Ever since I started covering baseball in the late 1990s at Sports Illustrated, I’ve hated press conferences. There’s no intimacy, little detail and—even if a good question is asked—the answer is shared with multiple media outlets. Unless there’s absolutely no way to speak with one of the principals, I avoid such events at all costs. Always have, always will.
Which leads me to today’s press conference in Milwaukee, where Jason Kidd was introduced at the Bucks’ new coach.
To begin with: I actually think most of the local reporters handled Kidd pretty well. The questions weren’t all softballs, and certainly the Bucks couldn’t have loved the repeated inquiries about Kidd’s, um, slimy departure from Brooklyn after just one seasons.
That said, if you’re a young or aspiring journalist looking for HOW NOT TO DO THIS JOB and WHAT TO LOOK FOR tips, this is a pretty good one. So here I go …
A. Bravo to Charles Gardner from the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinal, who asked the opening question. There was nothing wrong with Gardner saying, “Welcome to Milwaukee,” and what followed was solid (though I could do without the last part): “Reports were you wanted more control in Brooklyn. Some type of basketball operations post. Did you pursue that here, and are you content with coaching the team? And what do you think of this young roster, much different than your Brooklyn roster with those veteran guys?”
What I love even more than the question was Kidd’s reply—an absolute dodge that answered nothing. As a reporter, this thrills me, because you already know Kidd and the Bucks are uncomfortable with what’s transpired. It’s press conference gold, when press conferences rarely have gold. Obviously, the next question HAS TO be a follow-up about leaving Brooklyn, and why he did such a thing—being an icon with the franchise, etc. So what ensues is …
B. Brutal. Just brutal. I don’t know who Lance Allan from WTMJ is, but … c’mon. Really? This is what he asked: “As a player, you’re used to winning. As a coach, there’s only so much you can do. There are going to be growing pains. How do you deal with that?” What? No—WHAT!? Dude, you have the biggest story in the NBA sitting before you. He’s making himself available—for the first time—to explain why he left what would seem to be one of the biggest plum gigs in sports … for friggin’ Milwaukee … and you toss him a cream puff-filled softball? No, no, no, no.
C. I actually love Kidd’s reply here. Because it, too, makes no sense.
D. I’m glad Michael Hunt from the Journal-Sentinel returns to sanity for the third question, noting the criticisms over how Kidd left Brooklyn, even using the term “power play.” It was asked well, and it was smart. And Kidd’s answer here is my absolute favorite of the night—if not the century: “Mike, you know, when you’re a player you’re gonna be criticized and as a coach you’re gonna be criticized even more. Because it’s about wins and losses. And so for me it’s being able to get better as a coach. I’m still a young coach and I still got a lot to learn about coaching. And I want to surround myself with guys like John and Wes and Marc—our owners and our GM—and be able to learn from them, but from my coaching staff. I’m excited about this opportunity. And today is all about Milwaukee. And I’ll be criticized why Ilyasova didn’t take the game-winning shot. It just comes with the territory and we move forward.”
Do me a favor and read that again. And again. It’s as if Kidd thought to himself, “OK, I don’t wanna touch this question, so I’m gonna babble for a couple of minutes, mention one of the three Milwaukee players I’ve heard of and hope it works.” And, of course, it does work. Even though I wasn’t present, I can see, perfectly clear, those in attendance nodding their heads because, well, it’s what we often do when famous people speak nonsense. We nod.
E. From here, it all gets sorta boring. The Bucks admit they screwed up in the timing of the whole thing, Marc Lasry (a co-owner) blathers on about not consulting with his GM, Kidd slithers away …
And the world cringes.