An Unsympathetic Figure

Ailene Voisin might have just penned the least sympathetic 'sympathy column' in the history of written word.

But it's not her fault. Blame the subject.

Eric Musselman ruled this town last June. A fresh face, a 'brilliant' mind, a charismatic character - everything Rick Adelman was supposedly not. I rejoiced upon his hiring, just as many other fans did. This was a great move.

Well, so we thought. That DUI changed everything. For someone who eatsleepdreams basketball, getting tanked after a preseason game and nearly crashing your beamer downtown is pretty outrageous. I mean, as many times as he mentioned how wonderful it'd be to live so close to his young sons, you didn't imagine the guy was a Ben Rothlisberger All-Star.

I could see how something like that would kill your authority in the locker room. Hell, Muss got arrested before Ron Artest this season. What would've been the odds on that? Muss was in trouble with the league before hashpiping Maurice Taylor. Simply unacceptable.

If the Maloofs knew then that Muss wouldn't be an effective coach, struggling to get past 30 wins on the season, they would've cut him loose on the spot. They aren't stupid. But no one thought the arrest would do as much damage - to his authority with the team, to his public persona - as it did. Immediately, the golden boy who was unfairly run out of Golden State was the rich, spoiled assh*le who drinks and drives doesn't seem particularly regretful about it.

So yeah, my heart doesn't twinge when I read that he shuttles between Sacramento and Danville three times a week to see his kids. Moving from the Bay to Memphis to the Valley, all while making several million dollars, doesn't really give me empathetic goosebumps. He hasn't gotten a fair shake, but it comes down on his head. Not a single Sacramentan will fault management for sending this guy out on a railcar. And it all stems from that DUI. There's no reason to believe Muss can capture the hearts and minds of upstanding citizens Kevin Martin and Francisco Garcia and Mike Bibby and Shareef Abdur-Rahim and Ronnie Price after that magnificent mistake. So why keep him around?

I think it's very obvious that the Maloofs will can him at the end of the year. If they weren't, you can be damn sure they'd be saying so publically, if just to spur this team to an unlikely end-of-season run. The lack of confidence is evident, and Muss is done with the Kings in two weeks' time.

But is Muss done as an NBA head coach? It seems shocking it took the guy two seasons under Mike Fratello to get another top job. He was the runner-up for Coach of the Year his first big-league season, for goodness sake. You'd think teams would've been lining up to nab the young basketball genius Musselman appeared to be in 2003. But no one offered a contract until the Kings came calling, and by all indications Muss didn't get the pole position until he knocked the Maloofs over with a masterful mountain of research on the roster.

All that 2002 luster is gone. The warts are full and plain view - he can't reach players, he's not a defensive wizard, he's not an offensive wizard, he can't win the close games. That's the vision of 'Eric Musselman, Head Coach' now. I can't imagine many GMs clamoring to bring him in for interviews. I think he's the new PJ Carlesimo - a double failure at head coaching, a solid #2 man on the bench.

It's a less glorious but still lucrative position to be in. He'll find a coach's coattails soon, and he's young enough to make it back to rising star again in a half-dozen years. He can be reborn, but it will take some forgetfulness on the part of the league.

But I'm not crying for him, and I doubt you are either. Whatever problems injure him now rest at his own damn feet.

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