The Hornets returned to action last Saturday, losing to the Knicks in the first step of what figures to be a long and difficult grieving process. "It's important for the guys to understand that he's gone on to a better place," Charlotte coach Paul Silas said after the service for Phills. "But we're still here, we still have responsibilities to deal with, and we've got to move on."
COACHING IN DALLAS
Beware of owners brandishing playbooks. "See, it's all here," said Cowboys owner Jerry Jones, plopping down on a sofa in his Minneapolis hotel suite on Jan. 8, the day before his NFC wild-carders took on the Vikings in the first round of the playoffs. "Our whole game plan, with all possible options and contingencies. I'll be holding this during the game."
Jones was more than willing to point out every nuance, every X and O, in coach Chan Galley's playbook. Phones went unanswered, pleasantries with family members were cut short, crudit�s on the buffet table went uneaten. Jones just wanted to talk offense. Two hours later he would attend Dallas's offensive meeting, 20 hours later his Cowboys would be walking off the Metrodome carpet after a 27-10 loss, and 50 hours later he would can Gailey, the third Dallas coach since the '93 season to get Jonesed.
In a November interview Jones praised Galley's imaginative football mind, but that was before Michael Irvin's career-threatening neck injury, before Gailey's play-calling got conservative, before Troy Aikman became disenchanted with the offense. As an owner, Jones might be expected to back his coach in a dispute with the quarterback. But as a football man—which is what Jones considers himself—he sided with Aikman. "Chan hasn't gotten our opponents to honor the passing game," Jones said that day in Minneapolis. "We haven't maximized Troy's passing abilities. You'll see changes tomorrow" But once the game started, balls were dropped, routes were mistimed and the offense, as usual, lacked fluidity.
It's a mistake to consider Jones a know-nothing meddler. He's more dangerous: a know-something meddler, a man who keeps up with offensive trends by talking to a handful of advisers (such as Cowboys consultant and Hall of Fame receiver Paul Warfield), attending offensive meetings and keeping his ears open at NFL competition committee sessions. But he doesn't know as much as a coach does, and he has stretched himself still thinner by acting as general manager—a job at which he is failing miserably. Since Jimmy Johnson left in 1994, only two Dallas draft choices have made the Pro Bowl.
Will Jones now go after an offensive expert (such as Rams coordinator Mike Martz) who may not want to listen to him or a defensive guy (such as Dallas coordinator Dave Campo) he can try to intimidate? Whoever it is should know this: If you come to coach in Big D, you'll be sharing the headphones with the man who signs your paycheck.
TYSON IN ENGLAND
Britannia Waives the Rules
Last week London's The New Nation caused an uproar when it questioned whether Mike Tyson, who spent three years in an Indiana prison for rape, should be allowed into the United Kingdom for a Jan. 29 fight with British ex-con Julius Francis. Tyson's past had landed him on the British Immigration Service's so-called Suspect Index, a list of some 500,000 people who aren't welcome in the U.K., which has a regulation barring entry to anyone convicted of a crime that carries a prison sentence of a year or more. Exceptions are to be made only on "strong, compassionate grounds."
Glenda Jackson, the only Member of Parliament with a best actress Oscar, said the country "shouldn't bend the rules for him...simply because he's a celebrity. I can see no grounds for compassion whatsoever." But Home Secretary Jack Straw could, thanks to a 67-page document submitted by fight promoter Frank Warren, whose report included appeals from vendors at the Manchester arena staging the bout and a poignant plea from Francis: "I have spent time in prison and turned myself around in the only way I know how, by hard work and dedication to my career in boxing. I now have a golden opportunity to clear my backlog of debts and a chance to buy a home for my girlfriend and newly born baby."