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Publisher’s Notebook:

The Golden State Warriors basketball victory over the Dallas Mavericks was the biggest sports story in the Bay Area in the last 25 years. Not since the ’81 Montana-to-Dwight Clark touchdown pass has the region seen something this exciting.

It all started during the season when Don Nelson, former Mavericks coach and Mark Cuban nemesis, was chosen by future hall of famer and Warrior General Manager Chris Mullin to coach the Warriors. From that point on, the Mavericks were on Nelson’s radar screen as the team to beat, and, sure enough, the Warriors were the only team in the NBA to have a winning record against the fifth winningest regular season team in NBA history.

I place the blame for defeat in this series clearly on the young Avery Johnson, coach of the Mavericks. He had his team psyched out before the series began. The two major blunders Johnson pulled were during the last time the Mavs faced the Warriors during the regular season and the first game of the playoffs. When the Warriors had to beat the Mavs in order to muscle out the Clippers at the end of the season, the Mavs benched their starters and played their bench, giving the Warriors an easy victory. Psychologically, had Johnson put his first team in and played at a high level and beat the Warriors, they would have had an edge going into the series. Instead Johnson “stood down” and hurt the confidence of his team. Ironically, in the next game, the last one of the season, he played his starters. The appearance was clear – Johnson was afraid. The league should have fined Johnson just like they fined Pat Riley nearly 20 years ago when he stood his team down in the final game of the year against the Portland Trailblazers.

Avery Johnson’s biggest blunder, however, was in the first game of the series when Johnson sent the message that his best team could not beat the Warriors, and he altered his first team lineup to go “small” against the Warriors. It didn’t work, as the Warriors ran to victory, but it did tell the world that the Mavs had no answer for the Warriors, and once again the confidence level of his team was stricken, perhaps definitively in a move that may have cost them this series.

In the end, the Warriors won this series by running up and down the court instead of plodding up and down like the Mavericks. My hat is off to them for their fun, aggressive style of freestyle ball. It was an added pleasure to see Santa Monica Crossroads graduate Baron Davis become a national sports figure. Steve Kerr, Palisades High School graduate, former Chicago Bull and sports columnist, even said he was the best physical athlete on the planet, arguing he was more impressive then either Tiger Wood, or Kevin Federer. I enjoyed watching Matt Barnes play and was glad to see another UCLA player star, but I was happy to see Baron Davis sans tattoos, which I think are overdone on today’s athletes. It looks like Davis has a mind of his own and will go forward with his own style, a heroic one considering his hamstring pull going into the final game.

Will the Warriors beat Utah in their next series? This time they will be seeing a team with the energy level and the talent, PLUS Jerry Sloan is one of the best coaches in NBA history. Expect Utah to be prepared to win. With coach Don Nelson they are comparable, but Sloan has been grooming this team for a longer time and has built them into a division champion. People forget that the second (the Bulls were #1) winningest team in the 1990s was Sloan’s Utah team.

See more on this story from Mirror Sports Editor Mitch Chortkoff in our sports section online and in the paper.

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I am curious why parents of kids in SMMUSD feel the need to go to members of the Santa Monica City Council to help resolve poor practices at the District. Something is amiss with that. The natural route would be to work closely with the District staff, and failing that, with the School Board. When it comes to children with special needs, however, some unusual practices are proving to be quite upsetting to parents. And once again it has to do with the use of gag orders. [See accompanying Letter to the Editor.] This seems to be an accepted and common method of seeking compliance from the parents. Once again, the District just doesn’t get it. No one liked the gag order placed on the Winston Braham departure, and the community has asked that it be lifted so that integrity can be restored. The District hierarchy of Diane Talarico and Tim Walker appears steadfast in their stand, and Talarico has even allowed Walker to extend the practice of gag orders to these special needs cases in a move that intimidates many parents. I am not allowed to use this word at home, but to our sophisticated readers I will use it here…this sucks. A school administration/board that does not elicit the trust and support of parents is a dysfunctional outfit. Some parents even say they will work against the parcel taxes that are coming up for renewal. Fortunately, the District has an opportunity to clear its name and restore its good practices before it is harmed further.

The word on the street is that the School Board is ineffective and, though of good intent, lacks the backbone to force needed changes at the District. I have yet to see a School Board member stand up and say these gag orders are impermissible and have got to stop. It is not for the District administration to “get control of the parents” as one top administrator has been heard quoted; it is for them to be in service to these parents and their children. We had a run of good luck with the high energy and intelligent administration of John Deasy, but this new team needs to be examined on their own merits and practices. If it takes a City Councilmember to help put some light on the scene, so be it, but our best option is that the School Board hears the bell and takes up the challenge.

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It is a good sign for our local economy that Yahoo! has chosen to take a large footprint in our community. Their 165,000 square feet at the Yahoo! Center may just be the beginning, as it appears their plans are to take on more building space. Google has also placed a hold on downtown, and Red Bull has just taken up occupancy at the old PaperMate factory. Santa Monica vacancy rates have dropped to as low as 4.5 percent from a high of just over 12 percent a couple of years back. Pricing, however, has made it difficult for small business owners to own their own property, a key component to acquiring wealth.

Michael Rosenthal

Publisher

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