Tom Barrise: An Appreciation

Short-lived interim coach oversaw history

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    NEWSLETTERS

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    Timing, as they say, is everything. At this time last week, Tom Barrise was an unknown assistant coach on Lawrence Frank's staff trying to figure out a way to snap a losing streak. At this time next week, Barrise will be an unknown assistant coach on Kiki Vandeweghe's staff and he'll probably still be trying to figure out a way to snap a losing streak. Just his luck that this week he was head coach of the Nets for their 17th and 18th straight losses to open the season, a new hallmark of futility that comes with his name attached.

    That doesn't seem fair. What did Barrise do to anyone to deserve that kind of black mark in the history books? He's an anonymous basketball lifer who has spent the last 13 years working for the Nets as an assistant and a scout. Before that, he was a coach at every small college in New Jersey and has, in short, given his life to a game that just gave him a raspberry in return. So no, it wasn't fair at all especially since Vandeweghe was at the game. 

    He's the G.M. of this mess. Using the Colin Powell theory of things, Vandeweghe helped break the Nets and should have to own the result. Barrise could have done the heavy lifting on the bench over the last two games while Vandeweghe got used to life on the bench. Don't want the embarrassment of coaching a team to record-breaking defeats? Don't put together such a rancid club.

    Comparing sports to war is never totally precise, but seeing Vandeweghe sitting up in the stands during last night's loss looked a lot like officers back in HQ while they sent the grunts off to a grisly battle. He seemed concerned, he seemed interested in the outcome but only so long as he didn't actually have to get his hands the least bit dirty.  

    And Frank was the coach who oversaw the first 16 of these losses, why all of the sudden goodwill toward him and the avoidance of putting his name on this record? The team has had injuries and Frank can only be expected to be as good as the ingredients, but it's not like he was in the Bahamas during those losses. They all happened right on his watch and just before something really bad happened, the Nets decided that they'd rather put the smear on Barrise than Frank.

    Frank gets spared, Vandeweghe gets spared and the unknown guy takes his two lumps and then gets shoved back into the corner. That's a swell job of accountability. The loss record couldn't have happened to a nicer team.

    Josh Alper is a writer living in New York City and is a contributor to FanHouse.com and ProFootballTalk.com in addition to his duties for NBCNewYork.com.