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A Good Column Spoiled

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John Feinstein is, we would probably all agree, an intelligent and accomplished man.  We've read him for a long time, recognizing his imposing talents even when he was at the Chronicle and outshining some veteran local sportswriters (Art Chansky, for one).

He also frequently alludes to his political ideals in his sports columns.  Not what we read sports for, certainly, but he has earned the right to express himself as he wishes.

Having read his political asides for some time now, we feel safe in saying that Feinstein certainly would have been opposed to Senator Joseph McCarthy's tactics and would have most likely said so quite loudly from whatever soapbox he could muster.  Good for him, too.

So why, then, when he clearly would detest McCarthyism, does he employ it himself?

We refer to these comments in his weekend column on Jim Larranaga's move to Miami:

Larranaga, with his Final Four pedigree and his reputation as a clean program builder, clearly is what Shalala was looking for, regardless of age (he’s 61). Whether Larranaga can thrive in the recruiting cesspool that is often the ACC — and can persuade players who arrive on campus with NBA aspirations to buy into his all-for-one, one-for-all philosophy — is unclear.

Emphasis ours, of course.

So who is he talking about? Let's consider last year's coaches:

  • Coach K
  • Gary Williams
  • Roy Williams
  • Steve Donahue
  • Tony Bennett
  • Seth Greenberg
  • Jeff Bzdelik
  • Sidney Lowe
  • Paul Hewitt
  • Brad Brownell
  • Leonard Hamilton
  • Frank Haith

Who would it be in that group? And remember: it's not just one or two guys, it's a "cesspool."

Add recent departees and arrivals:

  • Al Skinner
  • Dave Leitao
  • Dino Gaudio
  • Skip Prosser
  • Paul Hewitt
  • Brian Gregory
  • Mark Gottfried

Nineteen coaches there.  We can safely rule out Coach K, whose reputation is universally respected, and Gary Williams, if for no other reason than Feinstein recently said he likes and admires Williams.  You can also say of a number of these guys that if they cheated, they were abject failures at it because it got them nowhere.

Feinstein's knowledge is obviously much deeper than ours, and we're sure Gary gives him a fair amount of intel, but there's only one guy listed above who we're convinced has cheated in the past (a first-hand source told us what transpired), and he was an assistant at the time.  We don't know what happened since then.

However, we're not children.  We know cheating goes on and that even if it's not intentional, the manual makes it almost impossible not to make unintentional violations.  Violations of that sort, however, are not the stuff of cesspools.

The bottom line here is this: if you are going to make an accusation that is this serious, you should be willing to be specific.  If you're not, you are engaging in a sort of McCarthyism which is most unbecoming.  One hopes that in the future, when Feinstein feels obliged to make statements like this, he'll also be willing to back them up with substantial facts.

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