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A Player & A Coach

Look the part, be the part.

Wise words from everybody’s favorite Eastside Baltimore streetwise kingpin. Emulating Pat Riley paid off for Prop Joe, as the Eastsider’s took down Avon’s Westside squad back in 2002.

Riley and Joe Stewart had more in common than just wearing 3 piece suits on the sideline. They were both players in the game. Definitely not the same game, but players nonetheless.

Before Pat Riley won 5 titles as a head coach he was a decent player at best. His career highlight coming as a member of the ‘72 championship Laker team that took down my Knicks in 5 games.

Come to think of it, Riley’s days in the association were a lot like Phil Jackson’s. A role player that featured on some all-time teams, eventually becoming one of the greatest coaches to ever hold a whiteboard.

What about the other guys though?

The guys who’s games were fairly ordinary, and who’s coaching careers haven’t quite reached the extraordinary levels some might’ve thought.

There are a lot of other guys in this photo of the 1985 Bears. Sure, you’ll find a couple Hall of Famers, like Walter Payton pictured in the middle, but you’ll also find some guys that flat out didn’t catch a break, like number 24 on your bottom right-hand corner.

Jeff Fisher was a DB/return man for the Bears from ‘81-’84. Stuck on injured reserve for all of ‘85, Fisher never suited up for the Super Bowl Champs. Instead, he contributed to Buddy Ryan’s Monsters of the Midway defense as a glorified assistant. Players on I.R. are given a ring, but it’s gotta feel pretty strange to be in the team picture knowing you weren't able to take the field.

He still had some moments as a player, like this 88-yard punt return as a rookie against the Bucs. His only touchdown of his short playing career.

But hey, always look on the bright side. If Jeff Fisher didn’t break his ankle, then maybe he doesn’t get that break (bad Dad-Joke) with Ryan, and become Coach Fisher.

Bright-eyed and bushy-tailed, here's Coach Fisher's first gig as D-Coordinator for Ryan's Eagles. The guy was so new to his role, he still has his Bears on field credential strapped to those classic 80's slacks.

If you're around my age though, this is the version of Fisher you first met, as head coach of the former Houston Oilers turned Tennessee Titans.

And this is the moment you most associate with his team, a yard away from Super Bowl immortality, instead he was left with Super Bowl infamy against The Greatest Show on Turf.

Fisher holds Titan's franchise records for longest tenured head play caller, most wins, and most postseason appearances. If you have time on a Sunday flip the channel to NBC, and you might see Coach Fisher on the Michigan Panthers sideline as well.

I took it easy on Fisher's playing career because he comes off as a nice guy, and he didn't play, or coach for my team, but I'm not able to give that luxury out to this next guy.

Ime Udoka has got to be one of the worst players I've ever seen put on a Knicks uniform. According to basketball reference he only played in 8 games for New York, but that's not how I remember it. And I definitely don't remember him shooting like this picture portrays, I just remember him standing there with a blank stare on his face looking completely out of place on the Garden this.

I instantly feel better. I guess it's true, guys will really do anything to not go to therapy, like go on a crazed rant about an NBA journeyman's short-lived cup of coffee for your team.

In totality, Udoka played for five teams, his longest spell coming with the Spurs.

I suppose getting out of that Knicks jersey would make any guy smile. Transitioning from player to coach under Gregg Popovich, now Udoka calls the shots for the Boston Celtics.

They play tonight in Game 5 of the NBA Finals in San Francisco.

Now the player I never wanted on my team, is the coach I'd be desperate to have. A demonstrative leader that has the Celtics giving it their all every night, and are currently two games away from a championship.

At the latest, we'll know by this Sunday, June 19th if Udoka lifts the Larry O'Brien trophy, or ends up a yard short like Kevin Dyson. Either way, Nia Long being your biggest fan isn't a bad consolation prize.

And either is a full-time job that consists of fly fishing in Montana, with a part-time hobby of coaching in the USFL.

As for The Encyclopedia, to paraphrase from Jadakiss; maybe if I just keep writing with ambition, like the aforementioned Phil Jackson, I'll be up on the board with a triangle.

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