No, the kid never was going to be the next Nash or Stockton, but he was going to be the best point guard my old college buddy's small Division I program had in years. I still can hear him talking about pulling his car into a hotel parking lot at 8 o'clock on that brutal Las Vegas summer morning, and discovering that recruit he had to have, Brian Dux, running himself through dribbling drills before a long day of AAU tournament games in the desert.
This was nine years ago, and Mike MacDonald, then the coach at Canisius College, told me on the phone, "I've got to get this kid."
Dux was a puny point guard out of Orchard Park, a Buffalo suburb, and oh how MacDonald desperately wanted to coach him. He was 6-foot nothing then, and he had maybe two or three scholarship offers. Dux did go to Canisius and had a wonderful career, becoming the second player in program history to go for more than 1,000 points and 500 assists. He'd become all-conference in the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference, and I was sure that Mike never loved coaching a kid more than he did Brian Dux.
Eventually, Dux turned into a championship point guard for the Guildford Heat of the British Basketball League. He was 26 years old, and the photos on the team's website show that he grew his hair out like Steve Nash had with the Phoenix Suns.
"He loved it over there," MacDonald said Thursday night. "He was like the mayor of that town."
So Saturday night, Dux was driving home at 4:40 a.m. when he lost control of his car and crashed into a tree on Bagshot Road in Chobham, England. Within minutes, there was a call made to the police reporting the crash. And then, another an hour later. Only, investigators say, no one came for Brian Dux. He had taken a terrific blow to the head, been bleeding, but time passed and Dux fought for his life all alone.
As the Woking News and Mail reported, "The ambulance service was not alerted until 7 a.m., leaving the severely injured man in the wreck of his black Nissan Micra for two hours and twenty minutes."
His parents, Mark and Lynda Dux, flew to be with Brian in the hospital, and they're holding vigil over a son who has lapsed into a coma. Doctors fear permanent disability, including possible brain damage and physical disability. "His brain has suffered significant trauma," Guildford coach Paul James said on the team's web site. Now, they wait for him to awaken. It could be a long time, they fear.
"A beautiful kid," MacDonald said Thursday night. "We are all praying for him. I'm not sure I've ever been around a kid as popular, and beloved, as him. He was just the kind of young person you always wanted to have around you."
MacDonald stayed close with Dux through the years and loved hearing his stories about playing pro ball in England. Dux returned home to be a school teacher for a few months in 2005 but decided to return to Europe because he still was young and a commodity in the BBL. He still was having the time of his life there. In just an instant last weekend, everything changed. They don't know why he crashed his car, and they sure don't know why no one responded properly to the emergency call.
They just know an American gym rat, Brian Dux, fights for his life in a little English town. For a few fleeting moments Thursday night, his old coach was thinking about that scene in the parking lot, under the hot Vegas sun, and remembering the kid he couldn't live without coaching. Whatever happens now, MacDonald is grateful he had the chance.
1. All along, USA Basketball emperor Jerry Colangelo insisted that American players would need to commit to the three-year program leading into the 2008 Beijing Games. Colangelo wanted cohesion and chemistry constructed for the fledgling USA operation, and initially Kevin Garnett was one of the past Olympic stars who told him this was too steep of an annual price to pay for a body advancing into its 30s.
Yet USA Basketball reached out to Garnett's agent Andy Miller this week, as The Boston Globe's Marc Spears reported, and made one final bid to see if Garnett would be willing to change his mind. Thanks, but no thanks, officials were told.
Garnett appears to be the lone American that Colangelo and coach Mike Krzyzewski had decided still could make a dramatic difference on the 2008 team.
As loaded as the U.S. will be at the point guard and wing spots, there's still some trepidation over its low post game. Who knows about Amare Stoudemire's knee? Chris Bosh is a rapidly developing talent, but he's no Garnett. Facing the basket at 7-foot, Garnett's game is unstoppable. And defensively, Garnett will cover those athletic Euros, rebound and block shots. The biggest threat to the United States rests with a young front line.
So why call Garnett and not Tim Duncan? Around USA Basketball, there's a feeling that Duncan's back-to-the-basket game is less impactful under FIBA rules. What's more, Duncan has been so adamant about staying home in 2008 that he hardly seemed worth the call. If he had wanted to play, he'd be starting in Beijing, but the 2004 Athens Games, where Duncan constantly was on the bench in foul trouble, left him vowing to never play international ball again.
Duncan would've been coaxed to play for his Spurs coach, Gregg Popovich, but Colangelo chose Duke's Krzyzewski and the Spurs star never looked back.
Yet let's be honest here: Even without Garnett, there's something wrong if Krzyzewski can't win a gold medal with a combination of talent, resources and preparation time unparalleled in U.S. Olympic history.
2. So, let me understand this: Pat Riley allows James Posey and Jason Kapono to leave as free agents, replaces them with Smush Parker, Ricky Davis and Mark Blount, and goes off this way about the mindset of his 1-7 team?
"Unless you feel like you have something at stake or something to lose as a player, then things won't change," Riley said. "If you don't feel like the Heat mean something to you … you have to have a real meeting with yourself about what you care about. I don't see a team that really feels like they have anything at stake here. They come in, they play, they get beat, they go home, they go out into the night."
Dwyane Wade just returned to the season, and Shaquille O'Neal still hasn't shown up. Without Wade, who is that team going to beat anyway? This is on the GM, not the players. Poor Alonzo Mourning is running out of steam, and outside of Udonis Haslem, who plays hard every night for Miami? Wade is a monumental talent, but there's no telling how long it will take for him to physically be prepared to carry the team. Even then, the playoffs are no guarantee.
Listen, Riles can pull out all his old motivational tricks – submerging his head in cold water, and filling up those 15-strong cards, and these Heat still will be pressed to make the playoffs.
How's Riley's promise to stay three more years on the sidelines looking right now? Probably about as credible as his assurances that his coaching days were over, and the Heat belonged to Stan Van Gundy.
3. Here's what you have to love about college basketball coaches: Not only do they figure out a way to cash in on winning, but now Rick Pitino and John Calipari have figured out a way to turn NBA failure into financial gain.
Pitino is working on a book with Pat Forde called, "Rick Pitino's PHD," and something tells me his most pressing inspiration for writing another literary venture is simply upstaging his mortal enemy at Memphis. Pitino is pitching his disaster with the Boston Celtics, "his struggle with the darkness of doubt and the lessons learned from that traumatic experience," says the publisher's release.
No word on Calipari's working title, but in the spirit of generosity that I've always shared with the self-proclaimed Coach Life Skills, the originator of the Seven Strikes and You're Out policy at Memphis, here's what I have for his book on the New Jersey Nets debacle: "Where Was World Wide Wes at Exit 16W?"
4. God bless Dallas owner Mark Cuban for calling out Bill O'Reilly for one of his typically disingenuous and uninformed rants. This time, O'Reilly has taken up the cause against the Cuban-backed movie Redacted, which hits theaters on Friday.
"If you don't happen to watch his show, he has made the movie out to be anti-troops," Cuban wrote in his blog. "Of course, there is one catch: He hasn't seen the movie yet."
Directed by Brian DePalma, Redacted, Cuban wrote, "… is so far from being anti-troops. You can't watch this movie without it smacking you across the face that the battles that come with serving our country are as much mental and emotional as they are physical."
5. Privately, Knicks players are telling people that they're noticing much deeper mood swings with Isiah Thomas this season. Even a year ago, they found him fairly even and consistent, but that's no longer the case. This is a team completely devoid of leadership, and unless Thomas provides it, you have to believe this season will spiral fast and furiously.
One Knick even told a friend that he thought Thomas' tactical moves, especially the way he draws up plays, were much sharper a season ago. His focus sure seems compromised.
An early impression of Kansas State freshman Michael Beasley, a 6-foot-9 forward who debuted with 34 points and 24 rebounds against Sacramento State. "A young Derrick Coleman, but with more strength," a Western Conference official said.