What a mess. It is taking the Denver Nuggets much longer to hire a new head coach than the Egyptians took to build the pyramids. While the search continues, here's the inside story of the team's painstaking selection process. You won't read it anywhere else, simply because nobody else employs our level of telephone surveillance. Now, we recognize that most people have little tolerance for this kind of thing -- electronic prying -- but in this case, where's the harm? Any professional basketball team that has lost 550 games in the last ten years should be flattered by the occasional wiretap. Look at it this way: Wouldn't the Chicago Cubs feel pretty good if someone was actually bothering to listen in on their World Series plans?
Anyway, here are selections from the transcript:
May 5, 2002, 2:34 p.m. (MDT): "Hey. Phil. How are you? Kiki Vandeweghe calling. I know your plate is pretty full right now, what with winning a third straight championship and meditating every day and finding leg room for Shaq on the plane and all. But hear me out. We're looking for a new head coach here in Denver, and I just wondered if you might be interested."
"What? Who is this?"
"Kiki Vandeweghe. GM of the Denver Nuggets. We need a new coach."
"I didn't think Denver was still in the league."
"Well, sure, Phil. We played you guys a coupla times this season. Don't you remember?"
"No. I don't remember. But then, memory is transitory. Life is suffering. And the only way out of suffering is the Eightfold Path to righteousness."
"Okay, Phil. If you say so. But all I'm looking for is a man to lead our team back to the playoffs. We haven't been to the postseason for -- let's see here -- seven years, and we think you might be the guy who..."
"The extinguishment of desire; that's the secret of existence. The extinguishment of desire, accomplished by right effort, right mindfulness, right meditation. Go forth and find the extinguishment..."
"Shall I take that as a no?"
"Yes. Are you sure Golden State is still in the league?"
May 13, 2002, 7:08 p.m.: "Hello. Doug? That you, Doug? What the? What's that racket? Maybe we have a bad connection."
"Goddamn dog. The Big Stiff. First he rips the ass out of my best pair of pants, then he knocks Big Jane flat in the rumpus room. Now I'm fightin' the miserable S.O.B. for the last T-bone on the platter and...AIYEEEEEEEEEE! The Big Stiff just bit me. Hey, Jane, grab a tourniquet, willya? And gimme that rolling pin. I'll show this slobbering S.O.B. who's boss. Damn dog is more trouble than David Thompson ever was. Uh, who the hell is this?"
"It's Kiki Vandeweghe. From the Nuggets. Used to play for you. Listen, Doug. We're in the market for a new head coach, and I thought, given your success with the team in the past, that we...
"Son of a bitch! Listen, Keek. Don't ever get a Doberman worked up. Bad-tempered bastards. Hey! Jane! Get the shotgun, willya? Big Stiff screws with me, it's the last guy he'll screw with. You still there, Kiki? Damn! That hurts."
"Yeah, I'm here, Doug. Look, Doug. Maybe this isn't the best time to talk. But like I said, we're searching for a coach, and I thought..."
"Whyn'tcha call Larry Brown? He changes jobs more often than the Fugitive. Hey! Big Jane! Hurry up with that tourniquet, willya? Damn!"
June 4, 2002, 10:38 a.m.: "Good morning. Kindly tell him it's Mr. Vandeweghe."
"One moment, sir. Here you are. Go ahead, please."
"Hello, Mr. Secretary. My name is Kiki Vandeweghe, and I'm calling today in my capacity as general manager of the Denver Nuggets professional basketball team. In Colorado. I'll get right to the point. After extensive interviews with numerous other candidates, we are convinced that you, Mr. Secretary, are the ideal choice to become our new leader. Our coach, if I may use so rude a term. Now, while some thinkers within the sport might label this decision radical..."
"The Denver Nuggets? You have got to be kidding, friend. You people have the same chance of playing .500 ball as Saddam Hussein does of making captain at El Al."
"Well, that's just the point, Mr. Secretary. We need bold leadership. New ideas. Beefed-up defense. That's precisely why I'm calling you."
"Oh, yeah? Well, listen up, Mister 6'8" forward outta UCLA. My best guess is this: You already asked Phil Jackson. And Adolph Rupp. Am I right, or am I right? You called Joe Lapchick, didn't you? Why, I'll bet you even asked poor old Doug Moe to take this lousy gig. The Big Stiff. And Larry Brown, who changes jobs more often than the Fugitive. Donn Nelson. Tubby Smith. Eddie Jordan. Del Harris. Red Auerbach. You called James Naismith and offered him the big bucks, dincha? You asked all of 'em before you got around to me, right? And after they all turned you down you called me, Don Rumsfeld, as an afterthought. Well, lemme tell you this, buddy. I wouldn't take your lousy job even if you had some weapons of mass destruction on the roster, which you don't. Unless you call that Marvin Webster guy you got playin' for you mass destruction, which he's not. I like hoops as much as the next guy, but I'm waiting for a contender to call. Like the Chicago Stags. Or the Minneapolis Lakers. So go peddle your snake oil somewhere else"
June 19, 2002, 8:30 p.m.: "Hey there, Terry. It's Kiki. How are you? By the way, happy birthday!"
"Thanks. Glad you called. Oooohh. How pretty. Kiki, they're just now lighting the candles on my cake. Wow! That's beautiful. Just gorgeous. Ever notice how your eyes start to swim in the hypnotic glow of the flames?"
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"Sure thing, Ter. Look, the reason I called is, we definitely want you to come in for that interview. You just might be the coach who can spark the team once and for all."
"Oooooooh, so beautiful. Oh, wow! You almost don't want to blow them out. But don't let it be said that forest ranger Terry Barton is a party pooper. Kiki, you still on the line? Sure. You name the time and place and I'll be there. Nothing I'd like better than to get those good ol' Nuggets fired up."
July 1, 2002, 8:06 a.m.: "Hi. Kiki Van again, calling eightish on Monday morning. Sorry for the phone tag, Martha. You must be off baking Fourth of July cookies, or maybe you're down at the courthouse getting indicted. In any event, that offer we talked about still stands. Now more than ever. I'm serious. I mean it. Stan Kroenke and I both think you are exactly the person we've been looking for all these months to coach the Denver Nuggets. In view of your superb organizational skills and your no-nonsense, tough-as-nails fiscal attitudes, not to mention your gift for making absolutely sublime Christmas-tree ornaments, we would like to kick up the previous salary offer we discussed by, say, 200 thou. Believe me, the players are pretty excited about you coming aboard. Why, just the other day, our most promising rookie, Nikoloz Tskitishvili, said he couldn't wait for you to show him how to embroider his name across the back of his jersey. And one of our veterans, James Posey, can't stop talking about the watercress sandwiches he learned to make in the pages of Martha Stewart Living. Also, some of the boys are planning weddings, and they believe your advice will be invaluable. Of course, Mr. Kroenke and I understand full well that there might be a hurdle or two to clear before we can sign a deal. But, believe you me, Martha, we'll get you the best legal counsel money can buy and get you through this little mess. Ring me back, won't you, when you get this message. Can't wait to chat."
July 19, 2002, 3:17 a.m.: "Yes? Oh, good. It's you. Good morning. Or maybe good evening. Hell, I don't know what time it is over there. But let's hope I haven't called at a bad moment. Listen, this is Kiki Vandeweghe. From America. Just thought I'd give you a jingle, Chairman Arafat. I hear you're considering a career change, and..."