Tim Floyd’s — and UTEP’s — Press Conference Ambush Was Disgraceful
Don't kid yourself. UTEP and Tim Floyd were waiting for Steve Kaplowitz to ask a question. Just one question. When he did, Floyd took things straight to DefCon 1.
It was an ambush. And it's a disgrace.
The Miners' athletic department called a press conference Tuesday afternoon, ostensibly to talk about the new men's basketball signings and the four Miners who have decided to leave the program. Actually, it was a brazen attempt to publicly humiliate one man -- Steve Kaplowitz.
It was pulled off with UTEP's tacit -- if not outright -- approval.
Floyd waited for Kaplowitz's question, THEN he handed out a 17-page novel about transfer students to the media. Not before, as things are usually done. Not after either of the first two questions from others. Only after Kaplowitz, who was third in line.
He directly called Kaplowitz uninformed. He indirectly called Kaplowitz a fool and a fake. He said that, before his return to El Paso, he had only talked to Kaplowitz as a favor to his mentor, Don Haskins, but wished he'd never done it.
That a university would allow a coach to just unload, singling out someone for derision and name-calling, is a disgrace.
Somebody at UTEP had to know something was coming in advance of this bushwhacking. Probably more than one somebody.
Floyd is a fiery coach -- an attitude that has served him well through a number of professional setbacks. Just ask USC head coach Andy Enfield, who nearly came to blows with him at a dinner in paradise. There is no backing down with Tim Floyd.
Knowing his temperament, senior athletic department officials who were present let their head coach sit at a table with a collated stack of explosives and a box of matches and didn't say a word? Please.
We'll see if there are official repercussions. Probably not. That's the way UTEP rolls these days.
And, here, we thought public floggings and stockades were things of the past. Literally, they are; but one of their main objectives was ridicule. That opinion shaming could be in play for anybody in UTEP's athletic leadership is chilling. It's also unacceptable from an institution with the job of teaching young people how to be adults.
Look, no one disputes the facts in those 17 pages of figurative bullwhip. Sez here: Tim Floyd is a great coach.
Plenty of El Pasoans disagree with that -- the Miners haven't been to the NCAA Tournament in any of the six seasons he's been head man. But there are a lot of extenuating circumstances for this school that not many people want to acknowledge. That Millennials jump around from program-to-program a lot now is a big one. It's not as easy for a UTEP to recover from that. But Floyd can still coach ball.
That said, Tim Floyd's tenure in Minerland has been punctuated with bouts of over-sensitivity. We saw it with former Miner Myron Strong in his very first year. Saw it with former KVIA sports director Asher Wildman after ex-Miner Chris Washburn popped a bouncer. Andy Enfield. Steve Alford.
Now we've seen it again with Floyd's takedown of Kaplowitz.
I find it hard to believe that a guy who's been an NBA head coach in the third largest media market in the United States feels like he's never dealt with such vicious and unfounded rumors on a talk show before.
Really? He's named the coach of the Chicago Bulls right after Phil Jackson and Michael Jordan won a sixth NBA title and quit, and he never heard any ugly rumors from any of the 50 sports talk shows in the Windy City when the Bulls started losing?
Thing is, in El Paso, talking transfers and program stability is neither rumor, nor is it vicious. They're questions people are naturally going to ask, especially when fans of a proud program like UTEP keep getting told they have to just deal with the loss of luster at an underfunded mid-major in a one-bid conference.
Part of the local media's problem in putting this into any kind of perspective is that you have to be considered a friend of the program to get access; something Floyd all but confirmed at Kappy's cornering. Tim Floyd has been the least accessible UTEP head coach anybody can remember; a list that includes Haskins.
Floyd could do worse than getting in a pick-up truck and taking media folk out for a drive, like Haskins used to.
Those days are long gone. This Potemkin presser wasn't going out for a drive, it was taking someone for a ride. Tony Soprano would be proud of the way UTEP set Kaplowitz up for Floyd's coup de grâce.
Still, aside from the Kap-Attack, it was genuinely interesting to hear Floyd lay things bare. Personal anecdotes about the players who have transferred, recruits who got away and more. But it shouldn't take him losing his marbles on a local media guy to find this stuff out.
Floyd has done his own reputation no favors and his university allowed it, if not ordained it.
It's cheap. It's dirty. It's also a stain on an athletic department that should know better.
My late father, John Keith, was the sports information director at Oklahoma during Barry Switzer's first coaching years and NCAA probations, watched the FBI execute a search warrant in his offices at New Mexico during Lobogate and was at Texas A&M through Jackie Sherrill's forced resignation for recruiting violations.
You want to talk about media pressure? This UTEP stuff is a tempest in a teapot by comparison.
There are still plenty of old pros out there who can vouch for how John Keith handled the media with class, muttering an under-the-breath joke that could draw a reporter's smile at a press conference announcing the apocalypse. He oversaw a few of those, athletically-speaking.
Part of running that kind of interference was talking coaches off the ledge of the self-induced paranoia endemic to their profession.
I may not have the exact words he'd say to Tim Floyd, but I could tell you exactly where he'd do it. It would be done over a cold adult beverage in a private corner of a local establishment.
And it would start with something along the lines of: "Tim, what are you gonna do after you light that fuse and find out it's stuck to you?"
Not that UTEP would know TNT from transfers.