Charley Rosen is an unpeggable hybrid, equal parts amiable wise man and raging madman. A Chaucer scholar, he has written six books on basketball—novels, meditations, a history, a biography. Bronx-born, he lives now in rural upstate New York and coaches the Oklahoma City Cavalry in the Continental Basketball Association. A sometimes mellow Deadhead, he must often struggle to curb a flaring, mysterious anger. He has been reprimanded for fighting hecklers in the stands and ejected for cursing out officials. He knows most refs' thumbs better than their faces.
Rosen has been through three CBA teams in five seasons. "I always land on my feet," he says. Except when he lands in jail, as he did last winter while coaching the Rockford (Ill.) Lightning. He took a swing at Cedar Rapids coach George Whittaker after a game, and local police threw him into a cell. Rosen's eight-game suspension was the longest in CBA history. "Another incident like that and Charley will be banished from the league for life," says Cavalry owner Chip Land.
Rosen has earned a reputation as being something of a maniac. "And not just your everyday maniac," says Land. "Everybody thinks he's a dangerous maniac."
Then why did Land hire him in May as the expansion team's first coach?
"I knew he'd play to packed houses. Everybody hates him."
"Just everybody in the living world."
Just everybody who was in Oklahoma City's Myriad Convention Center on Jan. 23 saw Charley go cuckoo during his halftime 50th-birthday party. The Cavalry trailed Wichita Falls by three just before halftime when a ref blew his whistle—and Rosen his top. "Double technical?" brayed Rosen. "What kind of coward calls a double technical?"
The buzzer sounded. The players and refs ambled off the court. Cheerleaders ambled on. Rosen remained in place, screaming loudly.
By the time the cheerleaders led him to center court for the birthday honors, he had calmed down slightly. One cheerleader handed him balloons, another, a three-foot-long cake. The refs came by for slices. "I had a flash of heaving the cake into their faces," Rosen says. "It was big enough." Instead, he expressed his feelings toward them vocally, in terms of intimate anatomical parts unmentionable here. As Rosen roiled and started to shake yet again with rage, the cake wobbled and smashed on the floor.