- The Washington Times - Wednesday, April 26, 2000

Isiah Thomas is being mentioned as a coaching candidate in a number of NBA cities.

Unfortunately, he probably has room on his schedule to coach only one NBA team.

Thomas, when he is not a coaching candidate, divides his acumen between lending his insights to NBC and saving the CBA. He also is building a home in Atlanta, which means he's as qualified as the next person to succeed Lenny Wilkens as the coach of the Hawks.

Thomas' employment prospects seem to come up each spring, largely because he smiles and dresses well. He also used to exchange pecks on the cheek with Magic Johnson back in their days as competitors in the NBA Finals.

Maybe Isaiah Rider needed only a good peck on the cheek from Wilkens to see the big hand and little hand on his watch.

Rider was Pete Babcock's experiment in Atlanta. There was plenty of evidence to indicate the experiment would not work.

When you take a chance on a player who was trying to understand and prevent premenstrual syndrome at UNLV, you have an important clue to the difficulties ahead.

Rider, who has a lot of talent, does not manage his time well, possibly because of his interest in gynecology.

He sometimes couldn't be in two places at once, stuck as he was between making a practice and meeting with one of his patients. It soon became apparent to the Hawks that as a player, Rider made a pretty good medicine man.

So now, one failed experiment later, the Hawks are moving in a different direction, and it is Wilkens, not Babcock, who must move as well.

That is the logic anyway, however flawed it is.

Understandably, Wilkens' name is surfacing in Tony Cheng's neighborhood, right there with an order of egg rolls, and considering the principal tenants on Fun Street, the egg rolls are about as delectable as it gets.

Rod Strickland, not unlike Rider, has a problem with time. Strickland sometimes lives on the other side of the International Date Line from Washington, which Gar Heard, in particular, found detrimental to the team.

Heard, of course, was fired to save the team, and although his replacement, Darrell Walker, earned praise of sorts, as interim coaches often do, he was no better than Heard at helping Strickland keep time.

Michael Jordan, meanwhile, is taking his time to walk on water. Perhaps he finally has met his equal in basketball, the salary cap.

One way or the other, time is the great enemy in the NBA.

Obviously, Rider and Strickland don't keep time. They merely keep it real.

Paul Westphal is confused in Seattle, and Butch Carter has decided to battle Marcus Camby, the NBA, Bob Knight and possibly even the Knicks, and Larry Bird is sticking to his three-year expiration date in Indiana.

This is not to forget the Clippers in Los Angeles, although everyone around the NBA, including the Clippers themselves, usually try to forget what passes for Billy Crystal's team.

Kareem Abdul-Jabbar is as brave as they come. He sat on the Clippers' bench this season and even tried to introduce Michael Olowokandi and Keith Closs to the center position. It was a step down from his previous stint as a coach on an Indian reservation, but it revealed the depth of his character.

Don Nelson survived the publicity stunt with Dennis Rodman in Dallas and is sprinting to the Mavericks' front office, if sprinting is a word you can associate with Chris Webber's old friend.

George Irvine is inclined to leave the direction of the Pistons to someone else, if only because the direction of the Pistons is one playoff series and out.

Rick Pitino's IQ continues to drop in Boston after he landed there as a genius. Now he is just another coach who has failed to lead a team to the playoffs the last three seasons.

The Nets remain the Nets, which is to say a graveyard for the coaching brethren.

Being a good coach usually requires good players, if not a good assistant in charge of synchronizing everyone's watches.

It also helps to have a vague understanding of Zen.

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