Posted January 29, 2014

All-Sanctioned Team: Players, coaches and a mascot that drew David Stern’s ire

Ben Golliver, David Stern, Gilbert Arenas, Gregg Popovich, J.R. Smith, Kobe Bryant, Mark Cuban, Metta World Peace, NBA, Rasheed Wallace, The Point Forward All-Stars

Coach: Gregg Popovich, Spurs

Gregg Popovich; David Stern

Gregg Popovich and David Stern playing nice during an awards ceremony. (Ronald Martinez/Getty Images Sports)

Unlike Cuban, who stands without peer among the ownership ranks when it comes to fines, there are a number of worthy candidates for the All-Sanctioned Team’s coaching spot.

Let’s start with perhaps the two most amusing: the Van Gundy brothers. Both had memorable run-ins with Stern over treatment of their respective centers.

Back in 2005, Jeff Van Gundy, then coaching the Rockets, drew a $100,000 fine from Stern for telling reporters that a referee had called to inform him that the officials were targeting Yao Ming during a playoff series against the Mavericks because Cuban had complained so much. In addition to the six-figure fine, Stern stated that Van Gundy was “not going to continue in this league” if he continued to make similar comments.

History repeated itself in 2011 when Stan Van Gundy, then coaching the Magic, was fined $35,000 for saying referees were targeting Dwight Howard, before he took a personal shot at the commissioner a few months later. “This is the system David Stern and his minions like,” Van Gundy said. “I certainly can’t have an opinion because David Stern, like a lot of leaders we’ve seen in this world lately, don’t really tolerate other people’s opinion or free speech or anything. So I’m not really allowed to have an opinion.” The comments were made during the so-called “Arab Spring,” when a number of revolutions and protests were going on in the Middle East and North Africa.

VIDEO: Popovich badgers, hugs Jeff Van Gundy during sideline interview

Those comments somehow didn’t draw a fine, but Stern did say that Magic management needed to “rein in [Van Gundy's] aberrant behavior,” that Van Gundy seemed to be “fraying,” and that “we’re not going to be hearing from [Van Gundy] for the rest of the season.” Last year, Van Gundy asserted that Stern blocked him from getting a commentating job at ESPN: “There’s no question the comments I’ve made about David Stern kept them from hiring me. I said things that pissed him off.”

So, if you’re keeping track, that’s one brother who was threatened by Stern with a ban from the league and another brother who believes his job prospects were influenced, either directly or indirectly, by Stern.

And yet neither Jeff Van Gundy nor Stan Van Gundy takes home top honors here thanks to an unforgettable confrontation between Stern and Gregg Popovich last season. When San Antonio’s Hall of Fame coach elected to rest four key players during a nationally-televised game against Miami — going so far as to send them home to Texas early — Stern responded immediately and with force, calling the decision “unacceptable,” promising “substantial sanctions” and following through with a monster $250,000 fine for the Spurs.

Spurs

David Stern was less than impressed with the Spurs’ strategic resting. (Patrick Semansky/AP)

That fine set off national debates about the value of strategic resting, what should take precedent when a coach’s priorities conflict with those of the league office, and the role that the league’s television contracts and advertising partners played in guiding the commissioner’s decision. Those “substantial sanctions” also drew questions because Silver had previously said that strategic resting was “within the discretion of the teams,” because Popovich had previously rested players without drawing any fine, and because it was a particularly logical time schedule-wise to rest players (San Antonio was at the end of a long road trip with a key divisional game coming up).

Ultimately, Stern justified his fine by arguing that the Spurs “did a disservice to the league and its fans” and acted “contrary to the best interests of the NBA” because they hadn’t given adequate notice of their plans, because it was their only regular season visit to Miami, and because Danny Green, who was 25 at the time, didn’t need to rest for strategic purposes.  “It was a game that was being played [by Popovich]. I know it, you know it and he knows it,” Stern said, once the dust settled.

The two men appear to have reached a compromise: Popovich continues to rest his key players, even for nationally-televised games, but the Spurs gave the league extra notice when they did so earlier this season. Still, the Popovich episode stands as a low moment for Stern because it came off as impulsive, contradictory, lacking in precedent and overly focused on the small picture. San Antonio’s unique ability to extend the career arcs of its stars has paid off in countless playoff victories, fantastic moments, and one of the greatest Finals of all time (2013). Their outside-the-box philosophy should stand as a template for the other 29 teams, not as a source for a massive penalty.

On a lighter note, Stern’s NBA also fined Mavericks coach Rick Carlisle $35,000 for kicking a basketball into the baseline stands in 2012. Check out his form:

And on one of the lightest disciplinary notes in league history, the NBA fined Nets coach Jason Kidd $50,000 for instructing his player to “hit me” so that he would spill soda on the court, thereby stopping the game so he could diagram a last-minute play.

15 comments
David102
David102

As a Detroit Pistons fan, I feel there should be a team entry and we are it. Not only did Stern fine our players at a conspicuously high rate, but he had a funny way of tweaking league rules whenever the Pistons established a dominant defense. 

OldDadTheBoss
OldDadTheBoss

Rodman was a nut, but he did most of his craziness off the court. While on it, he defended, rebounded and generally contributed to the game itself, with various colored hair and wearing a wedding dress one time. Any negativity concerning 'the Worm' happened away from the arena.

nrwillick
nrwillick

No Rodman? How is he not on this list?

OldDadTheBoss
OldDadTheBoss

Cuban could have probably handled his disdain for today's refs a little better, but he was right most of the time. He'd have loved to be the owner when refs like Mendy Rudolf and Richie Powers ran the floors. Those guys got it right, didn't need 'make up' calls, or 'T' you up right away. If you had a beef, they'd let you go on about it, as long as you didn't say the wrong word. They were well respected by players and coaches alike. Of course, players were more professional in attitude then also, not like what's bouncing up and down the courts these days.

Zeshan
Zeshan

As a Seattle resident/fan, I don't understand how the Sonics aren't Stern's most sanctioned team. He didn't hate anyone or place more.


And as a Seattle resident/fan, Stern, may you go softly into that good-riddance.

Nate the Pate
Nate the Pate

Little midget dictator Stern.  Just like another fat little stub in N Korea.  Criticize his regime and he'll toss you out of his league.  Any wonder why no one qiuestions when the refs make calls in one direction each game? It only takes a very subtle few calls to influence a game since most games are decided by 4 points or less.

PhillyPenn
PhillyPenn

people still care about the NBA?

Hello1813
Hello1813

Funny, I would have guessed Latrell Sprewell to be listed here instead of Kobe.

Nate the Pate
Nate the Pate

David Stern should be investigated for league fixing.  There are too many games that the refs have decided for this to be random.  Somewhere in a Swiss bank account, Stern probably has amassed a large fortune betting on the games.

espnrefugee0218
espnrefugee0218

@PhillyPenn il start watching again when the refs dont stop play on every single possession....and flopping is addressed appropriately. Until then its unwatchable 

newshamg
newshamg

@Nate the Pate Not too bright are you? I know the slow of thinking love a good conspiracy theory but just stop.

Nate the Pate
Nate the Pate

@newshamg@Nate the Pate 

Dipschit, this isn't a conspiracy theory.  Just like Tim Donaghey wasn't a conspiracy theory.  I suppose the mafia fixing boxing matches and games and even stocks is a conspiracy too.  Stern has all the power.  All he needs to do is have a few refs willing to go along with it.  Jackholes like you probably thought the WWF was real back then too.

newshamg
newshamg

@TerrapinStation87 @newshamg @Nate the Pate Look, I know uneducated fools want to feel special - but get that feeling somewhere else. Seeing conspiracies everywhere is a weakness of the psyche allied to a failure to understand.