by. The Seven Seconds or Less Suns, although fun to watch, were ultimately a doomed experiment. Yet, Mike D'Antoni thinks this crowd-pleasing system is a perfect fit for New York, even though the Knicks lack the proper personnel, namely one Steve Nash.

Captain Frederick Wentworth (Persuasion)

When we first meet Frederick Wentworth, he is a young, poor naval officer. Seven years later, through his intelligence and ambition, he has worked his way up to the rank of Captain and has made his fortune. Newly minted Captain Wentworth is well-liked and easily accepted into society. After being a long-time assistant with the Raptors, Jay Triano has finally made it to the top rung as a head coach. Many think he will succeed, citing Triano's basketball knowledge, passion for the game, and good rapport with the players. Plus, where does the first Canadian-born head coach land? The only NBA team in Canada. I think Jane would appreciate that irony.

George Wickham (Pride and Prejudice)

George Wickham, the smarmiest cad in Austen literature, gets his comeuppance in the end. After convincing Lydia Bennet to run off with him (but with no intention of settling down), Wickham is found out and forced to marry her. Now, how is this punishment? Lydia is silly and headstrong; her only concern is the next frivolous party. People tire of her quickly -- much like Mark Cuban. I don't know what Rick Carlisle did to deserve dealing with Cuban on a daily basis, but could it ever compare to the sins of Wickham?


No caption necessary.

Elizabeth Elliot (Persuasion)

We all know that former beauty queen who thinks the world revolves around her. Meet Elizabeth Elliot, whose self-absorption meets epic levels. Instead of looking for happiness, she pursues only the approval of the upper reaches of society. I think we all know how I feel about George Karl, but it would be nice this year if he would acknowledge that it's not all about him. The Nuggets' players kinda have something to do with winning, right?

Mrs. Smith (Persuasion)

Poor Mrs. Smith. After her husband dies, she is left impoverished. She then becomes ill and is essentially bed-ridden. But despite all of her trials, Mrs. Smith remains in good spirits and continues to appreciate life. Poor Rick Adelman. First, it's McGrady's injury. Now, Yao's out for the year, and no one knows if he'll be back. Despite the numerous injury issues over the last several seasons, Adelman has adapted to his ever-changing personnel, instilling a scrappy, never quit attitude in the Rockets. Can they compete this year without their biggest stars? Just ask the Lakers.

Lady Catherine De Bourgh (Pride and Prejudice)

The picture of arrogance, Lady Catherine De Bourgh's nobility and wealth cow and intimidate those around her, almost with exception. Her ego knows no bounds. Her slightest whim must be obeyed and her slightest comment never questioned. The Golden State Warriors have a young, athletic roster that should make the playoffs. However, the crazy coaching of Don Nelson often impedes the ultimate goal. Players are either benched or played out of position, based upon Nelson's whim of the day. Or he could just decide to not coach at all.

Mr. Rushworth (Mansfield Park)

Mr. Rushworth is incompetent and boring, yet always well-dressed. Two words: Mike Dunleavy. Need I say more?

Colonel Brandon (Sense and Sensibility)

In his youth, Colonel Brandon falls in love with his father's ward. However, she is married off to his brother, who mistreats and eventually abandons her. Not until he meets Marianne Dashwood, who reminds him of his childhood love, does Colonel Brandon fall in love again. Nate McMillan was "Mr. Sonic", spending his entire playing career in Seattle and then coaching in various positions with the team. However, McMillan seems to have found a new love with the Blazers. During his coaching tenure, the Jail Blazers have ceased to exist, becoming instead a young, talented team generally regarded as a top team in the West. Now, if he can just find some Youngevity for Greg Oden.

Mrs. Bennet (Pride and Prejudice)

Mrs. Bennet is the over-the-top, slightly crazy matchmaker of a mother whose only concern is marrying off her daughters. How is this related to Lionel Hollins? It's not, except that I think Hollins is slightly crazy to want to coach the Grizzlies again. Is it possible to shoot an entire franchise and put their fans out of their misery?

Charlotte Lucas (Pride and Prejudice)

Charlotte Lucas is a sensible 27 year old woman, which in Austen's time meant she was fast approaching old maid territory, if she wasn't in it already. When her friend Elizabeth Bennet refuses Mr. Collins' marriage proposal, he quickly turns his attention to Ms. Lucas. Charlotte determines that the security of marriage is an ample inducement to settle for a less-than-completely-desirable husband. Unable to wait for Phil Jackson to retire, Kurt Rambis has decided that it's worth it to settle for being the head coach of the Timberwolves, instead of waiting for the plum Lakers job. Jumping ship might work out for Rambis, by why not just wait a while longer for the LA position?

Emma Woodhouse (Emma)

Born into privilege, Emma Woodhouse has grown into a spoiled young woman. She views the world as her oyster, making huge errors in judgment along the way. Emma may be an Austen heroine, but I find her supercilious, whiny and just overall annoying. Byron Scott is whiny. Byron Scott annoys me. It's possible this is due to the fact that he coaches Chris Paul and the Hornets, but I doubt it. His stint in New Jersey got under my skin too.


Yes, Gwyneth, you are extremely annoying.

Edward Ferrers (Sense and Sensibility)

Despite being trapped in a secret engagement made in his youth, Edward Ferrers is always trying to do the right thing. He is perceived negatively by others, since he can't pursue his obvious feelings for Elinor Dashwood. Scott Brooks also is trapped by the feelings Sonics fans have towards the ownership of the Thunder. Although, so far, Brooks has proven to be good at his job, he and his team will be always be viewed with a critical eye by NBA fans in general.

Anne Elliot (Persuasion)

Anne Elliot is often overlooked in her sphere. Everyone subconsciously relies on her dependability and good judgment, without appreciating Anne's qualities. She is the only one in her family with any sense. One of my favorite coaches has always been Jerry Sloan. Year after year, he gets the Jazz to compete at a high level, despite roster turnover or drama. Sloan is so dependably good at his job, that his work is often discounted (perhaps somewhat attributable to the forgotten time zone). How has he never won Coach of the Year?

Mrs. Norris (Mansfield Park)

Meet the original overbearing relative - Mrs. Norris. With her constant complaining and unwavering stream of snide remarks, she makes Fanny Price's life a living hell. With his asterisk comment concerning the Spurs' 1999 championship, his questioning of Paul Pierce's injury in the 2008 finals, and his overzealous whining with regards to NBA officiating, Phil Jackson has entered the pantheon of the truly annoying. At least he has been spared the ignominy of being used as a character name for a cat.

Gregg Popovich

And that brings us to Pop. Why no character name? Because honestly, I couldn't decide.

In many ways, Elizabeth Bennet would be the perfect fit. She is intelligent and witty, often using ironic humor in dealing with others. Yet, she also tends to make judgments based solely on first impressions.

Or perhaps, Fitzwilliam Darcy. The male protagonist of Pride and Prejudice is introduced as aloof and arrogant, but those in his inner circle value his friendship and judgment. As the novel progresses, you begin to understand his actions more and more, although Darcy is still never going to be the life of a party.

Or even possibly, Mr. Bennet, Elizabeth's father. When the silliness of his wife and younger daughters gets to be too much, Mr. Bennet often sits back and laughs at them mockingly. He also prefers his own company to the company of others.

Personally, I'm leaning towards Elizabeth as the best fit, but in the true spirit of PtR, I'm going to let you vote. As we all know, you can never have too many polls.

I hope you enjoyed this extended visit into the land of one of my favorite authors. If not, at least you were able to kill some significant time at work. Just be glad this wasn't written by a true Janeite, as they can be just as obsessive as Trekkies.