HoopsHype.com Interviews

Bryan Colangelo: "Marbury has something to play for"
by Steven Koek / September 10, 2002

You mentioned a couple of times throughout the draft process the influence of the Internet. As we are an Internet publication, what impact has the Internet had on the league and how you go about your job?

Bryan Colangelo: It’s fascinating to me how the world of information has changed. Five years ago we weren’t so much aware of what was going on but with the advent of Direct TV and being able to basically watch every basketball game that’s played on a given night in the NBA. It’s incredible just our viewing opportunities that have made the job not only a lot easier but also a lot more frustrating because you’re dealing with so much more information. With regard to the Internet and the various media outlets that are now utilizing the Internet as a means of communication, stories that once would show up in the daily papers the following day are now immediately available on the newspaper’s website.

Then further, if you look at what’s being picked up by sites such as HoopsHype.com and excerpts from that are being utilized; quotes, stories, opinions on stories, it just seems to take on a life of its own. It yields a much more intricate rumor mill. That rumor mill has a lot more working pieces than it once did. Those working pieces used to be a single outlet, that was a newspaper and sometimes that newspaper article wasn’t read or picked up by anyone. Now it’s not only picked up by multiple sources, but it’s then taken to another level. Everybody seems to be aware of everything that’s being talked about or discussed, even things that are not (really) being discussed.

Is that a good thing or a bad thing?

BC: I think it’s good. It’s made it a lot more interesting. It’s made the draft process a lot more difficult to navigate. Because of the amount of information that’s out there, you truly need to try to protect your approach to the draft, per se, or even to conversations regarding potential trades. It’s damaging in a lot of cases to have as much information out there. When you play poker you don’t want to show your opponent your cards and in a situation when there is as much information circulating out there and a lot of times with a great deal of accuracy, it makes it a lot more difficult to move in a stealth way in terms of holding your information inside and protecting your organization’s interests.

As far as trades, it’s damaging in that a lot of times you’re having legitimate conversations and you don’t want to have that information out there. It can affect the chemistry in your locker room… It can affect greatly the relationship you have with a player and those are situations where you are having legitimate conversations. It’s the “non” legitimate communications that are the ones that are even more damaging. It’s made it very difficult, but it’s a necessary evil because I think the more awareness that there is about basketball, the more information that there is out there about basketball, the more interest there is, and more interest obviously spells a greater success for our league.

Because of the quantity of information, do you safeguard your players against it? Is there a “don’t believe everything you read” mentality as a result?

BC: You have to take that approach. We also take a very honest approach with our players. When there is something to discuss with them we’ll discuss it with them. Most of them have a true understanding that it is a business and there are parts of the business that are not always satisfying to them. There’s going to be trades, things that happen over the course of the season or seasons that do affect them, whether it’s them hearing that we’re interested in acquiring a player that might play their position or whether it’s them hearing speculation about a trade. I can only be honest with them and if I get put in a position to answer a question about a player, we’re always going to be honest with the player.

You’ve seen both your rookies, Amare Stoudemire and Casey Jacobsen, in summer league action and on the practice court. Are the expectations still the same? Are there still patience and caution flags out there?

BC: We’ve got two developing rookies. One that’s been through a little bit more with the rigors of college basketball and has a greater deal of experience out there in Casey, another that’s 19 years old and never played a game of college basketball and he’s confronted the issues, not only learning how to play the game on a different level, but also learning how to adapt to the lifestyle of the NBA. We’ve got two completely different scenarios but we’re hoping to achieve the same result, having a successful entree into the league and potentially helping this team in their first year, which doesn’t always happen. We’re a young team; we’re going to learn as a young core of players. They’re both going to have an opportunity to cut their teeth thoroughly and I think it’s going to be a very productive season for both of them.

Is it too early to speculate on whether Stoudemire will be in the starting lineup? Are you even bothered by when or if that will happen?

BC: I think it’s too early and it really doesn’t bother me. I don’t think it bothers him right now. We’ve got some uncertainties right now going into training camp. The health of Tom Gugliotta will dramatically affect whether or not Amare plays ten minutes or thirty minutes… Frank Johnson and our staff understand what it means to our organization to have Amare come along in the right fashion. The right fashion to me means that he plays a great deal of minutes but within the framework of him learning the game, learning the system so it’s not a force. Let it come naturally. A lot of times it happens quicker naturally if (rookies are) given an opportunity to play and learn from their mistakes. There are a lot of coaches in the league that don’t tolerate mistakes, and that is generally why rookies don’t play. It’s natural for a rookie to make mistakes; they’re learning new things, they’re put in new environments, they’re being schooled by veteran players. (Stoudemire) is going to experience all of that. Being a young team, there is probably a greater tolerance for mistakes being made.

Will the lowered expectations by not making the playoffs work to the benefit of the team’s youthfulness?

BC: Although expectations may have lowered somewhat naturally just by not making the playoffs, I think we’ve got a great deal of optimism to make quick progress and develop a competitive unit. I think we’re going to be a young and entertaining team. We’ve got a nice mix of veteran players that will allow us to be competitive without a complete step backward. We won 36 games last year; if we were in the East we might have been a six or seven seed (in the playoffs), or higher. The bottom line is that I don’t know how far back we are, especially given some of the circumstances in our league. There are a number of teams out there that are an injury away from taking a significant step back and unfortunately we’ve been in a situation where through a couple of things that have happened, we haven’t had a healthy unit for some time. We’re looking forward to having a healthy season.

Has Stephon Marbury dedicated himself to being a leader on this team?

BC: Steph is going to be playing healthy for the first time this year because he’s had both ankles cleaned out and he’s done a lot of rehabilitation work this summer. He’s feeling better and probably has greater joint mobility in the two ankles than he has in a long time. I think he’s also got a burning desire and hunger inside to maybe prove some nay sayers wrong from last season’s experience. The fact that New Jersey did as well as they did and the fact that we somewhat stumbled, I think that he has something to play for and he’s not the only one. That might mean good things for us overall.

Have you personally spoken to Marbury about his DUI arrest and resultant 10-day prison term and one-game league suspension?

BC: Quite a bit, but I’ll leave that between us. I think he’s learned a great deal. I think it’s safe to say it’s not going to happen again because of the consequences, but also he understands the potential damage that (drunk driving) can cause, not only to himself or to the organization, but to the potential victims. He feels extremely fortunate to have gotten out of the situation without having had something happen and, again, I think he’s learned a great deal from it.

The day you announced the hiring of Rick Welts, the new COO, effectively releasing you from the business end of the organization, you seemed to have had a big weight taken off your shoulders. How has that move affected your day-to-day job and your outlook on coming to work everyday?

BC: It hasn’t changed my feeling about coming to work everyday; I’m always ready to go. One way or another I’ve got something to do. I’ll never lose sight of the goal of ultimately making this a championship basketball team. As far as day-to-day focus and concentration, it’s allowed me to look solely at the basketball end of things as opposed to all of the non-basketball things that I was also responsible for before. I think it’s going to be productive to the organization overall.

You run the original sports team for a community in which sports is an integral part its identity. Are you ever in awe over your position in the organization and the community?

BC: I never take it for granted. I am extremely fortunate enough to have the position that I have. If I were to ever take it for granted I hope it’s the last day I work here. I care, probably more than most, about what happens here and what transpires both on and off the court. It makes the job obviously something that a lot of circumstances in our industry and in our society that’s out of our control, but you try to do your best. You try to be the most competitive team out there, you try to draft the right people, you try to condition them correctly to go out there and be productive not only as basketball players but as citizens of the community. I’m now in a position that comes with a great deal of pride and also a great deal of desire. I want to make it right. If I spent a lot of time being in awe of the position, I probably wouldn’t be very effective. A lot of what I do is instinctive because I’ve been around it my entire life. I just try to follow the right formula that’s been established a long time before I got here.

To the outsider it would appear that you were destined to run this team. Was there ever a period when you went away to college at Cornell that you thought this was not what you wanted to do?

BC: Ultimately I was going to come back. The reason I didn’t come back immediately was to try to establish an independence away from the family business, so to speak. It was a great opportunity to expand as an individual, as a person, to create relationships in a completely different environment than what I was normally used to. Overall, it was a great experience to get away. Was I destined and did I want to come back ultimately? Of course. It was always something I wanted to do. If it didn’t work out that way, I probably would have gone on to do something else. Ultimately I will be doing something else. Right now I am focused on what’s in front of us right here.

Steven Koek is a regular contributor to HoopsHype.com

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